Monday, June 30, 2014

Las Vegas Is "Screwed"; The Water Situation "Is As Bad As You Can Imagine"

Las Vegas Is "Screwed"; The Water Situation "Is As Bad As You Can Imagine"
Tyler Durden, 06/30/2014

"It's just going to be screwed. And relatively quickly," warns Tim Barnett, of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, telling The Telegraph, the situation in Las Vegas is "as bad as you can imagine". After a devastating, 14-year drought drained the reservoir that supplies 90% of the city’s water, the apparently endless supply of water is an illusion as Las Vegas population has soared. As Barnett ominously concludes, "unless it can find a way to get more water from somewhere, Las Vegas is out of business. Yet they’re still building, which is stupid."

As The Telegraph reports, as with many things in Sin City, the apparently endless supply of water is an illusion.

America’s most decadent destination has been engaged in a potentially catastrophic gamble with nature and now, 14 years into a devastating drought, it is on the verge of losing it all.

“The situation is as bad as you can imagine,” said Tim Barnett, a climate scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. “It’s just going to be screwed. And relatively quickly. Unless it can find a way to get more water from somewhere Las Vegas is out of business. Yet they’re still building, which is stupid.”

Things are not good...

Las Vegas gets just four inches of rain in a good year, and in the first four months of 2014 there was just 0.31 of an inch.

The Southern Nevada Water Authority, which has the task of keeping the city from running dry, has described the effects of the drought as “every bit as serious as a Hurricane Katrina or a Superstorm Sandy”.

However, Las Vegas still uses 219 gallons of water per person per day, one of the highest figures in the US. In San Francisco the figure is just 49 gallons.

But they have a plan...

Lake Mead’s water level is currently at 1,087ft above sea level. There are two pipes, known as “straws”, that take water from it to Las Vegas.

The first extracts water at an elevation of 1,050ft and is likely to be sucking at air, rather than water, soon. The second straw is at 1,000ft.

Lake Mead is expected to fall another 20ft towards that critical point by the end of this year.

Beneath the ground a mammoth effort is already under way to complete a new, lower straw which will be able to draw the last of the water from the lake.

But it is a painfully slow process as a giant drill the size of two football pitches advances at a rate of one inch per day.

That rescue project is costing $817 million and is currently expected to be complete by late 2015, but it is not viewed as a long-term solution.

Las Vegas also wants to build a separate $15.5 billion pipeline that would pump 27 billion gallons of groundwater a year from an aquifer 260 miles away in rural Nevada.

But a judge has refused permission after environmentalists sued on the basis that it would adversely affect 5,500 acres of meadows, 33 miles of trout streams, and 130,000 acres of habitat used by sage grouse, mule deer, elk and pronghorn, an antelope-like creature that is endangered in the region. The court heard that 25 species of Great Basin springsnails would be pushed toward extinction.

But in the end, it's a false promise...

“It’s a really dumb-headed proposition. It would provide a false sense of security that there’s plenty of water and it would delay the inevitable decisions that have to be taken about water conservation and restricting growth.

“The drought is like a slow spreading cancer across the desert. It’s not like a tornado or a tsunami, bang. The effects are playing out over decades. And as the water situation becomes more dire we are going to start having to talk about the removal of people (from Las Vegas).”

Mr Mrowka cited Lake Las Vegas, a mega-resort where stars including Celine Dion live, as one of the “most egregious examples” of wasting water.

And then there's this...

One proposal is for landlocked Nevada to pay billions of dollars to build solar-powered desalination plants in the Pacific off Mexico, taking Mexico’s share of Colorado River water in exchange.

But Mr Mrowka said: “The Colorado is essentially a dying river. Ultimately, Las Vegas and our civilisation in the American South West is going to disappear, like the Indians did before us.”

Going vegetarian halves CO2 emissions from your food - health - 26 June 2014 - New Scientist

Arctic Feedback Dynamics Presentation by David Wasdell (Part 1)

Professor Peter Wadhams Discusses Subsea Permafrost Methane Releases And...

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Graphic: Water and Wars

Graphic: Destroying Rainforests

Join Climate Change 911 in the Largest Climate March in History

Join Climate Change 911 in the Largest Climate March in History
People's Climate March, September 21 and 22 in New York City.

SoCal Travel Options:
Climate Change 911 is planning to have a van and/or bus leaving the Southern California area to catch the Center For Biological Diversity's train leaving from the SF area on September 15. Seats are going fast. so contact us soon if you would like to reserve a seat on the van/bus and train (

The train will leave the SF Bay Area on Monday, September 15, picking up activists and concerned citizens in Sacramento, Reno, Salt Lake City, Denver, Chicago and more, before arriving in NYC on Thursday the 18th. Along the way we'll have teach-ins, trainings, mixers, and movement-building workshops. Cost is  $201 in coach - $558 per person in shared sleeping car to Chicago. See here for more info:

Getting Back:
There will be a “recommended” train coming back so some of us can travel together, but it will not be a formal organized trip. To allow for flexible schedules and travel preferences, people will be making their own arrangements home.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

mandy barker recomposes 769 washed-up footballs to highlight marine pollution

mandy barker recomposes 769 washed-up footballs to highlight marine pollution
(above) the world 
jun 11, 2014

with 769 pieces of marine debris as a medium, UK based photographer mandy barker has composed ‘penalty’,a series of images which hope to raise global awareness about the issue of plastic pollution in our seas at the time of the world cup. the work consists of four different photos showing mass collections of balls recovered from around the world, europe and the united kingdom along with 228 pieces collected by a single person. barker sent out a request via social media to ask the public to save footballs they found washed up on the beach.

