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

Posts Tagged ‘Rate Of Climate Change’

Mounting Evidence Of Acceleration Of Anthropogenic Climate Disruption Across The Globe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Story:

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

By Dahr Jamail @ Truthout:

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

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

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

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

To read more about anthropomorphic climate disruption, click here.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Earth

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

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

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

Water

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Air

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fire

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fukushima is but one example.

Denial and Reality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_________________________________________________________________________________________

Dahr Jamail

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

 

Increasing Methane Releases From Thawing Arctic “Permafrost” Is Accelerating Global Warming, As Industrial Civilization Plunders On

In Uncategorized on April 9, 2014 at 1:08 am

Oldspeak: “ Arctic permafrost is an area of intense research focus because of its climate threat. The frozen ground holds enormous stores of methane because the ice traps methane rising from inside the Earth, as well as gas made by microbes living in the soil. Scientists worry that the warming Arctic could lead to rapidly melting permafrost, releasing all that stored methane and creating a global warming feedback loop as the methane in the atmosphere traps heat and melts even more permafrost….Researchers are trying to gauge this risk by accurately measuring stores of methane in permafrost on land and in the ocean, and predicting how fast it will thaw as the planet warms. Though methane gas quickly decays once it escapes into the atmosphere, lasting only about 10 years, it is 30 times more efficient than carbon dioxide at trapping heat (the greenhouse effect)….Shakova and colleague Igor Semiletov of the Russian Academy of Sciences first discovered methane bubbling up from the shallow seafloor a decade ago in Russia’s Laptev Sea. Methane is trapped there in ground frozen during past ice ages, when sea level was much lower.” -Becky Oskin

“When you consider that global atmospheric methane concentrations are higher than at any point in at least the last 650,ooo years and rising, you do the math. As fossil fuel use and temperatures  increase, the probability of a catastrophic methane pulse increase significantly.  it’s not good that scientists have no idea fast methane hydrates are melting, as the planet warms. That means 50 GiGATONS of methane gas could be released into the atmosphere at any timeThe arctic methane timebomb is ticking. it cannot be stopped or mitigated or adapted to. When it goes off it will be very very very bad for life on earth. We need to start accepting this reality.” -OSJ

By Mark Karlin @ Buzzflash:

In 1965, a singer-songwriter, Barry McGuire, wrote a song called “The Eve of Destruction.” It was inspired by the decade of violent foreign wars and civil rights clashes, but applies to the current acceleration of global warming:

But you tell me
Over and over and over again, my friend
Ah, you don’t believe
We’re on the eve
of destruction.

Don’t you understand what I’m tryin’ to say
Can’t you feel the fears I’m feelin’ today?

Some readers may find the recent BuzzFlash at Truthout commentaries on the devastating climate change that is occurring a bit gloomy and lugubrious.  After all, if US residents turn on the television or listen to the radio, few news outlets are discussing the looming cataclysm.  Also, like carbon monoxide, it is odorless. In the air around us, it is not visible.

More frequently, nonetheless, we are seeing reports of its volatile impact in hurricanes, droughts, deluges and the melting of glaciers and the Arctic ice, among other ominous signs of its growing destructive power.

Yet, still most people don’t believe “we are on the eve of destruction,” as fossil fuel plunderers are granted the rights – even subsidized by the US government – to continue their destruction of our ecosphere.

Climate change is not due to any single cause, although carbon dioxide is the key catalyst. However, global warming results from a chain reaction of toxic changes in the Earth’s eco-balance.

For instance, as temperatures rise, ice melts and reduces the cooling of the atmosphere, thus causing an even warmer environment.  As a result, areas that are covered with permafrost melt and methane is released.  With the release of methane, climate change exponentially increases.

The website TGD Daily reports:

A team of researchers lead by Florida State University have found new evidence that permafrost thawing is releasing large quantities of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere via plants, which could accelerate warming trends.

The research is featured in the newest edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“We’ve known for a while now that permafrost is thawing,” said Suzanne Hodgkins, the lead author on the paper and a doctoral student in chemical oceanography at Florida State. “But what we’ve found is that the associated changes in plant community composition in the polar regions could lead to way more carbon being released into the atmosphere as methane.”

Permafrost is soil that is frozen year round and is typically located in polar regions. As the world has gotten slightly warmer, that permafrost is thawing and decomposing, which is producing increased amounts of methane.

Relative to carbon dioxide, methane has a disproportionately large global warming potential. Methane is 33 times more effective at warming the Earth on a mass basis and a century time scale relative to carbon dioxide.

As TGD Daily notes, “If the permafrost melts entirely, there would be five times the amount of carbon in the atmosphere than there is now, said Jeff Chanton, the John Widmer Winchester Professor of Oceanography at Florida State.”

Methane is also increasingly being released from the oceans as ice that shielded it melts, with large methane bubbles, for instance, now rising up in the Arctic Ocean (which is expected to be free of ice cover in a few years due to higher temperatures) and being released into the atmosphere.

BuzzFlash at Truthout has mentioned before that the ruling elite in industry and in governments, in general, have moved from a position of virtually ignoring global warming and its likely devastation to a position of adaptation, if that is even remotely possible, to the pending disaster.

Given that sort of betrayal on the part of the developed world’s leadership, some of us may seek to live for the day, since we believe that there is little that we can do as we pass the last hours on the eve of destruction.

This is our collective Earth, however, and those who would so greedily lead us into an apocalyptic ruin should be removed from positions of power.  Attempts at halting the advancing deterioration of the planet cannot begin soon enough.

_________________________________________________________________________________________

AAAS Report: Humans At Risk Of Pushing Climate System Toward Abrupt, Unpredictable, Unalterable Changes With Highly Damaging Impacts

In Uncategorized on March 20, 2014 at 8:31 pm

Oldspeak: “The American Association for the Advancement of Science says: The evidence is overwhelming: levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are rising. Temperatures are going up. Springs are arriving earlier. Ice sheets are melting. Sea level is rising. The patterns of rainfall and drought are changing. Heat waves are getting worse, as is extreme precipitation. The oceans are acidifying…. The science linking human activities to climate change is analogous to the science linking smoking to lung and cardiovascular diseases. Physicians, cardiovascular scientists, public health experts and others all agree smoking causes cancer….This agreement is documented not just by a single study, but by a converging stream of evidence over the past two decades from surveys of scientists, content analyses of peer-reviewed studies, and public statements issued by virtually every membership organization of experts in this field… We are at risk of pushing our climate system toward abrupt, unpredictable, and potentially irreversible changes with highly damaging impacts…Disturbingly, scientists do not know how much warming is required to trigger such changes to the climate system…. as emissions continue and warming increases, the risk increases.”

AAAS Report, “What We Know: The Reality, Risks And Response To Climate Change”

“The largest and most knowledgeable general body of scientists in the world is out of its normal character, issuing its own dire warning in addition to the mounting unquestionable evidence that anthropocentric climate change is real, will get worse, and cannot be stopped. Adding the particularly terrifying nugget that basically we have no idea, when the warming will be sufficient to propel the proverbial shit toward the proverbial fan. We do know that several unalterable non-linear feedbacks loops have been initiated and earth’s 6th mass extinction is under way. We do know our world is turning upside down, with never before seen extreme environmental impacts and weather events. All previous norms and customs are no longer valid. We’re basically living on a ticking time bomb, and don’t know when it will go off.  And each day of increasing human emissions cuts the fuse faster. in short, We’re fucked. And we’ll take the vast majority of life on Mother Earth with us. Our Mother’s immune system will kill the highly virulent and destructive infection that is Humanity sooner than we think. “ -OSJ

By Alex Kirby @ Climate News Network:

In a highly unusual intervention in the debate over climate policy, US scientists say the evidence that the world is warming is as conclusive as that which links smoking and lung cancer.

