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Fracking and Shale Drilling Caused Spike in Climate-Warming Methane Pollution, Says New Study

Fracking and Shale Drilling Caused Spike in Climate-Warming Methane Pollution, Says New Study

Flaring in Permian Basin Shale with sunflowers

Climate-changing pollution reached unprecedented levels in 2018. That’s both judged against the last 60 years of modern measurements and against 800,000 years of data culled from ice cores, according to the U.S. government’s State of the Climate report, which was published this week with the American Meteorological Society.

That pollution creates a greenhouse effect that is over 42 percent stronger than it was in 1990, the report added.

And while carbon dioxide hit a new level last year, it isn’t the only climate-changing gas that’s on the rise globally. Pollution of the powerful but short-lived greenhouse gas methane also climbed in 2018, showing an increase “higher than the average growth rate over the past decade,” the report adds.

A new Cornell University study published today in the scientific journal Biogeosciences helps to explain what sparked the surge in those methane concentrations, both here in the U.S. and around the world.

One big culprit: shale drilling and fracking.

“This recent increase in methane is massive,” said Cornell professor Robert Howarth, who authored that study. “It’s globally significant. It’s contributed to some of the increase in global warming we’ve seen and shale gas is a major player.”

The new Cornell paper relies on “chemical fingerprints” of the methane pollution in the Earth’s atmosphere. It describes how methane molecules from shale gas and oil production carry different kinds of carbon than methane from either conventional natural gas drilling or coal beds. The methane molecules from shale drilling contain less of the carbon-13 isotope versus carbon-12, the study suggests, using this ratio as one way to hone in on the source of the natural gas.

That chemical fingerprint led the Cornell researchers to point to the shale industry as the major source of the leaks.

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

Climate change risks could cause an American “Fukushima”

Climate change risks could cause an American “Fukushima”

Preface. Nuclear power plants need a constant supply of electric power to pump cool water into a reactor’s core.

Ninety percent of them, 54 plants, have at least one flood risk exceeding their design.

If flooding stops the power supply long enough, as happened in Fukushima, the core can overheat, melting through its container, as well as the nearby spent nuclear fuel pools which unlike the core, are in the open air, releasing deadly levels of radiation.

*** Some excerpts from:

Flavelle, C., et al. 2019. U.S. Nuclear Power Plants Weren’t Built for Climate Change. Bloomberg.

The NRC directed the operators of the 60 or so working U.S. nuclear power plants to evaluate their current flood risk, using the latest weather modeling technology and accounting for the effects of climate change. Companies were told to compare those risks with what their plants, many almost 50 years old, were built to withstand, and, where there was a gap, to explain how they would close it.

That process has revealed a lot of gaps. But Gregory Jaczko, former chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and others say that the commission’s new leadership, appointed by President Donald Trump, hasn’t done enough to require owners of nuclear power plants to take preventative measures—and that the risks are increasing as climate change worsens.

Ninety percent of plants, 54 of them, have at least one flood risk exceeding their design. Fifty-three weren’t built to withstand their current risk from intense precipitation; 25 didn’t account for current flood projections from streams and rivers; 19 weren’t designed for their expected maximum storm surge; 19 face three or more threats that they weren’t designed to handle.

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

Neoliberalism and Environmental Calamity

Neoliberalism and Environmental Calamity

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

Current conditions represent a political emergency of sorts, meaning that ways of solving environmental and social problems will either be worked out or circumstances, led by the environment, will assume a life of their own. Given that these conditions are the result of historical processes that were decades and centuries in the making, understanding how we got here is crucial to resolving them.

The relevant ‘we’ here is being redefined through the relation of late-stage capitalism to the world. Climate change and species loss are shifting boundaries, shrinking the universe of arable land, breathable air and drinkable water. Fortress America, previously a conflation of place with one’s status in the imperial order, is largely the source of this vengeful gravity. Political geography is about to get interesting.

