US Coast Guard proposes development plans for $1 billion icebreakers for future polar expeditions

By Kevin Byrne, AccuWeather.com Staff Writer
January 26

http://www.accuweather.com/en/features/trend/us_coast_guard_makes_strides_on_icebreaker_plans_for_polar_expeditions_changing_arctic/54952421

As part of President Obama’s September trip to Alaska to discuss the fight against climate change, he emphasized the need for more icebreakers so the United States can operate year-round in the changing Arctic.

Now, four months later, the U.S. Coast Guard is making progress on meeting his request with the proposed development of two new heavy icebreakers, Reuters reports. Each ship will reportedly cost $1 billion.

In a Federal Business Opportunities solicitation posted Jan. 13, the Coast Guard said it is planning to host an industry day in March and one-on-one meetings with prospective shipbuilders and ship designers. A notional acquisition schedule has the production phase beginning in 2020, which adheres to the Obama Administration’s request that the timetable be accelerated from 2022.

RECORD-BREAKING: 2015 shatters record for warmest year

“The growth of human activity in the Arctic region will require highly engaged stewardship to maintain the open seas necessary for global commerce and scientific research, allow for search and rescue activities and provide for regional peace and stability,” the White House said back in September. “Accordingly, meeting these challenges requires the United States to develop and maintain capacity for year-round access to greater expanses within polar regions.”

The U.S. is trying to make up ground on Russia, which has a fleet of 41 icebreakers and another 11 planned or under construction. Petrochemical exploration and fisheries are just a couple of national interests at stake for the U.S. in this part of the world.

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy, a 420-foot icebreaker homeported in Seattle, Wash., breaks ice in support of scientific research in the Arctic Ocean on Aug. 9, 2006. The vessel was commissioned in 2000. (Photo/U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Prentice Danner)

Currently, there are only two operational polar icebreakers at the Coast Guard’s disposal, the 399-foot Polar Star and the 420-foot Healy, which is the latest and most technologically advanced icebreaker in the fleet. The Polar Star, commissioned in 1976, is expected to remain in service through approximately 2020.

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The Coast Guard also unveiled a list of design and operational requirements. One of them indicates that the icebreakers must be able to continuously push through at least 6 feet of ice, and as much as 8 feet while moving at a speed of 3 knots. In comparison, the Healy, a medium-sized icebreaker used primarily for research, can break 4.5 feet of ice continuously at 3 knots.

The icebreakers will be used in a variety of climates, including polar, tropical, dry and temperate. Ships will encounter air temperatures as low as minus 72 degrees Fahrenheit to as high as 114 F, the Coast Guard said.

In February of 2015, the Arctic sea ice maximum extent was the lowest value since records began in 1979. Additionally, the minimum extent in September was the fourth lowest on record.

“It is well understood that the Arctic is warming at a faster rate than the rest of the world. One of the reasons for this is the loss of sea ice,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson stated in a recent blog post. “As more sea ice is lost during the melt season, more open water is exposed. Open water is darker in color and has a lower albedo, which allows more of the sun’s heat to be absorbed by the surface.”

As a result of the decrease in sea ice, cruise ships are able to travel farther north and routine Arctic maritime traffic is anticipated by approximately 2020, the White House said.


Have questions, comments, or a story to share? Email Kevin Byrne at Kevin.Byrne@accuweather.com

The Dangers of Willful Denialism

A good friend and blog reader posited that perhaps humankind allowing anthropogenic global warming to run further and further amok is facilitated by the same ingrained denial that people employed as they saw Nazi Germany take control of more and more of Europe and carry out their brutal holocaust.

Maybe what the modern human world is doing to Nature by changing the climate so fast that wild species can’t adapt in time—resulting in mass extinction—is just too unbearable to comprehend or believe. Denial, she theorized, is “our forte”—the traditional fallback position.

I have to take it a step further by adding that such denial is willful. I read the blasé reactions to the shattering, unprecedented news that tropical wintertime hurricanes were now invading the arctic. CNN and FOX News set the tone by sounding a collective “ho hum.” Who can be bothered by calls to halt our carbon goose-steps? We humans have an appointment with a brick wall and nothing’s going to stop us until D-day.

