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

Posts Tagged ‘Environmental Tipping Points’

The Brink Of Mass Extinction

In Uncategorized on July 25, 2014 at 4:08 pm
Brink of extinction

(Image: Polluted dawn, ice bergs via Shutterstock; Edited: JR/TO)

Oldspeak: “As our Great Mother burns,  industrial civilization grinds along, destroying and contaminating all life it contacts; ever-widening ecological overshoot, triggering & accelerating ever more non-linear irreversible positive feedback loops, conditions worsen and we draw nearer to extinction. The latest state of the ecology report from Dahr Jamail brings more grim news that is generally being ignored.” -OSJ

By Dahr Jamail @ Truthout:

We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.”
 – Native American proverb

March through June 2014 were the hottest on record globally, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency. In May – officially the hottest May on record globally – the average temperature of the planet was .74 degrees Celsius above the 20th century baseline, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The trend is clear: 2013 was the 37th consecutive year of above-average global temperatures, and since the Industrial Revolution began, the earth has been warmed by .85 degrees Celsius. Several scientific reports and climate modeling show that at current trajectories (business as usual), we will see at least a 6-degree Celsius increase by 2100.

In the last decade alone, record high temperatures across the United States have outnumbered record low temperatures two to one, and the trend is both continuing and escalating.

While a single extreme weather event is not proof of anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD), the increasing intensity and frequency of these events are. And recent months have seen many of these.

A record-breaking heat wave gripped India in June, as temperatures hovered at 46 degrees Celsius, sometimes reaching 48 degrees Celsius. Delhi’s 22 million residents experienced widespread blackouts and rioting, as the heat claimed hundreds of lives.

Also in June, Central Europe cooked in unseasonably extreme heat, with Berlin experiencing temperatures over 32 degrees Celsius, which is more than 12 degrees hotter than normal.

At the same time, at least four people died in Japan, and another 1,637 were hospitalized as temperatures reached nearly 38 degrees Celsius.

NASA is heightening its efforts to monitor ACD’s impacts on the planet; recently, it launched the first spacecraft dedicated solely to studying atmospheric carbon dioxide.

The spacecraft will have plenty to study, since earth’s current carbon dioxide concentration is now the longest ever in recorded history.

Earth

A recent report by the National Resource Defense Council warned that summers in the future are likely to bring increased suffering, with more poison ivy and biting insects, and decreasing quality of air and water.

As farmers struggle to cope with increasing demands for food as the global population continues to swell, they are moving towards growing crops designed to meet these needs as well as withstand more extreme climate conditions. However, a warning by an agricultural research group shows they may inadvertently be increasing global malnutrition by these efforts. “When I was young, we used to feed on amaranth vegetables, guava fruits, wild berries, jackfruits and many other crops that used to grow wild in our area. But today, all these crops are not easily available because people have cleared the fields to plant high yielding crops such as kales and cabbages which I am told have inferior nutritional values,” Denzel Niyirora, a primary school teacher in Kigali, said in the report.

The stunning desert landscape of Joshua Tree National Park is now in jeopardy, as Joshua trees are now beginning to die out due to ACD.

Another study, this one published in the journal Polar Biology, revealed that birds up on Alaska’s North Slope are nesting earlier in order to keep apace with earlier snowmelt.

Antarctic emperor penguin colonies could decline by more than half in under 100 years, according to a recent study – and another showed that at least two Antarctic penguin species are losing ground in their fight for survival amidst the increasing impacts of ACD, as the Antarctic Peninsula is one of the most rapidly warming regions on earth. The scientists who authored the report warned that these penguins’ fate is only one example of this type of impact from ACD on the planet’s species, and warned that they “expect many more will be identified as global warming proceeds and biodiversity declines.”

Water

Given that the planetary oceans absorb approximately 90 percent of our carbon dioxide emissions, it should come as no surprise that they are in great peril.

This is confirmed by a recent report that shows the world’s oceans are on the brink of collapse, and in need of rescue within five years, if it’s not already too late.

As the macro-outlook is bleak, the micro perspective sheds light on the reasons why.

In Cambodia, Tonle Sap Lake is one of the most productive freshwater ecosystems on earth. However, it is also in grave danger from overfishing, the destruction of its mangrove forests, an upstream dam and dry seasons that are growing both longer and hotter due to ACD.

Anomalies in the planet’s marine life continue. A 120-foot-long jellyfish is undergoing massive blooms and taking over wider swaths of ocean as the seas warm from ACD.

The Pacific island group of Kiribati – home to 100,000 people – is literally disappearing underwater, as rising sea levels swallow the land. In fact, Kiribati’s president recently purchased eight square miles of land 1,200 miles away on Fiji’s second largest island, in order to have a plan B for the residents of his disappearing country.

Closer to home here in the United States, most of the families living on Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana, have been forced to flee their multi-generational home due to rising sea levels, increasingly powerful storms, and coastal erosion hurried along by oil drilling and levee projects.

Looking at the bigger picture, a recently released US climate report revealed that at least half a trillion dollars of property in the country will be underwater by 2100 due to rising seas.

