"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Archive for May, 2015|Monthly archive page

The Mother Of All Catch 22s: Industrial Civilization Threatens All Life On The Planet

In Uncategorized on May 27, 2015 at 2:10 pm

Oldspeak:”This piece is originally titled “Capitalism Threatens All Life On The Planet”. The interviewee would say it more like the title I gave it. Focusing the blame on Capitalism gives the impression that everything would be ok if we just went another way, with another economic system. It assumes the economic system is the key to “fixing this”, as if the economic system is our primary concern. It’s just not so. It’s is a “civilization” level predicament we find ourselves that has no fix. We’re long past the point of dealing with this existential threat in any meaningful way. It’s time we accept this. This is where we are at this moment. Damned if we do, damned if we don’t. If we continue on, business as usual, we’re fucked. If we continue on with “conservation”/”mitigation”/or “green energy” market-based strategies, we’re fucked. If we stopped and went indigenous today, we’re fucked. We can talk around and bargain about and deny this stark reality until we’re blue in the face, but As Led Zeppelin opined  “The Song Remains The Same.” There is no good outcome for Humans here kids. Too many humans (this one included) are utterly dependent on Industrial Civilization, which has brought about Earth’s 6th Mass Extinction and have no interest in changing that state of affairs measurably. We can only use 2.1 Earth’s worth of resources every year for so much longer.  Resources and tolerable habitat are dwindling faster than we realize. The extinction train is rollin and it ain’t got no breaks… Enjoy the ride, doing the least harm, with as much love and compassion as you can.” -OSJ

By Dylan Murphy @ The People’s Voice:

“Let’s be honest. The activities of our economic and social system are killing the planet. Even if we confine ourselves merely to humans, these activities are causing an unprecedented privation, as hundreds of millions of people-and today more than yesterday, with probably more tomorrow-go their entire lives with never enough to eat. Yet curiously, none of this seems to stir us to significant action. And when someone does too stridently point out these obvious injustices, the response by the mass of the people seems so often to be . . . a figurative if not physical blow to the gut, leading inevitably to a destruction of our common future.” -Derek Jensen, The Culture of Make Believe

Tomorrow you will wake up and may well have a hot shower to start your day. Then you will go to your kitchen and use a variety of electrical devices to prepare breakfast. If you are lucky enough to have a job then you will travel to work in a car or use public transport. All of this activity requires the use of finite energy resources while producing varying amounts of carbon dioxide. According to the people at the World Wildlife Fund I alone need 2.19 planets to sustain my lifestyle. http://footprint.wwf.org.uk/.


The unsustainable lifestyle that people lead is based upon the ever increasing consumption of finite resources which is destroying the natural world at in increasing rate of knots. The extinction of 200 species a day is just one manifestation of how capitalism and the industrial civilization it has spawned is killing the planet.

Critics may well say why are you so pessimistic? All we need to do is improve energy conservation and introduce renewable energy sources on a mass scale and everything will be fine and we can keep on enjoying our turbo consumerist lifestyle. Tim Garrett an associate professor of climate sciences at Utah University has exposed this belief as nothing short of wishful thinking:

“Making civilization more energy efficient simply allows it to grow faster and consume more energy,” says Garrett. “I’m just saying it’s not really possible to conserve energy in a meaningful way because the current rate of energy consumption is determined by the unchangeable past of economic production. If it feels good to conserve energy, that is fine, but there shouldn’t be any pretense that it will make a difference.”

Professor Garrett makes the controversial point that carbon dioxide emissions, which are a major cause of runaway climate change, can only be stabilized by a complete collapse of the global industrial economy or society builds the equivalent of one nuclear reactor per day.

“Stabilization of carbon dioxide emissions at current rates will require approximately 300 gigawatts of new non-carbon-dioxide-emitting power production capacity annually – approximately one new nuclear power plant (or equivalent) per day,” Garrett says. “Physically, there are no other options without killing the economy.”

Every week new scientific reports are published that note how industrial civilization is driving us towards catastrophic climate change. Last week the the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, announced that March was the first month to surpass global carbon dioxide levels of 400 parts per million since measurements began. This is driving us towards the 2 degree rise in temperature that is seen by many as the upper limit for the planet. In the same week a new study was published in Nature Climate Change which reveals that sea level rise rates are speeding up. This poses a threat to the one billion people who live along shore lines around the world.

Runaway climate change is already having a massive impact all over the world. California is experiencing its worst drought in 1200 years. Professor Jay Famiglietti, from the University of California, Irvine, has revealed how California has only one year of water supply stored in its reservoirs and needs to start immediate water rationing.

Corporate politicians all over the world are beholden to their big business paymasters and so keep on glossing over or ignoring the issues. Meanwhile, the corporate media tries to lull the population into a false sense of security with its endless stories full of hopium that science and technology will save the day.

I spoke to Guy McPherson who is professor emeritus of natural resources and the environment at the University of Arizona, where he taught for twenty years. He is the author of a dozen books and has had hundreds of articles published on the consequences of our fossil fuel addiction: catastrophic climate change leading to near term human extinction. Guy lives in an off the grid straw bale house where he practices sustainable organic farming and working with members of his local community where a gift economy is in operation.

1) Many people believe that catastrophic climate change can be averted if we adopt the following measures as a matter of urgency on a global scale: energy conservation measures, stopping the use of fossil fuels and nuclear together with the mass use of renewables. Would such measures help avert catastrophic climate change?

No, they would not, for many reasons. First and foremost, civilization is a heat engine, as pointed out in Tim Garrett’s work. In addition, as I’ve written here, the notion of a Third Industrial Revolution is seriously flawed: http://transitionvoice.com/2013/11/hopium-for-the-masses-renewable-energy-edition/

2) Is geo-engineering a possible solution to global warming?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) admits global warming is irreversible without geoengineering in a The IPCC is among the most conservative scientific bodies on the planet, and their reports are “significantly ‘diluted’ under political pressure.” On 22 April 2014, Truth-out correctly headlines their assessment, “Intergovernmental Climate Report Leaves Hopes Hanging on Fantasy Technology.” Time follows up two days later with a desperate headline, “NASA Chief: Humanity’s Future Depends On Mission To Mars” (first up: greenhouses on Mars). As pointed out in the 5 December 2013 issue of Earth System Dynamics, known strategies for geoengineering are unlikely to succeed (“climate geo-engineering cannot simply be used to undo global warming“). “Attempts to reverse the impacts of global warming by injecting reflective particles into the stratosphere could make matters worse,” according to research published in the 8 January 2014 issue of Environmental Research Letters. In addition, as described in the December 2013 issue of Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, geoengineering may succeed in cooling the Earth, it would also disrupt precipitation patterns around the world. Furthermore, “risk of abrupt and dangerous warming is inherent to the large-scale implementation of SRM” (solar radiation management), as pointed out in the 17 February 2014 issue of Environmental Research Letters. About a week later comes this line from research published in the 25 February 2014 issue of Nature Communication: “schemes to Finally, in a blow to technocrats published online in the 25 June 2014 issue of Nature Climate Change, a large and distinguished group of international researchers concludes geo-engineering will not stop climate change. The U.S. National Academy of Sciences piles on with a report issued 10 February 2015, concluding geoengineering is not a viable solution for the climate predicament. As it turns out, the public isn’t impressed, either: Research published in the 12 January 2014 issue of Nature Climate Change “reveals that the overall public evaluation of climate engineering is negative.” Despite pervasive American ignorance about science, the public correctly interprets geo-engineering in the same light as the scientists, and contrary to the techno-optimists.

3) In your work you talk about feedback loops that have already been set in motion that will have very detrimental effects upon the planet. Could you explain how feedback loops will have a devastating effect upon the living planet?

These self-reinforcing feedback loops, or “positive feedbacks,” feed upon themselves. For example, methane released from the Arctic Ocean heats the region, hence the ocean. As a result, methane is release more rapidly from the ocean. The process continues until a negative feedback overwhelms the process.

Many of these feedback loops have been triggered. They are contributing to a rapid rise in global-average temperature. The relatively slow rise in global-average temperature to date has outstripped the ability of organisms to keep up: The rate of evolution trails the rate of climate change by a factor of 10,000, according to paper in the August 2013 issue of Ecology Letters. If plants cannot keep up with the ongoing, gradual rate of change, we can only imagine the destruction of the living planet now that abrupt climate change has been triggered.

The Sixth Great Extinction is proceeding very rapidly. We’re on track to exceed the rate of extinction during all prior events, including the Great Dying from about 250 million years ago. During that extinction event, more than 90% of the species on the planet were driven to extinction.

4) When the issue of near term human extinction arising from catastrophic climate change is raised with many people they get very defensive. Reactions range from ridicule suggesting that you are crazy to outright hostility. Why do you think people often react this way?

I suspect they are afraid. We’ve grown up during a time of enormous privilege. The technology surrounding us is astonishing: It seems we can fix anything with a simple app on our cell phones!

The race for technology has overwhelmed the living planet. Already, according to an August 2010 report from the United Nations, the rate of extinction is 150-200 species per day. Industrial civilization allows us to foul the air, dirty the water, and erode the soil into the ocean while communicating in real time across the globe.

The race for technology has overwhelmed our sense of humanity. Most people I know love civilization, which destroys life on Earth. And they especially love industrial civilization and the resulting toys.

5) It is clear that the capitalist class across the globe have neither the intention nor the intention nor the knowledge of how to stop catastrophic climate change. The pursuit of hydraulic fracking, tar sands, nuclear energy, geo-engineering all reveal how the capitalist system is blind to the pursuit of profit at all costs. We cannot place any faith in corporate politicians of any stripe to help ordinary people cope with the effects of climate change as it gets worse and worse. Who should ordinary people turn to for help in coping with climate change?

The corporate governments and the corporate media are not interested in we, the people. They are interested in profits for the corporations.

As individuals and as a species, I doubt we have much time left on the planet. I recommend passionately pursuing a life of excellence rooted in love. Identify what you love. Pursue it, with passion. Throw off the shackles of a culture gone seriously awry. Along the way, you’ll be viewed as insane. Most professional psychotherapists, embedded in an omnicidal culture, will provide little help.

Find your tribe. Spend time with those you love. Love the ones you’re with.

6) Tim Garrett of Utah University has done some very valuable research into runaway climate change. Could you summarize the research of Professor Garrett and explain its implications for us all?

Garrett’s work is published in refereed journal articles, the “gold standard” of science. His research points out that only collapse of civilization prevents runaway greenhouse. It does not point out that collapse of civilization triggers the catastrophic meltdown of the world’s nuclear facilities.

7) Many people sign petitions, send letters, organise lobbies of politicians and regulators in the hope of stopping the destruction of the environment. Is this type of resistance enough to stop capitalist civilization from destroying the planet?

Apparently not. This type of work has been proceeding for decades, and the 150-200 species are still driven to extinction each day.

8) You recently published a book with Carolyn Baker called Extinction Dialogs. How should we prepare for the extinction of all life on the planet?

By living with death in mind. By loving what is, not what should be. By identifying what we love, and pursuing it. By pursuing excellence in our lives. By doing what is right, without attachment to the outcome. All of which applies even if we live forever.

Destroying What Remains: As The Arctic Dies & Melts Away, The US Navy Plans For War Games In The Arctic

In Uncategorized on May 26, 2015 at 8:53 pm
The USS Cowpens launches a Harpoon Missile from the aft missile deck as part of a live fire excercise, September 12, 2012.

The USS Cowpens launches a Harpoon Missile from the aft missile deck as part of a live-fire exercise, September 12, 2012. (Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Paul Kelly/US Navy; Edited: JR/TO)

Oldspeak: “Given that the Navy has been making plans for “ice-free” operations in the Arctic since at least 2001, their June “Northern Edge” exercises may well prove to be just the opening salvo in the future northern climate wars, with whales, seals, and salmon being the first in the line of fire.

