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

Posts Tagged ‘Climate Research’

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

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

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

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

Written By John H. Richardson @ Esquire:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He laughs.

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the glaciers?

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

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

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

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

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

Resource wars, starvation, mass migrations . . .

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Might that be just another form of denial?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why?

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Of course.”

“Let me see.”

“How much money?”

“I give you when you get back.”

“Give me one hundred.”

“Yeah, yeah. When you get back.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2014 Was The Hottest Year On Record Globally By Far

In Uncategorized on January 7, 2015 at 1:29 am
JMA2014

Oldspeak: “It’s official. 2014 was hot as fuck. Like, Siberian permafrost melting hot. My question is, if it’s already record-shattering hot, what happens when El Nino, that usually accounts for abnormally hot periods arrives?!?!? I’m gonna the proverbial hell of all breaks loose. It’s my feeling that this is extinction event is happening far faster than even our most learned scientists realize. It is gaining speed in a non-linear fashion. Every single update and revision of the latest science and data speaks of underestimation. This is happening faster and far more unpredictably than even the most advanced climate models can predict. Given these facts, the likelihood of even more abrupt changes and effects, increases daily. Still, something close to silence on this, the only thing that is news, in corporate media. There has been more reporting on NYPD cops turning their backs on the mayor. We need a truth and reconciliation commission on the fate of our Great Mother.” -OSJ 

By Joe Romm @ Think Progress:

The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) has announced that 2014 was the hottest year in more than 120 years of record-keeping — by far. NOAA is expected to make a similar call in a couple of weeks and so is NASA.

As the JMA graph shows, there has been no “hiatus” or “pause” in warming. In fact, there has not even been a slowdown. Yes, in JMA’s ranking of hottest years, 1998 is in (a distant) second place — but 1998 was an outlier as the graph shows. In fact, 1998 was boosted above the trendline by an unusual super-El Niño. It is usually the combination of the underlying long-term warming trend and the regional El Niño warming pattern that leads to new global temperature records.

What makes setting the record for hottest year in 2014 doubly impressive is that it occurred despite the fact we’re still waiting for the start of El Niño. But this is what happens when a species keeps spewing record amounts of heat-trapping carbon pollution into the air, driving CO2 to levels in the air not seen for millions of years, when the planet was far hotter and sea levels tens of feet higher.

The JMA is a World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Regional Climate Center of excellence. The WMO had announced a month ago that 2014 was on track to be hottest year on record. Different climate-tracking groups around the world use different data sets, so they can show different results for 2014 depending on how warm December turns out to be.

But in mid-December, NOAA said it’s all but certain 2014 will be a record setter. It released this figure showing that

NOAA-YTD-11-14

all plausible scenarios for December still leave last year as the hottest ever (click to enlarge):

If you were wondering how 2014 could be the hottest year on record when it wasn’t particularly hot in the United States (if we ignore California and Alaska), NBC News has the story. It turns out there’s like a whole planet out there that has been getting very toasty:

Some of the hottest places in the world in 2014 included:

          • Europe was the hottest it’s been in 500 years. One new analysis concluded “global warming has made a temperature anomaly like the one observed in 2014 in Europe at least 80 times more likely.”
          • California had record-smashing heat, which helped create its “most severe drought in the last 1200 years.”
          • Australia broke heat records across the continent (for the second year running). Back in January, “temperatures soared higher than 120°F (49°C).”
          • Much of Siberia “defrosted in spring and early summer under temperatures more than 9°F (5°C) above its 1981 to 2010 average,” as Live Science noted. This is the second exceptionally hot summer in a row for the region, and scientists now think the huge crater discovered this year in the area “was probably caused by thawing permafrost.”
            • The permafrost (soon to be renamed the permamelt) contains twice as much carbon as the entire atmosphere. If we don’t reverse emissions trends sharply and soon, then the carbon released from it this century alone could boost global warming as much as 1.5F

 

 

 

2014 Headed Toward Hottest Year On Record — Here’s Why That’s Remarkable

In Uncategorized on December 8, 2014 at 10:12 pm
globe_annual_ranked

Oldspeak: “It is not remarkable that we keep setting new records for global temperatures — 2005 and then 2010 and likely 2014. Humans are, after all, emitting record amounts of heat-trapping carbon pollution into the air, and carbon dioxide levels in the air are at levels not seen for millions of years, when the planet was far warmer and sea levels tens of feet higher. The figure above from the Met Office makes clear that humans continue to warm the planet… What is remarkable, as the WMO explains, is that we’re headed toward record high global temps “in the absence of a full El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). It’s usually the combination of the long-term manmade warming trend and the regional El Niño warming pattern that leads to new global temperature records. But not this year.” -Joe Romm

