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

Posts Tagged ‘Carbon Emissions’

PricewaterhouseCoopers Report: We’re 20 Years Away From Catastrophe

In Uncategorized on September 28, 2014 at 8:13 pm

Oldspeak: “According to the PricewaterhouseCoopers report, “the gap between what we are doing and what we need to do has again grown, for the sixth year running.” The report adds that at current rates, we’re headed towards 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit of warming by the end of the century—twice the agreed upon rate….The report also found that the world is going to blow a hole in its carbon budget—the amount we can burn to keep the world from overheating beyond 3.6 degrees… Overall, PricewaterhouseCoopers paints a bleak picture of a world that’s rapidly running out of time; the required effort to curb global emissions will continue to grow each year. “The timeline is also unforgiving…This means that emissions from the developed economies need to be consistently falling, and emissions from major developing countries will also have to start declining from 2020 onwards.” G20 nations, for example, will need to cut their annual energy-related emissions by one-third by 2030, and by just over half by 2050.” -James West

“Hmmm… When even establishment corporations that profit from business as usual are seeing the writing on the wall of climate change, that’s not good. We’re running out of time. All the Hopium, marches, pledges, intergovernmental panels, and feckless wars in the world can’t obscure this reality anymore. It’s a safe bet, we conservatively have about 20 years left before the ecology collapses. Probably less. Multiple major emitters (including the U.S.) are emitting more than ever, and are showing no signs of slowing down. Can we really expect emissions to start consistently falling by 2020? Not bloody likely. Add to human emissions the ever accelerating naturally released greenhouse gas emissions as the planet warms, and it should be fairly obvious that there is no exit strategy for this. Enjoy the time remaining as fully and presently as you can. ” -OSJ

By James West @ Mother Jones:

With every year that passes, we’re getting further away from averting a human-caused climate disaster. That’s the key message in this year’s “Low Carbon Economy Index,” a report released by the accounting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The report highlights an “unmistakable trend”: The world’s major economies are increasingly failing to do what’s needed to to limit global warming to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels. That was the target agreed to by countries attending the United Nations’ 2009 climate summit; it represents an effort to avoid some of the most disastrous consequences of runaway warming, including food security threats, coastal inundation, extreme weather events, ecosystem shifts, and widespread species extinction.

To curtail climate change, individual countries have made a variety of pledges to reduce their share of emissions, but taken together, those promises simply aren’t enough. According to the PricewaterhouseCoopers report, “the gap between what we are doing and what we need to do has again grown, for the sixth year running.” The report adds that at current rates, we’re headed towards 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit of warming by the end of the century—twice the agreed upon rate. Here’s a breakdown of the paper’s major findings.

The chart above compares our current efforts to cut “carbon intensity”—measured by calculating the amount of carbon dioxide emitted per million dollars of economic activity—with what’s actually needed to rein in climate change. According to the report, the global economy needs to “decarbonize” by 6.2 percent every year until the end of the century to limit warming to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. But carbon intensity fell by only 1.2 percent in 2013.

The report also found that the world is going to blow a hole in its carbon budget—the amount we can burn to keep the world from overheating beyond 3.6 degrees:

The report singles out countries that have done better than others when it comes to cutting carbon intensity. Australia, for example, tops the list of countries that have reduced the amount of carbon dioxide emitted per unit of GDP, mainly due to lower energy demands in a growing economy. But huge countries like the United States, Germany, and India are still adding carbon intensity, year-on-year:

Overall, PricewaterhouseCoopers paints a bleak picture of a world that’s rapidly running out of time; the required effort to curb global emissions will continue to grow each year. “The timeline is also unforgiving. The [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] and others have estimated that global emissions will need to peak around 2020 to meet a 2°C [3.6 degrees F] budget,” the report says. “This means that emissions from the developed economies need to be consistently falling, and emissions from major developing countries will also have to start declining from 2020 onwards.” G20 nations, for example, will need to cut their annual energy-related emissions by one-third by 2030, and by just over half by 2050. The pressure will be on the world’s governments to come up with a solution to this enormous challenge at the much-anticipated climate talks in Paris next year.

 

 

Massive Stores Of Carbon In Earths Soils Higher Than Projected, More Suseptible To Warming Than Previously Thought

In Uncategorized on September 22, 2014 at 9:09 pm
tundra

Colder soils are more vulnerable to releasing extra carbon in a warmer world

Oldspeak: “Researchers found that microbes in the soil were more likely to enhance the release of CO2 in a warming world.  Soils from colder regions and those with greater amounts of carbon were seen to emit more as temperatures went up. The world’s soils hold about twice the amount of carbon as the atmosphere… The research team found that soils from boreal regions and the Arctic were impacted the most…The scientists aren’t sure about the mechanism of action involved in this process… Whatever about the mechanism, the research implies that current soil carbon and Earth system models may be underestimating the impact of warming on the huge reserves that sit in the ground…. According to Dr Karhu, this level of increase in colder regions raises concerns as more than half of the carbon that’s stored in soils in the world is found in these locations. “It means that more carbon can be released from the northern soils than is projected by the models at the moment. This is worrying because these soils have a lot of carbon.” Matt McGrath

SO. There’s That. As temperatures increase,  twice the amount of carbon that is already in the atmosphere and being increased every day by hyperconsumptive human activity will be released into the atmosphere from earths rapidly deteriorating soils. The areas of soil that are heating most drastically, the arctic and antarctic regions are the same areas where the soils are most vulnerable to heating, and where the most carbon is stored in the soils. This irreversible non-linear feedback loop is already in progress. Researchers have no idea how this action works, but know our climate models do not account for this reality. There is noting to be done. Contemplate and accept this reality. TICK, TICK, TICK, TICK, TICK, TICK, TICK.” -OSJ

By Jeff Spross  @ Think Progress:

The Earth’s soils play an important part in managing climate change by storing carbon, and thus keeping it out of the atmosphere. But research published Wednesday in Nature suggests that as global temperatures rise, the ability of soils to perform that service goes down.

The researchers tested 22 different soil samples from different points along the climatic gradient, from the Arctic all the way to the Amazon. It’s the microbes in each sample that determine how much carbon the soil stores versus how much it releases over a given time. So the researchers applied different temperature changes to each sample over a 90-day period to see how the mircobes would respond.

The question is an important one because soils and their microbes around the world store more than twice as much carbon as the atmosphere does, and release around 60 billion metric tons of that carbon into the atmosphere every year. Some of that carbon is absorbed by other parts of the planetary ecosystem — forests or the ocean, for instance — and eventually makes its way back to the microbes again before being re-released into the atmosphere.

But if temperature changes alter the microbes’ respiratory behavior, they could be releasing enormous amounts of carbon at greater rates, meaning there would be more carbon in the atmosphere at a given time. That, in turn, would exacerbate climate change.

Up until now, the general assumption has been that the microbes would probably acclimate to temperature changes: after briefly changing the way they take in and release carbon, the microbes would get used to the new temperature and settle back into their previous pattern.

But Kristiina Karhu from the University of Helsinki, the Nature study’s lead author, told the BBC that based on the researchers findings, that wasn’t what happened.

“We show that for these 22 soils, this type of acclimation of microbial respiration doesn’t really happen,” she said. “Sometimes the opposite happens, in response to long-term temperature change, the microbes enhance the short term effect of temperatures so that the sensitivity of respiration gets actually higher.”

In other words, as the temperatures went up, many of the microbes tended to release more carbon.

The effect was particularly pronounced in soils from northern climates, such as the Arctic and boreal regions. “Microbial community response increased the temperature sensitivity of respiration in high latitude soils by a factor of 1.4 compared to the instantaneous temperature response,” according to the study. As Karhu pointed out, that’s worrying because northern soils and their microbes store more carbon than soils at other latitudes.

“The soils that had this enhancing response were also soils that had a high carbon to nitrogen ratio,” Karhu said. “So it could be something in this interaction between carbon and nitrogen cycles, and there are some studies that suggest that maybe the enzymes related to nitrogen may be more temperature sensitive than the carbon related enzymes.”

It’s an example of what climate scientists call a feedback loop. Human beings pump more carbon into the atmosphere, which drives up global warming. But then that warming also changes the Earth’s natural ecosystems, so that the natural carbon cycle also begins dumping more carbon into the atmosphere than it did before, driving global temperatures up still further.

As hard as scientists work to build models to accurately project ecosystem changes and the effects of global warming, it’s a horrendously complex system — and this research suggests the models are underestimating the amount of carbon northern soils especially will release as global warming proceeds.

“Big advances have been made in recent years, and there are now models that simulate key microbial processes,” said Iain Hartley, another author of the study, told the BBC.”We have a great opportunity to really advance this subject, and improve predictions of rates of carbon dioxide release from soils under global warming, but there is still a huge amount that we need to understand better.”

The complexities abound: some forms of fungi grow more profusely in hotter temperatures, and one type of fungi in particular — ecto- and ericoid mycorrhizal (EEM) fungi, to be specific — can affect the ability of soil to store carbon. Because EEM fungi changes the decomposition process in soil, places heavy in EEM fungi end up storing carbon longer in the ground. And the difference can be dramatic, altering the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere at a given time by as much as 70 percent.

Mounting Evidence Of Acceleration Of Anthropogenic Climate Disruption Across The Globe

In Uncategorized on April 15, 2014 at 6:00 pm

Comparing LIP and Human emissions. How oceans get overwhelmed by rapid large CO2 emissions from Large Igneous Province (LIP) eruptions and human emissions. CCD = Carbonate Compensation Depth, CO32- = carbonate. Based on text in Zeebe, Annual Reviews 2012.

Oldspeak: “Evidence is mounting that we are in the midst of a great extinction of species. An “ecocide” is occurring, as the human race is in the process of destroying life on the planet. This sobering thought becomes clearer now as we take our monthly tour of significant global pollution and anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) related events.” -Dahr Jamail

“Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick…… The rate of anthropogenic climate change and accompanying mass extinction caused by human activity in 2014  is significantly faster than the rate of climate change during Earth’s worst, fastest and 90% of all life devastating Permian Mass Extinction 252 million years ago. Human’s activities have released comparable amounts of CO2 and Methane Gas in 300 years as were released in 2000 – 18,ooo years of the Permian! Let that sink in for a spell. When it does you’ll realize that there is no fixing this. We’re done and in all probably all other life with us.  Humans have precipitated the worst extinction event in the history of the world. Accept it. By the time the sociopaths in charge decide to do something, it’ll probably make shit worse. The folk at the conservative Skeptical Science break the situation down down pretty bluntly :

the Permian Mass Extinction has been linked to massive volcanic eruptions in Siberia. Volcanic CO2 and a cocktail of noxious gasses combined with burning coal and geothermally-baked methane emissions to enact a combination of toxic effects and, most importantly, ocean acidification and global warming. It led to a world where equatorial regions and the tropics were too hot for complex life to survive. That’s a fact so astonishing it bears repeating: global warming led to a large portion of planet Earth being lethally hot on land and in the oceans! The cascading extinctions in ecosystems across the planet unfolded over 61,000 years, and it took 10 million years for the planet to recover!…

In “High-precision timeline for Earth’s most severe extinction,” published in PNAS on February 10, authors Seth Burgess, Samuel Bowring, and Shu-zhong Shen employed new dating techniques on Permian-Triassic rocks in China, bringing unprecedented precision to our understanding of the event. They have dramatically shortened the timeframe for the initial carbon emissions that triggered the mass extinction from roughly 150,000 years to between 2,100 and 18,800 years. This new timeframe is crucial because it brings the timescale of the Permian Extinction event’s carbon emissions shorter by two orders of magnitude, into the ballpark of human emission rates for the first time.

How does this relate to today’s global warming?…Rapid carbon belches, such as in the Permian and today, occur within the timeframe of fast feedbacks (surface ocean, water vapor, clouds, dust, biosphere, lapse rate, etc) but before the vast deep ocean reservoir and rock weathering can cut-in to buffer the changes. The carbon overwhelms the surface ocean and biosphere reservoirs so it has nowhere to go but the atmosphere, where it builds up rapidly, creating strong global warming via the greenhouse effect. The surface oceans turn acidic as they become increasingly saturated in CO2The oceans warm, so sea levels rise. Those symptoms should sound familiar….

Burgess et al’s paper brings the Permian into line with many other global-warming extinction events, like the Triassic, the Toarcian, the Cretaceous Ocean Anoxic Events, The PETM, and the Columbia River Basalts, whose time frames have been progressively reduced as more sophisticated dating has been applied to them. They all produced the same symptoms as today’s climate change – rapid global warming, ocean acidification, and sea level rises, together with oxygen-less ocean dead zones and extinctions. They were all (possibly excluding the PETM – see below) triggered by rare volcanic outpourings called “Large Igneous Provinces,” (LIPs) that emitted massive volumes of CO2 and methane at rates comparable to today’s emissions. The PETM may also have been triggered by a LIP, although that is still debated

Can we seriously expect Earth’s climate to behave differently today than it did at all those times in the past?” 

Nope. Don’t think we can. I mean seriously. On a bit of an Lorde kick today, this quote seems fitting here:

I want to live the rest of my life, however long or short, with as much sweetness as I can decently manage, loving all the people I love, and doing as much as I can of the work I still have to do. I am going to write fire until it comes out of my ears, my eyes, my noseholes–everywhere. Until it’s every breath I breathe. I’m going to go out like a fucking meteor!”  -OSJ

Related Story:

Alarming New Study Makes Today’s Climate Change More Comparable To Earth’s Worst Mass Extinction

By Dahr Jamail @ Truthout:

“The frog does not drink up the pond
in which he lives.”
~ Sioux Proverb

This month’s dispatch comes on the heels of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) recent report, and the news is not good.

“No one on this planet will be untouched by climate change,” IPCC Chair Rajendra Pachauri announced. The report warned that climate impacts are already “severe, pervasive, and irreversible.”

The IPCC report was one of many released in recent weeks, and all of them bring dire predictions of what is coming. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) issued a report warning that “the rate of climate change now may be as fast as any extended warming period over the past 65 million years, and it is projected to accelerate in the coming decades.” The report went on to warn of the risk “of abrupt, unpredictable, and potentially irreversible changes in the Earth’s climate system with massively disruptive impacts,” including the possible “large scale collapse of the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets, collapse of part of the Gulf Stream, loss of the Amazon rain forest, die-off of coral reefs, and mass extinctions.”

