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Global warming was blamed for evaporating the Great Lakes, now blamed for high water levels in Chicago’s ‘climate emergency’ – Updated 2

Global warming was blamed for evaporating the Great Lakes, now blamed for high water levels in Chicago’s ‘climate emergency’ – Updated 2

“What we are seeing in global warming is the evaporation of our Great Lakes.” That was Illinois Senator Dick Durbin in 2013 when Lake Michigan was at a record low. You can find plenty of claims to the same effect from the time. Nobel Prize winner Al Gore chimed in around then, too, saying climate change was driving Great Lakes levels down by causing evaporation.

But that was then and this is now.

What’s causing today’s record high levels? Climate change, naturally.

So now, citing “catastrophic lakefront erosion” from high water, Chicago just declared a climate emergency. It’s radical, and is reproduced in full below.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Durbin want the federal government to help Chicago pay for damage to its shoreline. Lightfoot’s accompanying statement is reproduced below. You’ll be relieved to see that she’s putting “equity” at the center.

Given that Lightfoot hasn’t exactly been friendly to President Trump, you might be concerned about what reception her request for federal help will get. Per the Chicago Tribune, Lightfoot acknowledged “some concern, of course,” that President Donald Trump won’t see the urgency in sending help to Chicago — a city he has treated as a public antagonist for years — to combat climate change, an issue he hasn’t deemed a high priority.

Why, yes, I’d have some concern, too, of course. She called Trump’s visit to Chicago “insulting, ignorant buffoonery.” Not that he’s vindictive or anything.

And since sustainability is emphasized in Lightfoot’s statement, I’d also have some concern about sustainability of claims about the causes of Great Lakes water fluctuations. I confess to being old enough to remember exceptionally high lake levels in the late 1970s when global cooling was blamed.

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

It’s the hottest decade–ever

It’s the hottest decade–ever 

As the decade comes to a close, environmentalists are looking back over the last ten years of supposedly ‘natural’ disasters and extreme weather. It’s alarming: there are absolutely no signs that the global climate crisis is under control.  

It just keeps on getting hotter. While Canadians are enjoying a balmy winter (which officially started on December 21, when temperatures were way above seasonal in Toronto), Australians are once again being scorched half to death. 

Temperatures peaked on December 21-22 in Victoria and South Australia with  several areas exceeding 48°C.  The heat and bone dry conditions have sparked numerous bushfires. New South Wales has been placed under a total fire ban as firefighters battle to contain more than 100 fires burning around the state, including the 400,000-hectare Gospers Mountain megafire in Wollemi national park in the Blue Mountains.  Across the globe in California, the 2019 fire season, which so far has counted close to 7000 fires, is still not over. Moreover, fires are flaring up in places where they have rarely been seen before—in the Arctic tundra and in Siberia above the Arctic circle. The chart on the left shows the startling spike in carbon emissions from Arctic wildfires that has occurred this year.

Emissions of CO2 from Arctic wildfires

It’s not hard to figure out that the increasing number of wild fires might be sparked and fanned by rising global temperatures. Meteorologists are already saying that 2019 is the planet’s second-warmest year on record, rounding off the hottest decade on Earth since those records begun. Eight of the ten warmest years have occurred this decade, and the other two were just a few years before. The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) headlined their latest assessment by saying that “2019 concludes a decade of exceptional global heat and high-impact weather”.

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Canadian Oilsands Firm Denied Its Own Science On Climate Change

Canadian Oilsands Firm Denied Its Own Science On Climate Change

While Imperial Oil was calling the link between fossil fuels and global warming an ‘unproven hypothesis,’ internal reports had confirmed the connection.

SmokestacksSunset.jpg
Contradicting the company’s own assessment of CO2 from 1970, Imperial Oil’s then chairman wrote in 1998, ‘Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant but an essential ingredient of life on this planet.’ Photo by Jonathan Franson, the Canadian Press.

Oilsands giant Imperial Oil continued to call the link between fossil fuels and global temperature rise an “unproven hypothesis” decades after its own research confirmed the industry’s role in global warming, newly released documents show.

That decision made Imperial Oil, which is majority-owned by Exxon, an early supporter of an oil industry campaign of climate denial that continues to slow progress in combating the greatest existential challenge of our time. 

