Category Archives: Drought

World Drought Gets Worse, Cities Ration

The planet is wheezing, coughing and sputtering because of vicious attacks by worldwide droughts aided and abetted by global warming at only 1.2C above baseline. Some major metropolises are rationing water.

What’ll happen at 1.5C?

It’s not as if droughts are not a normal feature of the climate system. They are, but the problem nowadays is highlighted by reports from NASA and NOAA stating that earth is trapping nearly twice as much heat is it did in 2005 described as an “unprecedented increase amid the climate crisis.” This trend is described as “quite alarming.”

The planet trapping heat at double the rate of only 17 years ago is off-the-charts bad news and reason enough for the world’s leaders to go all-in on global warming preventive measures, and then hope and pray that it’s not too late.

Throughout Earth’s history drought has been a normal feature of climate change, but that’s the past. Droughts are no longer normal features. They are much, much more severe and longer lasting, for example, America’s drought in the West is ongoing for 20 years, the worst in 1,200 years, and it’s taken Lake Mead water levels down to 1937 when it first started filling up.

On a worldwide basis, drought’s impact on water reservoirs on every continent is chilling. Agricultural yields are suffering.

Undoubtedly, the utter failure by the world’s political leaders to respect 30-50 years of public warnings by scientists to “get off fossil fuels ASAP” is coming home to roost. When will the general public fight back and throw out climate change denial politicians along with their motley shrilly charlatans?

Along those lines, in an historic judgment, a Belgian court ruled that Belgium’s climate failures violate human rights, stating that public authorities broke promises to tackle the climate issue. 58,000 citizens served as co-plaintiffs in the case. To wit: “By not taking all ‘necessary measures’ to prevent the ‘detrimental’ effects of climate change, the court said, Belgian authorities had breached the right to life (Article 2) and the right to respect for private and family life (Article 8).”1

A major study of soil moisture drought in Europe during the period from 1766 to 2020 led to the conclusion that recent drought events brought the “most intense drought conditions for Europe in 250 years: “We conclude that Europe should prepare adaptation and mitigation plans for future events whose intensity may be comparable to the previous event, but whose duration (and partly their spatial extent) will be much greater than any event observed in the last 250 years.” 2

An international team, led by the University of Cambridge… found that after a long-term drying trend, European drought conditions since 2015 suddenly intensified, beyond anything in the past two thousand (2,000) years.

Eastern Europe is feeling the impact of serious drought. A report from the Atlantic Council in 2021 “emphasized the impacts of drought on Ukraine’s grain exports, noting that they had ‘fallen sharply year-on-year during the current season due to smaller harvests caused by severe drought conditions.’ When an agricultural power as important as Ukraine suddenly starts producing and exporting much less food, it is a recipe for social dislocation, human suffering, and political unrest, both inside the country and beyond.”  3

According to the European Commission: “A severe drought has been affecting northern Italy and the Po River basin in particular.” 4  In Northern Italy, most of the reservoirs are below the minimum historical values… stored energy as of March 2022 is 27.5% less than the 8-year minimum. Both agricultural yield and costs for power are negatively impacted. That -27.5% is 27.5% below the 8-yr minimum!

In the US, according to the Palmer Drought index, severe-to-extreme drought is affecting 38% of the contiguous US as of March 2022. That’s almost as bad as it ever gets. More than 50% of the country registers as moderate-to-extreme. As a result, the US Bureau of Reclamation is scrambling to retain/add/cheat/steal enough water for America’s two largest reservoirs Lake Powell and Lake Mead to keep hydropower supplying electrical power to 5M and water to 40M. Rationing to some of seven SW states has already started. Is that the eye-opener of all eye-openers? Answer: Yes.

Historic drought has literally changed the landscape in parts of South America: “Until 2020, there was plenty of water, swamps, stagnant lakes and lagoons in Argentina’s Ibera Wetlands, one of the largest such ecosystems in the world. But an historic drought of the Parana River dried much of it out; its waters are in the lowest level since 1944. Since January it has been the stage of raging fires.” 5

Chile is experiencing such a horrendous record-breaking drought (13 years) that the capital city Santiago, population 6M, is rationing water. The city will experience rotating water cut-offs of up to 24 hours at a time in a four-tier alert system with public service announcements so residents can prepare for no water. “This is the first time in history that Santiago has a water rationing plan due to the severity of climate change, It’s important for citizens to understand that climate change is here to stay. It’s not just global, it’s local,” according to Claudio Orrego, governor of the Santiago metropolitan region.6

In SE Asia the Mekong River serves as the waterway for the livelihood of 65M people. This is the fourth year of drought. According to the Ministry of Water Resources river conditions are the worst in 60 years.  For example, in Cambodia water capacity for crop irrigation is at only 20%. Upstream dams in China and Laos also negatively add to the impact of severe drought conditions.

In China the port city of Guangzhou (pop 15M) and Shenzhen (pop 12.5M), which links HK to mainland China, have put residents on notice to cut (reduce) water consumption between January and October of 2022, as the main water source, the East River (down 50%) experiences the most severe drought in decades.7

In Africa, a brutal drought in Ethiopia and Kenya has caused three million livestock dead and 30% of household herds have died in Somalia. According to the UN, the worsening drought in the Horn of Africa puts 20M people at risk. Rampant migration follows in the footsteps of severe drought, e.g., Central America’s Dry Corridor.

As nation/states fail to adequately address the global warming issue with Plan A, which is attacking the source, or cutting fossil fuel emissions, it becomes increasingly urgent to go to Plan B, which is adapting to the unforgiving climate system exhaust (cough-cough) of a failed Plan A.

In 2021, the Netherlands hosted the first-ever Climate Adaptation Summit (CAS 2021), highlighting adaptation measures as crucial for minimizing extreme weather events and improving water security.

The facts surrounding the current status of CO2 emissions (at all-time highs over the past millennium) and plans for expansion by the fossil fuel industry over the course of this decade; i.e., China and India building new coal plants like crazy and oil companies planning to spend billions for new oil and gas expansion, dictate that adaptation to an unpredictably challenging destructive climate system is an absolute necessity because global warming ain’t gonna get fixed.

It is noteworthy that Dr. James Hansen’s (Columbia University) most recent monthly temperature update states:

Note monthly temperature anomalies on land now commonly exceed +2°C (+3.6°F), with the Arctic anomaly often exceeding +5°C (+9°F).

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change forewarned that +2°C is the upper limit where the climate system starts to get real crazy; however, at today’s overall planet temperature of +1.2°C above baseline trouble is already evident, e.g., the worst droughts in centuries found on every continent with some major cities either rationing water or suggesting voluntary cutbacks. And, oh yeah, food prices are just starting to skyrocket.

Frankly, human ingenuity must take over on local and regional bases to work towards “adaptation to a rambunctiously changing climate,” and, of course, lots of luck. Interestingly, some of America’s biggest western cities have learned to adapt to severe drought, as discussed in some detail in the article: 8

  1. “Drought: The New Global Calamity?” The Kashmir Monitor, June 30, 2021.
  2. “The 2018-2020 Multi-Year Drought Sets a New Benchmark in Europe”, American Geophysical Union, 15 March 2022.
  3. “Extreme Drought Is Crashing Food Production Whether Russia Invades or Not”, The Nation, February. 17, 2022.
  4. “Drought in Northern Italy”, March 2022: GDO Analytical Report, European Commission.
  5. “Climate Change Brings Extreme, Early Impact to South America”, phys.org, March 1, 2022.
  6. “Chile Announces Unprecedented Plan to Ration Water As Drought Enters 13th Year”, The Guardian, April 11, 2022.
  7. “China’s Southern Megacities Warn of Water Shortages During East River Drought”, Reuters, December 8, 2021.
  8. “Adapting to Drought,” Dissident Voice, May 3, 2022.
The post World Drought Gets Worse, Cities Ration first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Adapting to Drought

America’s western metropolises are thriving in the midst of the fiercest drought in over 1,000 years.

Not all climate change/global warming news is negative. Positive pushback to global warming is real and happening right under our collective noses.

Still, climate scientists wring their hands in despair over the failure of the corporate-controlled world to come to grips with climate change’s biggest bugaboo, which is too much fossil fuel emitting too much CO2 creating too much warmth that eventually brings on excessive heat. Ergo! Ecosystems fail! Droughts accelerate!

For decades now, scientists have been warning about the danger of too much fossil fuel causing climate system failure, like wet-bulb temperature-related deaths within 6 hrs. @ 95°F/90%H (India?), crop failures, rising sea levels, and scorching droughts. The broken promises of nation/states to “fix it” almost always turn to dust or result in too little, too late.

Yet, Hooray! Human ingenuity is alive and well. Adapting to record-setting drought in the United States is happening, especially in desert cities in America’s arid West, living proof that adaptation to a broken climate system is possible and likely for decades to come. The level of success is reason enough for some amount of cheer and good feelings. America’s western cities are taking on the worst drought in centuries and winning!

But, before looking behind the scenes of heroic efforts by some of America’s biggest cities, it is crucial to look at an all-points bulletin issued by the Bureau of Reclamation about critically low water levels at Lake Powell and at Lake Mead, which are responsible for hydroelectric power for millions and drinking water for 40M people in the West. Water levels at these two crucial reservoirs are dangerously low, calling for extreme measures years earlier than planned.

