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

Posts Tagged ‘Anthropogenic Global Warming’

We Have Been Warned: The Melting Arctic’s Dramatic Impact On Global Weather Patterns

In Uncategorized on January 12, 2016 at 12:55 pm

(Photo: Melting Glacier via Shutterstock)Oldspeak: “Yep. It’s plain to see. Weather is frickin weird. And the rapidly melting Arctic is a major driver of weather related madness. Unprecedented floods, unending droughts, ginormous hurricanes, 70 degrees on christmas, the north pole above freezing in the middle of winter, weakening jet stream, ocean currents slowing down, the melting of polar ice sheets is quite literally affecting the rotation of the planet. The basic fact is “everything in the planet’s climate system is linked together, and when one part of it changes, all the other parts will respond.” The climate system’s responses so far are not pretty atal. Expect this climactic chaos to intensify and species extinctions to accelerate as temperatures rise and conditions worsen.” -OSJ

 

Written by Dahr Jamail @ Truthout:

Arctic sea ice is melting at a record pace – and every summer looks grimmer. This past summer saw the ice pack at its fourth-lowest level on record, and the overall trend in recent decades suggests this will only continue.

“Using satellites, scientists have found that the area of sea ice coverage each September has declined by more than 40 percent since the late 1970s, a trend that has accelerated since 2007,” according to the recent report “Arctic Matters: The Global Connection to Changes in the Arctic” by the National Research Council of the National Academies.

To see more stories like this, visit “Planet or Profit?”

The report added that by the end of each of the eight summers from 2007 to 2014, Arctic sea ice extent was over less area than at any time in the preceding three decades.

In addition to rapid melting of the sea and land ice in the Arctic, temperatures there are warming at least twice as fast as those of the rest of the planet – provoking other dramatic changes.

“Eventually we should see an Arctic Ocean ice free in summers as global temperatures continue to warm.”

Massive wildfires on frozen ground, resulting from increasingly dry conditions caused by anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD), are becoming common; this phenomenon is unprecedented over at least the last 10,000 years.

These and other recent changes across the Arctic are making the weather and climate patterns there – and across the rest of the planet – more difficult to predict.

As Arctic Matters reports, “Changes in the Arctic have the potential to affect weather thousands of miles away. Because temperatures are increasing faster in the Arctic than at the tropics, the temperature gradient that drives the jet stream is becoming less intense.”

This causes the jet stream to weaken and shift away from its typical patterns, which then leads to weather patterns becoming more persistent and lasting longer in the mid-latitudes. This then results in longer droughts, more intense heat waves, and far longer and deeper cold snaps, such as those witnessed in the Northeastern United States and Europe during the last two winters.

Truthout interviewed several leading scientists on these issues, seeking a consistent expectation for what the dramatic changes in the Arctic mean. The verdict? If there’s one thing that all the scientists’ predictions have in common, it is significant change.

The Vanishing Arctic Ice Pack

Dr. Julienne Stroeve is a senior research scientist with the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado. She specializes in the remote sensing of snow and ice, and works in the Arctic measuring changes in the sea ice.

“Eventually we should see an Arctic Ocean ice free in summers as global temperatures continue to warm,” Stroeve told Truthout. She expects us to begin seeing summer periods of an ice-free Arctic ice pack around the year 2040.

Bob Henson is a meteorologist with the Weather Underground, and author of The Thinking Person’s Guide to Climate Change.

He believes that while there will most likely be some small areas of year-round ice clinging to far northern Canada for decades to come, “I would expect a summer in the next 20 to 30 years in which sea ice covers as little as 10 percent of the Arctic for at least a few days in August or September,” he said.

Everything in the planet’s climate system is linked, and when one part of it changes, all the other parts will respond.

Henson pointed out that if we extrapolate data and make predictions from more recent conditions in the Arctic, the timeline for seeing a total loss of sea ice seems faster, but he said we will most likely see summer sea ice declining “in a two-steps-forward, one-step-back process, with record ice loss in some years (as in 2007 and 2012) and a temporary, partial ‘recovery’ in other years (as in 2009 and 2013).”

Regardless of the specifics of the timeline, many agree that an ice-free Arctic will appear before the next century begins.

Dr. Steven Vavrus at the Center for Climatic Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison focuses on the Arctic and serves on the science steering committee for the Study of Environmental Arctic Change. “The precise timing is nearly impossible to pin down, but most estimates range from around 2040 until the end of this century,” he told Truthout. “I would be very surprised if seasonally ice-free conditions during summer do not emerge by 2100.”

Dr. David Klein is the director of the climate science program at California State University, Northridge. Like others, he pointed out how the Arctic is warming two to three times faster than the rest of the planet, and pointed out how ice loss there is “proceeding more rapidly than models have predicted.”

“The loss of sea ice decreases albedo [reflectivity] and results in greater absorption of energy in the water, and the warm water then heats the air above it,” Klein told Truthout. “NASA’s CERES satellites have observed an increase of 10 watts per square meter of solar radiation absorbed by the Arctic Ocean from 2000 to 2014.”

By way of comparison, overall net planetwide warming from greenhouse gases thus far is only one-twentieth that amount of heating.

While that might not sound like very much, as James Hansen has pointed out, cumulatively that amount corresponds to 400,000 Hiroshima atom bombs per day, 365 days a year, across the planet.

Changing Global Weather Patterns

Stroeve explained why the Arctic is vitally important in terms of its impact on the global climate system.

“The Arctic is typically covered by snow and ice year around,” she said. “Snow and ice have a high albedo, meaning they reflect most of the sun’s energy back out to space, helping to keep the region, and the planet, cooler than [they] otherwise would be. As the sea ice melts, or snow [and] glaciers melt, it lowers the albedo, allowing more of the sun’s energy to be absorbed by the ocean and land surfaces, further warming the region.”

Hence, all of our large-scale weather and ocean patterns are tied to the temperature difference between the poles, which receive less solar input, Stroeve said, and the equator, which receives most of the solar input.

“If that temperature difference changes, we would expect the large-scale weather patterns, i.e. the jet stream pattern, to respond,” she added. “This would then [have an] impact on precipitation patterns, perhaps frequency of extreme weather events etc.”

Henson warned that we are entering “uncharted territory” when it comes to the loss of Arctic sea ice.

“The ice loss in recent years has been unprecedented since satellite coverage began in the 1970s, and all signals point to a continued decline in summer sea ice over the next few decades,” he said. “We may already be seeing the effects of Arctic sea ice loss in mid-latitude weather patterns.”

Henson warned that in the coming decades, an Arctic Ocean that is completely open for even a few days or weeks per year, could well shape the atmosphere “in ways that are not yet fully understood.”

“The ‘climate system’ is a complex interconnection of air, land, plants, sea and ice,” he said. “Any transformation to this system as large as the loss of summertime Arctic sea ice should concern all of us, especially since it could reverberate in yet-unknown ways.”

Vavrus explained how the Arctic is the “refrigerator” of the global climate system, acting as the cold region that balances out the hot tropics.

“In this role, the Arctic helps to regulate the energy balance of the climate system and the weather circulation patterns both within high latitudes and elsewhere,” he said.

He went on to point out that the most common expectation among scientists about the impact that the loss of summer sea ice will have on global climate patterns is that more solar energy will be absorbed by the Arctic Ocean and land, and the added heat from the earth’s surface will then be released back into the atmosphere during autumn and winter.

“That will then make the region much warmer during those seasons than in the current climate,” Vavrus said. “That will likely lead to a weakening of jet-stream winds and probably a wavier jet-stream flow pattern.”

This will then result in shifting jet-stream winds, and lead to more persistent and extreme weather patterns both within and outside of the Arctic, he added.

Extreme weather patterns don’t necessarily mean a universal trend toward hot weather. Henson pointed out that research by some scientists is showing that sea ice loss may be helping to cause colder mid-latitude winters like those seen recently in the Northeastern United States. Why? According to Henson, this could be because “the heat released from the newly opened ocean may be helping to slow and weaken the polar jet stream.”

Another mechanism Henson mentioned is how open water in the Barents and Kara Seas may be moistening the autumn atmosphere over Siberia, leading to heavier autumn snows and triggering a chain of events leading to midwinter Arctic outbreaks.

Stroeve said that while exact ramifications of an ice-free Arctic continue to remain unclear, “There is some thought that the warming Arctic has already led to a slowing down of the zonal wind speeds, and perhaps also causing a wavier jet-stream pattern, which would allow for more extreme (or ‘stuck’) weather patterns to persist.”

