Friday, February 28, 2014

Students to Obama: If You Won't Lead on Climate Action, We Will

      XL Dissent protest this weekend at White House could be largest youth-led civil disobedience action in a generation

Students to Obama: If You Won't Lead on Climate Action, We Will
Jon Queally, February 28, 2014 by Common Dreams.org

More than a thousand students from over 200 colleges and universities are descending on Washington, D.C. this weekend to deliver a stern message to a president they are not yet convinced is listening to dire warnings about climate change, the destructive impacts of a completed Keystone XL pipeline, and the fossil fuel paradigm overall.

And just to be sure President Obama cannot easily ignore their demand that he prove himself serious about tackling global warming and ending the nation's obsessive reliance on coal, oil, and gas—over 300 of those traveling to the nation's capitol have vowed to put their bodies on the line Sunday, participating in what they say will be the largest student-led civil disobedience action at the White House in a generation.

In his efforts to combat climate change, Michael Greenberg, a 20-year-old sophomore at Columbia University, told Common Dreams he has "lobbied, fundraised, petitioned, written letters to the editor, and organized his peers." But now, he says, he's ready to go further. "What we face is a crisis," said Greenberg, "which is why I will be getting arrested for the first time in my life this weekend."

Like Greenberg, other student organizers for the weekend summit and protest—which they're calling XL Dissent—told Common Dreams that this weekend's action is neither the beginning nor the end of their involvement in the climate justice movement. For them, however, the specific moment is an important time for them (and others) to increase the pressure on Obama as he enters what appears to be the final stretch of his decision-making process on approving or rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline.

Earlier this week, Obama told the nation's governors that they could expect a final decision on the pipeline within "a couple of months." The official public comment period on the State Department's overall assessment of the project ends next week on Friday, March 7.

"XL Dissent is about young people standing together and engaging in a bold act of civil disobedience, and through this, demonstrating our commitment to making this world a more humane, peaceful, and inclusive place to live."  - Michael Greenberg, student organizer

"Our message to President Obama is that if he is serious about acting on climate, he will block the Keystone XL Pipeline," said Aly Johnson-Kurts, 20, of Smith College. If the president won't stop it, she added, "people power will."

The students also agree that their activism—both on their respective campuses and this weekend at the White House—goes beyond a singular focus on Keystone XL, saying their concerns go deeper than just one pipeline or one presidential decision.

"This protest is about so much more than just one pipeline," said Greenberg. "For me XL Dissent is about young people standing together and engaging in a bold act of civil disobedience, and through this, demonstrating our commitment to making this world a more humane, peaceful, and inclusive place to live."

And Matthew Goodrich from Bowdoin College in Maine told Common Dreams: "The protest shows how serious the youth of the nation are about holding President Obama accountable on his promise to not betray future generations—our generation—by dooming the planet to climate change."

For Johnson-Kurts, the student-led protest is also about standing in solidarity with others in the U.S., Canada, and around the world who are fighting for environmental justice in the places they live. Citing First Nations, those living near refineries, ranchers and farmers along the proposed pipeline route, and all those fighting tar sands expansion in various frontline communities, she says XL Dissent is "about turning up the heat on Obama to live up to his promises to protect us from a future of environmental catastrophe, as these people are already experiencing."

Though all the students that spoke with Common Dreams acknowledged that Keystone XL has been a galvanizing symbol of the climate movement over the last few years, they say the pipeline is not the sole focus of their own work on the issue of climate change. All three have been involved in the student-led divestment movement at their own schools, urging administrators and trustees to withdraw endowments investments from fossil fuel-related companies and industries.

"Rejecting the pipeline is an important step, but stopping Keystone on its own will not solve climate change," acknowledged Greenberg.

And Goodrich added, "Obama needs to protect human lives, not oil profits. Climate change was not the change we voted for."

"The young people taking part in XL Dissent are demonstrating theirs. Now, it’s time for the President to show his."
—Jamie Henn, 350.org

As they made their way towards Washington on Friday, older members of the climate justice movement—more veteran organizers with groups like Sierra Club and 350.org—were cheering them on in anticipation of the weekend.

“All Americans deserve to live safe and healthy lives that aren’t shadowed by worsening superstorms, droughts, floods, and wildfires brought on by dirty fossil fuels," said Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune in a statement in which he offered the XL Dissent students and participants his organization's full support.

It’s America’s youth and student-aged adults, declared Brune, "who have the greatest stake in the Keystone XL tar sands decision."

Jamie Henn, a co-founder of 350.org, writing for Common Dreams on Friday, reflected: "I’ve had the chance to talk with some of the students involved in XL Dissent and the thing that continues to strike me is how level-headed and pragmatic they are. They’re risking arrest this weekend not because they’re wild-eyed radicals, but because they agree [...] that power responds to a demand, and that getting that demand heard often requires working outside traditional channels."

The fight over the Keystone XL pipeline, continued Henn, is more than an environmental issue, but a test of character. "The young people taking part in XL Dissent are demonstrating theirs," he wrote. "Now, it’s time for the President to show his."

As for the students and their relationship to the only president they've known as young adults: It seems they are, in fact, reclaiming some of the "hope" they offered over to Obama, and putting it back in themselves.

"Our generation is going to be stuck with the reality of decisions made now about whether to invest in destruction or the future," said Johnson-Kurts. "We are realizing we cannot sit idly by, or we will not have a future to fight for."

Graphic: Scientists Irrelevant to Society?


CO2 Continues Dangerous Rise, Hits 400.2 Parts Per Million in Late February

CO2 Continues Dangerous Rise, Hits 400.2 Parts Per Million in Late February
by ROBERT SCRIBBLER, robertscribbler.wordpress.com
(Daily and hourly CO2 readings at the Mauna Loa Observatory from February 20 to 26. Image source: The Keeling Curve.)

More than two months before typical annual maximum in late May or early June, global average CO2 levels have again breached the dangerous 400 part per million threshold.

On February 26th, Mauna Loa’s CO2 observatory recorded three hourly readings at or above 400 parts per million with a peak value of 400.2 ppm. The reading comes just ten months after weekly CO2 values exceeded 400 parts per million during May of 2013, the first time in more than 3 million years that atmospheric levels have been so high.

At the current annual rate of increase, we can expect CO2 levels to peak around 401.5 to 403 parts per million sometime in late May of this year. Last year’s average annual rate of increase was 2.6 parts per million over 2012. If 2014 were to match this, abnormally rapid, pace, daily and hourly measures could exceed peak values of 403 parts per million over the next two months.

Interpreting the Climate Impasse


Interpreting the Climate Impasse: A View from Indo–America
by Subhankar Banerjee, 26 February 2014 Climate Storytellers.org

The two countries I know best are India and the US. I spent the first 22 years of my life in the former, and the following 24 in the latter, where I continue to live. Recently I returned home, after spending three months in India. The combination of what I saw there in plain view, and what I see here in America, may shed some light on—why we have arrived at the climate impasse.

Soon I’ll get to—what is climate impasse, but first, here is what got me motivated to write this piece, before even I could recover from the jet lag.

As soon as I sat down in the shuttle van outside the Seattle airport, the discussion with fellow passengers turned to the severe snowstorm in the East Coast that killed at least 18 people. That day, all of us had contributed to global warming, in varying amount, through the burning of jet fuel, and then gasoline. It was February 13.

Scientists were quick to point out that the rapid warming of the Arctic will continue to cause longer and harsher winter over North America and northern Europe. The Arctic is warming at a rate of two to three times more than the rest of the planet. This has reduced the temperature differential between the cold Arctic air and the warm air from the south, causing the Arctic jet stream to weaken, and “meander, like a river heading off course.”

That the Arctic is warming rapidly is not news anymore, nor is the melting of the Arctic sea ice, or Greenland ice sheets, or even the subsea methane release from the East Siberian Arctic Shelf.

But have you heard about—Fires in February, in the far North?

