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Humanity’s Biggest Crisis Since WW2?

Humanity’s Biggest Crisis Since WW2?

UCSB Scientists See the End of ‘Normal’ Climate

UCSB Scientists See the End of ‘Normal’ Climate

Researcher Asks: ‘What Happens If You Know the Drought Is Never Going to End?’

Credit: Courtesy

“We are experiencing extreme, sustained drought conditions in California and across the American West caused by hotter, drier weather,” states the plan. “Our warming climate means that a greater share of the rain and snowfall we receive will be absorbed by dry soils, consumed by thirsty plants, and evaporated into the air.”

The plan says that steadily rising temperatures will overcome even a year or two of better-than-average or average rainfall in Southern California — as in 2018 and 2019 — and will not close what state officials call an “evaporative gap” that threatens California’s water supply.

This new state plan follows the climate science on “aridification.” That’s the scientific term for the “drying trend” that young climate scientist Samantha Stevenson of UCSB’s Bren School of Environmental Science and Engineering identified this year in an extensive global study of the 21st-century hydroclimate.

Danielle Touma | Credit: Courtesy

Stevenson said that she wanted to provoke new thinking about what we call drought.

“Drought is already normal in much of the western United States and other parts of the world, such as western Europe,” Stevenson said. “Part of the reason I wrote the paper was to try to say that we need to think about what we mean when we say ‘drought,’ because we’ve been using these definitions based on expectations from 40 years ago. What happens if you know the drought is never going to end?”

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

The Rise of Public Health and ‘Green’ Police: Securitization Theory

The Rise of Public Health and ‘Green’ Police: Securitization Theory

Policing has come a long way since the days of good ole boy Barney Fife.

Once upon a time, cops were tasked primarily with things like catching murderers and rapists and protecting property.

They were always used, of course, whenever necessary, to protect state interests – but, then again, the state’s interests weren’t always so obviously nefarious and illegitimate as they are today.

Law enforcement’s purview expansion is explained in large part by securitization theory.

As a result of the this process, peculiar new breeds of law enforcement – Public Health© officers and green police – have sprung up throughout the West.

Securitization theory: the advent of new security threats

The basic premise of securitization theory in political science is that, given the opportunity, a state will endlessly concoct new security “threats” as a justification to exercise greater power outside of the constraints of the normal political process:

“Securitisation theory shows us that national security policy is not a natural given, but carefully designated by politicians and decision-makers. According to securitisation theory, political issues are constituted as extreme security issues to be dealt with urgently when they have been labelled as ‘dangerous’… by a ‘securitising actor’ who has the social and institutional power to move the issue ‘beyond politics’.”

The process, in a nutshell, works like this:

  • The government identifies a new existential “threat,” either legitimate or overblown, either naturally occurring or cynically engineered by the state itself.
  • The corporate media and corporate state stoke fear about the threat into the hearts and minds of a gullible public
  • In the fog of panic, the state slyly provisions itself with new authority and resources to combat the threat, thereby increasing its power

The threats change, but whether “domestic terrorism,” COVID-19, or climate change, the process largely remains the same.

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

UCSB Scientists See the End of ‘Normal’ Climate

UCSB Scientists See the End of ‘Normal’ Climate

Researcher Asks: ‘What Happens If You Know the Drought Is Never Going to End?’

Credit: Courtesy

In August, Governor Gavin Newsom and officials from the Department of Water Resources released a new Water Supply Strategy, saying that because of California’s “hotter, drier climate,” the state needed to find at least 10 percent more water to supply its farms, cities, and industry by 2040.

“We are experiencing extreme, sustained drought conditions in California and across the American West caused by hotter, drier weather,” states the plan. “Our warming climate means that a greater share of the rain and snowfall we receive will be absorbed by dry soils, consumed by thirsty plants, and evaporated into the air.”

The plan says that steadily rising temperatures will overcome even a year or two of better-than-average or average rainfall in Southern California — as in 2018 and 2019 — and will not close what state officials call an “evaporative gap” that threatens California’s water supply.

This new state plan follows the climate science on “aridification.” That’s the scientific term for the “drying trend” that young climate scientist Samantha Stevenson of UCSB’s Bren School of Environmental Science and Engineering identified this year in an extensive global study of the 21st-century hydroclimate.