LONDON, 18 March – The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) says there is a “small but real” chance that a warming climate will cause sudden and possibly unalterable changes to the planet.

This echoes the words used in its 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which said climate change might bring “abrupt and irreversible” impacts.

A child with kwashiorkor, caused by evere protein deficiency: Child malnutrition may rise by about a fifth
Image: Dr Lyle Conrad, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, via Wikimedia Commons

In a report, What We Know, the AAAS makes an infrequent foray into the climate debate. The report’s significance lies not in what it says, which covers familiar ground, but in who is saying it: the world’s largest general scientific body, and one of its most knowledgeable.

The AAAS says: “The evidence is overwhelming: levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are rising. Temperatures are going up. Springs are arriving earlier. Ice sheets are melting. Sea level is rising. The patterns of rainfall and drought are changing. Heat waves are getting worse, as is extreme precipitation. The oceans are acidifying.

“The science linking human activities to climate change is analogous to the science linking smoking to lung and cardiovascular diseases. Physicians, cardiovascular scientists, public health experts and others all agree smoking causes cancer.

Few dissenters

“And this consensus among the health community has convinced most Americans that the health risks from smoking are real. A similar consensus now exists among climate scientists, a consensus that maintains climate change is happening, and human activity is the cause.”

The report’s headline messages are unambiguous. It says climate change is occurring here and now: “Based on well-established evidence, about 97% of climate scientists have concluded that human-caused climate change is happening.

“This agreement is documented not just by a single study, but by a converging stream of evidence over the past two decades from surveys of scientists, content analyses of peer-reviewed studies, and public statements issued by virtually every membership organization of experts in this field.

“We are at risk of pushing our climate system toward abrupt, unpredictable, and potentially irreversible changes with highly damaging impacts…Disturbingly, scientists do not know how much warming is required to trigger such changes to the climate system.

Expensive to delay

“The sooner we act, the lower the risk and cost. And there is much we can do…as emissions continue and warming increases, the risk increases”.

The AAAS says there is scarcely any precedent for the speed at which this is happening: “The rate of climate change now may be as fast as any extended warming period over the past 65 million years, and it is projected to accelerate in the coming decades.”

Historically rare extreme weather like once-in-a-century floods, droughts and heat waves could become almost annual occurrences, it says, and there could be large-scale collapses of the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets, and of part of the Gulf Stream, loss of the Amazon rain forest, die-off of coral reefs, and mass extinctions.

The authors acknowledge that what the AAAS is doing is unusual: “As scientists, it is not our role to tell people what they should do or must believe about the rising threat of climate change.

“But we consider it to be our responsibility as professionals to ensure, to the best of our ability, that people understand what we know: human-caused climate change is happening…”

More child malnutrition

At the end of March the IPCC, the UN’s voice on climate science, is due to release a summary of the report of its Working Group II, on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability to climate change.

The London daily The Independent, which says it has seen a draft of the report’s final version, says it will spell out a prospect of “enormous strain, forcing mass migration, especially in Asia, and increasing the risk of violent conflict.”

The newspaper says the report predicts that climate change “will reduce median crop yields by 2% per decade for the rest of the century”, against a backdrop of rising demand set to increase by 14% per decade until 2050. “This will in turn push up malnutrition in children by about a fifth”, it adds.

Other predictions in the draft, The Independent says, include possible global aggregate economic losses of between 0.2 and 2.0%; more competition for fresh water; and by 2100 hundreds of millions of people affected by coastal flooding and displaced by land loss, mainly in Asia

“Extinction Event On Steroids” : 6th Mass Extinction Of Plants & Animals Underway, Rate Of Climate Change Unprecedented In Geologic History

In Uncategorized on March 11, 2014 at 5:13 pm

https://i0.wp.com/blogs.law.columbia.edu/saldf/files/2012/05/Sixth-Mass-Extinction.jpg

Oldspeak: Global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from burning fossil fuels; i.e., oil, gas, and coal, have increased, on an annualized basis, by nearly 50% over the past 16 years.  Ipso facto, the world’s climate has turned turbulent.

Perilously, the planet does not divulge extinction events. Rather, extinctions are clandestine, shrouded in mystery, and occur far away from where humans tread. Extinctions start under the water, at the top of the world, and in far away places unpopulated, remote, and hidden from the wandering eye of the human species, unbeknownst until it is too late.

Ergo, stating the obvious, the worst possible outcome for the planet is an extinction event because geologic history shows that 75% to 90% of all life is wiped out…” –Robert Hunziker

When you understand that “63% of all human-generated carbon emissions have been produced in the past 25 years; that is, nearly two-thirds have been emitted since the first warnings were sounded about what was then called “global warming” and the need to stop or scale back. We on Earth now, we who have been adults for at least 25 years, are the ones who have done more than all earlier human beings combined to unbalance the atmosphere of the planet, and thus its weather systems, oceans, and so much more…” and that there are no globally agreed upon plans to curb ever increasing human emissions, you can rest assured, we’re fucked. Most everything else living is fucked.  There are no “solutions” or “mitigations” or “actions” to be taken. We’re done. We probably have about 20 years left. Enjoy them as best you can, don’t waste them contributing to your own extinction.” -OSJ

By Robert Hunziker @ Dissident Voice:

The American Museum of Natural History/NY (AMNH-NY) conducted a survey about the likelihood of a mass extinction event. The majority of the 400 scientists polled were convinced that a “mass extinction of plants and animals is underway,” posing a threat to humanity in the next century. According to that same poll, the public is “dimly aware” of this threat of an extinction event.

The AMNH-NY survey took place in the year 1998; thus, “the next century” that they referenced is here now. Also, since 1998, above and beyond additional loss of habitat for plants and animals, the state of the climate has deteriorated considerably. Here’s why: Global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from burning fossil fuels; i.e., oil, gas, and coal, have increased, on an annualized basis, by nearly 50% over the past 16 years. 1  Ipso facto, the world’s climate has turned turbulent.

Perilously, the planet does not divulge extinction events. Rather, extinctions are clandestine, shrouded in mystery, and occur far away from where humans tread. Extinctions start under the water, at the top of the world, and in far away places unpopulated, remote, and hidden from the wandering eye of the human species, unbeknownst until it is too late.

Ergo, stating the obvious, the worst possible outcome for the planet is an extinction event because geologic history shows that 75% to 90% of all life is wiped out. But, without question, an extinction event takes some time to complete, like centuries or millennia, or longer, something along those lines.

Still, what if an extinction event is on steroids, happening much, much faster than geologic history indicates?

Then, what?

Tipping Point

This article explores the possibility that an extinction event is on steroids, right now, threatening all humanity.

To prove the point, this article examines peer-review scientific articles and leading scientists, their views of the danger of a tipping point (no turning back) occurrence and/or whether the world is already in the zone. As such, the eminent and prestigious National Academies has already weighed-in on three prominent trouble spots where abrupt climate change may be festering right now. Whether those trouble spots trigger a tipping point, only time will tell.

According to Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change, Anticipating Surprises, National Research Council of the National Academies, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., December 2013:

The history of climate on the planet— as read in archives such as tree rings, ocean sediments, and ice cores— is punctuated with large changes that occurred rapidly, over the course of decades to as little as a few years.

At the same time, it is important to emphasize that the geologic history the report references occurred millions of years ago before humans started artificially influencing the climate by emitting tonnes and tonnes and tonnes and tonnes of greenhouse gases. Alas, scientific research shows that climate change may very well be on steroids, changing faster than ever, at breakneck speed when contrasted to the historical record.