In this regard, the IPCC just won’t quit issuing proclamations. Joining climate change and mass extinction is dead and dying land. It seems that you can’t just denude a few hundred million acres of arable land, destroying the ecosystems to which it belongs, without consequences. What mystical clairvoyance could have imagined such an outcome? And more to the point, what can be done about it?

With updates on the breadth and depth of environmental calamity coming fast and furious, still missing is the political path to salvation. The only certainty— as offered by the authors of said calamity, is that we, the little people who add up to 90% or thereabouts of the demos, want— nay demand, calamity. The proof: we still eat, live indoors, wear clothing and find our way to and from work.

However, this is but mere paraphrase. The direct proof is that we consume. And we do so through the social mechanisms— stores, the internet, etc., that have been provided. From this slim foundation the certainty is built that we ‘demanded’ state corporatism, a/k/a neoliberalism, a/k/a rule from above. Markets are the transfer mechanism through which the purchase of a bag of rice becomes support for industrial agriculture.

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

Why I went underground and how I am enjoying my subterranean life

Why I went underground and how I am enjoying my subterranean life

Here is one of the windows of my new home. No, not the big one. Look at where my wife, Grazia, is pointing. Yes, that one!

This summer in Florence we already had two vicious heat waves. As I am writing, we are in the middle of the third one, even more vicious. It has been, actually, a continuous period of very high temperatures punctuated by a few storms that brought the usual floods and disasters.

Global warming is no joke. If you don’t plan for these heat waves you seriously risk your life, especially if you are not so young and you are not in perfect health. And people do die: we don’t have statistical data for this year, yet, but the reports from countries like Italy, Europe, India, and Japan tell of tens, maybe hundreds, of victims and thousands hospitalized.

As usual, people here and everywhere in the world suffer from the syndrome that Daniel Pauly calls “shifting baselines.” They seem to think that it is all normal because that’s what they have been seeing during the past decade or so. And they don’t seem to realize that they are living in houses that were designed and built in a world where heat waves were occasional and lasted just a few days, not the rule for more than one month per year.

Most homes in Florence have no air conditioning or have the kind of makeshift units that make a lot of noise but don’t do much to lower temperatures. Some people insist on saying that air-conditioning is “not ecological” because it consumes energy. In other cases, the city regulations forbid people to install the external unit of a truly efficient air conditioning system. And, worst of all, very few people realize how bad it is going to be in a few years from now.

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

Is Global Warming an Existential Threat? Probably Not, But Still a Serious Issue.

Is Global Warming an Existential Threat? Probably Not, But Still a Serious Issue.

During the recent presidential debate, a number of candidates suggested that global warming represents an existential threat to mankind, and thus requires dramatic and immediate action.

Governor Jay Inslee has been particularly generous in the use of this term, but he is not alone.  Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have said the same thing, as have several media outlets and environmental interest groups.

Some of these folks also claim that the window for action on climate change is closing–Jay Inslee suggests that the next president will be the last able to take effective steps.  Others suggest 10 or 12 years.

But are these existential threat claims true?  That is what we will examine in this blog.
An existential threat is one that threatens the very existence of mankind.    Something that is a simply a challenge or an inconvenience is not an existential threat. An existential threat must have the potential to undermine the very viability of human civilization.

As described below, global warming is a serious problem and its impacts will be substantial—but in no way does it seriously threaten our species or human civilization.  And with reasonable mitigation and adaptation,  mankind will continue to move forward—reducing poverty, living healthier lives, and stabilizing our population.

What do current climate models tell us?  These models are run under specific scenarios of emission of CO2 and other greenhouse gases (see figure).   In one, RCP8.5, we simply continue doing what we are doing, with escalating use of coal and oil.  Not much renewable energy.    Many believe this scenario is too pessimistic.  Much more reasonable is RCP 4.5, which has modestly increased emissions through 2040, declining after 2050.  I suspect this one will be closer to reality.

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

Climate Crisis Means the Ruling Class has Failed. Can the Working Class Inherit the Earth?

