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Like a Rowboat in a Typhoon: Why 2020 Center-Right Yankee Election Outcomes are Dead in the Water

Image courtesy of our comrade Hermit

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold
Mere anarchy is loosed up the world….
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

— The Second Coming”, William Butler Yeats, 1919

ORIENTATION 

How dare you?

“Oh, great, that’s all we need. A cynical radical leftist who is so out of touch that you would jeopardize losing the elections to Trump out of some purity. Noam Chomsky thinks this is the most important election in U.S history. How can you be so apathetic at a time like this? We have to get Trump out of office or we will have fascism. If Trump wins there will be blood on your hands. I can’t believe any radical news site would even publish this article. Up yours.”

My claim

First of all, I am not cynical in general. I am, however, cynical that any capitalist party can keep Yankeedom from collapsing. Secondly, this article does not tell anyone whether or not to vote or which party to vote for. My claim is that both Yankee political parties have already demonstrated for the last 40 years they are incapable of managing to reconstruct or repair deep ecological, infrastructural and structural problems that are engulfing us right now. Yankeedom is collapsing and it will continue to collapse regardless of who wins this “election”. Thirdly, fascism is already here and it will continue even if Trump loses the election. Though I don’t make a case for socialism, I will say that our choices are either fascism or socialism.

WHAT IS POLITICS? RULING VS GOVERNING

One of the root meanings of the word “politics” is to steer. In other words, deliberative political bodies ask themselves big sociopolitical questions like – “where have we been based on past practice and where are we going, based on future plans?” Steering is something like the word “governing”. In cybernetics, to govern is likened to a heart in the human body.  It is the grand central station in which all subsystems of the body meet. These subsystems are integrated and monitored for feedback about the system’s past behavior and fed forward, anticipating where the system is going. No subsystems are left floating on their own, freely determining their own direction.  Applying the words “governing” and “steering” to politics in human societies, the sad truth is that with the possible exception of hunting and gathering and simple horticultural societies, agricultural state civilizations and industrial capitalist societies do not govern their populations, they rule them. We have oligarchies struggling for power, but part of their power should not be defined as steering. They are not steering. In fact, nobody’s driving, yet they imagine they are steering and governing.

Turning specifically to Yankeedom, it is a deeply stratified class system in which the ruling class controls the major resources and the lower classes are granted just enough resources to make it to the next day. The different parts of the political system have regional struggles between the core and periphery rather than cooperation. Technology is developed not in a systematic, forward-looking way to make life easier, but mostly as weapons of war for destruction. Spiritual institutions are organized by the rulers to terrorize, demoralize and mystify their own populations. The religious authorities sanctify the rule of the rulers, just as Marx said. On the whole, at their best, the ruling classes everywhere, not just the United States, are no better than the general population. They really can’t think beyond one generation. Neither ruling class party in the history of Yankeedom has governed their populations. They have taken turns ruling them.

SIGNS OF STRUCTURAL COLLAPSE

Part of the drumbeat of the “Lesser of Two Evils” folks, is the hope that a democrat will bring things “back to normal,” meaning Yankee social life as it was before March 2020. But thinking there is a “normal” to get back to is a pathological denial of the fact that the Yankee empire has been collapsing for 50 years. All this while both parties have ignored the long-standing ecological and infrastructural problems, including the fallout from the pandemic over the last six months of 2020.

COVID -19 has expanded rather than leveled off because the nation-state ignores what scientists say and it has no national plan that all states must follow, unlike countries that have resolved the pandemic crisis, often with half the resources of the U.S. Socialist countries like Cuba, North Vietnam and China have responded quickly and admirably. Here in Yankeedom, neither Republicans nor Democrats have risen to the occasion. Each party has had six months to step up to the plate. They have done nothing systemic.

Large parts of the population are in denial that there is a pandemic and are ignoring what scientists say, spreading the virus as they dance in the clubs and on the beaches. This self-destructive behavior is partly explained by the refusal of both ruling class parties to educate their populations in basic science. Both parties have been anti-science for 50 years and have allowed college courses to skimp on science classes. At the same time movie and television producers flood the air waves and movie screens with ESP claims, extraterrestrials and reports of people who have returned from the dead. Most of the Yankee population is scientifically illiterate and innumerate (without a basic knowledge of mathematics and arithmetic).

Extreme weather is a very serious problem that has been neglected for 50 years and there has been no long-term plan to address this. Every year we have record-breaking temperatures in the summer, along with massive fires in the West. In the winters, record cold spells hit the East and North-central states. Glaciers are melting and water is rising. Has either party come to the table with a long-term plan? They haven’t because both parties are beholden to capitalists who refuse to think beyond three months into the future.

Police departments have turned into state terrorist organizations which have been amassing more and more weapons for decades. There is no structural reform, as the police are handed bloated budgets while they are trained to mutilate and kill as a matter of course, treating the citizens as enemies. Neither party has done anything to reign in police violence. Self-destructively, by not reigning in the police, capitalists who own both parties keep people in the streets protesting – the very people they need to get off the streets and back to work if they are to rehabilitate the physical economy.

There is an open rebellion against police terror which the ruling class has failed to address structurally. Any claim for reparation for minorities, not just for being killed by police but also for being housed for decades in prison for minor crimes is like spitting in the wind. Sadly, some of the most rabid “Back the Blue” folks are white working-class people who are also most likely to be beaten by the police. Unbeknown to most white working-class in this country, there was a time when to be a redneck meant to be against the police.

Openly armed fascist groups wave confederate flags and white power signs that will probably get worse if the Idiot-King loses. Is this a serious political problem for either party that requires a long-term solution? Apparently not, as these right-wing groups have been three and a half years in the making, bringing to the surface a racist undercurrent that has been festering in Yankeedom for hundreds of years.

We are in the worst capitalist crisis in history because COVID-19 has crippled the physical economy. Respected political economist Jack Rasmus tells us the real unemployment rate is between 25-30%, not the much lower numbers publicized by the Department of Labor. Those who have jobs are often working at reduced work hours. Consumer spending is at a low point. Both parties sing a capitalist tune that workers can be sacrificed so the economy can live. This is an economic policy? Where are all the bourgeois economists who populate every university, pumping out ideological propaganda about the free market? Do they have any policies for fixing the existing physical economy other than to say “let ‘er (the market) ride!”? These same economists are consultants to each party. Are they recommending any governing policies? For them, the physical economy and the stock market are all the same thing.

Capitalists and the state want to open up the schools this fall to in-person learning despite the fact that the COVID-19 has not even reached its peak yet. It risks jeopardizing the lives of 7-14-year-olds, as well as college students, faculty and staff. In part, capitalists want children back in school to increase the chances of their parents going back to work. Parents are more likely to stay home to guide their children through Zoom sessions rather than go to work and leave them on their own. Capitalists need workers back at work – even if they are killed. This is an economic policy?

Economically, finance capital has produced a runaway fictitious capital bubble that was not even checked after the Great Recession. The neoliberal choir boy, Obama, offered no structural reform of banking institutions. Capitalist economists blithely ignore growing bad debt. They imagine that a gambling casino (the stock market) and the use of financial instruments, like derivatives, pose no problems.

The Federal Reserve has to pump blood transfusions (money) on a regular basis into financial markets to keep them from tanking. Does either party think this might be a long-term problem? Now, the Fed has promised to keep interest rates at 0% for the next 3 years in the hopes that even more people will fall into credit card debt. Does either political party think there might be something wrong with printing more money as an economic policy? Apparently not.

Both major political parties are hated by their populations, as evidenced by the winning party being unable to attract more than 20% of the population. When these politicians are told that 60% of the population doesn’t vote or is ineligible to vote, do they say, “hmm, this is a problem, especially if we claim to be a democracy”. The answer is no. They imagine the people who don’t vote are ignorant, stupid, poor or have mental health problems. It never crosses their minds that these potential voters might not vote because these two parties and their grandstanding, lying and back street deal-making have nothing to do with the lives of most of the population. This is a great example of a political system that ignores the feedback from its periphery – that its system simply isn’t working.

Short-term thinking – Another of the many problems with the political system of Yankeedom is that it is ruled by capitalists who refuse to think beyond a single quarter. They want their assets liquid and ready to move at any time. Capitalists are incapable of governing in the way we’ve defined the word. In addition, the electoral systems that capitalists control last only four years. As long as Republicans and Democrats switch administrations every four years, there can be no long-standing policy that would supersede the various revolving doors of regimes.