Klein pointed to how the melting Arctic sea ice “can disrupt normal ocean circulation because of the influx of freshwater from the melted ice, and rising air heated by the water can change wind patterns and even perturb the jet stream, which in turn might alter weather patterns thousands of miles away.”

Some current research states that this contributes to the extreme “polar vortex” weather events we’ve seen in recent years, in addition to the extreme drought plaguing much of the western United States.

Klein also pointed out another dramatic impact the loss of ice is having within the Arctic itself.

“With ice no longer stabilizing land along coasts, erosion will increase and fragile permafrost areas will release more greenhouse gases,” he said. “Permafrost coasts [permanently frozen soil next to open water bodies] comprise a third of the world’s coastline. This is another positive feedback leading to further warming.”

We Have Been Warned

Stroeve pointed out that people should be concerned about the upcoming summer periods of an ice-free Arctic Ocean due to the fact that everything in the planet’s climate system is linked together, and when one part of it changes, all the other parts will respond.

“It also causes our planet to warm further, changes [in] species’ habitat/range, perhaps leading to extinction for some species,” she explained. “A change in our precipitation patterns will impact food and water security. Then, of course, there are people who live in the Arctic and are being directly impacted by these changes.”

Dr. Jennifer Francis, a research professor at Rutgers University’s Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences whose research is focused on the Arctic, pointed out how the Arctic sea ice plays a critical role in the region’s climate system and marine ecosystem. And as we’re learning, its disappearance “is having broad effects well beyond the Arctic.”

Impacts range “from weather patterns to animal migrations to ocean current systems to food webs,” Francis told Truthout. “Its loss will be felt directly and indirectly by billions of people.”

 

U.S. Food System Imperiled: New Research Quantifies The Devastating Impacts Of Extreme Weather On Essential Crops

In Uncategorized on January 9, 2016 at 7:11 pm

Oldspeak: “Conventional thinking among many scientists is that developing countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia—where people are typically hit harder by food price spikes and generally more reliant on agriculture as a primary source of income—are the most vulnerable to food-related climate impacts… researchers found that, as a rule of thumb, droughts and heat waves typically cut a country’s cereal production by 10 percent… But unexpectedly, the researchers also found that the impacts were 8 to 11 percent more severe in developed countries than in developing ones. In developed countries, the emphasis is often on maximizing profit with big monoculture farms that work great in good climates but get trashed when the weather turns sour. Farmers in developing countries, by contrast, may prioritize minimizing their risk, taking a smaller yield in exchange for better resilience.” –Tim McDonnell

Greed is the dominant value today in the world. And as long as that persists, well, we are done.” –Manfried Max-Neef

“How bout that. Yet another unintended consequence of greed-fueled capitalist ecological violence. Giant profit driven monocultures don’t fare well in less than ideal environmental conditions. Unfortunately for us, ideal environmental conditions no longer exist on Earth. Crop yields are already down 20 percent. With environmental conditions steadily worsening by the day, large-scale monocultures expanding around the world, arable land disappearing and population forecast to balloon to 9 to 10 billion in the not to distant future, in all probability, there will not be enough food to go around…. Hmm, not lookin good at all for industrial civilization.” -OSJ

Written By Tim McDonnell @ Mother Jones:

For billions of people around the world, the most immediate threat posed by climate change is at the dinner table, as staple crops face a steadily worsening onslaught of drought, heat waves, and other extreme weather events. The United States certainly isn’t immune to these challenges; for proof, just look at California, where an unprecedented drought has cost the state’s agriculture industry billions.

Still, the conventional thinking among many scientists is that developing countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia—where people are typically hit harder by food price spikes and generally more reliant on agriculture as a primary source of income—are the most vulnerable to food-related climate impacts.

A paper published today in Nature may add a wrinkle to that assumption. Scientists often track the impact that an individual weather disaster has on crops (again, see California), but the new research takes it a step further.

A team of scientists from Canada and the United Kingdom compiled the first-ever global tally of how weather disasters over the past 50 years cut into production of staple cereals. After merging a database of global weather records with a UN record of country-level crop production, the researchers found that, as a rule of thumb, droughts and heat waves typically cut a country’s cereal production by 10 percent. That basically accords with predictions from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s predictions for agricultural vulnerability in the future.

But unexpectedly, the researchers also found that the impacts were 8 to 11 percent more severe in developed countries than in developing ones.

“That was a surprise to us,” said Navin Ramankutty, an agricultural geographer at the University of British Columbia.

Ramankutty said it’s not yet clear why droughts and heat waves tend to hit yields in the United States, Europe, and Australia harder than those in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. But he suspects it relates to how farmers set their priorities. In developed countries, the emphasis is often on maximizing profit with big monoculture farms that work great in good climates but get trashed when the weather turns sour. Farmers in developing countries, by contrast, may prioritize minimizing their risk, taking a smaller yield in exchange for better resilience.

Of course, these findings don’t mean developing countries are out of harm’s way. They still face major challenges from climate change, since comparatively small yield losses can have an outsized impact on local economies and food security. But Ramankutty says the new research shows that even in the developed world, farmers may be more at risk from climate change than anyone previously realized.

 

 

Hothouse Earth: Greenhouse Gas Levels Hit Record High For 30th Year In A Row

In Uncategorized on November 20, 2015 at 4:30 pm

(AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File)

Oldspeak: “We have to be able to admit publicly, privately, and everything in between that those 157 national climate change plans do not constitute enough emissions reductions to put us onto the path of 2 degrees …However, what they do is get us off the business-as-usual trajectory that we were on just four or five years ago to a temperature increase of 4 or 5 degrees” –Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change

“Hmm. nice of someone from the UN to admit that the proposed intended nationally determined contributions are insufficient to avoid catastrophe. Unfortunately she’s still on a serious hopium trip in her belief that these contributions will actually be adhered to given the fact that they are completely voluntary &  there are no systems of regulation in place to enforce these INDCs.  And then of course the “solutions” proposed are wholly market-based, ripe for corruption and likely to prioritize the health of “markets” and “economies”, above those of people, environment and life on earth. Meanwhile, the world burns. Rest assured kiddies, we’re fucked. A bunch of bureaucrats meeting to make promises won’t change that.” –OSJ

Written By @ The Christian Science Monitor:

Carbon dioxide levels in the planet’s atmosphere hit a record high in 2014 – the 30th year in a row that record has been broken – spurring scientists to proclaim the planet is now in “uncharted territory” just weeks before international climate negotiations are scheduled to begin in Paris.

The figures are released annually by the World Meteorological Organization, a UN agency. The organization’s report on Monday shows that CO2 levels averaged 397.7 parts per million last year, briefly exceeding the 400-ppm threshold in the Northern hemisphere in early 2014, and again globally in early 2015.

Levels of atmospheric CO2 – the greenhouse gas most closely linked to climate change – has hit a new record every year since reliable record-keeping began in 1984.

“Every year we say time is running out. We have to act NOW to slash greenhouse gas emissions if we are to have a chance to keep the increase in temperatures at manageable levels,” said Michel Jarraud, WMO secretary-general, in a statement.

Many scientists argue that CO2 levels above 400 ppm will lead to destructive and irreversible changes to the Earth’s climate, but Dr. Jarraud said on Monday that 400 ppm will soon become “a permanent reality.”

“We are moving into uncharted territory at a frightening speed,” he added, saying the long-term implications for the planet will likely include rising sea levels, hotter global temperatures, and more extreme weather events like heat waves and floods.

Global CO2 levels will likely increase again next year because of El Niño, the cyclical warming the Pacific Ocean has been experiencing this year, according to Oksana Tarasova, WMO atmospheric research chief.

Representatives from 190 countries will be meeting in Paris later this month for a week of negotiations aiming to coordinate a global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for the effects of climate change that are now “locked in” because of gases that are already in the atmosphere.

Scientists have been stressing that the planet should seek to avoid warming more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Farenheit) above pre-industrial levels, but diplomats have said recently that it is unlikely such a goal will be achieved in Paris. Instead, the conference will hope to map out a pathway for a more achievable target.

Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said at a Monitor event last week that “we have to be able to admit publicly, privately, and everything in between that those 157 national climate change plans do not constitute enough emissions reductions to put us onto the path of 2 degrees [C].”

“However, what they do is get us off the business-as-usual trajectory that we were on just four or five years ago to a temperature increase of 4 or 5 degrees,”  Ms. Figueres aded.

Global temperatures are set to rise 1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels this year, according to the Met Office in the UK.

“This is the first time we’re set to reach the 1C marker, and it’s clear that it is human influence driving our modern climate into uncharted territory,” said Stephen Belcher, director of the Met Office Hadley Center, according to the BBC.