Climate Crisis Means the Ruling Class has Failed. Can the Working Class Inherit the Earth?

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

The climate crisis is proof positive that the ruling class is an utter failure — but it will not fall on its own. Can the working class rise to the challenge? It sure will help if we understand that our class interests are not merely the economic needs of working people — no matter how important that is — but the universal interests of a healthy planet for all the people. Let’s start acting like it.

The corporate solutions to the climate crisis must dodge the causes of the crisis. The ruling class uses deception and secrecy to limit public debate. When the facts become obvious and overwhelming corporate politicians simply refuse to debate it. Gag rules are back in fashion. When the people demand a Green New Deal the same politicians water it down and disarm it.

Power For Profit is Still the Prime Directive

Meanwhile, the Corporate State pursues the only agenda it has ever known: power and profit. If we accept corporate empire as normal, natural or eternal there is nothing left but better management, technical fixes, adaptation, and illusions of endless growth.

Since corporate capitalism is a “grow or die” system, it cannot consider limits even at a time when planetary limits are on display for all to see and verified by our best science. For example, there is no place in corporate plans for the conservation of energy despite the fact that energy not used is the truest form of clean energy. Instead of keeping in the ground, it’s always more and more.

Former Trump Secretary of State and former Exxon-Mobile CEO, Rex Tillerson repeats the managerial view.

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

1177 BC – The Collapse of Society System-Wide

1177 BC – The Collapse of Society System-Wide 

QUESTION: I do not believe you have ever commented on Eric Cline’s book 1177BC, the year civilization collapsed. Do you think this is likely what we face or is this different?

WL

ANSWER: There were about eight civilizations that all collapsed with the exception of Egypt post-1250 BC. It was caused by a major shift in climate that led to droughts which resulted in the widespread famine that inspired migrations/invasions. This event of 1177BC was the Bronze Age equivalent to the fall of Rome, for they both were followed by a Dark Age.

Many have attributed this collapse of the Bronze Age to the Sea Peoples, which were most likely northern Mediterranean mass migrants due to the climate getting colder in Europe. Cline has put together a nice assembly of sources, but he missed the climate change. He assumed there was a migration southward. However, we can see the first dip to cold came about 1,800 years ago. We can see that the all-time high temperature was about 3,300 years ago.

The collapse of the Bronze Age was mostly complete by about 1100-1000 BC. Our computer has identified a 1720-year cycle beginning in the Dark Ages with the fall of Rome in 476 AD when the last pretend Emperor reigned (Romulus Augustus (575-476AD)). Our model highlighted the cycle between the Dark Ages of 1720 years which brings us to 1244 BC — right on target for the beginning of the collapse of civilization.

How Civilization Collapses
1) Collapse in centralized government
2) The rich flee and economic growth declines
3) The economy implodes without investment
4) Birth rates decline with population
5) People migrate and abandon urbanization

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

Global Warming and U.S. National Security Diplomacy

Global Warming and U.S. National Security Diplomacy

Old power station, West Linn, Oregon. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Control of oil has long been a key aim of U.S. foreign policy. The Paris climate agreements and any other Green programs to reduce the pace of global warming are viewed as threatening the aim of dominating world energy markets by keeping economies dependent on oil under U.S. control. Also blocking U.S. willingness to help stem global warming is the oil industry’s economic and hence political power. Its product is not only energy but also global warming, along with plastic pollution.

This fatal combination of the national security state’s mentality and oil industry lobbying threatens to destroy the planet’s climate. The prospect of raising temperatures and sea levels along the coasts while inland regions suffer drought is viewed simply as collateral damage to the geopolitics of oil. The State Department is reported to have driven out individuals warning about global warming’s negative impact.[1]

The only attempts to restrict oil imports are the new Cold War trade sanctions to isolate Russia, Iran and Venezuela. The aim is to increase foreign dependence on U.S., British and French oil, giving American strategists the power to make other countries “freeze in the dark” if they follow a path diverging from U.S. diplomatic aims.