Willful denialism allows folks to look the other way while the animal holocaust provides them with their methane-marinated meals of tortured beef cows, or tormented pigs, fish and chickens.

Possibly the epitome of willful denialism: the more people degrade their environment, the more they want to have babies.

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Vegan Jerky To Be Hand-Delivered to Oregon Cattle-Ranching Militia

http://www.peta.org/blog/vegan-jerky-to-be-hand-delivered-to-oregon-cattle-ranching-militia/

Written by PETA | January 5, 2016

The militant cattle ranchers currently occupying Malheur National Wildlife Refuge have appealed for snacks, and PETA is answering the call with a hand-delivered package of vegan jerky that contains more protein than beef does. The PETA staffers, who will bear signs reading, “The End (of Animal Agriculture) Is Nigh: Get Out Now!” are suggesting that militia members learn to raise crops, not cows—allowing the many species of wild animals the refuge was designed to protect to thrive.

Cows© iStock.com/narvikk

“People from all walks of life are increasingly appalled by the idea of slaughtering animals and realize, too, the harmful impact that animal agriculture has on the environment, so it’s time to face facts,” says PETA President Ingrid Newkirk. “These ranchers may have a beef with the feds, but their water use and the cattle’s production of methane mean that the world needs them to get out of the beef business.”

As PETA notes, the Worldwatch Institute estimates that animal agriculture is responsible for 51 percent of human-caused greenhouse-gas emissions and the University of Chicago determined that switching to a vegan diet is more effective in countering climate change than switching from a standard American car to a hybrid.

What You Can Do

Order PETA’s free vegan starter kit and do your part to start saving the planet and animals today!

Paris talks a fraud: Watered down climate agreement is too little, too late

by Sea Shepherd’s Captain Paul Watson

COP 21 – The Positives and the Negatives

The positive: (1) The attention of the world has been focused on the issue of climate change. (2) The issue has been given great credibility through the recognition and participation of 195 nations. (3) there will most likely be a surge in support for alternative energy technologies. (4) It could have been worst.

The negatives: (1) Having attended these international conferences since 1972 I’ve yet to see any past agreements translated into action. So we shall see. Promises are cheap. (2) the Ocean was virtually ignored. (3) Oxygen depletion was completely ignored as was phytoplankton diminishment. (4) the issue of animal agriculture was not only ignored it, the food concessions at the events contradicted that concern 100%. Serving fish and chips during an ocean forum and hamburgers at forums dealing with greenhouse gas emissions was a disconnect that was painfully obvious. You would think the delegates and the NGO’s could have weathered a meat free two weeks considering that the animal agriculture industry slaughtering 65 billion animals a year produces more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transportation industry. (5) and no one wanted to hear about cutting off the 75 + billion dollar government subsidies to the industrialized fishing industry.

In the agreement signed in the COP21 climate deal: the words “fossil fuels” do not appear. Neither do the words “oil” or “coal.” I find that quite revealing.

My two solutions to address climate change were two solutions that no one wanted to hear. (1) shut down industrialized fishing and allow the ocean ecosystems to repair themselves. And (2) convert the majority of the 7.5. billion humans on the planet to a plant based diet.

My summation is that this watered down agreement is too little, too late, and what is on paper will most likely not see any realistic application in practice.

Hopefully I will be proven wrong.

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Also: James Hansen, father of climate change awareness, calls Paris talks ‘a fraud’

The former Nasa scientist criticizes the talks, intended to reach a new global deal on cutting carbon emissions beyond 2020,

“It’s a fraud really, a fake,” he says, rubbing his head. “It’s just bullshit for them to say: ‘We’ll have a 2C warming target and then try to do a little better every five years.’ It’s just worthless words. There is no action, just promises. As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will be continued to be burned.”

Are we disarming a bomb that’s already gone off?

Excerpt from: Why the Paris talks won’t prevent 2 degrees of global warming

 http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/why-the-paris-talks-wont-prevent-2-degrees-of-global-warming/

BY Nsikan Akpan, William Brangham and Eric Osman  December 2, 2015

…the planet will inevitably surpass the 2 degree Celsius benchmark during this century, even with the calculations and intended pledges of the officials involved with the UN Convention on Climate Change and this week’s talks.

