Obama: Western wildfires have a lot “to do with climate change”

james1

While I’m generally no hardline presidential apologist, I do have to praise Obama for acknowledging that the record-setting Carlton Complex wildfire, along with other ongoing western blazes, can be attributed to climate change.

“A lot of it has to do with drought, a lot of it has to do with changing precipitation patterns, and a lot of that has to do with climate change,” the USA Today quoted the president as saying during a recent visit to Seattle.

Unfortunately since then, the media has been silent about the president’s statement, omitting it in any subsequent article about President Barack Obama signing a federal emergency declaration for the areas affected by the wildfires. The declaration authorizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security to coordinate disaster relief and help state and local agencies with equipment and resources.

That’s good news for this particular weather event, but it hardly trumps the fact that the planet is sure to experience this scale of catastrophic wildfire again and again in the future.

Perhaps the reason we’re not hearing about the climate change connection has to with the results of a recent survey revealing that Americans are more skeptical of climate change than others polled across the globe.

According to an ABC News article, when asked if they agreed with the statement, “The climate change we are currently seeing is largely the result of human activity,” just 54 percent of Americans surveyed said yes. Although this number indicates a majority, the United States still ranked last among 20 countries in the poll.

Meanwhile, China topped the list, with 93 percent of its citizens agreeing that human activity is causing climate change. Large majorities also agreed in France (80 percent), Brazil (79 percent), Germany (72 percent) and other countries.

Similarly, 91 percent of those from China agreed with the statement, “We are heading for environmental disaster unless we change our habits quickly.” Only 57 percent of Americans thought so — again, last among 20 nations surveyed.

‘Mother Nature is winning here’: Wildfire destroys about 100 homes in central Washington

As  you’ve probably heard by now, Washington’s scenic Methow Valley, up in the North central portion of the state, is on fire. Big time. The title of the attached U.S. News article, “Mother Nature is Winning Here,” hit the nail on the head. What started out two days ago as 4 small fires covering 18,000 acres has mushroomed almost overnight to a monstrous 240,000 acre inferno, capable of gobbling up any town that tries to stand in its way.

photo Copyright Jim Robertson

photo Copyright Jim Robertson

I lived in the  Methow for 20 some years, in a cabin in the heart of the Lake Chelan Sawtooth range, nestled on the eastern edge of the North Cascades mountains. My wife grew up in the valley; my brother and his wife still live there.

It was there that I learned to really respect the power of wildfires. I was working on a trail crew for the U.S. Forest Service. When we were sent on “controlled” burn on the Gold Creek Ridge near the now infamous town of Carlton I saw just how quickly an out of control fire can spread.

Being a “controlled” burn, it was planned for the spring when conditions aren’t nearly as dry as they are this time of year. We were using drip torches to set off slash piles. One big pile was next to the edge of a flagged “unit,” next to an unlogged slope. The guy working on that pile got carried away, so a couple of us went over to help keep his fire from spreading. We started frantically pulling slash off the unburned slope and tossing it out of reach of the flames. But the effort was too late; one worker who stopped to take a break saw the flames reach across the flag line behind us. He yelled, “Get out of there, you guys.” We turned to see the fire move over our fire line and into the brush and trees outside the unit. Luckily we hurried out of the fire’s path. Within seconds, the flames reached the crowns of the trees and the fire shot uphill and blackened the entire slope before we could even think about trying to get ahead of it and slow its progress…

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‘MOTHER NATURE IS WINNING HERE’: Wildfire destroys about 100 homes in central Washington

By NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS and GENE JOHNSON, Associated Press

PATEROS, Wash. (AP) — A fire racing through rural north-central Washington destroyed about 100 homes, leaving behind smoldering rubble, solitary brick chimneys and burned-out automobiles as it blackened hundreds of square miles in the scenic Methow Valley.

Friday’s dawn revealed dramatic devastation, with the Okanagan County town of Pateros, home to 650 people, hit especially hard. Most residents evacuated in advance of the flames, and some returned Friday to see what, if anything, was left of their houses. There were no reports of injuries, officials said.

A wall of fire wiped out a block of homes on Dawson Street. David Brownlee, 75, said he drove away Thursday evening just as the fire reached the front of his home, which erupted like a box of matches.

“It was just a funnel of fire,” Brownlee said. “All you could do was watch her go.”

Next door, the Pateros Community Church appeared largely undamaged.

The pavement of U.S. Highway 97 stopped the advance of some of the flames, protecting parts of Pateros.

Firefighters poured water over the remnants of homes Friday morning, raising clouds of smoke, steam and dust. Two big water towers perched just above the town were singed black by the flames. The fire consumed utility poles from two major power lines, one feeding Pateros and the other feeding the towns of Winthrop and Twisp to the north.

Gov. Jay Inslee said about 50 fires were burning in Washington, which has been wracked by hot, dry weather and lightning. Some 2,000 firefighters were working in the eastern part of the state, with about a dozen helicopters from the Department of Natural Resources and the National Guard, along with a Washington State Patrol spotter plane.

Inslee said that the state was rapidly training about 1,000 additional National Guard troops and active duty military could be called in as well.

“This, unfortunately, is not going to be a one-day or one-week event,” he said.

The Methow Valley, about 180 miles northeast of Seattle, is a popular area for hiking and fishing. Sections of several highways were closed.

“There’s a lot of misplaced people, living in parking lots and stuff right now,” said Rod Griffin, a fly-fishing guide who lives near Twisp. “The whole valley’s in disarray.”

He described long lines for gasoline, with at least one gas station out of fuel, and said cellphone towers must have been damaged as well because there was very little service.

In Brewster, 6 miles to the south, a hospital was evacuated as a precaution. The smoke was so thick there Friday it nearly obscured the Columbia River from adjacent highways. The smoke extended all the way to Spokane, 150 miles to the east.

