Friday, June 19, 2009
Is Climate Armageddon upon us? Well, there is good news and bad news. The bad news is yes, I believe that it is. The good news is that while we cannot stop it, we still have a little time to prepare for it. I am not trying to be an alarmist, that bell has been rung by others. And, while I am not a climatologist, you do not have to be one to read the message in the bottle. From all that I have read, the climate tipping point has been reached and we cannot stop the rising tide, pun intended, of major climate change impacts. The best we can do is to prepare and brace for impact, and, take immediate actions to try to lessen the duration of the climate event that has already begun.
By know, you have hopefully heard about the just released White House Report on Climate Change. I do not base my conclusions on the report but it does put it all into some level of perspective in terminology for the layman. The hi9ghlights of the report, and its website, are as follows:
“Climate Change Impacts
Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States: Report Home Page, The most comprehensive, authoritative report on Global Climate Change (http://globalchange.gov/)
1. Global warming is unequivocal and primarily human-induced.
2. Climate changes are underway in the United States and are projected to grow.
3. Widespread climate-related impacts are occurring now and are expected to increase.
4. Climate change will stress water resources.
5. Crop and livestock production will be increasingly challenged.
6. Coastal areas are at increasing risk from sea-level rise and storm surge.
7. Threats to human health will increase.
8. Climate change will interact with many social and environmental stresses.
9. Thresholds will be crossed, leading to large changes in climate and ecosystems.
10. Future climate change and its impacts depend on choices made today.”
The report details anticipated changes by regions of the United States and for many, it should be an eye opener. My only concern over the report is that it sets the timeline for these changes a bit far into the future. Even a decade is too far as these events are happening now and the severity of the events will soon grow exponentially. Keep in mind, every model that has predicted a climate change timeline has been proven wrong. It is all happening faster. Further, new factors emerge every day that speed up this timeline and unforeseen factors also pop up every day. The snowball effect has begun and reports will be unable to keep up with the downhill train. I would ask that you read some of the following stories that have hit various news and science sites. The key word is “some” as this is just a smattering of what is not always making headline news.
“UN humanitarian chief John Holmes speaks during a press conference in Khartoum in May 2009. Some of the world's biggest cities are at growing risk of "mega disasters", the UN's humanitarian chief said Tuesday, warning that climate change was behind a rising number of natural catastrophes.
The Red Cross joined the UN in urging more investment to ensure that cities, villages and small communities were better prepared for natural disasters that are being amplified by global warming.
Natural and man-made disasters killed nearly a quarter of a million people in 2008 and warnings about looming disasters, particularly climate change, are not being heeded, the Red Cross said.
At 242,662 people worldwide, this was the second biggest annual toll of the past decade, according to a report by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
Nine in 10 of those disasters were weather-related and they caused up to 200 billion dollars (145 billion Euros) worth of damage, Holmes said, calling it an "enormous concern".
"The effects of climate change are being felt now; they're not simply some future threat."
“Extreme weather, drought, heavy rainfall and increasing temperatures are a fact of life in many parts of the U.S. as a result of human-induced climate change, researchers report today in a new assessment. These and other changes will continue and likely increase in intensity into the future, the scientists found.
Researchers representing 13 U.S. government science agencies, major universities and research institutes produced the study, "Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States." Commissioned in 2007, it is the most comprehensive report to date on national climate change, offering the latest information on rising temperatures, heavy downpours, extreme weather, sea level changes and other results of climate change in the U.S.”
“By mid-century, people may be fleeing rising seas, droughts, floods and other effects of changing climate, in migrations that could vastly exceed the scope of anything before, says a major new report. The document, authored by researchers at Columbia University's Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN), the United Nations University and CARE International, was released at a news conference in Bonn.
While the report does not attempt to put numbers to those potentially uprooted, estimates from other reports it cites range from 25 million to 50 million by 2010, to almost 700 million by 2050.
• Breakdown of ecosystem-based economies including subsistence herding, farming and fishing will be the dominant driver of forced migration.
• Climate change will increase the frequency and intensity of natural hazards such as cyclones, floods and droughts. Rains in parts of Mexico and Central America, for instance, are projected to drop as much as 50% by 2080. Farmers in parts of Mexico and North Africa's Sahel region may already be moving in part due to changing rains.
• Sea level rise directly threatens the existence of some 40 countries. Saltwater intrusion, flooding and erosion could destroy agriculture in the densely populated Mekong, Nile and Ganges deltas. A rise of two meters, or six feet--well within some projections for this century-- would inundate nearly half the Mekong's 3 million hectares (7.5 million acres) of farmland. Some Pacific island nations including the Maldives (pop. 300,000) are already considering prospects for total relocation.
• Ongoing melting of alpine glaciers in the Himalayas will devastate the heavily irrigated farmlands of Asia by increasing floods and decreasing long-term water supplies. The glacier-fed basins of the Ganges, Brahmaputra, Irrawaddy, Salween, Mekong, Yangtze and Yellow rivers now support over 1.4 billion people.
• Most migrants will probably move within their own countries, or to countries next door. Many will be poor, and many will be unable to move far enough to improve their lots. Ripples from resulting conflicts and collapses will hit richer countries.”
June 10th, 2009 by Les Blumenthal, McClatchy Newspapers
In Washington State, oysters in some areas haven't reproduced for four years, and preliminary evidence suggests that the increasing acidity of the ocean could be the cause. In the Gulf of Mexico, falling oxygen levels in the water have forced shrimp to migrate elsewhere.
