‘The North is one of the areas facing the greatest potential risk from climate change,’ officials say
By Nicole Riva, CBC News <http://www.cbc.ca/news/cbc-news-online-news-staff-list-1.1294364> Posted: May 10, 2017 5:00 AM ET Last Updated: May 10, 2017 5:00 AM ET
One herd of the Atlantic walrus is already extinct and two other herds could have the same fate, according to the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. <https://i.cbc.ca/1.4107280.1494368091%21/fileImage/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/16x9_620/atlantic-walrus.jpg>
One herd of the Atlantic walrus is already extinct and two other herds could have the same fate, according to the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. (J. Higdon/Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada)
The list of species at risk of extinction in Canada has grown to 751, and the effects of climate change may put those species even more at risk — especially the 62 species in the North.
The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada recently completed a meeting on at-risk species — which include animals, plants and lichen — adding another five to its list <http://www.cosewic.gc.ca/default.asp?lang=en&n=03E6BEA6-1> , and reassessing the status of several others.
“The North is one of the areas facing the greatest potential risk from climate change, many of these species are already behind the eight ball,” according to committee chair Eric Taylor.
Two species that live in the North that Taylor highlighted are the Atlantic walrus and eastern migratory caribou, both of which reside in the North and have had “significant changes” in their populations.
“Particularly the caribou,” Taylor told CBC News. “Part one of the large herds, the George River herd, that one had a precipitous decline up to about 99 per cent over three generations.”
The Eastern migration caribou, has seen a 99 per cent decline in its population in three generations, the committee reports. (Submitted by Katrina Noel)
The massive decline is partly from hunting and also because of a destruction <http://cbc.ca/1.4038199> of habitat in part because of climate change.
The walrus population in the Atlantic has already lost one herd to extinction, Taylor said, while the two others are listed as special concern, which means if things don’t improve they are also at risk of becoming extinct.
The committee identifies species at risk and advises the Canadian government on what needs to be added to the official list <https://www.registrelep-sararegistry.gc.ca/sar/index/default_e.cfm> , which brings protective measures and recovery plans, Taylor said, but it all takes a long time.
‘That could take years’
It can take years for a species to land on the official list, he said, which is concerning for species with fast population decline such as the caribou.
“Who knows what’s going to happen in the time it takes to actually consider their listing and design a recovery strategy that could take years,” Taylor said.
He acknowledges that there are many challenges such as resources and Canada’s vast landscape in helping at risk populations, but “we’ve got to get moving.”
“The longer we delay doing something about these plants and animals the greater is the risk that what we do won’t be effective,” he said.
Climate change adds an element of the unknown for the protection of these species, he said.
“Climate change presents sort of a moving target. It’s hard to know what the extent will be and how that might impact our recovery actions right now.”
Another big unknown is how different species will adapt to changes in climate, especially if climate changes or other activities destroy a species’ habitat, Taylor said.
“It’s all intertwined, which adds to the enormous complexity,” he said.
The five newly identified at-risk species, not all of which live in the North, are the Ord’s kangaroo rat, some populations of lake sturgeon, the butternut tree, Harris’s sparrow and shortfin mako sharks.
Harris’s Sparrow, a northern songbird breeding only in Canada, was among the new species added to the committee’s list. (G. Romanchuk/Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada)
“Our Nation is blessed with abundant natural resources and awe-inspiring beauty. Americans are rightly grateful for these God-given gifts and have an obligation to safeguard them for future generations,” Trump said in the statement Saturday. “My Administration is committed to keeping our air and water clean, to preserving our forests, lakes, and open spaces, and to protecting endangered species,”
Trump, who has claimed that climate change is a hoax that the Chinese invented, has appointed multiple climate change skeptics to fill his cabinet. Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt, one such skeptic, sued the agency more than a dozen times when the was attorney general of Oklahoma. Rick Perry, now the secretary of energy, said in 2012 he wanted to abolish the department Trump tapped him to run (he now says he regrets the comment).
In his first 100 days as president, Trump has moved to eliminate several protections for the environment. He signed legislation repealing the Stream Protection Rule, which protected streams from mining operations. The president has also moved to eliminate the Clean Water Rule, which protects 2 million miles of streams and 20 million acres of wetlands. Getting rid of the rule could jeopardize drinking water for nearly 120 million Americans and numerous endangered species. He has also moved to get rid of car emission and pollution standards.
