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Wilder Fires and Rising Waters, Climate Impacts Coming to America’s Door

Wilder Fires and Rising Waters, Climate Impacts Coming to America’s Door

Pair of new studies show how American climate refugees will ‘reshape’ population landscape of the nation

The Chelan Butte fire encroaches on homes in coastal Washington state. (Photo: Ben Brooks/cc/flickr)

The Chelan Butte fire encroaches on homes in coastal Washington state. (Photo: Ben Brooks/cc/flickr)

Americans in many cases have been slow to acknowledge the real threats posed by global warming. But two new studies out Monday found that people living throughout the United States could soon see their communities forever altered by higher seas and raging forest fires.

While the United States has lagged in taking dramatic action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or transform its power grid to accommodate renewable energy sources, other nations have taken the lead. Further, studies have historically shown (pdf) that Americans are generally reluctant to perceive climate change as anything more than a moderate risk, seeing it as something that impacts people in more vulnerable, developing nations.

The idea of a person becoming a climate change refugee seems similarly foreign.

However, Mathew Hauer, a demographer at the University of Georgia, estimates that by the end of the century as many as 13.1 million Americans could too find themselves displaced due to rising sea levels. His research is published in the journal Nature Climate Change and suggests those migrants will be forced to move to inland cities, ultimately “reshaping” the population landscape.

The report notes that unmitigated sea-level rise (SLR)—primarily seen as “a coastal issue”—is “expected to reshape the U.S. population distribution, potentially stressing landlocked areas unprepared to accommodate this wave of coastal migrants.” For instance, if seas rise the expected 1.8 meters by 2100, Texas could see a surge of nearly 1.5 million additional residents. Specifically, inland cities including Austin and Houston, Texas; Orlando, Florida; and Atlanta, Georgia could each see more than 250,000 people migrating from the imperiled coasts.

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

Climate change causes glacial river in Yukon to change direction

Climate change causes glacial river in Yukon to change direction

Glacier retreated so much that its meltwater switched course, in an event not documented in modern times

Geoscientist Dan Shugar gazes out over exposed sediments and dust storms at Kluane Lake in the Yukon in the summer of 2016. Covered in water just months before, the delta top was left exposed and prone to wind erosion after meltwater from the Kaskawulsh Glacier changed direction due to climate change.

Geoscientist Dan Shugar gazes out over exposed sediments and dust storms at Kluane Lake in the Yukon in the summer of 2016. Covered in water just months before, the delta top was left exposed and prone to wind erosion after meltwater from the Kaskawulsh Glacier changed direction due to climate change. (Jim Best/University of Illinois)

Climate change has caused the massive Kaskawulsh Glacier in the Yukon to retreat so much that its meltwater abruptly switched direction, in the first documented case of “river piracy” in modern times.

Instead of flowing into the Slims River and then north to the Bering Sea, the water has changed course and now flows south toward the Kaskawulsh River, the Gulf of Alaska and the Pacific Ocean, scientists have found.

Also known as stream capture, river piracy is a term used to describe a geologic phenomenon where a stream or river is diverted toward another body of water. It’s usually caused by a dramatic tectonic event, such as a landslide or glacial dam collapse.

“This was the first event we could find where river piracy occurred right under our noses and due to contemporary climate change,” said Dan Shugar, a geoscientist at the University of Washington Tacoma and lead author of a study published Monday in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Kaskawulsh glacier map

Yukon’s Kaskawulsh glacier in Kluane National Park. (CBC)

Previous cases of river piracy may have taken place thousands of years ago or more, said Shugar in an interview with CBC News.

A river gone missing

The discovery of the change happened last summer, quite by accident for this team of scientists.

