Dr. Richard Alley, climatologist, commenting on atmospheric CO2 levels passing an historic 400ppm last week.
Dr. Richard Alley, climatologist, commenting on atmospheric CO2 levels passing an historic 400ppm last week.
It’s a snowy and cold Earth Day morning in northwestern Ontario. On this Earth Day, Joe Romm over at Think Progress muses about renaming Earth Day – after all, it’s really humans and our civilization that is in peril at this point by our feckless, reckless and cavalier treatment of the ecosystem that gives us life.
Gaia, this amazing planet, has survived mass extinction events before – five other ones before this sixth one, that humans are on the verge of causing:
The culprits for the biodiversity loss include climate change, habitat loss, pollution and overfishing, the researchers wrote.
“Most of the mechanisms that are occurring today, most of them are caused by us,” Ferrer said.
So can we fix it? Yes, there’s time to cut dependence on fossil fuels, alleviate climate change and commit to conservation of habitat, the study scientists say. The more pressing question is, will we?
Barnosky and Ferrer both say they’re optimistic that people will pull together to solve the problem once they understand the magnitude of the looming disaster. Jablonski puts himself into the “guardedly optimistic category.”
“I think a lot of the problems probably have a lot more to do with politics than with science,” Jablonski said. (Read the full article on LiveScience.com)
Wondering where we’re at with climate change on Earth Day 2013? 350.org has just released “Do The Math – the Movie”, and that’s how my family and I spent 45 minutes of our Earth Night yesterday. It was as inspiring to watch the movie as it was to see Bill McKibben live in Seattle when the Do The Math tour launched last November. If you’re wondering whether or not we can still make a difference at this late stage of the game, when we’re already feeling the effects of a destabilized climate, please take the time to watch it. If you’re feeling confused about the whole climate debate, and are wondering how to make sense of the science, as well as the accusations that the scientists raising the warning about climate change are “in it for the money”, please take the time to watch this movie. If you have children and/or grandchildren, or nieces and nephews that you care about, please take the time to watch this movie. If you are alive on planet earth at this moment in history, please take the time to watch this movie!
Get outside and spend some time with Mother Earth on this Earth Day!
Naomi Klein was out in the shattered neighbourhood of Rockaway Park Queens last weekend, participating in the Occupy relief efforts there. In this interview she underscores the importance of both increasing local resilience as a response to our changing climate and addressing the fossil fuel industry’s business model directly. As 350.org’s Do The Math campaign makes clear, the fossil fuel industry’s business plan will destroy the planet. Bill McKibben reminded the “Do The Math”audience in Seattle this month that the global warming math is quite simple: we can burn 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide and stay below 2 degrees of warming. Anything more than that risks catastrophe for life on earth. The only problem? Fossil fuel corporations now have 2,795 gigatons in their reserves, 5Xs the safe amount. And they are planning to burn it all, unless we rise up & stop them.
Also on the ground in Rockaway, “Power Rockaways Resilience is working to rebuild homes with power that will be prepared for future natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy. “Not only will these homes be safer against these disasters, but they can be more sustainable and greener.” Read more.
There’s not much good news to write about today, as a bubble of cold air from the Arctic moves into central North America. Brace yourself for some record-breaking cold if you (like me) live in that region. But that’s not the worst of it by a long shot; unfortunately this could mean that warmer southern air will make its way to the Arctic, further accelerating record ice melts this year. As Bill McKibbon explained in The Arctic Ice Crisis published yesterday in Rolling Stone:
There’s no place on Earth that’s changing faster – and no place where that change matters more – than Greenland. Late last month, NASA reported that ice all across the vast glacial interior of the world’s largest island was melting – a “freak event” that hadn’t occurred for at least 150 years. The alarming discovery briefly focused the media’s attention on a place that rarely makes headlines. RAPID ICE MELT BAFFLES SCIENTISTS, The Wall Street Journal declared.
In fact, scientists weren’t baffled at all – a paper published just weeks before had predicted that an abrupt, islandwide melt was imminent. The rapid loss of ice is only the latest in a chain of events that have upended conventional understanding of how the Earth’s “cryosphere” – its frozen places – behave. Taken together, the events offer new insight into how fast the world’s seas are likely to rise as a result of global warming – and hence, the fate of major cities like New York and Miami and Mumbai. Click here to read the full article in Rolling Stone.
Under the heading of “cautious optimism” comes the news that U.S. carbon dioxide emissions are at a 20-year low. This is credited, in large part, because of the boom in fracking to access natural gas reserves:
In a surprising turnaround, the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere in the U.S. has fallen dramatically to its lowest level in 20 years, and government officials say the biggest reason is that cheap and plentiful natural gas has led many power plant operators to switch from dirtier-burning coal.
Many of the world’s leading climate scientists didn’t see the drop coming, in large part because it happened as a result of market forces rather than direct government action against carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere.
Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, said the shift away from coal is reason for “cautious optimism” about potential ways to deal with climate change. He said it demonstrates that “ultimately people follow their wallets” on global warming. Click here to read full article.
