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human activity and the destruction of the planet


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Arctic is now locked into destructive climate change: new UN Report

According to a new commissioned UN Report, there is no chance now of saving the arctic from devastating destruction:

http://www.grida.no/publications/431

The report describes scenarios where arctic winter temperatures increase by 3-5 degrees by 2050, compared to 1986-2005 levels, and by 5-9 degrees by 2080.  It is expected to happen regardless of the success of measures introduced since the Paris climate change Agreement in 2015.

According to the report, even if global emissions were to stop overnight, winter temperatures in the Arctic would continue to rise by up to 5 C by 2100 compared to average temperatures in the late 20th century. The temperature rise is described by the report as “locked in” because of greenhouse gases already emitted and heat stored in the ocean. This is because carbon emissions and greenhouse gas emissions have a delayed effect; the emissions being produced today (and which continue to be produced) will have effects for decades. The momentum of climate change is very strong in the Arctic.

According to the report, this would devastate the region and cause sea level rises across the world.

jan-dusik

Jan Dusic, author of the report

A massive melting of ice and a thawing of the permafrost is to be expected, threatening biodiversity and changing the living conditions of Arctic communities.

It appears that the thawing trend is now irreversible.

For further details, see:

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/arctic-warming-locked-in-1.5056548?cmp=rss



And now, another report about changing Arctic temperatures from the Washington Post on 14th May 2019:

https://www.msn.com/en-us/weather/topstories/it-was-84-degrees-near-the-arctic-ocean-this-weekend-as-carbon-dioxide-hit-its-highest-level-in-human-history/ar-AABlBAQ?fbclid=IwAR2zQVt-AncQSZMfLRquEWKScHGttqeTsqJMTzfboKoz0a8-zoguLE1sREk

“Over the weekend, the climate system sounded simultaneous alarms. Near the entrance to the Arctic Ocean in northwest Russia, the temperature surged to 84 degrees Fahrenheit (29 Celsius). Meanwhile, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere eclipsed 415 parts per million for the first time in human history.”

CarbonData

The recordings were taken in Arkhangelsk, Russia, where the average high temperature is around 54ºF this time of year. The city of 350,000 people sits next to the White Sea, which feeds into the Arctic Ocean’s Barents Sea.

The abnormally warm conditions in this region stemmed from a bulging zone of high pressure centred over western Russia. This particular heat wave, while a manifestation of the arrangement of weather systems and fluctuations in the jet stream, fits into what has been an unusually warm year across the Arctic and most of the mid-latitudes.

These changes all have occurred against the backdrop of unremitting increases in carbon dioxide, which has now crossed another symbolic threshold.

Saturday 11th May’s carbon dioxide measurement of 415 parts per million at Hawaii’s Mauna Loa Observatory is the highest in at least 800,000 years and probably over 3 million years. Carbon dioxide levels have risen by nearly 50 percent since the Industrial Revolution.



 


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Disappearing arctic polar ice cap – can this affect the Gulf Stream and the Jet Stream?

In Chapter 1 of my book, I provide evidence that the arctic ice is shrinking.  This is shown graphically in Figure 14 (page 34), which I reproduced, with acknowledgements to Andy Lee Haveland.  Because the size of the arctic ice varies throughout the year, and summer to winter, it is important to take measurements throughout the seasons of the year.

The figure below, published in my book with permission, gives an idea of what has been happening between 1979 and 2016.  arctic-death-spiral

Each colour represents a different month of the year and the difference in the size of the ice throughout the year shows how much it has shrunk during the period 1979-2016.  The stark difference between 1979 and 2016 can be seen best at the top of the graph.

Now, NASA has produced a time-lapse video showing the movement of the ice as it pulses through the seasons.  The video is posted on YouTube with this description, “Arctic sea ice has not only been shrinking in surface area in recent years, it’s becoming younger and thinner as well.”  The video can also be seen on the following website:

NASA releases time-lapse of the disappearing Arctic polar ice cap

This last winter (2017-18) has been very much colder in the UK and other parts of Europe and this has led to some people denying that global warming is happening.  The crazy thing is that, whilst Britain was in the grip of a lengthy period of freezing weather and large falls of snow, at the north pole it was warmer than usual, reaching melting point in some places, with temperatures up to 20 degrees higher than normal.  Similar temperature anomalies were also reported for some of the US and Canada.

The reality is that this phenomenon is all part of the unstable weather patterns that are being caused by climate change.