Danielle Touma | Credit: Courtesy

Stevenson said that she wanted to provoke new thinking about what we call drought.

“Drought is already normal in much of the western United States and other parts of the world, such as western Europe,” Stevenson said. “Part of the reason I wrote the paper was to try to say that we need to think about what we mean when we say ‘drought,’ because we’ve been using these definitions based on expectations from 40 years ago. What happens if you know the drought is never going to end?”

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

Global ‘Stilling’: Is Climate Change Slowing Down the Wind?

Global ‘Stilling’: Is Climate Change Slowing Down the Wind?

As carbon dioxide levels rise and the Earth’s poles warm, researchers are predicting a decline in the planet’s wind speeds. This ‘stilling’ could impact wind energy production and plant growth and might even affect the Gulf Stream, which drives much of the world’s climate.

Last year, from summer into fall, much of Europe experienced what’s known as a “wind drought.” Wind speeds in many places slowed about 15 percent below the annual average, and in other places, the drop was even more pronounced. It was one of the least windy periods in the United Kingdom in the past 60 years, and the effects on power generation were dramatic. Wind farms produced 18 percent of the U.K.’s power in September of 2020, but in September of 2021, that percentage plummeted to only 2 percent. To make up the energy gap, the U.K. was forced to restart two mothballed coal plants.

The recent declines in surface winds over Europe renewed concerns about a “global terrestrial stilling” linked with climate change. From 1978 until 2010, research showed a worldwide stilling of winds, with speeds dropping 2.3 percent per decade. In 2019, though, a group of researchers found that after 2010, global average wind speeds had actually increased — from 7 miles per hour to 7.4 miles per hour.

Despite those conflicting data, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change forecasts slowing winds for the coming decades. By 2100, that body says, average annual wind speeds could drop by up to 10 percent.

“Why do we have wind at all on the planet?” asks Paul Williams, who studies wind as a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Reading in England. “It’s because of uneven temperatures — very cold at the poles and warm at the tropics. That temperature difference drives the winds, and that temperature difference is weakening. The Arctic is warming faster than the tropics.”

Intense heat and flooding are wreaking havoc on power and water systems as climate change batters America’s aging infrastructure

The 1960s and 1970s were a golden age of infrastructure development in the U.S., with the expansion of the interstate system and widespread construction of new water treatment, wastewater and flood control systems reflecting national priorities in public health and national defense. But infrastructure requires maintenance, and, eventually, it has to be replaced.

That hasn’t been happening in many parts of the country. Increasingly, extreme heat and storms are putting roads, bridges, water systems and other infrastructure under stress.

Two recent examples – an intense heat wave that pushed California’s power grid to its limits in September 2022, and the failure of the water system in Jackson, Mississippi, amid flooding in August – show how a growing maintenance backlog and increasing climate change are turning the 2020s and 2030s into a golden age of infrastructure failure.

I am a civil engineer whose work focuses on the impacts of climate change on infrastructure. Often, low-income communities and communities of color like Jackson see the least investment in infrastructure replacements and repairs.

Crumbling bridge and water systems

The United States is consistently falling short on funding infrastructure maintenance. A report by former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Paul Volcker’s Volcker Alliance in 2019 estimated the U.S. has a US$1 trillion backlog of needed repairs.

Over 220,000 bridges across the country – about 33% of the total – require rehabilitation or replacement.

A water main break now occurs somewhere in the U.S. every two minutes, and an estimated 6 million gallons of treated water are lost each day. This is happening at the same time the western United States is implementing water restrictions amid the driest 20-year span in 1,200 years. Similarly, drinking water distribution in the United States relies on over 2 million miles of pipes that have limited life spans.

