Tagged: climate change

Too many people, not enough water — now and 2,700 years ago


That may be the US Embassy over on the right — or at least the inspiration for the one in Baghdad

The Assyrian Empire once dominated the ancient Near East. At the start of the 7th century BC, it was a mighty military machine and the largest empire the Old World had yet seen. But then, before the century was out, it had collapsed. Why? An international study now offers two new factors as possible contributors to the empire’s sudden demise – overpopulation and drought…

Adam Schneider of the University of California, San Diego and Selim Adalı of Koç University in Istanbul, Turkey, have just published evidence for their novel claim…

The researchers’ work connects recently published climate data to text found on a clay tablet. The text is a letter to the king, written by a court astrologer, reporting (almost incidentally) that “no harvest was reaped” in 657 BC.

Paleoclimatic records back up the courtier’s statement. Further, analysis of the region’s weather patterns, in what is now Northern Iraq and Syria, suggests that the drought was not a one-off event but part of a series of arid years.

Add to that the strain of overpopulation, especially in places like the Assyrian capital of Nineveh (near present-day Mosul) – which had grown unsustainably large during the reign of King Sennacherib – and Assyria was fatally weakened, the researchers argue…

“We’re not saying that the Assyrians suddenly starved to death or were forced to wander off into the desert en masse, abandoning their cities,” Schneider said. “Rather, we’re saying that drought and overpopulation affected the economy and destabilized the political system to a point where the empire couldn’t withstand unrest and the onslaught of other peoples…”

Schneider also sees an eerie similarity between Nineveh and Southern California. Though people weren’t forcibly relocated to Los Angeles or San Diego to help an emperor grow himself a “great city,” still, the populations of these contemporary metropolitan areas are probably also too large for their environments…

“The Assyrians can be ‘excused’ to some extent,” they write, “for focusing on short-term economic or political goals which increased their risk of being negatively impacted by climate change, given their technological capacity and their level of scientific understanding about how the natural world works. We, however, have no such excuses, and we also possess the additional benefit of hindsight, which allows us to piece together from the past what can go wrong if we choose not to enact policies that promote longer-term sustainability.”

Republicans – like their mentors at the US Chamber of Commerce – are tucked neatly into the wallets of legacy fossil fuel corporations. Wealth derived from out-of-date means of profit still sufficient to buy enormous political power is close to being one of the most contemptible uses of power in a capitalist economy.

Nineveh wasn’t this advanced. I’m not certain about Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats either.

Thanks, Mike

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The Pentagon plans to deal with climate change — even if Congress won’t

In case the Pentagon didn’t make it clear enough that climate change is a real and dangerous thing in its Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) earlier this year, perhaps the new Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap (PDF) will drive the point home. Some of the content is roughly the same, but that title sure makes it sound more desperate.

The gist is that the Pentagon’s futurists foresee a world where our changing climate has tremendous real-world effects, and they want to be ready. Lots of people know the climate is changing, but given the Pentagon’s budget, it’s nice to know they are preparing to protect us from things that might actually harm us …In the 2014 CCAR, the Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, writes that the Department of Defense will focus on just those sorts of threats:

A changing climate will have real impacts on our military and the way it executes its missions. The military could be called upon more often to support civil authorities, and provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in the face of more frequent and more intense natural disasters. Our coastal installations are vulnerable to rising sea levels and increased flooding, while droughts, wildfires, and more extreme temperatures could threaten many of our training activities. Our supply chains could be impacted, and we will need to ensure our critical equipment works under more extreme weather conditions. Weather has always affected military operations, and as the climate changes, the way we execute operations may be altered or constrained.

While scientists are converging toward consensus on future climate projections, uncertainty remains. But this cannot be an excuse for delaying action.

Unless, of course, you’re a numbnut Republican or one of the remaining cowardly lions known as Blue Dog Democrats. No action is preferable to delayed action as far as they are concerned. Not that Hagel is much of an advocate when he prates about scientists “converging” towards consensus. Almost as stupid as saying we’re fairly certain astronomers are nearing the day when they can confirm the Earth ain’t flat. Since they’re afraid of offending folks worrying about falling off the edge.

The plan is laid out in some detail in the 20-page PDF that talks about how recurrent flooding is already affecting the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, “which houses the largest concentration of US military sites in the world” (page 2) and how “climate change will have serious implications for the Department’s ability to maintain both its built and natural infrastructure, and to ensure military readiness in the future” (page 8).

The Pentagon is also aware that it will likely need to conduct more humanitarian missions after natural disasters and it will need to have its weapons work no matter what the weather is like out there. We’ll see if the message is heard this time.