“These calculations show that even if countries fulfill their pledges, emissions will keep rising globally through 2030, and without any sign of stopping,” Barrett said. “And there’s no way you can meet any temperature target as long as emissions keep rising. The only way you can stabilize the climate is if global emissions head toward zero.”

Oppenheimer said the tipping point for reaching zero emissions greenhouse gases comes somewhere near the mid-century.

“The projections suggest that sometime after 2050 or 2060, but perhaps as late as 2100, we need to get close to zero emissions,” Oppenheimer said.

Man-made contributions to the global carbon budget. Illustration by the Global Carbon Project

Man-made contributions to the global carbon budget. Illustration by the Global Carbon Project

By then, humans need to have stopped emitting greenhouse gases, figured out how to sap these pollutants from the atmosphere or established some combination of the two.

The first option would require a massive shift to clean energy, and there are hints that this transition has started. A European report issued last week says the global growth of greenhouse gas emissions almost stalled in 2014. This shift was mainly due to China’s slow economic growth and switch to clean energy, though declining emissions in Europe, Japan and Australia helped too. The U.S. mirrored China in almost reaching stable levels.

Despite these achievements, emissions still grew and the planet still broke the world record for greenhouse gas concentrations in 2014, according to the The World Meteorological Organization. Renewable energy has made tremendous strides. Solar energy has boomed over the last decade, and wind energy has taken off in the United States, China, Europe and many other places around the world. On some days, Germany produces almost all its electricity with renewable energy.

Yet the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimated in 2013 that only 11 percent of world’s marketed energy consumption came from renewable energy sources – biofuels, biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, and wind — and project that this value will only rise to 4 percent by 2040.

The prospects look grim for the second option of remediation: sucking carbon out of the sky. Carbon sequestration could, in theory, solve global warming. But the technology to date is too expensive and not ready for action on a global or regional scale, Oppenheimer said. Environmental reporter David Roberts takes things even further for Vox:

The mechanism for negative emissions is supposed to be bioenergy — burning plant mass — coupled with carbon capture and sequestration. The combo is called BECCS, and in theory, it buries more CO2 than it emits.

If you work enough BECCS into your model, you can almost double humanity’s “carbon budget” — the amount of carbon we can still pump in the atmosphere without passing 2°C. After all, if you can suck half the carbon out, you can afford to pump twice the carbon in.

But is large-scale BECCS plausible? There’s the problem of finding a source of biomass that doesn’t compete with food crops, the harvesting of which does not spur additional emissions, and which can be found in the enormous quantities required. The IPCC scenarios that come in below 2°C require BECCS to remove between 2 and 10 gigatons of CO2 a year from the atmosphere by 2050. By way of comparison, all the world’s oceans combined absorb about 9 gigatons a year; all the world’s terrestrial carbon sinks combined absorb about 10 gigatons a year.

That’s daunting given that the technology isn’t available. Investment in these innovations may be the champion of this week’s deliberations. On Monday, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and other business entrepreneurs announced a new fund to boost private sector interests in clean energy technology. A sister program recruited 20 nations to promise $20 billion for similar projects in the public sector. And on Tuesday, France pledged 2 billion euros over the next four years to African countries to develop in renewable energy sources.

Shutting off lights when you leave a room, switching to solar or driving a hybrid can help the cause. But cutting the emissions to zero would require an international commitment on par with the World Wars. Unlike the Kyoto agreement, the Paris talks are non-binding from a legal perspective.

“I think countries will come to an agreement in Paris because the obligations are based on voluntary pledges,” Barrett said. “It’s easy to agree to something when you know you’re not really going to be held accountable. And it’s somewhat I think deceptive to think that this is a success.”

But even binding agreements, like Kyoto, have failed to stop emissions in many nations. Plus, three of the biggest perpetrators — the U.S., China and India — wouldn’t ratify or wouldn’t agree to binding emissions targets with the Kyoto protocol.

Oppenheimer compares the situation to the threat of nuclear annihilation in 1950s and 1960s, which never came to fruition because of international diplomacy.

“We haven’t completely put the [nuclear weapon] genie back in the bottle, but cooler heads prevailed in countries that found a way to see their mutual interest in not annihilating each other,” Oppenheimer said.