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

Climate Change Has Already Had a Negative Impact on Animals on Every Continent

Climate Change Has Already Had a Negative Impact on Animals on Every Continent feat

CLIMATE CHANGE HAS ALREADY HAD A NEGATIVE IMPACT ON ANIMALS ON EVERY CONTINENT

A new study has revealed that we have underestimated the impact climate change has had on endangered species around the world. These effects have been particularly traumatic for mammals and birds on the endangered species list – even species included on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s “red list.”

According to the study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, global warming has already impacted approximately 700 species on the “red list” – about half of the mammals and nearly a quarter of the birds. This research shows that climate change isn’t a threat that may present itself at some point in the future, but a real issue that is having a negative impact on the earth today.

“It’s a scientific problem in that we are not thinking about climate change as a present-day problem, we’re always forecasting into the future,” said James Watson, a researcher at Australia’s University of Queensland. “When you look at the evidence, there is a massive amount of impact right now.”

Most climate studies that focus on biodiversity examine the potential impacts of global warming that could be seen in 50 to 100 years. However, the findings of a team of researchers who investigated more than 100 earlier studies showed that the range of animals that have now been impacted by global warming is already broad enough to include animals present on every continent.

“We have seriously underestimated the effects of climate change on the most well-known groups, which means those other groups, reptiles, amphibians, fish, plants, the story is going to be much, much worse in terms of what we think the threat is from climate change already,” Watson said.

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

Did The EPA Just Go Rogue Again

Did The EPA Just Go Rogue Again

In late January, days after Donald Trump became president, various government workers employed by the EPA “defied” the president with what at the time appeared to be rogue twitter accounts emerging from the environemntal agency, most notably the Badlands National Park which slammed Trump’s climate change proposal.
  • “Today, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is higher than at any time in the last 650,000 years. #climate”
  • “Flipside of the atmosphere; ocean acidity has increased 30% since the Industrial  Revolution. ‘Ocean Acidification” #climate #carboncycle’”
  • “Burning one gallon of gasoline puts nearly 20lbs of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere. #climate”

It now appears that a new “rogue” employee may have emerged at the EPA’s pres office.

This morning, in a press release summarizing “What They Are Saying About President Trump’s Executive Order On Energy Independence”, as the first quote picked by an unknown staffer at the agency, the EPA decided to showcase the thoughts of Dem. Senator Shelly Moore Capito whose quote was not exactly on message, as Bloomberg’s Patrick Ambrosio pointed out.

This is what she said:

With this Executive Order, President Trump has chosen to recklessly bury his head in the sand. Walking away from the Clean Power Plan and other climate initiatives, including critical resiliency projects is not just irresponsible — it’s irrational. Today’s executive order calls into question America’s credibility and our commitment to tackling the greatest environmental challenge of our lifetime. With the world watching, President Trump and Administrator Pruitt have chosen to shirk our responsibility, disregard clear science and undo the significant progress our country has made to ensure we leave a better, more sustainable planet for generations to come.

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

Faulty Logic Fuels Fossil Fools

Faulty Logic Fuels Fossil Fools

Suncor tar sands mine in Canada

Apparently, fossil fuel companies protect watersheds and rivers by removing oil. That’s according to comments on the David Suzuki Foundation Facebook page and elsewhere, including this: “The amount of contamination occuring [sic] from extraction is far less than if we just left the oil there to continue polluting the waterways.”

The “logic” of climate change deniers and anti-environmentalists is often baffling. Although the person who posted that comment doesn’t appear to claim professional background or knowledge, Canadian anti-environmentalist Patrick Moore — who capitalizes on his science degree and long-ago association with Greenpeace to shill for polluting industries — told the Vancouver Sun in 2011 that oil companies are “leaving the soil cleaner than they found it because they’re removing the oil from it.”

Those who coat their “alternative facts” with a veneer of “expertise” often employ twisted logic. Take a petition letter urging U.S. President Donald Trump to withdraw from the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Letter author Richard Lindzen, a climate skeptic whose work has often been debunked, claims “more than 300 eminent scientists and other qualified individuals from around the world” signed the petition. What kind of “eminent scientists” would sign something claiming carbon dioxide “is not a pollutant but a major benefit to agriculture and other life on Earth” and that “warming from increased atmospheric CO2 will be benign”?