The WMO maintains the world’s biggest network of sensors tracking changes in the Earth’s atmospheric makeup, and it has been tracking rising greenhouse gas concentrations for decades. Besides the record CO2 levels, Monday’s report also found that two other key greenhouse gases – methane and nitrous oxide – appear to be increasing at an even faster rate. Methane increased by 9 parts per billion from 2013 to 2014, up from an average annual increase of 4.7 ppb.

Material from Reuters was used in this report.

Halfway To Hell: The World is Halfway to 2°C Global Warming

In Uncategorized on November 10, 2015 at 1:31 pm

Global temperature data for September 2015. Credit: U.K. Met Office

Oldspeak: The facts are these: 2015 is set to be the hottest year ever recorded on Earth. Global carbon emission are higher than ever recorded. The carbon budget – the maximum CO2 that can be emitted over time to keep below 2C – was already two-thirds used up by the end of 2014. And the probability of holding global temperatures below 2c is increasingly unlikely with every passing day with increasing emissions and without drastic emissions cuts. The cuts proposed to be discussed, negotiated and promised, not implemented mind you, just promised at the upcoming Paris climate summit; are woefully insufficient to stay below 2c. Recognize that the  2c benchmark is a dangerous political/economic creation;  giving a false sense of confidence that we still have time to  “fight/fix/mitigate” the worst effects of climate change. We don’t.  It has been stated in the past that around 2c, there will be significant disruption to society and possibly rapid non-linear environmental responses. We’ve already seen significant disruptions and non-linear responses at around 1c. The shitstorm coming at 2c and beyond, will not be pretty.” -OSJ

Written By Brian Kahn @ Climate Central:

It’s all but certain that 2015 will end up as the hottest year on record. And in setting that mark, the world is on track to finish the year 1°C above pre-industrial levels, a dubious milestone.

That would make 2015 the first year to crack the halfway mark of 2°C warming, the benchmark that’s been targeted as “safe” climate change and what nations are working toward meeting ahead of climate talks in Paris in December. But Monday’s announcement by the U.K. Met Office hints at how difficult achieving that target will be.

Unlike carbon dioxide, which has risen steadily like a drumbeat every year since the Industrial Revolution due to human activities, the temperature is likely to fluctuate annually and could dip slightly in the coming years (though signs already point to 2016 being even hotter). But the 1°C of warming shows how humans are reshaping the climate in the here and now and not some distant future.

The Met Office maintains one of the four major global temperature records. It shows that through September, the planet is running 1.8°F (1.02°C) above normal. El Niño, the warming of waters in the eastern tropical Pacific, is a contributing factor. But it’s being layered on top of a long-term climate change signal, which has seen the world get hotter and hotter since record keeping began in the late 1800s.

“We’ve had similar natural events in the past, yet this is the first time we’re set to reach the 1°C marker and it’s clear that it is human influence driving our modern climate into uncharted territory,” Stephen Belcher, the director of the Met Office Hadley Center, said in a statement.

In a separate announcement on Monday, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) announced that greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere have reached record highs. That includes global carbon dioxide reaching 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time earlier this year at 40 carbon dioxide-monitoring stations.

Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are the main drivers of climate change. The world has seen carbon dioxide risen more than 120 ppm since pre-industrial times. Readings at some stations, including the gold standard at Mauna Loa Observatory, are set to pass 400 ppm for the foreseeable future later this year. The WMO expects the global average to pass 400 ppm in 2016 as well.

With the planet having already run through two-thirds of its carbon budget — the amount of carbon that can be emitted before the world warms 2°C — scientists say that more action is needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Even if the world limits warming to 2°C, there are still wholesale changes in store for the planet.

Research released by Climate Central on Sunday shows that even if warming is capped at 2°C, sea level rise would still impact land that’s currently home to at least 130 million people. If warming reaches 7.2°F (4°C) above pre-industrial levels, land where 470 million to 760 million people live today would feel the impacts.

 

Keystone Victory Charade: America Has Built The Equivalent Of 10 Keystone Pipelines Since 2010 — And Nobody Said Anything

In Uncategorized on November 10, 2015 at 10:28 am

FP1104-Keystone_pipeline_web

Oldspeak: While the people’s attention has been directed to stopping Keystone by corporate-controlled & co-opted “new environmentalist movements”/NGOs and they’ve crowed about a “victory for the environment” the reality has proceeded thusly:

Between 2009 and 2013, more than 8,000 miles of oil transmission pipelines have been built in the past five years in the U.S., AOPL spokesperson John Stoody said, compared to the 875 miles TransCanada wants to lay in the states of Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska for its 830,000-bpd project. By last year, the U.S. had built 12,000 miles of pipe since 2010…. “While people have been debating Keystone in the U.S. we have actually built the equivalent of 10 Keystones. And no one’s complained or said anything.”… opposition has done little to stop the surge of Alberta crude flowing through the U.S. pipeline systems: Canadian crude oil exports to the U.S. soared to 3.4 million barrels per day in August – a new record.

Translation: We’re still FU@K$D. Anthropogenic carbon pollution has increased unabated worldwide since 1900. Keystone is a drop in the global bucket when compared to the building of all the fossil fuel extraction, processing and transport infrastructure that has occurred around the world.  It’s Game Over for the climate, whether Keystone is built or not.  -OSJ

Written By Yadullah Hussain @ The Financial Post:

While TransCanada Corp. has been cooling its heels on its Keystone XL proposal for the past six years, the oil pipeline business has been booming in the United States.

Crude oil pipeline mileage rose 9.1 per cent last year alone to reach 66,649 miles, according to data from the Washington, D.C.-based Association of Oil Pipe Lines (AOPL)  set to be released soon.

Between 2009 and 2013, more than 8,000 miles of oil transmission pipelines have been built in the past five years in the U.S., AOPL spokesperson John Stoody said, compared to the 875 miles TransCanada wants to lay in the states of Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska for its 830,000-bpd project. By last year, the U.S. had built 12,000 miles of pipe since 2010.

“That’s the point we make,” Stoody said. “While people have been debating Keystone in the U.S. we have actually built the equivalent of 10 Keystones. And no one’s complained or said anything.”

On Monday, TransCanada asked the U.S. State Department to suspend review of its controversial Alberta-to-Nebraska pipeline in the latest episode of a six-year drama that has seen as many as five environmental reviews, numerous legal challenges and a rejection in 2012 by President Barack Obama.

Despite TransCanada’s request for a pause, the U.S. President still rejected the project. He announced on Friday that he would not approve the Keystone application, saying the project did not serve the nation’s interests.

The 487-mile southern leg of the project, dubbed the Gulf Coast project, between Cushing, Okla. and Texas refineries came on stream in 2014.

While the northern leg of Keystone XL remains under review, the Lower 48s have seen new oil pipes crisscrossing the country.

“If you look at 2010 versus now we have seen historic realignment that has transformed the infrastructure situation,” said Afolabi Ogunnaike, analyst at Wood Mackenzie. “There has been tremendous investment in pipelines and more investments are coming on.

The U.S. midstream infrastructure is responding to a near-doubling of U.S. production over the past six years. The U.S. saw an 11.6 per cent increase in crude oil transport via pipelines in 2014, according to AOPL data.

But as U.S. oil production eases in response to lower crude prices, the rapid build-up could see pipeline capacity exceed production in the Bakken in North Dakota and even the Permian basin straddling Texas and New Mexico, Ogunnaike estimates.

“The low oil price environment is allowing the crude oil logistics to catch up to supply,” he said.

Armed with shipping commitments despite low crude prices, key pipeline operators are proceeding with many projects to alleviate the bottlenecks, which could add as much as 8.7 million barrels per day by 2018, Reuters data shows.

Last week, Houston-based pipeline company Enterprise Product Partners said it would have US$7.8 billion of major capital projects ready by the end of 2017. Tulsa, Okla.-based shipper Magellan Midstream Partners raised its capital expenditure by US$200 million to US$1.6 billion in its earnings announcement Tuesday. TransCanada has reported higher volumes on the Keystone Pipeline System in its third-quarter earnings, while Enbridge Inc. is also looking to expand its presence in the Gulf Coast.

Much of the opposition in the U.S. has focused on crude rail terminals, especially in California and Oregon, which has led to delays on some rail projects. In many states, pipeline is viewed more favourably than the sight of crude-bearing rail cars barreling down town centres.

“There is some local opposition, but we don’t have local or inter-state projects that are attracting the same level of scrutiny as Keystone XL seems to have. Keystone XL is an international issue,” Ogunnaike says.

