Tagged: climate change

The new Atlantis

Click to enlargeRe-locate Kivalina

Thirty Alaskan native villages on the coast are about to disappear into frigid waters; 12 are considering moving altogether. As sea ice melts earlier and forms later, more open water is left in the Chukchi and Bering Seas and the Arctic Ocean (which surround Alaska). Storms are larger and wreak more damage as a result (because ice protects the shoreline). And thawing permafrost, on which many villages are built, worsens matters by causing homes to sink towards calamity and releasing methane into the atmosphere. “Climate is changing faster than our efforts to address it,” Barack Obama said at a conference on climate change in the Arctic on August 31st. Lee Stephan, president of the Tribal Council of Eklutna, a native village, agreed: “If all the ice on Mother Earth melts we will all live in water,” he said.

Greenhouse gases bear the blame; America alone produces 15% of global carbon-dioxide emissions. Nevertheless, Alaska’s first residents profit from much of the oil and gas drilling in their state, as do others. The oil and gas industry provides a third of Alaskans with jobs and, through taxes, once covered 90% of state expenses. Plunging prices mean Alaska now faces a $3.5 billion deficit.

When America’s biggest oilfield was discovered at Prudhoe Bay in 1968, the federal government had to settle land claims with native communities in order to pipe oil south. They received 44m acres of land, $1 billion and shares in 12 regional corporations and more than 200 village ones under a law signed in 1971. Thirteen regional corporations currently exist, tasked with turning a profit for their shareholders while also safeguarding native Alaskan societies and cultures…

The profits made by native corporations help pay for local health and social services. But corporations cannot afford to support communities affected by flooding, and cannot give their shareholders in places under threat handouts that they do not offer all others. “They aren’t charities,” explains Julie Kitka, president of the Alaska Federation of Natives…

Relocation is expensive, and painful for people who depend on hunting reindeer and catching salmon to survive. As most of America’s largest state cannot be reached by road, getting materials to remote villages requires fine flying weather, too. Newtok’s 400-odd residents will cost about $380,000 each to move. Kivalina needs $123m to up sticks. It has been trying to do so since 1994—but no mechanism for deciding how and when a community should move exist…Where it should go is complicated, too…

When he visited Kotzebue on September 2nd, Mr Obama became the first sitting president to visit Alaska’s Arctic. His travels will encourage efforts to save threatened native villages. But money must be found for federal agencies in Alaska. The president’s budget for 2016 will not cover the re-siting of a single village threatened by storms and floods. As the state’s budget weakens, thanks to cheap oil, federal involvement will become increasingly vital. Offering federal land in trust to those determined to move could speed up the process.

There is no aid from politicians who think they can see Russia from their front porch in Wasilla. Neither will her peers in any organized faction of the Republican Party. Nor will Blue Dog Democrats beholden to fossil fuel profiteers.

The fight for a safe and healthy life for Americans should be the responsibility of all Americans. I think we all know how laughable that is. Between racism and ignorance, between obedience to 19th Century slogans and self-centric morality, we are not a nation given to collective political struggle in the decades since, say, the fight to end our nation’s war upon the people of VietNam.

Just as the dead-end choice of the draft and death on foreign soil forced a national response – the cataclysm of climate change will eventually force unity in struggle against the common enemy. That enemy is a class enemy, ruthless and powerful. They own our elected officials, appointed sheriffs in the broadest use of the word. But, that unity must come. The only question is will it be in time to save anyone in the broadest class of all.

Thanks, Ian Bremmer

Exxon’s research confirmed fossil fuels’ role in global warming in 1977

At a meeting in Exxon Corporation’s headquarters, a senior company scientist named James F. Black addressed an audience of powerful oilmen. Speaking without a text as he flipped through detailed slides, Black delivered a sobering message: carbon dioxide from the world’s use of fossil fuels would warm the planet and could eventually endanger humanity.

“In the first place, there is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels,” Black told Exxon’s Management Committee, according to a written version he recorded later.

It was July 1977 when Exxon’s leaders received this blunt assessment, well before most of the world had heard of the looming climate crisis.

A year later, Black, a top technical expert in Exxon’s Research & Engineering division, took an updated version of his presentation to a broader audience. He warned Exxon scientists and managers that independent researchers estimated a doubling of the carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration in the atmosphere would increase average global temperatures by 2 to 3 degrees Celsius (4 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit), and as much as 10 degrees Celsius (18 degrees Fahrenheit) at the poles. Rainfall might get heavier in some regions, and other places might turn to desert.