To read more about anthropomorphic climate disruption, click here.

 

Just prior to the release of the IPCC report, the UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reported that 13 of the 14 warmest years on record had all occurred since 2000. The agency’s secretary-general, Michel Jarraud, described the global trend: “Every decade has been warmer than the preceding one over the last 40 years. In other words, the decade 2001-2010 was warmer than the ’90s, which in turn were warmer than the ’80s, which were warmer than the ’70s. All the best models were used for this study, and the conclusion is actually very interesting and of concern. The conclusion is that these heat waves, it is not possible to reproduce these heat waves in the models if you don’t take into account human influence.” Jarraud also noted greenhouse gases are now at a record high, which guarantees the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans will continue to warm for centuries to come. Arctic sea ice in 2013 did not reach the record lows seen in 2012 for minimum extent in the summer, but nevertheless reached its sixth lowest extent on record. The WMO noted all seven of the lowest Arctic sea-ice extents took place in the past seven years, starting with 2007, which scientists were “stunned” by at the time.

NASA released the results of a study showing that long-term planetary warming is continuing along the higher end of many projections. “All the evidence now agrees that future warming is likely to be towards the high end of our estimates, so it’s more clear than ever that we need large, rapid emissions reductions to avoid the worst damages from climate change,” lead author and NASA climatologist Drew Shindell said. If he sounds alarmist, it’s because he is, and with good reason. The NASA study shows a global increase in temperatures of nine degrees by the end of the century.

This is consistent with a January Nature study on climate sensitivity, which found we are headed toward a “most-likely warming of roughly 5C (9 F) above current temperatures, which is 6C (11 F) above preindustrial” temperatures by 2100. Bear in mind that humans have never lived on a planet at temperatures 3.5C above our preindustrial baseline.

Hence, as contemporary studies continue to provide ever-higher temperature projections, they are beginning to approach higher estimates from previous studies. A 2011 paper authored by Jeffrey Kiehl from the National Center for Atmospheric Research and published in the journal Science “found that carbon dioxide may have at least twice the effect on global temperatures than currently projected by computer models of global climate.” Contrary to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) worst-case scenario of a 6C rise by 2100, which itself would result in a virtually uninhabitable planet, Kiehl’s paper distressingly concludes that, at current emission rates, we may actually see an unimaginable 16C rise by the end of the century.

“The last time it was 6C there were snakes the size of yellow school buses in the Amazon,” Guy McPherson, professor emeritus of evolutionary biology, natural resources, and ecology at the University of Arizona, told Truthout. McPherson, a climate change expert of 25 years, maintains the blog Nature Bats Last. “The largest mammal was the size of a shrew,” he said. “And the rise in temperature occurred over thousands of years, not decades. I doubt mammals survive – and certainly not large-bodied mammals – at 6C.”

Dr McPherson went on to explain further what the planet would look like as temperatures increase.

“Rapid rise to 4C eliminates all or nearly all plankton in the ocean, along with a majority of land plants,” he said. “The latter cannot keep up with rapid change. The former will be acidified out of existence. At 16C, your guess is as good as mine. But humans will not be involved.”

Bear in mind that the “current” emission rates in Kiehl’s study were significantly lower than those of today, as they were from more than three years ago. Emission rates have grown in each succeeding year.

Evidence is mounting that we are in the midst of a great extinction of species. An “ecocide” is occurring, as the human race is in the process of destroying life on the planet. This sobering thought becomes clearer now as we take our monthly tour of significant global pollution and anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) related events.

Earth

Ongoing drought and other ACD-related impacts have caused the Amargosa vole, one of the rarest mammals in North America, to become an endangered species. This saddening occurrence shouldn’t come as a big surprise, given that chronic drought and shifting weather patterns are causing things like a wall of dust 1,000 feet tall and 200 miles wide to roar across parts of West Texas and New Mexico.

Evidencing warnings from the IPCC report about ACD’s dramatic impact on wide-scale food production, the president of the World Bank warned that battles over water and food will erupt within the next five to ten years. As if on cue, hungry monkeys in northern India have begun raiding farms as their forest habitats shrink.

Meanwhile, on the coastal areas of Alaska, melting permafrost and stronger storms are combining to erode coastline and cause greater numbers of villages to begin contemplating evacuation.

Water

A new NASA study shows that the length of the melt season for Arctic sea ice is growing by several days each decade, allowing the Arctic Ocean to absorb enough additional solar radiation to melt as much as four feet of the Arctic ice cap’s thickness in some places.

Going into wildfire season, California is coming off its warmest winter on record, aggravating its enduring drought, which has caused the Sacramento River to drop so low that the state may need to truck 30 million salmon from hatcheries to the sea. California’s central valley farmland was in trouble prior to the historic drought, but now it appears to be on its last legs. The area, critical to the US supply of fruit and vegetables, was suffering from decades of irrigation that leached salts and toxic minerals from the soil, which then had nowhere to go, thus threatening both crops and wildlife. Now, to make matters worse, remaining aquifers are being drained at an alarming pace, with some farmers even drilling more than 1,200 feet down in their ongoing search for ever-more-rare water for their struggling farms.

Meanwhile, Texas and New Mexico have been waging an interstate legal battle over water from the ever-shrinking Rio Grande. Both states struggle with ongoing drought, while farmers in Texas are still reeling from the historic 2011 drought as moderate to exceptional drought continues to affect 64 percent of that state. Fierce legal and political battles over who controls the water are now becoming the norm in California, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico and other western states.

Drought-parched Wichita Falls, Texas, is so desperate for water that officials there are currently awaiting state regulatory approval for a project that will recycle effluent from their wastewater treatment plant, which means residents would begin drinking “potty water.”

The severe drought across the west has forced the Mount Ashland Ski area in Oregon to remain closed for its entire season, something it has not had to do for 50 years.

“Higher food prices, water bills and utility rates,” the Las Vegas Sun reported recently of the cascade of crises impacting the US West due to drought:

Greater wildfire risk. Shrinking communities, fewer jobs and weakening economies. Amid growing concern that the drought gripping the West isn’t history repeating itself but instead is a new normal brought about by climate change, the effects of the dwindling water supply in the region are beginning to become all too clear. As a pattern of longer dry periods and shorter wet cycles continues, the effects will be felt across the region by millions of people from farms to cities, faucets to wallets. More than 70 percent of the West – a zone spreading across 15 states – is experiencing some form of abnormal dryness or drought, with 11 drought-affected western and central states designated as primary natural disaster areas by the Agriculture Department.

In Canada, the mining of the tar sands continues to destroy vast areas of sensitive wetlands in Alberta, with scientists warning that it is impossible to rebuild or rehabilitate the complex ecosystems there after the industrial assault of the mining process.

A recent report underscores the impact of the oil and gas industry heyday in Canada on the indigenous populations there, as “industrial development” and warming temperatures are leading to growing hunger and malnutrition in Canada’s Arctic.

Rising seas and coastal erosion problems are persisting and spreading around the globe as ACD progresses. 18 months after Hurricane Sandy lashed the northeast coast of the US, homeowners living on the coast have to decide whether to rebuild or move inland…a decision everyone living on a coast will eventually have to make.

China now estimates it has lost $2.6 billion from ACD-linked storms and rising sea levels since 2008, while a new report has confirmed that people living in the coastal regions of Asia will face some of the worst impacts of ACD as it continues to progress.

Continuing rising temperatures have caused scientists to warn of “disturbing” rates of ice melt on Africa’s highest peaks like Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya, saying that within two decades even the highest peaks on the continent will no longer have any ice – only bare rock.

Meanwhile, the rate of ice melt on the Greenland ice sheet has researchers alarmed. It was long believed that the interior of Greenland’s huge ice sheet was resilient to the impacts of ACD, but no more. Greenland recorded its highest temperatures ever in 2013, and the equivalent of three Chesapeake Bays’ worth of water is melting off the island every single year, raising global sea levels.

Along with storing over 90 percent of the heat, the planet’s oceans continue to bear the brunt of the impacts from ACD. More than 24 million metric tons of CO2 from the industrial-growth society are absorbed into the seas every single day, and are causing seawater to become more acidic, a phenomenon that is already producing dire consequences.

Fishermen in British Columbia are struggling to deal with catastrophic financial losses as millions of oysters and scallops are dying off in record numbers along the West Coast. Experts suggest, of course, that this is caused by increasing CO2 levels in the atmosphere, which leads to rising ocean acidity.

Recent research shows that as ACD continues to warm the oceans, fish growth is being stunted: a variety of North Sea fish species have shrunk in size by as much as 29 percent over the past four decades. Off the coast of Australia, warming oceans are causing jellyfish blooms to increase in size to vast levels, causing them to inhibit both the environment and fishing and tourism industries.

The final and likely the most important note on water this month: A new study published in Nature Climate Change has revealed a very troubling fact – that the deep ocean current near Antarctica is changing due to ACD. “Our observations are showing us that there is less formation of these deep waters near Antarctica,” one of the scientists/authors said. “This is worrisome because, if this is the case, we’re likely going to see less uptake of human produced, or anthropogenic, heat and carbon dioxide by the ocean, making this a positive feedback loop for climate change.” Given that the Southern Ocean is critical in terms of regulating climate, the slowing current is an ominous sign for our future.

Air

Air pollution and its related problems seem to be increasing exponentially.

Toxic smog engulfing Britain caused more than 1.6 million people (30 percent of the population) to suffer asthma attacks.

After exceeding safe levels for five days, air pollution prompted a Paris car ban.

In North Dakota, gas flaring related to fracking has doubled, pumping even more CO2 into the atmosphere.

In India, where being a traffic cop is a life-threatening occupation due to air pollution, people are suffering from some of the worst air pollution in the world. It is so bad that diesel fumes there are even impacting glacier melt in the Himalayas.

Pollution haze in Sumatra has blanketed several provinces there over the last two months, causing thousands to suffer from various pollution-related illnesses as the air quality continues to decline.

Tons of toxic materials are being released in Virginia, including millions of pounds of aromatic chemicals.

The World Health Organization now estimates that air pollution killed seven million people in 2012, adding that one in eight deaths worldwide were tied to air pollution, making it the single largest environmental health risk on the planet.

Not surprisingly, scientists in Boulder are reporting record-early CO2 readings at their key reading site at the NOAA Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. The readings hit the key benchmark of 400 parts per million (ppm) for CO2 at least five days in a row recently. 400 ppm was recorded for the first time only last year, and that level was not recorded until May 19th.
Atmospheric CO2 levels have seasonal swings which tend to peak in May. “Each year it creeps up,” the director of the global monitoring division at NOAA, said. “Eventually, we’ll see where it isn’t below 400 parts per million anywhere in the world. We’re on our way to doing that.”

Fire

The New York Times reported: “‘Out of work? Nowhere to live? Nowhere to go? Nothing to eat?’ the online ad reads. ‘Come to Fukushima.’ That grim posting targeting the destitute, by a company seeking laborers for the ravaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, is one of the starkest indications yet of an increasingly troubled search for workers willing to carry out the hazardous decommissioning at the site.”

However, those working directly at Fukushima are not the only ones exposed to its lingering effects. As radioactive water from the Fukushima disaster continues to leak into the Pacific Ocean, the FDA has added testing of Alaska salmon to its radiation monitoring program due to possible contamination. And US sailors who were aboard the Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier, which was involved in the Fukushima relief effort, are suing TEPCO over illnesses they say were caused by being exposed to radioactive plumes from the nuclear meltdown.

Scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute have crowd-sourced a network of volunteers taking water samples at beaches along the US West Coast in an effort to capture a detailed look at the levels of radiation drifting across the ocean from Fukushima. “We know there’s contaminated water coming out of there, even today,” Ken Buesseler, a senior scientist at Woods Hole, said. “In fact, it is the biggest pulse of radioactive liquid ever dropped in the ocean.”

This is of particular concern because it is an example of ramifications and chronic problems resulting from meltdowns occurring at one nuclear power plant.

Given the IPCC’s report of how worsening ACD will cause disruptions to our infrastructure and generate greater social unrest, it is clear that power disruptions are very likely in our not-so-distant future.

Nuclear power plants are intensely dependent on the power grid to function, and to keep the fuel rods and power cells cooled. Without a steady stream of large amounts of electricity, the 450 active nuclear power plants around the globe will all go into meltdown.

Fukushima is but one example.

Denial and Reality

While the pollution insults to the planet and ever-increasing and obvious signs of advancing ACD continue to mount, the urge for many people to bury their heads in the sand, often at the request or manipulation of industry and its media arms, continues apace as well.

The state of Wyoming has become the first state to block new science standards, because the standards include an expectation that students will understand that humans have significantly altered the planet’s biosphere.

Corporate media’s ability to misinform and manipulate the masses should never be underestimated, as a recent Gallup poll found that only 36 percent of US citizens believe that ACD would seriously impact their lives.

Recently the Republican-led US House of Representatives advanced a bill that would require federal weather agencies to focus more on predicting storms and less on climate studies… hence promoting denial of ACD.

The aforementioned efforts are the modern equivalent of passengers on the Titanic who opted to stay in the bar.

Meanwhile, it is becoming increasingly challenging to even keep pace with all the signs.

While the eastern and central US experienced a colder-than-average winter this year, the National Climatic Center released data showing that most of the rest of the planet registered the eighth-warmest winter on record.

Penn State climatologist Michael Mann wrote in Scientific American recently that a climate crisis looms in the very near future, saying that if humanity continues burning fossil fuels as we are, we will cross the threshold into environmental ruin by 2036.

As noted earlier, one of the world’s largest and most knowledgeable scientific bodies, the AAAS, wants to make the reality of ACD very clear: Just as smoking causes cancer, so too are humanity’s CO2 emissions causing Earth to change, with potentially unknown and unalterable impacts. The AAAS’s Alan Leshner said, “What we are trying to do is to move the debate from whether human-induced climate change is reality.”

The group’s full report, an important read, adds: “The overwhelming evidence of human-caused climate change documents both current impacts with significant costs and extraordinary future risks to society and natural systems. The scientific community has convened conferences, published reports, spoken out at forums and proclaimed, through statements by virtually every national scientific academy and relevant major scientific organization including the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) that climate change puts the well-being of people of all nations at risk.”