The statement also noted that Trump is committed to “rigorous science” and “honest inquiry.”
“Rigorous science is critical to my Administration’s efforts to achieve the twin goals of economic growth and environmental protection,” Trump said. “My Administration is committed to advancing scientific research that leads to a better understanding of our environment and of environmental risks. As we do so, we should remember that rigorous science depends not on ideology, but on a spirit of honest inquiry and robust debate.”
But under Trump, the EPA’s Office of Science and Technology has removed “science” from its mission statement. Trump and Pruitt have questioned well established science that shows global warming is real. His administration has proposed gigantic cuts to biomedical and scientific research and, the EPA and environmental programs.
Trump and the White House have also undermined science by distorting the truth and questioning facts. The entire field of science is built around objective observation and facts in the pursuit of truth. Thousands joined protests around the world on Saturday to highlight how Trump’s disregard for facts undermined science.
I hereby invite you all to my new blog, The Extinction Chronicles, an impartial record of articles and events leading up to the end…
For a day or a lifetime feel free to visit, browse, comment or subscribe.
Hindustan Times: Man-animal conflict increases as Kerala faces severe drought
INDIA Updated: Feb 19, 2017
As Kerala slips into an unprecedented drought, wild animals have started raiding human settlements in search of water and food, endangering lives of people settled in fringe areas of the forest.
Last week three people were gored to death by elephant herds in separate incidents in the forested Idukki and Wayanad districts.
In the drought-hit Wayanad – the north Kerala district saw 72% deficit rainfall during the last two monsoons – people say besides elephants, other animals like, bison, deer and boars, made regular incursions into their villages.
Pepper plantation worker Nagappan, 34, was gored to death by a tusker three days ago in the district. About one-third of the district has forest cover.
According to forest officials, usually nearly 800 elephants are spotted along the Kabani riverbanks, a favourite summer habitat of jumbos in the Nilagiris, but this year their numbers dwindled to 120 as the river has partially dried up.
“Devoid of food and water, the elephant herds have become aggressive. Small crackers or fire torches fail to deter them these days. Bison and deer are behaving like domesticated animals,” said Velayudhan, a farm labourer of Thalappadi in Wayanad.
Another farmer in Ambalavayal said he lost crops worth Rs 2 lakh in the last three weeks as animals raided his farm.
“Two weeks ago, a tusker strayed almost seven km inside the human settlement.
We dug up 12 small ponds deep in the forest to check this menace,” said Wayanad district collector, BS Thirumeni.
Fed up with monkey menace, a 52-year-old widow had committed suicide in Thiruvananthapruam last week following which forest officials put up monkey traps in the area. Her relatives claimed she resorted to the extreme step after her frequent pleas fell on deaf ears.
It may sound complicated, but really, it’s simple—if you add carbon emissions to seawater, the ocean turns more acidic. Ocean acidification is happening. We can’t sit back and watch politics harm our coastal communities.
Recently, Scott Pruitt—the nominee for the head of the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) was asked directly by Senators about ocean acidification, he wasn’t even willing to admit that ocean acidification is happening.
OCEAN ACIDIFICATION IS HAPPENING.
We gave Scott Pruitt a chance, we listened to what he had to say at his confirmation hearings and his answers on ocean acidification are a total deal-breaker. Ocean acidification is happening. Shellfish growers in the Pacific Northwest nearly went bankrupt as a result. Lobstermen in Maine are concerned enough about acidification that they have traveled to Washington, D.C. to urge Congress to support important research that will tell them how lobster might be impacted.
AMERICA’S CLEAN WATER AND AIR THAT SUSTAIN US CREATE A SHINING EXAMPLE FOR MUCH OF THE WORLD, AND THE EPA IS THEIR DEFENDER.
Pruitt demonstrates no understanding of the present reality of ocean acidification and the urgent risk it poses to American marine life, fishermen and the communities that depend on them. Americans must protect our water and air from further pollution while we work collaboratively towards win-win solutions to challenges like ocean acidification. Because Pruitt ignores the established science about our ocean, he is the wrong choice to lead the EPA.