Alaska gets few hours of sunlight during February—a bit more in the south, a bit less in the north; temperatures stay well below zero. During those cold, dark, long, winter nights, Alaskans are used to seeing, not dancing flames of forest fires, but instead, dancing curtains of—green, yellow, pink, red—aurora borealis. On 5 November 2001, I was lucky to photograph an extremely rare display of red aurora over the Brooks Range Mountains and the Hulahula River valley, in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (here). The display was so intense that it was visible as far south as Alabama, Georgia and California. On seeing red in the sky people of the south had thought it was a terrorist attack and called the police department. In the Hulahula River valley, it was minus 50 degrees F; I got frostbite on my nose and three fingers.



Fran Mauer had worked as a biologist with the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge office in Fairbanks, Alaska, for 23 years, until he retired in 2002. Over the past 14 years, for all things Arctic, I’ve reached out to him for advice. “There continues to be significant weather events that are out of the ‘normal.’ During January, Alaska experienced very warm temperatures and some all time records were broken,” Fran wrote to me in an email on February 11. “Last week, the weather service had extreme fire warnings out for the Kenai lowlands and Anchorage area. The warm temperatures have melted the snow and dried the grasses and shrubs, creating extreme fire danger, as winds up to 80 mph were forecast. We are not used to having a fire season in February!” The exclamation mark in the end is Fran’s, not mine.

Moreover, with a map (here), NASA’s Earth Observatory has shown vividly how winter heat has swamped Alaska, from the Aleutian in the southeast, to the North Slope of the Arctic. “While much of the continental United States endured several cold snaps in January 2014, record–breaking warmth gripped Alaska. Spring–like conditions set rivers rising and avalanches tumbling,” NASA reports.

The winter heat in Alaska and the snowstorm in northeastern America—are likely linked through the Arctic warming. Additionally, these, and other recent extreme weather events, from around the globe, including drought in California and floods in the UK, should be understood and discussed within the context of a globally warmed Earth, in which extreme weather events aren’t exceptions, it’s the norm. Sequence of extreme weather events across geographies also happened in 2013, and in 2012, in 2011.

What is new this year, however, is the realization that we have arrived at a climate impasse. The US government hasn’t done anything meaningful to address the climate crisis, despite lofty rhetoric from Obama. On the contrary, the government has done, what it can, to foil the international efforts to address the crisis. Recently leaked documents by Edward Snowden reveal that the NSA had spied on the delegates of other countries during the 2009 UN Climate Conference COP15 in Copenhagen. Moreover, last year Chris Williams made an assertion that “it was, after all, he [Obama], who was the lead protagonist in wrecking the international climate talks in Copenhagen.” But why did the US wreck the Copenhagen climate talks? This will become clear a bit later. Additionally, the dismal failure of the subsequent UN climate negotiations has made abundantly clear that most nation states are not interested in solving the climate crisis, either. I’ll call this collective global inaction—climate impasse.

The burning of—first coal, then oil and gas—since the beginning of industrialization in the mid 18th century, has brought us to the anthropogenic climate crisis that we now find ourselves in. We know this already.

What I’m urging us to consider now, is why we have arrived, not at the crisis, but at the impasse. There are three agents—the governments, the corporations, and the human animal—all are implicated, and interlinked in intricate ways, in the drama of this impasse.

The climate impasse is rooted, not simply in our dependence on a fossil fuel economy, but more broadly, in our love affair with mass consumption, made possible by global capitalism, and in our faith in Progress—that science and technology will forever improve the conditions of human life.

In this piece, I’ll discuss mass consumption—with a view from India. I must admit though, that what I’m sharing with you here is not an in–depth social science analysis of mass consumption in contemporary India, but instead, what I saw during my three–months long sojourn there; a kind of breezy travelogue you might say.

India’s road to—roads everywhere!

During my stay in India I had a chance to visit a few places—to see birds and animals, coffee and tea plantations, attend wedding receptions. Northeast, southeast, southwest, everywhere I went, I saw brand new roads, completed or being built. In Maharashtra, I saw dividers on four lane highways that were lined with plants, packed with magnificent flowers. Line of bullock carts carrying sugarcane on the highway, however, reminded me that I was indeed in India.

New roads everywhere—is the face of economic development in India, I was reminded, again and again. “What’s an XUV,” I inquired. “Don’t you know? It’s bigger than SUV,” I was told. Fair enough. With great excitement a young person told me that before the end of this decade, India will become the third largest auto—producer or consumer, he wasn’t sure which—in the world.

Where will India get the oil to fuel all these cars, the LUVs, SUVs, XUVs? It seems, among other places, from the US.

“The United States is projected to become the largest global oil producer” by around 2020, according to the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook 2012; and with the shale production in the US and tar sands in Canada, “North America becomes a net oil exporter around 2030.” The US wants to sell oil to the rest of the world, not keep it in the ground and solve the climate crisis. This is as good a reason as I can give for why the US wrecked the Copenhagen climate talks.

“[B]ilateral cooperation in energy has acquired an expanded significance on account of America’s shale gas production and US liquefied natural gas exports,” K. P. Nayar wrote in The Telegraph in India. The US energy secretary Ernest Moniz, a champion of fracking, was to visit India in January for the Indo–US Energy Dialogue. The meeting was nixed, however. As part of a larger retaliatory measure against the US’ humiliating treatment (that included a strip search) of the Indian Diplomat Devyani Khobragade, New Delhi called off the meeting. The Indo–US Energy Dialogue is now set to resume on March 10.

The Argumentative Indian is an important book by Nobel–laureate economist–philosopher Amartya Sen. “I wish we in India will recognize our strength which comes from the argumentative nature of our country,” Sen said in his keynote speech at the Jaipur Literature Festival in January. Fearing I might loose my fair share of maach andmisti, however, I didn’t become too argumentative with my family members and friends, about materials consumption, global warming, resource wars. During those three months, I didn’t find any Argumentative Indian debating these issues in the national press, either.

Unlike the US, in India, the circulation of newspapers—national English–language daily papers, and dozens of regional papers published in numerous local languages—is enormous. Lot of people from across the economic strata get (buy or borrow) newspapers, read some of it, and then argue.

“Why is there such a silence about pressing environmental issues, including materials consumption and global warming in the Indian newspapers?” I asked a New Delhi–based environmental journalist friend. “Mainstream Indian newspapers report on three things: cricket, politics, and sleaze,” he told me as a matter of fact. There is a fourth element that he could have added. It’s not reporting though, but it gets the greatest prominence—offerings from the Merchants of Desire. The big newspapers, for most days, open not with the front–page filled with news items, but with a full–page ad about—cars and flats that you can buy. And it’s not just the front–page, but like a book cover, where the front, the back, and insides of both, are also full–page ads about—cars and flats that you can buy. Sometimes you get two such covers, glued to the main newspaper.

Let’s dig a little deeper into—India’s road—to roads everywhere! Why are these roads being built and what would their eventual purpose be?

These roads are being built as part of Indian’s larger project of economic development. India needs economic development—to pull the masses (hundreds of millions) out of abject poverty, to provide basic education to every children, to provide basic preventive medical care to every citizen, to provide equality among men and women, to feed every undernourished children (“not to mention the most undernourished in the world”), to provide toilet to every house so that half the population won’t “have to defecate in the open.” Such is the egalitarian vision of economic development that Amartya Sen, who has great empathy for the world’s poor and the dispossessed, has been advocating for decades. Furthermore, he sees development as a means to increase “freedom,” as the title of his immensely influential book, Development As Freedom, suggests.

With my naïve eyes what I saw in India, however, doesn’t seem to match Sen’s vision. Let me discuss by asking the question: Who are the likely beneficiaries of India’s ‘roads everywhere’?

One justification for building roads everywhere goes like this: A better distribution network would enable better distribution of foods to the masses, across the country. There is some validity to this argument. Take for example, the devastating cyclone Phailin last year, destroyed $4 billion worth of crops in the states of Orissa and Andhra Pradesh. During extreme weather events, and have no doubt that there will be plenty of those to come—a better distribution network can indeed help in bringing much–needed food from elsewhere, for those in dire needs. But let’s now turn the coin and look at the other side.