The National Academies’ 200-page report, as of December 2013, detailing the risks of abrupt climate change, identifies three primary risk areas of abrupt climate change this century: (1) the ocean; (2) the Arctic; (3) Antarctica. Two of these are already out of the starting blocks, up and running.

The Ocean

Ocean acidification today is unprecedented, much faster than any time over the past 300 million years, “… at least 10 times faster than 56 million years ago,” according to Bärbel Hönisch, a paleoceanographer at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Oceans Acidifying Faster Today Than in Past 300 Million Years, National Science Foundation, Press Release 12-041,March 1, 2012.

In that regard, the National Research Council of the National Academies’ report concludes: If ongoing pressures of climate change continue, meaning the burning of fossil fuels, then deeper, more pronounced, abrupt climate changes would likely occur before the year 2100.

As of today, fossil fuels are burning more than ever before. Meantime, research confirms that global warming has accelerated over the past 15 years, not slowed as expressed by global warming contrarians.  2

Indeed, an extinction event in the ocean is already under observation: “… nearly all marine life forms that build calcium carbonate shells and skeletons studied by scientists thus far have shown deterioration due to increasing carbon dioxide levels in seawater.” 3

The science is not circumstantial: “…sufficient information exists to state with certainty that deleterious impacts on some marine species are unavoidable, and that substantial alteration of marine ecosystems is likely over the next century.” 4

Humans are already starting to notice the effects: “The first direct impact on humans may be through declining harvests and fishery revenues….” 5

“Ocean acidification is appearing in Washington decades sooner than anticipated….” 6 The state of Washington was initially alerted to the inherent danger of excessive carbon dioxide (CO2) in the water when oyster larvae in hatcheries died in large numbers, threatening the state’s $270 million shellfish industry.

“This report really draws attention to a problem that exists internationally but that has really hit hard right here in the state of Washington.” 7

By all appearances, an extinction event has already started in the ocean as the result of excessive levels of fossil fuel CO2 emissions. And, this dilemma is bound to grow bigger and bigger and escalate ever more rapidly as 1,200 coal-burning power plants worldwide are currently on the drawing boards (75% in China and India), which, in turn, will ramp up the sourcing behind ocean acidification, which is already clocking 10 times faster than anytime throughout geologic history. Does marine life have a fighting chance?

According to Alex Rogers, PhD, professor of Conservation Biology, University of Oxford and Scientific Director, International Programme on the State of the Ocean: “The change we’re seeing at the moment is taking place extremely rapidly… We’re seeing levels of pH [a measure of acidity] in the ocean that probably haven’t been experienced for 55 million years… I find it very difficult to tell people what a scary situation we’re in at the moment. The oceans are changing in a huge way, and I am particularly worried for my grandchildren. The changes we thought would happen in the future… We’re actually seeing them now.” 8

Dr. Rogers claims the ocean is in a critical state.

Accordingly, out of dire necessity, the operative question is: How should the world’s governments respond to an ocean that is in a critical state?

Do nothing or do something?

Methane

Methane (CH4) is the ugly stepsister to carbon dioxide (CO2). Excessively, it’s a killer.

Methane is over twenty times more powerful, over a 100-year period, per molecule, than is carbon dioxide (CO2).  Or, put another way, methane is more effectual than carbon dioxide at absorbing infrared radiation emitted from the earth’s surface and preventing it from escaping into space. Notwithstanding, methane, during its first few years upon entering the atmosphere, is 100 times as powerful as an equal weight of CO2.

As it happens, it appears excessive levels of methane are just now starting to seriously impact the atmosphere in a big way!

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, as of February 2013, methane levels in the atmosphere are measured at 1,874 ppb (parts per billion.) This level, in an historical context, is more than twice the level as any time since 400,000 years before the industrial revolution. In the past, methane has ranged between 300-400 ppb during glacial periods and 600-700 ppb during warm interglacial periods.

The CH4 quagmire, in large measure, is the result of a melting Arctic, which, in turn, exposes methane that has been entrapped for millennia-times-millennia. Here’s the quandary:

We show results from some recent work from submarines, and speculate that the trend towards retreat and thinning will inevitably lead to an eventual loss of all ice in summer, which can be described as a ‘tipping point’ in that the former situation, of an Arctic covered with mainly multi-year ice, cannot be retrieved. 9

The statement by Peter Wadhams, PhD, Head of the Polar Ocean Physics Group, Dept. of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, University of Cambridge, goes to the heart of the scope of methane’s threat, for example: Rising temperatures in the Arctic (which are already rising 2-3 times faster than temps elsewhere on the planet) could abruptly trigger the release of 50 Gt (gigatonnes) of methane currently frozen in the seabed within a decade, which would be catastrophic.

It is the summer sea ice loss passing the point of no return, leading to unstoppable catastrophic Arctic methane feedbacks, sooner or later… puts us in a state of planetary emergency today.10

Methane emissions slowed in the 1990s, but “… strong growth resumed in 2007.”11

With methane strongly on the rise again, the news could not be any worse regarding the prospects of an extinction event. As a matter of fact, the recent surge in methane feeds right into the wheelhouse of an extinction event.

Alas, the story only gets worse. The seafloor off the coast of Northern Siberia is releasing over twice the amount of methane as previously estimated, according to new research, as of 2013: “We believe that the release of methane from the Arctic, and in particular this part of the Arctic, could impact the entire globe.”12

“Impact the entire globe” is not at all positive in any way shape, or form; rather, ultimately, it means heat, lots of heat, leading to runaway global warming, and this forecast is why a group of renowned scientists formed the Arctic Methane Emergency Group , which has already sent major governments a letter pleading for: “Emergency intervention is needed both to save the Arctic sea ice and to reduce the risk of catastrophic global warming from a sudden large emission of methane.” 13

“We carried out checks at about 115 stationary points and discovered methane fields of a fantastic scale – I think on a scale not seen before. Some of the plumes were a kilometer or more wide and the emissions went directly into the atmosphere – the concentration was a hundred times higher than normal,” says Dr. Igor Semiletov of the International Arctic Research Centre at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, who led the 8th joint US-Russian cruise of the East Siberian Arctic seas. 14

According to the National Academies’ report, abrupt climate change has already started in the Arctic. Whether a tipping point has been reached, or exceeded, time will tell, but it shouldn’t take too long to know, maybe a few years, maybe longer.

As an aside, it would be absolutely wonderful and spectacular if the climate change denialists prove to be correct about ice in the Arctic. Their claim, which appeared all over the mainstream news this past fall, is that the ice at the Arctic is rebuilding beautifully. And, yes it is true Arctic sea ice “extent” and “volume” did increase, which occasionally happens in any given year. However, the basic science, on a long-term secular basis, doesn’t agree with their hysterics.

Accordingly, “Arctic sea ice extent in February 2014 averaged 14.44 million sq. miles. This is the fourth lowest February ice extent in the satellite data record, and is 910,000 sq. kilometres. below the 1981 to 2010 average.” 15

In order for Arctic sea ice to recover from more than 30 years of shrinkage, it will require much more than one season of increased sea ice. It will take many, many seasons of increased sea ice. Meanwhile, the Sword of Damocles hangs over the Arctic, threatening all society with runaway global warming.

In that regard, the Arctic Methane Emergency Group sent a Policy Brief to major governments. Here is their conclusion:

AMEG’s conclusion is that there is now a planetary emergency. Only by grasping the nettle and intervening with great determination, as in a war effort, is there a chance of remedying the situation before it is too late. International collaboration to fight this common ‘enemy’ of Arctic meltdown must bring all nations together, in the cause of our very survival.

“If we burn all reserves of oil, gas, and coal, there is a substantial chance we will initiate the runaway greenhouse. If we also burn the tar sans and tar shale, I believe the Venus syndrome is a dead certainty.” (James  Hansen, Storms of my Grandchildren (Bloomsbury Press, 2009.)

