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

Archive for April, 2017|Monthly archive page

Planetary Roulette: Juggling Live Hand Grenades

In Uncategorized on April 30, 2017 at 8:06 pm

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Oldspeak: Really strong analysis of the current reality. Industrial Civilization is in quite a precarious spot. The energy that powers it is getting dirtier, harder, and less profitable to produce, as Energy Return On Investment (EROI) has been falling during the last decade. It punches a hole in this fantasy that Corporate environmentalist , “New Economy” pushers peddle; that we can science the shit outa this, geoengineering and renewabling our way out of this intractable predicament. The reality is this:

Getting to 100 percent renewables will be very difficult and expensive. It will ultimately require a dramatic reduction in energy usage, and a redesign of entire systems (food, transport, buildings, and manufacturing

Now, does anyone reading this think that there is any policy in place that requires dramatic reductions in energy usage and wholesale system redesign? Nah. It’s fairly obvious, that business as usual is still en vogue. The infinite growth imperative is still accepted as possible and desirable. This fantasy about switching to 100 percent renewable powered civilization is just that, fantasy. We don’t have sufficient clean water or mineral resources to make that happen. Drought is threatening food, energy and manufacturing production systems. “Elite overproduction” has had a large part in effectively paralyzing human systems of “control”. Industrial scale violence is being done to the planets’ life support systems.  The author sums up things pretty well when he says:

Maintaining a civilization is always a delicate balancing act that is sooner or later destined to fail. Some combination of population pressure, resource depletion, economic inequality, pollution, and climate change has undermined every complex society since the beginnings of recorded history roughly seven thousand years ago. Urban centers managed to flourish for a while by importing resources from their peripheries, exporting wastes and disorder beyond their borders, and using social stratification to generate temporary surpluses of wealth. But these processes are all subject to the law of diminishing returns: eventually, every boom turns to bust. In some respects the cycles of civilizational advance and decline mirror the adaptive cycle in ecological systems, where the crash of one cycle clears the way for the start of a new one… Yet while modern civilization is subject to cyclical constraints, in our case the boom has been fueled to an unprecedented extreme by a one-time-only energy subsidy from tens of millions of years’ worth of bio-energy transformed into fossil fuels by agonizingly slow geological processes. One way or another, our locomotive of industrial progress is destined to run off the rails, and because we’ve chugged to such perilous heights of population size and consumption rates, we have a long way to fall—much further than any previous civilization.”

Powerful argument. We’re likely at the end of a cycle. Many indicators are showing societal and ecological collapse are in progress. This is a one time only deal. It’s not gonna happen again anytime soon. There’s no do over here.” –OSJ

Written By Richard Heinberg @ The Post Carbon Institute:

Recent Papers and Articles

Here are a few useful recent contributions to the global sustainability conversation, with relevant comments interspersed. Toward the end of this essay I offer some general thoughts about converging challenges to the civilizational system. 

“Oil Extraction, Economic Growth, and Oil Price Dynamics,” by Aude Illig and Ian Schiller. BioPhysical Economics and Resource Quality, March 2017, 2:1.

Once upon a time it was assumed that as world oil supplies were depleted and burned, prices would simply march upward until they either crashed the economy or incentivized both substitute fuels and changes to systems that use petroleum (mainly transportation). With a little hindsight—that is, in view of the past decade of extreme oil price volatility—it’s obvious that that assumption was simplistic and useless for planning purposes. Illig’s and Schiller’s paper is an effort to find a more realistic and rigorously supported (i.e., with lots of data and equations) explanation for the behavior of oil prices and the economy as the oil resource further depletes.

The authors find, in short, that before oil production begins to decline, high prices incentivize new production without affecting demand too much, while low prices incentivize rising demand without reducing production too much. The economy grows. It’s a self-balancing, self-regulating system that’s familiar territory to every trained economist.

However, because oil is a key factor of economic production, a depleting non-renewable resource, and is hard to replace, conventional economic theory does a lousy job describing the declining phase of extraction. It turns out that once depletion has proceeded to the point where extraction rates start to decline, the relationship between oil prices and the economy shifts significantly. Now high prices kill demand without doing much to incentivize new production that’s actually profitable), while low prices kill production without doing much to increase demand. The system becomes self-destabilizing, the economy stagnates or contracts, the oil industry invests less in future production capacity, and oil production rates begin to fall faster and faster.

The authors conclude:

Our analysis and empirical evidence are consistent with oil being a fundamental quantity in economic production. Our analysis indicates that once the contraction period for oil extraction begins, price dynamics will accelerate the decline in extraction rates: extraction rates decline because of a decrease in profitability of the extraction business. . . . We believe that the contraction period in oil extraction has begun and that policy makers should be making contingency plans.

As I was reading this paper, the following thoughts crossed my mind. Perhaps the real deficiency of the peak oil “movement” was not its inability to forecast the exact timing of the peak (at least one prominent contributor to the discussion, petroleum geologist Jean Laherrère, made in 2002 what could turn out to have been an astonishingly accurate estimate for the global conventional oil peak in 2010, and global unconventional oil peak in 2015). Rather, its shortcoming was twofold: 1) it didn’t appreciate the complexity of the likely (and, as noted above, poorly understood) price-economy dynamics that would accompany the peak, and 2) it lacked capacity to significantly influence policy makers. Of course, the purpose of the peak oil movement’s efforts was not to score points with forecasting precision but to change the trajectory of society so that the inevitable peak in world oil production, whenever it occurred, would not result in economic collapse. The Hirsch Report of 2005 showed that that change of trajectory would need to start at least a decade before the peak in order to achieve the goal of averting collapse. As it turned out, the peak oil movement did provide society with a decade of warning, but there was no trajectory change on the part of policy makers. Instead, many pundits clouded the issue by spending that crucial decade deriding the peak oil argument because of insufficient predictive accuracy on the part of some of its proponents. And now? See this article:

“Saudi Aramco Chief Warns of Looming Oil Shortage,” by Anjli Raval and Ed Crooks, Financial Times, April 14, 2017.

The message itself should be no surprise. Everyone who’s been paying attention to the oil industry knows that investments in future production capacity have fallen dramatically in the past three years as prices have languished. It’s important to have some longer-term historical perspective, though: today’s price of $50 per barrel is actually a high price for the fuel in the post-WWII era, even taking inflation into account. The industry’s problem isn’t really that prices are too low; it’s that the costs of finding and producing the remaining oil are too high. In any case, with prices not high enough to generate profits, the industry has no choice but to cut back on investments, and that means production will soon start to lag. Again, anyone who’s paying attention knows this.

What’s remarkable is hearing the head of Saudi Arabia’s state energy company convey the news. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Amin Nasser, chief executive of Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil producing company, said on Friday that 20 [million] barrels a day in future production capacity was required to meet demand growth and offset natural field declines in the coming years. “That is a lot of production capacity, and the investments we now see coming back—which are mostly smaller and shorter term—are not going to be enough to get us there,” he said at the Columbia University Energy Summit in New York. Mr. Nasser said that the oil market was getting closer to rebalancing supply and demand, but the short-term market still points to a surplus as U.S. drilling rig levels rise and growth in shale output returns. Even so, he said it was not enough to meet supplies required in the coming years, which were “falling behind substantially.” About $1 [trillion] in oil and gas investments had been deferred and cancelled since the oil downturn began in 2014.

Mr. Nasser went on to point out that conventional oil discoveries have more than halved during the past four years.

The Saudis have never promoted the notion of peak oil. Their mantra has always been, “supplies are sufficient.” Now their tune has changed—though Mr. Nasser’s statement does not mention peak oil by name. No doubt he would argue that resources are plentiful; the problem lies with prices and investment levels. Yes, of course. Never mention depletion; that would give away the game. 

“How Does Energy Resource Depletion Affect Prosperity? Mathematics of a Minimum Energy Return on Investment (EROI),” by Adam R. Brandt. BioPhysical Economics and Resource Quality, (2017) 2:2.

Adam Brandt’s latest paper follows on work by Charlie Hall and others, inquiring whether there is a minimum energy return on investment (EROI) required in order for industrial societies to function. Unfortunately EROI calculations tend to be slippery because they depend upon system boundaries. Draw a close boundary around an energy production system and you are likely to arrive at a higher EROI calculation; draw a wide boundary, and the EROI ratio will be lower. That’s why some EROI calculations for solar PV are in the range of 20:1 while others are closer to 2:1. That’s a very wide divergence, with enormous practical implications.

In his paper, Brandt largely avoids the boundary question and therefore doesn’t attempt to come up with a hard number for a minimum societal EROI. What he does is to validate the general notion of minimum EROI; he also notes that society’s overall EROI has been falling during the last decade. Brandt likewise offers support for the notion of an EROI “cliff”: that is, if EROI is greater than 10:1, the practical impact of an incremental rise or decline in the ratio is relatively small; however, if EROI is below 10:1, each increment becomes much more significant. This also supports Ugo Bardi’s idea of the “Seneca cliff,” according to which societal decline following a peak in energy production, consumption, and EROI may be far quicker than the build-up to the peak.

