Category Archives: global warming

Fracking Filthy Fuel

Burning fossil fuels is a major cause of greenhouse gas emissions (GGE), and, greenhouse gas emissions (water vapor (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O)) are the principle cause of man-made climate change. Given this fact, governments throughout the world should be moving away from fossil fuels and investing in, and designing policies that encourage development of, renewable sources of energy. But the British Conservative government, despite public opinion to the contrary, has all but banned the construction of onshore wind turbines and is encouraging fracking in England. The Tories are the only UK political party to offer support for this regressive form of energy production, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens having all promised fracking bans should they gain political office at the next general election.

Hydraulic fracking is the process of releasing gas and oil from shale rock: huge quantities of water, proppant (usually sand) and chemicals are injected at high-pressure into hydrocarbon-bearing rocks, rocks that can be up to a mile down and were once thought to be impermeable. This process of fracturing (or cracking) forces the rocks to crack open, and gas held inside is released and allowed to flow to the surface.

Shale gas is a fossil fuel, and when combusted produces GGE, albeit at around 50% less than coal or oil, but GGE nevertheless. The leading fracking company in Britain is the energy firm Cuadrilla. An organization that according to its website, aims “to be a model company for exploring and developing shale gas in the UK,” they state that they are “acutely aware of the responsibilities this brings, particularly with regard to safety, environmental protection and working with local communities.” Really?

After protests by the local community and various court cases (Lancashire County Council had refused drilling rights, but the Secretary of State ignored community voices and approved the company’s request on appeal), Cuadrilla recently commenced fracking at its Preston New Road site in Lancashire. However, as in 2011 when the company was forced to abandon drilling, work was suspended for two days out of four because of earthquakes. Tremors measured 0.5 on the Richter scale, which breached the seismic threshold established following the 2011 earth tremors. Instead of abandoning the project as the local community and environmental groups are demanding, the firm’s chief executive, Francis Egan, wants the Government to raise the threshold.

Another Regressive Step

America is home to hydraulic fracturing, where it’s been taking place for decades. Greenpeace states that as of 2012 the “fracking industry [in USA] has drilled around 1.2 million wells and is slated to add at least 35,000 new wells every year.” Fracking has led to US oil production increasing faster than anytime in its history, resulting in lower domestic gas prices. The US Energy Information Administration record that around two thirds of gas is now produced by fracking and almost half the countries crude oil.

Shale gas is spoken of as a positive alternative to coal, but it’s just another filthy fossil fuel that is adding to GGE, which in turn are driving climate change. Fracking has a substantive impact on the natural environment and the health of those living within the surrounding area. Earthquakes, air pollution, soil pollution, carcinogenic chemical leakage and contaminated groundwater are the primary risks.

An enormous amount of water, which needs to be transported to the site incurring significant environmental costs, is required in the fracking process. The amount of water used varies per well: between 1.5 and 10 million gallons is required every time a well is fractured. Greenpeace relates that, “in 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated that 70 to 140 billion gallons of water were used to fracture just 35,000 wells in the United States.” The water is mixed with various chemicals to make fracking fluid, a toxic cocktail that can be further contaminated by “heavy metals and radioactive elements that exist naturally in the shale.” A significant portion of the frack fluid returns to the surface “where it can spill or be dumped into rivers and streams…fracking fluids and waste have made their way into our drinking water and aquifers. Groundwater can be contaminated through fracking fluid and methane leakage and the energy companies have “no idea what to do with the massive amount of contaminated water it’s creating,”

In addition to water and soil pollution, fracking adds to existing levels of air pollution as methane gas is released into the atmosphere through leaks and venting. A study conducted by Cornell University found that “over a well’s lifetime, 3.6 to 7.9 percent of methane gas escapes” in this way. Unlike CO2, which sits in the atmosphere for centuries or millennia, methane only lasts for decades, but the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change asserts that it warms the planet by 86 times as much as CO2 before then degrading to become CO2.

Many countries recognize the retrogressive nature of fracking and have passed legislative bans or moratoriums; England is the only country within the UK where it is currently allowed. More than 100 fracking licenses have been awarded by the government, but in order to start fracking they need permission from the local council. Fracking is universally unpopular amongst the communities where sites are located or proposed; on 13th October the Gasdown-Frackdown action saw thousands of people from six continents take to the streets demanding an end to fracking and calling for long-term investment in renewable sources of energy. Fracking is not an environmentally sane way to meet the energy needs of a country. It is part of the problem not the solution and it should be rejected totally. What is required is a global energy strategy rooted in environmental sustainability. As Friends of the Earth rightly say, “a 21st Century energy revolution based on efficiency and renewables, not more fossil fuels that will add to climate change.”

Collapsing Rain Forest Ecosystems

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences recently issued a report on the status of arthropods in rain forests (Bradford C. Lister and Andres Garcia, Climate-Driven Declines in Arthropod Abundance Restructure a Rainforest Food Web, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2018.

The report’s shocking analysis discovered a collapsing food web in tropical rainforests. Oh please! Can ecological news get any worse than this?

Biologists Brad Lister and Andres Garcia of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México returned to Puerto Rico’s Luquillo Rain Forest after 40 years, and what they found blew them away. Abundance of insects, and arthropods in general, declined by as much as 60-fold and average temps had risen by 2°C over the past four decades. According to the scientists, global warming is impacting the rain forest with distinctive gusto.

According to Lister:

It was just a collapse in the insect community. A really dramatic change… The insect populations in the Luquillo forest are crashing.1

It doesn’t get much worse than “crashing” of ecosystem support systems; i.e., insects and arthropods in general, which are in the phylum Euarthropoda, inclusive of insects, arachnids, myriapods, and crustaceans. This equates to a loss of basic structures of biosphere life forces.

The research team believes they are already seeing today what the recent IPCC report predicted for climate change in 2040. In their words: “It’s a harbinger of a global unraveling of natural systems.”

The central question addressed by our research is why simultaneous, long-term declines in arthropods, lizards, frogs, and birds have occurred over the past four decades in the relatively undisturbed rainforests of northeastern Puerto Rico. Our analyses provide strong support for the hypothesis that climate warming has been a major factor driving reductions in arthropod abundance, and that these declines have in turn precipitated decreases in forest insectivores in a classic bottom-up cascade.2

Lister and Garcia also compared insect abundance studies conducted in the Chamela-Cuixmala Biosphere Reserve in western Mexico in 1980 to the year 2014, finding temps increased 2.4°C and biomass of insects, and arthropods in general, declined 8-fold.

Their report prompts all kinds of questions about the health and stability of the world’s ecosystems. For one, tropical rain forests are the final frontier of pristine wilderness in the world. People do not live there and other than scientists, few people visit.

Therefore, if arthropods or invertebrate animals like insects and spiders are crashing in abundance, then something is horribly amiss. After all, the Luquillo is a protected rain forest, but alas, that doesn’t prevent the impact of global warming, which is on the rise in the tropics.

According to the scientists:

Our results suggest that the effects of climate warming in tropical forests may be even greater than anticipated.3

Already, it was reported back in March of 2018 that insect losses of 40% up to 80% were happening around the world outside of and beyond tropical rain forests.4

Now, it appears that insect loss is truly global, not missing a corner of the planet. It’s everywhere.  That’s worse than bad news; it’s dreadful. It’s indicative of a living planet in its early stages of dying throes but still hanging in there. Nobody knows for how much longer.

The big question is: What are the consequences of loss of large portions of insect life? Answer: All living things in the food chain above insects also decrease in abundance or in plain English, they die; e.g., frogs, lizards, and birds and ultimately Homo sapiens, assuming ecosystems eventually crumble.

Significantly, insects are the primary source for ecosystem creation and support. The world literally disintegrates without mischievous burrowing, forming new soil, aerating soil, pollinating food crops, etc. Nutrition for humans happens because insects pollinate.

After all, 97% of the Animal Kingdom consists of invertebrates such as insects, crabs, lobsters, clams, octopuses, jellyfish, and worms.  Meanwhile, insects of the world are getting the ole one-two punch as global warming hits the tropical rain forests whilst excessive use of chemicals hits broad-reaching continents everywhere.

The underlying message is that the world’s ecosystems are under tremendous stress from aberrant forces such as (1) out of ordinary temperature rises, aka global warming, and (2) toxic chemicals.