Venus’s atmosphere consists of 96.5% carbon dioxide (CO2), which keeps a lid on the heat as surface temps run 872 degrees F.  The Venus Syndrome happens when climate and atmospheric feedback loops are triggered and cannot be switched off, e.g., greenhouse gases build up, causing more warming, in turn, more greenhouse gases are released, causing more warming, and so on and so forth in a maddening continuum of a vicious feedback loop.

Under those circumstances, Earth risks becoming a pressure-cooking inferno.

Subsidize renewables, not fracking.

Post Script: The International Energy Agency (IEA) reports the world’s carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel usage hit record levels (IEA: Carbon Emissions from Fuel Usage Hit New Global Record, Deutsche Welle, Oct. 6, 2013). The IEA also warned that, based upon larger levels of carbon dioxide emissions than previously calculated, the world is on a path to an average temperature rise of between 3.6 and 5.3 degrees C, about double the target set at a UN summit in Durbin in 2010.

On a positive note: A student movement at more than 300 university and college campuses is encouraging endowments to divest holdings of fossil fuel companies. As for one example, Divest Harvard declares: “By sponsoring climate change through our investments, our university is threatening our generation’s future.” 16

  1. Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee. []
  2. Magdalena A. Balmaseda, et al, Distinctive Climate Signals in Reanalysis of Global Ocean Heat Content, Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 40, Issue, May 10, 2013, 9, DOI: 10.1002/grl.50382 []
  3. Dr. Richard Feely and Dr. Christopher Sabine, Oceanographers, Carbon Dioxide and Our Ocean Legacy, Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, April 2006. []
  4. Victoria J. Fabry, et al, Impacts of Ocean Acidification on Marine Fauna and Ecosystem Processes, ICES Journal of Marine Sciences, Oxford Journals, Vol. 65, Issue 3, Feb. 2008. []
  5. Sarah R. Cooley, et al, Anticipating Ocean Acidification’s Economic Consequences for Commercial Fisheries, IOP Science, Environmental Research Letters, Vol. 4, No. 2, 2009. []
  6. Ocean Acidification and Washington State, Department of Ecology, State of Washington, 2013. []
  7. Jane Lubchenco, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Rising Ocean Acidity off Washington State Threatens Shellfish, Panel Says, The Associate Press (AP), Nov. 27, 2012. []
  8. International Programme on the State of the Ocean, OneWorld Video (UK), August 2011. []
  9. Peter Wadhams, Arctic Ice Cover, Ice Thickness and Tipping Points, AMBIO (Publisher: Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences), February 2012, Volume 41, Issue 1. []
  10. John Nissen, AMEG Chairman, Arctic Methane Emergency Group. []
  11. Euan G. Nisbet, et al, Methane on the Rise-Again, Atmospheric Science, Science Vol. 343, No. 6170, January 31, 2014. []
  12. Natalia Shakhova, et al. Ebullition and storm-induced methane release from the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, Nature Geoscience, DOI: 10.1038/ngeo2007, Nov. 24, 2013. []
  13. Arctic Methane Emergency Group []
  14. Steve Connor, Vast Methane ‘Plumes’ Seen in Arctic Ocean as Sea Ice Retreats, The Independent (UK), Dec. 13, 2011. []
  15. Arctic Sea Ice News & Analysis, National Snow & Ice Data Center, University of Colorado, Boulder, March 3, 2014. []
  16. Randall Smith, A New Divestment Focus on Campus: Fossil Fuels, New York Times, September 6, 2013. []

Robert Hunziker (MA in economic history at DePaul University, Chicago) is a former hedge fund manager and now a professional independent negotiator for worldwide commodity actual transactions and a freelance writer for progressive publications as well as business journals. He can be contacted at: rlhunziker@gmail.com. Read other articles by Robert.

This article was posted on Monday, March 10th, 2014 at 12:56am

Global CIimate Going From Bad To Worse: U.S. National Research Council Report Confirms Abrupt Climate Change Underway Now

In Uncategorized on February 4, 2014 at 8:48 pm

Oldspeak:”Levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere are exceeding levels recorded in the past millions of years, and thus climate is being forced beyond the range of the recent geological era. Lacking concerted action by the world’s nations, it is clear that the future climate will be warmer, sea levels will rise, global rainfall patterns will change, and ecosystems will be altered….Recent dramatic changes in the extent and thickness of the ice that covers the Arctic sea have been well documented…This rapid reduction in Arctic sea ice already qualifies as an abrupt change with substantial decreases in ice extent occurring within the past several decades. Projections from climate models suggest that ice loss will continue in the future…The impacts of rapid decreases in Arctic sea ice are likely to be considerable.  More open water conditions during summer would have potentially large and irreversible effects on various components of the Arctic ecosystem, including disruptions in the marine food web, shifts in the habitats of some marine mammals, and erosion of vulnerable coastlines. Because the Arctic region interacts with the large-scale circulation systems of the ocean and atmosphere, changes in the extent of sea ice could cause shifts in climate and weather around the northern hemisphere…. The rate of climate change now underway is probably as fast as any warming event in the past 65 million years, and it is projected that its pace over the next 30 to 80 years will continue to be faster and more intense. These rapidly changing conditions make survival difficult for many species. Biologically important climatic attributes—such as number of frost-free days, length and timing of growing seasons, and the frequency and intensity of extreme events (such as number of extremely hot days or severe storms)—are changing so rapidly that some species can neither move nor adapt fast enough.. The distinct risks of climate change exacerbate other widely recognized and severe extinction pressures, especially habitat destruction, competition from invasive species, and unsustainable exploitation of species for economic gain, which have already elevated extinction rates to many times above background rates. If unchecked, habitat destruction, fragmentation, and over-exploitation, even without climate change, could result in a mass extinction within the next few centuries equivalent in magnitude to the one that wiped out the dinosaurs… a large part of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS), representing 3–4 m of potential sea-level rise, is capable of flowing rapidly into deep ocean basins. Because the full suite of physical processes occurring where ice meets ocean is not included in comprehensive ice-sheet models, it remains possible that future rates of sea-level rise from the WAIS are underestimated, perhaps substantially. Improved understanding of key physical processes and inclusion of them in models, together with improved projections of changes in the surrounding ocean, are required to notably reduce uncertainties and to better quantify worst-case scenarios. Because large uncertainties remain, the Committee judges an abrupt change in the WAIS within this century to be plausible, with an unknown although probably low probability….According to current scientific understanding, Arctic carbon stores are poised to play a significant amplifying role in the century-scale buildup of carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere, but are unlikely to do so abruptly, i.e., on a timescale of one or a few decades. Although comforting, this conclusion is based on immature science and sparse monitoring capabilities. Basic research is required to assess the long-term stability of currently frozen Arctic and sub-Arctic soil stocks, and of the possibility of increasing the release of methane gas bubbles from currently frozen marine and terrestrial sediments, as temperatures rise… However, concerns over the likelihood of other potential abrupt impacts of climate change—such as destabilization of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and rapid increases in already-high rates of species extinctions— have intensified. It is important to note that such abrupt impacts can be suddenly triggered simply by continuing the present climate-change trajectory that humans are driving until “tipping points” are reached, as opposed to an abrupt change in the climate system itself.

NRC Report: Abrupt Impacts Of Climate Change: Anticipating Surprises (2013)

———————————————————————————————————————

” 1st issue for me is, how in the shit do you anticipate a surprise?!?!?! i mean, if you anticipate it, it’s not a surprise. it’s something you were expecting, the opposite of surprise. The title of this report is Orwellian doublespeak par excellence! Took the liberty of emphasizing the parts of the report i found most interesting. Understand first and foremost the sponsors of this report: the US intelligence community, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Science Foundation, and the National Academies.  Given that, one can understand the  soft-shoe absurdity of the findings in the face of obvious truths and present realities.  I’ll go through one by one with my analysis.