Upon request, Dr McPherson provided Truthout his latest writings, which address the likelihood of abrupt climate disruption and even the possibility of near-term human extinction:

Gradual change is not guaranteed, as pointed out by the US National Academy of Sciences in December 2013: “The history of climate on the planet – as read in archives such as tree rings, ocean sediments, and ice cores – is punctuated with large changes that occurred rapidly, over the course of decades to as little as a few years.” The December 2013 report echoes one from Wood Hole Oceanographic Institution more than a decade earlier. Writing for the 3 September 2012 issue of Global Policy, Michael Jennings concludes that “a suite of amplifying feedback mechanisms, such as massive methane leaks from the sub-sea Arctic Ocean, have engaged and are probably unstoppable.” During a follow-up interview with Alex Smith on Radio Ecoshock, Jennings admits that “Earth’s climate is already beyond the worst scenarios.” Skeptical Science finally catches up to reality on 2 April 2014 with an essay titled, “Alarming new study makes today’s climate change more comparable to Earth’s worst mass extinction.” The conclusion from this conservative source: “Until recently the scale of the Permian Mass Extinction was seen as just too massive, its duration far too long, and dating too imprecise for a sensible comparison to be made with today’s climate change. No longer.

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Dahr Jamail

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

 

Is Every Day Black Friday? How Climate Inaction And Hypermaterialism Betray Our Children

In Uncategorized on December 9, 2013 at 5:32 pm

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Oldspeak: “In the wake of the latest hyperconsumption fueled “holiday” complete with shootings, pepper spraying and beatings, it is useful to consider the implications of the continuation of our ecocidal, unsustainable carbon-intensive civilization.  Every day really is black friday. We’re constantly and relentlessly exhorted to consume more and more and more. Consumption is Citizenship.  Consumption is Love.  Consumption is Happiness. Consumption is Freedom. Consumption is Safety. Consumption is Security. Consumption is Expression. Consumption is Creativity. Consumption is Well-Being.  Consumption is Connection with Others. it is the most widely practiced way in which we are encouraged to participate in society. This is the ethos that animates it.  All our structures of power depend on rapacious consumption. And this is seen as normal. We are committed to status quo business as usual.  There are no real efforts to de-grow economies, reduce wasteful consumption, live within our planets’ means and intelligently manage her remaining and rapidly depleting natural resources.   This can only continue for so long.  Infinite growth is impossible on a finite planet. At some point, this global ponzi scheme will collapse, only this time the planet will collapse with it .”  -OSJ

We cannot stop catastrophic climate change — in the long term and possibly even the medium-term — without a pretty dramatic change to our overconsumption-based economic system. We have already overshot the Earth’s biocapacity — and the overshoot gets worse every yearWe created a way of raising standards of living that we can’t possibly pass on to our children. We have been getting rich by depleting all our natural stocks — water, hydrocarbons, forests, rivers, fish and arable land — and not by generating renewable flows. You can get this burst of wealth that we have created from this rapacious behavior. But it has to collapse, unless adults stand up and say, ‘This is a Ponzi scheme. We have not generated real wealth, and we are destroying a livable climate …’ Real wealth is something you can pass on in a way that others can enjoy”. –Joe Romm

By Joe Romm @ Climate Progress:

Black Friday has become an orgiastic celebration of hyper-materialism.

Black Friday is a sort of reverse “Hunger Games,” an annual ritualized competition, but one built around overabundance, rather than scarcity. It is perhaps the inevitable outcome of a country whose citizens are commonly referred to as “consumers.”

So what better time to think about how the global economic system is a Ponzi scheme, an utterly unsustainable system that effectively takes wealth from our children and future generations — wealth in the form of ground water, arable land, fisheries, a livable climate — to prop up our carbon-intensive lifestyles.

We cannot stop catastrophic climate change — in the long term and possibly even the medium-term — without a pretty dramatic change to our overconsumption-based economic system. We have already overshot the Earth’s biocapacity — and the overshoot gets worse every year.

footprint-biocapacity-e1355415565855
“A quarter of the energy we use is just in our crap,” physicist Saul Griffith explains in his detailed discussion of our carbon footprint. You can watch the MacArthur genius award winner soberly dissect his formerly unsustainable lifestyle here and here.

Or listen to the MSNBC interview of “Reverend Billy Talen of the Church of Stop Shopping.” Seriously (sort of). Or you can read the Onion’s black humor, “Chinese Factory Worker Can’t Believe The Shit He Makes For Americans.”

Children1-300x225The tragic irony is that much of this holiday shopping is supposedly for our kids — and yet this overconsumption is a core part of our climate inaction, which, as president Obama has said, is a betrayal of our children!

Now it’s true, as I’ve said, that if we ever get really serious about avoiding catastrophic climate change, we could dramatically cut national and global emissions for decades under the auspices of our basic economic system. You could use a high and rising price for CO2 plus smart regulations to encourage efficiency at a state and national level.

Also, the end to hyper-consumerism is not something amenable to legislation. I’ve argued that it is most likely to come when we are desperate — when the reality that we are destroying a livable climate is so painful that we give it up voluntarily, albeit reluctantly, like a smoker diagnosed with early-stage emphysema. Bill Clinton didn’t become vegan until after he experienced serious heart trouble — twice.

Climate science is clear that inaction is suicidal (see here). That’s why “virtually all” climatologists “are now convinced that global warming is a clear and present danger to civilization,” as Lonnie Thompson has put it.

A recent must-read New York Times opinion piece by an Iraqi war veteran, “Learning How to Die in the Anthropocene,” explains that a quantum shift in mindset is inevitable:

The human psyche naturally rebels against the idea of its end. Likewise, civilizations have throughout history marched blindly toward disaster, because humans are wired to believe that tomorrow will be much like today — it is unnatural for us to think that this way of life, this present moment, this order of things is not stable and permanent. Across the world today, our actions testify to our belief that we can go on like this forever, burning oil, poisoning the seas, killing off other species, pumping carbon into the air, ignoring the ominous silence of our coal mine canaries in favor of the unending robotic tweets of our new digital imaginarium. Yet the reality of global climate change is going to keep intruding on our fantasies of perpetual growth, permanent innovation and endless energy, just as the reality of mortality shocks our casual faith in permanence.

The biggest problem climate change poses isn’t how the Department of Defense should plan for resource wars, or how we should put up sea walls to protect Alphabet City, or when we should evacuate Hoboken. It won’t be addressed by buying a Prius, signing a treaty, or turning off the air-conditioning. The biggest problem we face is a philosophical one: understanding that this civilization is already dead. The sooner we confront this problem, and the sooner we realize there’s nothing we can do to save ourselves, the sooner we can get down to the hard work of adapting, with mortal humility, to our new reality.

The choice is a clear one. We can continue acting as if tomorrow will be just like yesterday, growing less and less prepared for each new disaster as it comes, and more and more desperately invested in a life we can’t sustain. Or we can learn to see each day as the death of what came before, freeing ourselves to deal with whatever problems the present offers without attachment or fear.

In the words of British poet Matthew Arnold, we are: “Wandering between two worlds, one dead / The other powerless to be born.”

On the subject of our global Ponzi scheme, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman interviewed me for a column back in 2009:

“We created a way of raising standards of living that we can’t possibly pass on to our children,” said Joe Romm, a physicist and climate expert who writes the indispensable blog climateprogress.org. We have been getting rich by depleting all our natural stocks — water, hydrocarbons, forests, rivers, fish and arable land — and not by generating renewable flows.

“You can get this burst of wealth that we have created from this rapacious behavior,” added Romm. “But it has to collapse, unless adults stand up and say, ‘This is a Ponzi scheme. We have not generated real wealth, and we are destroying a livable climate …’ Real wealth is something you can pass on in a way that others can enjoy.”

The adults, in short, are not standing up. Sadly, most haven’t even taken the time to understand that they should.

And so every generation that comes after the Baby Boomers is poised to experience the dramatic changes in lifestyle that inevitably follow the collapse of any Ponzi scheme.

Regular readers are familiar with this metaphor of a global Ponzi scheme. But it bears repeating on Black Friday since it is not just a metaphor, but a central organizing narrative of how to think about the fix we have put ourselves in. As an aside, since some shopping is unavoidable, remember that Black Friday is 50 times more carbon-intensive than Cyber Monday.

What exactly is a Ponzi scheme? Wikipedia (had a good entry:

A Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investment operation that pays returns to investors from their own money or money paid by subsequent investors rather than from profit. The term “Ponzi scheme” is used primarily in the United States, while other English-speaking countries do not distinguish colloquially between this scheme and pyramid schemes.

The Ponzi scheme usually offers abnormally high short-term returns in order to entice new investors. The perpetuation of the high returns that a Ponzi scheme advertises and pays requires an ever-increasing flow of money from investors in order to keep the scheme going.

In our case, investors (i.e. current generations) are paying themselves (i.e. you and me) by taking the nonrenewable resources and livable climate from future generations. To perpetuate the high returns the rich countries in particular have been achieving in recent decades, we have been taking an ever greater fraction of nonrenewable energy resources (especially hydrocarbons) and natural capital (fresh water, arable land, forests, fisheries), and, the most important nonrenewable natural capital of all — a livable climate.

See also a new study “The Monetary Cost of the Non-Use of Renewable Energies,” which finds that “every day we delay substituting renewables for fossil fuels,” every day “fossil raw materials are consumed as one-time energy creates a future usage loss of between 8.8 and 9.3 billion US Dollars.” Oil and coal are essentially too valuable to burn even ignoring the cost of their climate-destroying emissions.

The system is destined to collapse because the earnings, if any, are less than the payments.

See, for instance “Shocking World Bank Climate Report: ‘A 4°C [7°F] World Can, And Must, Be Avoided’ To Avert ‘Devastating’ Impacts”).

Usually, the scheme is interrupted by legal authorities before it collapses because a Ponzi scheme is suspected or because the promoter is selling unregistered securities.

Yes, well, the authorities (i.e. world leaders, opinion makers, the cognoscenti) haven’t been doing much interrupting over the past two to three decades since, unlike a typical Ponzi scheme, they are heavily invested in the scheme and addicted to the returns!

Knowingly entering a Ponzi scheme, even at the last round of the scheme, can be rational in the economic sense if a government will likely bail out those participating in the Ponzi scheme.

But Friedman quotes Glenn Prickett, senior vice president at Conservation International, explaining, “Mother Nature doesn’t do bailouts.”

We aren’t all Madoffs in the sense of people who have knowingly created a fraudulent Ponzi scheme for humanity. But given all of the warnings from scientists and international governments and independent energy organizations over the past quarter-century (see for instance IEA’s Bombshell Warning: We’re Headed Toward 11°F Global Warming and “Delaying Action Is a False Economy”) — it has gotten harder and harder for any of us to pretend that we are innocent victims, that we aren’t just hoping we can maintain our own personal wealth and well-being for a few more decades before the day of reckoning. Après nous le déluge.

In short, humanity has made Madoff look like a penny-ante criminal.

By enriching the authorities, as noted, we encouraged those with the most power to solve the problem to do nothing. Heck, the only way in which the global economy hasn’t become a Ponzi scheme is that everything being done is perfectly legal!

By most enriching those who did the most plundering, we enabled them to fund lobbying and disinformation campaigns to convince substantial fractions of the public and media that there is no Ponzi scheme — that global warming is “too complicated for the public to understand” and nothing to worry about.

And by “paying ourselves” with the wealth from future generations — indeed, from the next 50 generations and next 100 billion people to walk the earth (see NOAA stunner: Climate change “largely irreversible for 1000 years,” with permanent Dust Bowls in Southwest and around the globe) — we cleverly took advantage of victims not yet born, those not able to even know they were being robbed.

Madoff is reviled as a monster for targeting charities. We are targeting our own children and grandchildren and on and on. What does that make us?.

 

 

U.N. Bodies & Health Authorities Now Being Advised To Prepare For A Global Temperature Rise of 4°C

In Uncategorized on November 26, 2013 at 3:12 pm

Oldspeak: “The link between rapid climate change and human extinction is basically this: the planet becomes uninhabitable by humans if the average temperature goes up by 4-6°C. It doesn’t sound like a lot because we’re used to the temperature changing 15°C overnight, but the thing that is not mentioned enough is that even a 2-3°C average increase would give us temperatures that regularly surpass 40°C (104°F) in North America and Europe, and soar even higher near the equator. Human bodies start to break down after six hours at a wet-bulb (100% humidity) temperature of 35°C (95°F).“-Nathan Curry

We are already planning for a 4°C world because that is where we are heading.  I do not know of any scientists who do not believe that. We are just not tackling the enormity of the task we face to keep it below the agreed 2°C danger threshold. “If we had the kind of politicians we really need we could still put in place policies that can save the planet from going over the danger level. But there is no evidence at the moment that we have that quality of politicians, so we all have to be prepared for the most likely scenario, which is a 4°C rise in temperature.  If we do not prepare to adapt we simply won’t be able to.” –Mark Maslin, professor of climatology at University College in London

“Ignore the propaganda. On our present course, life as we know it will end.  There is no technology that will enable us  to adapt adequately to the climactic changes to come.   There are already parts of the world where it is no longer possible for ‘normal’ life to continue.  People who are studying the climate are preparing for a uninhabitable world. Are you?” -OSJ

By Paul Brown @ Climate News Network:

UN bodies and health authorities are being advised to prepare for a world temperature rise of 4°C because scientists no longer believe that politicians are capable of holding the temperature rise below the internationally agreed limit, 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

Mark Maslin, professor of climatology at University College in London, was speaking at a conference here which also heard that some parts of the world were already in danger of becoming too hot for humans to inhabit.

Science and health professionals were invited by the Global Climate and Health Alliance to assess this bleak future for the human race at the end of the first week of climate talks, where little progress has been made to slow global warming.

Wrong kind of politicians

Professor Maslin said: “We are already planning for a 4°C world because that is where we are heading. I do not know of any scientists who do not believe that. We are just not tackling the enormity of the task we face to keep it below the agreed 2°C danger threshold.

“If we had the kind of politicians we really need we could still put in place policies that can save the planet from going over the danger level. But there is no evidence at the moment that we have that quality of politicians, so we all have to be prepared for the most likely scenario, which is a 4°C rise in temperature. If we do not prepare to adapt we simply won’t be able to.”

Professor Maslin said that scientists were in a Catch 22 situation. They wanted to tell politicians that it was still possible to save the planet and had shown how to do it in the last Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, released in September. At the same time scientists were aware that there was not the political appetite to deal with the problem.

He said all UN bodies were now being advised to prepare for a rise of 4°C, because there is no evidence to show that the world is prepared to turn away from the present pathway of rising carbon emissions.

