Category Archives: Permafrost

Drilling for Oil:  A Global Problem on Our Doorstep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which puts Dorset Council in an awkward position.

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

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

SWEL’s justification is:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Damien Carrington, writing in the Guardian, said that:

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

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

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

Global Warming on a Rampage

Global warming is not waiting around for the signatories to the Paris climate accord ‘15 to go to net zero emissions 2030/50. Sorry, those bold plans are way too little way too late. Already, across the board, the planet is on a hot streak that defies all projections. It’s starting to look downright scary!

Listen… when Helsinki has no snow in January/February accompanied by inordinate heat, it’s a powerful signal that “something is not right.” According to the Finnish Meteorological Institute: “Monthly records were not just broken, they were shattered with large margins.1

Not only that, across the planet, heat-heat-heat too much heat is altering ecosystems beyond expectations, as, for example, an “uncharted granite island” suddenly emerged from rapidly melting ice in Antarctica, surprising researchers stationed off the coast of the Pine Island Glacier ice shelf, which has the troubling distinction as one of the fastest retreating glaciers in the world. The research team named the new discovery Sif Island.

Similar to global warming’s recent onslaught, Pine Island Glacier also is not waiting around for Paris ’15 signatories to take mitigation steps to avert catastrophic “Global Warming,” which likely will be officially renamed “Global Heating” at some point in time in the near future, not global warming, which term is already out-of-date.

Perilously, Pine Island Glacier experienced yet another monster iceberg calving event February 2020 the size of a U.S. state.  Monster calving events used to occur every 5-6-7 years but have become annual events. Making matters scarier yet, “large cracks in the ice shelf are forming in places that scientists hadn’t seen before, such as the middle of the ice shelf.”2

Scientists are deeply concerned and closely monitoring Pine Island Glacier and nearby Thwaites Glacier for signals of “runaway melting” that would free up inland ice flow. The ice shelves that are calving hold back rapid glacial flow to the sea. According to NASA, just those two glaciers hold back a surrounding region of potential glacial ice flow that could raise sea levels by 4 feet, which is a mere 2% of total Antarctic sea level rise locked in ice.

Therefore, the sudden emergence of Sif Island out of the blue is not a comforting signal. Not only that, but according to Carlos Schaefer, a Brazilian government scientist who’s analyzing recent Antarctica temperatures of 68°F (sizzling hot for Antarctica): “We have never seen anything like this.”

Dreadfully, the entire planet is being hit with hot stuff. French ski resorts had to import snow with helicopters. Snow-less Moscow shattered previous record temperatures by an astonishing 3.5°C.

And, heaping one disaster on top of another disaster, Japan’s Daisen White Ski Resort had to shut down early in January because it was so hot that fake-generated snow melted as soon as it was generated. And, for the first time ever, ever, ever Germany was unable to make ice-wine in any of the German wine regions. The 2019 ice-wine vintage will go down as the first-ever no harvest. It was too hot!

Still, by all appearances, global average temperatures are a misleading indicator for public instruction of global warming’s true impact. Global averages miss the true impact of regional global warming events that have the power to undercut life, as we know it.

For example, Yakutia, an eastern Siberian federal Russian republic, has heated up by more than 3°C preindustrial or three-times the global average, bringing on disastrous results. Yakutia, one-third the size of the U.S., has seen its arable land for farming plummet by more than 50% as a result of cascading permafrost. And, buildings are sagging into the ground, hillsides are collapsing, and lakes suddenly appear throughout the region. Life is turning chaotic.

All of which brings to mind the ever-dicey East Siberian Arctic Shelf where massive quantities of subsea permafrost contains and holds back vast reservoirs of methane frozen in ice in extremely shallow waters, unfortunately. Even though mainstream science believes the risks are low of a major eruption of methane out of the ESAS, which in turn could ignite powerful damaging Runaway Global Warming, there are serious scientists who have studied the ESAS in detail and who adamantly claim otherwise by assigning a high risk to the event, which would take civilization down to its knees by decimating agricultural regions across the planet as well as turning several latitudinal zones uninhabitable.

Meanwhile, according to the IEA (International Energy Agency) fossil fuel companies plan on increasing oil and gas production by 120% to 2030. Demand for oil is irrepressible. And, not only that, China is embarking on mega-mega construction plans for new coal-burning power plants, and so is India, and Japan recently announced its intention of building 22 new coal-burning plants over the next 5 years.

All of that in the face of irrefutable evidence of acceleration of climate change well beyond the influence of natural events. Still, Trumpers refuse to recognize and act upon that reality, thus unofficially blessing other nations increases in fossil fuel usage and thus silently encouraging rejection of Paris ’15. Is that wayward influence a plot hatched in America?

As a result, and with great fanfare, trumpets blaring, and drums rolling, Trump has been crowned “the Worst President for our Environment in History” by nine major green orgs: Alaska Wilderness League Action, Clean Water Action, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, EDF Action, Friends of the Earth, League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club, and The Wilderness Society. Trump is Global Warming’s Man of the Year 2019.

The year 2019 is the 43rd consecutive year, since 1977, with both land and ocean temperatures above the global 20th century average. And, of extreme significant deep concern, the global rate of global warming has doubled, specifically since 1977. That is an ominous and clear signal of acceleration of an unwelcoming rate of global warming. Frankly, it’s horrible news. Brace yourself!

  1. “9 Freaky Phenomena Revealing How Warm This Winter Was”, Treehugger, March 3, 2020.
  2. “Iceberg That’s Twice the Size of Washington Cleaves off Pine Island Glacier in Antarctica, in a Sign of Warming”, The Washington Post, February 10, 2020.