Meanwhile, the tropical region of the planet, which covers 130 countries and territories around the equator, is expanding and heating up as ACD progresses.

Residential neighborhoods in Oakland, California – near the coast – are likely to be flooded by both rising seas and increasingly intense storms, according to ecologists and local area planners.

On the East Coast, ocean acidification from ACD, along with lowered oxygen in estuaries, are threatening South Carolina’s coastal marine life and the seafood industry that depends upon it.

Record-setting “100-year” flooding events in the US Midwest are now becoming more the rule than the exception, thanks to ACD.

Even Fairbanks, Alaska received one-quarter of its total average annual rainfall in a 24-hour period earlier this summer – not long after the area had already received roughly half its average annual rainfall in just a two-week period.

Rising sea levels are gobbling up the coast of Virginia so quickly now that partisan political debate over ACD is also falling by the wayside, as both Republicans and Democrats are working together to figure out what to do about the crisis.

Reuters released a report showing how “Coastal flooding along the densely populated Eastern Seaboard of the United States has surged in recent years . . . with the number of days a year that tidal waters reached or exceeded NOAA flood thresholds more than tripling in many places during the past four decades.”

Flooding from rising seas is already having a massive impact in many other disparate areas of the world: After torrential rain and flooding killed at least a dozen people in Bulgaria this summer, the country continues to struggle with damage from the flooding as it begins to tally the economic costs of the disasters.

In China, rain and flooding plunged large areas of the Jiangxi and Hunan Provinces into emergency response mode. Hundreds of thousands were impacted.

The region of the globe bordering the Indian Ocean stretching from Indonesia to Kenya is now seen as being another bulls-eye target for ACD, as the impacts there are expected to triple the frequency of both drought and flooding in the coming decades, according to a recent study.

Another study revealed how dust in the wind, of which there is much more than usual, due to spreading drought, is quickening the melting of Greenland’s embattled ice sheet, which is already losing somewhere between 200 to 450 billion tons of ice annually. The study showed that increased dust on the ice will contribute towards another 27 billion tons of ice lost.

Down in Antarctica, rising temperatures are causing a species of moss to thrive, at the detriment of other marine creatures in that fragile ecosystem.

Up in the Arctic, the shrinking ice cap is causing drastic changes to be made in the upcoming 10th edition of the National Geographic Atlas of the World. Geographers with the organization say it is the most striking change ever seen in the history of the publication.

A UK science team predicted that this year’s minimum sea ice extent will likely be similar to last year’s, which is bad news for the ever-shrinking ice cap. Many scientists now predict the ice cap will begin to vanish entirely for short periods of the summer beginning next year.

Canada’s recently released national climate assessment revealed how the country is struggling with melting permafrost as ACD progresses. One example of this occurred in 2006 when the reduced ice layer of ice roads forced a diamond mine to fly in fuel rather than transport it over the melted ice roads, at an additional cost of $11.25 million.

Arctic birds’ breeding calendars are also being impacted. As ACD causes earlier Arctic melting each season, researchers are now warning of long-ranging adverse impacts on the breeding success of migratory birds there.

In addition to the aforementioned dust causing the Greenland ice sheet to melt faster, industrial dust, pollutants and soil, blown over thousands of miles around the globe, are settling on ice sheets from the Himalaya to the Arctic, causing them to melt faster.

At the same time, multi-year drought continues to take a massive toll across millions of acres across the central and western United States. It has caused millions of acres of federal rangeland to turn into dust, and has left a massive swath of land reaching from the Pacific Coast to the Rocky Mountains desolated. ACD, invasive plants and now continuously record-breaking wildfire seasons have brought ranchers to the breaking point across the West.

Drought continues to drive up food prices across the United States, and particularly prices of produce grown in California’s Central Valley. As usual, it is the poor who suffer the most, as increasing food prices, growing unemployment and more challenging access to clean water continue to escalate their struggle to survive.

California’s drought continues to have a massive and myriad impact across the state, as a staggering one-third of the state entered into the worst stage of drought. Even colonies of honeybees are collapsing due, in part, to there being far less natural forage needed to make their honey.

The snowpack in California is dramatically diminished as well. While snowpack has historically provided one-third of the state’s water supply, after three years of very low snowfall, battles have begun within the state over how to share the decreasing water from what used to be a massive, frozen reservoir of water.

The drought in Oklahoma is raising the specter of a return to the nightmarish dust bowl conditions there in the 1930s.

Recently, and for the first time, the state of Arizona has warned that water shortages could hit Tucson and Phoenix as soon as five years from now due to ongoing drought, increasing demand for water and declining water levels in Lake Mead.

This is a particularly bad outlook, given that the Lake Mead reservoir, the largest in the country, dropped to its lowest level since it was filled in the 1930s. Its decline is reflective of 14 years of ongoing drought, coupled with an increasing disparity between the natural flow rate of the Colorado River that feeds it and the ever-increasing demands for its water from the cities and farms of the increasingly arid Southwest.