Currently the temperature has risen 0.8°C on pre-industrial levels, and with the increase this year to 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere it will rise further towards the 2°C threshold.

Professor Maslin said: “I think everybody outside the scientific arena has underestimated the size of the problem.”  The average American emits 16 tons of carbon dioxide a year, the average UK citizen 8 tons and the average Chinese 5 tons.

Every country, he said, had to reduce their citizens’ emissions to 2 tons per person to avoid dangerous climate change. “That is a big ask, particularly for a country like China which is still growing fast.”

Dr. Liz Hanna, from the Australian National University’s National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, said parts of her country were already reaching the threshold° where it was impossible for normal life to continue because of the heat.

Killing their workers

She said the Australian Government was ignoring climate change and still expecting places like Darwin to expand. But that was unlikely because they would soon become untenable.  “If employers ask people to continue to work in temperatures above 37°C, they will be killing them in increasing numbers,” she said.

Dr Hanna said humans were well suited to living in cool conditions and felt comfortable in temperatures between 20°C and 23°C because their muscles produced heat from within.

But in parts of Arizona, Australia and India temperatures were reaching – and for days staying above – the thermal maximum of endurance, which was around 37°C, the core heat of the human body.  Above that temperature, and sometimes below, depending on the combination of heat, humidity and air speed, keeping cool put too much strain on the heart and people began to die.

She said that she was studying how human societies could survive such daytime temperatures and continue to work. “There could be some night working, or people could work, rest in cool rooms, and then work again, but their productivity would drop and it would be economically unviable to have factories or farms in such conditions.”

Her researches were focusing on how to keep essential services like farming, police, ambulance, district nurses, construction and mining going in a warming world. “Obviously these people will be risking their lives if they continue to try and work outside when the ambient temperature is above 37°C,” she said. – Climate News Network

U.N. Weather Agency: “We need to act now… time is not on our side.”- Atmospheric Greenhouse Gas Concentrations At Record High. Again.

In Uncategorized on November 12, 2013 at 1:18 pm

By absorbing much of the added heat trapped by atmospheric greenhouse gases, the oceans are delaying some of the impacts of climate change. Photo: WMO/Olga Khoroshunova

Oldspeak: “Heat-trapping gases from human activities have upset the natural balance of our atmosphere and are a major contribution to climate change… Our climate is changing, our weather is more extreme, ice sheets and glaciers are melting and sea levels are rising.  We need to act now, otherwise we will jeopardise the future of our children, grandchildren and many future generations. Time is not on our side.-WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud.

“Translation: “We’re fucked. But our children and grandchildren are exponentially more fucked. ” No one in positions of power anywhere in the 1st world “advanced” nations  is interested in acting now. They’re interested in “extend and pretend”. “Delay and Pray.” They meet at ineffectual climate conferences to negotiate  incremental decades long rates of change, not the radical, revolutionary change necessary right now. There is no implementable global response to the existential threats that our current carbon-nuclear based systems are creating.  There’s no profit in it. The profit is in tar sands. Methane (a.k.a. “Natural”) gas. Coal.  Efforts are underway to expand their extraction and exploitation in previously inaccessible areas of the planet.  These systems require our destruction for its continued sustenance. We are hurtling headlong toward global ecological collapse.  So, enjoy what tolerable time we have left on this dying world, as in short order, life on earth will be come fully intolerable.  Expect the worst, because it’s coming. Sandy & Haiyan are just a primer. Our infinite growth based civilization incontrovertibly assure our destruction.” -OSJ

 

By U.N. News Center:

The amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached a record high in 2012, continuing an upward trend which is driving climate change and which will shape the future of the planet for hundreds and thousands of years, according to the United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

The agency’s annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin shows that between 1990 and 2012, there was a 32 per cent increase in radiative forcing – the warming effect on the climate – because of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other heat-trapping long-lived gases such as methane and nitrous oxide.

Carbon dioxide, mainly from fossil fuel-related emissions, accounted for 80 per cent of this increase, WMO stated in a news release. The atmospheric increase of CO2 from 2011 to 2012 was higher than its average growth rate over the past 10 years.

What is happening in the atmosphere, said the Geneva-based WMO, is “one part of a much wider picture.” Only about half of the CO2 emitted by human activities remains in the atmosphere, with the rest being absorbed in the biosphere and in the oceans.

The latest findings “highlight yet again how heat-trapping gases from human activities have upset the natural balance of our atmosphere and are a major contribution to climate change,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud.

He recalled that the UN-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stressed in its recent Fifth Assessment Report that atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide have increased to levels unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years.

“As a result of this, our climate is changing, our weather is more extreme, ice sheets and glaciers are melting and sea levels are rising,” said Mr. Jarraud.

He underscored that limiting climate change will require large and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions. “We need to act now, otherwise we will jeopardize the future of our children, grandchildren and many future generations,” said Mr. Jarraud. “Time is not on our side,” he added.

The Greenhouse Gas Bulletin reports on atmospheric concentrations – and not emissions – of greenhouse gases. Emissions represent what goes into the atmosphere, the agency pointed out. Concentrations represent what remains in the atmosphere after the complex system of interactions between the atmosphere, biosphere and the oceans.

At the same time, the Emissions Gap Report 2013, involving 44 scientific groups coordinated by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), urges wide-ranging global action to close the emissions gap.

If the international community fails to take action, the report warned, the chances of remaining on the least-cost path to keeping global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius this century will quickly diminish and open the door to a range of challenges.

Under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), governments have agreed to limit the global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

The report, which was released yesterday as leaders prepare to meet for the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference in Warsaw, finds that although pathways exist that could reach the 2-degree Celsius target with higher emissions, not narrowing the gap will exacerbate mitigation challenges after 2020.

This will mean much higher rates of global emission reductions in the medium term; greater lock-in of carbon-intensive infrastructure; greater dependence on often unproven technologies in the medium term; greater costs of mitigation in the medium and long term; and greater risks of failing to meet the 2-degree Celsius target.

“As the report highlights, delayed actions mean a higher rate of climate change in the near term and likely more near-term climate impacts, as well as the continued use of carbon-intensive and energy-intensive infrastructure,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

“This ‘lock-in’ would slow down the introduction of climate-friendly technologies and narrow the developmental choices that would place the global community on the path to a sustainable, green future.

“However,” he added, “the stepping stone of the 2020 target can still be achieved by strengthening current pledges and by further action, including scaling up international cooperation initiatives in areas such as energy efficiency, fossil fuel subsidy reform and renewable energy.”

 

 

“Q: Is Earth Fucked? A: More Or Less.”- How Science Is Telling Us All To Revolt

In Uncategorized on November 4, 2013 at 5:26 pm
Texas.

Waste land: large-scale irrigation strips nutrients from the soil, scars the landscape and could alter climatic conditions beyond repair. Image: Edward Burtynsky, courtesy Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto/ Flowers, London, Pivot Irrigation #11 High Plains, Texas Panhandle, USA (2011)

Oldspeak: “Global capitalism has made the depletion of resources so rapid, convenient and barrier-free that “earth-human systems” are becoming dangerously unstable in response… research shows that our entire economic paradigm is a threat to ecological stability…. challenging this economic paradigm – through mass-movement counter-pressure – is humanity’s best shot at avoiding catastrophe…. we have lost so much time to political stalling and weak climate policies – all while global consumption (and emissions) ballooned – that we are now facing cuts so drastic that they challenge the fundamental logic of prioritising GDP growth above all else… Climate change is a cumulative issue! Now, in 2013, we in high-emitting (post-)industrial nations face a very different prospect. Our ongoing and collective carbon profligacy has squandered any opportunity for the ‘evolutionary change’ afforded by our earlier (and larger) 2°C carbon budget. Today, after two decades of bluff and lies, the remaining 2°C budget demands revolutionary change to the political and economic hegemony…. The fact that the business-as-usual pursuit of profits and growth is destabilising life on earth is no longer something we need to read about in scientific journals. The early signs are unfolding before our eyes.” -Naomi Klein

“Yep. Business as usual, Limitless growth, ever higher toxic emmissons, relentless barrier free resource extraction, are a certain recipe for global systems failure. Systems that supersede those of GDP, Profit, Politics, national boundaries, policy.  The whole length and breadth of contrived reality we’re being led to believe is real must be done away with. it’s just no longer sustainable or feasible. irreversable non-linear feedbacks have already begun. The warmest September on record just passed. The pacific ocean is warmer than it’s been in 144,000 years. We need to revolutionarily change our global systems that have caused the malfunctions in our global ecological and environmental systems, to have an inkling of a chance to avert a coming unlivable climate. Radical & immediate de-growth strategies are critical for all wealthy nations. There is no profit on a dead planet.” -OSJ

By Naomi Klein @ The New Statesman:

Is our relentless quest for economic growth killing the planet? Climate scientists have seen the data – and they are coming to some incendiary conclusions.

In December 2012, a pink-haired complex systems researcher named Brad Werner made his way through the throng of 24,000 earth and space scientists at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union, held annually in San Francisco. This year’s conference had some big-name participants, from Ed Stone of Nasa’s Voyager project, explaining a new milestone on the path to interstellar space, to the film-maker James Cameron, discussing his adventures in deep-sea submersibles.

But it was Werner’s own session that was attracting much of the buzz. It was titled “Is Earth F**ked?” (full title: “Is Earth F**ked? Dynamical Futility of Global Environmental Management and Possibilities for Sustainability via Direct Action Activism”).

Standing at the front of the conference room, the geophysicist from the University of California, San Diego walked the crowd through the advanced computer model he was using to answer that question. He talked about system boundaries, perturbations, dissipation, attractors, bifurcations and a whole bunch of other stuff largely incomprehensible to those of us uninitiated in complex systems theory. But the bottom line was clear enough: global capitalism has made the depletion of resources so rapid, convenient and barrier-free that “earth-human systems” are becoming dangerously unstable in response. When pressed by a journalist for a clear answer on the “are we f**ked” question, Werner set the jargon aside and replied, “More or less.”

There was one dynamic in the model, however, that offered some hope. Werner termed it “resistance” – movements of “people or groups of people” who “adopt a certain set of dynamics that does not fit within the capitalist culture”. According to the abstract for his presentation, this includes “environmental direct action, resistance taken from outside the dominant culture, as in protests, blockades and sabotage by indigenous peoples, workers, anarchists and other activist groups”.

Serious scientific gatherings don’t usually feature calls for mass political resistance, much less direct action and sabotage. But then again, Werner wasn’t exactly calling for those things. He was merely observing that mass uprisings of people – along the lines of the abolition movement, the civil rights movement or Occupy Wall Street – represent the likeliest source of “friction” to slow down an economic machine that is careening out of control. We know that past social movements have “had tremendous influence on . . . how the dominant culture evolved”, he pointed out. So it stands to reason that, “if we’re thinking about the future of the earth, and the future of our coupling to the environment, we have to include resistance as part of that dynamics”. And that, Werner argued, is not a matter of opinion, but “really a geophysics problem”.

Plenty of scientists have been moved by their research findings to take action in the streets. Physicists, astronomers, medical doctors and biologists have been at the forefront of movements against nuclear weapons, nuclear power, war, chemical contamination and creationism. And in November 2012, Nature published a commentary by the financier and environmental philanthropist Jeremy Grantham urging scientists to join this tradition and “be arrested if necessary”, because climate change “is not only the crisis of your lives – it is also the crisis of our species’ existence”.

Some scientists need no convincing. The godfather of modern climate science, James Hansen, is a formidable activist, having been arrested some half-dozen times for resisting mountain-top removal coal mining and tar sands pipelines (he even left his job at Nasa this year in part to have more time for campaigning). Two years ago, when I was arrested outside the White House at a mass action against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, one of the 166 people in cuffs that day was a glaciologist named Jason Box, a world-renowned expert on Greenland’s melting ice sheet.

“I couldn’t maintain my self-respect if I didn’t go,” Box said at the time, adding that “just voting doesn’t seem to be enough in this case. I need to be a citizen also.”

This is laudable, but what Werner is doing with his modelling is different. He isn’t saying that his research drove him to take action to stop a particular policy; he is saying that his research shows that our entire economic paradigm is a threat to ecological stability. And indeed that challenging this economic paradigm – through mass-movement counter-pressure – is humanity’s best shot at avoiding catastrophe.

That’s heavy stuff. But he’s not alone. Werner is part of a small but increasingly influential group of scientists whose research into the destabilisation of natural systems – particularly the climate system – is leading them to similarly transformative, even revolutionary, conclusions. And for any closet revolutionary who has ever dreamed of overthrowing the present economic order in favour of one a little less likely to cause Italian pensioners to hang themselves in their homes, this work should be of particular interest. Because it makes the ditching of that cruel system in favour of something new (and perhaps, with lots of work, better) no longer a matter of mere ideological preference but rather one of species-wide existential necessity.

Leading the pack of these new scientific revolutionaries is one of Britain’s top climate experts, Kevin Anderson, the deputy director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, which has quickly established itself as one of the UK’s premier climate research institutions. Addressing everyone from the Department for International Development to Manchester City Council, Anderson has spent more than a decade patiently translating the implications of the latest climate science to politicians, economists and campaigners. In clear and understandable language, he lays out a rigorous road map for emissions reduction, one that provides a decent shot at keeping global temperature rise below 2° Celsius, a target that most governments have determined would stave off catastrophe.

But in recent years Anderson’s papers and slide shows have become more alarming. Under titles such as “Climate Change: Going Beyond Dangerous . . . Brutal Numbers and Tenuous Hope”, he points out that the chances of staying within anything like safe temperature levels are diminishing fast.

With his colleague Alice Bows, a climate mitigation expert at the Tyndall Centre, Anderson points out that we have lost so much time to political stalling and weak climate policies – all while global consumption (and emissions) ballooned – that we are now facing cuts so drastic that they challenge the fundamental logic of prioritising GDP growth above all else.

Anderson and Bows inform us that the often-cited long-term mitigation target – an 80 per cent emissions cut below 1990 levels by 2050 – has been selected purely for reasons of political expediency and has “no scientific basis”. That’s because climate impacts come not just from what we emit today and tomorrow, but from the cumulative emissions that build up in the atmosphere over time. And they warn that by focusing on targets three and a half decades into the future – rather than on what we can do to cut carbon sharply and immediately – there is a serious risk that we will allow our emissions to continue to soar for years to come, thereby blowing through far too much of our 2° “carbon budget” and putting ourselves in an impossible position later in the century.

