SHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries, coming to you from Baltimore. Political posturing among climate-change deniers in the Republican Party is heating up, leading up to the 2016 presidential elections. The Republicans are all repeating the same position. They’re saying that our climate is changing; yes, we can see that. In fact, the climate is always changing, says Mark Rubio, senator from Florida. But they say that humans have little to do with it. Any effort to link the two is seen as an effort to destroy the economy. The new Republican Senate in January passed a climate-change resolution for the first time in eight years on this topic. They voted 98 to 1 to approve a resolution stating that climate change is real and not a hoax. If that sounds good, it is. But then the Senate rejected a second amendment that stated climate change is real and it is significantly caused by humans. Jeb Bush, who is seen as a frontrunner, according to The New York Times, is on record saying, what I get a little tired of is that on the left, this idea that somehow science has decided all this is so, so you can’t have an opinion. That is according to the Washington Post article by Paul Waldman. Further, Ted Cruz, who recently announced his candidacy for president in the 2016 election, is on record at CNN saying, in the “last 15 years, there has been no recorded warming.”Well, science tells us otherwise. It has recorded 2014 as the warmest year in recorded history. Now joining me to discuss what is really going on here among the Republicans is Michael E. Mann and Subhanker Banerjee. Subhanker Banerjee is coming to us from Port Towsend, Washington. And Subhankar is an environmental and humanities scholar and activist. He founded ClimateStorytellers.org and is editor of the anthology Arctic Voices: Resistance at the Tipping Point. We’re also joined by Michael E. Mann, joining us from State College, Pennsylvania. Dr. Michael E. Mann is a distinguished professor and director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University and author of the book The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars. Thank you both for joining us. So I’m going to begin with you, Michael, here. Michael, recently we’ve seen some very dramatic reports in terms of the degree at which the ice caps are melting. How do we know that? How do we measure it? How do we know the ice caps are melting to the degree that it is?DR. MICHAEL E. MANN, DIR. OF EARTH SYSTEM SCIENCE CENTER, PENN STATE UNIV.: Yeah. So we have a variety of measurements that we make. We use satellites primarily. We can use those satellites to measure the amount of mass that is actually contained within the ice sheets. So we can detect fairly small changes in how large the Greenland ice sheet and the Antarctic ice sheet are through these satellite measurements. They’re basically measuring the gravity, the disturbance of the gravity field by these very large masses of ice. In addition, we can monitor changes in the ice cover of the Arctic Ocean. We use satellite measurements. We can look at the surface and we can determine if it’s ice or if it’s open water. So we have very accurate assessments, for several decades now, of how much sea ice there is in the Arctic. We know that we are on a trajectory right now where we will see potentially ice-free conditions at the end of the summer in the Arctic Ocean, perhaps in just a matter of a few decades, far in advance of what the climate models had predicted just a few years ago. So here’s an example of where climate change is unfolding, and in a way that’s faster and has a greater magnitude than what the climate models actually have predicted. Well, it turns out that when you change the amount of sea ice in the Arctic, you change the amount of heat that escapes from the Arctic Ocean into that very cold Arctic atmosphere. And more than a decade ago, scientists began to speculate that as we saw a decrease in that sea ice in the Arctic, we would actually see a large enough change in the amount of heat that escapes from the ocean into the atmosphere in the late fall and the early winter that we would actually change the behavior of the jet stream. And not only would we change the behavior of the jet stream, but we would do it in a fairly specific way, in a way that causes the jet stream to swing way northward in the winter over the West Coast of the U.S., so that all of that moisture that normally comes to California in the winter instead goes northward. And it also takes all that warmth much farther the northward. So you get unusually warm winters in Alaska, in western North America, like we’ve seen this year in particular. You see very dry winters in California. California also had its hottest year on record last year. So you’ve got decreased precipitation, you’ve got increased warmth, which means increased evaporation, which means increased loss of water from the soils, and you get a perfect storm of consequences for drought. And that is why California has now experienced what we think is the worst drought in 1,200 years, in at least 1,200 years. There is almost certainly a human fingerprint in that drought. And my colleague Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute