It’s TED Talk Tuesday on 350orbust. In today’s talk, Simran Sethi talks about engaging with people who seem to be our polar opposites.
It’s TED Talk Tuesday on 350orbust. In today’s talk, Simran Sethi talks about engaging with people who seem to be our polar opposites.
The far-right “think” tank the Heartland Institute recently launched a bizarre billboard campaign that linked global warming with serial killers. The first billboard went up with a picture of Ted “The Unabomber” Kaczynski with the words “I still believe in global warming. Do you?”. This campaign was too over-the-top even for the right-wing fringe that usually supports HI, and has caused it to lose corporate sponsors as well as speakers for its upcoming climate-science-bashing “International Conference on Climate Change”. As in its climate science, Heartland didn’t do its homework on the campaign; not only did they completely miscalculate its PR impact, it turns out Kaczynski’s “manifesto” contains no mention of climate change, global warming or carbon.
Here at 350orbust, we’ve been aware of the Heartland Institute’s nefarious war against climate science and our children’s future for a while. It become personal when they threatened to “pursue all possible actionable civil remedies to the fullest extent of the law” against me, and other bloggers, for publishing information about confidential Heartland documents that were leaked to DeSmog Blog. RT News had a special award for the Heartland Institute last Friday:
If you are in the United States, you can add your voice to a petition to get all corporate sponsors, including Microsoft, to pull their funding from the Heartland Institute in light of its ongoing and extreme support of climate change denial – click here.
Today’s guest blogger is Graham Saunders. Graham’s weather and climate background includes work with the Australian Weather Bureau, the Atmospheric Environment Service of Canada and forest fire weather prediction for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. He does research and writing for several publications about weather, climate, Lake Superior, agriculture and northern gardening issues, including a “Weather Whys” column in the Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal for the last11 years. Graham is also the author of “Gardening with Short Growing Seasons”, published in 2009. He teaches meteorology and has taught Climate Change and other courses at Lakehead University, Thunder Bay. Graham is a board member of the Bay Credit Union and the former president of Environment North, a group of long standing in Northwestern Ontario.
Last August, the Harper government announced plans to disable most functions of the ozone measuring network in Canada. Tom Duck, a Dalhousie atmospheric scientist commented, “This is kind of like taking the batteries out of your smoke detector.”
Everybody’s talking about the weather these days. But contrary to Mark Twain’s quip, collectively we have done something about it — or at least about looming hazards such as acid rain and ozone depletion.
Four decades ago, acid rain stories made headlines, due to the death of our lakes and die back of some forests. In some lakes in eastern Canada, the water was so clear that you could see to the bottom. More and more lakes downwind from coal plants and heavy industries were becoming sterile from sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions, which killed off fish and aquatic ecosystems.
The obvious solution was to reduce or eliminate sulphur dioxide and other emissions that combine with water vapour and then fall as acid rain or snow. Since winds and air flow are not influenced by political boundaries, the problem required an international solution. Some familiar arguments arose for delaying action: that restrictions would hurt the economy, or be ineffective, or were aimed at the wrong target.
Nonetheless, in the 1970s, Canada, the United States and other countries proceeded with clear air legislation and international agreements. “Scrubbers” and other technology dramatically reduced emissions. Certain countries, including Canada, met their agreed targets ahead of schedule.
Also in the 1970s, scientists and policy makers started discussing ozone depletion in the upper atmosphere. Ozone is a gas present in trace amounts mainly at an altitude 20 to 25 km above the Earth’s surface.
Ozone absorbs some ultraviolet (UV) wavelengths, almost all of extremely hazardous UV-C and most of UV-B wavelengths. Without this diffuse layer of ozone, life as we know it could not exist on this planet.
Scientists predicted further declines in ozone amounts because of increased use of supersonic aircraft like the Concorde and extensive use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in refrigeration and aerosol spray cans. (Chlorofluorocarbons do not exist naturally and were created in labs and factories.) Expected harmful effects of ozone depletion include a considerable jump in human and animal skin cancers and depletion of phytoplankton in oceans.
Major CFC producers like Dupont Corporation fiercely resisted attempts to ban CFCs with the usual arguments about possible harm to the economy, distrust of the science, and so on. Some partial bans began around 1980 and the issue briefly faded from view.
Then came the shocking 1985 discovery of the Antarctic ozone hole. It was not technically a “hole”, but a decline to 40 percent of normal coverage alarmed scientists. So unexpected was the finding that it was first dismissed as an instrument defect.
Worse, ozone loss was also apparent in the mid-latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere and a smaller and a more mobile hole was detected over the Arctic. And additional research suggested links with cataracts, damage to the human immune system and reduced crop yields.
Faced with this urgent threat, the United Nations Environmental Program convened a world meeting in Montreal in September, 1987. The US Environmental Protection Agency set the tone with warnings of additional skin cancers for tens of millions of people; the EPA suggested 95 percent reduction in CFC production by 1996.
The 31 countries attending agreed to a 50 percent reduction by the end of the century. Then they and an additional 50 countries met two years later in Helsinki, and agreed to a 100 percent reduction by the year 2000. Most countries, including Canada, met their targets ahead of schedule.