Industrial toxins are now routinely found in new-born babies, in mother’s milk, in the food chain, in domestic drinking water, in deep-water squid, at Mt. Everest’s base camp, in fact, worldwide… Humans emit more than 250 billion tonnes of chemical substances a year, in a toxic avalanche that is harming people and life everywhere on the planet.5

Here’s an excellent video about the insect dilemma on YouTube by Ben Guarino of the Washington Post:

Postscript:

NOAA has issued a warning as of 10-25-2018 that the entire Great Barrier Reef from November 2018 to February 2019 is at heightened risk of massive bleaching and coral death because of heat stress. If the models prove accurate, it would mean the entire Great Barrier Reef would be damaged by climate change and coral populations would trend towards very low levels, affecting the reef’s tourism and fishing industries and the employment they support. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recent 1.5C report warned coral reefs were especially vulnerable to climate change. At even 1.5C of warming it estimated the planet would lose 80% of its coral reefs. At 2C they would all be wiped out.

  1. Climate-Driven Crash in a Rainforest Food Web, Every Day Matters, October 22, 2018.
  2. Brad Lister.
  3. Mountain Research Initiative.
  4. Robert Hunziker. “Insect Decimation Upstages Global Warming“, Dissident Voice, March 27, 2018.
  5. “Scientist Categorize Earth as a Toxic Planet”, Phys Org, February 7th 2017.

The Apocalypse Not Now

It was balmy and breezy by the bench where I sat outside a public library east of Atlanta, Georgia, brooding about the state of the world.  It seemed like the end times, and I had just attended a fire and brimstone sermon, not perused the mainstream and alternative press. I had just spent a few hours on the internet, noting so many articles that announced that the world as we know it was coming to an end, or maybe just the world.  The American Empire was collapsing, the U.S.A. was a failed state, climate change would soon destroy the world if nuclear war didn’t do it first, etc.  Many of these articles were predicting that soon the elites who run the U.S. would be getting their comeuppance because of hubris and overreach and, like the Roman Empire, the die had been cast and disaster was on the horizon.  Such prognostications were appearing in publications that covered the political spectrum.  All of it was fear-inducing, notwithstanding one’s political beliefs.  Left, right, and center had reasons to be depressed or elated by the claims, depending on one’s politics and existential reality.  And, need I surmise, the writers of these jeremiads were probably writing from a position of personal privilege, not scrounging for their next meal.

And it was a beautiful mid-October day.  The benches by the adjacent church were full of homeless people, their meagre belongings arrayed at their feet.  The susurrant sound of the leaves of the sycamore tree that formed a sacred canopy above me was lulling me to sleep.  In my half-asleep state, I, a northerner, was dreaming I was a Georgian civilian hiding behind the enemy’s lines, those lines being General Sherman’s Union Army’s artillery that was arrayed a few miles to my west and was shelling Atlanta.  And in this reverie I was also aware that, as I wouldn’t have been in 1864, that Sherman would soon leave Atlanta and lead his troops on the savage “march to the sea” that would earn him the appellation as the American father of total warfare that would become America’s tactic from World War I until the present day, a form of warfare that has brought apocalyptic death and destruction to millions around the globe.  Lost and frightened in this half-dreaming state with my eyes closed, I was startled by a thud and dim awareness of a shadow to my left.

Awakening, I saw that a homeless man had sat next to me. We said hello.  “Sorry to give you a fright,” he said, “but all the benches by the church are taken.”  We got to talking.  He told me that he had been homeless for almost two years, that he had originally been from Indiana, where he had graduated from the University of Indiana, and that when he was laid off he was unable to pay his mortgage and had lost his small house.  He looked to be in his late thirties, with a scruffy beard and a very tired face.  His name was Paul.

Among his tattered belongings, I was surprised to see an old paperback copy of a book sticking out of a side pocket of one of his bags.  I knew the title – Raids on the Unspeakable – by the anti-war Trappist monk, Thomas Merton, who died in a very mysterious manner in Bangkok, Thailand fifty years ago this December 10.  Merton’s death was the third that year of prominent and influential anti-war fighters:  Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy having earlier been assassinated by forces of the American national security state.  Nineteen sixty-eight had been a very bad year for peace and peace-makers.  It was a year of endless war and strife, a time when everything seemed to be collapsing.  And here we are.

Paul told me he had picked the book out of a box of books that had been set out for garbage pickup.  He said he had read a few of the essays and one in particular had struck him.  It is called “Rain and the Rhinoceros.”  I knew and loved the essay and was startled by the serendipity of our meeting.  He said the reason the essay struck home to him was because he had grown up on a farm in Indiana and had spent much of his youth outdoors.  He loved the natural world, and his mother and grandmother had early introduced him to the “Hoosier Poet,” James Whitcomb Reilly, whose poems he had memorized.  He proceeded to recite a stanza from one of them for me, as I, mesmerized, watched his expressive face light up.

Oh! the old swimmin’-hole! When I last saw the place,
The scenes was all changed, like the change in my face;
The bridge of the railroad now crosses the spot
Whare the old divin’-log lays sunk and fergot.
And I stray down the banks whare the trees ust to be—
But never again will theyr shade shelter me!
And I wish in my sorrow I could strip to the soul,
And dive off in my grave like the old swimmin’-hole.

Then his face grew dark again, tired and forlorn.  He said that when he lost his home, the last piece of mail he opened was his water bill, and it was sky high.  He thought it appropriate that since he couldn’t afford a home, he couldn’t afford water, the water of life that should be free.  And that’s what so resonated for him in the Merton essay.  Merton’s opening paragraph, which he opened to show me, goes like this:

Let me say this before rain becomes a utility that they can plan and distribute for money. By “they” I mean the people who cannot understand that rain is a festival, who do not appreciate its gratuity, who think that what has no price has no value, that what cannot be sold is not real, so that the only way to make something actual is to place it on the market. The time will come when they will sell you even your rain. At the moment it is still free, and I am in it. I celebrate its gratuity and its meaninglessness.

“When they will sell you even your rain,” he said sadly.  “They sold me a bill of goods.  The American dream!  What a bad joke, here I am, a college graduate, not a drunk or drug addict, and I’m living in a tent in the woods in a ravine by a golf course.  Some nights I think they make it rain on me for fun, as if to say: here’s your free water, you loser.”

He asked about me, and I told him who I was and why I was there.  I mentioned the end-of-the-world articles I had been reading earlier, realizing as I did that I was saying a dumb thing to this this poor guy whose world was in tatters already.

Then he taught me this, as if he were Socrates asking questions.  I paraphrase:

If you were Merton’s “they,” those who rule the American Empire and your oppressed subjects were restless and awakening to their plight, what message would you want to convey to keep the peons from rebelling?  What strategies, short of direct violence, would be most effective in rendering even the relatively well-off middle class passive and docile?  What, in other words, is the most effective form of social control, outside economic exploitation and fear of penury, in a putative democracy when all the controlling institutions have lost the trust of most of the population?

Then, without skipping a beat, he answered his own questions.  You would, he said, tell them that the sky is falling, the empire is collapsing, that the rich rulers are going to get theirs when the system collapses on itself and that this is in the process of happening right now.  So sit back and watch the show as it closes down.  The end is near.

Then he said he had to go.  Lunch was being served at the nearby soup kitchen and if you didn’t get there early, they sometimes ran out of food.

As he walked away, I thought of my vast ignorance and the society of illusions and delusions that I was living in, a constant streaming theater of the absurd.  I wanted to cry for this man and all people, even myself, as he disappeared around the corner.  He seemed to carry his loneliness in the old backpack that weighed him down.  As he turned the corner, he looked back and waved, a smile on his face.  I felt overcome, and when I recovered my bearings, I noticed he had left the book on the bench.  But by then he was long gone.  I opened it to a page that was dog-eared, and read these words of Merton, another solitary man in the woods, his solitude a choice, not, like Paul, an imposed necessity, at least the living arrangement part:

It is in the desert of loneliness and emptiness that the fear of death and the need for self-affirmation are seen to be illusory. When this is faced, then anguish is not necessarily overcome, but it can be accepted and understood. Thus, in the heart of anguish are found the gifts of peace and understanding: not simply in personal illumination and liberation, but by commitment and empathy, for the contemplative must assume the universal anguish and the inescapable condition of mortal man. The solitary, far from enclosing himself in himself, becomes every man. He dwells in the solitude, the poverty, the indigence of every man.