(above) europe
the result was an international response with people posting images of recovered items from global locations, providing the content for the series: 769 plastic footballs and 223 other types of trash have been collected from 41 different countries and islands, 144 different beaches by nearly 90 members of the public. while individually photographing each ball, barker has meticulously cataloged every retrieval with a description of where and when it was found, the story behind each ball, and photographs from its recovered location. the artist hopes the series will ‘highlight the penalty we will ultimately pay for this global problem.’

(above) united kingdom

(above) one person

Hottest Spring On Record Globally, Reports Japan Meteorological Agency

Hottest Spring On Record Globally, Reports Japan Meteorological Agency
JOE ROMM, JUNE 18, 2014

The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) reported Monday that March-May was the hottest in more than 120 years of record-keeping. It was also the hottest May on record.

This is especially noteworthy because we’re still waiting for the start of El Niño. It is usually the combination of the underlying long-term warming trend and the regional El Niño warming pattern that leads to new global temperature records.

You may be wondering how the world is setting records for the warmest March, April, and May (the boreal spring) when it wasn’t particularly hot in the United States (assuming we ignore California and Alaska). It turns out there’s like a whole planet out there that has been getting very toasty:

The Siberian permafrost, for instance, has seen relatively sweltering temperatures. And that’s not good news since carbon emissions from the permamelt could add up to 1.5°F to total global warming by 2100 depending on how fast it defrosts.

The JMA is a World Meteorological Organization Regional Climate Center of excellence. In the coming days we will get reports from NASA and NOAA on May and spring temperatures. At this point, it looks like spring 2014 will be the second hottest on record in the NASA dataset and first or second for NOAA.

UPDATE 6/18: As expected, NASA reported that this was the hottest May on record (after reporting last month was the hottest April on record) — and the second hottest spring on record. NASA did point out on its website that some “missing data” from China meant their report was still preliminary. Given the unprecedented heat wave hitting much of China in May, that seems unlikely to change NASA’s final numbers much.

It seems all but certain more records will be broken in the coming months, as global warming combines with an emerging El Niño.

Teachers and Scientists Meet for Climate Change Workshop

NASA scientist Dr. George Tselioudis (right) met with New York City and Glenbard, Ill., educators at a NASA professional development course on climate change in New York, N.Y.

Teachers and Scientists Meet at NASA GISS for Climate Change Workshop
June 4, 2014

On April 28, 2014, the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York hosted a unique gathering for secondary teachers, climate researchers and education specialists to connect NASA's cutting edge climate change science with how students are learning and getting ready for the world.

The Climate Change in the Classroom (CCIC) Workshop involved 33 teachers who teach subjects across the curriculum in New York City's Community School District 4 and Illinois's Glenbard Public Schools and Consolidated Community School District 93. These middle and high school teachers came to the CCIC to raise their awareness about the headlining story of climate change, and also to get an insider's view of the scientific process from NASA GISS scientists on the frontlines of advancing knowledge that put climate change on the national agenda.

The CCIC is a spin-off of a past GISS educational activity, the Institute on Climate on Planets (ICP). ICP (1994-2004) was a nationally recognized program for engaging New York City metro area students and teachers from middle school through college in climate research experiences. The participation of teachers from NYC's District 4 is especially momentous for their superintendent, Alexandra Estrella. "As an alum of GISS ICP I know firsthand the importance of engaging young people in authentic science investigations. The CCIC's emphasis on real world data and scientific process provides our teachers with the tools to bring the scientific world into the classroom and help spark students' life-long curiosity and love for science. Already, CCIC teachers are sharing with their colleagues best practices for addressing the Common Core through authentic problems for students to explore the nature, causes, impacts and choices concerning climate change."

Initially supported by a grant from NASA's Climate Change Education Program, CCIC represents a new and evolving initiative for GISS educational outreach — building a professional learning community among teachers and scientists for teaching climate change, addressing national education standards and expanding student learning opportunities for real world problem-solving.

Throughout the CCIC workshop teachers interacted in various ways with NASA and Columbia University scientists at GISS. Together, they watched excerpts from Showtime's climate change series, Years of Living Dangerously. The film motivated a teacher-scientist dialogue to refine teacher knowledge about key ideas concerning what we know about how climate is changing and some of the impacts. A special highlight of these discussions was the involvement of Dr. Radley Horton, a Columbia University researcher at GISS featured in the Years series. "The Years of Living Dangerously demonstrates how climate affects our everyday lives. Teachers operate at the perfect scale to encourage discussion among students about to what extent their everyday experiences fit into a broader global context," said Radley Horton.

In the majority of workshop sessions teachers collaborated on interdisciplinary teams and with GISS scientists to develop lessons that draw on materials from the beta climate change curriculum: Hot: One World, One Climate. Hot is designed to resonate with students by connecting the various challenges of climate change to their lives — a youth in Miami facing the effects of extreme weather and sea level rise, the Alaskan native student who sees rapidly melting permafrost and sea ice, the urban New Yorker dealing with intense summer heat waves.

The workshop moderator, Ryan Goble, masterfully guided the teachers in customizing a Hot lesson to meet the needs of students in their classes, school curriculum, the Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards. Ryan, a nationally recognized teacher professional development expert and founder of the CCIC partner organization, Mindlblue Productions, said, "We designed the learning experience to be highly differentiated — giving teachers a chance to explore authentic, inquiry- and literacy-based teaching practices and scientific content while choosing their own Hot curriculum adventure to work on and evolve for their students in back at school."

Learn more about this workshop in the video
 Climate Change in the Classroom Workshop produced by Rhys Daunic for The Media Spot, on Vimeo.

At the CCIC, participants deepened their awareness of climate change, while gaining teaching strategies for engaging students in Problem Based Learning (PBL), collaborative learning and critical thinking. "The experience was the best professional development conference I have attended in 28 years of teaching," said CCIC physics teacher, Brian Loynachan, from Glenbard High School East.

