All posts by Robert Hunziker

Amazon Onslaught

This month Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro proposed a new bill promoting mining, expanded agriculture, and energy production on indigenous lands in the Amazon. Accordingly, private developers as well as private hedge funds will occupy and develop land that’s been home to indigenous people for thousands of years.

Meantime during Bolsonaro’s first full year in office, deforestation increased by 85%. More on this eye-popping number follows.

Of recent, there have been several deeply disturbing developments in the Amazon. Less than two months ago the world’s leading Amazonian scientists, Thomas Lovejoy (George Mason University) and Carlos Nobre (University of Sao Paulo) issued a harsh warning to the people of the world: “Today, we stand exactly in a moment of destiny: The tipping point is here, it is now.”1

Tipping points are final acts in nature, meaning points of no return for ecosystems, as functionality turns sour. Regarding the vastness of the Amazonian rainforest, its functionality is so worldly powerful that loss is incomprehensible and likely indicative of an impending final act for civilized, as well as uncivilized, life on the planet.

Nevertheless, recklessly flirting with extreme potent danger, the “tipping point warning” by leading scientists is brushed aside by Bolsonaro’s government, as the Amazon rainforest suffers direct attack on all fronts; it’s like an Anti-Climate Change Crusade, meaning, clearing the planet of all life forms, except for humans, but that can only last for so long before “thudding humans” start reverberating throughout the planet.

Already, the belated impact of anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming over the decades has only now started clobbering the Amazon with three 100-year droughts, back-to-back-to-back every 5 years. It’s unprecedented, never happened before, until excessive levels of CO2 accumulated in the atmosphere.

According to NASA, serious, likely permanent, damaging episodes of drought in 2005, 2010, and 2015 have literally changed the Amazon, losing its special “carbon sink status.” As such, the Amazon’s sphere of influence in various regions throughout the rainforest transforms from preserving humanity via its powerful “carbon sink” capabilities to morphing into a shameful “carbon emitter,” same as coal-fired power plants spewing CO2, but not as sooty.

Unprecedented 100/year droughts occurring every five years sends a clear resounding signal to the world that something is horribly wrong.

Consider: According to NASA, the timing between drought sequences has impeded regrowth. The rainforest just doesn’t react like it used to. It does not have enough time between droughts to heal itself and regrow. Throughout all of recorded history, this has never been witnessed before. The implications are downright dreadful. 2

Meanwhile and regrettably, according to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research, deforestation of the Amazon surged by 85% in 2019. Wall Street brokers would kill for a stock that increased by 85% in one year, and they would not blink an eye over a bloody mess, if necessary, to achieve such spectacular results, which, in a sense, is equivalent to the 85% Amazonian deforestation scenario. Which will likely get worse in 2020.

Not only that, killing indigenous tribal people is on the rise as private adventurers take Bolsonaro’s rightwing sentiments to heart, intruding into the Amazon. They’re armed for self-defense as well as to assault new lands. One never knows when a barefooted half-naked man carrying a thin wooden spear may appear from within the bush on his sacred homeland.

As if the situation couldn’t get much worse, the outlook for 2020 is simply awful! According to MapBiomas, a Brazilian organization in collaboration with universities, NGOs, and technology companies that monitor deforestation: “It would be expected that it will be worse than last year unless something really big happens in the next two or three months to avoid the high season of deforestation that starts in May (2020), according to Tasso Azevedo, coordinator of a group called MapBiomas.”3

What’s worse than 85% deforestation? Is it 100% or maybe more now that Bolsonaro is so anxious to open up the Amazon to the deep-seated impulses of neoliberal-neocolonial capitalism (1) privatize (2) extract (3) monetize, as quickly as humanly possible, no questions asked.

Going forward, and assuming the Bolsonaro Amazon Extraction Scheme works as planned and passes muster in the hallowed halls of The National Congress of Brazil (Brasilia), it likely puts at risk essential life-sourcing features of the Amazon: Without its wondrous strength and power to generate (1) hydrologic systems (rivers across the sky as far north as Iowa), (2) absorb and store carbon (CO2) and (3) miraculous life-giving endless supply of oxygen, civilization would cease to exist beyond scattered tribes, here and there.

In all, it’s obvious where the Amazonian affair is headed, especially giving consideration to “civilization ceasing to exist beyond scattered tribes, here and there.”

Fortuitously, the infrastructure is already in place for that new world order. There are 305 Brazilian tribes, population 900,000, already in place to teach civilized society how to act and behave and live within natural ecosystems that fundamentally support the planet with vital life-giving resources… for free!

Postscript:  An excellent new film “Rollbacks – An Assault Against Life on Earth” is an exposé of Trump’s attack on the environment.

  1. “Amazon Tipping Point: Last Chance for Action”, Science Advances, Vol. 5, no. 12, December 20, 2019.
  2. NASA Finds Amazon Drought Leaves Long Legacy of Damage”, NASA Earth Science News Team, August 9, 2018.
  3. Victoria Klesty, “Amazon Deforestation Could Speed Up In 2020: Expert”, Reuters, January 15, 2020.

A Radical Call To Action  

A radical call to action has never been more vital than today, as the abomination of capitalism known as neoliberalism tears apart society from stem to stern, continuing the grand experiment that originated under the watchful eyes and vision of aristocratic plantation-owners like Washington and Jefferson as wealthy patriots.

In honor of their hard fought war to avoid taxation as much as possible, Trump retroactively honored them with a gigantic tax cut for their distant namesakes, the wealthy.

Lo and behold, he has hardened the battle lines between them (1%) versus us (99%). Will the lines be crossed and how so?

The Trump tax cut for corporations and rich individuals drops a trillion-and-a-half ($1.5T) out of the hands of federal tax collectors, helping to sustain a $1trillion unsustainable deficit that makes Democrat deficits look like small potatoes. “Instead of trickling down to workers, the 2017 tax cuts have largely served to line the pockets of already wealthy investors—further increasing inequality—with little to show for it.”1

Meanwhile, assuming Trump gets away scot-free with his impeachment proceedings, he’ll likely use that miscarriage of justice to enhance his standing among easily swayed impressionable voters as well as solidifying his overt ownership of dumbed-down members of Congress. It’s mind numbing and would be comical if not for the tragedy that’s unfolding.

Forthwith, it’s time to sharpen swords, as the onset of full-dress authoritarianism by the least qualified president in history is sure to ensue, aka: fascism in full living color. The previews are over.

A radical call to action, similar to the 60s, may be the country’s only salvation. In that regard, a guidebook to what ails society is a requirement so that radical fighters thoroughly understand why, who, and what they’re fighting.

Fortunately, there is a good radical textbook already in publication. It explains what eco warriors encounter during the late stages of capitalism, like today. It just so happens that’s the underlying footnote on almost every page of The Big Heat: Earth on the Brink (AK Press, 2018.)

It’s a wonderful tome filled with eyewitness events, brass tacks explanations of rampant ecological damage, and it explains how humanity and the planet have become incompatible largely because of wrong politics and upside down economics that wreak havoc for the great majority of people that purportedly live in a democracy, as a rank odor drifts by.

Meanwhile, and of utmost importance, the prescient words of Jeffrey St. Clair and Joshua Frank, co-authors of The Big Heat:

The world may be changing faster than humans can properly grasp which only means we must alter our perspective and change our tactics to defend it. In short, it’s time to get radical. (pg.2)

The Big Heat comprehensively, very comprehensively, covers the anthropogenic footprint, from loss of wolf habitat – stupid humans trampling landscape – oceans without fish – and lots more but most importantly it’s a Full Monty exposure of America’s insanity politics. As for one example of one among many: “Pesticides, Neoliberalism and the Politics of Acceptable Death.” (pg. 183)

Really?  “Acceptable Death”

But, first to start at the start, the initial article, “The Wolf at Trout Creek” finds co-author Jeffrey St. Clair on a field trip in Yellowstone National Park, or thereabouts, to observe bison and wolves. Along the way, he accidentally (of course, it’s accidental) plunges down a mossy cliff at “a waterfall in the Absaroka Mountains, ripping the nail off my big toe.” (pg. 8)

That article includes the fate of one of the most important animals (the wolf) for maintaining healthy ecosystems. And, sorrowfully, it includes mention of the state of Idaho granting 6,000 hunting licenses to gun down, in cold blood, “an allotment” of 220 wolves. How could they miss?