But for many the fight against Keystone XL pipeline remains a high priority in a larger battle to combat climate change.

“I have always opposed Keystone XL,” tweeted Democrat presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders on Monday. “It isn’t a distraction — it’s a fundamental litmus test of your commitment to battle climate change.”

But the opposition has done little to stop the surge of Alberta crude flowing through the U.S. pipeline systems: Canadian crude oil exports to the U.S. soared to 3.4 million barrels per day in August – a new record.

UN: Climate Pledges Of 146 Nations Make Limiting Global Warming To 2 °C Unachievable

In Uncategorized on November 4, 2015 at 2:04 am

UN Photo/Sarah Fretwell Christiana Figueres, who heads the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

Oldspeak:“No surprise here. This is basically Kabuki Theater. As evidenced by the following statements:

Whether the submitted INDCs will become internationally legally binding is still up for debate. The European Union is in favour of mandatory targets, but many countries find that idea difficult to accept.

Some policy specialists fear that the patchwork of intended individual commitments will remain ineffective in the absence of compliance mechanisms and without a global carbon price or cap-and-trade system.

No country is even being legally obligated to abide by their “Intended Nationally Determined Contributions”. The biggest polluters are least likely to agree to mandatory targets. There are no compliance mechanisms in existence to enforce INDCs. And the policy thought to be needed for enforcement is market-based, not environment-based. In effect, this meeting is meaningless. It will serve to further increase humans carbon footprint and not much more.” -OSJ

Written By Quirin Schiermeier @ Nature:

As world leaders prepare for international climate talks next month in Paris, the United Nations climate chief has said that emissions pledges made so far will not keep the planet’s average temperature within 2 °C of pre-industrial levels — the goal that politicians have agreed on to prevent the most dangerous effects of global warming.

“That so many countries are now engaging in the fight against climate change is a remarkable step, and their pledges are a first important deliverable to Paris,” said Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). “But although we’re moving in the right direction, it is clearly not enough.”

Figueres was speaking at the launch of a report synthesizing the aggregate effects of all pledges to reduce emissions, submitted by parties to the UNFCCC and covering 146 countries as of 1 October. The promises — called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) — are voluntary. If fully implemented, they would slow the growth in global emissions of carbon dioxide, preventing the emission of 4 billion tonnes annually by 2030. They would also cut per-capita carbon emissions by 9% compared to 1990 levels, the report finds.

But without any further action, this would put the global average temperature on track to warm by 2.7 °C by 2100, Figueres said.

No surprise

The report will come of no surprise to scientists or environmental groups who had already warned that the pledges were far from sufficient. Although negotiators in Paris will hope to reach an international deal on the basis of existing promises, Figueres says that it is just as important that any agreement include language ensuring periodic reviews, and a consideration of next steps. “What we need are progressive incremental efforts — reviewed every two years or so — that will lead the world on a path towards two degrees,” she said.

Industrialized nations and developing countries alike must step up their efforts to that end, says Sebastian Oberthür, a climate-policy researcher at the Dutch-speaking Free University of Brussels.

“No country or bloc can afford to pause and say they’ve done enough,” he says. “But global climate action would no doubt gain momentum if one big player — the United States, the European Union, or less likely, China — took the lead in setting more-ambitious domestic targets, and channelling aid and know-how to poorer countries.”

Legal wrangling

Whether the submitted INDCs will become internationally legally binding is still up for debate. The European Union is in favour of mandatory targets, but many countries find that idea difficult to accept.

Some policy specialists fear that the patchwork of intended individual commitments will remain ineffective in the absence of compliance mechanisms and without a global carbon price or cap-and-trade system. But voluntary targets that stem from national interests might have a better chance of being implemented than anything mandatory, says Figueres.

One-quarter of the INDC pledges are conditional on receiving financial and technical support from other nations greenhouse-gas reductions and climate-change adaptation. Potential donor countries must stick to their promise to collectively provide some US$100 billion per year by 2020 in climate financing obtained through private and public means, said Jochen Flasbarth, a state secretary for Germany’s federal environment ministry. Germany has committed to providing a 10% share of those funds, he said.

He and Figueres hope that Germany’s ambitious renewable-energy plan could serve as an example for other countries. “The world is starved of good examples of how to get out of fossil-fuel dependence,” says Figueres. “Industrialized countries will never be excused of not taking action at home. But they must also help developing countries reduce their growing emissions.”

“It’s ecological imperialism.” Extinction, The New Environmentalism & The Cancer In The Wilderness

In Uncategorized on October 30, 2015 at 4:23 pm
Wolf-in-Yellowstone-

Say goodbye to the Grey Wolf. Photo: USFWS.

Oldspeak: “Homo sapiens are out of control, a bacteria boiling in the petri dish; the more of us, demanding more resources, means less space for every other life form; the solution is less of us, consuming fewer resources, but that isn’t happening. It can’t happen. Our economic system, industrial consumer capitalism, requires constant growth, more people buying more things.” –Christopher Ketcham

“Therein lies the conundrum Kimosabe. The imperative of infinite growth on a finite and fragile planet.  As the megafauna of Earth are forced ever faster on their Baatan Death March toward extinction, Industrial Civilization drones on. Earth is being transformed into one big corporate monoculture. The “environmental movement” has been co-opted, corporatized and monetized, fundraising in the wake of Faux “Victories” for the environment. Climate marches and activism organized by these entities are seen as “making your voice heard“, in reality amounting to nothing more than a more jovial “2 minutes Hate brought to you by Wall Street. The attitudes espoused by these so called “new environmentalists” are truly disturbing and ecocidal. We are indeed, the cancer in the wilderness. We are the cancer cells in the body of our world. And the only thing that stops this exceedingly virulent strain of cancer, Homo sapiens sapiens is extinction.  Our fate is as sealed as those of our fellow megafauna.” –OSJ

Written By Christopher Ketcham @ Counter Punch:

The word is in from the wildlife biologists. Say goodbye in North America to the gray wolf, the cougar, the grizzly bear. They are destined for extinction sometime in the next 40 years. Say goodbye to the Red wolf and the Mexican wolf and the Florida panther. Gone the jaguar, the ocelot, the wood bison, the buffalo, the California condor, the North Atlantic right whale, the Stellar sea lion, the hammerhead shark, the leatherback sea turtle. That’s just North America. Worldwide, the largest and most charismatic animals, the last of the megafauna, our most ecologically important predators and big ungulates, the wildest wild things, will be the first to go in the anthropogenic extinction event of the Holocene Era. The tiger and leopard and the elephant and lion in Africa and Asia. The primates, the great apes, our wild cousins. The polar bears in the Arctic Sea. The shark and killer whale in every ocean. “Extinction is now proceeding thousands of times faster than the production of new species,” biologist E.O. Wilson writes. Between 30 and 50 percent of all known species are expected to go extinct by 2050, if current trends hold. There are five other mass extinction events in the geologic record, stretching back 500 million years. But none were the result of a single species’ overreach.

I’ve found conversation with my biologist sources to be terribly dispiriting. The conversation goes like this: Homo sapiens are out of control, a bacteria boiling in the petri dish; the more of us, demanding more resources, means less space for every other life form; the solution is less of us, consuming fewer resources, but that isn’t happening. It can’t happen. Our economic system, industrial consumer capitalism, requires constant growth, more people buying more things. “I will go so far as to say [that] capitalism itself may be dependent on a growing population,” writes billionaire capitalist blogger Bill Gross, Forbes magazine’s Bond King. “Our modern era of capitalism over the past several centuries has never known a period of time in which population declined or grew less than 1% a year.” Growth for growth’s sake, what Edward Abbey called the ideology of the cancer cell.

The biologists, who in my experience tend to loathe the Bill Grosses of the world, begin to sound like revolutionaries. The most radically inclined among them – their goal to save some part of the planet from human domination and keep it wild and free (free of bond managers for sure) – agree that human population will have to halt entirely, and probably decline, in order to protect non-human biota. Then the biologists begin to sound like misanthropes, and they shut their mouths.

“What’s wrong with misanthropy?” I ask Leon Kolankiewicz, a former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist who has written extensively about the human population footprint and its disastrous effect on biodiversity. “The human race,” I tell him, “has proven to be a bunch of assholes.”

Kolankiewicz laughs. My attitude, he observes, is not a very good tool for marketing conservation, given that the market, after all, is made up of people. We’re supposed to make biodiversity appeal to the buyer, the public, as something useful. We talk about ecosystem services – ecosystems that service us. “It’s a completely wrongheaded approach to conservation, of course,” says Kolankiewicz. “It’s raw anthropocentrism. There’s a lot of nature that isn’t particularly useful to people.”