In April 2001, a Navy symposium entitled “Naval Operations in an Ice-Free Arctic” was mounted to begin to prepare the service for a climate-change-induced future. Fast forward to June 2015. In what the military refers to as Alaska’s “premier” joint training exercise, Alaskan Command aims to conduct “Northern Edge” over 8,429 nautical miles, which include critical habitat for all five wild Alaskan salmon species and 377 other species of marine life. The upcoming war games in the Gulf of Alaska will not be the first such exercises in the region — they have been conducted, on and off, for the last 30 years — but they will be the largest by far. In fact, a 360 percent rise in munitions use is expected, according to Emily Stolarcyk, the program manager for the Eyak Preservation Council (EPC).” -Dahr Jamail

“Another absurd example of the U.S. Climate/Environmental Policy. Bomb Baby Bomb. The U.S. Military is not content to be the single largest consumer of fossil fuels on the planet. Fossil Fuels. The very thing that is hastening our march toward extinction. Nooooo, it must actually physically bomb, irradiate and destroy one of the most vitally important and ecologically sensitive regions on earth, 360% MORE than it has in the past at a critical time for wildlife upon which many people in the region depend on for survival. All in the name of being prepared for war over the toxic climate destroying resources to be yet to be plundered there. 2 Key cogs in the Military-Industrial Complex (“Defense” and Energy industries) are destroying whatever they deem necessary to meet their terminally short-sighted objectives. The madness continues unabated as Industrial Civilization grinds on.” -OSJ

By Dahr Jamail @ Truthout:

I lived in Anchorage for 10 years and spent much of that time climbing in and on the spine of the state, the Alaska Range. Three times I stood atop the mountain the Athabaskans call Denali, “the great one.” During that decade, I mountaineered for more than half a year on that magnificent state’s highest peaks.  It was there that I took in my own insignificance while living amid rock and ice, sleeping atop glaciers that creaked and moaned as they slowly ground their way toward lower elevations.

Alaska contains the largest coastal mountain range in the world and the highest peak in North America. It has more coastline than the entire contiguous 48 states combined and is big enough to hold the state of Texas two and a half times over. It has the largest population of bald eagles in the country. It has 430 kinds of birds along with the brown bear, the largest carnivorous land mammal in the world, and other species ranging from the pygmy shrew that weighs less than a penny to gray whales that come in at 45 tons. Species that are classified as “endangered” in other places are often found in abundance in Alaska.

Now, a dozen years after I left my home state and landed in Baghdad to begin life as a journalist and nine years after definitively abandoning Alaska, I find myself back. I wish it was to climb another mountain, but this time, unfortunately, it’s because I seem increasingly incapable of escaping the long and destructive reach of the US military.

That summer in 2003 when my life in Alaska ended was an unnerving one for me.  It followed a winter and spring in which I found myself protesting the coming invasion of Iraq in the streets of Anchorage, then impotently watching the televised spectacle of the Bush administration’s “shock and awe” assault on that country as Baghdad burned and Iraqis were slaughtered. While on Denali that summer I listened to news of the beginnings of what would be an occupation from hell and, in my tent on a glacier at 17 thousand feet, wondered what in the world I could do.

In this way, in a cloud of angst, I traveled to Iraq as an independent news team of one and found myself reporting on atrocities that were evident to anyone not embedded with the US military, which was then laying waste to the country. My early reporting, some of it for TomDispatch, warned of body counts on a trajectory toward one million, rampant torture in the military’s detention facilities, and the toxic legacy it had left in the city of Fallujah thanks to the use of depleted uranium munitions and white phosphorous.

As I learned, the US military is an industrial-scale killing machine and also the single largest consumer of fossil fuels on the planet, which makes it a major source of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. As it happens, distant lands like Iraq sitting atop vast reservoirs of oil and natural gas are by no means its only playing fields.

Take the place where I now live, the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state.  The US Navy already has plans to conduct electromagnetic warfare training in an area close to where I moved to once again seek solace in the mountains: Olympic National Forest and nearby Olympic National Park. And this June, it’s scheduling massive war games in the Gulf of Alaska, including live bombing runs that will mean the detonation of tens of thousands of pounds of toxic munitions, as well as the use of active sonar in the most pristine, economically valuable, and sustainable salmon fishery in the country (arguably in the world).  And all of this is to happen right in the middle of fishing season.

This time, in other words, the bombs will be falling far closer to home. Whether it’s war-torn Iraq or “peaceful” Alaska, Sunnis and Shi’ites or salmon and whales, to me the omnipresent “footprint” of the US military feels inescapable.

All of Southeast Alaska's pristine coastline would be impacted by the Navy's upcoming planned war games in the Gulf of Alaska. (Photo: Dahr Jamail/Truthout)

All of Southeast Alaska’s pristine coastline would be impacted by the Navy’s upcoming planned war games in the Gulf of Alaska. (Photo: Dahr Jamail/Truthout)

The War Comes Home

In 2013, US Navy researchers predicted ice-free summer Arctic waters by 2016 and it looks as if that prediction might come true. Recently, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that there was less ice in the Arctic this winter than in any other winter of the satellite era. Given that the Navy has been making plans for “ice-free” operations in the Arctic since at least 2001, their June “Northern Edge” exercises may well prove to be just the opening salvo in the future northern climate wars, with whales, seals, and salmon being the first in the line of fire.

In April 2001, a Navy symposium entitled “Naval Operations in an Ice-Free Arctic” was mounted to begin to prepare the service for a climate-change-induced future. Fast forward to June 2015. In what the military refers to as Alaska’s “premier” joint training exercise, Alaskan Command aims to conduct “Northern Edge” over 8,429 nautical miles, which include critical habitat for all five wild Alaskan salmon species and 377 other species of marine life. The upcoming war games in the Gulf of Alaska will not be the first such exercises in the region — they have been conducted, on and off, for the last 30 years — but they will be the largest by far. In fact, a 360 percent rise in munitions use is expected, according to Emily Stolarcyk, the program manager for the Eyak Preservation Council (EPC).

Eyak Preservation Council’s Emily Stolarcyk in Cordova, Alaska, with the Navy's environmental impact statement for their planned war games in the Gulf of Alaska. (Photo: Dahr Jamail/Truthout)

Eyak Preservation Council’s Emily Stolarcyk in Cordova, Alaska, with the Navy’s environmental impact statement for their planned war games in the Gulf of Alaska. (Photo: Dahr Jamail/Truthout)

The waters in the Gulf of Alaska are some of the most pristine in the world, rivaled only by those in the Antarctic, and among the purest and most nutrient-rich waters anywhere. Northern Edge will take place in an Alaskan “marine protected area,” as well as in a NOAA-designated “fisheries protected area.” These war games will also coincide with the key breeding and migratory periods of the marine life in the region as they make their way toward Prince William Sound, as well as further north into the Arctic.

Species affected will include blue, fin, gray, humpback, minke, sei, sperm, and killer whales, the highly endangered North Pacific right whale (of which there are only approximately 30 left), as well as dolphins and sea lions. No fewer than a dozen native tribes including the Eskimo, Eyak, Athabascan, Tlingit, Sun’aq, and Aleut rely on the area for subsistence living, not to speak of their cultural and spiritual identities.

The Navy is already permitted to use live ordnance including bombs, missiles, and torpedoes, along with active and passive sonar in “realistic” war gaming that is expected to involve the release of as much as 352,000 pounds of “expended materials” every year. (The Navy’s EIS lists numerous things as “expended materials,” including missiles, bombs, torpedoes.) At present, the Navy is well into the process of securing the necessary permits for the next five years and has even mentioned making plans for the next 20. Large numbers of warships and submarines are slated to move into the area and the potential pollution from this has worried Alaskans who live nearby.

“We are concerned about expended materials in addition to the bombs, jet noise, and sonar,” the Eyak Preservation Council’s Emily Stolarcyk tells me as we sit in her office in Cordova, Alaska.  EPC is an environmental and social-justice-oriented nonprofit whose primary mission is to protect wild salmon habitat. “Chromium, lead, tungsten, nickel, cadmium, cyanide, ammonium perchlorate, the Navy’s own environmental impact statement says there is a high risk of chemical exposure to fish.”

Tiny Cordova, population 2,300, is home to the largest commercial fishing fleet in the state and consistently ranks among the top 10 busiest US fishing ports. Since September, when Stolarcyk first became aware of the Navy’s plans, she has been working tirelessly, calling local, state and federal officials and alerting virtually every fisherman she runs into about what she calls “the storm” looming on the horizon. “The propellants from the Navy’s missiles and some of their other weapons will release benzene, toluene, xylene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and naphthalene into the waters of twenty percent of the training area, according to their own EIS [environmental impact statement],” she explains as we look down on Cordova’s harbor with salmon fishing season rapidly approaching. As it happens, most of the chemicals she mentioned were part of BP’s disastrous 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which I covered for years, so as I listened to her I had an eerie sense of futuristic déjà vu.

Cordova, Alaska consistently ranks in the top-10 busiest US commercial fishing ports. (Photo: Dahr Jamail/Truthout)

Cordova, Alaska consistently ranks in the top-10 busiest US commercial fishing ports. (Photo: Dahr Jamail/Truthout)

Here’s just one example of the kinds of damage that will occur: the cyanide discharge from a Navy torpedo is in the range of 140-150 parts per billion. The Environmental Protection Agency’s “allowable” limit on cyanide: one part per billion.

The Navy’s EIS estimates that, in the five-year period in which these war games are to be conducted, there will be more than 182,000 “takes” — direct deaths of a marine mammal, or the disruption of essential behaviors like breeding, nursing, or surfacing.  On the deaths of fish, it offers no estimates at all.  Nevertheless, the Navy will be permitted to use at least 352,000 pounds of expended materials in these games annually. The potential negative effects could be far-reaching, given species migration and the global current system in northern waters.

In the meantime, the Navy is giving Stolarcyk’s efforts the cold shoulder, showing what she calls “total disregard toward the people making their living from these waters.” She adds, “They say this is for national security. They are theoretically defending us, but if they destroy our food source and how we make our living, while polluting our air and water, what’s left to defend?”

Stolarcyk has been labeled an “activist” and “environmentalist,” perhaps because the main organizations she’s managed to sign on to her efforts are indeed environmental groups like the Alaska Marine Conservation Council, and the Alaskans First Coalition.

“Why does wanting to protect wild salmon habitat make me an activist?” she asks. “How has that caused me to be branded as an environmentalist?” Given that the Alaska commercial fishing industry could be decimated if its iconic “wild-caught” salmon turn up with traces of cyanide or any of the myriad chemicals the Navy will be using, Stolarcyk could as easily be seen as fighting for the well-being, if not the survival, of the fishing industry in her state.

All of the Native Tribes and Villages of Kodiak, Alaska are opposed to the Navy’s planned war games in the Gulf of Alaska. (Photo: Dahr Jamail/Truthout)

All of the Native Tribes and Villages of Kodiak, Alaska are opposed to the Navy’s planned war games in the Gulf of Alaska. (Photo: Dahr Jamail/Truthout)

War Gaming the Community

The clock is ticking in Cordova and others in Stolarcyk’s community are beginning to share her concerns. A few like Alexis Cooper, the executive director of Cordova District Fishermen United (CDFU), a non-profit organization that represents the commercial fishermen in the area, have begun to speak out. “We’re already seeing reduced numbers of halibut without the Navy having expanded their operations in the GOA [Gulf of Alaska],” she says, “and we’re already seeing other decreases in harvestable species.”

CDFU represents more than 800 commercial salmon fishermen, an industry that accounts for an estimated 90 percent of Cordova’s economy. Without salmon, like many other towns along coastal southeastern Alaska, it would effectively cease to exist.

