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

Posts Tagged ‘Accelerating Environmental Impacts’

How Humans Cause Mass Extinctions

In Uncategorized on September 17, 2015 at 1:25 am

Oldspeak: “What’s the use of a nice house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?

Henry David Thoreau

“A pretty no-nonsense delineation of the present situation. Speaking plainly about a couple of the root causes of the ever accelerating 6th Mass Extinction: unsustainable over consumption and the population bomb. Meanwhile the vast majority of humans ensconced in the life-extinguishing system of death that is Industrial Civilization, can’t wait to have more babies and buy more shit that they don’t need. Without much of a fight as Chris Hedges has said, ” we have surrendered our lives to corporate forces that ultimately serve systems of death.” And we now must reap what we’ve sown.” -OSJ

 

Written By Paul R. Ehrlich & Anne H. Ehrlich @ Project Syndicate:

There is no doubt that Earth is undergoing the sixth mass extinction in its history – the first since the cataclysm that wiped out the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago. According to one recent study, species are going extinct between ten and several thousand times faster than they did during stable periods in the planet’s history, and populations within species are vanishing hundreds or thousands of times faster than that. By one estimate, Earth has lost half of its wildlife during the past 40 years. There is also no doubt about the cause: We are it.

We are in the process of killing off our only known companions in the universe, many of them beautiful and all of them intricate and interesting. This is a tragedy, even for those who may not care about the loss of wildlife. The species that are so rapidly disappearing provide human beings with indispensable ecosystem services: regulating the climate, maintaining soil fertility, pollinating crops and defending them from pests, filtering fresh water, and supplying food.

The cause of this great acceleration in the loss of the planet’s biodiversity is clear: rapidly expanding human activity, driven by worsening overpopulation and increasing per capita consumption. We are destroying habitats to make way for farms, pastures, roads, and cities. Our pollution is disrupting the climate and poisoning the land, water, and air. We are transporting invasive organisms around the globe and overharvesting commercially or nutritionally valuable plants and animals.

The more people there are, the more of Earth’s productive resources must be mobilized to support them. More people means more wild land must be put under the plow or converted to urban infrastructure to support sprawling cities like Manila, Chengdu, New Delhi, and San Jose. More people means greater demand for fossil fuels, which means more greenhouse gases flowing into the atmosphere, perhaps the single greatest extinction threat of all. Meanwhile, more of Canada needs to be destroyed to extract low-grade petroleum from oil sands and more of the United States needs to be fracked.

More people also means the production of more computers and more mobile phones, along with more mining operations for the rare earths needed to make them. It means more pesticides, detergents, antibiotics, glues, lubricants, preservatives, and plastics, many of which contain compounds that mimic mammalian hormones. Indeed, it means more microscopic plastic particles in the biosphere – particles that may be toxic or accumulate toxins on their surfaces. As a result, all living things – us included – have been plunged into a sickening poisonous stew, with organisms that are unable to adapt pushed further toward extinction.

With each new person, the problem gets worse. Since human beings are intelligent, they tend to use the most accessible resources first. They settle the richest, most productive land, drink the nearest, cleanest water, and tap the easiest-to-reach energy sources.

And so as new people arrive, food is produced on less fertile, more fragile land. Water is transported further or purified. Energy is produced from more marginal sources. In short, each new person joining the global population disproportionately adds more stress to the planet and its systems, causing more environmental damage and driving more species to extinction than members of earlier generations.

To see this phenomenon at work, consider the oil industry. When the first well was drilled in Pennsylvania in 1859, it penetrated less than 70 feet into the soil before hitting oil. By comparison, the well drilled by Deepwater Horizon, which famously blew up in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, began a mile beneath the water’s surface and drilled a few miles into the rock before finding oil. This required a huge amount of energy, and when the well blew, it was far harder to contain, causing large-scale, ongoing damage to the biodiversity of the Gulf and the adjacent shorelines, as well as to numerous local economies.

The situation can be summarized simply. The world’s expanding human population is in competition with the populations of most other animals (exceptions include rats, cattle, cats, dogs, and cockroaches). Through the expansion of agriculture, we are now appropriating roughly half of the energy from the sun used to produce food for all animals – and our needs are only growing.

With the world’s most dominant animal – us – taking half the cake, it is little wonder that the millions of species left fighting over the other half have begun to disappear rapidly. This is not just a moral tragedy; it is an existential threat. Mass extinctions will deprive us of many of the ecosystem services on which our civilization depends. Our population bomb has already claimed its first casualties. They will not be the last.

“It’s, um… bad. Really nasty.” : When The End Of Human Civilization Is Your Day Job

In Uncategorized on July 9, 2015 at 8:17 pm
Glaciologist Jason Box, left, at work on the Petermann Glacier on Greenland's northwest coast, which has lost mass at an accelerated pace in recent years. Box and his family left Ohio State for Europe a couple years ago, and he is relieved to have escaped America's culture of climate-change denial.

Glaciologist Jason Box, left, at work on the Petermann Glacier on Greenland’s northwest coast, which has lost mass at an accelerated pace in recent years. Box and his family left Ohio State for Europe a couple years ago, and he is relieved to have escaped America’s culture of climate-change denial

Oldspeak:” Boy I tell ya, Hopium is a helluva drug. Fascinating to see the thought process and disposition that informs the majority of the climate scientists interviewed for this piece. Even in the face of steadily mounting data, evidence, and dire conditions observed, they still cling to the fantastical notions like: “We can solve this problem in a way that doesn’t disrupt our lifestyle” or “I don’t think we’re fucked. There is time to build sustainable solutions to a lot of these things.” or “If I spend my energy on despair, I won’t be thinking about opportunities to minimize the problem.’ /O_o\When you read those thoughts in the context of the reality that civilization is a heat engine, not likely to  de-grow, slow down or stop until all natural resources and capital required for its operation are exhausted and it collapses; at which point lethal clouds of radioactivity from some 400 melted down nuclear power plants will envelop the earth, you understand that hopes for “solving the problem” “sustainable solutions” and “opportunities to minimize the problem” are quite absurd. One went so far as to cite the change in attitudes and acceptance of gay marriage to justify a possible quick change in attitudes and acceptance of mass extinction. As if it’s at all appropriate to compare the impending end of most all life on earth to the socially agreed upon business contract that is Marriage. SMDH… Also found it interesting that some climate scientists express contempt, frustration, disgust and annoyance with climate change deniers, while harboring their own brands of denial.  Sigh… What we are witnessing is an intractably catastrophic calamity that is beyond human scale and ability to affect in any meaningful way. The sooner we accept this, let go of what was, recognize what is and get on with living the rest of our short ass lives, the better off we will be.-OSJ

Written By John H. Richardson @ Esquire:

The incident was small, but Jason Box doesn’t want to talk about it. He’s been skittish about the media since it happened. This was last summer, as he was reading the cheery blog posts transmitted by the chief scientist on the Swedish icebreaker Oden, which was exploring the Arctic for an international expedition led by Stockholm University. “Our first observations of elevated methane levels, about ten times higher than in background seawater, were documented . . . we discovered over 100 new methane seep sites…. The weather Gods are still on our side as we steam through a now ice-free Laptev Sea….”

