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.


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.

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.

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 ( 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.

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.

October 24, 2007

Year 2100: 6 Billion Dead?

London, England

James Lovelock, author of the Revenge of Gaia, has spoken his most chilling words yet.
By the end of this century, upwards of 6 Billion human beings will have probably perished.
Global Warming is now approaching runaway levels, and the indicators we are seeing now are just the beginning.

By the end of the century, according to Lovelock, global warming will cause temperate zones like North America and Europe to heat up by fourteen degrees Fahrenheit, nearly double the likeliest predictions of the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations-sanctioned body that includes the world’s top scientists. “Our future,” Lovelock writes, “is like that of the passengers on a small pleasure boat sailing quietly above the Niagara Falls, not knowing that the engines are about to fail…

“Some people will sit in their seats and do nothing, frozen in panic. Others will move. They’ll see what’s about to happen, and they’ll take action, and they’ll survive. They’re the carriers of the civilization ahead.”

Let us pray that California’s malevolent winds cease soon, and the thousands whose livelihoods and homes have vanished can begin to reclaim their lives.
The Earth is sounding a clarion call. It is time for our ‘civilisation’ to wake up. Coherent action is needed if we are ever to be considered responsible enough to offer a future to our descendents.
It is time to stop puerile arguments about whether change is or is not happening.
It is time to stop rubbishing those who campaign for a greener future.
It is time to begin to change.
Consider a 22nd Century and a planet that is almost uninhabitable, save for the North.
Anyone who argues for ‘Laissez Faire’ stewardship needs to be considered insane.

October 23, 2007

Pandora’s Box

London, England

 With news that the Atlantic ocean’s capacity to absorb Carbon dioxide is rapidly declining, comes a warning from Australian Scientists that the world’s coral reef”s are poised on the brink of ecological catastrophe.
And yet we still have to suffer the indignity of listening to climate change deniers posturing and parading about the world’s stage as if there is nothing to be concerned about.
This beautiful planet is being systemically and carelessly ruined by short term thinking.
The Native American Indian Concept of Seven Generations ahead is the very least we should be attempting..
So, lets say about 150 years from now:
There will be no more coral reefs; much of Greenland’s ice sheets will be gone; the Arctic ocean will be permanently ice-free; 20% Amazon rain forest will be left (if we are lucky); Sydney will be a ghost city because of permanent drought;  Florida will be inundated with rising seas… the list gets worse, with billions of people being relocated by coastal floods; wildfires will have destroyed much of the American South West…
And yet the preposterous and, quite frankly stupid gang of climate change deniers are happy to sit on their soap boxes and pronounce the world safe.

This is not so much of a Titanic headed for disaster, it is a global bloody tragedy of stupefying scale.
Pandora’s  box is about to opened and the world will never be the same.
Or is there hope? can we act now? could we change our complacent, dumb attitudes and begin to care for our treasure?

Its the only one we’ve got.


October 22, 2007

Back to the Eem

London, England

 The Earth is now nearly as warm as it was during the Eem Interglacial Period of 120,000 years ago, and it is sobering to read of the latest satellite data about Arctic Ice losses.
This graph illustrates vividly what is likely to happen. The black line, showing ice loss as measured by satellites, predicts probable total loss of Arctic Sea Ice in Summer by 2013.

Satellite Measurements of Arctic Sea Ice lossesSatellite Measurements of Arctic Sea Ice losses


There is a great deal of evidence supporting this trend, with the Arctic regions warming far more quickly than the tropics.Let us not forget that it is also the rate of carbon dioxide accumulation in the atmosphere that is doubly alarming.
In the past, the Earth warmed and cooled over millenia, just as carbon dioxide concentrations changed slowly.
But now, faced with an unprecedented rate of change, the ecosystems upon which we depend are faced with unpredictable consequences.

Of course the slash and burn mentality of the deniers and sceptics out there will rubbish this sort of information;
but their opinions will soon be seen to be as outdated as the appeasers of Hitler were in 1936.


October 15, 2007

86400 football fields a day

London, England

Let us not forget, that every second of every day, a football-sized area of Amazon rain forest is destroyed: 86400 football fields a day, 3 million a year.

Its like watching the lungs being ripped out of an animal, alveolus by alveolus; cell by cell. Soon the animal will be dead.

Meanwhile, the UK’s Viscount Monckton (the man with funds behind the Great Global Warming Swindle) is patting himself on the back for that so-called victory last week against Al Gore’s film. It makes him and the UK’s New Party  seem stupid beyond belief.

Within a decade, such laissez-faire attitudes will be seen to be contemptible, as will the pack of climate change denialists who swarm about Washington DC like vermin.

Our planet does not deserve such stupidity, and if it were entrusted to these sorts of people we can kiss goodbye to the future.

So, in fifty years time when the Forests are all but gone, there will be no room for Viscount Monckton’s ghost on this shattered planet; it will not be welcome there.

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