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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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?

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