The idea that CO2 is little more than plant food is common in denier circles, floated recently by the U.S.Heartland Institute, its affiliated industry promoters like Canadians Patrick Moore and Tom Harris, and others. In a 2014 book, two signatories to the Trump letter, retired Environment Canada scientist Madhav Khandekar and retired Australian geology professor Cliff Ollier, along with database marketing consultant Arthur Middleton Hughes, wrote the world should burn more coal “to produce electricity and increase CO2in the atmosphere.” They also argue for more use of the pesticide DDT.

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

 

How Renewable Energy Advocates are Hurting the Climate Cause

In the wake of the 2016 presidential election, the proliferation of misinformation on social media is finally getting the attention it deserves. Or so I thought.

Scrolling through my Facebook news feed recently, I stumbled upon an article shared by Climate Central, a nonprofit news organization focused on climate science. “The World’s Renewable Energy Capacity Now Beats Out Coal,” read the headline from Co.Exist. I clicked. “The tipping point marks a major milestone in the transition to cleaner power sources,” the subhead declared from atop an aerial photo of a wind farm.

And so went most of the coverage of a new report on renewable energy markets by the International Energy Agency, a well-respected source of global energy statistics. Outlets big and smallreputable and lesser-knownspecialized and general, adopted similar headlines, subheads and ledes, accompanied by photos of wind turbines and solar panels.

The problem is twofold. First, capacity is a highly selective way to measure electricity, especially in the context of emissions and climate change. Capacity is defined as the maximum electric output a generator can produce under specific conditions at a moment in time — for example, how much a solar farm can generate during a sunny summer day or a wind farm when it’s really windy. But, of course, the sun doesn’t always shine or the wind always blow.

“Installed capacity is not really a useful metric for a lot of purposes,” Mark Jacobson, an engineering professor at Stanford University who studies renewable energy, told me. “When you’re asking, ‘how much is this supplying, how much is wind supplying versus coal?’ you want to look at the actual energy delivered.”

That’s commonly called generation, and is defined as the amount of electricity produced on average over a period of time, such as a year. Sure enough, if you look at generation numbers, coal still beat out renewables in 2015 by a significant margin, 39 percent to not quite 24 percent.

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

Are Fossil Fuel Companies Telling Investors Enough About the Risks of Climate Change?

Are Fossil Fuel Companies Telling Investors Enough About the Risks of Climate Change?

The Securities and Exchange Commission, for example, was probing how ExxonMobil discloses the impact of that risk on the value of its reserves. And disclosure advocates have been pressing the agency to take more decisive action.

Now that Republicans control Congress and the White House, will the SEC reverse course? And should it?

The Trump administration’s apparent skepticism regarding climate change may portend such a change in direction. And Congress’ decision to roll back transparency rules for U.S. energy companies in the Dodd-Frank Act suggests transparency policy more broadly is being loosened.

The terms of this debate, however, remain premised on the notion that investors don’t have enough information to accurately assess the impact of climate change on company value. A growing body of academic research, including our own, suggests they already do and that a compromise path that improves the terms and conditions for voluntary disclosure might be optimal.

“Stranded” Assets

Such a change in direction would be good news for ExxonMobil in its fight with the SEC over climate change disclosure.

Last year, ExxonMobil announced that 4.6 billion barrels of oil and gas assets — 20 percent of its current inventory of future prospects — may be too expensive to tap. That would be the largest asset write-down in its history. So far, the company has written down US$2 billion in expensive, above-market cost natural gas assets. More write-downs — this time possibly oil sands — may be forthcoming.