Not only that, but with so many trigger-happy guys/gals out and about, it’s a wonder they don’t shoot and kill each other (shades of Dick Cheney) They probably do kill somebody but we’ll never, tongue in cheek, hear about it, Evidently, wolf eradication is a big political draw in the great state of Idaho.

The Big Heat, inclusive of 387 pages and 50 stand alone articles, is an exposé of the detrimental impact of the neoliberal brand of capitalism, as, time and again, it feasts upon ruination of federal rules and regulations which impede corporate profits, even if only by a slight margin.

Indeed, the book brings to surface, for all to see, some behind scenes maneuvers initiated by powerful lobbyists to upend safeguards for all of the citizenry, which, one would think, could also impact their own families (the lobbyists). But, then again, when playing in the big rough and tumble playground of payoff politics, money talks, people get hurt, who cares?

For example, in the article: “Pesticides, Neoliberalism, and the Politics of Acceptable Death” (Pg. 183-188) the food and chemical industries lobbied hard for decades to remove the Delaney Clause, which served to block carcinogens in processed foods ever since the 1950s, but that blockade was removed by Congress in 1996, signed by President Clinton.

With the Delaney Clause dead on the floor of Congress, some 80 pesticides that were about to be outlawed as carcinogens now remain in use. (Pg. 184)

The shock value of that one simple sentence speaks volumes.

It should be noted The Big Heat isn’t the only one to take note of harmful alterations to federal regulations, especially regarding food safety. According to the irrepressibly brilliant Donella Meadows (The Limits to Growth – a classic):

It’s probably just as well that the clear, brave language of Delaney no longer stands to deceive us into thinking that our food supply is risk-free.  How much risk there really is, no one knows. (Donella Meadows, Farewell to the Delaney Amendment, Sustainability Institute, 1996)

Really! “How much risk there really is, no one knows.” Hmm.

Meanwhile, back to St. Clair/Frank for more on toxic stuff: According to Dr. Joseph Weissman, professor of medicine at UCLA, cancer killed 3 out of every 100 Americans in 1900 but nowadays it’s 33 out of every 100.

Weissman reckons that a fair slice of this explosion in cancer mortality can be laid at the door of petro-chemicals, particularly those used by the food industry. (Pg. 183)

Then, does that mean that Americans are consuming cancer-causing foods, which, over time, alter or destroy human cells? Well, for starters:

The average apple and peach has eight different pesticides embedded in it. Grapes have six and celery five. Children get as much as 35 percent of their likely lifetime dose of such toxins by the time they are five. (Pg. 185)

After all, toxins accumulate in the body over time before striking hard at tissues, and such, otherwise known as human organs, blood, and bone.  Along those lines, here’s proof that something is horribly wrong: According to a Rand Corporation 2017 study (Chronic Conditions in America: Price and Prevalence) nearly 150 million Americans are living with at least one chronic condition of which 100 million have two or more chronic conditions.

Meaning, nearly fifty percent (50%) of Americans (whew!) live with at least one chronic condition, like diabetes, high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s, high cholesterol, arthritis, Parkinson’s, and heart disease. Sound familiar? Almost every family in America has at least one family member with a chronic condition.

Is that normal, to be expected, or is something somewhere somehow horribly wrong?

Rand calculates that, over time, it’ll translate into more than $1 trillion per year in overall health care costs. Then, what of universal health care? It’ll soon become an absolute necessity. Alternatively, millions will suffer and then, of course, they’ll die while suffering even more.

The Big Heat is an important book. It exposes disasters that ricochet straight out of neoliberalism dicta like bolts of lightning. And, it humanizes the importance of fighting back. It brings to light individual heroes who sacrifice their own safety to benefit society at large, yet mainstream news and governmental officials inevitably label these real American heroes as terrorists or criminals. That’s one more sign that something is horribly wrong.

“On the Front Lines of the Climate Change Movement: Mike Roselle Draws a Line” brings to light society’s stupid treatment of eco heroes. (pg. 295) Roselle, a co-founder of Earth First, stood up to mountain top coal removal. After all, somebody had to stand up to such a deadly, putrid business that was responsible in December 2008 for a major spill of more than 500 million gallons of highly toxic coal ash into the Tennessee River, 40 times larger than the Exxon Valdez in Alaska. The total costs for toxic water of downstream cities and assorted environmental costs are still not known to this day.

Because Mike Roselle stood up to the coal interests, a Fox TV affiliate aired a story about him, labeling Roselle:

An eco terrorist… tomorrow night don’t miss the ‘Roselle Report’ when we’ll take a closer look at how this man’s radical methods of protest may put lives at stake in West Virginia. (pg. 295)

In Fox News’ view: The man standing nose-to-nose to stop a caterpillar tractor from razing a mountaintop is a dangerous terrorist.

The Big Heat is a treasure trove built upon blood, sweat, and tears, compiling years of hard work and astute research to help people better understand a bastardized psycho-socio-politico-economic system; i.e., neoliberalism, which is kinda like an outer space soulless alien devoid of humanity taking control over the planet.

The most critical portion of The Big Heat is found on pages 373-377, the “Epilogue, The End of Illusion”. It nails down the overriding issue, exposing the illusion of “hope…  hope is the enemy. The antidote is action.”

After all “hope” and “groupie protests” are dead-enders to nowhere.

Then, what is a radical call to action?

Here’s what it’s not: It is not marching a couple of times a year; it is not typing your name on a MoveOn petition; it is not a selfie with a celebrity protesting fracking in front of the governor’s mansion.

Action is standing arm-in-arm before water cannons and government snipers on the frozen plains of North Dakota… hanging from a fragile perch 150-feet up in Douglas fir tree in an ancient forest grove slated for clear-cutting…chaining yourself to a fracking rig… or camping out in the blast zone at a Mountain Top Removal site in the hills of West Virgina…Action is stopping bad shit from going down. (pg. 374)

The time for one-off protests is over. They don’t work. And, most likely none of them work, one-off or not.

If they did work, especially when consideration is given to the number of global climate change rallies and demonstrations worldwide these past few years, then CO2 would not be continuing at ever-faster rates (setting new record levels in 2019) blanketing the atmosphere, where it stays for at least 100 years. That’s the problem.

Earth’s sister planet Venus’ atmosphere is 96.5% CO2 by volume. Its temperature is 864F.

Carbon counts!

  1. “Trump’s Corporate Tax Cut Is Not Trickling Down”, Center for American Progress, September 26, 2019.

Ruminations of a Libertarian/Liberal

Michael Shermer’s Giving the Devil His Due: Reflections of a Scientific Humanist1 is a very special book written for people that actually spend time “thinking.” Geez, come to think of it, that’s kinda special in and of itself, “people thinking about things.” It’s especially true because nowadays society is geared to the opposite of deep thinking. Rather, in today’s world quick reflexes atuned to electrical whims rule the day. People increasingly react to impulses, not deep thought, as buttons/apps are pushed to communicate across the room as well as across the world. Presto! So much for deep thought!

Dr. Shermer (PhD, Claremont Graduate University), a multiple New York Times bestselling author, provides an outlet for those looking for something more than personally “reacting to impulses, pressing buttons, staring at small screens.” He satiates the innate deep-seated human need to connect with the intellectual intensity of the world, its colors, its odors, its thinkers, its societal norms, and its cultural roots with his crystal clear words. These are themes of the life experience in an increasingly whacky world. Giving the Devil His Due is a book for people that have a thirst for understanding the crucial uppermost levels of knowledge of today’s world.