Given the now chronic water crises in both Arizona and California, the next water war between the two states looms large. The one-two punch of ACD and overconsumption has combined to find the Colorado River, upon which both states heavily rely, in long-term decline.

Yet it is not just Arizona and California that are experiencing an ongoing water crisis due to ACD impacts – it is the entire southwestern United States. The naturally dry region is now experiencing dramatically extreme impacts that scientists are linking to ACD.

The water crisis spawned by ACD continues to reverberate globally.

North Korea even recently mobilized its army in order to protect crops as the country’s reservoirs, streams and rivers ran dry amidst a long-term drought. The army was tasked with making sure residents did not take more than their standard allotment of water.

The converging crises of the ongoing global population explosion, the accompanying burgeoning middle class, and increasingly dramatic impacts caused by ACD is straining global water supplies more than ever before, causing governments to examine how to manage populations in a world with less and less water.

Air

A recent report provides a rather apocalyptic forecast for people living in Arizona: It predicts diminishing crop production, escalating electricity bills and thousands of people dying of extreme heat in that state alone.

In fact, another report from the Natural Resources Defense Council found experts predicting that excessive heat generated from ACD will likely kill more than 150,000 Americans by the end of the century, and that is only in the 40 largest cities in the country.

Poor air quality – and the diseases it triggers – are some of the main reasons why public health experts in Canada now believe that ACD is the most critical health issue facing Canadians.

Another recent study shows, unequivocally, that city-dwellers around the world should expect more polluted air that lingers in their metropolis for days on end, as a result of ACD continuing to change wind and rainfall patterns across the planet.

As heat and humidity increase with the growing impacts of ACD, we can now expect to see life-altering results across southern US cities, as has long been predicted. However, we can expect this in our larger northern cities as well, including Seattle, Chicago and New York; the intensifications are on course to make these areas unsuitable for outdoor activity during the summer.

Recently generated predictive mapping shows how many extremely hot days you might have to suffer through when you are older. These show clearly that if we continue along with business as usual – refusing to address ACD with the war-time-level response warranted to mitigate the damage – those being born now who will be here in 2100, will be experiencing heat extremes unlike anything we’ve had to date when they venture outside in the summer.

Lastly for our air section, June was the third month in a row with global average carbon dioxide levels above 400 parts per million. Levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere haven’t been this high in somewhere between 800,000 and 15 million years.

Fire

A new study published in Nature Geoscience revealed how increasing frequency and severity of forest fires across the planet are accelerating the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, as soot landing on the ice reduces its reflectivity. Melting at ever increasing speed, if the entire Greenland ice sheet melts, sea levels will rise 24 feet globally.

Down in Australia, the southern region of the country can now expect drier winters as a new study linked drying trends there, which have been occurring over the last few decades, to ACD.

On the other side of the globe, in Canada’s Northwest Territories, the region is battling its worst fires since the 1990s, bringing attention to the likelihood that ACD is amplifying the severity of northern wildfires.

A recently published global atlas of deaths and economic losses caused by wildfires, drought, flooding and other ACD-augmented weather extremes, revealed how such disasters are increasing worldwide, setting back development projects by years, if not decades, according to its publishers.

Denial and Reality

Never underestimate the power of denial.

Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Florida) was asked by an MSNBC journalist if he was concerned about the fact that most voters believe scientists on the issue of ACD. His response, a page out of the Republican deniers handbook, is particularly impressive:

Miller: It changes. It gets hot; it gets cold. It’s done it for as long as we have measured the climate.

MSNBC: But man-made, isn’t that the question?

Miller: Then why did the dinosaurs go extinct? Were there men that were causing – were there cars running around at that point, that were causing global warming? No. The climate has changed since earth was created.

Another impressive act of denial came from prominent Kentucky State Senate Majority Whip Republican Brandon Smith. At a recent hearing, Smith argued that carbon emissions from coal burning power plants couldn’t possibly be causing ACD because Mars is also experiencing a global temperature rise, and there are no coal plants generating carbon emissions on Mars. He even stated that Mars was the same temperature of Earth.

“I think that in academia, we all agree that the temperature on Mars is exactly as it is here. Nobody will dispute that,” Smith said.

On average, the temperature on Mars is about minus 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Yet there are no coal mines on Mars; there’s no factories on Mars that I’m aware of,” he added. “So I think what we’re looking at is something much greater than what we’re going to do.”

During a recent interview on CNBC, Princeton University professor and chairman of the Marshall Institute William Happer was called out on the fact that ExxonMobil had provided nearly $1 million for the Institute.

Happer compared the “hype” about ACD to the Holocaust, and when asked about his 2009 comparison of climate science to Nazi propaganda, he said, “The comment I made was, the demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler. Carbon dioxide is actually a benefit to the world, and so were the Jews.”

Happer, who was introduced as an “industry expert” on the program, has not published one peer-reviewed paper on ACD.

The ACD-denier group that supports politicians and “scientists” of this type, Heartland (a free-market think tank with a $6 million annual budget) hosted a July conference in Las Vegas for deniers. One of Heartland’s former funders is ExxonMobil, and one of the panels at the conference was titled, “Global Warming As a Social Movement.” The leaders of the conference vowed to “keep doubt alive.”