Now, in the latest issue of New Scientist (No. 3169, 17th March 2018), Colin Barras describes new research, which might suggest that changes in the North Atlantic current (the northern part of the Gulf Stream), could result in a shut-down, leading to even greater sea-level rise on Atlantic coasts and more intense droughts in Africa.

https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg23731693-200-polar-melt-may-shut-down-the-atlantic-current-that-warms-europe/

Marilena Oltmanns and her colleagues have studied the salinity of sea water and its temperature in the area just south of Greenland (Irminger Sea) between 2002 and 2014.  They found that, in summer, the sea had much warmer temperatures and lower salinity.  This would suggest that fresh water (melt from Greenland and the Arctic) is flooding into this area and affecting the currents and convection process.  This was more likely to happen after particularly mild winters.  In 2010-11, conditions were mild, resulting in an accumulation of fresh water in the sea, 40% of it still there even after the end of winter.  These findings are reported in Nature Climate Change, doi.org/cmbw.

Oltmanns believes that, if several warm years occur in succession, there would be a build up of fresh water, impeding the process of convection.  This might result in a shut-down of the North Atlantic current.  This might bring about the end of the North Atlantic’s relatively mild climate and the ameliorating effects of the Gulf Stream.

Other writers and researchers are proposing other impacts too, as far reaching as Africa and South America, though at this time much of it is still speculation.

Further information about the North Atlantic current can be found in Wikipedia, from which the following diagram has been taken.

2000px-North_Atlantic_currents.svg

 

Could this mean that the prolonged freezing period experienced in the UK and Europe last winter could become the norm?

Since writing the above, I have come across a review of scientific articles about the state of the Arctic ice cap, written by Vanessa Spedding.  It can be found on the Scientists for Global Responsibility website, as follows:

http://www.sgr.org.uk/resources/state-arctic-heightens-focus-climate-policy

The main conclusion of this review is that the presence of a summer ice-free Arctic can be an indicator of how well the world is sticking to the 1.5 degree Paris Agreement target for global warming.  There is a very low chance of an ice-free Arctic at 1.5 degrees but at 2 degrees, the chance rises to 39%.  At 3 degrees, 73%.  Full details of this work can be seen in an article by Screen and Williamson at:

11. Screen JA, Williamson D (2017). Ice-free Arctic at 1.5 °C? Nature Climate Change, vol.7, pp.230–231. DOI: 10.1038/nclimate3248.  https://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v7/n4/full/nclimate3248.html

Another 15 articles are cited in Spedding’s review. One of them, from Prof. Jennifer Francis of the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers University in the USA, suggests that there is a link between a warming Arctic and a disrupted jet stream, with effects on Northern hemisphere weather patterns.

Now, in August 2018, a report in The Guardian suggests that the oldest and thickest sea ice in the Arctic has started to break up for the first time ever, opening waters north of Greenland that are normally frozen the year round – an area that is often called “the last ice area”.  It is believed that this has occurred because of the abnormal heatwave in northern Europe in the summer of 2018. In the past, the ice in this region has packed together and is over 4 metres thick, with ridges up to 20 metres.

Full details about this and other concerns of climate scientists can be seen at:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/21/arctics-strongest-sea-ice-breaks-up-for-first-time-on-record?CMP=twt_a-science_b-gdnscience

ANTARCTICA

As regards Antarctica, the situation is just as grim, though different from the Arctic. A British-led study, using satellite tracking, showed that a region of ice the size of Greater London vanished from the edge of Antarctica between 2010 and 2016.

The 1,463 square kilometres of underwater ice at the base of the Antarctic ice sheet melted under the influence of warm ocean water currents. Scientists demonstrated how the massive ice sheet is retreating as its edges, fed by a multitude of glaciers, are eroded.

See: https://www.aol.co.uk/news/2018/04/02/antarctic-ice-area-the-size-of-london-lost-in-six-years/?ncid=webmail

The lead researcher, Dr Hannes Konrad, from the University of Leeds, said: “Our study provides clear evidence that retreat is happening across the ice sheet due to ocean melting at its base, and not just at the few spots that have been mapped before now. This retreat has had a huge impact on inland glaciers, because releasing them from the sea bed removes friction, causing them to speed up and contribute to global sea level rise.”

The biggest changes were seen in West Antarctica, where more than a fifth of the ice sheet had retreated across the sea floor faster than the general pace of deglaciation.

