All posts by Robert Hunziker

Sea Level Rise!

Sea level has been stable, at current levels, throughout recorded history for 5,000 years. That’s about to change. Still, it’s very difficult for people to imagine a change in sea level after 5,000 years of rock solid stability.

Nevertheless, assuming sea levels do rise markedly, one of the biggest questions of the century is whether the world is prepared for sea level rise?

As a guess, the answer is: No, not even close.

Well, they better start making plans because there’s no stopping at 410 ppm CO2 and +1°C post-industrial temperature, sea level rise is locked and loaded. It’s only a matter of when, how much.

A recent scientific forum offers insight. In February 2019, John Englander, oceanographer and world-renown sea level expert, spoke at The Royal Institution, London, which is affectionately called “the home of science.” It’s one of the world’s most prestigious and long-standing institutions.

The Royal Institution has promoted scientific breakthroughs and new theories for 220 years. In 1859, Prof. John Tyndall spoke at the same spot and same desk where John Englander stood to deliver his speech. Tyndall was one of the first scientists to theorize the impact of greenhouse gases (GHG) on climate change.

One hundred-sixty-years later, John Englander spoke about the consequences of Tyndall’s observations, the onset of sea level rise:

We really can’t wait for the tragedy to evolve to deal with it.

Unfortunately:

We tend to make big changes and expensive projects when tragedy has happened… But, with this one, we really can’t wait for the tragedy to unfold to begin to deal with it. And, therein lies a particular challenge for all of us.

Accordingly, sea level rise should be the most important consideration for thousands of coastal communities around the world. And, not only that, but surprise, surprise! Sea level rise is a regular, normal feature in Earth’s climate history of the past 400,000 years. In fact, major instances of sea level rise happened four times during that time.

The four-glacial/interglacial periods of the past 400,000 years happened at the rate of one per 100,000 years with four Down (cold) Cycles each lasting 80,000 years and four Up (warm) Cycles each lasting 20,000 years.

The last Down (cold) Cycle ended 22,000 years ago. Thus, and therefore, today is the tail end of the last Up (warm) Cycle and a new Down (cold) Cycle should already be here, but, no, human greenhouse gases (GHG) like CO2, methane, and nitrous oxide have altered the normal rhythms of the planet, stopped dead in its tracks, preventing another long overdue Down (cold) Cycle.

Englander claims there won’t be another Down (cold) Cycle as long as people exist on the planet. People are “heat machines.” They have changed the planet’s chemistry and physics and thus, artificially extended the Up (warm-to-hot-to-hotter) Cycle.

The paleoclimate record shows temperatures over the past 400,000 yrs ranged plus/minus 5°C and CO2 ranged 180 ppm to 280 ppm.

Today’s CO2 at 410 ppm literally smashes the old record of 280 ppm that stood for 400,000 years. Hmm.

Over those 400,000 years, 5°C temperature change brought 120 meter (394 feet) sea level changes in its wake. Looked at another way, sea level rise equals 20 meters (60 feet) per 1°C temperature increase. Uh-oh! Earth’s already heated that much. Does this mean 20 meters (60 feet) of sea level rise is already “baked in the cake,” ready to burst forward?

Well, yes, but not exactly.  The key ingredient is when it happens because timing is tricky. In days of yesteryear when 280 ppm was top end, CO2 grew at a rate 0.1 to 0.3 ppm/annum, so sea level rise took centuries as temperatures slowly increased, whereas today, CO2 at 410 ppm and growing 3.0 ppm/annum (10xs the paleoclimate rates) is like a turbo-charged Indy race car on a geological track, and it has powered ahead, thus leaving sea level rise choking on fumes. But, it’ll catch up…count on it. Thus, there’s a lag time between GHGs today and temperature rise and sea level rise tomorrow.

Think of Earth, the biosphere, as a big oven, similar to the one at home, when turned to 450°F, the home oven takes several minutes to crank up to 450°F. It’s not instantaneous.  Similarly, the biosphere oven receives tons and tons of greenhouse heat-trapping gases, but its version of “several minutes” is “several years-to-decades” to achieve maximum heat. In other words, your 2010 auto exhaust generated today’s global warming.

It’s all about “timing.” After all, when warming cycles happen, sea level rise usually takes centuries and centuries to increase. For example, 14,000 years ago an increase in temperatures took seas up 65 feet over 400 years. Accordingly, that’s 1.5 feet per decade, which calculation, in part, led John Englander to make the assumption that today’s sea level rise will be 1-2-3 feet by mid 21st century. In turn, that would be a real shocker, especially to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) with its median expectation of one-half a meter or 1.6 feet by 2100.

The IPCC’s absolute “worst-case” guesstimate is 32 inches by 2100, but a footnote hidden in fine print says the IPCC does not factor Antarctica into their calculations. Ahem! Antarctica is not included! Mercy!

Englander’s key points:

  • Sea level never rises smoothly. It’s not a straight line or a curved line. There are inflection points when it suddenly rises. So far, that has not been experienced. In fact, over the past 100 years, temps are up 1°C and sea level rise is only up 4 inches.
  • Sea level has been stable, at current levels, throughout human recorded history for 5,000+ years.
  • Thus, it’s very difficult for people to imagine a change in sea level, especially after 5,000 years of rock solid stability.

Today’s big problem: Sea levels are now (today) at an early stage of exponential growth, meaning, the rate of growth is doubling, cycle-by-cycle, for the first time in known history.  Based upon satellite recordings since 1993: sea level rise 1993-98 +1.5MM/yr. 1998-2011 +3.2MM/yr. 2011-2018 5.0MM/yr. That’s nearly double every cycle, which is an exponential function, and it’s trouble, very-very big trouble.

The exponential:

The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.1

An exponential, to wit: How long does it take to fill Yankee Stadium with water, assuming 1 drop of water is added, then 2 drops, then 4 drops, then 8 drops, then 16 drops, on and on, doubling the number of drops every minute? Answer: 47 minutes.

Exponential is fast, real fast, and sea level rise is now on an exponential pathway for the first time ever!!! That’s a very big pill to swallow! But still, timing is everything, which nobody knows for certain.

Meantime, the sources of sea level rise are readily identifiable as Greenland 24 feet and Antarctica 186 feet and another 3 feet in glaciers found in Alps and around the world in mountainous terrain.

Greenland is surprisingly big. Englander has been there 6 times; it’s 1,600 miles north to south and 1,000 miles east to west. It’s the biggest island in world with ice 2 miles thick that covers 80% of the island.

Antarctica is even more enormous at 7xs Greenland.  There are four parts to Antarctica:

  • East Antarctica – relatively solid but starting to rumble – it’s the final frontier of global warming
  • West Antarctica – glaciers go under water here and a high risk zone
  • Antarctica Peninsula- melting the fastest and closest to South America
  • Ice Shelves – thick ice slabs resting on the water, serving as backstops to glaciers- increasingly breaking off in ever-bigger chunks; e.g., Antarctica’s Iceberg B-15 at 183 miles long by 23 miles wide.

With mounting concerns expressed by scientists, six Antarctic glaciers are under special watch: Pine Island Glacier – a huge cavity discovered only recently – Thwaites Glacier, a new disturbing discovery found only recently, Haynes Glacier, Pope Glacier, Smith Glacier, and Kohler Glacier. All of these glaciers are located around the Amundsen Sea. Combined, these six have 10 feet of sea level locked up inside. Nobody knows when, but the entire region is extremely vulnerable, already showing the early signals of “losing it.”