The Bureau had to pull off some gimmickry (hydrological accounting) for Lake Powell to continue providing hydroelectric power to millions of homes. Otherwise, the power was destined to end as water levels fall below intakes. Water levels at Lake Powell are at all-time lows. The Bureau of Reclamation, in order to keep both hydropower and drinking water for millions, had to employ gimmickry whilst “holding the hands” of seven (7) states that receive their water downstream from the Colorado River to Lake Powell and onto Lake Mead, which is also at all-time record lows going back to 1937 when Lake Mead first started filling up. This is heartbreaking evidence of the devastating drought throughout the West, which refuses to let up.

The Bureau’s gimmickry includes plans for Lake Mead to give up some water intake from Lake Powell to keep the hydropower on for millions of homes. The Bureau, in turn, is robbing water (162B gallons) from a recreational reservoir, Flaming Gorge Reservoir (Wyoming and Utah), to be sent to Lake Powell. This somewhat complicated transaction keeps the lights on for millions, although, Lake Mead loses 480,000 acre-feet of water that Lake Powell normally sends its way. In the end, it’s hoped that spring snow runoff will compensate for the loss to Lake Mead.

The maneuvers by the Bureau include contingency plans that trigger mandatory water reductions for western states such as Arizona (-30%). As a result, farmers in the Phoenix area will have to fallow cotton and alfalfa fields. Most importantly, the accounting gimmick will allow the Bureau to avoid declaring a Tier 2b shortage as it artificially assumes (cooking the books) that Lake Mead did receive water from Lake Powell that it did not receive. As it happens, the Western states are already at Tier 1 shortages whereas a Tier 2b shortage would involve draconian cuts.

The short take on this convoluted affair is that America’s West is running out of adequate water supply in large measure because of an unrelenting drought that has all of the characteristics of a mega-drought. A megadrought is defined as a period of extreme dryness that lasts for decades. During a megadrought wet years do appear but quickly return to severe dryness. The current drought in America’s West has lasted for 20 years.

Along the way the big metropolitan regions have learned how to capitalize on those intermittent wet years in addition to smart measures to conserve and create more potable water. In remarkable fashion, they have learned to cope and are fighting back against the worst drought in recorded history, building adequate supplies of water, and in some cases, more than enough water, as the world surrounding these megalopolises containing millions of people turns brutally dangerously hot and dry. This exemplifies human initiative and ingenuity at work, and it promises to extend quality life in the desert West beyond the challenges of the worst drought in 1,200 years. It is something to behold.

San Diego, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Albuquerque in the face of the worst drought since William the Conquer (1028-1087) hit the shores of England are already working around the issue of federal cuts in Colorado River water, the first cuts in history.

The San Diego Water Authority recently did a water supply stress test that showed it is “water good” until 2045, and probably beyond. Similar results are happening in Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Albuquerque, all nestled within a drought apocalypse, but managing to create adequate supply of water to continue growing into the surrounding desert countryside. It’s a miracle of ingenuity, foresight, and dedication. It’s all about sourcing and conserving water.

YaleEnvironment360, an indispensible source for best coverage of the environment, recently published an article by Jim Robbins: “A Quiet Revolution: Southwest Cities Learn to Thrive Amid Drought”, YaleEnvironment360, April 24, 2022, stating:  “From replacing water-guzzling lawns with native vegetation, to low-flow plumbing fixtures, to water recycling and desalination, to the shift of agricultural water to cities, governments in arid western regions are pursuing an all-of-the-above strategy.”

The upshot is that water conservation is one of the keys to successfully encountering droughts. For example, San Diego water usage dropped from 81.5 billion gallons in 2007 to 57 billion gallons in 2020 because of conservation measures.

Moreover, nine (9) desert cities in the Colorado River Basin complex lowered water demand by 19% to 48% from years 2000 to 2015. These are testimonials to the value of conservation measures.

According to YaleEnvironment360:

San Diego has pursued a multi-pronged approach. The city now requires an array of water-saving technology in new homes, such as low-flow toilets and showerheads. Perhaps the single biggest piece of the conservation solution is paying homeowners to tear out yards full of Kentucky bluegrass and replace them with far more water-efficient landscaping. The city-run program pays up to $4 a square foot for as much as 5,000 square feet, and so far has replaced 42 million square feet of water-thirsty lawns.

Per capital water usage for the San Diego County Water Authority has dropped from 235 gallons per day per capita in 1990 to 135 gallons per day now. That is an impressive change. Furthermore, the city captures 90% of rainwater runoff for additional supply to 24 reservoirs where it is treated to drinking water standards.

Oceanside, California, near San Diego, just opened a “toilet to tap” recycling facility that creates 3 million gallons per day or 20% of the city needs. Similarly, San Diego is working on a project for 40% of city water needs by recycling “toilet to tap.” San Diego is also home to North America’s largest desalination plant.

The metropolis of Phoenix took the number of single-family homes with lush landscaping from 80% in the 1970s down to 10% in 2022 as desert heat-tolerant plants replaced water-guzzling grass.

Los Angeles is beating the drought challenge with heavy investments in water storage, rainwater capture and reclamation with a goal of self-sufficiency of 70% of city water needs from local sources by 2035. LA mayor Eric Garcetti claims: “We’re going to have plenty of water.” 1  According to Felicia Marcus, former chair of the California State Water Resources Control Board, who is now a visiting fellow at Stanford University: “The LA area is going to be the epicenter of climate adaptation in urban water in the world. ”2

Work is already underway in LA with massive upgrades to wastewater treatment plants for potable water, spending $4.3B for the city’s Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant. LA will source 35% of the city’s water from recycling versus 2% today. Additionally, some of the world’s largest groundwater treatment facilities are under construction in the San Fernando Valley.

LA is currently expanding catch basins and inlets that recharge aquifers, and it is planning to double rainwater capture capacity over the next 15 years. That’s water that previously flowed directly into the ocean.

Conservation measures for LA started in the 1970s. Today, LA uses less water per capita than it did 50 years ago despite a population increase of one million. Water usage per capita has declined by more than 40%.

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California has a record 3.2 million acre feet of water in reservoirs, thanks to the foresight to overbuild storage reservoirs combined with conservation measures, all the while working against the impact of the worst drought in over 1,000 years.

The state of California is moving to small-scale recycling. For example, in San Francisco, every commercial building over 100,000 sq. ft. has to use on-site recycling systems.  Additionally, home water recycling units are coming soon, prompting some water aficionados to speculate that water utilities could end up with stranded assets or extra capacity.

Optimism about future stable growth in America’s West is directly tied to adapting to the rigors of a megadrought: “We know it’s a desert and we plan accordingly,’ said Arizona’s Kathryn Sorenson (Kyl Center for Water Policy). ‘Phoenix can survive dead pool’ — the term for a nearly empty Lake Mead — for generations. We have groundwater; we have done a good job of conservation and diversifying our portfolios. Desert cities are the oldest cities, and we will withstand the test of time.” 3

  1. Eckhouse and Bliss, “Los Angeles Is Building a Future Where Water Won’t Run Out”, Bloomberg, January 31, 2022.
  2. Ibid.
  3. YaleEnvironment360.
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Climate Change is Killing Trees

A long time ago in the Milky Way galaxy on a planet named Earth the trees died. It only happened once in the planet’s history. It was during the Permian-Triassic 252 million years ago.

Henk Visscher, PhD, Department of Earth Sciences, Utrecht University makes a living studying exposed fossil beds of the transitional period of the Permian to Triassic era, aka: “The Great Dying.” Significantly, layers of fossils prior to the great extinction event contain lots of pollen, typical of a healthy conifer forest. But, in the Permo-Triassic boundary the pollen is replaced by strands of fossilized fungi, representing an exploding population of nature’s scavengers feasting on dead trees.

“Visscher and his colleagues have found elevated levels of fungal remains in Permo-Triassic rocks from all over the world. They call it a ‘fungal spike.’ The same rocks yield few tree pollen grains. Visscher’s conclusion: Nearly all the world’s trees died en masse.” 1

A dreaded repeat performance of tree deaths of 252 million years ago may be starting to re-appear. Throughout the world trees are dying en masse. It’s troubling. Scientists are studying this strange phenomenon in the context of a rugged past event of 252 million years ago.

The upshot, scientists figured out in just the past decade, is that many trees in most landscapes, from the hot, rainy Amazon to cold, dry Alberta, are operating at the limits of their hydraulic systems, even under normal conditions, with little safety margin. That means a hot drought can push them over the threshold. The 2002 drought in the Southwest did exactly that: Tree-ring records would later show it was the driest and worst year for growth in a millennium. No other year even came close.  2

From the Amazon to the Arctic, wildfires are getting bigger, hotter, and more frequent as the climate changes… In many places, forests are no longer regenerating. Some of the world’s most significant stands are instead transitioning to something new. Some will never be the same. Others may not come back at all.3

Trees throughout the world are vulnerable to excessive heat. A warmer atmosphere sucks more moisture from plants and soil. During droughts, trees close pores in leaves, called stomata, or shed leaves entirely, which limits CO2 uptake, leaving trees both hungry and parched all at once.