Next to this paragraph was the word “Paul,” written in blue ink.

It was such an achingly beautiful day.  I got up and left the book on the bench, as I too walked away, after writing “Ed” in black ink next to Paul’s blue.

We are all bruised, aren’t we?  But often times those bruised the most have the most to give.

This is Paul’s gift.

The Great Drought

The most hazardous global warming risk for society at large is widespread loss of grain production because of a synchronized worldwide drought. It would be a colossal killer. It’s happened before, known as The Great Drought 142 years ago.

Unmistakably, droughts feed off global warming and world temps are heading up, not down. Thus, droughts are intensified by temperature increases. If the same conditions as the drought of 1876 recurs, it would likely be a nightmarish scenario.

Fortuitously, ever since The Great Drought of 142 years ago, droughts have been regional; e.g., when Russia experienced wheat shortages in 2011 as a result of extreme drought, which led to the Arab Spring, other countries like Brazil and the U.S. picked up the slack. The world continued spinning!

But, what if a severe drought hits the planet once again on a global basis like The Great Drought of the late 19th century? Then, what happens?

World population was only 1.4 billion when The Great Drought of 1876-78 killed 5.5 million in India alone, 50 million worldwide, but today’s world population is 4.5xs larger. Does this mean that global famine redux would bring in its wake 225 million deaths, or more?1

Answer: First, hit the big red button that bonks the clarion bell in the public square to awaken people to the fact that the human footprint, in part and increasingly, negatively influences climate change for the first time since Adam and Eve. Given enough time, anthropogenic global warming itself will hit the drought hot-stuff button. That’s one reason for nations of the world to commit to omitting fossil fuels, which emit CO2, which blankets the upper atmosphere, retaining way too much heat. It’s called “global warming.”

The Great Drought of 1876-78 has been thoroughly studied for the first time ever by Deepti Singh, et al, “Climate and the Global Famine of 1876-78, Journal of Climate, 2018.

The Great Drought and Global Famine of 1876 originated from natural variability or nature taking its own course. Hands down, it remains to this day one of the worst human disasters of all time with 50,000,000 dead. Killed by the forces of nature alone!

Singh’s study is the first-ever global-scale analysis of climatic conditions of 1876 utilizing multiple sources of data, including rain gauges and tree-ring drought atlases that go back in time 800 years, as well as multiple data-sets of past climatic conditions.

Based upon the facts as presented by their comprehensive study, a recurrence of The Great Drought initiated by natural variability as prompted via an El Niño event in 1876-78 in today’s world would likely turn into an ultra nasty turbo-charged affaire, as anthropogenic global warming jump starts drought into a hyper-speed mode.

Recall, anthropogenic global warming was minimal in 1876. Whereas today’s rampant anthropogenic effect superimposed on a repeat of 1876 drought conditions is a disaster waiting to happen, as bad as it gets.

The Great Drought of the 19th century extended from Egypt to Australia, southwestern and eastern North America, Brazil, India, and China with Asia’s drought the worst in 800 years. In a word, it was worldwide. And, it was enormously deadly.

Understanding the drought’s driving forces is important, says Singh, since they could strike again at any time—perhaps worse than ever, since hotter temperatures make droughts more intense.2

Already, drought conditions around the world are starting to resemble something much more perilous than the regional drought events over the past century, which have always been offset by other crop-growing regions not in drought, to wit:

According to Drought.gov, as of October 16, 2018, in the United States, drought conditions currently impact 46 million people and 20% of the land area. One-half of the impacted people live in California, which also happens to be the nation’s largest producer of nuts, vegetables, and fruit.

The entire Southwest is suffering from aberrant drought conditions, meaning severe drought, adversely impacting the Colorado River Basin, key to major population centers, as well as irrigation for crops that feed America. As a result, it’s possible that Phoenix may be forced to ration water sometime in the near future. Colorado River flow is down 40%.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, as of August 2018, the Lake Mead reservoir is only “5 feet above the shortage threshold.” Five feet lower and cutbacks will be necessitated by 2020 (If this one fact alone doesn’t cause Bureau officials to shake in their boots, then nothing will).

The snow that falls in the Rocky Mountains provides the majority of the water for the Colorado River. But, warming temperatures, altered hydrology patterns, misuse, and drought have diminished the water source. This is one prime example of global warming at work.

Argentina, one of the world’s top exporters of soy and corn, experienced its worst drought in decades in early/mid 2018 accompanied by steep decline in exports of grains hammering its economy as losses in grain exports amount to $3.4B. But, as of October ‘18, it’s anticipated grain crops will rebound.3

The 2015 Brazilian drought is still ongoing and considered the worst in 80 years, causing sporadic water cutoffs to residents of São Paulo (pop. 32 million), another scenario that “shakes officials down to their boots.”

Most shocking of all, the Amazon Rainforest has experienced three 100-yr droughts in the space of just 10 years! That’s mind-boggling beyond all belief, never happened before, and seriously disruptive to hydrology flow throughout the world, which negatively impacts precipitation patterns as far away as America’s grain belt. Another “shake down to their boots” scenario.

The European Association of Fruit and Vegetable Processors claim growing conditions in early/mid 2018 were the most challenging in 40 years because of drought conditions. Some vegetable products were hit by 50% drop-offs.4

Headlines throughout Europe mid 2018 claimed crop failures threatened farmers with bankruptcy with states of emergency declared in Latvia and Lithuania.  Severe crop failures experienced in Sweden. Similar problems occurred in the Netherlands, Poland, Belarus and the Czech Republic.

In the Far East, Inner Mongolia’s northeastern and eastern areas suffered its worst drought on record as 120,000 people and 500,000 livestock were clobbered by severe water shortages. Temps registered 1°C (1.8 °F) higher than the same period in years past; thus, drying out ground moisture.5

In Afghanistan, 23-30% of water sources have gone dry, completely gone! No more water! Malnutrition is rampant across the county, thereby impacting 1.6 million children. The government has established drought emergency forces. Entire communities have relocated. These are “eco migrants,” a term that’s destined to achieve universal usage over time.6

In Australia 30,000 Muslim worshippers came together for Eid al-Adha in harmony with farmers to pray for an end to what’s being called “the worst drought in living memory.” PM Turnbull declared the entire country “a land of drought.”7

According to the UN, because of severe drought, about five million people in northern Senegal, southern Mauritania and parts of Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad, will require food and livelihood assistance, after having exhausted their food reserves.

Overall, drought conditions across the world are greater than the 1901-2017 average, meaning more land mass than normal subject to droughts. However, and thankfully, conditions are not at extreme critical levels… not yet!

According to David Miskus, drought expert for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), more than lack of precipitation and high temps influence droughts. Droughts are amplified by overuse and overpopulation of land.

In that regard, ever since The Great Drought of 1876, landmass is being overused and overpopulated to an extreme, bringing in its wake considerably higher risks of deepening worldwide droughts. As global warming heats up year-by-year, it’s only a matter of time before large portions of the planet become drought impaired, morphing into the dreaded super drought.

All-in, global warming is an enormously risky anthropogenic event that must be confronted by well-grounded, serious-minded leadership behind a Marshall Plan-type effort to go to renewable energy sources. Otherwise, at some point in time it will be lights out for sufficient agricultural crop production.

But ill-advised and shortsighted leadership in America, which is the second largest CO2 emitter in the world, doesn’t see it that way. Ergo, America’s a bigger threat to world stability than the combined forces of worldwide terrorists groups. Hands down, it’s no contest.

Postscript:

God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools.

— John Muir (1838-1914), Father of the National Parks.

  1. “Researchers Say an 1800s Global Famine Could Happen Again”, State of the Planet, Earth Institute/Columbia University, October 12, 2018.
  2. “Causes of the Great Famine, One of the Deadliest Environmental Disasters”, American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, 12-15-17, Earth Institute, Columbia University.
  3. TheWatchers.news, September 2018.
  4. TheWatchers.news, August 8, 2018.
  5. TheWatchers.news, June 28, 2018.
  6. TheWatchers.news, April 2018.
  7. BBC news, August 2018.