“Burden of Proof: A Comprehensive Review of the Feasibility of 100% Renewable-Electricity Systems,” by B.P. Heard, B.W. Brook, T.M.L. Wigley, and C.J.A. Bradshaw. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Volume 76, September 2017, Pages 1122–1133.

This study largely underscores what David Fridley and I wrote in our recent book Our Renewable Future. None of the plans reviewed here (including those by Mark Jacobson and co-authors) passes muster. Clearly, it is possible to reduce fossil fuels while partly replacing them with wind and solar, using current fossil generation capacity as a fallback (this is already happening in many countries). But getting to 100 percent renewables will be very difficult and expensive. It will ultimately require a dramatic reduction in energy usage, and a redesign of entire systems (food, transport, buildings, and manufacturing), as we detail in our book.

“Social Instability Lies Ahead, Researcher Says,” by Peter Turchin. January 4, 2017, Phys.org.

Over a decade ago, ecologist Peter Turchin began developing a science he calls cliodynamics, which treats history using empirical methods including statistical analysis and modeling. He has applied the same methods to his home country, the United States, and arrives at startling conclusions.

My research showed that about 40 seemingly disparate (but, according to cliodynamics, related) social indicators experienced turning points during the 1970s. Historically, such developments have served as leading indicators of political turmoil. My model indicated that social instability and political violence would peak in the 2020s.

Turchin sees the recent U.S. presidential election as confirming his forecast: “We seem to be well on track for the 2020s instability peak. . . . If anything, the negative trends seem to be accelerating.” He regards Donald Trump as more of a symptom, rather than a driver, of these trends.

The author’s model tracks factors including “growing income and wealth inequality, stagnating and even declining well-being of most Americans, growing political fragmentation and governmental dysfunction.” Often social scientists focus on just one of these issues; but in Turchin’s view, “these developments are all interconnected. Our society is a system in which different parts affect each other, often in unexpected ways.”

One issue he gives special weight is what he calls “elite overproduction,” where a society generates more elites than can practically participate in shaping policy. The result is increasing competition among the elites that wastes resources needlessly and drives overall social decline and disintegration. He sees plenty of historical antecedents where elite overproduction drove waves of political violence. In today’s America there are far more millionaires than was the case only a couple of decades ago, and rich people tend to be more politically active than poor ones. This causes increasing political polarization (millionaires funding extreme candidates), erodes cooperation, and results in a political class that is incapable of solving real problems.

I think Turchin’s method of identifying and tracking social variables, using history as a guide, is relevant and useful. And it certainly offers a sober warning about where America is headed during the next few years. However, I would argue that in the current instance his method actually misses several layers of threat. Historical societies were not subject to the same extraordinary boom-bust cycle driven by the use of fossil fuels as our civilization saw during the past century. Nor did they experience such rapid population growth as we’ve experienced in recent decades (Syria and Egypt saw 4 percent per annum growth in the years after 1960), nor were they subject to global anthropogenic climate change. Thus the case for near-term societal and ecosystem collapse is actually stronger than the one he makes.

Some Concluding Thoughts

Maintaining a civilization is always a delicate balancing act that is sooner or later destined to fail. Some combination of population pressure, resource depletion, economic inequality, pollution, and climate change has undermined every complex society since the beginnings of recorded history roughly seven thousand years ago. Urban centers managed to flourish for a while by importing resources from their peripheries, exporting wastes and disorder beyond their borders, and using social stratification to generate temporary surpluses of wealth. But these processes are all subject to the law of diminishing returns: eventually, every boom turns to bust. In some respects the cycles of civilizational advance and decline mirror the adaptive cycle in ecological systems, where the crash of one cycle clears the way for the start of a new one. Maybe civilization will have yet another chance, and possibly the next iteration will be better, built on mutual aid and balance with nature. We should be planting the seeds now.

Yet while modern civilization is subject to cyclical constraints, in our case the boom has been fueled to an unprecedented extreme by a one-time-only energy subsidy from tens of millions of years’ worth of bio-energy transformed into fossil fuels by agonizingly slow geological processes. One way or another, our locomotive of industrial progress is destined to run off the rails, and because we’ve chugged to such perilous heights of population size and consumption rates, we have a long way to fall—much further than any previous civilization.

Perhaps a few million people globally know enough of history, anthropology, environmental science, and ecological economics to have arrived at general understandings and expectations along these lines. For those who are paying attention, only the specific details of the inevitable processes of societal simplification and economic/population shrinkage remain unknown.

There’s a small cottage industry of websites and commenters keeping track of signs of imminent collapse and hypothesizing various possible future collapse trajectories. Efforts to this end may have practical usefulness for those who hope to escape the worst of the mayhem in the process—which is likely to be prolonged and uneven—and perhaps even improve lives by building community resilience. However, many collapsitarians are quite admittedly just indulging a morbid fascination with history’s greatest train wreck. In many of my writings I try my best to avoid morbid fascination and focus on practical usefulness. But every so often it’s helpful to step back and take it all in. It’s quite a show.

Trilogy Flashback | Through The Looking Glass: Herding Cats For The People’s Climate March – What We Refuse To See

In Uncategorized on April 28, 2017 at 12:24 pm
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Image courtesy of Mark Gould

Oldspeak: “Before you waste your time and energy marching around and yelling for a few hours at the latest example of managed dissent par excellence/rock concert;  the People’s Climate Farce and going back to fueling this omnicidal death machine that is Industrial Civilization tomorrow, read up on what kinna fuckupedness you’re dealing with. http://www.Wrongkindofgreen.org has done stellar work on the corporate co-option and manipulation of large parts of the environmental movement via the Non-Profit Industrial Complex. Dissent has been commodified and monetized. And it’s managed by the Transnational Corporate Network. It’s kinna crazy.” -OSJ

 

#1: This Changes Nothing. Why the People’s Climate March Guarantees Climate Catastrophe

September 17, 2014

Excerpt:

“The People’s Climate March in New York City is a mobilization campaign created by Avaaz and 350.org, with 350.org at the forefront. The oligarchs do not bankroll such a mobilization (via millions of dollars funnelled through foundations) without reason. There is an agenda. The information that follows makes the agenda very clear and the only thing green about it is the colour of money. The term “green”, in reference to environment is, officially dead….

It is incredible (as in, difficult to believe) that today’s biggest shills for the Empire of the 21st century double as the iconic symbols of progressive change and activism for the so-called left. Aldous Huxley often expressed a deep concern that citizens could become subjugated via refined use of the mass media. His fears were most prophetic. There is little doubt that if he were alive today, even he would be taken aback by the sheer “success” and madness of it. [Further reading: On the Eve of an Illegal Attack on Syria, Avaaz/350.org Board Members Beat the Drums of War]

Citizens who claim they wish to protect our shared environment must educate themselves on the role of foundation funding and the key NGOs (350.org, Avaaz, Purpose, WWF, etc.) being heavily financed to implement the illusory green new economy. Joan Roeloff’s exceptional book, Foundations and Public Policy: The Mask of Pluralism, is a good place to start. If we are unwilling to do this work collectively, perhaps we deserve everything the oligarchs are designing for us and intend for us in the future. There will be tears.”

Read the full article: http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2014/09/15/this-changes-nothing-why-the-peoples-climate-march-guarantees-climate-catastrophe/

Available formats: PDF | PDF – as double-sided A4 foldover booklet | EPUB

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#2: Netwar in the Big Apple

July 30, 2014

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Excerpt:

“Mainstream media, when it mentions conflicts between Indigenous nations and modern states, portrays these conflicts as challenges to be resolved by assimilating Indigenous cultures into market systems. Extinguishing tribal sovereignty, annihilating tribal resources, coercing tribal leaders, and implementing the final solution; this is the corporate agenda mainstream media supports.

When these conflicts cannot be ignored, mainstream media looks for compromised NGOs to speak for Indigenous Peoples, thereby marginalizing Indigenous intellectuals, diplomats, and governing authorities—a mass communications tactic examined under the concept of Netwar. While mainstream media informs, it does not make information comprehensible; what it leaves out is essential to knowledge that allows readers to form their own judgment, rather than consume corporate distortions and state propaganda.”