“With El Nino, 70% to begin within a few months, expect the heat to continue to be on, and shit to get a lot weirder. “Simply put, we are rapidly remaking the planet and beginning to suffer the consequences.” –Michael Oppenheimer, professor of geosciences and international, Princeton University. When you consider the reality that there really is no way to realistically change the humans carbon dioxide emissions sharply aside from the collapse of industrial civilization, it’s time for most of us to proceed to the acceptance stage of grief.  Denial is no longer an option. It’s just a matter of time and physics at this point. Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick…” -OSJ

By Joe Romm @ Think Progress:

2014 is currently on track to be hottest year on record, according to new reports from both the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the U.K.’s Met Office Wednesday. Similarly, NOAA reported two weeks ago that 2014 is all but certain to be the hottest year on record.

It is not remarkable that we keep setting new records for global temperatures — 2005 and then 2010 and likely 2014. Humans are, after all, emitting record amounts of heat-trapping carbon pollution into the air, and carbon dioxide levels in the air are at levels not seen for millions of years, when the planet was far warmer and sea levels tens of feet higher. The figure above from the Met Office makes clear that humans continue to warm the planet.

“The provisional information for 2014 means that fourteen of the fifteen warmest years on record have all occurred in the 21st century,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud. “There is no standstill in global warming.”

As Peter Stott, Head of Climate Attribution at the Met Office, explained: “Our research shows current global average temperatures are highly unlikely in a world without human influence on the climate.” While it has been on the cool side in parts of the United States, the Met Office reported that the United Kingdom is headed toward its hottest year on record. Stott noted that, “human influence has also made breaking the current UK temperature record about ten times more likely.”

What is remarkable, as the WMO explains, is that we’re headed toward record high global temps “in the absence of a full El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO).” We get an El Niño “when warmer than average sea-surface temperatures in the eastern tropical Pacific combine, in a self-reinforcing loop, with atmospheric pressure systems,” which affects weather patterns around the world.

It’s usually the combination of the long-term manmade warming trend and the regional El Niño warming pattern that leads to new global temperature records. But not this year.

Here’s a revealing chart from Skeptical Science courtesy of environmental scientist Dana Nuccitelli of NASA’s temperature data (with the projection for 2014 in black and white):

This year we are poised to set the global temperature record in an ENSO-neutral year. And while eastern tropical Pacific sea surface temperatures have been warmer than normal in recent months, those temperatures were colder than normal in the beginning months of the year, so the net effect of ENSO on 2014 global temperatures has been minimal.

As one caveat, different climate-tracking groups around the world use different data sets, so it is possible that at the end of the year, some will merely show 2014 tied for the hottest year on record depending on how warm December turns out to be. For NOAA, however, it’s all but certain 2014 will be the hottest year on record. Either way, it’s remarkable this is happening in an ENSO-neutral year.

Finally, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology reported Friday that their models indicate “at least a 70% chance that El Niño will be declared in the coming months.” If so, then 2015 will very likely top 2014 to become the hottest year on record.

The only way to stop setting new annual temperature records on an increasingly regular basis — until large parts of the planet are uninhabitable — is to sharply change the world’s carbon dioxide emissions path starting ASAP.

 

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.

U.S. House Of Representatives Passes Bill Requiring National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration To De-prioritize Climate Change Research

In Uncategorized on April 8, 2014 at 7:03 pm

Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), the bill’s sponsor. CREDIT: AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

Oldspeak: “The bill, introduced last June by Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), wouldn’t require NOAA to stop its climate research entirely, but it would require the agency to “prioritize weather-related activities, including the provision of improved weather data, forecasts, and warnings for the protection of life and property and the enhancement of the national economy…It’s not particularly surprising that Bridenstine would want a smaller government focus on climate change — he has repeatedly said that he believes it does not exist, despite consensus from 97 percent of the scientific community. Specifically, Bridenstine has said temperature increases have coincided more with “solar activity” than the human-driven increase in heat-trapping gases emitted into the atmosphere…” -Emily Atkin

“Your tax dollars at work, hurtling industrial civilization toward collapse and extinction. i’ll just quote Bertrand Russell and let you meditate on the unmitigated ecocidal MADNESS that is the U.S. Political System. ” -OSJ

Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones.” -Bertrand Russell

By Emily Atkin @ Climate Progress:

Two days after a U.N. report warned of increased famine, war, and poverty from unmitigated carbon emissions, the Republican-led House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a bill that would require the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to focus less on studying climate change, and more on predicting storms.