It was the drive to control the world’s oil trade – and to keep it dollarized – that led the United States to overthrow the Iranian government in 1953, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney to invade Iraq in 2013, and most recently for Donald Trump to isolate Iran while backing Saudi Arabia and its Wahabi foreign legion in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Sixty years earlier, in 1953, the CIA and Britain joined to overthrow Iran’s elected President Mohammad Mosaddegh to prevent him from nationalizing the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. A similar strategy explains U.S. attempts at regime change in Venezuela and Russia.

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

The Uninhabitable Earth.

The Uninhabitable Earth.

This is a book review that I wrote, which will be published in the journal, Science Progress, of which I am an editor.
“The Uninhabitable Earth.” DAVID WALLACE-WELLS. Allen Lane 2019 ISBN 9780241355213; xx + 310 pp; £20.00

As set in motion by human hands, the forces of the Anthropocene – a word coined to mark the scale of our intervention in Nature as numbering among those of previous geological epochs – are predicted to drive the Earth system in expressing climate change to a degree that for many of the almost 8 billion, let alone 11-12 billion predicted to be here by 2100, the Earth would have become barely tolerable, and for some, actually uninhabitable, depending on the degree of warming that prevails by then, and the attendant consequences to the natural commons of air, land and water, which would be manifest unevenly around the globe. Even if we could halt our carbon emissions, instantly and today, the intrinsic inertia of the Earth system would nonetheless unfold the rising of sea levels, the degradation of land, and other changes (some, as yet, unknown) for centuries, perhaps millennia, to come. The book, “Uninhabitable Earth”, begins with “Cascades”, and takes a look at some of the likely consequences of climate change, the magnitude of which will be tuned according to the degree of warming that is unleashed, including mass migration of climate refugees, water scarcity, famine, a more extreme climate,  wildfires, outbreaks of disease, and extreme “once every 500 years” events that become more the norm (“rain bombs”, mighty hurricanes), since the effects are not binary – “yes”, “no”; “on”, “off” – but exponential, and worsen over time, so long as we continue to produce, and release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

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

Human Activity Caused Latest European Heat Wave, Scientists Say

Human Activity Caused Latest European Heat Wave, Scientists Say

The latest heat wave that crippled Paris with 109 degree Fahrenheit heat and saw the mercury hit 104 degrees Fahrenheit in the Netherlands and Belgium was caused by humans, according to a new studypublished on Friday, as the Associated Press reported. 

The rapid attribution study by a team of respected climate scientists from the international partnership at the World Weather Attribution Group found that the heat wave in France was made 10 to 100 more times more likely by human activity. And, the heat wave that had Great Britain sweltering was made twice as likely by human activity, according to the BBC.

“It is noteworthy that every heat wave analyzed so far in Europe in recent years (2003, 2010, 2015, 2017, 2018, June 2019, and this study) was found to be made much more likely and more intense due to human-induced climate change. How much more depends very strongly on the event definition: location, season, intensity, and durations,” the World Weather Attribution Group’s report explained, as Common Dreams reported. “The July 2019 heat wave was so extreme over continental Western Europe that the observed magnitudes would have been extremely unlikely without climate change.”

The group published this report, just one month after studying another European heat wave. The back-to-back heat waves are unusual and jarring. The report’s lead author sounded the alarm that this latest heat wave is a foreboding omen of what is coming down the pike.

“What will be the impacts on agriculture? What will the impacts on water?” said Robert Vautard of the Institut Pierre-Simon Laplace in France, as the AP reported. “This will put really tension in society that we may not be so well equipped to cope with.”

The record-setting temperatures in France and Germany smashed the previous highs by more than 2 degrees Celsius. The study concluded that without temperature rises due to the human-induced climate crisis, temperatures would have been 1.5 to 3 degrees Celsius lower, according to the AP.

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

Fires in Arctic Ice, Exposed on Mountains of the Heart

Fires in Arctic Ice, Exposed on Mountains of the Heart

PR: Recently, the temperature in Paris rose to 108.7 F (42.6 C) surpassing the previous record by 4 F (2.2 C) set on July 28, 1947 of 104.7 F (40.4 C).

