Category Archives: Fossil Fuel Emissions (FFE)

America’s Biggest Reservoirs Hit By Dead Pool Jitters

Hoover Dam’s Lake Mead is dangerously close to dead pool status for the first time since construction in the mid 1930s. A vicious hammering drought sequence for over two decades throughout the West threatens to bring America’s biggest water reservoir to its knees.

In a word, the implications are unspeakable.

America’s monuments, the Statue of Liberty, Mount Rushmore, the Lincoln Memorial, and Hoover Dam are the foundations of Americana, the essence of America, its character, its culture. Hoover Dam, one of the greatest engineering feats of all time, 96 lives lost during construction, defines America’s true grit during a bygone era that had to overcome great challenges tagged with the Great Depression, soup kitchens and breadlines (NYC 82 breadlines by 1932), the Dust Bowl, incipient fascism in Europe, and a brewing world war.

Yet, in the face of those overwhelming challenges, similar to a phoenix miraculously rising out of the ashes, in 1934 Hoover Dam’s Lake Mead commenced water filling in celebration of an engineering marvel. Seven years later (1941) Hoover Dam’s Lake Mead stood tall at maximum capacity of 1,220 feet elevation with sparkling blue water that shone for all to behold, becoming the most-visited dam in the world with 7 million annual visitors.

In a twist of climate change fate and echoing the 1930s, America once again is challenged by drought, irreconcilable political squabbling, 42 million SNAPs (electronic food stamps), festering homegrown armed fascism, and entanglement in a European war, as Lake Mead returns to its beginnings of 88 years ago. Today’s 1,041 feet elevation is the same as 1937, as it was then filling. But, in sharp contrast to the outlook for Lake Mead when completed in 1934 full of hope and promise, the outlook today is decidedly negative. What’s changed?

Answer: The climate system has turned upside down, whether it’s gushing massive flash floods or hard-hitting severe parched droughts there’s little middle ground. It’s behaving like the Mad Hatter gone off the deep end.

But, this time is vastly different from the past. Severe drought is now a worldwide phenomenon like never before. It’s hitting everywhere. According to SPEI Global Drought Monitor, no continent is spared the ravages of severe drought, except for Antarctica. Major urban centers in South America (Santiago) and China (Guangzhou and Shenzhen) and Europe (100 Po Valley towns) are already rationing or instituting forced reduction of water usage.

Global heat is on the verge of breaking-out. According to NASA and NOAA, the planet is trapping nearly twice as much heat as it did in 2005, which they describe as an “unprecedented increase amid the climate crisis.” NASA describes this trend as “quite alarming.”

All of which leads to a conclusion that foolhardy use of fossil fuels has created a heat-machine. The evidence of the heat-machine is found by the fact that the planet is trapping twice as much heat as 17 years ago. That’s an off–the-charts data point that should send shivers down anyone’s spine.

For evidence of the heat-machine’s powerful impact, as of June 2022, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation was forced to adopt emergency measures to restrict drawdowns, instructing the seven Colorado River Basin states to reduce water usage by 2-4 million acre-feet over the next 18 months. As for recreational purposes, 5 of 6 boating ramps are now closed.

Such an emergency never happened throughout the dam’s 88-year history, until now. Something’s different, something’s wrong. What’s next for America’s important reservoirs? Is dead pool next?

Dead pool occurs when water in a reservoir drops so low that it cannot flow downstream the dam. America’s two largest reservoirs, Lake Mead behind Hoover Dam and Lake Powell behind Glen Canyon Dam are interconnected and at high risk of dead pool.

The risks impact all of America, as 40 million people and 4-5 million acres of farmland depend upon the reservoirs for electric power and/or drinking and irrigation. Furthermore, the seven states of the Colorado Basin in large measure “feed the country.” California alone produces 33% of the country’s vegetables and 67% of the country’s fruits and nuts.

Lake Mead dead pool is 895 feet and minimum power pool 1,000 feet; its current elevation is 1,041 feet.

Lake Powell dead pool is 3,370 feet and minimum power pool 3,490 feet; its current elevation is 3,536 feet.

Minimum power pool is defined as water reservoir levels so low that turbines start losing capacity to produce power as they start to take on air along with water. Unless shut down, the turbines will suffer damage.

These massive reservoirs have steadily shrunk in concert with the relentless impact of the worst drought for the American West in over 1,000 years, now down to 1,041.30 feet for Lake Mead, as of July 18, 2022 (U.S. Bureau of Reclamation).

But, of even more concern, alarmingly and suddenly Lake Mead dropped 22 feet and Lake Powell dropped 40 feet in 2021 alone much, much faster than ever forecast. California, Nevada, Arizona and others must make big cuts to their allocations or dead pool will become reality. Nobody expected this so soon.

It should be noted that the reservoirs are shaped like giant martini glasses, thereby narrowing with depth. This feature, in part, explains Lake Mead dropping 22 feet in one year and Lake Powell 40 feet. Nevertheless, Lake Mead at 1,041 feet is only 41 feet away from minimum power pool and Lake Powell at 3,526 feet only 46 feet from minimum power pool. Yikes!

The seriousness of this crisis cannot be overly emphasized as the reality of a mega drought hits America right between the eyes. Yet, there are no quick solutions. Of course one solution would be if somebody could wave a magical wand over the Rocky Mountains to regenerate the normality of snowpack since that is the source for 90% of the water flow. But, global warming has walloped snowpack: According to the U.S. EPA’s Climate Change Indicators: Snowpack throughout the Western U.S., as of 2022: The snowpack measured in April has declined by 20-60% at most monitoring sites.

A good explanation for the sorry state of America’s largest reservoirs comes from John Matthews, executive director and co-founder of the Alliance for Global Water Adaptation: “Matthews said the water shortage on the Colorado River reflects fundamental problems in how Hoover Dam and other infrastructure projects were designed for a climate that no longer exists, and how water supplies continue to be divided under a rigid and antiquated system.”1

Matthews: “The Colorado Compact is trapped in a climate that went away in 1980 or 1990, and is not coming back for at least another millennium… I think this is an old car without airbags.”2

Scientists estimate that one-half of the decrease in water runoff of the Colorado watershed since 2000 is caused by unprecedented warming, a heat-driven erosion of water supply that’s destined to worsen as temperatures continue to rise.

The upshot is a permanent change in the climate system caused by an imbalance as Earth absorbs more energy from the Sun than it emits to space because of the blanket effect of greenhouse gas emissions, such as CO2. This worldwide nemesis is not about to change anytime soon. More likely, it will worsen.

Meanwhile in Washington, D.C., the highly touted Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, if passed, will face a predicament that’s already deeply embedded. It should be noted that Bill McKibben, of 350.org fame, writing in The New Yorker: 3

The bill penalizes oil and gas companies that fail to cut methane emissions, but it doesn’t actually pressure energy utilities to abandon coal and gas. Still, analysts say that it would cut emissions to forty per cent below 2005 levels by the end of the decade.

Thus, the bill (except for provisions that actually promote more fossil fuel usage) is not bad but also not good enough according to what’s needed to actually mitigate global warming (caused by fossil fuel usage). Accordingly, scientists’ concerns about rapid climate change know that effective mitigation requires much stronger measures, much sooner.

Fixing Lake Powell and Lake Mead

As word of mouth spread that America’s major reservoirs were close to failing, it spurred more and more suggestions of tapping the massive Mississippi River to supplement the Colorado River Basin.

Moreover, according to The Waterways Journal, suggestions to tap the Mississippi River go back decades: “The Bureau of Reclamation did a thorough study of the idea of pumping Mississippi River water to Arizona in 2012, concluding that the project would cost $14 billion (in 2012 dollars) and take 30 years to complete. As recently as 2021, the Arizona state legislature urged Congress to fund a technological and feasibility study of a diversion dam and pipeline scheme to harvest floodwater from the Mississippi River to replenish the Colorado River.”

However, it should be noted that the Trans Alaska Pipeline System was completed in June 1977, taking three years to complete the 800-mile pipeline under extremely harsh conditions. Hmm.

At this point in time, crossing one’s fingers that some relief will come soon in the West is the only short-term viable solution other than stealing water from other reservoirs, which the U.S. Reclamation Bureau was forced to do to save Lake Powell’s power generation. Yes, the Bureau had to scramble to “save” Lake Powell’s power generation capability. This fact alone is chilling.