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott used a current trip abroad to attempt to build support for a coalition aimed at derailing international efforts towards dealing with ACD.

He is simply following the lead of former Prime Minister John Howard, who teamed up with former US President George W. Bush and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to form a climate-denial triumvirate whose goal was to stop efforts aimed at dealing with ACD, in addition to working actively to undermine the Kyoto Protocol.

Meanwhile, Rupert Murdoch has said that ACD should be approached with great skepticism. He said that if global temperatures increased 3 degrees Celsius over the next 100 years, “At the very most one of those [degrees] would be manmade.” He did not provide the science he used to generate this calculation.

In Canada, Vancouver-based Pacific Future Energy Corporation claimed that a $10 billion oil sands refinery it wants to build on the coast of British Columbia would be the “world’s greenest.”

Miami, a low-lying city literally on the front lines of ACD impacts, is being inundated by rising sea levels as its predominantly Republican leadership – made up of ACD deniers – are choosing to ignore the facts and continue forward with major coastal construction projects.

Back to reality, the BBC recently ordered its journalists to cease giving any more TV airtime to ACD deniers.

Brenton County, Oregon has created a Climate Change Adaptation Plan that provides strategies for the communities there to deal with future impacts of ACD.

Despite the millions of dollars annually being pumped into ACD denial campaigns, a recent poll shows that by a 2-to-1 margin, Americans would be willing to pay more to combat ACD impacts, and most would also vote to support a candidate who aims to address the issue.

Another recent report on the economic costs that ACD is expected to generate in the United States over the next 25 years pegged an estimate well into the hundreds of billions of dollars by 2100. Property losses from hurricanes and coastal storms are expected to total around $35 billion, crop yields are expected to decline by 14 percent, and increased electricity costs to keep people cooler are expected to increase by $12 billion annually, to name a few examples.

The bipartisan report also noted that more than a million coastal homes and businesses could flood repeatedly before ultimately being destroyed.

The World Council on Churches, a group that represents more than half a billion Christians, announced that it would pull all its investments out of fossil fuels because the investments were no longer “ethical.”

US Interior Secretary Sally Jewell told reporters recently that she is witnessing ACD’s impacts in practically every national park she visits.

A June report by the UN University’s Institute for Environment and Human Security warned that ACD-driven mass migrations are already happening, and urged countries to immediately create adaption plans to resettle populations and avoid conflict.

For anyone who wonders how much impact humans have on the planet on a daily basis, take a few moments to ponder what just the impact of commercial airline emissions are in a 24-hour period by watching this astounding video.

Lastly, a landmark study released in June by an international group of scientists concluded that Earth is on the brink of a mass extinction event comparable in scale to that which caused the dinosaurs to go extinct 65 million years ago.

The study says extinction rates are now 1,000 times higher than normal, and pegged ACD as the driving cause.

________________________________________________________________________________________

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

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Nestlé Chairman Calls World’s Water Scarcity ‘more urgent’ Than Climate Change– As It Sells Bottled Water From Drought-Ridden California

In Uncategorized on July 17, 2014 at 9:23 pm

A discarded tire is seen stuck in the exposed lake bed of the Almaden Reservoir which is experiencing extremely low water levels due to the ongoing drought, in San Jose. Photo: Michael Short, The Chronicle

Oldspeak: “Only after the last tree has been cut down. Only after the last river has been poisoned. Only after the last fish has been caught. Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten-Cree Proverb

Peter Brabeck-Letmanthe, the chairman and former chief executive of Nestlé, told the Financial Times that the world is “running out of water” and that it needs to become a bigger priority to world leaders.

“Today, you cannot have a political discussion anywhere without talking about climate change,” he said. “Nobody talks about the water situation in this sense. And this water problem is much more urgent.”

Climate change is still an important issue, he argued, but even without it “we are running out of water and I think this has to become the first priority,” he said.

Nestlé’s 383,000 square-foot water bottling plant is located on the Morongo Band of Mission Indians’ reservation in California.

The state declared a drought state of emergency in January this year, in preparation for coming water shortages – especially during the summer months, but Nestlé is reportedly not required to comply with the emergency measures as its plant sits on a Native American reservation.” –Loulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith

“Woah. Breathtaking Orwellian irony and hypocrisy here. These gems are coming from the same man, who said less than a year ago that basic human rights to water is “an extreme solution”, and “The biggest social responsibility of any CEO, is to maintain and ensure the successful and profitable future of his enterprise. ” How else could one explain how in his mind, the water scarcity that his corporation is helping to create is more important than the ecology upon which his business depends? Once again the land of Native Americans is being raped and pillaged for its most precious lifeblood so this man can maintain the profitable future of his enterprise. He cares nothing about water scarcity. if he did his company would get out of the water selling business, because bottling and selling water requires staggering amounts of water to be wasted and poisoned to be profitable. This is why industrial civilization will inevitably collapse. People like this are running things.  Sociopath, Pathological anthropocentrists. Profit trumps extinction.” -OSJ

By Loulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith @ The Independent:

But his comments come as his company is slammed for drawing water from drought-ridden areas in California to sell under its Arrowhead and Pure Life bottled water brands.