When soil gets dry enough, trees can no longer maintain pressure in the internal conduits that carry water up to their leaves. Air bubbles interrupt the flow, causing fatal embolisms (obstructions).

Even though the planet has 3, 000,000,000,000 (3T) trees and 10,000,000,000 (10B) acres of forests, scientists are increasingly concerned with the quickening pulse of extreme climate events that essentially prevent forest regeneration such as fire, extraordinarily powerful storms, insect infestations, and most notably, severe heat and drought, all unique to today’s climate change environment.

Climate change undercuts trees in various ways, for example, yellow cedars in Alaska are freezing to death because of early snow melt due to global warming. As the trees lose their snow-cover warming blanket, recurring cold snaps kill them by the thousands. At Africa’s Sahel (SW Morocco) heat and drought has killed 20% of the trees. And, according to the most recent IPCC report, 5-out of-8 of the most abundant tree species in America’s West have significantly declined since 2000.

Camille Stevens-Rumann, a forest ecologist at Colorado State University, examined 1,485 sites from 52 fires in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, and Washington. The number of burned sites that didn’t recover jumped from 19% before 2000 to 32% thereafter. “And by ‘not recovering,’ I mean not a single tree—not one.”3

Craig Allen, a landscape ecologist, has been warning of danger to trees for the past 20 years: “All this awakened Allen to what he now sees as a grave global threat. ‘Seeing the transformation of this landscape that I’d studied my whole adult life … climate change wasn’t theoretical anymore’…  He started tracking the mass mortality events elsewhere. Over the next two decades, heat and drought would kill billions of trees directly and indirectly—in Spain, in South Korea, throughout Australia. In central Siberia, Russia lost two million acres of firs. In Texas in 2011, drought killed more than 300 million trees—one out of every 16 in the state.”3

Tree deaths skyrocketed when the worst drought in 500 years hit central Europe in 2018. Summer temperatures hit nearly 6°F above average. Additionally, from 2018 to 2020 in Germany 750,000 acres of forest died because of excessive heat.

Majestic sequoias in the Far West that have stood the test of time as far back as Julius Caesar’s reign (100-44BC) are under attack. For eons the giants withstood every type of disaster until the Castle fire in August-December 2020 tore through Sequoia National Park, igniting one crown after another. Forest ecologists had never seen anything like it. Up to 14% of large sequoias in the Sierra Nevada were killed or mortally wounded.

Why did the majestic sequoias succumb to a disaster for the first time in centuries? Climate change/global warming was clearly the protagonist. A severe dry spell in the surrounding area had previously killed millions of sugar pines, incense cedars, and white firs in densely packed forests nearby the sequoias where the Castle fire started, which erupted into an inferno like nobody had ever experienced.

A second fire hit a year later in 2021: “The 2021 fires claimed another 3 to 5 percent of large sequoias. Up to 19 percent of these magnificent trees—trees that had weathered everything for a millennium or more—had been lost in just two years.”3

Regarding land temperature impact on tree death, it should be noted, according to James Hansen’s (Earth Institute, Columbia University) “March Temperature Update” as of April 15, 2022: “Note that monthly temperature anomalies on land now commonly exceed +2°C (+3.6°F), with the Arctic anomaly often exceeding +5°C (+9°F).”

Hansen expects 2022 to be substantially warmer than 2021. March 2021 registered 1.3°C warmer than the average for March 1880-1920… “ due to surging growth rates of GHGs (greenhouse gases), etc.”

In that regard, it’s well known that surging growth rates of CO2 and Ch4 are preventable but politically foreordained.

Alert: If monthly temperature anomalies on land (1/3rd of the planet) “commonly exceed +2°C,” as explained by Dr. Hansen, isn’t that the red flashing light danger zone described in IPCC reports, meaning more deadly climate-related disasters come into play much sooner than predicted in climate models?

Yikes!

  1. “The Permian Extinction – When Life Nearly Came to an End”, National Geographic, June 6, 2019.
  2. “The Future of Forests”, National Geographic, April 14, 2022.
  3. Ibid.
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Dangerous Heat Across the Globe

The planet is heating up like never before, as “ground temperatures” hit all-time records in the Northern Hemisphere as well as the Southern Hemisphere, and ocean temperatures threaten the world’s major fisheries of the Far North, which are imperiled beyond any known historical precedent.1

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) July 2021 was the hottest month in recorded history for the world. The European Union (EU) satellite system also confirmed that the past seven years have been the hottest on record.

Too much heat brings unanticipated problems of unexpected scale, putting decades of legacy infrastructure at risk of malfunctioning and/or total collapse. Nobody expected so much trouble to start so soon. Nobody anticipated such massive record-breaking back-to-back heat, north and south, to hit so soon on the heels of only 1.2C above estimated baseline for global warming.

In that regard, and with deep concern, the Council on Foreign Relations (founded, 1921) stated: “More than one-fifth of the global population now lives in regions that have already experienced warming greater than 1.5°C (2.7°F), an increase that almost all nations have agreed should be avoided to significantly reduce the risk of harm from climate change.” 2

Moreover, as further stated by the Council: “Exposure to a sustained wet-bulb temperature of 35°C (95°F), a point of intense heat with extreme humidity (90+), has been identified as the limit for human survival. When wet-bulb conditions develop, sweat can no longer evaporate off a person’s skin and the body cannot cool down. Just a few hours of this kind of heat exposure can lead to death… Some regions, including southwestern North America, South Asia, and the Middle East have already endured conditions at or near this limit, and certain areas will experience the effects more intensely than others. One projection indicates that, by 2030, this type of heat wave could afflict over two hundred million people in India alone.”

Notably, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA): Only 8% of the 2.8 billion people living in the hottest parts of the world have air conditioners.

Furthermore, the Council claims: “The infrastructure of today was not built to withstand surging temperatures.” As follows, global heat is rapidly outpacing infrastructure capacities. This is a surefire pathway to disaster on a scale seldom, if ever, witnessed.

Over time, excessive heat impairs and/or destroys infrastructure. Hot weather, when too hot, causes power lines to sag. When water used to cool power plants becomes too hot, electricity production measurably decreases, and drought conditions lower water levels beyond effectiveness for hydropower plants. This is already threatening in Brazil where hydro amounts to 62% of its total installed electric generating capacity. 3

In America, the Hoover Dam, which serves electrical power to 8 million people, is at it lowest level since 1937 when its lake was still being filled.

And, too much heat causes steel-comprising damage to drawbridges. Train tracks can bend under intense heat, which actually caused train cancellations in Europe in 2019. 4  And, planes can struggle to fly in extreme heat conditions.

According to the EPA, when cities are exposed to extreme heat, it can magnify heat conditions by up to 15C above surrounding rural conditions, effectively turning major cities of the world into furnaces of trapped heat.

Already, South America’s summer of 2022 is hot as blazes: “Practically all of Argentina and also neighboring countries such as Uruguay, southern Brazil, and Paraguay are experiencing the hottest days in history.” This is according to Cindy Fernández, meteorologist at the official National Meteorological Service.5

Argentina, as of January 12, 2022 reported: 129°F ground temperatures that brought blackouts. “This is a heat wave of extraordinary characteristics, with extreme temperature values that will even be analyzed after its completion, and it may generate some historical records for Argentina temperatures and persistence of heat,” according to meteorologist Lucas Berengua.6

Thereafter, Argentina’s infrastructure sagged and 700,000 people were without power, and drinking water purification systems went on the blink. Argentina’s ground temperatures echoed readings from the Northern Hemisphere of only 6 months ago, which, in retrospect, served as a foreboding for the southern continent, as it now begins its summer.

The heat has been so bad in Argentina that it was briefly the hottest place in the world, surpassing parts of Australia that usually carry that dubious honor during austral summer.

According to BBC News, Australia equaled its hottest day on record at 50.7C or 123.26F in Onslow, Western Australia on January 13th, 2022. The normal average temperature for Onslow (a coastal town) this time of year is 36.5C, not 50C. Additionally, Mardie and Roebourne, two other towns in the area, reported temperatures over 50C. And, in South Australia Oodnadatta reported 50.7C on January 2, 2022.  7

The summer of 2021 up north found the Anthropocene, the geological period of human influence, turn into the Pyrocene, when a shocking number of wildfires consumed vast areas of the Northern Hemisphere. It was “the summer of hell.” Global warming dried out grasslands and forests turned to tinder. The chief of the US Forest Service declared a “National Wildfire Crisis.” 8

Oregon and California fires were powerful enough to create stand-alone weather systems. The town of Lytton, British Columbia burned to the ground like a smoldering matchstick. Ground temperatures in Washington State in June 2021 hit 145F (63C) during an unprecedented Pacific Northwest heat wave too hot to even walk near concrete or squishy asphalt.

In Canada’s northwest, Ontario and Manitoba experienced 157 severe wildfires intense enough to create stand-alone weather systems.

Siberia experienced Biblical-scale fires like nobody has ever seen. A study showed the extreme heat driving the fires to levels calculated as 600 times more likely to occur because of climate change. Siberia at its most northern reaches registered a shocking 118 degrees F (48C) in June.

