Stephen Hawking: Human-Caused Climate Change Dire Threat To Future Of World

Renowned theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking has stated that climate change stands alongside the use of nuclear weapons as one of the greatest threats posed to the future of the world. Speaking at the Royal Society in London in 2007, Professor Hawking said that we stand on the precipice of a second nuclear age and a period of exceptional climate change, both of which could destroy the planet as we know it. In his remarks, Hawking stated:

As we stand at the brink of a second nuclear age and a period of unprecedented climate change, scientists have a special responsibility, once again, to inform the public and to advise leaders about the perils that humanity faces…As scientists, we understand the dangers of nuclear weapons and their devastating effects, and we are learning how human activities and technologies are affecting climate systems in ways that may forever change life on Earth…

Lord Rees of Ludlow, president of the Royal Society, speaking at the same meeting, said humankind’s collective impacts on the biosphere, climate and oceans were unprecedented. These environmentally-driven threats ­ ‘threats without enemies’ ­ should loom as large in the political perspective as did the East-West political divide during the Cold War era.

The board of directors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists said the threat of nuclear apocalypse was now almost matched by the environmental threats posed by climate change:

“As in past deliberations, we have examined other human-made threats to civilisation. We have concluded the dangers posed by climate change are nearly as dire as those posed by nuclear weapons. The effects may be less dramatic in the short term than the destruction that could be wrought by nuclear explosions, but over the next three to four decades climate change could cause drastic harm.”

Read the full article here.

More links:

Hawking warns: We Must Recognize The Catastrophic Dangers of Climate Change

Bulletin of Atomic Scientists: How Skepticism Became Denial (subscription required to read full article)

PM Harper on Alberta’s Pristine Boreal Forest: An “Unuseable Mass of Dirty Sand” Prior to Tar Sands Development

The picture below is what, last Friday, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper called “nature’s biggest unusable oil spill”:

Photo: Warren Cariou, Land of Oil and Water

Unlike our Prime Minister, the First Nations who call Northern Alberta home don’t think of this land of muskeg and forest as an oil spill. They call it home, home for them and for the animals and plants that live there and have provided sustenance for them since time before memory.

Harper’s comment is illustrative of the kind of thinking that has got us to the brink of environmental collapse, with global climate destabilization a reality and ocean acidification poised to destroy marine biodiversity. Wendell Berry, American farmer and poet, argues that wherever we are living, we are in trouble because of a “land-destroying economy” that pursues “production-by-exhaustion”. Mountain-top removal to mine coal is one clear example of this, but extraction of oil in the tar sands is another one. Berry recently addressed a gathering at the Land Institute in Salinas, Kansas:

Extracting fossil fuels from the ground is dangerous, and so is the way those fuels are used to work the ground in farming.

The mining of the forests and soil, along with the extraction of fossil fuels, may have started innocently, but since the European conquest of the Americas, “It took us only a little more than 200 years to pass from intentions sometimes approximately good to this horrible result, in which our education, our religion, our politics, and our daily lives all are implicated,” Berry tells the packed house in The Land’s barn.

Alberta tar sands. Photo: David Dodge, Pembina Institute

If we continue to be led by politicians who view the world around us as an untapped resource waiting to be exploited, we are doomed. Berry condemns Harper and his ilk for putting us into the situation we are in, but he also says that because of the “carelessness of our economic life” we all play a part in the destruction of our ecosystem. The solution, Berry says, is for us to learn to do better:

“We can learn where we are, we can look around us and see,” he suggests. We also can rely on land health, “the capacity of the land for self-renewal,” and work at conservation, “our effort to understand and preserve that capacity.”

It won’t be the politicians that push for the paradigm shift that is required. While it’s tempting to get a bumper sticker that says “Ditch Harper. Save the Planet, the reality is more complicated; it turns out, it’s up to us to change ourselves and then work to change the world:

Berry doesn’t look to educational, political, or corporate institutions for much help in those efforts, suggesting that we instead look to “leadership from the bottom” that can be provided by groups and individuals “who without official permission or support or knowledge are seeing what needs to be done and doing it.”

As was demonstrated by the Global Work Parties held this past weekend, it’s up to us, you and me and the millions around the world who recognize what destruction we have wrought, to change what  “business as usual”  means. I’m rolling up my sleeves – how about you?

More links:

Harper Taken to Task Over Oil Sands Views

Soil and Souls: The Promise of the Land

Oil Sands

The Land Institute

Land of Oil and Water: Aboriginal Voices on Life in the Oil Sands

What Will It Take For Us to Say “NO” to Corporate Environmental Disasters?

