Climate Change

Want to know what climate change will bring? Look at the Irish Potato Famine.

 

A STARVING FAMILY DURING THE IRISH POTATO FAMINE. CREDIT: PUBLIC DOMAIN

Economic inequality and rampant xenophobia make environmental disasters worse.

From Think Progress

After Hurricane Katrina, tens of thousands of New Orleans’ poorest residents migrated to Houston. Many were met with hostility, overlooked for jobs or accused of criminal behavior. Locals urged the mayor to expel “Katrina illegal immigrants.” Now, Houston has been assailed by a hurricane, and again it’s the city’s poorest who are caught in the crosshairs.

None of this should be unexpected. History shows that natural disasters don’t happen in a vacuum. Take the Irish Potato Famine, one of the greatest environmental catastrophes in the modern era. Environmental factors alone don’t explain the scale of human suffering. Like Harvey and Katrina, the famine was made radically worse by an unjust economic system and widespread xenophobia.

In the 19th century, all of Ireland was part of the United Kingdom. Wealthy Protestant families with ties to England owned most of the land, renting small tracts to Catholic subsistence farmers. While landlords dedicated acres upon acres to raising cattle and grains for export to Britain, renters were left with scarcely enough land to sustain their families.

The plots were so tiny that tenant farmers came to rely on a single, durable, calorie-rich crop — the potato. In the early 1840s, a fungus afflicting potatoes arrived from the continent, and it devastated small farms, leading to widespread famine. One million Irish people died. Another million immigrated to Britain, Australia and North America. The population of Ireland has never recovered. Even now, fewer people live on the island now than did before the blight.

Doomsday: What climate change could wreak — sooner than you think…

 


From NYT

Famine, economic collapse, a sun that cooks us…

I. ‘Doomsday’

Peering beyond scientific reticence.

It is, I promise, worse than you think. If your anxiety about global warming is dominated by fears of sea-level rise, you are barely scratching the surface of what terrors are possible, even within the lifetime of a teenager today. And yet the swelling seas — and the cities they will drown — have so dominated the picture of global warming, and so overwhelmed our capacity for climate panic, that they have occluded our perception of other threats, many much closer at hand. Rising oceans are bad, in fact very bad; but fleeing the coastline will not be enough.

Indeed, absent a significant adjustment to how billions of humans conduct their lives, parts of the Earth will likely become close to uninhabitable, and other parts horrifically inhospitable, as soon as the end of this century.

Even when we train our eyes on climate change, we are unable to comprehend its scope. This past winter, a string of days 60 and 70 degrees warmer than normal baked the North Pole, melting the permafrost that encased Norway’s Svalbard seed vault — a global food bank nicknamed “Doomsday,” designed to ensure that our agriculture survives any catastrophe, and which appeared to have been flooded by climate change less than ten years after being built.

The Doomsday vault is fine, for now: The structure has been secured and the seeds are safe. But treating the episode as a parable of impending flooding missed the more important news. Until recently, permafrost was not a major concern of climate scientists, because, as the name suggests, it was soil that stayed permanently frozen. But Arctic permafrost contains 1.8 trillion tons of carbon, more than twice as much as is currently suspended in the Earth’s atmosphere. When it thaws and is released, that carbon may evaporate as methane, which is 34 times as powerful a greenhouse-gas warming blanket as carbon dioxide when judged on the timescale of a century; when judged on the timescale of two decades, it is 86 times as powerful. In other words, we have, trapped in Arctic permafrost, twice as much carbon as is currently wrecking the atmosphere of the planet, all of it scheduled to be released at a date that keeps getting moved up, partially in the form of a gas that multiplies its warming power 86 times over.

Maybe you know that already — there are alarming stories every day, like last month’s satellite data showing the globe warming, since 1998, more than twice as fast as scientists had thought. Or the news from Antarctica this past May, when a crack in an ice shelf grew 11 miles in six days, then kept going; the break now has just three miles to go — by the time you read this, it may already have met the open water, where it will drop into the sea one of the biggest icebergs ever, a process known poetically as “calving.”

