Reflections on the Surface

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.

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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

May 26, 2009

The Gathering Storm-Pink Snow in the Rockies

An unusual series of dust storms has blanketed parts of the Colorado Rockies.  Pristine snow capped peaks are now dirtied and pinked by the dust, which accelerates snowmelt. Water supplies are becoming unpredictable and much is set to change in landscapes which we have all taken so long for granted. Imagine the Rockies in 30 years time, bereft of Summer snows…

Dust in the Rocky Mountains

Photo courtesy of  the Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies

There is news that the odds of severe climate change are to be much worse than had been predicted- perhaps twice as much. According to the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change there is a 90% probability that Global Surface Temperatures will be 3.5 to 7.4 degrees higher by 2100. Unless drastic action is taken at an International Level, before a series of climate change tipping points begin the process of inevitable catastrophe.

By 2100 Much of South West America will become a dust bowl.

But with 30% of Americans either doubtful, dismissive or disengaged about climate change what will it take for them to accept such facts?

Future generations will look back on these current decades as a lost opportunity, but with the planet wrecked by 2100 who will care ?

Of one thing we can be certain- all those stupid idiots who casually deny  these global realities will be commemorated on a vast roll-call of shame:

Christopher Monckton, Sarah Palin, James Inhofe, Christopher Booker, David Bellamy, Melanie Phillips, Vaclav Klaus, Michele Backman, Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Fox News, the vast majority of the Republican Mediocrity Party (aka the GOP) and, for that matter, the legions of fundamentalist American evangelicals who have buried their heads in the sand.

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.

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.

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.

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