Category Archives: arctic ice melt

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.

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.

Climate Change: All Talk No Action

Awareness of climate change and the interconnected environmental crisis is growing throughout the world. Protest movements led by Extinction Rebellion and School Strike for Climate increase in number and scope, demands for action are repeated, louder and louder, anger and anxiety mounts. And yet politicians and corporations, complacent, trapped by outdated ideology and motivated by short term self-interest, respond inadequately if at all.

World leaders, “talk too much and…listen too little” – the UN Secretary General, António Guterres at the Youth Climate Summit in September. In a candid address he related that, “things [concerning climate change] are getting worse. The worst forecasts that were made are being proven wrong, not because they were too dramatic, but because they were not dramatic enough…we are still losing the race … climate change is still running faster than what we are.” Thus resulting in unprecedented heat waves, record-breaking wildfires, declining sea ice and glaciers (parts of the Arctic are warming at twice the rate of the rest of the planet), cyclones, floods and drought.

The way of life in rich developed nations; i.e., those that caused the environmental problem in the first place, and (given the development model forced on them by western institutions) to a much smaller but growing degree in developing countries, is based on greed and limitless consumption. It is completely unsustainable, has poisoned the planet and promoted a set of self-supporting negative values that lie at the root of a range of social ills.

If the planet is to be healed and social harmony inculcated it cannot continue. Growing numbers of people around the world recognize this fact, but the Men and Women of Power, whether political or business, and the two are bed-mates, fail to accept that it has to end and do all they can to manipulate dying forms and resist change. They fear that if real change were embraced and sustainable, just and healthy modes of living introduced, they would make less profit and lose power. And money and power – two more bed-mates – have become all-important in our societies: government policies are dominated by them. Lives, landscapes, oceans, rivers, ecosystems, the air we breathe, all are sacrificed in the pursuit of these hollow totems.

Broken pledges and failing targets

In October 2018 the The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published Global Warming 1.5C.  The report makes clear that restricting the increase in global ground temperatures to 1.5C (as agreed at the pivotal 2015 Paris Climate Change Conference) would require “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.” Resulting in “clear benefits to people and natural ecosystems … ensuring a more sustainable and equitable society.” The years between 2015 and 2019 have been the warmest of any equivalent period on record and have moved global warming towards 1.1C (above pre-industrial levels). Without urgent action it’s widely accepted that we will reach 1.5 °C by 2030. The consequences of which, the IPCC says, are much worse than previously predicted.

The ‘nightmarish tale’ would see “warming of extreme temperatures in many regions, increases in frequency, intensity and/or amount of heavy precipitation in several regions, and an increase in intensity or frequency of droughts in some regions.” Sea levels according to Carbon Brief would rise by a colossal 48cm by 2100, almost 300 million people would be exposed to water scarcity, cyclones would increase, and, among a lot of other chilling impacts, close to 30 million people living in coastal areas flooded by 2055.

This is a sketch of the 1.5C scenario, the agreed global target; if warming is higher, the consequences are more severe. It is a target most nations are not on track to meet. At the UN Summit, Secretary General Guterres said that countries (major polluters) need to cut emissions by 45% by 2030, end fossil fuel subsidies, ban new coal plants after 2020 and achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

Since Paris, governments around the world have made various non-binding pledges and established honorable targets to lower greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE), most of which are then ignored. As a result the prospect of achieving the targets they themselves have set remain non-existent, and in most cases, the targets themselves are totally inadequate if we want to preserve life and maintain a viable living planet.

Before the Climate Summit in September a report was published by United in Science (backed by the UN Environment Programme and the IPCC), which finds that “commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions must be at least tripled and increased by up to fivefold if the world is to meet the goals” of the Paris Agreement. Coordinated by the World Meteorological Organization the report says that if current plans continue, by 2100 the rise in average global temperatures would be between 2.9C and 3.4C.

One would imagine that such a forecast would make governments, who are very much aware of them, wake up, but immersed in complacency and arrogance most at least simply ignore such information and carry on regardless. The Climate Action Tracker (CAT) is an independent scientific analysis body that monitors the climate action of governments around the world and measures this against the Paris Agreement (holding warming well below 2°C, and pursuing efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C).

Among other things CAT assesses whether countries are likely to meet their emission targets and estimates likely global temperature increases based on current policies. The observations are truly shocking: Where they exist at all, plans by the USA (Trump has withdrawn from the Paris Agreement, weakened environmental legislation and is supporting the fossil fuel industry), Russia, Saudi Arabia and Turkey are described as ‘critically insufficient’; i.e., these countries are doing virtually nothing. Measures taken by China, Japan and a list of other nations are termed ‘highly insufficient’, steps introduced by the EU, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Norway and five more are ‘insufficient’ (to meet the target of 1.5). Perhaps surprisingly India, which is emerging as a global leader in renewable energy, is among those countries regarded as having taken ‘sufficient’ steps, but ‘sufficient’ towards meeting 2C – not 1.5. According to CAT only Morocco and The Gambia are on track to meet its targets.

If warming is to be limited to 1.5C, there needs to be drastic cuts made in the use of fossil fuels. This means withdrawing funding to fossil fuel companies, leaving the oil and coal in the ground and heavily investing in renewable energy sources, which, BP reports, currently amount to a mere 9.3% of global electricity generation.

However, consistent with the Profit At All Costs doctrine, a report (Banking on Climate Change) from a coalition of environmental groups, reveals that since the Paris Agreement, “33 global banks have provided $1.9 trillion to fossil fuel companies [and] the amount of financing has risen in each of the past two years.” The big U.S. banks dominate, JPMorgan Chase coming out as the world’s top fossil fuel funder, “by a wide margin.” Royal Bank of Canada, Barclays in the UK and Bank of China are all funding the polluters.

The IPCC report outlines broad recommendations of what needs to happen in order to meet, or attempt to meet, the 1.5 target: “transformative systemic change, integrated with sustainable development,” are two crucial elements that stand out. Operating within the existing structures and ideologies, governments and corporations have consistently shown that they will not act within the required time frame. Some, as the CAT data reveals, appear reluctant to act at all, while others are acting in contradictory, hypocritical ways by making pledges to drastically cut emissions while investing in fossil fuels.

Fundamental changes to the socio-economic system is urgently required; competition, national self-interest and the profit motive have to be curtailed, cooperation and unity cultivated. Man-made climate change observes no borders, it is a global catastrophe, and, as has been repeatedly said but consistently ignored, it demands a unified, coordinated global response.

Our Vanishing World: Glaciers

Something is causing the world’s glaciers and mountain ice fields to melt. And, despite your first thought, it is not the ongoing climate catastrophe.

It does not matter where on Earth the glaciers and mountain ice fields are located, they are all melting. Moreover, the projected time frame for some of them to disappear altogether is ‘imminently’; that is, within years. And for the rest: a few decades (although that projection is being routinely revised downwards, depending on the glacier).

Why? Because the most recent research suggests that beneath the ocean surface glaciers may be melting ten to 100 times faster than previously believed. This is because, until now, scientists had a limited understanding of what happens underwater at the point where glaciers meet the sea. By using a combination of radar, sonar and time-lapse photography, a team of researchers has now provided the first detailed measurements of the underwater changes over time. Their findings suggest that the theories currently used to gauge glacier change are underestimating glacier ice loss. ‘The overall trend of glacier retreat around the world is due to both warming air and warming oceans’, observed Professor David Sutherland, an oceanographer at the University of Oregon and lead author of the new study. Glaciers are getting ‘eaten away on both ends’.

According to Professor Rebecca Jackson, an oceanographer at Rutgers University and co-author of the study: ‘The theory we’ve been relying on for these melt rates is wrong. We should be able to predict melt rates based on ocean conditions… [but] they’re not at all related in the way we expected.’ Beyond air and water temperatures, ‘ocean salinity, currents and the glacier’s shape can all play a role in influencing tidewater glacier melt’. These findings of rapid glacier melt confirm earlier research, touched on below, although the variables melting high mountain glaciers are different to those melting ones that terminate at sea level.

So how many glaciers are there and what is their status?

According to the Randolph Glacier Inventory (RGI), the most reliable estimate of the number of glaciers in the world is 198,000. These glaciers cover 726,000 square kilometres, that is, 0.5% of the Earth’s land surface.