The findings have been published on 2nd April 2018 in the journal Nature Geoscience. See: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41561-018-0082-z

Previous studies had indicated an expansion of sea ice in the antarctic region but this latest study used grounding lines as indicators of ice-sheet instability.

 

Further posts will be added here as they emerge.


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Media Lens new article states the reality of the problem

…… Click here to view it online
30 January 2017

Deranged And Deluded: The Media’s Complicity In The Climate Crisis

 

In an important recent book, the Indian writer Amitav Ghosh refers to the present era of corporate-driven climate crisis as ‘The Great Derangement’. For almost 12,000 years, since the last Ice Age, humanity has lived through a period of relative climate stability known as the Holocene. When Homo sapiens shifted, for the most part, from a nomadic hunter-gatherer existence to an agriculture-based life, towns and cities grew, humans went into space and the global population shot up to over seven billion people.

Today, many scientists believe that we have effectively entered a new geological era called the Anthropocene during which human activities have ‘started to have a significant global impact on Earth’s geology and ecosystems’. Indeed, we are now faced with severe, human-induced climate instability and catastrophic loss of species: the sixth mass extinction in four-and-a-half billion years of geological history, but the only one to have been caused by us.

Last Thursday, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved their symbolic Doomsday Clock forward thirty seconds, towards apocalypse. It is now two and a half minutes to midnight, the closest since 1953. Historically, the Doomsday Clock represented the threat of nuclear annihilation. But global climate change is now also recognised as an ‘extreme danger’.

Future generations, warns Ghosh, may well look back on this time and wonder whether humanity was deranged to continue on a course of business-as-usual. In fact, many people alive today already think so. It has become abundantly clear that governments largely pay only lip service to the urgent need to address global warming (or dismiss it altogether), while they pursue policies that deepen climate chaos. As climate writer and activist Bill McKibben points out, President Trump has granted senior energy and environment positions in his administration to men who:

‘know nothing about science, but they love coal and oil and gas – they come from big carbon states like Oklahoma and Texas, and their careers have been lubed and greased with oil money.’

Rex Tillerson, Trump’s US Secretary of State, is the former chairman and CEO of oil giant, ExxonMobil. He once told his shareholders that cutting oil production is ‘not acceptable for humanity’, adding: ‘What good is it to save the planet if humanity suffers?’

As for Obama’s ‘legacy’ on climate, renowned climate scientist James Hansen only gives him a ‘D’ grade. Obama had had a ‘golden opportunity’. But while he had said ‘the right words’, he had avoided ‘the fundamental approach that’s needed’. Contrast this with the Guardian view on Obama’s legacy that he had ‘allowed America to be a world leader on climate change’. Writer Ian Sinclair noted the stark discrepancy between Obama’s actual record on climate and fawning media comment, notably by the BBC and the Guardian:

‘Despite the liberal media’s veneration of the former US president, Obama did very little indeed to protect the environment.’

And so while political ‘leaders’ refuse to change course to avoid disaster, bankers and financial speculators continue to risk humanity’s future for the sake of making money; fossil fuel industries go on burning the planet; Big Business consumes and pollutes ecosystems; wars, ‘interventions’ and arms deals push the strategic aims of geopolitical power, all wrapped in newspeak about ‘peace’, ‘security’ and ‘democracy’; and corporate media promote and enable it all, deeply embedded and complicit as they are. The ‘Great Derangement’ indeed.

Consider, for example, the notorious US-based Koch Brothers who, as The Real News Network notes, ‘have used their vast wealth to ensure the American political system takes no action on climate change.’ Climate scientist Michael Mann is outspoken:

‘They have polluted our public discourse. They have skewed media coverage of the science of climate change. They have paid off politicians.’

He continues:

‘The number of lives that will be lost because of the damaging impacts of climate change – in the hundreds of millions. […] To me, it’s not just a crime against humanity, it’s a crime against the planet.’

But the Koch Brothers are just the tip of a state-corporate system that is on course to drive Homo sapiens towards a terminal catastrophe.

Earlier this month, the world’s major climate agencies confirmed 2016 as the hottest since modern records began. The global temperature is now 1C higher than preindustrial times, and the last three years have seen the record broken successively – the first time this has happened.