When I was growing up in India, we would get all our food, at the local market. Almost everything came from the local farmers and fisherfolks, from within a small radius—2 km, 10 km, 50 km, maybe even 100 km, at most. Such daily, fresh foods, isn’t enough though, if you desire for—Kellog’s Müeslix with Silk Kesar Pista Soymilk, for breakfast. The Merchants of Desires are busy creating a whole host of desires in India. But who would deny the devastating social and economic consequences for the small–scale farmers and fisherfolks, and ecological consequences of materials consumption (plastic, aluminum, for packaging) and contribution to global warming (large trucks spewing carbon in the air, massive air conditioning to keep foods edible)—caused by the juggernaut of transport–of–industrial–foods–by–road? Indeed, one of the biggest beneficiaries of India’s ‘roads everywhere’ is—the industrial Big Ag—both multinational and Indian corporations.

In contemporary India, there is a chicken–and–egg dilemma. Which one arrived first: the new Road or the newMall? It seems to me, defying biology, both arrived at once, and growing together symbiotically. I saw people talk about “going to the mall”, with as much enthusiasm and (almost) reverence, as previous generations used to talk about when going to a temple. Malls are popping up in the Indian urban jungle with as much rapidity as fracking rigs in the American rural landscape. These malls have to be filled with stuff; the stuff has to be brought in from far away places, by blowing a lot of carbon puff. We need roads, we need roads, everywhere—is not the cry of the loon, but the sweet music from the bamboo flutes of India’s consumerist boom. The phonetic sound of the word, mall—mol—in Bengali, literally means—poop, feces, shit. Inside a mall, corporations from far away and near, are selling—a lot of shit. It is debatable, in this context, who is the bigger beneficiary—of India’s ‘roads everywhere’—the citizen who is accumulating stuff, or the corporation who is selling it? But where do the hundreds of millions of India’s poor, fit into this discussion—of the mol?

I found it quite difficult to get a train ticket in India these days. The tickets often sell out months in advance. But when you can drive your own XUV, on newly built roads, why bother trying to get a ticket on a public train? And, with your XUV, you can go to places, where few Indians have gone before—the National Parks—to see–and–shoot (with a camera) the magnificent Indian megafauna: the Indian one–horned rhinoceros, the Asiatic elephant, the Bengal tiger. One of the highest pursuits of a wealthy society is—to engage in leisure, philosopher John Gray has suggested. So it is no surprise that India’s economic development has given rise to a significantly large ‘leisure class,’ who has no time to think about the ecological consequences of an XUV—the massive materials that go into making one, or its massive carbon emissions that contribute to global warming. Among the beneficiaries of India’s ‘roads everywhere’—are the ‘leisure class’ and the auto manufacturers. But where do the hundreds of millions of India’s poor, fit into this discussion—of leisure?

Where will India get the raw materials to fuel all aspects of ‘roads everywhere’? Inside India, mostly it is from the territories inhabited by the Adivasis (indigenous people of India). Unsurprisingly, there is resistance. Take for example, the Adivasis of the state of Chhattisgarh are extremely poor, but their land is extremely rich, both in terms of minerals and forests. The state government has been trying to take away their lands. Physician and human rights activist Dr. Binayak Sen, who should win the Nobel Peace Prize for his life–long work with India’s poor, as I have suggested before, instead, has spent years in prison on charges of sedition.

In 2005 the state of Chhattisgarh had set up a vigilante army called Salwa Judum to counter the Maoists and forcibly take away lands from the Adivasis. “In Chhattisgarh, the Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has been in the forefront of exposing the atrocities of the police. … The PUCL has acted as a whistleblower in the matter of exposing the true nature of the Salwa Judum,” Binayak Sen, the vice–president of PUCL said in 2011, and continued that “an investigation led by the PUCL and involving several other Human Rights organizations revealed that it was in reality a state sponsored and state funded as well as completely unaccountable vigilante force, to which arms were provided by the government. The activities of the Salwa Judum have led to the emptying of more than 600 villages, and the forced displacement of over 60,000 people.”

In summary then, it seems to me that the biggest beneficiaries of India’s ‘roads everywhere’ are—Big Oil, Big Mineral, Big Auto, Big Ag, and the ‘leisure class’; but certainly not India’s poor, unless you consider the crumbs that they too will get from all these. The biggest looser, however, is life on Earth. The ecological impacts, including contribution to global warming, from all aspects of India’s ‘roads everywhere’ is incomprehensible.

I’d be called a Luddite (or much worse things in various Indian languages), if I now invoke Gandhi. Nevertheless, in 1928 Mahatma Gandhi wrote in Young India, an English–language weekly paper that he edited between 1918 and 1932 (when he was arrested and the paper folded): “God forbid that India should ever take to industrialization after the manner of the West. … If an entire nation of 300 million took to similar economic exploitation, it would strip the world bare like locusts.” India is making Gandhi’s nightmare come to reality. What is most disturbing, however, is that there is a complete silence in the Indian press about the ecological consequences of this massive materials consumption.

The Indo–US Energy Dialogue points to something new for America. During the last half of the 20th century, the US acquired much of its oil from around the globe through petro imperialism, which has caused deaths and devastations in far away lands that most Americans know little to nothing about. Now the table is turning; petro imperialism is returning home to America. India is attempting to acquire oil from the US. On the American soil, this will cause much suffering. As the US inches towards becoming the largest oil producer in the world, like mushrooms in a temperate forest, drilling and fracking rigs will pop up all over, on land and in the oceans, from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic, from the western desert to the eastern forests, locking us into another one hundred years of fossil fuel digging in North America. The extremely uneven burden of this 21st century American petro imperialism will fall on the Native American, rural, and the underprivileged communities. There is resistance in the US also, from the Arctic to the Cove Point.

The 21st century petro imperialism in America has the potential to fuel in part the mass consumerism in India. As you can see the climate impasse—binds India and America.

How much should a person consume?

“But you drive a car, in the US, right?” a friend from New Delhi asked. “Yes, I do,” I said, and continued with some hesitation, “but I put only a few thousand miles on the car each year; bicycle is my primary mode of transportation.” I wasn’t convinced with what I said, and began to wonder: Am I a hypocrite? On the grayscale of hypocrisy I certainly have my place secured, but let’s take this discussion a bit further.

A nonhuman animal consumes what is immediately available to it—for survival. At times, though, but very rarely, it consumes more than its need. Sometimes a wolf may kill a few more caribou than it eats, for example. I have seen it in the Arctic. We humans also consume what is immediately available to us (a car that runs on gasoline)—for survival. We, however, differ from the nonhuman animal, in our appetite for consuming much more than what we need, and more importantly gargantuan amount of that which we do not even need, or use. This form of consumption—‘mass consumption’—is unique to the human animal and is the fundamental building block of global capitalism, like the nucleus of an atom.

In the Modern–era ‘mass consumption’ is human nature. In this regard it is more fundamental than burning of fossil fuels. “If mass consumption is human nature, can it be tamed, like anger?” you might ask. To do so we need to ask, not what we consume, but how much we consume. And that question, historian Ramachandra Guha writes “will come finally to dominate the intellectual and political debates” of the 21st century, in his magisterial book, How Much Should A Person Consume?

To break the logjam of the climate impasse, it is imperative that we not only ask: How Much Should A Person Consume? but also, and more importantly, practice—living with less. Many in India and America, however few, and marginalized from the mainstream society, are quietly practicing—living with less.

“If we replace fossil fuels with clean, alternative technologies, won’t we be able to solve the climate crisis?” you might ask. Not so fast. The other half of the climate impasse, Progress, is coming soon.

Graphic: Forget China, Who Are Really the World's Worst Carbon Polluters?


Infographic: Forget China, Who Are Really the World's Worst Carbon Polluters?

Probably the most common refrain you here from anyone arguing against the United States agreeing to significant emissions reductions is, "what about China and India?" China is, after all, now the world's largest total emitter of carbon dioxide emissions.

But that's not the most important emissions metric we should be focusing on. Per capita carbon emissions is a much more telling statistic. Sure, China emits the most total tons of carbon dioxide, because it also has the largest population. On a per capita basis, even rapidly developing nations like China and India have a long way to go to catch up with long industrialized nations like the United States and those in Western Europe.