Do we really want corporations calling the shots, dictating government policy for the rest of us? Last January, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, that corporations are persons, entitled by the Constitution to buy elections and run the government. Every year, globally, Big Oil  gets $500 billion dollars a year of our (taxpayer’s) money, to encourage us to keep digging up old buried dead things, at great risk to people and the environment as evidenced most recently by the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, and Canada’s toxic tar sands, and of course climate change. Those same corporations make billions of dollars in profits from selling us all that oil, and use that money to muddy the public debate on climate change, about which there is scientific certainty – the only question that climate scientists debate is how fast the “tipping point” into catastrophic global climate instability is going to occur.

This week, we have the pictures out of Hungary as a mile-wide tidal wave of toxic sludge from an aluminium factory reaches the Danube river, one of Europe’s key waterways and the source of drinking water for many. At least four people were killed and three are missing, and over 120 have been hospitalized, after the unstoppable torrent inundated homes, swept cars off roads, burned people through their clothes and emptied 35 million cubic feet of toxic waste onto several nearby towns. USA Today reports:

Meanwhile, residents wearing pants coated with red mud cleared the muck away from their homes with snow shovels.

Kati Holtzer said the sludge smashed through the door of her home in Kolontar and trapped her and her 3-year-old boy in a churning flood of acrid waste.

She saved her son by placing him on a sofa that was floating in the muck. She called her husband, Balazs, who was working in Austria, to say goodbye.

“We’re going to die,” she told him, chest-deep in sludge.

We all need to take responsibility for demanding more stringent environmental standards, whether in Hungary or in the Alberta tar sands. There are other ways of doing business – let’s vote with our pocketbooks as well as our ballots, and demand change. We need jobs, but not at the cost of our future, and that of our children. As Franke James puts it, “Maybe the truth is without a healthy environment, there is no economy.”

This video shows how fast, and overwhelming, the toxic wave was as the reservoir holding in the waste burst. This was a farming community, but experts are saying there is little chance that farming can be resumed because of the permanent change in soil PH, as well as chemicals left behind by the deluge.


More links:

Hungary’s toxic red sludge reaches the Danube

Toxic Sludge Has “Surprisingly High” Levels of Arsenic, Mercury, According to Greenpeace

We All Subsidize Big Oil’s War on Our Grandchildren

Ending the Climate War

Move to Amend

2010 is the Hottest Year Ever, With Climate Catastrophes Beginning

The evidence that humans are changing the world’s climate in devastating ways continues to mount, even as the skeptics try to bury that evidence with wild rhetoric and inflammatory politics. One just needs to read newspaper headlines to realize that the world is sliding towards climate catastrophe. And, like Nero who fiddled while Rome burned around him, our leaders are equally negligent and nonchalant, and history will judge them far more harshly than it does that incompetent emperor.  Here are just a few samples of the news recently:

From The Huffington Post,an article on the alarming year of warming that the world has experienced, This is the Hottest Year Ever, and The Climate Catastrophe has begun:

Thank god man-made global warming was proven to be a hoax. Just imagine what the world might have looked like now if those conspiring scientists had been telling the truth. No doubt NASA would be telling us that this year is now, so far, the hottest since humans began keeping records. The weather satellites would show that even when heat from the sun significantly dipped earlier this year, the world still got hotter. Russia’s vast forests would be burning to the ground in the fiercest drought they have ever seen, turning the air black in Moscow, killing 15,000 people, and forcing foreign embassies to evacuate. Because warm air holds more water vapor, the world’s storms would be hugely increasing in intensity and violence — drowning one fifth of Pakistan, and causing giant mudslides in China.

The world’s ice sheets would be sloughing off massive melting chunks four times the size of Manhattan. The cost of bread would be soaring across the world as heat shriveled the wheat crops. The increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would be fizzing into the oceans, making them more acidic and so killing 40 percent of the phytoplankton that make up the irreplaceable base of the oceanic food chain. The denialists would be conceding at last that everything the climate scientists said would happen — with their pesky graphs and studies and computers — came to pass.

This is all happening today, except for that final step.  (Click here to read the full article).

From August 7, an article from Science Daily, “Greenland Calves Iceberg the Four Times The Size of Manhattan” and this one from August 15, “Antarctic Ice Thinning at an Alarming Rate“.

And from yesterday’s Globe and Mail, “On the bright side, the PM did say ‘climate change‘ ” is worth a read. Here’s an excerpt:

But a Canadian prime minister just can’t spend a week in the Far North and not say “climate change” at least once, painful as it must have been for Mr. Harper, because the principal reason for all this attention to that vast area is, well, climate change.

The ice there is melting and cracking under the assault of a warmer climate. During Mr. Harper’s visit, a huge chunk of ice, estimated to be the size of Bermuda, fell off the country’s largest remaining ice sheet, on Ellesmere Island.

Study after study has confirmed that the Arctic is warming even faster than had been predicted 10, five or even a few years ago. In other words, of all the places on the planet where the effects of human-induced warming are evident, the Canadian Arctic is among the most prominent.