The bill, introduced last June by Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), wouldn’t require NOAA to stop its climate research entirely, but it would require the agency to “prioritize weather-related activities, including the provision of improved weather data, forecasts, and warnings for the protection of life and property and the enhancement of the national economy.”

NOAA is a scientific agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce, focused on the changing conditions of both the oceans and the atmosphere. It’s not a standalone entity, either — NOAA oversees the National Weather Service, the National Ocean Service, and the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, among other agencies. Bridenstine’s bill would affect NOAA’s activities in all of its underlying departments.

It’s not particularly surprising that Bridenstine would want a smaller government focus on climate change — he has repeatedly said that he believes it does not exist, despite consensus from 97 percent of the scientific community. Specifically, Bridenstine has said temperature increases have coincided more with “solar activity” than the human-driven increase in heat-trapping gases emitted into the atmosphere.

Bridestine said he hopes that shifting funds to weather forecasting and taking them away from climate change research will “protect lives and property,” noting that his home state of Oklahoma was ravaged by severe tornadoes last year.

Scientists are still trying to determine what, if any, impact climate change has on tornadoes, though the link between other forms of extreme weather has been shown time and again. As ClimateProgress’ Joe Romm notes, the link between the tornadoes and climate change is scientifically difficult to attribute, though that doesn’t mean it should be avoided.

Dr. Kevin Trenberth, former head of the Climate Analysis Section of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, explains: “It is irresponsible not to mention climate change in stories that presume to say something about why all these storms and tornadoes are happening. The environment in which all of these storms and the tornadoes are occurring has changed from human influences (global warming). Tornadoes come from thunderstorms in a wind shear environment. … The basic driver of thunderstorms is the instability in the atmosphere.”

——————————————————————————————————————————————–

 

“It’s as bad as we thought it was.”: IPCC Report: Irreversable Catastrophic Climate Change Certain Without Drastic Emmissions Reductions

In Uncategorized on October 1, 2013 at 8:39 pm

https://i2.wp.com/news.bbcimg.co.uk/media/images/70149000/gif/_70149764_climate_change_coloured_624.gifOldspeak: “What the report describes, in its dry, meticulous language, is the collapse of the benign climate in which humans evolved and have prospered, and the loss of the conditions upon which many other lifeforms depend. Climate change and global warming are inadequate terms for what it reveals. The story it tells is of climate breakdown.

This is a catastrophe we are capable of foreseeing but incapable of imagining. It’s a catastrophe we are singularly ill-equipped to prevent.

The IPCC’s reports attract denial in all its forms: from a quiet turning away – the response of most people – to shrill disavowal. Despite – or perhaps because of – their rigours, the IPCC’s reports attract a magnificent collection of conspiracy theories: the panel is trying to tax us back to the stone age or establish a Nazi/communist dictatorship in which we are herded into camps and forced to crochet our own bicycles. (And they call the scientists scaremongers …)…..

But denial is only part of the problem. More significant is the behaviour of powerful people who claim to accept the evidence. This week the former Irish president Mary Robinson added her voice to a call that some of us have been making for years: the only effective means of preventing climate breakdown is to leave fossil fuels in the ground. Press any minister on this matter in private and, in one way or another, they will concede the point. Yet no government will act on it.

As if to mark the publication of the new report, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has now plastered a giant poster across its ground-floor windows: “UK oil and gas: Energising Britain. £13.5bn is being invested in recovering UK oil and gas this year, more than any other industrial sector.”

The message couldn’t have been clearer if it had said “up yours”. It is an example of the way in which all governments collaborate in the disaster they publicly bemoan. They sagely agree with the need to do something to avert the catastrophe the panel foresees, while promoting the industries that cause it.” –George Monbiot

“So what we’re seeing is powerful people who accept the overwhelming evidence that our fossil fuel based economy is hastening the end of our planet as we’ve known it.   Rendering it incapable of supporting most life, including humans. They agree that unexploited fossil fuels need to stay in the ground to possibly prevent climate catastrophe. Yet no government will act to halt the continued search for and exploitation of dirtier and dirtier forms of fossil fuels. Fuels that will further poison our land, food, water and air as conditions worsen. Going so far as to aggressively collaborate  and subsidize the industries producing the poisons. Perhaps more frightening, the weird science of “Geoengineering” has been considered as a possible solution…. Also consider that the estimates and models referenced in this report are conservative. The truth is likely alot worse than we’re being told.  it’s possible we’ve already passed the 2c doomsday threshold. We’re already witnessing the first American climate refugees, and the beginning of irreversible non-linear positive feedbacks. With business as usual continuing and expanding unabated, they won’t be the last.” -OSJ

Related Stories:

Climate Change: How Hot Will it Get in Your Lifetime

America’s First Climate Refugees

Why Has Geoengineering Been Legitimized by the IPCC?

