Reflections on the Surface

April 21, 2011

The Mountain

This stunning timelapse film my Norwegian Photographer Terje Sorgjerd is not only a joy to watch, but also a reminder of the fragility of atmosphere and of our interconnected world. At a time when the GOP in America is revealing itself once more as a collection of idiots who are downgrading environmental protection in the name of corporate profits and individual gain, just pause with these images for a moment to reflect.

America really needs to ask itself some critical questions about its future, and if the GOP were to have its way, you can kiss goodbye to the environment.

The Mountain from Terje Sorgjerd on Vimeo.

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December 4, 2009

Copenhagen and the audacity of truth.

Courtesy of NASA Earth Observatory

Copenhagen, Denmark

It is no coincidence that the so called climategate shit has hit the fan at exactly the right time. Our 24/7 news cycle can’t get enough of conspiracy theories, and now, if you believe Christopher Booker  of the Daily Telegraph, we might as well pack it all in and sleep soundly in our beds for all time. It is quite frankly, ridiculous, how such a smugly self satisfied individual can string his thoughts together, let alone sing out as a champion of what seems to be the new chorus of scientific climate-issue scepticism that has rippled about the planet.

Copenhagen may well be a misguided squib of a conference, with politics and science clashing together like bulls in a china shop. And for all the hot air that will come of it, we can only hope that some semblance of truth will emerge. Of course, no amount of science facts will upset Booker’s army who, to paraphrase George Monbiot of the Guardian, are facing more nuanced psychological issues, such as developing immortality projects in order to boost self-esteem and find meaning that might extend beyond their own deaths.

Such subtleties are lost on closed minds.

Meanwhile, this NASA picture of the current Australian heatwave  might be a useful reminder of the intensity of climate change.

And, recently published GRACE data, from the University of Austin, Texas (nothing to do with East Anglia), has established that the previously considered safe haven of East Antarctica has been losing ice at about 57 gigatonnes per year.

“While we are seeing a trend of accelerating ice loss in Antarctica,
we had considered East Antarctica to be inviolate,” said lead author and
Senior Research Scientist Jianli Chen of the university’s Center for Space Research.
“But if it is losing mass, as our data indicate, it may be an indication the
state of East Antarctica has changed.
Since it’s the biggest ice sheet on Earth, ice loss there can have a large impact
on global sea level rise in the future.”

Much of central Africa is facing unprecedented drought that will kill millions. China is having to face up to the implications of Tibetan glacial melt that will impact millions.
And Christopher Booker is sleeping soundly in his bed.

Of course Phil Jones was right to resign and lets hope there is some serious soul searching going on in East Anglia right now, but lets not miss seeing the wood for the trees.
Otherwise we’re all just fiddling while the forest burns down.

April 2, 2008

450ppm and Rising. What is a Wedge?

London, England

How many of us out there in cyberspace have heard of a carbon wedge?

Well, for those of us who are curious, here is a superb analysis of what the Planet needs, to prevent a truly catastrophic rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations over the forthcoming decades.
Joseph Romm, writing on Gristmill (http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2008/3/31/181924/330) makes his cogent arguments in a truly sobering read. To quote:

“A wedge is a mind-bogglingly large amount of “activity.”
For instance, a post last year on the Keystone report explained that one nuclear wedge would require adding globally:
An average of 14 plants each year for the next 50 years, while building an average of 7.4 plants a year to replace those that will be retired; plus
Ten Yucca Mountains to store the waste.” …
If we built two million large (one mW) wind turbines, or 2000 gW. “Last year’s global wind power installations reached a record 20,000 mW, equivalent to 20 large-size 1 gW conventional power plants.” So we’re at half the rate needed for 1 wedge of wind (or maybe a quarter).
If the fuel economy of the 2 billion or so cars in the world in 2050 got 60 mpg, that would be one wedge.
For the conservation/peak oil folks, if the 2 billion cars in 2050 travel 5,000 miles a year, rather than 10,000.
If we grew biofuels requiring 1/6 of the world’s cropland.
…In fact, if we don’t sharply reduce deforestation, we probably need to add another two wedges
We probably need more than 14 wedges starting in 2010 to stay below 450 ppm, and we currently don’t have the political will to do more than two or three”

Is there hope?
Imagine a seachange in attitudes (so to speak). Imagine a concerted effort by all of the globe’s industrial nations to bring about constructive change. Imagine a planet that is held back from the cliff-edge of catastrophe. Imagine a future.
And then remember that deforestation is killing the Amazon; that global industrial greed is almost unstoppable; that the Malthusian population crisis is unstoppable. And remember that the Conservative Right in America is blind to the science of climate change, just as it is blind to the facts of evolution.
Today’s problems with food price inflation are nothing compared with what is to come.

January 18, 2008

Threnody for the North West Passage

North Alaska

Intrepid sailor Thoreson is becoming the first American to navigate the North West Passage. He and his crew of six are astounded by the evidence of climate change in the Arctic.

