Reflections on the Surface

June 30, 2010

Dead Zones

New Orleans

Prof. John Kessler of Texas A&M University Oceanography department has just returned from a fact finding research visit to the Gulf of Mexico with alarming news. Methane concentrations near the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill are I Million times expected. Oxygen depletion in the waters of the Gulf  will grow the  dead zones and the seas in the vicinity will become rancid, adding to the utter mess that BP’s catastrophe has brought to the area.

Tony Hayward, BP’s hapless CEO, should do the honorable thing and resign. He has exhibited incompetent disaster management skills and has told lies at a time when transparency and truth-telling is vital for the global community.

Meanwhile, it is pretty pointless for the GOP and Tea Party zealots to blame Washington for the way this crisis is being ‘managed’. As long-time promoters of de-regulation and environmental disregard, they are hypocrites to blame the Federal Government for what’s going on right now in the Gulf. True understanding of blame will probably highlight a combination of causation which will include US companies such as Halliburton as well as lacklustre controls at the highest levels within BP.

Its a real wake-up time for the planet right now. The impacts of global climate change are creeping steadily upon the environment: soaring heat in the Middle East, in DC, in the South West, in Africa. Record LOW levels of snow cover in the US in 2010, despite what the idiots at Fox News will say. That outfit is stuffed with dumbed-down, stupid journalists whose concept of science can’t even struggle out of the bathtub, let alone grapple with evolution as a principle of probability.

But, let us not forget that we all share a culpability of sorts for the disasters in the Gulf. Each and every one of us in the oil-dependent West must share our own chip of responsibility for this mess, for there would be no need to take risks with the planet if we were all not so inherently greedy for comfort.

July 7, 2009

The Age of Stupid

Lets imagine it is the year 2055. An old man looks back at old footage of Planet Earth from 2008 and wonders why we did so little  at the time. Here is a video clip preview of the film, which is to be released in September on DVD.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/mpd/permalink/m3OC3LGHQO3840

But what about the deniers out there in la-la land? Christopher Booker is one of them. Writing in the Daily Telegraph he rubbishes the whole concept of the link between man made C02 emissions and the probability of environmental catastrophe. Both he and Viscount Monckton inhabit a parallel world of the grossly disturbed, an ostrich-like stupidity that beggars belief. And as for the conservative nut-jobs out there in the GOP, the less said the better.

But one thing is sure. Humanity is set for  major upset, and by 2055 some of us will be alive to know.

June 29, 2009

Republican Treason

The Waxman-Markey climate bill is just the beginning of a change in attitudes in America that could hold not just hope for the planet but the prospect of a real shift in the zeitgeist of contemporary attitudes towards climate change. Whether  it passes through the Senate remains to be seen, but, for now at least we might be encouraged that at last, the USA has woken up to the dangers the planet is facing. Save for 212 Republicans who, with few exceptions, believe that the issue doesn’t exist. Quite what education system would produce such intellectually moribund minds is a question that only educationalists can answer, but the sad fact is this: these are people with remarkably ignorant minds who on the whole, possess religious views that are stuck in the Dark Ages.

Paul Krugman, writing in the New York Times today is right to accuse such individuals of treason. For not only are they are an insult to biosphere and an insult to intelligent life, but their thimble-minded belief system is not worthy of existence on a planet that is set for catastrophe.

And what is it going to take to shift such stupidity? Soaring temperatures in the American Mid West? Collapse of the Arctic ice fields? Billions thirsting for water in the Far East? The Indian sub continent like a molten death trap?

It is not only high time for America to become a 21st century pioneer in new technologies, it is well past the hour.

Photo courtesy of (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

US Climate Bill

January 30, 2009

Ocean Acidification- are coral reefs doomed?

155 of the world’s leading scientists will today issue the Monaco declaration in which they draw attention to the plight of the oceans over the next fifty and more years. By 2050 it is likely that much of the world’s coral will be dead.

This ‘other’ CO2 problem is not going to go away that easily, as the oceans absorb about 25% of the world’s carbon dioxide.

It is all too easy to take the vastness of the seas for granted, but we need to be reminded that dead seas mean a dead planet. And with dead zones proliferating all over the planet -zones where precious little life can survive, it is time to be reminded of the likelihood of the future.

But, sadly, seeing that most of the press is focussed on the economic mess that we are in right now, its hardly surprising that most of the human race won’t listen when the scientists speak.

Long term planning requires patience and persistence and a broad vision for a very different future. Qualities exemplified by President Barack Obama who is fast coming up against the 19th century ideas of the GOP as they rail against his vision.

But now is not the time for obfuscation. It is time for clarity and time to wake up. Lets listen to the scientists and start a dialogue.

January 23, 2009

Warming Antarctica

At a time when the Northern Hemisphere has experienced a cooler winter it is prudent to be reminded that Western Antarctica, so long thought to be immune from global warming, is heating up. By 0.25 Degrees per decade in the last fifty years or so. So what! cry the sceptics.
But this vivid image, courtesy of NASA is not only beautiful, it is a stark warning to all those complacent observers who are satisfied that the Earth is safe in human hands.

antarcticatemps_1957-2006

Meanwhile, the economic and financial downturn has fixated the minds of millions on the short term just as the sweeping change in the White House has warmed our hearts with hope. But Barack Obama and the new Executive would do well to embed their environmental plans with a real concern for the long term.

There will be a rising tide of global warming denialism in the next few years and, then when it is perhaps too late, we will look back on this picture and be warned.

antarctica_temp_trend

April 7, 2008

The New Age of Unreason

London, England

Ah the wisdom of the retired!
Lord Lawson, one of the UK’s ex chancellors is confident that climate change is all hype. Declaring this year’s cooling trend a nail in the coffin for climate change theory, he encourages us to step away from the cliff hanger of ‘unreason’.

Well I’m sorry Lord Lawson, but there are a large number of distinguished climate scientists out there who consider your sort of complacency equally ‘unreasonable’.

WMO secretary-general Michel Jarraud points this out succinctly: La Nina’s cooling effect this year is just that- a temporary cooling in an otherwise inexorable rise.

James Hanson is calling for drastic reevaluation of the EU’s 550ppm CO2 target. Downwards. Or face ‘guaranteed catastrophe’.

Sadly, if keyclimate decisions were left to the likes of Lord Lawson we may as well commit harikari. For his complacent generalisations are typical of the mental disease of climate change denial.

Meanwhile the man in the street cares little for all this, as the UK has had a swift snowfall that has surprised and delighted children from Sussex to Scotland.

But when these children are retired, the world will be changed and all that we take for granted will have ceased.
And Lord Lawson’s words will have sunk to their proper place in the gardens of oblivion.

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.

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