Teal Webber, a lifelong commercial fisherwoman and member of the Native Village of Eyak, gets visibly upset when the Navy’s plans come up. “You wouldn’t bomb a bunch of farmland,” she says, “and the salmon run comes right through this area, so why are they doing this now?” She adds, “When all of the fishing community in Cordova gets the news about how much impact the Navy’s war games could have, you’ll see them oppose it en masse.”

Over 100 fishing vessels participated in a flotilla in Cordova, Alaska on May 16, in opposition to the Navy’s war games. (Photo: Chelsea Tracy Photography)

Over 100 fishing vessels participated in a flotilla in Cordova, Alaska on May 16, in opposition to the Navy’s war games. (Photo: Chelsea Tracy Photography)

(Photo: Bob Martinson)

(Photo: Bob Martinson)

While I’m in town, Stolarcyk offers a public presentation of the case against Northern Edge in the elementary school auditorium.  As she shows a slide from the Navy’s environmental impact statement indicating that the areas affected will take decades to recover, several fishermen quietly shake their heads.

One of them, James Weiss, who also works for Alaska’s Fish and Game Department, pulls me aside and quietly says, “My son is growing up here, eating everything that comes out of the sea. I know fish travel through that area they plan to bomb and pollute, so of course I’m concerned. This is too important of a fishing area to put at risk.”

In the question-and-answer session that follows, Jim Kasch, the town’s mayor, assures Stolarcyk that he’ll ask the city council to become involved. “What’s disturbing is that there is no thought about the fish and marine life,” he tells me later. “It’s a sensitive area and we live off the ocean. This is just scary.” A Marine veteran, Kasch acknowledges the Navy’s need to train, then pauses and adds, “But dropping live ordnance in a sensitive fishery just isn’t a good idea. The entire coast of Alaska lives and breathes from our resources from the ocean.”

That evening, with the sun still high in the spring sky, I walk along the boat docks in the harbor and can’t help but wonder whether this small, scruffy town has a hope in hell of stopping or altering Northern Edge.  There have been examples of such unlikely victories in the past. A dozen years ago, the Navy was, for example, finally forced to stop using the Puerto Rican island of Vieques as its own private bombing and test range, but only after having done so since the 1940s. In the wake of those six decades of target practice, the island’s population has the highest cancer and asthma rates in the Caribbean, a phenomenon locals attribute to the Navy’s activities.

Similarly, earlier this year a federal court ruled that Navy war games off the coast of California violated the law. It deemed an estimated 9.6 million “harms” to whales and dolphins via high-intensity sonar and underwater detonations improperly assessed as “negligible” in that service’s EIS.

As a result of Stolarcyk’s work, on May 6th Cordova’s city council passed a resolution formally opposing the upcoming war games. Unfortunately, the largest seafood processor in Cordova (and Alaska), Trident Seafoods, has yet to offer a comment on Northern Edge.  Its representatives wouldn’t even return my phone call on the subject.  Nor, for instance, has Cordova’s Prince William Sound Science Center, whose president, Katrina Hoffman, wrote me that “as an organization, we have no position statement on the matter at this time.”  This, despite their stated aim of supporting “the ability of communities in this region to maintain socioeconomic resilience among healthy, functioning ecosystems.” (Of course, it should be noted that at least some of their funds come from the Navy.)

Government-to-Government Consultation

At Kodiak Island, my next stop, I find a stronger sense of the threat on the horizon in both the fishing and tribal communities and palpable anger about the Navy’s plans. Take J.J. Marsh, the CEO of the Sun’aq Tribe, the largest on the island.  “I think it’s horrible,” she says the minute I sit down in her office. “I grew up here. I was raised on subsistence living. I grew up caring about the environment and the animals and fishing in a native household living off the land and seeing my grandpa being a fisherman. So obviously, the need to protect this is clear.”

What, I ask, is her tribe going to do?

She responds instantly. “We are going to file for a government-to-government consultation and so are other Kodiak tribes so that hopefully we can get this stopped.”

The US government has a unique relationship with Alaska’s Native tribes, like all other American Indian tribes.  It treats each as if it were an autonomous government.  If a tribe requests a “consultation,” Washington must respond and Marsh hopes that such an intervention might help block Northern Edge. “It’s about the generations to come. We have an opportunity as a sovereign tribe to go to battle on this with the feds. If we aren’t going to do it, who is?”

Melissa Borton, the tribal administrator for the Native Village of Afognak, feels similarly. Like Marsh’s tribe, hers was, until recently, remarkably unaware of the Navy’s plans.  That’s hardly surprising since that service has essentially made no effort to publicize what it is going to do. “We are absolutely going to be part of this [attempt to stop the Navy],” she tells me. “I’m appalled.”

One reason she’s appalled: she lived through Alaska’s monster Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989.  “We are still feeling its effects,” she says. “Every time they make these environmental decisions they affect us… We are already plagued with cancer and it comes from the military waste already in our ground or that our fish and deer eat and we eat those… I’ve lost family to cancer, as most around here have and at some point in time this has to stop.”

When I meet with Natasha Hayden, an Afognak tribal council member whose husband is a commercial fisherman, she puts the matter simply and bluntly. “This is a frontal attack by the Navy on our cultural identity.”

Gary Knagin, lifelong fisherman and member of the Sun’aq tribe, is busily preparing his boat and crew for the salmon season when we talk. “We aren’t going to be able to eat if they do this. It’s bullshit. It’ll be detrimental to us and it’s obvious why. In June, when we are out there, salmon are jumping [in the waters] where they want to bomb as far as you can see in any direction. That’s the salmon run. So why do they have to do it in June? If our fish are contaminated, the whole state’s economy is hit. The fishing industry here supports everyone and every other business here is reliant upon the fishing industry. So if you take out the fishing, you take out the town.”

The Navy’s Free Ride

I requested comment from the US military’s Alaskan Command office, and Captain Anastasia Wasem responded after I returned home from my trip north. In our email exchange, I asked her why the Navy had chosen the Gulf of Alaska, given that it was a critical habitat for all five of the state’s wild salmon.  She replied that the waters where the war games will occur, which the Navy refers to as the Temporary Maritime Activities Area, are “strategically significant” and claimed that a recent “Pacific command study” found that naval training opportunities are declining everywhere in the Pacific “except Alaska,” which she referred to as “a true national asset.”

“The Navy’s training activities,” she added, “are conducted with an extensive set of mitigation measures designed to minimize the potential risk to marine life.”

In its assessment of the Navy’s plans, however, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), one of the premier federal agencies tasked with protecting national fisheries, disagreed. “Potential stressors to managed species and EFH [essential fish habitat],” its report said, “include vessel movements (disturbance and collisions), aircraft overflights (disturbance), fuel spills, ship discharge, explosive ordnance, sonar training (disturbance), weapons firing/nonexplosive ordnance use (disturbance and strikes), and expended materials (ordnance-related materials, targets, sonobuoys, and marine markers). Navy activities could have direct and indirect impacts on individual species, modify their habitat, or alter water quality.” According to the NMFS, effects on habitats and communities from Northern Edge “may result in damage that could take years to decades from which to recover.”

Captain Wasem assured me that the Navy made its plans in consultation with the NMFS, but she failed to add that those consultations were found to be inadequate by the agency or to acknowledge that it expressed serious concerns about the coming war games.  In fact, in 2011 it made four conservation recommendations to avoid, mitigate, or otherwise offset possible adverse effects to essential fish habitat. Although such recommendations were non-binding, the Navy was supposed to consider the public interest in its planning.

One of the recommendations, for instance, was that it develop a plan to report on fish mortality during the exercises. The Navy rejected this, claiming that such reporting would “not provide much, if any, valuable data.”  As Stolarcyk told me, “The Navy declined to do three of their four recommendations, and NMFS just rolled over.”

I asked Captain Wasem why the Navy choose to hold the exercise in the middle of salmon fishing season.

“The Northern Edge exercise is scheduled when weather is most conducive for training,” she explained vaguely, pointing out that “the Northern Edge exercise is a big investment for DoD [the Department of Defense] in terms of funding, use of equipment/fuels, strategic transportation, and personnel.”

Arctic Nightmares

The bottom line on all this is simple, if brutal. The Navy is increasingly focused on possible future climate-change conflicts in the melting waters of the north and, in that context, has little or no intention of caretaking the environment when it comes to military exercises. In addition, the federal agencies tasked with overseeing any war-gaming plans have neither the legal ability nor the will to enforce environmental regulations when what’s at stake, at least according to the Pentagon, is “national security.”

Needless to say, when it comes to the safety of locals in the Navy’s expanding area of operation, there is no obvious recourse. Alaskans can’t turn to NMFS or the Environmental Protection Agency or NOAA.  If you want to stop the US military from dropping live munitions, or blasting electromagnetic radiation into national forests and marine sanctuaries, or poisoning your environment, you’d better figure out how to file a major lawsuit or, if you belong to a Native tribe, demand a government-to-government consultation and hope it works. And both of those are long shots, at best.

Meanwhile, as the race heats up for reserves of oil and gas in the melting Arctic that shouldn’t be extracted and burned in the first place, so do the Navy’s war games.  From southern California to Alaska, if you live in a coastal town or city, odds are that the Navy is coming your way, if it’s not already there.

Nevertheless, Emily Stolarcyk shows no signs of throwing in the towel, despite the way the deck is stacked against her efforts. “It’s supposedly our constitutional right that control of the military is in the hands of the citizens,” she told me in our last session together.  At one point, she paused and asked, “Haven’t we learned from our past mistakes around not protecting salmon? Look at California, Oregon, and Washington’s salmon. They’ve been decimated. We have the best and most pristine salmon left on the planet, and the Navy wants to do these exercises. You can’t have both.”

Stolarcyk and I share a bond common among people who have lived in our northernmost state, a place whose wilderness is so vast and beautiful as to make your head spin. Those of us who have experienced its rivers and mountains, have been awed by the northern lights, and are regularly reminded of our own insignificance (even as we gained a new appreciation for how precious life really is) tend to want to protect the place as well as share it with others.

“Everyone has been telling me from the start that I’m fighting a lost cause and I will not win,” Stolarcyk said as our time together wound down. “No other non-profit in Alaska will touch this. But I actually believe we can fight this and we can stop them. I believe in the power of one. If I can convince someone to join me, it spreads from there. It takes a spark to start a fire, and I refuse to believe that nothing can be done.”

Three decades ago, in his book Arctic Dreams, Barry Lopez suggested that, when it came to exploiting the Arctic versus living sustainably in it, the ecosystems of the region were too vulnerable to absorb attempts to “accommodate both sides.” In the years since, whether it’s been the Navy, Big Energy, or the increasingly catastrophic impacts of human-caused climate disruption, only one side has been accommodated and the results have been dismal.

In Iraq in wartime, I saw what the US military was capable of in a distant ravaged land. In June, I’ll see what that military is capable of in what still passes for peacetime and close to home indeed. As I sit at my desk writing this story on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, the roar of Navy jets periodically rumbles in from across Puget Sound, where a massive naval air station is located. I can’t help but wonder whether, years from now, I’ll still be writing pieces with titles like “Destroying What Remains,” as the Navy continues its war-gaming in an ice-free summer Arctic amid a sea of offshore oil drilling platforms.


Dahr Jamail

Dahr Jamail, a Truthout staff reporter, is the author of The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, (Haymarket Books, 2009), and Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches From an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq, (Haymarket Books, 2007). Jamail reported from Iraq for more than a year, as well as from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Turkey over the last ten years, and has won the Martha Gellhorn Award for Investigative Journalism, among other awards.

His third book, The Mass Destruction of Iraq: Why It Is Happening, and Who Is Responsible, co-written with William Rivers Pitt, is available now on Amazon. He lives and works in Washington State.