The Global Land Ice Measurements from Space (GLIMS) project is designed to monitor the world’s glaciers primarily using data from optical satellite instruments. Glacier inventories are a specific technique for mapping glacier attributes, such as area, length, slope, aspect, terminal environment (calving into the sea or a lake, or terminating on dry land), elevation, and glacier classification. There are many types of glacier. For an extensive (and stunning) selection of photos of glaciers, illustrating many aspects of these majestic ice formations, see the ‘Glaciers online Photoglossary‘.

So, from north to south, what is the status of the world’s glaciers?

Glaciers in the North

As you would expect, the vast ice masses in the Arctic – which consists of the Arctic Ocean, adjacent seas, and parts of Alaska (United States), Finland, Greenland (Denmark), Iceland, Northern Canada, Norway, Russia and Sweden – include many glaciers.

While there are no glaciers in the Arctic Ocean itself (because it has no landmass), the glaciers in places like Greenland, North America, Russia and western Europe are melting rapidly.

A recent study, for example, confirmed the rapid melting of Greenland’s glaciers: ‘The recent deglaciation of Greenland is a response to both oceanic and atmospheric forcings. From 2000 to 2010, ice loss was concentrated in the southeast and northwest margins of the ice sheet, in large part due to the increasing discharge of marine-terminating outlet glaciers, emphasizing the importance of oceanic forcing.’

But Greenland is not the only place in the far north where glaciers are melting rapidly.1

Glaciers in the Himalaya

Substantial glacial melt in the Himalaya has been evident for a long time. By 2011, glacier melt in the Nepalese Himalaya, for example, had already created a ‘spattering’ of 1,600 high altitude glacier lakes that threatened communities living ‘downstream’. For example, if the Imja glacier lake ‘breaks through its walls of glacial debris, known as moraine, it could release a deluge of water, mud and rock up to 60 miles away. This would swamp homes and fields with a layer of rubble up to 15m thick, leading to the loss of the land for a generation. But the question is when, rather than if.

A 2013 study by a University of Milan team led by a Nepali scientist found that ‘some glaciers on or around Mount Everest had shrunk by 13% in the last 50 years with the snow line 180 metres higher than it was 50 years ago. The glaciers are disappearing faster every year’, the report noted, ‘with some smaller glaciers now only half the size they were in the 1960s’.

And a study done in 2015 concluded that the estimated 5,500 glaciers in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan (HKH) region will likely experience ‘continued and possibly accelerated mass loss from glaciers… given the projected increase in temperatures,’ according to Joseph Shea, a glacier hydrologist at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development in Nepal, and leader of the study published in The Cryosphere, the journal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU).

But the latest word comes from the comprehensive and authoritative 2019 report The Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment: Mountains, Climate Change, Sustainability and People, requested by the eight nations – Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar – the mountains span, and involving more than 200 scientists working on the report over five years (with another 125 experts peer reviewing their work). The scientists examined the hyper-complex 3,500 kilometres-long Hindu Kush Himalayan system where glaciers feed the Ganges, the Indus, the Yellow River, the Mekong and the Irrawaddy, among ten major river systems. Directly and indirectly, these glaciers supply1.65 billion people with clean air, food, energy and work.

Summarizing the report, Pepe Escobar explains:

The path towards environmental disaster is eerily straightforward. Melting glaciers flow into rivers and lakes. Bursting lakes inevitably translate into more floods. And that means extra glacier runoff into major rivers, more flooding and inevitable destruction of crops.

The conclusion to be drawn from this report is simple: ‘Even radical climate change action won’t save glaciers, endangering 2 billion people.’

Glaciers at the Equator

At the Equator, glaciers are under siege. Glaciers at the Equator? you might ask.

Yes, indeed. Mt. Kilimanjaro, which has three distinct volcanic cones – Kibo at 5,895 metres (19,340 ft), Mawenzi at 5,149 metres (16,893 ft) and Shira at 4,005 metres (13,140 ft) of which the latter two are extinct with Kibo dormant – is the highest mountain in Africa and the highest free-standing mountain in the world. It rises out of the Great Plains of East Africa almost on the Equator. At over 19,000 feet, this mountain was once covered in glaciers, proving an awe-inspiring sight to those who saw it.

However, glacial melt on Kilimanjaro is accelerating and a 2013 report noted that Kilimanjaro’s shrinking northern glaciers, thought to be 10,000 years old, could disappear by 2030. The entire northern ice field, which holds most of Kilimanjaro’s remaining glacial ice, lost more than 4 million cubic meters of ice between 2000 and 2013, representing a volume loss of approximately 29 percent during that period with a loss in total surface area of 32 percent. In 2012, the ice field split in two, revealing ancient lava that may not have seen the sun for millennia. The south side glaciers should last a little longer.

The latest report, based largely on an analysis of NASA Earth Observatory satellite data in 2019, conducted by scientists at the University of Massachusetts, simply confirms earlier documented if irregular trends: ‘The long rains (Masika) of 2019 are concluding with virtually no snow accumulation on Kilimanjaro glaciers.’

More ominously, ‘Absent a major event bringing sufficient snow (e.g. 30-50 cm) to reduce solar radiation penetration, the forthcoming extended dry season will probably begin with a snow-free crater. As a result, ablation of both horizontal and vertical glacier surfaces is likely to be dramatic in the months ahead.’

If you would like to see some spectacular photos of remaining glaciers and remnant glaciers on Mt Kilimanjaro as they were in 2016, you can see them in Ian van Coller’s limited edition art book ‘Kilimanjaro: The Last Glacier‘ or see them in a ‘flip through’ video.

Glaciers in Southern Latitudes

Like glaciers elsewhere, those in southern latitudes are melting rapidly. Recent research confirms the rapid demise of glaciers in the icefields of Patagonia, located in the high Andes atop Chile and Argentina, where glacial retreat is occurring ‘at a non-glacial pace’. The North Patagonian Icefield feeds ice to 30 significant outlet glaciers, of which the San Rafael Glacier is ‘the fastest-moving glacier in Patagonia’ and ‘one of the most actively calving glaciers in the world’.

The South Patagonian Icefield, more than triple the size of its northern counterpart, includes the Jorge Montt Glacier which terminates in an ‘iceberg-choked fjord’ as a result of the glacier’s rapid disintegration and retreat. The Upsala Glacier has been retreating ever since documentation began in 1810.

One extensive study revealed that 90.2% of Patagonian glaciers shrank between 1870 and 2011 with all regions suffering extensive glacier loss. Notably, however, annual rates of shrinkage across the Patagonian Andes ‘increased in each time segment analysed (1870-1986, 1986-2001, 2001-2011), with annual rates of shrinkage twice as rapid from 2001-2011 as from 1870-1986’.

Elsewhere in the southern hemisphere, glaciers in New Zealand, including the famous Fox, Franz Josef and Tasman glaciers, are also in retreat.

Glaciers in Antarctica

As with the Antarctic itself, glaciers are melting at an accelerating rate generating a near-endless sequence of dramatic news headlines, as one glacier after another attracts attention due to the extraordinary nature of the changes, with the latest research showing affected areas losing ice five times faster than in the 1990s, with more than 010m of thickness gone in some places.

One recent analysis of satellite data has found ‘extreme’ changes are underway at eight of Antarctica’s major glaciers as ‘unusually warm ocean water slips in under their ice shelves’. The warmer water is ‘eating away at the glaciers’ icy grasp on the seafloor. As a result, the grounding line – where the ice last touches bedrock – has been receding by as much as 600 feet per year’.

For example, Pine Island Glacier is an immense glacier on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. It is one of the least stable of glaciers – quickly retreating and losing massive amounts of ice – accounting for about 20 percent of the ice sheet’s total ice flow to the ocean. Every year Pine Island Glacier loses 45 billion tons (40.8 billion metric tons) of ice.

Since 2001, Pine Island Glacier has calved six huge icebergs but, ominously, the rate of calving is increasing. Following major calvings in January 2001, November 2007, December 2011 and August 2015, in September 2017 it calved an iceberg 4.5 times the size of Manhattan and, just one year later, was poised for another – and even larger – calving as a 30 kilometre rift appeared in its centre ‘where the ice shelf touches warmer ocean waters that are melting it from underneath’.