Which is why Anderson and Bows argue that, if the governments of developed countries are serious about hitting the agreed upon international target of keeping warming below 2° Celsius, and if reductions are to respect any kind of equity principle (basically that the countries that have been spewing carbon for the better part of two centuries need to cut before the countries where more than a billion people still don’t have electricity), then the reductions need to be a lot deeper, and they need to come a lot sooner.

To have even a 50/50 chance of hitting the 2° target (which, they and many others warn, already involves facing an array of hugely damaging climate impacts), the industrialised countries need to start cutting their greenhouse-gas emissions by something like 10 per cent a year – and they need to start right now. But Anderson and Bows go further, pointing out that this target cannot be met with the array of modest carbon pricing or green-tech solutions usually advocated by big green groups. These measures will certainly help, to be sure, but they are simply not enough: a 10 per cent drop in emissions, year after year, is virtually unprecedented since we started powering our economies with coal. In fact, cuts above 1 per cent per year “have historically been associated only with economic recession or upheaval”, as the economist Nicholas Stern put it in his 2006 report for the British government.

Even after the Soviet Union collapsed, reductions of this duration and depth did not happen (the former Soviet countries experienced average annual reductions of roughly 5 per cent over a period of ten years). They did not happen after Wall Street crashed in 2008 (wealthy countries experienced about a 7 per cent drop between 2008 and 2009, but their CO2 emissions rebounded with gusto in 2010 and emissions in China and India had continued to rise). Only in the immediate aftermath of the great market crash of 1929 did the United States, for instance, see emissions drop for several consecutive years by more than 10 per cent annually, according to historical data from the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Centre. But that was the worst economic crisis of modern times.

If we are to avoid that kind of carnage while meeting our science-based emissions targets, carbon reduction must be managed carefully through what Anderson and Bows describe as “radical and immediate de-growth strategies in the US, EU and other wealthy nations”. Which is fine, except that we happen to have an economic system that fetishises GDP growth above all else, regardless of the human or ecological consequences, and in which the neoliberal political class has utterly abdicated its responsibility to manage anything (since the market is the invisible genius to which everything must be entrusted).

So what Anderson and Bows are really saying is that there is still time to avoid catastrophic warming, but not within the rules of capitalism as they are currently constructed. Which may be the best argument we have ever had for changing those rules.

In a 2012 essay that appeared in the influential scientific journal Nature Climate Change, Anderson and Bows laid down something of a gauntlet, accusing many of their fellow scientists of failing to come clean about the kind of changes that climate change demands of humanity. On this it is worth quoting the pair at length:

 . . . in developing emission scenarios scientists repeatedly and severely underplay the implications of their analyses. When it comes to avoiding a 2°C rise, “impossible” is translated into “difficult but doable”, whereas “urgent and radical” emerge as “challenging” – all to appease the god of economics (or, more precisely, finance). For example, to avoid exceeding the maximum rate of emission reduction dictated by economists, “impossibly” early peaks in emissions are assumed, together with naive notions about “big” engineering and the deployment rates of low-carbon infrastructure. More disturbingly, as emissions budgets dwindle, so geoengineering is increasingly proposed to ensure that the diktat of economists remains unquestioned.

In other words, in order to appear reasonable within neoliberal economic circles, scientists have been dramatically soft-peddling the implications of their research. By August 2013, Anderson was willing to be even more blunt, writing that the boat had sailed on gradual change. “Perhaps at the time of the 1992 Earth Summit, or even at the turn of the millennium, 2°C levels of mitigation could have been achieved through significant evolutionary changes within the political and economic hegemony. But climate change is a cumulative issue! Now, in 2013, we in high-emitting (post-)industrial nations face a very different prospect. Our ongoing and collective carbon profligacy has squandered any opportunity for the ‘evolutionary change’ afforded by our earlier (and larger) 2°C carbon budget. Today, after two decades of bluff and lies, the remaining 2°C budget demands revolutionary change to the political and economic hegemony” (his emphasis).

We probably shouldn’t be surprised that some climate scientists are a little spooked by the radical implications of even their own research. Most of them were just quietly doing their work measuring ice cores, running global climate models and studying ocean acidification, only to discover, as the Australian climate expert and author Clive Hamilton puts it, that they “were unwittingly destabilising the political and social order”.

But there are many people who are well aware of the revolutionary nature of climate science. It’s why some of the governments that decided to chuck their climate commitments in favour of digging up more carbon have had to find ever more thuggish ways to silence and intimidate their nations’ scientists. In Britain, this strategy is becoming more overt, with Ian Boyd, the chief scientific adviser at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, writing recently that scientists should avoid “suggesting that policies are either right or wrong” and should express their views “by working with embedded advisers (such as myself), and by being the voice of reason, rather than dissent, in the public arena”.

If you want to know where this leads, check out what’s happening in Canada, where I live. The Conservative government of Stephen Harper has done such an effective job of gagging scientists and shutting down critical research projects that, in July 2012, a couple thousand scientists and supporters held a mock-funeral on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, mourning “the death of evidence”. Their placards said, “No Science, No Evidence, No Truth”.

But the truth is getting out anyway. The fact that the business-as-usual pursuit of profits and growth is destabilising life on earth is no longer something we need to read about in scientific journals. The early signs are unfolding before our eyes. And increasing numbers of us are responding accordingly: blockading fracking activity in Balcombe; interfering with Arctic drilling preparations in Russian waters (at tremendous personal cost); taking tar sands operators to court for violating indigenous sovereignty; and countless other acts of resistance large and small. In Brad Werner’s computer model, this is the “friction” needed to slow down the forces of destabilisation; the great climate campaigner Bill McKibben calls it the “antibodies” rising up to fight the planet’s “spiking fever”.

It’s not a revolution, but it’s a start. And it might just buy us enough time to figure out a way to live on this planet that is distinctly less f**ked.

Naomi Klein, the author of “The Shock Doctrine” and “No Logo”, is working on a book and a film about the revolutionary power of climate change. You call follow her on twitter @naomiaklein

Bigger Than That- (The Difficulty Of) Looking At Climate Change In The Age Of Inhuman Scale

In Uncategorized on October 13, 2013 at 6:58 pm

Oldspeak:Some things are so big you don’t see them, or you don’t want to think about them, or you almost can’t think about them. Climate change is one of those things. It’s impossible to see the whole, because it’s everything…. it’s a complete system thrashing out of control, so that it threatens to become too hot, too cold, too dry, too wet, too wild, too destructive, too erratic for many plants and animals that depend on reliable annual cycles. It affects the entire surface of the Earth and every living thing, from the highest peaks to the depths of the oceans, from one pole to the other, from the tropics to the tundra, likely for millennia — and…it’s already here.

It’s not only bigger than everything else, it’s bigger than everything else put together.  But it’s not a sudden event like a massacre or a flood or a fire, even though it includes floods, fires, heat waves, and wild weather.  It’s an incremental shift over decades, over centuries.  It’s the definition of the big picture itself, the far-too-big picture. Which is why we have so much news about everything else, or so it seems.

To understand climate change, you need to translate figures into impacts, to think about places you’ll never see and times after you’re gone. You need to imagine sea level rise and understand its impact, to see the cause-and-effect relations between coal-fired power plants, fossil-fuel emissions, and the fate of the Earth. You need to model data in fairly sophisticated ways. You need to think like a scientist.” –Rebecca Solnit

“Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick….” -OSJ

It was the stuff of fantasy, of repeated failed expeditions and dreams that wouldn’t die.  I’m talking about the Northwest Passage, that fabled route through Arctic waters around North America.  Now, it’s reality.  The first “bulk carrier,” a Danish commercial freighter with a load of coal, just traveled from Vancouver, Canada, to Finland, cutting a week off its voyage, skipping the Panama Canal, and even, according to the Finnish steel maker Ruukki Metals, for whom the coal was intended, “reducing its greenhouse gas emissions because of fuel savings.” 

When dreams come true, it’s time to celebrate, no?  Only in this case, under the upbeat news of the immediate moment lies a far larger nightmare.  Those expeditions from the fifteenth to the twentieth centuries failed to find the Northwest Passage because Arctic sea ice made the voyage impossible.  There simply was no passage.  No longer.  Thanks to global warming, the melting of ice — glaciers are losing an estimated 303 billion tons of the stuff annually worldwide — staggers the imagination.  The Greenland ice shield is turning into runoff ever more rapidly, threatening significant sea level rise, and all of the melting in the cold north has, in turn, opened a previously nonexistent Northwest Passage, as well as a similar passage through Russia’s Arctic waters.

None of this would have happened, as the prestigious Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change pointed out in its latest report, if not for the way the burning of fossil fuels (like that coal the Nordic Orion took to Finland) has poured carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.  In other words, we created that Arctic passage and made it commercially viable, thus ensuring that our world, the one we’ve known since the dawn of (human) time, will be ever less viable for our children and grandchildren.  After all, the Arctic with its enormous reservoirs of fossil fuels can now begin to be opened up for exploitation like so much of the rest of the planet.  And there can be no doubt about it: those previously unreachable reserves will be extracted and burned, putting yet more CO2 into the atmosphere, and anyone who tries to stop that process, as Greenpeace protestors symbolically tried to do recently at an oil rig in Arctic Russia, will be dealt with firmly as “pirates” or worse.  That dream of history, of explorers from once upon a time, is now not just a reality, but part of a seemingly inexorable feedback loop of modern fossil-fuel production and planetary heating, another aspect of what Michael Klare has grimly termed the Third Carbon Age (rather than a new Age of Renewables).

If we don’t need a little perspective on ourselves and our world now, then when? Fortunately, TomDispatch regular Rebecca Solnit is here to offer us both that perspective and some hope for what we can do in the face of well-funded climate denialism and fossil-fuel company boosterism”. –Tom

By Rebecca Solnit @ TomsDispatch:

Late last week, in the lobby of a particularly unglamorous downtown San Francisco building, a group of passionate but polite activists met with a bureaucrat who stepped forward to hear what they had to say about the fate of the Earth. The activists wanted to save the world.  The particular part of it that might be under their control involved getting the San Francisco Retirement board to divest its half a billion dollars in fossil fuel holdings, one piece of the international divestment movement that arose a year ago.

Sometimes the fate of the Earth boils down to getting one person with modest powers to budge.

The bureaucrat had a hundred reasons why changing course was, well, too much of a change. This public official wanted to operate under ordinary-times rules and the idea that climate change has thrust us into extraordinary times (and that divesting didn’t necessarily entail financial loss or even financial risk) was apparently too much to accept.

The mass media aren’t exactly helping. Last Saturday, for instance, the New York Times gave its story on the International Panel on Climate Change’s six-years-in-the-making report on the catastrophic future that’s already here below-the-fold front-page placement, more or less equal to that given a story on the last episode of Breaking Bad. The end of the second paragraph did include this quote: “In short, it threatens our planet, our only home.” But the headline (“U.N. Climate Panel Endorses Ceiling on Global Emissions”) and the opening paragraph assured you this was dull stuff. Imagine a front page that reported your house was on fire right now, but that some television show was more exciting.

Sometimes I wish media stories were organized in proportion to their impact.  Unfortunately, when it comes to climate change, there is not paper enough on this planet to properly scale up a story to the right size.  If you gave it the complete front page to suggest its import, you would then have to print the rest of the news at some sort of nanoscale and include an electron microscope for reading ease.

Hold up your hand. It’s so big it can block out the sun, though you know that the sun is so much bigger. Now look at the news: in column inches and airtime, a minor controversy or celebrity may loom bigger than the planet. The problem is that, though websites and print media may give us the news, they seldom give us the scale of the news or a real sense of the proportional importance of one thing compared to another.  And proportion, scale, is the main news we need right now — maybe always.

As it happens, we’re not very good at looking at the biggest things. They may be bigger than we can see, or move more slowly than we have the patience to watch for or remember or piece together, or they may cause impacts that are themselves complex and dispersed and stretch into the future. Scandals are easier.  They are on a distinctly human scale, the scale of lust, greed, and violence. We like those, we understand them, we get mired in them, and mostly they mean little or nothing in the long run (or often even in the short run).

A resident in a town on the northwest coast of Japan told me that the black 70-foot-high wave of water coming at him on March 11, 2011, was so huge that, at first, he didn’t believe his eyes. It was the great Tohoku tsunami, which killed about 20,000 people. A version of such cognitive dissonance occurred in 1982, when NASA initially rejected measurements of the atmosphere above Antarctica because they indicated such a radical loss of ozone that the computer program just threw out the data.

Some things are so big you don’t see them, or you don’t want to think about them, or you almost can’t think about them. Climate change is one of those things. It’s impossible to see the whole, because it’s everything. It’s not just a seven-story-tall black wave about to engulf your town, it’s a complete system thrashing out of control, so that it threatens to become too hot, too cold, too dry, too wet, too wild, too destructive, too erratic for many plants and animals that depend on reliable annual cycles. It affects the entire surface of the Earth and every living thing, from the highest peaks to the depths of the oceans, from one pole to the other, from the tropics to the tundra, likely for millennia — and it’s not just coming like that wave, it’s already here.

It’s not only bigger than everything else, it’s bigger than everything else put together.  But it’s not a sudden event like a massacre or a flood or a fire, even though it includes floods, fires, heat waves, and wild weather.  It’s an incremental shift over decades, over centuries.  It’s the definition of the big picture itself, the far-too-big picture. Which is why we have so much news about everything else, or so it seems.

To understand climate change, you need to translate figures into impacts, to think about places you’ll never see and times after you’re gone. You need to imagine sea level rise and understand its impact, to see the cause-and-effect relations between coal-fired power plants, fossil-fuel emissions, and the fate of the Earth. You need to model data in fairly sophisticated ways. You need to think like a scientist.

Given the demands of the task and the muddle of the mainstream media, it’s remarkable that so many people get it, and that they do so despite massive, heavily funded petroleum industry propaganda campaigns is maybe a victory, if not enough of one.

Four months ago, two bombers in Boston murdered three people and injured hundreds in a way spectacularly calculated to attract media attention, and the media obeyed with alacrity. Climate change probably fueled the colossal floods around Boulder, Colorado, that killed seven people in mid-September, but amid the copious coverage, it was barely mentioned in the media. Similarly, in Mexico, 115 people died in unprecedented floods in the Acapulco area (no significant mention of climate change), while floods reportedly are halving Pakistan’s economic growth (no significant mention), and 166 bodies were found in the wake of the latest Indian floods (no significant mention).