The Importance of Alternative Media

Social critic Neil Postman contrasted the futures predicted in Nineteen Eighty-Four and Brave New World in the foreword of his 1985 book Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in an Age of Show Business (1985). He wrote:

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egotism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.

Neil Postman’s book had its origins at the Frankfurt Book Fair, where he was invited to join a panel discussing George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Postman said that our present situation was better predicted by Huxley’s Brave New World. Today, he maintained it is not fear that bars us from truth. Instead, truth is drowned in distractions and the pursuit of pleasure, by the public’s addiction to amusement.

Postman sees television as the modern equivalent of Huxley’s pleasure-inducing drug, Soma, and he maintains that television, as a medium, is intrinsically superficial and unable to discuss serious issues. Looking at television as it is today, one must agree with him.

The wealth and power of the establishment

The media are a battleground where reformers struggle for attention, but are defeated with great regularity by the wealth and power of the establishment. This is a tragedy because today there is an urgent need to make public opinion aware of the serious problems facing civilization, and the steps that are needed to solve these problems. The mass media could potentially be a great force for public education, but in general their role is not only unhelpful – it is often negative. War and conflict are blatantly advertised by television and newspapers.

Newspapers and war

There is a true story about the powerful newspaper owner William Randolph Hearst that illustrates the relationship between the mass media and the institution of war: When an explosion sank the American warship USS Maine in the harbor of Havana, Hearst anticipated (and desired) that the incident would lead to war between the United States and Spain. He therefore sent his best illustrator, Fredrick Remington, to Havana to produce drawings of the scene. After a few days in Havana, Remington cabled to Hearst, “All’s quiet here. There will be no war.” Hearst cabled back, “You supply the pictures. I’ll supply the war.” Hearst was true to his words. His newspapers inflamed American public opinion to such an extent that the Spanish-American War became inevitable. During the course of the war, Hearst sold many newspapers, and Remington many drawings. From this story one might almost conclude that newspapers thrive on war, while war thrives on newspapers.

Before the advent of widely-read newspapers, European wars tended to be fought by mercenary soldiers, recruited from the lowest ranks of society, and motivated by financial considerations. The emotions of the population were not aroused by such limited and decorous wars. However, the French Revolution and the power of newspapers changed this situation, and war became a total phenomenon that involved emotions. The media were able to mobilize on a huge scale the communal defense mechanism that Konrad Lorenz called “militant enthusiasm” – self-sacrifice for the defense of the tribe. It did not escape the notice of politicians that control of the media is the key to political power in the modern world. For example, Hitler was extremely conscious of the force of propaganda, and it became one of his favorite instruments for exerting power.

With the advent of radio and television, the influence of the mass media became still greater. Today, state-controlled or money-controlled newspapers, radio and television are widely used by the power elite to manipulate public opinion. This is true in most countries of the world, even in those that pride themselves on allowing freedom of speech. For example, during the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the official version of events was broadcast by CNN, and criticism of the invasion was almost absent from their transmissions

The mass media and our present crisis

Today we are faced with the task of creating a new global ethic in which loyalty to family, religion and nation will be supplemented by a higher loyalty to humanity as a whole. In case of conflicts, loyalty to humanity as a whole must take precedence. In addition, our present culture of violence must be replaced by a culture of peace. To achieve these essential goals, we urgently need the cooperation of the mass media.

The predicament of humanity today has been called “a race between education and catastrophe”. Human emotions have not changed much during the last 40,000 years. Human nature still contains an element of tribalism to which nationalistic politicians successfully appeal. The completely sovereign nation-state is still the basis of our global political system. The danger in this situation is due to the fact that modern science has given the human race incredibly destructive weapons. Because of these weapons, the tribal tendencies in human nature and the politically fragmented structure of our world have both become dangerous anachronisms.

We have to learn to think in a new way. Will we learn this in time to prevent disaster? When we consider the almost miraculous power of our modern electronic media, we can be optimistic. Cannot our marvelous global communication network be used to change anachronistic ways of thought and anachronistic social and political institutions in time, so that the system will not self-destruct as science and technology revolutionize our world? If they were properly used, our instantaneous global communications could give us hope.

The success of our species is built on cultural evolution, the central element of which is cooperation. Thus human nature has two sides, tribal emotions are present, but they are balanced by the human genius for cooperation. The case of Scandinavia – once war-torn, now cooperative – shows that education is able to bring out either the kind and cooperative side of human nature, or the xenophobic and violent side. Which of these shall it be? It is up to our educational systems to decide, and the mass media are an extremely important part of education. Hence the great responsibility that is now in the hands of the media.

How do the mass media fulfill this life-or-death responsibility? Do they give us insight? No, they give us pop music. Do they give us an understanding of the sweep of evolution and history? No, they give us sport. Do they give us an understanding of need for strengthening the United Nations, and the ways that it could be strengthened? No, they give us sit-coms and soap operas. Do they give us unbiased news? No, they give us news that has been edited to conform with the interests of the military-industrial complex and other powerful lobbies. Do they present us with the need for a just system of international law that acts on individuals? On the whole, the subject is neglected. Do they tell of the essentially genocidal nature of nuclear weapons, and the urgent need for their complete abolition? No, they give us programs about gardening and making food.

A consumer who subscribes to the “package” of broadcasts sold by a cable company can often search through all 100 or so channels without finding a single program that offers insight into the various problems that are facing the world today. What the viewer finds instead is a mixture of pro-establishment propaganda and entertainment. Meanwhile the neglected global problems are becoming progressively more severe. In general, the mass media behave as though their role is to prevent the peoples of the world from joining hands and working to change the world and to save it from thermonuclear and environmental catastrophes. The television viewer sits slumped in a chair, passive, isolated, disempowered and stupefied. The future of the world hangs in the balance, the fate of children and grandchildren hang in the balance, but the television viewer feels no impulse to work actively to change the world or to save it. The Roman emperors gave their people bread and circuses to numb them into political inactivity. The modern mass media seem to be playing a similar role.

Our duty to future generations

The future of human civilization is endangered both by the threat of thermonuclear war and by the threat of catastrophic climate change. It is not only humans that are threatened, but also the other organisms with which we share the gift of life. We must also consider the threat of a global famine of extremely large proportions, when the end of the fossil fuel era, combined with the effects of climate change, reduce our ability to support a growing global population.

We live at a critical moment of history. Our duty to future generations is clear: We must achieve a steady-state economic system. We must restore democracy in our own countries when it has been replaced by oligarchy. We must decrease economic inequality both between nations and within nations. We must break the power of corporate greed. We must leave fossil fuels in the ground. We must stabilize and ultimately reduce the global population. We must eliminate the institution of war; and we must develop new ethics to match our advanced technology, ethics in which narrow selfishness, short-sightedness and nationalism will be replaced by loyalty to humanity as a whole, combined with respect for nature.

Inaction is not an option. We have to act with courage and dedication, even if the odds are against success, because the stakes are so high.

The mass media could mobilize us to action, but they have failed in their duty.

Our educational systems could also wake us up and make us act, but they too have failed us. The battle to save the earth from human greed and folly has to be fought in the alternative media.

The alternative media, and all who work with them, deserve both our gratitude and our financial support. They alone can correct the distorted and incomplete picture of the world that we obtain from the mass media. They alone can show us the path to a future in which our children, grandchildren, and all future generations can survive.

Author’s Note:

• A book discussing the importance of alternative media can be freely downloaded and circulated from this address:

• More freely downloadable books and articles on other global problems can be found here.

“Reality Will Come Crashing Home”

Last night’s (October 23, 2013) Frontline program, on PBS—“The Pension Gamble”—featured David Sirota (author of the 2013 article, “The Plot Against Pensions”).1 The program focused on the bad shape that many pension programs for public employees specifically are in, with Kentucky’s case being the worst example.  Toward the end of the program, Kentucky Governor Matthew Bevin was quoted thusly:

The next governor, regardless of who they are or what ideology they represent, it won’t matter what lie they give. Reality will come crashing home.

From what I had learned, while watching the program, I had to agree with him.  However, it occurred to me that while many public employees are rightfully concerned about their pensions, there’s a problem that’s far more important than pensions—a problem that’s faced not only by public employees in the United States, but all humans.

