Reflections on the Surface

June 7, 2011

Mercury rising

Lets face it, most of us don’t think ahead much beyond the next five years. Ten at most. But the gathering probabilities point towards permanently hotter summers in the Northern Hemispheres that will make a hot day in New Delhi seem cool by comparison. Add to that the inexorable demands on energy for cooling our buildings and we’re in for a permanent summer of discontent.

A new study finds that the tropics and much of the Northern Hemisphere
are likely to experience an irreversible rise in summer temperatures
within the next 20 to 60 years if atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations continue to increase.
(Credit: iStockphoto/Tilmann Von Au)

 

 

 

But climate scientists in Australia are threatened with violence for discussing the subject!

And as for Right wing America, you can forget it. Those insanely stupid politicians who are lining up to be 2o12 contenders simply don’t have a clue what damage they would do if they enacted policies that deny the problem exists.

Listen carefully to their words over the coming months and see if anybody dares to speak the truth, because we’ll all be blinded otherwise.

December 21, 2009

The End of Days

Now that the window of opportunity at Copenhagen has been firmly slammed shut, today, on this darkest of days, it is time to reflect on the fact that the human race is probably the worst kind of self-centred DNA gone wrong. The political mess at Copenhagen will have repercussions far into the future that will likely outstrip the planet’s capacities for renewal and leave millions at risk from famine and thirst or at best be left with a very miserable existence indeed.

The naive assumption that global temperature rises can be capped at 2.5 degrees is yet another example of short term non-holistic thinking by politicians who exhibit only limited understanding of the scientific facts. It remains to be seen if some sort of positive decisions could be made in the next twelve months or so, but for now, we are left with the ugly fact that the planet’s atmosphere has been bargained over as if it were  loot to be exploited.

Not only must reckless pollution be curtailed but human population growth must be slowed. And it is a tragedy that the Papal and Catholic stupidity about contraception will perpetuate the inexorable rise in human numbers towards the nine billion or so that is probable within a few decades. That is, until the ravages of climate change wreak havoc upon the hapless and helpless of Africa and South East Asia.

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are closing in fast on the human race in a synchronized gallop towards disaster.

And the blame game has only just begun.

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.

September 9, 2008

Rubbish Soup

The Pacific Ocean hosts the world’s largest rubbish dump: a continent-sized swirl of rotting plastic and rubbish which is growing in size as I write and which could double over the next ten years.

This ghastly spectacle stretches from Hawaii to Japan in two giant circulating dumps of rubbish.

Charles Moore, the oceanographer who discovered this mess estimates that there are about 100 million tons of detritus fouling the seas.

Meanwhile, its ‘out of sight, out of mind,’ and business as usual as the planet staggers on, bowed down by the enormity of biosphere degradation.
Its a tragedy that the US election is being reduced to sarcastic sound bites and negativity by the Republicans at a time when, more than any other, the entire human community needs positivity and a real sense of vision.
And so the rubbish will continue to expand when all the election is over and the earth will be poorer and humanity, increasingly, poised on a downward spiral towards environmental catastrophe.

July 16, 2008

The Hubris of King Canute

London, England

The Wilkin’s ice shelf in Antarctica is hanging on by a thread. Alarmingly, scientists are seeing it crumble almost daily. And its not even Summer down there. The process seems inexorable.
At the other end of the globe, Arctic Foxes are next on the list of endangered Polar species as their habitat is degraded far sooner than earlier climate models had predicted.
And, only this week, climate scientists are predicting that snowmelt patterns in the Rockies are set to change dramatically in the coming decades with catastrophic implications for water resources in much of the Western USA.
And the beat goes on.
Now that the 2 Degree tipping point not far away for the planet, Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall centre argues that we “mitigate for 2°, but adapt for 4°”.
It will be ‘The beginning of the End’.
To quote Mark Lynas: ‘Adapting to 4°C of warming would be quite a challenge. With this level of temperature change, we can expect a huge increase in drought-prone zones, a mass extinction of half or more of the life on earth, hundreds of millions of refugees from areas deprived of fresh water or inundated by rising seas, and widespread starv ation due to food and water shortages.”

The complancy of the Bush Administration seems staggering, as news emerges that the USA’s  Clean Air Act legislation was bypassed in a gross cover up of the key projections of climate science.
You can picture GW sat there on his throne, down by the beach, determined to see off the tide.

But history will prove this unconscionable madness utterly wrong when the planet gasps into the last decades of the 21st century.
And all those ridiculous sceptics out there will only be remembered for the turpitude of their beliefs.

June 23, 2008

Polar Cities and Diamond Trees

News comes today, courtesy of the National Geographic, that the North Pole may well be ice-free this summer. Ice that has formed is thin, unstable and likely to disappear within several months.
But this news is not in itself unexpected.
Lets think longer term, to the year 2500 when, according to James Lovelock and others, the Earth will be almost uninhabitable, save for Polar Cities (otherwise known as Sustainable Polar Retreats). They might be Humanity’s last refuge on a devasted Earth where Civilization clings on by its fingernails…
Meanwhile, Freemon Dyson is confident that technology will come riding to the rescue in the form of genetically engineered tree-forests where trees will absorb gigaloads of carbon dioxide and shower the ground with diamonds. Humankind will be saved he declares, not so much by the coordinated efforts of Governments, but by science, pure science and more.
Picture the forest floors, glittering and glinting in the sunlight; a veritable Midas touch of silver that is no gold. It would be a beautiful sight for those who might see it.

What is interesting about all this is that Freemon Dyson’s idea has been commented on in the mainstream media, but the concept of Polar Cities has been shunned. Are editors too scared of the bleak side? Are newspaper proprietors muzzled by corporate interests so as not to scare their readers?

All of this asks questions about humanity’s capacity for long term thinking; and, as for the gaggle of climate change denialists out there such as Christopher Booker of the Daily Telegraph, Viscount Monckton, Lord Lawson and any number of complacent egg-heads you can think of, lets hope that their mouths will be stuffed with diamonds when the time comes.
So that they can rest easy in their graves.

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.

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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