Common Climate Change Arguments



Media coverage misrepresents scientific understanding of man-made global warming, is "unbalanced" and is affecting public opinion throughout the world

Common Climate Change Arguments
A very detailed information graphic that exhibits the difference between scientific consensus and skeptics.

Here is another infographic on arguments: The climate change debate



Surprisingly, Over the past four years, the number of Americans that say climate change isn’t occurring has increased significantly. Check out what they really think of climate change here: What Americans really think about climate change: Infographic

Climate Change. Special multimedia infographic



Climate Change. Special multimedia infographic

This special multimedia information graphic is staged in four steps:
1. Why it happens; 2. Predictions; 3. What are we doing? 4. Virtual tours.

The Psychology of Climate Change Denial


The Psychology of Climate Change Denial
SEP 20 2011, by Bob Worcester suzukielders.wordpress.com

Whisper out loud the name of someone you know that could be affected by catastrophic climate change. Making it personal is hard to do but necessary. Climate change is potentially the single most critical issue humanity will face in the 21st century. If it does not affect some of us directly now, it will affect those we love and care about. Why, in the 40 or so years that we have known that catastrophic climate change is possible, have we, as individuals, a nation or a species, not taken effective action to avert this possibility? We can focus primarily on the psychological dimension of this problem but political, economic and cultural factors also constrain affective action on climate change.

The people who engage seriously in genuine climate research are saying that burning fossil fuels is contributing to dramatic changes in the climate that lie outside the range of previous human experience and possibly beyond the limits of human ingenuity to intervene. Some concerned scientists indicated in the 1990s that there was a 10-20 year window of opportunity to reduce the accumulation of greenhouse gases (GHG) to safe levels before the worst effects of climate change became inevitable. It has been over 20 years now and very little has been done to curb GHG emissions and there is nothing on the public policy horizon for the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, public interest in the issue has been declining recently as massive PR campaigns and powerful lobbies promote “ethical oil” from the tar sands, “clean coal” and cynical “scepticism” to obscure the issues and to polarize and paralyze the political process. They have been quite successful at doing that.

Like many people I find this deeply discouraging, particularly because my children and grandchildren will likely suffer the consequences. So the question is “why have efforts to address climate change failed and what, if anything, can be learned from that failure?” The issue is complicated and can be examined at the personal, political and cultural levels of analysis.

Psychologists focus their attention on individuals and it is not hard to see why many individuals find it difficult to get their heads around the idea of catastrophic climate change. The consequences of climate change can be literally “unthinkable.” An inability to acknowledge something that is very stressful has been called “denial” and is seen as a highly ineffective coping strategy. “Denial” is, however, a strong word that suggests a powerful motivation to ignore reality to a pathological degree. Here is a list of more commonly available cognitive strategies with examples that psychologists have identified.

 “Cognitive dissonance reduction” refers to the general human tendency to maintain the perception of “consistency” between what we think and what we do. When there is an inconsistency we will either change our thoughts or our actions. For example – “I am a good person who would not knowingly endanger the safety of my children, yet when I am driving them to hockey I might use my cell phone. I might slightly exceed the speed limit. I might skip doing up their seat belt if it’s just a short trip. I might even have a drink or two or three for the road.” How would I deal with the “dissonance” if these inconsistencies were pointed out to me? I can change my behaviour or I can change my perception of what is an acceptable risk.If I can see the odds of an accident as a reasonably acceptable “one in a million” then I am still a good person.If driving my car has an “unlikely” relationship to the droughts in Africa then I am still OK. Since the actual risk is “uncertain” my perceptions can be flexible and easier to change than my actual behaviour.

People generally find it difficult to relate to low probabilities, to distant events and to long time frames. What are the odds that we will have a Fukushima-scale quake by next Friday? Next year? It happened “way over there” and it may not happen here for decades. This is not a “denial” that there an earthquake problem, it may simply be a limitation on our cognitive abilities.

Most people have a localized “hierarchy of needs.” Immediate needs often trump more important ones. We feed our dogs but not the homeless. We would take the bus if we only had more time. We tend to prioritize our family first, our neighbours second and the rest of the world if we can get around to it later.

Rationalizations are like mental offsets. A token effort relieves us of the obligation to do more. “I drove my car today but I rode my bike last week and I bought a local $2 garlic at the farmers’ market.”

Psychological reactance is the reaction to imposed restrictions. We tend to find that the things we can’t have become more attractive. “Don’t tell me to have a nice day! – I WANT shark fin soup and a HUMMER!”

Reduced self-efficacy is the feeling that “I can’t do everything, I might as well do nothing besides there is really nothing I can do.”

The “rose-coloured glass effect” is a common psychological defence against negative outcomes. “Things will work out somehow, someday”. “Technology will save us.” “We always muddle through.”

Cynicism relieves us of the need to take something seriously. `”76% of all statistics are made up”. “I don’t trust government, the media, grant hungry scientists or scruffy environmentalists.”

Social identity protection helps us maintain our sense of ourselves despite negative feedback. “I am not a latte-sucking Kitsilano yuppie who can afford a Prius – I like trucks – BIG trucks!”

Social norm conformity — we all have a strong desire to appear “normal” to our peers. “Everyone around here commutes by car and no one here recycles except those tree huggers.”

Uncertainty /complexity paralysis can occur when there are strong conflicting possibilities. “Let’s just wait and see.” “Its better to do nothing than the wrong thing.” “I don’t know where to begin.”

Selective attention and confirmation bias filters information to fit the way we see the world. “It’s cold today – what does that say about global warming?”

The “Cassandra effect” is our habituation to repeated alarms – terror attacks, pandemics, asteroids, earthquakes, ozone depletion, floods, forest fires, famines, tsunamis and radioactive fallout.

The “commons effect” is the feeling that my contribution to a problem is so small, how could it matter? “If I idle my car for 5 minutes it produces 100 grams of CO2. When a jumbo jet takes off it produces a tonne. It would take thousands of idling cars to match that!”

Habitual behaviour is hard to change and the familiar is usually preferred. “I like my old gas guzzler and I think incandescent light is nicer than fluorescent lighting.”

Apathy can help cope with the unthinkable. “We are here for a good time not a long time – it’s not really my concern.”

This is not an exhaustive list of mental strategies. The key is recognizing ineffective coping strategies and taking steps toward dealing effectively with a real problem. It may also be necessary to take these strategies into account when developing messages and proposing actions to deal with these difficult issues. People respond differently to the same information and “doom and gloom” scenarios are understandably hard to deal with. Psychology focuses on individual reactions but group dynamics are also important. The sociology of climate change denial, however, is a topic for another day. These cognitive factors suggest ways of approaching individuals who are attempting to deal with their role in climate change. Here are some suggestions.

Deal with information, motivation and behaviour related to climate change holistically.

Acknowledge the emotions created by the prospects for catastrophic change particularly fear, grief and anger (Joanna Macy).

Moderate “alarm reactions” with specific suggestions to avoid the danger.

Recognize or reframe the issues as national defence, public health, religious-ethical as well as “environmental” issues.

Stress success and possibilities over “doom and gloom”. There are LOTS of good examples in books and on TV!

Recognize diverse personal interests and social constituencies and work within their unique narratives: urban – rural, male – female, young – old, liberal – conservative, knowledgeable – naive.

Connect people’s immediate needs and interests to the long term goals of “sustainability.”

Build community “interdependence.” Caring and consideration for “seven generations” got our species through the last million years of evolution and is probably our best shot for the next million years.

Interactive Map of Earth's Weather

Interactive Map of Earth's Weather 

The most stunning aspect of the interactive is its detail. You can change the altitude to look at winds in different layers of the atmosphere. Clicking on the "Earth" button will present a feast of options for showing different map projections or data overlays. In addition to wind, you can look at ocean currents, temperature, humidity, air density and more. You can also change the time to examine extreme past weather events like Superstorm Sandy, or go forward to look at future forecasts.

OSCAR - Ocean Surface Current Analyses Real-time


Climate change, energy & action and you


climatewitness
Uploaded on Nov 27, 2008

A one minute animation about climate change and energy from WWF-Brazil.