Plastic Meets the Road and Capitalism’s Role in Climate Change

Earth Day & Capitalism Like Vinegar and Oil?

Continuously, discussions focusing on degraded ecosystems and tipping points forcing climate change to ramp up to chaos many times center around the “C” word.

Not “c” as in “cancer.”

“Capitalism is destroying the planet,” said Pat DeLaquil, an energy policy expert working with various governments, NGO’s and the private sector to “help achieve economic development and combating climate change.”

He was one speaker in a two-guest gig at the Newport Library on January 27 as part of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby and 350 Oregon Central Coast.

The other person presenting is director of a plastics to road recycling non-profit headquartered in Toledo.

Twenty people listened to DeLaquil as he zoomed through his data-filled Power Point. His SOP is working with the Oregon League of Conservation Voters and other groups to lobby for passage of a new version of climate change policy during this state’s short legislative session.

No matter how many details behind the framework of HB 2020 are aired, convincing Oregonians of all stripes to get behind this cap on statewide carbon emissions is a technical, legal, intellectual, PR, and emotional challenge.

Two Newport City Council members attended Monday, as gale force winds buffeted the library. Interestingly, kicking off the double header was a video clip from a January 13 Senate National Resources and Environment Committee.

Arnold L. “Arnie” Roblan, in a droll voice, stated how he’s visited all parts of Oregon listening to youth. He emphasized it’s been 16 years since he was a school principal, but now he’s seeing like never before a huge shift in how PK12 students are viewing the world.

“There’s been a big change,” Roblan stated in the video. “Kids are extremely anxious about the climate.”

Kicking off the 2-hour event was Bill Kucha, Otter Rock artist and head of 350 Oregon Central Coast. He strummed guitar and sang his song, “There’s Music All Around Me.” The message is one of hope in a world with thousands of ecosystems collapsing.

While Sen. Roblan stated the counties along the coast are at the “epicenter of ocean acidification and beach erosion caused by climate change,” one audience member, Michael Gaskill, asked Pat DeLaquil if he gets frustrated with each year increasingly watered-down of environmental bills get passed.

Gaskill was in attendance to listen to the speakers and to sign up attendees interested in the Congressional campaign of Hillsboro Democrat Mark Gamba, who’s vying for the 5th district position in November.

Another audience member wanted immediate response to her comment that “capitalism is the problem hurting the poor” was exasperated by the lack of social justice apparent in the discussions.

The C word was bandied about much in DeLaquil’s opening remarks:

What drives capitalism to extremes? Two things: this hyper-individualism of the Ayn Rand economic school which purports everyone is unique and must fight for himself or herself to acquire as much as possible. And, two, patriarchy which indoctrinates young children into believing this hierarchy of male control. This belief that males are not caring about social issues, the environment, and females are not supposed to speak their minds when confronted with this apparent destructive system.

The dichotomy is common in discussions about male domination in business, industry, militarism, and monetizing seemingly every single human transaction. Women, on the other hand, are seen “only “as mothers, nurturers put on earth to support the family and keep the peace by not speaking out against environmental, cultural and community degradation and destruction.

DeLaquil carried that allusion further saying capitalism and socialism can be reformed to support a clean, safe, market-centered society with social safety nets like education, health care, other entitlement programs that are part and parcel of Social Democratic countries like Norway or Denmark.

Don Quixote Fighting the Plastics Monster

“The window is closing faster on plastics than climate change, I really believe,” Scott Rosin of Plastic Up-Cycling told the gathering.

Knowing Rosin from Surfrider beach clean ups, and for an upcoming Deep Dive column, I don’t see him as Chicken Little “the sky is falling” fellow.

He’s fought forest fires in the 1970s and ‘80s. He’s been high up in the trees as a forester, and he knows the value of hard work – taking down entire stands of forest in for many years as an area logger.

He and his co-lead, Katharine Valentino, are looking for partnerships and financial backing for their project to get most of Lincoln county’s plastic waste stream into our roads in the form of new thoroughfares, repaved ones, potholes, driveways and parking lots.

The stats on the ground and in the water are staggering: “Think about it. Predictions of a billion tons of plastic produced each year by 2025. Compare that to 1.5 million pounds produced in 1950.”

He went on to punctuate this staggering stat: “Predictions about current rates of plastic waste state by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.”

As a surfer and lover of the ocean, Scott reminded the audience every time they read about a whale beached and dead, guts filled with plastic, that mammal represents less than 10 percent of the actual death rate of whales since most die offshore and sink to the benthic zone.

Rosin and Valentino see innovators in Scotland and in California, as well as other places, coming to the rescue. TechniSoil out of Redding California is taking recycled plastic, bitumen, asphalt substrate and integrating it into a flexible and long-lasting paving mixture (up to 15 percent of the total volume for paving roads could be plastic).

Then there is MacRebur and Scottish CEO Toby McCartney who was working in Southern India helping people at landfills gather potentially reusable items and sell them. Scott Rosin tells us McCartney observed some of the plastics the pickers culled, putting it into potholes and setting it on fire.

Instant melted plasticized pothole filler.

“Not the most environmentally friendly way to fill potholes,” Scott said. “However, those plastic filled potholes outlasted the actual roads.”

Carbon, Global Heating, Resources Plummeting and Us v Them?

Some of the buzz words coming from the 2-hour talk include “decarbonizing the economy” and “carbon budget.”

Add to those – renewable energy; trade exposed; energy intensive.

Pat DeLaquil, with doctorate in nuclear engineering from MIT and who’s worked with USAID, the Asian Development Bank, and large companies like Bechtel (not a green company), wants people to relate to what they are seeing in the news – flooding, wildfires,, degraded ecosystems, increased rain events, droughts – as applicable to their own communities and states.