Climate Sep. 21, 2016 11:28AM EST
Salmon have been swimming in Pacific Northwest waters for at least seven million years.iStockFor as long as people have lived in the area, salmon have been an important food source and have helped shape cultural identities. But something is happening to Pacific coast salmon.
This year, British Columbia’s sockeye salmon run was the lowest in recorded history. Commercial and First Nations fisheries on the world’s biggest sockeye run on British Columbia’s longest river, the Fraser, closed. Fewer than 900,000 sockeye out of a projected 2.2 million returned to the Fraser to spawn. Areas once teeming with salmon are all but empty.
Salmon define West Coast communities, especially Indigenous ones. The West Coast is a Pacific salmon forest. Today, salmon provide food and contribute to sustainable economies built on fishing and ecotourism. West Coast children learn about the salmon life cycle early in their studies.
Salmon migrations, stretching up to 3,000 kilometers, are among the world’s most awe-inspiring. After spending adult lives in the ocean, salmon make the arduous trip up rivers against the current, returning to spawn and die where they hatched. Only one out of every thousand salmon manages to survive and return to its freshwater birthplace.
So what’s going wrong? Climate change is amplifying a long list of stressors salmon already face. Sockeye salmon are sensitive to temperature changes, so higher ocean and river temperatures can have serious impacts. Even small degrees of warming can kill them. Low river flows from unusually small snowpacks linked to climate change make a tough journey even harder.
Oceans absorb the brunt of our climate pollution—more than 90 percent of emissions-trapped heat since the 1970s. Most warming takes place near the surface, where salmon travel, with the upper 75 meters warming 0.11 C per decade between 1971 and 2010. Although ocean temperatures have always fluctuated, climate change is lengthening those fluctuations. A giant mass of warmer-than-average water in the Pacific, known as “the blob,” made ocean conditions even warmer, with El Niño adding to increased temperatures. Salmon have less food and face new predators migrating north to beat the heat.
Beyond creating poor environmental conditions for salmon, climate change increases disease risks. Warm conditions have led to sea lice outbreaks in farmed and wild salmon, and a heart and muscle inflammatory disease has been found in at least one farm. Scientists researching salmon movement through areas with farms are finding wild fish, especially young ones, with elevated parasite levels. Diseases that cause even slight deficiencies in swimming speed or feeding ability could make these marathon swimmers easy prey.
Updated frequently, and most recently 2 August 2016.
** Latest additions are flagged with two asterisks on each side. ** To access only the latest information (on most browsers), use CTRL-F, type two asterisks into the “find” box, and hit “Return” or “Enter.” Note that this essay has grown from a few thousand words in January 2013 to the current massive missive.
The Great Dying wiped out at least 90% of the species on Earth due to an abrupt rise in global-average temperature about 252 million years ago. The vast majority of complex life became extinct. Based on information from the most conservative sources available, Earth is headed for a similar or higher global-average temperature in the very near future. The recent and near-future rises in temperature are occurring and will occur at least three orders of magnitude faster than the worst of all prior Mass Extinctions. Habitat for human animals is disappearing throughout the world, and abrupt climate change has barely begun. In the near future, habitat for Homo sapiens will be gone. Shortly thereafter, all humans will die.
There is no precedence in planetary history for events unfolding today. As a result, relying on prior events to predict the near future is unwise.
I’m often accused of cherry picking the information in this ever-growing essay. I plead guilty, and explain myself in this essay posted 30 January 2014. My critics tend to focus on me and my lack of standing in the scientific community, to which I respond with the words of John W. Farley: “The scientific case is not dependent on citation of authority, no matter how distinguished the authority may be. The case is dependent upon experimental evidence, logic, and reason.” In other words, stop targeting the messenger.
A German-language version of this essay, updated 26 June 2014, is available in pdf form here. A Russian version focused on self-reinforcing feedback loops, courtesy of Robin Westenra and colleagues, is here. A Polish version, updated often, is available here.
methane in atmosphere
American actress Lily Tomlin is credited with the expression, “No matter how cynical you become, it’s never enough to keep up.” With respect to climate science, my own efforts to stay abreast are blown away every week by new data, models, and assessments. It seems no matter how dire the situation becomes, it only gets worse when I check the latest reports.