Peter Brabeck-Letmanthe, the chairman and former chief executive of Nestlé, told the Financial Times that the world is “running out of water” and that it needs to become a bigger priority to world leaders.

“Today, you cannot have a political discussion anywhere without talking about climate change,” he said. “Nobody talks about the water situation in this sense. And this water problem is much more urgent.”

Climate change is still an important issue, he argued, but even without it “we are running out of water and I think this has to become the first priority,” he said.

Mr Brabeck-Lemanthe’s comments may appear confusing to his company’s critics, as Nestlé, one of the world’s largest food companies, faces harsh criticism for its water bottling activities in California as the area suffers one of its toughest droughts on record.

Nestlé’s 383,000 square-foot water bottling plant is located on the Morongo Band of Mission Indians’ reservation in California.

The state declared a drought state of emergency in January this year, in preparation for coming water shortages – especially during the summer months, but Nestlé is reportedly not required to comply with the emergency measures as its plant sits on a Native American reservation.

But local residents are concerned about the amount of water Nestlé is drawing from the area to bottle and export for profit, and how ethical this action is during a drought.

“Why is it possible to take water from a drought area, bottle it and sell it? Linda Ivey, a Palm Desert real estate appraiser, asked The Desert Sun. “It’s hard to know how much water is being taken – we’ve got to protect what little water supply we have.”

The Desert Sun reported that up until 2009 Nestlé’s Water business, Nestlé Waters, submitted annual reports to a group of local water districts showing how much ground water was being extracted from a spring in Millard Canyon, which is where the plant’s wells have been located for more than a decade.

There have been no reports since then, making it difficult to record how much water is being extracted from the area, but reports estimate it could be 244 million gallons a year. The Desert Sun has repeatedly asked for a tour of Nestlé Waters’ plant over the past year, which has not been granted.

Nestlé Waters said in a statement: “We proudly conduct our business in an environmentally responsible manner that focuses on water and energy conservation. Our sustainable operations are specifically designed and managed to prevent adverse impacts to local area groundwater resources, particularly in light of California’s drought conditions over the past three years.”

Arctic Warming & Increased Weather Extremes: The National Research Council Speaks

In Uncategorized on July 17, 2014 at 7:51 pm

https://i0.wp.com/www.carbontalks.ca/images/blog/Amy-Anthropocene1.png

 

Oldspeak: “New news in the melting of the Arctic, none of it good. As industrial civilization plunders on, our great mother grows hotter with the intractable virus that is humanity… We’ve passed in to a new and completely unpredictable climate era where “the baseline physics have changed”  and we don’t have tests, methods or approaches to account for the changes underway that are happening faster than all old climate models predicted.  Tipping points could be reached at any time, and we don’t know when. Extremes will continue to be what we’ve never experienced.  Buckle up kids its gonna be a bumpy ride to extinction… Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick…”  -OSJ

“It is possible that recent Arctic changes have pushed the atmosphere into a new state with different variability. The strong Arctic forcing [warming] has emerged only in the past few years, and development of new methods and approaches may be required to test or account for it.

In a rapidly changing climate this is a given. In our old climate, we sort-of knew how it behaved. We had decades and even centuries of records to use to project changes into the future. But all of this historical data may be of much less use in the future as the baseline physics have now changed. Even more critical, the short term is now very important as tipping points may appear at any time.

Because of 20 years of delay in controlling climate pollution, we are experiencing more warming faster than we would have if we had of begun to address climate pollutants as was suggested decades ago. Because we are warming faster, the risk of climate tipping points is higher. This discussion point states that recent Arctic changes may have “pushed the atmosphere into a new state with different variability.” What they mean by variability is that the extremes get more extreme. This includes more extreme droughts, floods and winter weather. An example is that in the southeastern United States, droughts and floods have doubled over the last 30 years. -Bruce Melton

By Bruce Melton @ Truthout:

Arctic warming is happening at twice the average level of global warming in a process called arctic amplification, where more warming occurs as ice is lost because less of the sun’s energy is reflected back into space.

A new report from the National Research Council (NRC) details the findings of recent Arctic research: Arctic sea ice in all seasons is declining and the rate of loss is increasing. Multiple lines of study show this is impacting weather outside of the Arctic. Increased energy (heat) in the Arctic is slowing the progress of the jet stream around globe, allowing weather systems to linger, increasing the risk of severe weather happening more often in any one place. Increased warmth also means increased moisture in the Arctic – which increases the amount of snow, which in turn causes the jet stream to concentrate winter weather in North America and Eurasia.

The tone of the NRC report is embodied in the lead workshop presentation by Dr. James Screen of Exeter University in the UK. Because of the uncertainties associated with research in this rapidly evolving field, Screen proposed an “ACID” test to validate research findings. The test asks if research findings are: “Attributable to Arctic forcing; Corroborated by multiple lines of evidence; Informed by mechanistic understanding; and Detectable in the real world.”