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

To confront power, one must first name it: Neoliberalism and the sustainability crisis

To confront power, one must first name it: Neoliberalism and the sustainability crisis

Recently, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker ordered references to human-caused climate change be deleted from the state Deparment of Natural Resources website. Scientific findings concerning the natural world have become an embarrassment for the neoliberal world view. The answer in this case seems to be to delete them.

But what is the neoliberal world view and why is it important to understand? Paraphrasing theologian Walter Wink British writer George Monbiot explains that in order to confront power, one must first name it. The power Monbiot has in mind is the power of those enacting the neoliberal agenda. He explained in a talk last year that this ideology is embraced by leaders of both the political right and left throughout much of the world.

More disturbing is that few people are aware of this fact, and fewer still can define what neoliberalism is. It’s important to understand that this ideology animates much of the governing class on the planet. It’s important because this ideology almost completely opposes doing anything serious about climate change or any of the other environmental and social ills which afflict us.

First, neoliberalism should not be confused with modern-day liberalism which is generally associated with tolerant social policies and governmental intervention in and regulation of the economy. To the contrary, neoliberalism harkens back to 19th century classical liberalism. Neoliberals champion a return to laissez-faire economics by means of the privatization of public services and property, fiscal austerity, deregulation and, of course, free trade.

Neoliberalism was first enunciated in the late 1930s as a response to fascism and communism. Only later did neoliberal ideas find their full expression in the presidency of Ronald Reagan and the government of Britain’s Margaret Thatcher. For obvious reasons neoliberal ideas have been championed and lavishly supported by wealthy corporate interests.

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Yes, the Arctic’s Freakishly Warm Winter is Due to Humans’ Climate Influence

Yes, the Arctic’s Freakishly Warm Winter is Due to Humans’ Climate Influence

The Arctic’s seasonal cycle means that the lowest sea ice concentrations occur in September each year. But while September 2012 had less ice than September 2016, this year the ice coverage has not increased as expected as we moved into the northern winter. As a result, since late October, Arctic sea ice extent has been at record low levels for the time of year.

Late 2016 has produced new record lows for Arctic ice. NSIDCAuthor provided

These record low sea ice levels have been associated with exceptionally high temperatures for the Arctic region. November and December (so far) have seen record warm temperatures. At the same time Siberia, and very recently North America, have experienced conditions that are slightly cooler than normal.

Temperatures have been far above normal over vast areas of the Arctic this November and December. Geert Jan van Oldenborgh/KNMI/ERA-InterimAuthor provided

Extreme Arctic warmth and low ice coverage affect the migration patterns of marine mammals and have been linked with mass starvation and deaths among reindeer, as well as affecting polar bear habitats.

Given these severe ecological impacts and the potential influence of the Arctic on the climates of North America and Europe, it is important that we try to understand whether and how human-induced climate change has played a role in this event.

Arctic attribution

Our World Weather Attribution group, led by Climate Central and including researchers at the University of Melbourne, the University of Oxford and the Dutch Meteorological Service (KNMI), used three different methods to assess the role of the human climate influence on record Arctic warmth over November and December.

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

Arctic Drilling Ban Reveals Crucial Difference Between Obama and Trudeau on Climate

Arctic Drilling Ban Reveals Crucial Difference Between Obama and Trudeau on Climate

But the difference between how the White House and the Prime Minister’s Office explained this announcement reveals a major rift between the leaders in their understanding of how to address the climate threat.

At the end of November, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau failed a key test of his understanding of what is required to stop climate change by approving the Kinder Morgan and Line 3 pipelines. During his speech he defended his actions:

I have said many times that there isn’t a country in the world that would find billions of barrels of oil and leave it in the ground while there is a market for it.”

But just weeks later, the U.S. did exactly that. As part of President Obama’s announcement to permanently ban oil and gas development in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, the White House released a fact sheet explaining its justification.

…if lease sales were to occur and production take place, it would be at a time when the scientific realities of climate change dictate that the United States and the international community must be transitioning its energy systems away from fossil fuels.”