The response of politicians, heads of non-governmental organizations, and corporate leaders remains the same, even though they surely know everything in this essay. They’re mired in the dank Swamp of Nothingness. Margaret Beckett, former U.K. foreign secretary said in September 2008 on BBC America television, with respect to climate change: “Will it harm our children? Will it harm our grandchildren? Actually, it’s a problem for us today.” As Halldor Thorgeirsson, a senior director with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, said on 17 September 2013: “We are failing as an international community. We are not on track.” These are the people who know about, and presumably could do something about, our ongoing race to disaster (if only to sound the alarm). Tomlin’s line is never more germane than when thinking about their pursuit of a buck at the expense of life on Earth.
Worse than the aforementioned trolls are the media. Fully captured by corporations and the corporate states, the media continue to dance around the issue of climate change. Occasionally a forthright piece is published, but it generally points in the wrong direction, such as suggesting climate scientists and activists be killed (e.g., James Delingpole’s 7 April 2013 hate-filled article in the Telegraph). Leading mainstream outlets routinely mislead the public.
Mainstream scientists minimize the message at every turn, with expected results. As we’ve known for years, scientists almost invariably underplay climate impacts (James Hansen referred to the phenomenon as “scientific reticence” in his 24 May 2007 paper about sea-level rise in Environmental Research Letters). ** A paper in 27 June 2016 online issue of Nature Climate Change reinforces the idea of scientific conservatism, pointing out that dependence upon historical records leads to missing about one-fifth of global warming since the 1860s. **
In some cases, scientists are aggressively muzzled by their governments. Britain’s Royal Society began actively ignoring observational science about Arctic methane in 2014. Canada no longer allows some climate-change information into the public realm (and see this report from 20 August 2015. Even museums are not safe from misinformation about climate science to appease fossil-fuel philanthropists, as reported in the 17 June 2014 issue of AlterNet. I’m not implying conspiracy among scientists. Science selects for conservatism. Academia selects for extreme conservatism. These folks are loathe to risk drawing undue attention to themselves by pointing out there might be a threat to civilization. Never mind the near-term threat to our entire species (most couldn’t care less about other species). If the truth is dire, they can find another, not-so-dire version. The concept is supported by an article in the February 2013 issue of Global Environmental Change pointing out that climate-change scientists routinely underestimate impacts “by erring on the side of least drama” (also see overviews of this phenomenon from 21 May 2014 and from 15 July 2014, the latter from the U.S. National Research Council as reported by Truth-out). Even the climatic response to greenhouse gases has been too conservative, as reported in the 14 December 2015 online issue of Nature Climate Change. And even the often-conservative Robert Scribbler points out in his 18 July 2014 essay: “NASA’s CARVE study has been silent for a year, the University of Maryland has stopped putting out publicly available AIRS methane data measures, the NOAA ESRL methane flask measures, possibly due to lack of funding, haven’t updated since mid-May, and even Gavin Schmidt over at NASA GISS appears to have become somewhat mum on a subject that, of late, has generated so much uncomfortable controversy.” (Apocalypse 4 Real blog responded to Scribbler on 24 July 2014, and the response is linked here.) Schmidt increased his efforts to discredit the work of other scientists in early October 2014 with unfounded, unprofessional behavior. His insanity was made apparent in an interview for the August 2015 issue of Esquire with a single sentence: “There’s no actual evidence that anything dramatically different is going on in the Arctic, other than the fact that it’s melting pretty much everywhere.”
In addition, the consolidation of the scientific publishing industry is accelerating, with expected, profit-based results. A paper published in the 10 June 2015 issue of PLoS One based on 45 million documents indexed in the Web of Science over the period 1973-2013 found that the top five most prolific publishers account for more than half of recent papers published.
Almost everybody reading these words has a vested interest in not wanting to think about climate change, which helps explain why the climate-change deniers have won. They’ve been aided and funded by the fossil-fuel industry, the memos from which “reveal decades of disinformation—a deliberate campaign to deceive the public that continues even today,” according to an in-depth analysis from the Union of Concerned Scientists in July 2015.
Investigative journalist Lee Fang, writing for The Intercept on 25 August 2015, uncovers a relationship between climate-denying attorney Christopher Horner and big coal. Horner is an attorney who claims that the earth is cooling, is known within the scientific community for hounding climate change researchers with relentless investigations and public ridicule, and he often derides scientists as “communists” and frauds.