“Something really awful happening.”: Dangers From Accelerating Rates Of Methane Releases & Polar Ice Melt Are Multiplying

In Uncategorized on May 18, 2015 at 8:09 pm

Methane burns as it escapes through a hole in the ice in a lagoon above the East Siberian Arctic Shelf. Credit: Photo courtesy of Natalia Shakhova

Oldspeak: “There are three huge reservoirs of Arctic methane till recently safely controlled by the Arctic freezing cold environment. They are now all releasing additional methane to the atmosphere as the Arctic rapidly warms…We do not like what we see. We do not like it at all.” Dr. Natalia Shakhova, September, 2012

There is a so-called methane threat in the north of the bog. On top of that, the ice shelf is also thawing, releasing methane hydrates and something really awful is happening.” Professor Sergey Kirpotin, May, 2015

When scientists start sayin shit like this, it’s not good.  I feel it’s safe to say that, things in the planet’s polar air conditioners and adjacent environs are going terribly wrong, very fast, faster every day. What happens when these previously frozen bogs catch fire because the temperature is 40 degrees hotter than normal near the arctic? Well that’s happening, wildfires in the fucking arctic have been happening since early April, earlier than ever coincidentally, so I guess we’ll see soon enough won’t we? Expect these fires to proliferate as summer progresses, generating even more voluminous releases of C02 and CH4. Shit is goin to hell in a handbasket mighty quick ain’t it? Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick…. it’s gonna really suck when the Arctic Methane Time Bomb goes boom.” -OSJ

By Robert Hunziker @ Dissident Voice:

Methane (CH4) is 25 times more efficient at entrapping solar radiation and effectuating global warming than is carbon dioxide (CO2).

As the Arctic becomes more and more ice-free, the release of methane entrapped for millennia in Arctic ice accelerates. This, in turn, increases the risks of a planetary catastrophe. Yet, the scientific community does not like using words like “catastrophe,” which is considered alarmist. So, forewarned, this is an alarmist article.

Not only is this article alarmist, it is an indictment of views about climate change held by most, if not all, of the Republican candidates for presidency. Regardless of their individual personal beliefs about climate change, they are beholden to fossil fuel interests and extremely rich right-wing whackos that clandestinely pour money into phony orgs and payoffs for weak-kneed, cowering scientists to disseminate “confusing information to the public about global warming/climate change.” Without a doubt, these are the nation’s top gun eco terrorists. Similar to Al Qaeda, they work in the shadows.

Over the past couple of centuries, the rate of increase of CO2 versus CH4 in the atmosphere is running askew as carbon dioxide’s increase of 40% is a far distant second place to methane’s 250% increase. There’s nothing confusing about those numbers.

As it happens, by all accounts, climate scientists are wringing their hands over the 40% increase in carbon dioxide. That’s understandable as CO2 remains in the atmosphere for up to hundreds of years, blocking solar radiation from bouncing back into outer space. Ergo, over time global warming consumes the planet in a dreadful event that is currently tracking headlong towards bright red flashing lights at the end of the tunnel of doom.

Thereby, CO2 blanketing the earth is similar to turning on an oven, the more CO2 is emitted, similar to turning up the oven, the more heat builds, as it gets hotter and hotter and hotter over time whilst the “CO2 blanket” traps solar radiation. In time, humanity is toast.

Considering the fact that scientists worry about CO2 in the atmosphere, they must be experiencing migraines, sleeplessness and outright gloominess about CH4 because, with gigatons of methane trapped under Arctic ice, only a fraction of that CH4 could turn the planet into something akin to an oven, assuming too much Arctic ice melts. And, that is precisely the point as Arctic melt is already occurring at an alarming rate!

It’s all about runaway global warming as the Arctic threatens to turn ice-free in September, during its minimal cycle, in an upcoming year. Some Arctic experts believe it could happen within a few years, some several years, some in decades or longer.

There is a lot of mystery behind the likely impact of an ice-free Arctic because it has never happened before in human history. Questions arise: How much methane is trapped under the ice and how quickly does it release into the atmosphere and how soon does agricultural land turn bad?

Of course, the process takes considerable time to play out because nature still follows a geological time clock, which is very slow. Nevertheless, human-induced climate change has already proven to speed up nature’s course, increasing the risks of a runaway global warming nightmare, maybe within current lifetimes, who knows?

After all, the proof is found in facts. As a result of excessive levels of greenhouse gases like CO2 in the atmosphere, the Arctic is warming up 2-3 times faster than lower latitudes, which fact shall be discussed further on.

Still, nobody knows how this will play out. After all, how many scrapes with extinction has humanity experienced? The answer is: None, this will be the first go-around.

Along those same lines, scientists have calculated approximately how much methane is buried under and within the ice, but in the interest of maintaining some decorum of sanity and in the spirit of forestalling outright public panic, that information will not be divulged.

Arctic Update- Things Getting Worse, Not Better

It appears that the rise of methane in the atmosphere is accelerating… Things look set to get worse… global methane levels have risen from a low of 723 ppb a couple of centuries ago to mean methane levels as high as 1,839 ppb in 2014. That’s a rise of more than 254%. The situation is dire….1

Not only that, unruly spikes of methane up to 2,845 ppb are becoming more commonplace in the Arctic.

Meanwhile, the Arctic’s big spring melt-down is now in full swing.

During April, the decline in ice extent starts to accelerate… April 2015 was marked by a fairly rapid decline during the first week of the month, little change during the middle of the month, and then a steep decline over the final week.2 Uh-huh.

Additionally, and of crucial interest: “April was marked by higher than average air temperatures (1 to 3 degrees Celsius or 2 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit) throughout the Arctic,” which is the evidence of Arctic temperature increasing 2-3 times faster than elsewhere on the planet.

Multi-Year Ice Dissipating Fast, Increasing Risks of Ice-Free Arctic

Arctic ice experts are quick to point to the risks associated with loss of multi-year ice because multi-year ice maintains the integrity of the Arctic. Loss of multi-year ice is precedent to an ice-free Arctic, which is precedent to runaway global warming.

Ice thickness over the central Arctic Ocean has declined from an average of 3.59 meters (11.78 feet) to only 1.25 meters (4.10 feet), a reduction of 65% over the period 1975 to 2012.3

The Lindsay results carry the distinctive footprint of global warming, nothing confusing about that. Significantly, the Lindsay study includes over 3,000 thickness measurements by sonar from submarines and from air by satellites as well as aircraft.

The significance of multi-year ice is that it constitutes what is popularly known as the North Pole and its ice environs or the Arctic. Multi-year ice constitutes thicker, more solid, longer-lasting ice, or structure, same as the Arctic has existed for thousands upon thousands of years.

However, nowadays, with human-caused global warming as a result of fossil fuel CO2 emissions coincident with extreme warming of the northern latitudes, multi-year ice is dissipating fairly quickly. This, therefore, opens up the Arctic to increase potential of methane release as solar radiation is absorbed into the dark background of water rather than reflected back out into outer space by the white background of ice and snow, scientifically known as the “albedo effect.”

Therein lies the focal point of risks of runaway global warming, turning the planet into a hotbed of human warfare squabbling over tillable land. Over time, these battles for survival will likely take the human socialization process back in time to something akin to the Neanderthal Age, with cell phones!

Leading Siberian Scientist Delivers Stark Warning- Frozen Bogs Becoming New Methane Threat

Inauspiciously, a newly recognized methane threat has been discovered in the Russian hinterlands, which is one more horrendous example of disastrous blowback from use of fossil fuels. Assuredly, the billionaire eco terrorists will now have to sic their spin-doctors on this one.  Maybe they could say Russians cannot be trusted. Something like that might work.

Russian Professor Sergey Kirpotin, director of the BioClimLand Centre of Excellence for Climate Change Research discovered thawing frozen bogs in western Siberia, which will release billions of tonnes of methane, greatly speeding up effects of global warming.

Just like that, a new force of methane appears to be kicking into gear in the bogs with uncanny timing, as Arctic ice-melt is opening up clear water passageways for oil and gas exploration. Talk about a Catch-22, this is it in spades!

Prof Kirpotin, 51, first made the discovery about the threat 10 years ago when it was found the permafrost melting for the first time since being formed at the end of the Ice Age.

He warned at the time that it could be ‘an ecological landslide that is probably irreversible.’ Now it seems the situation is more advanced than first thought.4

Remarkably, Prof Kirpotin’s discovery is essentially a trip back in geologic time to the last Ice Age, 100,000-to-20, 000 years ago, which is amazing and also filled with scary after-effects. Just to think: The permafrost Dr. Kirpotin investigated has not melted since the last Ice Age, until now! This is yet another distinctive footprint of global warming.

According to Prof Kirpotin:

There is a so-called methane threat in the north of the bog. On top of that, the ice shelf is also thawing, releasing methane hydrates and something really awful is happening.

“Something really awful happening” is not exactly a nerve-soothing statement by a leading expert on Siberian bogs.

Science is Radically Divided on the Timing Issue of Climate Change

Without question, scientists are radically divided on the issue of climate change and few predict an upsurge any time soon. Nevertheless, it’s the scientists who base opinions on first hand knowledge “boots on the ground” who are screaming the loudest. They do not let “computer models” override what they personally experience. In contrast, they see and feel the “reality in the field.” They are like scientific pioneers in the field, in the marsh, below and above the ice, on expeditions into the wilderness where nobody cares to tread. It’s hard work.

And, they happen to be the scientists who do not like what they see.  For example, Dr. Natalia Shakhova, one of the world’s leading authorities on methane. She heads the Russia-U.S. Methane Study at the International Arctic Research Center, at the University Alaska Fairbanks and the Pacific Oceanological Institute, Far Eastern Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences.

Dr. Shakhova’s expeditions “boots on the ground” to the Arctic convince her that only a tiny percentage of the vast amounts of methane buried in Arctic ice is necessary to double current atmospheric methane. Worse yet, she suspects an outburst of 50 gigatons could happen at any time, which would likely cripple civilization. Decidedly, it would be a disaster beyond repair, further burdening an increasingly fracturable ecosystem, which may one day burst wide open, catching all humanity flatfooted!

By all appearances, the ecosystem has increasingly become more fragile within the context of a very resilient planet that has already withstood five extinction events, but it is still standing.

Thankfully, pioneering scientists like Dr. Kirpotin and Dr. Shakova travel to the field and report their findings. Otherwise, nobody would ever truly know how dangerously civilization is on edge and at risk. Meanwhile, fossil fuels burn away ever-faster, facilitating capitalism’s neoliberal experiment, truly a life or death enterprise.

Every hour the sun beams on to Earth more than enough energy to satisfy global energy needs for an entire year. Capture it!

  1. Methane Levels As High As 2,845 ppb, April 26, 2015 []
  2. The National Snow andIce Data Center (NSIDC), University of Colorado, Boulder, as of May 6th, 2015. []
  3. R. Lindsay and A. Schweiger, “Arctic Sea Ice Thickness Loss Determined Using Subsurface, Aircraft, and Satellite Observations”, Polar Science Center, Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington, August 2014 []
  4. Vera Sainitskaya, “New Warning About Climate Change Linked to Peat Bogs”, The Siberian Times, May 13, 2015. []


Robert Hunziker (MA, economic history, DePaul University) is a freelance writer and environmental journalist whose articles have been translated into foreign languages and appeared in over 50 journals, magazines, and sites worldwide. He can be contacted at: rlhunziker@gmail.com. Read other articles by Robert.

The Global Water Crisis Is Getting Harder To Ignore: California’s Water Crisis Is Coming Soon To The Rest Of America

In Uncategorized on May 18, 2015 at 2:37 pm
Trinity Lake drought California

Trinity Lake, a (former) major water reservoir.