In the Mediterranean region, the summer of 2021 experienced wildfires raging out of control in Turkey and Greece with ground temperatures of more than 127F degrees (53C).9

There is a point to be made about this disheartening litany of the world succumbing to heat since it’s happening with global warming at only 1.2C above pre-industrial. But, is pre-industrial (same as post-industrial) really since 1880 or 1950, or should it be 1750, or is the entire affair really worse than we’ve been told at any rate? Answer: Look at the evidence and make a judgment.

The aforementioned facts are about climate conditions over the past 12 months throughout the world, which are worse than anybody projected, especially at only 1.2C above the alleged pre-industrial level. Along those lines, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) established a red warning at 1.5C beyond which serious climate trouble will occur with 2C as an extreme limit not to be exceeded, but based upon the challenging climate conditions already evident at 1.2C, how challenging will things be at 1.5C?

The fact is at only 1.2C the world has got its hands full of infrastructure failures combined with an emergent Wet Bulb potentiality of people dropping dead in the streets.

All of which points to the upcoming significance of the US midterm elections this year. If Republicans, aka: Deniers, gain control, you might as well “pack it in.” In other words, global heat will celebrate!

On the other hand, if the Democrats gain enough control to actually do something constructive about greenhouse gases and provide global leadership towards net zero emissions within the decade, there’s a slim chance for survival, but the odds are rapidly diminishing.

So far, excessive levels of damaging global heat, in part, have been the result of the failure of political leadership of both major parties that have repeatedly been warned by scientists to minimize CO2 emissions. The warnings have been ongoing for decades, like a scratched record that replays the same song over and over again but to no avail.

America’s leaders have miserably failed to safeguard the American people from the most advertised, the most talked about, the most obvious existential threat the country has ever experienced!

Human-generated global heat is easy to describe: Whether it’s emissions via carbon dioxide (CO2) or methane (CH4) from cars, trains, planes, trucks, cows, power plants, oil and gas wells, or industry that blankets the atmosphere, thus trapping heat; i.e., “the greenhouse effect,” it predictably and relentlessly causes global temperatures to increase, which have now surpassed all-time highs going back to when humans first rubbed two sticks together.

  1. See: “The Oceans Are Overheating“, January 14, 2022.
  2. “A World Overheating”, Council on Foreign Relations, October 18, 2021.
  3. “Brazil Hydro Plants May Go Offline From Drought, Bolsonaro Warns”, Bloomberg News, August 27, 2021.
  4. “Sag, Buckle and Curve: Why Your Trains Get Cancelled in the Heat”, Wired, July 26, 2019.
  5. ‘Another Hellish Day’ ”South American Sizzles in Record Summer Temperatures”, The Guardian, January 14, 2022.
  6. Copernicus Sentinel 3 Satellite data discussion.
  7. “Australia Equals Hottest Day on Record at 50.7C”, BBC News, January 13, 2022.
  8. “Here are the 6 Major Regions Literally on Fire Right Now”, Gizmodo, July 20, 2021.
  9. EU Earth Observation Program, Copernicus Sentinel 3 Satellite.
The post Dangerous Heat Across the Globe first appeared on Dissident Voice.

What’s Up With COP26?

The UK (in partnership with Italy) will host the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties, COP26 in Glasgow on October 31- November 12, 2021.

COP26 will be one of the most significant meetings in modern human history, comparable to the meeting of the Big Three at the Tehran Conference November 28, 1943 when the Normandy invasion was agreed, codenamed Operation Overlord and launched in June 1944. Thenceforth, tyranny was stopped, an easily identified worldwide threat symbolized by a toothbrush mustache. Today’s tyranny is faceless but recklessly beyond the scope of that era because it’s already everywhere all at once! And, ten-times-plus as powerful as all of the munitions of WWII.

What’s at risk at COP26?

Chatham House, The Royal Institute of International Affairs answers that all-important query in a summary report intended for heads of governments, entitled: Climate Change Risk Assessment 2021.

The report introduces the subject with three key statements:

1) The World is dangerously off track to meet the Paris Agreement goals.

2) The risks are compounding.

3) Without immediate action the impacts will be devastating in the coming decades.

The report highlights current emissions status with resulting temperature pathways. Currently, Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) indicate 1% reduction of emissions by 2030 as compared to 2010 levels. To that end, and somewhat shockingly, if emissions are not drastically curtailed by 2030, the report details a series of serious impacts to humanity locked in by 2040-50, which is the time-frame for item #3 to kick in, which states: “Impacts will be devastating.”

But, hark: Governments at COP26 will have an opportunity to accelerate emissions reductions by “ambitious revisions of their NDCs.” Whereas, if emissions follow the current NDCs, the chance of keeping temperatures below 2°C above pre-industrial levels (the upper limit imposed by Paris ’15) is less than 5%.

Not only that, but any relapse or stasis in emissions reduction policies could lead to a worst case 7°C, which the paper labels a 10% chance at the moment.

The paper lambastes the current fad of “net zero pledges” which “lack policy detail and delivery mechanisms.” Meanwhile, the deficit between the NDC targets and the carbon budget widens by the year. In essence, empty pledges don’t cut it, period!

Failure to slash emissions by 2030 will have several serious negative impacts by 2040:

  • 9B people will be hit by major heatwaves at various intervals of time.
  • 400 million people will be exposed to temperatures that exceed “the workability threshold.” Too hot to work!
  • Of more immediate and extremely shocking concern, if drastic reductions do not occur by 2030, the paper suggests “the number of people on the planet exposed to heat stress exceeding the survivability threshold is likely to surpass 10 million a year.” This can only refer to the infamous Wet Bulb Temperature, meaning:A threshold is reached when the air temperature climbs above 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) and the humidity is above 90 percent. The human body has limits. If “temperature plus humidity” is high enough, or +95/90, even a healthy person seated in the shade with plentiful water to drink will suffer severely or likely die. Climate models only a few years ago predicted widespread wet-bulb thresholds to hit late this century; however, global warming is not waiting around that long. Indeed, the Wet Bulb Temperature death count of 10 million per year nearly scales alongside WWII deaths of 75 million, both military and civilian, over six years or 12.5M per year.
  • Population demands will necessitate 50% more food by 2050, but without huge emissions reductions starting now, yields will decline by 2040 as croplands hit by severe drought rises to 32%/year. Fifty percent more food demand in the face of 32% rise in drought impact does not add up very well.
  • Wheat and rice account for 37% of calorific intake, but without drastic cuts, >35% of global cropland for these critical crops will be hit by damaging hot spells.
  • By 2040, without the big cuts in emissions, 700 million people per year will be exposed to droughts lasting at least 6 months duration at a time. “No region will be spared.”

Accordingly “Many of the impacts described are likely to be locked in by 2040, and become so severe they go beyond the limits of what many countries can adapt to… Climate change risks are increasing over time, and what might be a small risk in the near term could embody overwhelming impacts in the medium to long term.” (Pg. 5)

Chapter 4 of the paper covers Cascading Systemic Risks, which is an eye-opener. Systemic risks materialize as a chain, or cascade, impacting a whole system, inclusive of people, infrastructure, economy, societal systems and ecosystems. 70 experts analyzed cascading risks, as follows:  “The cascading risks over which the participating experts expressed greatest concern were the interconnections between shifting weather patterns, resulting in changes to ecosystems, and the rise of pests and diseases, which, combined with heatwaves and drought, will likely drive unprecedented crop failure, food insecurity and migration of people. Subsequently, these impacts will likely result in increased infectious diseases (greater prevalence of current infectious diseases, as well as novel variants), and a negative feedback loop compounding and amplifying each of these impacts.” (Pg. 38)

“Climate change contributes to the creation of conditions that are more susceptible to wildfires, principally via hotter and drier conditions. In the period 2015–18, measured against 2001–14, 77 per cent of countries saw an increase in daily population exposure to wildfires, with India and China witnessing 21 million and 12 million exposures respectively. California experienced a fivefold increase in annual burned area between 1972 and 2018. There, average daytime temperatures of warm-season days have increased by around 1.4°C since the early 1970s, increasing the conditions for fires, and consistent with trends simulated by climate models.” (Pg. 39)

And, the biggest shocking statistic of all pertains to the high risk red code danger region of the planet that is ripe for massive methane emissions: “In Siberia, a prolonged heatwave in the first half of 2020 caused wide-scale wildfires, loss of permafrost and an invasion of pests. It is estimated that climate change has already made such events more than 600 times more likely in this region.” (Pg. 40)

“600 times more likely” in the planet’s most methane-enriched permafrost region is reason enough to cut CO2 missions to the bone, no questions asked.

Several climate change issues dangerously reflect on fragility of the food system and a pronounced lack of adaptation measures as well as natural systems and ecosystems “at the edge of capacity.” Lack of social safety and social cohesion is found everywhere, all of which can erupt as a result of an unforgiving climate system that is overly stressed and broken.

Cascades will likely lead to breakdown of governance due to limited food supplies and lack of income bringing on increasingly violent extremists groups, paramilitary intervention, organized violence, and conflict between people and states, all of which has already commenced.

Already, migration pressures are a leading edge of climate-related breakdowns in society. Each year in 2008-20 an average of 21.8 million people have been displaced by weather-related disasters of extreme heat, floods, storms, and wildfires. In the most recent year, 30 million people in 143 countries worldwide were displaced by such climate disasters.

Without doubt, the eyes of the world will be focused on COP26 to judge commitments by governments.

