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The Anthropocene’s Birthday, or the Birth-Year of Human-Accelerated Climate Change

The Anthropocene’s Birthday, or the Birth-Year of Human-Accelerated Climate Change

Scientists have found a major spike in the amount of Carbon-14 within the tree rings of “The Loneliest Tree In The World,” which ring corresponds to October-December 1965.

This tree is a Sitka Spruce, a species from the American Northwest (and into Canada) that was planted on Campbell Island in 1901 (or 1905), which island is in the Southern Ocean about 400 miles south of the southern tip of New Zealand.

There are no other trees on Campbell Island, just low scrubs. Since the next landmass south of Campbell Island is Antarctica, this tree is the furthest one south on Earth (so far as I can tell). The next closest tree is north about 170 miles, on another small island south of New Zealand.

The significance of this finding is that geologists now know that the start of the Anthropocene – which is the geological period when GLOBAL (not just local) climate is clearly being influenced by human activity and at an accelerating rate – began in 1965.

The Carbon-14 marker is from the radioactive fallout from atmospheric nuclear bomb testing, which grew from 1945 and peaked in 1962, after which it stopped (except for a few isolated atmospheric tests since) in 1963 as a result of the Test Ban treaty of that year.

The accumulated radioactive fallout from the massive testing of the 1950s and early 1960s (with a huge amount in 1962) had finally spread out uniformly through the global atmosphere, and the Carbon-14 from that fallout was being infused into trees globally through the process of photosynthesis.

So, this spike in tree-ring Carbon-14 in 1965 is a GLOBAL marker of human activity on global climate, and thus is the birthday of human-induced/accelerated Climate Change.

Coring “the loneliest tree in the world”

New Map Reveals Which Countries are Most Likely to Survive Climate Change

New Map Reveals Which Countries are Most Likely to Survive Climate Change

Climate change is real, and it’s happening. But will you survive it?

Melting ice caps, record high temperatures and rising sea levels are just some of the telltale signs.

Climate change is one of the most pressing crises facing humanity. Caused by an immense and continual buildup of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in our atmosphere as a result of human activity, climate change is already causing a series of alarming environmental events.

Once snowy landscapes are slowly melting away to leave an uninhabitable and baron wilderness, rising sea temperatures are killing thousands of miles of coral reef and marine life, while freak weather events are becoming more common and costing affected nations billions of pounds. For example, early estimates suggest that 2017’s hurricane Harvey caused between £48 billion and £134 billion worth of damage.

These serve as a worrying indication of the catastrophic effect that climate change could have on our planet in the future if nothing is done to tackle the phenomenon.

Whilst it’s clear that no single corner of the globe is safe from the changes that are happening to our climate, we wanted to find out which countries are the most (and least) at risk of the effects of climate change.

To answer this question, we looked at data from the University of Notre-Dame’s ND-Gain Index. This report analysed 181 countries on their vulnerability to climate change and how ready they are to adapt to a warming planet, based on factors such as healthcare, food supply and government stability.

We also scrutinized how much carbon dioxide all 181 countries emit every year to give an indication of each nation’s contribution towards climate change. This allowed us to compare a country’s likeliness to survive changes to the global climate against their responsibility for the phenomenon.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Islands Not sinking: Climate Change Demonstrated to Be a Hoax

Islands Not sinking: Climate Change Demonstrated to Be a Hoax

Have you ever wondered how it is possible that coral islands lie flat just a little above the sea level? It is not a coincidence, the coral reef that forms the islands is alive and it can adapt to variations of the sea level. According to some people, that demonstrates that climate change is a hoax (??).

Do you remember when there was a “debate” about climate change? Yes, there was such a thing. Someone would set up a panel where there would be a scientist arguing for the current interpretation of anthropogenic global warming and someone who at least pretended to be a scientist who would argue for the opposite interpretation. It was supposed to be a civil debate, all based on science.

I don’t have to tell you that such debates have disappeared, you don’t see them anymore just as you don’t see quiet and civilized debates between Trump supporters and members of the Antifa movement. In recent times, the closest thing to a public debate on climate was the proposal by Scott Pruitt, EPA’s chief, of a “Red Team” and a “Blue Team” of scientists who should discuss climate matters. The fact that Pruitt chose terms commonly used in military exercises says a lot about what kind of “debate” this was supposed to be. Perhaps it is a good thing that the idea seems to have died out.