Read the full article: http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/07/30/netwar-in-the-big-apple/

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#3: Under One Bad Sky | TckTckTck’s 2014 People’s Climate March: This Changed Nothing

September 23, 2015

Excerpt:

While GCCA/TckTckTck working hand in hand with 350.org, Avaaz and Greenpeace undoubtedly far surpassed the United States United Nations expectations for the 2009 TckTckTck campaign, it would repeat a similar stunning performance for the United Nations just 5 years later with the popular 2014 Peoples Climate March, again uniting citizens with corporate interests:

“GCCA worked behind the scenes for over a year to prepare for the biggest date in 2014, leveraging every possible asset and contact to rally around the historic Peoples’ Climate March in the run-up to the UN Climate Leaders Summit…. In the preceding months, GCCA convened weekly calls with key partners 350.org, Avaaz, USCAN and Climate Nexus to catalyse activities and identify gaps…. Everything came together on the day as we bore witness to the world’s biggest ever climate march, and inspiring events across the globe, with world leaders, business people, activists, parents and artists walking shoulder-to-shoulder.” — GCCA Annual Report 2014

Forbes, Sept 25, 2014: Leadership Lessons from The People’s Climate March:

“With that as her model of leadership it is perhaps no surprise that so many cats have been so successfully herded. But there is more. The other leadership lesson is putting project before person.”

Truer words were never spoken. As in Africa under the TckTckTck campaign where economic growth was valued as being more important than the life of Africans, such projects (as referred to above), have a singular common thread. They are all based on more of the same perpetual growth; perpetual growth that is dependent upon and interwoven with exploitation and environmental degradation – perpetual growth which society has collectively deemed more important than life itself….

Who could argue that 400,000 citizens working hand-in-hand with their children, family and neighbours, transforming 400,000 (grass) lawns, boulevards and public spaces into beautiful food gardens (a political act in itself) would have had far more effect in establishing a path to self-sufficiency and energy efficiency than burning fossil fuels and energies to partake in a spectacle – a spectacle created only to build acquiescence to further collective insanity.

Until there is no more bread, finally leaving one too hungry to be entertained by the circus any longer, we will not see the take-down of those who oppress us nor will we bear witness to the necessary destruction of the industrialized capitalist system built upon patriarchy, racism, classism, imperialism, colonialism and ecological devastation. Decades of indoctrination, obedience, pacification and overindulgence has left us docile and incapable of mustering up the necessary courage for meaningful, difficult, real resistance … the kind that puts the fear of “god” into the state. The privileged – until no longer privileged and famished – will not participate in a revolution. National Endowment for Democracy (NED) financed “revolutions” do not count. And this is our reality. This is what we must face – if we are to change the writing on the wall in any regard.

Read the full article: http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2015/09/23/under-one-bad-sky/

Biologist: “We’re losing them right now, we’re losing them really quickly, much more quickly than I think any of us ever could have imagined.”- Coral Reefs Rapidly Dying Worldwide

In Uncategorized on April 25, 2017 at 1:38 pm
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Fish swim around bleached coral in the Great Barrier Reef in a photo taken on November 29, 2012. Rising oceanic acidity due to accelerated climate change has been killing the Reef and its inhabitants. (Photo: Robert Linsdell)

Oldspeak: “Species, ecosystems, glaciers, sea ice and humans themselves continue to absorb and pay for this human experiment of industrialization gone horribly awry. Many are paying with their very existence…Thanks to ACD, Earth has lost approximately half of all its coral reefs in just the last three decades. A quarter of all marine species depend on reefs. Reefs provide the sole source of protein for more than one billion people, and they are now vanishing before our eyes.”-Dahr Jamail

“Dahr Jamail is back with another devastating climate dispatch. Bearing witness to horrific realities here and now, and those to come. Climactic changes in general are happening decades faster than expected and with increasing severity around the globe. As Glaciologist Jeffrey Kargel obeserved; In general, drastically changing conditions do not help civilisation, which thrives on stability.” Civilization also depends on other species and rich biodiversity for survival, biodiversity that is rapidly being lost. Scientists have observed “Human survival, for urban and rural communities, depends on other life on Earth, climate change is impelling a universal redistribution of life on Earth.” Vast, ancient incubators of  most of the world’s biodiversity, oceans & forests, are dying as I type. As these and other essential life-support systems continue to destabilize & collapse while irreplaceable resources like water and arable land are depleted, human survival & that of much of life on Earth becomes that much less likely. Earth’s 6th mass extinction proceeds apace. We are not immune. Read it and weep.” -OSJ

By Dahr Jamail @ Truthout:

I’ve been writing these climate dispatches every month for over three years, and each successive dispatch becomes more difficult to write than the last, as the impacts of anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) become increasingly severe.

Species, ecosystems, glaciers, sea ice and humans themselves continue to absorb and pay for this human experiment of industrialization gone horribly awry. Many are paying with their very existence.

Two months ago, I spent some time researching and writing in Australia. I visited the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), where I reveled in the majesty of intact towering coral structures flourishing with marine life. Yet I was also devastated during this visit — again and again, I happened upon bleached out and silently dead areas of barren coral wasteland, which not long ago teemed with living beings. Roughly 20 percent of the coral on the outer reef were already bleached, and on their way towards death.

While snorkeling on the reef during the last afternoon I was there, the signal from the boat to return was given. It was late afternoon, and time to head back to land. I took several long deep breaths, supersaturated my lungs with sea air, and dove down 30 feet to the coral. I swam alongside mostly intact coral structures in all their brilliant colors, teeming with fish. Having interviewed and snorkeled with GBR experts all day, I was preparing to break the story of this year’s GBR bleaching event. I knew the reef was likely on its way out of existence, stunning as that may seem, given that the GBR is the single largest coral ecosystem on the planet, spanning 1,400 miles and easily visible from space. Coral reefs can rebuild from bleaching events, but typically need 10-15 years between events in order to recover. This was the second mass bleaching event in the last two years, and there was no sign of a let up.

I swam with the coral, taking the scene into my soul, staying down until my lungs burned for air. I swam longer, holding my hands out towards the coral, feeling it, knowing this was most likely to be my farewell to the brilliant corals of the dying Great Barrier Reef.

Swimming up to the surface a deep gasp refilled my lungs. I peeled off my mask and wiped my tears, then began my swim back to the boat.

Several weeks later Eyewitness News in Australia reported on scientists giving the GBR a “terminal prognosis” unless ACD is slowed dramatically. By April, scientists were in shock, realizing that two-thirds of the entire reef was now bleached out. Some of them declared the GBR had reached a “terminal stage,” describing the situation as “unprecedented.”

Thanks to ACD, Earth has lost approximately half of all its coral reefs in just the last three decades. A quarter of all marine species depend on reefs. Reefs provide the sole source of protein for more than one billion people, and they are now vanishing before our eyes.

Scientists are now speculating that an era of terminal global coral bleaching might have already arrived, decades earlier than previously expected. The recent bleaching events are so severe, there is no analog in the thousands of years of ancient coral cores scientists use to study past bleaching events.

“This isn’t something that’s going to happen 100 years from now. We’re losing them right now,” marine biologist Julia Baum of Canada’s University of Victoria told the AP. “We’re losing them really quickly, much more quickly than I think any of us ever could have imagined.”

Meanwhile, the World Meteorological Organization released its annual State of Global Climate report, stating that record-breaking ACD impacts have pushed the planet into “uncharted territory.”

“Earth is a planet in upheaval due to human-caused changes in the atmosphere,” glaciologist Jeffrey Kargel told The Guardian of the report. “In general, drastically changing conditions do not help civilisation, which thrives on stability.”

As the reefs are dying, ice is rapidly melting away in the globe’s northernmost regions. Arctic sea ice has set a low record for the third year in a row, and March data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center showed that that month was the sixth in a row of near-record or record-low sea ice extents.

To add a startling layer of context for all of this, a report titled “Future climate forcing potentially without precedent in the last 420 million years” was published in the journal Nature Communications. The study found that if fossil-fuel use continues unchecked, the atmosphere could revert “to values of CO2 not seen since the early Eocene (50 million years ago)” by the middle of the 21st century.

Dana Royer, a paleoclimate researcher and coauthor of the study, told Climate Central, “The early Eocene was much warmer than today: global mean surface temperature was at least 10°C (18°F) warmer than today. There was little-to-no permanent ice. Palms and crocodiles inhabited the Canadian Arctic.”

Earth

The rapidly changing climate is already taking a palpable toll on human health. In February, scientists warned that increasingly severe droughts across the US over the next three decades may double the size of epidemics of the West Nile Virus. “We thought epidemics would coincide with the most ideal temperatures for (virus) transmission,” Marm Kilpatrick, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, said in a statement released to the media.

“Instead, we found that the severity of drought was far more important nationally.”

study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science has warned that ACD will damage the US’s ability to maintain agricultural productivity, as rising temperatures and increasing droughts that plague areas where US food is grown are only going to increase. The study has warned that, without changes, US agricultural productivity will, by 2050, fall back to 1980 levels (for a population that was 114 million less than today’s).