The teachers had a chance to meet with several notable GISS scientists. Among the GISS scientists were GISS Deputy Director Gavin Schmidt and Columbia University researcher Pushker Kharecha, the lead scientist for Hot and the CCIC. Kharecha said, "It is very encouraging to see how motivated the teachers are to enhance their understanding of the science of climate change and integrate it into their curricula. Educating youth and future generations about this highly relevant and important topic is vital so that they can make scientifically informed decisions now and as adults."

Other NASA and Columbia University scientists involved in the workshop included George Tselioudis, Alex Ruane, Dorothy Peteet, Tim Hall, Ron Miller, and Barbara Carlson. CCIC is a rare opportunity for teachers to learn from and co-create education materials with these world-class scientists. As one teacher commented, "The time to work on curriculum/lesson plan development and the support to feel empowered in one experience is exceedingly rare in our profession​. These were memories and experiences I'll carry with me for the rest of my career and life."

Every teacher left the April 28 CCIC Workshop at GISS with lessons that bring today's students into the process of real world problem-solving around an issue that disproportionately affects their lives — global climate change. They also connected their teaching and student learning to world class people and work at Columbia University and NASA GISS.

This was the second CCIC Teacher Workshop held at GISS. Now teachers in Virginia, New York, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina, New Mexico, Canada, and the Bahamas are a part of the growing professional learning community for using climate change in the classroom.

"The CCIC is creating a professional development learning space that can potentially transform teaching and learning," said Carolyn Harris, GISS Education Coordinator and founder of the CCIC partner organization Real World Matters. "We are proud to be developing the CCIC initiative with the GISS and Columbia University community and believe it can expand learning opportunities that help prepare young people with the knowledge, skills and experiences they need to be ready for the world, especially around science and technology issues."

For more information about NASA GISS, visit:
Leslie McCarthy, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York, N.Y., 212-678-5507,

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Plant Productivity

Published March, 2013

Keeping Up with Carbon

Published March, 2013

Stress and Anxiety: The Lesser-Known Effects of Climate Change

Stress and Anxiety: The Lesser-Known Effects of Climate Change
Alexis Petru, June 18th, 2014

We now know all too well the effects that climate change will have on the environment and society: from making weather events more severe to damaging infrastructure, displacing populations and threatening our food and water supply. But climate change will also have a significant impact on our psychology and well-being, according to a new report from the American Psychological Association, the country’s largest professional organization representing the field of psychology, and ecoAmerica, a nonprofit focused on climate solutions.

Rather than being simply another “doom-and-gloom” study intended to scare unconvinced Americans into acknowledging that climate change is real, the report’s authors hope their findings can help people better understand the phenomenon of climate change, as well as motivate them to take action.

Anxiety, depression, shock, grief and post-traumatic stress disorder – these are some of the mental health consequences for individuals experiencing climate change-related disasters like floods and hurricanes, according to Beyond Storms and Droughts: The Psychological Impacts of Climate Change. One study of flood survivors found that some individuals were having panic attacks, insomnia, low motivation and obsessive behavior long after the natural disaster hit their community.

People exposed to the gradual effects of climate change – increased air pollution, proliferation of disease and food insecurity, to name a few – are at risk for different psychological conditions, the report said. For example, mental health workers have noticed an uptick in substance abuse and the use of mental health programs in Canada’s Inuit community in response to climate change’s gradual impacts. “Ecoanxiety” – a term frequently lampooned by the media – is also a real reaction to changing climatic conditions, according to the report: Many people feel deeply helpless and fatalistic while watching the effects of climate change unfold and worrying about their families’ future.

Droughts – another calamity exacerbated by climate change – are a special type of long-lasting natural disaster that doesn’t quite fit into the categories of acute disaster or gradual impact, the report said. While individuals may withstand a drought well initially, their mental health is likely to deteriorate as the drought persists over time. Droughts affect rural communities more, the report went on to say: One study found an increase in suicide among male farmers during an Australian drought.

The study noted that certain populations are more susceptible to climate change’s psychological impacts: children and seniors, women, and communities with aging infrastructure, high levels of poverty or a lack of health care services.

The psychological well-being of communities can also be affected by the changing climate, the report said, as climate change influences the way community members interact with each other. “Environmental refugees,” who are forced to vacate their community after a natural disaster or as climate change makes the environment inhabitable, may lose their feelings of continuity and belonging, one study found.

Communities may see an increase in violence and crime, as food becomes scarce or governments devote more resources to responding to natural disasters, instead of their criminal justice and mental health systems. Some studies suggested that a mere rise in temperature corresponds with an increase in aggression: One researcher predicted that higher global temperatures will lead to an additional 30,000 murders and 3.2 million burglaries during this century.
How the power of positive thinking can combat ecoanxiety

However, the report’s authors concluded on a positive note, with a list of tips to assist sustainability advocates and policymakers in communicating about the impacts of climate change, including the psychological effects, that will help people better understand it and inspire them to take action. Focusing on climate change solutions rather than the problem itself, using hopeful, positive messaging, and avoiding graphic images of climate change’s impacts are some effective ways to educate the public on this environmental crisis, according to the report.

The report also included recommendations for how communities can prepare for the mental health impacts of climate change, aimed at city planners, public health agencies and disaster relief organizations. Suggestions ranged from encouraging community members to add items that promote well-being to their emergency kits – like family photos, games and religious items – to strengthening community infrastructure including transportation, housing and health care to better withstand natural disasters.