Today, we have no debate anymore. We only have two sides shooting slogans against each other. Each side is ready to exploit every perceived weakness in the other to discharge a volley of posts and tweets aimed at gaining a few political points. A snowstorm demonstrates that AGW doesn’t exist while a hurricane that we are all going to die soon. The latest example of this attitude is the news arriving from the Tuvalu Islands.
…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Global Warming Zaps Oxygen 

Global Warming Zaps Oxygen 

Photo by Todd Huffman | CC BY 2.0

Take a deep breath. A recent scientific study reveals disturbing loss of ocean oxygen. Unnerving climatic events like this justify ringing and clanging of the bells on the Public Square, all hands on deck. In particular, and as expected, the culprit is too much anthropogenic-induced global warming or idiomatically speaking, human activities such as planes, trains, and automobiles… burning tons of coal. Somebody must do something to fix it… ah-ah-ah!

According to Denise Breitburg, lead author marine ecologist with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center: “The decline in ocean oxygen ranks among the most serious effects of human activities on the Earth’s environment.” (Source: The Ocean Is Losing Its Breath, University of Californian-San Diego, Science Daily, January 4, 2018)

A team of scientists with GO2NE (Global Ocean Oxygen Network) created by the UN Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission conducted a sweeping all-encompassing study of the state of ocean oxygen: “In the past 50 years, the amount of water in the open ocean with zero oxygen has gone up more than fourfold. In coastal water bodies, including estuaries and seas, low-oxygen sites have increased more than 10-fold since 1950. Scientists expect oxygen to continue dropping even outside these zones as Earth warms,” Ibid.

According to Vladimir Ryabinin, executive secretary of the International Oceanographic Commission that formed GO2NE: “Approximately half of the oxygen on Earth comes from the ocean.”

Today, there are actual dead zones where oxygen has plummeted so low that life suffocates. Not only, low oxygen that doesn’t suffocate life still stunts growth, hinders reproduction, and promotes disease. In short, low oxygen stresses the entire ecosystem.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Talking climate, taking action – a quest for belonging

This is the final post in a series of blogs from our Guest Editor Kate Heath, an ex-humanitarian worker now based in Paris – exploring how to have constructive conversations about climate change.


In this, my final reflections on the value, science and art of talking climate change and energy issues, I lift this to you: do this together. Do this in community. Traverse the valleys, the slopes, the bogs and the boulderfields, the heights of this quest in company – and then share the stories that roll from it.

Those of you involved in Transition are in a particularly unique and rich position from which to start conversations, given your involvement already in an active community of belonging. Human connections rally people like no other factor. Tales of action, from a trusted space warm with relationships, where the whole emotional shebang can be explored – anxieties and doubts alongside hopes and plans – is one of the best starting points for talking about climate change. We as people love to tell and hear stories of how ‘we all came together…’ in the face of adversity; we make decisions based massively on whether enacting them will increase our sense of belonging; and regarding climate change issues specifically, people really like it when we talk in terms of ‘we’re all in this together, everyone doing their bit’. Before Christmas, I asked my Grandma what some of her favourite winter memories were. We reminisced about the depth that snowdrifts used to reach, and the story she chose to tell was my great-aunt Vera sledging off to ensure my grandfather’s produce got delivered to everyone when their village got cut off in the 50’s. Everyone doing their bit.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Drill, Baby, Drill: The U.S. Added 38 Percent More Oil and Gas Rigs Last Year

The number of oil and gas rigs in the United States has increased an astonishing 38 percent over the past year. That’s according to S&P Global Platts Analytics, which reported this week that the country had 1,070 rigs at the end of January, up from just 773 a year earlier.

Experts expressed fear that all of this new development does not bode well for the planet. “This will have a very significant climate impact,” says Romany Webb, climate law fellow with the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law. “The oil and gas industry is a huge source of methane, which is a really potent greenhouse gas. And then on top of that you also have the carbon dioxide emissions from the combustion of this oil and gas. So this is very concerning from a climate perspective.”

Webb links the increase in drilling, in part, to the recent rise in prices for crude oil and natural gas. “Oil is now above $60 a barrel, which is what the industry always said that they needed to ramp up production,” she says.