UNEP Global Environment Outlook (GEO-5)

UNEP Global Environment Outlook (GEO-5)

Link to full report pdf
Link to Youth Report pdf

Graphic: The danger of standing up


Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Closest Humanity Ever Came to Preventing Its Own Extinction from Climate Change


The Closest Humanity Ever Came to Preventing Its Own Extinction from Climate Change
Marty Kaplan, February 25, 2014 AlterNet.org

Those who tell the stories rule the world, it’s said, but it’s hard to tell a story unless you know the ending.

We don’t yet know the ending of the climate change story. The beginning of the ending happened in Kyoto, Japan in 1997, where delegates from 37 industrialized nations and the European Union agreed to the binding greenhouse gas reductions known as the Kyoto Protocol. This is the best the people of the world have been able to do so far to prevent our own extinction. Unfortunately, the Kyoto emission cuts didn’t go into force until 2008; Canada, one of the world’s biggest oil producers, wouldn’t sign it; the U.S. didn’t ratify it, nor did Australia, one of the world’s top coal producers; China, India and the rest of the developing world weren’t covered by it; and its limits lasted only until 2012. The result of the treaty was that 20 percent of the growth of atmospheric carbon dioxide since people lived in caves occurred between 2000 and 2011.

When 2012 arrived, the world, meeting in Doha, gave itself an extension until 2020. But because China (now the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, ahead of the U.S.), India (in third place), Brazil and the developing world were again given a pass, and the U.S., Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine didn’t sign on, the caps currently in effect cover only 15 percent of the world’s emissions — making way for last year’s news that for the first time since millions of years ago, the concentration of carbon dioxide blanketing the earth hit 400 parts per million.

So when 2020 rolls around, and the Kyoto Protocol [3] expires, what plan will be in effect for the decade beyond? Scientists say [4] our fate will likely be sealed by 2030: “Another 15 years of failure to limit carbon emissions could make the problem virtually impossible to solve with current technologies.”

These coming 15 years of negotiation and enforcement are arguably the most important 15 years in human history. If we want to have a meaningful agreement in place for 2020, a plan the U.S., Russia, China, India and the rest of the developed and developing world will commit to and that will actually move us back from the brink, we better move our global ass.

The body that will negotiate the next deal, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, meets annually. It has given itself until its 2015 meeting in Paris to come up with a plan that’s better than a suicide note. Later this year, there’ll be a U.N. climate change meeting in Lima, Peru, but Paris 2015 is le grand enchilada, when the world will call its own bluff.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon wants the world to know what’s at stake in Paris. He’s announced a September 2014 climate change summit [5] in New York to hold the world’s leaders’ feet to the fire, to put them on the spot to make bold commitments now. The presidents of the U.S. and China will be there, as will heads and ministers of more than 190 other countries. The 2014 summit offers a priceless opportunity for climate change to grab the world’s attention and change the narrative — to raise awareness and understanding of global warming, to activate people’s civic engagement with the crisis, to hear about mitigation and solutions, to demonstrate to political and business leaders that there is a deep hunger for them to lead.

I wonder what would happen if the world’s storytellers and artists were to throw themselves into making the 2014 summit succeed. Invite the wizards of digital creation and distribution, the social media entrepreneurs and software geniuses, the networks and studios, to lend their talents to a communication campaign. Imagine if film-, video- and game-makers, musicians, photographers, screenwriters, graphic novelists, comedians, actors, essayists and fashionistas were inspired to tell the tale of climate change. Think of what designers, logo makers, branders and advertisers could contribute. Picture entertainment and sports celebrities using their fame to spread the message. Take advantage of the insights of pollsters, market researchers, audience analysts, big data crunchers, behavioral scientists, neuroscientists, social scientists. Ask doctors and public health experts to tell us what carbon and methane pollution already are doing to our bodies, and how global warming is spreading infectious diseases where they haven’t penetrated before. Build alliances and coalitions with environmental advocates, grassroots movements, NGOs, religious and business leaders, philanthropists and foundations, mayors whose cities are threatened by floods, skiers who can’t find snow, farmers and ranchers devastated by drought, indigenous peoples facing extinction, young people who can’t believe how inadequate, even insane, the world’s response has been so far.

Make the narrative so compelling that the news media won’t be able to escape covering it — not just as a one-day summit story, but as the most important story of our time.

Of course, the global fossil fuel industry won’t take this lying down. Already, no doubt, their counter-narrative is being formulated; their charge that climate change is a "hoax" was only the first wave in a hugely well-financed disinformation campaign using the dark arts of propaganda and enabling the political dysfunction that billions of legal extortion can buy.

Last week, speaking in Indonesia, Secretary of State John Kerry said [6] we’re at a tipping point, calling climate change “perhaps the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.” Global warming is as threatening as the asteroid that caused the extinction of three-quarters of the plant and animal species on earth 66 million years ago.

I don’t know if apocalyptic warnings about unthinkable human misery are the best way to mobilize the world’s people to pressure their leaders not to make Paris 2015 a joke. Maybe a message of optimism about what we can accomplish — a change of genre from horror to heroism — is a smarter approach. But I do know that if the most creative and committed lovers of this planet don’t use all their genius and all their power to make this present moment count, we’ll have to come up with a better story to tell our grandchildren than the one about how the Koch brothers, ExxonMobil and China were the bad guys who stole their effing futures.

Is Brazil's epic drought a taste of the future?



Is Brazil's epic drought a taste of the future?
Rhett A. Butler, February 25, 2014 mongabay.com

With more than 140 cities implementing water rationing, analysts warning of collapsing soy and coffee exports, and reservoirs and rivers running precipitously low, talk about the World Cup in some parts of Brazil has been sidelined by concerns about an epic drought affecting the country's agricultural heartland.

With its rise as an agricultural superpower over the past 20 years, Brazil is today the world's largest exporter of coffee, sugar, oranges, soy, and cattle. That means the drought will take a bite out of the country's already flagging economic growth. But the worst may be yet to come if climate projections prove accurate: forecasts are for hotter and drier conditions going forward.

"The regions where we plant coffee today, especially the ones on lower elevations, will be getting hotter," Hilton Silveira Pinto of EMBRAPA, Brazil's government agency for agriculture, told NPR. "And many of the coffee plantations in these areas will probably have to be abandoned."

"By 2020, we will lose 20 to 22 percent of our soybean crop. It will also affect corn, cassava, many of our Brazilian crops."

Research suggests the forecasts could become even more dire if the Amazon rainforest — which plays a critical role in local and regional rainforest — tips toward drier conditions. Several studies predict that the combination of forest loss and climate change could conspire to tip large areas in the southern Amazon from rainforest toward savanna habitat, reducing rainfall. Already the region has experienced two of the most severe droughts on record — in 2005 and 2010.

"If droughts continue to occur at 5–10-year frequency, or increase in frequency, large areas of Amazonian forest canopy likely will be exposed to the persistent effect of droughts and the slow recovery of forest canopy structure and function," wrote researchers in a paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in December 2012. "In particular, areas of south and western Amazonia have been shown to be affected severely by increasing rainfall variability in the past decade, suggesting that this region may be witnessing the first signs of potential large-scale degradation of Amazonian rainforest from climate change."

Further east, farmers and city residents are already feeling the pain. Some 6 million people in 11 states have been asked to ration water and temperatures in January in Sao Paulo were the hottest ever recorded.


Graphic: Pessimistic or Optimistic?


Locals demand action as extreme weather ravages Argentina's cities

Extreme weather is ravaging Argentina's urban centers. Locals want to know how the government is preparing to protect them against flash floods, extreme heat and drought.

Locals demand action as extreme weather ravages Argentina's cities
 Eilís O'Neill, 27.02.2014 dw.de

At about 4:30 in the morning on April 2, 2013, Federico Brusau woke to the sound of a neighbor ringing his doorbell again and again. The water level in the street was rising quickly, and people were preparing for the worst.