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

Risk of passing multiple climate tipping points escalates above 1.5°C global warming

09/09/2022 – Multiple climate tipping points could be triggered if global temperature rises beyond 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, according to a major new analysis published in the journal Science. Even at current levels of global heating the world is already at risk of passing five dangerous climate tipping points, and risks increase with each tenth of a degree of further warming. An international research team synthesised evidence for tipping points, their temperature thresholds, timescales, and impacts from a comprehensive review of over 200 papers published since 2008, when climate tipping points were first rigorously defined.
Risk of passing multiple climate tipping points escalates above 1.5°C global warming
Tipping points world map. Figure by Biermann/PIK, based on Armstrong McKay et al, 2020

The research, published in advance of a major conference “Tipping Points: from climate crisis to positive transformation” at the University of Exeter (12-14th September), concludes human emissions have already pushed Earth into the tipping points danger zone. Five of the sixteen may be triggered at today’s temperatures: the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets, widespread abrupt permafrost thaw, collapse of convection in the Labrador Sea, and massive die-off of tropical coral reefs. Four of these move from possible events to likely at 1.5°C global warming, with five more becoming possible around this level of heating.

Lead author David Armstrong McKay from Stockholm Resilience Centre, University of Exeter, and the Earth Commission says, “We can see signs of destabilisation already in parts of the West Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets, in permafrost regions, the Amazon rainforest, and potentially the Atlantic overturning circulation as well.”

“The chance of crossing tipping points can be reduced by rapidly cutting greenhouse gas emissions”

“The world is already at risk of some tipping points. As global temperatures rise further, more tipping points become possible.” he adds. “The chance of crossing tipping points can be reduced by rapidly cutting greenhouse gas emissions, starting immediately.”

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

As the planet warms, people are moving. Will Canada welcome them?

As droughts, deteriorating farmland and rising sea levels push people around the world from their homes, advocates in Canada are calling on the federal government to support those who are — and will be — displaced by the climate crisis.

Last week, Climate Action Network Canada (CAN-Rac), a body of more than 100 environmental groups across the country, sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Immigration Minister Sean Fraser asking them to grant permanent residency to all 1.7 million migrants in Canada, including half a million undocumented people. This “regularization” process is key to climate justice, explained Caroline Brouillette, national policy manager for CAN-Rac.

“Fighting the climate crisis is not only about reducing our emissions, it’s about how we care for one another — and that’s why we’re asking for this,” she said.

Climate change is already a factor causing people to immigrate to Canada, said Syed Hussan, the executive director of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC), which worked with CAN-Rac to send the letter. But while climate migrants come to the country as workers, students or refugees, they “may not even be able to describe their experiences having resulted from climate change.”

He said many migrants’ understanding of climate change is that it causes poverty.

“[Climate change is] actually closely linked to economic deterioration,” Hussan explained.

Take farmers, for example. Soil degradation is one of climate change’s greatest impacts, he said. Poor soil means poor crops, forcing farmers to move to towns and cities to find work. But many fail to find jobs in larger urban centres, he added, leaving them no choice but to leave their home country and seek opportunities in Canada.

Taming The Greedocracy

American elites want magical technological fixes to climate change because they refuse to confront the truth that seriously addressing the problem would require limits to their own power and luxury.

Few of us want to face the climate mess. The numbers are scary and confusing, and the facts have never been reported in a way that actually generates public understanding. “The media are complacent while the world burns,” Mark Hertsgaard and Kyle Pope declare in the Columbia Journalism Review. There’s plenty of data to back up this bold assertion: based on an analysis of 600 New York Times articles on climate change, a UC Berkeley report states that “the vast majority contained none of the five basic climate facts,” meaning that readers are left uneducated about the truth and scope of the problem. (The five criteria the researchers used are that global warming is happening, that burning fossil fuels produces greenhouse gases that create warming, that 90%+ of climate scientists agree on the human causes of warming, that there is now more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than there has been for hundreds of thousands of years, and that warming is permanent.)

It’s not just a lack of effective information: many media movers and shakers claim that climate coverage is “a palpable ratings killer” in the first place, and so they tend to curtail or water down their coverage. Of course there are exceptions—an article in New York by David Wallace-Wells beat the supposed “traffic Kryptonite” curse (over 6 million hits, which led to his book The Uninhabitable Earth). Wallace-Wells has stated that “being alarmed is what the facts demand.” …

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

 

‘Soon the world will be unrecognisable’: is it still possible to prevent total climate meltdown?

Globe with steam rising from it. North and South America in view.
Record high temperatures and extreme weather events are being recorded around the world. Photograph: Ian Logan/Getty Images

Blistering heatwaves are just the start. We must accept how bad things are before we can head off global catastrophe, according to a leading UK scientist

The publication of Bill McGuire’s latest book, Hothouse Earth, could not be more timely. Appearing in the shops this week, it will be perused by sweltering customers who have just endured record high temperatures across the UK and now face the prospect of weeks of drought to add to their discomfort.