There is no time left for failure because failure breeds even worse failure.

The post What’s Up With COP26? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Brazil’s Fierce Drought

Photo:  Rainforest Trust

The Amazon rainforest is arguably the world’s premier asset. Indeed, it’s the world’s most crucial asset in a myriad of ways, nothing on Earth compares. Yet, it is infernally stressed because of inordinate drought. The bulk of the Amazon rainforest is located in Brazil, where, according to the title of an article in NASA, Earth Observatory, the country headline says it all: “Brazil Battered by Drought.”

Moreover, the planet is becoming a drought-besieged planet (see Drought Clobbers the World, August 27, 2021). As for the Amazon, according to NASA, it has been battered by serious bouts of drought every 5 years 1998, 2005, 2010, 2015, 2020-21. As such, the normally resilient forest does not have a chance to catch breath and repair damage.

Sassan Saatchi, NASA JPL claims:

The old paradigm was that whatever carbon dioxide we put up in (human caused) emissions, the Amazon would help absorb a major part of it… The ecosystem has become so vulnerable to these warming and episodic drought events that it can switch from sink to source depending on the severity and the extent. This is our new paradigm. 1

The Amazon rainforest is 60% of the world’s rainforests; the rainfall and rivers cover 70% of South America’s GDP; its skyborne river of moisture sends rainfall to the Western US and as far as Iowa cornfields and Central America; its trees store 86B tons of carbon; 30% of world species, medical discoveries galore, and automatically one of the biggest consumers of the industrial world’s CO2. Its health is crucial to the functionality of the entire planet. As it goes, so goes the world.

All of its great attributes, and yet, President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil last week said the country’s hydroelectric dam reservoirs are:  “At the limit of the limit.”2

Reservoirs in the Paraná River, which provide power for Sao Paulo and several states in Brazil “have never before been so depleted, the grid operator said this month. ”3

The Paraná River basin is home to several hydroelectric dams and reservoirs. Water levels on the river are more than 30 feet below average at the Brazil – Paraguay border. This threatens to disrupt cargo ship traffic. Brazil’s National Weather and Basic Sanitation Agency has declared a “critical situation” for the river basin.

For the first time in 100 years, because of the long drought, the National Meteorological System (Inmet) issued an emergency alert for Brazil at the end of May 2021.

The Paraná River runs from Brazil to Argentina. It is the second longest (4,800 km or approximately 3,000 miles) river in Brazil, just behind the Amazon. It supplies electricity and water to 40 million people. At the current hydro flow rate, blackouts are likely this year, especially during peak hours.

Additionally, Brazil’s Pantanal, the world’s largest tropical wetlands, not only suffers from global warming’s knack for spiking severe drought, more than 25% of Brazil’s Pantanal forest went up in flames last year in the worst annual fire devastation since records started. As it happens, developers set fires to clear land to grow crops, raise cattle and mine. People are responsible for 95% of the fires. It’s important to emphasize that fires in rainforests are not a regular feature of the natural environment.

As it happens, Brazil is not alone as hemispheric drought is now occurring in parallel, north and south.

Both northern and southern hemispheric droughts are running in parallel, sending a strong message that something’s horribly wrong. It should not be this pervasive. Brazil’s depleting reservoirs provide electricity and water to 40 million people. In tandem, the depleting Colorado River provides electricity and water to 40 million people. Both systems, at the same time, will likely be subject to water rationing within months, not years, which is currently under consideration by authorities in both hemispheres.

The worldwide drought is universally connected and thus compounded, maybe feeding on its own energy, enhanced by massive human-generated emissions of CO2 (carbon dioxide) and CH4 (methane) blanketing the atmosphere.

Additionally, in Brazil and only recently, scientists have discovered a very disturbing consequence of drought: Brazil’s share of the Pantanal, the world’s largest tropical wetland, has seen its water-cover area drop to one-quarter (25%) of its area of only 30 years ago. However, that analysis does not include 2021, which is shaping up as Brazil’s worst drought in over 90 years.

Pantanal wetlands are enormous, sprawling across three countries. The loss of so much water cover is a real shocker to the scientists that conducted the study. According to Mažeika Patricio Sulliván, an ecology professor at Ohio State University, the human footprint of deforestation, fires, and plowing under wetlands is, in part, to blame as well as greenhouse gas emissions, prompting global warming: “We’re altering the magnitude of those natural processes… This is not just happening in Brazil. It’s happening all over the world,”3

Increasingly, scientists send the same message… “It’s happening all over the world.”

Nearly 90% of South America’s wetlands have vanished since 1900. Wetlands are the kidneys of the planet, essential for wildlife and retaining water to be released into rivers and aquifers all of which also serves to prevent destructive flash floods — think Germany’s and China’s loss of wetland regions, thereafter submerged in flash floods.

According to Cassio Bernardino, a project manager for WWF-Brazil:

The prospects are not good; we’re losing natural capital, we’re losing water that feeds industries, energy generation and agribusiness… society as a whole is losing this very precious resource, and losing it at a frighteningly fast rate. 3

By now, with a Brazilian quasi-dystopian experience front and center for all of the world to see, plus the affront by society’s lack of concern for life-sourcing ecosytems, a provocative question arises: Where is all of this headed?

The current trajectory looks dark and bleak.

What can be done?

A good starting point would be for the world’s leaders to agree to tackle the source of the problem, fossil fuels, by first admitting there is a problem, which is the problem. They really have not admitted it forcibly enough to make a big enough difference. Will they?

And, so it stands.

  1. “NASA Finds Amazon Drought Leaves Long Legacy of Damage”, Capitals Coalition, August 9, 2013.
  2. “Diane Jeantet, Associated Press, “Brazil Water Survey Heightens Alarm Over Extreme Drought”, Midland Daily News, August 27, 2021.
  3. Ibid.
The post Brazil’s Fierce Drought first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Drought Clobbers the World

According to SPEI Global Drought Monitor, no continent is spared the ravages of severe drought, except for Antarctica. This is happening at a global temperature of 1.2°C above baseline, not 1.5°C above baseline which climate scientists agree is locked in. This article explores the countrywide impact of 1.2°C above baseline for the most vulnerable as well as the most privileged. The journey starts in Glasgow.

The world’s political leaders need to pay special attention to the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference scheduled for November 1st-12th in Glasgow as scientists of the world meet to present the latest info on climate change/global warming.

Those world leaders need to hone in on the most far-reaching most effective most promising ideas to fix the climate, tame global warming, and stop fossil fuels by doing whatever it takes to halt carbon emissions (Biden’s plan won’t do it).

Climatically, how much longer can the planet hang in there?

The world is coming apart at the seams as a result of greenhouse gas emissions from factories, utilities, cars, planes, trains, agriculture, and a horrifying meltdown of permafrost in the farthest northern latitudes, spiked by Biblical fires, and soon the rainforests will kick in as tipping points trigger, thus reversing the world’s greatest carbon sinks to carbon emission sources in competition with cars, trains, and planes. The entire planet is trapped in a drought that’s so severe that it’s difficult to quantify. It’s that pervasive.

By ignoring science for far too long, leaders of the world have failed their own people. To that end, if the world’s leaders cannot figure out what’s happening to the climate system as fire, drought, and floods strike like never before (explained in more detail herein) then they should be tossed out of office. Weak leaders beget feeble solutions.

After all, there is little room for error for society at large. Climate change has backed them into a corner from which they can barely escape, maybe not at all. Soon, there will be no choice other than outright revolution, forcing the world’s leaders out, similar to the French Revolution of the late 18th century when aristocracy and royalty, the one percent (1%) of the era, holding onto their heads for dear life, fled Paris by the thousands, many fleeing to England (See: Ninety-Three, by Victor Hugo, 1874 publication detailing The Great Terror)

Throughout history when the masses are harmed or abused beyond some undefined incongruous limit, but enough to seek recompense, they follow the money, similar to The Revolutions of 1848 and actually witnessed in person by aristocrats in the streets, holding their breath whilst horrified by the Storming of the Bastille, July 14, 1789.

As it happens, ubiquitous drought conditions know no boundaries. A Middle East water crisis is threatening millions of people to the precipice of famine. According to a recent AP article, Aid Groups: Millions in Syria, Iraq Losing Access to Water d/d August 23, 2021, it is a dire situation that, by default, could lead to desperate open warfare and massive human tragedy.

In the face of extreme heat, millions of people in Syria and Iraq and Lebanon are at risk of losing access to essentials for life: (1) water (2) electricity (3) food. Similar to America’s West, water resources are at record lows due to little rainfall and drought conditions caused by global warming now widely recognized as an anthropogenic affair, meaning “human-caused” for the benefit of those who’ve missed class.

More than 12 million people in those countries are at risk, today, right now. And, making matters much worse, two dams in northern Syria that supply power to 3 million people face “imminent closure” because of low water levels (a new phenomena starting to appear throughout the world). Moreover, drought conditions are spreading water-borne diseases throughout displacement settlements. Alas, the Middle East crisis stands above all crises.

What will the people do? Will they fight for survival? Indeed, the situation is fraught with danger. It’s a time bomb that’s already ticking.

In Lebanon 4 million people face severe water shortage. Not only that but making matters equally bad, in addition to severe drought, the Litani River is overloaded with sewage and waste and polluted nearly beyond recognition. It is the country’s longest river and major source for water supply, irrigation, and hydropower.