Industrial-strength Homo sapiens could function without much trouble on a vastly simplified, even depauperate, planet, one wiped nearly clean of its fantastic variety of life. I read in Science magazine not long ago, for example, that Earth could lose 90 percent of the species that produce oxygen – not 90 percent of total biomass, mind you, just the diversity of the oxygen producers – and this would hardly make a dent in our modern lives. One of the conservation statistics that Kolankiewicz had encountered in recent years, one that he said “just blows me away,” shows that the combined biomass of the living 7.2 billion human beings, along with the few species of animal we have domesticated – dogs, cats, cattle, sheep, pigs, chickens – now constitutes at least 95% of the entire biomass of all extant terrestrial vertebrates on Earth. That is, all of the living specimens of wild mammals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles, more than 20,000 species in total, constitute a mere 5% of the aggregate living cellular tissue of all vertebrates. “Almost total usurpation of the biosphere for the benefit of one species alone,” says Kolankiewicz. “It’s ecological imperialism. Given this tragic reality, how can any sentient, caring person not be a bit of a misanthrope?”

We talk about the remaining places on Earth where the imperial species has not usurped the biosphere, where the bears and the wolves and the tigers roam, where the little babbling bipeds with their iPhones might get eaten, and we agree that these places can be called wilderness. We agree that the language of the 1964 Wilderness Act best defined those places: “where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man,” where the land retains “its primeval character and influence.” Observe the original meaning of that word, trammeled. It means to shackle, to hinder, to chain, to make un-free. An untrammeled ecosystem is one where man may be present but does not dominate, where the willed self-propelling processes of nature have not been subjugated entirely to human ends. (Kolankiewicz observes that it is from willed that etymologically we get the word wild.) Wilderness, among its other purposes, is to be a refuge for wild animals and plants, their evolution to remain unmolested and unhampered. There is a practical argument here – the preservation of a genetic pool evolving without help or hindrance from us (as we busily meddle with and wipe out genetic diversity elsewhere) – and a transcendent one, related to the not-so-transcendent fact that when we do away with wilderness we are also doing away with the crucible of natural forces which birthed our ancestors out of the muck and which shaped our character as a species. Without wilderness, we lose two million years of evolutionary heritage. We lose our deep-seated and long-standing relations with the non-human; we lose the awareness, the consciousness, of a natural environment not arranged entirely for human convenience. We lose our capacity, in the words of Howard Zahniser, the primary author of the Wilderness Act and its principal mover, “to know ourselves as the dependent members of a great community of life…to know the wilderness is to know a profound humility, to recognize one’s littleness, to sense dependence and interdependence, indebtedness, and responsibility.” Kolankiewicz tells me to read Wallace Stegner’s famous Wilderness Letter of 1960, issued as a public rebuke to the Kennedy administration. I tell him I know it well. “Without any remaining wilderness,” wrote Stegner, “we are committed wholly, without chance for even momentary reflection or rest, to a headlong drive into our technological termite-life, the Brave New World of a completely man-controlled environment.”

Kolankiewicz admits to a strain of Luddism in his blood, a dislike of technocrats, and certainly he is not the kind of environmentalist one finds salaried in the cubicles of the Big Greens in DC – by which I mean the Nature Conservancy, the Sierra Club, the Wilderness Society, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the half-dozen other multi-billion-dollar enviro-nonprofits. Peter Kareiva, the chief scientist at the Nature Conservancy, is more typical of the breed. He’s an optimist, he’s people-friendly, full of bright ideas that promise hopeful partnerships with corporate business, expressive in his love of technological progress as the ultimate fix to conservation troubles, unabashed in the belief that good management applying the scientific method can handle any challenge no matter how frightful, and thoroughly dismissive of what he calls “the wilderness ideal.” In the new geologic era scientists are calling the Anthropocene – an era in which “humans dominate every flux and cycle of the planet’s ecology and geochemistry” – Kareiva believes that conservation has reached a threshold from which there is no turning back. Climate change, a world-encircling shroud of domination, is the most pressing fact of the Anthropocene. There is no place untrammeled by man, no ecosystem self-willed, and wilderness is therefore dead. Embrace the painful truth, says Kareiva: We are de facto planetary managers, and though hitherto we have been lousy at the job of management – selfish and self-aggrandizing, thoughtlessly destructive – we will not cease to dominate. And this is a good thing, as the very consciousness of our power as totalitarian managers of nature may be a blessing: It compels us not to question this power – for Kareiva it is unquestionable – but to become wise managers, like Plato’s philosopher kings, full of noblesse oblige, tyrannical but enlightened. So much for profound humility.

Let’s hear at length what Kareiva has to say about this “new vision for conservation”:

Conservation should seek to support and inform the right kind of development – development by design, done with the importance of nature to thriving economies foremost in mind….Instead of scolding capitalism, conservationists should partner with corporations in a science-based effort to integrate the value of nature’s benefits into their operations and cultures. Instead of pursuing the protection of biodiversity for biodiversity’s sake, a new conservation should seek to enhance those natural systems that benefit the widest number of people, especially the poor. Instead of trying to restore remote iconic landscapes to pre-European conditions, conservation will measure its achievement in large part by its relevance to people, including city dwellers. Nature could be a garden….

The notion of a gardened planet managed for “thriving economies foremost in mind” is a radical departure from the environmentalism of the 20th century, such that the Big Greens have marketed a nomenclature to describe the new thinking. They call themselves, variously, “ecomodernists,” “post-modern greens,” “neo-greens” or, simply, the “new environmentalists,” and their goal is the implementation of “eco-pragmatism.” Their most important departure from the old environmentalism is the jettisoning of any concern about the limits to economic and population growth. If human population doubled between 1804 and 1927, and doubled again between 1927 and 1974, and almost doubled again to 7.2 billion today, with the latest forecasts projecting more than 10 billion people by 2100, the New Enviros bid us look to nanotechnology, genetically modified crops and animals, laboratory meat, industrial fish farms, hydroponics, optimized fertilizers and bio-friendly pesticides, geoengineering (mass climate modification), more efficient transportation networks, electric cars, denser cities (with more people efficiently packed in them), unconventional oil deposits, safe nuclear energy, wind and solar arrays, smart grids, advanced recycling, and much else in the techno-arsenal to keep the human species from crashing against the wall of planetary carrying capacity. “There really is no such thing as a human carrying capacity,” writes Erle Ellis, a professor of geography and environmental systems at the University of Maryland, in an op-ed in the New York Times. “We are nothing at all like bacteria in a petri dish…. Our planet’s human-carrying capacity emerges from the capabilities of our social systems and our technologies more than from any environmental limits.”

The ideological shift in the New Environmentalism represents a historic alliance of conservation with the doctrines of industrial growth capitalism – which is to say, this can no longer be called conservation in the traditional sense. It has not arisen in a vacuum, but is the logical culmination of 30 years of corporatization of the Big Greens, as enviros starting in the 1980s degenerated into a professionalized, business-funded interest group and began to operate like the businessmen they once saw as the adversary. Consider that the president and CEO of the Nature Conservancy today, Mark Tercek, is a former managing director and partner at Goldman Sachs.

The advent of the New Environmentalism frames a central conflict to unfold in coming years in the conservation community. What happens to wilderness in a world where it is managed for the economic benefit of the “widest number of people” and not for the health of the inhabitants of the wild? And what if, as Leon Kolankiewicz notes, large parts of wild nature are found irrelevant to “thriving economies”? Whither wilderness if industrial capitalism’s expansion is our only measure of its value? And overarching all this: What happens to human beings – psychologically, spiritually, morally – when we no longer have an escape from the confines of our technological termite hill?

 

Water Scarcity Remains Largely Marginalized In Climate Talks

In Uncategorized on October 30, 2015 at 1:08 am
Credit: WaterAid

Credit: WaterAid

Oldspeak:”I don’t understand this. Yes, reducing carbon emissions are important. But water scarcity, is at least as important. Without water, everything goes to shit.  As our high-energy/high-carbon biomass grinder of a civilization, which has depleted in 2,000 years, the amount of biomass it took 400 fucking million years to create, water is being voraciously and unsustainably consumed by it’s energy and agricultural systems. 40 % of the world is already dealing with water problems. Nearly 2 billion are drinking water contaminated with shit. With billions more humans on the way, where will the fresh water come from?! Mars?! Don’t hold your breath. Do count on water wars proliferating though. Because whether we pay attention or not, human kind is running out of fresh water. ” -OSJ

 

Written By Thalif Deen @ Inter Press Service:

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 20 2015 (IPS) – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry last week turned the spotlight on the “record number” of extreme weather-related events the world is witnessing these days.