Meanwhile, Englander’s guesstimate: By mid century, we could get a couple of feet of sea level rise. But keep in mind it doesn’t happen all at once. It’s the buildup that destroys, and that is now, unfortunately, on an exponential pathway. In other words, it’s an extremely dicey affair that could be gradual, or it could be rapid, awful, and nasty.

Englander’s conclusion: Sea level rise is unstoppable.

Interestingly, ever since the 1990s, mainstream science has been at least 30 years late with sea level projections, consistently way too low, but then again, exponential growth throws off the best of ‘em. It’s a wild card.

According to Englander, there are three key takeaways from his speech:

  • Reduce emissions, immediately – it’s most important to slow warming as much as possible as early as possible.
  • Regardless, sea level rise will still be catastrophic on a global scale. Even with 100% renewable energy tomorrow, sea level rise will happen. As an aside, oceans (2/3rds of the planet) absorbed 85% of planetary heat and emit CO2 when too warm/hot.
  • The sooner “engineering for the future” happens, the easier to adapt.

According to Englander, society has 20-30 years to redesign cities to prepare for the inevitable as thousands of coastal communities must move or adapt to sea level rise. As an aside, and in fairness to contrary opinion, there are scientists that disagree with the timeline of 20-30 years to do something.

The risk factor is heightened by the fact that past sea level rises had saw-toothed patterns with inflection points of rapid increase along the way, making it nearly impossible to predict timing.

As such, and here’s the big oops-a-daisy, with exponentials kicking into gear, it’s truly a gamblers’ world.

According to John Englander, there are no options. It must be dealt with. Come hell or high water, sea level rise is forthcoming.

  1. Albert Allen Bartlett, 1923-2013 /Harvard PhD, Professor Emeritus, Nuclear Physics, University of Colorado at Boulder.

Pounding Heat Clobbers Greenland  

Greenland is one of the biggest targets for global warming, in part, because it’s so big it’s hard to miss. And sure enough, only recently crazy halting weather with inordinate hot temperature hit Greenland bull’s-eye, dead-on with one helluva meltdown.

That’s bad news for pretty much everybody on the planet.

On the hottest days, the melt-off could fill 3 billion Olympic-sized pools end-to-end, extending from California to Maine, back and forth, 17,000 times. Eureka!  That’s only one day. It’s staggering.

What’s going on?

The easy answer: Greenland is melting because global warming is acting up, a lot. But, it’s more complicated. Part of the meltdown includes a 4-mile-wide iceberg that broke off the Helheim Glacier July 11th. That’s equivalent to a small town floating/melting along the southeastern coastline of Greenland.

In that regard, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists: “Climate Hot Map, Helheim Glacier – The glacier was stable from the 1950s to 2000.” Thereafter, rapidly rising temps jarred it loose from its stable moorings, losing five miles of ice in its first five years of the 21st century. Oops! So much for 50 years of stability.

In point of fact, Greenland’s glaciers, in toto, have doubled their rate of retreat this century, which is more than any historical data. That’s not only ominous, it’s indicative of the enormous power behind anthropogenic turbo-charged climate change. It’s happening fast and faster.

But still, it’s not unusual for parts of Greenland to melt every summer when the planet tilts its northern face towards the sun.  Then, year-by-year with regularity about 10% of the ice sheet hits a melting point. However, this year the first big heat wave in June hit 45% of the ice sheet with melting points as air temps hovered 10°C to 15°C above normal, which is beach weather for Greenland.

Not only that, but wistfully an ongoing second heat wave is now confirming 10% melting points are a relic of the past.

Accordingly, Xavier Fettweis, climate researcher (University of Liège) claims:

The volume and intensity occurring today… is on par with what models predict will occur nearly every summer by 2050. So record-breaking summers like this one… will cease to be remarkable. We’re already on that path.1

Additionally, professor Fettweis:

This is not just one hot summer among a lot of cool ones. This kind of anomaly has been repeated this year, and similarly in 2016, 2012, 2011, 2009, 2008, and so on.2

It’s one more haunting example of global warming decades ahead of the science. As it happens, climate change’s impact on the big ice cube is the rip snorting hard-hitting kind, proving that science can’t keep up with global warming’s sure-fire rapidity. It’s way too fast for scientists to calculate, re-calculate and ponder. Hmm.

Of course, there’s a bigger issue lurking behind the scenes, meaning an even bigger melt further to the north, the Arctic, which, in turn, directly impacts and disfigures jet streams at 30,000-50,000 feet above ground level by aborting the normalized temperature differentiation between the polar north and the tropics. In turn, it brings on loopy jet streams that go nowhere but alter and distort normal weather, which, as a result, pauses and sets in. For example, Europe’s recent record-setting heat and the U.S. Midwest’s massive record-setting floods experienced weather that set in and didn’t move. It’s nature’s revenge.

Meanwhile, the rapidity of Greenland’s meltdown exposes the powerful significance of interconnectivity of ecosystems as major existential risks to normalized living standards. There is no bigger threat to regular ole living standards than global warming, and it’s coming on faster than scientists can predict. They need bigger calculators.

At some point in time, and quite honestly it can’t come soon enough, political debate amongst the world’s leading countries will be forced to discuss seawall fortifications for coastal cities. But in actuality, it’s more likely that high tides repeatedly flooding New York City and Miami will upstage any and all serious, meaningful debates. Then, the scramble will be on but too late.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands, and maybe millions, of offshore eco migrants will trudge ashore, searching for higher ground and sustenance. After all, like clockwork, eco migration follows climate change. It’s happening now.

Central America, circa today: “Ravaged by drought, farmers in rural Honduras and Guatemala live on the edge of hunger.”3

“Pray for rain or migrate” is today’s new world order. But, it’s only just beginning.

  1. Alejandra Borunda, “A Heat Wave is Turning Greenland’s Ice to Slush. That’s Bad News”, National Geographic, August 1, 2019.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Georgina Gustin, “Central America’s Choice: Pray for Rain or Migrate”, Inside Climate News, July 9, 2019.

Alaska Governor Demolishes Climate Research

“The University of Alaska Fairbanks (“UAF”) is a hub for Arctic climate research, and a magnet for top scientists and international collaborations— and it’s in trouble.”1

UAF’s International Arctic Research Center sits at the pinnacle of worldwide climate research “with experts on permafrost, short-lived climate pollutants, sea ice and more, UAF has earned a reputation as a leader in Arctic climate research. Its research is often the product of years of work with partners from universities worldwide.”2

However, recent events make it appear that climate science is too hot for political comfort as study after study identifies shocking volumes of collapsing/thawing permafrost, which covers 25% of the Northern Hemisphere.

Crumbling permafrost is an extraordinarily dangerous situation that, over time, can lead to deadly RGW (runaway global warming) and subsequent burn-off of mid-latitude agriculture, as people starve and scream, in that order.

In point of fact, global warming has been on a binge of late; in the North it’s heating 2-4xs faster than anywhere else on the planet. As a result, permafrost is drip-drip-drip thawing at record rates, well beyond any and all analytical predictions; it’s a real stunner!

But, not to worry, there’s a political answer: Alaska’s governor, taking field notes from “Donald Trump’s Tips on Handling Climate Change” proposes: Defund it! Kill it! Hide it!