Is The IPCC Right On Climate Change? Just Ask The World’s Farmers

By George Monbiot @ The Guardian UK:

Already, a thousand blogs and columns insist the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change‘s new report is a rabid concoction of scare stories whose purpose is to destroy the global economy. But it is, in reality, highly conservative.

Reaching agreement among hundreds of authors and reviewers ensures that only the statements which are hardest to dispute are allowed to pass. Even when the scientists have agreed, the report must be tempered in another forge, as politicians question anything they find disagreeable: the new report received 1,855 comments from 32 governments, and the arguments raged through the night before launch.

In other words, it’s perhaps the biggest and most rigorous process of peer review conducted in any scientific field, at any point in human history.

There are no radical departures in this report from the previous assessment, published in 2007; just more evidence demonstrating the extent of global temperature rises, the melting of ice sheets and sea ice, the retreat of the glaciers, the rising and acidification of the oceans and the changes in weather patterns. The message is familiar and shattering: “It’s as bad as we thought it was.”

What the report describes, in its dry, meticulous language, is the collapse of the benign climate in which humans evolved and have prospered, and the loss of the conditions upon which many other lifeforms depend. Climate change and global warming are inadequate terms for what it reveals. The story it tells is of climate breakdown.

This is a catastrophe we are capable of foreseeing but incapable of imagining. It’s a catastrophe we are singularly ill-equipped to prevent.

The IPCC’s reports attract denial in all its forms: from a quiet turning away – the response of most people – to shrill disavowal. Despite – or perhaps because of – their rigours, the IPCC’s reports attract a magnificent collection of conspiracy theories: the panel is trying to tax us back to the stone age or establish a Nazi/communist dictatorship in which we are herded into camps and forced to crochet our own bicycles. (And they call the scientists scaremongers …)

In the Mail, the Telegraph and the dusty basements of the internet, Friday’s report (or a draft leaked a few weeks ago) has been trawled for any uncertainties that could be used to discredit. The panel reports that on every continent except Antarctica, man-made warming is likely to have made a substantial contribution to the surface temperature. So those who feel threatened by the evidence ignore the other continents and concentrate on Antarctica, as proof that climate change caused by fossil fuels can’t be happening.

They make great play of the IPCC’s acknowledgement that there has been a “reduction in surface warming trend over the period 1998–2012”, but somehow ignore the fact that the past decade is still the warmest in the instrumental record.

They manage to overlook the panel’s conclusion that this slowing of the trend is likely to have been caused by volcanic eruptions, fluctuations in solar radiation and natural variability in the planetary cycle.

Were it not for man-made global warming, these factors could have made the world significantly cooler over this period. That there has been a slight increase in temperature shows the power of the human contribution.

But denial is only part of the problem. More significant is the behaviour of powerful people who claim to accept the evidence. This week the former Irish president Mary Robinson added her voice to a call that some of us have been making for years: the only effective means of preventing climate breakdown is to leave fossil fuels in the ground. Press any minister on this matter in private and, in one way or another, they will concede the point. Yet no government will act on it.

As if to mark the publication of the new report, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has now plastered a giant poster across its ground-floor windows: “UK oil and gas: Energising Britain. £13.5bn is being invested in recovering UK oil and gas this year, more than any other industrial sector.”

The message couldn’t have been clearer if it had said “up yours”. It is an example of the way in which all governments collaborate in the disaster they publicly bemoan. They sagely agree with the need to do something to avert the catastrophe the panel foresees, while promoting the industries that cause it.

It doesn’t matter how many windmills or solar panels or nuclear plants you build if you are not simultaneously retiring fossil fuel production. We need a global programme whose purpose is to leave most coal and oil and gas reserves in the ground, while developing new sources of power and reducing the amazing amount of energy we waste.