The planet is aching, crying out for relief. It’s truly a worldwide crisis. Global warming is strutting its stuff whilst greenhouse gases increase beyond all-time record levels, never decreasing, heating up the planet more and more to the breaking point at the global temperature of 1.2°C above baseline, not 1.5°C above, not 2.0°C above.

What of 1.5°C (IPCC’s top end preference) or 2.0°C above baseline as discussed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, levels that should not be exceeded? Yet, uh-oh, the planet is already in trouble at 1.2°C above baseline. Indeed, it’s an open secret that the climate system is struggling; it’s in trouble.

“The climate in trouble” resonates far and wide; e.g., Fridays for Future, started in 2018 by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, which is a very popular org for young activists, is openly critical of the outright stupidity and blatant ignorance of adults. “How Dare You!” blurted Greta Thunberg age 16 at the UN Climate Summit in NY in 2019, as she addressed an imperial body of climate intellects.

Droughts take no prisoners, as the entire Mediterranean region has been hit hard. Turkey faces its most severe drought in a decade. Istanbul is dangerously close to losing its water supply. Dr. Akgun Ilhan, a Turkish water mgmt. expert told Euronews: “The natural water cycle is already interrupted by climate change,” but Dr. İlhan suggests it’s also affected by urban surfaces that are sealed with asphalt and concrete (the human footprint) “leaving very little green spaces where water can meet soil and fill groundwater resources.”

Worldwide, wetlands are down 87% over the past 200+ years, only 13% remains as they’re plowed under or covered over with no green spaces for water to meet soil or fill groundwater resources. It is significant that wetlands are the primary source for replenishment of aquifers.

Alas, with 87% of wetland hydrologic systems gone, massive destructive floods precede ironic losses of aquifer resources. With wetlands gone, water goes to where the people live (think Germany or China) and not through nature’s wetlands for distribution via the natural hydrology network. Meantime, according to NASA, one-third of the world’s largest aquifers are “stressed” because of the loss of wetland feeder systems. This is an invisible monumental festering problem.

In the United States, nearly one-half of the country is currently afflicted by drought. Worse yet, the West is experiencing ultra dire conditions, the worst in 1,200 years, with several small outlying communities suffering complete (100%) loss of water. Arizona is already calculating what industries will be forced to cut water in the near future as the Colorado River is already overly stressed and overly depleted, unable to meet heavy demand.

Brazil’s drought is the worst ever recorded. Hydroelectric plants can’t fully operate because of low reservoir levels. Chile has endured a mega drought for years. According to a recent Reuters report: 400,000 people who live in rural areas of Chile today receive water via tanker trucks. Chile’s spectacular “Mediterranean climate” in the central region, home to vineyards and farms, has taken a big hit. Scientists doubt it’ll ever recover its spectacular climate zone.

Even Israel, which invested $500 million in the world’s largest desalination plant, supplying 20% of its water needs, is warning citizens that the drought/water crisis is so severe that it will “struggle” to provide all residents with enough water to meet basic needs by next summer.

In Russia, some agricultural regions are at risk of losing up to one-half of their harvest because of punishing drought. Russia’s famous Black Earth Region, nicknamed as such because of its world famous high soil moisture content is now a bleak greyish color. Meanwhile, drought in Madagascar has pushed the country to the edge of famine.

A recent major research report claims that since 2014 Europe has experienced the most extreme series of droughts and heat waves in more than 2,000 years.  1

According to BBC News, in Taiwan, considered one of the “rainiest places in the world,” many reservoirs are at less than 20% of capacity and some below 10%. At the primary water source for Taiwan’s $100B semiconductor industry, the water at Baoshan No. 2 Reservoir is at 7%. This has serious international business ramifications.

The list of drought conditions hitting every continent, except Antarctica, is overwhelming. Indeed, the worldwide drought should be categorized as a triple-extra-alarm emergency with all hands on deck. Will it be?

Will world leaders convene to stop fossil fuel destruction of the planet?

Or, will a neglected broken climate system force people to fight for survival, and what does that imply?

  1. “Recent European Drought Extremes Beyond Common Era Background Variability”, Nature Geoscience, March 15, 2021.
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GPI vs. GDP

U.S House Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN) recently introduced a bill in Congress to overhaul GDP, the nation’s most watched economic indicator. July 30th she introduced the Genuine Progress Indicator (“GPI”) Act. It would be a significant change for the trajectory of the socio-economic system.

GPI is a new way to calculate GDP, but passage of the act in Congress is dependent upon whether it can displace the all-important “only size matters” syndrome that underlies and determines GDP. In contrast, GPI offers considerable substance and a new way to measure economic performance that’s in concert with the planet and with its inhabitants.

Hopefully, GPI gets a decent hearing in Congress because major turning points in socio-economic and political affairs can make a difference for generations to come.

A prime example of a positive turning point is the Battle of Saratoga in 1777 victory by the colonists over the British, which was the world’s greatest army at the time. It was a crucial turning point in the American Revolution, convincing France to enter the conflict on behalf of the colonists. That turning point brought forth a new nation.

In contrast, an example of a negative turning point is the Supreme Court 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision upholding Louisiana’s statute mandating segregation in all public facilities, thus legally embedding bigotry for nearly 60 years. That turning point still stings.

Today, we may be witnessing one more major turning point via Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN). Her proposal has the potential to change the socio-economic trajectory of America and the world in a multitude of ways by leveling the playing field for income distribution, infrastructure development, fair labor practices and ecosystem sustainability, none of which GDP recognizes.

GDP only measures the “size of the economy” whereas GPI measures the true breadth of economic benefits and losses, such as: (1) unpaid labor (2) sustainable job skills (3) infrastructure and (4) ecosystems services, as well as accounting for the costs of growth and its collateral issues: (a) resource depletion (b) greenhouse gases (c) income inequality, and (d) domestic abuse. GDP ignores all of the aforementioned.

GPI may be the only way to unify attention for badly needed mitigation efforts of life-sourcing ecosystems. Without them, the planet will die.

Meanwhile, as for GDP, certain questions must be addressed: Growth for whom and at what costs? GDP does not husband life-sustaining resources, but it does consume those same resources, which is an overt expression of a civilization that has lost its way on a trip down the proverbial rabbit hole.

Omar’s proposed bill says: “To direct the Secretary of Commerce to establish an alternative metric for measuring the net benefits of economic activity, and for other purposes… the ‘genuine progress indicator’ to measure the economic well-being of households, calculated through adjustments to gross domestic product that account for positive and negative economic, environmental, and social factors that contribute to economic activity….” That is brilliant!

The “costs” listed within GPI actually define the impending extinction risks for the world at large, for example, costs that are missing from GDP but included within GPI: (1) water, air, and noise pollution at the household and national level (2) loss of farmland and productive soils, including soil quality degradation (3) loss of natural wetlands, primary forest area and other at-risk ecosystems (4) high amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions (5) depletion of the ozone layer (6) depletion of nonrenewable sources of energy.

Unfortunately, it’s not likely that GPI will get out of committee in the House of Representatives for several obvious reasons: If the costs listed in GPI were adapted to GDP, actual reported GDP would be all minuses, like -5% to -25%, not +2% to +6%.

Oops! How would the Dow Jones Industrial Average react? Most likely, it would go haywire, directionless, out of control, similar to many ecosystems of the planet that have gone haywire, like the Amazon Rainforest (alarmingly becoming a carbon emitter instead of a carbon sink) or the Great Barrier Reef (>50% of corals bleached in only 5 years) or Siberian permafrost (biggest fires ever recorded) or the Arctic (tragic loss of world’s biggest reflector of solar radiation) or Greenland (big super meltdown underway) or Antarctica (glacial ice flow accelerating way beyond expectations) or the 2/3rds loss of wild vertebrates in less than 50 years.

So, yes Representative Omar’s GPI bill is an excellent idea, but it will likely fail because only size matters in America, and America’s GDP proves it by ignoring reality: (1) pollution costs ignored (2) loss of crucial farmland (3) toxic poisoning (pesticides) of soil (4) monoculture artificial fertilized crop soil degradation (5) paved wetlands destroy “kidneys of the planet” (6) excessive greenhouse gases (the US emits 28% of world emissions with only 5% of world population) (6) subsidizing depletion of nonrenewable sources of energy.

It’s little wonder that the planet is regurgitating a sickness that is endemic to anthropogenic influence throughout the biosphere with raging fires, destructive flooding, and killer heat waves.

Alas, focus on GDP will never heal a broken planet.

GDP does not calculate its own costs of infinite growth. It cannot because the calculation would be negative every year. And, in an act of absolute absurdity, GDP is measured quarterly, as are corporate profits. So, every three-month performance is meaningful, which is insane, childish, and flat-out stupid. This “hurry up and report the quarter” dicta resembles a shell game. In contrast, ecosystems require a lot of time, much longer than three months. Nature doesn’t compute by the quarter. Conversely, GDP is in such a hurry.

Ilhan’s proposal for GPI is geared to a society that values sustainability of resources and concern for the health of the biosphere and for its inhabitants. But, sad to say, it doesn’t realistically fit into today’s world of neoliberal capitalism. There’s no open slot for anything other than profits. We all pay a price for those profits.