Ergo, Alaskan Governor Michael Dunleavy (R) will likely go down in history as the nasty ole “Ghoul of Runaway Global Warming.” After all, the governor is slashing the University of Alaska’s funding by 40%. Thereafter, no one will know for sure what’s happening of consequence in the rambunctious North, as the world-famous International Arctic Research Center limps along as a result of hefty cuts in funding with some critical research coming to a screeching halt.

In the wake of the Gov’s big cuts, a plague of doom spread throughout the scientific community. According to Sabrina Shankman of Inside Climate News:

The state’s flagship university at Fairbanks is a hub of climate research that brings together scientists from around the world.

All of which begs the most obvious of questions: At a time when scientists are floored by global warming’s unrelenting walloping of permafrost in the Northern Hemisphere, how and why is crucial climate research cut to the bone?

Is it merely coincidence that spending cuts hit just as global warming starts “strutting its stuff like never before” with collapsing permafrost, like fallen tinker toys that, heretofore, was solid as the Rock of Gibraltar, over eons? What’s up with this sudden massive thawing of rock-solid permafrost that contains tons and tons of carbon?

The brutal truth is: Cascading permafrost, at unprecedented volume and rate of collapse, is a powerful signal that anthropogenic (human-caused) greenhouse gases are way too excessive and thus disrupting the climate system.

In fact, several recent field studies have already exposed dangerous imbalances in the climate system. For example, in some instances, thawing of permafrost is 70 years ahead of all expectations.3

Nobody ever expected it to happen so dramatically, so quickly, without warning. As such, ecosystem collapse in northern latitudes is not “a disaster in the making.” It’s already “a disaster happening.”

Curiously, residents of New York City and Los Angeles can’t see collapsing permafrost’s fearsome signals of impending trouble, dead ahead. However, the world’s top climate scientists at the University of Alaska can’t miss it.

Meanwhile, in classic Orwellian fashion, Gov. Dunleavy takes a meat cleaver to the origins of “intellectual discovery.”

Dunleavy’s spending cuts were part of an attempt to make good on a campaign promise: to increase the state’s Permanent Fund Dividend—the checks sent to residents each year from royalties the state collects from the oil industry. The amount typically ranged from $1,000 to $2,000 per person, but that was reduced by former Gov. Bill Walker as he sought to cover a budget deficit. The unpopular move may have been the nail in the coffin of his re-election campaign. Dunleavy promised $3,000 for each resident if elected.

Halfway through Dunleavy’s first year in office, that promise comes at a steep cost. The cuts to the university were among several budget cuts Dunleavy made using his veto power that will undermine key social services across Alaska—from Medicaid to help for the elderly and homeless. But the university system took the biggest hit.2

Thus, the Gov’s priorities are: An additional one-thousand-dollars in voter’s pockets is more important than social services for the elderly and homeless and Medicaid and climate research, all of which, unfortunately, adds up to the perfect recipe for unmitigated disaster with “eyes wide shut.”

According to Governor Dunleavy, paying off voters with a measly thousand bucks of extra pocket cash supersedes UAF as the world’s leading center for Arctic research with volumes of studies published in scientific journals, bespeaking of a world-class institution.

Now, its stellar reputation has suddenly been cut off at the knees, coincidentally, at the very moment when its obligation to analyze and prep society for a major existential threat have never been so crucial, as an out of control climate system fast approaches “the perfect setup” to clobber comfy lifestyles.

  1. Sabrina Shankman, “A Death Spiral for Research: Arctic Scientists Worried as Alaska Universities Face 40% Funding Cut”, Inside Climate News, July 19, 2019.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Louise M. Farquharson et al, “Climate Change Drives Widespread and Rapid Thermokarst Development in Very Cold Permafrost in the Canadian High Arctic”, Geophysical Research Letters, June 10, 2019.

The Flawed Food Dependency

The most destructive object on the planet… is the human jawbone.1

Whether by sight, taste, touch, feel, or smell, it’s only too obvious that “food” affects every aspect of life and is key to crucial life-supporting ecosystems. Day-in, day-out, every living thing needs food.

Perchance, ecosystems cease to function, the human jawbone would plop open, and remain plopped open, gaping and, over time, morph into a zombie-like end game of people preying upon people.

All of which serves as a prelude to Julian Cribb’s brilliance as an established and celebrated science writer, recipient of 32 journalism awards, and author of ten books, with a new “first-rate” book, now available via pre-order: Food or War.

It is an important book:

The world faces the greatest threat to global food supply in all of human history… There has never been a situation faced by the entire human population at one time to compare with today’s.2

Cribb takes readers on a wild ride through human history with jolts along the way: “Most people who die in wars perish from hunger.”

Food or War is not only a page-turner with Cribb’s clear, precise prose, but as an added bonus, it’s jam-packed, like a textbook, with significant facts and statistics about the biosphere. It belongs in the hands of people who deeply care about the deteriorating condition of our poisoned planet. Incidentally, based upon very compelling evidence, yes, it is poisoned.

Not surprisingly, food is the primary dynamic behind human conflict, “Since the dawn of civilization – and not merely its lack. Also its abundance.” The great civilizations arose in fertile river valleys like the Nile where water and food were plentiful. (pps 4-5)

But… “Time and again, the fertile regions of the world have spewed out great armies, bent on conquest, plunder and often, on the acquisition of fresh lands in which their people can flourish. But first they must displace or absorb the conquered.”(pps 4-5)

Nevertheless, of more immediate concern, Cribb poses a question that silently haunts our (collectively) reckless unenlightened naïve Age of Anthropocene: “Is Agriculture Sustainable?”

It’s the single biggest question of the century and requires careful study. Cribb’s explanation elicits pause:

The basics of the global food system, which today feeds seven to eight billion people, were developed by the ancient Romans. Their model of mono-crop, broadacre export agriculture has been taken up worldwide.3

Continuing… Food is the product of an “Iron Age system” yet super-charged and propped up by the addition of recent high-intensity technologies, chiefly chemistry, fossil fuels, and biotechnology. And, knowing there are devils lurking in the details, fatal flaws are exposed, by the bucketful, especially in light of an already crippled, hobbling biosphere, as Cribb’s says: “The overheated, over-populated, over-exploited planet.”

Unquestionably, the Iron Age system is increasingly looking shaky, especially in the face of not only an over-populated biosphere, but that same biosphere is undergoing earth-shattering changes that scare people and force eco migrants to flee across assorted landscapes; e.g., erratic climate behavior, loss of precious soil, water scarcity, and chemical pollution, as well as the onset of collapsing ecosystems for the first time in human history as, for example, the loss of 75% of flying insects from Germany’s skies. What’s responsible for killing flying insects, en masse, in over 60 “protected” nature reserves?

Recently, a key study, EAT-Lancet Commission/2019, issued a “highly authoritative warning” to the world at large: Even though food systems can potentially nurture health and also support environmental sustainability, “they are currently threatening both.”

That’s a mouth-dropping warning that’s difficult to fathom, especially with knowledge that the flawed food system is not properly analyzed for public consumption in the first instance. Food or War corrects that egregious failure to “level with the public,” and it does so in wonderful style, even when dealing with thorny issues.