The authors of the “Beyond Storms and Droughts” report pointed out that despite the psychological trauma caused by climate change, individuals and communities have the opportunity to transform themselves in positive ways in the face of adversity. For example, a study of low-income mothers who survived Hurricane Katrina found that the simple power of positive thinking helped the women survive and thrive after the disaster.

For individuals, psychologists use the term “post-traumatic growth” to describe the experience of using optimism, flexibility and problem-solving to overcome a difficult situation and feel they have gained something worthwhile, like stronger social relationships or special skills. On a community-scale, I would suggest that the sustainability community already calls this “climate resilience.”

Emotional Typhoon Haiyan Speech By Philippines Delegate

Published Nov 11, 2013

My country is being tested by this hellstorm called super typhoon Haiyan. We remain uncertain
as to the full extent of the damage and devastation as information trickles in in an agonizingly
slow manner because power lines and communication lines are cut off and may take a while before
they are restored. The initial assessment shows that Haiyan left a wake of massive destruction
that is unprecedented, unthinkable and horrific. And the devastation is staggering. I struggle
to find words even for the images that we see on the news coverage and I struggle to
find words to describe how I feel about the losses. Up to this hour, I agonize, waiting
for word for the fate of my very own relatives. What gives me renewed strength and great relief
is that my own brother has communicated to us and he has survived the onslaught. I speak
for my delegation, but I speak for the countless people who will no longer be able to speak
for themselves after perishing from the storm. I speak also for those who have been orphaned
by the storm. I speak for those people now racing against time to save survivors and
alleviate the suffering of the people affected. We can take drastic action now to ensure that
we prevent a future where super typhoons become a way of life. Can we ever attain the ultimate
objective of the convention - which is to prevent dangerous and tropogenic interference
with a climate system. By failing to meet the objective of the convention, we may have
ratified our own doom. We have to confront the issue of loss and damage. Loss and damage
is a reality today across the world. We cannot solve climate change when we seek to spew
more emissions. In solidarity with my countrymen who are struggling to find food back home,
and with my brother who has not had food for the last three days, with all due respect,
Mr. President - and I mean no disrespect for your kind hospitality - I will now commence
a voluntary fasting for the climate. This means I will voluntarily refrain from eating
food during this cop until a meaning outcome is in sight. Until concrete pledges have been
made to ensure mobilization of resources for the green climate fund. We cannot afford cop
with an empty GCF. Until the promise of an operalization of a loss and damage mechanism
has been fulfilled. Until there is a assurance and financial adaptation. Until we see real
ambition on climate action in accordance with the principles we have so upheld. Mr. President,
this process has been called a farce. It has been called an annual carbon intensive gathering
of useless frequent fliers. It has also been called saving tomorrow today. We can fix this.
We can stop
this madness. (Applause) Thank you Philippines for your great speech. It’s always hard
to attribute a single weather event to climate change, but we know that science is also clear
that climate change will mean more intense typhoons, potentially. Even if we cannot attribute
Haiyan to climate change directly, my country refuses to accept a future where super typhoons
will become a regular fixture.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Women leaders gathering to discuss climate action that is good for people and the climate

Women leaders gathering to discuss climate action that is good for people and the climate
JUNE 12 2014

During the Climate Change Intercessional in Bonn this June, Mary Robinson, President of the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice, invited members of the Troika+ of Women Leaders on Gender and Climate Change to discuss and promote a people-centred approach to climate action.

Participants included, among others, Troika+ members Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the Climate Change Secretariat of the UNFCCC, Connie Hedgaard, the European Commissioner for Climate Action, the Dutch Minister for the Environment, Wilma Mansveld and a delegation from the South African Ambassador at Large for Climate Change who came together to exchange ideas and share experiences on the following two topics:
In her opening remarks, Mary Robinson spoke about the need to build positive momentum for a new climate agreement. She said:

“To make sure that climate action benefits all people as well as the climate, we need to guarantee that our climate action is fair and protects human rights. In order to achieve this we also need to give grassroots practitioners a platform to participate in dialogues with policy makers and to share the lessons learned from their experience.”

Aira Kerala, Senior Gender Adviser from Finland, was invited to brief the meeting on the progress on implementing the Decision 23/CP.18 that has placed gender on the agenda of the COP decision. She shared an update and the outcomes of a very well attended gender workshop at COP 19 in Warsaw and discussed plans for next steps at COP 20 in Lima with the Troika+ members.

During the discussion, Mary Robinson and the present women leaders highlighted the need for further work on gender participation and gender sensitive climate policy, referring to already achieved successes like the “Doha miracle” at COP 18 in Doha.

The participants of the Troika+ meeting also agreed the need for human rights to be an integral part of any future climate action, but especially to be enshrined in the text of the COP agreements at COP20 in Lima and COP21 in Paris, in order to ensure that the resulting climate action is having a positive effect for people as well as the climate.

The Foundation is currently working on a position paper on a people-centred framing for the 2015 agreement focusing on gender equality, human rights and intergenerational equity which will be published in due course.

What Scientists Are Seeing Over Antarctica

Historic Ocean Climate Link Revealed

Research vessel JOIDES Resolution arriving Lisbon after the IODP Expedition 339

Historic Ocean Climate Link Revealed

Scientists have discovered a relationship between climate change and ocean currents over the past six million years after analysing an area of the Atlantic near the Strait of Gibraltar, according to research published on Friday, 13 June in the journal Science.

An expedition of scientists, jointly led by Dr Javier Hernandez-Molina, from the Department of Earth Sciences at Royal Holloway, University of London, examined core samples from the seabed off the coast of Spain and Portugal which provided proof of shifts of climate change over millions of years.

The team also discovered new evidence of a deep-earth tectonic pulse in the region, as well as thick layers of sand within mountains of mud in a vast sheet, spreading out nearly 100km into the Atlantic from the Gibraltar gateway. The quantity of sand is far more than was expected and has been caused by the strength, speed and long duration of bottom currents flowing through the Strait of Gibraltar from the Mediterranean.