Fracking extracts its own price on the environment and human health (just ask those folks in Montana whose tap water now can be lit on fire), so it seems like a dubious savior. And methane’s heat-trapping properties are exponentially higher than CO2’s, although it dissipates from the atmosphere much more quickly. So can we really count on natural gas to get us out of the fix we’re in?
On that note of caution, I’m moving into my weekend. I’m spending some time tomorrow at a local NDP riding association’s AGM, talking about climate change generally, and carbon fee and dividend specifically. Wish me luck, as I am neither an economist nor a politician!
Reposted from Watching The Deniers, here’s a recent video from Bill McKibbon which is a call to action. In the video Mr. McKibbon:
shares this call to action for what could not only be the biggest fight of our time, but of all time. The fossil fuel industry is quickly destroying the planet, and making the fight to protect our future increasingly challenging as industry lobbying, and unabated growth continues. We all need to come together and rally behind leaders like Bill McKibben, 350.org, and countless others, to save this planet. How? With passion, spirit, and creativity, and as Bill says, sometimes putting our bodies on the line.
More from The Agenda With Steve Paikin, this week broadcasting from the Equinox Summit: Energy 2030 – Ingenuity in Energy Solutions being held at the University of Waterloo. Last night’s discussion focused on transportation and how they way we move impacts on the current climate crisis. The hour-long discussion started off with an excerpt from this short video:
To listen and view the discussion, go to The Agenda’s website.
Click here for an interactive map of global CO2 emissions.
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.
350.org, founded in 2007 by author and environmental activist Bill McKibbon and a team of university friends, was the catalyst for my involvement in the climate action movement.350.org spells out clearly what is known about the warming of earth’s atmosphere: 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is what experts say is the safe limit for humanity. That is what is required to sustain life and civilization as we know it. And we are now above that. 350.org inspired me to move from being a climate change avoider to actively working to ensure my daughters have a chance to live in a world that’s not irreparably damaged by human activity.
As 350.org says of 2010:
It’s been a tough year: in North America, oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico; in Asia some of the highest temperatures ever recorded; in the Arctic, the fastest melting of sea ice ever seen; in Latin America, record rainfalls washing away whole mountainsides.
So we’re having a party.
Circle 10/10/10 on your calendar. That’s the date. The place is wherever you live. And the point is to do something that will help deal with global warming in your city or community. We’re calling it a Global Work Party.
In case you need more inspiration, here’s a video compilation of the amazing momentum that the climate movement gained in 2009.
2009 was an important year for the global climate change movement. From India to USA, from Ethiopia to China, people all over the globe took action, demanding fair and bold action to stop dangerous climate change. As world leaders met in Copenhagen for the UN climate talks in December, millions marched in the streets around the world.
In 2010, the movement is growing EVEN BIGGER. Visit http://350.org to get inspired and take action.
350 is the most important number in the world. It’s the safe line for our global climate and a start line for a global movement. This video is that first animation put together by 350.org, and it’s aim is to get the message out about climate change around the globe in a world where over 4,000 languages are spoken. Enjoy, and be inspired!
Why is there any doubt about climate change any more? The depth and width of the scientific consensus is not in doubt, Christopher Monckton et al notwithstanding. The video below is from Climate Crock of the Week and features renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking and the late Carl Sagan, astrophysicist who was David Duncan Professor of Astronomy and Space Sciences and Director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies at Cornell University. In a posthumous award, Dr. Sagan was awarded the National Science Foundation’s highest award, in recognition that his “research transformed planetary science… his gifts to mankind were infinite.”
Some of what Dr. Hawking says is:
“…One of the most serious consequences of our actions is global warming brought about by rising levels of CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels. The danger is that the temperature increase may become self-sustaining, if it hasn’t done so already. Drought and deforestation are reducing the amount of carbon dioxide recycled into the atmosphere and the warming of the seas may trigger the release of large quantities of carbon dioxide trapped on the ocean floor. In addition the melting of the Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets will reduce the amount of solar energy reflected back into space and so increase the temperature further. We don’t know where global warming will stop but the worst case scenario is that the earth will become like its sister planet Venus, with a temperature of 250 degrees C and rain sulphuric acid. The human race could not survive in those conditions.”
Dr. Sagan’s clips also compare the earth and her sister planet, Venus:
“The reason Venus is like a hell seems to be what is called the greenhouse effect…The greenhouse effect can make an earth-like world into a planetary inferno…the hell of Venus is in stark contrast to the comparative heaven of its neighbouring world, our little planetary home, the earth….Carbon dioxide and water vapour make a modest greenhouse effect without which, our oceans would be frozen solid. A little greenhouse effect is a good thing. But Venus is an ominous reminder that in a world rather like the earth, things can go wrong. There is no guarantee that our planet will always be so hospitable. To maintain this clement world we must understand it and appreciate it. The runaway greenhouse effect on Venus is a valuable reminder that we should take the increasing greenhouse effect on earth seriously.”
And here’s another YouTube video featuring Dr. Sagan in his TV series Cosmos (Episode 4 – “Heaven and Hell”), from 199o – we’ve had twenty years more to burn fossil fuels and produce other greenhouse gases with our unsustainable way of life:
The Global Warming Christmas Special (on SNL) – features Dr. Sagan, Mike Meyers, Tom Hanks, and Ralph Nader