Brendan DeMelle, executive director of the research group DeSmog, said the documents show that as early as the 1970s Imperial Oil had confirmed the link between fossil fuels and global warming. DeSmog and the Climate Investigations Center last week published thousands of pages of official Imperial Oil documents found in an archive in Calgary.

DeMelle said that with pressure building in the late 1990s for Canadian climate change solutions that might reduce fossil fuel consumption and hurt the company’s business model, “they start talking about scientific uncertainties and doubt.”

Imperial Oil declined to provide comment for this story, instead pointing The Tyee to its website, which states that “We believe that climate change risks warrant action and it’s going to take all of us — business, governments and consumers — to make meaningful progress.” 

That was not what the company was arguing in the late 1990s, however, as its 1996 Annual Report makes clear.

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

Buckle up. It’s time to rock the boat.

Buckle up. It’s time to rock the boat. 

The news in the summer of 2017 was all about the hurricanes in the Caribbean (three of which ripped into the US causing extensive damage), the earthquakes in Iran, Iraq, and Mexico, and disastrous, flooding in India, Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh that drowned over a thousand people and displaced millions more. 

In 2018, the roll call of natural disasters continued: stifling heatwaves in Australia, numerous destructive wildfires along the west coast of America and Canada, and more devastating hurricanes tearing into the Caribbean islands and the USA.  Then in early 2019, the monster cyclone Idai barrelled into Mozambique killing at least 1000 people and leaving almost half a million homeless.

Hurricane Maria devastated Dominica in 2017 

Are these disasters becoming more frequent, and are they somehow related to climate change?  Or do they always happen every 10 or 20 years, and so the disasters of the last few years are just a normal run of horrible weather: storms, heatwaves, and floods. 

Most people have read that scientists and meteorologists are saying that global temperatures are now increasing year after year. After 2015, which was a record-breaking year, 2016 was hotter still and then so was 2017. The five hottest years on record have all occurred since 2010. Is this just part of a normal cycle of temperature variations that sometimes go up and then eventually come down? 

Earth, wind and fire

But the warning signs are unmistakeable. The Earth is suffering from a multitude of stresses and forces that are making life miserable and dangerous–not just for the majority of people around the world, but also for most of the ecosystems and animal species that share this space with us. Something is seriously wrong. Something out there is having  a malign influence on what was once a beautiful and healthy planet.

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

Are Electric Cars Good for the Environment?

Are Electric Cars Good for the Environment?

This article is Part 5 of an 11-part series analysis of Tesla, Elon Musk and EV Revolution. You can read other parts here.

My wife loves driving the Model 3, not for all the selfish reasons I like to drive it (it is fast and quite the iPad on wheels) but because she feels she helps the environment. Is she right?

Unlike an ICE car, which takes fuel stored in the gas tank, combusts it in the engine, and thus creates kinetic energy, Tesla takes electricity stored in the battery pack and converts it directly into kinetic energy. That’s a very clean and quiet process. However, the electricity that magically appears in our electrical outlets is not a gift from Thor, the thunder god; it was generated somewhere and transmitted to us.

As I write this, I am slightly disturbed by how the topic I am about to discuss has been politicized. I am not going to debate global warming here, but let’s at least agree that an excess of carbon dioxide (CO2) and carbon monoxide (CO) is bad for you and me, and for the environment. If you disagree with me, start an ICE car in your garage, roll down the windows, and sit there for about 20 minutes. Actually, please don’t, because you’ll die. So let’s agree that a billion cars emitting CO and CO2 is not good and that if we emit less CO and CO2 it is good for air quality.

Roughly two-thirds of the electricity generated in the U.S. is sourced from fossil fuels. The good news is that only half of that comes from coal; the other half comes from natural gas, which produces half as much CO2 as coal (though it has its own side effects – it leaks methane). Another 20% of U.S. energy comes from nuclear, which produces zero carbon emissions. The remaining 17% comes from “green” sources, such as hydro (7%), wind (6.6%), and solar (1.7%).