As for what Shermer personally thinks and believes, in addition to his interesting political hybrid libertarianism/liberalism, he is a science advocate, par excellence:

 I hold that science is the best tool ever devised for understanding the world and changing it for the better. (p. 135)

And, in that regard, he adheres to the science:

In light of the accumulation of evidence, the position of denying global warming is no longer tenable.2

Shermer’s intellectual cachet comes from a broad, extraordinary experience as the Editor-in-Chief of Skeptic magazine for 25 years and as a monthly columnist for Scientific American for 18 years. From that broad eclectic base of acquaintances, guests, and interviews, he offers a collection of essays and articles, mostly by himself, supplemented by respected worldly scholars, scientists, the deepest of thinkers, and even the crazies of society.

Shermer’s book is five parts: (1) Free Thought and Free Speech, (2) God and Religion, (3) Politics and Society, (4) Scientific Humanism, and (5) Controversial Intellectuals.

Along the way, Shermer introduces a collection of people from wildly diverse backgrounds, for example: (1) Michele Bachmann (House of Representatives, 2007-2015) (2) Jared Diamond (Guns, Germs, and Steel, 1997 Pulitzer Prize winner (3) biologist Richard Dawkins (The Selfish Gene, a classic, Oxford University Press) (4) American/British intellectual extraordinaire Christopher Hitchens (Shermer’s chocolate lab is named “Hitch” in honor of Hitchens) (5) Charles Darwin (On the Origin of Species) and (6) Thomas Jefferson (President, 1801-09 — Shermer’s favorite president) and (7) Ayn Rand (Atlas Shrugged, 1957).

He takes the reader on splendid journeys that pry open the mysterious, for example: from a scientific perspective, he gives consideration to “the two biggest questions of all” (1) Does the universe have a purpose? (2) why is there something rather than nothing?” (p. 103)

Those two high intensity brainy subjects alone are worth a serious read of this finely written tome that also tackles the push and pull of today’s political bickering, Left/Right or is classical liberalism the proper course?

And, speaking of the proper course of a properly run government, he goes so far as to tackle how Mars should be governed when colonists first set up a new outer space society, which will be in sharp contrast to the political beginnings of Jamestown Erectus, circa 1607. Keeping in mind: “The 1967 Outer Space Treaty that the USA signed prohibits anyone from ‘owning’ Mars.” (p. 150)

Fortunately, Edinburgh astrophysicist Charles S. Cockell, in a series of meetings, already addressed Mars’s governance issues with scholars and scientists from varied fields in two conferences. Cockell personally informed Shermer: “Space is an inherently tyranny-prone environment.” (p. 151)

And, fascinatingly enough, there is a reasonable answer to prevention of a tyranny-prone Mars by establishing “modularity.” Which means, “literally incorporating liberty via architecture.” Whoever controls production of oxygen is key. It could be tyrannically authoritative (monopolistic ownership) or it could be fair and democratic (individual ownership units), depending upon configurations and design of all-important oxygen, as architectural engineering holds the key to Mars’ future political structure.

Giving the Devil His Due is a treasure trove for lovers of the humanities and society at large as viewed thru the perspective of scholarly minds, treatises, and essays. It’s marvelously ripened and full of wonderful tales about people, like Jordan Peterson, arguably the most controversial intellectual of the 21st century and one of the most polarizing figures in intellectual life since Noam Chomsky.

Peterson’s book 12 Rules for Life succeeds in “launching its author into the cultural stratosphere.” (p. 299) By way of an outside subjective opinion re the Peterson personality type hitting the world stage, according to Caitlin Flanagan, “Why the Left Is So Afraid of Jordan Peterson”, The Atlantic, August 9, 2019: “The left has an obvious and pressing need to unperson him; what he and the other members of the so-called ‘intellectual dark web’ are offering is kryptonite to identity politics.”3

It’s these stories that offer the reader insight into true intellectual grit, as every printed word by Shermer carefully conveys meaning.

Postscript: “It is obvious that God was made in our likeness and not the reverse.” (Michael Shermer, Editor-in-Chief, Skeptic)

  1. Cambridge University Press, 2020.
  2. Scientific American, June 2006.
  3. For an unafraid leftist dissection of Peterson’s book 12 Rules, read “The Utility of Jordan Peterson’s Digressions,” Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5, and Part 6.

A Climate Time Bomb With Trump’s Name Inscribed

Thwaites, in West Antarctica, is the world’s most dangerous glacier. As of January 15th, scientists have labeled it: “A Climate Time Bomb.”

Thwaites is crumbling apart on the underneath side where warm ocean currents circulate, which is clear evidence that global warming is really, truly hitting its stride even as America, obeying President Trump’s orders, rejected its commitment to Paris ’15, a major climate agreement of almost all the nations of the world.

In point of fact, America is too focused on ceaseless (mindless) NYSE trading at new heights to give even a passing thought to something as remote as Thwaites Glacier crumbling apart from inside-out (9,072 miles away, forever far away in the mindset of simple-minded folks).

Still, the cold, hard facts are irrefutable, to wit: NASA’s studies, referenced as “IceBridge,” have revealed an enormous cavity lurking beneath the icy surface of Thwaites; it’s the size of NYC hidden within its core. Along the way, Thwaites glacier loses 35B tons of mass per year.

Beyond question, “What happens at Thwaites affects the whole ice sheet.”1

After all, Thwaites is the primary backstop for the entirety of West Antarctica, which contains enough ice to take sea level up 11-12 feet. If Thwaites collapses, it’ll trigger an impending collapse of monstrous proportions. Although, truth told, nobody knows the timing, decades or centuries before serious collapse occurs, but judging by recent behavior, Thwaites is giving off plenty of chilling tip=offs, enough to generate some cold-sobered pause and very deep thought.

Thwaites Glacier is 100 miles across and 4,000 feet deep. It’s melting a lot earlier and much, much, much faster than ever thought possible. That’s bizarre since the glacier, ever since the dawn of humanity, has been a permanent feature on West Antarctica.

Meantime, in the face of crumbling ecosystems found at the fringes of civilization, where the initial impact of global warming is felt first, the United States, under the direction of President Trump, dismantles decades of federal regulations that protect life and ecosystems. Nearly 100 federal regs designed to curb climate change, protect human health, and limit ecosystem ruination are being rolled back. It’s Trump’s infamous Great Dismantling of Federal Agencies (GDFA).

As such, crucial ecological and social welfare policies are on a fast track of obliteration, somewhat similar to the impact of human-generated global warming’s influence on ecosystems; e.g., permafrost shockingly collapses 70 years early in the high Arctic. Alert! Is global warming 70 years ahead of schedule? If so, if really true, awful climate-related upheavals will manifest very soon.2

As for the status of America’s scientists, Trump is their worst nightmare come true in full living color — orange. No president throughout the history of America comes close to his purity of ignorance and utter failure to understand basic words, concepts, and rudimentary science. After all, it was his own secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who said, “He’s a f__king moron!”3

As for Thwaites, the good news is it will take hundreds of years for the final ice of West Antarctica to melt away. However, along the way, possibly sooner rather than later, the bad news is that it will likely wreak unimaginable havoc, meaning big time damage, by altering coastlines around the world, year-by-year, decade-by-decade, and inch-by-inch, but over time stretching to foot-by-foot. It’s an extraordinarily dangerous prognosis, filled with all kinds of challenges for the world’s coastal metropolises.

Significantly, and most importantly, the implied message within the NewScientist article is: Somebody in a position of authority in the world with powerful leadership skills (forget the U.S.) must wake up to the fact that global warming has already started taking human civilization down for the count, down to its knees… already in its earliest stages at the furthest latitudes, where it is hitting real hard; e.g., Thwaites’ internal ice collapse.

Thwaites Glacier, as big as the country of Great Britain, is but one of several examples of early stage ecosystem collapse in the world, but people don’t live where it’s happening. Who sees it other than scientists?