All these twelve points are signs of neglect and decay that are very typical of the research Joseph Tainter did for his book The Collapse of Complex Societies many years ago. In the face of all these deep, long-term systemic problems, Congress was adjourned for one month! Given these points, do either the Democrats or the Republicans “govern” our society today? For the 40% of the population who vote for either party, voters think whichever political party wins, they govern. But from their lack of response to any of these problems, these parties do not govern – they rule.

QUALIFICATION

As a socialist, I have absolutely no confidence that an enlightened long-term thinking capitalist could solve any of the problems above. However, since those of you are convinced that these presidential elections are so important, let me propose some things that an enlightened, long-term thinking capitalist might do to address these problems, whether the solution comes from a Republican or a Democrat. Then at the end I will ask you if you think the political party of your choice would implement even one of these solutions when they begin their term. The purpose of the proposals below is to get our bearings about what an overall plan might look like. I am not attempting to prioritize in what order this reform would come.  Under a socialist party, we would have both a short-term and a long-term plan so we could attack these problems systematically. However, I am not arguing for socialism. I am only arguing that neither party will lift a finger to address the multiple crises we are facing.

WHAT WOULD AN ENLIGHTENED CAPITALIST PARTY DO WITH THESE PROBLEMS IF THEY WERE CAPABLE OF GOVERNING?

Have a national plan to deal with the pandemic

First, we will follow the lead of countries who have successfully managed the COVID-19 virus and will implement a long-term plan even if it means shutting down businesses and schools for six months. We will have a national plan that every state will follow. No longer will states decide their own policy in the bumbling way that has been done so far.

Overcome scientific illiteracy and innumeracy

Furthermore, long-term, we will redevelop our higher education programs to stress mastering the sciences and expand courses on critical thinking. There will be scientific boards of directors who will redesign movie and television curriculum to emphasize stories based on science, not fantasy. Science fiction writers will have to demonstrate to scientists how their script is based on scientific findings and not just on fantasy. This will begin to cut into the rampant scientific illiteracy and innumeracy that has existed for two generations. There will be required courses in geography and international politics. The reign of businessmen determining course development while sitting on the boards of directors will end.  College instructors and scientific researchers will have prominent seats on those boards.

Redeploy the military for infrastructural building and repair

The enlightened capitalist party will reorient our resource base. As it is, we are currently involved in at least seven wars. We have come to realize that capitalism can only grow long-term if it invests in life rather than death. Therefore, all the troops will be called home and redeployed. Once home they will work at rebuilding the crumbling infrastructure that has been decaying for decades and will cost trillions of dollars. They will fix roads and repair bridges. They will also build low-cost housing to get every person off the street. City budgets will hold a certain percentage of land for low cost housing. City life will no longer be determined by the whim of real estate agents, given the virtue word “developer”.

Systemic climate change plan

An additional benefit to closing down our war machine will be its effect on global warming and pollution since the military is the world’s largest polluter. We will begin implementing the scientific recommendations to combat extreme weather and pollutions that have been sitting on the shelves of the U.N. for 50 years. A major part of the budget will be spent on trying to halt or reverse all the devastating fires, sickening smoke, pollution, ever more fierce hurricanes and tornadoes and melting of glaciers.

Full employment, satisfying basic needs

Next, we capitalists have come to realize that there are many needs people have that are not realized because they have low profitability returns. As capitalists we have tried to create needs that don’t exist to get people to buy products and services that do not last, either materially or by providing real emotional satisfaction. As it turns out, people have considerably more needs than we realized and so there will be no longer any unemployment. Everyone will work to satisfy the needs of all social classes. Capitalist societies are the only types of societies in history to have unemployment. This is a waste of our collective creative power. “Yes” says the short-term thinking capitalists, “but if you don’t have unemployment, wages will rise and cut into our profit margins.”  As long-term thinking capitalists, we learned in the 1950s and 1960s high wages and profitability can easily go hand-in-hand.  The amount of creativity that will be unleashed will more than make up the difference. In addition, a great deal of new revenue will be generated by a return to taxing corporations as was done in the 1950s and 1960s. Corporations used to be taxed at a far greater rate than today. These corporations took it in stride and still made a fortune.

Installing economic floors on the economy

Economically, everyone will receive a basic income so that no one ever has to be concerned about starving or not having a place to live. That is, in addition to increased investment in the “matriarchal” state, including universal health care, expanded pensions, mental health and physical care for veterans.

Alternatives to state terror

Police departments will be abolished, and the revenue redeployed into community defense councils following the recommendations of critical criminal sociologists who have developed alternative systems using recommendations that have been on the shelves for years. Up until now, they could never be put into practice because of the fear of police lobbies and their unions. Police will be replaced by social mediation teams, social workers and neighborhood review boards.

Next, prisoners of non-violent crimes will be released and put into rehabilitation centers and transition programs where they will either learn a trade or develop a skill they already have. They will be able to get a good college education if that is what they want. The pouring out of prisoners into the workforce will be a tremendous boon to the economy. Prisons will be modeled on the method currently in use in Norway, with the focus on rehabilitation, rather than punishment.

Attacking the National Rifle Association

As capitalists we want to invest in the reduction of violence in our population. All weapons beyond simple handguns will be illegal. The purpose of a gun should be simply for protection. No one needs machine guns to protect themselves. Open Carry gun laws will be abolished.

Long overdue reparations

The demands of the current uprising are larger than simply a reduction of police brutality. They are about restitutions.  Systemic racism has continued and even worsened since the civil rights movement. To begin to make up for this, we capitalists will follow the guidelines of criminal sociologists who have calculated what would be fair restitution based on centuries of slave labor. The reparations packet would include funding employment opportunities, grants in the arts and sciences and education, childcare tuition reduction for trade as well as other programs sociologists would recommend.

Savings banks and public banks free of stock market speculation

Economically we will be transforming banks that are reinstated and can be used for commercial purposes, rather than solely for financial investment and not tied to the stock markets. Furthermore, public banks will be established in most states in order for people to invest in community institutions that have no investments in the stock market. Banks will reinstitute the rule where there can be no investments made without a certain proportion of gold to back them up. Capitalist speculation will be discouraged and penalized.

Switching to political proportional representation according to social class

Politically we will begin a process of overhauling the two-party system, with which Americans have expressed frustration for decades. What we must face is that right now sociologists tell us that there are eight social classes. The two major political parties represent at best the top 1%; 5% of the upper class; and 10% of the upper middle class. As it stands now, about 85% of the population has no representation. The middle class needs its own separate party; the working class needs its own party and those below the working class need their own party. Each party can only have representatives from its own social class. If we want people to become more political and be real citizens, we must give them their own representatives and pay them the salary of a middle-class citizen. There will be no more political representatives who are millionaires pretending to represent the middle and lower classes.

Conclusion

I want to point out that none of these suggestions are socialist. There is no call for the abolition of private ownership of resources. There are no constraints on inheritance. There is no proposal to freeze the assets of the 1% and redistribute them. There is no call for workers to seize the workplaces and run worksites themselves. There is no call for the nationalization of banks and industry. There is no call for closing the stock markets. My proposals are all long-term structural reforms to do damage-control over the continuing collapse of Yankeedom.

I believe most of you reading this would agree that many of these improvements would be necessary. Yet you hold on to the belief that the political parties controlled by the capitalists would in some way address these problems. They have not and they will not. In all cases up until now, both parties have done nothing. They are either unaware of the level of crisis we are in, they are in denial there is even a problem, or they recognize a problem, but their response is anemic, erratic and not well thought out. What makes you think that after this election any of these politicians will do anything differently? Vote for whomever you want but whoever your favorite candidate is, understand they operate under a political party owned by an incompetent, myopic, irresponsible capitalist class who will go down dancing on the deck of the Titanic. Paraphrasing Freud, compared to the conflict between id and the superego within the individual, the ego is helpless, much like being in a rowboat with one oar in the middle of a typhon.  The ego doesn’t have a prayer. Neither do these existing political parties.

About seventy years ago, Arthur Schlesinger Jr. triumphantly proclaimed that centrist liberalism was a “Vital Center” against the twin dangers of left and right-wing totalitarianism. Today we can say the “vital center” has collapsed with both parties falling into the abyss. Our only solution to the collapse we are experiencing is to develop a mass socialist party with a plan and systemic steps to be taken over the next 5, 10 or 15 years. That is our only hope for reducing the fall as a result of the collapse. Capitalist parties are incapable of solving these problems.