Thanks, Mike, great minds and etc.

Flights rerouted around Alaska beaches crowded with walrus climate refugees

Walrus, Odobenus rosmarus
Click to enlargeNOAA

The plight of thousands of walruses forced to crowd on to an Alaska beach because of disappearing sea ice has set off an all-out response from the US government to avoid a catastrophic stampede.

The Federal Aviation Authority has re-routed flights, and local communities have called on bush pilots to keep their distance in an effort to avoid setting off a panic that could see scores of walruses trampled to death…

Curiosity seekers and the media have also been asked to stay away.

An estimated 35,000 walruses were spotted on the barrier island in north-western Alaska on 27 September by scientists on an aerial survey flight.

The biggest immediate risk factor for the walruses now is a stampede – especially for baby walruses – but they have been facing a growing threat from climate change, the scientists said.

The extraordinary sighting – the biggest known exodus of walruses to dry land ever observed in the Arctic under US control – arrived as the summer sea ice fell to its sixth lowest in the satellite record last month.

“Those animals have essentially run out of offshore sea ice, and have no other choice but to come ashore,” said Chadwick Jay, a research ecologist in Alaska with the US Geological Survey.

Read the whole sad article.

The only animal that our politicians worry about is the bloodsuckers who fund their endless election campaigns.

Thanks, Mike

400,000 hit the pavement in New York City for climate march


Click to enlargeJason DeCrow/AP
Demonstrators make their way down Sixth Avenue in New York during the People’s Climate March

An international day of action on climate change brought tens of thousands onto the streets of New York City on Sunday, with organizers predicting the biggest protest on the issue in five years.

Some 100,000 people, including United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, actor Leonardo DiCaprio and elected officials from the United States and abroad joined the People’s Climate March, ahead of Tuesday’s United Nations hosted summit in the city to discuss reducing carbon emissions that threaten the environment.

Organizers said some 550 busloads of people had arrived for the rally, which followed similar events in 166 countries including Britain, France, Afghanistan and Bulgaria. Thousands more came by public transportation, walked or traveled in private cars…

A crowd including U.S. senators Bernard Sanders of Vermont and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island marched along the city’s Central Park, through midtown Manhattan to Times Square, where they stopped for a moment of silence at 12:58 p.m..

Ban, wearing a T-shirt that read “I’m for climate action” marched arm-in-arm with primatologist Jane Goodall and French Ecology Minister Segolene Royal.

“This is the planet where our subsequent generations will live,” Ban told reporters. “There is no ‘Plan B,’ because we do not have ‘Planet B.’”

Meanwhile, the opportunist creeps in Congress came back to work for 4 days after taking several weeks off for vacation. Then – consistent with being the worst Do-Nothing Congress in the history of Republican obstructionism – they shut down until after the mid-term election in November.

Not that anything meaningful would have been accomplished. We are a nation of obstinate and ignorant sheep, complaining about lack of change, fearing change at the same time. Fence-sitting has become the national pastime.

Feds agree disaster coming to North American birds from climate change

A day after the National Audubon Society released a report saying that about half of North America’s 650 bird species will be threatened by climate change, a report released Tuesday by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and other federal agencies concluded that nearly one-third of American birds are in trouble.

The State of the Birds, a comprehensive study by nearly two dozen government agencies and conservation groups that tracks species loss and the effectiveness of conservation efforts, found species in moderate to steep decline across habitats and ecosystems. But it also highlighted that conservation projects could be successful, as with wetland species, like mallards and blue-winged teals, which saw a 37 percent bump in population since 1968.

“Conservation in one part of the country is not enough,” said Daniel M. Ashe, director of the Fish and Wildlife Service. “We have to see the larger picture of conservation.”

We must have more than one portion of the electorate, more than a coalition of the willing in Congress, coming together with the majority of our nation’s population in a serious effort to combat the effects of climate change.

That won’t begin to happen until a significant number of bought-and-paid-for politicians are removed from office. Most of them Republicans or Blue Dog Democrats. The sort of political hacks who make a career of power and policy directed by the almighty dollar.

I only hope folks will stand up for the world we live in before these greed-driven thugs cause irreparable damage.

Thanks, Mike

Global warming is humidifying the upper atmosphere

We have long suspected that greenhouse gases which cause the Earth to warm would lead to a wetter atmosphere. The latest research published by Eul-Seok Chung, Brian Soden, and colleagues provides new insight into what was thought to be an old problem. In doing so, they experimentally verified what climate models have been predicting. The models got it right… again.