Screen said the current state of science is in its infancy, and few if any of the lines of research pass the test, but the workshop summary adds: “Other participants noted that the ACID test approach is sound, but, given the limitations of available information, there are inherent limitations to the analyses that can be conducted.” (1) In other words, to be absolutely certain, more research is needed.

Science is a conservative industry that classically understates fact. One of the big reasons is that old maxim, “Publish or perish.” If a scientist is wrong in his or her published findings, the scholarly journals will think twice about publishing that scientist’s work again. Science therefore systematically understates evidence.

The consensus process, like that of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), is even more conservative (underestimating) in their statements because of the large number of individual scientists who must agree on the consensus position.

This consensus opinion on climate is generally not a thing of fact. It is a thing of acceptance by the broad scientific community. (2) Scientists are specialists. Almost all of them specialize in minute sectors of science as a whole. For large numbers of climate scientists to agree on a statement, they must be familiar with the leading edge of science that that statement discusses. In the highly compartmentalized world of research science, details of all disciplines are seldom understood by all.

The kind of familiarity it takes to bring new knowledge into the consensus can take years and even decades. The consensus opinion is therefore constantly behind the leading edge of science. With a rapidly changing climate, this can be a problem. A profound example of how the climate science consensus understates the current state of the science comes from the IPCC reports.

The 2007 IPCC report said that Antarctica was not supposed to begin losing ice until after 2100. The 2013 IPCC report however says that Antarctic ice loss has now nearly caught up with Greenland’s. Published findings dating back to the 1990s have always shown Antarctica to be losing ice. It is not as if Antarctica has suddenly started losing ice. But because the IPCC is a consensus driven organization, it takes time for “new” knowledge to infiltrate the entire industry. This is one of the main reasons why the IPCC systematically underestimates the current state of climate science. (3)

Some of the details of this National Research Council publication are:

• A panel discussion led by a researcher at the University of Alaska relayed that there has been a decrease in wind speed in that part of our atmosphere that moves storm systems around the world from 1979 to the present. This is one of the results of decreasing Artic sea ice in computer models. This speaker also notes that an increase in wind speeds in the 1950s was not found to be associated with an increase in Arctic sea ice. (4)

• Work by Atmospheric and Environmental Research (a commercial climate consultant working mostly for organizations like NOAA, NASA , the Department of Defense, insurance corporations and investment and energy companies) was presented that shows that: “Siberian snow cover has also been shown to influence mid-latitude winter weather . . . and [this]correctly predicted the cold winter in 2013 across Northern Eurasia and the United States.” (5)

• A researcher from Rutgers discussed seven things that “connect observed rapid warming of the Arctic with changing weather patterns in the mid-latitude Northern Hemisphere.” These items were mostly related to a decrease in the speed of the progression of storm systems caused by weakening steering winds. The seventh item states: “Slower moving upper level [winds] cause more persistent weather patterns, which increase the likelihood of extreme weather events associated with [these] prolonged weather conditions.” (6)

• Research from Penn State shows that stronger tropical weather activity in the South Seas enhances the flow of heat and moisture into the Arctic. (7) This fascinating phenomenon is called a teleconnection, and it has been found to exist in numerous places, causing numerous things to happen literally on the other side of the planet. A good example is the known connection between El Nino in the South Pacific and decreased hurricane activity in the Atlantic basin. El Nino increases upper level winds in the Atlantic. Increased upper level winds decrease important factors that allow hurricanes to develop.

• A review of research given by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory says: “Loss of Arctic sea ice, record negative values of the winter Arctic Oscillation atmospheric circulation index, earlier summer snow melt, and increasing extreme weather events at mid-latitudes – both heat waves and cold snowstorms – have been observed over the last decade.” Shifts in the wind patterns that move storms across the planet have resulted in more extreme early winter weather in 2009, 2010 and 2012 in North America, northern Europe and far eastern Asia (the research did not evaluate the 2013 season). (8)

• A workshop talk titled “Warm Arctic – Cold Continents” describes how decreased sea ice extents, decreased storm steering winds and early Siberian snow cover enhanced the winter weather extremes in 2012/2013. The summary for this discussion “suggests that the dramatic decrease in sea ice contributed to extreme weather events observed during that [2012/2013 winter] period.” (9)

• More discussion from Rutgers University addresses snow cover across the Northern Hemisphere. The last four Mays have been four of the five lowest on record. The last six Junes had the lowest snow cover coverage over the Northern Hemisphere and Eurasia with five of the last six in North America. (10)

• Modeling out of the University of California, Irvine has some unexpected results compared to what we have become accustomed to. Generally, the models tell us that Arctic warming spreads south, but historic modelling is based on long-term patterns. These researchers looked at the last six years of Arctic sea ice decline (2007 through 2012) and extended this short-term trend into the future. What they found was quite similar to what we have been experiencing. Winter weather over land areas in the Northern Hemisphere becomes more extreme with less Arctic sea ice. (11)