• First published in Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism

The post Like a Rowboat in a Typhoon: Why 2020 Center-Right Yankee Election Outcomes are Dead in the Water first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Thawing Arctic Permafrost  

It’s no surprise that first prize, or the blue ribbon, for exceeding 2°C above baseline goes to the Arctic with permafrost that covers 25% of the Northern Hemisphere. Recognition is long overdue, as it’s been totally neglected far too long by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

This crucial nugget of knowledge comes by way of a recent virtual science session (1:27 in length) sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences and can be watched in its entirety on YouTube:

The webcast is entitled: Thawing Arctic Permafrost: Regional and Global Impacts, hosted by John P. Holdren, Teresa and John Heinz, Professor of Environmental Policy, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

The timing couldn’t be better. The Arctic Circle has been very newsworthy. As such, people must be wondering what to make of the disturbing news that’s unsettling, to an extreme.

According to Euronews, as of July 14th:

The extreme north and beyond the Arctic Circle has this year registered record temperatures. On June 20, the meteorological service of Russia recorded a peak of 38°C in Verkhoyansk, the highest recorded temperature since records began in the late nineteenth century.

This is contributing to the rapid melting of permafrost, the region’s frozen ground, on which are built many industrial construction sites and buildings, many for mining hydrocarbons.

The melting of the poles that act as temperature controls for atmospheric currents has consequences for the entire climate..

Decidedly, what happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic.

According to Professor Holdren:

Temperatures across the Arctic are increasing 2 to 3 times faster than the global average… The Arctic will continue to be the leading edge of climate change.

The first speaker on the virtual webcast was Dr. Susan M. Natali, Associate Scientist and Arctic Program Director, Woods Hole Research Center, an Arctic ecologist focusing on the ecosystem and carbon cycling consequences of permafrost thaw.

According to Dr. Natali, the Arctic temperature anomaly is already 2°C warmer than the long-term average. The consequences include sea ice loss, melting of Greenland ice sheets, and permafrost thaw.

Permafrost thaw is monitored by boreholes drilled at depths of 20 meters (66 feet) throughout the Arctic. Thus, measured temperature changes avoid seasonal dynamics. These deep permafrost temperatures, in some instances, have been measured for up to 40 years. Results: Permafrost temps are markedly warming across the board, regardless of season.

Of note, Northern Hemisphere permafrost contains 1100-1500 billion tonnes of carbon in the form of ancient organic matter. For comparison purposes, this is twice the amount of carbon already in the atmosphere, and it is three times as much carbon as in the world’s forest biomass.

An obvious implication of Dr. Natali’s statements is humanity is playing with fire in a very big way by allowing anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions (cars, planes, and trains, etc.) to run wild, increasing by the month, by the year, by the decade with absolutely no end in sight, none whatsoever. At some point in time all of those billions of tonnes of carbon stored in frozen permafrost will start breaking lose beyond normal background rates and humanity will find its goose cooked, maybe well done.

According to Natali, permafrost carbon emissions are not included in the IPCC’s global carbon budget that targets 2°C or below, preferably below 1.5°C. Well, maybe a suddenly overheated Arctic will bring on an eventual recalculation of how the IPCC looks at and calculates the carbon budget. Better late than never.

And, here’s the distressing part (one of many): Fieldwork by scientists proved that permafrost is already a “net emitter of CO2,” this after thousands of years as a “carbon sink,” but no longer! As such, thousands of years of one of the largest carbon sinks on Earth erased by recklessness of human-generated over-heating ecosystems.

Not only that, according to Natali, permafrost thaw alone is equivalent to ~25% of the IPCC’s allowable emissions to stay below 1.5°C. Yet, the IPCC does not include permafrost in its carbon budget, meaning there’s a very nasty surprise down the line for the rah-rah climate mitigation crowd.

The second virtual speaker was Katey Walter Anthony, Aquatic Ecosystem Ecologist and Professor, Water and Environmental Research Center, University of Alaska/Fairbanks.

Dr. Anthony has done fieldwork throughout Russia with a lot of work in Siberia (a hothouse nowadays). Her research focuses on thermokarst, lake formation, and greenhouse gas methane.

Per Dr. Anthony, current climate models in the world do not include carbon emissions from thermokarst lakes. Yet, they’re plentiful with millions of thermokarst lakes expanding and releasing methane all across the Arctic.

Not only that but permafrost soils contain 1500 gigatons of carbon which, according to Dr. Anthony, equates to 150 years of fossil fuel emissions under present conditions. Imagine turning lose a sizeable fraction of that carbon. Once again, nation/states’ carbon emission mitigation plans are dead certain to come up real short of professed goals.

Field tests on thermokarst lakes are conducted by lowering a bubble trap into the water to trap microbial methane seeps as the methane bubbles year round. Bubble traps exist in over 300 lakes throughout the Arctic.

It was 14,000 years ago, as the climate warmed, when permafrost thermokarst lakes flared up on the landscape, bringing 4°C warming over a period of 8,000 years. Nowadays, according to Dr. Anthony, a similar 4°C warming will likely occur over only 80 years in sharp contrast to 8,000 years in the paleoclimate record. Obviously, without her stating as such, it implies a climate system that’s on turbo charger training-wheels, real big ones.

We are standing at the threshold of abrupt change in permafrost carbon emissions.1

Mercy! And, all of those mitigation plans by 195 nations, but did they ever really get off the ground? The truth is emissions relentlessly climb upwards, ad nauseam. Thus, questioning who’s seriously watching the store?

John Holdren wrapped up the virtual session: We’re probably looking at 80 to 100 gigatons of carbon released from permafrost over this century. In turn, this takes a big bite out of the global carbon budget. According to Dr. Holdren, that prospect is in addition to a global temperature increase, to date, of 1.1°C to 1.2°C above baseline.

Permafrost, which is not included in the global carbon budget by the IPCC, could add 25% to 40%. That’s an enormous problem that lends itself to big trouble down the line. What’s a nation in the throes of carbon emission mitigation plans to do?

Nevertheless, Dr. Holdren, who co-chaired Obama’s President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, says it is still possible to mitigate enough to hold temps to 2°C. But at a cost of ~3% of world GDP. Ahem! He further nearly apologetically suggested that the hit to civilization for failure to mitigate would far exceed that cost, which happens to be 3% of $85T or a whopping $2.55T (that’s trillions). Hello, anybody still out there?

Meanwhile, after years of handwringing and gushing teardrops of green sympathizers, the world is still 80% dependent upon fossil fuels, a fact revealed by Dr. Holdren at the close of his presentation. That’s very troubling.

That’s the same 80% as 50 years ago and a clear signal of absolute failure by governments around the world and a resounding failure by the IPCC to fully implement/organize/promote its heavenly Paris ’15 plans to save the planet. It’s disgraceful!

As for final questions/thoughts via the virtual webcast:

According to Dr. Anthony: The East Siberian Arctic Sea is a place where “we’ve seen really large numbers of CH4 release.”

The following was not discussed in the webcast: Temperatures were recently 30-34C (86-93F) in the East Siberian Arctic Sea (ESAS) region, which region is equivalent in size to Germany, France, Great Britain, Italy, and Japan combined and with 75% of the area in 50-80m, shallow waters, allowing quick and easy CH4 release from the sub-sea permafrost without oxidation. Drilling by other scientists has discovered enormous quantities of frozen methane, and noticeable thinning of the subsea permafrost. Trusted sources that closely follow CH4 emissions in the ESAS region are of the opinion: “It may be out of control.” But, it’s important to note that’s anecdotal information.

Also, disconcertingly, the heaviest season for methane release into the atmosphere has only just begun.

Making matters even worse, at the Top of the World, Arctic Ocean sea surface temperatures, which this time of year are typically 0.3°C (32°F) were recently 12°C (54°F). That’s downright spooky!

Postscript: Scientists have identified the first active methane gas leak in Antarctica, announced July 22nd, discovered by researchers led by Andrew Thurber/Oregon State University, who commented: “I find it incredibly concerning.”2

Speechless!

  1. Dr. Anthony
  2. Andrew R. Thurber, et al, “Riddles in the Cold: Antarctic Endemism and Microbial Succession Impact Methane Cycling in the Southern Ocean”, The Royal Society, July 22, 2020.