Oldspeak: “Vice TV recently did a great piece on India’s Water Crisis, that’s worth a watch. India is most definitely in a fucked up situation that’s due in to part to cultural norms, poor resource management and overpopulation. The story gets really interesting around the 7 minute mark, when they start talking to scientists and the U.N. Deputy Secretary General, and they extrapolate the Indian problem to the global level. A couple interesting quotes: “Irrespective of countries, if water is polluted, if water is not pure, then nobody can survive on earth” –Dr. B.D. Tripathi. “In 10 years, 2 billion people will be in regions with absolute water scarcity. 2/3s of the world will live under water-stress conditions” –Jan Eliasson, U.N. Deputy Secretary General. And what was spoken about in that Vice report is echoed in the article to follow. “While the rest of the US hasn’t been ordered to reduce water use, that doesn’t mean we have a free pass to use as much water as we want. Many states — 4o out of 50 according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office — have at least one region that’s expected to face some kind of water shortage in the next 10 years.” I have a strong suspicion that these estimates are significantly underestimated. Distinguished scientists are observing that climate change is rapidly accelerating. Major cities worldwide are in the throes of drought right now. It’s only logical to expect that this accelerating change will only become more rapid as temperatures increase and business as usual industrial civilization plunders on. Add to that the deliberate and widespread poisoning of fresh water supplies by humans via energy and agricultural production, and the water scarcity situation is very dire indeed. It will only be possible to ignore this life-altering reality for so much longer.” –OSJ

By Ellie Kinkaid @ Business Insider:

Americans tend to take it for granted that when we open a tap, water will come out.

Western states have been dealing with water problems for a while, but they won’t be alone for long.

As drought, flooding, and climate change restrict America’s water supply, demands from population growth and energy production look set to increase, according to a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

These two changes squeeze our natural water reserves from both directions. The stress is becoming clear and will soon manifest as water scarcity problems all over our country.

The California problem

Over the last four years, Californians have gotten a big wake-up call, as drought forces them to reconsider water as a scarce commodity.

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the region’s water supplier, will deliver 15% less water to cities in the greater Los Angeles area starting in July. The supplier won’t cut off delivering water if demand is more than the quota, but it’ll charge local utility companies that sell residents water up to four times more than the normal rate for the excess. And naturally, the utility companies will pass the cost on to their customers.

The water companies’ cuts are a reaction to California Governor Jerry Brown’s executive order that cities throughout the state reduce the amount of water they use by 25% — a groundbreaking mandate from the Governor’s office to limit water use for the first time ever.

A looming national issue

While the rest of the US hasn’t been ordered to reduce water use, that doesn’t mean we have a free pass to use as much water as we want. Many states — 4o out of 50 according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office — have at least one region that’s expected to face some kind of water shortage in the next 10 years.

Here’s what that looks like:

GAO estimate of water shortages

Government Accountability Office Water managers in 40 our of 50 states expect shortages in some part of their state within the next 10 years.

In some cases, shortages happen when there’s not enough fresh water suitable for human use in the lakes, rivers, reservoirs, and aquifers we can access. Rain and snowfall does replace the water we take from these sources, but that refill takes time and depends on actually getting precipitation. Drought-stricken California, for example, has a much reduced snowpack this year compared to 2010, its last near-normal year. Less snowpack means less snow to melt and refill the state’s reservoirs with fresh water people can use.

According to Tim Davis, the Montana Water Resources Division administrator, a water shortage could strike any part of the state in any given year, Elaine S. Povich reports for the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Water demand in Montana just keeps increasing, the state’s 2015 State Water Plan says, while the amount of water available changes from year to year, and even within a year, depending on precipitation. The discrepancy between demand and availability means the state is likely going to encounter a water crisis in the next few years. The state is already making contingency plans for potential drought conditions in the future, Davis told Povich.

In coastal areas of the US, rising sea levels taint fresh water coastal aquifers with salt water, which means that water can’t be consumed anymore without expensive desalination treatment. This is a looming threat for eastern and southern Maryland, according to the Government Accountability Office report.

Those worries are compounded by population growth in central and southern Maryland, which is putting pressure on the water supplies there. Though water managers in Maryland don’t anticipate statewide shortages, they told the GAO some areas may struggle to find enough water for everyone moving in, because there isn’t a feasible way to dramatically increase the amount of water available. So even those of us who live in parts of the country not experiencing drought could stand to put less stress on our water supplies.

In Colorado, officials told the Government Accountability Office they’re keeping an eye on the effects of fracking on the state’s water supply. Using water for fracking could contribute to local shortages in the drought-prone state, which only gets 12-16 inches of precipitation every year. Plus, a previous GAO report highlighted the risk that fracking can contaminate the water supply so people can’t use even the water they normally could.

Also out West, the U.S. Census Bureau projects the populations of Nevada and Arizona will more than double between 2000 and 2030. But those two states get some of the nation’s lowest amounts of precipitation, so more people will be vying to use water resources that already aren’t plentiful.

Everybody’s problem

While any given person may not be directly causing these water issues, everyone plays a role in how much drinkable water there is in the US. The U.S. Geological Survey estimated that the average American used 88 gallons of water per day in 2010, the latest year it surveyed water use.

The entirety of humanity in America uses 27,400 million gallons per day around the house, for stuff like preparing food, washing clothes, flushing toilets, and watering lawns.

The map below from the U.S. Geological Survey shows how that breaks down by state on a daily basis, which doesn’t even include the water that goes into producing the energy, food, and products we use. (For example, it takes over a gallon of water to grow a single almond.)

total domestic water use 2010 USGS

U.S. Geological Survey A map of domestic water use by state, 2010.

This isn’t just a US problem, either. The water crisis is even worse in many other countries, especially those without good infrastructure to get water from rivers and aquifers. The UN estimates a fifth of the world’s population lives in an area where water is scarce, and another fourth of the world’s people don’t have access to water because countries lack the infrastructure to distribute it.

By 2030, nearly half of everyone in the world will be living in countries highly stressed for water, according to UN predictions. Bank of America Merrill Lynch reports that water scarcity is our biggest problem worldwide, and projects that climate change will only make it worse.

Ready access to water is not something everyone in the world can take for granted, and Americans may not be able to much longer.

U.S. Federal Regulators Authorize Renewed Deep Sea Oil Drilling 3 Miles From Site Of Catastrophic 2010 BP Gulf Oil Disaster

In Uncategorized on May 14, 2015 at 7:37 pm

Emergency plan for blowout at proposed rig relies on same methods used on Macondo well at time of worst offshore spill

Oldspeak: “The Gulf is already a dead ecosystem. The 172 millons of gallons of oil that spewed from the Macondo well and god knows how many millions of gallons of toxic waste a.k.a. correxit that was dumped in the gulf to sink the oll made sure of that. I guess for ever increasingly profit-hungry Oil companies, it’s not dead enough. The spirit of Sarah Palin lives on in American government. It’s Drill Baby, Drill in the Gulf of Mexico. Meanwhile,”In September exploration plans, LLOG estimated its worst-case scenario for an uncontrolled blowout could unleash 252 million gallons of oil over the course of 109 days. By comparison, the BP spill lasted 87 days and resulted in as much as 172 million gallons of oil pouring into the Gulf.”Our commitment is to not allow such an event to occur again,” said Rick Fowler, the vice president for deep-water projects at LLOG. Yes. I’m sure it will never happen again. Even though this company is using the same failed technology that BP used when its rig blew up….”I Am Become Death”. Ironic isn’t it that this ignominious event is happening but weeks after the 5th anniversary of the BP oil disaster. It should be fairly obvious that the U.S. being the “mature economy” that it is, is a giant sacrifice zone, whose resources are being plundered by powerful multinational corporatocratic organizations that care for nothing but profit. I guess Richard Charter, a senior fellow with the Ocean Foundation and a longtime industry watchdog, said it best “BP had deep pockets, you don’t want someone not particularly qualified and not fully amortized to be tangling with this particular dragon…. when a company can’t pay when something goes wrong, generally it’s the public that pays.”  Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick….”-OSJ

By Al Jazeera U.S.:

Deep-water drilling appears set to resume near the site of the catastrophic BP blowout in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 that killed 11 workers and caused America’s largest offshore oil spill off the coast of Louisiana, resulting in an environmental disaster. Louisiana-based oil company LLOG Exploration Offshore LLC plans to drill into the Macondo reservoir, according to federal records reviewed by The Associated Press. Harper’s Magazine first reported the drilling plans late Tuesday. The company, a privately owned firm based in Covington, Louisiana, will be looking to extract oil and gas deep under the Gulf of Mexico’s sea floor — an undertaking that proved catastrophic for BP. “Our commitment is to not allow such an event to occur again,” said Rick Fowler, the vice president for deep-water projects at LLOG. “LLOG staff keeps the memory of what happened … fresh in our minds throughout our operations, both planning and execution.” On April 20, 2010, a drilling rig used by BP to drill into the Macondo field experienced a series of problems that led to a massive blowout. Investigators later faulted BP and its contractors for fatal missteps. The drilling rig about 45 miles off the Louisiana coast, was engulfed in flames. Eleven workers were killed, 17 were seriously injured and more than 100 had to be evacuated. The blowout brought death to more than 8,000 types of animals  — including endangered species. Some residents in coastal areas of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida became sick in the aftermath of the spill, and blamed their illnesses on exposure to the crude oil and toxic chemical dispersants used during the clean up. BP, its contractors and federal regulators struggled to contain the blowout and kill the out-of-control well over the course of the next 87 days. In all, the federal government calculated that about 172 million gallons spilled into the Gulf. Around 10 million gallons of crude spilled was found at the bottom of the sea floor, which experts blamed on the use of chemical dispersants used to clean up the oil. The oil did cling to the material, but then sank to the bottom of the Gulf. Scientists have called the remaining oil a “conduit for contamination into the food web.” LLOG’s drilling plans estimate that an uncontrolled blowout from its well could cause 20,500 barrels of oil to be released each day for a total of 109 days, or the time it would take to drill a secondary well to cut off the flow. In the event of a blowout, the company’s plans call for the use of blowout preventers, containment systems and drilling a relief well to contain a spill — measures that BP relied on to tame its well. Experts have said part of the reason BP’s spill was so catastrophic was because of the faith put into the blowout preventers — which were considered safe at the time but did not stop the flow of oil at Macondo. Reports show that such blowout preventers could cause more oil spills, and continue to pose a risk for accidents. Richard Charter, a senior fellow with the Ocean Foundation and a longtime industry watchdog, said it would be cause for concern if a small company resumed drilling in the reservoir, which is located in a geographical area of the Gulf known as the Mississippi Canyon. The area, rich in oil and gas, is divided up into blocks used for drilling. BP’s Macondo well was located in Mississippi Canyon Block 252. Charter said drilling into that reservoir has proved very dangerous and highly technical, and raises questions about whether a company like LLOG has the financial means to respond to a blowout similar to BP’s. “BP had deep pockets,” he said. “You don’t want someone not particularly qualified and not fully amortized to be tangling with this particular dragon.” He added: “When a company can’t pay when something goes wrong, generally it’s the public that pays.” Reports show that the financial impact on day-to-day operations affected by the 2010 BP spill could exceed $1 billion — about $6 million every day for cleanup costs alone. Billions generated from the Gulf’s fishing and beach tourism were also put at risk, including Louisiana’s oyster and shrimp operations. Eric Smith, associate director of the Tulane University Energy Institute in New Orleans, dismissed concerns over LLOG’s ability to safely drill the area. He called LLOG “an extremely well-financed and well-organized” company. He said it had an excellent reputation and was known for its veteran staff. “If I were to pick anyone to go into that field after so many problems, I would pick LLOG,” Smith said. “They have demonstrated their ability to drill in the area.” Since 2010, LLOG has drilled eight wells in the Mississippi Canyon area in “analogous reservoirs at similar depths and pressures,” Fowler, the LLOG vice president, said. The company has drilled more than 50 wells in the Gulf since 2002, he said. He said the company has studied the investigations into the Macondo disaster and “ensured the lessons from those reports are accounted for in our design and well procedures.” In 2014, regulators approved splitting up Mississippi Canyon Block 252. BP still owns 270 acres of the block around its disastrous Macondo well and the area where the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon and other heavy equipment lie on the seafloor. LLOG owns the block’s other 5,490 acres. John Filostrat, a spokesman for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), said LLOG would be the first company to attempt to tap the oil and gas reserves that BP had been seeking. He said regulators did extensive reviews of the company’s drilling plans. The exploration plan calls for drilling into Block 252 from an adjacent block by June, federal records show. The drilling will be done by the Sevan Louisiana, a semisubmersible drilling rig owned by Sevan Drilling ASA, an international drilling company based in Oslo, Norway. LLOG’s permit to drill a new well near BP’s site was approved April 13 by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, an agency overseeing offshore oil and gas drilling operations. The company’s exploration plan was approved last October following an environmental review by the BOEM.