2016: The Warmest Year on Record, with a Dip in the Second Half of the Year

 

From Berkeley Earth

[No thanks on the nukes… ds]

2016 was the warmest year since humans began keeping records, by a wide margin. Global average temperatures were extremely hot in the first few months of the year, pushed up by a large El Nino event.  Global surface temperatures dropped in the second half of 2016, yet still show a continuation of global warming. The global warming “pause”, which Berkeley Earth had always stressed was not statistically significant, now appears clearly to have been a temporary fluctuation.

Robert Rohde, Lead Scientist with Berkeley Earth, said “The record temperature in 2016 appears to come from a strong El Nino imposed on top of a long-term global warming trend that continues unabated.”

In addition, 2016 witnessed extraordinary warming in the Arctic. The way that temperatures are interpolated over the Arctic is now having a significant impact on global temperature measurements.  Zeke Hausfather, Scientist at Berkeley Earth said, “The difference between 2015 and 2016 global temperatures is much larger in the Berkeley record than in records from NOAA or the UK’s Hadley Centre, since they do not include the Arctic Ocean and we do. The arctic has seen record warmth in the past few months, and excluding it leads to a notable underestimate of recent warming globally.”

Elizabeth Muller, Executive Director of Berkeley Earth, said, “We have compelling scientific evidence that global warming is real and human caused, but much of what is reported as ‘climate change’ is exaggerated. Headlines that claim storms, droughts, floods, and temperature variability are increasing, are not based on normal scientific standards. We are likely to know better in the upcoming decades, but for now, the results that are most solidly established are that the temperature is increasing and that the increase is caused by human greenhouse emissions. It is certainly true that the impacts of global warming are still too subtle for most people to notice in their everyday lives.”

Richard Muller, Scientific Director of Berkeley Earth, said: “We project that continued global warming will lead us to an average temperature not yet experienced by civilization. It would be wise to slow or halt this rise. The most effective and economic approach would be to encourage nuclear power, substitution of natural gas for future coal plants, and continued improvement of energy efficiency.”
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Professor McPherson: Human Extinction within 10 years from Climate Change…

 

From Church And State, UK

Prof. Dr. Guy R. McPherson’s Climate Change Summary here

There’s no point trying to fight climate change – we’ll all be dead in the next decade and there’s nothing we can do to stop it, a visiting scientist claims.

Guy McPherson, a biology professor at the University of Arizona, says the human destruction of our own habitat is leading towards the world’s sixth mass extinction.

Instead of fighting, he says we should just embrace it and live life while we can.

“It’s locked down, it’s been locked in for a long time – we’re in the midst of our sixth mass extinction,” he told Paul Henry on Thursday.

But Professor James Renwick, a climate scientist at Victoria University, says people should not use his words more as an excuse to give up.

While he agrees that climate change is possibly the “biggest issue humanity has ever faced”, he says “giving up is not really helpful”.

Instead, Prof Renwick says he hopes Prof McPherson’s 10-year claim will encourage people to take action.

“This is a really big issue and the consequences could be catastrophic,” Prof Renwick says. “Though certainly [humans won’t all die off] in 10 years or even 1000 years.”

The effects of climate change were first noticed 30 years ago and Prof Renwick says the sooner we get onto working against it, the less there will be to do.

“I’d love to see [people] take it on board as it is a very serious issue.”

Prof McPherson’s comments come just days after Climate Change Issues Minister Paula Bennett appointed a 10-strong team to advise the Government on how New Zealand can adapt to climate change.

But if the visiting professor is right, it could all be a waste of time.

“I can’t imagine there will be a human on the planet in 10 years,” he says.

“We don’t have 10 years. The problem is when I give a number like that, people think it’s going to be business as usual until nine years [and] 364 days.”