“The sediments we examined show various shifts of climate change over millions of years”, Dr Hernandez-Molina said. “In addition, our findings could herald a significant shift in future targets for oil and gas exploration in deep-water settings. The thickness, extent and properties of these sands make them an ideal target in places where they are buried deep enough to allow for the trapping of hydrocarbons. The sand is especially clean and well sorted and therefore very porous and permeable.”

The expedition, carrying an international team of 35 scientists from 14 countries, recovered 5km of core samples from an area along the Gulf of Cadiz and west of Portugal.

The research found that a powerful cascade of Mediterranean water spilling into the Atlantic was scouring the rocky seafloor, carving deep-sea channels and building up mountains of mud. This is due to Mediterranean water being saltier than the Atlantic and therefore denser, causing it to plunge downwards.

Dr Hernandez-Molina added: “We set out to understand how the Strait of Gibraltar acted first as a barrier and then a gateway over the past six million years. The fascinating results we came back with have hugely increased our understanding of the Mediterranean Outflow Water (MOW) that flows through the Gibraltar gateway and have led to some key discoveries about the relationship between climatic shifts, deep-water circulation and plate tectonic events over a huge timescale.”

Sediments cored along the southwestern Iberian margin during Integrated Ocean Drilling Program Expedition 339 provide constraints on Mediterranean Outflow Water (MOW) circulation patterns from the Pliocene epoch to the present day. After the Strait of Gibraltar opened (5.33 million years ago), a limited volume of MOW entered the Atlantic. Depositional hiatuses indicate erosion by bottom currents related to higher volumes of MOW circulating into the North Atlantic, beginning in the late Pliocene. The hiatuses coincide with regional tectonic events and changes in global thermohaline circulation (THC). This suggests that MOW influenced Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), THC, and climatic shifts by contributing a component of warm, saline water to northern latitudes while in turn being influenced by plate tectonics.

Onset of Mediterranean outflow into the North Atlantic by F. Javier Hernández-Molina, et al. published in Science 13 June 2014: Vol. 344 no. 6189 pp. 1244-1250 DOI: 10.1126/science.1251306
Read the abstract and get the paper here.
News release issued by Royal Holloway College via AlphaGalileo here.

Big trouble in the Antarctic has been brewing for a long time

Big trouble in the Antarctic has been brewing for a long time
David Spratt, 15 June 2014

"A game changer" is how climate scientist Dr Malte Meinshausen describes newly published research that West Antarctic glaciers have passed a tipping point much earlier than expected and their disintegration is now "unstoppable" at just the current level of global warming. The research findings have shocked the scientific community. "This Is What a Holy Shit Moment for Global Warming Looks Like," ran a headline in Mother Jones magazine.

In the Guardian, lead researcher Dr Eric Rignot explained:

We announced that we had collected enough observations to conclude that the retreat of ice in the Amundsen sea sector of West Antarctica was unstoppable, with major consequences – it will mean that sea levels will rise one metre worldwide. What's more, its disappearance will likely trigger the collapse of the rest of the West Antarctic ice sheet, which comes with a sea level rise of between three and five metres. Such an event will displace millions of people worldwide.But this news should not have come as a shock. In 2007 when we wrote "Climate Code Red", Philip Sutton and I devoted a chapter to Antarctica, and surveyed scientists who were warning of this scenario. We quoted NASA climate chief James Hansen:

We find it implausible that BAU [‘business-as-usual’] scenarios, with climate forcing and global warming exceeding those of the Pliocene, would permit a West Antarctic ice sheet of present size to survive even for a century.As far back as 1968, John Mercer had predicted that the collapse of ice shelves along the Antarctic Peninsula could herald the loss of the ice sheet in West Antarctica, and 10 years later contended that: "a major disaster — a rapid deglaciation of West Antarctica — may be in progress … within about 50 years."

Such science was excluded from "mainstream" reports such as those of the IPCC, which systematically and embarrassing underestimated likely sea-level rises, with the most recent, 2013 report being no exception.

It's par for the course for climate policy-makers to hope for the best, rather than plan for the worst. More than once this blog has warned that sea-level rises are being underestimated by Australian policy-makers, and that the tens of millions of dollars being put into adaptation planning for sea-level rises of no more than 1.1 metres by 2100 will be a waste of money, and all that work will have to be done again. And now that has come to pass.

It's so dumb, but putting politics ahead of science has got us into this mess, and there is little sign that even peer-reviewed evidence that West Antarctic has passed a tipping point for partial or total collapse of its ice sheets will get those in power to acknowledge scientific reality.

So here, for the record, is what we said back in late 2007.

Climate Code Red (extract): Antarctica

Big changes are also underway at the other end of the world, in the Antarctic, where most of the world’s ice sits on the fifth largest continent. The majority of Antarctic ice is contained in the East Antarctic ice sheet — the biggest slab of ice on Earth, which has been in place for some 20 million years and which, if fully melted, would raise sea levels by more than 60 metres.

Considered more vulnerable is the smaller West Antarctic ice sheet, which contains one-tenth of the total Antarctic ice volume. If it disintegrated, it would raise sea levels by around 5 metres, a similar amount to what we would see with a total loss of the Greenland ice sheet.

While it was generally anticipated that the West Antarctic sheet would be more stable than Greenland at a 1–2 degree rise, recent research demonstrates that the southern ice shelf reacts far more sensitively to warming temperatures than scientists had previously believed. Ice-core data from the Antarctic Geological Drilling joint project (being conducted by Germany, Italy, New Zealand, and the United States) shows that ‘massive melting’ must have occurred in the Antarctic three million years ago, during the Miocene–Pliocene period, when the average global temperature in the oceans increased by only 2–3 degrees above the present temperature. Geologist Lothar Viereck-Götte called the results ‘horrifying’, and suggested that ‘the ice caps are substantially more mobile and sensitive than we had assumed’.