But, far from doing so, governments everywhere are still seeking to squeeze every drop out of their own reserves, while trying to secure access to other people’s. As more accessible reservoirs are emptied, energy companies exploit the remotest parts of the planet, bribing and bullying governments to allow them to break open unexploited places: from the deep ocean to the melting Arctic.

And the governments who let them do it weep sticky black tears over the state of the planet.

Global Warming Rapidly Melting Glaciers = Water Scarcity For 700 Million More People

In Uncategorized on September 26, 2013 at 6:14 pm
Glacier.

A glacier in the Himalayas. (Photo: Karunakar Rayker / Flickr)

Oldspeak: “”The glaciers of the Himalayas are melting so fast they will affect the water supplies of a population twice that of the US within 22 years, the head of the world’s leading authority on climate change has warned.”-Pilita Clark

Contrary to what the front groups funded by the fossil fuel industry would have you believe, climate change doesn’t just mean the winters are milder. Or the plants have more carbon dioxide.

It means that hundreds of millions of people will be displaced, will starve, and will die. It means wars. It means famines. It means raging forest fires and the death of grasslands. It means the acidification of our oceans and the destruction of our ocean ecosystems. It means that we stand on the edge of tipping points that hurtle humanity toward extinction.

Yes, extinction.” -Thom Hartmann

“When you understand that:

85% of the world population lives in the driest half of the planet.”

“783 million people do not have access to clean water and almost 2.5 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation.”

“6 to 8 million people die annually from the consequences of disasters and water-related diseases.”

“Various estimates indicate that, based on business as usual, ~3.5 planets Earth would be needed to sustain a global population achieving the current lifestyle of the average European or North American.” –U.N.

And 200 countries agree on the findings of this massive report; this can’t be good. Our civilization is unsustainable. We have to stop and try something else. Before we get stopped for good. Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick….” –OSJ

By Thom Hartmann @ Truthout:

Three quarters of a billion people is a lot of people.

And that’s how many people, within the next 22 years, will almost certainly run low on water – a necessity of life – in just the regions whose rivers are supplied with water from the glaciers in the Himalayas.

To put that in perspective, 750 million people is more than twice the current population of United States. It’s about the population of all of Europe. In the year 1900 there were only 500 million people on the entire planet. Seven hundred fifty million people is a lot of people.

The IPCC – the international body of scientists analyzing global climate change – is releasing its new report in stages over the next week and this early piece was reported on by the Financial Times on Monday. Under the headline “IPCC head warns on Himalayan melting glaciers,” the opening sentence of the article by Pilita Clark summarizes a very tightly:

“The glaciers of the Himalayas are melting so fast they will affect the water supplies of a population twice that of the US within 22 years, the head of the world’s leading authority on climate change has warned.”

And that’s just the Himalayas and the rivers flow out of their glaciers toward South Asian regions including India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, and China. There are similar glaciers along the mountain ranges of western South America that supply water to other hundreds of millions of people – they are all at risk, too. We’re even seen it here in the United States, with last year’s drought in the West. Glaciers are changing in Europe, and the regions of Tanzania supplied by the famous “Snows Of Kilimanjaro,” are drying up in ways that are creating serious drought problems for the people in those parts of Africa.

Contrary to what the front groups funded by the fossil fuel industry would have you believe, climate change doesn’t just mean the winters are milder. Or the plants have more carbon dioxide.

It means that hundreds of millions of people will be displaced, will starve, and will die. It means wars. It means famines. It means raging forest fires and the death of grasslands. It means the acidification of our oceans and the destruction of our ocean ecosystems. It means that we stand on the edge of tipping points that hurtle humanity toward extinction.

Yes, extinction.

There have been five mass extinctions in the history of the Earth, times when more than half of all life died and all the top predators – animals like us – vanished or nearly finished. All of these mass extinctions were provoked by geologically-sudden global warming.

And now we are driving a similar process by burning fossil fuels.

People around the world are already dying from global climate change. Wars are already being fought because of climate change. The Earth is changing before our very eyes.

There are solutions, ranging from a carbon tax to rapid transitions into alternative energy. We need to be pursuing them now.

The debate is long over. The world is waking up.

And the fossil fuel Industry is being shown for what it is – fossils promoting fossils, intellectual frauds and greedheads.

It’s time to move from the energy forms of the 19th century into the modern, clean, nonpolluting energies currently available in the 21st-century. Now.