The modern food system is broken and needs fixing. It endangers human health and destroys ecosystems. As such, agricultural experts claim “business as usual” for farming is no longer a viable option. Rather, it must, must, must change: “We must take a more ecological approach.”4

Along those lines, Cribb quotes Dr. Jane Goodall, the world-famous anthropologist:

Someday we shall look back on this dark era of agriculture and shake our heads. How could we have ever believed that it was a good idea to grow our food with poisons?5

Unbelievably, more than 2,000 and 4,000 different chemicals and pesticides are used in farming, and more than 2,500 chemicals are intentionally added to foods to modify flavor, color, stability, texture, and costs. Many, if not most, of these chemicals over the decades have not been properly analyzed for toxicity to humans.

In the final analysis, modern industrial chemical farming cheats Mother Nature. But, she’s almost gone anyway!

As a result, the scientific literature is crammed full (thousands) of telling studies, “with mounting evidence,” that chemicals are implicated in a global pandemic of (1) cancers, (2) brain damage, (3) sexual dysfunction, (4) allergies, (5) hormonal and developmental disorders on a level of which humanity has never experienced.

Little wonder that human health care costs skyrocket. Given enough time, the costs volcanically erupt based upon years and years of pent-up accumulation of chemicals lodged in human tissue, finally becoming one more statistic of our peculiar modern-day human tragedies, crippling illnesses and over-populated care centers.

Most American families have at least one family member confined to a care center or under 24/7 home care.

Additionally, nearly every American family has someone with cancer and/or sexual dysfunction, as both ailments stand out, if only because billions upon billions are spent annually on each ailment; in fact, record amounts of money spent for bizarre treatments and powerful drugs to live long enough for adolescent intimacy, all over again.

Meanwhile, male sperm count (fertility) throughout much of the developed world has fallen off a cliff, in free-fall, down by as much as 60%, which may be a blessing in disguise. But that’s another subject for another time. Still, why the steep falloff, which is accelerating, by the decade?

Ipso facto, the unthinkable could happen (but, on second thought, not so unthinkable) as chemically-induced men run out of ammunition, no more fire power.

The Earth is now subject to a universal chemical bombardment, a macro-scale version of the destruction of the forests and rice paddies of Vietnam in the US ‘Agent Orange’ campaign of the 1970s. The job of most farm chemicals is to kill something — whether it is an insect or a plant — and their dispersal through the global environment ensures that many non-target species, including people, birds, frogs, honeybees, and soil micro-organisms, are killed, injured or have their reproductive neurological and developmental systems damaged.6

Today’s version of industrial farming with its monocroping produces vast fields of green for as far as the eye can see in perfectly aligned slick rows embedded in “sick soils” where microbial activity is so low that nutritional value is negligible, lacking minerals, vitamins, proteins, and, worse yet, with low antioxidant qualities because there are not enough microbes in the soil to release them.

That’s the antithesis of how humans, over the centuries, evolved as strong and powerful creatures, eventually growing into a force more powerful than the biosphere itself, forever thereafter dominate as the infamous “human footprint.”

While not solely responsible, the modern industrial food system is, nonetheless, a major contributor to a universal web of toxicity… that hardly existed three generations ago and previously, did not exist at all for the entirety of human history… Farm chemicals… have become a significant threat to life on the planet.7

It’s the greatest paradox of all time.

Postscript:

If the pathway to war, government failure, or the collapse of a civilization can be thought of as a series of dominoes, collapsing one upon another, the fall of the food domino and the climate domino lie very early in the sequence and have irresistible impact and consequences.

— Julian Cribb

  1. Julian Cribb, Food or War, Cambridge University Press, 2019) p. 177.
  2. p. 62.
  3. p. 86.
  4. p. 88.
  5. p. 93.
  6. p. 100.
  7. p. 99.

Is Bottled Water Safe to Drink Every Day?

The next time you put your lips to a plastic bottle of “crystal-clear mountain spring water” think about Trump’s herculean efforts to dismantle federal agencies that protect health.

More to the point, Trump’s innate distrust of science is already starting to impact health risks; e.g., according to Consumer Reports (“CR”) excessive levels of arsenic are found in some bottled water that should have been spotted by federal regulators, and not by Consumer Reports.

As it happens:

The federal government’s safety inspections of water bottling facilities hit a 15-year low in 2017, according to documents CR obtained through a public records request.

The referenced CR headline:

Arsenic in Some Bottled Water Brands at Unsafe Levels, Consumer Reports Says.1

More on that travesty later.

Meanwhile, because Trump is doing everything possible to take federal regulations back to the “Sixties,” then Rachel Carson’s inimitable The Silent Spring (1962) should be required reading for every household in America because she exposes the dangers of 60 years ago that are, once again, starting to be exposed today. To say that this is a remarkable event is, indeed, remarkable!

Rachel Carson has never been more relevant, in fact, doubly more relevant, e.g., according to The Silent Spring, page 237:

Human exposures to cancer-producing chemicals (including pesticides) are uncontrolled and they are multiple. An individual may have many different exposures to the same chemical. Arsenic is an example… It is quite possible that no one of these exposures alone would be sufficient to precipitate malignancy— yet any single supposedly ‘safe dose’ may be enough to tip the scales that are already loaded with other ‘safe doses.’2

In other words, the cumulative effect of repeated exposure to dangerous toxins causes cancer. Carson’s book hits hard on this crucial point, earning her accolades as “the finest nature writer of the Twentieth Century.” Furthermore, exposure to one chemical can trigger dormancy of an altogether different chemical, a compounding effect that triggers malignant growths, like cancer.

More from Carson:

The situation is made even more complicated by the fact that one chemical may act on another to alter its effect. Cancer may sometimes require the complementary action of two chemicals, one of which sensitizes the cell or tissue so that it may later, under the action of another or promoting agent, develop true malignancy.3

Without question, most American families experience cancer.

Thus, foretelling: Is it a good idea to cut federal health and environmental regulations?

According to Consumer Reports:

CR tracked down and reviewed hundreds of public records and test reports from bottled water brands… We found that several popular brands sell bottled water with arsenic levels at or above 3 ppb; current research suggests that amounts above that level are potentially dangerous to drink over extended periods of time.

For example, drinking every day!

CR identified 11 brands with detectable amounts of arsenic and of those six had “levels of 3 ppb or higher. These brands are Starkey (owned by Whole Foods), Peñafiel (owned by Keurig Dr Pepper), Crystal Geyser Alpine Spring Water, Volvic (owned by Danone), and two regional brands, Crystal Creamery and EartH₂O.

Not only that but, as Flint, Michigan glaringly demonstrated, it’s not only bottled water that demands rigorous federal government oversight.

Nevertheless, in spite of the necessity of rocklike vigilance of the nation’s most precious resources, Trump’s 2020 budget seeks a cut for the National Institutes of Health for the third year in a row. Some of the biggest losers (a Trump classic) will be the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.  Not only that, but according to the American Association of Immunologists, Trump’s cuts would defund 2,824 research project grants and cut short the work “of many talented and dedicated scientists.”4

Wow, what an accomplishment! America’s president really knows how to “drain the swamp.”

Ultimately, the president’s proposed $2.7 trillion in spending cuts will leave the nation less healthy and less safe,” says Benjamin Corb, public affairs director for the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB).5

And, just for good measure:

Trump’s plan sees spending on Medicare and Medicaid trimmed by $818 billion and $1.5 trillion respectively over the next 10 years.5

So much for Trump’s humongous big-mouthed loud and boastful campaign promise to safeguard America’s “sacred” Medicare, rather, it’s down the drain with Drano, lickety-split!