He says part of the reason he’s given up while other scientists fight on is because they’re looking at individual parts, such as methane emissions and the melting ice in the Arctic, instead of the entire picture.

“We’re heading for a temperature within that span that is at or near the highest temperature experienced on Earth in the last 2 billion years.”

Instead of trying to fix the climate, Prof McPherson says we should focus on living while we can.

“I think hope is a horrible idea. Hope is wishful thinking. Hope is a bad idea – let’s abandon that and get on with reality instead. Let’s get on with living instead of wishing for the future that never comes.

“I encourage people to pursue excellence, to pursue love, to pursue what they love to do. I don’t think these are crazy ideas, actually – and I also encourage people to remain calm because nothing is under control, certainly not under our control anyway.”

New Zealand has been criticised by the international community for not doing enough to fight climate change – this month being awarded two Fossil of the Day awards at the UN Climate Change Conference in Marrakech.

The awards are for the country’s failure to live up to climate promises and the continued use of “dodgy” carbon credits.


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Hurricane Matthew is super strong  —  because of climate change…

Hurricane Matthew, October 4 (via NASA)

From ThinkProgress

“Category 4 and 5 hurricanes could double or triple in the coming decades,” expert warns.

Hurricane Matthew is slowly approaching the East Coast where it is expected to wreak havoc with storm surge, wind, and rain. Matthew has already set a number of records — and global warming is giving it a boost.

Hurricanes “extract heat energy from the ocean to convert it to the power of wind, and the warmer the ocean is, the stronger a hurricane can get if all other conditions that it needs to exist are present,” meteorologist and former hurricane hunter Jeff Masters explained last month on Living on Earth. “So, scientists are confident that as we continue to heat up the oceans, we’re going to see more of these high-end perfect storms.”

Case in point, as meteorologist Philip Klotzbach has noted:

  • Matthew set a new record as the longest lived Category 4 (or higher) Atlantic hurricane in October — 84 hours.
  • By Monday, it had already “generated the most accumulated cyclone energy” of any Atlantic hurricane ever recorded in the eastern Caribbean.
  • As a result, the 2016 hurricane season has “already generated the most accumulated cyclone energy in the Atlantic in October since 2005” (the year of Katrina, Rita, and Wilma).

Let’s look at some of the latest climate science. One 2013 paper found that “since 1975 there has been a substantial and observable regional and global increase in the proportion of Category 4–5 hurricanes of 25–30 percent per °C of anthropogenic global warming.” Another 2013 paper concluded that “dramatic changes in the frequency distribution of lifetime maximum intensity (LMI) have occurred in the North Atlantic,” and the stronger hurricanes “have become more intense.”

In other words, warming oceans create stronger hurricanes, like the one we’re seeing now.

Climate Change Activism: A Post-Mortem…

 

j

From John Michael Greer

As I write these words, much of North America is sweltering under near-tropical heat and humidity. Parts of the Middle East have set all-time high temperatures for the Old World, coming within a few degrees of Death Valley’s global record. The melting of the Greenland ice cap has tripled in recent years, and reports from the arctic coast of Siberia describe vast swathes of tundra bubbling with methane as the permafrost underneath them melts in 80°F weather. Far to the south, seawater pours through the streets of Miami Beach whenever a high tide coincides with an onshore wind; the slowing of the Gulf Stream, as the ocean’s deep water circulation slows to a crawl, is causing seawater to pile up off the Atlantic coast of the US, amplifying the effect of sea level rise.

All these things are harbingers of a profoundly troubled future. All of them were predicted, some in extensive detail, in the print and online literature of climate change activism over the last few decades. Not that long ago, huge protest marches and well-funded advocacy organizations demanded changes that would prevent these things  from happening, and politicians mouthed slogans about stopping global warming in its tracks. Somehow, though, the marchers went off to do something else with their spare time, the advocacy organizations ended up preaching to a dwindling choir, and the politicians started using other slogans to distract the electorate.