And this is just the beginning, insists McGuire, who is emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London. As he makes clear in his uncompromising depiction of the coming climatic catastrophe, we have – for far too long – ignored explicit warnings that rising carbon emissions are dangerously heating the Earth. Now we are going to pay the price for our complacency in the form of storms, floods, droughts and heatwaves that will easily surpass current extremes.

The crucial point, he argues, is that there is now no chance of us avoiding a perilous, all-pervasive climate breakdown. We have passed the point of no return and can expect a future in which lethal heatwaves and temperatures in excess of 50C (120F) are common in the tropics; where summers at temperate latitudes will invariably be baking hot, and where our oceans are destined to become warm and acidic. “A child born in 2020 will face a far more hostile world that its grandparents did,” McGuire insists.

Bill McGuire.
Bill McGuire is emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London and was also an adviser to the UK government.

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

What Does An Ecological Civilization Look Like?

What Does An Ecological Civilization Look Like?

A society based on natural ecology might seem like a far-off utopia—yet communities everywhere are already creating it.


As a new, saner administration sets up shop in Washington, D.C., there are plenty of policy initiatives this country desperately needs. Beyond a national plan for the COVID-19 pandemic, progressives will strive to focus the administration’s attention on challenges like fixing the broken health care system, grappling with systemic racial inequities, and a just transition from fossil fuels to renewables.

These are all critically important issues. But here’s the rub: Even if the Democratic administration were resoundingly successful on all fronts, its initiatives would still be utterly insufficient to resolve the existential threat of climate breakdown and the devastation of our planet’s life-support systems. That’s because the multiple problems confronting us right now are symptoms of an even more profound problem: The underlying structure of a global economic and political system that is driving civilization toward a precipice.

Take a moment to peer beyond the day-to-day crises capturing our attention, and you quickly realize that the magnitude of the looming catastrophe makes our current political struggles, by comparison, look like arguing how to stack deck chairs on the Titanic.

The climate emergency we’re facing is far worse than most people realize. While it was clearly an essential step for the United States to rejoin the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, the collective pledges on greenhouse gas emissions from that agreement are woefully insufficient. They would lead to a dangerous temperature rise of more than 2 degrees Celsius this century—and many nations are failing to make even these targets. We are rapidly approaching—if we haven’t already passed—climate tipping points with reinforcing feedback loops that would lead to an unrecognizable and terrifying world.

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

James Howard Kunstler: It’s All Going to Have to Get Smaller

James Howard Kunstler: It’s All Going to Have to Get Smaller

“I’m not a techno-narcissist. I don’t think there are technological rescue remedies that will allow us to keep doing what we’re doing…”

— James Howard Kunstler

There is a prevailing fallacy, despite warning signs to the contrary (looming peak oil, fragile markets, and climate weirdness, among others), that we can continue in perpetuity the lifestyle to which we’ve become accustomed. All we need to do is to pump into The System more debt or more political insanity, or hope that alternative energies or some new techno-solution will bail us out.

But, at best, all debt-fueled growth, shale oil “miracles” and green fuels can do by themselves is to make the Long Emergency just “a little bit longer.”

“The Long Emergency” is a phrase coined by James Howard Kunstler to describe the economic, political and social upheavals that will dominate the first decades of the 21st-century as the honeymoon of affordable energy comes to a close. It is also the name of Kunstler’s seminal book on the topic. (The Long Emergency is one of fifteen books on our “Essential Reading List for the Strong Towns Thinker.”)

James Howard Kunstler is our very special guest on today’s episode of the Strong Towns podcast. He is the author of more than 20 books, including The Geography of Nowhere, Too Much Magic, and the World Made By Hand novel series.