Climate change is taking hundreds of thousands of lives in Africa every year in complex ways whose causes and effects are difficult to follow. Forest fires, very likely enhanced by climate change, took the lives of 19 firefighters facing Arizona blazes amid record heat waves in July.  Again, climate change generally wasn’t the headline on that story.

(For the record, climate change is clearly helping to produce many of the bigger, more destructive, more expensive, more frequent disasters of our time, but it is impossible to point to any one of them and say definitely, this one is climate change.  It’s like trying to say which cancers in a contaminated area were caused by the contamination; you can’t, but what you can say is that the overall rise in cancer is connected.)

Not quite a year ago, a climate-change-related hurricane drowned people when superstorm Sandy hit a place that doesn’t usually experience major hurricane impact, let alone storm surges that submerge amusement parks, the New York City subway system, and the Jersey shore. In that disaster, 148 people died directly, nearly that many indirectly, losses far greater than from any terrorist incident in this country other than that great anomaly, 9/11. The weather has now become man-made violence, though no one thinks of it as terrorism, in part because there’s no smoking gun or bomb — unless you have the eyes to see and the data to look at, in which case the smokestacks of coal plants start to look gun-like and the hands of energy company CEOs and well-paid-off legislators begin to morph into those of bombers.

Even the civil war in Syria may be a climate-change war of sorts: over the past several years, the country has been hit by its worst drought in modern times. Climate and Security analyst Francesco Femia says, “Around 75 percent of [Syrian] farmers suffered total crop failure, so they moved into the cities. Farmers in the northeast lost 80 percent of their livestock, so they had to leave and find livelihoods elsewhere. They all moved into urban areas — urban areas that were already experiencing economic insecurity due to an influx of Iraqi and Palestinian refugees. But this massive displacement mostly wasn’t reported. So it wasn’t factoring into various security analyses. People assumed Syria was relatively stable compared to Egypt.”

Column Inches, Glacial Miles

We like to think about morality and sex and the lives of people we’ve gotten to know in some fashion. We know how to do it. It’s on a distinctly human scale. It’s disturbing in a reassuring way.  We fret about it and feel secure in doing so. Now, everything’s changed, and our imaginations need to keep pace with that change. What is human scale anyway? These days, after all, we split atoms and tinker with genes and can melt an ice sheet. We were designed to think about human-scale phenomena, and now that very phrase is almost as meaningless as old terms like “glacial,” which used to mean slow-moving and slow to change.

Nowadays glaciers are melting rapidly or disappearing entirely, and some — those in Greenland, for example — have gushing rivers of ice water eating through their base. If the whole vast Greenland ice sheet were to melt, it could raise global sea levels by 23 feet.

We tend to think about climate change as one or two or five things: polar ice, glaciers melting, sea-level rise, heat waves, maybe droughts. Now, however, we need to start adding everything else into the mix: the migration of tropical diseases, the proliferation of insect pests, crop failures and declining crop yields leading to widespread hunger and famine, desertification and flooded zones and water failures leading to mass population shifts, resource wars, and so many other things that have to do with the widest systems of life on Earth, affecting health, the global economy, food systems, water systems, and energy systems.

It is almost impossibly scary and painful to contemplate the radical decline and potential death of the oceans that cover 70% of the Earth’s surface and the dramatic decrease of plankton, which do more than any other type of organism to sequester carbon and produce oxygen — a giant forest in microscopic form breathing in what we produce, breathing out what we need, keeping the whole system going. If you want to read something really terrifying, take a look at the rise of the Age of Jellyfish in this review of Lisa-Ann Gershwin’s book Stung!: On Jellyfish Blooms and the Future of the Ocean. Maybe read it even if you don’t.

Only remember that like so much about climate change we used to imagine as a grim future, that future is increasingly here and now. In this case, in the form of millions or maybe billions of tons of jellyfish proliferating globally and devouring plankton, fish eggs, small fish, and bigger creatures in the sea we love, we know, we count on, we feed on, and now even clogging the water-intake pipes of nuclear power plants. In the form of seashells dissolving in acidic waters from the Pacific Northwest to the Antarctic Ocean. In the form of billions of pine-bark beetles massacring the forests of the American West, from Arizona to Alaska, one bite at a time.

It’s huge. I think about it, and I read about it, following blogs at Weather Underground, various climate websites, the emails of environmental groups, the tweets of people at 350.org, and bits and pieces of news on the subject that straggle into the mainstream and alternative media. Then I lose sight of it. I think about everything and anything else; I get caught up in old human-scale news that fits into my frameworks so much more easily. And then I remember, and regain my sense of proportion, or disproportion.

The Great Wall, Brick by Brick

The changes required to address climate change are colossal, but they are made up of increments and steps and stages that are more than possible. Many are already underway, both as positive changes (adaptation of renewable energy, increased energy efficiency, new laws, policies, and principles) and as halts to destruction (for example, all the coal-fired plants that have not been built in recent years and the Tar Sands pipeline that, but for popular resistance, would already be sending its sludge from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico). The problem is planetary in scale, but there is room to mitigate the worst-case scenarios, and that room is full of activists at work. Much of that work consists of small-scale changes.

As Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune put it last week, “Here’s the single most important thing you need to know about the IPCC report: It’s not too late. We still have time to do something about climate disruption. The best estimate from the best science is that we can limit warming from human-caused carbon pollution to less than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit — if we act now. Bottom line: Our house is on fire. Rather than argue about how fast it’s burning, we need to start throwing buckets of water.”

There are buckets and bucket brigades. For example, the movement to get universities, cities, churches, and other entities to divest their holdings of the top 200 fossil-fuel stocks could have major consequences. If it works, it will be achieved through dedicated groups on this campus or in that city competing in a difficult sport: budging bureaucrats. It’s already succeeded in some key places, from the city of Seattle to the national United Church of Christ, and hundreds of campaigns are underway across the United States and in some other countries.

My heroes are now people who can remain engaged with climate change’s complex and daunting facts and still believe that we have some leeway to determine what happens. They insist on looking directly at the black wall of water, and they focus on what we can do about the peril we face, and then they do it. They do their best to understand scale and science, and their dedication and clarity comes from connecting their hearts to their minds.

I hear people who are either uninformed or who are justifying disengagement say that it’s too late and what we do won’t matter, but it does matter, because a rise in the global temperature of two degrees Celsius is going to be very, very different from, say, five degrees Celsius for almost everything living on Earth now and for millennia to come. And there are still many things that can be done, both to help us adapt to the radical change on the way and to limit the degree of change to which we’ll have to adapt. Because it’s already risen .8 degrees and that’s been a disaster — many, many disasters.

I spent time over the last several months with the stalwarts carrying on a campaign to get San Francisco to divest from its energy stocks. In the beginning, it seemed easy enough. City Supervisor John Avalos introduced a nonbinding resolution to the Board of Supervisors, and to everyone’s surprise it passed unanimously in April on a voice vote. But the board turned out only to have the power to recommend that the San Francisco Retirement Board do the real work of divesting its vast holdings of fossil-fuel stocks. The retirement board was a tougher nut to crack.

Its main job, after all, is to ensure a safe and profitable pension fund and in that sense, energy companies have, in the past, been good investments. To continue on such a path is to be “smart about the market.” The market, in the meantime, is working hard at not imagining the financial impact of climate change.

The failure of major food sources, including fishing stocks and agricultural crops, and the resultant mass hunger and instability — see Syria — is going to impact the market. Retirees in the beautiful Bay Area are going feel it if the global economy crashes, the region fills with climate refugees, the spectacularly productive state agricultural system runs dry or roasts, and the oceans rise on our scenic coasts. It’s a matter of scale.  Your investments are not independent of nature, even if fossil-fuel companies remain, for a time, profitable while helping destroying the world as humanity has known it.

Some reliable sources now argue that fossil-fuel stocks are not good investments, that they’re volatile for a number of reasons and due to crash. The IPCC report makes it clear that we need to leave most of the planet’s fossil fuel reserves in the ground in the coming decades, that the choice is either to fry the planet or freeze the assets of the carbon companies. Activists are now doing their best to undermine the value of the big carbon-energy corporations, and governments clued in to the new IPCC report will likely join them in trying to keep the oil, gas, and coal in the ground — the fossil fuel that is also much of the worth of these corporations on paper. If we’re lucky, we’ll make them crash. So divesting can be fiscally sound, and there is a very strong case that it can be done without economic impact. But the crucial thing here isn’t the financial logistics of divestment; it’s the necessity of grasping the scale of things, understanding the colossal nature of the problem and the need to address it, in part, by pressuring one small group or one institution in one place.

To grasp this involves a feat of imagination and, I think, a leap of faith: a kind of conviction about what matters, about living according to principle, about understanding what is too big to be seen with your own eyes, about correlating data on a range of scales. A lot of people I know do it. If we are to pull back from the brink of catastrophe, it will be because of their vision and their faith. You might want to thank them now, and while your words are nice, so are donations. Or you might want to join them.

That there is a widespread divestment movement right now is due to the work of a few people who put forth the plan less than a year ago at 350.org. The president has already mentioned it, and hundreds of colleges are now in the midst of or considering the process of divesting, with cities, churches, and other institutions joining the movement. It takes a peculiar kind of genius to see the monster and to see that it might begin to be pushed back by small actions — by, in fact, actions on a distinctly human scale that could still triumph over the increasingly inhuman scale of our era.

Hold up your hand. It looks puny in relation to the sun, but the other half of the equation of scale is seeing that something as small as that hand, as your own powers, as your own efforts, can matter. The cathedral is made stone by stone, and the book is written word by word.

If there is to be an effort to respond to climate change, it will need to make epic differences in economics, in ecologies, in the largest and most powerful systems around us. Though the goals may be heroic, they will be achieved mostly through an endless accumulation of small gestures.

Those gestures are in your hands, and everyone’s. Or they could be if we learned to see the true scale of things, including how big we can be together.

Rebecca Solnit writes regularly for TomDispatch, works a little with 350.org, and is hanging out a lot in 2013 with the newly arrived Martin, Thyri, Bija Milagro, and Camilo, who will be 80 in the unimaginable year of 2093. Her most recent book is The Faraway Nearby.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook or Tumblr. Check out the newest Dispatch book, Nick Turse’s The Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyberwarfare.

 

 

Last Hours of Humanity: Warming the World to Extinction

In Uncategorized on October 13, 2013 at 6:12 pm

(Image: <a href=" http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-106825397/stock-photo-refinery-with-smoke-and-global-warming-concept.html?src=NbITD5enX9lI4lerT943VQ-1-0"> via Shutterstock </a>)

Oldspeak:Will several centuries of burning fossil fuels release enough carbon into the atmosphere to mimic the effects of past volcanic and asteroid activity and provoke a mass extinction?

If our burning fossil fuels warms the oceans enough that that methane melts and is quickly released into the atmosphere, the Earth will be in its sixth mass extinction.

And make no mistake about it, the animals and plants that are most heavily hit by mass extinctions are those that are largest and at the top of the food chain.

That means us.

We must stop the carbon madness and move, worldwide, to renewable 21st century energy sources.” –Thom Hartmann

“The grim reality is, we’re ALREADY in earth’s sixth mass extinction. We’re witnessing its beginning. We’re losing 200 species PER  DAY. irreversible positive feedbacks have already begun.  Accelerated ocean acidification/warming/deoxygenation/mass extinctions , massive increases in methane releases globally  and permafrost melt have methane levels in the arctic higher than they’ve been in 400,000 years.  Phytoplankton, the organisms crucial to all life on earth, producers of half the worlds oxygen and sequestering carbon have decreased 40% since 1950. And there are no serious efforts to stop the extractive energy systems that are creating  these catastrophic positive feedbacks, in fact these systems are being EXPANDED.  The show is going on, whether we want to see it or not.” -OSJ

By Thom Hartmann @ Truthout:

If you were standing outdoors looking at the distant and reddening sky 250 million years ago as the Permian Mass Extinction was beginning, unless you were in the region that is known as Siberia you would have no idea that a tipping point had just been passed and soon 95% of all life on earth would be dead.

It’s almost impossible to identify tipping points, except in retrospect.

For example, we have almost certainly already past the tipping point to an ice-free Arctic. And we are just now realizing it, even though that tipping point was probably passed a decade or more ago.

This is critically important because in the history of our planet there have been five times when more than half of all life on Earth died. They’re referred to as “mass extinctions.”

One – the one that killed the dinosaurs – was initiated by a meteorite striking the Earth. The rest all appear to have been initiated by tectonic and volcanic activity.

In each case, however, what happened was that massive amounts of carbon-containing greenhouse gases – principally carbon dioxide, were released from beneath the Earth’s crust and up into the atmosphere.

This provoked global warming intense enough to melt billions of tons of frozen methane on the oceans floors. That pulse of methane – an intense greenhouse gas – then brought the extinction to its full of intensity.

While in the past it took continental movement or an asteroid to break up the crust of the earth enough to release ancient stores of carbon into the atmosphere, we humans have been doing this very aggressively for the past 150 years by drilling and mining fossil fuels.

So the question:

Will several centuries of burning fossil fuels release enough carbon into the atmosphere to mimic the effects of past volcanic and asteroid activity and provoke a mass extinction?

Geologists who study mass extinctions are becoming concerned. As more and more research is coming out about the massive stores of methane in the Arctic and around continental shelves, climate scientists are beginning to take notice, too.

The fossil fuel companies are sitting on roughly 2 trillion tons of underground carbon. That, in and of itself, is enough to warm the earth by 5 or 6°C, and is an amount of carbon consistent with tipping points during past mass extinctions.

There are an additional estimated 2 trillion tons of methane stored in the Arctic and probably 2 to 5 times that much around continental shelves all around the Earth.

If our burning fossil fuels warms the oceans enough that that methane melts and is quickly released into the atmosphere, the Earth will be in its sixth mass extinction.

And make no mistake about it, the animals and plants that are most heavily hit by mass extinctions are those that are largest and at the top of the food chain.

That means us.

We must stop the carbon madness and move, worldwide, to renewable 21st century energy sources.

This is why we’ve produced a short documentary on this topic, and a short e-book titled The Last Hours of Humanity: Warming the World to Extinction that you can find at www.lasthours.org.