Another recent study showed, distressingly, that as the planet warms, some mammals might actually shrink in size. The study provided evidence that the amount those mammals shrink is directly related to how warm the planet becomes.

In the Arctic, signs of major shifting are afoot. Botanists studying the area have warned that ACD has taken root within the plants on which many Indigenous communities depend. Botanists, along with Indigenous peoples in Nunavik, have noted that Labrador tea, which they rely upon to treat ailments like skin problems, coughs and colds, is far weaker now than it used to be, hence, far less medicinal.

Another man pointed out that, “Willows used to be stubby and sort of short, like knee high. They can now be eight feet tall, and are growing like wildfires for the last 10 to 15 years, maybe longer.” He also noted that ponds are drying up, along with the ducks who used to use them. Instead, he said, pelicans and snakes are appearing. “Before, they never existed here,” he said. Native people living in the Arctic are also noting that tree rings are wider, because the growing season is now longer.

Meanwhile, down in Australia, more than 1,000 kilometers of mangrove forests “died of thirst” during a single month from extreme conditions, including record high temperatures, driven largely by ACD.

Speaking of forests in trouble, scientists have warned that the Amazon jungle is facing a possible death spiral due to the deadly trifecta of industry, agriculture and ACD impacts.

A recent study, titled “Biodiversity redistribution under climate change: Impacts on ecosystems and human well-being,” has shown that ACD is literally reshuffling the areas and ranges of plants and animals around the planet, with profound consequences for humanity. “Human survival, for urban and rural communities, depends on other life on Earth,” the scientists wrote in their study that was published in the journal Science. “Climate change is impelling a universal redistribution of life on Earth.”

Positive feedback loops are one of the most important things to understand about abrupt ACD. The most well-known example of one of these is the melting Arctic sea ice. Intact sea ice reflects most solar heating back into space. As the ice melts, more of the ocean absorbs that heat, which melts more of the ice, which causes more heating, and on it goes.

In Canada, a recent scientific study has unearthed another climate feedback loop — this one coming in the form of vast expanses of farmland being exposed by melting snow and ice over longer amounts of time that then make a larger contribution to greenhouse gases and ACD. According to the study, the thawing of previously frozen cropland is burping nitrous oxide into the atmosphere at rates much greater than previously thought, which means that agriculture’s role in generating greenhouse gases has been greatly underestimated.

On a similar note, recent research has shown that ACD could thaw far more permafrost than was previously expected. The study showed that more than 40 percent of Earth’s frozen tundra could unfreeze if global temperatures continue trending upward.

Water

This month, the signs of how rapidly ACD is progressing in the watery realms are glaring and painful.

A report published in March shows that, according to the UN, the world is facing the widest and deepest humanitarian crisis since the end of WWII, as 20 million people face starvation and famine in Somalia, Nigeria, Yemen and South Sudan, with no end in sight.

Underscoring this crisis, another report from this spring has provided evidence that the Middle East and North Africa risk becoming uninhabitable within a few decades, due to lack of accessible fresh water, which has already fallen by two-thirds over the last 40 years.

The 22 countries impacted by this growing water crisis are home to nearly 400 million people, who are also impacted by lack of adequate water for agriculture and food production for their populations that are continuing to grow rapidly.

According to the report, per capita availability of fresh water across this region is already 10 times less than that of the world average, and ACD-driven higher temperatures may shorten growing seasons across the region by 18 days. At current trends, this would reduce agricultural yields another 27 percent — meaning a decrease of 55 percent by 2100, despite rising populations.

Meanwhile, conditions in the ocean are looking increasingly grim.

An algae bloom the size of Mexico in the Arabian Sea reminded people there of a 2008 bloom that killed 50 tons of fish that were starved of oxygen. The fish that inhabit the Gulf of Arabia sustain 120 million people.

As mentioned in the beginning of the dispatch, the Great Barrier Reef is struggling to survive amidst yet another major coral bleaching event. “We didn’t expect to see this level of destruction to the Great Barrier Reef for another 30 years,” Terry Hughes, director of an Australian government-funded center for coral reef studies at James Cook University told the New York Times. “In the north, I saw hundreds of reefs — literally two-thirds of the reefs were dying and are now dead.”

Even the once-pristine Maldives are seeing their coral succumbing to mass bleaching.

And there are no signs of this disturbing trend slowing down. A study published in March revealed that Earth’s oceans are now warming 13 percent faster than they were in 1990, and the rate is accelerating. Another report showed that the rate of oceanic warming has nearly doubled over two decades, and the heat being added to them is reaching into even deeper waters.

Earlier this month, a report revealed that approximately one-third of the Arctic Ocean is, in an astonishingly rapid transition, becoming more like the Atlantic Ocean as warm waters streaming into the Arctic are altering both its productivity and chemistry.

Yet another issue besetting the Arctic due to runaway ACD is ocean acidification, according to another recently published study on the subject. It’s quite simple actually: As increasing amounts of sea ice melt, an increasing amount of ocean is exposed to the CO2-loaded atmosphere. More CO2 is therefore absorbed into the once-pristine waters, thus increasing their acidification, with dire consequences to the biome.

NOAA reported in February that sea ice in both the Arctic and Antarctic had shrunk to record lows, and it became clear that ACD was on pace to wipe out an Ice Age remnant, Canada’s Laurentide Ice Sheet. It is worth noting that this has not happened in 2.6 million years.

In early April more than 400 icebergs drifted into North Atlantic shipping lanes, an unusually large swarm for that time of year. These kinds of numbers are usually not seen until late May, and the average number of icebergs for the time of year this occurred is around 80. The massive flotilla of icebergs was released thanks to the melting of the Jakobshavn, the largest glacier in Greenland. Scientists reported recently that Jakobshavn is now even more vulnerable to ice losses than previously believed.

Scientists also pointed out that the dramatic melting of the Arctic sea ice is already affecting weather patterns around the world by generating more extreme weather events.

Fire

In an astonishingly short period of time, Peru has gone from experiencing record wildfires to record flooding. “We’ve rarely seen this kind of rapid and quick change in climatic conditions,” Peru’s Civil Defense Institute member Juber Ruiz told The Guardian.

The wildfires burned furiously from September through November, as the Peruvian Amazon experienced its driest period in two decades, and more than 100,000 acres of rainforest and farm land burned. Then, in January, the droughts gave way to record-setting rains, which killed dozens and destroyed more than 12,000 homes as more than 175 districts around the country had to declare a state of emergency.

In March, in the US, a wildfire near Boulder, Colorado signaled an early kick-off to wildfire season when it forced the evacuation of 1,000 people.

At the time of this writing, wildfires across the US were already off to a furious start, with more than 2 million acres having burned. That number of acres burned is approximately 10 times the average for the time of year it was tabulated, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

Air

recently published study, led by climate scientist Michal Mann, has shown that the ACD-fueled jet stream is linked to extreme weather events like massive floods and intense heatwaves. Jet streams are fast-flowing major air currents in the atmosphere that have a major impact on climate and weather patterns. The study showed that greenhouse gas buildup in the atmosphere is slowing down planetary atmospheric waves, resulting in regional summer climate extremes, examples of which include the deadly 2003 European heat wave, extensive wildfires across Siberia in 2010, and record-breaking flooding in Pakistan in 2010.

Looking at the Canadian north, another recent study has revealed a massive thawing area of permafrost covering 52,000 square miles (an area the size of Alabama), where expansive areas of permafrost are literally disintegrating before the eyes of the scientists studying them. As they disintegrate, they are releasing massive amounts of stored carbon into the atmosphere. The study, carried out by researchers with the Northwest Territories Geological Survey found that the permafrost collapse is intensifying and causing landslides into rivers and lakes that can eventually lead to the choking off of life far downstream. Similarly expansive Arctic landscape changes are already evident across huge areas of Alaska, Siberia and Scandinavia, and scientists already estimate that there is twice as much carbon in the world’s permafrost as there is already in the atmosphere.

Another major study released recently has predicted that ACD will bring air temperatures to Vancouver, Canada similar to — and even exceeding — those in San Diego, California, “in the coming decades.” The study predicts that daytime temperatures in metro-Vancouver will increase 6C by the 2080s, and the city will have to transform itself with requisite air conditioning, melted ski slopes and infrastructure to deal with new sewage problems.

Melting permafrost has created a formation in the Siberian Arctic known as the “doorway to hell,” a giant half-mile-long and 282-foot-deep crater that continues to grow in area and depth. Scientists, worried about what this means for the future of permafrost across the Arctic, are studying the crater, which continues to grow with each successive year and release more and more stored carbon as it does.

Very early spring in the US saw heat spreading across Colorado and other locations, with that phenomenon contributing to increased wildfire risk. The untimely heat extended from the Central US to the Desert Southwest. There, cities like Phoenix experienced summer-like heat long before they used to reach those temperature levels.