Because the Arctic region interacts with the large-scale circulation systems of the ocean and atmosphere, changes in the extent of sea ice could cause shifts in climate and weather around the northern hemisphere….”

We’re seeing this right now and have been for some time now in the Northern Hemisphere. 500 year floods, The strongest storms in recorded history, Prolonged and widespread droughts, you know, end of days type shit.

These rapidly changing conditions make survival difficult for many species. Biologically important climatic attributes—such as number of frost-free days, length and timing of growing seasons, and the frequency and intensity of extreme events (such as number of extremely hot days or severe storms)—are changing so rapidly that some species can neither move nor adapt fast enough…”

We’re currently experiencing the worst spate of species die-offs since the loss of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.  Scientists estimate we’re now losing species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the background rate, with literally dozens going extinct every day…” –Center for Biological Diversity. Earth’s 6 extinction event is happening faster than most species, including humans, are able to adapt. We’re rebuilding on the coasts after super-storms, peddling propaganda boasting “We’re Stronger Than Sandy” for fucks sake! Our pathological anthropocentricity, outsized arrogance and illusory civilization has overridden our survival instincts. That’s not good for anything that lives here.

Because the full suite of physical processes occurring where ice meets ocean is not included in comprehensive ice-sheet models, it remains possible that future rates of sea-level rise from the WAIS are underestimated, perhaps substantially. Improved understanding of key physical processes and inclusion of them in models, together with improved projections of changes in the surrounding ocean, are required to notably reduce uncertainties and to better quantify worst-case scenarios. Because large uncertainties remain, the Committee judges an abrupt change inthe WAIS within this century to be plausible, with an unknown although probably low
probability….

Basically what these esteemed scientists are trying to say in the most polite and least alarming way is ” Ummm we don’t know all the possible variables affecting the rapidly melting and fucking GiNORMOUS West Antarctic ice Sheet, so we can’t plug them into our “comprehensive” but really incomplete ice sheet  models. As a result, future rates of sea-level rise have been  SUBSTANTiALLY UNDERESTiMATED…. So basically, WE DON’T KNOW THE WORST CASE SCENARiO, though we do know the WAiS could collapse this century, but we’re guessin it’s probably not gonna happen.” My answer is WHAT THE FUCK!? I’d appreciate it if you just said “we’re fucked” and be done with it.

According to current scientific understanding, Arctic carbon stores are poised to play a significant amplifying role in the century-scale buildup of carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere, but are unlikely to do so abruptly, i.e., on a timescale of one or a few decades. Although comforting, this conclusion is based on immature science and sparse monitoring capabilities. Basic research is required to assess the long-term stability of currently frozen Arctic and sub-Arctic soil stocks, and of the possibility of increasing the release of methane gas bubbles from currently frozen marine and terrestrial sediments, as temperatures rise…”

Translation: “Arctic Methane and CO2 deposits are going to make climate change and global warming significantly WORSE. We don’t think it’ll be really bad anytime soon, but we’re basing that pulled out our ass conclusion on unreliable science and not alot of field data. We need to do basic research to start to really figure out what the fuck is going on. We don’t really know right now, sorry.”

It is important to note that such abrupt impacts can be suddenly triggered simply by continuing the present climate-change trajectory that humans are driving until “tipping points” are reached, as opposed to an abrupt change in the climate system itself.

Translation: “At the present unaltered,  expanding and accelerating human caused carbon emission rates, these abrupt impacts could be triggered at any time. But when we irreversible tipping points are reached, we and most life on earth is fucked.” -OSJ

By Matt Owens @ Speaking Truth To Power:

Less terrifying, more horrifying. That, more or less, was the between-the-lines takeaway from Friday’s National Research Council (NRC) briefing on abrupt climate change.

The event was part of an announcement of the NRC’s newly released and finalized report, “Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change: Anticipating Surprises.”

Several of the scientists involved in the report were present, including James White from the University of Colorado at Boulder, Anthony Barnosky from the University of California at Berkeley, and Richard Alley from Penn State University.

In one of the most shocking statements, Barnosky said the world’s oceans are now undergoing a change in pH and temperature that is so rapid and severe, that if we stay on our business-as-usual emissions pathway, then we will see the most significant degradation in the world’s oceans since 250 million years ago when there was the “end-Permian extinction event.” That was possibly the most extreme extinction event in Earth’s entire history. Over 90% of marine species in the fossil record went extinct.

“Just in the next five or six decades we will see some very major problems,” Barnosky said.

Today, the change in temperature of the ocean is primarily being caused by the growing global energy imbalance resulting from the thickening blanket of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, especially carbon dioxide.

The change in pH of the ocean is primarily being caused by the growing global atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, which becomes an acid, carbonic acid, when it dissolves in water. As the methane clathrates increasingly thaw, they will also acidify the water.

On extinction more broadly, Barnosky said that tropical coral reefs and land species in the tropics are first in line for extinction. And coral reefs will disappear in decades on our current emissions path as well. “These are not small effects and again – we’re already starting to see them happen.”

All participants, even Barnosky himself, seemed to be stunned by the details and implications being presented.

Richard Alley made an effort to shore up morale by pointing to some of the massive and abrupt catastrophes we can essentially rule out now. “North Atlantic [ocean circulation] probably will not change abruptly,” he said, and there is “fairly high” confidence in that outlook. However, he added, circulation will change, and probably already is changing – but it just won’t “shut down” like some had worried. At least not this century.

On the topic of amplifying feedbacks, Alley said that “if we warm the world, nature will amplify what we do.” And he added that “often long-term feedbacks are ignored – and so you get optimistic projections of how much carbon we can emit.”

Asked about the feasibility of “going back” after crossing tipping points, Alley said that it depends on the tipping point. In the case of the Arctic sea ice, if we cool the planet back down to temperatures a little below today’s, then we can probably regrow the sea ice he said, adding that on the other hand, if West Antarctica collapses, then the temperature would have to drop much further to start the ice sheet growing again. As for Greenland, the ability “to return” depends on how long the climate remains in a warm state. The longer it’s warm, the harder it will be to “return” he said.

Alley didn’t get into how we might cool the planet back down, although in previous public statements, he has referred to carbon dioxide as being something like a global temperature dial. Also in reference to “returning,” he mentioned hysteresis loops, a trait of some complex systems where returning to the previous state requires following a different path back. Sometimes the return path can be more difficult too.

In other less-terrifying but still-horrifying news, Alley described how – as best he can tell – there do seem to be enough “safety valves” on sea floor methane clathrate deposits to limit its release – but it will still be a chronic problem – rather than the massive “clathrate gun” possibility (where the methane erupts from the oceans so fast that global temperatures spike and essentially a massive ecological upheaval ensues with wildfires, famines, and so on).

Unfortunately, both the clathrates and thawing Arctic permafrost will become significant sources of ongoing greenhouse gases, at least if we stay on our current emissions path. That means to stabilize climate in the future, we’ll need to do more than just stop burning fossil fuels. We’ll also need to mop up the permafrost and clathrate emissions. And, with elevated chronic bubbling of methane from the sea floor, it will also acidify the ocean from the bottom up.

Regarding a possible collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, Alley said he’s inclined to say it’s not terribly likely this century. And, if it does happen, he’s leaning towards it being a somewhat slow process. But there are still processes involved where there just isn’t enough information yet – and so he won’t fully rule out something more rapid.

Jim White highlighted that a previous NRC report (2004) on abrupt climate change was the first time anyone had even looked at the issue in a systematic way. And he added that “calls to action” from that 2004 report have largely gone unheeded thus far.

