Climate change compendium: tracking our planetary calamity [UPDATED]

November 14, 2012 by Peter · Leave a Comment 

This post is a chronological compilation of news and opinion on our ever-worsening climate calamity.

To set the stage, watch this video: 131 years of global warming in 26 seconds

Then read this essential piece explaining why the climate story is beyond anything the media has ever reported.

Yahoo News (1/31/14)

Prince Charles has called people who deny human-made climate change a “headless chicken brigade” who are ignoring overwhelming scientific evidence.

NBC News (12/13/13)

By the time today’s preschoolers are babysitting their grandkids, global sea levels are likely to be pushing 2 feet higher than they are now and on the way to topping 8 feet above current levels by the year 2200, according to a new study.

USA Today (12/5/13)

Valley Fever is one of multiple diseases experts say are spreading in part because of climate change. They include a brain-eating amoeba showing up in northern lakes that were once too cold to harbor it and several illnesses carried by ticks whose range is increasing.

Guardian (11/20/13)

The climate crisis of the 21st century has been caused largely by just 90 companies, which between them produced nearly two-thirds of the greenhouse gas emissions generated since the dawning of the industrial age, new research suggests.

Think Progress (11/3/13)

NASA released global temperature data showing that this September tied with 2005 for the warmest September on record.

New York Times (11/1/13)

Climate change will pose sharp risks to the world’s food supply in coming decades, potentially undermining crop production and driving up prices at a time when the demand for food is expected to soar, scientists have found.

New York Times (10/9/13)

If greenhouse emissions continue their steady escalation, temperatures across most of the earth will rise to levels with no recorded precedent by the middle of this century.

CNN (9/27/13)

Climate scientists are 95% confident — that is to say, surer than ever — that humans are responsible for at least “half of the observed increase in global average surface temperatures since the 1950s.” …weather events that have previously been classified as “storms of the century” could become the storm of “every 20 years or less.”

TCK (9/19/13)

Sea ice cover in the Arctic has shrunk to the sixth lowest extent on record, according to figures from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).

Think Progress (8/18/13)

Every climate scientist I’ve spoken to has said we will blow past 550 ppm [carbon dioxide concentrations] if we continue to put off action. Indeed, we’re on track for well past 800 ppm. Continued inaction on climate change risks the end of modern civilization as we know it.

TIME (8/15/13)

Northeast Asia is on fire. Yesterday temperatures in Shanghai hit an all-time high of 105.4ºF (40.8ºC), the hottest day in the coastal megacity since Chinese officials began keeping records some 140 years ago — during the Qing dynasty.

Read more

Climate change is here

July 29, 2012 by Peter · Leave a Comment 

If this clip depicting 131 years of global warming in 26 seconds doesn’t jolt the world to action, it’s hard to imagine what will:

The ugly truth about climate denial

May 18, 2011 by Peter · Leave a Comment 

Little should surprise us in a world where intolerable injustices are widely ignored, from preventable hunger, poverty and disease to irreversible environmental destruction to the global oppression of girls and women; where wealth disparities are at record levels and wealthy bankers are bailed out by the people they’ve bankrupted; where huge corporations pay no taxes and get subsidized by the public; where a war based on lies and deceptions that resulted in unimaginable carnage is heralded as a success; where the assault on basic rights and liberties is greeted with a yawn — if not a cheer; where sports games arouse more passion and emotion than a million babies dying; where a minor celebrity infraction receives more attention than an epidemic of sexual violence in which young girls have their insides shredded with broken bottles and sticks of wood.

In this atmosphere of denial and self-destruction, few things capture the zeitgeist better than the American right’s reckless dismissal of climate change:

Late last week, the nation’s pre-eminent scientific advisory group, the National Research Council arm of the National Academy of Sciences, issued a report called “America’s Climate Choices.” As scientific reports go, its key findings were straightforward and unequivocal: “Climate change is occurring, is very likely caused primarily by human activities, and poses significant risks to humans and the environment.” Among those risks in the USA: more intense and frequent heat waves, threats to coastal communities from rising sea levels, and greater drying of the arid Southwest.

Coincidentally, USA TODAY’s Dan Vergano reported Monday, a statistics journal retracted a federally funded study that had become a touchstone among climate-change deniers. The retraction followed complaints of plagiarism and use of unreliable sources, such as Wikipedia. Taken together, these developments ought to leave the deniers in the same position as the “birthers,” who continue to challenge President Obama’s American citizenship — a vocal minority that refuses to accept overwhelming evidence.