Meanwhile, the Thwaites Glacier, also in West Antarctica, is disintegrating. According to a recent NASA-led study ‘A gigantic cavity – two-thirds the area of Manhattan and almost 1,000 feet (300 meters) tall – growing at the bottom of Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica is one of several disturbing discoveries.’

While the ongoing destruction of Antarctic glaciers already guarantees sea level rise of considerable magnitude, even if emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide were halted today, there will be other climate feedback effects. Oceanographers have detected a trend of decreasing salinity in Antarctic waters fed by ice sheet melt: This affects the density of the deep, very cold waters that drive key ocean currents that affect climate at the surface. Moreover, increasing freshwater at the edge of the ice sheet ‘could also disrupt the timing of biological cycles… starting with phytoplankton – the critical base of the Antarctic food web’.

Can We Save the Glaciers?

A joint research project conducted by scientists at the Universities of Bremen and Innsbruck concluded that ‘contemporary glacier mass is in disequilibrium with the current climate, and 36 ± 8% mass loss is already committed in response to past greenhouse gas emissions. Consequently, mitigating future emissions will have only very limited influence on glacier mass change in the twenty-first century. No significant differences between 1.5 and 2 K warming scenarios are detectable in the sea-level contribution of glaciers accumulated within the twenty-first century.’

In other words: ‘more than a third of the glacier ice that still exists today in mountain glaciers can no longer be saved, even with the most ambitious measures’. Calculated on the basis of a new, average car, one kilogram of glacier ice is lost every five hundred meters traveled by that single car.

So can we save what will be left of the remaining glaciers? Obviously, not without a monumental effort. But before inviting your involvement in an effort to do this, let me explain a point I made in the opening paragraph: it is not the ongoing climate catastrophe that is destroying Earth’s glaciers. It is human behaviour. The climate catastrophe, including the melting of the glaciers, is being generated by our behaviour.

And we have control of that behaviour. Or, more accurately, we can each control our own behaviour. And that means you have some choices to make that will make a huge difference, for good or bad, depending on what you decide.

If you wish to fight powerfully to save the remaining glaciers, consider joining those participating in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth‘ which outlines a simple program to systematically reduce your consumption and increase your self-reliance over a period of years.

Given the fear-driven violence in our world which also generates the addiction of most people in industrialized countries to the over-consumption that is destroying Earth’s biosphere, then consider addressing this directly starting with yourself and by reviewing your relationship with children. See ‘My Promise to Children‘ and ‘Nisteling: The Art of Deep Listening‘. For fuller explanations, see ‘Why Violence?‘ and ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice‘.

If you wish to campaign strategically to defend the glaciers then consider joining those working to halt the climate catastrophe and end military activities of all kinds, including war, as well. See Nonviolent Campaign Strategy which includes a comprehensive list of the strategic goals necessary to achieve these outcomes in ‘Strategic Aims‘.

In those cases where corrupt or even electorally unresponsive governments are leading the destruction of the biosphere – by supporting, sponsoring and/or engaging in environmentally destructive practices – it might be necessary to remove these governments as part of the effort.

You might also consider joining the global network of people resisting violence in all contexts, including against the biosphere, by signing the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World‘.

Or, if none of the above options appeal or they seem too complicated, consider committing to:

The Earth Pledge

Out of love for the Earth and all of its creatures, and my respect for their needs, from this day onwards I pledge that:

  1. I will listen deeply to children (see explanation above)
  2. I will not travel by plane
  3. I will not travel by car
  4. I will not eat meat and fish
  5. I will only eat organically/biodynamically grown food
  6. I will minimize the amount of fresh water I use, including by minimizing my ownership and use of electronic devices
  7. I will not buy rainforest timber
  8. I will not buy or use single-use plastic, such as bags, bottles, containers, cups and straws
  9. I will not use banks, superannuation (pension) funds or insurance companies that provide any service to corporations involved in fossil fuels, nuclear power and/or weapons
  10. I will not accept employment from, or invest in, any organization that supports or participates in the exploitation of fellow human beings or profits from killing and/or destruction of the biosphere
  11. I will not get news from the corporate media (mainstream newspapers, television, radio, Google, Facebook, Twitter…)
  12. I will make the effort to learn a skill, such as food gardening or sewing, that makes me more self-reliant
  13. I will gently encourage my family and friends to consider signing this pledge.

Do all these options sound unpalatable? Prefer something requiring less commitment? You can, if you like, do as most sources suggest: nothing (or its many tokenistic equivalents). I admit that the options I offer are for those powerful enough to comprehend and act on the truth. Why? Because there is so little time left and I have no interest in deceiving people or treating them as unintelligent and powerless.

So, in a nutshell: Are you willing to fight to save the glaciers (and preserve the biosphere)? Then remember this: The only way to fight is for you to reduce your consumption and to help persuade others, one way or another, to do so as well. Nothing else can work.

  1. For a snapshot of glacier melt in other regions, see ‘Melting glaciers threaten to inundate Russia’s Far North and Siberia‘, ‘Glaciers in the Canadian High Arctic are melting at an unprecedented rate‘, ‘Graphic: Dramatic glacier melt [in Alaska]‘, ‘Sweden’s Highest Peak, a Melting Glacier, Is No Longer the Nation’s Tallest‘, and ‘The Devdoraki Glacier in the Georgian Caucasus Keeps Collapsing.’

Earth 4C Hotter

A decade ago several prominent climate scientists discussed the prospects of a 4C Earth. Their concern was qualified “… if greenhouse gases do not slow down, then expect a 4C Earth by 2055.” Of course, that would be catastrophic, and one can only assume those scientists must have recognized real risks. Otherwise, why address the issue of 4C by 2055 in the first instance?

Not only that but the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, AR4 (2007) addressed the 4C issue and a 2009 International Climate Conference at Oxford, “4 Degrees and Beyond” discussed the consequences at length; e.g., deserts in southern Europe, sea levels up 2 metres by 2100, unleashing a “carbon time bomb” in the Arctic, half of the world uninhabitable, etc.

Well, well, well…now that greenhouse gas emissions have sped up by 60% since 2010, not slowed down for a minute, the IPCC is talking about holding global average temps to 2.0C, preferably 1.5C, and they say the world has 12 years to tackle global warming (actually, nowadays it’s “global heating” because of massive heat intensity in certain regions of the planet) or all bets are off.

Because prominent scientists addressed the issue of a 4C planet and because climate scientists, in general, are constantly apologizing for being too conservative, too timid in their forecasts as actual climate change buries their predictions with a dagger to the heart, it is a worthwhile exercise to look at a 4C world. It could happen within current lifetimes just like the scientists speculated 10 years ago. But, of course, nobody knows for sure. After all, it helps to brace oneself ahead of time, just in case.

In all, based upon how conservatively low scientists’ predictions have been for so long, maybe 4C is realistic by 2055. But, beware if it happens, infernal regions of the planet will consume vast swaths of ecosystems and life forms like a monster arising from the darkest of caves.

Fortunately, this article is a fictional tale of what 4C would look like based upon predictions by prominent scientists 10 years ago. And, even though it may be considered heresy to suggest 4C within current lifetimes, who knows, maybe those same scientists no longer believe 4C could happen by 2055, but with GHGs zooming up, it would appear kinda inconsistent not to believe it any longer.

In 2010 the prestigious Met Office Hadley Centre/UK said average temperatures would likely be 4C above pre-industrial by 2055, “if greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) did not slow down.” Well, guess what’s happened to GHGs? Asking the question is the answer.

And, worse yet, it would bring in its wake a 16C rise in Arctic temperatures where at least twice the amount of carbon already in the atmosphere is frozen in time, waiting to be released via permafrost thawing. And, +16C would do it fast.

Accordingly, recent scientific field studies found thawing permafrost 70 years ahead of schedule in the High Arctic. Yes, 70 years ahead of schedule!1

That’s absolutely horrible news and but one more example of mind-blowing shock and awe with rapidity of climate change vis a vis scientists’ expectations.

What happens if 4C hits by 2055?

The short answer has gotta be: Pandemonium reigns supreme!

According to the scientific forum 4 Degrees Hotter: “Less than a billion people will survive.” Expect, on average, more than a million human global warming deaths every week. As such, mass graveyards stacked with bodies would become a new normal.