in Oakland, California, and I had a commentary a week ago in the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences where we explained how there is now mounting evidence that this historic drought that we’re seeing in California had a human fingerprint in it, the fingerprint of human-caused climate change. But it doesn’t stop there. You change the pattern of the jet stream in a way that may, ironically, give us more of those very powerful nor’easters that have pounded the Northeastern U.S. this winter, giving Boston record snow, producing fairly cold conditions in parts of the Northeastern U.S. So, that entire change in the behavior of the northern hemisphere jetstream and the very strange weather that we’re seeing around North America and around much of the rest of the world, climate change is now starting to play a role in that very unusual–in some measure, unprecedented–extreme weather that we’re seeing.PERIES: Michael, what is your take on the recent report we saw in terms of California having one year of water supply left?MANN: That’s right. It was a very distinguished colleague of mine, Jay Famiglietti, from the University of California, Irvine, who published an op-ed in the L.A. Times where he outlined why it is that California may be just one year away from water rationing. And when you think about it, right now California has record low snowpack, the lowest snowpack ever on record. So that means they’re not going to be getting that meltwater in the spring that provides them with some of the fresh water that they need. They haven’t been getting the rainfall they need. And you have certain special interests, like the natural gas industry, through fracking, using up a fair amount of water for energy. And so you have all these factors coming together in a way that could spell a disaster for California. If you ask Californians if climate change is real, not only is it real; it is impacting them in their daily lives now. And that’s true over an increasingly large part of the world.PERIES: And Subhankar, you’re a scholar of the Arctic and you’ve been monitoring and looking at the implications of the melting ice caps for quite a bit, for quite a long time. Tell us what your observations are.SUBHANKAR BANERJEE, EDITOR, ARCTIC VOICES: RESISTANCE AT THE TIPPING POINT: Yeah, absolutely. You know, I mean, I started my work in the Alaskan Arctic in 2001. And just to briefly summarize what Michael just talked about is why it is so significant, because when I started the work, we were beginning to see the impact of climate change on the Arctic ecology and human communities way back then. And I’ll give couple of quick examples. But what we’re seeing now: that what happens in the Arctic is impacting not only the Arctic but really kind of the northern hemisphere at large, and possibly many parts of the globe as well. So that’s why Michael’s comments were that these were all connected, what’s happening in the Arctic, to what’s happening in California, in the Northeast, and so on. Now, back to the–kind of in my earlier–one of the things that with the melting of the Arctic sea ice–and what we–because you mentioned Arctic ice cap, which is the Greenland ice sheet, and then we have the sea ice, which has hit a record winter maximum low. Usually the summer low is more significant, but the winter maximum is also low. Well, all that means is that the Arctic sea ice is on a death spiral. And that’s having significant impact on both the Arctic ecology and the human communities. And it is widely known that the polar bears are suffering. The–40 percent of the polar bear population in the southern Beaufort Sea in Arctic Alaska and Arctic Canada declined between 2001 and 2010. The walrus populations in the Chukchi Sea is really suffering. Six out of the last eight years, tens of thousands of walruses hauled out onto the barrier islands and the tundra because there was no sea ice for them to rest on. And there are many other impacts of the local ecology, the marine ecology. But what is not understood is that what’s happening in the Arctic Ocean is also impacting the land animals. And, in fact, I’ll give you one really kind of a sad example of that. In 2001, I had photographed 13 muskox, these kind of woolie, prehistoric animals from the Pleistocene era, and they’re in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge with a newborn calf in April. Today there is no muskox in the refuge. And one of the impact is this icing on the tundra in the winter because of increased precipitation and warmer weather. Instead of snow, you’re getting rain, and that becomes ice. And that then impacts the animals’ access to food sources. And that’s impacted the muskox in part. So climate change kind of took a toll on the Arctic refuge muskox. And then, right now, in the Norwegian Arctic, in the Svalbard Archipelago, in the reporting of this winter lowest record on the winter maximum sea ice extent, the Guardian journalist did a wonderful connection between the open water in the Arctic seas, but ice on the tundra of the Svalbard, which is impacting the same way the reindeer population did, that really struck me, because when it’s ice, they cannot break the ice