Here are the facts:

The more carbon that gets released into the atmosphere, the higher the average temperature rises. That’s a scientific fact. Human activities, such as driving, flying, building and even turning on the lights, are the biggest contributor to the release of carbon. That too, is a fact.

Yet millions of Americans, including most Republican officials, are in absolute denial.

Read more

Bill O’Reilly and Juan Williams reveal a terribly warped set of priorities

October 21, 2010 by Peter · 3 Comments 

The blow-up du jour is Juan Williams’ termination by NPR for insensitive comments about Muslims:

NPR has terminated its contract with Juan Williams, one of its senior news analysts, after he made comments about Muslims on the Fox News Channel.

From my perspective, this is the most notable portion:

Mr. O’Reilly said, “The cold truth is that in the world today jihad, aided and abetted by some Muslim nations, is the biggest threat on the planet.” Mr. Williams said he concurred with Mr. O’Reilly.

The biggest threat? Bigger than preventable hunger and disease that kills millions of women and children? Bigger than the scourge of sexual violence and domestic abuse that endangers our mothers, sisters and daughters? Bigger than the wholesale ravaging of our planet and global warming? Seriously?

This reveals a terribly warped set of priorities. I’m not surprised O’Reilly said it. I would have expected better of Juan Williams.

Audiotape: Bin Laden concerned about climate change

October 1, 2010 by Peter · Leave a Comment 

Who knows if this is authentic:

Osama bin Laden has expressed concern about global climate change and flooding in Pakistan, in an audiotape aired on the Internet, his first public remarks since March, a monitoring group said Friday. “The number of victims caused by climate change is very big… bigger than the victims of wars,” said the voice, whose authenticity could not be immediately verified and made available by SITE Intelligence Group.

Assuming it is real, there’s something strange and disconcerting about a terrorist mastermind, the world’s most wanted man, sitting in some mountain cave, being more worried about climate change than millions of conservative Americans. How backward can a position be when a monster like Osama bin Laden embraces a more enlightened view?

Ignore this story: scientists discover thick layer of oil on Gulf seafloor [Update: BP walks back its role]

September 12, 2010 by Peter · Leave a Comment 

I’ve written extensively about gulf denialism, the corollary to climate denialism:

Exxon was a prominent member of the now-defunct Global Climate Coalition, one of the first industry groups established in 1989 to refute findings of the then-newly formed UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Since Exxon’s 1998 merger with Mobil, the oil giant has spent $23 million on stoking opposition to climate action, Greenpeace said. It continues to fund 28 groups that run denial campaigns, according to the report, though the oil giant is hardly alone in betting against climate change.

The report said that the think tanks at the forefront of challenging the science of warming — such as the Heartland Institute, the Cato Institute and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) — receive a majority of their climate-related funds from a raft of utility, coal, oil and car interests.

…I can think of few things more irresponsible and reprehensible than gambling with humanity’s future by pretending that our actions have no consequences. This is about the world my daughter will inhabit, so it’s as personal as it gets for me. And it is truly disturbing that rather than use the Gulf calamity as an inflection point and an opportunity to wake the country out of its environmental stupor, a Democratic administration would aid and abet oil companies in ‘disappearing’ the BP spill.

It’s obvious why the White House and Democratic leaders don’t want to discuss the dangers and damaging effects of the spill: it’s bad for their electoral prospects in November.

In that context, you can see why this explosive story will go absolutely nowhere:

Scientists on a research vessel in the Gulf of Mexico are finding a substantial layer of oily sediment stretching for dozens of miles in all directions. Their discovery suggests that a lot of oil from the Deepwater Horizon didn’t simply evaporate or dissipate into the water — it has settled to the seafloor.

The Research Vessel Oceanus sailed on Aug. 21 on a mission to figure out what happened to the more than 4 million barrels of oil that gushed into the water. Onboard, Samantha Joye, a professor in the Department of Marine Sciences at the University of Georgia, says she suddenly has a pretty good idea about where a lot of it ended up. It’s showing up in samples of the seafloor, between the well site and the coast.

“I’ve collected literally hundreds of sediment cores from the Gulf of Mexico, including around this area. And I’ve never seen anything like this,” she said in an interview via satellite phone from the boat.

Joye describes seeing layers of oily material — in some places more than 2 inches thick — covering the bottom of the seafloor.