Jacob McCann, a spokesman for the fire known as the Carlton Complex, said it “ran quite a bit” Thursday and officials were also able to get a better handle on its size. It blackened 260 square miles by Friday morning, up dramatically from the prior estimate of 28 square miles.

“Mother Nature is winning here,” Don Waller, chief of Okanogan County Fire District 6, told The Wenatchee World newspaper.

The county sheriff, Frank Rogers, said his team counted 30 houses and trailers destroyed in Pateros, another 40 in a community just outside the town at Alta Lake, and about 25 homes destroyed elsewhere in the county of about 40,000 people.

More: http://www.usnews.com/news/us/articles/2014/07/18/growing-wildfire-empties-washington-town

Why whale poo could be the secret to reversing the effects of climate change

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jul/08/whale-poo-reverse-climate-change

I have been at the wrong end of a defecating sperm whale: it smells, it’s nutrient rich, and could just save the world
A whale seen under a whalewatching boat in Peninsula Valdez, Argentina.

A whale seen under a whalewatching boat in Peninsula Valdez, Argentina. Photograph: Justin Hofman / Barcroft Media

The first success of the environmental movements of the 1960s was to save the whale. Now, with deep irony, whales may be about to save us with their poo. A new scientific report from the University of Vermont, which gathers together several decades of research, shows that the great whales which nearly became extinct in the 20th century – and are now recovering in number due to the 1983 ban on whaling – may be the enablers of massive carbon sinks via their prodigious production of faeces.

Not only do the nutrients in whale poo feed other organisms, from phytoplankton upwards – and thereby absorb the carbon we humans are pumping into the atmosphere – even in death the sinking bodies of these massive animals create new resources on the sea bed, where entire species exist solely to graze on rotting whale. There’s an additional and direct benefit for humans, too. Contrary to the suspicions of fishermen that whales take their catch, cetacean recovery could “lead to higher rates of productivity in locations where whales aggregate to feed and give birth”. Their fertilizing faeces here, too, would encourage phytoplankton which in turn would encourage healthier fisheries.

Such propositions speak to our own species’ arrogance. As demonstrated in the fantastical geoengineering projects dreamed up to address climate change, the human race’s belief that the world revolves around it knows no bounds. What if whales were nature’s ultimate geoengineers? The new report only underlines what has been suspected for some time: that cetaceans, both living and dead, are ecosystems in their own right. But it also raises a hitherto unexplored prospect, that climate change may have been accelerated by the terrible whale culls of the 20th century, which removed hundreds of thousands of these ultimate facilitators of CO2 absorption. As Greg Gatenby, the acclaimed Canadian writer on whales told me in response to the Vermont report, “about 300,000 blue whales were taken in the 20th century. If you average each whale at 100 tons, that makes for the removal from the ocean of approximately 30m tons of biomass. And that’s just for one species”.

A defecating sperm whale off the coast of Sri Lanka. A defecating sperm whale off the coast of Sri Lanka. Photograph: Andrew Sutton There’s another irony here, too. American whaling, as celebrated in Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick (1851), declined in part because of the discovery of mineral oil wells in the second half of the 19th century. One unsustainable resource – the whale oil which lit and lubricated the industrial revolution – was replaced by another. By killing so many whales, then turning to carbon-emitting mineral oil, humans created a double-whammy for climate change. (Conversely, and perhaps perversely, some US commentators have claimed that capitalism saved the whales rather than environmentalists. They contend that our use of mineral oil actually alleviated the pressure on whale populations – proof, they say, that human ingenuity has the ultimate power to solve the planet’s problems).

The 10 scientists who jointly contributed to the new paper note the benefits of “an ocean repopulated by the great whales”. Working on a whalewatching boat off Cape Cod last month, I witnessed astonishing numbers of fin whales, humpbacks and minkes feeding on vast schools of sand eels. I watched dozens of whales at a time, co-operatively hoovering up the bait – and producing plentiful clouds of poo in the process. (Having been at the receiving end of a defecating sperm whale, I can testify to its richly odiferous qualities.)

Observers in the Azores have reported similarly remarkable concentrations of cetaceans this summer. And with a 10% increase in humpback calves returning to Australian waters each year, and blue whales being seen in the Irish Sea, a burgeoning global population of cetaceans might not just be good for the whalewatching industry, they may play a significant role in the planet’s rearguard action against climate change.

It would certainly be a generous return on their part, given what we’ve inflicted on them. Indeed, as Melville imagined in his prophetic chapter in Moby-Dick, Does the Whale’s Magnitude Diminish?, the whale might yet have the last laugh, regaining its reign in a flooded world of the future to “spout his frothed defiance to the skies”.