The Sky Is Falling: Yes? No?

The sky is falling is one of the more disturbing thoughts in society today, as to whether climate change is on a fast track collision course with doomsday amidst a collapsing society.

In that regard, according to the details of a scathing review by ScientistsWarning.org (“SW”) of Jem Bendell’s wildly popular “Deep Adaptation” the answer is no, not yet. Society is not ready to keel over, as postulated in Bendell’s paper.

Whew! Climate change handwringers, sleepless nights, can take a deep breath, exhale and relax based upon the critique of Bendell’s very popular paper, which crystal balls the “end to society” within only decades, or less, depending.

In strong terms, ScientistsWarning.org’s thought-provoking rebuttal expresses outrage over Professor Jem Bendell’s doomsday thesis in its article entitled “The Faulty Science, Doomism, and Flawed Conclusion of Deep Adaptation” d/d July 14, 2020 by Thomas Nicholas, Galen Hall, and Colleen Schmidt, fact-checked by scientists.

The full article can be accessed at www.ScientistsWarning.org.

Accordingly, within the opening two paragraphs of SW’s rebuttal: “In the past few years we have seen a troubling trend: a few figures in the climate movement using science — or what looks like science — to justify increasingly dire and prophetic, but ultimately unsupported claims about the future.”

Bendell’s Deep Adaptation became an overnight cult classic amongst many on the front lines of environmental justice, a brooding downcast thesis of the inevitability of “social collapse” because of the ravages of climate change/global warming, meaning there is no way out, humanity’s trapped in an insidious fireball of doom that’ll hit hard.

SW takes issue with Bendell: “(1) cherry-picking data (2) citing false reports (3) forwarding logical fallacies (4) disregard of robust scientific consensus.”

In SW’s words: “Neither social science nor the best available climate science support Deep Adaptation’s core premise: that near-term societal collapse due to climate change is inevitable.”

Furthermore: “This false belief undermines the environmental movement and could lead to harmful political decisions, overwhelming grief, and fading resolve for decisive action.”

SW offers past examples and discussion of the general harmful nature of “doomism” of which, according to SW, Bendell, head over heels, falls victim in his own overriding thesis. Not only that, SW felt compelled to critique Bendell because of the huge impact of his paper. Deep Adaptation has been downloaded more than 450,000 times and has been featured in several venues. It has had enormous impact, allegedly changing the “course of life” for some people. SW claims Bendell’s message has stirred those people to the “wrong course.”

Still, SW lauds Bendell’s exposure of the climate crisis by awakening the public to the intractable nature of global warming. SW: “Part of the paper’s value is its willingness to discuss the current, affective, and emotional impacts of the crisis… and, a crucial strength of the Deep Adaptation paper is the general idea that we need to brace for serious impacts from climate change.”

In other words, according to the critique, Bendell’s Deep Adaptation is not all bad. He inspires open discourse about the sensitive subject of climate change, the future of civilization, and the obstacles along the way.

Of considerable interest to SW and subject of its sharpest criticism, the core of Deep Adaptation’s argument is dependent upon two feedback loops (1) Arctic ice melt and (2) methane release from permafrost. According to SW, Bendell’s reliance upon those two feedback loops triggering and cascading the climate system into hells’ fiery hole is not a correct assessment of scientific fact. It’s only speculation.

According to SW, Bendell’s work is flawed to an extreme; thus, in their view, he sends out the wrong vibes to hundreds of thousands of people. Indeed, Bendell’s paper had enormous public impact, but as SW claims: “A narrative that destruction is inevitable justifies continued destruction, but ignores the human choices which cause it.”

Indeed, according to SW, Bendell avoids, ignores mainstream science and disputes the credibility of the IPCC, which is superseded by his reliance upon a thin layer of primary sources that carry forward his monumental thesis of self-afflicted human termination. In SW’s view, in the main, Bendell’s paper is an insult to the intelligence of the scientific community.

In conclusion, SW says: “We should publicly disavow the message that near-term collapse is inevitable, or that climate-induced total human extinction is plausible. There is uncertainty, but not so much that one can claim anything will happen.”

Therefore, and based upon ScientistsWarning’s critique, the sky is not falling, not yet anyway. It is too early in the anthropogenic-influenced cycle of climate change to consider tossing in the towel. And moreover, it would be an act of self-afflicting destruction to do so.

However, SW’s critique also carries an unstated undertone of caution and concern, an unwavering apprehension, meaning: “All is not well.”

In fact, from this writer’s point of view, a case can be made that an emergency situation is here now, if only because so many peer-reviewed scientific papers express alarm, surprise and deep concern over how much faster the climate system is changing vis a vis internal climate models as well as contrasted with paleoclimate history. Which, indeed, is part of Bendell’s argument.

Not only that, the volume of peer-review papers that express concern and surprise by the rapidity of climate change has mushroomed since the turn of this century, convincing evidence that the climate system is far out of balance.

As for only one example: Collapsing permafrost in the Canadian High Arctic is happening 70 years earlier than scientists expected, to wit: “Observed maximum thaw depths at our sites are already exceeding those projected to occur by 2090”.1

Still and all, according to ScientistsWarning.org, the sky is not falling… just not yet!

Meanwhile, kudos to Jem Bendell for bringing to the surface issues that haunt many followers of the planet’s very, very rambunctious, and unpredictable, changing climate. He’s opened the door to solid debate and criticism and an awareness of two important viewpoints that otherwise would not be so readily available in a public forum.

  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.

The Inertia Bugaboo  

Planetary heat is turning skeptics into climate change worrywarts with record temperatures galore!

But wait!  The worst is yet to come. It’s guaranteed, as future heat is already locked and loaded into the vast climate system. It’s the inertia bugaboo. Today, we’re living with yesteryear’s carbon emissions from the turn of the century. Meantime, the next decade-and-a-half of planetary heat is already baked into the cake no matter what is done to mitigate emissions.

A new study reveals details about climate change inertia, a sobering study that speaks to the absolute necessity of herculean efforts to stop emissions, full stop, now, not tomorrow.1

According to the aforementioned study, even if emission reduction started tomorrow, in earnest, like 5% per year, its impact on global warming would not show up before 2035. Which is climate change inertia. The planet is big. It takes time to process, a very long time.

It also means that today’s heat is wimpy compared to what’s directly ahead simply because today’s heat is based upon annual CO2 emissions >25% less than today’s emissions.

Meantime, Earth is melting.

And, the melting is getting out of hand. After all, it’s not a secret that the Arctic Circle is loaded, really loaded big time, with frozen carbon just itching to release into the upper atmosphere.

And, we now know it’ll only get worse because of the Samset study. We know future heat is already baked into the climate system no matter what we do today, thus, immediate efforts to mitigate a much, much worse scenario down the road are all the more compelling, assuming there is still time to do something, for example, a Super-Big Fixit (any chance?)

Layered on top of the big heat stroke complicating the issue of what to do about the ruthless anthropogenic heat machine, the USA is confronted by an ongoing Hobbesian Nightmare that hogties cultural/political/societal initiatives to do something constructive to stop the inevitable.

In reality, when the coldest spot of Earth hits 100°F, as happened in the Arctic only days ago amidst blasting heat that is roasting permafrost filled with gigatons of frozen carbon held over for millennia (which incidentally covers 25% of the Northern Hemisphere, Ouch!) the message is loud and clear “we’re fast approaching an insurmountable problem.”

Meaning wretched news is topped off by awful news for a host of reasons including the totality of errors, missteps, and failures within an embarrassingly lackadaisical effort to fix climate-related issues by scientists and politicians and bureaucrats that society depends upon to warn and guide society through challenging, life-threatening issues. It’s simply not on the agenda in a big enough way.

For example, name one major climate mitigation solution that’s actually working to mitigate destructive climate change. Time’s up: Not one comes close to doing the job.

Of course, little efforts like installations of renewable energy solar, wind, and unfortunately biomass are tiptoeing through the tulips (by the way, woody biomass, the largest component of biomass, emits more CO2 than does coal). After decades, renewables count for less than 15% of energy production (excluding hydro); and frankly woody biomass does not count at all and should discount the 15% figure, as it emits more CO2 than does coal. Stop Woody Biomass!

Proof of abject failure to mitigate emissions is found in the numbers as CO2 and global heat crank up.