We cannot know precisely what would have resulted without clean air and ozone legislation but the saying, “You don’t want to go there” almost certainly applies.
These collective responses to impending threats offer heartening examples of what can be achieved when governments and the public heed scientists’ warnings. But since then, a few exceptions and deferrals have snuck into international regulation of ozone depletion. For example, the Bush Administration removed restrictions on methyl bromide, a banned chemical under the Montreal Protocol.
Nor is the situation stable. For some reason, massive ozone destruction — on the order of 40 to 80 percent — occurred at altitudes of 18 – 20 km in the Arctic in the 2011 spring season. The “hole” drifted across northern Canada, Europe, central Russia to northern Asia and prompted scientists in some jurisdictions to issue radiation warnings.
This record ozone depletion is troubling because the ozone problem should be improving and this reversal is not well understood.
In spite of this, the Harper government announced plans in August to disable most functions of the ozone measuring network in Canada. And it gets worse. The Harper government does not permit interviews with the scientists involved and has sent letters warning of “discontinuance of job function” to those employed in this and related programs.
Ozone depletion is only one of the areas where the Harper government is employing a veil of silence. An organization that track mercury and other toxins and monitors various indicators in Lake Superior, is still waiting for its annual funding pittance.
Measuring and monitoring changes in our environment are essential for protecting human health and the wilderness ecology. Choosing not to monitor hazards is dangerous behaviour on several levels, ranging from health risks to undermining the democratic process. Canadians should be aware that the Harper government is deliberately choosing not to collect or make available essential information for setting environmental policies.
“Lord” Christopher Monckton, climate skeptic and scientific ignoramus, shown up to be the pompous idiot that he is by the British comedy show “The Hamster Wheel”:
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse gave a powerful speech in the U.S. Senate last week, making a thorough and well-supported argument for immediate comprehensive action to mitigate the effects of human-caused climate destabilization and ocean acidification:
Here are some excerpts from the transcript:
Mr. President, I am here to speak about what is currently an unpopular topic in this town. It has become no longer politically correct in certain circles in Washington to speak about climate change or carbon pollution or how carbon pollution is causing our climate to change.
This is a peculiar condition of Washington. If you go out into, say, our military and intelligence communities, they understand and are planning for the effects of carbon pollution on climate change. They see it as a national security risk. If you go out into our nonpolluting business and financial communities, they see this as a real and important problem. And, of course, it goes without saying our scientific community is all over this concern. But as I said, Washington is a peculiar place, and here it is getting very little traction.
Here in Washington we feel the dark hand of the polluters tapping so many shoulders. And where there is power and money behind that dark hand, therefore, a lot of attention is paid to that little tap on the shoulder. What we overlook is that nature–God’s Earth–is also tapping us all on the shoulder, with messages we ignore at our peril. We ignore the messages of nature–of God’s Earth–and we ignore the laws of nature–of God’s Earth–at our very grave peril.
There is a wave of very justifiable economic frustration that has swept through our Capitol. The problem is that some of the special interests–the polluters–have insinuated themselves into that wave, sort of like parasites that creep into the body of a host animal, and from there they are working terrible mischief. They are propagating two big lies. One is that environmental regulations are a burden to the economy and we need to lift those burdens to spur our economic recovery. The second is the jury is still out on climate changes caused by carbon pollution, so we don’t need to worry about it or even take precautions.
Both are, frankly, outright false.
…Unless action is taken now, the consequences of our activities are at a high risk of causing, through the combined effects of climate change, overexploitation, pollution and habitat loss, the next globally significant extinction event in the ocean.
The laws of physics and the laws of chemistry and the laws of science these are laws of nature. These are laws of God’s Earth. We can repeal some laws around here but we can’t repeal those. Senators are used to our opinions mattering a lot around here, but these laws are not affected by our opinions. These laws do not care who peddles influence, how many lobbyists you have or how big your corporate bankroll is. Those considerations, so important in this town, do not matter at all to the laws of nature.
As regards these laws of nature, because we can neither repeal nor influence them, we bear a duty, a duty of stewardship to see and respond to the facts that are before our faces according to nature’s laws. We bear a duty to shun the siren song of well-paying polluters. We bear a duty to make the right decisions for our children and grandchildren and for our God-given Earth.
Right now I must come before the Chamber and remind this body that we are failing in that duty. The men and women in this Chamber are indeed catastrophically failing in that duty. We are earning the scorn and condemnation of history–not this week, perhaps, and not next week. The spin doctors can see to that. But ultimately and assuredly, the harsh judgment that it is history’s power to inflict on wrong will fall upon us. The Supreme Being who gave us this Earth and its abundance created a world not just of abundance but of consequence and that Supreme Being gave us reason to allow us to plan for and foresee the various consequences that those laws of nature impose.
It is magical thinking to imagine that somehow we will be spared the plain and foreseeable consequences of our failure of duty. There is no wizard’s hat and wand with which to wish this away. These laws of nature are known; the Earth’s message to us is clear; our failure is blameworthy; its consequences are profound; and the costs will be very high.