Propaganda, Self-Censorship & Climate Change

In Uncategorized on April 9, 2013 at 12:16 pm

https://i1.wp.com/i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/01508/Climate-ChangeNEW_1508747a.jpgOldspeak: “The voices of the propaganda, for various reasons, cast doubt about climate science in much the same way that similar voices (and sometimes the same voices) cast doubt about smoking and cancer, acid rain and ozone-depleting chemicals. The vested interests’ work was authoritative and their money and vision allowed them to distribute their message widely.In their quest for fairness, the media gave equal time to this authoritative message about climate change not being real. Why? Because it was authoritative. It was designed to be that way using carefully chosen words and carefully chosen academic findings. People began to listen because their authority figures repeated the message. Climate change “believers” dropped from the rolls in droves. Awareness plummeted.” –Bruce Melton.

97% of climate scientists agree that climate change is caused by human activity. 50% of Americans believe it to be true. This is the profound, convincing  and deadly power of propaganda. Lies repeated often enough become truth. Straight out of Joseph Goebbels playbook. It leads people to believe that the economy, dissatisfaction with government and jobs are the most important problems today. It leads people to believe that artificial constructs, like federal debt and the economy will be the most important problems facing our nation in 25 years. We must counter this disinformation with the truth. Educate yourselves with the truth.  Tell the truth, every chance you get, spread awareness, call your elected officials, let them know that climate change is the preeminent problem of our times. There’s no economy, or jobs or debt on a dead planet. “Propaganda Always Wins, If You Allow It.” –Leni Riefenstahl

By Bruce Melton @ Truthout:

Climate change messaging is changing these days. One only needs to look as far as the Sierra Club’s unprecedented encouragement of civil disobedience with the Keystone Pipeline to see this happening. The polls are telling us that some 70 percent or more of Americans believe the Earth is now warming. This falls to a little over 50 percent when the words “because of man” are added to the question, but it is a majority.

Contrast this with about 97 percent of climate scientists believing Earth is warming and caused by man. Why is there such a difference? Part of the reason is because a pox has been put on these four little words: climate change and global warming.

A self-imposed moratorium in the environmental and broadcast communities has been in effect on those four words since the early part of George W. Bush’s administration. Environmental organizations across the nation recognized that negative climate science propaganda was changing public awareness. So those words found themselves being repeated less and less. They were poisoning environmental outreach efforts and their use created distrust.

Why did this happen? Likely, it was almost completely because of propaganda from vested interests. The voices of the propaganda, for various reasons, cast doubt about climate science in much the same way that similar voices (and sometimes the same voices) cast doubt about smoking and cancer, acid rain and ozone-depleting chemicals. The vested interests’ work was authoritative and their money and vision allowed them to distribute their message widely.

In their quest for fairness, the media gave equal time to this authoritative message about climate change not being real. Why? Because it was authoritative. It was designed to be that way using carefully chosen words and carefully chosen academic findings. People began to listen because their authority figures repeated the message. Climate change “believers” dropped from the rolls in droves. Awareness plummeted.

Environmentalists knew that using the poison words was harming their counsel, so they began to advocate for conservation issues to mitigate the effects of climate change that were not directly associated with the poison words. The rallying cry began to focus on the great benefits of energy security from alternative sources, clean air from clean energy and mountaintops unremoved. King coal and the Keystone Pipeline were still targeted, but those four “poison” little words were nowhere to be seen or heard.

The story has changed today, but only a little. In the environmental community, however, the discussion rages as to whether or not to use the poison words. The passive-aggressive ways of the last decade appeared to be working a bit, or was the increase in awareness actually caused by the rapid increase in weather extremes or maybe the change from Bush to Obama – and does it matter any longer?

Academic work has long shown that increased knowledge changes behavior. This fact is as common as how our behavior changes from learning how to read and write in grade school. But the same behavioral academic work also tells us that repetition of misinformation also changes behavior. So how do we increase climate change awareness in spite of all the propaganda?

We could wait for the increasing extremes to do the job. Unprecedented weather events enhanced by or caused by climate change are beginning to make an impact on awareness in local areas and, as long predicted, the extremes are increasing and will likely to continue to increase. Climate change awareness is increasing even though the same old tired voices continue to tell us that no one individual weather event can be blamed on climate change.

These impacts are happening more often and they are happening to you and me. More academic work tells us that when you and I are personally impacted by something, our behavior changes. So we could just wait.

The discoveries in climate science, however, continue to show the situation is getting worse faster than anticipated. And because of nearly 20 years of delay, as the climate scientists have told us all along, future impacts will be even greater than we have previously anticipated.