A problem, though, regarding which few in our society are fully aware, because of “media silence” about it, and even “global warming denialism” in our media!   That article begins this way:

Emperor Nero may (or may not) have fiddled while Rome burned, but commercial U.S. TV networks definitely fiddled last year [2016] on climate coverage while the Earth grew dangerously hot.

An annual climate report issued this month by the World Meteorological Organization confirms that average global temperatures and global sea levels continued their inexorable rise in 2016, setting new records. Global sea ice dropped to an “unprecedented” extent.  Extreme weather conditions, probably aggravated by climate disruption, displaced hundreds of thousands of people, left millions hungry, and caused “severe economic damage.”

Yet in the midst of such frightening changes, and a national presidential campaign with enormous consequences for U.S. climate policy, the four major broadcast networks — ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox News Sunday — significantly decreased their coverage of climate issues on evening and Sunday news programs, according to a new analysis by Media Matters. Television programs like these are the major source of news for 57 percent of adult Americans.

It’s probably partially because of that lack of media coverage that many in our society fail to discuss it.  That failure has been noted by scholars at Yale University, which has established a Program on Climate Change Communication, and this article, posted in 2016, asks this question:  “Is There a Climate ‘Spiral of Silence’ in America?”  The article begins this way:

Our surveys have repeatedly shown that most Americans are interested in the issue of global warming and consider it personally important. Our studies, however, have also shown that for most Americans, climate change is not a common topic of conversation or something they hear about much in their daily lives. This suggests that there is a climate change “spiral of silence”, in which even people who care about the issue, shy away from discussing it because they so infrequently hear other people talking about it – reinforcing the spiral.

It’s been suggested that people don’t discuss global warming not only (a) because of a lack of knowledge (resulting from “media silence” about it), and (b) the fact that “they so infrequently hear other people talking about it,” but that (c) there are psychological reasons as well.  As Dr. John Fraser has said:

I think there’s been a lot of conversation about how people understand the facts of climate change, but very little about how we process it in our minds and that is really going to be key to any kind of future change and that’s where psychologists can be really useful.

The problem that I see, however, is corporate control of the media.  This report by the Union of Concerned Scientists state; e.g., that (p. 2):

Some companies, as shown in this study, have created confusion in the conversation on climate change by taking contradictory actions across different venues.  Even while cultivating a climate-concerned image in more public settings, these corporations have sown doubt about climate science both directly (such as by challenging climate science in government filings) and indirectly (e.g., by supporting politicians, trade groups, and think tanks that misrepresent the scientific consensus on climate change and oppose action to address it). This powerful subset of companies has been tremendously influential in dictating how the public understands (or misunderstands) climate science and how the national discussion on climate policy has progressed—or not progressed.

Given that those who manage/own corporations will be affected by global warming, like the rest of us, it is utterly irrational of these individuals to be “deniers”!  And someone probably has a sound explanation for their denialism.  If that’s the case, it’s of no value, however, given this recent statement by António Guterres, the United Nations secretary general who told global leaders this week that the world has less than two years to avoid “runaway climate change.”

If we do not change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change,” Guterres said during a speech at the U.N. headquarters in New York.

Climate change is the defining issue of our time, and we are at a defining moment,” he said.  “Scientists have been telling us for decades.  Over and over again.  Far too many leaders have refused to listen.

“Runaway” is something to be taken seriously!  As this article states:

Runaway climate change or runaway global warming is hypothesized to follow a tipping point in the climate system, after accumulated climate change initiates a reinforcing positive feedback. This rapid acceleration in climate change may lead to potentially irreversible damage to the climate system, making timely mitigation efforts unfeasible. This is thought to cause the climate to rapidly change until it reaches a new stable condition.

In other words, “reality will come crashing home”!  For:

(a) The “road” to the “new stable condition” is likely to be a rough one!

(b) It’s entirely conceivable that that “new stable condition” will be one that is such that Earth System will no longer be able to support human life! May, in fact, not be able to support life, per se!

Is there still time to prevent this?  That seems highly doubtful!

  1. Here’s a transcript of the program.

The Inner Dimensions of Socialist Revolution

The social revolution has to precede the political revolution. Personal self-realization has to precede the social revolution.

Achieving social change in America through political change – legislatively – as, for example, with the Civil Rights legislation of 1964 to 1968, is too slow a process today for overturning American capitalism to American socialism in time to effectively respond to climate change and global environmental degradation, by shifting American civilian energy production from fossil and nuclear fuels to solar, wind and geothermal sources, and ocean-wave-and-tidal and river hydroelectric sources, accompanied by a wide spectrum of energy conservation strategies and materials recycling and reprocessing methods, instead of indiscriminate and polluting waste disposal.

In fact, the political path to social change may be completely plugged shut today, with the fanatical obstructionism by capital interests who collectively own America’s two major political parties, and whose various outmoded environmentally catastrophic schemes of wealth generation are fossilized in place within an overarching 19th century paradigm of CO2-producing industrialization and labor exploitation, directed by frantic casino-style banking and financial speculation.

So, the timely development of a popular, scientific and effective national response to counteract the global geophysical crisis we call “climate change” must occur outside the arcane political machinery of our money-corrupted representative democracy. Basically, “the people” would have to independently develop a sense of national solidarity, overcoming all regionalisms and bigotries, and independently get organized to shift the ways they live and the ways they earn their keep, from a reliance on “black” versus “green” energy, and from a reliance on adversarial-capitalist economics versus cooperative-socialist economics. Given such a social revolution, it would then be possible to mount a massive campaign to counter climate change.

But, is such a social revolution possible? Can a majority of the national population actually free itself from the many shackles, control methods and seductions of corporate capitalism, by willfully bonding into one massive mutually tolerant and mutually helping cooperative, independent of the existing government: into a self-directed revolutionary socialism? This would require an incredible unanimity of vision and an amazing degree of commitment and discipline among hundreds of millions of people, to independently coalesce into a self-sustaining socialized mass able to overcome the opposition of the intransigent corporate capitalist establishment.

Any clear-thinking person will see that the idea of a spontaneous eruption of popular revolutionary socialism that independently counteracts climate change is impossible, and by chained logic such a clear-thinking person will also realize that we humans will never counteract climate change but instead will be plowed under by it, like the terrain downhill from an advancing glacier, because we are so inattentively self-absorbed and fatally wedded to the preservation of our inequitable and dysfunctional capitalism.

So, is the most intelligent tack then to stop agonizing over climate change and give up wasting time and energy in doomed attempts to put off the geophysical inevitable? Should we all just become Trumps and luxuriate carefree in capitalist mud-wallows for as long as they are available? Why bother trying to change the unchangeable?, sacrificing the good times of today for a restrictive future that will never occur anyway? Why not just keep grabbing for the money and enjoy doing that like we always have?

My answer is: half a loaf is better than none. Even if climate change is an implacable civilization-ending geophysical tsunami, I think we all would have a relatively better collective life for the duration of our species if we could develop even a scattering of minor uncoordinated popular socialist initiatives – anti-capitalist and anti-militarist – that directly confront specific aspects of the multi-faceted colossus of climate change and its social disruptions. These initiatives would include the election into public office of ecological-socialist candidates, like today’s young, enthusiastic Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), even if in small numbers. Why? Because any political efforts by eco-socialist officeholders that reach the public as actionable realities will benefit some fraction of the population, since such efforts would either ameliorate, blunt or end specific sociopathologies of our pure id capitalism.

Why give in to despair, dejection and acquiescence to a capitalist climapocalypse? Why not actualize through our own individual living presences the attitudes and one-to-one human connections that inject intelligent compassion and fulfilling artistry into the society around us, and in that way we become focal points of the socialist revolution we can imagine? How do you think a politically successful socialist revolution could be formed in the first place, if not by the weaving together of masses of one-to-one personal relationships of such self-realized individuals into a vast societal network?

Ultimately, it is not about “being saved” by external agents, like “good politicians” and “good laws” and “good governments,” from victimization by looming climate change disasters; it is about transcending who we are as merely passive fearfully insular consumers, and realizing that we are each, literally, individual expressions of the cosmos, and then operating out of that realization with a self-directed living-out of our socialist visions. Such living is the best that we humans can do, both individually and as socialized clusters, regardless of whether we are eventually plowed under by climapocalypse, or completely overcome it.