Alarmingly, Thwaites’ ice loss has doubled over the past two decades to 35B tonnes per year; that fact, standing alone, sends a haunting message. In time Thwaites will account for 2 feet of sea level rise. But that’s only the start of a much, much bigger dilemma as it buttresses the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

It was only 5 years ago when scientists confidently said the Western Antarctica Ice Sheet collapse had officially started but those same researchers said: “Even though sea level rise (10-13 feet) cannot be stopped, it is still several centuries off, and potentially up to 1,000 years away.” No sweat!

Now… they are sweating.

  1. Adam Vaughan, “Antarctica’s Doomsday Glacier is Melting. Can we Save it in Time?” NewScientist, January 15, 2020.
  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. Vanity Fair, May 23, 2019.

The Rumbling ESAS Methane Enigma

The northern continental shelves of Russia, inclusive of the Barents Sea, Kara Sea, Laptev Sea and East Siberian Sea (ESAS) are some of the least researched yet most controversial subjects in climate science today. It’s the one region that has the biggest potential to trigger runaway global warming because of sizeable subsea methane deposits, thereby taking civilization down to its knees. But, that prospect is also extremely controversial within the scientific community.

Scientific opinion runs the gamut: (1) high risk- methane bursts will bury civilization with runaway global warming – a dreadful, deadly risk (2) not to worry, it’s low risk because almost all of the massive deposits of undersea methane will stay put (3) not to worry, low risk because any methane seepage via undersea permafrost is oxidized and dissolves within the seawater and not a threat to runaway global warming.

By and large, climate scientists dismiss the ESAS and some go so far as to vilify published research. In fact, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) dismisses its near-term/intermediate-term risks. The reasons are manifold (more on that later).

Unfortunately, recent events in the high Arctic lean towards option number one as the more likely outcome. In that regard, I recently met with Dr. Peter Wadhams, world-renowned Arctic expert, to discuss the issue (more on that follows).

As it happens, only recently inordinately high levels of methane emissions have been reported, to wit:

(1) Methane Observation – October 2019 – “This is the most powerful seep I have ever been able to observe… No one has ever recorded anything similar.”1  The quote is from Igor Semiletov, professor Tomsk Polytechnic University on the research vessel Academic M.A. Lavrentyev on a 40-day Arctic mission.

(2) Methane Observation – December 2019 – Three months later at COP25 in Madrid, Dr. Peter Carter, an IPCC expert reviewer, in an interview d/d December 10th, 2019, referenced an ongoing eruption of methane above Barrow, Alaska, saying:

We’ve never seen anything like it. And, it has stayed at elevated levels to the present week. Looking at the 2.2 million year ice core, the maximum methane concentration ever was 800 ppb. In Barrow, Alaska it is 2,050 ppb and staying there. It’s been up there for 4 months.

A note about the Barrow observation:  Dr. Peter Carter believes the origin may be permafrost decay from land. However, according to Dr. Wadhams, he’s not so sure of Carter’s explanation and even though the waters offshore Barrow are not known to contain subsea methane, it is theorized the 4-month extremely high CH4 reading may have originated at ESAS and drifted, a theory with forceful negative ramifications.

The Barrow Atmospheric Baseline Observatory was established in 1973 by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Earth System Research Laboratory to track hourly methane readings.

According to initial reports by NOAA re the sharp uptick in CH4 readings to 2050 ppb:

To spot methane levels breaking the 2000ppb mark so sharply in this fragile region is unprecedented.2

(3) Methane Observation – Dahr Jamail’s book The End of Ice (The New Press, 2019) relates an ominous story of methane bubbling at Barents Sea. In Barrow, Alaska, he met Ira Leifer, a scientist who studies the shallow seas of the Arctic and works with NASA on methane data. Leifer discovered wicked SOS signals coming from a 620 square mile area of the Barents Sea jam-packed with methane bubbles at the rate of 60 million plumes, which is almost impossible to fathom as the normal background rate should be thousands, not 60 million.

The question arises: Are the three aforementioned sightings related, and if so, what are the consequences for the climate system and impact on society at large?

First and foremost, did NOAA/Barrow send notifications of the excessively high readings to the White House and members of Congress? After all, the danger of a major burst of methane out of the shallow-waters (40m-100m) within Russia’s continental shelves exceeds the risks of a North Korean missile attack.

The East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS) alone is the size of Germany, France, Great Britain, Italy, and Japan combined and jammed full of methane trapped beneath underwater permafrost that is rapidly thinning. (N. Shakhova)

Pre-formed gas preserved in the ESAS suggests a potential for possible massive/abrupt release of CH4, whether from destabilizing hydrates or from free gas accumulations beneath permafrost; such a release requires only a trigger.3

For additional perspective, according to Dr. Semiletov:

Emissions of methane from the East Siberian Shelf – which is the widest and most shallow shelf of the World Ocean – exceed the average estimate emissions of all the world’s oceans… We have reason to believe that such emissions may change the climate. This is due to the fact that the reserves of methane under the submarine permafrost exceed the methane content in the atmosphere is many thousands of times.4

For more perspective on the issue, I traveled to a site at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California to meet with Dr. Peter Wadhams.

During the interview, he repeatedly referenced his most recent book, A Farewell to Ice (Oxford University Press, also available in paperback via Penguin Books) to access a chart or check a calculation or a graph or map. I soon came to realize that A Farewell to Ice is an extraordinarily important accumulation of decades of solid scholarly work, an opus magnum on polar ice, indeed, an indispensible handbook for a proper understanding of one of the planet’s most extreme and dangerously vulnerable ecosystems.

Professor Peter Wadhams is the world’s most renowned polar ice scientist with 46 years of research on sea ice and ocean processes in the Arctic and the Antarctic. Since 2015, he serves as Professor Emeritus of Ocean Physics, Cambridge University. His biography is filled with distinguished international recognition, appointments to prestigious organizations, awards, and publications befitting a leading world scholar.

I met with him to gain a better understanding of what’s happening, especially as regards the ESAS. Reading his book, it becomes very clear that climate change is tethered to what happens in the Arctic. It is literally ground zero for the impact of global warming because, unlike Las Vegas, what happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic. Its impact is felt throughout the hemisphere and around the world.

When the subject of methane and the Siberian continental shelves came up, I recalled his cautionary statement in A Farewell to Ice:

We must remember— many scientists, alas, forget—that it is only since 2005 that substantial summer open water has existed on Arctic shelves, so we are in an entirely new situation with a new melt phenomenon taking place. (Wadhams, pg. 123)

In other words the prospects of a major ESAS methane eruption have sharply escalated over only the past 15 years with the loss of ice due to global warming. Yet, it is one of the least understood and least researched climate systems in the world. As mentioned previously, the IPCC gives it no consideration and most scientists downplay the risks.

According to Dr. Wadhams, the reasons it is under-researched include the fact that it is in Russian territorial waters, which serves to inhibit Western influence. Another factor that works against acceptance by the scientific community is due to native biases towards Russian researchers, namely Natalia Shakova, one of the foremost prominent researchers of ESAS.

Wadhams puts to rest the common criticism by many in the scientific community that say not to worry about ESAS starting a bout of dangerous runaway global warming (RGW) because subsea methane deposits oxidize and dissolve in the seawater as released and never make it into the upper atmosphere, to wit:

The East Siberian Arctic Shelf is exceptionally shallow — more than 75 per cent of its entire area of 2.1 million square kilometres is shallower than 40 metres — so most of the methane gas avoids oxidation in the water column and is released into the atmosphere. (Wadhams, pg. 123)

With ESAS getting more and more active as of recent, it is important to evaluate the risks of further breakout. For example, Wadhams says that Natalia Shakova, the leading expert on ESAS, believes it contains up to 700 GT of CH4. The risk is rapid release, a big burp of 8% of the deposit or 50GT, which, in turn, would crank up worldwide temperatures by 0.6°C over two years. This would have an extremely negative impact on the overall global climate system with unknown but likely horrific results as temps crank up to, or beyond, the IPCC danger zone of 2°C much sooner than anybody expects. Wadhams believes this is society’s biggest climate threat because at 2°C above pre-industrial crop yields start going down, very rapidly. An ESAS big burp would do the job.