through their hooves. And then you have the human communities. What’s happening–and I know this from first-hand experience from Arctic Alaska, that many human communities, indigenous communities, are now being forced to relocate. One example is, of course, Kivalina. Because of the reduced sea ice extent, you have more open water, more coastal erosion, combined with storms, as well as melting of the permafrost. These are all connected, happening. But let me just wrap this up by saying that what the melting, this rapid vanishing of the Arctic sea ice has opened up in my mind is perhaps the most significant contradiction of our time. And the contradiction is this. On one hand, the Arctic sea ice is melting rapidly, causing local, regional, as well as global impacts for human communities, as well as animal communities. At the same time, there is an incredible push to industrially exploit the Arctic seas for oil and gas. In fact, right now this month, the Obama administration is poised to give shale the kind of–one of the permits, and this will continue all through April, and Shell might, if they get all the permits from the Obama administration, will likely drill there. So it’s really–I see that as the greatest contradiction of our time. On one hand, the very thing that is destroying us, not only up there but all over, we are further destroying it by sending Shell and other oil companies to drill in the Arctic Ocean.PERIES: I want to thank you, gentlemen, for joining us today.MANN: Thank you. It was a pleasure.BANERJEE: Thanks so much, Sharmini.PERIES: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
Looking back through some old copies of the National Wildlife Magazine, I came across an article from April/May, 1990, by John Nielsen entitled, “Whatever Happened to the Population Bomb? Two decades after Paul Ehrlich’s doomsday predictions, the biologist answers his critics with a new book.” The article came out at the time of Ehrlich’s then new book, Population Explosion, 22 years after his best-selling book (more than 20 million copies), Population Bomb. Ehrlich told National Wildlife, “What we were seeing on a global scale, was the rise to total dominance of a single species, man. This phenomenon was absolutely new and it threatened to wreck the planet.”
The article states, What about the population bomb? What happened to the notion that exponential population growth is the cause of almost all environmental woes? If to Ehrlich his 1968 message was clear, to his more extreme critics it has proved inaccurate and wrong-headed.
Like other ‘doomsayers,’ economist Julian Simon says, ‘Ehrlich underestimates the human ability to respond to change.’
But what about the rest of nature’s ability to respond to change wrought by humans?
Other critics point to Ehrlich’s erroneous predictions of traffic riots in Los Angeles, cataclysmic famines and dead oceans…
We may not be hearing a lot about traffic riots in LA—aside from road rage and regular drive-by shootings, but over-exploited fisheries and massive dead zones are cropping up in oceans across the globe.
Meanwhile, Right- to-Life activists attack him for favoring abortion. His notions of coercive population control in countries such as India and China have been called inhuman.
The problem with these charges, he says, is that they miss the point. Ehrlich admits that some of the scenarios that he made did not unfold [yet]. But he maintains, scenarios are not predictions and being out of date is not the same as being wrong.
Though a new environmental awareness is sweeping the United States [again, this was 1990], population control doesn’t seem to be generating as much concern in the press…The very notion, charges Ehrlich, is becoming ‘taboo’. “Politically, the pressure has been on to stay away from this issue,” he says.
“Each hour,” Ehrlich writes, “there are 11,000 more mouths to feed.”
Nowadays that number is roughly 16,000 per hour. (But of course that’s not taking into account people’s ability to respond to change.)
About his then new book, The Population Explosion, Ehrlich concedes that readers might ignore him this time around. They do so, he says, at the peril of their children’s world. Either way, this will be the last written warning.
“About the only thing I can guarantee is that this will be the last book on population by Paul Ehrlich,” he says. “You can only spend so much time alerting people to a problem. After that, they do their own thing.”
By Published: May 23, 2015
BELLINGHAM, Wash. (AP) – The Coast Guard says it has no plans to remove a woman who has chained herself to the Arctic Challenger, a support ship for Royal Dutch Shell’s exploratory oil drilling plans.
The activist attached herself to the ship anchored in Bellingham Bay, north of Seattle, on Friday evening.
The Coast Guard cutter Osprey spent the night monitoring the protester but took no action, Petty Officer 3rd Class Katelyn Shearer said Saturday morning. “We’re really most concerned for her safety and the safety of everyone involved,” Shearer said.
Authorities spoke with the woman and asked her to remove herself. “There’s no plans right now to do anything further,” Shearer said.
The ship isn’t scheduled to leave the port for several days.