Other temperature anomalies continued: The science news service Phys.org reported that even without an El Niño warming ocean waters this year, Earth warmed to its second hottest temperature ever during February, second only to — you guessed it — last year. Earth also experienced its second hottest winter in the history of record keeping. It is worth noting that in the past, Earth did not approach record warm temperatures without an active El Niño — but this year it did just that, and on every single continent.

Thus far, 2017 is in the running to be one of the hottest years on record — following three consecutive years of record-breaking temperatures — due to the highest volume of heat-trapping gases filling Earth’s atmosphere in all of the past 4 to 15 million years, coupled with a dramatic warming of Pacific Ocean surface waters. These forces, and this warming, are obviously continuing into 2017.

How will the US government respond to these clear and terrifying trends?

Denial and Reality

As usual in the Trump era of US politics, there is no shortage of news on the ACD-denial front.

In March, during this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), multiple seminars attempted to make the case that more CO2 in the atmosphere is actually a good thing. One of the presenters told a reporter from Breitbart, “The Earth is in a far better place today” because of increased CO2 levels.

Meanwhile, Trump has been active in reversing Obama’s ACD policy legacy, meager as that was to begin with. Trump called Obama’s ACD policies “stupid,” and has gone on to scrap funding for ACD research, slash the EPA’s budget by 31 percent, appoint an oil and gas man (Scott Pruitt) as the head of that embattled agency, promote coal, and reverse Obama’s plan to close heavily polluting power plants.

Trump’s anti-ACD-mitigation efforts are on track to ensure the US misses its (non-binding) Paris Climate Agreement target of emissions reductions, with one analyst pegging the target shortfall at more than one billion metric tons of CO2.

The corporate media has consistently maintained complicity in active ACD denial. According to a study by Media Matters, the major networks spent a grand total of 50 minutes on ACD coverage during the entirety of 2016. That pathetic amount was a 66 percent drop in coverage from 2015.

Meanwhile, geoengineering advocates are entering the Trump administration, and bringing with them their plans to spray sun-reflecting chemicals into the atmosphere. Advocates of geoengineering argue for planetary-scale manipulations of Earth systems in order to cool the Earth. Most scientists oppose the philosophy and practice of geoengineering, given the high likelihood of unintended consequences that will ultimately only intensify the impacts of ACD.

Back in the real world, in an example of how topsy-turvy things have become, 17 Republican lawmakers have backed a resolution urging action on ACD, and Trump’s Secretary of Defense James “Mad Dog” Mattis has cited ACD as a national security challenge.

To close out this month’s dispatch on a sobering note, consider the results of a recent study published in Nature Geoscience: For the second year in a row, CO2 in the atmosphere — the primary driver of ACD — is now rising at the fastest rate ever recorded.

 

 

 

Scientist: “Its pretty depressing that it’s only a couple of years since the 400 ppm milestone was toppled” – Global CO2 Emissions Just Breached 410ppm, Level Unseen In Millions Of Years

In Uncategorized on April 20, 2017 at 7:23 pm

Click to enlarge.

 

Oldspeak:” Just 4 years ago, we watched Earth’s CO2 levels rocket past 400ppm and now quite a short time later we’re at 410ppm, and levels are ACCELERATING. “The rate of CO2 growth over the last decade is 100 to 200 times faster than what the Earth experienced during the transition from the last ice age…This is a real shock to the atmosphere.” The changes to Earth’s climate are occurring at a pace that cannot be adapted to with known current technology. We are experiencing an atmosphere that has not existed on earth for millions of years. Can we really expect carbon levels to “level off” any time soon, given the current political and economic conditions? And if by some miracle that even happens,  the effects of are expected to extend hundreds of years into the future. Pretty depressing, indeed. Happy 4/20! PUFF PUFF GIVE KIDS!” -OSJ

 

Written By Brian Kahn @ Climate Central:

The world just passed another round-numbered climate milestone. Scientists predicted it would happen this year and lo and behold, it has.

On Tuesday, the Mauna Loa Observatory recorded its first-ever carbon dioxide reading in excess of 410 parts per million (it was 410.28 ppm in case you want the full deal). Carbon dioxide hasn’t reached that height in millions of years. It’s a new atmosphere that humanity will have to contend with, one that’s trapping more heat and causing the climate to change at a quickening rate.

In what’s become a spring tradition like Passover and Easter, carbon dioxide has set a record high each year since measurements began. It stood at 280 ppm when record keeping began at Mauna Loa in 1958. In 2013, it passed 400 ppm. Just four years later, the 400 ppm mark is no longer a novelty. It’s the norm.

“Its pretty depressing that it’s only a couple of years since the 400 ppm milestone was toppled,” Gavin Foster, a paleoclimate researcher at the University of Southampton told Climate Central last month. “These milestones are just numbers, but they give us an opportunity to pause and take stock and act as useful yard sticks for comparisons to the geological record.”

Earlier this year, U.K. Met Office scientists issued their first-ever carbon dioxide forecast. They projected carbon dioxide could reach 410 ppm in March and almost certainly would by April. Their forecast has been borne out with Tuesday’s daily record. They project that the monthly average will peak near 407 ppm in May, setting a monthly record.

Carbon dioxide concentrations have skyrocketed over the past two years due to in part to natural factors like El Niño causing more of it to end up in the atmosphere. But it’s mostly driven by the record amounts of carbon dioxide humans are creating by burning fossil fuels.

“The rate of increase will go down when emissions decrease,” Pieter Tans, an atmospheric scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said. “But carbon dioxide will still be going up, albeit more slowly. Only when emissions are cut in half will atmospheric carbon dioxide level off initially.”

Even when concentrations of carbon dioxide level off, the impacts of climate change will extend centuries into the future. The planet has already warmed 1.8°F (1°C), including a run of 627 months in a row of above-normal heat. Sea levels have risen about a foot and oceans have acidified. Extreme heat has become more common.

All of these impacts will last longer and intensify into the future even if we cut carbon emissions. But we face a choice of just how intense they become based on when we stop polluting the atmosphere.

Right now we’re on track to create a climate unseen in 50 million years by mid-century.

Human Climate Impact Now Reaches High Into Stratosphere, Disrupting Giant Jet Streams, As Earth Warms

In Uncategorized on April 20, 2017 at 4:31 pm
1

Over the Gulf of Alaska: The long band is probably the remains of a jet stream cloud. Image: Courtesy of NASA Johnson Space Center via Wikimedia Commons

Oldspeak: “Warming driven by carbon dioxide emissions from car exhausts and power stations, they argue, tends to make these giant oscillating waves stall in their journey around the hemisphere – to create enduring episodes of high and low pressure and lingering hazards of drought and flood.” –Tim Radford

“Yep, heedless human activities are fucking with multiple critical planetary cycles; the water cycle, the biogeochemical cycle come most readily to mind.  Add this one to the list. To anyone living in Syria, California, Bangladesh or Saudi Arabia this isn’t really news, it’s been the new normal for some time now. Devastating 1,000 year floods. Crippling and persistent drought. Extreme climactic changes in the blink of any eye. Expect this trend to continue & the weather events to intensify as human & natural carbon emissions are steadily increasing globally with no end in sight.” -OSJ

 

Written By Tim Radford @ Inside Climate News:

The warming of the atmosphere by greenhouse gases is slowing the jet streams which drive the northern hemisphere’s weather, scientists say. 

LONDON, 9 April, 2017 – Researchers have once again linked a sequence of devastating climate events to global warming fuelled by prodigal human use of fossil fuels. And this time, they believe they have identified the agency behind the blazing summers that have claimed lives and destroyed livelihoods repeatedly during this century.

They argue in the journal Scientific Reports that human impact on the climate now reaches high into the stratosphere, to influence the behaviour patterns of the giant jet streams that carry heat and moisture around the northern hemisphere, and keep the weather on the move.

Warming driven by carbon dioxide emissions from car exhausts and power stations, they argue, tends to make these giant oscillating waves stall in their journey around the hemisphere – to create enduring episodes of high and low pressure and lingering hazards of drought and flood.

“The unprecedented 2016 California drought, the 2011 US heatwave and 2010 Pakistan flood as well as the 2003 European hot spell all belong to a most worrying series of extremes,” says Michael Mann from Pennsylvania State University in the US.

“Human activity has been suspected of contributing to this pattern before, but now we uncover a clear fingerprint of human activity”

“The increased incidence of these events exceeds what we would expect from the direct effects of global warming alone, so there must be an additional climate change effect. In data from computer simulations as well as observations, we identify changes that favour unusually persistent, extreme meanders of the jet stream that support such extreme weather events.

“Human activity has been suspected of contributing to this pattern before, but now we uncover a clear fingerprint of human activity.”