Towards the end of 2016, scientists reported ‘extraordinarily hot’ Arctic conditions. Danish and US researchers were ‘surprised and alarmed by air temperatures peaking at what they say is an unheard-of 20C higher than normal for the time of year.’ One of the scientists said:

‘These temperatures are literally off the charts for where they should be at this time of year. It is pretty shocking.’

Another researcher emphasised:

‘This is faster than the models. It is alarming because it has consequences.’

These ‘consequences’ will be terrible. Scientists have warned that increasingly rapid Arctic ice melt ‘could trigger uncontrollable climate change at global level’.

It gets worse. A new study suggests that global warming is on course to raise global sea level by between six and nine metres, wiping out coastal cities and settlements around the world. Mann describes the finding, with classic scientific understatement, as ‘sobering’ and adds that:

‘we may very well already be committed to several more metres of sea level rise when the climate system catches up with the carbon dioxide we’ve already pumped into the atmosphere’.

It gets worse still.

The Paris Climate Accord of 2015 repeated the international commitment to keep global warming below 2C. Even this limited rise would threaten life as we know it. When around a dozen climate scientists were asked for their honest opinion as to whether this target could be met, not one of them thought it likely. Bill McGuire, professor emeritus of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, was most adamant:

‘there is not a cat in hell’s chance [of keeping below 2C].’

But wait, because there’s even worse news. Global warming could well be happening so fast that it’s ‘game over’. The Earth’s climate could be so sensitive to greenhouse gases that we may be headed for a temperature rise of more than 7C within a lifetime. Mark Lynas, author of the award-winning book, Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet, was ‘shocked’ by the researchers’ study, describing it as ‘the apocalyptic side of bad’.

 

 

Burying The Climate Issue

Given all of the above, what does it say about the British government that it should bury an alarming report about the likely impacts of climate change on the UK? These impacts include:

‘the doubling of the deaths during heatwaves, a “significant risk” to supplies of food and the prospect of infrastructure damage from flooding.’

At a time of manufactured fear by ‘mainstream’ media about ‘fake news’ and ‘post-truth’ politics, how divorced from reality is the government when it would rather ignore such an important report, far less address seriously the urgent truth of climate chaos?

An exclusive article in the Independent noted that the climate report made virtually no impact when it was published on the government website of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) on 18 January:

‘despite its undoubted importance, Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom made no speech and did not issue her own statement, and even the Defra Twitter account was silent. No mainstream media organisation covered the report.’

The government said in the ignored report that climate change meant that ‘urgent priorities’ needed to be addressed, including a dramatic rise in heat-related deaths, coastal flooding and ‘significant risks to the availability and supply of food in the UK’. So, lip service at least. But Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment in London, said he was ‘astonished’ that the government had done so little to publicise the report:

‘It’s almost as if they were trying to sneak it out without people realising.’

Leading politicians, intelligence chiefs and their media allies are forever warning the British public of ‘security threats’ which are so often blowback from Western foreign policy; or the warnings are overhyped claims to justify their own fearmongering agendas. But when it comes to the greatest threat of all – climate change – they are remarkably silent. This exposes as a lie the rhetoric from government and security services that they are motivated by genuine concern for the well-being of the population. The truth is that powerful forces are always driven primarily by the desire to preserve and boost their own interests, their own profits, their own dominance.

Amitav Ghosh rightly notes that the most powerful states derive their privileged position in large part by sitting atop a world-threatening carbon economy:

‘The fact is that we live in a world that has been profoundly shaped by empire and its disparities. Differentials of power between and within nations are probably greater today than they have ever been. These differentials are, in turn, closely related to carbon emissions. The distribution of power in the world therefore lies at the core of the climate crisis.’ (Ghosh, ‘The Great Derangement’, University of Chicago Press, 2016, p. 146; our emphasis)

Tackling climate change thus means tackling global inequity. This requires a deep-rooted commitment to not just ‘a redistribution of wealth but also to a recalibration of global power’. He makes the crucial point that:

‘from the point of view of a security establishment that is oriented towards the maintenance of global dominance, this is precisely the scenario that is most greatly to be feared; from this perspective the continuance of the status quo is the most desirable of outcomes.’ (Ibid., p. 143; our emphasis)

 

The Myth Of ‘Fearless and Free Journalism’

The ‘mainstream’ media is not somehow separate from this state-corporate status quo, selflessly and valiantly providing a neutral window into what powerful sectors in society are doing. Instead, the major news media are an intrinsic component of this system run for the benefit of elites. The media are, in effect, the public relations wing of a planetary-wide network of exploitation, abuse and destruction. The climate crisis is the gravest symptom of this dysfunctional global apparatus.