If you’d like to send Senator Whitehouse a note thanking him for his courage in standing up to powerful polluters, his address is:
In the Climate Reality Project, Al Gore answers the question, “What Can Change In a Day?”. A whole lot, it turns out – just ask the people living on the Susquehanna River last week when Tropical Storm Lee hit then and displaced them, or the folks in New Orleans about Hurricane Katrina, or the people along the Gulf Coast still recovering from the BP disaster.
If you haven’t yet signed up to host a Climate Reality event tomorrow, it isn’t too late. Just go to Climate Reality Project.org, and join their project to reveal the complete truth about the climate crisis and watch the live stream starting at 7pm CT on September 14.
It’s been an exhausting and extreme year weather-wise across the U.S., as this pointed out in this Reuters article, Weather Disasters Keep Costing the U.S. Billions This Year. And yet, there is still resistance across that country and my own, furiously propped up by wealthy fossil fuel interests, to the scientific evidence pointing out people’s contribution, through our unrestrained burning of fossil fuels, to a warmer global atmosphere. A warmer atmosphere results in global climate instability, more extremes such as the floods, droughts, and wildfires that much of North America has been experiencing in 2011. Which just goes to show, as Saul Bellows, writer, and Nobel laureate (1915-2005) said:
“A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep.”
All but about 100 acres of the 6,000 acre Bastrop State Park in Bastrop, Texas has been blackened by a wildfire. This video shot by Texas Parks and Wildlife on September 5 shows just how fast the fire moved through:
Nearly 100,000 people were ordered to flee the rising Susquehanna River on Thursday as the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee dumped more rain across the Northeast, socking areas still recovering from Hurricane Irene and closing major highways at the morning rush. At Binghamton, N.Y., the wide river broke a flood record and flowed over retaining walls downtown:
Storms Sweep Through NEW YORK CITY August 19, 2011:
Get involved in spreading the word! Moving Planet 350.org
What we know so far about the Rupert Murdoch/News Corp scandal may just be the tip of the iceberg. Keith Olbermann wrote yesterday on his blog about the connection between Murdoch’s News Corp and the stolen “climate-gate” emails:
The Murdoch Phone-Hacking Scandal may have just metastasized. The so-called “Climate-Gate” controversy — in which e-mails about global warming were stolen from researchers at Britain’s University of East Anglia in November, 2009 — now turns out to bear the stamp of Neil Wallis, one of the key figures in Murdoch’s hacking of the phones, voicemails, and other electronic communications of thousands of people.
Wallis is unique in this scandal. He had been the Executive Editor of Murdoch’s News Of The World when hacking was at its peak. Yet in 2009 he wound up being hired by the police as a public relations consultant while the police investigated the hacking scandal. And he wound up spying for Murdoch’s people on what Scotland Yard was investigating.
Wallis was, as the New York Times put it, “reporting back to News International while he was working for the police on the hacking case.”
In the interview below, Joe Romm from Climate Progress and Olbermann discuss News Corp’s penchant for hacking, and what this means for the private emails that were stolen from the climate scientists at Britain’s University of East Anglia in November, 2009.
Romm described it this way on Climate Progress:
There is a cancer on the U.S. media. That cancer is the disinformation machine aimed at spreading and endlessly repeating the most absurd falsehoods on a host of vital issues to the health and well being of Americans.
…The cancer’s most dangerous symptom — the one that will ultimately prove fatal to human civilization and the American way of life as we know it today — is the relentless lies on climate science (see “Foxgate: Leaked email reveals Fox News boss ordered staff to cast doubt on climate science” and “93% of WSJ‘s Climate Op-Eds Misrepresent Science“).
Will the cancer of News Corp be caught in time to change the prognosis for the planet? Nothing is for sure, except that we have the blessing – and curse – of living in interesting times!
One of the choruses that is heard from the pro-pollution, anti-science climate change deniers is that people can’t possibly be powerful enough to impact our planet’s climate system. This is a curious belief, in light of the clear evidence of the destruction that humanity can – and does – wreak wherever people congregate (i.e. releasing rabbits in Australia, the zebra mussel infestation in Canadian waters), and particularly since the acid rain and ozone layer environmental crises.
But as Captain Charles Moore, in this National Geographic special, observes “People don’t take suggestions, they respond to crisis“. He goes on to say
“One of the things that bothers me about the present environmental crisis that we face is the callous way the adult population thinks about what we are leaving for our heirs. And what we are leaving is a big mess.”
Captain Moore has noted that, in some places in the North Pacific, there is so much trash that it is now hazardous to navigate in some places.
For the sake of our children, we all need to start asking ourselves the question “Where is away?” when it comes to our garbage. It turns out, there is no such thing as “away” – there is just delayed reckoning when it comes to throwaway, non-biodegradable stuff. As Captain Moore points out, all that plastic in the oceans is a visible symbol of our excesses. It’s time for a shift in our thinking and our habits.
Calamities of Nature is a comic that focuses on topics of social commentary, science, religion, philosophy, and lots of “bacon”. Tony Piro is the talented creator of the strip who graciously gave me permission to repost this here (thanks to Tanna for bringing Tony`s work to my attention in the first place).