As a leading climatologist who spent many years studying the Arctic at the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center at Ohio State, Box knew that this breezy scientific detachment described one of the nightmare long-shot climate scenarios: a feedback loop where warming seas release methane that causes warming that releases more methane that causes more warming, on and on until the planet is incompatible with human life. And he knew there were similar methane releases occurring in the area. On impulse, he sent out a tweet.

“If even a small fraction of Arctic sea floor carbon is released to the atmosphere, we’re f’d.”

The tweet immediately went viral, inspiring a series of headlines:

CLIMATOLOGIST SAYS ARCTIC CARBON RELEASE COULD MEAN “WE’RE FUCKED.”

CLIMATE SCIENTIST DROPS THE F-BOMB AFTER STARTLING ARCTIC DISCOVERY.

CLIMATOLOGIST: METHANE PLUMES FROM THE ARCTIC MEAN WE’RE SCREWED.

Box has been outspoken for years. He’s done science projects with Greenpeace, and he participated in the 2011 mass protest at the White House organized by 350.org. In 2013, he made headlines when a magazine reported his conclusion that a seventy-foot rise in sea levels over the next few centuries was probably already “baked into the system.” Now, with one word, Box had ventured into two particularly dangerous areas. First, the dirty secret of climate science and government climate policies is that they’re all based on probabilities, which means that the effects of standard CO2 targets like an 80 percent reduction by 2050 are based on the middle of the probability curve. Box had ventured to the darker possibilities on the curve’s tail, where few scientists and zero politicians are willing to go.

Worse, he showed emotion, a subject ringed with taboos in all science but especially in climate science. As a recent study from the University of Bristol documented, climate scientists have been so distracted and intimidated by the relentless campaign against them that they tend to avoid any statements that might get them labeled “alarmists,” retreating into a world of charts and data. But Box had been able to resist all that. He even chased the media splash in interviews with the Danish press, where they translated “we’re fucked” into its more decorous Danish equivalent, “on our ass,” plastering those dispiriting words in large-type headlines all across the country.

The problem was that Box was now working for the Danish government, and even though Denmark may be the most progressive nation in the world on climate issues, its leaders still did not take kindly to one of its scientists distressing the populace with visions of global destruction. Convinced his job was in jeopardy only a year after he uprooted his young family and moved to a distant country, Box was summoned before the entire board of directors at his research institute. So now, when he gets an e-mail asking for a phone call to discuss his “recent gloomy statements,” he doesn’t answer it.

Five days later: “Dr. Box—trying you again in case the message below went into your junk file. Please get in touch.”

This time he responds briefly. “I think most scientists must be burying overt recognition of the awful truths of climate change in a protective layer of denial (not the same kind of denial coming from conservatives, of course). I’m still amazed how few climatologists have taken an advocacy message to the streets, demonstrating for some policy action.” But he ignores the request for a phone call.

A week later, another try: “Dr. Box—I watched your speech at The Economist’s Arctic Summit. Wow. I would like to come see you.”

But gloom is the one subject he doesn’t want to discuss. “Crawling under a rock isn’t an option,” he responds, “so becoming overcome with PTSD-like symptoms is useless.” He quotes a Norse proverb:

“The unwise man is awake all night, worries over and again. When morning rises he is restless still.”

Most people don’t have a proverb like that readily at hand. So, a final try: “I do think I should come to see you, meet your family, and make this story personal and vivid.”

I wanted to meet Box to find out how this outspoken American is holding up. He has left his country and moved his family to witness and study the melting of Greenland up close. How does being the one to look at the grim facts of climate change most intimately, day in and day out, affect a person? Is Box representative of all of the scientists most directly involved in this defining issue of the new century? How are they being affected by the burden of their chosen work in the face of changes to the earth that could render it a different planet?

Finally, Box gives in. Come to Copenhagen, he says. And he even promises a family dinner.

***

For more than thirty years, climate scientists have been living a surreal existence. A vast and ever-growing body of research shows that warming is tracking the rise of greenhouse gases exactly as their models predicted. The physical evidence becomes more dramatic every year: forests retreating, animals moving north, glaciers melting, wildfire seasons getting longer, higher rates of droughts, floods, and storms—five times as many in the 2000s as in the 1970s. In the blunt words of the 2014 National Climate Assessment, conducted by three hundred of America’s most distinguished experts at the request of the U. S. government, human-induced climate change is real—U. S. temperatures have gone up between 1.3 and 1.9 degrees, mostly since 1970—and the change is already affecting “agriculture, water, human health, energy, transportation, forests, and ecosystems.” But that’s not the worst of it. Arctic air temperatures are increasing at twice the rate of the rest of the world—a study by the U. S. Navy says that the Arctic could lose its summer sea ice by next year, eighty-four years ahead of the models—and evidence little more than a year old suggests the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is doomed, which will add between twenty and twenty-five feet to ocean levels. The one hundred million people in Bangladesh will need another place to live and coastal cities globally will be forced to relocate, a task complicated by economic crisis and famine—with continental interiors drying out, the chief scientist at the U. S. State Department in 2009 predicted a billion people will suffer famine within twenty or thirty years. And yet, despite some encouraging developments in renewable energy and some breakthroughs in international leadership, carbon emissions continue to rise at a steady rate, and for their pains the scientists themselves—the cruelest blow of all—have been the targets of an unrelenting and well-organized attack that includes death threats, summonses from a hostile Congress, attempts to get them fired, legal harassment, and intrusive discovery demands so severe they had to start their own legal-defense fund, all amplified by a relentless propaganda campaign nakedly financed by the fossil-fuel companies. Shortly before a pivotal climate summit in Copenhagen in 2009, thousands of their e-mail streams were hacked in a sophisticated espionage operation that has never been solved—although the official police investigation revealed nothing, an analysis by forensics experts traced its path through servers in Turkey and two of the world’s largest oil producers, Saudi Arabia and Russia.
No scientist has come in for more threats and abuse than Michael Mann, whose “hockey stick” graph (so named because the temperature and emissions lines for recent decades curve straight up) has become the target of the most powerful deniers in the world.