But oddly, the atomic bomb provides a historical example of the type of innovation needed to save the planet from greenhouse gases. The Manhattan Project took five decades of atomic research and created a weapon in just four years that quite literally shook the world. The globe would see a tidal shift — either in renewable energy or carbon capture — on par with the scale of the atomic bomb to rectify our current situation.

That could happen with a major investment in renewable and carbon capture technology, Oppenheimer said, adding that he remains hopeful, despite the challenges:

As a whole, I think humans will in their own messy way start dealing with the problem. We throw up lots of obstacles for ourselves, create lots of mess, and then we clean up after ourselves. Climate change is like that. Some of the clean up is ugly and some of the mess really doesn’t go away, but my expectation is if you look back a century from now on what happened, we’ll probably say this is the period of time where we actually got seriously started, and we averted the worst kinds of outcomes.

Cattlemen fed up with fires

Capital Press

Published:November 19, 2015 8:12AM

Courtesy of Nicole Kuchenbuch
Rancher Casey Kuchenbuch herds cattle toward his home field during the Okanogan fire on Aug. 18. Ranchers in Washington are critical of how state and federal officials fought summer fires.

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Washington cattlemen blame state and federal agencies for their livelihoods being jeopardized by large wildfires.

 

CLE ELUM, Wash. — A panel of ranchers at the Washington Cattlemen’s Association annual meeting unloaded frustration and anger at state and federal agencies, saying their land management practices and inept fire fighting are to blame for massive losses of rangeland, cattle and fencing in the last two years.

The losses threaten the cattle industry, particularly in Okanogan County where more than 1 million acres burned in the last two summers.

That totals one third of the entire acreage of the county which, at 5,315 square miles, is larger than some states. Millions of dollars of public and private timber have been lost. About 1,000 head of cattle died in the Carlton fire last year in Okanogan County while the tally so far this year is under 300. Hundreds of miles of fencing were lost both years but probably the biggest impact is loss of grazing on thousands of acres for several years causing ranchers to buy more hay and sell off cattle.

“There’s got to be some change or this will ruin our industry,” said Vic Stokes, a Twisp rancher, who lost 250 head of cattle and 90 percent of his grazing in the Carlton fire.

The convention panel, Nov. 12 at Suncadia Resort, faulted the U.S. Forest Service and state agencies for not thinning forests and not allowing grazing which would reduce fire fuel loads.

The ranchers said local firefighters do good work but are restrained when state and federal agencies take over. The panel cited multiple examples of state Department of Natural Resources and USFS-led interagency fire teams refusing to attack fires last summer, watching them burn and in two cases backburning private timber and pastures without permission of the landowner or in direct defiance of their pleas not to do it.

Contacted later, USFS and DNR spokespeople said those agencies are working to reduce fire loads by thinning and prescribed burns.

Cathy Dowd, a USFS Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest spokeswoman, said when the USFS doesn’t attack a fire its because there is no safe place from which to do so.

“Folks may not think we are doing anything, but we are definitely managing and monitoring from the air and in other ways and looking for ways to engage and suppress it,” Dowd said. “All this year’s fires were suppression fires, meaning the goal was to put them out,” she said.

DNR Northeast Region Manager Loren Torgerson said it was the toughest fire season the state has experienced, that firefighters risk their lives daily and three died doing so. “We saved many people, homes and ranches and earned their heartfelt thanks,” he said.

He said DNR needs more resources for preventative thinning and fire fighting and urged the Cattlemen’s Association to support that request.

Traditional fire suppression slowly begins behind fires and fire lines are built along flanks, Jim DeTro, Okanogan County commissioner and a smoke jumper from 1967 to 1973, said at the meeting.

“Eventually, the beast wanes. They encircle it and claim victory but only when nature allows. But the dragon takes its toll. Firefighters earn overtime and hazardous duty pay and they accept failure and loss with no regard to how the loss could be prevented on the next event,” DeTro said.

In Pine Creek, Gerald Scholz and other ranchers built a fire line with bulldozers that held, but agencies wanted to backburn the area, including private ground, DeTro said. They did so even after they promised not to in response to Scholz’s pleas, he said.