Early in his presentation, White alluded to food storage as one possible safeguard against increasingly hostile weather and crop shortfalls, but he didn’t go into much detail. The global food system is quite remarkable in how little reserve is stored at any given time. Even without climate change, it seems like a significant crop shortage could put many countries, even developed ones, into a world of hurt.

In response to a question on tipping points in our built systems, White answered that there has been no comprehensive assessment to see how our infrastructure will hold up to climate change. The first step he said, is to identify “what you have at risk,” but that has generally not been done. For example, he cited how it took Hurricane Sandy hitting New York and New Jersey before there was a serious evaluation of what could be done to safeguard against such an event.

He also cited Florida, which hasn’t had a major storm surge disaster yet – that is, one where the elevated (and rising) sea level makes the surge potentially worse than ever before.

And White also pointed out that low topographical relief makes it easy for storm surge to push far inland along much of the US Southeast coast.

Fundamentally, the feeling from the conference was that some very decent and hardworking people have identified a very bad set of circumstances headed towards mankind, and the general reaction has been a human one: shoot the messenger and/or ignore the problem and hope it goes away.

In the context of this report, that strategy of denial and rejection has sort of worked so far (by a certain logic anyway). After all, a lot of sudden apocalyptic climate change events have been ruled very unlikely with high confidence, at least for another 100 years or so. But the horror of the situation is that very real chronic problems are growing worse. The odds of those chronic problems going away, unfortunately, is about as close to zero as you can get.

The basic truth between the lines of this press event was that we are facing a world that is becoming increasingly hostile to humankind.

We are literally making the planet into a wasteland like this is some post-apocalyptic science fiction story. It is just shocking. And the most horrifying aspect of it all is that we’ve waited to reduce emissions so long that we’re exiting the win-win field of possible climate responses. We’re now headed into a world of lose-lose. That’s the news nobody wants to convey – or hear. But there it is.

Return Of The Polar Vortex: Coldest Of The Cold En Route To U.S.; Warmer In Alaska Than South Carolina

In Uncategorized on January 28, 2014 at 6:46 pm

Visualization of surface winds (lines and black arrows) and temperatures (shaded colors) on Monday morning, as the latest Arctic blast swept from the Midwest to the South and East.

Click image to enlarge. Credit: earth.nullschool.net.

 

Oldspeak: “While the lower 48 states freeze — every state in the contiguous U.S. is expected to see a low temperature at or below 32°F on Tuesday morning — this weather pattern also has a flipside, with unusually mild conditions affecting Alaska and the Western U.S. At 10 p.m. local time on Sunday, it was warmer in Homer, Alaska than anywhere in the contiguous U.S., except for Southern Florida and Southern California. The high temperature in Homer of 55°F broke their all-time monthly high temperature record…” -Andrew Freedman

“Sooooo its pushing 60 in some parts of the arctic, while its negative 40 in the Midwest of the U.S. Again. And expected to be so, through February…. While record heat bakes Australia. AGAIN.  Yeahhhhh, that’s normal. SMDH… We’re sooo fucked. :-O ” -OSJ

By Andrew Freedman @ Climate Central:

The polar vortex is back, and for many suffering through an already frigid winter, the Arctic air barreling into the lower 48 states may be the coldest of the cold yet.

Temperatures may plunge well below zero in the Upper Midwest, and could potentially last as long as three days in some areas. Cities such as Chicago, Minneapolis, and Madison are already enduring extreme cold, with two consecutive days of subzero high temperatures expected. In addition, a rare snow and ice storm is slated to develop along the Gulf Coast on Tuesday and Wednesday. Computer model projections show the potential for more than 6 inches of snow to fall in parts of the Southeast, particularly in Southeast South Carolina, Georgia, and North Carolina, areas that are not accustomed to such heavy snowfall and ice.

The frigid temperatures in the Central and Eastern U.S. come courtesy of a jet stream pattern that has kept the door to the Arctic, which is the Northern Hemisphere’s freezer, wide open, allowing dangerously cold air to repeatedly move southward into the lower 48 states in distinct waves.

As happened in early January, the now infamous polar vortex has something to do with the latest cold snap, with its southernmost extent clipping the northern tier of the U.S.

The persistence of the cold during January has set the month on course to be the second coldest winter month in the contiguous U.S. since December 2000, coming up about a degree shy of the monthly average temperature in January 2011, according to Ryan Maue of WeatherBell Analytics, a private weather forecasting firm.

 

Of course, blaming this all on the polar vortex isn’t entirely accurate. The true polar vortex exists at upper levels of the atmosphere, and what’s been causing January’s bitter cold — and soon to be February’s — is a result of the interaction between the vortex and events in the more chaotic lower atmosphere.

The polar vortex exists at the upper levels of the atmosphere at and above the typical cruising altitude of commercial jetliners, and is an area of frigid air and relatively low air pressure surrounded by a strong west-to-east jet stream that circles the Arctic during the winter.

When the upper level winds encircling the vortex are strong, the cold air tends to stay locked in the Arctic. But when those winds slow, as has occurred this winter, the polar vortex can wobble and split, with pockets of extremely cold air getting pinched off and shunted southward, into the U.S., Europe, and Asia. According to many computer models, this is likely to happen throughout much of February.

Visualization of wind speed and direction in the lower stratosphere, looking from the top of the Northern Hemisphere down. The polar vortex is highlighted within the black rectangle, with its circulation extending south above the U.S.
Click image to enlarge. Credit: earth.nullschool.net.

Ultimately, the distinction between the upper level vortex and its lower level reflections is of interest mainly to meteorologists, since most Americans are more concerned with staying warm than with looking up “polar vortex” in a textbook.

Charts of the middle of the troposphere, which is the layer of the atmosphere where most weather occurs, show that several areas of unusually cold temperatures are currently affecting the U.S. and parts of Europe and Asia, while an unusually mild region stretches from Alaska across the Arctic and extending into northern Siberia.

While the lower 48 states freeze — every state in the contiguous U.S. is expected to see a low temperature at or below 32°F on Tuesday morning — this weather pattern also has a flipside, with unusually mild conditions affecting Alaska and the Western U.S. At 10 p.m. local time on Sunday, it was warmer in Homer, Alaska than anywhere in the contiguous U.S., except for Southern Florida and Southern California. The high temperature in Homer of 55°F broke their all-time monthly high temperature record, according to Weather Underground.

On Jan. 27, the temperature in Nome, Alaska reached 51°F, which was not only the warmest temperature on record there for January, but was also the warmest temperature observed at that location between the dates of Oct. 17 and April 9, according to Weather Underground’s Chris Burt.

On Jan. 25, the headquarters of Denali National Park, Alaska, where Mt. McKinley is located, reached a high temperature of 51°F, which tied the record high temperature for the month of January, according to the National Weather Service.

In Nome, the temperature climbed to 45°F on Jan. 26, which was the second warmest January day there since recordkeeping began in 1907. Numerous daily high temperature marks and records for highest overnight low temperatures have also been set in Alaska, and computer model projections show continued unusual warmth is likely to affect the state for much of February.

Unusually mild conditions have also affected the Western U.S., as the jet stream has steered storms well north of the area into Canada, pumping warm air into the region from the southwest.

For example, Sacramento, Calif., reached 79°F on Jan. 25, breaking the high temperature mark there for the month of January. A monthly temperature record was also broken at Sacramento Executive Airport on the same day.

For the lower 48 states during the period from Dec. 28 to Jan. 26, 32 monthly high temperature records were set or tied along with 12 monthly records for highest overnight low temperature. That compares to 24 monthly records for coldest high temperature, and zero monthly records for the lowest overnight low temperature. There were, however, eight records set or tied for the coldest daytime high temperature.