The risk of an ESAS methane big burp alone should be enough of a threat to motivate global governments to call an emergency meeting at the UN to do whatever it takes to halt excessive greenhouse gas emissions on a worldwide basis as soon as possible.

Alas, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), reality dictates otherwise, as all of the major players in the global oil patch plan on cranking up production by 120% by 2030, and coal production is projected to grow by leaps and bounds in China and India, as well as several developing countries over the upcoming decade.

The sorrowful reality is the world continues headstrong in the opposite direction of CO2 mitigation.

The following is but one example among many of impending climate disaster, almost assured, due to human shortsightedness:  SUVs spewed 700 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere from 2010 to 2018, nearly half as much as the power industry, surpassing emissions by heavy industry such as iron and steel production and far outstripping CO2 from trucks, aviation or shipping.5

In 2010, 18 percent of all car sales in the world were SUVs. In 2018, more than 40% of all cars sold in the world are SUVs.6

The SUV fad is contagious and spreading like wildfire throughout the world marketplace. The problem: Sport-utility vehicles (gas guzzlers) aka: SUVs are the second-biggest contributor of growth of CO2 emissions in the world.

Even worse yet, the IEA report states:

If SUV demand continues at current rates, they will add nearly two million (2,000,000) barrels to global daily oil demand by 2040, offsetting the savings from nearly 150 million electric cars.6

No wonder major producers intend to increase oil production by 120%. The demand is there.

Ouch! That adds considerably more certainty and a much higher probability to the “Big Burp Event.” We just don’t know the exact timing, yet.

Postscript:

First, the probability of this pulse happening is high, at least 50 per cent according to the analysis of sediment composition by those best placed to know what is going on, Natalia Shakhova and Igor Semiletov.  Moreover, if it happens, the detrimental effects are gigantic… the risk of an Arctic seabed methane pulse is one of the greatest immediate risks facing the human race… Why then are we doing nothing about it? Why is this risks ignored by climate scientists, and scarcely mentioned in the latest IPCC assessment? It seems to be not just climate change deniers who wish to conceal the Arctic methane threat, but also many Arctic scientists, including so-called ‘methane experts.7

  1. “Research Vessel Encounters Giant Methane Seep in Arctic Waters”, The Maritime Executive, October 10, 2019.
  2. “Arctic Methane Levels Reach New Heights”, The Institution of Engineering and Technology, September 16, 2019.
  3. Natalia Shakhova, et al, “Understanding the Permafrost-Hydrate System and Associated Methane Releases in the East Siberian Arctic Shelf”, Geosciences, June 5, 2019.
  4. Arctic Methane Gas Emissions ‘Significantly Increased Since 2014’ – Major New Research, The Siberian Times, October 4, 2016.
  5. International Energy Agency- relevant article: “Urban SUVs Driving Huge Growth in CO2 Emissions: IEA, Phys.org, October 16, 2019.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Wadhams, pg. 127-28.

Mega Droughts Engulf Countries

Throughout the world, mega droughts are hitting hard with a ferocity not seen in decades and in some cases not seen in centuries. It’s not merely coincidental that as global warming accelerates droughts turn more vicious than ever before. All of which begs the logical question of when will world leaders wake up with a unified plan of action to mitigate carbon emissions, or is it already too late?

Nobody knows for sure if and when it is too late, but the evidence is crystal clear that extraordinarily powerful droughts are decimating regions of the planet like there’s no tomorrow.

An Australian research paper1 addressed the issue: . According to The University of Melbourne headline about the article: “Recent Australian Droughts may be the Worst in 800 Years.”

That study, which identified the “worst droughts in 800 years,” was published two years prior to the recent drought period accompanied by massive fires across the entire continent… these are unprecedented conditions… never before recorded or seen! Thus sending a strong signal that the world’s normalized climate system is broken, caving-in to a new era of “torrid breakaway climate extremes.”

According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology:

The data is in and 2019 has topped the charts for average and maximum temperatures as well as the lowest annual rainfall across the country.

According to the report, Australia’s annual mean temperature was 1.52°C above the 1961-90 average of 21.8°C. Results: A dried-out continent ignited into torrid breakaway fires. Curiously enough, 1.5°C above pre-industrial is the guardrail danger zone reported at the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change meetings.

Meanwhile, severe droughts are hitting throughout the world; e.g., according to NBC News: “Ravaged by drought, farmers in rural Honduras and Guatemala live on the edge of hunger… Central America’s Choice: Pray for Rain or Migrate.”

Based upon activity at the U.S. border, Central Americans have selected the migration option, giving up hope, heading north. As the Trump administration rejects the legitimacy of climate change/global warming, forces of climate change drive eco migrants to the States.

According to the UN World Food Program, as for Central America: “Five years of recurring droughts have destroyed maize and bean harvests, leaving poor subsistence farmers in the so-called Dry Corridor that runs through Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua struggling to feed their families.”

Farther south, central Chile is in the midst of what scientists have labeled a “Mega Drought,” an uninterrupted period of dry years since 2010. Half of the country has been designated “Emergency Status.” Farmers are going out of business.

According to Felipe Machado, director of Chile’s Resilience Institute: “We are talking about a process of desertification rather than a temporary drought or absence of rain problem.”2

As it happens, the classification of “desertification” is an advanced stage of radical climate change and convincing evidence that global warming is beyond the scope of all expectations by world leaders. Otherwise, they’d already have in place a Marshall Plan generic to combat global warming, but they do not.

Furthermore, in South America’s Brazil:

The SPI-12 time series showed that from 2011 to 2019, excluding the south region, the other Brazilian regions have been exposed to the most severe and intense drought events in almost the last 60 years.3

Regrettably, the Amazon rainforest is also a victim to Brazil’s worst drought in 60 years, which in and of itself should be alarming enough for the major leaders of the world to call an emergency UN session, but no, that carillon call is dead silent. Hmm. Is it possible that all the leaders of the world are so unenlightened as to ignore the Amazon rainforest’s transition from “carbon sink” to “carbon emitter,” same as their coal-powered plants but without as much soot?

And, along the way, according to NASA, the Middle East’s drought cycle from 1998-2012 was the most severe in 900 years. According to Ben Cook of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, the drought has continued “in parts of the Middle East.”  Meanwhile, the entire Middle East and southern Mediterranean regions are drying out faster than anywhere else in the world, which is one more source of eco migrants searching for sustenance.

Furthermore, according to The New Humanitarian (June 2019), a severe drought in Africa “leaves 45 million in need across 14 countries, feeling the compound effects of years of drought.”

A CNN World report dated December 14, 2019 says the once mighty Victoria Falls, where water thundered over the precipice on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia, is nearly dry. A multi-year drought has slowed the enormously powerful waterfalls to little more than a weak stream. That is astonishingly disheartening and representative of massive droughts hitting regions of Africa hard, very hard; one of the world’s great waterfalls turned parched says it all.

Throughout much of Asia drought is becoming the norm rather than the exception. This year alone, according to data from the Manila-based Asia Development Bank, drought has been severe in Laos, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, while Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Myanmar have all seen moderate drought.4

The Mekong River, known in China as the Lancang (aka: the Danube of the East) which cuts through five countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, turning into the Mekong River 2,703 miles long, has seen water levels drop dramatically. In northeastern Thailand, the river is at its lowest level in 100 years. According to Chinese scientists the glacial headwaters that feed the Lancang River are down 80% because of global warming.

Remarkably, the impact of global warming is just now starting to strut its stuff so visibly and so perceptibly that average people are recognizing its threat.

Whereas, in the past global warming was apparent to scientists over a period of decades. Today, it’s unmistakably apparent year-by-year, as entire countries and populations experience its relentlessness and utter devastation.

Postscript: Global governments plan to increase fossil fuels by 120% by 2030, including the US, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, India, Canada, and Australia.