The Bureau’s changes allow more water to flow into Lake Powell from upstream reservoirs, while releasing less water from Lake Powell downstream. In this bureaucratic scramble to find more water, Lake Mead comes up at the short end of the stick in favor of saving Lake Powell’s power generation. About 500,000 acre-feet of water will be released from Flaming Gorge Reservoir, about 455 river miles upstream of Lake Powell. Meanwhile, 480 kaf will be held back in Lake Powell by reducing Glen Canyon Dam’s annual release volume from 7.48 maf to 7.0 maf. 4

Flaming Gorge Reservoir, on the Green River in Utah and Wyoming, currently holds about 3 maf of water and is at 78% of its storage capacity. Operators started sending additional water to Lake Powell in May 2022.

Thus, the Bureau keeps the ship of state together by cut and paste methodology robbing upstream reservoirs in order to keep the lights on for 5 million electric customers and water flowing for 40 million. Obviously, the cut and paste solution cannot go on forever.

This horror story of failing reservoirs that provide crucial power and water for dense population centers and key agricultural regions represents an inexcusable failure by leadership in government and business to listen to warnings from scientists for four decades, ever since James Hansen, director of NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, 1981-2013, testified before the Senate in 1988 that the greenhouse effect had been detected, indicating the climate system was changing, not for the better. That testimony was remarkably prophetic.

As it happens, what would have been a relatively simple solution back in the day has turned into a nightmare.

In that regard, The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, the proposed Shumer/Manchin bill, is a Band-Aid, not a solution.

Postscript: “Earth is out of energy balance, more solar energy absorbed than heat radiated to space, by an astounding amount, more than any time with reliable data.” 5

Regarding the Inflation Reduction Act: “It is consistent with the long-standing ‘wishful thinking’ approach to climate policy, ask each nation to try to reduce their emissions and hope that the global results will add up to a solution. And then ignore the blatant scientific data showing that this approach is not working and will not work.” (Hanson)

  1. “As Climate Talks Put Focus On Water Crisis, The Colorado River Provides A Stark Example”, Los Angeles Times, November 4, 2021.
  2. Ibid.
  3. “Congress Looks Set To Finally Pass Historic Climate Legislation”, July 31, 2022: “Taken as a whole, the bill is a triumph. It would be the most ambitious climate package ever passed in the U.S. and would allow the country to resume a credible role as an environmental leader.”
  4. “Bureau of Reclamation Takes Drastic Steps at Lake Powell to Ensure Hydropower Generation”,  S&P Global, Commodity Insights, May 3, 2022.
  5. James Hansen, “June Temperature Update & The Bigger Picture”, July 29, 2022.
The post America’s Biggest Reservoirs Hit By Dead Pool Jitters first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Breakdown of the Marine Food Web

For the first time, a significant loss at the base of the marine food web has been detected. The Scottish research vessel Capepod reported the findings in equatorial waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

It’s a disturbing discovery, but first a look at the marine food web, starting with the lowest organisms: (1) phytoplankton – plant-like plankton: green algae, diatoms, and dinoflagellates eaten by (2) zooplankton – microorganisms: crustaceans, rotifers, insect larvae and mites eaten by (3) small fish: anchovies, sardines, shrimp, squid, krill eaten by (4) bigger fish: sturgeon, sunfish, sharks, manta rays eaten by (5) mammals: seals, dolphins, polar bears, and last but certainly not least, humans at an increasingly wobbly end of the food chain.

At the bottom of the food web phytoplankton generically serves as the most significant resource of marine life simply because nothing else eats if phytoplankton doesn’t exist. Moreover, phytoplankton performs photosynthesis, converting sun rays to energy, absorbs CO2, and serves as a major source, producing oxygen for the biosphere.

Teams of scientists study plankton and keep track of changes at the base of the food chain. Their results are reported to various governmental agencies that hopefully take remedial action if things are going sideways. But, umm… well, onward with the story.

Only recently, disturbing news came from the Scottish research group Global Oceanic Environmental Survey (“GOES”) Edinburgh that spent two years gathering samples of plankton along the equatorial Atlantic. The team detected unmistakable signs that the food web is compromised: “Their sampling suggested plankton levels may have fallen by 90% in parts of the Atlantic.”1

The GOES research team spent two years collecting water samples from the Atlantic and the Caribbean. Previously, it was assumed that plankton had fallen by 50% since the 1940s, but this new evidence suggests a mouth-dropping -90%.

According to the GOES team, plankton is directly impacted by: “An overload of CO2 along with a deluge of lethal manmade chemicals in cosmetics, plastics, sunscreen, drugs, and fertilizers is inundating the marine environment. It’s all toxic to underwater life and once the water reaches a tipping point of activity, vast amounts of plankton will simply dissolve.” 2

GOES’s research: “The team expected to find up to five visible pieces of plankton in every 10 litres of water – but found an average of less than one (ed.-meaning some samples were zero) Conversely, they’d expected to discover 20 microscopic specks of toxic particles per litre of Atlantic water – but actually counted between 100 and 1,000. The discovery suggests that plankton faces complete wipeout sooner than was expected,”3

In addition to the above-referenced GOES survey in parts of the equatorial Atlantic, another research team Continuous Plankton Recorder Survey (“CPR”) of Plymouth, UK monitors plankton with vessels across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, up to 30 vessels generating 5,000 samples per year. CPR has been monitoring plankton in the North Atlantic for 70 years and reports results to governments in the UK, EU, and North America.

Preliminary evidence suggests, in addition to human influenced chemicals, etc., for the first time, microscopic plankton sea creatures are negatively reacting to warming ocean water in a profound manner. In part, the issue is the change of water temperature conditions required to support certain species life cycles. It appears that global warming’s impact is displacing them northward as the equatorial waters turn too warm. This shift northward by plankton may be okay for the short-term but more ocean warming will become extremely problematic as plankton essentially run out of enough cooler water space to migrate without overcrowding its own kind in jumbled clumps of plankton crowding onto and battling over the same space. This can become toxic in many respects.

According to David Johns, head of CPR: “Are we in a situation that requires mitigation as a matter of urgency? Yes, I would say so. If they carry on moving north and run out of water, if the seas become too warm, then we’ll lose a lot of those types of plankton that are critically important for fish species and marine mammals.” 3

Of course, nobody knows for certain whether the horrendous falloff is a result of migration north because of too warm of waters or decimation by toxins such as plastics, chemicals, and farm pesticides/fertilizers. However, it’s likely a combination of factors, which essentially doubles the trouble.

The world community should be overly concerned and overly reactive to do whatever it takes as quickly as possible! This type of bad news has a tendency to get worse over time. Moreover, is there a fast enough solution to make a big enough difference in enough time?

The risk is that a loss of plankton brings in its wake a collapse of the ocean food chain. According to Dr. Howard Dryden of GOES, a tipping point could arrive within 25 years unless direct action is taken on toxins from plastics, chemicals, and farm fertilizers. Still, a big issue is temperatures goosed up by inordinate climate change/global warming as a result of excessive greenhouse gases emitted by humans as well as CO2’s hugely negative impact on ocean acidification.

As for solutions, according to David Johns of CPR: “I’d definitely focus on reducing CO2.”

Which brings forth the heartbreaking reality that CO2 emissions are nearly guaranteed to keep on increasing at the current rate of 10 times more than the paleoclimate record over the past 66 million years. Umm, 10xs faster! And 66 million years left in the dust.

Here’s why CO2 is destined to continue choking the planet: Public announcements of oil and gas production plans guarantee excessive levels of greenhouse gas emissions for years ahead: World’s Biggest Fossil Fuel Firms Projected to Spend Almost a Trillion Dollars on New Oil and Gas Fields by 2030, Global Witness and Oil Change International, April 12, 2022. At the same time, both China and India have once again rediscovered affairs with coal.

Withal, the threat to plankton goes much deeper than human-generated greenhouse gases and toxic chemicals. It’s much worse, to wit: Indeed, scientists have observed zooplankton eating plastic. Micro-plastic resembles food for zooplankton. This horror film analogue introduces a variety of toxic chemicals to the marine food web. Heaven only knows the final results, maybe 3-eyed fish and lots more people with totally fried brains that are easily swayed to believe outright lies. 4

All of which brings to mind if, when, and how there’s any chance whatsoever of globally unified remedial policies on a worldwide scale to prevent total collapse of marine life. Hmm! That’s asking for a lot, especially when nations of the world couldn’t even follow thru on Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the Paris ’15 climate agreement. That’s been a total failure. What then of the oceans?

R.I.P.