Prominent climate scientists were quoted in the 4 Degrees Hotter article:

According to Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, one of Europe’s most eminent climate scientists, director of the Potsdam Institute: “At 4C Earth’s … carrying capacity estimates are below 1 billion people.”

Echoing that opinion, professor Kevin Anderson of the prestigious Tyndall Centre for Climate Change stated:

Only about 10% of the planet’s population would survive at 4C.

A global average of 4C means land temperatures would be 5.5C-6C hotter, especially inland from coasts. The tropics would be too hot for people to live and most of the temperate regions would be desertified.

As a result, half of the planet would be uninhabitable. Populations would be driven towards the poles. Over 136 port cities each with populations of one-half to one million would require sea walls or translocation of nearly one-half billion people.

In Europe, new deserts would spread to Italy, Spain, Greece, and Turkey as the Sahara figuratively leaps across the Straits of Gibraltar. In Switzerland, summer would be as hot as Baghdad today. Europe’s population would be forced into a “Great Trek North” in order to survive.

Even as recently as this century, the European heat wave of 2003 killed 35,000, but it was only a sampler of what too much heat does to the human body.2

At the time, and according to the New Scientist, in 2003:

The EPI says it is confident that the August heat wave has broken all records for heat-related deaths and says the world must cut the carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming.

But, today, that’s a bad joke with CO2 in 2003 at 378 ppm. Today it’s 410. Therefore, “must cut the carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming” has been a total bust!

Temperature bands, called iostherms, will shift towards the poles faster than ecosystems can keep up. Thus, most ecosystems will collapse with breakdown of organic material, leading to ever-greater emissions of carbon self-perpetuating hands-free on autopilot, defined as runaway global warming.

Paleoclimate research suggests that the last time temperatures were 4C above pre-industrial; eventually, there were no large ice-sheets on the planet. Sea levels were 65-70 metres (213-229 feet) higher than today. Yet, ice sheets take considerable time to lose mass, even when it’s really hot. Thus, the sea level rise to 2100 would likely be only a few metres. But, still, get serious; it only takes a couple of metres for unmitigated disaster.

In a 4C world, temperatures would vary considerably on a worldwide basis. The Amazon, the Sahara-Sahei-Arabia region, India, and northern Australia would have higher temperatures than the average at any other place on Earth.

Already, Australia gave a recent “Preview of Hot Earth” late in the year 2018 in real time when record-breaking temperatures hit hard. More than 20,000 bats dropped dead in over two days as temps in northern Australia hit 42°C (107°F). Hundreds of thousands of bony herring, golden and silver perch and Murray cod died in Darling River because of extreme climate. Fruit on trees cooked from the inside out.3

That happened in today’s world while average global temperatures have only reached approximately 1C above post-industrial. What if 4C becomes reality or anything above 1C, like 2C or 3C? Then, what of northern Australia and other overly sensitive heat regions of the planet?

Meanwhile global average temperatures for July 2019 were the hottest ever since 1880. And, CO2 in the atmosphere is at its highest reading in 400,000 years, a period of time when atmospheric CO2 ran 180 ppm (low) to 280 ppm (high).

As of today, CO2 at 410 ppm has powered thru the 280-ppm ceiling of the past 400,000 years like a hot knife thru butter, and even more remarkable yet, it only took a couple hundred years to break a 400,000-year record. Hands down, that’s an all-time geologic speed record.

Thus, the human experience has turned into a vast experiment filled with unknowns because there are no comparisons throughout human history. Earthlings have shattered all records of the past 400,000 years. What happens next is a gamble.

All in all, it’s somewhat puzzling that scientists are not beating the drums about the threat of a 4C world hitting earlier than expected. Maybe they are… but privately.

  1. 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.
  2. “The 2003 European Heatwave Caused 35,000 Deaths”, New Scientist, October 10, 2003.
  3. “Thousands of Australian Animals Die in Unprecedented Heatwave”, The Scientist, January 17, 2019.

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.

Love in the Time of Xenocide

If artists are the antennae of the race, and writers and thinkers are also artists, then a vibration some are receiving and beginning to transmit to the culture more broadly now is new in the history of our species: the world is dying.

Christy Rodgers, “Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Grief, Acceptance: The Five Stages of Ecocide”

I’m digging what some of us artists are doing to act as narrative catchments, looking deep into the well of humanity’s general self-delusion and hubris. This is on the heels of heading from the Central Oregon Coast to Portland, to attend an Oceans conference at Portland State University in downtown Stumptown Sunday afternoon.

Patience here, dear reader, since I am also part of a grand global transformation, though time and again I have written over the decades that I get it and got it at a very young age —

  • capitalism as a system of penury, pollution, trickle down insanity
  • the rapacious quality of narcissism of the Western world (me-myself-and-I consumerism)
  • the despoiling of soil, land, air, river, ocean water by collective madness of money making
  • misogyny which has hitched the world’s girls and women to the shackles of male stupidity and sexual violence and forced birthing
  • war lords, even those hiding in Sweden or Switzerland, becoming the Mafioso of the world, full stop
  • the capturing of a free thinking press and evisceration of holistic education by privatizers and corporate overlords to create the Orwellian maxim of, lies are truth, war is peace

So, with my fiance and her daughter — OSU chemistry/physics undergraduate — we headed to a mild conference (tabling non-profits do not make a conference) to also listen to celebrity diver-scientist, Sylvia Earle, aged 83. We’ll talk about her Mission Blue. We’ll talk about this hopey-dopey thing she promulgates. We’ll talk about her down-dumbing to audiences. Later. And I paid for tickets, which is something I have rarely done in my 62 years on the planet.

Image result for Sylvia Earle controversy

Yes, the guilt of using up fossil fuels, clogging the road system and sending water vapor and CO2 into the atmosphere to hear someone I have already heard elsewhere in another iteration of my time as community college teacher and sustainability leader.

How difficult was it for me to NOT open my mouth and start railing against this celebrity culture before the talk — and expose a 21-year-old hopeful undergraduate science student to negativity — and then spew out my prophecy of …  this is just going to be another white person-attended milquetoast thing with dyed in the wool democrats and Obama lovers again not even attempting to stammer that capitalism is the evil, war is the tool for this evil, magical thinking is the conduit of this evil, and chaos in all forms of discourse/thought/ community its product?

Huge!

I’ll in a future piece nuance and dice and parse what Sylvia Earle’s talk was — a refitted talk that she’s done for decades — and how that crowd in Portland did in some sense send pulsating streams of bile into my throat as I felt like the one and only one who was disturbed by the lock-step cult of celebrity thing going on in that big PSA pavilion, one big basketball arena that was burping up so much air conditioned streams that dozens of folk scurried around looking for sweaters and coats to keep from blue-lipping themselves into a stupor.

I’ve been here before, running talks with the likes of Winona LaDuke, James Howard Kunstler, David Helvarg, Bill McKibben and others. I was the thorn in the side, the lightning rod, the agitator, the one person who took the discourse away from slanted academic or literary bunk and platitudes, toward a more militant rhetoric, one where revolutionary thinking had to set the stage. Some guests were uncomfortable, and audiences, too but many speakers and others I interviewed or MC-ed for responded deeper than they had ever in public, many have told me. I even took them to the studio and interviewed them on my old radio show. Here are a few captured on my blog, PaulHaeder dot com.

Too-too many times, the rank and file wherever I practiced as teacher, journalist, social worker and activist have demonstrated their partial or complete colonization (where I ticked off the issues in the list above) which has assisted in depositing magical thinking and elitism and exceptionalism into the very fiber of the average American. Including many of the people who I rub elbows with!

The stage was set, Sunday, and we were there, a few hundred captives, held to the standards of this organization that sponsored the event — SAGE, Senior Advocates for Generational Equity. There was a choir, and there was a forced “all audience members please stand up and sing” moment, Hallelujah’s,  and there were no young people on stage, no haggling of ideas, no argumentation about how criminal capitalism is, and our war economy (Earle is a capitalist and military supporter), no debate about how we do in fact help save the ocean, no hard-edged and outside-the-box discourse and presentation.