Federal studies also found acidity levels in the North Pacific and off Alaska are unusually high compared to other ocean regions. The high acidity is already taking a toll of such tiny species as pteropods, which are an important food for salmon and other fish.
As greenhouse gas emissions increase, billions of tons of carbon dioxide from smokestacks and vehicle tailpipes are absorbed by the oceans. The result is carbonic acid, which dilutes the "rich soup" of calcium carbonate in the seawater that many species, especially on the low end of the food chain, thrive in, Warren said.
"If we lose it, it is gone forever," Warren said of the oceans' delicate chemical balance.”
Coral reefs throughout the Caribbean have been comprehensively 'flattened' over the last 40 years, according to a disturbing new study by the University of East Anglia (UEA).
This drastic loss of architectural complexity is clearly driving substantial declines in biodiversity, which will in turn affect coastal fishing communities.
"The loss of structure also vastly reduces the Caribbean's natural coastal defenses, significantly increasing the risk of coastal erosion and flooding."
More and more, scientists are getting a better grip on the nitrogen cycle. They are learning about sources of nitrogen and how this element changes as it loops from the nonliving, such as the atmosphere, soil or water, to the living, whether plants or animals. Scientists have determined that humans are disrupting the nitrogen cycle by altering the amount of nitrogen that is stored in the biosphere.
The study, in the June 19 issue of the journal Science, is the latest to rule out a drop in CO2 as the cause for earth's ice ages growing longer and more intense some 850,000 years ago. But it also confirms many researchers' suspicion that higher carbon dioxide levels coincided with warmer intervals during the study period.
The authors show that peak CO2 levels over the last 2.1 million years averaged only 280 parts per million; but today, CO2 is at 385 parts per million, or 38% higher.
"We know from looking at much older climate records that large and rapid increase in C02 in the past, (about 55 million years ago) caused large extinction in bottom-dwelling ocean creatures, and dissolved a lot of shells as the ocean became acidic," he said. "We're heading in that direction now."
“The current solar minimum has been so long and deep, it prompted some scientists to speculate that the sun might enter a long period with no sunspot activity at all, akin to the Maunder Minimum of the 17th century. This new result dispels those concerns. The sun's internal magnetic dynamo is still operating, and the sunspot cycle is not "broken."
Howe and Hill found that the stream associated with the next solar cycle has moved sluggishly, taking three years to cover a 10 degree range in latitude compared to only two years for the previous solar cycle.
The jet stream is now, finally, reaching the critical latitude, heralding a return of solar activity in the months and years ahead.” (NOTE: This is one of those events that could change everything in a very brief time span.)
“The world's ocean environment - and the fish in it - is facing catastrophe.
"These huge resources which we once believed to be renewable, that our whole human history has led us up until now to believe are renewable, are not renewable anymore because of what we are doing to them. And so our entire philosophical approach has to change. It is not going to be the same in the future as it was in the past." (FILM-The End of the Line)
LONDON, England (CNN) -- The first comprehensive report into the human cost of climate change warns the world is in the throes of a "silent crisis" that is killing 300,000 people each year.
More than 300 million people are already seriously affected by the gradual warming of the earth and that number is set to double by 2030, the report from the Global Humanitarian Forum warns.
"For the first time we are trying to get the world's attention to the fact that climate change is not something waiting to happen. It is impacting seriously the lives of many people around the world," the forum's president, former U.N.
Racing the clock: Rapid climate change forces scientists to evaluate extreme conservation strategies
May 25th, 2009
Scientists are, for the first time, objectively evaluating ways to help species adapt to rapid climate change and other environmental threats via strategies that were considered too radical for serious consideration as recently as five or 10 years ago. Among these radical strategies currently being considered is so-called "managed relocation." Managed relocation, which is also known as "assisted migration," involves manually moving species into more accommodating habitats where they are not currently found.
"…it is becomingly overwhelmingly evident that climate change is a reality; and it is fast and large. Consequences will arise within decades, not centuries."
"We have previously been able to say, 'let nature run its course.' But because humans have already changed the world, there is no letting nature run its course anymore.
There are many other stories in various science journals that tell of eco-system collapses; species extinctions; habitat loss; storm severity; ocean rise refugees; droughts; floods and more. These are current events, not future events. Add to this the disease issues caused by current climate change and the picture looks bleak. The point is that with all of the talk of carbon caps and new technologies, people are being lulled into believing that we still have plenty of time to deal with the issue. There is an attitude that we must first deal with the economy and then tackle tough climate change problems. Sorry, we do not have that luxury. Want to boost the construction industry? Start now by building housing for climate refugees. Begin now to move infrastructure away for coastal areas. Relocate people now away from devastating storm zones. Relocate people away from areas of looming water shortages. Start de-centralizing power grids to prevent total power supply chaos. Lots of jobs to be had from the pending disasters. Will anyone really listen to this warning? Probably not. Nothing much will happen until a major catastrophe hits a major Western country. Of course, by that time, it will be a bit late. It would seem that the forces are gathering to bring about a major 2102 event. The sad part is that it did not have to happen. No one HEARS a prophet until after the prophesied event actually happens. Nostradamus left some warnings along with the Hopi, Mayans and many more. Just an aside, when Brian Doe and I wrote the first two books of the “Waking God” trilogy we thought we were speaking of events that would be a bit further into the future. Funny how form can so closely follow thought. I will never forget the quote that greeted students in my old junior high school, “A word to the wise is sufficient.”