Shortly thereafter, during an email exchange with an old friend, a prominent (if the term prominent can still be applied to the professionally marginalised and culturally obscure field of psychoanalysis) Jungian analyst, I addressed this question: Do you still insist my dread pertaining to atmospherically trapped, humankind-generated greenhouse gas emissions are a, veiled in metaphor, longing for human warmth — the stuff of consulting room pathos expressed, in Jungian patois, as Puer aeternus’ (in latin, eternal boy) displaced pothos? Or I was/am highly sensitive to the earth’s (a living entity’s) suffering and I was/am psychically streaming the lament of an aspect of the pantheistic mind of the godhead (i.e., archetypal reality)? Withal, Pan would be apt to rise in the form of panic. According to Greek myth, the gods of the Olympian pantheon are amused and humanity enlivened by Pan’s earthly musks and randy proclivities. But, in our atomised time, Arcana is transubstantiated into a pixel arcade of empty sensation. The breath of the living earth has been shunted from experience thus one hyperventilates…mortified by a subliminal apprehension of the dehumanising, abysmal nature of the medium.

When the weather conditions of the planet churn in humankind inflicted chaos, what is the concomitant effect on the psychical weather systems of individuals? What essences are dispatched from the Great Soul of the implicate order to artists? For example, the canvases of Bruegel the Elder, liming in the language of dreams, the clash of status quo Catholicism and the sectarian shit-storm evoked by the Protestant Reformation?

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

As Cost of Climate Crisis Grows, Climate Movement Escalates

AS COST OF CLIMATE CRISIS GROWS, CLIMATE MOVEMENT ESCALATES

The warnings of climate chaos are coming so fast they are difficult to keep up with. Storms, heatwaves and climate-related weather disasters are increasing at a rapid pace. The leadership of the two corporate-dominated political parties are trying to keep the climate issue out of the 2020 campaign, but the movement is becoming too big to ignore.

Climate justice protests against fossil fuel infrastructure, politicians and the media are also growing. An industry publication describes how activists are “driving pipeline rejections” reporting, “From large, interstate pipelines to small lines connecting towns and neighborhoods, anti-fossil fuel activists have proven highly successful at blocking, through regulations or lawsuits, new natural gas infrastructure in the Northeastern United States.”

Day 214 of blockade against the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

Reports of Climate Chaos Increase

Several reports in recent weeks are expressing new concerns about the climate crisis.

An MIT study published this week found that we may be “at the precipice of excitation.” MIT researchers reported that when the rate at which carbon dioxide enters the oceans pushes past a certain critical threshold, it can trigger a reflex of severe ocean acidification that lasts for 10,000 years. The history of the earth shows that over the last 540 million years, this has coincided with four of the five great mass extinctions. Today’s oceans are absorbing carbon at an order of magnitude faster than the worst case in the geologic record, even though humans have only been extracting carbon for the last 100 years. This is likely to be similar to past global catastrophes potentially culminating in the Earth’s sixth mass extinction.

June 20  report by the Center for Climate Integrity found that US coastal communities face more than $400 billion in costs over the next 20 years, much of it sooner, to defend themselves from inevitable sea-level rise.

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

The Vancouver Sun’s Op-ed Denying a Climate Crisis a Symbol of Wider Journalistic Malpractice

The Vancouver Sun’s Op-ed Denying a Climate Crisis a Symbol of Wider Journalistic Malpractice

A journalist’s role is to seek truth, especially in the face of an emergency. But the media is not doing its job.

BC wildfire
‘By publishing op-eds such as this, their newspaper isn’t serving the truth. It is polluting the public square by propagating what the best science tells us are untruths about the most pressing problem of our age.’ Photo BC Wildfire Service.

So I was disappointed when that misery coincided with the Vancouver Sun’s publication of an op-ed column by University of Guelph economics professor Ross McKitrick claiming we only have a “vague inkling” that we “might” be in a climate emergency a “decade from now.”