What’s a gal (or a guy) who believes that it’s time to trust the scientists, and not the tea partiers, supposed to do? I don’t have any brilliant answers, but I know that for my children’s sake I’m going to “keep on keeping on”. I want to be able to look them in the eye 20 years from now and say that I did the best that I could to protect them from the climate crisis. Because the alternative, doing nothing, isn’t tolerable. As William Kamkwamba, the “boy who harnessed the wind” reminds us, “Trust yourself, and believe. Whatever happens, don’t ever give up.”

More links:

Message From Africa: Whatever Happens, Don’t Ever Give Up

Kick The Fossil Fuel

Climatologist Stephen Schneider on Bill Maher

For decades, Professor Stephen Schneider – a climate scientist at Stanford University – researched and spoke out about the need to sharply and quickly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He was one of the truly important voices in climate science. When Prof. Schneider died last month, the climate change movement lost someone who, according to Real Climate, “was instrumental in focusing scientific, political, and public attention on one of the major challenges facing humanity – the problem of human-caused climate change.”

Here is a clip of him appearing on the Bill Maher show in 2008.


The World’s Experiment With Catastrophic Climate Change Continues

Russia, August 5:

Forest and peat bog fires have burned hundreds of homes, leaving thousands homeless in the hottest summer since records began 130 years ago, prompting leaders to declare a state of emergency in seven of the worst-hit regions.(Reuters)

As of July 30, the wildfires had scorched more than 25 million acres of grain – what Time Magazine reported as an area equivalent in size to the state of Kentucky. The fires, extreme heat and widespread drought have affected food prices throughout Russia,  prompting the government to ban grain exports and declare a state of emergency in many parts of the country. Smoke from the fires has blanketed Moscow and other cities with a thick, toxic soup, causing some foreign diplomats to leave the country. The soil moisture in some portions of the country has dropped to levels one would expect only once every 500 years.

Recently Russian President Medvedev clearly drew the line between the extreme conditions Russia is experiencing this summer and climate change:

“What’s happening with the planet’s climate right now needs to be a wake-up call to all of us, meaning all heads of state, all heads of social organizations, in order to take a more energetic approach to countering the global changes to the climate.”

This is the same leader who, two months after Copenhagen, called the global-warming debate “some kind of tricky campaign made up by some commercial structures to promote their business projects.” Vladimir Chuprov of Greenpeace Russia commented on Medvedev’s dramatic change of heart:

“You don’t just throw comments like that around when you are the leader of the nation, and if you look at what is happening with this heat wave, it’s horrible. It’s clearly enough to shake people out of their delusions about global warming.”

Go to this link to view a dramatic video of people fleeing a Russian village over a road that’s on fire.

Pakistan, August 8:

Officials estimate that as many as 13 million people have been affected by the worst flooding in the country’s 63-year history. About 1,500 people have died, most of them in the north-west, the hardest-hit region.

These two unfolding disasters, involving excessive fire and water, are  related to the extreme climate conditions that scientists project will become more frequent in a heating world. Are we ready yet to start addressing our part in the warming of the atmosphere? What will it take for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to change his mind on global warming? In the past, he called the Kyoto Protocol “a socialist scheme to suck money out of wealth-producing nations“. This summer, more than 100 communities in Saskatchewan declared a state of emergency after severe weather events. Provincial Fire Commissioner and Director of Public Safety recently said:

…while there have been forest fires and flooding in other years, 2010 is seeing an unprecedented number of events.

“When you start adding up all the events and the compressed time … this is remarkable,” he said.
2009 was a record summer for British Columbia fires. The British Columbia government spent over $400 million dollars fighting these forest fires and more than 2,105 square kilometers (210,579) of forests were burned.

It’s clear that the dangers of global warming that scientists have been warning us about are here now. We do not need to wait until the end of this century to experience climate driven catastrophes. Don’t wait for our leaders to take action – is calling for a people-powered movement to start pressing for change that can’t be ignored. What will you tell your children and grandchildren 20 years from now when they ask you what you did to help avert this disaster? Check out Bill McKibbon’s recent blog: We’re Hot As Hell and We’re Not Going to Take it Anymore: Three Steps to Establish A Politics of Global Warming.

More links:

Russia is Burning! Climate Deniers Silent, US Media Totally Useless

Fire And Water On a Hot Turbulent Planet

Foreign Diplomats Leave Moscow Amid Fire and Smog

Republican Senators Block Investigation of BP

The House of Representatives voted 420 to 1 to give the Presidential Commission investigating the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico full subpoena power.  The Republicans in the Senate then blocked it – no subpoena powers, therefore no real investigation. No answers from BP, Haliburton, andTransOcean for the American people.

Who are the Republicans representing? Certainly not the people in the Gulf of Mexico who have been devastated by this disaster. Could it be Big Oil and Gas, who also happen to fund the Senators’ campaigns?