We’re in a War Over Climate Change…

By Paul B. Farrell, MarketWatch
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. (MarketWatch) — America’s “WWIII, the Global Warming War” was launched by the Bush Pentagon in 2004 with this warning: “Climate could change radically and fast … be the mother of all national security issues … hit home sooner and harder than we ever imagined,” reported Fortune, causing “massive droughts, turning farmland into dust bowls and forests to ashes.” Accelerating population unrest, so that by “2020 there is little doubt that something drastic is happening … an old pattern could emerge, warfare defining human life,” expanding in 12 climate change war zones worldwide.
In the past decade America spent over $7 trillion on the Pentagon’s budget. We’ve had time for a new General Eisenhower to emerge, plan and launch a WWIII “D-Day” attack on the “Climate Change” battlefield. Instead, we’re losing WWIII, in retreat, sabotaged by Big Oil, GOP political drama, and a powerful army of climate-science deniers … as 2020 and the “mother of all national security issues” relentlessly targets our defenses.
Well, the president finally launched a counterattack, rearming America with new EPA regulations targeting large carbon emitters, coal-burning power plants. But these regs are the global warming equivalent of video games fighting against combat-ready warriors, military strategies, weapons, B-2 bombers, nuclear armed drones and silo-launched missiles. We’re still virtually defenseless against an enemy with a war chest of billions, millions of employees and science deniers, plus the backing of shareholders, politicians, lobbyists, bankers and auto owners.
Yes, the new EPA regs may minimize the more immediate dangers of all the incoming bogies that trigger global warming — auto pollution, fracking, methane, hot oceans, overfishing, deforestation, glaciers melting. But unfortunately, the new EPA regs aim too low, targeting aging power generators and coal-burning power plants with outdated technology, most of which already are slated for replacement and release a mere 4% of the industry’s CO2 emissions. Worse, the full impact of the new regs won’t kick in till 2030 … long after the Pentagon’s warning ignites.
WWIII? Where’s the “D-Day” urgency? A decade after the Pentagon’s warning that by 2020 “warfare will define human life,” our leaders still lack moral courage as our collective conscience keeps drifting deep into pure materialism, choosing short-term economic growth and jobs, handicapping the long-term survival of the planet and our civilization. Worse, we’re ignoring the growing threat as the world’s population explodes from 7 billion today to 10 billion by 2050, further accelerating unrest among all nations.
WWIII Phase 2: new EPA regs vs. Big Oil, GOP, science deniers
Yes, global-warming politics is an American war, started by the Bush Pentagon. Obama’s EPA regulations officially launched Phase II. As the president put it in an interview with New York Times columnist Tom Friedman: “No more than one-third of proven reserves of fossil fuels can be consumed prior to 2050.” The president added, “Science is science. There’s no doubt that if we burned all the fossil fuel that’s in the ground right now that the planet’s going to get too hot and the consequences could be dire.” So “we’re not going to be able to burn it all. … but we have to use this time wisely, so that you have a tapering off of fossil fuels replaced by clean energy sources that are not releasing carbon.”
The GOP counterattacked: House Speaker John Boehner called the new EAP regs a “war on coal” that “will kill 224,000 jobs and surge electric bills by $17 billion every year.” The conservative Townhall magazine says “a half a million workers” could lose jobs. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce claimed businesses would lose over $50 billion a year. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called the regulations “a dagger in the heart of the middle class.” Forbes, and other media echoed Boehner’s numbers. When the noise cleared, newspaper fact-checker PolitiFact.com analyzed Boehner’s statement, ruled it “false.” This war is in our heads.
For years we’ve been using a 12-sector investment strategy based on Jared Diamond’s classic, “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed.” He analyzed 12 macroeconomic areas that over the centuries resulted in entire civilizations disappearing. Here are those 12 macro sectors. Given the threat as 2020 approaches, these 12 are now war zones in President Obama’s Phase 2 of the accelerating WWIII Global Warming Wars:
1. Global population growth
Optimists and bulls see an abundant world and three billion more consumers by 2050 and others see the United Nation’s estimates as limiting growth. However, population is “the most overlooked and essential strategy for achieving long-term balance with the environment,” says Scientific American. In Diamond’s 12-factor equation, population growth and lifestyles increases are the two main drivers impacting the others. By 2050 global population will explode from 7 billion to 10 billion, with 1.4 billion each in China and India. Yes, experts challenge the numbers. Earth Institute’s Jeffrey Sachs says even five billion is unsustainable.
2. Worldwide consumer lifestyle
Today, all across the world, people have their own version of the American Dream. In effect, we are all capitalists, the rich, middle class and poor all want more. Witness luxury-car sales in China, microloans for entrepreneurs in India. The downside is that even if population levels off, accelerating lifestyle demands are driving all nations to increase resource use to the same rate as America today, 32 times more resources and dumping 32 times more waste.
3. Global water crisis
Buffett says buy what you know. Well, buy water. It’s everywhere, essential for drinking, industry, agriculture, transportation. And threatened. Media calls water the “new gold.” Water generated over a half trillion dollars in revenue worldwide in 2010. As world population accelerates, as more than one billion “lack access to clean drinking water,” it will soon “trade like oil futures.” For many, water is more valuable than fuel. Consider bottled water companies, soft-drinks, purification, desalination. Buy water.
4. World’s food and nutrition
Huge opportunities: “If you want to become rich, become a farmer,” says Jim Rogers in “Hot Commodities.” The World Bank, UN and IMF all estimate a billion of the planet’s seven billion people are poor, undernourished, surviving on two dollars a day. Mostly subsistence farmers. Monsanto and other agriculture giants have a huge stake in the future of farming, fertilizers, pesticides, irrigation, and genetically engineered seeds. Downside: Money manager Jeremy Grantham says the planet can’t feed the three billion more projected. Others focus on commercial opportunities, and they’re hot.
5. Productive agricultural zones
Both billionaire investors and nations see the opportunities: Owning farmlands is a solid bet on the future of developed economies and emerging nations. Critics call the trend “land-grabbing” when rich nations buy the agricultural assets of poorer nations. But rich or poor, new populations demand better lifestyles, needing more food. So today there’s a global rally in ag lands, with 25% returns possible.
6. Worldwide forest lands
The demand for urban land and lumber rides population growth up. China and India are planning 500 new cities. Former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson is advising China. Half the world’s rain forests and natural habitats have been converted into new urban centers. Another quarter will be converted by 2050. Downside: Soils are being eroded by water and wind at “rates between 10 to 40 times the rates of soil formation,” much higher in forests where erosion is “between 500 and 10,000 times” replacement rate, due to the accelerating of mega fires.
7. Global fossil fuels
Even if you’re not a cash-rich nation or superrich billionaire, you can still invest in energy mutual funds at Vanguard, Fidelity and Pimco. They manage hundreds of billions in oil and natural gas equities, bonds and commodity funds. Pimco’s Bill Gross predicts a “significant break” in the world’s “growth pattern,” betting we’re past the “peak oil” tipping point. His New Normal strategy accounts for a decline in consumer shopping as economies grow slower and “corporate profits will be static.” Many investors already own energy stocks and mutual funds.
8. Alternative energy
In his classic, “The Quest,” Daniel Yergin, the world’s leading energy expert, says alternative energies will remain a niche market for decades. Fossil fuels will remain 80% of the total in 2050. The Foreign Policy journal echoes Yergin’s forecast in “The 7 Myths About Alternative Energy.” Biofuels, solar, wind and nuclear may not be the “major ticket,” but still huge with global economies now in excess of $80 trillion annually. And with America spending over a trillion annually on total energy usage, 20% on alternatives may grow even faster as fossil fuel production costs increase.
9. International solar power
New technologies are inviting innovative alternatives, such as fuel cells and batteries. Also promising: When the Mars Rover project shut down, Silicon Valley billionaires privatized the Mars engineering team tasked to build new rockets and robots to explore and mine 10,000 asteroids for energy resources potentially worth trillions. If this sounds like a plot right out of the movie “Avatar,” well, it is.
10. Global toxic chemicals