“Irresponsible & Reckless”: Environmentalists Decry Obama’s Approval For Shell Oil Drilling In Arctic

In Uncategorized on May 14, 2015 at 5:09 pm

Oldspeak: “Ignore all of Obama’s pledges to reduce U.S. carbon emissions, climate treaties with China and his yammering about the impacts of climate change on public health. They are meaningless drivel.  Instead, observe sociopathically ecocidal actions like this. In reality, plans are being implemented to increase production of one of the dirtiest energy sources on Earth. This is true U.S.climate & environmental policy. Allow an oil company, one of the most profitable and destructive on the planet, with a dismal safety record and criminal penalties for environmental pollution in the Arctic, to continue their environmentally devastating and extinction accelerating business in one of the most fragile, sensitive and ecologically vital regions on earth. Even though the oil company has no effective means to deal with oil spills and accidents. As conditions on Earth worsen, the extractive, unsustainable and inherently dangerous market-driven madness continues.The pathology of profit is DEEP.” -OSJ

Related Story:

U.S. Approves Shell’s Plan To Drill For Oil In The Arctic

By Amy Goodman & Nermeen Shaikh @ Democracy Now:

The Obama administration has tentatively approved Shell’s plans to begin oil extraction off the Alaskan coast this summer. Federal scientists estimate the Arctic region contains up to 15 billion barrels of oil, and Shell has long fought to drill in the icy waters of the Chukchi Sea. Environmentalists warn Arctic drilling will pose a risk to local wildlife and exacerbate climate change. They fear that a drilling accident in the icy Arctic Ocean waters could prove far more devastating than the deadly 2010 Gulf of Mexico spill since any rescue operations could be delayed for months by harsh weather conditions. We speak to Subhankar Banerjee. He is a renowned photographer, writer and activist who has spent the past 15 years working for the conservation of the Arctic and raising awareness about indigenous human rights and climate change. He is editor of the anthology, “Arctic Voices: Resistance at the Tipping Point.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: The Obama administration has tentatively approved Shell’s plans to begin oil extraction off the Alaskan coast this summer. Federal scientists estimate the Arctic region contains up to 15 billion barrels of oil, and Shell has long fought to drill in the icy waters of the Chukchi Sea.

AMY GOODMAN: Environmentalists warn Arctic drilling will pose a risk to local wildlife and exacerbate climate change. They fear a drilling accident in the icy Arctic Ocean waters could prove far more devastating than the deadly 2010 Gulf of Mexico spill, since any rescue operations could be delayed for months by harsh weather conditions. Speaking to KTUU, Lois Epstein of The Wilderness Society denounced the government’s decision to greenlight oil exploration.

LOIS EPSTEIN: Their record from 2012 drilling in the Arctic Ocean was a disaster, by anyone’s measure. One of their of drill rigs grounded near Kodiak. There were fires. There were criminal penalties for air pollution violations.

AMY GOODMAN: For more, we go to Washington, D.C.—Washington state, where we’re joined by Subhankar Banerjee. He’s a renowned photographer, writer and activist who’s spent the past 15 years working for the conservation of the Arctic and raising awareness about indigenous human rights and climate change, editor of the anthology, Arctic Voices: Resistance at the Tipping Point. His recent piece for TomDispatch is called “To Drill or Not to Drill, That is the Question.” In 2012, he won a Cultural Freedom Award from the Lannan Foundation.

Subhankar Banerjee, welcome back to Democracy Now! Can you talk about the Obama administration decision and what this means for the Arctic?

SUBHANKAR BANERJEE: The decision is both irresponsible and reckless. But let me clarify something at the beginning. What the administration has approved now is the exploration plans for Shell to drill this summer, starting from July to October. But this is not the—this is the most significant permit that Shell needs, but not all of the permits. So Shell still needs more permits from, like, NOAA, Fish and Wildlife Service and other federal agencies. So that’s why the activists are working very hard to make sure that some are—some of these permits are not granted, because it’s a reckless decision, as you mentioned, for multiple reasons, the primary ones being a spill in the Arctic Ocean would be far more devastating than what happened in the Gulf of Mexico. And the administration has finally acknowledged, after losing in two federal courts—one in 2010 and one in 2014—that there is a 75 percent chance of one or more major spills if exploration leads to production. So a spill is inevitable.

And if a spill does happen, as you mentioned, that, let’s say, a spill happens late in the season, like in October, then that oil will have to be left in place for like nine months, because the sea ice gets covered, covers the Arctic Sea, until the ice melts the following year, when effective cleanup can begin. But even if the spill happens in the summertime, it is a real problem, because the Arctic Sea always has constant dangers of large ice flows—and Shell already encountered that in their 2012 drilling season—as well as deep fog that severely restricts visibility, and the storms have become more violent and more intense. You combine that with the fact that there is absolutely no deep water port in U.S. Arctic—the nearest Coast Guard station is a thousand miles away—and there is no infrastructure in place. Like in your previous segment, you were talking about infrastructure. There is absolutely no infrastructure in place to respond to a large spill. So that’s the spill site.

The second site that we need to understand, that Arctic is what is called the integrator of world’s climate systems, both atmospheric and oceanic. Just to give you a couple of examples, what happens in the Arctic affects not just the Arctic, but the whole planet. The severe—recent years, severe winter weather in the Northeast of U.S. as well as the severe ongoing drought in California both have now been linked by recent scientific studies to slowing down of the Arctic jet stream, because the Arctic is warming at a much faster rate than the lower latitudes. And the second one is the Gulf Stream, where you have the warm water from the Gulf of Mexico and the southern latitudes go up to the Arctic, goes down into the deep ocean, gets cold and comes back. It’s called the Gulf Stream, that maintains, again, our oceanic and atmospheric process. That, too, is slowing down. And its impacts are not yet very well understood, but one thing is that it will further contribute to the increase of the sea level. So what happens in the Arctic affects us all, but also to the indigenous people up there. And you mentioned the ecology of the region. If the American public knew what is in those Arctic seas of America—Beaufort and the Chukchi—they will not allow drilling there, because it is truly a national and an international ecological treasure.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, according to this ad by Shell, the oil company has developed unprecedented Arctic oil spill response contingency plans.

SHELL AD: Shell’s Alaska exploration program is defined by its remoteness, and Shell has gone to great lengths to make sure a worst-case scenario, such as an oil spill, never takes place. But in the unlikely event that one did, Shell’s on-site oil spill response assets would be deployed and recovering oil within one hour. The recovery effort would be aided by nearshore response equipment and onshore oil spill response equipment. This kind of 24/7 response capability is unprecedented.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Subhankar, could you comment on what the Shell ad says and also tell us a little about Shell’s record in the Arctic region?

SUBHANKAR BANERJEE: What you just mentioned, Nermeen, is nothing new. It is sugarcoating on an old rhetoric that Shell has been peddling for the last few years. In 2010, Shell spent millions of dollars on an ad campaign called “Let’s Go” to pressure the Obama administration to grant them the various permits, and then towards the—and also another ad called “We have the technology—Let’s go.” So Shell has been saying this for the last at least five years now. Nothing has changed. All of the things I just mentioned previously has not changed. The government acknowledges it, that there would be a major spill. And if it does a spill happen, this whole idea of “We have the technology” is nothing but a PR campaign with no truth behind it, as industry and government would acknowledge, that if a spill does happen in the icy waters, the cleanup would be very ineffective compared to the Gulf of Mexico.

And then I forgot the second part of the question—oh, Shell’s record in the Arctic. So Shell went up there with, again, a conditional permit from the Obama administration in 2012, conditional because they were not allowed to drill all the way to the oil-bearing zone, only a top hole drilling to prepare for the following season. And what ended up happening? The very first day they started drilling, they encountered an ice flow the size of Manhattan, 30 miles by 10 miles long, and had to immediately halt operation and disconnect from the sea floor anchor. When they were coming—while they were going up to the Arctic, their drill ship, Noble Discoverer, almost ran aground off of the Dutch Harbor in Southwest Alaska. And then, while coming back, the Noble Discoverer caught fire, and the engine suffered damage, while the other drill ship, Kulluk, was grounded in the Gulf of Alaska, near Sitkalidak Island. And the reason they were bringing the Kulluk back was—actually, to the Seattle waters, Puget Sound water—is because Shell tried to avoid Alaska taxes. So it all goes back to the fact that right now the price of oil is low. And it is truly incredibly irresponsible, when price is—price of oil is low, and the technologies don’t exist, the infrastructure don’t exist, to send Shell up there, because Shell will try to cut costs, as they did in 2012. And the company and its subcontractor, Noble Drilling, was fined a total of $12 million, Noble Drilling, and $2 million to Shell, for violating numerous environment laws, including the Clean Air Act, as well as the Clean Water Act.

IPCC Report: More Than All of Observed Warming Has Been Caused by Humanity’s Emissions

In Uncategorized on May 14, 2015 at 4:10 pm
A lone sunflower ekes out a scant living at the Great Sand Dunes National Park in southern Colorado. (Image: Bruce Melton)

A lone sunflower ekes out a scant living at the Great Sand Dunes National Park in southern Colorado. (Image: Bruce Melton)

Oldspeak:”As the great and catastrophically destructive irreversible non-linear positive feedback loop that is Industrial civilization drones on, accelerating, growing larger, rapidly consuming and poisoning all that lives, this news is unsurprising. It’s been happening for at least 8000 years since the invention of agriculture, and has shown no signs of slowing down, even in the face of extinction in the near term. Profit is Paramount in the pathologically anthropocentric ideology of market-based globalized capitalism. Unfortunately for us and all other beings that live, there is no profit on a dead planet.” -OSJ

By Bruce Melton @ Truthout:

“The best estimate of the human-induced contribution to warming is similar to the observed warming [from 1951 through 2010].” IPCC 2013, Summary for Policy Makers.(1) This statement differs radically from the almost ubiquitous understanding that part of global warming has been caused by humanity and part is natural. In reality however, humanity’s excess greenhouse gas emissions have caused about 35 percent more than all of the observed warming and our climate is naturally cooling – there is no natural warming. Therein lies the rub. How can the human-induced contribution be similar to observed warming if more than all of the warming has been caused by humanity?

The answer is complicated, and is in part responsible for the miscommunication all these years. But first, what’s all of this about part of the warming being natural?

It is common knowledge that some portion of global warming is a natural phenomenon. Many reasons can be identified to show why we understand global warming this way and they include: partial knowledge about warming and cooling pollutants and mechanisms in the past, poor communication technique from scientists and anti-climate science propaganda from the climate change counter-movement (vested interests, fossil fuel industrial complex, Conservative think tanks and politicians, etc.)(2)

Starting From the Beginning: Ongoing Natural Global Cooling

Earth’s orbit around the sun and its tilt relative to the sun goes through cycles that range up to 100,000 years. These cycles result in 100,000 year–long ice ages alternating with 10,000 year-long interglacial warm periods (approximately). Our last ice age ended about 10,000 years ago and according to orbital cycles theory, we should have started cooling many thousands of years ago as we move into our next ice age.