*Update August 8 – As David Wilson’s comment below points out, the bill was initially blocked by the GOP when it was first voted on, but then after considering it, the Republicans supported it. For more info, check out the link to the Washington Post article that David linked to in his comment. Thanks David! However, the GOP’s stance in general seems to be to oppose any real action to hold BP responsible for the mess and the clean up – check out Climate Progress’s recent post Standing in the way of justice for the BP calamity: GOP puts political points above all else*

And here’s the video “BP and Big Oil Don’t Want You To See”:


More links:

Michigan Oil Spill Prompts Local Evacuations

Unified Command: BP “cannot remember” when dispersant last used

Dr. Riki Ott alleges BP engaged in massive cover-up to hide Gulf Disaster damage

I am away this week on a low-carbon canoe trip in Woodland Caribou Provincial Park. Enjoy the videos!

Global Warming: Is It True?

Via Climate Progress, a new video by James Powell, Executive Director of the National Physical Science Consortium, which summarizes the evidence for anthropogenic global warming: “everything you wanted to know about climate science under 10 minutes.”

Powell is a former college and museum president.  President Reagan and later, President George H. W. Bush, both appointed Powell to the National Science Board, where he served for 12 years.


I am away this week on a low-carbon canoe trip in Woodland Caribou Provincial Park. Enjoy the video!

The World Keeps Getting Hotter and Hotter

The annual “State of the Climate” report has just been published by the U.S. government and demonstrates that the past decade has been the hottest on record. Global warming is “undeniable”, the report asserts. The National Geographic reports:

An in-depth analysis of ten climate indicators all point to a marked warming over the past three decades, with the most recent decade being the hottest on record, according to the latest of the U.S. National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration’s annual “State of the Climate” reports, which was released Wednesday. Reliable global climate record-keeping began in the 1880s.

The National Geographic article goes on to state:

And for the first time, scientists put data from climate indicators—such as ocean temperature and sea-ice cover—together in one place. Their consistency “jumps off the page at you,” report co-author Derek Arndt said.

“This is like going to the doctor and getting your respiratory test and circulatory test and your neurosystem test,” said Arndt, head of the Climate Monitoring Branch of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center.

“It’s testing all the parts, and they’re all in agreement that the same thing’s going on.”

The 2009 State of the Climate report released on Wednesday draws on data for 10 key climate indicators that all point to the same finding: the scientific evidence that our world is warming is unmistakable. Unlike other climate publications, because it’s based on observed data, not computer models, making it the “climate system’s annual scorecard,” the authors wrote.

The indicators the 300 scientists involved in the NOAA study looked at included humidity, sea-surface temp, sea ice cover, snow cover, ocean heat content, glacier cover, air temperature in the lower atmosphere, sea level, temperature over land, and temperature over the oceans.

It’s past time to address this issue – we’re like the frog in the pot of boiling water who dies although it could have jumped out before the temperature got too hot, just because it didn’t notice the gradual increase in water temperature. Are humans smarter than frogs? We’ll soon find out, because our window to act is rapidly closing.

And what are the solutions? There is no one answer, but many varied responses. It’s clear global emissions of fossil fuels need to decrease dramatically in the next decades. I will quote Kelly Blyn from again:

The truth is, there is no silver bullet to stopping the climate crisis, no single technological solution that can fix everything at once. We don’t just need solar power, or wind power, or efficiency. We need all of these things and more. What we need, in a word, is diversity.

Take time to call, email, or write your elected representatives and let them know you support swift action on moving towards renewable energy and away from dirty oil. You want to be able to look your children and grandchildren in the eyes 20 years from now, and tell them you did everything you could to avert the climate crisis. Or go to “Put Solar On It” and tell your national leader to put solar on his or her roof.

More links:

Global warming “undeniable”, U.S. Government Report Says

The Earth is hotter than ever, global warming real: researchers

International Scientists Confirm Climate Change is “Undeniable”

Louisiana Local Describes Media Blackout, Horrors Of BP Catastrophe

Kindra Arnesen lives on the coast of Louisiana with her fisherman husband and two children. In this video clip  from the Emergency Gulf Summit, she passionately and eloquently describes what she saw when she was given access to the front lines of the BP response to the emergency, and also the impact the oil spill is having on the health of her children and on the clean-up workers. She also describes in  heart-wrenching detail the dead and dying marine life she has observed since oil started spewing from the ruptured well.  As she says:

The bottom line here is if the country does not stand up and say ‘no more’ – we must take action – we cannot sit back – if this stuff does not stop, guys, this is going to global. It will destroy one third of the world’s water. Bank on it. If they do not stop this, every ocean is connected and it will go on and on and on, as my daughter says, infinity plus two. Enough’s enough.



Gulf Emergency