Brusau rushed to shut the floodgates on his home and save his electronics. Then he hurried to his rooftop terrace to unclog its already-overflowing drains. By the time he got back downstairs, it was too late to do anything more.

“Everything was already covered with water,” he remembers. “It had come in over the floodgates and then through the heating vents. In less than five minutes, everything was flooded.”

The water level in the street had rapidly risen to 1.3 meters (51 inches) and spilled over Brusau's meter-high floodgates. Brusau had no choice but to retreat to his second-floor bedroom and waited for the rain to stop.

Extreme weather
Brusau, a 27-year-old who lives in the upper-middle-class neighborhood of Saavedra - one of the lowest-lying points in the city of Buenos Aires - was just one of the many people affected by last April's floods in Buenos Aires and La Plata.

The floods caused at least 50 deaths and destroyed thousands of homes and businesses. Both cities, like many in Latin America, are built on flood plains. As global warming increases and extreme weather events become more common, devastating floods are likely to carry away more lives and property unless governments develop adequate infrastructure and emergency responses.

That evening, in the neighboring city of La Plata, 300 millimeters of rain fell.

Soledad Escobar, a La Plata resident, remembers stepping out of her home the morning after the torrential downpour.

“It was as if we'd been through a war,” she recalls. “The first thing I did was go to see a friend of mine who lived five blocks away who had water up to her neck. In that same block there was a woman who died, just meters from where my friend lives. She drowned in her house.”

What's to be done
As global warming increases, experts say not only Argentine cities, but cities across Latin America can expect both more droughts - like the one Argentina is experiencing now - and more storms, like the heavy rain that caused last year's deaths and devastation.

“Climate change has been underestimated,” says Antonio Elio Brailovsky, a local environment expert. “We're going to have more and more extreme events all the time.”

If local governments built infrastructure capable of handling normal storms, the effects of record-breaking rainfall wouldn't be so tragic, says Claudio Velazco, a hydraulic engineer and an expert on La Plata's drainage system. But, in dry years like this one, it's hard to make long-term investments to prepare for future storms.

The infrastructure that's needed is extensive. Environment expert Brailovsky says cities need to construct new drains in lower areas and, in higher areas, dams to hold back the water until the rain subsides.

Velazco, the engineer, says the money the local, provincial, and national governments spent on subsidies for those who lost their houses or possessions in last April's storms would have covered the cost of necessary public works projects. The government offers such subsidies because very few people have home insurance in Argentina.

Many homes are without insurance in Argentina. Fortunately, some palliative measures wouldn't require much of a budget, adds Brailovsky, the environment expert. He says zoning laws should be changed so that there aren't underground parking garages or power boxes in areas susceptible to flooding.

Making up for lost time
Plans to get Buenos Aires ready for the next storm are in the works. But the problem is, since 1940, city governments have neglected to build infrastructure to keep up with the growing population, says the city's Director of Infrastructure, Daniel Capdevila.

So, now, the city is doing its best to make up for lost time. In 2005, it hired a consultant to complete a “Hydraulic Master Plan.”

“The first thing we did was improve the Maldonado Canal, which is the watershed where one third of the population [about one million people] lives,” says Capdevila.

Next on the city's list is the Vega Canal, which drains the areas flooded in 2013. But, due to disagreements between the local and national governments, the city of Buenos Aires never got the loans it needed to finance the projects.

“The World Bank was pleased with the loan they gave us for the Maldonado, and wanted to give us money for the Vega,” says Capdevila. “But we need to work with the national government so that it backs the loan.”

Frustrated residents
Those affected by last year's floods say it's just a matter of political will.

In Buenos Aires, a group of residents from Federico Brusau's neighborhood, Saavedra, is demanding the city implement a plan to notify residents when a dangerous storm is coming and a way to send emergency vehicles to vulnerable sites when floods strike. And, if that doesn't happen soon, they plan to take their case to court.

Soledad Escobar, in La Plata, wants to see her taxes coming back to her in the form of infrastructure improvements and new public works projects - even in dry years, like this one.

“We want the government to take the problem seriously, to solve it, to listen to engineers…, to come to an agreement, to put together a task force, and to build the necessary infrastructure regardless of how much it costs,” she says.

After all, she asks, “What is the price of human life?”

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Volcanoes slowed global warming, report says; it won't last


Volcanoes slowed global warming, report says; it won't last
Geoffrey Mohan, February 25, 2014 LATimes

An unusual swarm of volcanic eruptions over the last 14 years may be partially responsible for the slowing of global warming, a new report suggests.

The 17 eruptions from 1998-2012 pumped sulfur dioxide into Earth’s upper atmosphere, where it formed liquid particles that reflected more sunlight back to space, moderating the larger-scale warming of the planet surface, according to the study published online Monday in Nature Geoscience.

Adding the volcanic activity into calculations effectively reduced the discrepancy between observed temperature trends and the models that underpin the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s reports on climate change attributable to human activity.

Those models assumed that the additional aerosols pumped into the atmosphere by such events at the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines would eventually subside to zero.

“That’s not what happened in the real world,” said said Benjamin D. Santer, a climate scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory who was lead author of the new study. “Effectively, the real world has experienced a partial cooling effect associated with this uptick in volcanic activity."

The international team looked at satellite readings of temperature in the lower troposphere, the 11-mile-thick mass of air closest to Earth’s surface, and compared them with 28 climate models. Then they factored out the natural effects of the El Niño Southern Oscillation, which causes varying cooling and heating of the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean. The models proved accurate until the beginning of the current century, according to the study.

But actual temperatures soon bucked the trend. That discrepancy set off a flurry of speculation among skeptics that the framework underlying climate change was fatally flawed.

Scientists, however, had begun examining the moderation in warming rate, focusing on such phenomena as fluctuations in solar cycles, the absorption of heat by the oceans and an increase in sulfur dioxide emissions from coal burning in China.

Last year, a Nature study suggested that changes in the Pacific Ocean oscillation could be cycling the heat from the troposphere to the ocean’s water.

“That’s part of the story, but it’s not the whole story,” Santer said. The data in that study, in fact, may just be picking up on the effect of the eruptions, half of which occurred in the tropics.

“When you get a big volcano that injects sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere, into the upper atmosphere, that sulfur dioxide forms these liquid phase sulfuric acid droplets, those reflect incoming sunlight back to space, they cool the lower atmosphere and surface, and when they cool the ocean surface, the recovery takes years.”

So, there will be periods of slowed warming as the ocean “rebounds” from the cooling and the “slow, inexorable warming” resumes, said Santer.

“Volcanoes give us only a temporary respite from the relentless warming pressure of continued increases in CO2,” said Piers Foster, a climate scientist at the University of Leeds, who was not involved in the study.

“It’s a fascinating detective story; volcanoes are part of that detective story,” Santer said. “It’s not like we’re whistling around in the dark trying frantically to come up with ever more implausible explanations for what happened, who done it.”

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The March of Anthropogenic Climate Disruption


Polar bear on Bernard Harbor, along the Beaufort Sea coast, Arctic Alaska, June 2001. (Photo: Subhankar Banerjee)

The March of Anthropogenic Climate Disruption
Dahr Jamail, Monday, 24 February 2014, Truth-out.org

Last year marked the 37th consecutive year of above-average global temperature, according to data from NASA.

The signs of advanced Anthropogenic Climate Disruption (ACD) are all around us, becoming ever more visible by the day.

At least for those choosing to pay attention.

An Abundance of Signs
While the causes of most of these signs cannot be solely attributed to ACD, the correlation of the increasing intensity and frequency of events to ACD is unmistakable.

Let's take a closer look at a random sampling of some of the more recent signs.

Sao Paulo, South America's largest city (over 12 million people), will see its biggest water-supply system run dry soon if there is no rain. Concurry, a town in Australia's outback, is so dry after two rainless years that their mayor is now looking at permanent evacuation as a final possibility. Record temperatures in Australia have been so intense that in January, around 100,000 bats literally fell from the sky during an extreme heat wave.