In essence, the White House is saying that further offshore oil and gas development in these areas fails a climate test — that these projects aren’t in line with the action needed to meet international goals to fight climate change. This is a crucial signal that President Obama and his team are finally beginning to understand that action to restrict the supply of fossil fuels is ultimately required to reach a safe climate future.

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

Mass Extinction and Mass Insanity


Caters Extremely rare albino elephant, Kruger National Park in South Africa
Everything dies, baby, that’s a fact
But maybe everything that dies someday comes back …

Springsteen, Atlantic City

“Erwin Schrodinger (1945) has described life as a system in steady-state thermodynamic disequilibrium that maintains its constant distance from equilibrium (death) by feeding on low entropy from its environment – that is, by exchanging high-entropy outputs for low-entropy inputs. The same statement would hold verbatium as a physical description of our economic process. A corollary of this statement is that an organism cannot live in a medium of its own waste products.”
Herman Daly and Kenneth Townsend

What drives our economies is waste. Not need, or even demand. Waste. 2nd law of thermodynamics. It drives our lives, period.

First of all, don’t tell me you’re trying to stop the ongoing extinction of nature and wildlife on this planet, or the destruction of life in general. Don’t even tell me you’re trying. Don’t tell me it’s climate change that we should focus on (that’s just a small part of the story), and you’re driving an electric car and you’re separating your trash or things like that. That would only mean you’re attempting to willfully ignore your share of destruction, because if you do it, so will others, and the planet can’t take anymore of your behavior.

This is the big one. And the only ones amongst us who don’t think so are those who don’t want to. Who think it’s easier to argue that some problems are too big for them to tackle, that they should be left to others to solve. But why should we, why should anyone, worry about elections or even wars, when it becomes obvious we’re fast approaching a time when such things don’t matter much anymore?

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

Radical Realism About Climate Change

Radical Realism About Climate Change

BERLIN – Mainstream politics, by definition, is ill equipped to imagine fundamental change. But last December in Paris, 196 governments agreed on the need to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels – an objective that holds the promise of delivering precisely such a transformation. Achieving it will require overcoming serious political challenges, reflected in the fact that some are advocating solutions that will end up doing more harm than good.

One strategy that has gained a lot of momentum focuses on the need to develop large-scale technological interventions to control the global thermostat. Proponents of geo-engineering technologies argue that conventional adaptation and mitigation measures are simply not reducing emissions fast enough to prevent dangerous warming. Technologies such as “carbon capture and storage” (CCS), they argue, are necessary to limit damage and human suffering.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change seems to agree. In its fifth assessment report, it builds its scenarios for meeting the Paris climate goals around the concept of “negative emissions” – that is, the ability to suck excess carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

But this approach ignores serious problems with the development and deployment of geo-engineering technologies. Consider CCS, which is the process of capturing waste CO2 from large sources like fossil-fuel power plants and depositing it in, say, an underground geological formation, thereby preventing it from entering the atmosphere.

It sounds good. But what makes it economical is that it enables enhanced oil recovery. In other words, the only way to make CCS cost-effective is to use it to exacerbate the problem it is supposed to address.

The supposed savior technology – bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) – is not much better. BECCS begins by producing large amounts of biomass from, say, fast-growing trees which naturally capture CO2; those plants are then converted into fuel via burning or refining, with the resulting carbon emissions being captured and sequestered.

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

What a Trump Win Means For the Global Climate Fight

What a Trump Win Means For the Global Climate Fight

Donald Trump’s ascension to the presidency signals an end to American leadership on international climate policy. With the withdrawal of U.S. support, efforts to implement the Paris agreement and avoid the most devastating consequences of global warming have suffered a huge blow.