“The artic is warming two to three times faster than the rest of the planet,” he said showing us maps of that ice world. He’s also warning us about methane clathrates releasing a greenhouse gas more than 30 times as potent as carbon dioxide; and the warming tundra with millions of tons of frozen greenhouse gasses – ancient carbon. “The carbon that’s locked in the permafrost in the Arctic is thousands . . . millions of years old.”

He also brings to light the terms “runaway climate change” and the “albedo effect” – white snow and ice reflect back the sun’s rays. Less white, means more ocean warming.

DeLaquil and the Oregon League of Conservation Voters are pushing hard a Clean Energy Jobs bill.

[This] is one step in a continuing process of increasing climate change ambition in Oregon and by example the rest of the US. Just as the Renewable Portfolio Standard was followed by the Clean Fuel bill, then the Coal to Clean program, the Clean Energy Job (CEJ) bill will need to be followed next year with Agriculture and Forestry measures and elements of the Green New Deal. We are in this fight for the long haul and our strategy is to win one step at a time.

He mentioned Time magazine’s 2019 person-of-the-year Greta Thurnberg who just attended the most recent Davos, Switzerland, gathering of the World Economic Forum. DeLaquil dovetails Senator Roblan’s comments about youth being panicked about the status of the world tied to global warming with this 17-year-old internationally-known Swede.

Politics play front and center in the climate debate at the state level with all the parsing of SB 1530 (regulating carbon emissions through commercial, industrial, agricultural use of fracked or natural gas) as well as how we tax and regulate transportation fuel.

Pat also discussed the concepts around clean fuels, carbon sequestration in our forests, natural resource protection (like wetlands), assessing the emissions coming from agricultural and the forestry industries, and the heady concept of a law to protect the rights of nature. Lincoln County Community Rights is one group heralding this rights of nature designation.

This is no bed of roses, as the people attending the talk and the two speakers know. There is much push-back on this bill and other decarbonizing legislation, and many in Oregon have contrary opinions on global warming. The lobbying group, Timber Unity, has expressed disagreement with SB 1530.

Ironically, globally the court of last resort – public opinion – is pitting scientists in the climate arena and superstars like Greta against those in the Donald Trump administration and Fox news. At Davos January 21 Trump announced the U.S. would join an existing initiative to plant one trillion trees.

He also pitched the “economic importance of oil and gas” while throwing barbs at those like Greta Thurnberg, calling climate change activists “pessimistic” and the “heirs of yesterday’s foolish fortune tellers.”

Pat DeLaquil, interestingly, is not in this geopolitical arena, yet someone with his energy sector experience would paint a different picture for global warming deniers. He reemphasized the power of the youth movement. Thunberg responded to President Trump’s remarks by referring to them as “empty words and promises” by world leaders:

You say children shouldn’t worry… don’t be so pessimistic and then, nothing, silence.

Elephants, Billiards, Paradigm Shift

The first man-made plastic was created by Alexander Parkes who publicly demonstrated it at the 1862 Great International Exhibition in London. The material, called Parkesine, was an organic material derived from cellulose that once heated could be molded and retained its shape when cooled.

Svante Arrhenius (1859-1927) was a Swedish scientist that was the first to claim in 1896 that fossil fuel combustion may eventually result in enhanced global warming. He proposed a relation between atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations and temperature.

Transitioning from DeLaquil’s 35,000 foot view of the climate change debate, then down to the micro view of the state’s efforts to go carbon free by 2050, to Scott Rosin’s Plastic Up Cycling non-profit spurred the audience into thinking about one “miracle of oil” – plastic – and the consequential negative consequences both locally and globally.

It’s obvious the tall white-haired Rosin has fun talking to groups – he’s a real yarn spinner.

In 1867 an article came out saying elephants were going to be extinct in ten years. The billiards market used ivory for the balls.

Necessity and environmental concerns turned into the mother of invention. “It was called cellulose. The invention of plastic billiards balls was the beginning of the consumer revolution. Anybody could have a pool table now since the plastic balls were affordable.”

Four or five quality billiard balls could be made from the average tusk of an Indian, Ceylonese, or Indo-Chinese elephant. This market for raw tusks centered in New York and Chicago where craftsmen would eat up blocks of ivory to create the gleaming spheres.

“Now we are experiencing 154 years of plastic, and it’s not a pretty picture,” Rosin told us.

He reminded the audience of his work from January to July 2019 for Surfrider heading up weekly Sunday beach plastic debris clean ups where on average 5 people from Lincoln County showed up was disheartening. Even after he had contacted dozens of volunteer organizations.

This past October Katharine Valentino and Rosin scrambled to set up a non-profit to deal with the plastics coming into our county’s dumpsters which invariably ends up trucked to Salem and dumped into a landfill.

TechniSoil is working with the Mayor of Los Angeles to put in a plastic road that leads to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. MacRebur has a proprietary aggregate that binds the plastic to the bitumen so there is no leaching into the ground.

TechniSoil touts their roads containing 6.6 percent plastic last seven to 14 times longer than conventional roads. Rosin emphasizes how on-site machines repaving roads with plastic aggregate actually tear up the old road, grind up plastic, mix it with bitumen and old asphalt, eliminating a huge carbon footprint of dump trucks hauling off torn-up roadway pavement.

Plastic Up-Cycling is hawking its project to interested people, as well as looking for $100,000 to get the plastic road mixture tested by an OSU lab.

Plastic comes from an energy-intensive and polluting process of turning oil into polymers and then into various types of plastics to serve myriad of purposes for which we in our throwaway society consume it.