Among climate activists, gloom is building. Jim Driscoll of the National Institute for Peer Support just finished a study of a group of longtime activists whose most frequently reported feeling was sadness, followed by fear and anger. Dr. Lise Van Susteren, a practicing psychiatrist and graduate of Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth slide-show training, calls this “pretraumatic” stress. “So many of us are exhibiting all the signs and symptoms of posttraumatic disorder—the anger, the panic, the obsessive intrusive thoughts.” Leading activist Gillian Caldwell went public with her “climate trauma,” as she called it, quitting the group she helped build and posting an article called “16 Tips for Avoiding Climate Burnout,” in which she suggests compartmentalization: “Reinforce boundaries between professional work and personal life. It is very hard to switch from the riveting force of apocalyptic predictions at work to home, where the problems are petty by comparison.”

Most of the dozens of scientists and activists I spoke to date the rise of the melancholy mood to the failure of the 2009 climate conference and the gradual shift from hope of prevention to plans for adaptation: Bill McKibben’s book Eaarth is a manual for survival on an earth so different he doesn’t think we should even spell it the same, and James Lovelock delivers the same message in A Rough Ride to the Future. In Australia, Clive Hamilton writes articles and books with titles like Requiem for a Species. In a recent issue of The New Yorker, the melancholy Jonathan Franzen argued that, since earth now “resembles a patient whose terminal cancer we can choose to treat either with disfiguring aggression or with palliation and sympathy,” we should stop trying to avoid the inevitable and spend our money on new nature preserves, where birds can go extinct a little more slowly.

At the darkest end of the spectrum are groups like Deep Green Resistance, which openly advocates sabotage to “industrial infrastructure,” and the thousands who visit the Web site and attend the speeches of Guy McPherson, a biology professor at the University of Arizona who concluded that renewables would do no good, left his job, and moved to an off-grid homestead to prepare for abrupt climate change. “Civilization is a heat engine,” he says. “There’s no escaping the trap we’ve landed ourselves into.”

The most influential is Paul Kingsnorth, a longtime climate activist and novelist who abandoned hope for political change in 2009. Retreating to the woods of western Ireland, he helped launch a group called Dark Mountain with a stirring, gloomy manifesto calling for “a network of writers, artists, and thinkers who have stopped believing the stories our civilization tells itself.” Among those stories: progress, growth, and the superiority of man. The idea quickly spread, and there are now fifty Dark Mountain chapters around the world. Fans have written plays and songs and a Ph.D. thesis about them. On the phone from Ireland, he explains the appeal.

“You have to be careful about hope. If that hope is based on an unrealistic foundation, it just crumbles and then you end up with people who are despairing. I saw that in Copenhagen—there was a lot of despair and giving up after that.”

Personally, though he considers them feeble gestures, he’s planting a lot of trees, growing his own vegetables, avoiding plastic. He stopped flying. “It seems like an ethical obligation. All you can do is what you think is right.” The odd thing is that he’s much more forgiving than activists still in the struggle, even with oil-purchased politicians. “We all love the fruits of what we’re given—the cars and computers and iPhones. What politician is going to try to sell people a future where they can’t update their iPhones ever?”

He laughs.

Does he think it would be wrong to take a transatlantic airplane trip to interview a climate scientist?

He laughs again. “You have to answer that yourself.”

***

All this leaves climate scientists in an awkward position. At NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, which early in the year was threatened with 30 percent budget cuts by Republicans who resent its reports on climate change, Gavin Schmidt occupies the seventh-floor corner office once occupied by the legendary James Hansen, the scientist who first laid out the facts for Congress in 1988 and grew so impassioned he got himself arrested protesting coal mines. Although Schmidt was one of the victims of the 2009 computer hacks, which he admits tipped him into an episode of serious depression, he now focuses relentlessly on the bright side. “It’s not that nothing has been done. There’s a lot of things. In terms of per capita emissions, most of the developed world is stable. So we are doing something.”

Box’s tweet sets his teeth on edge. “I don’t agree. I don’t think we’re fucked. There is time to build sustainable solutions to a lot of these things. You don’t have to close down all the coal-powered stations tomorrow. You can transition. It sounds cute to say, ‘Oh, we’re fucked and there’s nothing we can do,’ but it’s a bit of a nihilistic attitude. We always have the choice. We can continue to make worse decisions, or we can try to make ever better decisions. ‘Oh, we’re fucked! Just give up now, just kill me now,’ that’s just stupid.”
Gavin Schmidt in his office at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Box’s dire forecast annoyed him. ‘You don’t run around saying, ‘We’re fucked! We’re fucked! We’re fucked!’ It doesn’t incentivize anybody to do anything.’

Schmidt, who is expecting his first child and tries to live a low-carbon existence, insists that the hacks and investigations and budget threats have not intimidated him. He also shrugs off the abrupt-climate-change scenarios. “The methane thing is actually something I work on a lot, and most of the headlines are crap. There’s no actual evidence that anything dramatically different is going on in the Arctic, other than the fact that it’s melting pretty much everywhere.”

But climate change happens gradually and we’ve already gone up almost 1 degree centigrade and seen eight inches of ocean rise. Barring unthinkably radical change, we’ll hit 2 degrees in thirty or forty years and that’s been described as a catastrophe—melting ice, rising waters, drought, famine, and massive economic turmoil. And many scientists now think we’re on track to 4 or 5 degrees—even Shell oil said that it anticipates a world 4 degrees hotter because it doesn’t see “governments taking the steps now that are consistent with the 2 degrees C scenario.” That would mean a world racked by economic and social and environmental collapse.

“Oh yeah,” Schmidt says, almost casually. “The business-as-usual world that we project is really a totally different planet. There’s going to be huge dislocations if that comes about.”

But things can change much quicker than people think, he says. Look at attitudes on gay marriage.

And the glaciers?

“The glaciers are going to melt, they’re all going to melt,” he says. “But my reaction to Jason Box’s comments is—what is the point of saying that? It doesn’t help anybody.”

As it happens, Schmidt was the first winner of the Climate Communication Prize from the American Geophysical Union, and various recent studies in the growing field of climate communications find that frank talk about the grim realities turns people off—it’s simply too much to take in. But strategy is one thing and truth is another. Aren’t those glaciers water sources for hundreds of millions of people?

“Particularly in the Indian subcontinent, that’s a real issue,” he says. “There’s going to be dislocation there, no question.”

And the rising oceans? Bangladesh is almost underwater now. Do a hundred million people have to move?

“Well, yeah. Under business as usual. But I don’t think we’re fucked.”

Resource wars, starvation, mass migrations . . .

“Bad things are going to happen. What can you do as a person? You write stories. I do science. You don’t run around saying, ‘We’re fucked! We’re fucked! We’re fucked!’ It doesn’t—it doesn’t incentivize anybody to do anything.”