Image result for dead dolphins gulf of mexico

As she spoke May 19, the headlines were hurtling in, headlines that would have made some good grist for deep conversation:

Buyer Beware: Seafood ‘Fraud’ Rampant, Report Says

American Academy of Pediatrics Says US Children Are Not Eating Enough Seafood

New study of migrant and child labour in the Thai seafood industry

Bangladesh bans fishing for 65 days to save fish

Hilsa: The fish that is being loved to death

‘Fish are vanishing’ – Senegal’s devastated coastline

Choose the Right Fish To Lower Mercury Risk Exposure

Mercury levels in the northern Pacific Ocean have risen about 30 percent over the past 20 years and are expected to rise by 50 percent more by 2050 as industrial mercury emissions increase, according to a 2009 study led by researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey and Harvard University.

Mercury-containing plants and tiny animals are eaten by smaller fish that are then gobbled up by larger fish, whose tissue accumulates mercury. That’s why larger, longer-living predators such as sharks and swordfish tend to have more of the toxin than smaller fish such as sardines, sole, and trout.

In comments submitted to federal health officials earlier this year, a group of scientists and policy analysts pointed out that a 6-ounce serving of salmon contains about 4 micrograms of mercury vs. 60 micrograms for the same portion of canned albacore tuna—and 170 micrograms for swordfish.

When you eat seafood containing methylmercury, more than 95 percent is absorbed, passing into your bloodstream. It can move throughout your body, where it can penetrate cells in any tissue or organ.

Image result for W Eugene SMith Minamata

But again, this is the cult of celebrity, even scientists, and so the evening was suffused with homilies and genuflecting and really a sixth grade level Power Point talk, not scientific, not political, not deep, not philosophical, not earth rumbling/shattering. Imagine those headlines above debated in the talk. The contradictions. The implications. Mercury, right, perfect for baby and grandpa!

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So, the trip back through Oregon’s hinterland — farms, orchards, big hay operations — with all those “Jesus is the Way” billboard signs, all those “Trump and God Reign” fluttering flags, all that once-thick-forestland-turned-into-Johnson-grass property, all those RVs and heavy-duty pickups and SUVs rushing for a week at the beach, and all the cannabis shops and junk food shacks reminding me that most people did not make THIS bargain two or three generations ago.

The cancer is capitalism-addictive-consumerism; the tuberculosis is the credit cards, banks, IMF, World Bank, and mortgage companies holding people on their knees with a debt gun to our heads; the neurological damage is the assault on democracy through the prostitution of politicians-journalists-educators in that old time religion, careerism; the illiteracy is through the ever-deadening death-entertainment of a floundering press and piss poor publishing realm.

Much more on that later —  the concept of a Sylvia Earle even headlining a “world oceans day” anemic event, and the obvious lack of hard-hitting discourse and thought on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.

Below is a piece I wrote, specifically for Oregon Humanities magazine, a call out for manuscripts to work with the theme, adapt.

For the Summer 2019 issue, share an experience about conforming in response to some sort of pressure. Tell us what it takes to alter and revamp a system that needs to change. Explore a historical or current event that shows the process and outcome of adaptation.

No, this isn’t an angst riddled preface to the piece that was NOT accepted for publication, which also would have had a small check involved. I was told by the poet laureate of Oregon (K.S.) to not expect a big huge hug when sending in my submission, implying that the staff — editorial people at this non-profit, Oregon Humanities — have their own little dance to the beat of a different literary drummer thing going on.

I get that, these non-profits staffed by some pretty middle of the road peeps, or culture wars warriors, or people who have a set and proscribed middle land of what they believe is music to their ears or what would be acceptable stuff for their funders’ and readers’ sensibilities.

Therefore, the rejection letter I got yesterday, via email, with a couple of typos in the body written by the editor of this magazine, was expected, but like anytime I attempt a corn-artichoke-green chile-vegan cheese souffle —  and it’s definitely putting in all that energy, using all those well-handled ingredients, shepherding all the care and the oven acumen —  when the souffle comes out floppy or semi-deflated, my hardened heart still skips a few beats and I want to kick the cast iron ceramic pot into the woods hissing and steaming.

Same with a rejection letter! Err, make that plural. Dozens of them. In the hundreds. Even after 45 years of rejections, I feel the bile bubble up! Then I remember how much I hated that masters of fine arts group of people I have intellectually intercoursed with over the years!

There is good writing out there, just not much of it coming from MFA programs. What may have provided an engine for a genuine attention to craft, fifty years ago, Rockefeller Foundation notwithstanding, has withered and left an enfeebled cult of pseudo expertise. For the genetic disposition of creative writing programs is linked to the paradoxical stigmatizing and entitlements of University attendance. The goal of the CIA and State Dept is one thing, and we’re talking less than best and brightest here, and the ideological imprint is actually probably minor, but the unintended vaccinations of rationality, the ingesting of sociological and a generic lexical sensibility is significant. Art that has lost anger and moral obsession, has left a low stakes hobby culture of career minded ruthlessness coupled to creative flaccidity. The work is constrained in the same ways, psychologically, that allows mute absorption of all aspects of the Spectacle. The concrete and specific becomes generic by a rational process of observation that brackets the irrational and working within the institution is a tacit acceptance of the hierarchies of the system that desires to kill off dissent and opposition, and that means killing off the impulse to question. The white supremacist establishment shares the structural dynamics of the University. MFA program as Pentagon. Now there are exceptions, I guess. But creative writing largely, following the lead of the Iowa Writers Workshop is in the business of staying in business.  — John Steppling

The compulsive repetitive nature of mass marketing has gone a long ways in the training of perception. But it is the mystifying of repetition, the pretense is of difference. And this seems crucial. The liberal white class, the people who run institutional theater, and University programs in writing, believe largely in a marketed reality within which stories of individualism can be played out. Clear cut the forest, the better to inspect ‘psychology’ as it is operative in each ‘character’. This links also to my last post and this idea of mastery. You cannot master the forest, without mostly cutting it down. The sense of space: that theatrical space, linked to an ‘off stage’, to an elsewhere that is unconscious, is by its very nature submissive. The submission allows for that walk in the forest. That walk is creative and it also the discovery of a path. The Situationists used to say, get a map of Berlin and use it to navigate yourself around Milan. — John Steppling

I’ll shift out of the woe is me thing, and discuss quickly what just took place on Dissident Voice Sunday, a Christy Rodgers piece, “Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Grief, Acceptance: The Five Stages of Ecocide.” I was opening up DV, when I found Christy’s powerful piece, and read it, because I was not able to settle down after watching on my free Hulu, If Beale Street Could Talk.

She covers the so-called stages of grief — Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Grief, Acceptance — as we collectively and individually confront the great dying, and confront all those feedback loops and lag times and tipping points to our rape of the world as they are now being played out as the chickens coming home to roost.  Fricken Chaucer: Some six centuries ago, when Geoffrey  used it in The Parson’s Tale:

And ofte tyme swich cursynge wrongfully retorneth agayn to hym that curseth, as a bryd that retorneth agayn to his owene nest.

— Geoffrey Chaucer, 1390, The Parson’s Tale

Malcom X, those chickens coming back to roost.

Rodgers is talking about this climate warming chaos, the stages of grief, confronting what in our lifetimes is the most dramatic event civilization has spurred and will ever witness. She is part of an artist collective, Dark Mountain, and she is prefacing the latest anthology by talking about the deep remnants of human pain during this bearing witness and bearing the weight and cause of the quickening of species extinction and the betrayal of all those goods and services capitalism and other forms of rendering civilization put into the equation of take or give.

Dark Mountain’s latest anthology, #15, In the Age of Fire, has just been published. Material from its 51 authors and artists is showcased on the project’s website. Rodgers, DV:

Acceptance doesn’t mean accommodation with oppression and injustice. It means acknowledgment that we aren’t trying to prevent the apocalypse, because civilization is the apocalypse. We are trying to open a path to a future that is worth living in. Our feelings are experienced individually, and they do not directly impact the material world. But they are not irrelevant. The path to truth for a complex being must itself be complex. On the day a hundred thousand people come into the streets to grieve together for the lost reefs, the lost forests, and all the unnumbered victims, human and non-human, of civilization’s rise, we can mark the beginning of a new era in human life on this planet.

At the Brink of Extinction on the Coast Near the Salmon River

To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.

— “Auguries of Innocence,” by William Blake

A crossroads is the big X in my life, like the symbol of the thunderbird in many myths of original peoples of the American Pacific Northwest, Southwest, East Coast, Great Lakes, and Great Plains.