Professor Mann has repeatedly confirmed the link between human action and climate change. His co-author Dim Coumou of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany and the VU University in Amsterdam in the Netherlands has separately linked storm tracks to surface temperature extremesmade a connection between torrential rains and planetary warming, and confirmed too that less stormy weather is not necessarily a good sign, because it could be the harbinger of heat waves.

And the researchers now have support for their their suspicions: the jet streams that sweep the hemisphere in huge atmospheric waves, plunging between Arctic and tropics, bring changes of weather.

If they should stall, one region may be committed to long drought, dangerous hot weather (as in Russia in 2010 and Texas in 2011) and even forest fires as in California in 2015) – or, in some cases, catastrophic and sustained rainfall of the kind that flooded Pakistan in 2010.

Questions remain

No single extreme event could ever be satisfactorily and conclusively linked to a long-term trend like global warming. But once scientists register an increasing frequency of such events, they can start to use climate simulations to see if such events become more likely in a warming world.

“The more frequent persistent and meandering jet stream state seems to be a relatively recent phenomenon, which makes it even more relevant,” said Dr Coumou. “We certainly need to further investigate this – there is some good evidence, but also many open questions.”

And Professor Mann said: “The warming of the Arctic, the polar amplification of warming, plays a key role here. The surface and lower atmosphere are warming more in the Arctic than anywhere else on the globe.

“That pattern projects onto the very temperature gradient profile that we identify as supporting atmospheric waveguide conditions.” – Climate News Network

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Faster Than Ever Depletion Of Global Groundwater Stores, Largest Freshwater Stock On Earth, Threatens Sustainability Of Food Production, Water & Food Security

In Uncategorized on April 11, 2017 at 8:37 pm
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Vast quantities of groundwater are used in Pakistan to irrigate crops such as rice. Image: Abbrar Cheema via Flickr

Oldspeak: “The study’s authors say excessive abstraction of groundwater for irrigation – part of the wider virtual water trade – is leading to rapid depletion of aquifers in key food-producing regions, including north-western India, the North China Plain, central US, and California.

Our research shows that unless both consumers and producers agree to adopt strategies that maximise the long-term sustainability of water use, most of the world’s population risks seeing increased food prices or disrupted food supply. Our work shows where trade flows are contributing to the unsustainable, and ultimately potentially dangerous, use of water resources. The use of non-renewable water in one place can put food supply in distant regions at risk…”

Annnnd, we’re still running out of freshwater worldwide. Largely due to our toxic and unsustainable food & energy production practices. No real discussion of strategies for degrowth or significant conservation. Those options would require industrial civilization to produce less stuff. We know that in really existing capitalist democracy (kleptorcracy really.) that’s not an option. Hence, no more water in geologically short order. Drink UP! ” -OSJ

Related Story:

As Global Groundwater Disappears, Rice, Wheat And Other International Crops May Start To Vanish

 

By Alex Kirby @ Climate News Network:

Global use of irreplaceable groundwater is exhausting the supply so fast that researchers say it will drive up food prices and hit international trade.

LONDON, 2 April, 2017 – China, the world’s most populous country, doubled within just 10 years its use of irreplaceable groundwater from underground reservoirs that are replenished more slowly than they are drained.

And in the same decade, 2000 to 2010, global use of this non-renewable water resource for irrigation increased by a quarter, according to a new study published in Nature journal.

The research suggests that unless producers and consumers of food make changes, this trend could lead to depleted water reserves, limited availability of food imports, and higher food prices.

Groundwater – from underground supplies, as opposed to water in rivers or lakes – supplies global agriculture with 43% of its crop irrigation needs.

The country exporting the most crops produced using irreplaceable groundwater is Pakistan, with 29% of global non-renewable sources embedded in trade – closely followed by the US (27%), with India (12%) in third place.

Groundwater abstraction

The study’s authors say excessive abstraction of groundwater for irrigation – part of the wider virtual water trade – is leading to rapid depletion of aquifers in key food-producing regions, including north-western India, the North China Plain, central US, and California.

“This depletion of the largest liquid freshwater stock on Earth,” they write, “threatens the sustainability of food production, and water and food security, not only locally, but also globally via international food trade.

“Aquifer depletion can also induce significant environmental degradation, such as land subsidence and seawater intrusion.”

In another example of the way in which climate change works to intensify existing threats, the researchers say the depletion of local water reserves also risks putting large populations at serious danger during emergencies such as droughts, earthquakes or fires, when immediate access to water is needed.

Using UN trade data and estimates of non-renewable groundwater removal, researchers traced the sources of water used to produce agricultural crops. They found that the crops contributing most to the non-renewable groundwater trade are rice (29%), wheat (12%), cotton (11%), maize (4%) and soybeans (3%).

“Under future climate change, droughts may be
more frequent in many regions and we may want
to keep groundwater reserves for these periods”

The study was conducted by an international group of researchers led by Carole Dalin, senior research fellow with the Institute for Sustainable Resources at University College London (UCL), and including scientists at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Austria, at NASA in the US, and colleagues in Germany.

“People are rightfully food shopping with the environment in mind more than ever before – but it is not just about meat versus vegetables, organic or fair trade,” Dr Dalin says..

“Where and how the products are grown is crucial, and basic foods like rice and bread could have a damaging impact on global water supplies.

“Our research shows that unless both consumers and producers agree to adopt strategies that maximise the long-term sustainability of water use, most of the world’s population risks seeing increased food prices or disrupted food supply.

Potentially dangerous

“Under future climate change, droughts may be more frequent in many regions and we may want to keep groundwater reserves for these periods.”

Thomas Kastner, senior scientist at the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre, Germany and the Alpen-Adria University, Austria, says: “Our work shows where trade flows are contributing to the unsustainable, and ultimately potentially dangerous, use of water resources. The use of non-renewable water in one place can put food supply in distant regions at risk.”

Yoshihide Wada, a co-author of the report and deputy director of the IIASA Water Programme says: “The products that consumers buy at a supermarket may have very different environmental impacts depending on where they are produced and how they are irrigated.

“In order to help consumers make more sustainable choices about their food, producers should consider adding water labels that make these impacts clear.” – Climate News Network

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Over 40% Of World’s Permafrost Is At Risk Of Thawing Even If Humans Succeed In Limiting Global Warming To 2 Degrees Celsius

In Uncategorized on April 11, 2017 at 7:26 pm
Rising Seas And Warming Temperatures Force Alaskan Coastal Community To Move Inland

Thawing permafrost has communities like Newtok, Alaska literally losing the ground under their feet. Credit: Getty Images

Oldspeak: “While the civilized world is in full SHIT FIT mode after United Air “reaccommodated” a old man, The Big Cheeto bombed a deserted airfield in Syria & his idiot stepbrother/press secretary, lodged his clubbed foot down deep in his gullet with some inane Holocaust denying, this pretty much fate sealing news was reported and largely ignored in most media. Consider this life extinguishing news in the context of the stark reality articulated so honestly & eloquently by climate scientist Jason Box about 2 years ago:

Even if a small fraction of the Arctic carbon were released to the atmosphere, we’re fucked… the methane bubbles were reaching the surface. That was something new in my survey of methane bubbles. The conventional thought is that the bubbles would be dissolved before they reached the surface and that microorganisms would consume that methane, and that’s normal, but if the plumes are making it to the surface, that’s a brand new source of heat-trapping gases that we need to worry about. The Arctic is our most immediate carbon concern.

Box said, referring also to the CH4 escaping from the melting permafrost. But the sentiment can be expanded to all of climate change:

We’re on a trajectory to an unmanageable heating scenario, and we need to get off it, We’re fucked at a certain point, right? It just becomes unmanageable. The climate dragon is being poked, and eventually the dragon becomes pissed off enough to trash the place.”

So, yeah. Now about 2 years later, we’re discovering that close to 50 FUCKING PERCENT of Arctic permafrost, at least 50 GIGATONS, laden with methane hydrates, is pretty much certain to be liberated to the atmosphere, as we have ZERO CHANCE of limiting global warming to 2C. We’ve known, since 2015 that the collective pledges of nations under the much ballyhooed Paris climate agreement fall far shy of limiting emissions to 2c. Then of course there’s the  inconvenient truth that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations are rising at rates unseen in the instrumental record.  In fact, it was recently reported that “If carbon emissions continue on their current trajectory, new findings show that by mid-century, the atmosphere could reach a state unseen in 50 million years. Back then, temperatures were up to 18°F (10°C) warmer, ice was almost nowhere to be seen and oceans were dramatically higher than they are now.”  We’re seeing unprecedented discharges of armadas of icebergs, from greenland right now. One week, there were 37. The next week, there were 481. In past similar events, massive discharges of icebergs porteneded nothing good. Carbon sinks are becoming less effective and switching to carbon sources throughout the global ecosystem.  The Arctic Ocean is literally turning into the Pacific ocean  it’s become so warm there right now. That methane hydrate is coming out RIGHT NOW, in KILOMETER DIAMETER PLUMES. The climate dragon is trashing the fucking place right now. The jig is up kids, not a matter of if, but when.” -OSJ

Written By Zahra Hirji @ Inside Climate News:

More than 40 percent of the world’s permafrost—landscape covered in frozen soil—is at risk of thawing even if the world succeeds in limiting global warming to the international goal of 2 degrees Celsius, according to a new study.