***

Scientists are problem solvers by nature, trained to cherish detachment as a moral ideal. Jeffrey Kiehl was a senior scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research when he became so concerned about the way the brain resists climate science, he took a break and got a psychology degree. Ten years of research later, he’s concluded that consumption and growth have become so central to our sense of personal identity and the fear of economic loss creates such numbing anxiety, we literally cannot imagine making the necessary changes. Worse, accepting the facts threatens us with a loss of faith in the fundamental order of the universe. Climate scientists are different only because they have a professional excuse for detachment, and usually it’s not until they get older that they admit how much it’s affecting them—which is also when they tend to get more outspoken, Kiehl says. “You reach a point where you feel—and that’s the word, not think, feel—’I have to do something.’ ”

This accounts for the startled reaction when Camille Parmesan of the University of Texas—who was a member of the group that shared a Nobel prize with Al Gore for their climate work—announced that she’d become “professionally depressed” and was leaving the United States for England. A plainspoken Texan who grew up in Houston as the daughter of an oil geologist, Parmesan now says it was more about the politics than the science. “To be honest, I panicked fifteen years ago—that was when the first studies came out showing that Arctic tundras were shifting from being a net sink to being a net source of CO2. That along with the fact this butterfly I was studying shifted its entire range across half a continent—I said this is big, this is big. Everything since then has just confirmed it.”

But she’s not optimistic. “Do I think it likely that the nations of the world will take sufficient action to stabilize climate in the next fifty years? No, I don’t think it likely.”

She was living in Texas after the climate summit failed in 2009, when media coverage of climate issues plunged by two thirds—the subject wasn’t mentioned once in the 2012 presidential debates—and Governor Rick Perry cut the sections relating to sea-level rise in a report on Galveston Bay, kicking off a trend of state officials who ban all use of the term “climate change.” “There are excellent climate scientists in Texas,” Parmesan says firmly. “Every university in the state has people working on impacts. To have the governor’s office ignore it is just very upsetting.”

The politics took its toll. Her butterfly study got her a spot on the UN climate panel, where she got “a quick and hard lesson on the politics” when policy makers killed the words “high confidence” in the crucial passage that said scientists had high confidence species were responding to climate change. Then the personal attacks started on right-wing Web sites and blogs. “They just flat-out lie. It’s one reason I live in the UK now. It’s not just been climate change, there’s a growing, ever-stronger antiscience sentiment in the U. S. A. People get really angry and really nasty. It was a huge relief simply not to have to deal with it.” She now advises her graduate students to look for jobs outside the U. S.

No one has experienced that hostility more vividly than Michael Mann, who was a young Ph.D. researcher when he helped come up with the historical data that came to be known as the hockey stick—the most incendiary display graph in human history, with its temperature and emissions lines going straight up at the end like the blade of a hockey stick. He was investigated, was denounced in Congress, got death threats, was accused of fraud, received white powder in the mail, and got thousands of e-mails with suggestions like, You should be “shot, quartered, and fed to the pigs along with your whole damn families.” Conservative legal foundations pressured his university, a British journalist suggested the electric chair. In 2003, Senator James Inhofe’s committee called him to testify, flanking him with two professional climate-change deniers, and in 2011 the committee threatened him with federal prosecution, along with sixteen other scientists.

Now, sitting behind his desk in his office at Penn State, he goes back to his swirl of emotions. “You find yourself in the center of this political theater, in this chess match that’s being played out by very powerful figures—you feel anger, befuddlement, disillusionment, disgust.”

The intimidating effect is undeniable, he says. Some of his colleagues were so demoralized by the accusations and investigations that they withdrew from public life. One came close to suicide. Mann decided to fight back, devoting more of his time to press interviews and public speaking, and discovered that contact with other concerned people always cheered him up. But the sense of potential danger never leaves. “You’re careful with what you say and do because you know that there’s the equivalent of somebody with a movie camera following you around,” he says.

Meanwhile, his sense of personal alarm has only grown. “I know you’ve spoken with Jason Box—a number of us have had these experiences where it’s become clear to us that in many respects, climate change is unfolding faster than we expected it to. Maybe it is true what the ice-sheet modelers have been telling us, that it will take a thousand years or more to melt the Greenland Ice Sheet. But maybe they’re wrong; maybe it could play out in a century or two. And then it’s a whole different ballgame—it’s the difference between human civilization and living things being able to adapt and not being able to adapt.”

As Mann sees it, scientists like Schmidt who choose to focus on the middle of the curve aren’t really being scientific. Worse are pseudo-sympathizers like Bjorn Lomborg who always focus on the gentlest possibilities. Because we’re supposed to hope for the best and prepare for the worst, and a real scientific response would also give serious weight to the dark side of the curve.

And yet, like Schmidt, Mann tries very hard to look on the bright side. We can solve this problem in a way that doesn’t disrupt our lifestyle, he says. Public awareness seems to be increasing, and there are a lot of good things happening at the executive level: tighter fuel-efficiency standards, the carbon-pricing initiatives by the New England and West Coast states, the recent agreement between the U. S. and China on emissions. Last year we saw global economic growth without an increase in carbon emissions, which suggests it’s possible to “decouple” oil and economic growth. And social change can happen very fast—look at gay marriage.

But he knows that gay marriage had no huge economic downside, and the most powerful companies in the world are fighting to stop any change in the fossil-fuel economy. So yes, he struggles with doubt. And he admits that some of his colleagues are very depressed, convinced there’s no way the international community will rise to the challenge. He gets into that conversation in bars after climate conferences, always pushing the side of hope.

Dealing with all of this has been a long emotional journey. As a young scientist, Mann was very traditional: “I felt that scientists should take an entirely dispassionate view when discussing matters of science,” he wrote in a book called The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars. “We should do our best to divorce ourselves from all of our typically human inclinations—emotion, empathy, concern.” But even when he decided that detachment was a mistake in this case and began becoming publicly active, he was usually able to put the implication of all the hockey-stick trend lines out of his mind. “Part of being a scientist is you don’t want to believe there is a problem you can’t solve.”

Might that be just another form of denial?

The question seems to affect him. He takes a deep breath and answers in the carefully measured words of a scientist. “It’s hard to say,” he says. “It’s a denial of futility if there is futility. But I don’t know that there is futility, so it would only be denial per se if there were unassailable evidence.”

There are moments, he admits, flashes that come and go as fast as a blinking light, when he sees news reports about some new development in the field and it hits him—Wait a second, they’re saying that we’ve melted a lot. Then he does a peculiar thing: He disassociates a little bit and asks himself, How would I feel about that headline if I were a member of the public? I’d be scared out of my mind.

Right after Hurricane Sandy, he was in the classroom showing The Day After Tomorrow with the plan of critiquing its ridiculous story about the Atlantic conveyor belt slowing down so fast that it freezes England—except a recent study he worked on shows that the Atlantic conveyor belt actually is slowing down, another thing that’s happening decades ahead of schedule. “And some of the scenes in the wake of Hurricane Sandy—the flooding of the New York City subway system, cars submerged—they really didn’t look that different. The cartoon suddenly looked less like a cartoon. And it’s like, Now why is it that we can completely dismiss this movie?”