James Lovelock, July 26, 1919 – July 26, 2022

Gaia theory – Earth is a self-regulating living organism

  1. “Expert: Warmer Seas are Forcing Crucial Plankton to Move North”, The Sunday Post, Dundee, Scotland, July 24, 2022.
  2. “Atlantic Ocean ‘Pretty Much Dead’ Says Scientist as Plankton Wiped Out”, Marine Industry News, July 18, 2022.
  3. Ibid.
  4. “Plastic Pollution is Killing Plankton. How the Loss of This Species Threatens the Oceans”, Onegreenplanet.org, 2021.
The post Breakdown of the Marine Food Web first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Breakdown of the Marine Food Web

For the first time, a significant loss at the base of the marine food web has been detected. The Scottish research vessel Capepod reported the findings in equatorial waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

It’s a disturbing discovery, but first a look at the marine food web, starting with the lowest organisms: (1) phytoplankton – plant-like plankton: green algae, diatoms, and dinoflagellates eaten by (2) zooplankton – microorganisms: crustaceans, rotifers, insect larvae and mites eaten by (3) small fish: anchovies, sardines, shrimp, squid, krill eaten by (4) bigger fish: sturgeon, sunfish, sharks, manta rays eaten by (5) mammals: seals, dolphins, polar bears, and last but certainly not least, humans at an increasingly wobbly end of the food chain.

At the bottom of the food web phytoplankton generically serves as the most significant resource of marine life simply because nothing else eats if phytoplankton doesn’t exist. Moreover, phytoplankton performs photosynthesis, converting sun rays to energy, absorbs CO2, and serves as a major source, producing oxygen for the biosphere.

Teams of scientists study plankton and keep track of changes at the base of the food chain. Their results are reported to various governmental agencies that hopefully take remedial action if things are going sideways. But, umm… well, onward with the story.

Only recently, disturbing news came from the Scottish research group Global Oceanic Environmental Survey (“GOES”) Edinburgh that spent two years gathering samples of plankton along the equatorial Atlantic. The team detected unmistakable signs that the food web is compromised: “Their sampling suggested plankton levels may have fallen by 90% in parts of the Atlantic.”1

The GOES research team spent two years collecting water samples from the Atlantic and the Caribbean. Previously, it was assumed that plankton had fallen by 50% since the 1940s, but this new evidence suggests a mouth-dropping -90%.

According to the GOES team, plankton is directly impacted by: “An overload of CO2 along with a deluge of lethal manmade chemicals in cosmetics, plastics, sunscreen, drugs, and fertilizers is inundating the marine environment. It’s all toxic to underwater life and once the water reaches a tipping point of activity, vast amounts of plankton will simply dissolve.” 2

GOES’s research: “The team expected to find up to five visible pieces of plankton in every 10 litres of water – but found an average of less than one (ed.-meaning some samples were zero) Conversely, they’d expected to discover 20 microscopic specks of toxic particles per litre of Atlantic water – but actually counted between 100 and 1,000. The discovery suggests that plankton faces complete wipeout sooner than was expected,”3

In addition to the above-referenced GOES survey in parts of the equatorial Atlantic, another research team Continuous Plankton Recorder Survey (“CPR”) of Plymouth, UK monitors plankton with vessels across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, up to 30 vessels generating 5,000 samples per year. CPR has been monitoring plankton in the North Atlantic for 70 years and reports results to governments in the UK, EU, and North America.

Preliminary evidence suggests, in addition to human influenced chemicals, etc., for the first time, microscopic plankton sea creatures are negatively reacting to warming ocean water in a profound manner. In part, the issue is the change of water temperature conditions required to support certain species life cycles. It appears that global warming’s impact is displacing them northward as the equatorial waters turn too warm. This shift northward by plankton may be okay for the short-term but more ocean warming will become extremely problematic as plankton essentially run out of enough cooler water space to migrate without overcrowding its own kind in jumbled clumps of plankton crowding onto and battling over the same space. This can become toxic in many respects.

According to David Johns, head of CPR: “Are we in a situation that requires mitigation as a matter of urgency? Yes, I would say so. If they carry on moving north and run out of water, if the seas become too warm, then we’ll lose a lot of those types of plankton that are critically important for fish species and marine mammals.” 3

Of course, nobody knows for certain whether the horrendous falloff is a result of migration north because of too warm of waters or decimation by toxins such as plastics, chemicals, and farm pesticides/fertilizers. However, it’s likely a combination of factors, which essentially doubles the trouble.

The world community should be overly concerned and overly reactive to do whatever it takes as quickly as possible! This type of bad news has a tendency to get worse over time. Moreover, is there a fast enough solution to make a big enough difference in enough time?

The risk is that a loss of plankton brings in its wake a collapse of the ocean food chain. According to Dr. Howard Dryden of GOES, a tipping point could arrive within 25 years unless direct action is taken on toxins from plastics, chemicals, and farm fertilizers. Still, a big issue is temperatures goosed up by inordinate climate change/global warming as a result of excessive greenhouse gases emitted by humans as well as CO2’s hugely negative impact on ocean acidification.

As for solutions, according to David Johns of CPR: “I’d definitely focus on reducing CO2.”

Which brings forth the heartbreaking reality that CO2 emissions are nearly guaranteed to keep on increasing at the current rate of 10 times more than the paleoclimate record over the past 66 million years. Umm, 10xs faster! And 66 million years left in the dust.

Here’s why CO2 is destined to continue choking the planet: Public announcements of oil and gas production plans guarantee excessive levels of greenhouse gas emissions for years ahead: World’s Biggest Fossil Fuel Firms Projected to Spend Almost a Trillion Dollars on New Oil and Gas Fields by 2030, Global Witness and Oil Change International, April 12, 2022. At the same time, both China and India have once again rediscovered affairs with coal.

Withal, the threat to plankton goes much deeper than human-generated greenhouse gases and toxic chemicals. It’s much worse, to wit: Indeed, scientists have observed zooplankton eating plastic. Micro-plastic resembles food for zooplankton. This horror film analogue introduces a variety of toxic chemicals to the marine food web. Heaven only knows the final results, maybe 3-eyed fish and lots more people with totally fried brains that are easily swayed to believe outright lies. 4

All of which brings to mind if, when, and how there’s any chance whatsoever of globally unified remedial policies on a worldwide scale to prevent total collapse of marine life. Hmm! That’s asking for a lot, especially when nations of the world couldn’t even follow thru on Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the Paris ’15 climate agreement. That’s been a total failure. What then of the oceans?

R.I.P.

James Lovelock, July 26, 1919 – July 26, 2022

Gaia theory – Earth is a self-regulating living organism

  1. “Expert: Warmer Seas are Forcing Crucial Plankton to Move North”, The Sunday Post, Dundee, Scotland, July 24, 2022.
  2. “Atlantic Ocean ‘Pretty Much Dead’ Says Scientist as Plankton Wiped Out”, Marine Industry News, July 18, 2022.
  3. Ibid.
  4. “Plastic Pollution is Killing Plankton. How the Loss of This Species Threatens the Oceans”, Onegreenplanet.org, 2021.
The post Breakdown of the Marine Food Web first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Lessons from recent US history

For much of the period since the breakup of the Soviet Union, the US was politically, militarily and economically unchallenged. The US was now the world’s hegemon and, to remain dominant, it couldn’t allow powerful challengers to arise. This goal meant that the US viewed the relationship with nations such as Russia and China as a zero-sum game, thus reducing the space for cooperation.

If we examine the past 30 years, what might one conclude about the outcome of this period? Has the US been a benign hegemon or has it acted primarily to remain the hegemon and to advance its corporate interests? There are many issues one could examine, but four major threats during this period were climate change, nuclear conflict, food insecurity and the wealth gap.

I’ll focus on the first two of these issues which are clearly existential. We already knew something about the climate change threat in the 1980s. Exxon scientists raised concern about climate change being real and human caused in the late 1970s and early 1980s. James Hansen, then the director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, testified before the Senate Energy Committee in 1988. He said: “The greenhouse effect has been detected, and it is changing our climate now.” The Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 began the effort to address this issue.

However, the Rio agreement and subsequent conferences lacked any real enforcement mechanisms. Disappointingly, instead of pushing for enforceable limits on greenhouse gas emissions, the US was one of the nations that led opposition to them. This shameful US position demonstrated the power of the fossil-fuel lobby in our system of legalized bribery of politicians. Had the US acted responsibly in the 1990s, could it have convinced other major fossil-fuel extracting nations to take real action to combat climate change?

We are now seeing the failure of the tepid approaches that were adopted. Record high temperatures, huge fires, long-lasting droughts, unprecedented flooding and rising sea levels are just some examples of this human-caused chaos, and they are occurring much sooner than predicted. Despite this overwhelming evidence, some US politicians and those in other major extractive fossil-fuel nations still oppose enforceable limits on greenhouse gases. The greed of fossil-fuel corporations knows no limits and they are apparently willing to sacrifice the future of humans on the planet. We big-brain humans are making the small-brain dinosaurs look a lot smarter as the dinosaurs did not cause their own extinction.