This data suggests that the extreme cold in the Midwest and East, while noteworthy, may not be as unusual from a historical standpoint as the warmth in the West and Alaska.

Of course, for those in the path of this current Arctic outbreak, that’s of little consolation.

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

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

https://i2.wp.com/i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2013/11/29/article-2515454-19B6C6B500000578-856_1024x615_large.jpg

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

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

By Joe Romm @ Climate Progress:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

“We Have Passed The Point Of No Return.” : Learning How to Die in the Anthropocene

In Uncategorized on November 30, 2013 at 8:15 pm

Oldspeak: “…climatologists now predict will raise global temperatures by 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit within a generation and 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit within 90 years… The climate scientist James Hansen, formerly with NASA, has argued that we face an “apocalyptic” future. This grim view is seconded by researchers worldwide, including Anders Levermann, Paul and Anne Ehrlich, Lonnie Thompson and many, many, many others…

This chorus of Jeremiahs predicts a radically transformed global climate forcing widespread upheaval — not possibly, not potentially, but inevitably. We have passed the point of no return. From the point of view of policy experts, climate scientists and national security officials, the question is no longer whether global warming exists or how we might stop it, but how we are going to deal with it…

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

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

“Hmm. When they start publishing hard truths like this in the New York Times, pay attention.  “this civilization is already dead.” Powerful truth. Just look around to see the evidence. Our civilization is literally fueled by death (ancient dead plant and animal matter a.k.a. fossil fuels, the death of living ecosystems like forests, rivers and oceans,  the death of countless other species and millions of our own via environmental contamination & destruction, war, violence & conquest) on an industrial scale. An undead, zombie civilization sustaining itself on the death of our planet. Our civilization has triggered multiple catastrophic and irreversible non-linear feedback loops that are contributing to the collapse of global ecological systems necessary for our and other lifeforms survival and there’s not much we can to do stop it at this point. Our technology won’t save us. We’ve condemned future generations to damnable lives on a uninhabitable planet. These are hard truths for anyone to acknowledge. Just easier not to do so. But we’re basically fucked. Appreciate the beauty of life as you know it while you can and live it to the fullest. Reject contrived reality, and embrace objective reality.” -OSJ

By Roy Scranton @ The New York Times:

Driving into Iraq just after the 2003 invasion felt like driving into the future. We convoyed all day, all night, past Army checkpoints and burned-out tanks, till in the blue dawn Baghdad rose from the desert like a vision of hell: Flames licked the bruised sky from the tops of refinery towers, cyclopean monuments bulged and leaned against the horizon, broken overpasses swooped and fell over ruined suburbs, bombed factories, and narrow ancient streets.

With “shock and awe,” our military had unleashed the end of the world on a city of six million — a city about the same size as Houston or Washington. The infrastructure was totaled: water, power, traffic, markets and security fell to anarchy and local rule. The city’s secular middle class was disappearing, squeezed out between gangsters, profiteers, fundamentalists and soldiers. The government was going down, walls were going up, tribal lines were being drawn, and brutal hierarchies savagely established.

I was a private in the United States Army. This strange, precarious world was my new home. If I survived.

Two and a half years later, safe and lazy back in Fort Sill, Okla., I thought I had made it out. Then I watched on television as Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. This time it was the weather that brought shock and awe, but I saw the same chaos and urban collapse I’d seen in Baghdad, the same failure of planning and the same tide of anarchy. The 82nd Airborne hit the ground, took over strategic points and patrolled streets now under de facto martial law. My unit was put on alert to prepare for riot control operations. The grim future I’d seen in Baghdad was coming home: not terrorism, not even W.M.D.’s, but a civilization in collapse, with a crippled infrastructure, unable to recuperate from shocks to its system.

And today, with recovery still going on more than a year after Sandy and many critics arguing that the Eastern seaboard is no more prepared for a huge weather event than we were last November, it’s clear that future’s not going away.

This March, Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III, the commander of the United States Pacific Command, told security and foreign policy specialists in Cambridge, Mass., that global climate change was the greatest threat the United States faced — more dangerous than terrorism, Chinese hackers and North Korean nuclear missiles. Upheaval from increased temperatures, rising seas and radical destabilization “is probably the most likely thing that is going to happen…” he said, “that will cripple the security environment, probably more likely than the other scenarios we all often talk about.’’

Locklear’s not alone. Tom Donilon, the national security adviser, said much the same thing in April, speaking to an audience at Columbia’s new Center on Global Energy Policy. James Clapper, director of national intelligence, told the Senate in March that “Extreme weather events (floods, droughts, heat waves) will increasingly disrupt food and energy markets, exacerbating state weakness, forcing human migrations, and triggering riots, civil disobedience, and vandalism.”

On the civilian side, the World Bank’s recent report, “Turn Down the Heat: Climate Extremes, Regional Impacts, and the Case for Resilience,” offers a dire prognosis for the effects of global warming, which climatologists now predict will raise global temperatures by 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit within a generation and 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit within 90 years. Projections from researchers at the University of Hawaii find us dealing with “historically unprecedented” climates as soon as 2047. The climate scientist James Hansen, formerly with NASA, has argued that we face an “apocalyptic” future. This grim view is seconded by researchers worldwide, including Anders Levermann, Paul and Anne Ehrlich, Lonnie Thompson and many, many, many others.

This chorus of Jeremiahs predicts a radically transformed global climate forcing widespread upheaval — not possibly, not potentially, but inevitably. We have passed the point of no return. From the point of view of policy experts, climate scientists and national security officials, the question is no longer whether global warming exists or how we might stop it, but how we are going to deal with it.

II.

There’s a word for this new era we live in: the Anthropocene. This term, taken up by geologists, pondered by intellectuals and discussed in the pages of publications such as The Economist and the The New York Times, represents the idea that we have entered a new epoch in Earth’s geological history, one characterized by the arrival of the human species as a geological force. The biologist Eugene F. Stoermer and the Nobel-Prize-winning chemist Paul Crutzen advanced the term in 2000, and it has steadily gained acceptance as evidence has increasingly mounted that the changes wrought by global warming will affect not just the world’s climate and biological diversity, but its very geology — and not just for a few centuries, but for millenniums. The geophysicist David Archer’s 2009 book, “The Long Thaw: How Humans are Changing the Next 100,000 Years of Earth’s Climate,” lays out a clear and concise argument for how huge concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and melting ice will radically transform the planet, beyond freak storms and warmer summers, beyond any foreseeable future.

The Stratigraphy Commission of the Geological Society of London — the scientists responsible for pinning the “golden spikes” that demarcate geological epochs such as the Pliocene, Pleistocene, and Holocene — have adopted the Anthropocene as a term deserving further consideration, “significant on the scale of Earth history.” Working groups are discussing what level of geological time-scale it might be (an “epoch” like the Holocene, or merely an “age” like the Calabrian), and at what date we might say it began. The beginning of the Great Acceleration, in the middle of the 20th century? The beginning of the Industrial Revolution, around 1800? The advent of agriculture?

The challenge the Anthropocene poses is a challenge not just to national security, to food and energy markets, or to our “way of life” — though these challenges are all real, profound, and inescapable. The greatest challenge the Anthropocene poses may be to our sense of what it means to be human. Within 100 years — within three to five generations — we will face average temperatures 7 degrees Fahrenheit higher than today, rising seas at least three to 10 feet higher, and worldwide shifts in crop belts, growing seasons and population centers. Within a thousand years, unless we stop emitting greenhouse gases wholesale right now, humans will be living in a climate the Earth hasn’t seen since the Pliocene, three million years ago, when oceans were 75 feet higher than they are today. We face the imminent collapse of the agricultural, shipping and energy networks upon which the global economy depends, a large-scale die-off in the biosphere that’s already well on its way, and our own possible extinction. If homo sapiens (or some genetically modified variant) survives the next millenniums, it will be survival in a world unrecognizably different from the one we have inhabited.