He was talking to students, so it got to him. They’re young, it’s their future more than his. He choked up and had to struggle to get ahold of himself. “You don’t want to choke up in front of your class,” he says.

About once a year, he says, he has nightmares of earth becoming a very alien planet.

The worst time was when he was reading his daughter Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax, the story of a society destroyed by greed. He saw it as an optimistic story because it ends with the challenge of building a new society, but she burst into tears and refused to read the book again. “It was almost traumatic for her.”

His voice cracks. “I’m having one of those moments now.”

Why?

“I don’t want her to have to be sad,” he says. “And I almost have to believe we’re not yet there, where we are resigned to this future.”

***

The spring day is glorious, sunny and cool, and the avenues of Copenhagen are alive with tourists. Trying to make the best of things, Jason Box says we should blow off the getting-to-know-you lunch and go for a bike ride. Thirty minutes later he locks up the bikes at the entrance to Freetown, a local anarchist community that has improbably become one of Copenhagen’s most popular tourist destinations. Grabbing a couple beers at a restaurant, he leads the way to a winding lake and a small dock. The wind is blowing, swans flap their wings just off the beach, and Box sits with the sun on his face and his feet dangling over the sand.

“There’s a lot that’s scary,” he says, running down the list—the melting sea ice, the slowing of the conveyor belt. Only in the last few years were they able to conclude that Greenland is warmer than it was in the twenties, and the unpublished data looks very hockey-stick-ish. He figures there’s a 50 percent chance we’re already committed to going beyond 2 degrees centigrade and agrees with the growing consensus that the business-as-usual trajectory is 4 or 5 degrees. “It’s, um… bad. Really nasty.”

The big question is, What amount of warming puts Greenland into irreversible loss? That’s what will destroy all the coastal cities on earth. The answer is between 2 and 3 degrees. “Then it just thins and thins enough and you can’t regrow it without an ice age. And a small fraction of that is already a huge problem—Florida’s already installing all these expensive pumps.” (According to a recent report by a group spearheaded by Hank Paulson and Robert Rubin, secretaries of the Treasury under Bush Jr. and Bill Clinton, respectively, $23 billion worth of property in Florida may be destroyed by flooding within thirty-five years.)

Box is only forty-two, but his pointed Danish beard makes him look like a count in an old novel, someone who’d wear a frock coat and say something droll about the woman question. He seems detached from the sunny day, like a tourist trying to relax in a strange city. He also seems oddly detached from the things he’s saying, laying out one horrible prediction after another without emotion, as if he were an anthropologist regarding the life cycle of a distant civilization. But he can’t keep his anger in check for long and keeps obsessively returning to two topics:

“We need the deniers to get out of the way. They are risking everyone’s future…. The Koch Brothers are criminals…. They should be charged with criminal activity because they’re putting the profits of their business ahead of the livelihoods of millions of people, and even life on earth.”

Like Parmesan, Box was hugely relieved to be out of the toxic atmosphere of the U. S. “I remember thinking, What a relief, I don’t have to bother with this bullshit anymore.” In Denmark, his research is supported through the efforts of conservative politicians. “But Danish conservatives are not climate-change deniers,” he says.

The other topic he is obsessed with is the human suffering to come. Long before the rising waters from Greenland’s glaciers displace the desperate millions, he says more than once, we will face drought-triggered agricultural failures and water-security issues—in fact, it’s already happening. Think back to the 2010 Russian heat wave. Moscow halted grain exports. At the peak of the Australian drought, food prices spiked. The Arab Spring started with food protests, the self-immolation of the vegetable vendor in Tunisia. The Syrian conflict was preceded by four years of drought. Same with Darfur. The migrants are already starting to stream north across the sea—just yesterday, eight hundred of them died when their boat capsized—and the Europeans are arguing about what to do with them. “As the Pentagon says, climate change is a conflict multiplier.”

His home state of Colorado isn’t doing so great, either. “The forests are dying, and they will not return. The trees won’t return to a warming climate. We’re going to see megafires even more, that’ll be the new one—megafires until those forests are cleared.”

However dispassionately delivered, all of this amounts to a lament, the scientist’s version of the mothers who stand on hillsides and keen over the death of their sons. In fact, Box adds, he too is a climate refugee. His daughter is three and a half, and Denmark is a great place to be in an uncertain world—there’s plenty of water, a high-tech agriculture system, increasing adoption of wind power, and plenty of geographic distance from the coming upheavals. “Especially when you consider the beginning of the flood of desperate people from conflict and drought,” he says, returning to his obsession with how profoundly changed our civilization will be.

Despite all this, he insists that he approaches climate mostly as an intellectual problem. For the first decade of his career, even though he’s part of the generation of climate scientists who went to college after Al Gore’s Earth in the Balance, he stuck to teaching and research. He only began taking professional risks by working with Greenpeace and by joining the protest against Keystone when he came to the intellectual conclusion that climate change is a moral issue. “It’s unethical to bankrupt the environment of this planet,” he says. “That’s a tragedy, right?” Even now, he insists, the horror of what is happening rarely touches him on an emotional level… although it has been hitting him more often recently. “But I—I—I’m not letting it get to me. If I spend my energy on despair, I won’t be thinking about opportunities to minimize the problem.”

His insistence on this point is very unconvincing, especially given the solemnity that shrouds him like a dark coat. But the most interesting part is the insistence itself—the desperate need not to be disturbed by something so disturbing. Suddenly, a welcome distraction. A man appears on the beach in nothing but jockey shorts, his skin bluish. He says he’s Greek and he’s been sleeping on this beach for seven months and will swim across the lake for a small tip. A passing tourist asks if he can swim all the way.

“Of course.”

“Let me see.”

“How much money?”

“I give you when you get back.”

“Give me one hundred.”

“Yeah, yeah. When you get back.”

The Greek man splashes into the water and Box seems amused, laughing for the first time. It’s the relief of normal goofy human life, so distant from the dark themes that make up his life’s work.

Usually it’s a scientific development that smacks him, he says. The first was in 2002, when they discovered that meltwater was getting into the bed of the Greenland Ice Sheet and lubricating its flow. Oh, you say, it can be a wet bed, and then the implications sunk in: The
whole damn thing is destabilizing. Then in 2006, all of the glaciers in the southern half of Greenland began to retreat at two and three times their previous speed. Good Lord, it’s happening so fast. Two years later, they realized the retreat was fueled by warm water eroding the marine base ice—which is also what’s happening to the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Just thinking about it makes him gloomy. “That’s unstoppable,” he says. “Abrupt sea-level rise is upon us.”

The Greek man returns with surprising speed, emerging from the sea like a god in a myth, laughing and boasting. The Greeks are masters of the waters! Pay me!

“I’m gonna give this guy a hundred kroner,” Box says.

He makes sure the tourists pay, too, and comes back smiling. He knows a Greek guy who’s just like that, he says, very proud and jolly. He envies him sometimes.