Experts also connect the boom to the policies of the Trump administration, which has prioritized the extraction of oil, natural gas and coal over the development of renewable energies even as the planet continues to warm. “That the hottest years in human history coincide with a dramatic increase in U.S. drilling for oil and gas is a reminder of what a rogue nation we now live in,” says noted environmentalist Bill McKibben.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Devil’s Bargain

We already have planet-cooling technology. The problem is, it’s killing us.

A trope of sci-fi movies these days, from Snowpiercer to Geostorm, is that our failure to tackle climate change will eventually force us to deploy an arsenal of unproven technologies to save the planet. Think sun-deflecting space mirrors or chemically altered clouds. And because these are sci-fi movies, it’s assumed that these grand experiments in geoengineering will go horribly wrong.

The fiction, new evidence suggests, may be much closer to reality than we thought.

When most people hear “climate change,” they think of greenhouse gases overheating the planet. But there’s another product of industry changing the climate that has received scant public attention: aerosols. They’re microscopic particles of pollution that, on balance, reflect sunlight back to space and help cool the planet down, providing a crucial counterweight to greenhouse-powered global warming.

An effort to co-opt this natural cooling ability of aerosols has long been considered a potential last-ditch, desperate shot at slowing down global warming. The promise of planet-cooling technology has also been touted by techno-optimists, Silicon Valley types and politicians who aren’t keen on the government doing anything to curb emissions. “Geoengineering holds forth the promise of addressing global warming concerns for just a few billion dollars a year,” wrote Newt Gingrich in an attack on proposed cap-and-trade legislation back in 2008.

But there’s a catch. Our surplus of aerosols is a huge problem for those of us who like to breathe air. At high concentrations, these tiny particles are one of the deadliest substances in existence, burrowing deep into our bodies where they can damage hearts and lungs.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

How to Use Critical Thinking to Spot False Climate Claims

How to Use Critical Thinking to Spot False Climate Claims

Cat graffiti with question marks on a wall

Despite scientists’ best efforts at communicating with the public, not everyone knows enough about the underlying science to make a call one way or the other. Not only is climate science very complex, but it has also been targeted by deliberate obfuscation campaigns.

If we lack the expertise to evaluate the detail behind a claim, we typically substitute judgment about something complex (like climate science) with judgment about something simple (the character of people who speak about climate science).

But there are ways to analyse the strength of an argument without needing specialist knowledge. My colleagues, Dave Kinkead from the University of Queensland Critical Thinking Project and John Cook from George Mason University in the US, and I published a paper yesterday in Environmental Research Letters on a critical thinking approach to climate change denial.

We applied this simple method to 42 common climate-contrarian arguments, and found that all of them contained errors in reasoning that are independent of the science itself.

In the video abstract for the paper, we outline an example of our approach, which can be described in six simple steps.

The authors discuss the myth that climate change is natural.

Six Steps to Evaluate Contrarian Climate Claims

Identify the claim: First, identify as simply as possible what the actual claim is. In this case, the argument is:

The climate is currently changing as a result of natural processes.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Blowout Week 215

Blowout Week 215

This week’s lead story highlights the perils of basing policy decisions on speculative computer models. It seems that the ozone layer isn’t healing as predicted after all, so the dangers of man-made CFC radiation are still with us. And if radiation doesn’t do the job other computer models now tell us that melting permafrost threatens us with death from mercury poisoning. And if neither happens the forthcoming magnetic pole reversal spells the demise of civilization as we know it. Lots more energy and climate-related stories in this bumper Blowout, too numerous to synthesize, but read on and enjoy anyway. They’re not all bad.

Newsweek: The Ozone Layer Isn’t Healing After All—and Depletion May Be More Harmful Than Ever

In the 1980s, scientists discovered a large hole in the ozone layer, exposing the Antarctic to far higher levels of UV radiation than other parts of the planet.

Aerosols and refrigerators were blamed for spewing ozone-depleting substances like chloroflurocarbons (CFCs). The Montreal Protocol agreement of 1987 led to the phasing out of CFCs and the first signs of repair in the upper stratosphere over the Antarctic.

But, for reasons as yet unknown, ozone seems to be disappearing from some parts of the lower stratosphere, a study published in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics has found. Study co-author Joanna Haigh, co-director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment at Imperial College London, explained in a statement: “The potential for harm in lower latitudes may actually be worse than at the poles. The decreases in ozone are less than we saw at the poles before the Montreal Protocol was enacted, but UV radiation is more intense in these regions and more people live there.” The results were a surprise to authors and defy the expectations of current models. “The finding of declining low-latitude ozone is surprising, since our current best atmospheric circulation models do not predict this effect.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Long-term climate variability ‘could fall’ as the world warms

Long-term climate variability is the range of temperatures and weather patterns experienced by the Earth over a scale of thousands of years. New research suggests it could fall as the world warms.