Human solutions to climate change have unintended consequences. For example, while mining generates economic growth, it also dumps toxins into the air, soil, rivers, lakes, oceans. Toxins break down slowly, if at all. From insecticides, pesticides and herbicides to detergents and plastics, balance is essential between growth and public health. Yet, solutions are more in the realm of politics and government regulations, all of which are at odds with business plans, yet offer new opportunities for innovation. 
11. International ozone 
Yes, human activities, autos and manufacturing plants produce carbon dioxides and other gases that escape into the atmosphere and destroy the protective ozone or absorb and reduce solar energy. Innovative geo-engineering plans are under development to explore using space rockets to block harmful sun rays, reduce global warming, reverse climate change. 
12. Species diversity 
In his classic “Collapse,” Diamond warns, “a significant fraction of wild species, populations and genetic diversity has been lost. And at present rates, a large percent of the rest will disappear in a half century.” Diamond also targeted the unpredictable consequences of transferring native species onto foreign lands where they begin “preying on, parasitizing, infecting or outcompeting” native animals and plants that lack evolutionary resistance, infecting native species with new diseases. 
We’re falling behind, losing WWIII. The new EPA regs are a small step. Lots more must be done. Soon. Diamond tells us these 12 climate-change war zones are “time bombs with fuses of less than 50 years, if unsolved would do us great harm, because they all interact with each other … we need to solve them all.” 
Piecemeal solutions won’t save us from collapse: “The world’s environmental problems will get resolved, in one way or another within the lifetime of the children and young adults alive today…. The only question is whether they will become resolved in pleasant ways of our own choice, or in unpleasant ways not of our choice, such as warfare, genocide, starvation, disease epidemics, and collapses of societies.” 
-Paul B. Farrell

Dahr Jamail | “Devastating” Impacts of Climate Change Increasing

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/23660-devastating-impacts-of-climate-change-increasing

A massive collapse of an ice sheet in Western Antarctica has begun and, according to scientists, is most likely an unstoppable event that will cause an inevitable rise in global sea levels of at least 10 feet.

The rise will be relatively slow at first, but by 2100 will ramp up sharply. This could happen sooner, warn the scientists, as the impacts of anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD/climate change) continue to intensify.

“This is really happening,” Thomas P. Wagner, who runs NASA’s programs on polar ice and helped oversee some of the research, said. “There’s nothing to stop it now.”

On April 13, the world’s leading scientific body for the assessment of ACD warned of a “devastating rise of 4-5C if we carry on as we are.”

According to Mike Childs, the head of science, policy and research at Friends of the Earth, an increase to 4C warming would mean a “devastating” impact on agriculture and human civilization. Childs added that we would face even more extreme weather events and lose approximately 20-30 percent of the wildlife on the planet. This assessment may even be overly hopeful, given that humans have never lived on a planet at 3.5C or higher.

A report released in April by a joint Australian/US research team states that escalating CO2 emissions now threaten the entire marine food chain, given that more than 90 percent of the excess CO2 in the atmosphere is absorbed by the oceans.

The extreme temperature duality witnessed across the US this past winter is likely to become the norm, thanks to ACD, and it was again revealed who the largest CO2 emitters are. China, the US and India lead as the world’s largest polluters.

The rapidity with which ACD is progressing now is truly astounding. Greenhouse gas emissions grew in the first decade of the 21st century at a rate nearly double that of the previous 30 years combined – this, despite the massive economic downturn in 2008.

With full steam ahead for the industrial growth society that dominates the planet, this dispatch reveals another month of dramatic impacts and stunning reports that show, starkly, how humans are disfiguring all facets of the earth.

Earth

According to a recent study published in Nature, increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere could be lengthening the growing seasons of grasses and other plants. This might seem like good news, except that another study published in Nature about two weeks later revealed that increased CO2 emissions are making the world’s staple food crops of wheat, rice, maize and soybeans less nutritious, which is worsening the already serious health problems already suffered by the billions of malnourished people on the planet.

ACD is also playing a role in causing a dramatic increase in wheat rust, a fungal disease known as “the polio of the food world,” spreading from Africa to South and Central Asia, the Middle East and now Europe. This is causing calamitous losses for the world’s second most important grain crop after rice, and scientists are very concerned about the dangers this poses to global food security.

This is in addition to the increasing frequency of agricultural shocks caused by extreme weather events that are resulting in a surge in food prices that is hitting consumers, as well as everyone in the food chain, from farmers to agricultural traders to food manufacturers.

In the US, beef prices have already hit an all-time high, since extreme weather like massive droughts has thinned the country’s beef cattle herds to the lowest levels since 1951, when there was only half the number of people to feed.

The San Jose Tico Times in Costa Rica reported that ACD is causing the collapse of wildlife habitats, widespread animal extinction, water scarcity and the spreading of diseases across the already extremely vulnerable populations of Latin America. The region already has the highest biodiversity on the planet, but one-third of all coral-building species there are already threatened with extinction, and 40 percent of the mangrove species along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of Central America are threatened with extinction.