Please check it out and share it with as many friends as possible.

The future of humanity is at stake.

Radical Embrace: Breaking The Cycle Of An Unfertile Demise

In Uncategorized on October 2, 2013 at 11:47 pm

https://i0.wp.com/thumbs.dreamstime.com/z/hug-earth-16348052.jpgOldspeak: ““Let’s look at it like this. If we discovered tomorrow that there was an asteroid on a collision course with Earth and – because physics is a fairly simple science – we were able to calculate that it was going to hit Earth on 3 June 2072, and we knew that its impact was going to wipe out 70% of all life on Earth, governments worldwide would marshal the entire planet into unprecedented action. Every scientist, engineer, university and business would be enlisted: half to find a way of stopping it, the other half to find a way for our species to survive and rebuild if the first option proved unsuccessful. We are in almost precisely that situation now, except that there isn’t a specific date and there isn’t an asteroid. The problem is us.” —Stephen Emmott

Our governments and their corporate buddies act as though there is no climate crisis and as if even without the current reality, the living populations of the Earth are heartless and utterly expendable. The business-as-usual nonsense of perversely progress-profit-driven and placating, pandering governments the world over, the menacing reality of genetic engineering wanting to reprogram everything with or without a pulse, including you and me, and spray it all down with more petroleum-based pesticides to combat the damage its own techno-scientific roots created in the first place (i.e. super-bugs and super-weeds), the ongoing acidification and collapse of the oceans, and you might agree with what Emmott sums up his article: “We’re fucked.”

Most people I know either don’t believe or don’t want to believe reality, or have no interest to apprehend the evidence. I understand. It’s devastating, and I still don’t think we can truly comprehend the reality of the near future. Yet most of the world plods along as if none of it were coming. At best, we get lip service from government officials, backed up by equivocal action. It’s hard to imagine the real storm, Emmott’s proverbial asteroid, is coming more quickly than any of us would like. And this places us humans in a very strange predicament…

We need for the entire capitalist system to crumble. Or some other miracle, in this 11th hour. And I don’t mean the religious kind. I mean a grounded change in every one of us to live differently. We did not really create the problem, but it is our responsibility to try to fix, because no one else will. In effect, if each of us self-imposed what our governments will not impose, we could turn this thing around, to some degree. We could self-impose upon ourselves all the boycotts we are spared, which would in turn shut down the factories, the multinationals, the corporatocracy running and ruining the party for us all. Would we have to agree to do this all at once? How many of would be needed? It’s hard to get even my friends to chin up. But we have to, and we will all be forced to soon enough.

We want our goodies, to take our due reward for enduring life’s pains and injustices, another week at the grind of work we hate. Life owes us, the Earth owes us, God owes us, and we exact our entitlements, empowering the wave of environmental collapse. Indeed, the failure of humanity is one of denying and avoiding at all costs pain, difficulty, and ironically, the threat of death. We run from it, bury it, or burn it, or say it’s someone else’s, and this way perpetuate that darkness and medicate with the adornments of the American dream, and so build our nightmare. We shop, smoke, fuck, drink, eat, sleep, blame, and sunshine it away. The repressed dark night — which when embraced on a regular basis profoundly heals — and all her power and rage are upon us now. This is not negativity; this is the divine power of the Great Mother here to shut down the light-loving, sun-only worshippers of all kinds — the Industrial Revolution optimists, the neurotic meaningless-manufacturing entrepreneurs, the fundamentalists, the GMO liars, the clueless capitalists, the fracking-fools, pharma-fanatics, the worshippers of chemistry and “convenience,” the happy-obsessed, and the new-agers — who have all reigned for too long

None of this is easy. But it can get easier. We all still have to make a living, and we need things, but it seems the only way to make headway is to give up living luxuriously and to live with scarcely a surfeit of anything, except courage and care and some other c-words. Taking a vow of material poverty is a rich thing—not to pursue poverty as a goal, but to accept it as a consequence of breaking the hamster cycle of (arrows mean “engenders/creates”): denial of pain/fertile darkness > irrational fear/insecurity > imagined need > unfulfilling work > dirty money > more denied pain (suffering), guilt, and remorse > consuming to numb, maintain excesses, and avoid our pain and fertile darkness underneath our habits and unsustainable culture.

We need a new cycle, something to the tune of: caring enough to challenge ourselves into extreme simplicity > frees up our need to make so much money > creating more room for meaningful work that might pay little or nothing and with time to heal our inner-life complexities > time to create and live more earnestly, creatively, and essentially > time and space to sink into and be passionately reborn from the passion of heartbreak and fertile darkness > money enough to survive and to fund direct, potently sustainable endeavors > consuming to survive and thrive in outward simplicity, and to celebrate nature and one another with the deep-down good feeling that we are acting with wisdom for now and a hundred years from now. This is not hippie talk; it is cutting edge survival strategy.” –Jack Adam Webber

By Jack Adam Webber @ Nature Bats Last:

Every once in a while we read something that stops us in our tracks. But in short time, we forget about it. Less frequently, we read something that stays with us, grows in us, and rather than disappear, it changes us so that every aspect of our very lives is tinged by the new information. I came across such a piece of writing a few months back, on overpopulation, climate change, and anticipated planetary changes. Here is an excerpt:

“Let’s look at it like this. If we discovered tomorrow that there was an asteroid on a collision course with Earth and – because physics is a fairly simple science – we were able to calculate that it was going to hit Earth on 3 June 2072, and we knew that its impact was going to wipe out 70% of all life on Earth, governments worldwide would marshal the entire planet into unprecedented action. Every scientist, engineer, university and business would be enlisted: half to find a way of stopping it, the other half to find a way for our species to survive and rebuild if the first option proved unsuccessful. We are in almost precisely that situation now, except that there isn’t a specific date and there isn’t an asteroid. The problem is us.” —Stephen Emmott

Before a storm, there is the proverbial calm, then the changes begin. Our collective calm is already fading; the changes are everywhere. Melting ice caps and permafrost, newly created methane vents spewing megatons of CO2 into the atmosphere, severe droughts, huge storms, rising tides, plastic ridden warming oceans, widespread nuclear contamination — you know the story, I hope. We are at a crossroads, barely claiming a footing on the path would be more accurate, as we witness the world as it likely will never be again. Of course this has always been the case. But this time is radically different than at all other times in recorded history. Never has a single catastrophic condition engulfed the entire globe as climate change (which sweeping changes include global warming) now does. In the words of Emmott, “I believe we can rightly call the situation we’re in right now an emergency – an unprecedented planetary emergency.”

To even be discussing going to war in Syria, banning GMO food crops and fracking, conserving habitat for wolves and whales, building the XL Pipeline, expanding the filthy, cancerous Tar Sands operation, opening millions of acres in the Ecuadorian Amazon to oil drilling, is simply insane. These should be no-brainers. We should not be wasting time on these considerations nor forcing intelligent, earnest citizens to be using their personal un-paid time to fight for these minimal, if not relatively conciliatory, securities. We have urgent work to do far beyond considering more war and pollution; to even consider moving forward with these plagues is radical denial of the big picture.

Our governments and their corporate buddies act as though there is no climate crisis and as if even without the current reality, the living populations of the Earth are heartless and utterly expendable. The business-as-usual nonsense of perversely progress-profit-driven and placating, pandering governments the world over, the menacing reality of genetic engineering wanting to reprogram everything with or without a pulse, including you and me, and spray it all down with more petroleum-based pesticides to combat the damage its own techno-scientific roots created in the first place (i.e. super-bugs and super-weeds), the ongoing acidification and collapse of the oceans, and you might agree with what Emmott sums up his article: “We’re fucked.”

Where I live on the windward side of Hawai’i Island it rains about half of what it used to 6 years ago. Each year has gotten drier. The usually lush perennial peanut groundcover in my orchard is currently crunchy brown. A natural cycle, a normal anomaly? Maybe, but doubtful, given similar anomalies the world over. With each decade, each moment really, our climate changes are soberly projected to become exponentially more severe. We, and nature as we know it, are on the chopping block. In all likelihood, we, and our children, will never know nature as it is now. This means that we must celebrate her with all our hearts, and we must continue to fight to save her, if only out of honor.

The grim realities of climate change are too much for most to deal with. People who have little experience with enduring their own pain, the dark night of their own soul, will have an even harder time embracing the dark night of the world soul. Thus the denial. Therefore the disputes and controversy over what 97% of climate scientists generally agree to be true. And, the truth is likely closer to what the minority of these scientists predict; the chance to cover up the grim forecast is taken up in most instances for any number of reasons: political pressure, outright lying, media propaganda, denial on the part of the reporter, corporate fear and greed, saving one’s job or other personal agenda, and of course, the occasional innocent human error.

Most people I know either don’t believe or don’t want to believe reality, or have no interest to apprehend the evidence. I understand. It’s devastating, and I still don’t think we can truly comprehend the reality of the near future. Yet most of the world plods along as if none of it were coming. At best, we get lip service from government officials, backed up by equivocal action. It’s hard to imagine the real storm, Emmott’s proverbial asteroid, is coming more quickly than any of us would like. And this places us humans in a very strange predicament.

The Power of Heartbreak

Didn’t you know your heart was meant to break a thousand times to make everything beautiful again?

—excerpt from Thanksgiving: An Activist’s Grace

How do we occupy ourselves now, inwardly? How do we handle this emotionally and spiritually? The choice is each of ours. I handle the bad news the way I deal with all heartbreak; I feel the pain and let my heart break. I go into the dark, I let it all work on me, keep my eyes open down there, and let myself be transformed. The result? I emerge every time with more wisdom, more love, more care. Climate change reality is not different than embracing dying (if not our own then that of our children or grandchildren and others we care about). except that it is not only our own death but likely that of the majority of complex life forms and ecosystems as we know them. In other words, our hearts face breaking open as they never have before. Each of us is alive at the most unique time in all of human history because never have we imminently faced with such certainty the impending demise of so much at once. And this is poignant, any way you look at it. Poignancy is power. And the power we can all reap now is in our hearts, a passionately compassionate spiritual power made available by breaking…open.

When we deny heartbreak, we deny what is sacred. It is precisely this lack of heartbreak, and the feminine power of compassion and wisdom that blossom as a result, that causes humans to obsess over external power. Thus is born the sociopath, the corporation with no power of vulnerability, that denies the small, metaphorical and paradoxical death of heartbreak, and thereby fosters a massive, pervasive literal death. As I wrote in another article, “avoiding paradox lands us squarely in the midst of living out the dark side of its irony.”

Indeed, renewing your love for the natural world in light of ongoing environmental collapse will break your heart, if you let it. Heartbroken, we can feel a deeper passion, born of suffering and injustice. This way we can continue to grow and act wisely from our sadness, from our outrage, our intelligence, from our passionate and dignified, poignantly beautiful love. Our chance now is to love as we never have before, by the most paradoxical of means, the way deep, grounded love has always been born.

To be heartbroken is a modern-day enlightenment—recognizing that heaven is right here, under your feet, before your eyes, in your own body, which is a little chunk of this planet. Heartbreak, sadness, and fear are not distractions and impediments to fulfillment, enlightenment, and belonging; they are the way to a fertile, just world made of sane, caring people. To deny these emotions, as well as genuine humble joy and celebration, is to sow the seeds of sociopathy. Just about anything on any day can break you open, if you let it. The way to wholeness hounds you and me every day, which we often push aside as nuisances. This collective denial is precisely what has led to our current dire straits. Now or never is the time stop running and to break open, for all we have to bid farewell and all the beauty we still can welcome.

Fall In Love Again

The consensus of scientific facts is not getting us to change, at least not enough. Our rational minds are not enough to catalyze us and our governments into firm action.

A typical response to pain and imminent decline is to shut down, embitter, and become selfish. So, what is left? Courage is left, passion is left, love is left. But again, not just a light-worshipping, feel-good sort of love, except for maybe at first, in the honeymoon phase of re-loving the world, which needs our love now more than ever before. The courageous path, then, is to love more, fiercely more, to reconcile as much of the pain of the world through service and the celebration of radical beauty as we can.

The formula is this: fall in love with the world, especially the natural world and the good nature (even if buried) of your fellow humans. Bathe in the rapture of a forest, fresh air, the ocean, wildflowers in the high meadow, the stark gorgeous geometry of dunes, the sounds and refreshment of a river, the food you just picked in your garden—these heirlooms that are enjoying their last hoorah, as we are (even without climate change!), for no moment is quite like the next. Take heart for every human being who, like you and me, is trying, is tortuously beautiful, is confused and scared, still innocent because none of us knows the big answers. Even the assholes, the villains in this story, and their cargos of pain, that would have destroyed you or me long ago. Feel their angst, their confusion. Forgive them.

Let your heart break in the face of its decimation; sit with that feeling in your body, and let your good mind register the unedited upshot. Of its own accord, in its own time, this sadness can catalyze you, as the passion of devastation. Keep channeling the passion and compassion of your sacredly broken-open heart towards more reverence of nature, one another, and yourself, while acting to protect and enjoy and care for all of it. This is radical embrace. Seek the support and comfort and nurturance of good friends and allies, and nature herself. Let your tears flow and bathe you and the precious ground. Maybe you will decide to sacrifice some of your leisure, distraction, and pleasure time because the pull of your heart trumps your indulgence in “freedom” now for the option to be free tomorrow, or a year from now. This is also why it is helpful to know what’s coming. So, pull in the laundry, close the windows, hunker down, be ready, open your heart, big-time.

We humans want to feel good, most all the time. And this, again, ironically, is our downfall. I believe, as do a number of scientists, that most of our decisions are made with the intent to feel good — now, or very soon from now — immediate gratification. In one sense, the moment is all we have. Yet we must also discern how to live in the moment so that we also respect future moments. This is wisdom, which thinks into the future, sometimes seven generations into the future. We lack living according to wisdom, which is another form of wisdom in itself. We don’t want to sacrifice now for ten years from now, or even next week, and this part of the problem. We are poisoned by living in the moment as much as we are graced by it.

Our (as in the vast majority of people) habit for instant gratification does not help us prepare for climate change. And being heartbroken doesn’t feel good, now. We postpone it in intimate relationships, even when we see it coming, as we do when we ignore the facts of what we are doing to the world around us. Because of this, we must trust in the paradox of heartbreak, or at least begin with feel-good love to give us the sustenance to also grieve. This kind of love actually gives us the power, courage, and resources to act righteously in the face of pain and strife, the stamina to feel worse so that we might do something that gives us more of a chance for feeling better, for many tomorrows than the present moment of today.