Meanwhile, and nearly impossible to comprehend: Trump’s tax cuts for billionaires/millionaires, which “drains federal revenue,” results in a U.S. deficit of $691B by the halfway mark of the current fiscal year, which is more for his “one-half of a year” than all but five “annual deficits” throughout American history.6

Whew!

That breathlessness of enormous/gigantic tax cuts for the rich while sticking all American families with the bill for responsibility of the resultant record-setting federal deficit/debt amidst “cutting to the bone” federal protection of health services and the environment is almost too much to absorb without experiencing crazy bouts of dizziness, some kind of strange vertigo that alters the mindset to dangerous delusions of mercy killing.

And, yes, it’s endless:

According to the Environmental Defense Fund:

For the third year in a row, the Trump administration proposed deep cuts to EPA. These reductions would allow more lead, toxic chemicals, and contaminated water.

Once again, “draining the swamp.”

Yet, EPA accounts for only 0.2% of the federal budget, but proposed funding for EPA will be at its absolute lowest level in “real dollars” (adjusted for inflation) in over 40 years, taking funding for environmental safety back to the “Seventies,” when the Clean Water Act (1972) was first signed by President Nixon, which is an absolutely amazing coincidence, as impeachment reigns supreme, then and now.

Have a healthy pre-election year!

  1. June 28, 2019.
  2. The Silent Spring, p. 237.
  3. The Silent Spring, p. 238.
  4. FierceBiotech, March 12, 2019.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Peter G. Peterson Foundation – bipartisan nonprofit that focuses on national debt.

At 100, Gaia Faces its Biggest Challenges

James Lovelock theorized Gaia while working for NASA in the 1960s when he was hired to determine if there was “life on Mars.”

Gaia may be younger but James Lovelock, Mr. Gaia himself, turns 100 on his upcoming birthday, July 26th.

For over 50 years, he has been Britain’s leading independent scientist. His independence from a formal relationship with an educational institution or governmental agency gives him a unique perspective. He’s one of the few scientists without an axe to grind, and of great interest, he’s been observing the scene for 100 years. He’s a living treasure trove of scientific knowledge whose reputation, at one point in time, withstood sharp criticism by the scientific community. Today, he’s a proven genius.

His Gaia hypothesis, which contends that the earth is a single, self-regulating organism, is now accepted as a founding principle of most climate science. His theory proposes that the atmosphere, oceans, rocks, soil and all living things constitute a self-regulating system that maintains favorable conditions for life.

To his everlasting credit, he helped save all of humanity by developing an invention for detecting CFCs in the atmosphere that was instrumental in discovering the infamous Ozone Hole of the 1980s.

The ozone molecule (O3), which is randomly scattered throughout the stratosphere at 10-to-20 miles above Earth’s surface, filters-out hazardous effects of ultraviolet radiation from the Sun, without which life would burn up.

After the Ozone Hole was identified, it led to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer in September 1987. Human-made chlorines, CFCs, were prohibited.

Thereafter, research monitoring the atmosphere claimed the ozone hole in the Northern Hemisphere would be fixed by the 2030s and the Antarctica hole fixed by the 2060s.

Until… Alas, a new alarm was set off in Southeast Asia. The Environmental Investigation Agency in 2018 discovered a source of illegal CFCs coming from provinces in eastern China manufacturing polyurethane insulation. The manufacturers were using CFC-11 because of its better quality and cheaper costs than alternatives.

According to third-party analyses: “This new study is based on spikes in the data on air that comes from China,” lead author Dr. Matt Rigby, the University of Bristol, told BBC Inside Science. “Using computer simulations of the transport of these gases through the atmosphere we can start to put numbers on emissions from different regions and that’s where we come up with this number of around 7,000 tonnes of extra CFC-11 emissions coming out of China compared to before 2012.”

Oh please! Somebody find a bucket… quick, hurry up!

Not only that but CFCs are very potent greenhouse gases. One ton of CFC-11 is equivalent to around 5,000 tons of CO2.

Getting back to a semblance of sanity and the James Lovelock story, one of his most elegant pieces of hard science was discovery of the cycle in which algae in the oceans produces volatile sulphur compounds that act as seeds to form oceanic clouds. Without these dimethyl sulphide seeds, cooling oceanic clouds would be lost.

Lovelock’s gargantuan influence is nearly impossible to describe in one article. It requires a book, not an article. Still, a lot can be gleaned from his voluminous studies, interviews, and analyses, especially regarding the status of Mother Earth.

One of his starkest warnings was that the earth is overpopulated by a factor of seven. Stating:

It cannot for much longer maintain both its ecosystem and the supply of food, energy and materials to such a large population.

Of course, therein, by implication, he references the Great Acceleration post WWII when world population growth took off like a space ship blasting off. After all, it took thousands of years to reach 2B people by 1945, but it only took one generation to nearly triple, up 275%, to 7.5B people. If anybody has questions about how and why ecosystems throughout the planet are strained, if not outright crumbling apart, then look to the Great Acceleration in harmony with rampant High Capitalism for answers.

With High Capitalism, ecosystems are handled like throw-away Dixie Cups. As a result, a gigantic crack is starting to appear in Earth’s crust, running from pole to pole as it comes apart at the seams. Infinite growth is the greatest illusion of all time, that, nevertheless and unfortunately “turns on” Wall Street and political leaders around the world. But, that formula for “growth to the sky, to infinity,” is not working very well for Gaia, which has already reversed course downwards towards surefire darkness and chaos. Which means that something has to change before all hell breaks lose. The likeliest target for change is current political theory, as the neoliberal brand of capitalistic democracy has gotta go the way of the Dodo Bird, otherwise, the planet will likely suffer serious climate disasters.

There’s a better way: Eco economics treats the economy as a subsystem of Earth’s larger ecosystem and emphasizes natural capital instead of consuming it and destroying it.

During a recent BBC interview, Lovelock said:

There is a real danger of losing our tenure on the planet altogether…. We’ve got to care about this matter of global warming because if we don’t do anything about it, there won’t be anybody here… It’s about time we went back to taking an interest in the environment… What happens to the planet when more CO2 is put into the air? The earth will get hotter. It will heat up to a point where no life on it of our kind will be possible…1

In an earlier interview with Nature Video, regarding his book The Vanishing Face of Gaia, A Final Warning (Publisher Allen Lane), he outlined expectations for global warming: After informing the interviewer that he preferred to use “global heating” rather than “global warming,” he outlined consequences: “When tough times come, it’ll be very rapid, indeed.”

And, as outlined in his book, he believes the “climate downfall” will be quite the opposite from an old adage: “It’s darkest before the dawn.” In his view, it’ll be: “It’s brightest just before the darkness” (which incidentally defines High Capitalism today, in terms of capital growth but not in terms of individual gratification).

Lovelock’s climate warning:

Assume the system becomes unstable and goes into positive feedback, as the positive feedback strengthens, any small permutation in either direction gets amplified.

Which describes the trigger behind “climate downfall,” when least expected.

In point of fact, there are already instances of “positive feedback”; e.g., permafrost collapsing in the North and disappearance of arthropods in tropical rainforests, among many other instances. It has already started, where nobody lives.

He further stated that he feared that the earth’s move to a new state 5-6C hotter is probably inevitable, and that we should be planning to meet that challenge. There are already early signs of that, especially in the northern latitudes.