Milutin Milankovitch first popularized the mechanics of this ice age theory during the First World War, but his theory was a bit flawed. Orbital cycles initiate ice ages; they don’t cause them. Feedbacks are responsible for most of the temperature change (changes in vegetation cover and resulting CO2 and methane changes, as well as changes in snow and ice cover, atmospheric and soil moisture and other natural earth processes). This flaw in Milankovitch’s theory however, does not mean that Ice Age Theory is wrong.

The Invention of Agriculture: Why Warming Instead of Cooling

Common wisdom is that human-caused warming began with the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century. In 2003, William Ruddiman, from the Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia and Professor Emeritus from Columbia University, showed how humanity began changing Earth’s climate 8,000 years ago because of the invention of agriculture.(3)

This is no casual paper on climate change. The number of this paper’s citations ranks in the top two percent of all papers ever published.(4) But do the public, our leaders and environment leaders, and even our most prestigious environmental regulatory agencies understand that this knowledge exists? Part of warming is not caused by humanity, so the rest is natural, right?

Ruddiman’s hypothesis continues; about 5,000 years ago, humanity upped the ante a notch and began growing rice for a very large portion of our population. Rice not only takes up area that forest once grew, but it creates methane too, a greenhouse gas 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in the long term.

Calculations by Ruddiman show that cooling from orbital cycle changes and consequential feedbacks should have cooled Earth 0.8 degrees C (1.4 degrees F) by 1800 AD. This exactly coincides with how much Earth has warmed in this period.

Although the cooling that we should have experienced in the last 200 years is less than 0.1 degrees F, the point is that there is no natural warming going on, the natural trend is a cooling trend.

More Than Observed Warming?

In and of itself, the IPCC Summary for Policy Makers statement above, “The best estimate of the human-induced contribution to warming is similar to the observed warming,” is seemingly straightforward and definitive. But it’s not. Humanity has caused some 35 percent more warming than is evident in the temperature record.

It literally took me a year to figure this one out. I’ll admit that I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer; it simply took me a year’s worth of fiddling to finally be able to understand the sources of these statements (Chapter 10 in the IPCC report). With this understanding in pocket, I could finally muster the courage to begin asking the lead authors questions. The need for the questions comes from a statement in IPCC’s Summary for Policy Makers (SPM) that immediately precedes the “human-induced contribution” statement. The quote below is how these two sentences are presented in Section D.3 of the SPM, Attribution of Climate Change, Bullet One:

“It is extremely likely that more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951 to 2010 was caused by the anthropogenic increase in greenhouse gas concentrations and other anthropogenic forcings together. The best estimate of the human-induced contribution to warming is similar to the observed warming.”

“More than half…” creates the confusion. The explanation comes from the final phrase of the first sentence, “… and other anthropogenic forcings together.” Forcings can be both warming or cooling. Cooling is caused by sulfates emitted from burning coal, volcanoes, clouds, natural ocean cycles and the 22-year sunspot cycle.

So when the IPCC says “…other anthropogenic forcings together,” this means net warming; or all of the forcings combined together. This is how observed warming can be less than what our greenhouse gas emissions have caused: some of our climate pollution emissions are global cooling emissions. In the past, the science did not portray a good understanding of a lot of these cooling and warming forcings; we only knew that our climate was naturally cooling, so warming must be more than observed. Now we have a much better understanding and can say how much warming and cooling comes from what source. It is very important that outreach and policy reflect this new knowledge.

The “human-induced contribution…” statement can also be reconciled with an understanding that it is “net” warming we are talking about.

So why the confusion? Could it be that some stop reading after such a definitive statement as “half of the warming is caused by…” and never get to the meat of the subject focused on forcings? Or could it be the $900 million annual funding for the climate change counter-movement, or simply that scientists have not felt comfortable enough with their knowledge yet to create a definitive statement such as was created in the 2013 IPCC report? All of the pieces of the puzzle have been known for over a decade. Ruddiman’s distinguished success with his 2003 paper attests to this.

Whatever the reason, the miscommunication has been so successful that even the EPA repeats the myth in a bulleted statement in an emphasis box on their Climate Change Science website: “Most of the observed warming since the mid-20th century is due to human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.”(5)

The rest must be caused naturally, shouldn’t it?

Warming and Cooling Balance Sheet

The IPCC sums up all the different forcings and emissions and mechanisms involved in this nifty little chart from their Technical Summary and from Chapter 10 and it is presented below in the chart: Global Temperature Change 1951 to 2010 Balance Sheet. The chart begins only at 1951 because data prior to then are not as robust as later data, though it is quite likely that current trends are not markedly different from prior ones.

One word about errors: The “whiskers” or the horizontal lines with small perpendicular lines on each end that look like a very wide letter “H” are part of what is called a box plot. The whiskers represent the rare outliers of the data set or the distribution of data points. So looking at “Observed,” warming is (about) 0.65 degrees C, with a maximum outlier of 0.71 C and a minimum outlier of 0.58 C. When looking at the statistics of a data set and their relationship to the whiskers, the most of the data points are very close to the middle of the whiskers or 0.65 degrees. I have left the whiskers on this plot to make a point. Many see these “error bars” incorrectly and assume that the answer lies anywhere between the error bars. Although not invalid, a more accurate interpretation of error bars is that, only on rare occasions is the answer not very close to the middle of the whiskers.

On the balance sheet: “observed” in black, is warming we have seen in the thermometer record from 1951 to 2010 at about 0.65 degrees C. “GHG” in green, is warming from greenhouse gases at 0.9 C. This is the “forcing,” or how much our atmosphere should have warmed without interference from any other source. “ANT” in orange, is anthropogenic forcing at 0.7 C, or the net warming from all sources both warming and cooling. “OA” in yellow is optical aerosols, of about -0.25 C. Optical aerosols are mostly sulfate pollution from burning coal and they are global cooling pollutants and will be discussed further in a few paragraphs. “NAT” in blue, is natural forcing from things like changes in the sun’s energy, mostly from the sunspot cycle as well as changes in natural forcings from volcanoes. “Internal Variability” of about plus or minus 0.01 C comes from natural earth system cycles which are mostly ocean cycles like El Nino, La Nina, the Pacific Decadel Oscillation and the Atlantic Meridional Overturning; and the amount is too small to register on this chart.

Observed warming and anthropogenic warming (ANT) should be equal, but because they were determined using different methods (thermometers versus calculations) and because of the error bars in the different mechanism that warm and cool, there is a small mismatch of about 0.05 C or less than 10 percent. This is pretty good since there are so many individual mechanisms and they all have their own error bars.

To summarize, the total warming that we should see from excess greenhouse gases that we have emitted (based on 1951 to 2010) is 0.9 degrees C, but optical aerosols and have masked about 35 percent of that.

Optical Aerosols: Smog From Coal

Now we turn to the main reason why human-induced warming is more than observed warming. The IPCC says approximately 57 percent of warming that should have already occurred has come from optical aerosols or global cooling sulfates, mostly emitted from burning coal.(6)

These sulfate emissions are much more commonly known as one of the main ingredients in smog. In the post-World War II era, rapid industrial expansion emitted so many global cooling sulfates that smog cooled Earth enough to actually stall warming. By the mid-1960s, smog was crippling major population centers in the developed world. In 1963, the US enacted the Clean Air Act, but it was not until 1970 that President Nixon put teeth into the rules. At about the same time, most of the rest of the developed world did the same. In the US, about half of coal fired generators have sulfate scrubbers and these remove about half of the sulfate from the exhaust stream.(7)

Because sulfates are very short-lived pollutants, by the late 1970s, the masking of global warming that they had been creating disappeared and the global temperature started to rise again.(8)

The Moral to This Story: Emissions Reductions Timing

Since about 2000, Eastern Nations (China and India, etc.) have seen a very rapid industrialization without the benefit of air pollution control rules. The IPCC statement that 57 percent of warming that should have already occurred is significantly caused by this new phase of air pollution from Eastern Nations.

These nations are currently suffering extreme air pollution in many heavily populated regions and are in the beginning stages of regulation. As these regulations evolve and as sulfates are regulated more stringently, warming from greenhouse gases already emitted will be unmasked. Combining this unmasking with the current rapidly increasing rate of greenhouse gas emissions means the global temperature will climb at a rate that will make the increase from 1951 to 2010 pale in comparison.

Hidden in this masking, and in the current state of climate pollution control policy, is an unseen and very counter-intuitive reality. Climate pollution policy is no longer about reducing carbon dioxide as fast as possible. Emissions reductions timing is paramount. Without understanding the net impact of all air pollutants – warming and cooling – emitted from coal, using the almost universally proposed method of shutting down coal generation as a primary climate change policy measure, it is entirely possible that we could actually see more warming than if we did nothing at all.(9)


1. IPCC: More than all of observed warming and half of warming explained… Bullet one, Summary for Policy Makers, Section D.3, Attribution of Climate Change, page 15: “It is extremely likely that more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951 to 2010 was caused by the anthropogenic increase in greenhouse gas concentrations and other anthropogenic forcings together. The best estimate of the human-induced contribution to warming is similar to the observed warming over this period.” The key is in the last phrase of the first sentence “Anthropogenic forcings together.” Forcings include both warming and cooling forcings. Because 57 percent of warming that should have occurred already has been masked by global cooling sulfates, mostly emitted from burning coal, total “forcings” are less than total warming.

2. Climate Change Counter-Movement… Brulle, Institutionalizing delay: foundation funding and the creation of U.S. climate change counter-movement organizations, Climatic Change, December 21, 2013.

3. Our climate should be cooling, not warming… From the abstract of Ruddiman 2003: “The anthropogenic era is generally thought to have begun 150 to 200 years ago, when the industrial revolution began producing CO2 and CH4 at rates sufficient to alter their compositions in the atmosphere. A different hypothesis is posed here: anthropogenic emissions of these gases first altered atmospheric concentrations thousands of years ago. This hypothesis is based on three arguments. (1) Cyclic variations in CO2 and CH4 driven by Earth-orbital changes during the last 350,000 years predict decreases throughout the Holocene, but the CO2 trend began an anomalous increase 8000 years ago, and the CH4 trend did so 5000 years ago. (2) Published explanations for these mid- to late-Holocene gas increases based on natural forcing can be rejected based on paleoclimatic evidence. (3) A wide array of archeological, cultural, historical and geologic evidence points to viable explanations tied to anthropogenic changes resulting from early agriculture in Eurasia, including the start of forest clearance by 8000 years ago and of rice irrigation by 5000 years ago.”

Ruddiman, The Anthropogenic Greenhouse Era Began Thousands of Years Ago, Climatic Change, December 2003. (574 scientific research articles cite Ruddiman 2003 as of 04/02/2015.)

4. Ruddiman’s paper ranks in the top two percent of most highly published papers of any kind, in all time… 826 citations according to Google Scholar, ISI has 410, 439 on ResearchGate, … The bottom 56 million papers have less than 100 citations each. The top one million papers have between 100 and 999 citations. 25 million have zero citations each.

Noorden, Maher and Nuzzo, The top 100 papers, nature explores the most-cited research of all time, Nature, October 29, 2014,. See the image “The Paper Mountain.”

5. EPA repeats the myth that part of the warming is natural… Most of observed warming is caused by humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions… EPA, Climate Change, Science, Causes, paragraph 5.

6. IPCC 2013, Optical Aerosols mask 57 percent of warming that should already have occurred… In the Summary for Policy Makers, 57 percent of warming that should have been experienced to date has been masked by aerosols. The major driver in this masking is sulfates from burning coal. The high end of the range suggested by the IPCC has been used in this 57 percent estimate because of the history of underestimation by the IPCC.