  1. Multi-century Cool-and Warm-Season rainfall Reconstructions for Australia’s Major Climatic Regions, European Geosciences Union, Vol. 13, Issue 12, November 30, 2017 by Mandy Freund and Benjamin Henley
  2. “Chile Declares Agricultural Emergency as Extreme Drought Hits Santiago and Outskirts”, Santiago Times, August 26, 2019.
  3. Ana Paula M.S. Cunha, et al, “Extreme Drought Events Over Brazil from 2011 to 2019”, Atmosphere, October 24, 2019.
  4. China Daily News, August 12, 2019.

Kill GDP to Help Save the Planet

There’s a problem with America’s favorite statistic: GDP. It avoids pretty much everything that’s actually, truly, really good for society, including the importance of robust ecology. Still, it’s the biggest measure of what’s happening with the economy and used around the world, even though horribly flawed.

According to some forward thinkers, Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the monetary value of all finished goods and services, is a distortion that needs fixing.

Nobel-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz’s (former chief economist of the World Bank) new book: Measuring What Counts: The Global Movement for Well-Being, The New Press, 2019, tackles the issue by exposing its paramount importance in judging how society gauges prosperity or alternatively the failure of prosperity; e.g., one-in-eight Americans (40 million) is on food stamps during the longest economic expansion in memory and 40-50% of Americans don’t have $400 readily available for emergencies. Is this failed prosperity?

GDP distorts reality by giving an appearance of real economic growth even as living standards stagnate for lower/middling classes. Additionally, GDP totally misses ecosystem collapse by abuse/misuse/overuse, which is only noticed by the general public after it’s way too late when it’s easily noticeable, even by those of low self-esteem that blindly follow tyrannical maniacs. Hmm.

According to Stiglitz:

The world is facing three existential crises: (1) a climate crisis, (2) an inequality crisis and (3) a crisis in democracy… Yet the accepted ways by which we measure economic performance gives absolutely no hint that we might be facing a problem.

Accordingly, politicians see positive GDP numbers, which inspires them to continue with the status quo, meaning they do not focus on key aspects for sustainability, as well as human well-being. GDP does not compute environmental degradation. GDP does not register societal divisions that build tension over massive wealth disparity. And, GDP overlooks calculations of lowered standards of living for the abandoned middle class, as they increasingly deploy mountain-loads of debt to support bogus lifestyles.

According to Pew Research Center:

In real terms average hourly earnings peaked more than 45 years ago.1

Where’s prosperity?

Furthermore, according to Stiglitz:

If growth is not sustainable because we are destroying the environment and using up scarce natural resources our statistics should warn us… If we measure the wrong thing, we will do the wrong thing.

Stiglitz’s new book with co-authors French economists JeaPaul Fitoussi and Martine Durand discusses alternative metrics that more properly account for details like “sustainability” as well as “how people feel about their lives.”

In other words, GDP does not paint a true-life picture. Rather, it’s a wobbly ghostly statistic that measures business activity without consideration for humanity or ecology, begging the question: What’s really important in life?

GDP numbers do not hint at trouble with (1) sustainability of resources, (2) climate crises, or (3) the well-being of the people. Yet, all three are crucial issues under stress like never before.

As an interesting side note, according to Jorgen Randers’ 2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years — A report to Club of Rome commemorating the 40th anniversary of The Limits to Growth, Chelsea Green Publishing, 2012 — there’s already a shift away from the use of GDP:

The sustainability revolution has already begun… The new paradigm already emerged forty years ago, or perhaps even fifty (with Rachel Carson in 1962). It has spread since, but it is still not mainstream. We have evolved an increased understanding of the need to replace fossil energy, but we have not really embarked on the challenge. And some — even in high places— have started to talk seriously about the need to replace GDP growth with growth in ‘well-being’ as the overriding societal goal. (Randers, p. 13.)

Furthermore, GDP totally misses crucial points supporting societal existence from an ecological perspective, as stated by Christopher O. Clugston’s Blip, Humanity’s 300 Year Self-Terminating Experiment With Industrialism (BookLocker Press, 2019):

The premise of Blip is that increasingly pervasive global nonrenewable natural resource (NNR) scarcity is causing faltering global human prosperity, which is causing increasing global political instability, economic fragility and societal unrest. This scenario will intensity during the coming decades and culminate in humanity’s self-inflicted global societal (species) collapse, almost certainly by the year 2050.

GDP does not calculate, does not represent, and does not hint at the scarcity value associated with overuse/abuse of natural resources accompanied by egregious planet-wide degradation; e.g., the gooey tar sands in Alberta, Canada.2

The missing GDP calculations result in cultural upheaval as people increasingly “hit the streets” in protest, aware that “something is not right.” And, the Canadian tar sands are proof positive that something is way-way-way off course. It literally frightens the daylights out of people that seriously contemplate future prospects for society. It’s an actual horror story in the making in full operation and actually celebrated by neoliberal nincompoops. No wonder kids are protesting in the streets; adults behave like bloody fools blinded to a self-destructive stupidity. Getting oil from gluey tar sands… Really!!! Or, how about fracking with toxic chemicals! Man alive, it’s a wonder there aren’t millions of people in the streets every day.

According to NBC News (12-24-2019):

In 2019, demonstrations around the world, both peaceful and violent, were set off by social unrest over economic instability, government corruption, and inequality.

(1) Hong Kong street protests peaked at over 2 million people (2) Iran 304 people killed in protests over rising gasoline prices and government corruption (3) Iraq huge demonstrations over corruption in government with 354 killed (4) Lebanon a proposed internet fee brought hundreds of thousands to protest in the streets seeking economic reform and an end to government corruption (5) Chile a million protestors hit the streets sparked by a subway fare increase of 4 cents but really opposed to abuses by government, 27 dead so far (6) Columbia tens of thousands protested the government (7) Bolivia at least 17 killed as  indigenous people protested a right-wing coup, tossing out Bolivia’s most effective president of all time for the people, Evo Morales (8) the Yellow Jacket movement in France continues to protest week-by-week over pension reform (9) anti-government protests are prevalent in Pakistan (10) Russian street protestors stepped up opposition against the government (11) India huge protests against the new anti-Muslim law (12) huge protests in Ecuador over austerity measures (13) Catalonians in Spain hit the streets in protests and want to break away from the central government (14) Indonesia thousands hit the street to protest a new criminal code outlawing sex outside of marriage (15) Netherlands protesting farmers on tractors plugged up 700 miles of highways to protest Dutch parliament claims that agriculture is responsible for high emissions (16) Peruvians blockaded copper mines after larger protests against the corruption of government (17) Haiti massive demonstrations over shortages of food, oil, and electrical power, 30 dead.

Young people that see the future melting away into viscous piles of neoliberal crap lead the protests. The common themes are injustice, government corruption, unemployment, poverty, lack of government services, and a failure to respect the environment, as they rage against the traditional political class.

It’s likely only just begun.

  1. “For Most U.S. Workers, Real Wages Have Barely Budged in Decades”, Pew Research Center, August 7, 2018.
  2. This is the World’s Most Destructive Oil Operation-and it’s Growing“, National Geographic, 2019.

The Amazon at a Tipping Point

The Amazon rainforest is a crucial life-support ecosystem. Without its wondrous strength and power to generate hydrologic systems across the sky (as far north as Iowa), absorb and store carbon (CO2), and its miraculous life-giving endless supply of oxygen, civilization would cease to exist beyond scattered tribes, here and there.

Sad to say, a recent scientific analysis of the health of the Amazon rainforest is downright dismal. The world’s two leading Amazon scientists, Thomas Lovejoy (George Mason University) and Carlos Nobre (University of Sao Paulo) recently reported:

Today, we stand exactly in a moment of destiny: The tipping point is here, it is now.1

That’s one of the most devastating news stories in all of human history. Ergo, the persistent climate change headache morphs into a head-splitting pounding migraine of monstrous proportions.