The fact is landfills are composed of 12 to 15 percent plastic. The road paving process pencils out this way: for every mile of roadway, 1.1 million plastic bottles or 3.2 million plastic bags churned into a road mix will cut down on the waste-stream big time.

Climate Action Plan 2.0

The event was topped off with Martin Desmond, with Central Coast Citizen’s Climate Lobby, giving us the table of contents to the 74- page Lincoln County Climate Action Plan. The goal for this initiative is to get Lincoln County carbon neutral by 2035.

For Pat DeLaquil, his biggest disappointment, he stated, “after working in this field for years” was the failure to pass the Waxman-Markey cap and trade bill.”

This congressional bill — American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 — was passed as major legislation to create a cap-and-trade system for heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions, but was not taken up by the full Senate and never became law.

For Bill Kucha – artist, teacher, activist and musician – he puts much hope in young people in this county and throughout the world. He’s also a prolific letter-to-the-editor writer:

The good news is that there is a growing movement toward a new type of corporation called B-Corporations. In B-Corporations, financial profit counts, but so too does consideration for the environment, neighboring communities, and the workers. Our state must actively encourage the proliferation of progressive alternatives like this, if we ever hope to heal what ails the Earth. You can play a role, too: you can insist that the 2020 Election, at all levels of government, must prominently feature serious conversations about the Climate Crisis. (Sept. 1, 2019, News Lincoln County)

For me, it’s obvious conversations have to be more dynamic and robust, covering a larger swath of citizens. We have to organize half-day or three-day summits or charrettes to get policy makers, politicians, subject matter experts and citizens coming together to communicate more effectively and think both critically and holistically about issues around ocean rise, acidification, coastal inundation, weather and climate disruptions.

Lincoln County residents need to respect (and question) the work of activists and citizens on all sides of the issue while also coming together to listen to the passionate scientists and experts working on these issues.

For Scott Rosin, getting plastics out of the waste stream means cleaner water, cleaner soil, cleaner food and cleaner human and non-human bodies. “I would have never thought about the effects of plastic on the environment and us thirty or forty years ago,” Rosin said. “It’s unthinkable to have plastic in our drinking water, in all our food, and breathing it in.”

Getting into the Narrative of an Energy Guy

Pat DeLaquil was touted to me by several people at the Newport gathering as “he’s really been around” and “he really knows the deal with China since he’s been there” and “he has a lot of insight into energy.” So, Pat was kind enough to submit to some email questions. Pat lives in Gresham.

Paul Haeder: You said you have been doing this for more than 40 years. What got you started in energy analysis, and was it always EEE — energy, economy, environment?

Pat DeLaquil: Following grad school, I joined Sandia National Labs in Livermore, CA to work in their new systems analysis program. My first assignment was working on safeguards for nuclear material used in the country’s nuclear weapons program, but in 1980, I joined their solar energy program and been a leader in the commercialization of clean and renewable energy technologies. In 1984 I left Sandia and joined Bechtel Corporation to lead their Renewable Energy RD group. There, I worked closely with the California utilities and EPRI to lead the development of consortiums to build key R&D projects such as PV-USA and the 10 MW Solar Two Power Tower.

PH: Your age, where did you grow up and schooling?

PD: I’m 71 and grew up in western Pennsylvania in strip mining country and saw firsthand the destruction they caused. I knew I wanted to be an engineer by age 13, and I have a B.Sc. in Marine Engineering from the US Merchant Marine and a Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I have authored or co-authored over 90 papers, reports, and articles on solar and renewable energy including chapters in two books on renewable energy technology. I have a patent for a high temperature solar receiver.

PH: I work on the 5 e’s — started off as triple e’s for sustainability: Equity, environment, economy . . . education and energy. There are a lot of intersectionalities here, and, of course, the environment overrides and undergirds everything. In capitalism, that is not true. What are your own intellectual challenges when you consider how rapacious, how extractive-oriented, how unjust capitalism is to the people, the 99 Percent, or the 80 percent? Discuss.

PD: This requires a long answer, and I touched on this in my talk, but only briefly. I am attaching for your information and use, both my presentation from Monday and a longer presentation on this subject I gave to the Multnomah Democratic Party Climate Action Forum back in November. Slides 1 thru 9, including the notes, provide a pretty full answer.

PH: There is a lot of policy stuff and political maneuvering and lobbying in your work. For the average reader, what are your holistic takeaways for this evening’s talk?

PD: The most important things that the average reader can do is to get engaged politically by demanding that your legislators be climate champions and if they are not find one who can replace them. While individual actions are important, they will never be enough. We must have systemic change that will only come when progressives have control of our political systems.

PH: What gives you hope for the world, for Oregon’s future?

PD: I have been in a very discouraging mood since HB2020 was stonewalled by the Republicans, and even more so given the ho-hum response that too many people have given to the wildfires in Australia, which also has a climate denying government. The voices on youth are what currently gives me the most hope, but even that seems not to be enough. I’m afraid that it’s going to take a major climate-derived calamity, with millions of people dying before the average person decides we must take action.

PH: What lends you pause?

PD: The tremendous amounts of money, embedded organizations and media-led philosophies that the oligarchs and large corporations have used to gain strangle holds on governments around the world. The four key conservative political frames are shown below, and we must replace these with progressive frames in the general public discourse. In addition to people power and grassroots organizing, we must counter and replace the Reagan framing with more progressive framing if we are to win this battle.

Bill Kucha song he performed at event –

There’s a Music –

There’s a music all around me

and it won’t go away and it’s trying to say

– everything impossible is going to see the light of day,

everything angry and mad is growing up and coming out to play.