Even though Lovelock has personally planted 1,000 trees, he admits that the climate problem can’t be so easily solved:

You cannot plant an ecosystem. An ecosystem includes: bacteria or haematids, insects, invertebrates and all kinds of stuff, all the way up to big trees. You cannot plant ecosystems…  it has to come naturally.

Recently (August 2018) in an interview, he said:

Humans’ time may have run out and artificial intelligence could be about to take our place on Earth.2

In that interview, he also proclaimed:

The Earth is in dire trouble and could soon experience intense climate-related disasters.

Mr. Lovelock said that he felt the Earth was something like himself. It is very old, but still has some time left.

“I’m looking forward to quite a few years to go in this beautiful region and so is the planet, but you can’t bank on it,” he told the Today programme.”

  1. BBC Ideas interview of James Lovelock, February 8th, 2019.
  2. Independent, August 8, 2018.

Permafrost Collapses 70 Years Early

Fasten your seat belt!  Global warming is on a rampage.

As a consequence, many ecosystems may be on the verge of total collapse. In fact, recent activity in the hinterlands surely looks that way. Over time, the backlash for civilized society, where people live in comfort, could be severe, meaning extreme discomfort.

But still, nobody knows when or how bad it’ll get. As it happens, an ongoing climate catastrophe, like the show-stopping catastrophic collapse of permafrost in the Canadian High Arctic (more on this later) is hard evidence that climate scientists have been way too conservative for far too long. Evidently, they never expected climate change to hit with the force of a lightening bolt.

Still in all, and in fairness, climate scientists have been warning about the dangers of global warming for decades. Now, it’s happening, in spades. It should be noted that America’s politicians are guilty of ignoring warnings by their own scientists. Those warnings officially started 31 years ago when Dr. James Hansen, then head of NASA Institute for Space Studies, testified before the Senate.1

The NYT article of 31 years ago went on to say:

If the current pace of the buildup of these gases continues, the effect is likely to be a warming of 3 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit from the year 2025 to 2050, according to these projections. This rise in temperature is not expected to be uniform around the globe but to be greater in the higher latitudes.

Hmm, that’s where the permafrost is located.

Global warming is prominent throughout the North. Ergo, climate news doesn’t get much worse (well, actually, it could, and will) than the collapse of permafrost in the Canadian High Arctic’s extreme coldest region:

Observed maximum thaw depths at our sites are already exceeding those projected to occur by 2090.2

That’s chilling!

The aforementioned study, from 2003-2016, found permafrost melt up to 240% more than previous years. In geological terms, that’s like winning the Indy 500, hands down. That permafrost had been frozen solid for “thousands of years.” Accordingly, scientists predicted the permafrost “wouldn’t melt for another 70 years.” Yet, the landscape has already collapsed by up to three feet.

Not only is permafrost collapsing, it’s reported that houses are “sinking into the earth” in parts of Alaska, Canada, and Russia. Alaska’s 92-mile road for Alaska’s Denali National Park is moving off center by the forces of slip-sliding land.

Not only that, of course, bad news often times begets more bad news.  Here’s the bold-faced truth about the global warming dilemma: The world is not braced for a turbo-charged climate and collapsing ecosystems and burn off of agriculture in mid latitudes. Remarkably, even though “global warming” is one of the most recognized terms in the world today, nobody is prepared for the onset.

Scandalously, America’s role in the crisis is akin to (actually a carbon copy of) the extreme arrogant smugness of General George Custer’s leadership directly, headfirst into one of the world’s most celebrated mass slaughters.

For additional evidence of out of control crazy, zany global warming, a photo of sled dogs traipsing thru water up to their stomachs on Greenland’s icy surface recently went viral, as Steffen Olsen, a climate scientist at the Danish Meteorological Institute, led his team to retrieve equipment at a weather station but the normal icy freeze-up wasn’t normal any longer.

William Colgan, a senior researcher at the institute, commented:

It’s very unusual to have this much melt so early in the season… it takes very rare conditions but they’re becoming increasingly common.3

Bottom line, the top 25% of the Northern Hemisphere, where permafrost is ubiquitous, is coming apart at the seams, and climate scientists are behind the eight ball while America’s politicians deny the legitimacy of science and openly spit on the underlying thesis of anthropogenic global warming. What can be done about that? After all, America’s political system is on trial before a world community that fully embraced Paris ’15 to restrain global warming as it watches ecosystems in America’s Alaska collapse and emit more carbon into the atmosphere (based upon two-years of airborne measurements) than all U.S. commercial CO2 emissions biannually, which, of course, merely serves as supporting evidence for the absolutely shocking “drop-to-your-knees news” about the “70-yr too early permafrost collapse.”

These instances of collapsing permafrost are deafening bell-ringers and exactly the type of awful news that presages Runaway Global Warming (RGW).

In point of fact, Farquharson’s “70-yr too early permafrost collapse” makes the onset of RGW look like a dead-ringer, but when? Still, nobody really knows for sure how horrible it will be for society at large, but it’s 100% guaranteed to upend capitalism’s rampant growth machine. Functioning ecosystems and roughshod capitalism that willy-nilly consumes ecosystems, punctuated by the advent of plutocracy, don’t jive very well. Maybe a change is in order.

There’s no getting around the fact that ecosystems are collapsing. The evidence is too palpable to ignore. It’s serious; it’s deadly, and it could be too late to do much to stop it, other than a last-ditch WWII Marshall Plan Worldwide Consortium dedicated to converting the world to renewable energy, and forcing removal of CO2 from the atmosphere, yet, those solutions take years and years of planning, setup, construction, and billions upon billions of funding. It’s not happening.

Meanwhile, carbon that has been trapped in and under permafrost over eons readies to escape to turbo-charge an already oversaturated turbo-charged climate. It’s literally happening right now. The waiting room is already full. Farquharson’s study proves it, and Alaska’s permafrost carbon emissions that compete with U.S. commercial CO2 emissions prove it, as sled dogs wade through it.

It’s postulated that Runaway Global Warming, which could wipe out huge swaths of civilized society, starts in the North, where few people live. Egad! They’re already seeing it.

  1. “Global Warming Has Begun, Expert Tells Senate,” New York Times, June 24, 1988.
  2. Louise M. Farquharson et al, “Climate Change Drives Widespread and Rapid Thermokarst Development in Very Cold Permafrost in the Canadian High Arctic”, Geophysical Research Letters, June 10, 2019.
  3. BBC News, Rare climate conditions that “increasingly become common” define dangerous, disruptive climate change.

The Dangerous Methane Mystery

The East Siberian Arctic Shelf (“ESAS”) is the epicenter of a methane-rich zone that could turn the world upside down.

Still, the ESAS is not on the radar of mainstream science, and not included in calculations by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), and generally not well understood. It is one of the biggest mysteries of the world’s climate puzzle, and it is highly controversial, which creates an enhanced level of uncertainty and casts shadows of doubt.

The ESAS is the most extensive continental shelf in the world, inclusive of the Laptev Sea, the East Siberian Sea, and the Russian portion of the Chukchi Sea, all-in equivalent to the combined landmasses of Germany, France, Great Britain, Italy and Japan.

The region hosts massive quantities of methane (“CH4”) in frozen subsea permafrost in extremely shallow waters, enough CH4 to transform the “global warming” cycle into a “life-ending” cycle. As absurd as it sounds, it is not inconceivable.