Escalating temperatures across the US Southwest are causing changes for birds and reptiles – and while some are benefitting from said changes, others like jays and other birds could lose as much as 80 percent of their breeding range by 2100, are losing and becoming threatened with extinction.

In the Arctic region of the planet, permafrost stores vast amounts of organic material that is teeming with microbes. Scientists are now reporting that as the permafrost thaws, as it is now at ever-increasing rates, it is changing the composition of the vegetation in the Arctic by releasing these microbes and accelerating ACD. According to Jeff Chanton, an environmental scientist who was involved in the study, when the peat in the permafrost thaws, water floods the soil and the chemistry change in the soil increases greenhouse gas production.

Speaking of the Arctic, in Alaska the landscape is radically changing in the north as melting permafrost is causing forests to no longer grow straight, as trees are tilting and falling over.

Meanwhile, child psychiatrists, psychologists and educators are reporting escalating anxiety levels in youth, who are flooded with disconcerting talk and news about the destruction of our planet.

Water

Water-related phenomena continue to be one of the more obvious ways to observe the impacts of ACD across the planet.

Storms bringing rainfall amounts and wind speeds more akin to hurricanes than spring showers deluged the Florida panhandle and parts of Alabama recently. In line with ACD trends, dramatic rainfall events like this have increased across the US, and in the Southeast, the frequency of heavy precipitation events has increased by approximately 25 percent over the 1958-2011 period.

In the Northeastern US, due to ACD storms like Hurricane Sandy that flooded New York are now 20 times more likely to occur than they were 170 years ago, according to a recent study.

In nearby New Jersey, local officials are appealing to the US Army Corps of Engineers to produce a method to stop the flooding which is expected to continue to worsen.

Across the country in California, while dealing with a record-setting drought, the state is simultaneously having to plan for flooding of its coastal cities, due to rising seas.

Rotterdam and Ho Chi Minh City are both on the front lines of ACD. Given that both sit on river deltas and are defined and threatened by their relationship to water, they are on the flood defensive and making preparations for what is to come.

Global sea levels already rising 2-3 millimeters annually, and increasing. But the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta is already sinking so rapidly that the local, relative sea level may be rising by up to 2 centimeters each year, according to a recent study.

On the other end of the spectrum are drought and drought-related problems.

In Alberta, Canada, among other places, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find enough drinking water. Many residents there are concerned about water tainted by agricultural runoff that is an increasingly common phenomenon due to ACD as extreme weather events like flooding become more frequent. The flooding then washes E. coli from horse manure into the drinking supply.

In New Mexico, water managers in Albuquerque are saying that the Rio Grande may hit a 40-year low this summer due to the ongoing drought in that state.

Meanwhile, west of there, the Colorado River’s stunted flow, coupled with ongoing drought, has shrunk water levels at Lake Mead to their lowest level in generations. The Lake Mead reservoir, which supplies 90 percent of Las Vegas’ water, is ebbing “as though a plug had been pulled from a bathtub drain.”

Due to the record-setting drought in California, tens of thousands of young salmon are literally having to be shipped to the Pacific in hopes of keeping them alive. This is because drought, ranging from moderate to exceptional, now covers 100 percent of the state for the first time in 15 years.

Local state media outlets are reporting that California’s water wars will reach a “new level of crazy’” this year, as farmers, environmental lawyers, wildlife groups, cities and even the Fresno County sheriff have posted thoughts in a siege of protests to state officials about the use of this year’s tiny snowpack and half-empty reservoirs.

While researchers tend to shy away from connecting weather extremes to ACD in real time, a recent study out of Utah State University now links ACD to California’s drought.

At Oregon’s Crater Lake, where having enough snow for recreation has rarely been an issue historically, the national park has been gradually losing its iconic snow for the past eight decades.

The drought that covers most of the southwest has caused a new problem in southern Colorado, where storms of tumbleweeds have invaded areas, blocking rural roads and irrigation canals, and even barricading homes and an elementary school.

The situation for southeast Colorado is bleak, as a new dust bowl appears to be setting in.

The impact of nearly four years of deep drought is showing itself in three ways: pastures have dried up or are choked with drifts of sand; tumbleweeds are blowing into tall hills against fences, homes and barns; and massive dust storms are erasing topsoil and making it harder to grow grain, wheat and sunflowers.

Water is now a major issue in Brazil, which holds the world’s largest fresh water reserves. Since most of Brazil’s water comes from the Amazon, ongoing drought and deforestation is causing the once abundant water source to no longer seem infinite.

In Northwestern Haiti, drought is so intense it is threatening the population there, where a lack of rain in recent months has killed crops in Haiti’s poorest region, and left people literally struggling to survive.

Across the Atlantic, South Sudan is now on the verge of the world’s worst famines in a quarter of a century. The UN now estimates that fully one third of the country’s population could be facing starvation due to inadequate agricultural production stemming from the lack of water.

In India, scientists are concerned about how pollution and rising temperatures are deleteriously impacting the monsoon, which accounts for three quarters of India’s annual rainfall.

In war-ravaged Syria, a looming drought could push millions more people there into hunger and escalate the already massive refugee crisis, according to the UN.

Scientists are now asking how much longer Mt. Everest might remain climbable. The April 18 icefall that claimed over a dozen lives was the single deadliest climbing accident in the mountain’s history. Yet, the massive icefall across an area that rarely sees them of such scope, was abruptly followed by several others across the route, underscoring how ACD is altering the face of the planet.

Ocean life continues to be dramatically impacted by ACD. The critically endangered hawksbill sea turtle’s migration routes are being altered due to ACD, as the beaches they use for hatching are shrinking.