There’s a reason for all that wrong,

it’s creating a season for a new kind of song,

everything helpful and good is sprouting in the neighborhood.

Everything helpful and wise is growing to a larger size.

So mister, now come out and say your

Yes, plow the fields of your dark past into something good at last.

A Climate Time Bomb With Trump’s Name Inscribed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now… they are sweating.

  1. Adam Vaughan, “Antarctica’s Doomsday Glacier is Melting. Can we Save it in Time?” NewScientist, January 15, 2020.
  2. Louise M. Farquharson et al, “Climate Change Drives Widespread and Rapid Thermokarst Development in Very Cold Permafrost in the Canadian High Arctic”, Geophysical Research Letters, June 10, 2019.
  3. Vanity Fair, May 23, 2019.

Biosphere Collapse?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are definitely in a climate emergency.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carbon matters!

Postscript:

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

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

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

Permafrost Hits a Grim Threshold

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ignoring Climate Catastrophes

The planet is coming apart at the seams right before the eyes of scientists at work in remote fringe areas of the North where permafrost crumbles and collapses. It’s abrupt climate change at work in real time, but the governing leaders of the world either don’t care or don’t know. If they did, there would already be a worldwide Climate Marshall Plan to save civilization from early warning signals of utter chaos.

Across 9 million square miles at the top of the planet, climate change is writing a new chapter. Arctic permafrost isn’t thawing gradually, as scientists once predicted. Geologically speaking, it’s thawing almost overnight.1

After all, collapsing permafrost is the leading edge of cataclysmal global warming as it precedes additional catastrophes that follow one after another, and then another. All of which happen unannounced, known as abrupt climate change events.

The modern world’s First Near-Catastrophe, the Ozone Hole (1980s), was luckily avoided 40 years ago (more on this fascinating story later). It was the planet’s closest brush with nearly total extinction ever since the Permian-Triassic event took down 95% of all life 252 million years ago.

Meanwhile, the concern is whether cascading permafrost will end up as the world’s Second Near-Catastrophe, meaning it gets attended to, or will it lead to something much worse, as in “catastrophes that follow one after another, and then another?”

Cherskiy, Russia, which is home to the Northeast Science Station at 69°N, far above the Arctic Circle, is a year-round base for an international research station that studies Arctic biology and climate change. It is 60 miles inland from the East Siberian Sea (another high risk area in the Arctic).

In January of 2018 something unheard of happened at Cherskiy. The topsoil that has maintained frozen permafrost for eons was not refreezing like it had every year for as long as records were kept. Whereas, January in Siberia is normally so brutally cold that human breath can freeze with a “tinkling sound” that locals refer to as “the whisper of stars.”

“Three years ago, the temperature in the ground above our permafrost was minus 3 degrees Celsius (-27 degrees Fahrenheit),’ Sergey Zimov (an ecologist) said, ‘Then it was minus 2. Then it was minus one. This year, the temperature was plus 2 degrees.”2

The aforementioned example of abrupt climate change in Siberia is a beckoning out of the North, warning that the past 10,000 years of the Holocene era, earmarked by a Goldilocks Wonder World “not too hot, not too cold,” has ended, as excessive heat tears apart regions of the planet, piece by piece. Thereby sounding the alarm and threatening comfy lifestyles in every country in existence today, but is it a warning signal with a short fuse or a long fuse?

Human-generated greenhouse gases have kicked nature into high gear, competing with humanity by emitting tons of methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, even in the winter in Siberia above the Arctic Circle. It’s earth-shattering news that should cause sleepless nights for world leaders, but it doesn’t alarm them. Otherwise, they’d already be taking emergency measures. They’re not!

As it happens, world leadership is sacrificing their constituencies on the altar of fossil fuel profits and a brand of capitalism that recklessly consumes everything in sight. Therefore emphasizing consequences such as Alaska’s North Slope has seen temperatures spike 11°F in 30 years as temperatures hit 90°F 240 miles above the Arctic Circle, challenging Florida’s balmy weather.

As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change struggles to keep up with ever-faster climate change disaster scenarios that unfold right under their noses, the world’s leadership looks like a herd of deer frozen in headlights. Meanwhile, the risks of excessive global warming, or heat, is not properly understood by the public in the following ‘double-scary’ context:

Large abrupt climate changes have repeatedly affected much or all of the earth, locally reaching as much as 10°C change in 10 years.3

That description of abrupt climate change (10°C in 10 years) by Richard B. Alley, Evan Pugh Professor, Penn State University, is based upon paleoclimate data. However, that same risk is not considered by the IPCC or included in scientists’ models, thus it qualifies as one of the least expected climate events. But, it has happened in the past… more than once!

Frankly, society can’t handle 10°C in 10 years, whether “locally,” as stated by Dr. Alley, or universally.

Which prompts the daunting notion of what happens when nature is “goosed up” by the sudden advent of the Human Heat Machine: 7,500,000,000 people, 1,400,000,000 cars, 22,500,000 commercial vehicles, 3,500,000 heavy trucks, 425,000 buses, 39,000 commercial and military airplanes, 62,500 power plants, 996,000,000 cattle all simultaneously emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, as CO2 emissions set new records year after year after year?

In all, 80-90% of the above-listed statistics occurred in only 70 years, whereas it took modern humans nearly 200,000 years to reach two billion in population. Today, it’s the Great Acceleration at work as post WWII 5.5 billion newbies forage the planet, all within one lifetime. Amazing!

As a result, we are the biggest experiment the planet has ever encountered. Meanwhile, scientific knowledge that establishes “a firm link” between  (1) carbon dioxide emissions and (2) excessive global heat brings forth far-reaching unknowns for today’s carbon dioxide-fueled world. As such, the climate status/integrity of the planet has become a gamble, a crapshoot.