A study using data taken from fossils and ice cores finds that long-term temperature variability decreased four-fold from the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) around 21,000 years ago to the start of the Holocene around 11,500 years ago. Within this period, natural processes caused the planet to warm by around 3-8C.

If future global emissions are not curbed, human-driven global warming could cause further large declines in long-term temperature variability, the lead author tells Carbon Brief, which may have far-reaching effects on the world’s seasons and weather.

However, it is still unclear how a decline in long-term variability could affect the frequency of extreme weather events, she adds. This is because the chances of an extreme event happening could be influenced by both short- and long-term climate variability, as well as global temperature rise.

Digging up the past

The new study, published in Nature, is the first to make a global assessment of how long-term temperature variability changed from the LGM to the Holocene.

During the LGM, the world’s last major ice age, snow covered much of Asia, Europe and North America. Yet, within a few thousand years, global temperatures rose by around 3-8C, causing the ice to thaw and the world to enter its current geological period, the Holocene.

The cause of this temperature rise is still disputed by scientists, but research suggests the natural release of large stores of CO2 from the world’s oceans may have played a role.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

EPA head Scott Pruitt says global warming may help ‘humans flourish’

EPA administrator says ‘There are assumptions made that because the climate is warming that necessarily is a bad thing’

‘It’s fairly arrogant for us to think we know exactly what [the ideal surface temperature] should be in 2100,’ Pruitt has said.
Scott Pruitt: ‘It’s fairly arrogant for us to think we know exactly what [the ideal surface temperature] should be in 2100.’ Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA

Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, has suggested that global warming may be beneficial to humans, in his latest departure from mainstream climate science.

Pruitt, who has previously erred by denying that carbon dioxide is a key driver of climate change, has again caused consternation among scientists by suggesting that warming temperatures could benefit civilization.

The EPA administrator said that humans are contributing to climate “to a certain degree”, but added: “We know humans have most flourished during times of warming trends. There are assumptions made that because the climate is warming that necessarily is a bad thing.

“Do we know what the ideal surface temperature should be in the year 2100 or year 2018?” he told a TV station in Nevada. “It’s fairly arrogant for us to think we know exactly what it should be in 2100.”

Pruitt said he wanted an “honest, transparent debate about what we do know and what we don’t know, so the American people can be informed and make decisions on their own”.

Under Pruitt’s leadership, the EPA is mulling whether to stage a televised “red team blue team” debate between climate scientists and those who deny the established science that human activity is warming the planet.

Donald Trump has also repeatedly questioned the science of climate change, tweeting during a cold snap in December that the US “could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against”.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Exxon To Produce All Of Its Oil Despite Peak Demand Fears

Exxon To Produce All Of Its Oil Despite Peak Demand Fears

offshore rig

ExxonMobil was forced to finally acknowledge the possibility that future climate change policy could lead to peak oil demand, a serious threat to the company’s operations over the long-term.

In response to a shareholder resolution passed last year, the oil major just released a reportthat recognizes the danger of peak oil demand. By 2040, climate change policies and regulations could cut into oil demand, leading to a drop in consumption by 20 percent.

Under this scenario, oil demand would decline by an average of 0.4 percent per year, with the lower end of the range seeing declines of 1.7 percent per year.

This would mean that global oil demand would decline to 78 million barrels per day (mb/d) by 2040, down from 95 mb/d in 2016. In the most pessimistic scenario (from the oil industry’s perspective), demand drops to 53 mb/d.

It’s a rather bleak picture for oil, and one echoed by a long list of analysts, environmental groups, and increasingly, the oil industry itself. A few weeks ago, a report coauthored by a top BP official, lays out a case in which oil demand peaks and declines, ushering in an era of permanently lower oil prices.