The heating effect caused by climate change is greatest at the poles, and the air over the West Antarctic peninsula has warmed nearly 6 degrees since 1950. At the same time, according to a report in the Washington Post on 22 October 2007, a warming sea is melting the ice-cap edges, and beech trees and grass are taking root on the ice fringes.

Another warning sign was the rapid collapse in March 2002 of the 200-metre-thick Larsen B ice shelf, which had been stable for at least twelve thousand years, and which was the main outlet for glaciers draining from West Antarctica. An ice shelf is a floating sheet, or platform, of ice. Largely submerged, and up to a kilometre thick, the shelf abuts the land and is formed when glaciers or land-based ice flows into the sea. Generally, an ice shelf will lose volume by calving icebergs, but these are also subject to rapid disintegration events. Larsen B, weakened by water-filled cracks where its shelf attached to the Antarctic Peninsula, gave way in a matter of days, releasing five hundred billion tonnes of ice into the ocean.

Neil Glasser of Aberystwyth University and Ted Scambos from the NSIDC found that as glacier fl ow had begun to increase during the 1990s, the ice shelf had become stressed. The warming of deep Southern Ocean currents (which increasingly reach the Antarctic coastline) had also led to some thinning of the shelf, making it more prone to breaking apart. Scambos concludes that ‘the unusually warm summer of 2002, part of a multi-decade trend of warming [that is] clearly tied to climate change, was the final straw’.

Looking at the overall pace of events, Scambos says: ‘We thought the southern hemisphere climate is inherently more stable, [but] all of the time scales seem to be shortened now. These things can happen fairly quickly. A decade or two of warming is all you need to really change the mass balance … Things are on more of a hair trigger than we thought.’

Much of the West Antarctic ice sheet sits on bedrock that is below sea level, buttressed on two sides by mountains, but held in place on the other two sides by the Ronne and Ross ice shelves; so, if the ice shelves that buttress the ice sheet disintegrate, sea water breeching the base of the ice sheet will hasten the rate of disintegration.

In 1968, the Ohio State University glaciologist John Mercer warned, in the journal of the International Association of Scientific Hydrology, that the collapse of ice shelves along the Antarctic Peninsula could herald the loss of the ice sheet in West Antarctica. A decade later, in 1978, his views received a wider audience in Nature, where he wrote: ‘I contend that a major disaster — a rapid deglaciation of West Antarctica — may be in progress … within about 50 years.’ Mercer said that warming ‘above a critical level would remove all ice shelves, and consequently all ice grounded below sea level, resulting in the deglaciation of most of West Antarctica’. Such disintegration, once under way, would ‘probably be rapid, perhaps catastrophically so’, with most of the ice sheet lost in a century. Credited with coining the phrase ‘the greenhouse effect’ in the early 1960s, Mercer’s Antarctic prognosis was widely ignored and disparaged at the time, but this has changed.

(James Hansen says it was not clear at the time whether Mercer or his many critics were correct, but those who labelled Mercer an alarmist were considered more authoritative and better able to get funding. Hansen believes funding constraints can inhibit scientific criticisms of the status quo. As he wrote in New Scientist on 28 July 2007: ‘I believe there is pressure on scientists to be conservative.’ Hansen is responsible for coining the term ‘The John Mercer Effect’, meaning to play down your findings for fear of losing access to funding or of being considered alarmist.)

Another vulnerable place on the West Antarctic ice sheet is Pine Island Bay, where two large glaciers, Pine Island and Thwaites, drain about 40 per cent of the ice sheet into the sea. The glaciers are responding to rapid melting of their ice shelves and their rate of fl ow has doubled, whilst the rate of mass loss of ice from their catchment has now tripled. NASA glaciologist Eric Rignot has studied the Pine Island glacier, and his work has led climate writer Fred Pearce to conclude that ‘the glacier is primed for runaway destruction’. Pearce also notes the work of Terry Hughes of the University of Maine, who says that the collapse of the Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers — already the biggest causes of global sea-level rises — could destabilise the whole of the West Antarctic ice sheet. Pearce is also swayed by geologist Richard Alley, who says there is ‘a possibility that the West Antarctic ice sheet could collapse and raise sea levels by 6 yards [5.5 metres]’, this century.

Hansen and fellow NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies researcher Makiko Sato agree:

The gravest threat we foresee starts with surface melt on West Antarctica, and interaction among positive feedbacks leading to catastrophic ice loss. Warming in West Antarctica in recent decades has been limited by effects of stratospheric ozone depletion. However, climate projections find surface warming in West Antarctica and warming of nearby ocean at depths that may attack buttressing ice shelves. Loss of ice shelves allows more rapid discharge from ice streams, in turn a lowering and warming of the ice sheet surface, and increased surface melt. Rising sea level helps unhinge the ice from pinning points … Attention has focused on Greenland, but the most recent gravity data indicate comparable mass loss from West Antarctica. We find it implausible that BAU [‘business-as-usual’] scenarios, with climate forcing and global warming exceeding those of the Pliocene, would permit a West Antarctic ice sheet of present size to survive even for a century.Even in East Antarctica, where total ice loss would produce a sea-level rise of 60 metres, mass loss near the coast is greater than the mass increase inland (mass increase inland is caused by the extra snowfall generated from warming-induced increases in air humidity).

While the inland of East Antarctica has cooled during the last 20 years, the coast has become warmer, with melting occurring 900 kilometres from the coast and in the Transantarctic Mountains, which rise up to an altitude of 2 kilometres.