The next day DeTro confronted the official who said he wouldn’t backburn and he “said I didn’t understand the difference between backburn and backfire,” DeTro said.

A backburn is suppose to be relatively small, but the area was not tied together by fire lines, he said. “We warned them about the wind, but they did it anyway and it got away from them,” he said.

“Guys are getting way to happy with their drip torches (for backburning). If these agencies have that kind of attitude they might as well backfire to the Pacific Ocean,” DeTro said.

One third of the 600,000 acres burned this year in the Okanogan, Tunk Block and North Star fires was caused by backburning, he said.

Craig Vejraska, an Omak rancher and former Okanogan County commissioner, said agencies burned his private timber, which is his bank account, without asking permission and just a week ago burned what grass he had left to complete a blackened area.

“It could have saved our bacon and now we have 700 cattle looking for a home,” he said.

“We should take the incident command away and give it and the money to the Riverside Fire Department. They put out a hell of a lot more fire than DNR,” he said.

He yelled at two USFS officials for being part of the problem. Earlier they talked about forest management and they responded that was their arena, not fire fighting.

Dowd, of the USFS, didn’t know anything about Scholz and Vejraska’s claims. DNR spokeswoman Sandra Kaiser said DNR staff contacted Scholz but he was unable to provide any names or details about his claims. Scholz could not be reached for comment, but his wife, Bobbi, said she’s not aware of DNR contacting him. The fire had been stopped, then DNR backburned in the wind despite their pleas not too, destroying their timber and shed full of hay, she said.

“We can blame USFS all we want. USFS is dysfunctional, but who makes it so?” asked state Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, and a rancher. He said Congress has to change forest management.

“We are in a critical situation right now where virtually every rancher is burned out. We need every inch of WDFW land made available for grazing to maintain an industry,” Vejraska said.

While state agencies are asking for more money to fight fires, Kretz said they shouldn’t get any until they perform.

In the 2014 Carlton fire, “huge (public) resources sat in town,” Brewster, while Gebbers Farms bulldozers and 180 Gebbers orchard sprayers with water saved the town, Kretz said.

“If you look at a map of that fire, you see a big green donut hole in the middle. Part of it was private (Gebbers) and part of it was public that had been thinned. But the big difference was Gebbers crews got in there and actually fought fire,” Kretz said.

“I went up on the fire with Gebbers folks. We saw occasional state rigs looking at maps and smoke and when they did see any smoke they headed for town. Gebbers headed toward the fire,” he said.

“What you hear from the state is that it’s catastrophic. That they can’t fight them. They talk safety. You can’t go in when its crowning out (in tree tops) at 40 mph winds, but watching Gebbers they didn’t go into the teeth of the fire but got ahead of it and didn’t put in scratchy thin fire lines but two D-8s (Caterpillar dozers) side by side,” Kretz said.

“I saw a complete and utter inability (by fire officials) to make a decision. They would say you can put in a fire line but can you use a D-4, not a D-8? They’re worried about environmental impacts, but it’s a fire,” he said.

DNR officials have a “smug” attitude when questioned later, saying they’ve heard stories and will have to run them down to see if they are true, he said.

Local residents had a fire line around the Cougar Flat fire, which became part of the Carlton fire, but were waived off by the DNR which then let it get out of hand, Alex Thomason, a Brewster attorney has said.

The DNR is directed by state Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark who is also an Okanogan rancher. There’s “a lot of sentiment against him” in Okanogan over politics, DeTro said.

“We have the crown jewel of initial attack in our backyard, the North Cascades Smoke Jumper base in Winthrop, but it’s under-utilized because of too much bureaucracy,” DeTro said.

He has audio tapes, he said, proving smoke jumpers on their way from the base to Oregon spotted the starts of the Carlton fire from the air but were told to keep going to Oregon by interagency dispatchers in Wenatchee.

Kretz said he passed a bill in the Legislature last year that allows people to fight fires on public lands.

“We have to get back to locals grabbing their tools and fighting fires. I had a bill to let counties opt out of (the state) fire suppression tax and use it for their own resources. We will run more bills this year,” he said.