With the unexpected triumph of Donald Trump, what’s in store for U.S. climate and energy policies? Answering that question is hard since Trump has never run a public institution and thus has no track record. His most cited comment about global warming — that it was a Chinese hoax invented to destroy American jobs — came in November 2012 from a 19-word tweet, hardly the medium for reasoned policy analysis. He promises to pump more oil and gas, restore the coal industry, and roll back regulations, but those claims are not rooted in any plan for how to achieve them. In my lifetime, no one has ever become president after having said so little about what they would actually do with the reins of power.

With so little to guide predictions, the reality of a Trump presidency has become a national Rorschach test.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Donald Trump on election night in New York City.

Conservatives and the anti-establishment imagine an ascendant Trump will set a path for a more competitive national economy, smaller government, and a stronger defense. The left predicts a horror show of policy reversals and seediness. This Rorschach test is now playing out as the country grapples with what all this means for climate and energy.

One thing is clear: The Trump administration will inflict more harm on global cooperation around climate than any prior president. After the successful Paris agreement last year, that cooperation was finally poised to make progress with decisive U.S. leadership. I doubt that a Trump presidency will kill the Paris process — too many other countries are too invested in its success.

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

Fruit and nut crops decline as climate change melts fog

Fruit and nut crops decline as climate change melts fog

California produces 95% of U.S. fruit and nut crops that depend on disappearing Tule fog.

The soupy thick tule fog that regularly blanketed the Central Valley has been slowly disappearing over the past three decades, declining by 46%, a University of California, Berkeley study has found. Tule fog is a dense ground fog that usually forms during calm winds and cold temperatures after the first significant rainfall of the season and can be so dense there is only 5 feet of visibility.

“It is jeopardizing fruit growing in California, we’re getting much lower yields” said Dennis Baldocchi, a biometeorologist at UC Berkeley and lead author of the study.

Almonds, pistachios, cherries, apricots and peaches rely on the thick ground fog to hold down temperatures and bring on a dormant period, a necessary physiological process that helps them produce buds, flowers and fruit during the growing season.

“If we don’t get enough chill, the flowers and fruit doesn’t form, an insufficient rest period impairs the ability of farmers to achieve high-quality fruit yields,” said Baldocchi, a professor of environmental science, policy and management.

In 1980, for instance, there was an average of 37 foggy days in Fresno compared with 22 now. Long-term averages were used in an attempt to correct for times of drought. Only two foggy days were recorded this past winter.

Held down by warmer air from the surrounding mountains, the fog can linger for days or even weeks and cover as much as 400 miles from Bakersfield to Red Bluff (Tehama County).

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

Peak Oil & System Justification: Avoidance

080411-042

The researchers found that being intolerant of ambiguity is associated with such conservative characteristics as unwavering certainty and strong loyalty to particular people and positions.
Conservatives don’t feel the need to jump through complex, intellectual hoops in order to understand or justify some of their positions. They are more comfortable seeing and stating things in black and white.…

THE DRAWBACKS OF AVOIDANCE

As much as those on the Right seek to avoid ambiguity, nuance, and examination of the various complexities of most significant social, political, and economic issues, the resistance to acknowledging the potentially drastic impacts and implications of a peak in oil production and climate change cannot be fairly or honestly explained in a sentence or two. Our 21st Century planet is not exactly a black and white/either-or/yes-no world.

Of course, that immediately presents a bit of a challenge. Being pre-disposed to ignoring or dismissing any set of facts which create cognitive dissonance [or stimulate the fear they are actually trying to avoid], may offer some comfort, but….For those ensconced inside their denial bubbles, choosing to ignore the very information they’ll need to manage the conditions which arouse those very fears is a curious approach.

The conservative inclination to “cut to the chase” in decision-making and policy-making is a time-saver, to be sure! But once we get beyond kindergarten or first grade problem-solving, avoiding the complexities of modern society’s greatest challenges [with the myriad perspectives, differences, needs, purposes, and expectations which contribute to both the challenges and the solutions] by cutting to the chase is at its very best intellectually lazy. Actually, it’s counterproductive in the extreme.

…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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