Jeffery DelViscio

Geological time scales, civilizational collapse and species extinction give rise to profound problems that humanities scholars and academic philosophers, with their taste for fine-grained analysis, esoteric debates and archival marginalia, might seem remarkably ill suited to address. After all, how will thinking about Kant help us trap carbon dioxide? Can arguments between object-oriented ontology and historical materialism protect honeybees from colony collapse disorder? Are ancient Greek philosophers, medieval theologians, and contemporary metaphysicians going to keep Bangladesh from being inundated by rising oceans?

Of course not. But the biggest problems the Anthropocene poses are precisely those that have always been at the root of humanistic and philosophical questioning: “What does it mean to be human?” and “What does it mean to live?” In the epoch of the Anthropocene, the question of individual mortality — “What does my life mean in the face of death?” — is universalized and framed in scales that boggle the imagination. What does human existence mean against 100,000 years of climate change? What does one life mean in the face of species death or the collapse of global civilization? How do we make meaningful choices in the shadow of our inevitable end?

These questions have no logical or empirical answers. They are philosophical problems par excellence. Many thinkers, including Cicero, Montaigne, Karl Jaspers, and The Stone’s own Simon Critchley, have argued that studying philosophy is learning how to die. If that’s true, then we have entered humanity’s most philosophical age — for this is precisely the problem of the Anthropocene. The rub is that now we have to learn how to die not as individuals, but as a civilization.

III.

Learning how to die isn’t easy. In Iraq, at the beginning, I was terrified by the idea. Baghdad seemed incredibly dangerous, even though statistically I was pretty safe. We got shot at and mortared, and I.E.D.’s laced every highway, but I had good armor, we had a great medic, and we were part of the most powerful military the world had ever seen. The odds were good I would come home. Maybe wounded, but probably alive. Every day I went out on mission, though, I looked down the barrel of the future and saw a dark, empty hole.

“For the soldier death is the future, the future his profession assigns him,” wrote  Simone Weil in her remarkable meditation on war, “The Iliad or the Poem of Force.” “Yet the idea of man’s having death for a future is abhorrent to nature. Once the experience of war makes visible the possibility of death that lies locked up in each moment, our thoughts cannot travel from one day to the next without meeting death’s face.” That was the face I saw in the mirror, and its gaze nearly paralyzed me.

I found my way forward through an 18th-century Samurai manual, Yamamoto Tsunetomo’s “Hagakure,” which commanded: “Meditation on inevitable death should be performed daily.” Instead of fearing my end, I owned it. Every morning, after doing maintenance on my Humvee, I’d imagine getting blown up by an I.E.D., shot by a sniper, burned to death, run over by a tank, torn apart by dogs, captured and beheaded, and succumbing to dysentery. Then, before we rolled out through the gate, I’d tell myself that I didn’t need to worry, because I was already dead. The only thing that mattered was that I did my best to make sure everyone else came back alive. “If by setting one’s heart right every morning and evening, one is able to live as though his body were already dead,” wrote Tsunetomo, “he gains freedom in the Way.”

I got through my tour in Iraq one day at a time, meditating each morning on my inevitable end. When I left Iraq and came back stateside, I thought I’d left that future behind. Then I saw it come home in the chaos that was unleashed after Katrina hit New Orleans. And then I saw it again when Sandy battered New York and New Jersey: Government agencies failed to move quickly enough, and volunteer groups like Team Rubicon had to step in to manage disaster relief.

Now, when I look into our future — into the Anthropocene — I see water rising up to wash out lower Manhattan. I see food riots, hurricanes, and climate refugees. I see 82nd Airborne soldiers shooting looters. I see grid failure, wrecked harbors, Fukushima waste, and plagues. I see Baghdad. I see the Rockaways. I see a strange, precarious world.

Our new home.

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

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

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

If we want to learn to live in the Anthropocene, we must first learn how to die.

 

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

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

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

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

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

By Paul Brown @ Climate News Network:

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

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

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

Wrong kind of politicians

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Killing their workers

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

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

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

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

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

“Off the charts” 195 Mph Monster Super Typhoon Haiyan “the strongest tropical cyclone to make landfall in recorded world history” Breaks The Philippines

In Uncategorized on November 8, 2013 at 12:54 pm

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Oldspeak: ” Less than 2 months after Hong Kong was hit with “the strongest storm on earth“, we witness the wrath of “the strongest tropical cyclone to make landfall in recorded world history”. it’s not a matter of if the east coast of the U.S. will be hit with storms more destructive and devastating than Katrina or Sandy, but when. Our technology will not save us from the slow motion and full speed cataclysms to come.  When will we stop plunging headlong into our planet and civilization’s demise?” -OSJ

Related Story:

Super Typhoon Haiyan Tears into The Philippines

By Eric Holthaus @ Quartz:

Super Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines at 4am local time today with winds near 195 mph, making it the strongest tropical cyclone to make landfall in recorded world history, according to satellite estimates. That astounding claim will need to be verified by actual measurements at ground level, which should be collected over the coming days.

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The storm (known as Yolanda in the Philippines) has officially maxed out the Dvorak scale, which is used to measure strong strength using satellites. That means Haiyan has approached the theoretical maximum intensity for any storm, anywhere.  From the latest NOAA bulletin:

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DVORAK TECHNIQUE MAKES NO ALLOWANCE FOR AN EYE EMBEDDED SO DEEPLY IN CLOUD TOPS AS COLD [AS THIS]

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Put another way, the most commonly used satellite-based intensity scale just wasn’t designed to handle a storm this strong. At its peak, one real-time estimate of the storm’s intensity actually ticked slightly above the maximum to 8.1 on an 8.0 scale. This meteorologist, for one, has never seen that before.

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Thousands were evacuated in the Philippines as the disaster-weary country prepared for impact. Ten regions in the central part of the country were under a Signal 4 warning, the nation’s highest typhoon alert level.

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Just last month, an area just south of Haiyan’s predicted path suffered a massive M7.2 earthquake, resulting in more than 100 deaths and widespread damage. That same region will experience strong winds and heavy rain from this typhoon.

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According to the US Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC), based in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, at landfall, the storm packed sustained winds of 195mph (310kph). Gusts reached a mind-blowing 235mph (380kph). That’s good enough to rank Haiyan as almost assuredly the strongest storm ever to make landfall in the Philippines.

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The Philippines is the most typhoon-ridden nation on Earth, getting walloped or enduring close calls on average of 19 times per year.

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It’s nearly inconceivable that any weather station would survive such conditions for very long to verify, so we may never know exactly how strong this storm was. There have only been a handful of storms anywhere on Earth (pdf) that have reached this estimated intensity—and only three since 1969. Such strong storms usually remain out at sea where wind speed verification is impossible without aircraft.

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If verified, the storm’s wind speed at landfall would top the sitting world record holder, the Atlantic’s Hurricane Camille, which hit Mississippi in 1969 with 190 mph winds.

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That’s certainly foreboding enough, but the humanitarian disaster that may unfold in the storm’s aftermath could be immense. Haiyan passed very near Tacloban, a city of a quarter million people, and Cebu, a city of nearly one million people:

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The country’s meteorological service, PAGASA, also supports a storm surge prediction model (appropriately named project NOAH) that estimates storm surge could have been up to 5.2 meters (17 feet) in Leyte, where the storm first made landfall. A storm surge of this magnitude—rare for the Philippines—would be especially devastating for coastal areas.

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Heavy rain, expected to approach 16 inches (400mm), will almost assuredly cause mudslides over the mountainous islands of the Philippines.

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