Doug Grumbach, a Ferry County rancher near Curlew, said a decision was made to let large portions of the Colville National Forest burn, including 33 percent of his grazing allotment. He said he’s suspicious but doesn’t know if proposals to designate the area as wilderness had anything to do with letting it burn.

He said he lost 21 cows and miles of fencing.

“You do everything you can to save these animals and to lose them is devastating. There needs to be a change. I don’t ever want to go through this again. It ages you real fast,” Grumbach said.

Neil Kasyer, a Centerville rancher near Mt. Adams in southcentral Washington, said he was moving cattle out of the way of fire for four days before he saw anyone trying to put it out.

“DNR and tribal were bickering over who was in charge. Neither wanted to step up because they didn’t know if they would get reimbursed until it was big enough,” he said.

The fire burned some 55,000 acres around the base of the mountain for 20 days until rain put it out, he said.

He’s still looking for some of his 700 head of cattle, he said. A lot of riparian wildlife habitat has been destroyed for years by the wildfires, he said. 
“More money (for fire suppression) won’t help. What will help is controlling the fuel load, changing forest practices and getting locals back on initial attack,” Kasyer said. “Sitting there watching it for four days, deciding which way it will go and how big you want it to get is not the answer.”

Excerpt from: Will Paris Climate Talks Be Too Little, Too Late?

By Dahr Jamail, Truthout | Report

The faux goal of 2 degrees Celsius continues to be discussed. Meanwhile, the planet burns.

During the first week of December, delegations from nearly 200 countries will convene in Paris for the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) climate conference. It has been billed, like the last several, as the most important climate meeting ever. The goal, like that of past COPs, is to have governments commit to taking steps to cut carbon dioxide emissions in order to limit planetary warming to within 2 degrees Celsius above the preindustrial temperature baseline.

Yet this is a politically agreed-upon limit. It is not based on science.

Climate Disruption DispatchesRenowned climate scientist James Hansen and multiple other scientists have already shown that a planetary temperature increase of 1 degree Celsius above preindustrial baseline temperatures is enough to cause runaway climate feedback loops, extreme weather events and a disastrous sea level rise.

Furthermore, the UK meteorological office has shown that this year’s global temperature average has already surpassed that 1 degree Celsius level.

Well in advance of the Paris talks, the UN announced that the amount of carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere has locked in another 2.7 degrees Celsius warming at a minimum, even if countries move forward with the pledges they make to cut emissions. Hence, even the 2 degree Celsius goal is already unattainable. However, similar to the way in which national elections in the United States continue to maintain the illusion that this country is a democracy, and “We the People” truly have legitimate representation in Washington, DC, illusions must be maintained at the COP21.

Thus, the faux goal of 2 degrees Celsius continues to be discussed. Meanwhile, the planet burns.

Japan’s meteorological office announced that this past September was, by far, the warmest September on record, and records now show that October has also become the hottest recorded October. As a whole, 2015 remains easily on course to become the hottest year ever recorded.

As if to place an exclamation point on all of this information, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels hit a new milestone in excess of 400 parts per million in early 2015 – a 45 percent increase over preindustrial levels.

Extreme weather events propelled by anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) abound in this month’s dispatch.

Hurricane Patricia tore into the West Coast of Mexico, becoming the strongest hurricane ever recorded, with sustained winds of 200 miles per hour.

Yemen was struck by its first hurricane in recorded history, dumping what is normally a decade’s worth of rain in a matter of merely two days. As if that is not enough to show how intensely ACD is ramping up global weather events, less than a week later the second hurricane in Yemen’s recorded history made landfall, bringing fresh hurricane-force winds, torrential rains, flash flooding and death.

ACD is, quite literally, extinguishing oceanic life across the planet.

An ACD-driven El Niño brought October storms that wreaked havoc across southern California. Record storms in the high desert and mountains of the southern part of that state brought massive mudflows across major highways, which trapped hundreds of vehicles in mud that was 20 feet deep in places, stranding motorists overnight. The rainfall from the storm, which in one area fell at a rate of 1.81 inches in just 30 minutes, was described by the National Weather Service as a “1,000-year event.”

Meanwhile, a recent report shows that marine food chains are at risk of collapse due to ACD impacts, overfishing and pollution. ACD is literally erasing species from coral reefs, the open ocean, Arctic and Antarctic waters, and the tropics.