Research published in January 2008 by Rignot and six of his colleagues shows that ice loss in Antarctica has increased by 75 per cent in the last ten years due to a speed-up in the flow of its glaciers, so that the ice loss there is now nearly a great as that observed in Greenland.

Graphic: Summit Takeaway

Graphic: Environmentalism

'Fossil fuel industry should pay for climate damage'

'Fossil fuel industry should pay for climate damage'

Big fossil fuel companies should compensate poor countries for loss and damage caused by climate change, according to the NGO Climate Justice. Julie-Anne Richards says 90 entities account for 63 percent of emissions.

DW: During the ongoing UN climate talks in Bonn (04.-15.06.2014), you put forward a controversal proposal - as laid out in your report " Carbon majors funding loss and damage'".What exactly do you mean by that?

Julie-Anne Richards: Since the Industrial Revolution began, the products of big, largely fossil fuel entities - such as Chevron, Exxon Mobil, BP, Shell - have been responsible for 63 percent of the world's emissions. So more than half of the emissions in the atmosphere right now are there because of these 90 carbon majors.

These emissions have led to the climate change we are feeling, which is affecting the poorest and most vulnerable people most, through loss and damage. We are talking about extreme impacts like Typhoon Haiyan last year, which killed more than 6,000 people in the Philippines, left four million people without houses, caused $2 billion (1.48 billion euros) worth of damage. We propose that these carbon majors - the corporations that have been making profits selling fossil fuels - should pay a levy into the new UN mechanism for Loss and Damage, so that those poor and vulnerable people facing the worst impacts of climate change have funds to deal with those impacts.

What is going to motivate those companies to agree to that?

Our proposal is for an international agreement at government level. There are precedents and examples of this happening in other fields. Take the oil spill regime, for example. Or the scheme to deal with nuclear accidents. We need to apply the best elements of examples happening around the world to climate change and ensure that governments, who already monitor how much coal or gas is extracted so they can charge royalties to these companies, would apply an additional levy that they then pay in to the UN Loss and Damage mechanism.

Is there anything stipulated in international law which would back this up?

Yes, there are a couple of principles in international law we are applying here: the "no harm" and "polluter pays" principle. If you emit pollution that causes harm somewhere else, you should be the one [having] to pay for that.

[But] it doesn't happen in this case. We have the big fossil fuel companies making trillions of dollars in profits, while the harm from their product - climate change - is essentially being paid for by the poorest and most vulnerable. Within international law there are some recommendations as to how to deal with that, which have been applied in these other fields: oil spills, nuclear accidents.

NGOs in Bonn are in favor of renewable energy sources and made sure their voices were heard

How have the carbon majors been responding?

We've only just made the idea public. It is a discussion paper, so we are looking forward to lots of people engaging with it. We think it's very important for the idea to be part of the overall climate agreement to be reached in Paris in 2015, so we have a year and a half to work out how it will be embedded in that. We are looking forward to the carbon majors and the fossil fuel corporations engaging with it, but as of yet we haven't had a lot of response from them.

Who supports the move so far?

A range of parties, including a lot of the vulnerable countries. In fact one reason we have the Loss and Damage Agreement that was agreed in Warsaw last year is because [chief negotiator] Yeb Sano from the Philippines made such an impassioned plea about the impacts Typhoon Haiyan had on his country.

Richards has presented Climate Justice's working paper at the ongoing UN climate talks in Bonn

So the Philippines are championing the idea. We hope to talk to other countries, which will probably have a range of views about whether the idea is good or bad. We want their ideas on how it might work. We don't have answers to all the questions, we are also talking to NGOs that work in the area.

You are based in Australia, a country feeling impacts from climate change, but that has a government that does not take climate change seriously. How does that affect your message?

The proposal is very relevant to the Australian situation. Our present government is trying to repeal good climate legislation because it is too close to the fossil fuel industry. We want to make it very clear that the fossil fuel industry is the reason we are suffering from climate change, and that poor people are facing the worst impacts.

They have a legal and a moral responsibility to pay for the damages their product is causing. Our proposal is a way to make that work. And by identifying them very clearly as the people who are causing climate change, we hope to drive a wedge between the over-influence the fossil fuel industry has on governments around the world, including the Australian government.

High-stakes climate poker

The fossil fuel industry's high-stakes bluff takes balls. 

High-stakes climate poker
The fossil fuel industry is betting that we'll keep pumping it money instead of paying less to switch to renewable energy
James Byrne 16 January 2014

My friends and I get together once a month to play Texas HoldEm poker - great conversation, a few drinks, snacks and laughs. But I don't like high-stakes poker. Gambling with high-value is not a wise choice, particularly if the pain of the loss translates beyond oneself.

The fossil fuel industry is bluffing society in a multi-trillion dollar high-stakes poker game. Current reserves of fossil fuels are five times more than we can afford to burn if we want to keep global warming to less than 2°C; and we have to keep global warming below 2°C. The net worth of fossil fuel corporations, the value of their chip stack, is based on fully exploiting these reserves. Financial leaders are expressing great concerns about betting on fossil fuels. Forbes magazine says,

"Groups as diverse as Shell, Mercer, HSBC, prominent insurance companies and re-issuers, Standard & Poor's and the International Energy Agency (IEA) have been giving clear warning signs about continuing to invest in fossil fuels."

But fossil fuel-based corporations are still bluffing. They want expanded fossil fuel use; making massive investments in oil exploration, hydraulic fracturing for oil and natural gas, and the Canadian tar sands. The latter two are particularly bad bets given their large greenhouse gas footprints, water, soil and air pollution problems; and tar sands need 40 years to recover the costs of multi-billion dollar plants.