A now-chronic drought in California, which is also one of the most important agricultural regions in the United States, has reached a new level of severity never before recorded on the US drought monitor in the state. In an effort to preserve what little water remained, state officials there recently announced they would cut off water that the state provides to local public water agencies that serve 25 million residents and about 750,000 acres of farmland. Another impact of the drought there has 17 communities about to run out of water. Leading scientists have discussed how California's historic drought has been worsened by ACD, and a recent NASA report on the drought, by some measures the deepest in over a century, adds:

"The entire west coast of the United States is changing color as the deepest drought in more than a century unfolds. According to the US Dept. of Agriculture and NOAA, dry conditions have become extreme across more than 62% of California's land area - and there is little relief in sight.

"Up and down California, from Oregon to Mexico, it's dry as a bone," comments JPL climatologst Bill Patzert. "To make matters worse, the snowpack in the water-storing Sierras is less than 20% of normal for this time of the year."

"The drought is so bad, NASA satellites can see it from space. On Jan. 18, 2014 - just one day after California governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency - NASA's Terra satellite snapped a sobering picture of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Where thousands of square miles of white snowpack should have been, there was just bare dirt and rock."

During a recent interview, a climate change scientist, while discussing ACD-induced drought plaguing the US Southwest, said that he had now become hesitant to use the word drought, because "the word drought implies that there is an ending."

Meanwhile, New Mexico's chronic drought is so severe the state's two largest rivers are now regularly drying up. Summer 2013 saw the Rio Grande drying up only 18 miles south of Albuquerque, with the drying now likely to spread north and into the city itself. By September 2013, nearly half of the entire US was in moderate to extreme drought.

During a recent interview, a climate change scientist, while discussing ACD-induced drought plaguing the US Southwest, said that he had now become hesitant to use the word drought, because "the word drought implies that there is an ending."

As if things aren't already severe enough, the new report Hydraulic Fracturing and Water Stress: Water Demand by the Numbers shows that much of the oil and gas fracking activity in both the United States and Canada is happening in "arid, water stressed regions, creating significant long-term water sourcing risks" that will strongly and negatively impact the local ecosystem, communities and people living nearby.

The president of the organization that produced this report said, "Hydraulic fracturing is increasing competitive pressures for water in some of the country's most water-stressed and drought-ridden regions. Barring stiffer water-use regulations and improved on-the-ground practices, the industry's water needs in many regions are on a collision course with other water users, especially agriculture and municipal water use."

Recent data from NASA shows that one billion people around the world now lack access to safe drinking water. Last year at an international water conference in Abu Dhabi, the UAE's Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan said: "For us, water is [now] more important than oil." Experts now warn that the world is "standing on a precipice" when it comes to growing water scarcity.

Looking northward, Alaska, given its Arctic geo-proximity, regularly sees the signs of advanced ACD. According to a recent NASA report on the northernmost US state:

"The last half of January was one of the warmest winter periods in Alaska's history, with temperatures as much as 40°F (22°C) above normal on some days in the central and western portions of the state, according to Weather Underground's Christopher Bart. The all-time warmest January temperature ever observed in Alaska was tied on January 27 when the temperature peaked at 62°F (16.7°C) at Port Alsworth. Numerous other locations - including Nome, Denali Park Headquarters, Palmer, Homer, Alyseka, Seward, Talkeetna, and Kotzebue - all set January records. The combination of heat and rain has caused Alaska's rivers to swell and brighten with sediment, creating satellite views reminiscent of spring and summer runoff."

Another recent study published in The Cryosphere shows that Alaska's Arctic icy lakes are losing their thickness and fewer are freezing all the way through to the bottom during winter. This should not come as a surprise, given that the reflective capacity of Arctic sea ice has is disappearing at twice the rate previously shown.

As aforementioned, science now shows that global temperatures are rising every year. In addition to this overall trend, we are now in the midst of a 28-year streak of summer records above the 20th century average.

In another indicator from the north, a new study by the UC Boulder Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research showed that average summer temperatures in the Eastern Canadian Arctic during the last 100 years are higher now than during any century in the past 44,000 years, and indications are that Canadian Arctic temperatures today have not been matched or exceeded for roughly 120,000 years. Research leader Gifford Miller added, "The key piece here is just how unprecedented the warming of Arctic Canada is. This study really says the warming we are seeing is outside any kind of known natural variability, and it has to be due to increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere."

As ACD progresses, weather patterns come to resemble a heart-rate chart for a heart in defibrillation. Hence, rather than uniform increases in drought or temperatures, we are experiencing haphazard chaotic extreme weather events all over the planet, and the only pattern we might safely assume to continue is an intensification of these events, in both strength and frequency.

Iran's Lake Urmia, once the largest lake in the country, has shrunk to less than half its normal size, causing Iran to face a crisis of water supply. The situation is so dire, government officials are making contingency plans to ration water in Tehran, a city of 22 million. Iran's President Hassan Rouhani has even named water as a "national security issue," and when he gives public speeches in areas impacted by water shortages he is now promising residents he will "bring the water back."

In other parts of the world, while water scarcity is heightening already strained caste tensions in India, the UK is experiencing the opposite problems with water. January rains brought parts of England their wettest January since records began more than 100 years ago. The UK's Met Office reported before the end of that month that much of southern England and parts of the Midlands had already seen twice the average rainfall for January, and there were still three days left in the month. January flooding across the UK went on to surpass all 247 years of data on the books, spurring the chief scientist at Britain's Met Office to say that "all the evidence" suggests that the extreme weather in the UK is linked to ACD.

Another part of the world facing a crisis from too much water is Fiji, where residents from a village facing rising sea levels that are flooding their farmlands and seeping into their homes are having to flee. The village is the first to have its people relocated under Fiji's "climate change refugee" program.

More bad news comes from a recently published study showing that Earth's vegetation could be saturated with carbon by the end of this century, and would thus cease acting as a break on ACD. However, this study could be an under-estimate of the phenomenon, as it is based on a predicted 4C rise in global temperature by 2100, and other studies and modeling predict a 4C temperature increase far sooner. (The Hadley Centre for Meteorological Researchsuggests a 4C temperature increase by 2060. The Global Carbon Project, which monitors the global carbon cycle, and the Copenhagen Diagnosis, a climate science report, predict 6C and 7C temperature increases, respectively, by 2100. The UN Environment Program predicts up to a 5C increase by 2050.)

Whenever we reach the 4C increase, whether it is by 2050, or sooner, this shall mark the threshold at which terrestrial trees and plants are no longer able to soak up any more carbon from the atmosphere, and we will see an abrupt increase in atmospheric carbon, and an even further acceleration of ACD.

And it's not just global weather events providing the signs. Other first-time phenomena abound as well.

For the first time, scientists have discovered species of Atlantic Ocean zooplankton reproducing in Arctic waters. German researchers say the discovery indicates a possible shift in the Arctic zooplankton community as the region warms, one that could be detrimental to Arctic birds, fish, and marine mammals.

Another study shows an increase in both the range and risk for malaria due to ACD, and cat parasites have even been found in Beluga whales in the Arctic, in addition to recently published research showing other diseases in seals and other Arctic life.

Distressing signs of ACD's increasing decimation of life continue unabated. In addition to between 150-200 species going extinct daily, Monarch butterflies are now in danger of disappearing as well. Experts recently reported that the numbers of Monarch butterflies have dropped to their lowest levels since record-keeping began. At their peak, the butterflies covered an area of Mexican pine and fir forests of 44.5 acres. Now, after steep and persistent declines in the last three years, they only cover 1.65 acres. Extreme weather trends, illegal logging, and a dramatic reduction of the butterflies' habitat are all to blame.

A recently published study that spanned 27-years showed that ACD is "killing Argentina's Magellanic penguin chicks." Torrential rainstorms and extreme heat are killing the young birds in significant numbers.

Distressingly, the vast majority of these citations and studies are only from the last six weeks.

More Pollution, More Denial
Meanwhile, the polluting continues as global carbon emissions only continue to increase.

Another recent study shows that black carbon emissions in India and China could be two to three times more concentrated than previously estimated. Black carbon is a major element of soot, and comes from the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels. The study showed that parts of India and China could have as much as 130 percent higher black carbon concentrations than shown in standard country models.