For example, the temperature/CO2 relationship over the past 400,000 years is saw-toothed as demonstrated so clearly in Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth (2006): When CO2 hits a high of 280 ppm, temperatures, like clock-work, increase by 5°C (hot cycle) and when CO2 hits a low of 180 ppm, like clock-work, temperatures decrease by -5°C (cold cycle) every 100,00 years over the past 400,000.

Although temperature change (the wild card) is all about timing, meaning does it take centuries or decades or years for temperature to react to CO2 levels in the atmosphere? In that regard, Dr. Alley’s “10°C in 10 years” is not encouraging, but nobody knows for sure what will happen tomorrow.

Speaking of which, today’s CO2 at 410+ ppm has powered through nature’s rhythmic cycles of 180 (low) to 280 (high) over the past 400,000 years. Now what?

Assuming global warming reacts accordingly, one possible scenario:

In a 4°C world, in which local temperature increases of 5 to 10 degrees will affect many areas, the impact on food production may be catastrophic.4

Today’s collapsing permafrost is eerily similar to the circumstances that surrounded the world’s First Near-Catastrophe, the notorious Ozone Hole, as explained in chapter 5 “The First Near-Catastrophe” of Ian Angus’ profoundly brilliant and indispensible book. The world has already faced that First Near-Catastrophe and luckily got through it.

Similar to ignoring abrupt climate change today, back in the 1970s-80s, no one predicted the speed and magnitude of the steep decline in levels of ozone because of damage by CFCs produced by DuPont ever since the 1930s. In fact, back in the day, NASA had predicted that ozone levels might decline 5 to 9 percent by 2050. But, surprise, surprise, surprise! Ozone levels dropped by 60% by the mid 1980s. Scientists were dumbfounded! And scared!

Without the protective ozone layer, 10-20 miles above Earth, which absorbs most of the Sun’s ultraviolet radiation, life literally burns to a crisp.

In a masterful-less stroke of good luck, a handful of scientists brought the impending disaster of the ozone hole to the attention of the world community.  If not for the British Antarctic Survey that worked on a shoestring budget of $18,000/year, the world wouldn’t have known of the threat to all humanity. Since 1957, they monitored the ozone layer from the Halley Bay Observatory in Antarctica but never suspected human-generated chemicals would attack and destroy the ozone layer.

For 50 years the CFC industry was able to avoid a ban on sales of CFCs due to an absence of hard scientific data showing a decline in ozone levels. In 1979, DuPont officials said:

No ozone depletion has ever been detected despite the most sophisticated analysis… All ozone depletion figures to date are computer projections based on a series of uncertain assumptions.5

Similar to CO2 in the atmosphere today:

CFCs had been entering the atmosphere in ever-increasing amounts since the early 1930s. The pre-1980 measurements from Halley Bay undoubtedly included their effect on the ozone layer above Antarctica, but in 1979, what had been a gradual linear process crossed a tipping point, becoming rapid and nonlinear.6

Thus, giving birth to an Abrupt Climate Change event that could have destroyed life on Earth. Thankfully, the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer was signed in 1987. It saved the world from sure-fire destruction, blind-sided by its own chemical devices.

After reviewing the history of CFCs and the ozone layer, Paul Crutzen (Nobel Prize-winning atmospheric chemist) commented:

I can only conclude that mankind has been extremely lucky.7

Now: Is permafrost collapse the Second Near-Catastrophe or something worse?

Hopefully, the answer is not “something worse” because dissimilar to the Ozone Hole crisis, which was solved by a handful of companies and industries implementing a technical fix and banning CFCs, the process of eliminating greenhouse gas emissions is universal, requiring decades of transforming the global economy, a gargantuan task when compared to civilization’s First Near-Catastrophe.

Similar to the Ozone Hole, which hit a tipping point 40 years after CFCs began emitting, collapsing permafrost first happens by inches, then by feet, then by portions of miles, when it is finally recognized as exceeding a tipping point, likely what’s happening today in Siberia, and throughout the far reaches of the Northern Hemisphere where massive levels of permafrost cover 25% of the hemisphere buried in frozen soil for eons, holding more than twice the amount of greenhouse gases currently in the atmosphere.

Permafrost collapse is as alarming, maybe more so, as the Ozone Hole threat, but only a handful of scientists see it and believe it. Sound familiar?

  1. “Arctic Permafrost Is Thawing Fast. That Affects Us All”, National Geographic, September 2019 Issue.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Alley, Richard B., “Abrupt Climate Change: Inevitable Surprises”, Washington D.C. National Academy Press, 2002.
  4. Angus, Ian, “Facing the Anthropocene”, Monthly Review Press, 2016, p. 102.
  5. Ibid, p. 84.
  6. Ibid, p. 85.
  7. Ibid, p. 87.

Methane SOS

An expedition on board the Academic Mstislav Keldysh discovered a 50-square-foot patch of bubbling methane in the East Siberian Sea (Credit:  Shirshov Institute of Oceanology)

Global warming is on speed, especially in northern latitudes where an international team of scientists led by Igor Semiletov of Tomsk Polytechnic University, Russia’s oldest technical institution, recently made a startling discovery aboard the Academic Mstislav Keldysh (see photo above), the kind of discovery that sends chills down the spine; i.e., “methane bubbles boiling in water.”