As an individual biological organism, you incorporate the formation of the cosmos within you as the subatomic particles, which first erupted out of the Big Bang, that are within the atoms of your materiality. Those atoms are almost entirely empty space, their nuclei (which are clusters of protons and neutrons) occupy only between 10^-14 to 10^-12 of the volume of the atom; that is to say 1 part in a hundred trillion, to 1 part in a trillion of the otherwise empty volume of the atom. The extent of that atomic space is defined by the electrical fields that transmit the forces connecting the nucleus to the point particle electrons flickering (“orbiting”) about it. These atoms are in turn clustered in simple molecules, like water (H2O), oxygen (O2), nitrogen (N2) and glucose (C6H12O6), and in massive and complex molecules like DNA. But even so, our personal matter is made of pinpoints of atomic grit suspended in empty space and meshed together by forces communicated across electrical links called chemical bonds. When you press your palm on a tabletop and feel the firm resistance of that structure, you are actually experiencing a force of electrical repulsion between the electro-chemical integrity of the mostly empty space tabletop, and the electro-chemical integrity of the mostly empty space you! Imagine such an atomic-molecular “net of gems” – as the ancient Buddhists called “the interdependence of all things” – as a metaphor for the revolutionary socialist net-of-gems network we would like to weave ourselves into, and to have a transformative effect on our political economy.

The “chemical bonds” of our wished-for socialist revolution are the one-to-one personal connections we “atoms” of that network fling out like spider silk to weave our self-realized selves into that net of gems. What matters is the sympathy of vision, and the moral character and personal integrity of the people we seek connection with. What does not matter are superficial attributes like their ethnicity, their physical characteristics, their birth language, their “style,” their default and unthinking microscopically sectarian political alignments (please!, forget about these uselessly trivial distractions!).

A friend of mine is a Vietnam War veteran who survived over sixty-four artillery barrages while trapped on a hilltop during the First Battle of Khe Sanh. He crystalized the essential idea here this way: “There are some people you want in your foxhole, and some you don’t.” My goal is to be “foxhole worthy” for people like him, and I judge others by the same criterion. At that high metaphysical level of socialist vision, we are synchronized; at the mundane street level of routine personal interaction, we give each other spontaneous rides when our cars unexpectedly break down on the road and we call for help, and when either of our cars are in the shop and we need to make a doctor’s appointment. We also share lunch breaks and stories. If and when it comes to serious action – foxhole time – we know we can count on each other. There are other men and women I share a similar connection with, people who are aware of the realities of our times, and have a compassionate intelligence about the direction of their lives, which goes beyond the effort to physically and economically sustain themselves, to also inject some goodness and humane connection – socialism – into the public sphere they are immersed in. It is with such people that I am associated with – “socialized” – in voting for our “progressive candidates,” and advocating – each in our own way – for an anti-capitalist and anti-militarist social transformation; and it is with such people that I can imagine being next to during any sudden eruption of a volcanic socialist revolution.

The Trumpians and their ilk are empty people. They need all that money, glittery stuff and power, to encrust their lonely hollowness with, so as to give them the illusion of actually being somebody and having actually accomplished something with their profiteering, exploitation and hoarding. But, sadly, they are human failures: they either deny or have no realization of their fundamental reality as expressions of Nature, nor of their potential for experiencing true fulfillment as individuals consciously interconnected in a humane socialist net-of-gems.

Don’t get distracted from the fundamentals by trivial details. Everything you need to know about self-realization – the atomic cores of our socialist revolution – was set down in the Upanishads, 2800 years ago. Everything you need to know about self-directed living, whether for meshing amicably with society or slicing through it for just cause – the electro-chemical bonds of integrity, and the forces of material opposition for our socialist revolution – was set down in the Bhagavad Gita, 2300 years ago. Everything you need to know about politics at the street level of pure, hard materialism – the movement-wide actions of our desired socialist revolution in opposition to dictatorial and enslaving moneyed power – was set down by Thucydides 2400 years ago. Everything written since is at best a gloss on the fundamentals already given, encrusted with elaborations on details about the cultures and times those later writings came out of; or they are at worst a complete diversion into varieties of ignorance, whether presented as texts of religious revelation, or advances of political theory. Read the originals and see for yourself.

In summary: each human being is something Nature is doing; realize and celebrate this, and from such realization free your mind from passivating confinement by corporate capitalist infotainment, herding by fear, and want-inducing indoctrination; from that personal mental liberation, direct yourself toward perfecting your character and achieving your full human potential (an endless endeavor); from such self-focused mental independence and moral drive, exercise the bravery of tolerance by seeking to make connections with other people of similar vision and moral drive; and then from your network of such personal connections try to weave yourself into a grander socialist net-of-gems that may in time capture and transform the nation, and perhaps even someday the world.

Peak Carbon Emissions By 2020, or Else!

World greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2020, or it’s lights out!

That’s the message from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), which has come out from under the shadows of Paris 2015 swinging like a heavyweight champion boxer, and, in fact, they’ve taken the gloves off in preparation for bare-knuckled fisticuffs.

The world’s leading scientists met at the Forty-Eighth Session of the IPCC and First Joint Session of Working Groups I, II, and III, 1-5 October 2018 in Incheon, Republic of Korea and openly declared that civilization is on track for collapse because of reckless use of fossil fuels, unless the beast is corralled, meaning start reacting now, no more waiting around!

Peak emissions must be achieved by 2020, a slap in the face wake-up call issued by the gathering of scientists in South Korea, They intend to change the course of history, or so they claim. Along those lines, 1.5C is an absolute guardrail not to be crossed (not their words but it’s what their analysis implies). Not a bad idea and worthy of deeper analysis, and it is much stronger than previous pronouncements.

At first blush, peak GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions by 2020 seems nearly impossible to achieve, but it’s a decent idea and jam-packed full of strong motivation, like all hell breaks lose without immediacy of action. In a BBC interview, Heleen de Coninck, a Dutch climate scientist, said:

The decisions we make now about whether we let 1.5 or 2 degrees or more happen will change the world enormously.

In years past, the IPCC viewed the next century as the timeline for deep reckoning when the climate monster would be most threatening. That’s been amended in a big way. Now, trouble is only decades away, and maybe only a few, not several.

According to Bloomberg News, the dictum issued by IPCC to avoid outright catastrophe the world community must invest $2.4 T (trillion) in clean energy every year through 2035 and cut coal-fired power down to as close to zero as possible by 2050.

Also, it’s absolutely necessary to quickly develop functioning technology to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, an enormous undertaking that might or might not work. Nobody knows because it’s never been done to scale. It may require almost as much infrastructure as needed by the fossil fuel industry to emit the CO2 in the first instance. In a word, overwhelming!

Or, looked at another way, according to the renowned physicist Klaus Lackner’s analysis of what’s required for direct carbon removal:

If you built a hundred million trailer-size units you could actually keep up with current emissions.1

Ergo, one hundred million trailer-sized units, assuming 55-foot trailers (the size of each carbon removal apparatus), end-to-end would extend 42xs around the planet. Oops… on to another subject!

According to Bloomberg/NEF (New Energy Finance- BNEF), world investment in clean energy during the first six months of 2018 was $138.2B, and last year the number was $333.5B of which China accounted for $132.6B. It’s taken more than a decade to get up to $300B/yr. and now they insist it goes to $2.4Trillion/yr. And, it sounds as if it must happen almost immediately. Good luck with that!

However, BNEF has qualms about the reality of enough political mojo for that to happen. For example, as things stand today, world energy research orgs forecast future energy mix as: “Coal is expected to remain the largest source of power globally” into the near future. Cough, cough!

In order to curb fossil fuel use, the IPCC generals (climate scientists) leading the charge to world salvation insist that the world community invest $2.4T per year for the next 17 years. That means renewable investments need to increase 7-fold/yr., and that brings to mind a slew of numbing questions, including:

(1) Is it possible to achieve $2.4T/yr. without a worldwide “Marshall Plan” type of collaboration among all nations, especially the big boys/gals?

(2) Do renewable manufacturers have enough capacity?

(3) Where will the funds come from to finance $2.4T/yr.?

(4) Who’ll take charge and organize the worldwide effort?