Rob Lewis, a spokesman for the Bellingham activists, identified the woman who has suspended herself in a climbing harness from the anchor chain of the Arctic Challenger as Chiara Rose.
Lewis said she is protesting Shell’s plan for arctic drilling. He described the Arctic Challenger as a savior vessel that is used in the case of an oil leak, but said activists doubt its effectiveness at preventing environmental disasters like the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.
He confirmed that the Coast Guard was not interfering with Rose, but they had impounded … More:
The estimated 21,000-gallon oil spill that sent plumes of black through the waters off Santa Barbara County on Tuesday brought haunting echoes of a much larger spill nearly half a century ago, one that gave birth to the modern environmental movement and forever changed the trajectory of oil and gas exploration in California.
The Santa Barbara oil spill of 1969 spewed an estimated 3 million gallons of crude oil into the ocean, creating an oil slick 35 miles long along California’s coast, and killing countless birds, fish and sea mammals.
Following the spill, the region became ground zero for some of the most significant conservation efforts of the 20th century.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The combination of global warming and shifting population means that by mid-century, there will be a huge increase in the number of Americans sweating through days that are extremely hot, a new study says.
Nature Climate Change: http://www.nature.com/nclimate
What a strange time we live in. While Earth’s ecosystems are collapsing, both on land and throughout the sea, the same human greed that’s killing the planet is being planned for the future—as if we’re all that matters.
But as the pack ice melts earlier each year, the thing almost no one mentions is that the portion of the Arctic Ocean known as the Chukchi Sea has been claimed for centuries as strategic and crucial summer feeding grounds for grey whales. These ocean giants only want the amphipods and other benthic crustaceans they can find burrowed in the sand below the cold waters in a region nobody else wanted until now.
If things go as some people plan, Shell and others will soon follow the whales’ ancient migration route north with their oil drilling rigs and deafening seismic cannons for some human business as usual, without stopping to think about the one spill that could send the place to hell. Amphipods cannot live in oil-soaked sand, and whales cannot live without them.
After surviving the barbaric, rapacious whaling era, how sad for the grey whales to simply starve to death as a result of human actions that so many knew should never happen.
Unless the general consensus is that the planet’s going to die anyway (thanks to the likes of them) so why stop now, what are these greedy little monsters thinking? Anything?
I don’t know if there are enough folks who care about others besides themselves or their species to prevent the status quo from destroying the sea, the land, and the atmosphere we all live in, but a lot of lives depend on it.
Seattle police accompany hundreds of protesters as they march on the Port of Seattle on Monday.
Parts of the cave have collapsed and the Forest Service says people should stay on the trail and not go into the caves. The Big Four Ice Caves are a popular hiking destination in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.
“The cave is in a condition that we would normally not see until at least September,” said Matthew Riggen, lead field ranger with the Forest Service.
Even during seasons with normal temperatures, the caves are prone to falling rocks and ice.
In 2010, 11-year-old Grace Tam was killed at the caves by falling ice.
Tam was standing on an ice field with her family when the accident happened.
Tam’s family has worked with the Forest Service to install a memorial near the caves.
Mon Oct 6, 2014.
Global warming and the resultant melting of parts of the Arctic icecap have opened a new world of travel — a 900-mile, 32-day luxury cruise with fares starting at $20,000.
Crystal Cruises, one of the world’s top-rated cruise lines, has announced that one of its ships, the Crystal Serenety, will traverse the fabled Northwest Passage on this Pacific-to-Atlantic voyage, beginning from Seward, Alaska, through the north part of mainland Canada and the Arctic Ocean to New York City.
Crystal says it will be the first luxury cruise ship to make this voyage, following the route that Norwegian explorer Roald Amundson discovered some 100 years ago.
Crystal, in press releases, says the journey, in August 2016 will be on “a mystical Pacific-Atlantic sea route far beyond the Arctic Circle that for centuries captured the imagination of kings, explorers and adventurers.”
Part of the reason that the Northwest Passage captured so many imaginations for many centuries, according to Bloomberg Businessweek, was that it was choked with ice and impossible to navigate. But climate change has set off a scramble to control the now-accessible shipping routes and mineral rights.
The Crystal Serenity, Bloomberg says, is simply following the wake of the freighters that are already plying the Arctic.