• More modeling from NOAA and the Geophysical Fluid Dynamic Laboratory shows that Arctic sea ice models cannot predict what these researchers call “very rare occurrence” of record low Arctic sea ice coverage of the 21st century. (12)

• Another modeling exercise, this one from the University of California at San Diego, looks at changes in rainfall and snowfall globally and at high latitudes, with and without sea ice in the Arctic. Ice and snow reflects up to 90 percent of the sun’s light energy back into space without warming the planet, but open water absorbs up to 90 percent of that energy where it stays on Earth, creating warming. A warmer planet is able to have more moisture in the atmosphere and this means that more precipitation could possibly be the result. This report says that many studies have found that overall precipitation will increase (and has already increased in some areas) but this is the first effort to look at the problem as these researchers did. What they found was that their modeling predicted more precipitation in cold areas but no change in warmer areas. The changes begin with global conditions very similar to what they are today. (13)

• Research from Niigata University in Japan that compares sea ice conditions between 2005-2009 and 1979-1983 shows significant cooling in eastern Siberia with lesser cooling in Eastern Europe and northeastern North America. (14) Work from the University of Alaska shows that most climate models underestimate actual detailed conditions of daily sea ice movement in the Arctic. Modeling with actual sea ice movements shows increased occurrences of winter weather outbreaks in northeastern North America – an impact that current modeling does not reproduce. (15)

• One of the breakout groups at this workshop discussed a point that seems particularly poignant to this discussion: “It is possible that recent Arctic changes have pushed the atmosphere into a new state with different variability. The strong Arctic forcing [warming] has emerged only in the past few years, and development of new methods and approaches may be required to test or account for it.”

In a rapidly changing climate this is a given. In our old climate, we sort-of knew how it behaved. We had decades and even centuries of records to use to project changes into the future. But all of this historical data may be of much less use in the future as the baseline physics have now changed. Even more critical, the short term is now very important as tipping points may appear at any time.

Because of 20 years of delay in controlling climate pollution, we are experiencing more warming faster than we would have if we had of begun to address climate pollutants as was suggested decades ago. Because we are warming faster, the risk of climate tipping points is higher. This discussion point states that recent Arctic changes may have “pushed the atmosphere into a new state with different variability.” What they mean by variability is that the extremes get more extreme. This includes more extreme droughts, floods and winter weather. An example is that in the southeastern United States, droughts and floods have doubled over the last 30 years. (16)

Much of the challenge with evaluating climate change is based on modeling. We know how to operate climate models based on our old climate, and they work quite well reproducing our old climate. Arctic climate though has likely advanced to a state that is not represented by our old climate.

The reality of science also tells us that because our baseline conditions are now rapidly changing, we may never be able to project future changes with accuracy – it’s difficult to hit a moving target. This is another reason why the IPCC and other consensus-based climate reporting often underestimates the speed and extremeness of climate change.

Into the future we must rely more on history. Since the mid-1990s we have been discovering highly accurate evidence that shows ancient abrupt climate changes have happened repeatedly across our planet in ways that dwarf current modeling projections. But this evidence lacks many details about why these changes occurred – only that they occurred.

A running theme in this report is that we must develop new techniques that can better deal with our new climate. Prehistory evidence is one of these tools. Over 20 times in the last 100,000 years, highly accurate evidence from ice cores in Greenland and Antarctica have shown abrupt climate changes of 9 to 14 degrees F across the globe in as little as a few decades and astonishingly, in as little as a few years. In Greenland these changes were 25 to 35 degrees F. (17)

We know that massive abrupt climate changes are a regular occurrence on earth, and we are finding that arctic amplification is changing our climate faster than has previously been projected by the consensus opinion. At some point, the scientific tendency to conservatively wait until enough evidence has accumulated must acquiesce to expert opinion and logic.

Expert opinion in the late 1990s said that Antarctica was losing ice 100 years ahead of the consensus opinion. But the main voice of climate policy on this planet, the IPCC consensus, did not agree until 2013. Today, expert opinion exists to say that arctic amplification is causing our weather to become more extreme and that these extremes will become even more profound as our climate continues to warm.

Time is short. Environmental tipping points tend to be more extreme if the environmental system is pushed harder. We have already delayed addressing climate pollution 20 years or more and the Arctic has just begun to lose ice. The extreme weather events that are “likely” caused by Arctic warming today have the capacity to become much, much worse as the Arctic has a lot of warming yet to come even if we ceased all greenhouse gas emissions today. Climate policy should be driven by logic and expert opinion, not the consensus.

Notes:

National Research Council Report:
Thomas et al., “Linkages between Arctic Warming and Mid-latitude Weather Patterns,” National Research Council, June 2014.

1. ACID approach is sound…
Thomas et al., “Linkages between Arctic Warming and Mid-latitude Weather Patterns,” National Research Council, June 2014, page 34, paragraphs four and five.