It’s lamentable that world leadership does not take seriously the potential of major ecosystems dying in plain sight. This story should have world leaders shaking in their boots. But, by all appearances, no one is chagrined, other than the scientists who conducted the research.

Tipping points are final acts in nature, points of no return for ecosystems, as functionality turns sour. Regarding the vastness of the Amazonian rainforest, its functionality is so worldly powerful that loss is incomprehensible and likely a final act for civilized, as well as uncivilized, life on the planet. The mighty Amazon is a principal source of oxygen as well as the main driver of hemispheric hydrologic systems (rivers in the sky), impacting rainfall patterns as far away as the cornfields of Iowa.

The Amazon at a tipping point is equivalent to: Nobody knows for sure because it’s never happened before, but there are no positives.

In fact, it’s unimaginable, literally beyond comprehension. Yet, it’s started right before an eyes wide shut world community. And, it’s entirely the result of stupid humans doing really stupid things, like stripping away “the majestic rainforests of all ages” in exchange for “fleeting human needs.”  Honestly, it’s true!

According to the scientists, current trends threaten (1) to turn parts of the rainforest into savanna, (2) devastate wildlife, and (3) release billions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere. As it is starting to happen, the Amazon is becoming an “emitter of carbon”; same as coal power plants.

Lovejoy and Nobre decided to ring the trusty carillon on the public square:

Witnessing the acceleration of troubling trends. The combination of (1) warming temperatures, (2) crippling wildfires, and (3) ongoing land clearing for cattle ranching and crops has extended dry seasons, killed off water-sensitive vegetation and created conditions for more fire.

Not only that, global warming induces severe bouts of drought that repeatedly hit the Amazon hard, actually weakening its powerful core. Three 100-year droughts have hit in just 10 years! According to NASA, serious episodes of drought in 2005, 2010, and 2015 have literally “changed the Amazon,” losing its special “carbon sink” status. That’s global warming hard at work.

The old paradigm was that whatever carbon dioxide we put up in (human-caused) emissions, the Amazon would help absorb a major part of it.2

Nowadays, that old paradigm is giving way to:

The ecosystem has become so vulnerable to these warming and episodic drought events that it can switch from sink to source… This is our new paradigm.3

Further aggravating post-drought crumbling, the timing between drought sequences has impeded rapid regrowth. It just doesn’t react like it used to. The rainforest does not have enough time between droughts to heal itself and regrow. That’s a first in all of human history, and the implications are downright dreadful.

It is no exaggeration to say the foregoing analysis is about as bad as it gets prior to the onset of blatantly obvious ecosystem collapses accompanied by hard-hitting repercussions for all of society. That’s when people will finally start to pressure their leadership to “do something” to relieve the dangers and disasters and stop the massive flow of hordes of eco migrants lumbering across the countryside, searching for sustenance.

Meantime, rare agriculturally productive land becomes the most valued asset of all time.

Postscript:

Starting with the drought year of 2005 and running through 2008 … the Amazon basin lost an average of 0.27 petagrams of carbon (270 million metric tons) per year, with no sign of regaining its function as a carbon sink.4

  1. “Amazon Tipping Point: Last Chance for Action”, Science Advances, Vol. 5, no. 12, December 20, 2019.
  2. Sassan Saatchi of NASA Jet Propulsion Lab, “NASA Finds Amazon Drought Leaves Long Legacy of Damage”, NASA Earth Science News Team, August 9, 2018.
  3. NASA.
  4. NASA, August 2018.

Biosphere Collapse?

Five years ago: Nations of the world met in Paris to draft a climate agreement that was subsequently accepted by nearly every country in the world, stating that global temperatures must not exceed +2C pre-industrial. Global emissions must be cut! Fossil fuel usage must be cut!

Today: Following Paris ’15, global banks have invested $1.9 trillion in fossil fuel projects.

Not only that, global governments plan to increase fossil fuels by 120% by 2030, including the US, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, India, Canada, and Australia.

Additionally, over that past 18 months China has added enough new coal-based power generation (43GW) to power 31 million new homes. China plans on adding another 148GW of coal-based power, which will equal the total current coal generating capacity of the EU.

India increased coal-fired power capacity by 74% over the past 7 years. The country expects to further increase coal-generated capacity by another 22% over the next 3 years.

China is financing 25% of all new worldwide coal plant construction outside of its borders; e.g., South Africa, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Meantime, China, kissing goodbye to its commitment to cut emissions, cuts renewable power subsidies by 30%.

Likewise in the United States, Trump proposes slashing renewable budget items, as his administration rebrands fossil fuels “Molecules of U.S. Freedom.” (Forbes, May 30, 2019) (Obviously, somebody in the WH scoffs at the general public as horribly gullible, simple-minded, ignorant, and just plain stupid to fall for that one!)

Meanwhile  America’s most northerly town, Barrow, Alaska is experiencing an unprecedented “massive spike in methane emissions” ongoing for the past 4 months, as monitored by Dr. Peter Carter (see more below).

And, in Madrid, COP25 (Conference of the Parties25) was underway December 2nd-13th with 25,000 participants from countries of the world gathered to hammer out the latest details on global warming/climate change. The question arises whether the conference had “legs.” By all appearances, it did not. Rather, it was another repeat climate sideshow.

Making matters even more surreal, because of the above-mentioned death-defying global plans to accelerate fossil fuels by 120% to 2030, the Stockholm Environment Institute claims the world is on a pathway to 3C pre-industrial, probably “locked-in” because of fossil fuel expansion across the globe.

But caution-caution-caution, the IPCC has already informed the world that 2C brings the house down; not only that, scientists agree 1.5C is unbearably unlivable throughout many regions of the planet.

In short, the world is on a colossal fossil fuel growth phase in the face of stark warnings from scientists that emissions must decline to net zero. Otherwise, the planet is destined to turn into a hot house. As things stand today, it appears “Hot House” is baking into the cake. And, Hot House implies too much heat disrupting, and destroying, too many ecosystems for the planet to support 7.8 billion people.

For an insider’s view of the goings-on at COP25, Dr. Peter Carter, an IPCC expert reviewer, was interviewed on December 10th:

The following is a synopsis of that interview: He first mentioned the fact that 11,000 scientists have signed a paper stating:

We are definitely in a climate emergency.

At COP a couple of years ago, there was a lot of media given to the terrible fact that four of the countries had gotten together to block the most important IPCC report ever. Which was the 2018 IPCC 1.5C report, showing that 2C, the old target since 1996, is total catastrophe, and 1.5C is still disastrous, but that is still where we must aim.1

Scientists today agree 1.5C is possible only if we reduce emissions by 7% every year from next year so that we can reduce global emissions 50% by 2030. (Comment: “That’s laughable” – Check out global fossil fuel growth plans, bursting at the seams!)

COP has always been set up to fail. However, the first COPs were hopeful. Ever since then, things have gone down, down, down. The reason why they are set up to fail is because when the Convention was signed in 1992, it was stated that major decisions would be by “consensus,” but “we still don’t have a definition of consensus under the Convention.” That is absurd.

The entire COP set up provides for one or two countries to veto any major decision, and that’s what we’ve seen happen. The US, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait “block the science from the negotiations.”

“In COP25 the science has been blocked completely.” (Carter)

“Right now all three major greenhouse gas concentrations, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide are accelerating. It means we are on a trend for total planetary catastrophe. We are on a trend for biosphere collapse. Carbon dioxide is on a rate exceeding anything over the past millions of years. We are at 412 ppm. To put that into context, we have an ice core that goes back 2.2 million years. The highest CO2 over that period is 300 ppm.” (Carter)

The latest IPCC assessment requires holding temps to 1.5C, meaning emissions must be cut by 50% by 2030, which means emissions have to decrease rapidly from 2020 (Comment: That’s an impossibility because of global fossil fuel plans of +120% growth by 2030).