Horner is a regular guest on Fox News and CNN, and has been affiliated with a number of think tanks and legal organizations over the last decade. He has called for investigations of climate scientists affiliated with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and NASA, and inundated climate researchers at major universities across the country with records requests that critics say are designed to distract them from their work.
The 20 August 2015 bankruptcy filing of Alpha Natural Resources, one of the largest coal companies in America, includes line items for all of the corporation’s contractors and grant recipients. Among them are Horner individually at his home address, as well as the Free Market Environmental Law Clinic, where he is a senior staff attorney.
It’s not only the scientists who underestimate the damage. It’s the science itself, too. Consider, for example, information derived from satellites which, according to a March 2015 paper in Journal of Climate, significantly underestimate temperature of the middle troposphere. “In short, the Earth is warming, the warming is amplified in the troposphere, and those who claim otherwise are unlikely to be correct.”
Some university professors will promote climate-change denial for the right price. According to the 8 December 2015 issue of The Guardian, “An undercover sting by Greenpeace has revealed that two prominent climate sceptics were available for hire by the hour to write reports casting doubt on the dangers posed by global warming.” The professors in question are William Happer, the Cyrus Fogg Brackett professor of physics at Princeton University and Frank Clemente, professor emeritus of sociology at Pennsylvania State University.
Beyond Linear Change
I’m often told Earth can’t possibly be responsive enough to climate change to make any difference to us. But, as the 27 May 2014 headline at Skeptical Science points out, “Rapid climate changes more deadly than asteroid impacts in Earth’s past.” That’s correct: climate change is more deadly than asteroids.
Ever late to the party, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) admits global warming is irreversible without geoengineering in a report released 27 September 2013. The IPCC is among the most conservative scientific bodies on the planet, and their reports are “significantly ‘diluted’ under political pressure.” On 22 April 2014, Truth-out correctly headlines their assessment, “Intergovernmental Climate Report Leaves Hopes Hanging on Fantasy Technology.” Time follows up two days later with a desperate headline, “NASA Chief: Humanity’s Future Depends On Mission To Mars” (first up: greenhouses on Mars). As pointed out in the 5 December 2013 issue of Earth System Dynamics, known strategies for geoengineering are unlikely to succeed (“climate geo-engineering cannot simply be used to undo global warming“). “Attempts to reverse the impacts of global warming by injecting reflective particles into the stratosphere could make matters worse,” according to research published in the 8 January 2014 issue of Environmental Research Letters. In addition, as described in the December 2013 issue of Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, geoengineering may succeed in cooling the Earth, it would also disrupt precipitation patterns around the world. In the Arctic, “any sea ice or snow retention as a result of geoengineering is lost within a decade,” according to a paper in the 15 February 2014 issue of Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres. Furthermore, “risk of abrupt and dangerous warming is inherent to the large-scale implementation of SRM” (solar radiation management), as pointed out in the 17 February 2014 issue of Environmental Research Letters. About a week later comes this line from research published in the 25 February 2014 issue of Nature Communication: “schemes to minimize the havoc caused by global warming by purposefully manipulating Earth’s climate are likely to either be relatively useless or actually make things worse.” Finally, in a blow to technocrats published online in the 25 June 2014 issue of Nature Climate Change, a large and distinguished group of international researchers concludes geo-engineering will not stop climate change. The U.S. National Academy of Sciences piles on with a report issued 10 February 2015, concluding geoengineering is not a viable solution for the climate predicament. An analysis in Europe reached the same conclusion in an assessment published 16 July 2015. As it turns out, the public isn’t impressed, either: Research published in the 12 January 2014 issue of Nature Climate Change “reveals that the overall public evaluation of climate engineering is negative.” Despite pervasive American ignorance about science, the public correctly interprets geo-engineering in the same light as the scientists, and contrary to the techno-optimists.
Unimpressed with evidence and public opinion, some scientists forge on, illustrating that the progressive perspective often means progresssing toward the cliff’s edge. As reported in the 27 November 2014 issue of New Scientist, initial efforts to cool the planet via geo-engineering have taken shape and might begin in two years.