Regarding the other existential threat of nuclear conflict, the Doomsday Clock was created by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists to assess how close we are to destroying the world through our technologies and, since 2007, climate change. Since 2020 the Clock has remained at 100 seconds to midnight, the closest the Clock has been to midnight in its 75-year history. This assessment is frightening and represents a huge change since 1991 when the Clock was at 17 minutes to midnight.

A key moment occurred in February 1990 when the Soviet Union agreed to allow the reunification of West and East Germany and the US and allies promised not to expand NATO one inch eastward. Within a few years, the Clinton administration reneged on the promise and began the expansion of NATO towards Russia’s borders.

In 1996, George Kennan, architect of the U.S. containment policy towards the Soviet Union after WWII, warned that NATO’s expansion into former Soviet territories would be a “strategic blunder of potentially epic proportions.” In 1998, Thomas Friedman solicited Kennan’s reaction to the Senate’s ratification of NATO’s eastward expansion. Kennan said: ”I think it is the beginning of a new cold war. I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies. I think it is a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this whatsoever. No one was threatening anybody else.”

In 2007 and again in 2008 Russia strongly opposed Ukraine and Georgia joining NATO. Russia was concerned about having a hostile military alliance on its border threatening its security. To understand this situation, recall how the US was willing to risk a nuclear conflict over Soviet missiles in Cuba.

NATO nations, particularly the US, have been providing huge amounts of weapons and training to Ukraine, in effect turning this conflict into a proxy fight between US/NATO and Russia. Instead of providing more weapons and risking an unintended nuclear conflict, the US needs to strongly support a diplomatic resolution.

Turning to China, its long-term economic and political outreach, particularly its ‘Belt and Road Initiative’, to much of the world has proven to be far more popular than the US approach of relying on military power. The US has reacted by: 1) provoking China through its military presence close to China’s coastline; 2) creating a military alliance against China; and 3) arming Taiwan, despite allegedly accepting that Taiwan is part of China. The US is again unnecessarily increasing tension with another nuclear power.

In addition, the criminal and cruel unilateral US sanctions against many nations, for example, Cuba, Venezuela and Iran, have greatly harmed tens of millions. The US war crimes in the Middle East and its support for criminal Israeli actions have also played a major role in devastating much of that region.

Looking at these past 30 years, the US political leadership has shown itself to be grossly incompetent and shamefully uncaring about the lives of the other. It has also wasted trillions of dollars on unnecessary and terribly destructive military campaigns instead of dealing with looming environmental catastrophes. The US leadership has also needlessly increased tensions by withdrawing from weapons agreements. The elite US media played a major role in these horrific crimes as it enabled the government’s actions by misinforming the US public.

The post Lessons from recent US history first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Stench of Extinction

Photo Credit: Gilbert Mercier

The days of the locusts have come. Nature is taking a deadly revenge on itself and us. In our instance, the swarming locusts that eat and destroy all living creatures in their paths, are ourselves, eight billion humans who have eaten, consumed, exploited and are in the process of committing matricide on the most generous parent: mother Earth. It is a self-imposed punishment, a collective suicide, the mindless destruction of our own life source. We are, indeed, the locusts.

Photo Credit: Dave Straven

We are the locusts

Some of us, the ones climate-change deniers call climate alarmists, saw the Dead End signs coming for quite some time. For more than a decade we were called prophets of doom and gloom for ringing the alarm of Dying by Two Degrees. But most didn’t, or couldn’t, pay attention and listen, as they were trapped in the mindset paralysis of business as usual, or in the lunacy of denial of a human cause of climate collapse, expressed by statements such as, climate has always changed. Recently, while confronted with such a denier, torch bearer of such loony Godspell, I told him that climate has always changed as much as the earth is flat.

It’s funny how quickly things can change when a large portion of the northern hemisphere, especially arrogant Europe and North America, have been baking in temperatures around or above 40 degrees Celsius (104 F). Wait! This is not supposed to happen to us; we are for the most part melanin challenged! We don’t deserve this, right during our sacrosanct summer holidays! It is our birthright as the main vectors of an industrial civilization, which is killing us all, to burn more fuel, simply for our enjoyment, in planes, boats and cars. Soon, the melanin challenged will receive a lesson in humility from the brown and black people of the global south. As extreme heat and deserts move north, the melanin challenged should learn the Tuaregs’ survival ways.

Photo Credit: Gilbert Mercier

Everyone should see that all of it is going south, upside down and in absolute turmoil. Don’t deny it or make projections. No. We do not need any more studies by climatologists. It is not coming, it is already here! The stench of decomposing corpses, big and small, lingers about. At 47 degrees Celsius (117 F), birds drop dead from the sky. What we need is worldwide emergency mitigation to save what we can and whom we can: to build countless Noah’s arks for the climate collapse. The arks could be small subterranean cities under the wasteland scorched by the deadly sun. Those cities could possibly be connected by tunnels, or survivors more simply could rediscover cave dwelling like our ancestors. By then, drinkable water will be the most valuable commodity.

Photo Credit: Dave Straven

When the air is so hot and thick that innocent birds and flying insects, collateral damage of human follies, fall from the sky, you know that the stench of death has landed among us. It is announcing the coming of our own extinction. How can any human be so stupid as to think that the death of the entire ecosystem supporting us, being wild animals, or trees and plants, may be restored through technological fixes?

In life or death the blunt power of nature prevails over us. After almost two months of temperatures above 100 F and no rain, even mature trees like majestic sycamores or oaks suffer. Dead leaves cover the ground as if it is autumn. Old sycamores even shed their barks leaving their white trunks exposed to the brutal heat. Trees and animals are crying for help! The few of us who care try to help, mostly in vain. The toys of the techies have no power over any of it. No apps will miraculously shade the sun or bring the salvation of rain.

Photo Credit: Gilbert Mercier

Modern human’s quasi worship of technology, and so called progress, since the industrial revolution of the mid-nineteen century, is what has triggered the explosion of this rage of the machine: the imperative to extract and burn fossil fuels, or consume everything like voracious beasts. Some 170 years of an abysmal race into this madness, and we have become the lobotomized half man and half machine cyborg of the Apocalypse.

Photo Credit: Gilbert Mercier

One can wonder why we, as a species, have not set up a giant and global Marshal-like plan to mitigate the climate collapse that is unfolding in real time? Trillions of dollars could be diverted from military and fossil-fuel extraction spending. The reason is simple. All major world powers are in reality run by the industrial military, energy and tech complex, including Russia and China. Therefore, even with the prospect of global destruction for all, the promise of immense profit for very few still prevails. The time of the Apocalypse has come. It is here right now. We won’t have Jesus to come back for the Rapture or some generous billionaire comic book heroes to spirit us away to their space stations. The hell on Earth of extreme weather, droughts, fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, famines and almost unlivable conditions will be our legacy to coming generations. The likely rule will be a survival of the fittest in brutal and primitive hunter and gatherer semi-nomadic tribal communities. The old, the frail, and the sick will not stand a chance.

Photo Credit: Gilbert Mercier

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Greenland Threatens

Rain, Greenland Summit Station (Getty Image)

It rained for 9 hours at Summit Station/Greenland, 10,530’ elevation.

Greenland is sending signals to coastal metropolises around the world that it’s never too early to start building seawalls. These are not mixed signals from the big ice island. Rather, they are straightforward signals indicative of rapid breakdown of average ice thickness of 5,000 feet sooner than ever thought possible.

Stating the obvious, it’s horrible news.

In conjunction with freakish rain at the top of Greenland, the response to global warming has increasingly exposed humans as farcically trapped behind the biggest eight ball of all time by not taking global warming seriously. Now, there may be no way around it.

Greenland is acting out. For example, it rained at the Summit Station at 10,530 feet above sea level where it has never rained throughout all recorded history. It’s not supposed to rain at the top of an ice sheet nearly two miles above sea level. But, it did.

Why?

Climate System Scientist Paul Beckwith knows why, as he explains in a 41-min video released July 14, 2022 entitled: Greenland Ice Sheet Vulnerable to Bone-Crushing Melt from Stronger More Frequent Atmospheric Rivers.

He starts by explaining how the first rainfall in recorded history at the summit happened one year ago. An atmospheric river caused it. Accordingly, he explains: “These atmospheric rivers are occurring more frequently.”