Ongoing research to unravel the ESAS mystery is found in very few studies, almost none, except by Natalia Shakhova (International Arctic Research Center, University of Alaska/Fairbanks) a leading authority, for example:

It has been suggested that destabilization of shelf Arctic hydrates could lead to large-scale enhancement of aqueous CH4, but this process was hypothesized to be negligible on a decadal–century time scale. Consequently, the continental shelf of the Arctic Ocean (AO) has not been considered as a possible source of CH4 to the atmosphere until very recently.1

Shakhova’s “until very recently” comment explains, in part, why the IPCC does not include ESAS methane destabilization in its calculations. Meanwhile, Shakhova’s research has unearthed a monster in hiding, but thankfully, mostly in repose… for the moment. Still, early-stage warning signals are clearly noticeable; ESAS is rumbling, increasingly emitting more and more CH4, possibly in anticipation of a “Big Burp,” which could put the world’s lights out, hopefully in another century, or beyond, but based upon a reading of her latest report in Geosciences, don’t count on it taking so long.

Shakhova’s research is highlighted in a recent article in Arctic News2, which states:

Imagine a burst of methane erupting from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean that would add an amount of methane to the atmosphere equal to twice the methane that is already there.

Horror of horrors, the resulting equation is disturbing, to say the least, to wit: Twice the amount of CH4 that is already in the atmosphere equals a CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) of 560 ppm, assuming CH4 is 150xs the potency of CO2 in its initial years. And, adding that new number to current CH4/CO2e of 280 ppm to current CO2 levels of 415.7 ppm, according to readings at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, equals total atmospheric CO2 of 1256 ppm.

In other words, if ESAS springs a big fat leak, the Big Burp, which would only be <5% of the existing frozen methane deposit; it is possible that atmospheric CO2e would zoom up go as high as 1256 ppm.

What happens next?

A recent third-party study, also referenced in the aforementioned Arctic News article d/d June 10th, concluded that at 1200 ppm atmospheric CO2 global heating cranks up by 8°C, or 14.4°F, within a decade.3  Truth be known, that scenario is not problematic, it’s catastrophic and too far along to be classified as a problem. After all, problems can be fixed; catastrophes are fatal.

According to Shakhova’s research, as referenced in Geosciences/2019:

Releases could potentially increase by 3–5 orders of magnitude, considering the sheer amount of CH4 preserved within the shallow ESAS seabed deposits and the documented thawing rates of subsea permafrost reported recently. The purpose of this paper is to introduce the ESAS permafrost–hydrates system, which is largely unfamiliar to scientists.4  (Side note: 3 orders of magnitude is equivalent to 1,000; i.e., a large methane release.)

More from Shakhova:

Here we present results of the first comprehensive scientific re-drilling to show that subsea permafrost in the near-shore zone of the ESAS has a downward movement of the ice-bonded permafrost table of ~14 cm (6 inches) year over the past 31–32 years… However, recent studies show that in some areas very recently submerged permafrost is close to or has already reached the thaw point.4

Shakhova’s studies are based upon marine expeditions, including drill campaigns that investigate the thermal regime, geomorphology, lithology, and geocryology of sediment cores extracted from boreholes drilled from marine vessels and not based solely upon climate models calculated on desktop computers.

In conclusion, as the world community continues to accept the reality of climate change as an existential threat, which fact is emphatically spotlighted by the likes of the Children’s Crusade, originating out of Sweden, and the Extinction Rebellion, originating out of the UK, it is important to emphasize the timing factor. Nobody knows 100% for certain how the climate crisis will turn out, but there is pretty solid evidence that the issue, meaning several ecosystems which are starting to collapse in unison, is accelerating, by a lot. So, there is not much time left to do something constructive, assuming it’s not already too late. Speaking of which, a small faction of climate scientists has already “tossed in the towel.”

After all, it’s not that hard to understand their point of view as many ecosystems have already hit tipping points, which means no turning back, no fixes possible, but still, (and, here’s the great hope) nobody really knows 100% for sure how all of this will play out.

Nevertheless, in a perfect world that really/truly “follows the science” a Worldwide All-In Coordinated Marshall Plan to do “whatever it takes” would already be in a full-blastoff mode.

But… it’s not!

  1. Natalia Shakhova, et al, Understanding the Permafrost–Hydrate System and Associated Methane Releases in the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, Geosciences, 2019.
  2. “When Will We Die?”, June 10, 2019.
  3. Arctic News, June 10, 2019.
  4. Ibid.

The Permafrost Nightmare Turns (More) Real

Permafrost covers 25% of the Northern Hemisphere. It is the world’s largest icebox, and its landmass is 4.5xs larger than Antarctica, 6.5xs larger than the United States.  It is stuffed full of carbon locked in frozen ground accumulated over eons, which, by way of contrast, makes coal power plant emissions look bush-league.

Most notably, permafrost has an image of permanence and slow/gradual change, “the sloth of the north.” But, that slothful image is now out-of-date. Global warming has changed the equation. Nowadays, permafrost disintegration is officially hot news.

Scientists that have long studied the gradual thawing of permafrost are now experiencing a dramatic switch from their former “eyes wide shut” viewpoint; i.e., refusing to see something that’s in plain view because of preconceived notions. That slothful image of yesteryear has been shattered via numerous studies.1

Gradual permafrost thaw is now passé: “Turetsky and an international team of researchers are looking at something very different: Rapid collapse of permafrost that can transform the landscape in mere months through subsidence, flooding and landslides.”2

Based upon observations as recorded by the Turetsky research team, a climate crisis has already set in. It is here now: “We work in areas where permafrost contains a lot of ice, and our field sites are being destroyed by abrupt collapse of this ice, not gradually over decades, but very quickly over months to years,” said Turetsky.

According to team member Miriam Jones, a U.S. Geological Survey research geologist: “This abrupt thaw is changing forested ecosystems… resulting in a wholesale transformation of the landscape that not only impacts carbon feedbacks to climate but is also altering wildlife habitat and damaging infrastructure.”

“It’s happening faster than anyone predicted,” Turetsky.

Still, the scientists behind the study remain optimistic that something constructive can be done to limit the dangers implied in the details of their study, to wit: “If we can limit human emissions, we can still curb the most dangerous consequences of climate warming,” blah, blah, blah.

Most scientists and media sources claim it’s still not too late to do something to mitigate climate change. But, lingering questions remain, like what, when, how and who?  Where’s the leadership? When it comes to fixing the blistering pace of climate change, talk is cheap whereas only action counts.

In that regard, there is a well-defined approach to the climate crisis as well as answers to the aforementioned Turetsky study, which clearly delineates big time trouble right around the bend. Indeed, when the world’s largest landmass literally crumbles apart, as stated in Turetsky’s study, “right in front of our eyes,” then alarm bells should be going off all across the land, especially in the office of the president responsible for one of the world’s largest permafrost regions, Alaska.

Under current climate conditions, the danger of runaway global warming and subsequent burn off of mid-latitude agriculture cannot be overstated. The implications are dreadful. Still, the provocative question remains “is it too late” as publicly stated by some climate scientists, without doubt the world’s most disturbing Debbie Downers, and unfortunately, verily truly, they have scientific evidence that backs up their predictions. Hopefully, fingers crossed, they’re wrong.

Still, the movement to fixit has “legs,” and it’s important to remember that nobody knows what the future holds. The big fixit could work!