The IPCC operates with a very conservative process and produces very conservative reports for several reasons, among them the failure to include relevant self-reinforcing feedback loops (as pointed out in the 1 April 2015 issue of the Washington Post). And then governments of the world meddle with the reports to ensure Pollyanna outcomes, as reported by a participant in the process (also see Nafeez Ahmed’s 14 May 2014 report in the Guardian and the 3 July 2014 paper in National Geographic). According to David Wasdell’s May 2014 analysis, which includes a critique of the IPCC’s ongoing lunacy, “equilibrium temperature increase predicted as a result of current concentration of atmospheric greenhouse gasses is already over 5°C.” I see no way for humans to survive such a rise in global-average temperature.
Wasdell’s analysis from September 2015 includes several noteworthy conclusions: (1) “Current computer estimates of Climate Sensitivity are shown to be dangerously low,” revealing (2) “an eight-fold amplification of CO2 forcing (in contrast to the three-fold amplification predicted by the IPCC climate modelling computer ensemble), (3) “the 2°C target temperature limit is set far too high” (emphasis in original), and (4) “anthropogenic change is at least 100 times faster than at any time in the Paleo record.” The report’s bottom line: “There is no available carbon budget. It is already massively overspent, even for the 2°C target.”
I recently visited Denali, the highest mountain peak in North America and my favorite place on the planet, for the first time in 13 years. Prior to working full time as a war reporter, I lived in Alaska for nearly a decade, where my life revolved around spending my summers mountaineering in the Alaska Range.
Denali in particular has always been close to my heart. As an alpinist, I take my orders from the mountains and see them as living things. So I make my climbing plans, but then, of course, they are always subject to the weather and route changes the mountain dictates at any given time.
Having worked on Denali as both a guide and a volunteer rescue ranger with the National Park Service, I’ve been lucky enough to have stood atop Denali several times, and the influence the mountain has had and continues to have on my life has been profound.
By viewing the mountain as a living thing, I also now view it as a being that is suffering from the impacts of anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD). The signs this year, along with anecdotal evidence from my mountaineering ranger friends, are overwhelming.
There have been mosquitos at basecamp at 7,200 feet on the Kahiltna Glacier for the last two years — something that had never happened before. We had instructions to wear helmets at two areas of the route where falling rocks have now become common. One of those sections is located between 17,200 and 18,200 feet, which means rocks and boulders that have been frozen solid in ice for thousands of years are now melting out and falling onto the climbing route not far from the summit of North America’s highest mountain. The lower glacier has melted down more than 50 feet in just a decade in some areas, according to one of the rangers I worked with.
Another long-time Denali mountaineering ranger told me of a phenomenon on Mt. Crosson, a mountain nearby Denali, where rock and soil that are becoming increasingly exposed by melting glacier are blowing onto the ice — which is accelerating the melting, as the rock and soil warm and melt more ice.
Given all of these extreme shifts, climbing is becoming exceedingly dangerous and unpredictable as the years go by.
Seeing these changes firsthand on Denali, a mountain 20,310 feet high and quite close to the Arctic Circle, it comes as no surprise that equally dramatic changes are happening in the Antarctic, as well as other places around the planet.
Antarctica’s Totten Glacier is now unstable and will likely be contributing significantly to multi-meter sea level increase by 2100, if mid- to worst-case climate disruption scenarios play out, according to a recent study.
It is no mystery where all of this melting is coming from: Global carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere is now consistently over 400 ppm, which means we are literally rewriting the history of the planet. The last time there was this much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, it was between 15 and 20 million years ago, at which point temperatures were between 3 and 6 degrees Celsius warmer than they are now, and global ice sheets had melted to a point where sea levels were between 25 and 40 meters higher than they are now (the Greenland Ice Sheet did not exist), according to a 2009 study in the journal Science.
To put that another way, we are locking in between 120-190 feet of sea-level rise, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change‘s worst case predictions for temperature rise, over the long term.
As dramatic as the current changes are, they pale in comparison to what studies warn is coming our way.
One recent study stated that even mid-range predictions of climate scenarios (bearing in mind we’ve seen even worst-case scenarios being consistently surpassed) will likely force human and animal populations living near the equator to migrate to cooler temperatures.