Currently, permafrost covers about nearly 5.8 million square miles, and scientists found as much as 2.5 million square miles of that could thaw—about twice the area of Alaska, California and Texas combined—in a 2 degree Celsius scenario. Thawing would be more limited if warming can be held to 1.5 degrees Celsius, but could still affect 1.8 million square miles.

The new research was published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Permafrost contains vast amounts of carbon in the form of plants that died since the last ice age and have remained frozen rather than decomposing. When permafrost thaws, this long-trapped carbon is released into the atmosphere, further propelling future warming. A 2015 study estimated that the thawing permafrost could release up to 92 gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere by the century’s end.

This new study did not estimate the greenhouse gas emissions that would be released from the thawing, or how those emissions could then spur greater rates of permafrost loss in a vicious cycle.

Instead, the international team of scientists focused on how warming air temperatures would affect the extent of permafrost.

They said their calculations suggest a much more extensive loss than previously thought.

“These results alarm me because they predict even greater permafrost loss than shown in the global models for the 2°C warming target,” Kevin Schaefer, a researcher at the National Snow and Ice Data Center, wrote in an email to InsideClimate News. “Even hitting the global 2°C warming target implies major impacts to people and infrastructure in the Arctic.” Schaefer was not involved in the study.

Roughly 35 million people live in permafrost zones. Collapsing ground under roads and buildings present serious risks to those communities.

“The ability to more accurately assess permafrost loss can hopefully feed into a greater understanding of the impact of global warming and potentially inform global warming policy,” said study author Eleanor Burke in a statement. Burke is a permafrost scientist at the Met Office; she conducted this study with colleagues at the University of Exeter, University of Leeds, Stockholm University and University of Oslo.

 

The Anthropocene Predicament: Human Activities Causing Earth’s Climate To Change 170 Times Faster Than Normal

In Uncategorized on April 11, 2017 at 4:31 pm

(Photo: Pexels)

Oldspeak: “Greetings fellow travelers. I’ve been draggin serious ass on posting things in this space, due in part to time constraints and other parts vacillating between bouts of generalized grief and melancholia around the state of our world. Finding myself feeling more and more frequently that I want out of this “…barbaric slaughterhouse that was once known as humanity…” Like I’m screaming into a deafening waterfall that grows larger by the day. It’s wild when these thought waves wash over me. But, at some point, as it is with all things, they pass away. Been reading the “Book of Natural Liberation Through Understanding in The In Between” a.k.a. “The Tibetean Book of the Dead“. Highly recommended. It’s chock full of fascinating insights in to the process of death and dying and what they can teach us about how we live our lives.  Been getting the sense that, unwittingly, quite spontaneously, I’ve been experiencing what the Buddhists call “Transcendent Renunciation”.  What the shit is that?!, You ask? I’ll tell ya:

Transcendent renunciation is developed by meditating on the preciousness of human life in terms of the ocean of evolutionary possibilities, the immediacy of death, the inexorability of evolutionary causality and the sufferings of ignorance-driven involuntary life cycle. Renunciation automatically occurs when you come face-to-face with your real existential situation, and so develop a genuine sympathy for yourself, having given up pretending the prison of habitual emotions and confusions is just fine. Meditating on the teachings given on these themes in a systematic way enables you to generate quickly an ambition to gain full control of your body and mind in order at least to face death confidently, knowing you can navigate safely through the dangers of further journeys. Wasting time investing your life in purposes that ‘you cannot take with you’ becomes ludicrous, and when your radically shift your priorities, you feel a profound relief at unburdening yourself of a weight of worry over inconsequential things.

The spirit of enlightenment of love and compassion is the energetic and cheerful aura you create for yourself by shifting the orientation of your life away from self-preoccupation to preoccupation with becoming an enlightened being in order to bring happiness to all others.

So yeah, that’s where I’m at. It’s an interesting place to be. Shifting. Unburdening. Releasing attachments. Grateful for the experience. Anywho, Dahr Jamail’s latest dispatches from the Frontlines of Earth’s 6th Great Extinction is a doosy. Read it and weep.” –OSJ

Written By Dahr Jamail @ Truthout:

You can feel it, can’t you?

You already know what is happening to the planet. To Gaia. To Earth. To the only planet humankind will ever “permanently” inhabit. We’ve nowhere else to go but here … this incredible, majestic, beautiful Garden of Eden that has held us, and carried us, this far.

We have ignored the fact that we are, at best, mere stewards. We have forsaken the Earth by fantasizing that the planet was ours to control. To exploit. To manipulate. To drill, mine and desecrate. To gain riches from.

The balance is upset, the die is cast, now we reap the consequences of a whirlwind of forces so vast we cannot comprehend them.

We needn’t look far to see how very far off the climate precipice we have already fallen, as our pace accelerates by the day.

A recent study, Extinction Risk from Climate Change, published in the prestigious journal Nature, shows that half the species on Earth today will likely disappear by the middle of the century — within 33 years. Although this information is devastating, perhaps we should not be surprised, since we’ve known for years now that we have already entered the Earth’s sixth mass extinction event.

Last month, a paper titled The Anthropocene Equation revealed that anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) is causing the climate to change 170 times faster than it would if only natural forces were affecting it. “The human magnitude of climate change looks more like a meteorite strike than a gradual change,” one of the authors of the study said.

Both NASA and NOAA data showed that this January was the third hottest January ever recorded, with the brunt of the warming extremes occurring, distressingly, in the Arctic. Some anomalies were as high as 50 degrees Fahrenheit above normal over the winter.

The amount of dissolved oxygen in Earth’s oceans is currently declining, according to a recently published paper in the journal Nature. This will assuredly have severe consequences for all marine organisms.

For perspective on where we are in relation to what has happened in Earth’s history, National Geographic recently published a piece that shows how sudden and dramatic changes in the planet’s climate have historically been catastrophic for humans, bringing plagues, famines and heat waves. The article highlights the importance of not only the extreme change that is predicted over the next 100 years (4° to 6° Celsius, which could be an extremely conservative estimate), but also the rate of change, as it far exceeds nature’s ability to adapt in order to sustain most life forms. National Geographic goes on to point out that this exceptional rate of change will test adaptability by all global species, including humans, and that over the long term, all of our survival is far from certain.

In 2015, NASA launched a massive mission to study how quickly the oceans are melting Greenland, and the findings that are now coming in are disturbing. While we don’t yet have all of the results, the study has already enabled the lead researchers to provide some broad brushstrokes on what they are finding. “Overall, together I think these papers suggest that the glaciers as a whole are more vulnerable than we thought they were,” Josh Willis, a researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the principal investigator on the mission told the Washington Post. “We could be in for more sea level rise than we thought,” he added. “And we’re not alone; the fact is that almost every time some new results come out of Greenland or Antarctica, we find these glaciers are more vulnerable than we thought.”

At roughly the same time Willis was making those comments, US satellite data from Antarctica showed that sea ice around that continent had hit a record low. That means that the sea ice around Antarctica has shrunk to its smallest annual extent on record, after having been at its record high just a few years earlier. It’s also worth noting that in mid-February, the Larsen C ice shelf there shed a Manhattan-sized chunk of ice into the sea.

On February 22 Truthout reported that the next major bleaching event to hit the Great Barrier Reef in Australia had begun. A little over two weeks later, the first survey for this year was conducted by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), and the survey confirmed that another mass bleaching event had occurred and was ongoing. “In total, those extreme weather events and the overall impact of climate change is a major threat to the future of the reef,” the GBRMPA’s David Wachenfeld said grimly to the media of his findings.

Closer to home in the US, on February 12 the tallest dam in the country, the Oroville dam, was at risk of disintegrating due to an onslaught of torrential flooding that prompted the evacuation of more than 200,000 people living downstream. The crisis underscored how infrastructure mechanisms like dams are in no way built to withstand the impacts that ACD is already causing, let alone future impacts.

Truthout published an article that contained an interview with Deborah Moore, who was a commissioner with the World Commission on Dams, an international body that investigated the performance of dam projects across the world. Moore was asked what experts like herself should be looking at in terms of incorporating climate science into engineering design. Her response? “We can no longer use historic data in order to plan these projects because it’s no longer relevant.”

Earth

The evidence of runaway ACD across the land sectors of the planet is glaring.