News reporting on the economy, for instance, is typically divorced from reporting on the climate crisis. Judging by the lack of attention given to climate in last year’s Autumn Statement, whether by Chancellor Philip Hammond himself or the media dutifully reporting on it, the global warming emergency had miraculously gone away. It is as if there are two separate planets: one where ‘the economy’ happens; and another one, the real world, which is beset by catastrophic climate change.

Some readers will say: ‘But surely the best media – the likes of the BBC, the Guardian and Channel 4 News – report climate science honestly and accurately?’ Yes, to a large extent, they do a good job in reporting the science (though the BBC has often been guilty of ‘false balance’ on climate). But they rarely touch the serious, radical measures needed to address the climate crisis, or the nature and extent of the climate denial ‘Beast’. This is taboo; not least because it would raise awkward questions about rampant neoliberalism addressed, for example, by Naomi Klein in her books The Shock Doctrine and This Changes Everything.

As Ghosh also observes, capitalism and imperialism are intertwined as primary drivers of the climate crisis. But when did a BBC environment, economics or business correspondent ever report this truth? Their silence is shameful; all the more so for their avowed responsibility to the public who funds them. Even the very fact ‘that we live in a world that has been profoundly shaped by empire and its disparities… remains largely unacknowledged.’ (Ibid., p. 146). It is certainly not acknowledged by the BBC and the rest of the major news media for which the public is supposed to be grateful. The BBC still reflects its origins in empire and the establishment while proclaiming falsely its ‘independence’ and ‘impartiality’. Consider, for example, that Sir David Clementi, former deputy governor of Bank of England, has just been confirmed as the new BBC chair. This, in a nutshell, is how the state-corporate media system operates. A former banker will become the new chair of the ‘independent’ BBC, appointed by the government. This is all part of the fiction of ‘media plurality’, ‘impartiality’ and ‘freedom’ from ‘political interference’.

Even when the Guardian recently ran a live page on climate change on the day that President Trump took office, with a follow-up titled, ‘So you want to be a climate campaigner? Here’s how’, the paper’s compromised worldview was all too apparent. The top of the Guardian‘s website proudly proclaimed:

‘With climate sceptics moving into the White House, the Guardian will spend the next 24 hours focusing on the climate change happening right now, and what we can do to help protect the planet.’

But you would have searched in vain for any in-depth analysis of how Big Business, together with co-opted governments, have hurled massive resources at stifling any real progress towards tackling climate change, and ‘what we can do’ about that. In particular, there was no Guardian commitment to drop any – never mind all – fossil-fuel advertising revenue. The proposal to reject ads from ‘environmental villains’ had been put to the paper by its own columnist George Monbiot in 2009, following a challenge from Media Lens. It got nowhere. Significantly, the Guardian‘s ‘focused’ climate coverage once again steered clear of its own questionable behaviour and its structural ties to elite money and power. Meanwhile, the paper continues to be riddled with ads promoting carbon emissions – notably short-haul flights and cars – ironically appearing right beside articles about dangerous global warming.

Even as such glaring contradictions, omissions and silences become ever more apparent to Guardian readers, the paper is ramping up its appeals for readers to dip into their pockets. When Trump triumphed in the US election last November, Lee Glendinning, the editor of Guardian US, pleaded:

‘Never has the world needed independent journalism more. […] Now is the time to support journalism that is both fearless and free.’

She deployed standard, self-serving Guardian rhetoric:

‘Because the Guardian is not beholden to profit-seeking shareholders or a billionaire owner, we can pursue stories without fear of where they might take us, free from commercial and political influence.’

In repeatedly churning out the myth about the Guardian being ‘free from commercial and political influence’, any public doubts about its pure nature are supposed to be dispelled. But there comes a point where the readers know their intelligence is being insulted. And we are now well past that point.

The Guardian‘s complicit role as a liberal gatekeeper of truth will not – cannot – be honestly addressed by the Guardian itself; nor by the well-rewarded journalists and commentators who appear regularly in its pages.

The current era of ‘great derangement’ will last as long as the public allows news and debate to be manipulated by a state-corporate media system that is complicit in killing the planet. We urgently need to consider alternatives for the sake of humanity.

DC

This Alert is Archived here:

Deranged And Deluded: The Media’s Complicity In The Climate Crisis

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