Here’s how Beckwith sees it: “The idea that the ice on Greenland will last decades and decades, even centuries. I think you could throw those ideas out the window as you get more and more atmospheric rivers, you’ll get more and more abrupt changes in the melt rate.”

On the first day of rain at the Summit, it rained every hour, which was unprecedented and shocking to the scientists at the station at 10,000 feet elevation. Temperatures were more than 18°C higher than normal.

The implications are horrifying. For example, when and how much sea level rises has become a roll of the dice that threatens every coastal city of the world. When and how much?

Keep in mind nobody is gonna ring a bell or pre-announce: Hey, Greenland’s crumbling so fast that we’d better head for the hills. Nobody is going to make a public statement like that, and if they did, climate deniers, including 52% of House Republicans and 60% of Senate Republicans would tear them to pieces in the media labeled as a “commie plot,” or as a “lie to scare Americans,” or something equally stupid and juvenile that a whole bunch of people would believe.

Beckwith introduced a new study d/d June 2nd, 2022 entitled: Greenland Ice Sheet Rainfall, Heat and Albedo Feedback Impacts From the Mid-August 2021 Atmospheric River, Geophysical Research Letters, Vole 49, Issue 11 by Jason E. Box, et al. Box is widely recognized as the world’s leading authority on Greenland.

Regarding the analysis according to Christopher Shuman, a glaciologist with University of Maryland: “To see this many melt events at this intensity in such a short period is absolutely remarkable in the historic records that are available to us… We now see three melting events in a decade in Greenland – and before 1990, that happened about once every 150 years, and now rainfall in an area where rain never fell.”1

According to Beckwith: “This has huge implications for Greenland’s rate of melt, it has huge implications for global sea level rise. It has huge implications for the Ocean Circulation Pattern… It’s a solid indicator that we’re in abrupt climate system change… crazy things are happening, we’re at that state.”

The frequency of atmospheric rivers driven by highly amplified jet stream patterns is increasingly troublesome and threatens continued rapid melt. This is also an issue in Antarctica.

Since the timeline and extent of sea level rise is now an unknown more so than ever before and in the face of rapidly deteriorating conditions at both poles, coastal communities worldwide should preempt the unknown by building sea walls, especially low-lying areas like Miami. And yet, there are no hues and cries across the land to initiate emergency measures to hold back rising seas.

Bottom line according to Beckwith: “Throw out all of the models, the idea that it can take decades and decades or even centuries for a place like Greenland ice to melt out with a huge increase in sea level rise… If atmospheric rivers become more frequent, the Greenland ice sheet is basically a sitting duck to be obliterated by these atmospheric rivers.”

“In just one week in July last year, the ice and snow virtually disappeared from the surface of Greenland’s barren interior. Only a few months earlier, when Box predicted this might happen, he was dismissed by many of his fellow scientists as an alarmist.” 2

Box explains the problem of science: “For most scientists publishing a paper is a masturbatory act… Few people read it, you feel good, and then it’s over; it has no influence on policymakers; it does nothing to increase public understanding of what is happening to the climate system.”1

Meanwhile, according to NASA: Greenland and Antarctica are losing three times as much ice each year as they did in the 1990s.

Years of warnings about dangers of excessive fossil fuel CO2 emissions have not moved the needle. Fossil fuels today account for 75-80% of the energy mix, same as 50 years ago. And, according to the International Energy Agency, fossil fuel companies plan on $1.5T of new production between now and 2030.

With warnings galore of dangers of global warming, even The Economist felt compelled to carry an article Aug. 25, 2020: The Greenland Ice Sheet has Melted Past the Point of no Return: “The ice loss, they think, is now so great that it has triggered an irreversible feedback loop: the sheet will keep melting, even if all climate-warming emissions are miraculously curtailed. This is bad news for coastal cities.”

The Economist article was two years ago, one year before the unusual rain incident at Summit Station, which was a big time wake up call. Yet, the planet’s biggest threat remains worse than ever. Alas, at some point in time global warming warning articles, like this one, will become meaningless. Gurgle!

  1. Ibid.
  2. Greenland Melting“, Rolling Stone, 2022.
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Drought in the Horn of Africa: Worst in 40 Years

The Horn of Africa (HoA) is once again being battered by climate change induced drought, with the UN report, over “20 million people, and at least 10 million children facing severe drought conditions.”

Desperately needed support from UN agencies (World Food Programme (WFP), UNHCR and UNICEF) is limited due to lack of donations from member states. WFP have been forced to halve food rations due to the “lowest levels of funding on record”. Leading to what UNICEF describes as a “humanitarian catastrophe……. Urgent aid is needed to prevent parts of the region sliding into famine.” The disruption caused to supply chains and food production by the war in Ukraine is adding to the crisis, dramatically increasing food prices and limiting availability.

The region’s agriculture has been decimated by year on year rising temperatures and decreasing rainfall. Food insecurity, in a region with some of the poorest people in the world, is intensifying with the threat of famine looming, and food prices have sky rocketed. Livestock have perished – in Ethiopia alone 2.1 million livestock have died and 22 million are at risk, emancipated with little or no milk production – the primary source of nutrition for young children.

Child malnutrition is increasing and huge numbers of people are being displaced. Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Djibouti and Eritrea are all impacted by the most severe drought in forty years.

The effect on rural communities, and children specifically, is devastating. UNICEF estimate 2 million children are in need of treatment for “severe acute malnutrition,” particularly in Ethiopia and in the arid lands of Northern Kenya and Somalia, where the drought is most severe.

As well as decimating food production, drought is intensifying the water crisis in the area – with, the UN say, 8.5 million people (including 4.2 million children) facing water shortages. In Ethiopia, where around 60 per cent of the population (roughly 70 million) do not have access to clean drinking water with or without a drought, the situation is dire. Streams, wells and ponds, that people living in remote areas rely on, are either drying up or are completely parched. Such sterile water sources become contaminated by animal and human waste, increasing the risk of water borne diseases, cholera and diarrhea, which are the leading causes of death among children under five in the country; cases of measles have also been increasing at alarming rates in Ethiopia and Somalia, resulting in some cases in deaths.

Desperate families are being driven to extreme measures to try to survive, with hundreds of thousands leaving their homes in search of food, water, fresh pasture for animals and assistance. This is creating and intensifying numerous issues: Access to health care, education and protection/reproductive services is made difficult, or impossible. Children are forced out of school – approximately 1.1 million; schools close (in a region overflowing with children where 15 million children are already not in school); girls and women are made more vulnerable to physical coercion, sexual/child labor and forced marriage; displacement of persons explodes. Already a massive problem throughout the region, specifically in Ethiopia, where, according to UNHCR (as of March 2022) “an estimated 5,582,000 persons” were internally displaced due to armed conflict and natural disasters.

“Natural” disaster no longer natural

As the world heats up due to greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) pouring into the lower atmosphere, the inevitability of extreme weather patterns including drought increases.

Like forest fires, heat waves and monsoon rains, drought was historically regarded as a “natural disaster”, but the frequency and intensity of such events is no longer “natural” and must now be understood to be man-made. Far from being freak happenings, such catastrophic climate explosions are becoming commonplace, and despite producing virtually none of the poisons that are driving climate change, those most affected are the poorest people in the poorest countries or regions.

The seed of the deadly drought in the HoA was planted and fed by the behavior of people in the US, in Europe, Japan and other rich countries. It is the materialistic lifestyles of wealthy developed nations (and disproportionately the richest people within such countries), rooted in irresponsible consumerism (including diets centered around animal food produce), that has caused and is perpetuating the environmental crisis. But to their utter shame the governments of such nations refuse to honor their debt, their responsibility to clean up the mess. On the contrary, because economic health is dependent on rapacious consumption, they continue to promote modes of living that are deepening the crisis.

Commitments made 12 years ago in 2009 by rich nations to give 100 billion USD a year to developing countries are yet to be fulfilled. In 2019 a high of 79.6 billion USD was reached, 71% of which was in the form of loans. Loans – for some of the poorest nations in the world, to mitigate the impact of climate change that they haven’t caused; loans that enable donor nations political and economic influence, perpetuating post-colonial exploitation and control, and ensuring Sub-Saharan Africa remains impoverished, and, more or less enslaved.