A recent State of the Environment Report for Australia has warned that ACD could be “irreversible,” and that ACD’s impact to ecosystems continues to increase. “It [ACD] is altering the structure and function of natural ecosystems, and affecting heritage, economic activity and human wellbeing,” the report’s summary said. “Evidence shows that the impacts of climate change are increasing, and some of these impacts may be irreversible.”

As if to underscore this point, another report from Australia emerged recently, which showed that country’s wheat productivity has “flatlined” as a direct result of ACD.

Lastly in this section, spring has arrived nearly a full month early for many plants in the Arctic. Scientists have warned of ominous consequences from this, as the change marks the greatest shifting of the spring plant emergence that they have ever observed in the Arctic.

“As a climate scientist who studies the start of spring, I struggle to answer the question, ‘What is spring?'” Heidi Steltzer, a professor at Fort Lewis College and author of the recent scientific paper, told the New York Times. “A longer spring opens up the potential for gaps — points in time when it would be spring with no spring-like events occurring. Would this still be spring?”

Water

As is usually the case in these dispatches, the watery realms are where runaway ACD is the most visible.

Major droughts, which are looking more permanent with each passing year, are persisting around the globe. In Somalia, a country that has had to grow accustomed to drought, words like “unprecedented” and “record-breaking” have begun to lose their meaning. The drought there is now so bad that hyenas won’t even eat the carcasses of goats, sheep and camels that have died, as there isn’t enough meat on their bones to make it worth their while. In early March, in one 48-hour period, at least 110 people died in Somalia from famine and diarrhea resulting from the ongoing drought conditions.

Famine warnings have now been issued for Rwanda, Kenya, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Somalia, all of which are experiencing their worst droughts in decades, with no end in sight.

By February, it became clear that the climate in the Arctic was, and had been for several months, already well advanced into abrupt ACD. Temperatures in many areas, including the North Pole, were clocking in between 30°-40°F above normal for extended periods of time, and the Arctic sea ice was hitting record minimum extent levels. In January, what is normally one of the colder months of the year there, sea ice extent was nearly half a million miles below the January 1981-2010 long-term average, an average that was already well below what a healthy preindustrial age sea-ice level would have looked like.

A recent study showed that as Arctic warming continues to ramp up, Canadian glaciers are paying for it dearly; the melt-off from them has risen by a staggering 900 percent. This has now caused them to become a major contributor to sea level rise. Another recent study revealed that of all the permafrost that exists in the global Arctic, at least 10 percent is already melted out.

Anchorage, Alaska will lose its drinking water source before 2100, according to another recent study. The city’s water comes from the Eklutna Glacier, in the Chugach Mountains above Anchorage, which is in the process of melting away, according to United States Geological Survey (USGS) Scientist Louis Sass, the lead author of the study.

“Eklutna looks like it’s going to more or less disappear,” he said, adding that the only question is how long that will take. According to Sass, who this writer accompanied on a USGS glacial survey of another Alaskan glacier twice during 2016, if the climate remains as it was between 2008 and 2015, the Eklutna will be gone by 2100. But, he said recently, if the climate warms more, which of course it will, the timeline could be half that long. To give you an idea of how fast the glacier’s melt rate is increasing: Between 1957-2010, the rate of melting ice there was 5 percent per year. Between 2010-2015, that rate had risen to 7 percent. And during that same period, during hotter years like 2013 and 2015, the rate even reached 13 percent. Farewell, Eklutna.

Meanwhile, sea level rise continues, and coastal regions are paying a price. A recently published study showed that US coastal cities could be flooding three times every single week by 2045. That means, if you buy a home in those areas now, before you finish paying off your 30-year mortgage, you would have a little trouble selling your constantly flooding real estate.

Lastly in this section, even life in the deepest seas is being impacted negatively by runaway ACD. A recently published study has shown that creatures living in the deep ocean are facing major food shortages, rapidly changing temperatures and other human-caused problems. The deep ocean plays an essential role in the sustenance of commercial fishing and also removes major amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere, but the study notes that food supply in the deeper areas of the oceans could fall by a stunning 55 percent by 2100, which will of course starve the animals and microbes that live there.

Fire

So much for fire season being in the summer.

In early March, within just a few days, wildfires had torched a 1.5 million acre swath across the Central US, incinerating at least six people. The area, ripe for burning due to ACD-warmed temperatures and an ongoing drought, detonated into fires that spread across Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. In addition to the deaths, the fires caused vast amounts of damage: Thousands of people were forced to evacuate, much livestock was burned to death, vast expanses of cropland were lost, and numerous structures went up in flames.

In Kansas, one wildfire burned more than 1,000 square miles, breaking the record for that state’s largest-ever fire. These fires were ongoing in all three states at the time of this writing.

Air

In February near the North Pole, temperatures were 50 degrees warmer than normal, yet again. In one area of Greenland, temperatures surged upwards of 43 degrees in a mere 12 hours as scientists continue to watch in amazement and shock as the Arctic literally goes into meltdown.

Moreover, these dramatic temperatures were simply one of many major heat waves sweeping the planet in February. Temperatures in North Texas reached into the mid-90s by mid-February, and one area in Oklahoma nearly reached 100. At the same time, parts of Australia were baking in 115-degree heat.

February was so hot across much of the US that the Great Lakes’ already weak ice cover was cut down to nearly nothing and ski conditions across the Northeast looked more like they usually do in April. To give you an idea of how hot things have been in the US, according to Climate Central, “There have been 3,146 record highs set for the month-to-date compared to only 27 record lows, ensuring February will go down as the 27th month in a row with more highs than lows. The astonishing 116-to-1 ratio of highs to lows would easily set a record for the most lopsided monthly ratio in history. There have also been 248 monthly record highs and no monthly record lows.”

Evidence of abrupt ACD abounds, including torrential downpours following record-setting drought. This sequence is precisely what we saw in California last month, when an extreme weather event that was referred to as a “bombogenesis” or “weather bomb” brought torrential rains and floods, killed four people, swallowed cars, disrupted flights, and knocked out power for more than 150,000 people.

Additionally, it seems that a previously unforeseen nightmare scenario may have already begun.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in its most recent summary, includes the fact that the carbon equivalent contained in Arctic permafrost is 1,400-1,700 gigatons, and the IPCC estimates that by 2100, between 800-1,400 gigatons of carbon will be released into the atmosphere. Currently, humans are emitting roughly 40 Gigatons of CO2 into the atmosphere on an annual basis.

Amazingly, while the IPCC does note these amounts of terrestrial carbon in the Arctic from the melting permafrost, they do not include their release and the implications thereof into their modeling predictions. The release of all this extra carbon from melting permafrost represents yet another ACD-driven positive feedback loop: The carbon released from the permafrost will add to atmospheric warming, which will only accelerate the feedback loop by melting more permafrost.

Denial and Reality

Given that we are in the country of Trumpistan, we can now safely assume we will be fed a steady diet of ACD denialism.

With the Trump administration full of ACD deniers, climate scientists are already facing threats, harassment and a very real fear of “McCarthyist attacks.” Abusive and vulgar verbal attacks, and even death threats, have already become the norm.

In just the two months since he entered office, Trump has already undertaken the most ambitious regulatory rollback since the Reagan era and, of course, some of the most dramatic acts of deregulation have been happening on the environmental front. Trump’s frontrunner for the role of science advisor is William Happer, a man who has described climate scientists as a “glassy-eyed cult.” Also in Trump’s denial cabal is Scott Pruitt, the new head of the EPA (which means he’s the person in charge of destroying that particular agency), who recently publicly questioned whether the EPA is even empowered to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

During a recent interview Pruitt was questioned as to whether he believed ACD was caused by humans, to which he replied: “I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do, and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so, no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.”

At this moment, it is worth harkening back to a 1991 film produced by the oil giant Shell, which warned that the climate was already changing “at a faster rate than at any time since the end of the ice age.”

The film, titled Climate of Concern, went on to state that the rate of ACD even at that time, more than a quarter of a century ago, was “changing too fast perhaps for life to adapt, without severe dislocation.”

It minced no words, stating that the world was warming and serious consequences could result. “Tropical islands barely afloat even now, first made inhabitable, and then obliterated beneath the waves … coastal lowlands everywhere suffering pollution of precious groundwater, on which so much farming and so many cities depend,” the film narrates. “In a crowded world subject to such adverse shifts of climate, who would take care of such greenhouse refugees?”

Like Exxon, which knew, early on, of the dire consequences of runaway ACD and then covered up the facts, Shell is currently immersed in an elaborate charade, acting for the benefit of its bottom line. Whether the denialists in Trump’s cabinet are engaged in their own charade — or whether they really believe their bizarre rhetoric — no one truly knows, but there’s no doubt that they are acting in the interest of the fossil fuel industry.

Once again, the oil giants have realized profits beyond their wildest dreams, while the consequences continue to be thrust upon every living being on Earth.