In the direst prediction yet, a study published recently in Nature Climate Changeprovided us with a view of the world if we continue burning fossil fuels unabated. If that occurs, and to date there is nothing to indicate that it will not, the planet will be 8 degrees Celsius warmer than pre-industrial baseline temperatures, and Earth will have the climate it did 52 million years ago. This means there will be crocodiles and palm trees in the Arctic, where temperatures will increase by 17 degrees.
The study predicted that if significant changes in emissions do not occur, by 2300, greenhouse gases will literally transform the planet into a place where food is scarce and large areas of the world will be uninhabitable by humans. Vast numbers of species of plants and animals would be annihilated.
Myles Allen, the head of a climate dynamics group at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, focuses his research on carbon’s cumulative impacts on climate. Allen told National Geographic that it took less warming — about 6 degrees Celsius — to lift the world out of the Ice Age than the planet may be facing over the next 200 years. Allen said, “That’s the profundity of the change we’re talking about.”
The Earth would resemble what it looked like during the Eocene period 52 to 56 million years ago, when horses shrank to the size of house cats as their evolution adjusted to a diet changed by heat and/or carbon. Melting of all the ice at the poles would cause sea-level increases that would displace the 40 percent of the global population that lives near a coast, precipitation in the tropical Pacific would quadruple, and in the Americas, precipitation would be reduced by one third.
Tropical rainforest systems around the world would collapse. In southern Europe and the US, Allen told National Geographic, drought would be “completely catastrophic for agriculture.”
This picture may appear, at first, like science fiction. However, disconcertingly, signs of several of these dire predictions are already evident, as we survey the planet in this month’s dispatch.
Crops around the world are now becoming increasingly toxic in order to withstand ACD-influenced extreme weather conditions. When their life-sustaining water becomes ever more scarce, plants find a way of surviving the extreme condition. But that means that, by adapting to their increasingly harsh environments, they accumulate toxins at levels dangerous enough to kill livestock and cause cancer and other serious illnesses in humans.
Southern African countries have been coping with their worst food crisis in a quarter of a century as food prices and rates of malnutrition are both soaring. In Angola, 1.4 million people are suffering from drought and malnutrition rates have doubled; at least 95,000 children are being impacted. A “red alert” has been issued for much of Mozambique, where most of the year’s harvest was lost, and nearly half a million people have been given food aid. In Malawi, 8 million people (half the country), needs food aid (one million tons of food) for the second straight year.
Meanwhile, ACD is threatening the physical existence of world-renowned tourist areas like Easter Island and Stonehenge, as extreme weather events bringing coastal erosion are affecting the sites.
Yet more evidence of how ACD is literally changing the landscape of the planet comes from NASA, which recently released a study showing that large swaths of Canada and Alaska are becoming greener as a result of ACD.
A recently published scientific report in the journal Marine Biology showed that ACD-driven ocean acidification, which occurs when carbon dioxide is dissolved in ocean waters, is both killing and stunting the growth of young crabs, which has the potential of placing entire crab populations at risk of annihilation.
A massive coral bleaching event that impacted the entire Great Barrier Reef in Australia has left roughly one quarter of the coral dead, and scientists now believe that it could well be too late to save what is left, given the ongoing warming of the oceans, coupled with worsening pollution from Australia.
That event, as broad in scope as it was, is merely a snapshot of a far larger global coral-bleaching event that is ongoing as the planet’s oceans are being heated to levels never seen before. Scientists around the world are now wondering what, if anything, can be done to keep coral reefs from disintegrating into the sea.
Meanwhile, rising seas are posing new sets of problems on a regular basis.
In the Florida Everglades, seawater is beginning to make its way into swamplands. As it continues, this development will irreversibly change the Everglades — and life for millions of people living in South Florida who depend on a freshwater aquifer underneath them, which is now at risk.
Drinking water issues are set to become increasingly problematic for those in the Western US as well, but for entirely different ACD-driven reasons.
The entire Western snowpack of the Rockies, Sierra Nevada, and Cascade mountain ranges, upon which tens of millions of people rely for water, is shrinking, due to the snow level making its way higher and higher into the mountains as temperatures continue to warm. Along with water shortages, this will cause forests and grasslands in the lower elevations to dry out, which will increase the number, size and strength of future wildfires.