“It’s very fluffy and porous. And there are little tar balls in there you can see that look like microscopic cauliflower heads,” she says.

It’s very clearly a fresh layer. Right below it she finds much more typical seafloor mud. And in that layer, she finds recently dead shrimp, worms and other invertebrates.

So far, the research vessel has traveled in a large “X” across the Gulf within a few dozen miles of the well. Scientists have taken eight sets of samples, and Joye says they all contain this layer. It’s thin in some places, inches thick in others. Eventually, scientists hope to collect enough samples to figure out how much oil is now settling to the seafloor.

“It’s starting to sound like a tremendous amount of oil. And we haven’t even sampled close to the wellhead yet,” she says.

UPDATE: MSNBC has more on the ‘Slime highway’ of BP oil:

Samples taken from the seafloor near BP’s blown-out wellhead indicate miles of murky, oily residue sitting atop hard sediment. Moreover, inside that residue are dead shrimp, zooplankton, worms and other invertebrates.

“I expected to find oil on the sea floor,” Samantha Joye, a University of Georgia marine sciences professor, said Monday morning in a ship-to-shore telephone interview. “I did not expect to find this much. I didn’t expect to find layers two inches thick.”

If it is BP oil, it could undermine the federal government’s estimate that 75 percent of the spill either evaporated, was cleaned up or was consumed by natural microbes.

What the scientists do already know is that the oil is not coming naturally from below the surface.

“What we found today is not a natural seep,” Joye wrote in her blog on Sept. 5 when the first surprise sediment was found.

Kate Sheppard comments:

Joye is not the first to report finding oil on the Gulf floor; researchers from the University of South Florida reported last month that oil has been collecting below.

This of course makes it even more clear that the government’s claim last month that the “vast majority” of the oil was gone in the Gulf is simply not true. By all indications, our understanding of where the oil went is still far from complete.

UPDATE II: This jaw-dropping piece from Fortune, BP walks back its role in the gulf oil spill, should have all Americans steaming mad:

As the last tar balls settle on the bottom of the Gulf, it looks like BP may have some extra cash on hand.

The company might not have to pay all of the $20 billion in claims, incoming BP (BP) CEO Bob Dudley told analysts on Monday. This is the latest move in BP’s ongoing effort to back out of the spotlight since the spill.

A dreadful year for environmentalists

August 27, 2010 by Peter · Leave a Comment 

This has been a dreadful year for environmentalists — and for the environment.

Climate deniers are winning the public opinion battle, even though evidence of warming is piling up astonishingly and alarmingly fast.

A historic oil spill that could have spurred major action has been excised from the national psyche with fairy tales. Meanwhile:

Thousands of fish have turned up dead at the mouth of Mississippi River, prompting authorities to check whether oil was the cause of mass death, local media reports said Monday. The fish were found Sunday floating on the surface of the water and collected in booms that had been deployed to contain oil that leaked from the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Times-Picayune reported. “By our estimates there were thousands, and I’m talking about 5,000 to 15,000 dead fish,” St Bernard Parish President Craig Taffaro was quoted as saying in a statement. He said crabs, sting rays, eel, drum, speckled trout and red fish were among the species that turned up dead.

And now this:

The Obama Administration has decided to side with polluters when it comes to the Clean Air Act (CAA), providing a brief to the Court arguing that Federal administrative and regulatory action obviates any standing for states or private entities to use CAA “nuisance” provisions to act in protection of their citizens’ or their own interests.

Over the past century, nuisance law provisions have proved a powerful tool for dealing with polluters who, for whichever set of reasons, are falling outside serious governmental action to curb the damage their “externalities” are causing others.

The Obama team’s action is almost incomprehensible. As Joe Romm notes

“As with the decision to embrace offshore drilling, we’ll no doubt eventually learn that this decision — which lies somewhere on the scale between between unproductive and counter-productive — was made without serious input from those in the administration who represent science or the environment. … I couldn’t find anyone who thinks this moves makes much sense. NRDC’s David Donger told the WSJ, “We are appalled.”

More from the NYT:

Matt Pawa, an attorney representing plaintiffs in the case, said he and his colleagues expected the White House to stay out of the matter. During a meeting with more than 30 administration lawyers at the solicitor general’s office on June 24, it seemed they had “a lot of friends in the room,” he said.

“We feel stabbed in the back,” Pawa said. “This was really a dastardly move by an administration that said it was a friend of the environment. With friends like this, who needs enemies?”