In this episode, Strong Towns president Charles Marohn talks with Kunstler about what has changed—or perhaps what hasn’t changed—since The Long Emergency was first published in 2005. Kunstler explains why the “psychology of previous investment” (4:45) makes it so hard for most people to imagine living differently. Marohn and Kunstler also discuss (17:00) what’s wrong with the Green Revolution narrative that we can keep doing everything we’re doing now, if just “do it green”:

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

Wide Awake

Wide Awake

Extinction is the rule. Survival is the exception.” – Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan was a brilliant scientist, gifted orator, skilled teacher, and effective advocate for his strongly held beliefs. It is no exaggeration to say that Sagan is likely responsible for inspiring more people to pursue a career in the sciences than any other person in history. His 13-part television documentary Cosmos: A Personal Journey – which first premiered on PBS in 1980 and is still stunningly well-worth watching to this day – is widely regarded as one of the best science-themed series ever produced. Sagan knew how to turn a phrase to enchant an audience and routinely did so with a level of passion and charisma that cannot be faked.

In the climactic final episode of Cosmos titled Who Speaks for Earth? Sagan makes an impassioned plea for nuclear de-escalation. The first nine minutes of the piece are particularly spellbinding, and the introduction draws to a close with Sagan walking along a rocky shoreline where he delivers a historic monologue (emphasis added throughout):

The civilization now in jeopardy is all humanity. As the ancient myth makers knew, we are children equally of the earth and sky. In our tenure on this planet, we have accumulated dangerous, evolutionary baggage – propensities for aggression and ritual, submission to leaders, hostility to outsiders, all of which puts our survival in some doubt. We have also acquired compassion for others, love for our children, a desire to learn from history and experience, and a great, soaring passionate intelligence – the clear tools for our continued survival and prosperity.

Which aspects of our nature will prevail is uncertain, particularly when our visions and prospects are bound to one small part of the small planet earth. But up and in the cosmos, an inescapable perspective awaits. National boundaries are not evidenced when we view the earth from space…

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

Climate change, energy, and an unstable grid: The mainstream belatedly gets the connections

Climate change, energy, and an unstable grid: The mainstream belatedly gets the connections

Memorial Day marks the unofficial beginning of summer in the United States as the temperate breezes of spring give way to an enveloping heat that has become more and more intense each year due to climate change. This summer forecasters are expecting two big things: deadly heat and electricity outages. Mainstream news coverage is now explaining why these are inextricably intertwined, a relatively new development in such coverage. And, it turns out that the recent blistering record heatwave in India and Pakistan is but a foretaste of our future.

Those of us who have covered climate change in the last two decades believed that by the time such connections became obvious and noted by mainstream outlets, the world would be so far along in the process of global warming that stability-challenging events such as grid failures would become normal.

That’s because of the lag time between when we introduce greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and when we experience the warming caused by them is between 25 and 50 years. This is due to what’s called the thermal inertia of the oceans which means more or less that the oceans take time to warm (usually decades). Even if we were to take drastic action now that stopped all further emissions of greenhouse gases, the world would be in for several more decades of rising temperatures. But, of course, we as a global society are instead pursuing business as usual.

I can remember as a child living largely without air-conditioning. We would experience nights so cool at the cottage we rented along the shores of Lake Michigan that we would close all the shutters and cover ourselves with wool blankets.

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

Our Impending Impasse and Sid Smith’s New Series

Our Impending Impasse and Sid Smith’s New Series

Keowee Toxaway State Park, South Carolina
I have a backlog of articles I have started but haven’t yet finished, so I’m starting with this one which has to do with our impending impasse. I think William Catton, Jr. worded that very well. It actually comes from his book, Bottleneck: Humanity’s Impending Impasse, in which a review is available hereFor those unfamiliar with Catton, he wrote (among other books), Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change, and along with other pioneering giants such as Paul Ehrlich (The Population Bomb) and Dennis and Donella Meadows (The Limits to Growth), he brought awareness to the simple fact that society was breaching planetary limits and beginning to reach tipping points in planetary systems. 

Nowadays, it seems that everyone is getting in on some predicament; whether it is climate change, population growth, energy and resource decline (peak oil), pollution loading, or many others, these are all symptom predicaments of ecological overshoot, the master predicament. While I think it is great to have goals and to work towards those goals, I also think it is important to have goals that are not incongruent to what one is working towards. In other words, if one is working towards solving a particular issue, making the issue worse instead of better is senseless. Yet most people have little if any awareness that their favorite goal when it comes to the environment (often climate change) is getting further and further away rather than closer. As long as ecological overshoot is allowed to continue increasing, ANY environmental goal along with most other goals will continue fading into the distance.

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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