Imperial powers have outsourced the most severe effects of climate change; they either refuse to act at all or offer limited support with strings to countries and regions most at risk. At the V20 Climate Vulnerable Finance Summit in July 2021, heads of state demanded that higher income nations do more to meet their promises and called for grants not loans. UN Secretary General, António Guterres said that in order to “rebuild trust, developed countries must clarify now how they will effectively deliver $100 billion in climate finance annually to the developing world, as was promised over a decade ago.” But four months later at COP 26 in Glasgow, where climate finance was a primary issue under consideration, once again the rich nations failed. Failed to honor their word, failed to act responsibly in the interests of poorer nations, failed to stand for the collective good and the health of the planet. Shameful, but predictable. Politicians cannot be and, in fact, are not trusted; national and international climate pledges should be legally binding and enforceable.

Climate change and the environmental emergency more broadly is a global crisis; as such, it requires a global approach. This has been said many times, and yet national self-interest and political weakness continue to dominate the policies and priorities of western governments/politicians. If this crisis, which is the greatest issue humanity has ever faced, is to be met, and healing is to begin in earnest, this narrow nationalistic approach must change. As with other major areas of concern – armed conflict, inequality, displacement of persons, poverty – united, coordinated global policies and a powerful United Nations (UN) are urgently needed, but the single most significant change that is required is a fundamental shift in attitudes; a move away from tribalism, competition and division to cooperation and unity. A recognition, not intellectually or theoretically, but actually, that humanity is one, that we form part of a collective life that is the planet.

As the UN has said the men women and children in the Horn of Africa whose lives are being ravaged by drought need “the world’s attention and action, now.” Sustained action rooted in the realization of our individual and collective environmental responsibility. This requires governments to honor commitments: the $100m billion mitigation fund (as grants not loans), and making up the cumulative shortfall; it means funding the UN properly so emergency humanitarian aid can be supplied to those currently affected by drought in the HoA; it means supporting countries most at risk of man-made climate change in drawing up plans and initiating short and long term projects to minimize where possible the social and economic impact of extreme weather events; and individually, it means living thoughtful, conscious lives, in which the effect on the natural world is at the forefront of daily decisions, including diet, shopping and travel. It is our world, the people displaced by drought in Ethiopia and Somalia are our brethren, and we are all responsible for them.

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Beware the Prophets of Doom:  Organic Food, Fertilisers and Fossil Fuels 

As oil and gas prices rise so does the price of artificial chemical fertilisers – the lynch-pin of industrial agriculture’s claims to be ‘efficient’. In the UK, the price of nitrogen fertiliser has doubled over the past year to around £330 per tonne. With oil currently at over $130 a barrel and with OPEC warning it could reach $200 by the end of the year, it has been suggested that fertilisers could hit GBP 500 a tonne. At these prices, the claimed efficiency of fossil-fuel and fertiliser dependent industrial farming begins to collapse.

The above extract is from a 2008 Soil Association press release.

In July 2022, the price of oil is just over $100 per barrel and fertilisers are well more than double the 2008 price. In fact, the price of fertilisers has doubled since 2021.

Much has been written in recent months about supply chain crises stemming from the conflict in Ukraine and the effects on gas and oil. Perhaps up to two thirds of the global population are reliant on nitrogen-based synthetic fertilisers for much of their food. As a result, alarm bells have been ringing over fertiliser and food shortages, which will hit the world’s poorest the worst.

With fears of rising prices for natural gas – essential for producing nitrogen fertiliser – we are seeing the vulnerability of a fossil-fuel dependent food system. Nitrogen fertilisers are made from ammonia produced by the Haber-Bosch process, an energy-intensive approach. Natural gas usually supplies the hydrogen. The nitrogen is derived from the air. This ammonia is used for all nitrogen fertilisers, including anhydrous ammonium nitrate and urea.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, in the period 1961-2014, global nitrogenous fertiliser consumption went from a little more than 10 million tonnes to around 105 million tonnes. This has helped feed and maintain a rapidly growing global population.

But this has come at a high cost in terms of mineral-depleted and microbiological-degraded soils, polluted waterways, unstable nitrogen in soils which release nitrous oxide into the atmosphere and a food system extremely vulnerable to oil and gas price rise volatility due to war, commodity speculation or some other catastrophe.

The situation in Ukraine and the West’s sanctions on Russia aside, the current crisis might not be solely due to the economics of supply and demand. The recent article by Antonia Juhasz ‘Why are gas prices so high?’ reports that current prices are not reflective of supply chain problems. In effect, energy traders are stoking rising prices and volatility when it comes to the price of oil, natural gas and other vital fossil-fuel commodities.

Given the environmental impacts and the vulnerability to price shocks and largely unregulated speculation, it is increasingly clear that the world must move away from its reliance on fossil-fuel agriculture. This also involves delinking from a globalised food system based on long-line supply chains.

For instance, Russia and Ukraine produce more than half of the world’s supply of sunflower oil and 30% of the world’s wheat. Some 45 African and least-developed countries import at least a third of their wheat from Ukraine or Russia with 18 of them importing at 50% or more.

Regional and local community-owned food systems based on food sovereignty and short(er) food supply chains that can cope with future shocks are required.

How we cultivate food also needs to change.

The EU’s ‘farm to fork’ strategy advocates for at least a 20% reduction in synthetic fertiliser use by 2030 and at least a 50% reduction in pesticides. This has come under fire from the US government and its cronies in the agrochemical sector who forward tired and discredited arguments that this will fuel hunger and starvation and lead to increased land use.

The industry is determined to undermine the EU’s strategy, which also aims by 2030 to more than triple the percentage of EU farmland under organic management (from 8.1% to 25%).

A loud lobby for a silent spring’ is a 2022 report by the Brussels-based lobby watchdog Corporate Europe Observatory, which details the carefully orchestrated attack on this EU strategy by the industry. Its business model depends on trapping farmers on chemical treadmills.

Rather than rehash the arguments here, readers may turn to author and impact investor Brian Halweil who presented a detailed, research-based takedown of the anti-organic arguments of the pesticide lobby some years back. His piece originally appeared in World Watch Volume 19, Number 3. It can be accessed on the Organic Consumers Association website – ‘Can Organic Food Feed the World?

Halveil also rebuts the claim that organic fertilisers are insufficient in quantity and effect for maintaining necessary levels of productivity. The arguments for organic methods and agroecological approaches and evidence of their success and scaling up have been well documented (see the 2022 article ‘Living in Epoch-Defining Times: Food, Agriculture and the New World Order’ for a brief overview).

Readers are also urged to access the short but excellent backgrounder on YouTube Understanding Our Soil: The Nitrogen Cycle, Fixers and Fertilizer (2021), which describes the deleterious impact of modern synthetic fertilisers on soil, water and the atmosphere and how organic nitrogen-fixing methods can address these problems, not least by restoring and boosting soil fertility.

Of course, no one is advocating an immediate shift to organic cultivation methods. There has to be a gradual and careful phase out and phase in which would take place over a period of many years.

In this respect, Vandana Shiva says in a recent article that it is time governments made the fertiliser industry pay for nitrogen pollution and redirect subsidies from industrial agriculture to ecological farming. Rather than attacking farmers (as is currently happening in the Netherlands), she says new agroecology schools need to be open for farmers to make a transition to ecological agriculture over a three- to five-year period.

At the same time, we must not be hoodwinked by the relentless fear-mongering (concerning organics) of the agritech-agribusiness lobby, which requires farmers to continue to purchase its proprietary inputs, including synthetic fertilisers, while continuing to rollout and impose its high-input, high-energy, health-damaging model of industrial agriculture across the world.

The post Beware the Prophets of Doom:  Organic Food, Fertilisers and Fossil Fuels  first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Why There Is No Public Sense Of A Climate Crisis

Rousseau wrote:

We have physicists, geometricians, chemists, astronomers, poets, musicians and painters in plenty; but no longer have a citizen among us.

Increasingly, now, we do have citizens among us: scientists – particularly, climate scientists – who are awakening from their ‘mainstream’ slumber to the reality that they are citizens of a decaying society on a dying planet.

Gone are the lofty dismissals and bemused indifference that traditionally greeted the savant guard – professors Noam Chomsky, Edward Herman, Howard Zinn and others – who challenged the supposed primacy of academic ‘objectivity’. Zinn said it best in 1997:

You can’t be neutral on a moving train… the world is already moving in certain directions – many of them are horrifying. Children are going hungry, people are dying in wars. To be neutral in such a situation is to collaborate with what is going on. 1

Then, Zinn’s words did not have the power to penetrate rationalisations protecting privileged careers from the dread threat of ‘controversy’ provoked by ‘polemicists’. Now, many specialist scientists know exactly what Zinn meant. They have opened their generalist eyes to behold a political landscape far stranger, far more alien and bewildering than anything they had imagined.