According to Semiletov: “This is the most powerful seep I have ever been able to observe… No one has ever recorded anything similar.”1

That’s bad news for the entire world community as the East Siberian Arctic Shelf hasn’t been on the radar of mainstream science for years, but only recently the global scientific community has come to realize the inherent danger. After all, the massive continental East Siberian Arctic Shelf is the size of Germany, France, Great Britain, Italy, and Japan combined, and it is jammed full of methane buried at sea beneath underwater permafrost. But, it’s starting to leak big time, and this could be one of the biggest problems of all time for civilization, with staggering consequences.

The scientists were able to scoop up buckets full of bubbling methane from within the five square meter hot spot. The next day the expedition discovered another giant seep hot spot in the same region. The air in the vicinity registered methane concentrations of up to 16 ppm, which is 9xs the background rate. Semiletov said it is the “highest ever registered for a seep at sea.” He’s explored the Arctic forty times.

One of the risks of bursting methane at sea is damage to oil and gas infrastructure with results similar to the Deepwater Horizon accident in the Gulf of Mexico. So far, Russia has only one offshore drilling rig in the Arctic. In August, Russian state-owned Rosatom launched a floating nuclear power plant to power the gold-mining outpost of Pevek, located on the coast of the East Siberian Sea. Furthermore, Russia has plans to install seafloor nuclear power units for additional Arctic development.

Yet, nobody knows for certain the risks associated with methane seafloor bursts, which, horror of horrors, could result in undersea formation of something akin to the infamous Yamal craters found on land; i.e., imploding Pingo craters. It’s not a stretch of the imagination that all hell breaks lose in the harsh Arctic environment in the face of oil and gas offshore drilling, especially with nuclear power plants at sea. Honestly, it leaves one almost speechless!

Additional SOS signals have been detected in the Barents Sea, which is located above Norway and extends over Russia, flowing into other Arctic seas, Kara, Laptev, and ultimately the East Siberian Sea. Dahr Jamail’s fascinating book The End of Ice tells an ominous story of methane bubbling at sea.

In Barrow, Alaska, he met Ira Leifer, a scientist who studies the shallow seas of the Arctic and works with NASA on methane data. Leifer discovered wicked SOS signals coming from a 620 square mile area of the Barents Sea jam-packed with methane bubbles at the rate of 60 million plumes, which is almost impossible to fathom as the normal background rate should be thousands, not 60 million.

“He found a ‘hot spot’ of roughly a thousand square kilometers that contained a staggering 60 million methane bubble plumes.”2

As it happens, the Barents Sea gets more volume of warmer mid-latitude waters from the Atlantic than any other Arctic sea; thus it is the key portal to the flow of warm waters across the Arctic seas of Kara, Laptev, and the East Siberian. What happens in the Barents does not stay in the Barents, and based upon Leifer’s discovery, it is sending perilous signals for all of the adjoining seas.

All of which holds especially true for the shallow seas, as for example, Leifer cautioned Jamail: “The East Siberian Sea is a huge shallow sea… So any methane there is going to get out, same with terrestrial methane from permafrost.”3

Thereafter, Jamail discussed the work of Natalia Shakhova, who was formerly the head of the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska. She has done seminal work on the East Siberian Arctic Shelf. Her research indicates that enormous bursts of methane could occur at any time as the subsea permafrost is rapidly thinning. She has discussed the potential of a 50-gigaton burst, although it is very controversial within the scientific community. It would equal 1,000 gigatons of CO2.

For perspective, “since 1850, human influenced CO2 emitted into the atmosphere has been 1,475 gigatons over the past 170 years.”4 Thus, a 50-gigaton burst would be similar to 116 years of CO2 emissions released all at once.

The consequences of such a burst “may cause an approximately 12-times increase of modern atmospheric methane burden with consequent catastrophic greenhouse warming.”4

Catastrophic greenhouse warming speaks for itself, as mid-latitude agricultural regions of China, India, and the US Midwest turn to dust and the tropics and the Middle East turn uninhabitable. Leifer, for one, believes we’re already near a point where large portions of the Middle East will be uninhabitable because temperatures will be beyond human tolerance.

Meanwhile, carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel sources hit a record 37 gigatons in 2018, nearly doubling the annualized rate over 2017.5. That alone is an ominous signal that could shake, rattle, and roll the shallow seabed of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf region where 15-20% of the worlds’ methane is frozen in time, so far. It’s a dormant monster that could turn the world upside down.

Meantime, the world’s synchronized experiment with rampant galloping High Capitalism treats ecosystems of the earth like throw away Dixie Cups. Thereby, a huge crack is starting to appear in Earth’s crust from pole to pole as it comes apart at the seams. Infinite growth is the greatest illusion of all time, as the formula does not work very well for Gaia, which has already reversed course downwards towards surefire darkness and chaos.

James Lovelock, the father of the Gaia theory, during a BBC 2019 interview said:

There is a real danger of losing our tenure on the planet altogether… what happens to the planet when more CO2 is put into the air? The earth will get hotter. It will heat up to a point where no life on it of our kind will be possible.

As of today, CO2 emissions into the atmosphere are faster than ever before over the past 400,000 years when total CO2 measurements in the atmosphere ran from a low of 180 ppm to a high of 280 ppm every 100,000 years and temperatures changed from +5°C to -5°C respectively at 280 ppm and 180 ppm. Today, we’re over 410 ppm, busting thru 400,000 years of records when 280 ppm brought in its wake +5°C, which, in the past, radically altered the planet beyond comprehension.

What to do? Become an eco warrior and fight the system, same as Extinction Rebellion/UK, because the current state of affairs can’t handle it on its own.

  1. “Research Vessel Encounters Giant Methane Seep in Arctic Waters”, The Maritime Executive, October 10, 2019.
  2. Dahr Jamail, The End of Ice, The New Press, 2019, p. 196.
  3. Ibid, p. 195.
  4. Ibid, p. 198.
  5. World Resources Institute

Earth 4C Hotter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What happens if 4C hits by 2055?