According to Scripps Institution of Oceanography, The Scripps CO2 Program: CO2 was 415.13 ppm on July 5, 2020 versus 413.11 ppm on July 5, 2019. The annual change in CO2 emissions has doubled since the start of the new century.  It has not gone down, it has doubled in a little over a decade! That’s geological rocket speed.

Greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) are the fuel behind the buildup of inertia in the climate system. Since CO2 accounts for 85% of greenhouse gases, it is used generically to reference greenhouse gas emissions of all stripes.

Very few voices in the world speak directly to the heart of the global heating problem, which is a failure to act in unison to mitigate emissions across the globe. Seventeen-year-old Greta Thunberg is one of the strongest voices: “How dare you” speech to the IPCC Paris crowd and at the World Economic Forum in Davos: “I don’t want y0u to be hopeful. I want you to panic!”

Yes, mounting evidence of a deepening crisis, by the year, indicates that panic is a proper course of action. People should panic and scream and bite and kick and fill the streets because nothing else seems to work. Pussyfooting around is for weaklings. It hasn’t worked.

Global heating is not waiting around to see whether humans decide to inhibit greenhouse gases, for the first time ever. The Northern Hemisphere, where 25% is covered with frozen carbon-rich permafrost, has turned into an oven. Global heating is in its sweet spot. The consequences are too far-reaching to cover in a short article like this. Truthfully, nobody knows for sure the exact consequences, other than real bad, real destructive, and really happening.

It’s an impending “too hot for comfort” tsunami.

But, there’s a bigger problem at stake as modern-day society lives on “Speed” and expects results yesterday, instantaneously. All of which exposes one of the critical components hindering the Big Fixit, meaning a system that evolves too deliberately, too slowly to sink into attention spans long enough to produce positive results. Greta seems to understand this so she drills home the issue. She screams at adults.

Why scream at adults?

She’s studied the impact of excessive levels of CO2 (James Hansen, the world famous climate scientist, says anything over 350 ppm is trouble…hmm). At only 17 years of age, she’ll experience the impact of climate change inertia. It’s 100% guaranteed!

But come to think about it, if Earth is melting now, what then?

  1. B.H.Samset, et al, “Delayed Emergence of a Global Temperature Response After Emission Mitigation”, Nature Communications 11, Article No. 3261, July 7, 2020.

Arctic Heat Overwhelms Green Infighting Issues

Arctic temperatures are soaring to new records… and staying there, ever since May of this year. Truth be known, the Arctic’s been heating up for years. Siberia recently hit 105°F. That’s not normal. It’s 30°F hotter than normal.

Farther south, the Amazon rainforest is hit with a drought every 5 years like clockwork, not regular run of the mill droughts but massive excessive devastating droughts. NASA’s GRACE satellite, measuring water levels stored deep beneath Earth’s surface showed Deep Red Zones beneath the Amazon rainforest, not watery blue.

Climate activists have been warning about overheating of the planet for decades, ever since Dr. James Hansen’s testimony before the Senate in 1987: “The greenhouse effect has been detected, and it is changing our climate now.” (Hansen)

Fast forward to June 2020: Since Hansen’s testimony, thirty-three years of climate activists bitching, protesting, kicking and screaming and bellyaching about excessive human-generated CO2 has gone nowhere but backwards as a relentless rise in CO2 emissions trudges ahead measured at Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii.

Post-Hansen’s testimony the annual rate of CO2 increase has more than doubled, not gone down but doubled. Up, up and away, year-over-year, it never goes down.  It’s the main culprit blanketing the atmosphere, retaining heat for hundreds of years and fast becoming the Big Oven in the Sky.

Clearly, too much heat has already overwhelmed the Arctic and Amazon rainforest ecosystems. Along the way, greenie frustration is finally coming to a head as environmentalists “cat fight” in open public.

For example, Michael Moore and Jeff Gibbs’ controversial film Planet of the Humans (Rumble Media) serves as an opening salvo, exposing a green movement that has turned a light shade of brown. The film paints a painful picture of a movement that, in certain instances, has gone off the rails.

Both Moore and Gibbs are lifetime greenies born green. Their film has spooked the green movement into bouts of self-examination and ferocious anger directed right at them, bull’s-eye. After all, the film pulls no punches by highlighting several rash infections of hypocrisy in the uppermost ranks of environmental leadership, acceding to big corporate interests that frankly could care less about the health of ecosystems, other than purely for show.

Otherwise, if they, meaning big corporate interests and billionaires, really cared and were truly concerned, by now they would’ve thrown everything they’ve got, including the kitchen sink, at fixing the climate change conundrum. But, they have not done that, have they?

Still and all, if the intention behind the making of Planet of the Humans was a “wake-up call” (Hey fellas and gals, this is not working) then it was enormously successful. After release of the film, green protestors protested the filmmakers like crazy, but not in the streets. Evidently, Moore and Gibbs struck a chord.

But still, what has 33 years of green advocacy wrought? Answer: Record high CO2 in the atmosphere and nearly 80% dependency upon fossil fuels, same as 50 years ago. Which advocacy group celebrates that?

Now, along comes another frustrated former greenie, Michael Shellenberger, an active environmentalist throughout his career, publishing a book that takes the green movement to the woodshed, as fully exposed in a recent Wall Street Journal review, d/d June 21st by John Tierney of Shellenberger’s book Apocalypse Never, Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All (Harper).

Based upon Tierney’s review, and assuming Tierney did not “cherry pick” and massage the facts to satisfy corporate interests; i.e., the WSJ, Shellenberger misses the target by a country mile. For example, Shellenberger’s “reach for credibility” includes claims such as: “No, climate change has not caused an increase in the frequency or intensity of floods, droughts, hurricanes and tornadoes.” Really? Did Tierney get that right? (Maybe check in with Nebraska, Missouri, S. Dakota, Iowa, and Kansas re the Great Flood of 2019, the longest flood on record, just for starters)

Shellenberger, who evidently promotes industrialization as humanity’s savior, actually suggests, not facetiously, capitalist entrepreneurs saved whales by discovering cheap substitutes for whale oil, like petroleum. Ahem!

And, not to worry about plastics as sunlight and other forces break down the substances…. not to worry. And, solar and wind power are impractical and damage the environment requiring vast areas of land and harm flora and fauna. Oh, really! Did Tierney get that right…? (I know, I know! “Read the book,” but, based upon the review, no thanks)

And, finally, according to Shellenberger: “While industrialization causes a short-term rise in carbon emissions, in the long term it’s beneficial to the environment as people move to cities, allowing farmland to revert to nature, and as prosperity enables them to switch to cleaner and more compact forms of energy.”

Hmm – Just wondering, thinking out loud, where does sophism come into play here?

As a final note about Shellenberger’s book, a positive review in the WSJ is nothing to be proud of if you are an eco warrior of any stripe. It’s the ultimate sell-out, although, it’s not Shellenberger’s fault that the WSJ picked up on his diatribe of the green movement.

Still, aren’t Wall Street and its kissing cousin the WSJ responsible for promoting the neoliberal leviathan that “sucks up” to fossil fuel interests and literally destroyed America’s middle class and unions and checks and balances on pollution by shipping U.S. manufacturing offshore to the lowest common denominator of wages and avoidance of environmental regulations? Answer: Yes!

Based upon Tierney’s review, Shellenberger is simply one more lifeline for the fossil fuel industry and Wall Street’s neoliberal dreamland advocacy. Although its constituency is quite narrow, the one percent plus a few lesser want-a-be millionaire/billionaire luminaries. So, who’s really left to buy the book?

When it comes to neoliberal advocacy, it’s certainly worth mentioning Ross Perot nailing it during the 1992 presidential debate (Bush, Clinton, Perot) when he warned the country about the devastation to follow in NAFTA’s footsteps:

If you are paying $12 per hour, $13 per hour for factory workers, and you can move your factory to south of the border, pay a dollar an hour for labor, have no health care, have no environmental controls, no pollution controls, and no retirement plans and you don’t care about anything but making money, there will be giant sucking sound going south.

Perot elaborated:

These kinds of deals will wreck the country.1

P.S. His speech is pretty good fodder for an American revolution.

Perot’s statement speaks volumes as it illuminates why America’s middle class and its unions are broken. Neoliberal ideology, along with its kissing cousin globalization, shipped labor offshore, shipped environmental/pollution regulations offshore, decimated unions, and as much as possible, adopted the green movement with largess of their own making. Motto: Whatever it takes! Overtake and dilute and/or use to market products.