Top attorneys at environmental advocacy groups are buzzing about the brief, sources say. Some feel betrayed by a White House that has generally been more amenable to environmental regulation than its predecessor.

“This reads as if it were cut and pasted from the Bush administration’s briefing in Massachusetts,” said David Bookbinder, who served as the Sierra Club’s chief climate counsel until his resignation in May.

With the right ascendant, and with Democrats in full election panic mode, I fear this dreadful year for environmentalists — and for the environment — will only get worse.

James Cameron calls global warming skeptics “swine”

August 23, 2010 by Peter · Leave a Comment 

Director James Cameron called global warming skeptics “swine” at a renewable energy conference in Aspen.

That’s the blunt approach.

Here’s another way of looking at it: what odds are deniers willing to accept that alarmists are right and they’re wrong? How willing are they to play Russian roulette with their children’s future? Are they so convinced of their position that they don’t even entertain the possibility they might be wrong? If so, they are delusional. There’s no certitude on what the next day might bring, let alone the next century.

If they do realize they’re gambling with their children’s future, then “swine” is too polite a term.

Climate deniers: belief in warming reflects “mental instability”

August 23, 2010 by Peter · Leave a Comment 

Listen to this astonishing exchange and consider what it will sound like in 50 years:

Here’s some context:

Think Progress notes that all the major Republican candidates have joined the ranks of climate change deniers. This means that all three Republican candidates

Last week we found out that Susana Martinez and Steve Pearce also doubted that climate change was happening or was man-made. Pearce and Martinez both have received a lot of money from the oil and gas industries.

…To say that the science is not settled is to ignore the vast majority of scientists and scientific work and instead believe a small slice of scientists who are mostly conducting their research funded by oil and gas companies — not exactly uninterested parties in the topic.

The hateful psychology of climate alarmists

August 22, 2010 by Peter · Leave a Comment 

I’ve written about the pathology of climate and gulf denialists, now here’s a look at the psychology of a climate alarmist:

  1. Hates cooking (herself)
  2. Hates breathing (filth)
  3. Hates swimming (in flood waters)
  4. Hates people (who condemn her kids by denying reality)
  5. Hates freedom (to pollute, to drill, to spill, to despoil)
  6. Hates silence (when the future is at stake)
  7. Hates wealth (at the expense of well-being)
  8. Hates pleasure (at the expense of responsibility)
  9. Hates intelligence (in the service of greed)
  10. Hates politicians (for being cowards on the gravest threat facing humanity)

With that in mind, here’s an example of a climate alarmist in action:

Collapse this time around will be global. We will disintegrate together. And there is no way out. The 10,000-year experiment of settled life is about to come to a crashing halt. And humankind, which thought it was given dominion over the Earth and all living things, will be taught a painful lesson in the necessity of balance, restraint and humility. There is no human monument or city ruin that is more than 5,000 years old. Civilization, Ronald Wright notes in “A Short History of Progress,” “occupies a mere 0.2 percent of the two and a half million years since our first ancestor sharpened a stone.” Bye-bye, Paris. Bye-bye, New York. Bye-bye, Tokyo. Welcome to the new experience of human existence, in which rooting around for grubs on islands in northern latitudes is the prerequisite for survival.

We view ourselves as rational creatures. But is it rational to wait like sheep in a pen as oil and natural gas companies, coal companies, chemical industries, plastics manufacturers, the automotive industry, arms manufacturers and the leaders of the industrial world, as they did in Copenhagen, take us to mass extinction? It is too late to prevent profound climate change. But why add fuel to the fire? Why allow our ruling elite, driven by the lust for profits, to accelerate the death spiral? Why continue to obey the laws and dictates of our executioners?

…We face a terrible political truth. Those who hold power will not act with the urgency required to protect human life and the ecosystem. Decisions about the fate of the planet and human civilization are in the hands of moral and intellectual trolls such as BP’s Tony Hayward. These political and corporate masters are driven by a craven desire to accumulate wealth at the expense of human life. They do this in the Gulf of Mexico. They do this in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, where the export-oriented industry is booming.

The leaders of these corporations now determine our fate. They are not endowed with human decency or compassion. Yet their lobbyists make the laws. Their public relations firms craft the propaganda and trivia pumped out through systems of mass communication. Their money determines elections. Their greed turns workers into global serfs and our planet into a wasteland.

So hateful.