IPCC 2013 Summary for Policy Makers (SPM), page 11, C. Drivers of Climate Change, bullet 7. Up to (-)1.9 to (-) 0.1Wm(-2) of warming has been masked by aerosols out of 2.29 Wm(-2) (Bullet 1) of total warming experienced to date. This equals 57 percent of total warming masked by aerosols and does represent the high end of the range.

7. More than half of SO2 emissions by coal… This accounting looks at data to 2005. Since 2005, Russia and India have both surpassed the U.S. in SO2 emissions because of greatly increased electrical generation from coal. Smith at al., say half of aerosol sulfate emissions are from coal generation up to 2005.

Smith et al., Anthropogenic sulfur dioxide emissions 1850 to 2005, atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 11, 1101-1116, 2011, page 1108, Results and Discussion, paragraph 3.

8. Air pollution caused global cooling between 1940 and the 1970s: Wilcox et al., The influence of anthropogenic aerosols on multi-decadel variations of historical climate, Environmental Resaerch Letters, June 5, 2013, abstract.

9. With a 50 percent swap of coal for natural gas, warming is increased to 2050 with zero fugitive methane emissions and to 2140 with 10 percent fugitive emissions… From the abstract.

Wigley, Coal to gas: the influence of methane leakage, Climatic Change Letters, August 26, 2011, abstract, final sentence.

Press Release.

Full Paper.


Bruce Melton

Bruce Melton is a professional engineer, environmental researcher, filmmaker, author and CEO of the Climate Change Now Initiative in Austin, Texas. The Climate Change Now Initiative is a nonprofit outreach organization reporting the latest discoveries in climate science in plain English. Information on his book, Climate Discovery Chronicles, can be found along with more climate change writing, climate science outreach and critical environmental issue documentary films at www.climatediscovery.org.

The Perils of “Single Study Syndrome”: Overlooked Evidence – Global Warming May Proceed Faster Than Expected

In Uncategorized on May 3, 2015 at 7:31 pm
Lake Mead is seen in the distance behind boats in dry dock near the Lake Mead Marina in Nevada.

Lake Mead is seen in the distance behind boats in dry dock near the Lake Mead Marina in Nevada. Photograph: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Oldspeak: “My reaction? Duh, no shit. It’s not a question of “may” but “is proceeding faster than expected!” How is that not obvious at this point?! We have no idea of the total universe of factors impacting our climate, so of course all climate models are underestimating everything.” -OSJ

By Dana Nuccitelli @ The U.K. Guardian:

The inconvenient evidence for high climate sensitivity is often ignored

It’s known as “single study syndrome”. When a new scientific paper is published suggesting that the climate is relatively insensitive to the increased greenhouse effect, potentially modestly downgrading the associated climate change threats, that sort of paper will generally receive disproportionate media attention. Because of that media attention, people will tend to remember the results of that single paper, and neglect the many recent studies that have arrived at very different conclusions.

Clouds Point to a Sensitive Climate

For example, there have been several recent studies finding that the global climate models that most accurately simulate observed changes in clouds and humidity over the past 10–15 years also happen to be the ones that are the most sensitive to the increased greenhouse effect. For example, a 2012 paper by Kevin Trenberth and John Fasullo concluded,

A 2014 paper led by Steven Sherwood took a similar approach with similar results. The paper concluded,

Figure (derived from Sherwood et al. 2014, Fig. 5c) showing the relationship between the models’ estimate of Lower Tropospheric Mixing (LTMI) and sensitivity, along with estimates of the same metric from radiosondes and the MERRA and ERA-Interim reanalyses. Source: RealClimate.

Another 2014 paper published by scientists from CalTech and UCLA arrived at a similar conclusion, as lead author Hui Su explains,

Clouds Hold the Key

Clouds are a key to determining the Earth’s climate sensitivity. We know that by itself, a doubling of the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will cause about 1.2°C global warming. A warmer atmosphere will hold more water vapor, and as another greenhouse gas, we know that increase in water vapor will roughly double that carbon-caused warming (a “positive feedback”). We also know of some other significant positive feedbacks, like melting ice decreasing the reflectivity of the Earth’s surface, causing it to absorb more energy from the sun.

Those who argue that the Earth’s climate is relatively insensitive to the increased greenhouse effect need a big negative feedback to offset those factors we know amplify global warming. Clouds represent the only such plausible mechanism, because we don’t have a very good grasp on how different types of clouds will change in a hotter world.

For example, climate scientist contrarian Richard Lindzen came up with what’s known as the “iris hypothesis” in 2001, suggesting that in a warmer world, high cirrus clouds will contract like the iris on an eye to allow more heat to escape. That hypothesis has not withstood the test of time, however, with four studies published within a year of Lindzen’s paper effectively refuting the hypothesis. One recent paper found that even if the iris effect is real, it would reduce the Earth’s climate sensitivity by no more than 20%, still well within the range of possible values outlined by the IPCC.

Not only have the aforementioned studies found that changes in humidity and clouds are consistent with simulations from more sensitive climate models, but previous research led by Andrew Dessler and more recently by Kevin Trenberth and colleagues has shown that observed changes in water vapor amplifying global warming as expected, and that clouds are thus far acting to weakly amplify global warming. These observations are inconsistent with the strong cloud dampening effect contrarians need to justify arguments for low climate sensitivity.

Low Sensitivity Single Study Syndrome

There have been a few recent studies using what’s called an “energy balance model” approach, combining simple climate models with recent observational data, concluding that climate sensitivity is on the low end of IPCC estimates. However, subsequent research has identified some potentially serious flaws in this approach.

These types of studies have nevertheless been the focus of disproportionate attention. For example, in recent testimony before the US House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology, contrarian climate scientist Judith Curry said,

Curry referenced just one paper (using the energy balance model approach) to support that argument – the very definition of single study syndrome – plus an interpretation of a second paper whose author objected, saying,

Real Skeptics Consider all the Evidence

True skepticism requires considering all available evidence. While some studies suggest that climate sensitivity is on the low end of the estimated range, other studies suggest it’s on the high end. As Andrew Dessler told me,

Andrew Dessler discusses climate sensitivity.

Ultimately when we consider all the available scientific evidence and risk management principles, there’s no case to be made for delaying action to curb global warming.

Update: yet another paper has just been published finding that the models that most accurately simulate the observed changes in the Earth’s atmosphere are the ones that are most sensitive to the increasing greenhouse effect.

One In Six Of World’s Species Faces Extinction Due To Climate Change. Climate Change Will Accelerate Earth’s 6th Mass Extinction

In Uncategorized on May 3, 2015 at 6:22 pm

The marbled salamander is increasing its distribution and range in response to warming winter temperatures. (Mark Urban)

Oldspeak: “The risk if we continue on our current trajectory is very high. If you look out your window and count six species and think that one of those will potentially disappear, that’s quite profound. Those losses would affect our economy, our cultures, our food security, our health. It really compels us to act.” Dr. Mark C Urban

“I’m watching the NBA playoffs. A wave a sadness just gripped me watching the commercials at half time. So many car commercials. So many food commercials. So many Movie and TV commercials. So many alcohol commercials. Claiming to free your soul. To expand your horizons. To have you on the edge of your seat. To fill your stomach. To bring you pleasure and fun. To dazzle your senses with wondrous and exciting distractions. Tweetworthy “experiences”. I guess what else to expect on the Disney Corporations’ Infotainment stream ABC really. Nothing real. Even the “news” was about how to tell if your wedding ring was fake. All the variegated manner of unreality purporting to make you feel alive. SIGH. All that in the context of this life altering and extinguishing actual reality. Business as usual continues unabated. We pretty much know how this show goes. We are The Walking Dead. Acting at this point is pointless. 2c is a fantasy at this point, and even that’s a fucking nightmare. Sigh. I’ll choose to meditate on the words of Nisargadatta:

Whatever is happening is bound to happen. There is a series of events; a scenario is written down. So according to that scenario, things happen. If we are identified with all sorts of things, we have certain hopes and aspirations; and if things turn out accordingly, we are happy. If the things that happen are not according to our wishes we are unhappy. So we will continue to be happy and unhappy in an endless cycle, so long as we persist in this attitude. However the moment we see things a proper perspective — that all we can do is see that witnessing happens, and that whatever happens is independent of our thoughts — then there is a different state. There is no volition as far as an individual is concerned; things happen on their own. When that is seen, there is already a certain piece of mind…. The ignorant man will want to live as long as he can. He would like to postpone the moment of death as much as possible. But for a jnani (knower, sage one who has realized the self), what benefit of any kind can he expect  by existing in the world even one more minute? So the only thing that would be nice is for the vital breath to leave quietly and not make a fuss.” Word to ya Maharaj.” -OSJ

By Sarah Zielinski @ Smithsonian.com:

The pace at which species disappear is picking up as temperatures rise, and things are looking especially troubling in the tropics

Climate change is accelerating species loss on Earth, and by the end of this century, as many as one in six species could be at risk of extinction. But while these effects are being seen around the world, the threat is much higher in certain sensitive regions, according to two new comprehensive studies.

The planet is experiencing a new wave of die-offs driven by factors such as habitat loss, the introduction of exotic invaders and rapid changes to our climate. Some people have called the phenomenon the sixth mass extinction, on par with the catastrophic demise of the large dinosaurs 65 million years ago. To try and combat the declines, scientists have been racing to make predictions about which species are most likely to go extinct, along with when and where it will happen, sometimes with widely varying results.

“Depending on which study you look at, you can come away with a rosy or gloomy view of climate change extinctions,” notes Mark Urban of the University of Connecticut. “That’s because each study focuses on different species [and] regions of the world and makes different assumptions about climate change and species’ responses.”

In one of the two new studies published today in Science, Urban compensated for all those differences by combining 131 previously published studies into one big prediction. If greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated, he calculates, 16 percent of species will be threatened with extinction due to climate change by the end of the century.

“Perhaps most surprising is that extinction risk does not just increase with temperature rise, but accelerates, curving upward as the Earth warms,” Urban says. If greenhouse gases were capped and temperatures rose a couple degrees less, then the extinction threat would be nearly halved, he found.

Urban’s analysis focused on major land areas (minus Antarctica) and found that the risk of die-offs was not equal around the world. South America, Australia and New Zealand will experience the most extinctions, probably because these regions have many species that are endemic and found nowhere else in the world, and they rely on habitats that are not found anywhere else.

Ocean areas predicted to be at high risk of extinction (red) are overlaid with areas most impacted by humans (black outline) and regions experiencing a high rate of climate change (crosshatch). (Finnegan et al, Science.)

In the second study, Seth Finnegan of the University of California, Berkeley and colleagues drew from the fossil record to make predictions about modern extinction risk in the world’s coastal areas.

“Extinction is a process that often plays out on very long timescales—thousands of years or more. But our direct observations of modern species span, in even the best cases, only a few hundred years,” notes Finnegan. “Fossils allow us to examine the entire histories of different groups, from their first appearance until their final extinction.”

Finnegan’s group used the fossil histories of six groups of marine animals—bivalves, gastropods, sea urchins, sharks, mammals and stony corals—to determine which kinds of animals were inherently more likely to disappear, or the intrinsic risk of extinction. Similar groups of species tend to have similar patterns of extinction, Finnegan notes, which makes fossil studies such as this one possible. They team also analyzed the geographic locations where such extinctions were more likely to occur.

The researchers then overlaid their map of intrinsic extinctions with data on today’s human impacts and climate change to determine probable hotspots of species loss. They found that coastal species will be especially at risk near the tropics, including the Indo-Pacific, the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico.

“The implications of these broad-scale patterns for the future of coastal marine ecosystems will depend on how intrinsic risk and current threats interact to determine future extinction risk,” the researchers note. In some places, such as the North Atlantic, “anthropogenic impacts may dwarf intrinsic risk effects and leave a distinctly human fingerprint on future extinctions.”