Meanwhile, the planet itself, speaking on its behalf, likely disagrees with Shellenberger. Ecosystems are coming apart at the seams, which Shellenberger ignores and refutes by advocating as core values industrialism and fossil fuels and nuclear over renewables and eco economics. He misses an important point as far as the biosphere is concerned. Salvation for humanity and for the planet is dependent upon tossing out the entire neoliberal experiment in favor of eco economics that favors natural systems and human values over profits and inane infinite growth schemes.

Meantime, throughout the biosphere, ecosystems are breaking down. It is palpable, and Shellenberger knows it. And Moore and Gibbs know it and expressed concern about it.  Further to the point, how could anybody who’s knowledgeable about the climate system miss it?

Consider: It was a little over one year ago when tens of thousands of bats fell out of the sky in Australia because of excessive heat at 42C. According to Dr. Welbergen, president of the Australasian Bat Society:

This sort of event has not happened in Australia this far north since European settlement.2

In May 2020 bats dropped dead in the streets in India.

It appears the mass mortality of bats was caused due to brain hemorrhage, caused by excessive heat.” 3

Not only that, this June 2020 scientists verified the hottest temperature ever recorded in the coldest place on Earth:

The World Meteorological Organization is investigating a record-high temperature for the Arctic after the Siberian town of Verkhoyansk registered a high of 38 degrees Celsius 100 degrees Fahrenheit. 4

That’s Miami weather, and it’s not happening all of a sudden. The entire Arctic has turned into a heat machine that’s been coming on stream for years now.

Not only that, collapsing permafrost in the Canadian High Arctic is happening 70 years earlier than scientists expected, to wit:

Observed maximum thaw depths at our sites are already exceeding those projected to occur by 2090.5

In some locations of the Canadian High Arctic landscape collapsed by three feet, houses sunk into the earth, and roads slip slide in wavy curvatures.

Special Alert! Permafrost covers 25% of the Northern Hemisphere. It’s loaded with all kinds of greenhouse gas carbon frozen in place just waiting for release.

Not only that, the Wet Bulb Temperature (WBT) effect has already arrived 50 years earlier than expected in some regions of the planet as measured by a recent study. 6

The human body has limits. If “temperature plus humidity” is high enough, even a healthy person seated in the shade with plentiful water to drink will suffer severely or likely die. A threshold is reached when the air temperature climbs above 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) and the humidity is above 90 percent. Death ensues.

Previous studies projected that this (WBT) would happen several decades from now, but this shows it’s happening right now. (Raymond)

Not only that, a major study by 89 climatologists in the journal Nature revealed unprecedented rates of ice melt at the planet’s two greatest ice masses. The combined rate of ice loss from Greenland and Antarctica averaged 89 billion tons per year in the 1990s. Yet, by the 2010s (if standing, please sit down) the average rate exploded to 523 billion tons per annum. 7

Not only that, throughout the world, mega droughts are hitting harder and more viciously than ever before. An Australian research paper identified the worst droughts in 800 years.8

Not only that, according to the UN World Food Program, as for Central America: “Five years of recurring droughts have destroyed maize and bean harvests, leaving poor subsistence farmers in the so-called Dry Corridor that runs through Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua struggling to feed their families.” Solution: Pray for rain or migrate north.

And, central Chile is in the midst of what scientists have labeled a “Mega Drought,” an uninterrupted period of dry years since 2010. Half of the country has been designated “Emergency Status.” Farmers are going out of business.9

And, in South America’s Brazil, “The SPI-12 time series showed that from 2011 to 2019, excluding the south region, the other Brazilian regions have been exposed to the most severe and intense drought events in almost the last 60 years.” 10

Not only that, according to NASA, the Middle East’s drought cycle from 1998-2012 was the most severe in 900 years. According to Ben Cook of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. It continues to this day as the eastern and southern Mediterranean coastlines are drying out faster than anywhere else on the planet. Eco migrants follow in kind.

Not only that, throughout much of Asia drought is becoming the norm rather than the exception.11

Remarkably, the impact of global warming is just now starting to strut its stuff so visibly and so perceptibly that average people are recognizing its threat. Fox News reported on the Arctic temps of recent. That’s as average as it gets. But, is Fox really average, or is it something else altogether different?

Yet, according to Tierney’s review of Shellenberger’s book:

The trouble with the new environmental religion is that it has become increasingly apocalyptic, destructive, and self-defeating.

And, of course, as stated previously, Shellenberger claims:

No, climate change has not caused an increase in the frequency or intensity of floods, droughts, hurricanes and tornadoes.

Not to worry, apocalypse never.

The truth of the matter is environmentalists have not screamed loud enough to make a difference as greenhouse gases are presently at all-time highs after three decades of screaming but not loud enough! Should environmentalists scream ever louder or adopt neoliberalism’s laissez-faire approach to business? BTW – Look where that got us.

Ross Perot’s statement at the 1992 presidential debate (see above) is a full description of laissez-faire economics in one long sentence. How’s that working for working people in America and around the world? And, for the greater environment?

Here’s a big part of the problem in a nutshell: In many respects, the Amazon ecosystem and the Arctic are facsimiles of the larger biosphere but more sensitive to climate change. In other words, some ecosystems are ultra-sensitive to changes in the climate system and thus serve as proxies or early warning signals prior to recognition of a looming threat by civilization at large.

Meantime, whilst climate change disrupts ecosystems on the fringes of civilization, society comfortably exists in artificial complexities of cement, steel, glass, and wood within a vast chemically induced world that only recognizes the danger of collapsing ecosystems after it’s too late. Then, it is too late!

Because of fabricated/artificial life styles, as just described, humans are the last living organisms to see and feel, and indeed, truly comprehend the impact of climate change. Artificial life styles masquerade the bigger issues. Thus, artificiality breeds ignorance and stupidity, as reflected in political elections. It’s the “Cement, Steel, Glass, Wood, Chemically Induced Syndrome,” and it’s deadly by stealthily hiding the truth from society at large.

Yet, there are thousands of peer-reviewed scientific papers that see the truth. Some of those papers are quoted in this article.

Postscript: A fact worth repeating, time and again because it’s not going away: According to NOAA Climate.gov:

In fact, the last time the atmospheric CO2 amounts were this high was more than 3 million years ago, when temperature was 2°–3°C (3.6°–5.4°F) higher than during the pre-industrial era, and sea level was 15–25 meters (50–80 feet) higher than today.

The lag effect is in-process.

  1. Perot in 1992 Warned NAFTA Would Create ‘Giant Sucking Sound’ The Washington Post, July 9, 2019.
  2. How One Heatwave Killed ‘a third’ of a Bat Species in Australia, BBC News, January 15, 2019.
  3. IVRI- Indian Veterinary Research Institute director, R.K. Singh.
  4. “Arctic Siberian Town Hit With Record Heatwave”, Al Jazeera, June 25, 2020.
  5. 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.
  6. Colin Raymond, et al, “The Emergence of Heat and Humidity Too Severe for Human Tolerance”, Science Advances, Vol. 6, no. 19, May 8, 2020.
  7. “Ice Loss in Antarctica and Greenland Increased Sixfold in the Last 30 Years”, LiveScience, March 2020.
  8. Multi-century Cool-and Warm-Season rainfall Reconstructions for Australia’s Major Climatic Regions, European Geosciences Union, Vol. 13, Issue 12, November 30, 2017 by Mandy Freund and Benjamin Henley.
  9. “Chile Declares Agricultural Emergency as Extreme Drought Hits Santiago and Outskirts”, Santiago Times, August 26, 2019.
  10. Ana Paula M.S. Cunha, et al, “Extreme Drought Events Over Brazil from 2011 to 2019”, Atmosphere, October 24, 2019.
  11. China Daily News, August 12, 2019.

The IPCC’s Worst Case Scenario

A recent landmark study of massive ice loss in Antarctica and Greenland fulfills the “worst case” prognosis, as outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It’s a nightmare come true, as the impact of global warming on the planet’s most significant/biggest masses of ice multiplied six-fold in only 30 years. It wasn’t supposed to happen so unexpectedly, so suddenly.

Studies in the journal Nature conducted by an international team consisting of 89 climatologists reveals an unprecedented rate of ice melt at the planet’s greatest ice masses. They assessed ice loss data from 11 satellites that monitored both Greenland and Antarctica over the past 30 years.