He leads the way to a quieter spot on the lakeside, passing through little hippie villages woven together by narrow dirt lanes—by consensus vote, there are no cars in Freetown, which makes it feel pleasantly medieval, intimate, and human-scaled. He lifts a beer to his lips and gazes over the lake and the happy people lazing in the afternoon sun. “The question of despair is not very nice to think about,” he says. “I’ve just disengaged that to a large degree. It’s kind of like a half-denial.”

He mentions the Norse proverb again, but a bulwark against despair so often cited becomes its own form of despair. You don’t dredge up proverbs like that unless you’re staying awake at night.

He nods, sighing. This work often disturbs his sleep, driving him from his bed to do something, anything. “Yeah, the shit that’s going down has been testing my ability to block it.”

He goes quiet for a moment. “It certainly does creep in, as a parent,” he says quietly, his eyes to the ground.

But let’s get real, he says, fossil fuels are the dominant industry on earth, and you can’t expect meaningful political change with them in control. “There’s a growing consensus that there must be a shock to the system.”

So the darker hopes arise—maybe a particularly furious El Niño or a “carbon bubble” where the financial markets realize that renewables have become more scalable and economical, leading to a run on fossil-fuel assets and a “generational crash” of the global economy that, through great suffering, buys us more time and forces change.

***

The Box family dinner isn’t going to happen after all, he says. When it comes to climate change at the very late date of 2015, there are just too many uncomfortable things to say, and his wife, Klara, resents any notion that she is a “climate migrant.”

This is the first hint that his brashness has caused tension at home.

“Well, she…” He takes a moment, considering. “I’ll say something like, ‘Man, the next twenty years are going to be a hell of a ride,’ or ‘These poor North African refugees flooding to Europe,’ and how I anticipate that flux of people to double and triple, and will the open borders of Europe change? And she’ll acknowledge it… but she’s not bringing it up like I am.”

Later, she sends a note responding to a few questions. She didn’t want to compare herself to the truly desperate refugees who are drowning, she says, and the move to Denmark really was for the quality of life. “Lastly, the most difficult question to answer is about Jason’s mental health. I’d say climate change, and more broadly the whole host of environmental and social problems the world faces, does affect his psyche. He feels deeply about these issues, but he is a scientist and a very pragmatic, goal-oriented person. His style is not to lie awake at night worrying about them but to get up in the morning (or the middle of the night) and do something about it. I love the guy for it :)”

So even when you are driven to your desk in the middle of the night, quoting Norse proverbs, when you are among the most informed and most concerned, the ordinary tender mercies of the home conspire in our denial. We pour our energy into doing our jobs the best we can, avoid unpleasant topics, keep up a brave face, make compromises with even the best societies, and little by little the compartmentalization we need to survive the day adds one more bit of distance between the comfortable now and the horrors ahead. So Box turns out to be a representative figure after all. It’s not enough to understand the changes that are coming. We have to find a way to live with them.

“In Denmark,” Box says, “we have the resilience, so I’m not that worried about my daughter’s livelihood going forward. But that doesn’t stop me from strategizing about how to safeguard her future—I’ve been looking at property in Greenland. As a possible bug-out scenario.”

Turns out a person can’t own land in Greenland, just a house on top of land. It’s a nice thought, a comforting thought—no matter what happens, the house will be there, safely hidden at the top of the world.

Melting Accelerates In Antarctica: So Far, 2015 Is Hottest Year Yet

In Uncategorized on April 9, 2015 at 3:30 pm

Iceberg melt

Oldspeak: “Intrepid reporter Dahr Jamail returns with his monthly update of the ongoing global ecological collapse. Unsurprisingly, shit is getting worse, and it’s getting worse faster and more unpredictably non-linear than projected. Earth’s air conditioners at the poles are melting faster than ever, earth’s lungs are dying at faster rates than previously thought expelling more carbon than they sequester, freshwater is rapidly depleting, and global temperatures are set to jump. “Buckle your seatbelt Dorothy, ’cause Kansas is going bye-bye.” –Cipher, “The Matrix”. Only Love remains.” -OSJ

By Dahr Jamail @ Truthout:

The dramatically rapid melting of the earth’s poles is the biggest news in this month’s climate dispatch.

Increasingly fast melting in Antarctica, which will be discussed in more detail below, is now expected to increase sea levels by 10 feet worldwide in less than 100 years, according to recent NASA satellite calculations.

This will “recurve” heavily populated coastlines and reshape the world in which we live, according to one geophysicist with whom Truthout spoke. In addition, a second geophysicist, from Harvard, said that parts of Antarctica are thawing out so quickly that the icy continent has become “ground zero of global climate change, without a doubt.”

According to NASA, every year for the last decade alone, 130 billion tons of ice have melted in Antarctica. For context, that is the weight of more than 356,000 Empire State Buildings and enough ice melt to fill more than 1.3 million Olympic swimming pools. And the melting is accelerating at a pace that is making scientists’ heads spin.

To make matters worse, recent research casts doubt on other studies that have oversold the role of the natural climate’s ability to halt anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) during the next 15 years. Climate scientist Dr. Michael Mann, one of the authors of the study said, “Our work reinforces the notion that there is no pause in human-caused global warming. If anything, we’ve been lulled into a false complacency by the fact that internal oscillations in the climate system temporarily masked some of that warming. That may come back to bite us as these oscillations swing back in the other direction and add to global warming in the decades ahead.”

Another study published in Nature Climate Change revealed how, as bad as things already are, we are actually standing on the precipice of a new planet where warming is likely to accelerate at rates not seen for at least 1,000 years (that is, abrupt ACD is upon us).

A story that has recently been covered in this series is worth mentioning again now, given the dramatic events covered in this month’s dispatch relating to the poles, temperature records and droughts. A resiliency scientist recently showed how the planet has already passed through four of the nine limits for hospitable life, and is racing quickly toward those that have not yet been crossed. Take a look at his chart.

The National Climatic Data Center released its statistics recently, which showed the following:

– Globally, this was the hottest winter on record. The previous record was 2007.

– This was the 19th warmest winter in US history.

– Globally this was, by far, the hottest start to any year (January-February).

Buckle up as we go through the sectors of the planet, as this last month has seen a dramatic ramping-up of climate disruption.

Earth

This month, this sector is facing a whole lot of bad news.

Tropical forests are now vanishing at rates much faster than previously thought. This is disastrous news, given that the plant life in these areas sequesters massive amounts of carbon. When the plant life is removed, carbon is released back into the atmosphere, which is the last thing we need right now. A recent study shows that the rate of loss has increased by 62 percent from the 1990s to the 2000s.

Adding insult to injury, scientists have warned that now ongoing droughts in the Amazon are speeding up ACD. The forests there, dubbed the “lungs of the planet,” are now emitting more carbon dioxide than they are capturing. A 2010 drought there released more than 8 billion tons of carbon dioxide, which is as much as China and Russia’s annual emissions, combined.