We’ve had four separate reports this year on the status of countries meeting, or not meeting, their mitigation targets to avoid catastrophe. Result:

It’s basically the end for humanity. We’re looking at biosphere collapse. The richness of life is being destroyed by deforestation and by catastrophic climate change. Africa is in severe drought. Chile is in a mega drought. Australia is in a drought expected to become a mega drought within the next two years. (Carter)

Absolutely nothing is happening to mitigate global warming. Furthermore, nothing will come out of COP25 to mitigate the issue. On the very first day of meetings Carter was told nations would not be looking at improving their national mitigation targets, which are a joke anyways.

It is unbelievable what these high emitting fossil fuel producing countries are doing. Countries that are blocking any progress on emissions are acting in the most evil way imaginable. We’re looking at the destruction of Earth, oceans and land. (Carter)

Furthermore, and chillingly, according to Dr. Carter: Currently, there has been a massive ongoing eruption of methane in the Arctic. It’s gone practically unreported. The only report of it was by the Engineering and Technology Journal.

Barrow, Alaska registered the aforementioned massive bursts of methane into the atmosphere, starting in August of this year.

We’ve never seen anything like it! And, it has stayed at elevated levels to the present week. Looking at the 2.2 million year ice core, the maximum methane concentration ever was 800 ppb. In Barrow, Alaska it is 2,050 ppb and staying there. It’s been up there for 4 months. (Carter)

Which is an ominous warning that has the potential to be a precursor to runaway global warming, burning-off mid-latitude agriculture and categorizing the Tropics as “way too hot for life.”

We (Carter and the scientific community) know that really bad things are happening in the Arctic. We also know that the land permafrost is emitting a lot of methane, CO2, and nitrous oxide (12xs more than scientists estimated).

Conclusion: COP25 is a farce as major countries ignore the threat of global warming by upping the ante on fossil fuels, adding nearly $2 trillion worth of new fossil fuel infrastructure since Paris ’15 warned of dangers associated with too much carbon in the atmosphere, a surefire recipe for Hot House Earth.

Lest we forget, Venus, our sister planet, has 96.5% CO2 by volume in the atmosphere. On average, temperatures run 864°F.

Carbon matters!

Postscript:

Accelerating heating of the Arctic Ocean could make global temperatures skyrocket in a matter of years.2

Since the start of the industrial revolution more than 200 years ago, that’s the worst possible news ever.

  1. Dr.  Peter Carter, IPCC Expert Reviewer, Interviewed December 10, 2019.
  2. “Arctic Ocean Overheating”, Arctic News, September 8, 2019.

Permafrost Hits a Grim Threshold

For tens of thousands of years the Arctic’s carbon sink has been a powerful dynamic in functionality of the Earth System. However, that all-important functionality has been crippled and could be permanently severed. According to new research based upon field observations conducted from 2003 to 2017, a large-scale carbon emission shift in the Earth System has occurred.

The “entire Arctic” now emits more carbon than it absorbs, a fact that can only be described as worse than bad news. “Given that the Arctic has been taking up carbon for tens of thousands of years, this shift to a carbon source is important because it highlights a new dynamic in the functioning of the Earth System,” says Susan Natali at Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts.1

The 14-year study showed annualized 1.66 gigatonnes CO2 emitted from the “entire Arctic” versus 1.03 gigatonnes absorbed. It’s a major turning point in paleoclimate history, a chilling turn for the worse that threatens 10,000 years of the wonderful Holocene era of “not too hot, not too cold.” Alas, that spectacular Goldilocks climate, a perfect environment for life on the planet, is now a remembrance of the past.

In time, it’ll bring in its wake difficult/challenging lifestyles across the board, across the planet, as life turns onerous and quite possibly worse.

When scientists researched permafrost over the years, they found a few isolated regions that flipped from carbon sinks to sources of emissions, but this new “research now shows the phenomenon has happened across the region as a whole.”1

Meanwhile, 25,000 people gather, as of December 2-13, in Madrid for the 2019 UN Climate Change Conference known as COP25. Only recently, the conference was forced to scramble in a move from Chile because of uncontrollable, unprecedented “protests in the streets.” The Chilean protests are mega-numbers of extremely angry citizens sparked into action by a simple increase in transport rates, proving that the world is once again a tinderbox similar to July of 1914.

The 25,000 attendees of COP25 should take heed of an entire city Santiago shut down by angry citizens one million strong. That nagging scenario may be as important as the climate data they analyze because Chilean mass demonstrations are merely a reflection of a worldwide phenomenon that has everything to do with the failure of neoliberalism, as it casts its dark shadow over climate mitigation.

According to Amnesty International: The past few months have seen a seemingly massive surge in protests globally. From the streets of Hong Kong to La Paz, Port-au-Prince, Quito, Barcelona, Beirut and Santiago, we have witnessed a huge wave of people taking to the streets to exercise their right to protest and demand change from those in power. Amnesty International has documented signs of abuse and violations at protests in Bolivia, Lebanon, Chile, Spain, Iraq, Guinea, Hong Kong, the UK, Ecuador, Cameroon, and Egypt in October alone.

Increasingly, people are frustrated by the abject failure of neoliberalism’s austerity measures that destroy social programs, including near total collapse and/or avoidance of proactive climate policies. Contrariwise: “Global governments plan to produce 120 percent more fossil fuels by 203o,” according to a new report by leading research organizations and the UN.2

Interestingly, one of the most celebrated crowning achievements of neoliberalism, Chile, the paragon of neoliberalism, has only served to emblazon in the mindset of the world a vast chasm of inequality as Chile is featured having one of the world’s worst levels of income inequality (OECD Economic Survey of Chile). A stark reminder that neoliberalism splits societies into “haves” and “have-nots” almost as effectively as monarchial precepts dating back 5,000 years to Egypt and Sumer.

The continuing failure of neoliberalism works against the best intentions of COP25 and the Paris climate accord of 2015. This failure is explained in a paper entitled “Globalization, Neoliberalism and Climate Change” by professor Liu Cheng, a world renown labor expert, professor of law and politics at Shanghai Normal University, to wit:

For thirty years, global and national economies have been guided by policies of neoliberal deregulation, often known as the “Washington Consensus.” Neoliberalism has been disastrous for workers in most countries, pitting workers against each other in a race to the bottom and making it all but impossible to protect working class interests. There is now a growing consensus that the Washington Consensus has been a failure.

There is also a growing global recognition that we are in the midst of an unprecedented climate crisis. Ready or not, that crisis is affecting every nation, every locality, and every worker. Its effects are already serious, and unless decisive global action is taken to counter it, they will soon be catastrophic. Neoliberal deregulation, by dismantling the means for public steering of society to meet social needs, has also made it nearly impossible to correct global climate crisis.

These twin realizations, the failure of neoliberalism and the climate crisis, will define the struggle for the interests of poor and working people for the next century. At the same time, the necessity to counter climate change may provide an opportunity to address the broader problems of neoliberal deregulation.

This article argues that it is only by rolling back neoliberalism that we can protect the rights of workers globally and solve the crisis of climate change.

As massive protests continue around the world, COP25 opens with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres declaring the negotiations the “launch pad for significantly more action,” emphasizing the fact that the world’s largest emitters “are not pulling their weight.”

However, maybe COP25 needs to study the impact of neoliberalism as an overriding disincentive for climate change mitigation. After all, according to professor Cheng: Neoliberal deregulation, by dismantling the means for public steering of society to meet social needs, has also made it nearly impossible to correct the global climate crisis.

Therefore, COP25’s hundreds and thousands of scientific data and climate models are held hostage to neoliberalism’s scorched earth tactics. The only way for COP25 to dig out of this deep neoliberal hole is by open condemnation, thus alerting the world’s attention to the originator of climate change with a message “fix it.”

  1. Thawing Permafrost Has Turned the Arctic Into a Carbon Emitter,” NewScientist, October 21, 2019.
  2. Stephen Leahy, “Dangerous Levels of Warming Locked in by Planned Jump in fossil Fuels Output,” National Geographic, November 20, 2019.