Climate change is interjecting itself into the public discussion more often lately with the increasing extreme weather events, but there is still a moratorium on the four poison words in the most important place – the environmental advocacy community. It is this community that we rely on to spread the word on why and how pollutants harm our lives. We know we cannot rely on the media because of their “fairness bias.” Most journalists are not scientists; mainstream journalists believe that to be fair they must report both sides of “issues” with words from authoritative figures on both sides.

The predominant passive-aggressive environmentalism messaging in climate science outreach today is holding back awareness. We have enough votes (believers) to kick the climate deniers off the island and get on with things. We simply need to capitalize on those votes.

So how in the world do we get action to finally happen on climate pollution? The answer is simple. We need to take a page from the opposition’s playbook: Propaganda, repeated often enough, and loudly enough, becomes accepted as valid. This same concept works with the truth, oddly enough. The solution to climate pollution starts with a very cheap and simple technique.

Tell the truth and tell it more often than the propagandists are telling their story. Tell the whole truth. Don’t hold back the poison words. This is a very plain and simple strategy that has proved itself time and again (not the telling of the truth – using propaganda). Repeat the message over and over again: repeat, repeat, repeat. If repeated enough, the message becomes a valid living thing.

We have bonus points available to us in this challenge as well. We have the truth. We need to stand on the authority of our scientists and stop dancing around the issue. The passive-aggressive messages of the last decade educates just as well with the “poison words” included – if this message is repeated more often than the propaganda.

This challenge is about defeating negative propaganda. The two things that can do this are more positive propaganda and personal impacts. We can’t wait for enough of us to be “born again” to climate science through personal impacts, so we must create truth messages in quantities greater than those that would have us disbelieve are creating theirs. We must tell the whole story, not just the climate consensus part.

We need to base our decision-making on the latest science, not the consensus. The consensus position is middle ground and relates literally thousands of climate scientists’ opinions and is therefore the least common denominator of agreement. It is a negotiated viewpoint of multiple theories and hypotheses. Because of this, it is watered down.

The reason there is a consensus is validity. When all of the experts agree to something, you can pretty much take that to the bank. There is much less chance of it being wrong. A consensus takes a long time to build. Time has not tested the latest findings. Over time, almost all of climate science becomes validated and a part of the consensus. But time is not on our side.

The discussion rages in the environmental community about how to educate, but this discussion is not echoed in the academic community. It rages in the environmental community because of the negative impacts of the vested-interest propaganda. There is no propaganda in science. Climate science is not a political or economic, or even a social issue, and it is not difficult to understand either.

Properly translated into plain English, we can all understand climate science. A lot of this translation is happening now and has been for literally decades. But the “authoritative” voices have been busy. We simply need to be busier than those “authoritative” voices. We need to speak louder than them and repeat, repeat, repeat. We have enough votes to kick the disbelievers off the island. We need to understand that the need to move forward on treating climate pollution is greater than the need to keep from upsetting the minority.

Bruce Melton

Bruce Melton is a professional engineer, environmental researcher, filmmaker, and author in Austin, Texas. Information on Melton’s new book, Climate Discovery Chronicles can be found along with more climate change writing, climate science outreach and critical environmental issue documentary films on his web sites and www.climatediscovery.com 

How Global Warming Has Prevented Spring’s Arrival

In Uncategorized on April 3, 2013 at 7:06 pm

Snow on spring flowersOldspeak: It turns out that spring’s slow arrival in the US is likely being driven by changes half a world way, in the Arctic. Some of the nation’s most prominent climate researchers announced at a news conference on Tuesday that melting Arctic sea ice may actually be the culprit behind winter’s refusal to pack its bags and leave. Scientists from NOAA and various university climatology departments said that melting Arctic sea ice may be weakening the planet’s jet stream currents, and causing extreme weather systems to linger in the United States… If we continue on the path that we’re on, and continue to do nothing to stop the devastating effects of climate change, we won’t just be talking about freezing temperatures during the first week of spring. We’ll be talking about the beginning of an out-of-control spiral of weather effects that could range from a new ice age to the death of our oceans. ” –Thom Hartmann. This is the all important overarching problem of our times. More important than gun control. More important that immigration reform. More important than bank collapses. More important than austerity.  The changes that are coming in our climate will be irreversible. They’re already beginning. Desertification of arable land is increasing.  Lakes and streams  are drying up, sources of fresh water are evaporating. The ecosystem is in considerable distress.  Yet there is near universal silence in media and political classes about these all important and dangerous changes in the system that sustains us.  We do get plenty of sunny propaganda films from BP and Exxon and Cheveron et al. about all the good things they’re doing to provide energy in safe and environmentally friendly way. I fear universal attention will be paid to this only when it’s too late to stop it.