With an eye on the upcoming climate change talks in Paris, he warned that in the South Pacific, entire islands are at risk, largely threatened by a sea-level rise.

In southeast Brazil, they’re suffering through the worst drought in 80 years. In California, it’s the worst drought in a century – plus wildfires.

In Malawi, there are record floods. And in the Arctic, whole villages are in danger, said Kerry, speaking at the Indiana University’s School of Global and International Studies on Oct.15.

Despite Kerry’s admonition, the role of water remains a relatively neglected issue in the run-up to the Paris talks, while the primary focus has been on carbon emissions.

Reinforcing the need for water security, Louise Whiting, Senior Policy Analyst on Water Security & Climate Change at UK-based WaterAid, told IPS the world’s poorest are affected most by climate change, which is felt primarily through water: too much (flooding and rising sea levels), too little (droughts), at the wrong time (unpredictable weather patterns) or of the wrong quality (too salty or polluted).

The more than 650 million poor and marginalised people who rely on unsafe water sources will be increasingly vulnerable as these sources are highly exposed to climate-related threats.

For example, she pointed out, floods can inundate tube-wells, and natural sources of fresh water can become contaminated with salty seawater.

And in the lead-up to this year’s U.N. climate talks from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11 in Paris, WaterAid is calling on the international community to make water security, which includes first and foremost having access to water, sanitation and hygiene, a priority when it comes to helping poor countries adapt to climate change.

Whiting said adequate water, sanitation and hygiene facilities improve people’s health, education and economic stability, making them more resilient to climate change.

‘We must also ensure that money flows from the people that caused the problem to those least able to cope with it.”

In 2010, the U.N. General Assembly voted on a resolution that recognized water and sanitation as a human right.

And U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has repeatedly said that safe drinking water and adequate sanitation are crucial for poverty reduction, crucial for sustainable development and crucial for achieving any and every one of the Millennium Development Goals, which end December.

But the 17 new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by world leaders on Sep. 25, also singles out water and sanitation as key issues in the U.N.’s post-2015 development agenda.

By 2030, the United Nations is hoping to achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all; improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials; and substantially increasing water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity, and substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity.

Whiting told IPS WaterAid will be focusing on improving access to safe water and a decent toilet for poor communities.

“Through our work we increase water storage capacity and strengthen monitoring of water supplies so droughts can be detected early. Where flooding is a problem, for example in Bangladesh, we make infrastructure more robust where necessary, and we also help communities come together and assess their own vulnerability so they can demand better services from their governments”

WaterAid is also helping 29 communities across West Africa cope with water scarcity and becoming more resilient to climatic threats, particularly by helping them improve the way they manage their own water resources.

In Burkina Faso, where the dry season already lasts for up to eight months a year, many communities live a precarious existence. Climate change will only exacerbate their situation.

WaterAid is combining additional boreholes, sand dams and improvements to existing wells alongside training local people to become water experts.

These experts, she said, are revolutionising communities’ abilities to control their own water supply by measuring water levels, monitoring rainfall, pre-empting threats and spotting emerging data patterns, so they know what water can be used, at what times of day, and in what quantities.

They are also feeding that data into government monitoring schemes, to help build a more cohesive national picture of climate patterns across the country.

“Nature doesn’t care whether you are a poor subsistence farmer in Burkina Faso or an accountant in California,” Whiting said.

“Climate change will impact us all. However, it will impact those who have contributed the least to the problem the hardest.”

World leaders gathering in Paris must commit to providing the technical and financial support that is needed to help poor countries adapt to the coming changes, she declared.

According to the United Nations, about 2.6 billion people have gained access to improved drinking water sources since 1990, but 663 million people are still without, and at least 1.8 billion people globally use a source of drinking water that is fecally contaminated.

Between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of the global population using an improved drinking water source has increased from 76 per cent to 91 per cent.

The U.N. also points out that water scarcity affects more than 40 per cent of the global population and is projected to rise.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

This article is part of IPS North America’s media project jointly with Global Cooperation Council and Devnet Tokyo.

 

 

The Fire Next Time: Record-Breaking Wildfires, Greenland Melting and Earth’s Hottest Month Ever

In Uncategorized on September 8, 2015 at 8:41 pm
A massive wall of wildfire smoke, blowing in from record-breaking fires in Eastern Washington, covers Puget Sound and Seattle. (Photo: Dahr Jamail)

A massive wall of wildfire smoke, blowing in from record-breaking fires in eastern Washington State, covers Puget Sound and Seattle. (Photo: Dahr Jamail)

Oldspeak: “Life is tragic simply because the earth turns and the sun inexorably rises and sets, and one day, for each of us, the sun will go down for the last, last time. Perhaps the whole root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, the only fact we have. It seems to me that one ought to rejoice in the fact of death–ought to decide, indeed, to earn one’s death by confronting with passion the conundrum of life. One is responsible for life: It is the small beacon in that terrifying darkness from which we come and to which we shall return….Do I really want to be integrated into a burning house?” -James Baldwin, “The Fire Next Time” 1963

“Behold! In an utterly synthetic, sanitized & death-phobic culture, the sheer length and breadth of madness wrought to avoid death, prolong life, enhance comfort, improve convenience and make life easy for humans;  has in fact had the unfortunate consequence of bringing about conditions precipitating a “Great Dying”. A Dying like none other experienced on Earth, in a mere instant on a geologic time-scale.  Sacrificing the beauty of our lives for concepts like “things”, politics, economies, ideologies & sense pleasures all to ignore the only immutable fact of life; that our love of life is nestled in a cradle of death. Dahr Jamail is back with his latest dispatch, bearing witness to the myriad of death, destruction and disintegration fear fueled human activity caused. As per usual, the news is getting shittier as time passes.  Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick… ” -OSJ

Written By Dahr Jamail @ Truthout:

When I go up into the mountains, I’m used to being afforded magnificent views of alpine meadows filled with wildflowers, crystal-clear mountain streams, glaciers tucked under the shoulders of high valleys, stratified ridges arcing into the sky, and views so far into the distance one can sense the curvature of earth.

But on August 22, as I carefully climbed my way toward one of the high summits of Eastern Olympic National Park, the solace of the mountains eluded me due to an ominous sign. The view east – toward what has now officially become the largest complex of wildfires in history for Washington State, where over one-quarter million acres have burned – was dominated by a large, greyish-white plume of smoke that stretched as far north and south as I could see.

At first it appeared as a large storm cloud layer, which was confusing given that the weather-folk had called for a stable high-pressure ridge over western Washington through the weekend. But as I continued through the morning, the large white wall neared and slowly began enveloping the entire eastern mountains of the Olympics, and my eyes began to burn as I smelled the smoke.

By the time I reached the summit of my climb, the view south was already obscured by the smoke as it began to fully infiltrate Olympic National Park.

Looking south from high up in the Eastern portion of Olympic National Park, wildfire smoke begins making its way into the park. (Photo: Dahr Jamail)

Looking south from high up in the eastern portion of Olympic National Park, wildfire smoke begins making its way into the park. (Photo: Dahr Jamail)

John Muir once wrote, “I must break away and get into the mountains to learn the news.” Today, given we are well along into abrupt anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD), Muir’s quote has taken on an entirely new meaning, as the convulsions wracking the planet are starkly clear when we venture out into nature.

Back home after my climb, the wildfires were all over the news. Several firefighters had died recently while battling the blazes in eastern Washington, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data show how over half the entire country was covered in wildfire smoke generated by literally hundreds of fires, and the smoke was bad enough in Seattle to have triggered health alerts.

The US is now officially in the worst wildfire season in its history, as almost 7.5 million acres across the country have burned up since spring.

Articles about ACD’s impacts are now being published in more mainstream outlets, carrying titles that include verbiage like “the point of no return,” and it is high time for that, given what we are witnessing.

A recently published study by the UK-US Taskforce on Extreme Weather and Global Food System Reliance revealed that “major shocks” to worldwide food production will become at least three times more likely within the next 25 years due to increasingly extreme weather events generated by ACD. One of the coauthors of the report warned of a “very frightening” future due to the synthesis of ACD and food demands from a constantly growing global population.

Meanwhile, July officially became the hottest month ever recorded on the planet, setting 2015 on course to easily become the hottest year ever recorded.

This month’s dispatch is replete with evidence of our growing crisis, including record-breaking amounts of ice being released from Greenland, more species under threat of extinction, and millions of acres of the planet burning up in wildfires across North America alone.