The short answer has gotta be: Pandemonium reigns supreme!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Louise M. Farquharson et al, “Climate Change Drives Widespread and Rapid Thermokarst Development in Very Cold Permafrost in the Canadian High Arctic”, Geophysical Research Letters, June 10, 2019.
  2. “The 2003 European Heatwave Caused 35,000 Deaths”, New Scientist, October 10, 2003.
  3. “Thousands of Australian Animals Die in Unprecedented Heatwave”, The Scientist, January 17, 2019.

Alaska Governor Demolishes Climate Research

“The University of Alaska Fairbanks (“UAF”) is a hub for Arctic climate research, and a magnet for top scientists and international collaborations— and it’s in trouble.”1

UAF’s International Arctic Research Center sits at the pinnacle of worldwide climate research “with experts on permafrost, short-lived climate pollutants, sea ice and more, UAF has earned a reputation as a leader in Arctic climate research. Its research is often the product of years of work with partners from universities worldwide.”2

However, recent events make it appear that climate science is too hot for political comfort as study after study identifies shocking volumes of collapsing/thawing permafrost, which covers 25% of the Northern Hemisphere.

Crumbling permafrost is an extraordinarily dangerous situation that, over time, can lead to deadly RGW (runaway global warming) and subsequent burn-off of mid-latitude agriculture, as people starve and scream, in that order.

In point of fact, global warming has been on a binge of late; in the North it’s heating 2-4xs faster than anywhere else on the planet. As a result, permafrost is drip-drip-drip thawing at record rates, well beyond any and all analytical predictions; it’s a real stunner!

But, not to worry, there’s a political answer: Alaska’s governor, taking field notes from “Donald Trump’s Tips on Handling Climate Change” proposes: Defund it! Kill it! Hide it!

Ergo, Alaskan Governor Michael Dunleavy (R) will likely go down in history as the nasty ole “Ghoul of Runaway Global Warming.” After all, the governor is slashing the University of Alaska’s funding by 40%. Thereafter, no one will know for sure what’s happening of consequence in the rambunctious North, as the world-famous International Arctic Research Center limps along as a result of hefty cuts in funding with some critical research coming to a screeching halt.

In the wake of the Gov’s big cuts, a plague of doom spread throughout the scientific community. According to Sabrina Shankman of Inside Climate News:

The state’s flagship university at Fairbanks is a hub of climate research that brings together scientists from around the world.

All of which begs the most obvious of questions: At a time when scientists are floored by global warming’s unrelenting walloping of permafrost in the Northern Hemisphere, how and why is crucial climate research cut to the bone?

Is it merely coincidence that spending cuts hit just as global warming starts “strutting its stuff like never before” with collapsing permafrost, like fallen tinker toys that, heretofore, was solid as the Rock of Gibraltar, over eons? What’s up with this sudden massive thawing of rock-solid permafrost that contains tons and tons of carbon?

The brutal truth is: Cascading permafrost, at unprecedented volume and rate of collapse, is a powerful signal that anthropogenic (human-caused) greenhouse gases are way too excessive and thus disrupting the climate system.

In fact, several recent field studies have already exposed dangerous imbalances in the climate system. For example, in some instances, thawing of permafrost is 70 years ahead of all expectations.3

Nobody ever expected it to happen so dramatically, so quickly, without warning. As such, ecosystem collapse in northern latitudes is not “a disaster in the making.” It’s already “a disaster happening.”

Curiously, residents of New York City and Los Angeles can’t see collapsing permafrost’s fearsome signals of impending trouble, dead ahead. However, the world’s top climate scientists at the University of Alaska can’t miss it.

Meanwhile, in classic Orwellian fashion, Gov. Dunleavy takes a meat cleaver to the origins of “intellectual discovery.”

Dunleavy’s spending cuts were part of an attempt to make good on a campaign promise: to increase the state’s Permanent Fund Dividend—the checks sent to residents each year from royalties the state collects from the oil industry. The amount typically ranged from $1,000 to $2,000 per person, but that was reduced by former Gov. Bill Walker as he sought to cover a budget deficit. The unpopular move may have been the nail in the coffin of his re-election campaign. Dunleavy promised $3,000 for each resident if elected.

Halfway through Dunleavy’s first year in office, that promise comes at a steep cost. The cuts to the university were among several budget cuts Dunleavy made using his veto power that will undermine key social services across Alaska—from Medicaid to help for the elderly and homeless. But the university system took the biggest hit.2

Thus, the Gov’s priorities are: An additional one-thousand-dollars in voter’s pockets is more important than social services for the elderly and homeless and Medicaid and climate research, all of which, unfortunately, adds up to the perfect recipe for unmitigated disaster with “eyes wide shut.”

According to Governor Dunleavy, paying off voters with a measly thousand bucks of extra pocket cash supersedes UAF as the world’s leading center for Arctic research with volumes of studies published in scientific journals, bespeaking of a world-class institution.

Now, its stellar reputation has suddenly been cut off at the knees, coincidentally, at the very moment when its obligation to analyze and prep society for a major existential threat have never been so crucial, as an out of control climate system fast approaches “the perfect setup” to clobber comfy lifestyles.

  1. Sabrina Shankman, “A Death Spiral for Research: Arctic Scientists Worried as Alaska Universities Face 40% Funding Cut”, Inside Climate News, July 19, 2019.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Louise M. Farquharson et al, “Climate Change Drives Widespread and Rapid Thermokarst Development in Very Cold Permafrost in the Canadian High Arctic”, Geophysical Research Letters, June 10, 2019.