Increasingly acidic ocean water is dissolving sea snails’ shells, according to a recent National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration study. These impacts are clear off the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington, where scientists have found evidence that increasing acidity of ocean waters is dissolving the shells of a key species at the base of the food chain.

In Washington State, above-average precipitation spawned in part by ACD helped cause the deadly landslide that buried dozens of homes. Experts with the US Geological Survey said that rainfall in the region where the slide occurred was 150-200 percent of the long-term average for February and March.

Up in the newly ice-free Arctic waters off the coast of Alaska, the waters that are vital to millions of seabirds that flock north every summer are being exploited by commercial shippers seeking shorter routes, according to a recent study.

Air

A new method of analyzing publicly available data shows that the portion of days with warm weather in the US has increased by 25 percent over the past 50 years, and the graph is worth a look.

ACD and extreme weather events are threatening California’s air quality, according to the state’s pollution control officers. This is not good news, given that the American Lung Association recently released a report finding that almost 150 million people in the country live in areas where air pollution levels are already unhealthy to breathe – with particle and ozone pollution increasing the risk of heart disease, lung cancer and asthma attacks – and the situation is worsening.

New research also shows that suicides in Salt Lake County in Utah escalate during periods of elevated air pollution.

More confirmation for what is already known came in a new study that shows that Arctic methane emissions are “certain to trigger warming” as ACD continues to melt permafrost and release increasingly large amounts of methane into the atmosphere where it is creating a positive feedback loop.

Fire

Not surprisingly, the number and size of massive wildfires is increasing in the Western US due to rising temperatures and worsening drought from ACD, and new research shows that these trends will continue in the coming decades. This, along with several early-season fires and fires that are occurring at twice the normal rate already for this year, has caused California state officials to ramp up preparations for what could well be another record year of burns.

Researchers from the University of Utah released a report showing that over the last three decades, wildfires across the western US have, indeed, been growing both larger and more frequent.

Extreme heat and exceptionally dry conditions have already turned Oklahoma into a tinderbox, where multiple wildfires have already erupted during a heat wave that was unprecedented for this early in the season.

A different kind of fire has spread across North Dakota, where towering flames from oil and gas wells fill the sky above the Berthold Indian Reservation as the natural gas flares are causing grass fires, creating driving hazards, and contributing to CO2 emission and further accelerating ACD.

Things are even worse in the Amazon, where drought and deforestation are pushing the region towards a tipping point that will cause rapid, large-scale destruction during drier years, according to a recent study.

Denial and Reality

ACD has progressed enough that the UN has warned that renewable energy resources need to be increased three to four times if there is to be any hope of preventing a global catastrophe.

UN-appointed climate experts recently reported that since countries have already waited so long to take the dramatic actions necessary to lessen the impacts of ACD, only a dramatic worldwide effort over the next 15 years could stave off the disastrous ACD impacts to come.

Yet mitigating ACD is more challenging than ever, and becoming increasingly so with each passing day. CO2 emissions continue to set annual records, and nothing short of a wartime response is warranted. Nevertheless, governments around the world have made, at best, extremely weak efforts towards transitioning away from fossil fuels.

Meanwhile, the march of ACD continues unabated.

March 2014 was the fourth warmest March ever in recorded history, globally, according to recent NASA data. That makes March the 349th month (over 29 years straight) in which global temperatures were above the historic average.

Given that methane is already being released from melting Arctic permafrost at record levels, March also revealed the disconcerting fact that Northern Siberia was a full nine degrees Fahrenheit warmer than normal, with Norway and Denmark averaging temperatures nearly 7 degrees warmer than normal.

A recent study published in Nature Climate Change showed that part of East Antarctica is more vulnerable than expected to thawing that could trigger an unstoppable slide of ice into the ocean and raise world sea levels for thousands of years. According to the study, the area of Antarctica in question has enough ice to increase global sea levels by 10 to 13 feet. Antarctica holds enough ice to raise sea levels 188 feet if it ever all melts.

For those in the US who are still in ACD denial, who are now a distinct minority, Showtime has released an ACD TV series using movie stars as ACD correspondents to appeal to the mass market.

Even corporate media outlets are publishing and broadcasting information about the realities of ACD, like this data on region-specific particulars about how ACD will impact people across the US.

In case that wasn’t enough to drive home the point, Australia’s Treasury Secretary Martin Parkinson told an audience in Washington that it has become inevitable that his country would have to resettle ACD refugees in the future.

Other preparations include US researchers from the University of Delaware racing the clock to try to develop chickens that will be able to survive on a hotter planet.

While not necessarily recent news, it came to the fore again that scientists are again considering a formal declaration that 1950 marked the dawn of a new geological epoch called the Anthropocene – an age defined by human impact on the planet, particular in the form of ACD.

In early May, the White House released the National Climate Assessment, which stated unequivocally that ACD is a clear and present danger, and has moved from a distant threat to a present-day reality, and that no US citizen will remain unscathed. The report, a culmination of five years of work, provides a comprehensive review of both observed and projected impacts of ACD. Key images and graphs can be viewed here.

Lastly and most importantly, if you choose only one link to view from this article, click this one – it will astound you to see in broad historical context (800,000 years) just how abruptly and profoundly humans have impacted the earth by pumping CO2 into the atmosphere. The visualization underscores the true massiveness of the crisis we are in.

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Study: Global Veganism Would Reduce Carbon Emissions More Than Energy Intervention

http://www.greenoptimistic.com/2014/05/10/study-global-veganism-reduce-carbon-emissions-energy-intervention/#.U2-0k2dOVy0

Producing nearly 15% of the Earth’s greenhouse gas emissions, the meat industry is one of the top contributors to climate change. Slowly, very slowly, movements like Meatless Mondays and Vegan Before 6 have demonstrated the value, and deliciousness, of adopting a vegan diet, but a carnivorous diet is still seen as evidence of prosperity.

In 2009, researchers at the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency calculated that global veganism would reduce agriculture-related carbon emissions by nearly 17%, methane emissions by 24%, and nitrous oxide emissions by 21% by 2050.