India is now rated as having some of the worst air quality in the world, and is tied with China for exposing its population to hazardous air pollution.

Meanwhile, Australian government authorities recently approved a project that will dump dredged sediment near the Great Barrier Reef, a so-called World Heritage Site, to create one of the world's largest coal ports.

Also on the front lines of the coal industry, miners now want to ignite deep coal seams to capture the gases created from the fires to use them for power generation. It's called underground coal gasification, it is on deck for what comes next after the fracking blitz, and it is a good idea for those wishing to turn Earth into Venus.

Then we have BP's "Energy Outlook" for the future, an annual report where the oil giant plots trends in global energy production and consumption. With this, we can expect nothing less than full steam ahead when it comes to vomiting as much carbon into the atmosphere in as short a time as possible.

BP CEO Bob Dudley announced at a January press conference that his company's Outlook sees carbon emissions projected to rise "29% by 2035."

Speaking of BP, the corporate-driven government of the United States continues to serve its masters well.

The US State Department recently released its environmental impact statement that found "no major climate impact" from a continuation in the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, a pipeline that will transport tar sands oil – the dirtiest fossil fuel on Earth, produced by the most environmentally destructive fossil fuel extraction process ever known.

US President Barack Obama claims he has yet to make a decision on the pipeline, but we can guess what his decision shall be.

In late January, the US House Energy and Commerce Committee voted down an amendment that would have stated conclusively that ACD is occurring, despite recent evidence that ACD has literally shifted the jet stream, the main system that helps determine all of the weather in North America and Northern Europe. The 24 members of the committee who voted down the amendment, all of them Republicans and more overtly honest about who they are working for than is Obama, have accepted approximately $9.3 million in career contributions from the oil, gas, and coal industries.

The fact that the planet is most likely long past having gone over the cliff when it comes to passing the point of no return regarding ACD is a fact most people prefer not to contemplate.

And who can blame them? The relentless onslaught of distress signals from the planet, coupled with the fact that the governments of the countries generating the most emissions are those marching lock-step with the fossil fuel industries are daunting, to say the least.

Oil, gas, and coal are the fuels the capitalist system uses to generate the all-important next quarterly profit on the road toward infinite growth, as required by the capitalist system.

Systemic problems require systemic solutions, and thinking the radical change necessary to preserve what life remains on the planet is possible without the complete removal of the system that is killing us, is futile.

Half measures, as we have seen all too often, avail us nothing.

Study Links Temperature to a Peruvian Glacier’s Growth and Retreat


Study Links Temperature to a Peruvian Glacier’s Growth and Retreat
JUSTIN GILLIS, Feb 25, 2014 NYTimes

Sitting on a flat volcanic plain 18,000 feet above sea level, the great Quelccaya ice cap of Peru is the largest piece of ice in the tropics. In recent decades, as scientists have watched it melt at an accelerating pace, it has also become a powerful symbol of global warming.

Yet the idea that the ice cap has retreated over time because of a change in temperature, rather than other possible factors like reduced snowfall, has always been more of a surmise than a proven case. In fact, how to interpret the disappearance of glaciers throughout the tropics has been a scientific controversy.

Now, a group of scientists is presenting new findings suggesting that over the centuries, temperature is the main factor controlling the growth and retreat of the largest glacier emerging from the ice cap. If they are right, then Quelccaya’s recent melting could indeed be viewed as a symbol of the planetary warming linked to human emissions of greenhouse gases.

In a paper released on Tuesday by the journal Geology, a group led by Justin S. Stroup and Meredith A. Kelly of Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., used elaborate techniques to date the waxing and waning over the past 500 years of the glacier, called Qori Kalis.

The group then compared the glacier’s movements to a record of ice accumulation on top of Quelccaya, obtained from long cylinders of ice drilled by the glaciologist Lonnie G. Thompson of Ohio State University.

The new paper suggests that the glacier sometimes grew during periods when the accumulation of ice in the region was relatively low, and conversely, that it retreated during some periods of high ice accumulation.

Dr. Kelly and Mr. Stroup conclude that the glacier is sensitive to temperature and that other factors, like the amount of snowfall, are secondary, thus supporting a view long held by Dr. Thompson that the glacier can essentially be viewed as a huge thermometer.

“The big driver is temperature,” said Dr. Thompson, who was not involved in the new paper.

Assuming it holds up, that is a sobering finding, considering how fast the Qori Kalis glacier is now retreating. Dr. Thompson documented last year that a part of the glacier that had apparently taken 1,600 years to grow had melted in a mere 25 years. He interpreted that as a sign that human emissions and the resultant warming have thrown the natural world far out of kilter.

Qori Kalis is hardly an outlier, though: land ice is melting virtually everywhere on the planet. That has been occurring since a 500-year period called the Little Ice Age that ended in about 1850, but the pace seems to have accelerated substantially in recent decades as human emissions have begun to overwhelm the natural cycles.

In the middle and high latitudes, from Switzerland to Alaska, a half-century of careful glaciology has established that temperature is the main factor controlling the growth and recession of glaciers.

But the picture has been murkier in the tropics. There, too, glaciers are retreating, but scientists have had more trouble sorting out exactly why.

That glaciers should exist at all in the warmest part of the earth is perhaps strange; they do so only in high, cold mountain regions. The tropical glaciers receive intense sunlight virtually year-round. Ice atop these glaciers can sometimes vaporize without even passing through a stage as liquid water. Over short periods, at least, the tropical glaciers appear to be sensitive to changes in clouds and many other factors.

One group of scientists is coming to the conclusion that even in these conditions, temperature is nonetheless the main factor controlling the ebb and flow of tropical glaciers over centuries.

But a second group believes that in some circumstances, at least, a tropical glacier’s long-term fate may reflect other factors. In particular, these scientists believe big changes in precipitation can sometimes have more of a role than temperature.

In interviews and emails, scientists from both groups praised the new paper for its reconstruction of the Qori Kalis glacier’s movements, a feat that required a decade of intensive labor.

A core finding is that the Peruvian glacier was expanding during the Little Ice Age. That adds to a growing body of research suggesting that the cooling during that mysterious event was global in scope, which may in turn help scientists determine the causes.

“I think it’s a great study,” said Aaron E. Putnam of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, who has done extensive work on glaciers in New Zealand. “They do something that I haven’t seen done in such an elegant way.”

But some scientists were critical of the paper’s broader assertion about temperature as the controlling factor for the glacier. “I actually believe that finding is probably accurate, but I don’t see that they make a compelling case for that with this study,” said Douglas R. Hardy of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, who worked extensively on Quelccaya, including documenting a recent, sharp increase of air temperatures.

Dr. Hardy and several of the other critics noted that the Kelly paper’s temperature conclusion depended strongly on a record of ice accumulation over centuries that Dr. Thompson had compiled by drilling into Quelccaya. The ice has been compressed over time, so the evidence requires considerable interpretation.

All of the scientists involved in the debate over tropical glaciers believe that global warming is a problem and that human emissions pose a long-term threat to the planet. But the unresolved controversy has served as fodder for skeptics of global warming, who say the scientists do not really know what is going on.

The biggest scientific battle has been fought not over Quelccaya but over Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. There, too, Dr. Thompson has asserted that the glaciers atop the mountain — the “snows of Kilimanjaro,” in Ernest Hemingway’s phrase — are disappearing because of planetary warming.

But Dr. Hardy and other scientists, like Georg Kaser of the University of Innsbruck in Austria, have argued that it is actually a series of other factors, primarily a reduction in precipitation, that is starving the Kilimanjaro glaciers.

That group says the precipitation decline could be, at least in part, a secondary effect of global warming, caused by rising temperatures in the Indian Ocean.

Dr. Kelly is now looking for evidence that may shed light on the Kilimanjaro debate.

Her method involves dating ridges of rock and debris, known as moraines, that glaciers leave at their far edges.

Mount Kilimanjaro does not have the right kind of rock, but she has begun a study of glacial moraines in the Rwenzori Mountains, 500 miles away in Uganda, that could eventually show whether glaciers in Africa tend to behave in the same way as the one in Peru.