“Some countries would benefit but others would have their agricultural output reduced or destroyed,” Black said, in the written summary of his 1978 talk…

Exxon responded swiftly. Within months the company launched its own extraordinary research into carbon dioxide from fossil fuels and its impact on the earth. Exxon’s ambitious program included both empirical CO2 sampling and rigorous climate modeling. It assembled a brain trust that would spend more than a decade deepening the company’s understanding of an environmental problem that posed an existential threat to the oil business.

Then, toward the end of the 1980s, Exxon curtailed its carbon dioxide research. In the decades that followed, Exxon worked instead at the forefront of climate denial. It put its muscle behind efforts to manufacture doubt about the reality of global warming its own scientists had once confirmed. It lobbied to block federal and international action to control greenhouse gas emissions. It helped to erect a vast edifice of misinformation that stands to this day.

Read it and weep, folks. Not that anyone who’s wandered intentionally into these pages is surprised by disclosures like this. It doesn’t take the fear-softened intellect of conspiracy nuts to understand how cover-ups work in the bastion of 19th Century capitalist minds.

We witness the same process in the day-to-day machinations of creeps like the Koch Brothers. We get to hear the blather of bought-and-paid-for flunkies in both of the political parties we’re allowed whenever they open their mouths on the topic of climate change.

Science means nothing compared to short-term profits. The lives of innocents have never counted. Why would we expect them to start keeping track of climate death, now?

Just add yourself one more reason to throw your local bum out of office if he or she is butt-kissing some oil company, coal company, taking their catechism from ALEC and legislating on behalf of the thugs who foul the planet we all live on.

There’s a very cold ‘blob’ in the North Atlantic Ocean

day after tomorrow

Last week we learned from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that the first eight months of 2015 were the hottest such stretch yet recorded for the globe’s surface land and oceans, based on temperature records going back to 1880. It’s just the latest evidence that we are, indeed, on course for a record-breaking warm year in 2015.

Yet, if you look closely, there’s one part of the planet that is bucking the trend. In the North Atlantic Ocean south of Greenland and Iceland, the ocean surface has seen very cold temperatures for the past eight months:

What’s up with that?


First of all, it’s no error. I checked with Deke Arndt, chief of the climate monitoring branch at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, who confirmed what the map above suggests — some parts of the North Atlantic Ocean saw record cold in the past eight months…

And there’s not much reason to doubt the measurements — the region is very well sampled. “It’s pretty densely populated by buoys, and at least parts of that region are really active shipping lanes, so there’s quite a lot of observations in the area,” Arndt said. “So I think it’s pretty robust analysis.”

Thus, the record seems to be a meaningful one — and there is a much larger surrounding area that, although not absolutely the coldest it has been on record, is also unusually cold.

At this point, it’s time to ask what the heck is going on here. And while there may not yet be any scientific consensus on the matter, at least some scientists suspect that the cooling seen in these maps is no fluke but, rather, part of a process that has been long feared by climate researchers — the slowing of Atlantic Ocean circulation…

The fact that a record-hot planet Earth coincides with a record-cold northern Atlantic is quite stunning. There is strong evidence — not just from our study — that this is a consequence of the long-term decline of the Gulf Stream System, i.e. the Atlantic ocean’s overturning circulation AMOC, in response to global warming.

The short term variations will at some point also go the other way again, so I don’t expect the subpolar Atlantic to remain at record cold permanently. But I do expect the AMOC to decline further in the coming decades. The accelerated melting of the Greenland ice sheet will continue to contribute to this decline by diluting the ocean waters.

This won’t lead to anything remotely like The Day After Tomorrow (which was indeed based — quite loosely — on precisely this climate scenario). But if the trend continues, there could be many consequences, including rising seas for the U.S. East Coast and, possibly, a difference in temperature overall in the North Atlantic and Europe.

A good time to go back and watch at least the first portion of Day After Tomorrow. The movie does a good job of explaining the slowing of Atlantic Ocean circulation and what potentially can happen. There are climate scientists who agree – and some who disagree. A localized effect can become a regional effect and vice versa.