Earth

A trove of papers recently released in the journal Science have warned that the planet’s forests are all under major threat of being annihilated, due to the ever-expanding human footprint, coupled with ACD. The introduction to the studies reads: “These papers document how humans have fundamentally altered forests across the globe and warn of potential broad-scale future declines in forest health, given increased demand for land and forest products combined with rapid climate change.”

Speaking of which, another recent report, this one coming from the Center for Global Development, showed that the planet is on a trajectory to lose an amount of tropical forest land equivalent to the size of India by 2050.

Meanwhile, geologists with the US Geological Survey and researchers from the University of Vermont recently showed that Washington DC is, quite literally, sinking into the sea. “It’s ironic that the nation’s capital – the place least responsive to the dangers of climate change – is sitting in one of the worst spots it could be,” senior author of the paper, Paul Bierman, said. “Will the Congress just sit there with their feet getting ever wetter?”

At the moment, the answer to his question is obvious: The lawmakers that frequent our capital city are making no bold moves to address that city’s flooded future.

Food production, as aforementioned, is being dramatically undermined by ACD. In Nigeria, the country’s ability to feed itself is rapidly diminishing due to higher temperatures and shifting rainfall patterns. At least half the farmers there had been unable to even plant their crops at the time of this writing.

Animal species continue to bear the brunt of ACD all over the globe as well.

A recent study showed that in the UK, ACD is generating severe droughts that have placed several species of butterflies there at risk of extinction.

Another report showed how a disease spreading rapidly across the planet’s tadpole populations is now threatening the global frog population. Scientists who authored the report warn that this is further evidence of the sixth great extinction event the earth is now experiencing.

Another dismaying development: The ever-shrinking area of sea ice is deleteriously impacting the Arctic’s walrus population. This season could see another dramatic beaching event like that of last summer, in which 35,000 walruses dragged themselves out of the sea and onto a beach due to lack of sea ice.

Meanwhile, the ongoing drought in California has caused an “emergency situation” for trees in that state, as lack of water is causing unprecedented die-offs. The drought there is also wiping out several of the native fish populations, of which many are expected to disappear within the next two years if the drought persists.

Lastly in this section, unprecedented heat coupled with an intense drought has caused “glacial outbursts” on Washington State’s Mount Rainier. “Outbursts” occur when large pools of ice-melt form within the glaciers, then plunge from within the glacier, sending torrents of silt-filled water, boulders and trees down the slopes of the mountain, wiping out anything in its path.

While these outbursts have happened periodically throughout history, they are expected to increase in both frequency and severity as ACD progresses.

Water

As usual, circumstances on the water front continue to worsen around the planet.

In the Pacific Northwestern region of the US, over a quarter million sockeye salmon heading up the Columbia River have either died or are in the process of dying due to warmer water temperatures. Biologists warn that at least half of this year’s returning fish will be wiped out, and ultimately as much as 80 percent of the total fish population could perish. Both Oregon and Washington states have already instituted closures of sport fishing due to the warmer waters and drought conditions persisting in both states.

In the Eastern Pacific Ocean, a giant bloom of toxic algae that is a threat to the health of both ocean species and humans alike spans from southern California all the way up to Alaska. Researchers are linking the size and intensity of the bloom to ACD. The bloom is already killing off sea lions that inhabit the coast and is still not showing signs of going away. Researchers said it was the largest bloom they had ever seen.

A report showed how ACD is in the process of rapidly reversing a natural phenomenon of 1,800 years of ocean cooling, while another study revealed that ocean acidification will continue and likely worsen, even if carbon sequestration and cleanup efforts were to begin in an immediate and dramatic fashion.

Back on land, droughts around the globe continue to make headlines.

One in Puerto Rico, that continues to worsen, has caused that country’s government to extend its dramatic water rationing measures, which have now been ongoing for weeks.

A study published in Geophysical Research Letters unequivocally linked California’s severe drought to ACD, saying that ACD has already “substantially increased” both the frequency and intensity of future droughts.

More news around the California drought emerged, showing that the river that runs through San Jose, the 10th largest city in the US, has dried up completely, severely harming fish and wildlife dependent on the water for their survival.

NASA released findings showing that California’s Central Valley, where the bulk of all the farming in the state takes place, is literally sinking, due to how much groundwater is being drawn out to compensate for the drought conditions. It is yet another destructive feedback loop: ACD has caused the drought to be far more severe than normal, which has caused humans to over-pump groundwater, leading to the sinking of the land.

The world’s glaciers are in peril. A disturbing report has shown that they have shrunk to their lowest levels ever witnessed in the history of record-keeping. They are melting at an accelerating rate – two to three times faster than the 20th century average melt rate.

As if to punctuate the findings of the report, the world’s fastest-melting glaciers, located in Greenland, recently lost the largest amount of ice on record in just a 48-hour period.

As a result of the incredible melting rates of glaciers, snowpack and ice fields around the globe, sea levels are now rising faster than ever.

Thus, as recently released research shows, global communities and cities located on river deltas – which includes over a quarter of a billion people – are at risk and will have to relocate.

Fire

Given the extensive record-breaking drought that has afflicted most of the western US, the fact that this summer’s fire season came in with a roar came as little surprise. Hardly halfway through the summer, fires across California, Washington, Colorado and in Glacier National Park in Montana were making headlines.

By early August, nearly 10,000 firefighters in California alone were battling at least 20 wildfires that had already forced more than 13,000  people to evacuate their homes.

Shortly thereafter, thousands of wildfires were raging across drought-plagued California, and before the middle of the month, a staggering 300,000 new acres were burning each day up in Alaska, where fires had scorched over 6 million acres thus far in the year, and hundreds of fires continued to burn. That makes this year already the second-largest wildfire season in Alaska’s history, with more of the summer remaining.

Reports have emerged warning of the impact of the fires upon Alaska’s permafrost: They have removed millions of acres of the tundra and forest that previously protected the frozen ground.

In early August, the US Forest Service announced that for the first time in the history of that department, it needed to spend over half of its entire budget on fighting wildfires.

Despite this, given the record-breaking drought conditions across the west, large numbers of the fires were left to burn out of control, due to high winds, dry conditions, and lack of fire-fighting capabilities and resources.

Air

In case anyone had any doubt about how hot the planet is already becoming, the Iranian city of Bandar Mahshahr experienced a heat index of 165 degrees in August, nearly setting a world record for heat index measurements, which factor in humidity along with temperature.

In July, incredibly hot temperatures in Tajikistan caused a rapid melting of glaciers, which triggered flooding and mudslides that generated nearly 1,000 ACD refugees.

Meanwhile, across the Middle East in August, more than 20 people died and nearly 100 had to be hospitalized due to incinerating heat that baked the region, along with intense humidity levels. Basra, Iraq, saw 123 degrees, and the Iraqi government had to instate a four-day “holiday” so people wouldn’t feel obliged to work in the stifling heat.

Lastly in this section, a recent report stated that Texas will likely see a dramatic escalation in heat-related deaths and coastal extreme storm-related losses in the upcoming decades due to escalating ACD impacts.

Denial and Reality

There is never a dull moment in the “Denial and Reality” section.

Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton’s stated plan to address abrupt ACD, which amounts to federal subsidies for solar panels, was immediately labeled as “silly” in early August, just after Clinton’s plan was announced, by leading climate scientist James Hansen, who headed NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies for more than three decades.

“You cannot solve the problem without a fundamental change, and that means you have to make the price of fossil fuels honest, “Hansen said of her plan. “Subsidizing solar panels is not going to solve the problem.”

During a recent forum, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz went on the record expressing full-on denial of ACD, saying that the debate about ACD was a “device” used by liberals to appeal to “environmentalist billionaires and their campaign donations.”

On another front, builders in San Francisco are moving forward with plans to construct major bay-front developments of office space and homes worth more than $21 billion, in areas that are extremely susceptible to flooding – despite dire warnings of imminent sea-level rise.

On the bad news front for the deniers, however, a recent study showed there is absolutely no link between sunspot activity and ACD … a fabricated argument the deniers enjoy trotting out to try to “disprove” reality.

More bad news for the deniers comes, once again, from the Pope, who set up an annual Catholic Church “day of care” for the environment. The Pope said the day would be a chance for the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics to “thank God for the wonderful handiwork which he has entrusted to our care, and to implore his help for the protection of creation as well as his pardon for the sins committed against the world in which we live.”

And Catholics aren’t the only faith leaders working to do something to address ACD.

Islamic religious and environmental leaders from around the world recently issued a call to rich countries, along with those that are oil producers, to end all fossil fuel use by 2050 and to begin rapidly ramping up the institution and use of renewable energy sources.