Scientists have also warned that ACD now threatens to kill off more aspen forests by 2050, with the possibility of all of them in North America being gone by then.

Another recent report warned that ongoing deforestation, which is occurring largely to expand agricultural lands, may well be exposing more people to diseases like the Black Death, which wiped out more than one-third of Europe’s population during the Middle Ages.

On a similar front, Brazil’s drought-stricken Sao Paulo is now battling an outbreak of dengue fever, as hundreds have been infected with the mosquito-borne virus. Scientists have been warning for a long time how diseases are guaranteed to increase in frequency and intensity of outbreaks as the impacts of ACD progress.

More bad news for forests comes in the form of a pine beetle epidemic in North America, where the warming climate has allowed the beetles to ravage western forests. Now they are rapidly spreading east across much of Canada.

A US-based climate study showed that ACD will cause deserts in Australia to expand to the south, as droughts and record high temperatures continue to plague that country.

Another study has shown that spring is “shifting” in trees: The season is now coming earlier because of ongoing temperature increases, causing changes in plants’ growing patterns. The study predicts that ACD will alter the order in which trees begin to grow their leaves, which entails long-term implications for the survival of several plants that grow in woodlands.

The size of the massive cyclone that pummeled the South Pacific country of Vanuatu has been linked to ACD, according to the country’s president and several climate scientists. One of the aid workers who arrived on the scene to help survivors said, “It looks like the town center has been hit by a bomb.” Oxfam executive director Helen Szoke said of the situation: “It’s becoming increasingly clear that we are now dealing with worse than the worst case scenario in Vanuatu.”

The impacts of climate disruption on nature continue to escalate. A recent study by Florida Institute of Technology confirmed that ACD is fueling a disease that has now almost completely wiped out all of the coral reefs in the Caribbean. In just 40 years, the disease has caused a 90 percent decline in coral reefs there.

Meanwhile, a study by the University of British Columbia revealed a 50 percent drop in seabird populations in the Pacific Northwest, and showed that it is primarily because the birds are starving to death. “It’s a pretty strong message that the marine ecosystem has changed,” said the study’s lead author. “And not for the better.”

A recent report by US Geological Survey experts revealed a “significant” drop in seabird populations in the Gulf of Alaska and northeast Bering Sea, and they blame warmer waters.

Other disconcerting news comes in the form of a whale showing up on the wrong side of the world: A gray whale, a species that has never been seen outside of the Pacific, showed up off the coast of Israel. Plus, Europe’s bees are now threatened with extinction, and ACD is one of the primary factors.

A study just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that ACD may well lead to disturbances in marine life that will take, literally, thousands of years to recover from, not hundreds of years, as was previously thought.

Another recent study has shown how ACD played a critical role in sparking the horrific war in Syria, by causing a dramatic increase in the odds that a terrible drought in the Fertile Crescent would occur just before the fighting began.

Scientists also recently warned that as populations continue to increase around the world, cities will become much more vulnerable to both droughts and floods.

Lastly in this section, an article published by Slate, titled, “Baked Alaska: If the Last Frontier is the canary in the climate coal mine, we’re in trouble,” provides a stark view of both how rapidly and severely Alaska is being impacted by ACD. There, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Alaska said, “Homer, Alaska, keeps setting record after record, and I keep looking at the data like, ‘Has the temperature sensor gone out or something?'”

“A new report shows that warming in Alaska, along with the rest of the Arctic, is accelerating as the loss of snow and ice cover begins to set off a feedback loop of further warming,” according to the Slate article. “Warming in wintertime has been the most dramatic – more than 6 degrees in the past 50 years. And this is just a fraction of the warming that’s expected to come over just the next few decades.”

Water

This month has seen a range of dire water-related crises around the world.

In the United States, lack of water continues to grow as a major issue in the Southwest and Western states. A 2012 federal supply-and-demand study of the Colorado River predicts that by 2060, the demand shortfall for the Colorado River could likely reach 1 trillion gallons, which is enough water to supply 6 million homes in the Southwest for one full year.

An excellent series of articles published in The Republic focused on the profound crisis that besets the Colorado River and thus the US Southwest. With every single drop of that river already guarded and being squeezed further, cities like Las Vegas, which gets 90 percent of its water from the Colorado, are facing deep trouble.

With 30 million people and billions of dollars of farm production reliant upon the dwindling Colorado River, the likelihood that younger generations will witness massive Southwest cities like Phoenix and Las Vegas becoming largely unlivable is high. The Republic series outlines how residents in some areas already fear they will no longer be able to remain where they currently live.

On that note, a recent study showed that California is likely to face droughts nearly every single year from now on.

As though to drive home that point, NASA recently warned that California only has one year of water left at current usage levels.

And the Southwest is not the only region with water woes.

In the Pacific Northwest, this winter saw a record-low snowpack across Washington State. That state’s Olympic Peninsula’s snowpack is a stunning 90 percent below normal levels. Several ski areas across the state never opened this year, and preparations for an impending summer drought are already underway.

Internationally, lack of water is becoming an increasingly urgent issue. A recent report showed how fresh water shortages will likely cause the next global crisis. By way of example, the drought in Sao Paulo has gotten bad enough that residents have attempted to drill through their basement floors in search of groundwater. As reservoirs continue to dry up across the globe, more than 1 billion people already lack access to safe drinking water. Water rationing and battles to control supply will only increase and worsen.

In fact, the UN recently warned that the entire planet will likely experience a 40 percent shortfall of water by 2030. Let that sink in for a moment; 2030 is a mere 15 years from now.

As warming continues to increase, in Alaska, the famous Iditarod annual sled dog race had to move its official starting point all the way to Fairbanks due to lack of adequate snow cover. For the first time in over a decade, a different course had to be used due to lack of snow, warm weather, the melting of previously frozen rivers and thawing permafrost.

Also in that state, the newest artist-in-residence at Denali National Park, photographer Camille Seaman, spoke to the media about her deep worries about ACD, since she has been photographing the Arctic for over a decade. Seeing Alaska as on the front lines of ACD, Seaman said, “No one can deny what Alaskans are experiencing and witnessing first hand.”

In neighboring Canada, experts are predicting a “foreseeable end” to outdoor hockey, due to warming temperatures and less ice cover.

As sea levels continue to rise, California’s iconic surfing business is in jeopardy. For example, in Monterey Bay, new climate modeling by the US Geological Survey shows that waves are getting larger, but then are falling flat as sea levels continue their inevitable rise.

On the other side of the country, in Florida, rising sea levels and invasive species, both obviously due to ACD, are threatening rare plants in Everglades National Park.