Here’s the horrifying truth: The combined rate of ice loss from Greenland and Antarctica averaged 89 billion tons per year in the 1990s. Yet, by the 2010s (if standing, please sit down) the average rate exploded to 523 billion tons per annum. That’s a shocker. It’s inconvertible evidence that global heat is coming on strong, way too strong, especially for coastal dwellers.

Andrew Shepherd, University of Leeds, and Erik Ivins of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in California agree that the assessment is a clear sign of global heating at work. In their words: “The satellite measurements provide prima facie, rather irrefutable, evidence.”1

Therefore, hands down, with the new data in hand, sea level rise of two-feet-plus over the course of the century looks like a done deal.  But, if it’s already happening faster (6xs) than scientists thought possible, what does that imply about tomorrow? Could the rate itself increase 8xs or 10xs or more? Then what?

The truth of the matter: Scientists’ models have been off course, meaning way too conservative. Similar to the rampant stock market run to unsustainable heights of recent in contrasts to expectations by a few smart hedge fund managers, global warming has blown apart analyses of the smartest and brightest, and based upon a series of recent studies demonstrating the onset of ecosystems collapsing; e.g., permafrost in the high Arctic collapsing 70 years ahead of expectations2

It is likely that global warming has morphed into global heating at its worst and thus more mercurial than ever thought possible. If so, then batten down the hatches as it will soon become politically a necessity to force unified global efforts, like the Marshall Plan, to take steps to combat the biggest threat of all time.

As such, powerful, clear evidence of anthropogenic impact on the climate system, well beyond the forces of nature, is beyond the scope of debate. After all, rising greenhouse emissions and rising temperatures run upwards in parallel fashion, nearly step-by-step, with a lag effect.

Meanwhile, of all the global proposals to combat climate catastrophe, one of the more interesting is World War Zero initiated by former Secretary of State John Kerry, former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and former Ohio governor John Kasich. According to the Terminator: “It’s not a party issue at all because there is no Democratic air or Republican air. We all breathe the same air. There’s no Democratic water or Republican water. We all drink the same water. So don’t fall for those tricks. It’s not a political issue.”

They advocate net zero emissions as soon as humanly possible. Along the way, they grandstand the obvious benefits of conversion from fossil fuels to renewable energy, or the onset of a vast renaissance of global business with high-wage jobs galore, similar to the industrial renaissance of the early 20th century conversion from horse and buggy to gasoline-powered vehicles.

Nevertheless, by all appearances, the planet’s climate system has already been radically altered more so than ever before, or at least as far back as ice core evidence of a couple million years ago.

Alas, the risk of major breakdown of ecosystems throughout the planet has never been so prevalent. In fact, it’s already started. Greenland and Antarctica are clear, absolute proof. The overriding question therefore is whether humanity will go to work to mitigate the catastrophe as much as humanly possible.

After all, CO2 emissions and global temperatures have risen in lockstep, but what really counts in the final analysis is the actuality of physical responses, like the measured massive meltdown of the worlds’ largest masses of ice. That’s an incontrovertible fact, yet almost unbelievable, but still a measure of harsh reality.

Postscript:

One year ago one of America’s greatest climate scientist Wally Broecker, affectionately known as “the grandfather of climate science,” passed away at age 87. He coined the term “global warming,” and in 1984 warned the House of Representatives that urgent action was required to halt accumulation of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere because, in his words, “the climate system could jump abruptly from one state to another with devastating effects.”

Ergo, his warning of 36 years ago now lingers over Congress.

Post-Postscript: During a 2019 BBC interview, James Lovelock (100) the father of Gaia theory said:

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

— James Lovelock, The Vanishing Face of Gaia, A Final Warning, Allen Lane, 2010

  1. “Ice Loss in Antarctica and Greenland Increased Sixfold in the Last 30 Years”, LiveScience, March 2020.
  2. Louise M. Farquharson et al, “Climate Change Drives Widespread and Rapid Thermokarst Development in Very Cold Permafrost in the Canadian High Arctic”, Geophysical Research Letters, June 10, 2019.

Drilling for Oil:  A Global Problem on Our Doorstep

These days, local is global.  Dorset is a small rural county on England’s south coast.  That doesn’t mean that its inhabitants aren’t worried about climate change.  They are.  Very.  Unfortunately, Dorset Councillors are more concerned about following government policies, policies that back using public money to invest in climate-damaging projects.  ‘Global’ doesn’t do ‘local’.  Global makes money for corporations and their investors, not the people who have to live with the result.

Sometimes it takes a threat to our own neighbourhood, our own county or country, before we wake up to what is happening across the world.  It will take food shortages before we accept that industrial farming is gradually killing the soil that all life, bar marine life, depends on.  It will take repeated storms and flooding to get the message that weather patterns really are changing; that places are becoming too wet, too dry, too hot – but not too cold.  It will take the flooding of coastal cities before everyone acknowledges that the Arctic, Antarctic, the permafrost and glaciers have melted and the sea-level risen because humans have heated up the earth.

By then it will be too late.  The damage will have been done.  To be honest, we won’t experience the effects of the carbon emissions we are, right now, pumping up into the atmosphere for another 20 years.  Climate change is happening now and it will be bad.  We can’t go backwards.  All we can do is to make it not as bad as it could be (i.e. killing most of the life we know).  The floods, the melting of the ice, the wildfires – that all comes from what we did some years ago.

The conversation has gone on for far too long.  In 1972 the Stockholm Declaration first laid the foundations of contemporary environmental policy.  The first World Climate Conference was held in 1979.  Thirteen years later, the 1992 Earth Summit (dealing with the environment and sustainable development) was held in Rio de Janeiro.  Since then there has been a constant succession of conferences on development, climate and the environment, including the yearly Conferences of Parties (COP), the UN conferences on climate change.  The first COP conference was held in 1995.   1997 gave us the Kyoto Protocol, but it was another eight years before it came into force.

In 2015 Paris hosted COP21, ending with an agreement that the UK ratified in 2016.  In April 2018 it was announced that the UK would be the first major economy to examine how it would meet its commitments and review its long-term target to cut carbon emissions.

Later this year, Glasgow will host COP26.  Note the number: 26.  That’s how many times the ‘world’ (aka politicians and business leaders as well as environmentalists) have met to discuss the problem, and we are still nowhere near seriously addressing climate change.  The ideas are there. The proposals are there.  The ‘in-place-by’ dates are there.  Real actions are not so visible.

On May 1st 2019 the UK Parliament declared a climate change emergency.  Big deal?  No.  It simply demonstrated the will of the Commons on the issue, but it does not legally compel the government to act.  Environment Secretary Michael Gove acknowledged there was a climate “emergency” but did not back Labour’s demands to declare one.  In other words, we’ll make the right sounds but not implement the very necessary actions.

What about all the local authorities?  It seems they take things more seriously – or perhaps they are closer to the people.  According to a list dating from early February, 67 percent of District, County, Unitary and Metropolitan Councils have declared a Climate Emergency, plus 8 Combined Authorities/City Regions.  Many of those authorities have committed to target dates for net-zero emissions, ranging from 2030 to 2050.  This only applies to the authorities’ emissions, not the general public’s, but it does encourage us to follow their lead.

Among the declarations is Dorset Unitary Council.  However – and there is always an ‘however’, no target date for actions or results is given.  Seeing that the motion was backed by 69 councillors, with only two against and six abstentions, you would think they’d give a target date.  Again, right noises but little action.

Surely, politicians and global business should be taking note of what is already happening to the climate – while the UK was hit by weeks of storms and floods, Australia burned.  Yet Australia’s Prime Minister refused to accept those horrendous wildfires had anything to do with climate change.  For too many people, their lives were destroyed.  For the ‘climate deniers’ it is business as usual.  In the UK it means building more houses on flood plains and installing more of the same flood defences, despite the fact that they’re really not working any more.  And in case you didn’t know, in 2010 the Labour government’s plan for flood defences got cancelled by David Cameron’s austerity policy.  In Australia business as usual means carry on mining and exporting coal.