The Islamic leadership, which issued “The Islamic Climate Declaration,” said the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims have “a religious duty to fight climate change.”

The final blow to ACD deniers in this month’s dispatch comes from none other than the US Department of Defense, which issued a report to Congress that said that ACD poses a “present security threat” that is not only a “long-term risk,” but poses immediate short-term threats as well.

Study – Earth’s Battery Level Critical: Continued Destruction Of Earth’s Biomass Foretells Grim Future For Life On Earth

In Uncategorized on August 28, 2015 at 6:29 pm

Fig. 1. Earth-space battery.The planet is a positive charge of stored organic chemical energy (cathode) in the form of biomass and fossil fuels. As this energy is dissipated by humans, it eventually radiates as heat toward the chemical equilibrium of deep space (anode). The battery is rapidly discharging without replenishment.

Oldspeak: I’ll let the scientists tell it:

Earth is a chemical battery where, over evolutionary time with a trickle-charge of photosynthesis using solar energy, billions of tons of living biomass were stored in forests and other ecosystems and in vast reserves of fossil fuels. In just the last few hundred years, humans extracted exploitable energy from these living and fossilized biomass fuels to build the modern industrial-technological-informational economy, to grow our population to more than 7 billion, and to transform the biogeochemical cycles and biodiversity of the earth. This rapid discharge of the earth’s store of organic energy fuels the human domination of the biosphere, including conversion of natural habitats to agricultural fields and the resulting loss of native species, emission of carbon dioxide and the resulting climate and sea level change, and use of supplemental nuclear, hydro, wind, and solar energy sources. The laws of thermodynamics governing the trickle-charge and rapid discharge of the earth’s battery are universal and absolute; the earth is only temporarily poised a quantifiable distance from the thermodynamic equilibrium of outer space.

Although this distance from equilibrium is comprised of all energy types, most critical for humans is the store of living biomass. With the rapid depletion of this chemical energy, the earth is shifting back toward the inhospitable equilibrium of outer space with fundamental ramifications for the biosphere and humanity. Because there is no substitute or replacement energy for living biomass, the remaining distance from equilibrium that will be required to support human life is unknown.
Eventually, without sufficient living biomass to run the biosphere, it simply doesn’t matter how much oil, solar, nuclear, etc. energy you have, as there is no biosphere left for humans to use it. Biomass is not an interchangeable energy. There is no replacement and we are depleting it rapidly.
As we burn organic chemical energy, we generate work to grow our population and economy. In the process the high-quality chemical energy is transformed into heat and lost from the planet by radiation into outer space. The flow of energy from cathode to anode is moving the planet rapidly and irrevocably closer to the sterile chemical equilibrium of space.
Unless biomass stores stabilize, human civilization is unsustainable.
The Earth is in serious energetic imbalance due to human energy use. This imbalance defines our most dominant conflict with nature. It really is a conflict in the sense that the current energy imbalance, a crisis unprecedented in Earth history, is a direct consequence of technological innovation.
Ironically, powerful political and market forces, rather than acting to conserve the remaining charge in the battery, actually push in the opposite direction because the pervasive efforts to increase economic growth will require increased energy consumption.”
Dr. John R. Schramski et al. June 2015
the earth is shifting back toward the inhospitable equilibrium of outer space with fundamental ramifications for the biosphere and humanity.” You can say that again. Not a “doomer”, not a “Nihilist” that said that, but a good old fashioned, dyed in the wool and presumably conservative, scientist. As I’ve been saying for some time now. It’s just physics at this point. And the physics are SHITTY for probability of continued survival of humans and most other forms of complex life on Earth. As has been discussed here, humans are using ever increasingly unsustainable quantities of biomass. With no tenable plans for population control in place or even being discussed (every one has a right to babies dammit!), or sufficiently sustainable limits to biomass consumption,  We can expect human population to increase in relation to depletion of biomass. Unfortunately for us, biomass is not infinite at current and future levels of consumption. We have used HALF the amount of biomass that it took billions of years to accumulate: 1,000 billion tons of carbon in living biomass; in the last 2000 years. 10 percent of it in the last 100 years.  So energy consumption and energy depletion is increasing exponentially. This is unsustainable. Our technology and cleverness will not make everything ok this time. Our actions will likely make things worse. Yet we’re being driven maniacally, ceaselessly, to “do more”, to “fight climate change”, not understanding that every time we do something, we’re merely increasing our increasingly unsustainable and irreplaceable earth battery usage. And carbon footprint. Nothing we “do” can be done without plunging us further into ecological debt and destruction. That is what you call a conundrum Kimosabe. The technology many magical thinkers are trusting to “fix it”, requires tremendous amounts of resources and energy to produce and maintain. Resources and energy that are rapidly and unsustainably being depleted.  In this stage of this mass extinction event, our “actions” serve only to hasten our extinction. Marches won’t stop it. Policy changes wont stop it. Geo-engineering won’t stop it. Hopium won’t stop it. We’re simply too far gone now. Can’t shift into reverse. One of the studies author’s said it best: “I call myself a realistic optimist, I’ve gone through these numbers countless times looking for some kind of mitigating factor that suggests we’re wrong, but I haven’t found it.” Eventually Earth, the sacred battery upon which we depend inextricably for energy and life, will go dead. At some point shortly after that,  we and most life on Earth will go extinct, and at some point in the distant future, the microbes inherit the Earth. And SCENE. Show’s over folk. Humans will be added to the geologic history pile of  species that used to be here. It happens all the time. It’s the circle of life. Some times on, some times off. Read the actual Study if you can.  Good stuff in there.” -OSJ
Related Link:
Written By James Hataway @ University Of Georgia:

Unless humans slow the destruction of Earth’s declining supply of plant life, civilization like it is now may become completely unsustainable, according to a paper published recently by University of Georgia researchers in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“You can think of the Earth like a battery that has been charged very slowly over billions of years,” said the study’s lead author, John Schramski, an associate professor in UGA’s College of Engineering. “The sun’s energy is stored in plants and fossil fuels, but humans are draining energy much faster than it can be replenished.”

Earth was once a barren landscape devoid of life, he explained, and it was only after billions of years that simple organisms evolved the ability to transform the sun’s light into energy. This eventually led to an explosion of plant and animal life that bathed the planet with lush forests and extraordinarily diverse ecosystems.

The study’s calculations are grounded in the fundamental principles of thermodynamics, a branch of physics concerned with the relationship between heat and mechanical energy. Chemical energy is stored in plants, or biomass, which is used for food and fuel, but which is also destroyed to make room for agriculture and expanding cities.

Scientists estimate that the Earth contained approximately 1,000 billion tons of carbon in living biomass 2,000 years ago. Since that time, humans have reduced that amount by almost half. It is estimated that just over 10 percent of that biomass was destroyed in just the last century.

“If we don’t reverse this trend, we’ll eventually reach a point where the biomass battery discharges to a level at which Earth can no longer sustain us,” Schramski said.

Working with James H. Brown from the University of New Mexico, Schramski and UGA’s David Gattie, an associate professor in the College of Engineering, show that the vast majority of losses come from deforestation, hastened by the advent of large-scale mechanized farming and the need to feed a rapidly growing population. As more biomass is destroyed, the planet has less stored energy, which it needs to maintain Earth’s complex food webs and biogeochemical balances.

“As the planet becomes less hospitable and more people depend on fewer available energy options, their standard of living and very survival will become increasingly vulnerable to fluctuations, such as droughts, disease epidemics and social unrest,” Schramski said.

If human beings do not go extinct, and biomass drops below sustainable thresholds, the population will decline drastically, and people will be forced to return to life as hunter-gatherers or simple horticulturalists, according to the paper.

“I’m not an ardent environmentalist; my training and my scientific work are rooted in thermodynamics,” Schramski said. “These laws are absolute and incontrovertible; we have a limited amount of biomass energy available on the planet, and once it’s exhausted, there is absolutely nothing to replace it.”

Schramski and his collaborators are hopeful that recognition of the importance of biomass, elimination of its destruction and increased reliance on renewable energy will slow the steady march toward an uncertain future, but the measures required to stop that progression may have to be drastic.

“I call myself a realistic optimist,” Schramski said. “I’ve gone through these numbers countless times looking for some kind of mitigating factor that suggests we’re wrong, but I haven’t found it.”

The study, on “Human Domination of the Biosphere: Rapid Discharge of the Earth-Space Battery Foretells the Future of Humankind,” will be available online at www.pnas.org/content/early/recent the week of July 13.