“Not only was there less ice but a record amount of less ice,” said Thoreson, whose last attempt with Swanson failed in 1994 when ice stopped them. “In fact, we didn’t encounter any ice.”

The following is courtesy of the DesMoines Register:

Locals told Thoreson about weather phenomena they had never seen before. He heard of hunters unsure if ice packs would break apart. They saw remote Alaskan villages emptied by approaching violent seas.
“The trip solidified my feelings about what is going on in the Arctic,” said Thoreson, who winters in Sante Fe, N.M.
“What I’m working on now is to relay to the public what I have learned in my travels.”
His (photography) exhibit, “20 Years/20 Stories” concludes with a call to action. Thoreson wants people in every community to explore steps to slow global warming.Someday, he plans to captain his own boat and continue his adventures. But today, he said, he is a canary just back from the coal mine.

Congratulations to Mr Thoreson and the crew for this amazing achievement. Lets hope his photography raises awareness of the changes that are happening to the Arctic.
Be reminded of one scientific prediction: that there will be no more Summer Arctic sea ice by 2013.

December 5, 2007

A cooler sun?

London, England

 Astronomers have detected that the solar sunspot cycle has ground to a halt. With an expected return of activity 12 months ago, the sun’s internal circulation is still quiescent. Now, it is believed, we may have to wait until 2009 for the sun to gear up its systems for a return to more or less normal. And, importantly, this may cool the Earth.
Meanwhile, George Monbiot writing in the UK’s Guardian argues that ifwe are to avoid runaway global warming we will require 100% cuts in emissions by 2050.
Humanity has to face up to this sort of unpredictability right now. On the one hand we face catastrophe through overheating; on the other, we may be spared global warming for a while.
Are we capable of responsible change? Do we care?
Or will the human race simply consume itself into oblivion?

November 7, 2007

Arctic Futurology

London, England

Most neuropsychologists would agree that one of the distinguishing features of the human brain is its highly complex frontal cortex which enables high-level planning and thought patterns to take place in abstract time.
We’re talking about future here. Planning ahead; thinking of consequences; anticipating outcomes… in other words, intelligence.
With news this week that humpback and fin whales are swimming hundreds of kilometres further north than ever before, it is again, time to sit up and listen and think ahead.
To quote Deborah Williams a former Department of Interior special assistant for Alaska who is now an advocate for finding solutions to climate change:
“We now have even more compelling reasons to protect the Arctic Ocean and the species dramatically affected by climate change…
Now one of the things that has struck me in recent weeks is an astonishing level of complacency emerging amongst certain writers and commentators on the matter of climate change.
Books are being published that offer a stunning insight into the capacity of the human mind to delude itself in the face of the obvious.
They argue that climate change will be seen to be not so bad after all… that climate change is happening, but its out of our control… etc etc
Its almost as if the human race is poised at an impasse. Do we begin the process of relearning how to integrate and care for our biosphere or do we shrug our shoulders and give in?
Well, our ancestors evolved in harmony with the natural world for millenia and the earth did not suffer.
Unfortunately, the earth’s capacity to absorb human effluence is being tested in ways that are having irreversible consequences.
This is the big test now.
Can our intelligence prove its worth? Is the human race truly superior and worthy of surviving on the beautiful planet that spawned it?
Or will the biosphere degrade beyond all capacity for renewal?
We can not afford complacency in the slightest degree… and taking the best care of our atmosphere is just one part of this challenge.
Carbon dioxide emissions are just a fraction of the problem the planet faces.

It is now time for a better re-integration of the human race with its biosphere.
We must all care about the world we live in, for if we don’t give a damn, we are not worthy of existence.

October 26, 2007

Pandora’s Box Part 2

London, England

Hot on the heels of James Lovelock’s dire predictions for the next hundred years, comes this…To quote the Independent newspaper:

A landmark assessment by the UN of the state of the world’s environment paints the bleakest picture yet of our planet’s well-being. The warning is stark: humanity’s future is at risk unless urgent action is taken. Over the past 20 years, almost every index of the planet’s health has worsened. At the same time, personal wealth in the richest countries has grown by a third.
The report, by the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep), warns that the vital natural resources which support life on Earth have suffered significantly since the first such report, published in 1987. However, this gradual depletion of the world’s natural “capital” has coincided with unprecedented economic gains for developed nations, which, for many people, have masked the growing crisis.
Nearly 400 experts from around the world contributed to the report, which warns that humanity itself could be at risk if nothing is done to address the three major environmental problems of a growing human population, climate change and the mass extinction of animals and plants.

 

It is not difficult to doubt mankind’s capabilities of saving the Earth; after all the track record so far is appalling.
Nothing less than the most profound change in human consciousness will offer any hope of a reasonable future for this species.
Unfortunately the human species is fundamentally selfish…and largely incapable of the ecological stewardship that is now required as a matter of extreme urgency.
How many grand destructions will it take to wake us all up?

We are now entering a period of extreme unpredictability, and humanity’s true values will be increasingly tested to destruction.
And then some.

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