To be clear, this paper does not prove that water vapor is a greenhouse gas. We have known that for years. Nevertheless, the paper make a very nice contribution. The authors show that the long-term increase in water vapor in the upper troposphere cannot have resulted from natural causes – it is clearly human caused. This conclusion is stated in the abstract,

Our analysis demonstrates that the upper-tropospheric moistening observed over the period 1979–2005 cannot be explained by natural causes and results principally from an anthropogenic warming of the climate. By attributing the observed increase directly to human activities, this study verifies the presence of the largest known feedback mechanism for amplifying anthropogenic climate change.

As stated earlier, climate models have predicted this moistening – before observations were available. In fact, the models predicted that the upper troposphere would moisten more than the lower atmospheric layers. As the authors state,

Given the importance of upper-tropospheric water vapor, a direct verification of its feedback is critical to establishing the credibility of model projections of anthropogenic climate change.

To complete the experiments, the authors used satellite measurements of radiant heat. The emissions have changed but it wasn’t clear why they have changed. Changes could be caused by increases in temperature or from increased water vapor. To separate the potential effects, the authors compared the first set of experiments with others made at a different wavelength. That comparison provided a direct measure of the separate effect of moistening.

Next, the authors used the world’s best climate models to test whether the observed trends could be caused by natural changes in the Earth’s climate or whether they require a human influence. Sure enough, only the calculations that included human-emitted greenhouse gases matched the observations. The authors conclude that,

Concerning the satellite-derived moistening trend in recent decades, the relations of trend and associated range among three experiments lead to the conclusion that an increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gases is the main cause of increased moistening in the upper troposphere.

Another box ticked, another set of relevant questions answered. Now, real scientists will continue with their work – preparing answers for those nations and politicians ready to deal with serious ecological questions.

The rest…? I don’t know. Don’t waste too much time asking a Republican what they intend to do?

Thanks, Mike

Tornado strength, frequency, linked to climate change

New research by a Florida State University geography professor shows that climate change may be playing a key role in the strength and frequency of tornadoes hitting the United States.

…Professor James Elsner writes that though tornadoes are forming fewer days per year, they are forming at a greater density and strength than ever before. So, for example, instead of one or two forming on a given day in an area, there might be three or four occurring…

Elsner, an expert in climate and weather trends, said in the past, many researchers dismissed the impact of climate change on tornadoes because there was no distinct pattern in the number of tornado days per year. In 1971, there were 187 tornado days, but in 2013 there were only 79 days with tornadoes.

But a deeper dive into the data showed more severity in the types of storms and that more were happening on a given day than in previous years…

The United States experiences more tornadoes than any other country, and despite advances in technology and warning systems, they still remain a hazard to residents in storm-prone areas. The 2011 tornado season, for example, had nearly 1,700 storms and killed more than 550 people…

One bright spot of news in the research, Elsner added, was that the geographic areas impacted most regularly by tornadoes do not appear to be growing.

Interesting work and especially relevant in this period of climate change. Too bad politicians and other scatterbrains find it easier to focus on ideology and elections than actually developing a response to the changes we’re still analyzing and understanding.

Kudos to people like Professor Elsner for maintaining dedication to research even when there are know-nothings in the Florida legislature who would rather defund work like this than confront change.

Thanks, Mike

Our pollution reached Antarctica before the great explorers


Lead pollution from Oz got there first

Lead pollution from Australia reached Antarctica in 1889 – long before the frozen continent’s golden age of exploration – and has remained there ever since, new research shows.

In our study, published in Nature Scientific Reports, my colleagues and I used ice core samples from West and East Antarctica to reveal the continent’s long and persistent history of heavy metal pollution.

The Antarctic remains the most remote and pristine place on Earth. Yet despite its isolation, our findings show that it has not escaped contamination from traces of industrial lead, a serious pollutant and neurotoxin. The levels of lead pollution found in the ice cores is too low to impact Antarctic ecosystems, but higher levels would be expected closer to sources…

The new study, led by Dr Joe McConnell of the Desert Research Institute in Nevada, used an array of Antarctic ice cores to reveal a detailed record of where and when pollution can be found.

The first trace of lead pollution arrived in Antarctica around 1889, 22 years before the Amundsen and Scott expeditions to the South Pole.

We also discovered that lead pollution in the Antarctic peaked twice, and that in both cases Australia was the primary source.

After an initial peak in the late 1920s, lead levels dropped in sync with the Great Depression and Second World War. The pollution peaked again in about 1975.

Today, although levels are lower than at the 1975 peak, they remain at roughly three times the pre-industrial level…

More analysis will help us unlock more of Antarctica’s secrets. If you’ll excuse the pun, our latest results are just the tip of the iceberg with regard to information stored in the Antarctic ice sheet.