Climate-change tourism will offer something greatly different than a usual journey. The cruise, notes Bloomberg, will offer passengers kayaking and tundra treks, up-close sightings of polar bears, narwhals, musk oxen and caribou.
“These are encounters,” notes the newsletter, with the inhabitants and distinctive elements of the world that climate change —- the same thing that’s allowing the cruise to take place — is threatening.
Crystal bills the trip as a “once-in-a-lifetime expeditionary voyage that marries extreme wilderness adventure with unsurpassed luxury voyage.” It adds that cruisers “will bear witness to breathtaking landscapes that few have ever seen, from spectacular glaciers to towering fjords and experience nature that is truly wild.”
The cruise line says that two years of extensive planning has gone into the itinerary, balancing days at sea with scheduled ports of call. Designed to be flexible, the cruise will incorporate unplanned “expedition days,” when favorable weather conditions allow. These treks will be led by veteran explorers.
All told, a team of 14 experts, including scientists and an Arctic guide, will be aboard. Ports of call include remote areas of the Canadian Arctic such as Ulukhaktok, Northwest Territories and Cambridge Bay in Nunavut.
The cruise sails from Aug. 16 to Sept. 17, 2016. Prices start at $19,975 double occupancy and cabins are on sale.
Crystal’s web site, at crystalcruises.com/NWP-FAQs, offers more information.
Plans set for new Mexico City airport
If you’ve flown into Mexico City’s airport — and we have — you will know that a new airport is needed, and one apparently is on the way.
A new $9.2 billion facility is planned that will quadruple the capacity of the current Benito Juarez Airport. The nation’s president, Enrique Pena Nieto has described the project as Mexico’s largest infrastructure addition in recent years and called it “Mexico’s gateway to the world.”
Travel Weekly reports that the airport will be built on 11,400 acres of federally owned land adjacent to the existing airport and the plan is to handle up to 120 million passengers a year — four times the capacity of the existing facility.
Greenhouse gas benchmark reached
Global carbon dioxide concentrations surpass 400 parts per
million for the first month since measurements began
For the first time since we began tracking carbon dioxide in the global atmosphere, the monthly global average concentration of this greenhouse gas surpassed 400 parts per million in March 2015, according to NOAA’s latest results.
“It was only a matter of time that we would average 400 parts per million globally,” said Pieter Tans, lead scientist of NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network. “We first reported 400 ppm when all of our Arctic sites reached that value in the spring of 2012. In 2013 the record at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Observatory first crossed the 400 ppm threshold. Reaching 400 parts per million as a global average is a significant milestone.
“This marks the fact that humans burning fossil fuels have caused global carbon dioxide concentrations to rise more than 120 parts per million since pre-industrial times,” added Tans. “Half of that rise has occurred since 1980.”
The International Energy Agency reported on March 13 that the growth of global emissions from fossil fuel burning stalled in 2014, remaining at the same levels as 2013. Stabilizing the rate of emissions is not enough to avert climate change, however. NOAA data show that the average growth rate of carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere from 2012 to 2014 was 2.25 ppm per year, the highest ever recorded over three consecutive years.
NOAA works with partners around the world to make sustained measurements of atmospheric gases.These data are used in analyses that aid our understanding of climate change and provide information to help decision-makers address the challenges facing our planet.
NOAA bases the global carbon dioxide concentration on air samples taken from 40 global sites. NOAA and partner scientists collect air samples in flasks while standing on cargo ship decks, on the shores of remote islands and at other locations around the world. It takes some time after each month’s end to compute this global average because samples are shipped from locations for analysis at NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado.
“We choose to sample at these sites because the atmosphere itself serves to average out gas concentrations that are being affected by human and natural forces. At these remote sites we get a better global average,” said Ed Dlugokencky, the NOAA scientist who manages the global network.
James Butler, director of NOAA’s Global Monitoring Division, added that it would be difficult to reverse the increases of greenhouse gases which are driving increased atmospheric temperatures. “Elimination of about 80 percent of fossil fuel emissions would essentially stop the rise in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but concentrations of carbon dioxide would not start decreasing until even further reductions are made and then it would only do so slowly.”
More on carbon dioxide concentrations can be found online.