(5) Will the United States participate? It is the second largest emitter of carbon in the world, keeping in mind the Trump administration is all-in 100% behind fossil fuels and a very strong advocate of “clean coal,” one of the biggest all-time hyperboles. Which is so utterly stupid that it is nearly impossible to quantify its ranking amongst leading lame brain statements of all time.

Meanwhile, the U.S. pokes a very big fat stick into the spokes of the IPCC’s wheelhouse. As long as Trump and Co. remains in charge, climate change is off the table, no discussion, no collaboration with the world, leading to another question: (6) Who will replace the enormous shortfall of funding of the United States?

Furthermore, the authors of the report assume world governments will embrace their sense of urgency; however, that’s likely an uphill battle in spite of their extreme dire warnings; e.g., (1) count Trump out of the mix; (2) Jair Bolsonaro, who leads the polls for the first round in Brazil’s presidency, threatens to withdraw the country from the Paris climate agreement, and he intends to open up the rainforest wide-open to agribusiness; (3) the UK is pushing ahead with gas fracking; (4) Norway is exploring for oil in the Arctic; (5) Germany (renewables galore Germany? hmm) wants to tear down Hambach forest to extract coal; (6) Russia’s Putin makes Trump look like a lightweight. Where does the rubber meet the road?

The IPCC report says global emissions must be cut 45% below 2010 levels by 2030 (whew!), requiring rapid, far-reaching transitions in “all aspects of society.” Every country in the world will require an entire suite of new regulations and behavioral changes. Which is one more reason why the U.S. will not participate, as Trump and Co. are regulatory assassins, not conformists. And, as for Putin, well, forget it.

Bottom line: The IPCC group better kick butt and get moving asap because irreversible tipping points that fuel runaway global warming, or cause similar levels of crises, are already popping up all over the place: (1) Alaska permafrost erupting, (2) Siberian permafrost erupting, (3) Arctic ice loss threatens massive GHG breakout, (4) West Antarctica ice sheets dropping like flies, (5) Totten Glacier/East Antarctica moving way too fast for comfort, (6) melting headwater glaciers endanger major rivers of the world like Lancang in China, (7) the Amazon Rainforest mind-blowing triple-100-yr. droughts all w/i 10 yrs., (8) the Colorado River Basin down 40%, (9) ocean plankton down 45%, (10) Great Barrier Reef major die-offs, (11) loss of glacial water towers in Andes, (12) ocean acidification threatens sea life, (13) depletion of Great Kelp ocean forests, and more and more. The number of vulnerable ecosystems overwhelms the imagination. It is staggering!

In fact, ecosystems are under stress like never before throughout human history, ever since fire was first discovered. It’s little wonder that the world’s scientists are putting out a clarion call to save civilization. Here’s guessing they experience sleepless nights, night after night after night for too long now. It gets tiring. They’re likely fed up, fired up, and mad!

Of note: It’s important to realize that only scientists see the advent of ecosystem deterioration/collapse. Because it happens where nobody lives and nobody travels, with the exception of an occasional scientist on expedition, assuming they can be pulled away from “modeling” on PCs.

As for one helpful solution, maybe invite America’s Congress to ride along on a field trip to sensitive ecosystems that are starting to collapse or, in fact, already collapsing. Simply have a congress person throw a dart at the globe and then go to wherever the dart sticks… odds are very good that they’ll hit a collapsing ecosystem, or at the least, an ecosystem that is getting ready to collapse, assuming the dart misses the big population regions where no major ecosystem collapses occur in plain sight because people don’t huddle together to live in Antarctica, the Arctic, the Amazon rainforest, the ocean (2/3rds of the planet), or Siberian permafrost.

Postscript:

According to EarthJustice, Brett Kavanaugh sided with corporations/industry to remove EPA protections for clean air and water in 89% of his cases, and 96% of his cases ruled against wildlife protections, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. Now he’s a member of the Supremes! Ipso facto, bad beginnings make for bad endings!

  1. Elizabeth Kolbert, “Can Carbon-Dioxide Removal Save the World?” The New Yorker, November 20, 2017.

The Indy 500 Polar Ice Cap Marathon

Eureka! The Vavilov Ice Cap set unheard of speed records a couple of years ago in a massive “surge” and left climate scientists… well, speechless!

The Vavilov Ice Cap, located in the Russian High Arctic has, for years, cruised along at a speed of about 2 inches per day. But, along the way it was the recipient of an anthropogenic turbo-charged-CO2 infusion (scientists didn’t say that), setting all-time world speed records of 82 feet per day in a massive “surge.”

Hand-wringing scientists were aghast, confused. After all, ice caps are supposed to move by “inches,” not by 82 feet per day! Especially considering the mean average annual temperature at Vavilov Station of −16.5°C. Which is b-b-brittle cold.

Additionally, ice caps are very stable. The term “ice cap” refers to a specific type of glacier, a stable slow-moving glacier. That’s how it’s always been, until Vavilov hit the scene!

Vavilov Ice Cap is on October Revolution Island in the Arctic between the Kara Sea and Laptev Sea. It is a polar desert where frigid temps and dry weather should keep ice firmly tethered to bedrock. But, not Vavilov; it’s like a wild horse. As September 26, 2018, it is slipping/sliding at 15-35 feet per day, much faster than its long-term average of 2 inches. The Vavilov is 1,000 to 2,000 feet or 1/3rd of a mile thick, covering over 700 square miles.

Not only did Vavilov set all-time speed records but the scientists, after explaining they’ve never seen acceleration like Vavilov, raised a warning flag about the possibility that “other currently stable ice caps” may be more vulnerable than expected. Oh, really!1

They go on to say the rapid collapse of Vavilov has significant ramifications for glaciers in other polar regions, especially “those fringing Antarctica and Greenland,” where Sea Rise Monsters hang out.

Once again, similar to the same old story of scientists surprised by how fast things are happening, Vavilov caught them off guard: “Climate models don’t take this kind of surge into account.”2

Still, it’s important to realize that scientists have very limited historical data on glaciers in the world’s remotest locations, and without further study, the authors of the Vavilov report are reluctant to boldly claim that “climate change was/is the villain.” It’ll require considerable more study before drawing conclusions.

Yet, common sense would seem to indicate that some kind of warming is behind such an unusual shift in the speed. What else could it be? In time, more answers will become available. As for now, scientists are scratching their heads in disbelief.

Significantly, Vavilov breaks open a new dimension that should haunt the world’s major players. Previously, it was believed that large bodies of ice could only respond slowly to changing climate conditions. That’s dead wrong!

But then again, the entire Arctic is experiencing anomalous sea ice breakup of monstrous proportions. For example:

The oldest and thickest sea ice in the Arctic has started to break up, opening waters north of Greenland that are normally frozen, even in summer… a phenomenon scientists described as scary.3

Here are the gritty details: The Arctic sea north of Greenland has always, always, always been frozen rock solid, until now. Over the years, scientists labeled it “the last ice area,” a moniker that has now been crushed by global warming.

“Scary,’ wrote Thomas Lavergne, a scientist at the Norwegian Meteorological Institute, in a retweet of a satellite-gif of the blue water penetrating white ice and exposing hundreds of miles of the Greenland coastline. “In February, the Kap Morris Jesup weather station in the region is usually below -20C, but earlier this year there were 10 days above freezing and warm winds, which unlocked the ice from the coast.”2

Whoa! Something is horribly amiss: It’s “usually below -20C” but instead it was above freezing for 10 consecutive days in February, in the middle of winter at the North Pole, and just to top off how ridiculous the year has been, an enormous ice cap elsewhere in the Arctic is moving at 15-25 feet per day after surging 82 feet per day!

The world is upside down and awry! You’ve gotta wonder: What climatic event(s) could possibly rival the implicit dire forecast of an ice cap speeding towards collapse?

Postscript:

Our globe is under new dramatic environmental pressure: our globe is warming, our ice caps melting, our glaciers receding, our coral is dying, our soils are eroding, our water tables falling, our fisheries are being depleted, our remaining rainforests shrinking. Something is very, very wrong with our eco-system.

— Richard Lamm, American politician, writer, attorney

  1. “Unprecedented Ice Loss in Russian Ice Cap”, University of Colorado at Boulder, EurekAlert! September 19, 2018.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Jonathan Watts. “Arctic’s Strongest Sea Ice Breaks Up for First Time on Record”, The Guardian, August 21, 2018.