Of all the places I now am rooted in and adapting to —  the Central Oregon Coast —  I am thinking long and hard about what it means to have traveled through body, soul and mind in a 62-year-old journey.

I’m thinking about how I ended up in Otis, near Cascade Head on the Pacific. From birth in San Pedro, California, upbringing in the Azores, formative years in Paris, France, and learning teenage years in the Sonora, from Arizona to Guaymas, I am here reinvigorating what many elders I’ve crossed paths with as adopted vision quest instructors have taught me.

When you are ready, come to me. I will take you into nature. In nature you will learn everything that you need to know. –

Rolling Thunder, Cherokee Medicine Man

I was told that very lesson by friends’ dads and aunties from so many tribes – Papago, Chiricahua and White River Apache, Navajo, Yaqui, Tohono O’odham. Even at the bottom of the Barrancas del Cobre, several Tarahumara elders imparted the same wisdom: In nature you will learn everything you need.

I received the same tutelage in Vietnam by ethnic tribes leaders near the Laos border 25 years ago. And I learned the same points in my life six years ago on the Island of St. John from a turtle hunter who had grown up in Dominica.

Ironically, just a few days when I was welcoming 2019 into my life, I received the same sort of holistic “how to live in harmony” message from a social worker friend who is also an enrolled member of the Grande Ronde tribe. He texted me this:

“I chatter, chatter as I flow to join the brimming river, for men may come and men may go, but I go on forever.”

This from a tribal elder who I worked with on independent living programs for foster youth. One of our clients was from the Grande Ronde tribe living in Clackamas County, Oregon, receiving services for developmental disabilities caused by fetal alcohol syndrome.

My former colleague waited five minutes before a follow-up text came to me: “Bro’, that’s from Lord Tennyson, so don’t go all Dances with Wolves on me, man . . . haha.”

That text came to me while I was solitary, across from a sand spit where 20 harbor seals were banana-splitting in their favorite haul-out near Cascade Head, where the Salmon River pushes out freshwater ions, tannins, soil streams into the Pacific just north of Lincoln City.

The pinnipeds were cool, but listless. Instead, I was busy espying two bald eagles swooping down on the sand a hundred yards from the seals who then began pecking and ripping at a pretty good-sized steel-head carcass.

The moment before the incoming tide shifted hard and was about to isolate me on a lone rocky outcropping, I was thinking like a mountain, sort of – at least I was deep in the afterglow of having just reread Aldo Leopold’s A Sand Country Almanac:

A deep chesty bawl echoes from rimrock to rimrock, rolls down the mountain, and fades into the far blackness of the night. It is an outburst of wild defiant sorrow, and of contempt for all the adversities of the world.

Every living thing (and perhaps many a dead one as well) pays heed to that call. To the deer it is a reminder of the way of all flesh, to the pine a forecast of midnight scuffles and of blood upon the snow, to the coyote a promise of gleanings to come, to the cowman a threat of red ink at the bank, to the hunter a challenge of fang against bullet. Yet behind these obvious and immediate hopes and fears there lies a deeper meaning, known only to the mountain itself. Only the mountain has lived long enough to listen objectively to the howl of a wolf.  – Thinking like a Mountain, Aldo Leopold

How did I get here, Oregon’s Central Coast? How did I end up learning about eagles pecking at the afterbirth of sea lions in and around the rookeries here on this coast? Why is the eagle, a talisman for me since my early years traveling throughout the American Southwest and into Mexico, so important to me now?

Adaptation or extinction, change versus stagnation. For so many reasons, change and evolution have been part and parcel of my life – newspaper journalist, novelist, college professor, case manager for adults with disabilities, social worker for homeless veterans, and a million more intersections in a world of apparent chaos.

The Mexican flag of those Estados Unidos Mexicanos is an eagle on a prickly pear cactus with a snake in its mouth. I learned as a high school junior that the ancient Aztecs knew where to build their city Tenochtitlan once they saw an eagle eating a snake on top of a lake.

The beauty of the American eagle adapting to the toxins in DDT is clear: Homo sapiens seems historically to never employ the precautionary principle for both ourselves as a species and others in the ecosphere when creating and dispersing new powerful technologies and chemicals.

All of this was coursing through my mind as a scampered across large sloughed-off rocks and boulders where the Pacific was now tangling with the Salmon River.

Eagles there dining on entrails and then in my memory cave, like a magical realism moment, other eagle quests flooded my memory – and I was there, in the now, with a river otter toying with me just offshore, and then studying that tidal estuary, hoping to keep my Timberlines dry, ruminating about age, and all the adaptations I’ve made easily and also kicking and screaming, yelling, “No more change . . . no more upheaval.” Like Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha:

When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Perhaps to be too practical is madness. To surrender dreams — this may be madness. Too much sanity may be madness — and maddest of all: to see life as it is, and not as it should be!

See the source image Another one of my muses, Gabriel Garcia Marquez then came into focus while those eagles were picking apart muscles of the steel-head and then clouds only this part of the Pacific can incubate started swirling above me on cue —

He was still too young to know that the heart’s memory eliminates the bad and magnifies the good, and that thanks to this artifice we manage to endure the burden of the past.”

― Gabriel García Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera

I am still waylaid by that concept, eliminating the bad [to] magnify the good. I am coursing through understanding myself in this walkabout, here in Otis, not exactly the center of anyone’s universe. But then, the nagging Marquez again, and a quote I used to deploy to students in El Paso to think beyond their false hopes: “He who awaits much can expect little.”

I have lived most of my life working with the so-called “bad” — disenfranchised and economically strafed people, those with substance abuse challenges both mocked and misunderstood, and those not on the neural normal scale – assisting them to adapt to their own hard histories and epigenetic bad cards dealt to be self-enhancing people.

There seems to always an eagle overhead when I am going deep into the recesses of memory. In Spokane when I was with a battle-scarred veteran friend who was at a cemetery ready to commit suicide. When I put my sister’s ashes into the sea near Hyder, Alaska. The moment I was called in Vancouver when my brother-in-law died.

Then, it hit me while driving away from Cascade Head — those eagles have been my talismans for six bloody decades! The words of writers, from the minds of people like Louise Erdrich or Jorge Luis Borges, or way back to Beowulf, and farther back to Muhammad al Tulmusani, are also my talismans of sort, but the eagle has been my vision quest. Not the brown eagle of the Aztec incubation, but the bald eagle.

These galvanizing moments are serious times of not just reflection, but ruminating and cultivating change. Adapting.

My father said when I was born in 1957, several bald eagles from Catalina Island were spotted near the San Pedro hospital where I was delivered —   Little Company of Mary Hospital.

Here, 62 years later, I now have the sense to take that “sign” to my grave – bald eagle vision quest.

I’m thinking about 36 million years ago, when the first eagles descended from the kite line. I’m thinking reptiles, and 66 million years ago when birds evolved from the lizards. Looking at the ocean broiling up in Whale Cove will do that to the mind.

Millions of years of adaptations, brother, sister, eagle, and then Thoreau ends up dredging from me a fractal of thought every single day in this tidal wetlands as tides in and tides out signal climatic climaxes yet to come:  “Wildness is the preservation of the World.”

Adaptations for this American symbol,  Haliaeetus leucocephalus —  as the continual use of DDT (and other pesticides) spread throughout the country  —  was a world of constant trials and tribulations. And near extinction.

From 1917 to 1953, the “adaptation” of Alaskan human salmon fishers to an abundance of salmon was to harvest more and more runs, intentionally killing more than 100,000 bald eagles as a threat to “their”  catches.

The lack of adaptive abilities of a species like the bald eagle when faced with the unnatural distillations of chemicals by humanity should have hit us hard fifty years ago: birds that weigh in at 10 to 14 pounds, with wingspans of up to 8 feet, having strength and agility to pull salmon out of the sea while underwater themselves, and a lifespan of up to 30 or more years in the wild can’t weather man-made toxins.

If the 36-million-old eagle can’t make it under the assault of better living through chemistry , then it’s easy to understand humanity’s lack of adaptive skills (how many short years of evolution have we been messing with our adaptations?) to stop business-as-usual industrial and lifestyle processes like spraying DDT. We too are now experiments in the grand cauldron of chemicals produced and released daily.

