Reflections on the Surface

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

January 19, 2009

Plastiki

David de Rothschild, founder of Adventure Ecology, has created an innovated experiment: an intriguing raft crafted from disused water plastic water bottles which is to be released into the Pacific Ocean. His project is intended to raise our awareness about plastic waste and the enormity of the problem that faces the Oceans.
He writes…
“I think that the most important thing is not to make plastic the enemy, but to really reassess how we use, dispose, and reuse it. It comes down to the old cliché of stopping to think before you buy. Can you reuse the bottle that contained the water or soda you drank earlier? The small things can make a big difference. We can all minimize our impact if we fundamentally change the way in which we consume.”

Imagine this boat as it encounters the Great Pacific Gyre: an Oceanic rubbish patch three times the size of the UK that is hidden from our conscience. Plastiki will be dwarfed by the vast soup of rubbish and it plastiki-mapstands every chance of being strangled by debris.
But lets be optimistic for now and assume it makes it all the way South to the Antipodes.
It is time to listen to its message and hope that our attitudes change or face the grim reality of an ugly truth. That humanity is callous, careless and capricious and that using the Oceans as a bottomless dumping ground is a sign of our limitless capacity for self-destruction.

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.

August 20, 2008

Virtual Water

London, England

The average UK resident uses a staggering 4650 litres of water a day!
Now before you fall off your chair in disbelief, perhaps look at this fact for the truth of what it is.

Writing in the UK’s Guardian, (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/aug/20/water.food1) Felicity Lawrence cogently introduces us to the concept of ‘virtual water’ usage.
Accepting that immediate water usage is in the region of about 150 litres per day per person, the other 4100 litres is accounted for in the supply chain of all that we consume: the production of food, textiles, goods and everything else we take for granted.
You can imagine what the statistics for the USA might show.

If we are to even begin to entertain the concept of sustainability of water resources, each and every one of us will need to wake up to our precious dependence on water.

The warning signs are there for us to see and hear: shifting jetstream flows in the South West of America are irrevocably changing mountain snowpack in the Rockies and the Sierras; Spain risks becoming a partial desert and in India and China glaciers are disappearing fast so that water resources for billions are threatened; The Murray Darling river basin in Australia is headed for catastrophe…
This is climate change.

Its not just peak oil we need be concerned with, but peak water.
Unbridled thoughtless consumerism robs the future of hope.
We are all standing at the edge of the labryinth, a descent into a darkness that could destroy civilization and end the lives of billions.

Or, perhaps not. Perhaps we can change. Perhaps we can placate the monsters of consumerist demand before it is too late. Perhaps the very soul of our existence as a race might be challenged to change…
Or, perhaps not.

It will be a long way down.

July 29, 2008

Plumbing the Depths

Lake Baikal, Russia

Breaking News.

Russian divers have just broken the record for the deepest freshwater dive into the abyss of Lake Baikal.
Containing more water than all of North America’s lakes put together, Lake Baikal is home to a rich, bountiful ecology, teeming with biodiversity.
It is the same team who, earlier this year, succeeded in planting a Russian Flag on the Arctic sea bed, underneath the North Pole.

Russia assures us that the Lake Baikal dive is just for ‘Scientific’ purposes. You know, they just ‘checking up’ on the largest body of fresh water on Earth, that sort of thing.

Oh, and, by the way, there’s a suggestion of possible oil and gas reserves down there.
We are told that Lake Baikal is safe and its ecology will never be damaged by oil and gas exploration.

Now sit back and wait for the sound of hollow laughter when those Russian assurances echo back from the depths of the future: when Lake Baikal is damaged beyond repair by corporate greed, by climate change and by the ever further reaching grasp of mankind.
Or, perhaps not.

Perhaps this wonder of wonders will still be safe in fifty, one hundred, perhaps five hundred years time.

But you can be sure that whenever Peak Oil hits, those sound assurances will be swiftly forgotten and the divers’ monumental achievements will be cast in stone.

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.

July 9, 2008

Shooting at the Sky

Beijing, China

With only a few weeks to go before the 2008 Olymics, officials in Beijing have ordered the Home Guard to fire Silver Iodide into the smoggy air above the capital in a desperate attempt to seed rain clouds.
Air Quality is so bad here that these antiquated anti-aircraft guns have been hauled out of their dust sheets to do a job that seems almost impossible.
But the problems are only just beginning for Beijing. For within a generation, Beijing will ‘cease to exist,’ according to China’s leading environmentalist Dai Qing. To quote:
“We won’t have the ancient capital any longer and the ugly modern Beijing would disappear too. Unfortunately, government officials and Beijing residents are equally unaware of how serious the water crisis is.”

Much of the available information about this pending crisis is top secret of course, but there is an underlying theme here. Available water resources will not match demand. Period.
Climate changes are upon us all, with the Far East set to become beset with water wars.
Sadly, the G8 summit is becoming an annual bureaucratic hand-squeeze, with little to offer the planet save for a mediocre resolution about halving greenhouse emissions by 2050.

Too little too late.
One can only feel sorry for the athletes who compete in Beijing this year as their lungs struggle to cope with a particulate soup that is likely to harm them. The gold medals will come with a health warning.
Mankind simply cannot continue belching out cloud-loads of effluent into the atmosphere without consequences, and seeding clouds with silver iodide will be unlikely to clear the air for long.

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.

June 9, 2008

Water, Water, Everywhere?

San Diego, California

California is experiencing a statewide drought, with Sierra snowpack drastically reduced.
It is time for the South West US to get to grips with this elephant in the room before it is too late. Profligate use of water must cease; taking it all for granted must cease.
It is soon to be time for stark choices: between conservation and unchecked expansion; between deep-rooted changes in attitudes and ‘couldn’t give a damn’ laissez faire.
Governor Schwarzenegger is right to call for a 20% cut in water demand, but will his request be heard?
Lets face it: the problem of water shortages is only just beginning for the Western US: the Ogallala aquifer in the Mid-West USA is being depleted beyond all measure by a combination of poor planning and reductions in rainful (current weather excepted).

Climate change is happening to the US whether we like it or not, and it is time to get real and to admit that the elephant is about to suck the boreholes dry.

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