The researchers discovered that worldwide veganism, or even just worldwide vegetarianism, would achieve gains at a much lower cost that an energy intervention, like carbon taxes, for instance.

The study demonstrated tremendous value of a vegan or vegetarian diet in staving off climate change, but there are so many other benefits as well. Antibiotic resistance stemming from the meat consumed that has been pumped full of antibiotics would plummet. Pollution rates would drop significantly as factory farms, the biggest polluters in the meat industry, became a thing of the past. General human health and well-being would rise from a plant-based diet free from cholesterol and pharmaceuticals.

By 2050, the global population is predicted to reach a staggering 9 BILLION people.

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Baby Steps Won’t Get Us There In Time

[In the end, the author of this lengthy article proposes what she earlier disparaged as "baby steps."]

What if Everyone in the World Became a Vegetarian?

Vegan burgers with sweet potato and chickpeas.
Treating yourself to vegan burgers with sweet potato and chickpeas isn’t just a delicious indulgence; it could help save the planet.

Photo by Elena Veselova/Thinkstock

The meat industry is one of the top contributors to climate change, directly and indirectly producing about 14.5 percent of the world’s anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, and global meat consumption is on the rise. People generally like eating meat—when poor people start making more money, they almost invariably start buying more meat. As the population grows and eats more animal products, the consequences for climate change, pollution, and land use could be catastrophic.

Attempts to reduce meat consumption usually focus on baby steps—Meatless Monday and “vegan before 6,”passable fake chicken, andin vitro burgers. If the world is going to eat less meat, it’s going to have to be coaxed and cajoled into doing it, according to conventional wisdom.

But what if the convincing were the easy part? Suppose everyone in the world voluntarily stopped eating meat, en masse. I know it’s not actually going to happen. But the best-case scenario from a climate perspective would be if all 7 billion of us woke up one day and realized that PETA was right all along. If this collective change of spirit came to pass, like Peter Singer’s dearest fantasy come true, what would the ramifications be?

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At least one research team has run the numbers on what global veganism would mean for the planet. In 2009 researchers from the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency publishedtheir projections of the greenhouse gas consequences if humanity came to eat less meat, no meat, or no animal products at all. The researchers predicted that universal veganism would reduce agriculture-related carbon emissions by 17 percent, methane emissions by 24 percent, and nitrous oxide emissions by 21 percent by 2050. Universal vegetarianism would result in similarly impressive reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. What’s more, the Dutch researchers found that worldwide vegetarianism or veganism would achieve these gains at a much lower cost than a purely energy-focused intervention involving carbon taxes and renewable energy technology. The upshot: Universal eschewal of meat wouldn’t single-handedly stave off global warming, but it would go a long way toward mitigating climate change.

Continued: http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/feed_the_world/2014/05/meat_eating_and_climate_change_vegetarians_impact_on_the_economy_antibiotics.html

Poll: Religion Trumps Belief in Big Bang Theory for Most Americans

This type of willful ignorance does not bode well for the animals or the Earth. If most people don’t “believe in” evolution or climate change, how long will it take to convince them that we are animals and we must curb greenhouse gasses?

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http://www.nbcnews.com/science/science-news/poll-religion-trumps-belief-big-bang-theory-most-americans-n85806

Few Americans question that smoking causes cancer. But they express bigger doubts as concepts that scientists consider to be truths get further from our own experiences and the present time, an Associated Press-GfK poll found.

Americans have more skepticism than confidence in global warming, the age of the Earth and evolution and have the most trouble believing a Big Bang created the universe 13.8 billion years ago.

Rather than quizzing scientific knowledge, the survey asked people to rate their confidence in several statements about science and medicine.

On some, there’s broad acceptance. Just 4 percent doubt that smoking causes cancer, 6 percent question whether mental illness is a medical condition that affects the brain and 8 percent are skeptical there’s a genetic code inside our cells. More — 15 percent — have doubts about the safety and efficacy of childhood vaccines.

About 4 in 10 say they are not too confident or outright disbelieve that the earth is warming, mostly a result of man-made heat-trapping gases, that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old or that life on Earth evolved through a process of natural selection, though most were at least somewhat confident in each of those concepts. But a narrow majority — 51 percent — questions the Big Bang theory.

Those results depress and upset some of America’s top scientists, including several Nobel Prize winners, who vouched for the science in the statements tested, calling them settled scientific facts.

“Science ignorance is pervasive in our society, and these attitudes are reinforced when some of our leaders are openly antagonistic to established facts,” said 2013 Nobel Prize in medicine winner Randy Schekman of the University of California, Berkeley.

The poll highlights “the iron triangle of science, religion and politics,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication.

And scientists know they’ve got the shakiest leg in the triangle.

To the public “most often values and beliefs trump science” when they conflict, said Alan Leshner, chief executive of the world’s largest scientific society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“Science ignorance is pervasive in our society, and these attitudes are reinforced when some of our leaders are openly antagonistic to established facts.”

Political values were closely tied to views on science in the poll, with Democrats more apt than Republicans to express confidence in evolution, the Big Bang, the age of the Earth and climate change.

Religious values are similarly important.

Confidence in evolution, the Big Bang, the age of the Earth and climate change decline sharply as faith in a supreme being rises, according to the poll. Likewise, those who regularly attend religious services or are evangelical Christians express much greater doubts about scientific concepts they may see as contradictory to their faith.

“When you are putting up facts against faith, facts can’t argue against faith,” said 2012 Nobel Prize winning biochemistry professor Robert Lefkowitz of Duke University. “It makes sense now that science would have made no headway because faith is untestable.”