California’s snowpack in the Sierra Nevada is already at a 500-year low, and Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in that state, is already at an all-time low, a phenomenon which may well leave the seven states that depend on it for drinking water in a very bad position.
It’s not just the western US that is experiencing a dramatic quickening of the melting of its snow. The northernmost community in the US, Barrow, Alaska, posted its earliest spring snowmelt on record, according to federal scientists. Overall this year so far, Alaska’s average temperature is the highest on record, at 11.4 degrees Fahrenheit above the average temperature between the year 1025 and the year 2000.
By May, the Arctic sea ice had shrunk to its fourth-lowest level in half a century, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado. This summer could well see the lowest sea-ice extent in recorded history.
Meanwhile, permafrost across Alaska’s north slope is continuing to warm at a pace that is now 70 years ahead of the pace predicted just a few years ago, according to recent research.
A stunning recent report revealed that 95 percent of all the glaciers atop the massive Tibetan plateau have receded, and are continuing to do so at rates never seen before.
As the atmosphere warms, it is able to hold increasing amounts of moisture, so intensifying downpours continue to be the norm. This was evidenced recently in West Virginia, where downpours in June left 26 people dead while setting records for the worst flooding in the state for more than a century.
It should come as little surprise that as planetary temperatures continue to increase at a record-breaking pace, wildfires are increasing right along with them.
Recent data shows that, since the 1980s, wildfires across the western US have been occurring with greater frequency, are far larger and are burning longer. Increases in all three areas of measurement have been happening every decade, and are continuing.
Already across the southwestern US, wildfires across five states are burning largely out of control due to a record-breaking heat wave and extremely dry conditions, forcing the hardest firefighting work to be carried out during the night.
In drought-stricken California, one of several wildfires has consumed more than 80 buildings and forced hundreds of people to evacuate their homes. Fires in the state are threatening at least another 1,500 buildings, and one of the firefighters hasdescribed it as “a firefight of epic proportions.”
In Arizona, at least four people died and a staggering 30 million more were under heat advisory as temperatures reached 120 in some areas and wildfires raged across the region.
In a truly apocalyptic scene from May, fire fighters in Canada faced 1,100 degree flames while battling fires near the country’s oil sands.
Also in late May, wildfires across Russia had already burned an area the size of Vermont and Delaware combined, as the country announced it expected its worst wildfire season in over a century.
In early June Greenland was hotter than New York City, in a prescient sign of the times.
Predictably, May was the warmest May on record for the planet, according to NASA. It beat the previous record, which was May 2014, by a long shot, and marked the 8th straight warmest month on record in NASA’s database. June is likely to follow suit.
Researchers recently revealed, in detail, how extreme weather-related disasters around the world are getting worse and costing more, largely due to the impacts of ACD. In the US alone in 2015, 10 extreme weather events cost more than $1 billion apiece and killed 155 people. Between 1980 and 2014, nearly 1 million people around the world were killed in tropical storms, floods, droughts, heat waves and other extreme weather events.
Denial and Reality
In yet another stunning example of ACD-denialism, the Republican Party is actively working to attempt to stop the Pentagon’s climate plan.
Ever since George W. Bush was president, the US Department of Defense has been warning that ACD posed a major threat to the national security of the US, and stating that preparation must begin promptly. Recently, however, House Republicans voted to block the Pentagon’s ACD preparation plan, then went on to pass an amendment that prohibited the defense department from spending money to put its preparation plans into effect. This was the second time the House GOP has actively voted to halt the Pentagon’s ACD policies.
On the living-in-reality front, the city of Portland, Oregon recently voted to ban all ACD-denying textbooks from all of its schools.
Recent reports from British and US research stations in the Antarctic showed that carbon dioxide levels on the ice continent exceeded 400 ppm for the first time in 4 million years. Researchers there reported that greenhouse gas emissions have “changed our planet to the very poles.”
Lastly for this month’s dispatch, a study recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that there is essentially no landscape left anywhere on Earth that has not already been altered by humans. This means that the end of true nature has essentially been confirmed by scientists.
“‘Pristine’ landscapes simply do not exist and, in most cases, have not existed for millennia,” wrote the authors of the study.
Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.
Dahr Jamail, a Truthout staff reporter, is the author of The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, (Haymarket Books, 2009), and Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches From an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq, (Haymarket Books, 2007).