When we fall in love with nature — its beauty, power, and lessons of wisdom — it gives us the power to endure these hardships in the cauldron of our psyches. It gives us what we need to move forward with resolve and fierce compassion — because something in our blood knows what is right, knows just where we belong, and that without the deep, abundant, and untamed natural world we will have lost something that completes and comprises our very souls, even if you don’t believe in a literal soul.

Medicine as Metaphor

As a physician, when I think of our predicament, and fish for a clue for if we collectively can stave off environmental and civil collapse, I think of my patients. What do you do when weight gain, a poor diet, or a sedentary life threaten you with diabetes or a heart attack? When smoking sets you up for emphysema? Or, more commonly, when you feel run down and on the verge of coming down with a cold? If you are one who would pass up dinner out with friends, a late night at the movies, a day off of work to rest and recover, then you are in the minority. You might also be part of the minority acting wisely now, not blindly indulging the moment, on behalf of our very sick planet. Unlike you, most keep pushing, and even when ill often do little to heal before things get worse. Indeed, the palest examples of our collective sickness are our governments and global corporations, who push on at any expense for the preservation of poisoning everyone, ensuring capitalistic cancer a foothold, and unfortunately, a takeover.

We don’t stop until we absolutely have to. But the problem with climate change is a bit like digestion. We don’t feel full in our bellies until after we pass the point of feeling sated. Our stomachs do not communicate satiation to our brains until fifteen or so minutes after the fact. We are all stomachs for the Earth’s fulfillment and health. We are, as David Suzuki echoes in similar meaning, past the point of fullness. We are over-eating, we are getting fat now on tomorrow’s rations and laying waste tomorrow’s fields (speaking of which, fallow fields are also a metaphor for sanity and sustainability, one the chemical giants have all but obliterated). We can’t wait until we already feel full; it will be too late. So, if you are a person who stops eating before you are full, this might be another sign that you are part of the solution to halt the storm of climate change before it strikes more pervasively. Please share your good habit with everyone you can.

Not long ago I read a staggering article in the New York Times (“The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food”) about how junk food manufacturers engineer their products to cater your greatest weaknesses. It is not surprising that these processed food manufacturers assemble addictive ingredients in just the right carefully studied and calibrated combinations to help override your body’s natural instinct to stop eating. They do it to hook you, to make more money off your and desensitized body-mind which can then consume even more without feeling its slow demise, while these mega-corporations capitalize on your ill health. It’s a staggering article, a long one that I wish did not end.

Per my metaphor of changing our ways before crossing the threshold into illness, I’d say the processed food manufacturers amount to the antithesis of supporting all the sensitive, wise, proactive qualities each of us needs in order to stop consuming, stop denying, and to avert disaster before it arrives. The junk food companies embody disease and demise on every level and numb us to becoming part of the solution, which we urgently needed yesterday and the year before.

Collectively, and especially in the ever-optimistic, light-bearing and trailblazing USA that carries on with business as usual (we are the only nation that did not ratify the Kyoto protocol, remember), every sign says we are going to get really sick before we stop. And it will be too late then, too late to stomach, to recover what we lost and can no longer live without, unless we undergo some strange genetic manipulation to survive a deranged future, a future without nature and a climate uninhabitable for our current genetic heritage. We’re already beyond the point that I would have turned back and lain in bed for a day or three to recover. Now I don’t have time to lie in bed; ironically, none of us do. And many believe it is already too late, even if we do all the right things now.

This is not a joke. It is not a bad movie. It is not a story of a far-off land. It is here and getting closer every day. So, whether you choose to party your brains out and indulge all you can before things get even worse, this of course, is your choice. It’s just not part of the solution; it’s a big part of what got us here. After all, it’s still totally legal to trash the planet. In fact, it’s encouraged. And I nor anyone else can stop you, perhaps not even if you actually wanted to be stopped. Consumerism, distraction, denial, and life-as-usual are as tough as cigarettes and high fructose corn syrup to kick. Personally, what comes up for me in the face of all this is deep sadness. But this sadness is quickly, somehow, converted to passion, and compassion. Compassion for every citizen on the planet that didn’t really create this mess. Compassion for every animal and tree and mountain that definitely did not create this.

“Insanity”: the New Sanity

If our president were to announce that no more children could be birthed for ten years, that you could not buy more than 300 dollars worth of gadgets a month, that pesticides and perfume and petroleum products were officially banned, that anyone could only travel in an airplane once a year, that cigarettes and nuclear power plants and the spewing guts of factories were to be shut down, that cattle raising (the largest contributor to greenhouse gases) were illegal and now banned, that the multinational corporations that really drive this insanity were to be disbanded, their leaders thrown in jail or left to feast on their own mutant creations in refugee camps, and their profits diverted to building a sustainable infrastructure that first and foremost protects the integrity of the soil, the rivers, the forests and the air we breathe, he’d be put in a mental hospital, or impeached, or worse. And when I say “sustainable” I mean a way of living that embraces the nourishment derived from decline and good old-fashioned death that fosters new life (i.e., fertile darkness), not some idyllic homeostasis of perpetual light and abundance — in other words, nature as usual.

But, this is exactly what we need. We need the sanity that is labeled “insane.” We need for the entire capitalist system to crumble. Or some other miracle, in this 11th hour. And I don’t mean the religious kind. I mean a grounded change in every one of us to live differently. We did not really create the problem, but it is our responsibility to try to fix, because no one else will. In effect, if each of us self-imposed what our governments will not impose, we could turn this thing around, to some degree. We could self-impose upon ourselves all the boycotts we are spared, which would in turn shut down the factories, the multinationals, the corporatocracy running and ruining the party for us all. Would we have to agree to do this all at once? How many of would be needed? It’s hard to get even my friends to chin up. But we have to, and we will all be forced to soon enough.

We want our goodies, to take our due reward for enduring life’s pains and injustices, another week at the grind of work we hate. Life owes us, the Earth owes us, God owes us, and we exact our entitlements, empowering the wave of environmental collapse. Indeed, the failure of humanity is one of denying and avoiding at all costs pain, difficulty, and ironically, the threat of death. We run from it, bury it, or burn it, or say it’s someone else’s, and this way perpetuate that darkness and medicate with the adornments of the American dream, and so build our nightmare. We shop, smoke, fuck, drink, eat, sleep, blame, and sunshine it away. The repressed dark night — which when embraced on a regular basis profoundly heals — and all her power and rage are upon us now. This is not negativity; this is the divine power of the Great Mother here to shut down the light-loving, sun-only worshippers of all kinds — the Industrial Revolution optimists, the neurotic meaningless-manufacturing entrepreneurs, the fundamentalists, the GMO liars, the clueless capitalists, the fracking-fools, pharma-fanatics, the worshippers of chemistry and “convenience,” the happy-obsessed, and the new-agers — who have all reigned for too long.

Fallow for Fertility

Until we collectively have a resting place — a figurative yet palpable emptiness and nurturing embrace inside our own bodies dedicated to sadness, reflection, long pauses, the decay of what does not work and has failed us, to our own greed and self-importance, to the grand satisfaction that is the simple beauty and awe of the natural world, and for all this to be more than enough — we will run the light of false optimism and hubris too hard and far into the ground and into the soft terrain of our bodies where it does not belong, where it poisons the sacred space that would save us from maniacal and perverted growth and neurotic progress at any cost.

In addition to taking sick time and ceasing to gorge ourselves before we get too full at the helm of the junk food corporations, we can extend this restorative motif to the sorts of fields of food now consuming American soils. Like lying in bed for a day to recover, or ceasing to stuff ourselves silly, we could return to the cycles of fallow fertility as the richness of emptiness we have honored in ourselves, which generations before us revered, where sadness and remorse are given room to break down and compost our dangerously overgrown ambitions. This, instead of the scorching heat of constant fake fertilizers and pesticides applied to mutant GMO crops, all of which try to replace the fecundity found only when darkness and decline are embraced and honored as essential to a sustainable, reverent, and organic means of building a decent and honorable future — from the ground up, but never too high, towards the scorching sun. This metaphor also illuminates why the simple acts of taking care of ourselves through the restorative, down-phases of life, instead of medicating them away to stay constantly up, energized, afloat and happy, or comfortably numb, are in reality the very necessary beginnings of saving the world by means of changing ourselves — our relationship to the sacred feminine principle, to darkness and to light, and therefore to our thinking, to our emotions, and a practical spirituality.

The world is getting stranger and stranger. They want to genetically modify trees to “grow” sterile forests. Genetically modified humans are not far behind. I’m against it all, not only for the poisons and sterility they inoculate into the biosphere, but because it’s unnecessary. The arguments for GMO farming to produce more food, saving “underdeveloped” nations, and using less pesticide, have been debunked by peer reviewed studies, with more on the way. Monoculture reminds me of the Holocaust. It’s also morally incorrect because monoculture, especially on a large scale, flies in the face of a respect for the biodiversity that has existed for thousands of years before us. The whole game is justified by fake heroics; in reality, it is evil upon evil. Big Business creates many of the problems then claims hero in “solving” the problems, only to create more, more toxic junk — they stuff their pockets on the way in and the way out, leaving a wake of detritus for us and the rest of life on the planet.

When we no longer can live in the cradle — the fierce yet beautiful and invigorating embrace and sane limits embrace — of the natural world as we have known it for millennia, I can’t imagine a life worth living. The genetic modification of the planet is a curse perpetuated by people who have lost their connection to an ordinary, awesomely abundant and truly fulfilling, self-renewing life. And they seem to believe their own lies that we need this nonsense. This kind of progress is both the problem and the impediment to our cure. Imagine: if all the resources poured into nuclear, pesticide and petroleum-based technology were channeled into less invasive, renewable ones. It’s a no-brainer. But greed and fear too often trump common sense, so the shows the evidence. Unfortunately, a small percentage of the people on Earth have gotten bored with ordinary beauty, with kindness, and fooled us into believing their way is best, only so they can keep playing their sick little game.

Again, the choice is yours. Each of us is still free to destroy the planet; it is still legal and encouraged, even glorified, under the red white and blue of normal. It may never become illegal to destroy what we love and what we need to survive. So, we have to make our own rules; we have to grow up, on our own, without Father and Big Brother to guide us. We need to remember, live by, and take to heart the nature-centered wisdoms from once ago. At the very least, our scientists are giving us the warning, the justification to act out of line, even insanely, in the name of urgent sanity. Each of us needs to be a little crazy nowadays, and really crazy if we want to save the party called life, as we know it now. Is it too late? Maybe. But every day is later not doing anything.

The Way Forward

It’s not enough anymore not to be doing something directly to rescue a part of the Earth. It’s not enough only to be a massage therapist and make people feel less stressed so they can return to work and get stressed out allover again, while contributing to the problem. My medical practice is no longer enough; I have to minister even more to the global biosphere and to the collective ecological sickness of humanity so that not only my patients but all of us might have the opportunity to live a normal life and contract decent, unavoidable diseases, not the perversion of environmental illness and technology-driven immune collapses and cancers, which are all on the rise despite our best efforts to conquer them with technology and more poison, rather than at their root via wisdom and restraint.

While science and technology have produced wonderful things, they also have contributed to a severe imbalance symbolically characterized by too much light, most starkly and pervasively evident in the warming of the planet. Human life expectancy has more than doubled in the last two centuries. We have vaccines and drugs and medical interventions and sewage management systems that keep people alive for longer. But are we happier, or happy enough? We cannot be.

Yet so much emphasis is placed on “being happy.” Again, the brainwashing of light-only worship. We desperately need sadness and fear and remorse for the grounded, mature love that develops from them, to save ourselves.

We have too many people on the planet and we’re projected for nine-billion by 2040 or so. It’s a sticky situation. Even with full cognizance of the problem, neither you nor I, for example, would likely choose to reject technological intervention to save a loved one’s life, or our own. Few want to sacrifice the innate drive to have children. But somehow, to do these very things makes sense for the big picture — counterintuitive, urgent sense. Yet they remain unimaginable, and also unreasonable. Unless we can miraculously reverse the trend of climate change, something has to give. We need a cure, if only to embrace of our own dignified surrender, which is not to give up, per se, but to concede what we can no longer change. What we deny and repress cannot be transformed; whatever we consciously embrace is yet potentially fertile, especially that which is dark.

None of this is easy. But it can get easier. We all still have to make a living, and we need things, but it seems the only way to make headway is to give up living luxuriously and to live with scarcely a surfeit of anything, except courage and care and some other c-words. Taking a vow of material poverty is a rich thing—not to pursue poverty as a goal, but to accept it as a consequence of breaking the hamster cycle of (arrows mean “engenders/creates”): denial of pain/fertile darkness > irrational fear/insecurity > imagined need > unfulfilling work > dirty money > more denied pain (suffering), guilt, and remorse > consuming to numb, maintain excesses, and avoid our pain and fertile darkness underneath our habits and unsustainable culture.

We need a new cycle, something to the tune of: caring enough to challenge ourselves into extreme simplicity > frees up our need to make so much money > creating more room for meaningful work that might pay little or nothing and with time to heal our inner-life complexities > time to create and live more earnestly, creatively, and essentially > time and space to sink into and be passionately reborn from the passion of heartbreak and fertile darkness > money enough to survive and to fund direct, potently sustainable endeavors > consuming to survive and thrive in outward simplicity, and to celebrate nature and one another with the deep-down good feeling that we are acting with wisdom for now and a hundred years from now. This is not hippie talk; it is cutting edge survival strategy.

In the midst of this self-imposed austerity we might just find, paradoxically and ironically, the richness, the beauty we thought was to be found through busy accumulation and filling the space inside—the space that must remain empty and fillable not with things but by the intangibles born of integrity, compassion, and common sense.

Dissention among us because of differences of religion, beliefs, nationality, race, even family issues and old grudges, need to take a back seat now. It is crucial that we forgive and embrace one another; we have a huge task at hand that we need to work on together, if only in tending to our collective grief and celebrating the brilliance of the quickly fading natural world and what still sparkles in each other.
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Jack Adam Weber is a licensed acupuncturist, Chinese herbalist, author, organic farmer, celebrated poet, and an activist for Earth-centered spirituality. He is currently at work on his next collection of poems for personal and planetary transformation. His books, artwork, and provocative poems can be found at his website PoeticHealing.com. He is also on Facebook.