Drought-Laden Rainforests

The world’s rainforests are under attack at a rate of 2.5 acres per second. Global warming and clear-cutting for growing palm oil and raising cattle are some of the biggest annihilators. The repercussions are devastating. For example, one of the consequences is harmful alteration of hydrological cycles for major grain-growing regions of the planet. But, that’s just the start of trouble.

Disrupted hydrological cycles, which are only now being disclosed by new research, are one example amongst many of the after-effects of stressed-out ecosystems as a result of (a) global warming, (b) turbo-charged climate change, and (c) the persistent human footprint. The awful truth is that ecosystems across the world are stressed-out like never before. But, nobody sees it.

Uncommonly stressed-out ecosystems occur most prominently where nobody lives, nobody sees, Antarctica, Tibetan glaciers, the Arctic, Siberian permafrost, Colorado River Basin, Alaskan permafrost Andes’ glaciers, Patagonia, Totten glacier, East Siberian Arctic Sea, ocean plankton, the Amazon rainforest. Who lives anywhere near those hot spots of ecosystem disruption?

Over time, the breakdowns turn more powerful, more dangerous, as a discordant world fails to come to grips with distinct risks of several tipping points simultaneously flaring up all at once. Such a horrific scenario could strike with the impact of a 7.5-mile-wide asteroid. The last time that happened 65 million years ago it was sayonara in a flash of geological time. If dinosaurs couldn’t handle it, well, as for Homo sapiens… hmm.

As a suggestion, maybe a world conference on “Impending Ecosystem Collapses” should be held, similar to Paris 2015, but titled: How in the hell did we let this happen? With a sub-conference titled: No-holds-barred capitalism’s infinite growth syndrome clashes with ecological preservation. Or, how about: Would capitalism-lite be better? Or, how about: Starting all over again?

Eliminating excessive amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere would be a good start, a big leap forward to curing a lot of ills, and should be combined with reforestation and an enforceable order to stop cutting down rainforests with reckless abandon. According to Global Forest Watch: “Deforestation in crucial tropical rainforests has doubled since 2008.” Much of it is illegal and linked to corruption.

“A growing body of evidence indicates that the continuing destruction of tropical forests is disrupting the movement of water in the atmosphere, causing major shifts in precipitation that could lead to drought in key agricultural areas in China, India, and the U.S. Midwest.”1

Not only is there a problem with the hydrology cycle, but also three 100-year droughts (the ones that are supposed to happen once every 100 years!) hit the Amazon Rainforest like clockwork 2005-2010-2015 over the past 10 years. That’s unprecedented. As far as science knows, it has never happened before! It’s kinda like an out-of-body experience, hovering over blackened tree stumps as far as the eye can see.

Three droughts within a decade should take your breath away. If it doesn’t, it’s because of a failure to tune in to the overbearing Great Acceleration, aka: human footprint, overrunning planetary resources. Therefore, a key determinate for society’s longevity will be whether ecosystems, such as the rainforests, hang in there without cascading into irretrievable impracticable no-go oblivion.

Subsequent to the 2005 Amazon rainforest drought:  ‘The biggest surprise for us was that the effects appeared to persist for years after the drought,’ said co-author Professor Yadvinder Malhi from the University of Oxford. ‘We had expected the forest canopy to bounce back after a year with a new flush of leaf growth, but the damage appeared to persist right up to the subsequent drought in 2010.2

Another big problem: One season of drought can reduce the CO2 absorption ability of the Amazon for years to come. But, three back-to-back-to back droughts! Whew – triple ouch! Over time, it becomes impossible for the world’s great rainforests to combat global warming. Instead of serving as a “sink of CO2,” the forests “emit CO2,” happening now. Try that one on for size Mister Runaway Global Warming. Hmm- fits like a glove.

According to a study by NASA, the Amazon drought, over a three-year span, lost 270M metric tons of carbon per year. It’s not supposed to work that way, folks. Part of the problem is global warming itself. A warming atmosphere shifts moisture away from the rainforest, which is the wrong direction!

Also, droughts self-perpetuate additional drought conditions, as a considerable portion of the rain that falls in a rainforest comes from water vapor that the trees release through their own leaves. But, dying leaves don’t release much water vapor, which shrinks the hydrological flow variability.

A recent study3  says:

Our work suggests that there is a possibility for even longer droughts, perhaps lasting multiple seasons or years, setting the stage for fires that could clear swaths of the rainforest.

Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory found that after the 2005 drought the most affected parts of the Amazon Rainforest lost 35 inches rainfall in years following.4

As it happens, ongoing destruction of rainforests represents one of the major impacts of the Great Acceleration or the human footprint eclipsing nature. Already, early glimpses of that footprint are found stamped onto the backsides of three unprecedented 100-yr. droughts.

Rainforest decimation is but one of many ecosystem perils that should land on the desks of every world leader: “Urgent – Do Something!” And, oh yeah, while your at it maybe put in a good word for clean renewable energy.

In lieu of today’s inordinately compressed timeline of climate change (many scientists say stuff is happening 10xs faster than ever before), risks of widespread collapsing ecosystems are now more pronounced than at any time since the discovery of fire. It’s not too difficult to point a finger at the prime movers and shakers; i.e., excessive greenhouse gases like CO2 and the pitched battle over infinite growth. Infinity is a lot.

All of which brings to light the highly controversial Stern Review: The Economics of Climate Change, 2006 (more relevant today than back in the day). The British government requisitioned the high-powered study to calculate the economics of climate change. The landmark 700-page report, stated: “Climate change is the greatest and widest-ranging market failure ever seen.”

The Stern Review also ticked off a handful of consequences, assuming a “worst-case basis” and “business as usual,” meaning no effort by the nations of the world to rein-in greenhouse gas emissions. Some of the mentions include, sea level rise possibly as high as 10-15 feet (remember- “worst-case basis”) in a few decades, Florida, NYC, and London likely flooded at various stages, and massive water-food shortages throughout the world, assuming temps run up 2C-5C during the century. And assuming “business as usual.”

Additionally, according to the report: Deforestation is responsible for more emissions than the transport sector, and a number of studies suggest “Amazon rainforest could be vulnerable to climate change, with models projecting significant drying in this region.” (a prophetic statement 12 years ago)

In sum, and relevant to all of the above, according to Mauna Loa Observatory as of September 23, 2018 Atmospheric CO2 registers 405.5 ppm versus 381.82 ppm twelve years ago.

As an aside, following the asteroid collision 65mya within a period of 100,000 years, CO2 increased at rate of 0.2ppm/yr taking temps up 5C. Today we’re at “2.3 ppm/yr or the highest growth rate ever seen in modern times,” according to Carl Edward Rasmussen, University of Cambridge, September 2018.5 That’s more than 10xs.

Apologies to Sir Nicholas Stern, as contrary to admonitions in his 700-page report, free-market globalists have cranked up the dial for CO2 up-up-and-away, forever more! Infinite growth!

“Biz as usual” prevails.

What was it Sir Nicholas Stern said about the “worst-case basis”?

Postscript:

Every tree in the forest is a fountain, sucking water out of the ground through its roots and releasing water vapor into the atmosphere through pores in its foliage. In their billions, they create giant rivers of water in the air – rivers that form clouds and create rainfall hundreds or even thousands of miles away.

But as we shave the planet of trees, we risk drying up these aerial rivers and the lands that depend on them for rain. A growing body of research suggests that this hitherto neglected impact of deforestation could in many continental interiors dwarf the impacts of global climate change. It could dry up the Nile, hobble the Asian monsoon, and desiccate fields from Argentina to the Midwestern United States.

— Fred Pearce, eminent UK author and science journalist

  1. Fred Pearce, “Rivers in the Sky: How Deforestation Is Affecting Global Water Cycles”, YaleEnvironment360, July 24, 2018.
  2. Malhi, et al, “Effects of Drought in the Amazon Persist Years Later”, Oxford University, 2018.
  3. “Amazon Outlook —Continued Warming, Multiyear Droughts,” Water Resources Research, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, July 10, 2018.
  4. Yan Yang, et al, “Post-Drought Decline of the Amazon Carbon Sink”, Nature, 2018.
  5. Carl Edward Rasmussen, University of Cambridge, September 2018.