2. The climate science consensus is conservative and understates the latest knowledge of climate science . . .

From the University of Alberta: Universities of California at San Diego and St. Benedict/St. Johns and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public affairs tells us; “Over the past two decades, skeptics of the reality and significance of anthropogenic climate change have frequently accused climate scientists of ‘alarmism’ . . . However, the available evidence suggests that scientists have in fact been conservative in their projections of the impacts of climate change. … We suggest, therefore, that scientists are biased not toward alarmism but rather the reverse: toward cautious estimates, where we define caution as erring on the side of less rather than more alarming predictions.” Scientific American: “Checking 20 years of projections shows that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has consistently underestimated the pace and impacts of global warming.”

Brysse et al., Climate change prediction: Erring on the side of least drama?, Global Environmental Change, February 2013, abstract.

From the University of California, Santa Barbara: “Mass media in the U.S. continue to suggest that scientific consensus estimates of global climate disruption, such as those from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), are ‘exaggerated’ and overly pessimistic. By contrast, work on the Asymmetry of Scientific Challenge (ASC) suggests that such consensus assessments are likely to understate climate disruptions.” A National Research Council report prepared by the Committee on Strategic Advice on the U.S. Climate Change Science Program: Brysse and team reports in section 2.3: “IPCC projections have systematically underestimated key climate change drivers and impacts. This committee found that ‘The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projections may have been too conservative in several areas, including CO2 emissions by various countries, increases in surface temperatures, and sea level rise.”

Freudenburg and Muselli, “Global warming estimates, media expectations, and the asymmetry of scientific challenge,” Global Environmental Change, August 2010. see abstract.

Scientific American: “Across two decades and thousands of pages of reports, the world’s most authoritative voice on climate science has consistently understated the rate and intensity of climate change and the danger those impacts represent, say a growing number of studies on the topic.”Climate Science Predictions Prove Too Conservative,” Scientific American, December 6, 2012, first sentence.

3. Antarctica has begun to lose ice 100 years or more ahead of IPCC predictions . . . Antarctic surface mass balance (SMB) in the 2007 IPCC Report was supposed to increase, not decrease, for all scenarios, through 2100. This means that snow accumulation was supposed to be more than melt, evaporation and iceberg discharge combined: “All studies for the 21st century project that Antarctic SMB changes will contribute negatively to sea level, owing to increasing accumulation exceeding any ablation increase (see Table 10.6).”

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Fourth Assessment Report, “Climate Change 2007: Working Group I: The Physical Science Basis,” 10.6.4.1, Surface Mass Balance, fifth paragraph.

The 2013 IPCC report tells us that Antarctic ice loss has almost caught up with Greenland. Summary for Policy Makers, E.3 Cryosphere, page 9, third bullet. “The average rate of ice loss from the Antarctic ice sheet has likely increased from 30 [–37 to 97] Gt yr–1 over the period 1992–2001 to 147 [72 to 221] Gt yr–1 over the period 2002 to 2011.” Greenland, second bullet: “The average rate of ice loss from the Greenland ice sheet has very likely substantially increased from 34 [–6 to 74] Gt yr–1 over the period 1992 to 2001 to 215 [157 to 274] Gt yr–1 over the period 2002 to 2011.”

4. Decrease in winds 1979 to present . . . Thomas et al., Linkages between Arctic Warming and Mid-latitude Weather Patterns, National Research Council, June 2014, page 47, paragraph five.

5. Siberian snow cover and the cold winter or 2013… ibid. page 48, paragraph two.

6. Seven things that point to Arctic Warming increasing Northern Hemisphere extreme weather . . . ibid. page 48, paragraph six.

7. Stronger weather systems in the South Seas enhance warming in the Arctic… ibid. page 49, paragraph two.

8. More extreme early winter weather and its association with changing storm steering wind patterns…
ibid., page 49, paragraph five.

9. Warm Arctic – Cold Continents…ibid., page 52, paragraph one.

10. Record low snow cover…ibid., page 53, paragraph four.

11. Lower Arctic Sea ice coverage and more extreme winter weather over land areas in the northern Hemisphere…
ibid., page 54, paragraph one and two.

12. Very rare occurrence of record low Arctic sea ice coverage…
ibid., page 55, paragraph 4.

13. More rain and snow in cold areas with less sea ice…ibid., page 56 paragraph two.

14. Research from Niigata university in Japan…ibid., page 56, third paragraph.

15. Comparing models to actual; models underestimate cold winter outbreaks in the northeastern U.S…
ibid., page 57, paragraph 2.

16. Floods and drought have doubled in the U.S. southeast in the last 30 years…
Li, et. al., “Changes to the North Atlantic Subtropical High and Its Role in the Intensification of Summer Rainfall Variability in the Southeastern United States,” Journal of Climate, October 2010, abstract.

17.  Abrupt climate change 23 times in the last 100,000 years . . . Alley, Wally Was Right – Predictive ability of the North Atlantic Conveyor Belt Hypothesis for Abrupt Climate Change, “Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Science,” February 2007, Figure 1 shows the 23 abrupt climate changes.

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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 http://www.climatediscovery.com Images copyright Bruce Melton 2012, except where referenced otherwise.

The Climate Change Now Initiative is a nonprofit outreach organization reporting the latest discoveries in climate science in plain English.