But evolution, the age of the Earth and the Big Bang are all compatible with God, except to Bible literalists, said Francisco Ayala, a former priest and professor of biology, philosophy and logic at the University of California, Irvine. And Darrel Falk, a biology professor at Point Loma Nazarene University and an evangelical Christian, agreed, adding: “The story of the cosmos and the Big Bang of creation is not inconsistent with the message of Genesis 1, and there is much profound biblical scholarship to demonstrate this.”

Beyond religious belief, views on science may be tied to what we see with our own eyes. The closer an issue is to our bodies and the less complicated, the easier it is for people to believe, said John Staudenmaier, a Jesuit priest and historian of technology at the University of Detroit Mercy.

Marsha Brooks, a 59-year-old nanny who lives in Washington, D.C., said she’s certain smoking causes cancer because she saw her mother, aunts and uncles, all smokers, die of cancer. But when it comes to the universe beginning with a Big Bang or the Earth being about 4.5 billion years old, she has doubts. She explained: “It could be a lack of knowledge. It seems so far” away.

Jorge Delarosa, a 39-year-old architect from Bridgewater, N.J., pointed to a warm 2012 without a winter and said, “I feel the change. There must be a reason.” But when it came to Earth’s beginnings 4.5 billion years ago, he has doubts simply because “I wasn’t there.”

Experience and faith aren’t the only things affecting people’s views on science. Duke University’s Lefkowitz sees “the force of concerted campaigns to discredit scientific fact” as a more striking factor, citing significant interest groups — political, business and religious — campaigning against scientific truths on vaccines, climate change and evolution.

Yale’s Leiserowitz agreed but noted sometimes science wins out even against well-financed and loud opposition, as with smoking.

Widespread belief that smoking causes cancer “has come about because of very public, very focused public health campaigns,” AAAS’s Leshner said. A former acting director of the National Institute of Mental Health, Leshner said he was encouraged by the public’s acceptance that mental illness is a brain disease, something few believed 25 years ago, before just such a campaign.

That gives Leiserowitz hope for a greater public acceptance of climate change. But he fears it may be too late to do anything about it.

The AP-GfK Poll was conducted March 20-24, 2014, using KnowledgePanel, GfK’s probability-based online panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population. It involved online interviews with 1,012 adults and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points for all respondents.

Respondents were first selected randomly using phone or mail survey methods and were later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn’t otherwise have access to the Internet were provided with the ability to access the Internet at no cost to them.

— Seth Borenstein and Jennifer Agiesta, The Associated Press

Gassy Cows Are Warming The Planet, And They’re Here To Stay

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/04/11/301794415/gassy-cows-are-warming-the-planet-and-theyre-here-to-stay?ft=3&f=1001%2c1003%2c1004%2c1090

April 12, 2014 5:06 AM ET

Correction April 12, 2014

An earlier version of this story said that the methane emissions associated with livestock come from their farts. In fact, most of those methane emissions come from belches.

 

These guys are gassy, and their emissions are contributing to global warming.

These guys are gassy, and their emissions are contributing to global warming.

Sorry to ruin your appetite, but it’s time to talk about cow belches.

Humans the world over are eating meat and drinking milk — some of us a little less, some of us a lot more, than years past. Farmers are bringing more and more cows into the world to meet demand, and with them escapes more methane into the atmosphere.

In 2011, methane from livestock accounted for 39 percent of all the greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, according to a report that United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization released Friday. That’s more than synthetic fertilizer or deforestation. Methane from livestock rose 11 percent between 2001 and 2011.

The bulk of the emissions — 55 percent — came from beef cattle. Dairy cows, buffalo, sheep and goats accounted for the rest.

Those emissions, combined with emissions from all the other sectors of food production, aren’t likely to go down anytime soon. Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, forestry and fishing have doubled over the past 50 years, according to the report. Emissions could go up by 30 percent by 2050.

All this talk about cow belches might make you want to give up meat. So should we all become vegetarians? Asking everyone to reduce their meat consumption isn’t a very practical strategy, says Francesco Tubiello, a natural resources officer for the FAO.

The demand for meat is rising most quickly in developing countries. And since the diets of many in the developing world are short on protein and calories, the poorest of them could really benefit from more meat production. Plus, “for many developing countries, agriculture is their main economic sector,” Tubiello tells The Salt.

Global meat consumption is likely to keep going up over the next 30 years, Tubiello says. (Though, as many have argued, it does make sense for the affluent people of the world who currently over-consume meat to cut back.) But the FAO says the best way to reduce agriculture’s contribution to global warming is to tackle other sources of emissions.

For example, we could improve how efficiently we use agricultural land. “There are many ways to improve the productivity of land,” Tubiello says, like increasing crop yields. That means we need to find more ways to use less land to make the same amount of food.

Encouraging farmers to use fertilizers more judiciously would also help. When farmers spray their fields with nitrogen fertilizer, microbes in the soil convert it to nitrous oxide, a powerful greenhouse gas. “A lot of the fertilizer is not used efficiently,” Tubiello says.

The FAO report found that fertilizers accounted 14 percent of agricultural emissions in 2011. And the amount emissions from fertilizers has risen 37 percent since 2001.

Of course, we can’t ignore the fact that raising livestock takes a huge toll on the environment. But, Tubiello says, there are ways to mitigate the environmental impact of raising livestock without doing away with meat altogether.

For example, we could also try to switch up what we feed cows. Having cows graze on grass isn’t a very efficient use of land, as the grass makes for smaller animals, who end up emitting more greenhouse gases per pound of meat produced, than animals raised on grain.

However, corn and soy that most cows eat makes them especially gassy, so feeding them alfalfa and supplements could reduce how much they belch. More research on how to optimize what we feed livestock could help farmers reduce emissions.

But even if we can’t control how much cows belch, we can control what we do with their poop. When nitrogen in livestock manure and urine is also broken down into nitrous oxide — and emissions from manure accounted for 16 percent of agricultural emissions in 2011, according to the FAO. Managing all that manure — or even reusing it as fuel, is one way to reduce emissions.