For example, fires in the Southern Hemisphere have left traces in the ice and a history of climate. The history of persistent organic pollutants and mercury in the remote south are still poorly known. Colleagues at CSIRO and the Australian Nuclear Science Technology Organisation are using ice cores to understand the past variability of greenhouse gases and the Sun. Combined with records from tree rings, sediments and caves, ice cores help to recreate a large-scale reconstruction of past sea level pressure.

Meanwhile, Antarctica continues to serve as a sentinel for unintended consequences of human activities – in this case, the pollution of a pristine frozen wasteland by an Australian mining product.

Today’s abusers of the word “conservative” will continue on their plastic primrose path to the destruction of Earth’s biosphere given any opportunity at all. Unlike their predecessors – for whom conservative also meant conservator of the Earth – prattle about denial is all they have to offer their children and grandchildren when they grow old enough to accuse them of rejecting human responsibility for polluting limited resources. Including the transformation of our climate at a radical pace.

When science points out the corruption of our planet, the response of these cowards is simply to deny science.

World Council of Churches calls for fossil fuel divestment


The altar where the Koch Bros worship

The Central Committee of the World Council of Churches, a fellowship of over 300 churches which represent some 590 million people in 150 countries, endorsed fossil fuel divestment this week, agreeing to phase out its own holdings and encourage its members to do the same. The WCC Central Committee is made up of dozens of influential religious leaders from around the world, meaning the decision could resonate far and wide.

“The World Council of Churches reminds us that morality demands thinking as much about the future as about ourselves–and that there’s no threat to the future greater than the unchecked burning of fossil fuels,” said Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.org, a global climate campaign that is supporting the divestment effort. “This is a remarkable moment for the 590 million Christians in its member denominations: a huge percentage of humanity says today ‘this far and no further…’”

The endorsement is a major victory for the fossil fuel divestment movement, which has seen a surge of momentum amongst religious institutions over the last few months. In recent weeks, the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly in the United States committed to divest, the University of Dayton in Ohio became the first Catholic institution to join the campaign, and the Church of Sweden have come out in favour of divestment.

Overdue.

Thanks, Mike

Who do idjits elect? Worse idjits!

Kentucky politician learned science from black-and-white sci-fi movies

Kentucky’s Interim Joint Committee on Natural Resources and Environment met today to discuss the new EPA rules to fight climate change by limiting greenhouse gases from power plants. The committee is chaired by Rep. Jim Gooch, D-Providence, a proud climate change denier who has suggested in the past that Kentucky secede from the union in order to avoid federal environmental regulations. Yes, he chairs the committee, because it’s Kentucky.

I don’t even know where to start on sharing some of the wisdom that was expressed by our state legislators during this hearing. No, actually I do. I give you the honorable Sen. Brandon Smith, R-Hazard:

“As you (Energy & Environment Cabinet official) sit there in your chair with your data, we sit up here in ours with our data and our constituents and stuff behind us. I don’t want to get into the debate about climate change, but I will simply point out that I think in academia we all agree that the temperature on Mars is exactly as it is here. Nobody will dispute that. Yet there are no coal mines on Mars. There are no factories on Mars that I’m aware of.”

First of all, I did not make up that quote, it’s quite real.

Secondly, while the average temperature on Earth is roughly 58 degrees Fahrenheit, the average temperature on Mars is approximately -80 degrees Fahrenheit. In Sen. Smith’s defense, he’s only off by about 138 degrees or so, which happens sometimes…

Thirdly, note that when Smith refers to those in academia, he uses the word “we.” Because he’s obviously one of those academic types. He has “his” data, and the 98 percent of climate scientists who believe in climate change have “theirs.” Nobody will dispute that.

Fourthly, while Mars doesn’t burn any coal — smashing claims that climate change on Earth is due to this, since we have the same temperature* — Smith can’t be sure that they don’t have any factories giving off greenhouse gases. We’ll have to check with the data of the Martian scientists before we can confirm this claim.

Lastly, Smith is an actual elected official in Kentucky’s state Senate, who has been elected to this position twice by real Kentucky voters, and served four terms in the House before that.

There were plenty of other amazing and “insightful” quotes in this hearing from members of both parties that I’ll share later — where the people who say Mars is the same temperature as Earth allege that climate scientists don’t know what they’re talking about — but right now I think I need to lay in the fetal position for a couple of hours.

I needn’t add anything to this blog – do I?

If you ever care to wander through the realm of sound peer-reviewed science, I suggest a couple of the sites I link to over on the right side of this page. I especially enjoy RealClimate.

Thanks, Mike