Why are fossil fuels a bad bet? (1) Continued use threatens our basic societal foundations through pollution, environmental disruption and growing health costs and infrastructure losses (fires, floods, droughts, heat waves, sea level rise, more violent weather, urban pollution and health); (2) the International Monetary Fund (IMF) says current fossil fuel subsidies are $1.9 trillion per year – these must be eliminated – that will make fossil fuels more expensive; (3) greater external costs of carbon taxes and emissions trading will be assigned to fossil fuels, make them more expensive; (4) renewable energy sources are competitive now and will be more so given fewer external costs than fossil fuels; and, (5) there is a growing fossil fuel divestment movementthat major financial managers fear.

Who really has the big chip stacks? The 2006 Stern Report on the Economics of Climate Change put the annual costs of transitioning to a renewable energy economy at about 1% of global GDP; about $850 billion. Is that a big bet? Well, current annual global subsidies to fossil fuels are about $1.9 trillion. The Climate Vulnerable Forum Report in 2012 estimated that humanity is now incurring about $1.2 trillion in losses every year due to climate change, and rising. That is 1.6% of global GDP. Oil consuming nations would spend arecord $2 trillion on oil in 2012, $500 billion on natural gas, and $500 billion on coal. So the annual costs to continue using fossil fuels is over $6 trillion, whereas we need to spend only $850 billion to switch to renewable energy and fix climate change.

The fossil fuel industry's bluff takes balls: they are betting humanity will continue to pay over $6 trillion annually to burn fossil fuels rather than $850 billion to convert to renewable energy. Worse, they are betting humanity will pay trillions for increasing climate change adaptation costs while we pay trillions for fossil fuels. The fossil fuel industry is demanding humanity go on buying and burning unneeded fossil fuel reserves as the climate radically warms … all so these carbon kings can stay flush. Fossil fuel magnates and plutocrats are betting many billions more in a frenzied, massive exploration push to add to unneeded fossil fuel reserves.

There are other big chip stacks in the pot. We all know air pollution causes many diseases. The health care costs for treating fossil fuel pollution related disease are among the biggest chip stacks. A 2012 US EPA paper says the hidden health costs of pollution from fossil fuel electricity generation alone are 2–6% of US GDP – that is $300–900 billion! The USA has 4% of the global population and has reasonable pollution control technology. Global health cost equivalents must be many trillions of dollars.

Who is dying from fossil fuel pollution? Leading research agencies are debating the explicit numbers, but the best estimates are alarming. The World Health Organization estimated that climate change kills 150,000 people every year. The Climate Vulnerable Forum Report says the number of deaths is 400,000. The Canadian Medical Association Journal says 21,000 Canadians die prematurely due to fossil fuel pollution every year in Canada. The Lancet estimated that China suffers 1.2 million premature deaths due to fossil fuel pollution.

Canada has some of the best air pollution controls; China has some of the worst air pollution globally. But the death rate per million of population is similar: 700 in Canada, 900 in China. Extrapolating the Canada-China average death rate suggests 5.6 million people die every year due to fossil fuel pollution. We can debate the exact numbers; nevertheless, the magnitude is horrifying. Millions of people are dying every year due to fossil fuel air pollution, and deaths are increasing as the world burns more fossil fuels.

STOP this gamble. Fossil fuels are a losing hand for humanity. Clean, safe renewable energy wins for all of us. We can bet on it.

Models 'grossly underestimate' costs of global warming,

Models 'grossly underestimate' costs of global warming, Nicholas Stern says
Peter Hannam, June 16, 2014

Existing economic models “grossly underestimate” the costs of global warming, undermining the urgency for deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new paper by leading UK climate change economist Lord Nicholas Stern.

The risks are in fact likely to be so large that a globally coordinated carbon price of $US32-$US103 ($34-$110) per tonne of emissions is needed as soon as 2015 to prevent the temperature increase from exceeding 2 degrees of pre-industrial age levels, said Lord Stern and co-author Simon Dietz, from the UK’s Grantham Research Institute.

Within two decades, the carbon price will need to almost triple in real terms to $US82-$US260 a tonne, the two researchers say in their paper to be published in The Economic Journal.

The authors modified the main model used by economists since 1991 to assess the likely effects of climate change. Developed by Yale Professor Bill Nordhaus in 1991, the model has served as a basis for damage estimates, including the recent Fifth Assessment Report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The IPCC report in March noted estimates of annual losses from a further rise of 2 degrees would be between 0.2-2 per cent of GDP, although it added the results were “incomplete” and “more likely than not” to exceed that level.

Dr Dietz said the overly simplified formula used by the standard model “implausibly” indicates global GDP would only be halved if average temperatures rose 18 degrees “even though such warming would likely render the Earth uninhabitable for most species, including humans”.

The revised model by Dr Dietz and Professor Stern takes into account the likelihood that the ability to generate new wealth would be affected by extreme weather and other impacts from climate change, such as the destruction of coastal or water infrastructure. By contrast, the current model in use only accounts for effects on output rather than the capital itself.

Professor John Quiggin from the University of Queensland welcomed the report: “I have long been concerned that the (existing) model greatly underestimates the costs of extreme global warming of 4 degrees or more, which remains likely unless stronger global action is taken to reduce CO2 emissions.”

The new report comes after Prime Minister Tony Abbott wrapped up his global trip with a speech in Texas over the weekend in praise of fossil fuels, particularly coal: "Australia should be an affordable energy superpower, using nature's gifts to the benefit of our own people and the wider world."

Australia’s carbon price, now at $24.15 a tonne, is likely to be scrapped when the new Senate sits month, next fulfilling a vow Mr Abbott took to the elections in 2010 and 2013.