What is fairly likely is that if the circulation is interrupted by what has long been a predictable feature of global warming, folks in NW Europe and the UK who’ve been getting used to a generally warmer year-round batch of seasons better get out their woolies. The Gulf Stream circulation brings a fair chunk of warmth to what should feel like Poland or even Belarus. And may, soon.

Australian PM [now, former PM] laughing about climate change

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott was hit by yet another gaffe Friday, after he was caught chuckling at a joke about Pacific island nations being devastated by climate change.

The incident took place shortly before a government meeting on refugees. The meeting appeared to be running behind schedule, prompting Immigration Minister Peter Dutton to comment the meeting was running on “Cape York time.”

“We had a bit of that up in Port Moresby (Papua New Guinea),” Abbott responded.

Dutton then quipped, “Time doesn’t mean anything when you’re about to have water lapping at your door.”

Abbott started laughing at the comment, until Social Services Minister Scott Morrison quietly told him a microphone was positioned overhead. Abbott immediately stopped laughing.

Abbott followed the conservative party line typical of Americans in our Republican Party through his short tenure. Managing to further screw up the economy, the government, education and all. He was fired by his party – the so-called Liberal Party – this weekend.

His replacement, Malcolm Turnbull, may not prove any better on economic matters; but, at least he understands science well enough to refute climate change deniers. He also would like to take Australia away from fealty to some distant monarch.

Shell forced from climate project it helped found – over Arctic drilling

corporate waiting room
Waiting for the corporate jet to pull up to the gate

Shell has been forced to leave a Prince of Wales climate change project which it helped found after a row over the oil company’s controversial drilling programme in the Arctic.

The departure from the Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leader Group is another embarrassing setback for the oil and gas company, which has been battling to preserve its reputation in the face of a vociferous and growing campaign against its operations in the Chukchi Sea off the coast of Alaska…

The exit was announced in a short note on the climate change programme’s website, based at Cambridge University, which said: “As of September 2015 longstanding member Royal Dutch Shell is no longer a member.”

Sources said there had been a falling out with other companies unhappy about Shell exploring for more fossil fuels in the Arctic.

Many experts believe that some existing oil and gas reserves cannot be burned if CO2 levels are not to rise to dangerous levels. They feel further drilling is not needed, especially in such high cost areas.

A Shell spokesman declined to comment on why the company had left the group which includes Unilever, Tesco and others, saying it was a matter for the other members to explain. He said: “We can confirm that we are no longer a member of the Corporate Leaders’ Group, of which we were a founder member in 2005…”

The spokesman defended the company’s stance on Alaskan drilling which was recently given the go-ahead by Barack Obama but which has been opposed by Democratic leadership hopeful, Hillary Clinton, and many others.

OTOH, the fossil fuel barons – intellectual and political fossils on their own – have the Republican Party and other conservative parties around the world lining up to protect their corporate butts from environmental responsibility.

Individually and collectively, it is worth recording which side our politicians come down on in this part of the fight for a cleaner planet, a better life. Who defines success in terms of quality of life – and who chooses profiteering from environmental degradation.

Will monster wildfire seasons become the new normal?

Harley looks just like our Sheila

In the end, Ira and Carolyn Hodge drove out with some photos, their clothes, their horse and their dog, Harley.

Their home took seven years for them to build and contained everything they owned – vehicles, mementos from their parents, memories. All of it was reduced to fine ash when the fire swept down the high sides of the densely forested gorge that bottoms out at Canyon Creek in Grant County, Oregon, six hours’ drive east of Portland.

“It was a monster,” Ira says. “A beast.”

He and Carolyn were helping a neighbour hose down their house when it became clear the fire was moving with astonishing speed towards them. “We had five minutes to get out,” Ira recalls. They tossed the few things they had gathered in their car, rounded up their frightened horse and fled over a wooden bridge that burned behind them.

Ira has since talked to experts who came up to survey the damage. They said that the flames may have reached 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit – hot enough to melt copper and aluminium. They sifted through the rubble and there was almost nothing left.

Harley recovered just one possession: a charred bone he had buried somewhere in the yard.

When you drive south out of John Day, up into the canyon towards the Malheur national forest, the flattened homes and the blackened Douglas firs and ponderosas tell this summer’s story.

Wildfires are capricious, and some houses are untouched. But those that the fire found were razed, and the forest it burned will take decades to recover.