The effects of that process of humanity “adapting” their environment to their needs —  industrial agriculture demanding insect-free habitats with these pesticides that Rachel Carson, mother of the environmental movement, discussed in her 1962 book, Silent Spring  — was the near extirpation of the American symbol of strength, power, independence and persistence!

Haliaeetus leucocephalus, from Greek, sea, hals and eagle, aietos and white-head, leukos kephalē !

Recall from our Baby-Boomer high school biology books — DDT and other pesticides spread like a slow-motion tsunami across America, sprayed on plants and then eaten by small animals, which were later consumed by birds of prey. Today, we call it bio-accumulation. That poison did its dark magic “art” on both adult bald eagles and their eggs.  The egg shells became too thin to withstand the 36-day incubation period, often crushed under the weight of one of the parents.

Again, what I learned in the 1970s as a high schooler – eagle eggs that were not crushed during brooding mostly did not hatch due to high levels of DDT and its derivatives. Large quantities of PCBs and DDT ended up in fatty tissues and gonads. The maladaptation of the eagle to pesticides was to become infertile due to man’s maladaptation, or in the case of Homo sapiens, the rearrangement of ecosystems and organic pathways.

That was me in Tucson, Arizona, scrambling through desert ‘scapes. I was junior in high school when DDT was officially banned in 1972, largely due to Rachel’s amazing book and petitioning. That was eight years after she had died (Apr 14, 1964) at age 56 from cancer (many attribute breast cancer to the poisons of her time).

Eagles were listed in 1967 as endangered on one listing and then later, 1972, nationally through the Endangered Species Act.

I remember eagles as brothers and myth carriers from many of my buddies who were Navajo, Zuni, Apache and Hopi. Their mothers and uncles would tell us many stories about eagles. I remember traveling to El Paso for a wrestling match and seeing the Thunderbird burned millions of years ago into the Franklin Mountain range. This amazing natural formation of red clay on the mountainside, watching over the Chihuahua desert, captured me then, and later when I was a reporter and teacher in that part of the world.

I was touched then as 17-year-old wrestler visiting a place where a huge eagle to me (thunderbird), was there with outstretched wings and head tilted to the side as if protecting us all from predators, who I knew even at that age were us, Homo sapiens.

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Ten years later and for two decades I was there at that sacred place, a mountain along the Paseo del Norte, straddling Juarez, El Paso and New Mexico. In the 1990s developers were wanting to move (bulldoze) more and more up Thunderbird Mountain for more and more eyesores, AKA tract home subdivisions. Writers and artists on both sides of the border came together to not only stop that sort of desecration, but also to stem the tide of pollutants in the Rio Grande and the denuding of the fragile Chihuahua Desert.

On one of our 10- foot wide protest banners we held along the US-Mexico border, the bald eagle was painted on large and brilliantly, as a symbol of resistance and a “comeback kid story” because man’s chemicals were banned. For many thousands living and working in Juarez, their offspring came out stillborn or with anencephaly – parts of its brain and skull missing. Those industrial chemicals from the American-owned twin plants have not been banned.

Proof of Homo sapiens’ chemicals prompting maladaptation in our offspring.

So, here I am in Otis, Oregon, thinking about that El Paso Thunderbird while watching the estuary bring in swamp-creating waters from the Pacific. What does it mean that I am adapting now in Otis, the town that was up for sale in 1999 for $3 million. That’s 193 acres (another auction occurred in 2004). I have coffee at the quasi-famous Otis Café which was not part of the town’s auction (it never got bought). The café owner’s grandfather bought the land from descendants of the Siletz Indians for $800 in 1910.

As a direct result of the DDT ban, on June 28, 2007 the Department of Interior took the American bald eagle off the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Species.

The reality of putting the bald eagle in peril, and then its eventual recovery and broad habitat colonization means that they are seasonal residents near Yaquina Head. Eagles are like those proverbial human Snow Bird residents of Oregon who end up in Arizona or Nevada or even Hawaii to get the chill of Pacific rain forest winter out of their bones – they go where the living is best.

Here is the adaptation for the eagle – they go into the rookery of the murres, which have a major nesting colony at Yaquina Head. The eagle swooping in and taking the occasional adult murre isn’t the problem, scientists point out.

It’s the encroachment of “secondary predators” that is having a negative impact on the murres’ reproductive success.

An adult eagle is expert at swooping in and grabbing an adult murre and flying off. That’s not putting the murre species in peril. It’s the crummy hunter juvenile bald eagles who end up landing on the rookery. All the adult murres then scatter into the air.

That door then opens for brown pelicans and gulls to alight and grab eggs or murre chicks. These secondary predators will destroy hundreds of eggs in minutes.

Adaptation and re-adaptation.

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Image result for murres and eaglesEcosystems out of balance, and now in Otis, I am adapting to the reality of the human footprint; even a small one like mine, is significant to each and every micro-biodome I come in contact with.

Soon, maybe, the eagle will be put on the hit list, and they too will feel the hard impact of game wardens’ bullets taking them out because, again, adaptation for the bald eagle means things get more and more out of balance.

Murres or eagles? People or salmon? Crab cakes or whales?

The weight of place, and being one with geographic and ecologic time always culls my disparate attempts at calm and inner self exploration. Otis, the Pacific, the entire riot that encompasses rowdy sea lions and the humpback’s 12-foot blowhole sprays, all those murres and double-crested cormorants, petrels dive bombing, black oystercatchers waddling at the tide lines, now are gestating into entire “memory palaces” for me. I think of my place alive in the world. The mutable feast of learning in my walkabout is a continual journey of adapting.

I am looking at an amazing gift of words, and from the Oregon Humanities Magazine, a serendipitous parallel moment for me and the works of Melissa Madenski, who in her essay is talking about this same geographic arena, where she’s lived for more than four decades and just recently left. She talks about spruce, alder, hemlock and maple and their powerful bio-nets and biological relationships through their interconnected forests of roots they share:

Unlike me, they don’t question or worry—that is the wisdom I project on them at least—a symbol for acceptance of what is. I’m coming to believe in my own memory palace that lives in my roots and the roots of my children, a stability that remains even as visible markers disappear. Look at the big picture, I tell myself. You got to live here for over half of your life; your children were able to grow up here; you got to love the land and leave good soil. – “Unclaiming the Land” (February 26, 2018)

Today, I foist my emotional and spiritual rucksack loaded up with my own learning and traveling as I engage with Otis, the Central Oregon Coast, and the people and cetaceans, alike, a repository for my next learning, my new series of adaptations. The bald eagle for all its battles and all the mythological connections, is my talisman and vision quest.

But I feel like that Zuni Eagle Boy who came upon an eaglet that had fallen out of the nest. The boy hunted for the eagle, foregoing working in the fields while the rest of his clan worked and worked.

His brothers resented the boy for raising this chick, who got big and healthy, big enough to fly away. But the eagle stayed with the boy. The clan was ready to kill the eagle to get the boy back, returned to the fields to grow corn and squash.

The boy saw that the eagle was downtrodden in his cage, and asked why. The eagle said he had grown to love the boy for saving him and raising him but had to leave so the boy could go back to his duties and be a boy with his people.

The boy wanted to leave with the eagle, and finally the eagle succumbed to the boy’s pleas.

The eagle told the boy to fill pouches with dried meats and fruit and blue corn bread and to put two bells on the eagle’s feet. The boy climbed on the eagle’s back and they flew off. They ended up in Sky Land, in the city with thousands of eagles who looked like people when they took off their wings and clothing of feathers when they entered their homes. The boy received wings and feather clothing.

As in many stories of rite of passage and adaptation by Native tribes, the Eagle Boy disobeyed the orders of the Eagles to not go south, and once the boy did, he thought it was a beautiful and safe place. Until people of bones – skeletons – chased him.

He made it back to Sky Land, but he was not welcome there for disobeying. Finally, the eagle that the boy had raised said he’d help him fly back to his people. The boy took an old cloak of feathers and made the arduous journey back. His friend the eagle circled above him the entire way to make sure he made it safe, and once Eagle Boy landed, the eagle took the cloak of feathers and flew away.

The Eagle Boy lived with his people, who honored him because they knew that Eagle Boy wanted to be  with his people, even though he could fly away at any time.