By Thom Hartmann @ Truthout:

Last week, Butler County, Ohio prosecutor Mike Gmoser “indicted” famed weather-predicting groundhog Punxsutawney Phil, after the groundhog inaccurately predicted an early spring.

Gmoser filed the tongue-in-cheek indictment after snow was forecast to fall in Butler County after the official start of spring.

The halfhearted indictment was dropped Tuesday however, when Gmoser realized that good old Phil had a “defense with teeth in it.”

And, while this whole ordeal may seem quite silly, it did help to raise a very good point: How could Phil be so wrong about the arrival of spring, when he’s usually pretty accurate?

Typically around this time of year, we expect to see spring flowers beginning to bloom in gardens after sun-spotted rain showers because, after all, spring showers are supposed to bring May flowers.

Instead, east coast Americans are still dealing with the effects of an already nasty winter season that has brought unprecedented amounts of snow to just about every region of the United States.

As a result, people are scratching their heads, wondering when spring will really get here.

Well now, it turns out that spring’s slow arrival in the US is likely being driven by changes half a world way, in the Arctic.

Some of the nation’s most prominent climate researchers announced at a news conference on Tuesday that melting Arctic sea ice may actually be the culprit behind winter’s refusal to pack its bags and leave.

Scientists from NOAA and various university climatology departments said that melting Arctic sea ice may be weakening the planet’s jet stream currents, and causing extreme weather systems to linger in the United States.

But how can melting ice cause colder temperatures? After all, that seems somewhat contradictory.

First, it’s important to understand exactly what the jet stream is.

The jet stream is a huge air current that blows from west to east across the planet, miles above the Earth’s surface.

The jet stream is responsible for moving along storm systems, and brings with it, depending on the season, both colder or warmer temperatures.

Normally, the jet stream moves at a relatively quick pace. That’s why weather conditions and temperatures normally change fairly quickly, and don’t stick around in any one place for too long.

For example, while a jet stream may cause cold temperatures and snow to hit Washington, D.C for a couple days, it can also replace those conditions with warmer temperatures and sunny skies in a matter of hours.

But, thanks to global warming and climate change, there is nothing normal about the way the jet stream is acting right now.

As the Earth continues to warm, Arctic sea ice continues to melt. And as that Arctic sea ice melts, it replaces white ice with blue water, which absorbs even more energy and heat from the sun.

As a result, all of that absorbed energy and heat in the arctic is affecting atmospheric pressures, and throwing the northern hemisphere’s jet stream completely out of whack.

The change in atmospheric pressures is slowing the down the flow of the jet stream, which is causing seasons to change more slowly than usual.

This is why the blizzards along the East Coast this winter seemed to linger around, and relentlessly hammered the coast with foot after foot of snow.

Since the jet stream was moving so slowly, the freezing temperatures and snow had nowhere to go.

And it’s only going to get worse.

Recent studies suggest that the entire Arctic may be ice-free by 2020, just seven years from now.

Already, over the course of the last 30 years, the Arctic has lost nearly 80 percent of its ice cover.

The bottom line here is that, if we do nothing to curb the current rate of climate change, the Arctic will continue to lose ice, the Arctic waters will continue to warm, and the jet stream will continue to slow.

And while we may think that freezing temperatures and snow storms during the first week of spring are bad now, just wait.

If we continue on the path that we’re on, and continue to do nothing to stop the devastating effects of climate change, we won’t just be talking about freezing temperatures during the first week of spring.

We’ll be talking about the beginning of an out-of-control spiral of weather effects that could range from a new ice age to the death of our oceans.

When the story first broke about Mike Gmoser indicting Punxsutawney Phil, the media was all over it.

After all, who could resist a story about someone suing a groundhog over bad weather?

What the media wasn’t all over however was climate change, the real reason why Phil’s prediction missed the mark.

The only way we as a nation, and as a global community, can hope to make a meaningful change in the fight to save our planet is to get the media on board with the fight.

Global warming and climate change are the biggest threats that mankind has ever faced, and they get nowhere near the time they should in our media.

It’s time to wake up the media, and inform the few climate change skeptics who are left.

Climate change is very real and it’s here to stay.

And unless we do something about it, a late spring will be the smallest of our worries.