Thirty-six homes were destroyed in Grant County on 14 August. That night, the Canyon Creek Complex fire became the most destructive in Oregon for 80 years. The national media glanced and moved on, but the fire is still burning on just over 105,000 acres. That’s about 10 times the size of Manhattan.

In Oregon as a whole, there are 11 large fires burning on 435,799 acres. In Washington there are 14 burning on 900,000 acres. This season – which is still in full swing – has seen 1,422,880 acres burned in the two states, or 2,223 square miles, an area just a little smaller than the state of Delaware.

More than 11,000 firefighters are still in the field. Firefighting resources in the American west are completely committed, and both states have called out their national guardsmen to help contain the blazes. Firefighters have come from as far away as Australia and New Zealand to pitch in, and three firefighters died while in duty.

RTFA. These fires have become an annual national emergency. People are to blame, habits and carelessness are to blame, short-term weather is often to blame and, yes, climate change plays a significant role.

That may be hard to understand for someone who has never had their home or community threatened by a wildfire; but, it is true.

I do not count climate change deniers as relevant. It’s hard to count them as useful citizens of Earth.

Last month was the hottest month in recorded history. Again.

Click to enlarge

Congratulations, you’ve just lived through the hottest month ever recorded. (Yes, another one.) According to NASA, the Japan Meteorological Agency, and, now, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), July 2015 was the hottest month registered on the planet since record-keeping began.

“The July average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.46°F (0.81°C) above the 20th century average,” NOAA reports. “As July is climatologically the warmest month for the year, this was also the all-time highest monthly temperature in the 1880–2015 record, at 61.86°F (16.61°C), surpassing the previous record set last year in 2014 by 0.14°F (0.08°C).”

The heat was especially scorching around the Equator, in the oceans, in parts of Asia, and in Southern Europe…

It’s been more than 30 years since the world has seen a colder-than-average month. Get ready to live through plenty more record-breakingly hot ones.

You can forward this to your favorite know-nothing idjit who kneels before the altar of fossil fuel profits. People who think individuals who make their living imitating some 19th Century industrial baron are more important than the rest of us – don’t deserve to be counted among the rest of us. They are not human beings. They are obedient little political robots.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Price of wind energy in United States drops to an all-time low

old and new on the farm
Click to enlargePhoto by DoriL

Wind energy pricing is at an all-time low, according to a new report released by the U.S. Department of Energy and prepared by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory…The prices offered by wind projects to utility purchasers averaged under 2.5¢/kWh for projects negotiating contracts in 2014, spurring demand for wind energy.

“Wind energy prices–particularly in the central United States–have hit new lows, with utilities selecting wind as the low cost option,” Berkeley Lab Senior Scientist Ryan Wiser said. “Moreover, enabled by technology advancements, wind projects are economically viable in a growing number of locations throughout the U.S.”

Wind is a credible source of new electricity generation in the United States. Wind power capacity additions in the United States rebounded in 2014, with $8.3 billion invested in 4.9 gigawatts of new capacity additions. Wind power has comprised 33% of all new U.S. electric capacity additions since 2007. Wind power currently meets almost 5% of the nation’s electricity demand, and represents more than 12% of total electricity generation in nine states, and more than 20% in three states…

Low wind turbine pricing continues to push down installed project costs. Wind turbine prices have fallen 20% to 40% from their highs back in 2008, and these declines are pushing project-level costs down…

The manufacturing supply chain continued to adjust to swings in domestic demand for wind equipment. Wind sector employment increased from 50,500 in 2013 to 73,000 in 2014. Moreover, the profitability of turbine suppliers has generally rebounded over the last two years…Exports of wind-powered generating sets from the United States rose from $16 million in 2007 to $488 million in 2014…

Despite the significant growth in the domestic supply chain over the last decade, however, far more domestic manufacturing facilities closed in 2014 than opened. With an uncertain domestic market after 2016, some manufacturers have been hesitant to commit additional long-term resources to the U.S. market.

Despite growth in manufacturing, lower costs for consumers – despite extended growth in domestic consumption and exports – everyone has to sit on their hands and wait to see if the know-nothings in the Republican Party can turn out sufficient numbers of the stupid vote to turn our power generation back to coal and the Koch Brothers Brigade.

The age-old questions remain: will what remains of the American middle class figure out how to vote for their own economic best interest, better health for their children and grandchildren – or will the plutocrats prevail and buy another election?