Reflections on the Surface

September 1, 2009

Blue Diamonds

Photo courtesy of Phillipe Roy/Getty Images

Photo courtesy of Phillipe Roy/Getty Images

Sermilik Fjord, Greenland

Scientists studying the meltwaters in Greenland this August have been stunned by the unexpected acceleration in the rate of loss of Greenland’s ice. Existing climate change models will need to be rewritten to accommodate these surprising findings and, it is, once again, time to take note and listen to the canary in the coal mine, for these glaciers are a stark warning that all is not well in the North.

Local Inuits will tell you of permanent changes; of an ecology that is now altering in ways that could not have been predicted even ten years ago.
Ice that had been trapped for millennia is calving blue diamond icebergs at a rate that has taken the scientists’ breath away. Rapidly warming seas are just the beginning of a much larger than predicted sea level rise to come.

Meanwhile, the Station Fire in California is expanding like a nuclear disaster. Giant pyrocumulus clouds hover above the Santa Clarita canyons, sending plumes that can be smelt as far away as Colorado.

Fire and Ice, two great metaphors for disasters of historic proportions.

How long will we have to put up with the sheer bumbling ineptitude of writers like Christopher Booker, of idiots like Viscount Monckton, of GOP politicians like James Inhofe, with their infantile  ‘lets do nothing’ charts and diagrams?

Together they represent a ghastly alliance of the stupid, the patronizing and the daft, whilst the rest of us can only take photographs and wait.

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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 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 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 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.

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