The last gasp of climate change activism, the COP-21 conference in Paris late last year, resulted in a toothless agreement that binds no nation anywhere on earth to cut back on the torrents of greenhouse gases they’re currently pumping into the atmosphere. The only commitments any nation was willing to make amounted to slowing, at some undetermined point in the future, the rate at which the production of greenhouse gas pollutants is increasing. In the real world, meanwhile, enough greenhouse gases have already been dumped into the atmosphere to send the world’s climate reeling; sharp cuts in greenhouse gas output, leading to zero net increase in atmospheric CO2 and methane by 2050 or so, would still not have been enough to stop extensive flooding of coastal cities worldwide and drastic unpredictable changes in the rain belts that support agriculture and keep all seven billion of us alive. The outcome of COP-21 simply means that we’re speeding toward even more severe climatic disasters with the pedal pressed not quite all the way to the floor.

ExxonMobil CEO: Ending oil production ‘not acceptable for humanity’…

 

ExxonMobil tried to censor climate scientists to Congress during Bush era

From The Guardian

Shareholders win vote that could support board candidates concerned about climate as Rex Tillerson faces turbulent annual meeting

Rex Tillerson, the boss of oil giant ExxonMobil, said cutting oil production was “not acceptable for humanity” as he fought off shareholders’ and activists’ attempts to force the company to fully acknowledge the impact of climate change on the environment and Exxon’s future profits.

During a long and fractious annual meeting in Dallas on Wednesday, Tillerson, who serves as Exxon’s chairman and chief executive, beat back several proposals to force the company to take more action on climate change.

However, dissident shareholders won a vote that could make it easier for them to propose board candidates concerned about climate change and remove incumbent directors.

Tillerson said Exxon had invested $7bn in green technology, but the science and technology had not yet achieved the breakthroughs needed to compete with fossil fuels. “Until we have those, just saying ‘turn the taps off’ is not acceptable to humanity,” he said. “The world is going to have to continue using fossil fuels, whether they like it or not.”

Climate Change: Too Little, Too Late

 

From John Michael Greer

Last week, after a great deal of debate, the passengers aboard the Titanic voted to impose modest limits sometime soon on the rate at which water is pouring into the doomed ship’s hull. Despite the torrents of self-congratulatory rhetoric currently flooding into the media from the White House and an assortment of groups on the domesticated end of the environmental movement, that’s the sum of what happened at the COP-21 conference in Paris. It’s a spectacle worth observing, and not only for those of us who are connoisseurs of irony; the factors that drove COP-21 to the latest round of nonsolutions are among the most potent forces shoving industrial civilization on its one-way trip to history’s compost bin.

The core issues up for debate at the Paris meeting were the same that have been rehashed endlessly at previous climate conferences. The consequences of continuing to treat the atmosphere as a gaseous sewer for humanity’s pollutants are becoming increasingly hard to ignore, but nearly everything that defines a modern industrial economy as “modern” and “industrial” produces greenhouse gases, and the continued growth of the world’s modern industrial economies remains the keystone of economic policy around the world. The goal pursued by negotiators at this and previous climate conferences, then, is to find some way to do something about anthropogenic global warming that won’t place any kind of restrictions on economic growth.

What that means in practice is that the world’s nations have more or less committed themselves to limit the rate at which the dumping of greenhouse gases will increase over the next fifteen years. I’d encourage those of my readers who think anything important was accomplished at the Paris conference to read that sentence again, and think about what it implies. The agreement that came out of COP-21 doesn’t commit anybody to stop dumping carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, now or at any point in the future. It doesn’t even commit anybody to set a fixed annual output that will not be exceeded. It simply commits the world’s nations to slow down the rate at which they’re increasing their dumping of greenhouse gases. If this doesn’t sound to you like a recipe for saving the world, let’s just say you’re not alone.