The Paris Agreement aimed at keeping the global warming to 1.5 degrees.  We can no longer achieve that.  Even keeping the warming to 2 degrees would require us to pretty well stop everything now.  The global refusal to actually act is putting us on course for 3-4 degrees warming; with sea levels rising and extreme weather events getting worse, we face chaos and disaster.  So – the target dates themselves are questionable.  For one thing, aiming to be ‘net-zero emissions’ by 2050 makes us think ‘we’ve got 30 years, no need to hurry.’  At least the EU is calling for a target date of 2030.

There’s every need to hurry.  Report after report is coming out from worried, despairing scientists, observing and recording how much more rapidly climate change is happening.  Everything is speeding up.  The latest news is that polar icecaps are melting 6 times faster than in the 1990s.  What climate action might have been expected to happen by 2040 could now happen by 2030 or 2025.   New models on climate sensitivity are showing big increases in global temperature.

Here and there authorities and courts are taking the right decisions, based on the rule that every decision, every development, must now take climate change into account.  Bristol Airport’s expansion plans were refused on ‘environmental grounds’ by local councillors.  A third runway for London Heathrow was ruled as illegal by the court of appeal, because ‘ministers did not adequately take into account the government’s commitments to tackle the climate crisis’.

Which puts Dorset Council in an awkward position.

They are being asked to approve a planning application  by South Western Energy Ltd. (SWEL) to ‘allow for the drilling of a single vertical well for the appraisal and production of oil, together with the establishment and construction of the site compound’  in the village of Puddletown.  If enough oil is found, they could be extracting it for the next 20-25 years.  That’s hardly going to help the UK’s ‘net zero emissions’ target of 2050.

With the climate emergency now being one of the main concerns of the public, it goes without saying that first in the queue of objectors were the parish council and residents of Puddletown.  It’s bad enough worrying about global climate change, but when one of the causes turns up on your doorstep that’s another matter entirely.  (It’s worth noting that fracking at various English sites, though given permission by the government, has so far failed to actually produce any gas, largely due to determined residents and their supporters getting in the way, plus some good science.)

SWEL’s justification is:

Oil is critical to transport requirements and will likely remain so in the near term as cars may be adapted to electrification and alternative fuels but aircraft, shipping, military vehicles and large goods vehicles are currently, due to their engine capacities, less adaptable to conversion.

Wrong.  Many manufacturers are already following that path.  DAF and Tesla are selling them, and as the Irish Baku transport team says:

The most exciting thing about the arrival of electric HGVs has to be the environmental benefit. Any truck that can produce zero carbon emissions over the course of its lifetime is a world-changing investment worth making.

It doesn’t mean electric HGVs will be here tomorrow, but they will be here and probably quicker than SWE would like to think.  As new cars are scheduled to be ‘all-electric’ by 2030 (and depending on climate events, that date might be sooner), then this well could prove to be ‘surplus to requirements’.

At a Council meeting on February 18th Kira Robinson, a member of XR, put a question to the councillors.  ‘This proposal,’ she said, ‘is obviously inconsistent with the Council’s efforts to move towards a more sustainable future for Dorset…. The Government’s own wildlife adviser, Natural England, Dorset Wildlife Trust and the Environment Agency have all criticised the application’s flawed ecological assessments, especially regarding the threat of pollution to potable water supplies.

Apparently the drilling could go through one of the local aquifers, prompting people’s real concerns about potable water pollution.  SWEL promises to return the proposed site (currently part of an arable field) to its former state after drilling is finished – in two weeks, no less.  How will they repair the compacted soil that will have been contaminated and made inert by the surfacing materials?

Kira Robinson pointed out in her question to the Council that the Dorset Council’s draft 4-year plan had said “It is clear that the climate and ecological emergency must inform the council’s decisions and actions for the foreseeable future“.  Well, that didn’t last long.  The approved 4-year plan has watered that down to something meaningless.

In reply to her plea for the Council to show leadership in saying no to this proposal, the response from Cllr David Walsh leant heavily on ‘government policy’ on minerals and energy that, of course, the Council has to follow.  Not to do so would cost them money.  He said that ‘Dorset hosts nationally important energy minerals which society is still dependent upon until such times as human energy needs can be entirely decarbonised.’  The thing is, you encourage businesses to invest in renewables by not supporting new fossil fuel projects.  You can’t carry on as usual until energy is entirely decarbonised.  It doesn’t work that way.  But, claims Councillor Walsh:

Dorset Council is not in a position to refuse planning permission for oil and gas development on climate grounds. Furthermore, it is unlikely that Dorset Council would be able to change its local policies to resist hydrocarbon development on climate change grounds unless and until there is a change in national policy.

Poor powerless Council.  Not brave enough to do what the earth needs, not as brave as many authorities that are aiming to be net-zero by 2030, and certainly not as brave as Cheshire East Unitary authority that has a target date of 2025.

That all sounds terribly reasonable until one considers the facts that David (‘greenest government ever’ to ‘get rid of all the green crap’) Cameron’s government:

  • Cut down the feed-in tariffs for small solar panel installations in 2015, a real blow to people who wanted to go green but couldn’t afford the total cost.  Under Theresa May, tariffs were scrapped altogether in April 2019.
  • Also in 2015, the government introduced strict regulations which effectively banned onshore wind farms in England.  This year Boris Johnson has given the go-ahead for wind farms because the lower prices of wind farm energy makes it significantly cheaper than other forms of low-carbon electricity.  However, Scotland’s wind farms are way ahead, and are on track to supply 100 per cent of its needed electricity in 2020.

And, regardless of climate change, the Conservatives love fossil fuel (and, through their lobbyists, fossil fuel companies have a huge influence on their politics and policies) they:

  • Have consistently backed fracking and although that is confined to England and on hold, they would be quite happy to allow it in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty such as West Dorset.
  • Continue to subsidise fossil fuel companies at a bigger level than renewable energy, and spend more on fossil fuel than the rest of the EU.  Germany, for instance, provided the biggest energy subsidies, with €27bn for renewable energy, almost three times the €9.5bn given to fossil fuels.  And the UK’s nuclear energy has historically got more funding than renewables.
  • Give tax breaks to major oil companies.  According to DeSmog: ‘Since 2015, the Treasury has given the industry tax breaks worth £2.3 billion’.  DeSmog also reports that UK ‘is the worst of G7 countries for ‘hiding’ fossil fuel subsidies.
  • In 2018 a Platform report showed that, via the government’s Prosperity Fund, money earmarked to support overseas development had been spent on supporting China’s fracking industry, to the tune of £2 million.
  • The Prosperity Fund also financed oil and gas projects in India, Brazil and Mexico.  Twelve of the 16 fossil fuel projects funded by the Prosperity Fund reference the creation of “opportunities for international, including UK businesses”, or an “improved business environment” as an expected outcome.

And as Mike Small, editor of Bella Caledonia, wrote: In this week’s much celebrated budget we were told to expect a “Budget that put climate and environment first” but we got a fuel duty freeze and £27 billion more spent on roads”.  Roads mean vehicles, means petrol, means oil. 

Clearly, oil is there to be invested in, made money from by a chosen few.  The corporate world is not environment-friendly, nor apparently worried about the effects of climate change.  The environment-friendly Triodos Bank’s 2018 annual report. said that: ‘The world’s top banks have poured US$1.9 trillion into fossil fuels since the adoption of the Paris Agreement.’

And surely, if government bodies Natural England and the Environment Agency are strongly critical of the Puddletown proposal, one could and should claim they are also part of ‘government policy’.  They should be listened to.

Damien Carrington, writing in the Guardian, said that:

There is no deadline to save the world.  Everything we do now has to pass the climate test… Taken together, the justice and economic arguments make it imperative that every decision taken every day by governments, businesses and communities must pass the climate test: will it cut emissions? From power plants to buildings, transport to farming, projects commissioned today will be running well beyond 2030. (My emphasis)

But, while West Dorset people fight against the Puddletown oil well, others in Longburton in the northern part of West Dorset are fighting against a plan for a solar park. Puddletown wants to fight climate change, and protect its ecology and water.  Dorset is a good place for solar energy as it is, despite the endless rain over the winter, rated as the sunniest county in England, but Longburton doesn’t want its pretty rural views spoilt.  Climate change doesn’t come into it.  Hence Dorset Council’s dilemma.  If they back the solar park project and reject the oil well, they are recognising the climate emergency.  If they back the Puddletown oil well and reject the solar park, they are saying the climate emergency is unimportant.

And if they back both projects and reject both projects, the Council is suffering from a bad schizophrenic episode based solely on party ideology.

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.