Moreover, it is doubtful that an accurate calculation of depletion and destruction of ecosystems is possible at today’s rapid rate. Who could possibly keep up with it?

Still, it’s brilliant to get the concept into the public domain, and one can only hope.

The post GPI vs. GDP first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Drought Flood Fire

The world is on fire like never before: “Wildfires Have Erupted Across the Globe Scorching Places That Rarely Burned Before” (CNN headlines July 22, 2021) but not only is fire raging, Biblical floods are destroying entire communities; e.g., 9,000 homes swept away in central China (BBC News) as towns were nearly decimated in Germany, “Europe’s Deadly Floods Leave Scientists Stunned” (Science, July 20, 2021). All of that with worldwide droughts at a fever pitch.

Is the sky (actually) falling?

According to SPEI Global Drought Monitor, the current drought cycle is worldwide. Only Antarctica is spared. In some corners of the world water reservoirs are dangerously low, big hydroelectric plants sputter, as long-standing verdant forests morph into dried-out firetraps.

This shocking coincidence of three major catastrophic events hitting at the same time is likely unequaled in modern history. Why are the most serious threats to 21st century civilization; i.e., drought, fire, and floods simultaneously ravaging the planet from east-to-west, north-to-south?

Answers can be found in a new book:  Drought, Flood, Fire, How Climate Change Contributes to Catastrophes by Chris Funk (Director of Climate Hazards Center, UC Santa Barbara) Cambridge University Press, August 2021.

Funk provides a very accurate description of the linchpin of climate-related trouble in one brilliant paragraph:

We hang isolated in space, with only an incredibly thin layer of atmosphere standing between us and oblivion. If we could drive our car straight up at highway speeds, we would approach the edge of the atmosphere in a matter of minutes. And into this thin membrane we are dumping about 28 million gigatons of carbon dioxide every day. The rational decisions of nearly 8 billion people are resulting in collective insanity as we choose to destroy the delicate balances that support Earth’s fragile flame.  (p. 21)

Moreover:

Climate change is making climate extremes more frequent and intense… Not in the future, but right now… Over the past few years (2015-2020) the fingerprints of climate change have seemed more like a slap. Extreme heat waves, floods, droughts, and wildfires have exacted a terrible toll on developed and developing nations alike. These extremes have impacted hundreds of millions of people and resulted in hundreds of billions of dollars in losses, all across the globe. (p. 5)

Early on in Funk’s book a chart of weather-related losses (1980 to 2018) clearly shows a four-fold increase in less than 40 years, which is foreboding and demanding of attention. Funk educates readers how and why such huge increases have occurred in such a short time:

One goal of this book is to describe how energy moves through the Earth’s energy system, so you can both better appreciate the beauty of our life-sustaining complex planet, and how human-induced warming is altering this system in a dangerous and alarming way. (p. 12)

Drought Flood Fire delves into the onset of complex life, as well as the rudimentary basics of the mechanisms by which greenhouse gases warm the planet, to wit:

Even most people who believe in climate change don’t really understand the basic mechanism of why adding greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere has to increase the amount of energy reaching the surface of the Earth.  (p. 65)

This book serves as a tutorial and, as such, a compelling asset for students and advocates and world policymakers. It’s an authoritative teaching tool with occasional fun images that depict the ironic fragility of our enduring planet, e.g.,

Imagine an egg painted blue. The atmosphere is as thick as the blue paint. (p. 67)

Ever wonder how tropical storms originate or hurricanes or cyclones via understanding the intricate details behind the reported facts, in plain English?

Is Earth uniquely fragile or steadfast and how is it that humans disrupt its ecosystems?

Indeed, Drought, Flood, Fire is a primer on the most elemental developments of all aspects of the universe and solar system and the origin of complex life itself. This seminal book is essentially a lecture series about the remarkable features and development of the universe ultimately devolving into today’s anthropogenic distortion of nature. It’s well worth the read.

Funk personally describes his approach, as follows:

Some aspects of climate change are complex and hard to fathom. Some are fairly straightforward concepts and facts that everyone really needs to understand. This book is mostly about the latter. Some of the most important mechanisms of climate change can be understood by everyone: Why do greenhouse gasses have such a direct warming effect on our planet? How does this warming intensify the impact of droughts and fires? How can this same atmospheric warming, paradoxically, also increase the frequency of extreme precipitation events and floods? This book approaches these questions with a Do-It-Yourself  (DIY) attitude.  (p. 59)

He explains the dynamics of extreme events, as for example, the interrelationship of California fires, warmer air temperatures, and drier vegetation like the infamous Thomas Fire of 2017, which was for a brief period the biggest most damaging fire in California history with flames roaring six stories into the sky.

Interestingly enough, along with that California example, Funk spells out warning signals for all of humanity, to wit:

By looking carefully at both weather data and disaster statistics, we can see with our own eyes that a 1°C warming is already having dire consequences.  (p. 64)

That one fact alone “dire consequences” at only 1°C, especially in the context of a world currently at 1.2°C above baseline, should alert policymakers around the world to the inescapable gravity of today’s scenario with worldwide firestorms, floods, and droughts bordering on the apocalyptic, which are broadcasts on TV for all to see.  These are unprecedented, out of control real time scenes of climate destructiveness never witnessed before. And, it’s happening around the world, and it’s happening now. It’s unvarnished reality!

According to Funk:

The intent here is serious. California just experienced a large increase in fire extent, due in part to an exceptional increase in temperatures. We will likely see this happen again, and again, over the next forty years. (p. 65)

Statements like that are backed up by scientific data that needs to be front and center for policymakers. His book should be on the desks of every policymaker because immediate remediation measures have never been more urgently crucial, especially with so much destruction at today’s global temperature of only 1.2°C above baseline. Whether they thoroughly read the book or not, policy wonks need a reminder of Drought Flood Fire on their desktops. It’s essential.

The rate of increase of global warming, as detailed in Funk’s book, sends a clear message of deep concern. Figure 5-3 in the book demonstrates “exceptionally warm” ocean and air temperatures throughout the planet. It’s the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s monthly temperature data set of sea surface and land temperatures. In true Michael Mann fashion the graph is parabolic!

The graph shows the fraction (percentage) of Earth that’s exceptionally warm over time, as explained by Funk:

This time series should deeply disturb you. The fraction… is increasing very rapidly. When I was born, it was about 2%. By the time I started graduate school it was around 5%. When my children were born, it hovered around 7%. Since that time the area of exceptional warmth has doubled again to around 17%, increasing rapidly just between the beginning and end of our focus period (2015-2019). Now almost one-fifth of the globe experiences extreme temperatures at any given time. (p. 99)

Those extremes result in severe health impacts, including death. For example, China has reported “at least 300 deaths” as a result of recent record-making floods whilst the same flooding traps passengers in subway trains standing in neck-deep water in the provincial capital Zhengzhou; meantime, hundreds of people died in the recent Pacific Northwest heat wave, according to estimates; there were at least 486 deaths in British Columbia, 116 in Oregon, 78 in Washington… there were more than 3,500 emergency department visits for heat-related illness this past May and June in a region that includes Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington State, which is normally a very cool region.

Funk’s research group has developed a methodology to provide accurate estimates of maximum air temperatures called the Climate Hazards Center Infrared Temperature dataset.  His accomplishments at U of Calif. Santa Barbara involve satellites and computers used to identify and predict climate hazards. Because of the planet’s berserk climate system of late, Funk’s work should be mandatory for nation/state policy wonks.

Funk’s Extreme Event Attribution methodology identifies “the fingerprint of climate change” well ahead of time.  For example, his research group explains the mechanisms or observations by which extreme weather events can be anticipated to help formulate humanitarian aid well ahead of a severe drought. As for example:

In late 2016 we predicted the spring 2017 drought that struck Kenya, Somalia, and southern Ethiopia.  (p. 15)

According to Funk, we live on a “Goldilocks Planet” with a life support system entirely dependent upon a “very thin atmosphere and the absolute necessity of maintaining temperatures with a narrow range.” In that regard, Drought Flood Fire focuses on what’s happening to the planet now vis a vis extreme heat, extreme precipitation, and out of control droughts, wildfires, and hurricanes turbocharged by human-generated greenhouse gases.

Of interest, in spite of Funk’s careful examination of the dangers presented by human-generated greenhouse gases and examples of how devastating those have been at only 1°C above baseline, towards the end of his book he discovers an upbeat note by referencing the German and California experiences of effectively mitigating GHGs whilst experiencing rapid economic growth as examples of what the world can do to favorably resolve the climate crisis.

He goes on to tabulate all of the wonderful positives of modern day society, the accomplishments in medicine, science, etc., which are all true.  Yet, it somehow comes across as way too Disneylandish in the face of repeated failures by the nations of the world to uphold their climate mitigation commitments. After all, every world climate conference, like Paris 2015, has failed, horribly failed. This is worse than a tragedy and cause for not holding one’s breath over the outcome of the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference to be held in Glasgow in November called COP26 where 30,000 delegates are expected.

Yes, since 1995 in Berlin, the world has already held 25 COPs! Begging the question: What results? Namely, annual CO2 emissions have skyrocketed (double the 20th century rate), unrelenting global warming (a new heat record, 2020) CO2-e at record levels year-by-year. Meanwhile, Biblical fires, massive flooding, and killer droughts haunt civilization like never before.