Finally in this section, the melting ice caps are again making the news. A recent report from a Nobel Prize-winning scientist showed, yet again, how increasing temperatures are rising even faster in the Arctic, and predicted that that region’s temperature will rise by at least 7 degrees Celsius within a century, and that the Arctic could be completely ice free within 35 years. However, some predict that we will begin seeing an ice-free Arctic much sooner – even this coming summer.

Giving credence to the predictions that this will happen very soon, US scientists recently announced that the Arctic sea ice has fallen to its lowest level for the winter season ever.

The melting in the Antarctic, which has already been profound, just worsened dramatically. A recent study showed that the Totten Glacier in East Antarctica is being melted from warm seawater underneath it, which is now the world’s fastest thinning area of the world’s largest ice sheet. Losing the Totten means that at least 10 feet of sea level rise just got added to the equation of rising seas.
The current ice loss of the Totten, a floating ice shelf, is now equivalent to 100 times the volume of Australia’s Sydney Harbor for every year of water released from its melting.

In just the last 10 years, ice sheets in Western Antarctica are reported to be melting at least 70 percent faster, according to another study – and this is a low-end estimate.

Fire

A report from late 2014 showed us that lightning strikes around the world will significantly increase with a warming planet. This means a dramatic increase in wildfires caused by said lightning, because ACD is causing an increase of up to 8 million lightning strikes every single day.

The entire country of Chile recently declared a national fire alert due to major wildfires in three of its national parks and reserves that are threatening trees that are a thousand years old. In one region that has been suffering from several years of drought, firefighters have been struggling for weeks to try to contain the fires.

In California, tiny bark beetles are ravaging the drought-weakened pine trees throughout the state in what scientists are calling a fast spreading epidemic that they fear could very soon turn catastrophic.

Air

A recent study has revealed that the Gulf Stream system is most likely already weakening. This is very, very bad news: It means that the current fueling the ocean pattern that transports warm water from the tropics to the North Atlantic has now weakened to its lowest level in 1,100 years, likely due to an influx of freshwater from Greenland’s melting ice sheet. In short, this means that ACD is slowing down the Gulf Stream system much sooner than anyone expected it would, essentially locking in far harsher winters across Europe and dramatically faster sea level rise along the East Coast.

German researchers recently announced that the United States, Europe and Russia will face longer heat waves, since summer winds that previously brought in cool ocean air have now been weakened by ACD.

Recent research revealed how winds that are being changed in velocity by ACD patterns are rendering several airstrips across the Arctic less safe.

NASA announced that the vast methane cloud that has been hovering over the US Southwest is real. There was debate about its existence only because it was so large (the size of Delaware) and the methane readings were so unusually high, that at first it was believed to be an instrument error. The methane cloud is from massive coal mines in the region.

Seven massive craters that began appearing in Siberia last summer, now known to have resulted from melting permafrost and succeeding methane explosions, continue to garner media attention as more people begin to realize the dire impacts. As an increasing amount of methane is released into the atmosphere, the rapidity of ACD’s impact rises, since methane is 100 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide in the short term. Hence, these craters are yet another runaway feedback loop caused by ACD. Russian scientists have unequivocally tied the methane crater phenomenon to climate disruption.

More research continues to link the wild weather patterns that have been wracking the United States (deep freezes in the Midwest, record low temperatures and high snowfalls in the Northeast, warm winters in the West) to ACD. A NASA-generated image gives a clear picture of the dramatic US weather patterns, revealing the stark difference in temperature anomalies (temperature variations outside the norm) across the country.

At the same time, other scientific reports have linked large Pacific Ocean cycles with warming temperatures on the planet’s surface, which means that as Pacific trade winds slacken in the coming years, as they are expected to do, seas will begin absorbing less of ACD’s energy, and some of the heat they are already holding will be released into the atmosphere, hence speeding up ACD even more.

Denial and Reality

Certainly the top of the barrel of denial dung from this last month comes from the denier-in-chief, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma). His latest antic found him bringing a snowball to the US Senate floor, because in his world, holding a snowball apparently proves that ACD is a “hoax.”

Willie Soon, a “scientist” who works at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, whose funding sources – oil and coal interests – were recently revealed, told the media he was “saddened and appalled” by the “attacks” against him. “Deniers” is the perfect term to describe people like Soon.

It also came out recently that Florida Department of Environmental Protection employees were ordered not to use the terms “climate change” or “global warming” in any official communications, emails or reports.

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, another outspoken denier, compared himself to Galileo and called those who believe in ACD “flat-earthers.” Cruz told the Texas Tribune that contemporary “global warming alarmists are the equivalent of the flat-Earthers,” and added, “You know it used to be accepted scientific wisdom the Earth is flat, and this heretic named Galileo was branded a denier.”

Famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson recently shot back at the ACD denier camp. During a March lecture he said, “I don’t blame the politicians for a damn thing because we vote for the politicians. I blame the electorate.” Tyson went on to add, “Now we have a time where people are cherry-picking science. The science is not political. That’s like repealing gravity because you gained 10 pounds last week.”

Using the church segue from the Galileo reference, the US Episcopal Church announced that addressing ACD is on par morally with the civil rights movement, and that ACD denial is “immoral.”

A recently released “must-see” documentary called Merchants of Doubt, based on the must-read book with the same title, exposes the dirty tricks the spin doctors from the fossil fuel industry use to fuel the “denial” movement.

Confirming how effective this film is at exposing the denial machine, ACD denier Fred Singer started lobbying fellow skeptics to generate backlash and legal action against the filmmakers.

Also on the reality front, climate scientists at leading universities around the world are now joining forces in order to formulate a plan that will govern investment (read – divestment) in fossil fuels.

Cruz and other denier politicians are now getting schooled by 12-year-olds on ACD. Given that 90 percent of eighth graders accept the reality of human-caused climate change, an event organized by the advocacy group Avaaz brought a group of kids to climate-denying lawmakers’ offices and asked them to take a simple elementary school quiz on the science behind ACD.

As ACD progresses and accelerates, population growth, growing demands for all resources, ACD impacts and lack of potable water have already combined to cause many countries to fall into a state of chronic emergency, as a world made more violent by ACD is upon us.

Lastly, in March, right-wing Tea Party Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was rebuffed in a Senate subcommittee hearing while trying to criticize NASA’s recent decision toward an increase in funding for studying earth-based phenomena, along with a slight decrease in money for space exploration.

Cruz questioned NASA’s aiming funding toward studying ACD, said he felt it was more important to explore space, and while talking to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said, “I would suggest that almost any American would agree that the core function of NASA is to explore space. That’s what inspires little boys and little girls across this country. It’s what sets NASA apart from any agency in the country.”

To which Bolden replied, “We can’t go anywhere if the Kennedy Space Center goes underwater and we don’t know it – and that’s understanding our environment. It is absolutely critical that we understand Earth’s environment because this is the only place we have to live.”

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

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.