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

Finding our common ground and common purpose

Finding our common ground and common purpose


We are living in extraordinary, stormy times. In the political sphere, a sixteen-year-old girl speaks truth to powerful global leaders in New York; in the UK, the Supreme Court finds our Government has acted unlawfully in the proroguing of Parliament. In spite of all the promises and declarations, the planet is still set for 3 degrees of global warming above pre-industrial levels, sending us more rapidly towards the tipping point for our climate and all life on earth. We are travelling through unchartered territories. Tribal and polarised politics shape the public discourse. It can feel profoundly unsettling. Where on earth is the solid ground from which we can find common purpose and make the urgent progress we need on the really critical issues facing us?

In July 2019, The RSA Food Farming and Countryside Commission (FFCC) published a series of important reports. Funded by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, this two-year independent inquiry helped to shape a new vision for safe, secure and sustainable food and farming systems and a flourishing countryside. Initially focussed on matters raised by the Brexit vote, the inquiry quickly turned its attention to the urgent issues that transcend Brexit: the crises in climate and nature, health and wellbeing and rural communities. For eighteen months, we worked with business leaders and academics across different sectors, and with citizens in their communities around the UK, to arrive at the recommendations in our report, Our Future in the LandThe report garnered widespread – and cross-party – backing, both for our recommendations and for the process by which we arrived at them. We were determined that the many and diverse perspectives we’d heard through our inquiry were respected, and that everyone who’d given their time, experience and expertise to us so generously would see their voices in our reports. And make no mistake: this is contested territory.

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

Global Warming

GLOBAL WARNING

“Sic Transit Gloria Mundi” (Thus passes the glory of the world). This phrase was used at the papal coronations between the early 1400s and 1963. It was meant to indicate the transitory or ephemeral nature of life and cycles.

As we are now facing the end of a major economic, political and cultural cycle, the world is likely to experience a dramatic change which very few are prepared for. Interestingly, the peak of economic cycles often coincide with the peaks in climate cycles. At the height of the Roman Empire, which was when Christ was born, the climate in Rome was tropical. Then the earth got cooler until the Viking era which coincided with the dark ages.

THE PROBLEM IS “THE ECONOMY STUPID” AND NOT THE CLIMATE

Yes, of course global warming has taken place recently as the effect of climate cycles. But the cycle has just peaked again which means that all the global warming activists will gradually cool down with the falling temperatures in the next few decades. The sun and the planets determine climate cycles and temperatures, like they have for many millions of years, and not human beings.

The climate activists are spending their efforts on the wrong issue. The big disaster looming for the world is not climate change but “the economy stupid” (phrase coined by Clinton).

So let’s instead look at the real coming disaster that the world needs to focus on and a number of facts that are self-evident even though very few are aware of them.

Instead of worrying about global warming, which we humans cannot effect, we should instead issue a GLOBAL WARNING about the coming economic cataclysm so that the world can be prepared for the extremely serious problems that will hit us all in the next few years.

Below I outline a potential scenario for the next 5-10 years:

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

Questions as big as the atmosphere

Questions as big as the atmosphere

A review of After Geoengineering

After Geoengineering is published by Verso Books, Oct 1 2019.

What is the best-case scenario for solar geoengineering? For author Holly Jean Buck and the scientists she interviews, the best-case scenario is that we manage to keep global warming below catastrophic levels, and the idea of geoengineering quietly fades away.

But before that can happen, Buck explains, we will need heroic global efforts both to eliminate carbon dioxide emissions and to remove much of the excess carbon we have already loosed into the skies.

She devotes most of her new book After Geoengineering: Climate Tragedy, Repair, and Restoration to proposed methods for drawing down carbon dioxide levels from the atmosphere. Only after showing the immense difficulties in the multi-generational task of carbon drawdown does she directly discuss techniques and implications of solar geoengineering (defined here as an intentional modification of the upper atmosphere, meant to block a small percentage of sunlight from reaching the earth, thereby counteracting part of global heating).

The book is well-researched, eminently readable, and just as thought-provoking on a second reading as on the first. Unfortunately there is little examination of the way future energy supply constraints will affect either carbon drawdown or solar engineering efforts. That significant qualification aside, After Geoengineering is a superb effort to grapple with some of the biggest questions for our collective future.