To be fair, even veteran activists are asking themselves: ‘In what kind of world have we actually been living all along?’ For when it comes to anything other than maximising profit for corporations and pacifying the public, there appears to be no-one piloting the ship of state. We have criticised ‘the government’ for decades; but has there ever really been a government? It appears to have been some kind of illusion. We have intellectually stormed the castle ramparts only to find the castle empty.

Peter Kalmus is a courageous NASA climate scientist who was among a group of scientists arrested after they chained themselves to a JPMorgan Chase building in Los Angeles to protest the bank’s financing of fossil fuels. Dramatic footage showed a tearful Kalmus pleading with the world to listen:

We’re going to lose everything. And we’re not joking, we’re not lying, we’re not exaggerating.

Kalmus said recently:

It’s incredible to me how many people aren’t yet terrified by the climate emergency.

The point being, as he has also said:

There is no way to escape a heat wave, if it’s bad enough.

Kalmus tweeted a few days later:

I’m amazed by how prevalent climate denial still is. Even at 1.3°C of global heating in 2022, with the world burning and melting all around us. If everyone agreed this was an emergency, we’d halt it in a few years.

Julia Steinberger, professor in social ecology and ecological economics at the University of Lausanne, shares Kalmus’ frustration and alarm:

I can’t stand how fast we are putting ourselves into danger. I can’t stand people casually driving around, in big cars, flying to conferences or on holiday, eating meat. I can’t stand it. We are doing this to ourselves, to each other.

Hitting The Alarm – The Suprahuman Character Of Authority

The confusion and outrage are understandable. But why is climate denial still so prevalent? Why are so many people behaving as if there is no crisis?

The reason is that we live in a society where the public is trained to respond to loud, shocking alarms punched by politicians in positions of authority backed to the hilt by powerful media.

Be in no doubt that authority is a very big deal indeed for modern men and women – we are relentlessly trained to defer to people in power. Psychologist Stanley Milgram commented:

Authority tends to be seen as something larger than the individual. The individual often views authority as an impersonal force, whose dictates transcend mere human wish or desire. Those in authority acquire, for some, a suprahuman character. 2

When ‘suprahuman’ people with authority hit alarm buttons, which ring loud and clear across the society and globe – across every newspaper, every website and TV channel – the public listens and reacts.

On Twitter, writer and climate activist, Dave Rhody, supplied the usual, wistful, climate red herring:

Galvanizing fear into action is a tall order for most people. Looking away is the most common reaction, unfortunately.

This just isn’t true. State-corporate interests generate and galvanise public fear into action with great efficiency when they want to. We need only think of World Wars I and II when millions of people were mobilised to kill and be killed to defend ‘democracy’, the ‘Fatherland’, the ‘Motherland’. After 1945, public fear and outrage were similarly brought to fever pitch by ‘red scares’ insisting that ‘The Russians are coming!’ As Zinn noted, the alarm was also rung to devastating effect in 1990 at the time of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait:

The American population was bombarded the way the Iraqi population was bombarded. It was a war against us, a war of lies and disinformation and omission of history.3

The same was true at the time of Nato’s assault on Serbia in 1999, also in 2003 when Iraq was invaded and conquered, in 2011 when the Libyan government was overthrown, and when the same attempt was made in Syria.

What does it look like when mass media punch the alarm? On 27 May 2012, in response to the massacre of 108 people, including 49 children in Houla, Syria, the Independent on Sunday’s stark front cover demanded outrage and action. The banner headline read:

SYRIA

THE WORLD LOOKS THE OTHER WAY.

WILL YOU?

The text beneath:

There is, of course, supposed to be a ceasefire, which the brutal Assad regime simply ignores. And the international community? It just averts its gaze.  Will you do the same? Or will the sickening fate of these innocent children make you very, very angry?’ 4

This is why there is no sense of climate crisis, of emergency. It has nothing to do with human indifference; it has to do with people with authority and power – interests fanatically committed to expanding profits – NOT producing banner, front-page headlines of this kind:

CLIMATE COLLAPSE: THE WORLD LOOKS THE OTHER WAY. WILL YOU? OR WILL YOU BECOME VERY, VERY ANGRY?

FOSSIL FUEL INTERESTS ARE KILLING US FOR SHORT-TERM PROFIT: THE WORLD LOOKS THE OTHER WAY. WILL YOU? OR WILL YOU BECOME VERY, VERY ANGRY?

Far from alarming us, front page headlines are still literally celebrating indications of looming climate collapse. On January 2, the Sunday Telegraph front page featured a smiling, costumed performer at London’s New Year’s Day parade, under the headline:

Warmest New Year’s Day on record

The text beneath the happy picture read:

Performers at London’s New Year’s Day parade enjoyed the warmest first day of the year on record… The reading trounces the previous temperature record of 15.6C (60F) which was set in Bude, Cornwall, way back in 1936. The average temperature at the beginning of January is around 7C.

A recent, high-profile Daily Mail headline read:

Enjoy it while it lasts! Fryday sun-lovers bask in 33C heat on the third hottest day of 2022 in a row with tomorrow set for 27C…

That’s 33 degrees, in Britain, in mid-June! The article opined:

Britons basked in the hottest day of the year for the third day in a row today with the mercury hitting 32C (90F) as sunseekers packed beaches and parks ahead of Atlantic storm warnings over the weekend.

Up to 50,000 beachgoers hit the seafront at Bournemouth which turned into a sea of umbrellas and deckchairs…

People in the capital were pictured eating ice creams as early as 10am…

The Mail added:

There are also hopes of a glorious Saturday for many parts of the UK.

We tweeted a screenshot from the BBC website of two young children happily playing with spades on a beach over the words:

Hottest day of year in UK with temperatures to rise…. People flock to enjoy the weather outdoors.

Over this picture, we emphasised that this is ‘Why there is no sense of crisis.’

Volcanologist, climate scientist and broadcaster Bill McGuire commented on our tweet:

When your children look back from later this century and wish they could have nice cool weather like this, they will also ask why you did not act to stop climate collapse.

The front page of the Daily Star showed a smiling young woman in sunglasses eating an ice cream over jovial, tabloid wordplay:

Record baker

Even when the impacts of climate change are not being celebrated, they are still being questioned. A BBC article asked:

Are soaring temperatures linked to climate change?

How, in 2022, with everything we know, can this even be a question? By contrast, during ‘red scares’ and ‘the war on terror’, often bogus ‘threats’ were shrieked out as undisputed and utterly terrifying. Any expressions of doubt were reviled as genocide-denying treachery.

When 2050 Happens In 2022

This surreal combination of celebration and denial is being produced in the context of devastating weather extremes that are only going to get much, much worse. On 15 June, the Guardian reported:

More than 100 million Americans have been advised to stay indoors amid record-breaking heat, with experts warning that such temperatures could become the norm amid the climate crisis.

By Wednesday as many as 107.5 million people, more than a third of the US population, had been warned to stay inside, as a potentially lethal combination of extreme heat and humidity settled over much of the country.

Meteorologist Matt Beitscher told CNN:

This is a day where not only folks who are susceptible to heat-related illnesses, but really just about anybody that’s going to be outside for an extended period of time is at risk for heat-related illnesses.

More than 20 US states were experiencing dangerously hot temperatures impacting nearly 100 million Americans as grim footage was shared of thousands of cattle killed by dangerous temperatures, raising the much-feared spectre of global food shortages as temperatures continue to rise.

The BBC reported:

Outdoor public events have been banned in an area of France as a record breaking heatwave sweeps across Europe…

On Thursday, parts of France hit 40C earlier in the year than ever before, with temperatures expected to peak on Saturday.

Scientists say periods of intense heat are becoming more frequent and longer lasting as a result of global warming.

Spain, Italy and the UK are also experiencing high temperatures.

Indeed, the Guardian reported nesting Spanish swifts were cooking to death in extreme heat in Spanish cities like Seville and Cordoba, and noodle prices were soaring in China due to crop damage by extreme floods. Was the Guardian ringing the climate alarm here? Incredibly, no. As Donnachadh McCarthy, climate columnist at the Independent, commented:

ZERO mention of climate crisis in either story.

It is reported that the current drought in Italy threatens more than 30% of national agricultural production. In Sydney, 50,000 people have been urged to evacuate their homes as floods hit Australia’s largest city for the third time this year. One resident who moved to his home in Sydney last year was told major flood events were supposed to be ‘one in 25 years, one in 50 years or whatever it was’. ‘Now it has been three in 2022,’ he said.