Like Eagle Boy, I look to the skies and smile at the eagle’s graceful and wide veronicas as thermals take them up where humans can’t see clearly. The boy adapted and loved his people, even though the journey to the Sky Land was always with him and in his stories of adventure.

I am here, looking for my own Sky Land, but cognizant of the fact the love of my clan – family, fiancé, daughter, friends – is the uplift I count on to make it through the every-changing evolution of my mind and body. I can be an eagle on the ground, scampering through gravity-fed fields, hoping to understand how I might lay claim to finally understanding what all the adaptations mean in a life so lived.

Custer’s Last Stand Meets Global Warming

A recent article in Arctic News on the outlook for global warming foresees a frightening scenario lurking right around the corner. Hopefully, the article’s premise of impending runaway global warming (“RGW”) is off the mark, by a lot. More to the point, off by really a lot in order to temper the sting expected when abrupt temperature increases hit hard, as projected in the article, which is entitled: “Greenhouse Gas Levels Keep Accelerating.” Oh, BTW… the worst-case scenario happens within one decade!

Here’s a snippet:

… such a rise in greenhouse gas levels has historically corresponded with more than 10°C or 18°F of warming, when looking at greenhouse gas levels and temperatures over the past 800,000 years….1

Obviously, it goes without saying no sane person wants to believe, and likely won’t believe or accept, studies about killer temperatures locked, loaded, and ready to fire, right around the corner. That fact alone serves to christen the title “Custer’s Last Stand Meets Global Warming.”

Furthermore, and for journalistic balance, it is important to mention that mainstream science is not warning of imminent Runaway Global Warming (“RGW”), as outlined in the Arctic News article.

Still, the article does have credibility because it is the product of academic scientists. Therefore, metaphorically speaking, one can only hope that their Ouija boards were out-of-whack, misinterpreting the data.

Alas, the Arctic News article would not be out there if only the U.S. Senate had taken seriously Dr. James Hansen’s early warnings about global warming way back in 1988. The New York Times headline d/d June 24, 1988 read: “Global Warming Has Begun, Expert Tells Senate.”

Curiously enough, ten years later, in 1998, the process of assembling the International Space Station (“ISS”) commenced as approved by Congress, which included 100% solar power. But, ignoring the obvious, no solar initiatives were suggested for the country, not even mentioned. In fact, ever since Dr. Hansen’s warning of 40 years ago, Congress is MIA, a big fat nada, not even one peep or word about efforts to contain global warming.

As such, it’s really no surprise (but somewhat shocking) that a Children’s Climate Crusade, originating in Sweden, is brewing and stewing about the global warming crisis, and they’re addressing a very long list of failures by “the establishment.” Honestly, does it take children to figure this one out?

The Arctic News article is a haunting commentary on the current and future status of global warming, as follows: The article describes a powerful combination of greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrogen oxide (NO2), and nitrous oxide (N2O) in combination with oceans and ice taking up ever-less planetary heat, threaten life on Earth within a decade.

According to the article:

So, how fast and by how much could temperatures rise? As oceans and ice are taking up ever less heat, rapid warming of the lower troposphere could occur very soon. When including the joint impact of all warming elements … abrupt climate change could result in a rise of as much as 18°C or 32.4°F by 2026. This could cause most life on Earth (including humans) to go extinct within years.2

That can’t possibly be true, or can it? The good news is nobody knows 100% for sure. But, here’s the rub: Some really smart well-educated scientists think it could happen, in fact, they are almost sure it will happen. According to the article, the setup for the worst-case scenario is falling into place much faster, and sooner, than ever thought possible. It’s highly recommended that interested parties read the entire article3

Based upon the article, civilization has been living on borrowed time, meaning, the oceans as well as glacial and ocean-bearing ice have been absorbing up to 95% of the planet’s heat, thus, minimizing atmospheric global warming and saving civilization from a bad heat stroke.

However, those two huge natural buffers are losing their mojo, kinda fast. Increasingly, extreme ocean stratification and heavy loss of ice minimize the effectiveness of those two crucial buffers to rapid global warming. Consequently, forcing the atmosphere to take up more and more, and way too much more, planetary heat, leading to bursts of global temperatures when least expected, the Custer’s Last Stand moment.

One of the primary causes of upcoming acceleration of global warming includes a very recent study about nitrous oxide, N2O, which is 300xs more potent than CO2 and has a lifetime of 120 years, found in huge quantities (67B tons) in Arctic permafrost, to wit:

The study by Jordan Wilkerson et al shows that nitrous oxide emissions from thawing Alaskan permafrost are about twelve times higher than previously assumed. A 2018 analysis (Guibiao Yang et al, “Magnitude and Pathways of Increased Nitrous Oxide Emissions from Uplands Following Permafrost Thaw“, Copyright © 2018 American Chemical Society”) points at the danger of large nitrous oxide releases from thawing permafrost in Tibet. Even more nitrous oxide could be released from Antarctica.2

N2O, the third most important GHG, is an intensely effective molecule that impacts global warming 300xs more than CO2. That is an enormous, big time, impact. In that regard, the rate of current N2O emissions is extremely concerning. According to recent research, nitrous oxide is being released from melting permafrost “12xs higher than previously assumed.” That could be a sure-fire formula for helping to turbocharge global warming, and it lends supporting evidence to the underlying thesis of the Arctic News article.

So long as bad news is the order of the day, in addition to N2O as a powerful GHG (greenhouse gas), it is also an ozone depleting substance, uh-oh, which brings to mind shades of The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer of 1987, an international treaty designed to save civilization’s big fat ass.

For those who missed class back in the day (1987), the ozone (O3) layer of Earth’s stratosphere (10-30 miles above ground level) absorbs most of the Sun’s ultraviolet radiation, without which Homo sapiens would be toast!

Ozone is widely dispersed in the atmosphere, to an extreme; however, if it were all compressed into one thin layer, it would be the thickness of one penny. From a narrow viewpoint, as just explained, one penny of thickness of ozone molecules separates humanity from burning alive, and thus explains the Great Panic of the late 1980s when a Big Hole was discovered in the ozone layer as a result of too much human-generated chlorofluorocarbons (“CFCs”) Halons and Freons.

According to James Anderson (Harvard professor of atmospheric chemistry), co-recipient of the 1995 Nobel Prize in chemistry for his work on ozone depletion, speaking at the University of Chicago about global warming in 2018:

People have the misapprehension that we can recover from this state just by reducing carbon emissions, Anderson said in an appearance at the University of Chicago. Recovery is all but impossible, he argued, without a World War II-style transformation of industry—an acceleration of the effort to halt carbon pollution and remove it from the atmosphere, and a new effort to reflect sunlight away from the earth’s poles… This has do be done, Anderson added, within the next five years.4

Based upon that gauntlet as laid down by professor Anderson, only 4 years remains to get something done to “save us.”  But, sadly, there is no “WW-II style transformation of industry” under consideration, not even a preliminary fact-finding mission.

But, there is a very active ongoing Children’s Crusade prodding adults to do something… for a change, but as the children are quick to point out, they do not expect much help from the adults in the room based upon years of “doing nothing.”

Still, children skip classes to publicly protest the misbehavior of adults and occasionally, they give speeches, for example: At Katowice, Poland, COP-24 (Conference of the Parties) in December 2018, Greta Thunberg, a 15-year old from Sweden at the time, addressed the UN secretary general António Guterres. Here’s her speech:

For 25 years countless people have stood in front of the UN climate conferences, asking our nation’s leaders to stop the emissions. But, clearly, this has not worked since the emissions just continue to rise.

So I will not ask them anything.

Instead, I will ask the media to start treating the crisis as a crisis.

Instead, I will ask the people around the world to realize that our political leaders have failed us.

Because we are facing an existential threat and there is no time to continue down this road of madness… So we have not come here to beg the world leaders to care for our future. They have ignored us in the past and they will ignore us again.

We have come here to let them know that change is coming whether they like it or not.

  1. “Greenhouse Gas Levels Keep Accelerating”, Arctic News, May 1, 2019.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Google: “Greenhouse Gas Levels Keep Accelerating”, Arctic News, May 1, 2019.
  4. Jeff McMahon, “We Have Five Years To Save Ourselves From Climate Change, Harvard Scientist Says”, Forbes, January 15, 2018.