What’s to celebrate?

Maybe it would be better if COP26 is cancelled and save the millions spent on 30,000 professionals gathering to chitchat, meaning “lots of smoke but no flames,” except for the long-standing forests of the world, which are burning like crazy.

At the end, Funk comes back to reality, which is crucial for understanding where the planet’s health stands and what must be done, to wit:

Right now we appear to be headed for 3°C of warming or more. This level of warming would almost certainly have catastrophic and potentially irreversible impacts on our planet’s life support system. (p. 299)

But, according to Drought Flood Fire, it’s already happening with just 1°C warming, as Funk additionally queries: Imagine +3°C or +4°C bringing on decimated crops, super storms, and considerably higher sea levels, but yet:

Even the difference between 1.5°C and 2°C of warming will make an incredible difference.  (p. 300)

Nobody knows for certain where climate change/global warming is headed, but one thing is certain, it’s always worse than climate models; it’s always worse than scientists expect. That’s a concerning preamble to yet one more UN Climate Summit.

All of which gives one pause with today’s 1.2°C above baseline as Biblical droughts, floods, and fires scare the daylights out of scientists. They’re publicly admitting it, which is a refreshing bold approach.  Hopefully, their deep-seated concerns override, supersede the bureaucratic nightmarish results of past COPs.

Meanwhile, Drought Flood Fire, How Climate Change Contributes to Catastrophes puts everything into perspective.

The post Drought Flood Fire first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Covid Fear Management Policies: Distractions from and Tests for Looming Climate Collapse

Photo by Jarr1520;

Strategy of reward and punishment

In the newly coined so-called War on Covid, the arsenal is eclectic. There is not only science, in the form of experimental RNA vaccines hastily developed by giants of the pharmaceutical industry, but also semi-authoritarian or full-blown authoritarian government measures imposed and legally validated by declarations of states of emergencies. The panoply of edicts include mandatory face masks indoor and sometime outdoor, depending on the country; enforced or unenforced social distancing recommendations; limitation of public or even private gatherings; and more drastic measures like lock-downs and curfews.

The crescendo of assaults on personal liberties eased up for a few months, but governments are now using, because of the spread of the Delta variant, the threats of reinstating their coercion as an insidious blackmail to force people to get vaccinated. In other words, if one has the temerity to refuse the salvation brought by Big Pharma’s vaccines, life shall be so extremely problematic and isolated as almost to make one a social pariah. In France President Macron is defining a new ideology that could be called semi-authoritarian neoliberalism, while in the Philippines neofascist Duarte is entirely blunt in his approach. Regardless, both politicians have the same goal: to get their entire population vaccinated. They use a strategy of psychological warfare based on reward and punishment, a bit similar to that used on lab mice.

Photo by Robert Muller

In the case of Macron, the reward for the good and fully vaccinated French citizens is that they will carry, as a badge of honor, a Pass Sanitaire. The misfits, refuseniks, pesky bad citizens who still refuse to see the light and comply, will receive punishments. These bad French apples will be deprived from travel except in their own vehicles, and from cultural events like concerts, movies and museum exhibits.

Duarte’s fascist approach, if more brutal, is in a sense a bit more honest. It is still about manipulating his population with the rewards versus punishments principle, but there are many sticks and basically no carrots. Case in point: Duarte is seriously considering locking up in their homes those Filipinos who refuse to be vaccinated. One can only wonder what will happen to the vast homeless population in the Philippines.

Photo by Grey Area

Vaccines, the universal silver bullet

Covid management styles and policies have been diverse in tone and strategies, but it seems that governments worldwide are all watching, then mimicking, at times, each other’s minor achievements to avoid major failures. Only one question is on their minds, which seems to be the universal governmental panacea, independently of ideology: how do we get the entire population vaccinated?

In the more sophisticated media manipulation of Western democracies, the secondary questions are as follows. How do we convince the citizenry that the coercive measures put in place nearly 18 months ago, in a quasi entirely undemocratic fashion by decrees etc., were gently forced on people for their own good rather than in an attempt to avoid a global economic collapse? And further, how do we persuade them that these measures will be entirely lifted one day to go back to an almost mythological happy pre-Covid world?

Jonathan

In other words, how can leaders, with varying degrees of incompetence and undisclosed ties to giant global corporate interests, make people believe that they are acting for the common good rather than to avoid a global stock market crash? Altruism and the collective social good rarely guide the paths of politicians anywhere, and citizens in large numbers have finally caught on to this reality.

People have become more doubtful about what they are told, either directly by their elected officials, or through mainstream media outlets via so-called experts charged with propagating — yes, like propaganda — the government narrative with powerful bullhorns, and sort of carpet-bombing people’s brains with a relentless coverage of the immense danger of Covid, especially the brand new Delta variant, and the great virtue of vaccines as being almost 92 percent accurate silver bullets against the pandemic.

Unfortunately, a one-note intrusive narrative eventually has an undesired effect on a fragment of the population. This is precisely what is going on in France since Macron made the choice, which could be fatal to his political future, to jam through parliament, in the middle of the summer holidays, a law infamously called Pass Sanitaire, to blackmail French people into mandatory vaccination. Many opponents perceive it as a pass to submission, and they have decided to make their voices heard, loud and clear, in the streets. Will this movement of dissent be long lived, contagious to other countries, or ultimately twisted and hijacked for a political purpose? This is so far a question in limbo.  The large scale protests, however, were unexpected.

Illustration by Mike Finn

A smoke screen to mask climate collapse

A year ago the Covid-19 pandemic accounted for about 75 percent of the media coverage across the board worldwide. This alone, if a virus could have been granted the Person of the Year award from Time Magazine, would have assured it the coveted price. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won person of the year in 2020, but if it had been Creature of the Year, SARS-CoV-2 would have won. As matter of fact, one can easily argue that without the Covid crisis, Donald Trump would have likely been reelected. In political, sociological, and economic affairs, the microorganism has been a game changer.

So far, Covid has not been a seed of much needed social change but instead has been used as a nasty new tool for disaster capitalism to thrive by changing some fundamental economic parameters, as well as serve as a powerful device to concentrate wealth. What could be better for capitalism than to convince taxpayers that their money needs to be injected by the trillions into corporate conglomerates? Across the world, in all the COVID-19 stimulus funding schemes, the lion share went to corporations while private citizens got the crumbs. Wall Street should have crashed but didn’t, because vast amounts of public funds were pumped into the global financial markets. Airlines that were saved from bankruptcy by a Covid bail out should have been nationalized; instead Air France, for example, remained a private company with an overpaid CEO while France’s government became a bigger share holder.

Photo by Jeanne Menjoulet

The bait and switch worked on a global scale. It worked with the financial aspect, just like it worked in the semantic of fear. For the media, it’s all about key words. Some might have noticed that at first it was COVID-19, then it became simply Covid, but now, probably because the word’s traction is wearing off, governments or corporate-controlled outlets have switched to Delta variant. It is today’s winner in the fear factor department, and it is repeated ad nauseam. This element of constant fear has established a nice level of docility in a majority of the global population, as well as a numbing anxiety focused on the narrow topic of the pandemic, and the easy vaccine fix proposed by governments.

The cloud of anxiety has obstructed from many the clarity that WE, as a species, face a threat much greater than a virus. How gullible many of us might be to believe that a pandemic, which so far has killed a quarter of the number of victims of the Spanish flu 100 years ago, is more of an existential threat than the unfolding climate collapse? It is pathetic and ironic for governments and their media servants to use a pandemic as a smoke screen for a much bigger problem, especially when a substantial potion of Earth is currently being consumed by fires.

Photo by Glenn Lewis

Last time I checked, 800 wild fires were burning in Italy, Turkey was scorched, the US northwest was still burning, Greece was baking with a 45 degree Celsius temperature, Siberia had been burning for months, and there were killer floods in Germany and China. Meanwhile, the so-called climate experts on mainstream media hardly connected these climate crisis events. They barely connected the dots between extreme weather events and catastrophic climate change by softly saying “isolated extreme weather events could be a manifestation of global climate change.” It shouldn’t be “could be” but are; it shouldn’t be “climate change” but climate crisis. The global fear of Covid is highly lucrative. By contrast a fear of climate collapse — or actually a recognition of its imminence — would lead people to reject the global capitalist system that is driving our species into the abyss. It would lead human societies away from consumption and toward zero-growth economies and population models that would deal capitalism a fatal blow.

Photo by Ian Sanderson

We have more or less collectively experienced, since March 2020, a life of fear and a sort of lingering collective anxiety. Fear is usually correlated with a reduction of critical thinking and greatly diminished opposition against the abuse of authority.

The protests in France show that fear can lose ground. Citizens do not have to surrender their fundamental rights of freedom and liberty to the whim of governmental authority based on semi-valid cognitive notions, or purely arbitrary ones, at times absurd, which appear to serve an agenda foreign to the common good. Popular resistance, whatever forms it may take in France and elsewhere, is always a viable option. At critical times in history it even becomes a civic duty.

The post Covid Fear Management Policies: Distractions from and Tests for Looming Climate Collapse first appeared on Dissident Voice.