Overshoot

The fossil fuel frenzy in the world’s richest countries has already put us in greenhouse gas overshoot, so some degree of global heating will continue even if, miraculously, there were an instant political and economic revolution which ended all carbon dioxide emissions tomorrow. Can we limit the resulting global heating to 1.5°C? At this late date our chances aren’t good.

As Greta Thunberg explained in her crystal clear fashion to the United Nations Climate Action Summit:

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

Why People Fail to Understand There are Cycles to Everything

Why People Fail to Understand There are Cycles to Everything 

There tends to be a fairly regular 21-year cycle in extreme climate shifts with respect to volatility. There was the extreme cold of 1936, followed 21 years later with a heatwave that melted the ice in the arctic, and then going into 1978 they were talking again about the deep freeze.

Indeed, TIME magazine’s January 31, 1977, featured the cover story, “The Big Freeze.” They reported that scientists were predicting that Earth’s average temperature could drop by 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Their cited cause was, of course, that humans created global cooling. Then suddenly the climate cycles shifted and it began to warm up.

I find it astonishing how people just do not understand that cycles even exit. They think only in a linear fashion that every day is supposed to be the same and if it isn’t, OMG, somebody is to blame.

Climate Change Has been a Routine Scare Tactic Since the 1930s

Climate Change Has been a Routine Scare Tactic Since the 1930s 

QUESTION: Is there a pattern?

C

ANSWER: For whatever reason, these people have been promoting that the cities will all sink and we are the cause of it all. They have been touting this scenario since the 1930s when there was the Dust Bowl. It resurfaced after World War II when they were trying to stop rebuilding industry and the housing market which had been destroyed. The same argument appeared again in the 1960s when there was a great expansion in housing.

However, during the 1970s when things got colder, everything flipped upside down and then it was global cooling that would destroy civilization. On April 28, 1975, Newsweek magazine published an article in which they sounded the alarm bell and proposed solutions to deliberately melt the ice caps:

“Climatologists are pessimistic that political leaders will take any positive action to compensate for the climatic change, or even to allay its effects. They concede that some of the more spectacular solutions proposed, such as melting the arctic ice cap by covering it with black soot or diverting arctic rivers, might create problems far greater than those they solve. But the scientists see few signs that government leaders anywhere are even prepared to take the simple measures of stockpiling food or of introducing variables of climate uncertainty into economic projections of future food supplies.”

Then TIME magazine’s January 31, 1977 edition had the cover story featuring “The Big Freeze.” They reported that scientists were predicting that Earth’s average temperature could drop by 20 degrees fahrenheit. Their cited cause was, of course, that humans created global cooling. It just seems that humans are so powerful we can alter the universe but cannot manage to create corrupt-free governments.

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

Climate change underlies Europe’s rapid warming

Climate change underlies Europe’s rapid warming

Moscow cools off during the 2010 heat wave in Russia. Image: By visergey, via Wikimedia Commons

From the edge of the Arctic to almost the Tropic of Cancer, Europe’s rapid warming is evidenced by hotter summers − and winters.

LONDON, 5 September, 2019 − Europe’s rapid warming means the world’s hottest property could now be on the continent. It has seen the strongest intensification of heat waves anywhere in the world in the last 70 years. The hottest of hot summers are now 2.3°C hotter than they used to be.

And winter extremes of cold are dwindling. The number of extremely cold days has fallen twofold or even threefold, and the coldest days are now 3°C milder than they used to be, according to readings from 94% of the continent’s weather stations.

This, say Swiss scientists, adds up to “a climate change signal that cannot be explained by internal variability.”

That is, thanks to a steady increase in atmospheric greenhouse gases driven by ever-increasing use of fossil fuels, Europe is warming even faster than global climate models predict.

“In at least one region of the globe, global heating is already happening, and at a rate faster than predicted”

“Even at this regional scale over Europe we can see that these trends are much larger than what we would expect from natural variability,” said Ruth Lorenz, a researcher from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, also known as ETH Zurich. “That’s really a signal from climate change.”

She and colleagues report in the journal Geophysical Research Letters that they looked at observations and measurements from around 1,000 weather stations between 1950 and 2018 and then analysed the top 1% of the highest extremes of heat and humidity, and the top 1% of coldest days during the same timespan.

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

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…

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…

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…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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