Climate scientists are warning that ‘every heatwave occurring today is more intense due to climate change.’ Heatwaves linked to climate change reportedly killed 157,000 people worldwide between 2000 and 2020, with four-fifths of those deaths during the 2003 European heatwave and 2010 Russia heatwave. But this figure:

is almost certainly an underestimate due to many parts of the world having no monitoring of heatwaves and often no definition of one.

A deeply disturbing observation on Twitter brought the dire state of the emergency home:

In 2014, this French weather presenter announced the forecast for August 18, 2050 as part of a campaign to alert to the reality of climate change. Now her forecast that day is the actual forecast for the coming 4 or 5 days, in mid-June 2022.

The forecast showed temperatures in 2050 reaching the higher thirties, 40 and even 43. The forecast for Saturday, June 18, 2022 closely matched the fictional forecast 28 years and two months early. In fact, at 41, Bordeaux 2022 was one degree higher than the predicted temperature for 2050.

António Guterres, the UN secretary general, has been scathing in his denunciations of the fossil fuel industry and their political backers. Addressing a climate conference organised by the White House, he warned:

We seem trapped in a world where fossil fuel producers and financiers have humanity by the throat. For decades, the fossil fuel industry has invested heavily in pseudoscience and public relations – with a false narrative to minimise their responsibility for climate change and undermine ambitious climate policies.

He continued:

They exploited precisely the same scandalous tactics as big tobacco decades before. Like tobacco interests, fossil fuel interests and their financial accomplices must not escape responsibility.

In short:

Nothing could be more clear or present than the danger of fossil fuel expansion. Even in the short-term, fossil fuels don’t make political or economic sense.

Conclusion – The Art Of Waking Up

Late in the day, scientists are now indeed becoming citizens among us. Kalmus tweeted recently:

If you think about it, every problem in society, including Earth breakdown, comes down to the ultra rich controlling everything and making self-dealing decisions.

Scientists like Kalmus are now pleading with the corporate media to drop the denialism and phony ‘balance’, and hit the alarm button with full force:

The single biggest media failure of all time is how the media still isn’t treating global heating as an emergency.

He added:

Climate journalists, the climate emergency just isn’t a normal thing to report. There need to be new rules/norms/practices when our entire planet is at stake. It’s a singular story.

And:

You’re not just reporting a story, in other words. You are literally a key group in the fight to save Earth and humanity’s future. I’m not sure exactly what this means for journalistic norms and practices… but I hope you’re discussing this intensely.

But how can messages calling on the corporate media to behave like something other than a corporate propaganda system maximising profits reach journalists and the public when that propaganda system is preventing the messages from being seen and heard? Born in 1928, Noam Chomsky commented recently on the war in Ukraine:

By now, censorship in the United States has reached such a level beyond anything in my lifetime. Such a level that you are not permitted to read the Russian position. Literally. Americans are not allowed to know what the Russians are saying… I have never seen a level of censorship like this.

How to escape state-corporate control of the means of mass communication?

It is a problem no-one has yet managed to solve. But a powerful step in the right direction must be for scientists to radicalise and mobilise – to look deeply and understand the true nature of corporate politics and corporate media – and to act together to demand public insurrection, rebellion and revolutionary change.

  1. Howard Zinn, The Zinn Reader, Seven Stories Press, 1997, p. 17.
  2. Stanley Milgram, Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View, Harper Perennial, 2004, p. 162.
  3. Howard Zinn, Power, History and Warfare, Open Magazine Pamphlet Series, No. 8, 1991, p.12.
  4. Independent on Sunday, 27 May 2012.
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The Overshoot Dilemma

Climate change and global warming, which is the largest part of the ‘change’ aspect, is suddenly getting the kind of special treatment that’s reserved for national tragedies. A special commission has been established to investigate a way out of the biggest human-caused failure of all time.

It wouldn’t be quite so disturbing if it were not for the fact that the truth about the widespread danger from fossil fuels has been in the public domain for decades now.

People in the highest positions academically, politically, and the business community have known for decades that CO2 emissions will eventually overheat the planet. But, none of them had the balls to stand up to the fossil fuel companies and right-wing hacks and the despicable denier core of charlatans. They are as guilty as the denier hacks.

Whenever society at large is under extraordinary threat, aka existential threat, special commissions composed of prominent members of the establishment pop up to study the situation and make recommendations. Only recently the 911 Commission (2002) and the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (2009) are two prime examples. These special commissions have a common genesis of responding to a threat to the established way of life.

Hooray (maybe, maybe not, but at any rate sorrowfully) climate change has now joined the ranks. It’s officially designated an extraordinary threat to society. As of May 2022 the Climate Overshoot Commission has been established. Its first meeting is June 2022 at Lake Como, Italy.

The commission is composed of a wide swath of pristine leadership personalities, including past presidents, prime ministers, ministers of foreign affairs, professors, former heads of international organizations like the WTO. Indeed, they are a shiny brass group with credentials up the wazoo.

The commission will consider the risks attendant to overshooting 1.5°C and the range of response options for addressing overshoot. Based upon their mission statement, 1.5°C overshoot is preordained.

But honestly, isn’t this commission comparable to creating a commission to study what to do after the dam breaks?

Why study an overshoot of 1.5C? Ecosystems throughout the planet are already nearly overshooting or maybe actually overshooting in some cases at only 1.2C above baseline. By the time 1.5C hits there may not be enough pieces left to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

The commission may have the wrong idea and wrong target. If the commission is going to tackle the manifold risks of climate change, they should focus on the root cause, not the after effects. Why should a commission spend time and energy trying to figure out how to handle a totally unprecedented blowup of the climate system, when they should focus on the root cause of global heat and try to stop it before exceeding 1.5C?

Maybe the answer is to pivot to the Special Commission on Removing Fossil Fuel Infrastructure.

Several ecosystems (the Great Barrier Reef) are already in trouble. In that sense the commission may be needlessly spinning its wheels. Moreover, the signs of irreversible collapse is discussed in several key situations described in a recent landmark study. 1

The Bergstrom study examined 20 ecosystems from Australia’s coral reefs to terrestrial Antarctica and discovered forces of ecosystem collapse driven by global climate change and regional human impacts. Nineteen (19) of the twenty (20) ecosystems are already bordering on irreversible damage.

According to the study group, an estimated 30% of global land area is already degraded, directly affecting nearly one-half of the world’s population. Ecosystems are deteriorating globally. “The endpoint of disruption and degradation of ecosystems is potentially or actually irreversible collapse.” The study found destructive processes at an advanced stage.

We assessed evidence of collapse in 19 ecosystems (both terrestrial and marine) … extending from northern Australia to coastal Antarctica, from deserts to mountains to rainforests, to freshwater and marine biomes, all of which have equivalents elsewhere in the world.  2

In other words, their domain of study is a facsimile for what’s happening throughout the planet. In their words: “We assessed evidence of collapse.” The evidence was ubiquitous, wherever they looked. “Our analysis clearly demonstrates the widespread and rapid collapse, and in some cases the irreversible transition rather than gradual change at a regional scale.” (Bergstrom)

Here’s a summation of the Bergstrom study findings: “The 19 ecosystems presented have collapsed or are collapsing according to our four criteria (see Table S1 for details). None has collapsed across the entire distribution, but for all there is evidence of local collapse. Rapid change (months to years) has occurred in several cases (Figure 2c, Table S1). We identified 17 pressure types affecting the 19 ecosystems (Figure 1). The key global climate change presses are changes in temperature (18 ecosystems) and precipitation (15 ecosystems), and key pulses are heatwaves (14 ecosystems), storms (13 ecosystems) and fires (12 ecosystems). In addition, each ecosystem experienced up to 10 (median 6) regional human impact pressures (presses and/or pulses) (see Figure 1). Habitat modification or destruction has occurred in 18 ecosystems, often at substantial levels, but over a relatively small spatial scale in the Antarctic ecosystem. Run-off with associated pollutants was the most common single human impact pulse (6 ecosystems).”

Note that “the key global climate change presses” are all directly or indirectly a result of global warming. Hence, the primary target for any commission should be how to prevent global warming in the first instance, not what to do once it’s exceeded a flash point of 1.5C above baseline. Then, it may be too late.

More to the point, we as a society know much more about how to control greenhouse gas emissions at the source than we know about mitigation of ecosystem damage once 1.5C is breached or metaphorically after the dam bursts.

Where’s the commission to get off fossil fuels?

  1. Dana M Bergstrom, et al, “Combating Ecosystem Collapse from the Tropics to the Antarctic”, Global Change Biology, Vol. 27, issue 9, February 25, 2021.
  2. Ibid.
The post The Overshoot Dilemma first appeared on Dissident Voice.