That comment may surprise some readers of the Sun, which has a storied past and was the most-read newspaper in Western Canada according to the most recent report from News Media Canada. After all, many of them have already experienced that emergency as a result of the climate change-fuelled wildfires which devastated British Columbia in 2017 and 2018, cloaking the Lower Mainland in smoke. It may also surprise readers who have seen this summer’s satellite images of the Arctic on fire.

And it would almost certainly surprise the scientists who authored three major peer-reviewed studies on climate change that were published a day after McKitrick’s column. Commenting on those studies for the CBC, climatologist Gavin Schmidt said they underline the fact the global heating we are seeing is “unusual in a multi-centennial context” and that we are to blame for it.

In fact, we have much more than a “vague inkling” that there is a climate emergency given the voluminous scientific research and observable evidence supporting that conclusion. 

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

Tomgram: Andrew Bacevich, Future History

Tomgram: Andrew Bacevich, Future History

In Donald Trump’s go-back-to-where-you-didn’t-come-from America, where the fear of immigrants (as well as their grotesque mistreatment) still seems on the rise, just wait. There’s so much more to come. Climate change has barely begun to hit this planet big time and yet, while there’s much writing about the grim circumstances (including gangs, drugs, and violence) that continue to send desperate Central Americans north to the U.S. border, global warming is also a growing factor in the equation. If the weather destroys the possibility of growing your food, you’ve got to do something else or go somewhere else. In the coming decades, count on one thing: thanks to the way we’re changing our very planet, ever more people are going to be uprooted from their homes and sent wandering in desperation across this globe of ours. And if you think about it, since Donald Trump is so desperately intent on aiding and abetting the intensification of global warming via fossil-fueled projects of every sort, he should really be considered the ultimate “invader” of this country. Given what we know about the reactions of those not forced to flee to those who are — to, in fact, a planet already filled with the displaced and refugees escaping violence on a scale not seen since the end of World War II — expect things to grow worse. More heat, more upheaval, more wars, and whatever turns out to follow the “populist right” on an increasingly unnerved planet, along with potentially 250 million or more displaced people by perhaps mid-century. Given the backstory so far, it’s not likely to be pretty.

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

Changing Climate, Vanishing Old Growth Bring Increase Fire Risk for Coastal Forests

Changing Climate, Vanishing Old Growth Bring Increase Fire Risk for Coastal Forests

‘It’s getting worse,’ expert warns. ‘As the climate is shifting, these factors are becoming more extreme.’

ElahoValleyFire.jpg
The 2015 wildfire in Upper Elaho Valley, about 100 kilometres northwest of Squamish, killed several old growth trees. Experts say BC’s wettest coastal forests are no longer immune to such fires. Photo via the BC Wildfire Service.

It rains in Zeballos. A lot. The village, perched at the end of a long inlet on the west coast of Vancouver Island, is surrounded by mountains and rainforest.

But despite the region’s average annual precipitation of 163 inches — more than three times that of Vancouver — the community of about 100 people was threatened when lightning sparked a wildfire last August. About 168 hectares burned over two weeks, as flames loomed over houses, and burning trees and debris tumbled down the slopes toward the village. 

Within a month, evacuation orders were placed on 27 properties. Ten months later, the order still hadn’t been fully lifted because of fears the burned slopes might slide onto the community.

The fact that some of the wettest forests in North America are now considered candidates for wildfires signals the severe shifts being caused by climate change. It means that old growth trees, critical for forest resiliency and traditionally quite fire resistant, are increasingly under threat.

“We’re seeing impacts in places in coastal B.C. that are very unique, [which] speaks to the multi-year drought we’ve been experiencing,” said Lori Daniels, a professor of forestry and conservation science at the University of British Columbia.

Last week the BC Wildfire Service released a seasonal report predicting the B.C. coast — along with Vancouver Island — will experience “above normal fire conditions” this summer.

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
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