For answers about what to do in the face of the climate emergency, hands down, the best essay extant is Margaret Klein Salamon’s “Leading the Public into Emergency Mode: Introducing the Emergency Climate Movement”.

Here’s a snippet:

At the end of 2018, the dam finally burst and the Climate Emergency Movement has emerged, finally, as a powerful force. This movement tells the truth about the scale of the crisis, and demands a “Green New Deal” or a WWII-scale climate mobilization — a 10-year transition to zero emissions plus drawdown. Led by Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and the Justice Democrats in Congress, the Sunrise Movement, Zero Hour, School Strikers, and Extinction Rebellion in the streets, this movement has burst forth with tremendous force and momentum. As of the time of this writing, more than 500 cities in 4 countries have declared a ‘Climate Emergency’ and most of the major Democratic Presidential candidates have stated that they support the Green New Deal.

Here’s another snippet:

Working in coalition with international allies and on-the-ground leaders, The Climate Mobilization has helped to spread this campaign to 500 local governments around the world, representing over 50 million people; it is now growing at a compounding rate. Because of Extinction Rebellion’s impact, as well as the work of the British Green Party, more than 50 UK cities have declared climate emergency and commit to emergency speed decarbonization. London declared a climate emergency in mid-December, committing to transform its economy to carbon-neutral by 2030. Non-governmental organizations have also declared Climate Emergency. University of Bristol became the first university to declare a Climate Emergency. The XR-affiliated campaign Culture Declares a Climate Emergency has supported hundreds of British cultural institutions and artists in declaring a climate emergency. The Climate Mobilization plans to help spread this into the US as well.

Throughout the world, and at astounding rates of growth, nearly as rapidly as climate change itself, people are organizing to fight the climate crisis. Already, remarkable success is happening around the world, which is highlighted in Salamon’s essay.

Even more fascinating yet: Out of the blue, the leadership question has been answered. It’s the people, en masse!

All of which points to a distinct probability that “The Climate Crisis” will be a determining (maybe “the major”) factor in the upcoming 2020 election. Just look at recent headlines: “Will 2020 Finally Be The Climate Change Election?” (Buzzfeed), “Climate Change Suddenly Matters in the 2020 Race” (Politico), “Climate Change Could Become a Top Issue in 2020 Election” (Time).

Postscript:

Margaret Klein Salamon is an invaluable guide to this new moment.

— Bill McKibben, Author and Movement Leader

Salamon’s work continues to lead the conversation.

— Michael Mann, Climate Scientist and author

No one has been more inspiringly clear-eyed about the climate emergency or what it demands than Margaret Klein Salamon.

— David Wallace Wells,  author The Uninhabitable Earth

  1. For example, Merritt Turetsky, Canadian Research Chair in Integrative Ecology, University of Guelph, “Rapid Permafrost Thaw Unrecognized Threat to Landscape, Global Warming Researcher Warns,” Nature, May 1, 2019.
  2. Ibid.

Ozone-Depleting CFCs Return

In August of 1987 the world came together after a panic-attack over ongoing depletion of atmospheric ozone, aka: The Ozone Hole.  Subsequently, global agreements to stop ozone depletion became the first ever “universally ratified treaties in UN history.” The world banned CFCs.

Thereafter, an era of good feelings about ozone restoration swept the world community and 25 years afterwards Science News magazine reported: “Ozone Hole at Smallest Size in Decades” d/d October 26, 2012.

Glory hallelujah!  As a glorious Great Exhale spread across the land, similar to releasing pressurized air out of a humongous balloon, wheezing and hissing for days on end, in celebration of The Shrinking Ozone Hole! It was the first time in history that people celebrated a Shrinking Hole, and for good reason.

Ozone molecules are crucial to sustaining life. Those feisty powerhouse molecules shield the planet from destructive Ultraviolet B or UV-B, which can become big-time killers if left unchecked. According to NASA: “Without ozone, the Sun’s intense UV radiation would sterilize the Earth’s surface” which is a gentle way of saying “Mass Extinction.”

The problem is multiplied as CFCs have a lifetime in the atmosphere of 20 to 100 years, thus, one free chlorine atom from a CFC molecule can do a lot of damage by destroying crucial life-supporting ozone molecules over lengthy periods of time.

Sadly, the world must now reconsider holding its collective breath once again. On May 22nd, 2019, the same Science News magazine that broke the good news and celebrated “A Shrinking Ozone Hole in 2012” newest headline reads: “Emissions of a Banned Ozone-Destroying Chemical Have Been Traced to China.”

As it happens, CFC-11 was, and is, used in manufacturing foams for construction materials, refrigerators, aerosol sprays, blowing agents, packing materials, solvents, and other consumer goods.

The Montreal Protocol of 1987 called for phasing out production of chlorofluorocarbons by 2010 when CFC-11 production was banned. However, by all appearances, China never got the memo.

Atmospheric observations, as well as on-the-ground investigations, have discovered a link of illegal CFC-11 in manufacturing districts in China. It should be noted that there are substitutes for CFC, but CFC-11 is less costly, easier, and faster than substitutes.

Ergo, it’s simply mind-blowing that “costs and profits and markets” supersede careful husbandry of the planet. Actually, more to the point, ignoring the CFC ban goes well beyond mind-blowing; it’s (1) criminal, (2) insane, (3) underhanded, and (4) deplorable, beyond reproach!

Air samples collected in South Korea and Japan point a very big fat guilty finger directly at eastern China where CFC-11 emissions averaged 6,400 metric tons annually from 2008-2012. That number increased to 13,400 metric tons annually from 2014-17. Additionally, on-the-ground investigations by the International Environmental Investigation Agency confirmed the atmospheric tests of Chinese manufacturing of CFC-11, the infamous killer of the world’s precious ozone layer.

Dismally, it’s not only China. There are additional increases of CFC-11 detected from other parts of the world that have not yet been specifically identified. Those signals come from parts of Asia, Africa and South America.

According to the most recent Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion: 2018, Executive Summary, commissioned by the World Meteorological Organization, the UN Environment Programme, NASA, NOAA, and the European Commission:

There has been an unexpected increase in global total emissions of CFC-11. Global CFC-11 emissions derived from measurements by two independent networks increased after 2012, thereby slowing the steady decrease in atmospheric concentrations reported in previous Assessments.

As for the timing of CFC’s impact on ozone molecules, there’s a lag effect, meaning it takes two to five years for CFC molecules to become exposed to ultraviolet radiation, resulting in chlorine molecules that then seek and destroy ozone molecules. Zap!

It’s the chlorine from CFC-11, as well as similar molecules, collectively referred to as chlorofluorocarbons that destroy thousands of atmospheric ozone molecules per chlorine atom. Therefore, disproportionately, one chlorine atom searches, finds, and zaps thousands (1000s) of ozone molecules; keeping in mind the fact that one atom is a sub-component of a molecule.

Appallingly, and sure enough, chlorine atoms have been turned loose once again to feast on precious ozone molecules located at 6 miles to 30 miles altitude, widely dispersed hither and thither to an extreme.

Remarkably, if all of the ozone molecules that are scattered in a 24-mile zone of atmosphere could be squeezed together into an encircling dome over Earth, it would be no more than the thickness of one copper penny. It’s true!

All of which brings to mind the astounding realization that the planet is, and always has been, very resilient over millennia of earthquakes and asteroid collisions but in certain crucial aspects, meaning life support systems, it can be dreadfully fragile.

Are cheaper consumer goods really worth it?