Still, Exxon was clearly issuing the report under duress. The tone of Exxon’s “2°C pathway” scenario suggests that the company doesn’t really see it playing out. While the report suggests that oil demand could fall, Exxon goes to great lengths to downplay the significance, arguing that “[o]il demand is projected to decline modestly on average, and much more slowly than its natural rate of decline from existing producing fields,” and “[e]ven under a 2°C pathway, significant investment will be required in oil and natural gas capacity,” and “[p]roduction from our proved reserves and investment in our resources continue to be needed to meet global requirements,” and the like.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Before climate change: Falling rocks set fire to 10% of land, trigger mini ice age for 1000 years

Before climate change: Falling rocks set fire to 10% of land, trigger mini ice age for 1000 years

Another day, another apocalypse. Life in a perfect climate

Poor sods. After 90,000 dismal cold years things were finally just warming up when a  bunch of comet fragments from a a 62 mile-wide comet, crashed into our atmosphere. It was  around 13,000 years ago, and the fireballs started the ultimate black Saturday blaze which converted 10 million square kilometers of wilderness into unauthorized carbon emissions*. Somehow, all those reckless greenhouse gas additions didn’t seem to stop the airborne dust triggering a return to a mini ice age for a thousand years. It also punched a hole in the ozone layer meaning everyone probably had to wear more yak-fat sunscreen or get more skin cancer (I suspect data is bit lean on that).

Glaciers started growing again, some ocean currents changed and thus the Younger Dryas unfolded according to a couple of new papers.

In a fairly dramatic shift of landscaping styles, mother nature razed whole pine forests and replaced them with poplars.

Gaia is full of surprises: in the end, falling lumps of ice set fire to 10% of land on Earth, and making 10,800BC the worst carbon footprint since the last 62 mile wide rock hit Earth. Primitive tribes blamed each other and tried to stabilize the climate by banning cooking fires.

Thirteen thousand years later, and homo snowflakus is worried about seas rising by 1mm a year, and the ABC is worried about an alarming surge in large fires.

Anyhow, it’s an interesting theory. Published in Science Daily.

University of Kansas.

On a ho-hum day some 12,800 years ago, the Earth had emerged from another ice age. Things were warming up, and the glaciers had retreated.

Out of nowhere, the sky was lit with fireballs. This was followed by shock waves.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

What if we could REALLY convince the public that climate change is a threat?

What if we could REALLY convince the public that climate change is a threat?

 
Maybe one day some really gigantic-awful-horrible-monstrous-humungous climate related disaster will hit us. And that, at that moment, people will stop playing the boiling frog and will be forced to admit that climate change is real and we have to do something about that.
Unfortunately, plenty of gigantic-horrible-etc. disasters have already hit us, but the public doesn’t seem to have taken notice. But never mind, we might be hit by the really big one. And, if it happens, do you think people will come to the scientists and tell them “we are so sorry, now we understand you were right all along”?
I have the impression that it will be rather something like what you see in the clip, below. It will be something like what the woman says, “God is going to destroy this Earth and there is nothing you silly scientists can do about that with all your scientific blah-blah.”
And I have this terrible feeling that she may be right.

Ruin is forever (revisited): Why your death isn’t as bad as that of all humankind 

Ruin is forever (revisited): Why your death isn’t as bad as that of all humankind

It should be obvious that the death of an individual human being isn’t as bad as the death of all humankind. But that’s only true if you accept the following premise laid out by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his upcoming book, Skin in the Game:

I have a finite shelf life; humanity should have an infinite duration. Or I am renewable, not humanity or the ecosystem.

The quotation actually comes from a draft version of one chapter available here. The book is not yet out.

But what does this mean in practical terms? The simple answer is that human societies should not engage in activities which risk destroying all of humanity. Nuclear war comes to mind. And, most, if not all, people recognize that a nuclear war would not only result in unthinkably large immediate casualties, but also might threaten all life on Earth with a years-long nuclear winter.

But are we humans risking annihilation through other activities? Climate change comes to mind. But so do our perturbations of the nitrogen cycle which we are now at the very beginnings of understanding. In addition, the introduction of novel genes into the plant kingdom with little testing through genetically engineered crops poses unknown risks not only to food production, but also to biological systems everywhere.

The thing that unites these examples is that they represent an introduction of novel elements (artificial gene combinations not seen in nature) or vast amounts of non-novel substances (carbon dioxide, nitrogen compounds and other greenhouse gases) into complex systems worldwide. Scale, it turns out, matters. A population of only 1 million humans on Earth living with our current technology would almost certainly not threaten climate stability or biodiversity.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai III: Cataclysm
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