Moreover, another recent report reveals that bleaching and disease are combining to destroy the largest coral reef in the continental United States, a 150-mile reef found off the coast of Florida. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, it is the third-largest barrier reef ecosystem on the planet.

Read more: http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/33756-cop21-too-little-too-late-temperature-co2-thresholds-breached-as-climate-disruption-intensifies

 

Have Denialists Reached Their Carrying Capacity?

by Jim Robertson

Denial seems to be the fallback position for those who don’t understand a particular science and/or have a political motive not to believe said science. Lately we’ve been hearing much about the denial of anthropogenic climate change, but willful ignorance can be employed for everything from evolution to overpopulation.

Generally speaking, denialists want to hold humans harmless of something they’re clearly responsible for, whether it’s having a carbon footprint—or a literal footprint. But no one is innocent of the ultimate crime of being born a human. (An aberration. An abnormality. An irregularity. A meat-eating monkey.)

Some still cling to the denial that tobacco (or meat) can cause cancer. Others just don’t care. Many would probably balk at the analogy that humans are a cancer to the Earth.

Historically, it was deniers of the obvious–gravity, astronomy and evolution (literal flat-Earthers)—who we heard the most from. Today’s deniers still include a few who question the “theory” of gravity, evolution and other realities.

But few have gone so far as to call for a de facto book ban as Laurie Mazur did recently in a Los Angeles Times op-ed entitled, “China drops its ‘one-child’ policy, now let’s ban the ‘population bomb’,” featuring the irrational statement, “Let’s be clear: slowing population growth is not a panacea for the challenges of the 21st century.” I’m sure biologist Paul Ehrlich, whose 1968 book she attacks in her article, would challenge that statement. Let’s be real: slowing our population growth is the only lasting remedy, assuming we care about the rest of life on Earth at all.

Has Ms. Mazur ever heard of the term carrying capacity? In Paul and Anne Ehrlich’s 1996 book, Betrayal of Science and Reason: How Anti-environmental Rhetoric Threatens Our Future, they write in answer to the naïve notion that there is no overpopulation:

“To understand how fallacious this statement is requires recognizing that overpopulation can be reached very quickly by exponentially growing populations in situations of seeming abundance. There is overpopulation when organisms (people in this case) become so numerous that they degrade the ability of the environment to support their kind of animal in the future. The number of people Earth can support in the long term (without degrading the environment)—given existing socioeconomic systems, consumption patterns, and technological abilities—is called the human carrying capacity of the planet at the time. And carrying capacity can be exceeded without causing immediate effects obvious to the untutored observer. ‘Overshoots’ commonly occur in nature with all kinds of organisms. A population has an ‘outbreak,’ grows far beyond its carrying capacity, consumes its resources (for animals, usually food), and crashes to a size far below the previous carrying capacity.”

Homo sapiens has never been a light-touch or low-impact type of creature. Once you realize that, it’s easier to believe they’re overpopulated and have been actually changing the planet’s climate. Whether or not our species has peopled the Earth to the point of saturation, the denialists have undeniably reached their carrying capacity.

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Global warming could be melting ancient greenhouse gases under Oregon coast

Plume2_nolabels-e1418151769899.jpg
This sonar image captured bubbles rising from the seafloor off the Washington coast, where global warming has raised water temperatures and possibly caused gases frozen underwater for millennia to melt. ( Brendan Philip / University of Washington)

by  Kelly House

Greenhouse gases 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide are bubbling up from beneath the ocean along Oregon and Washington, fueling global warming and contributing to changes in water chemistry that have devastated the northwest shellfish industry.

Scientists with the University of Washington believe abnormally warm water off the Pacific Coast is causing the gaseous plumes by vaporizing methane that had been frozen for thousands of years in deep ocean sediments.

The vapors are dissolving into the water and bubbling up into the atmosphere, potentially causing problems in both.

The scientists published their findings in the American Geophysical Union’s journal, Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems.

“We’re not predicting an apocalypse, but we are saying global warming is coming to the marine waters off Oregon and Washington,” said H. Paul Johnson, the University of Washington oceanography professor who led the study.

PlumesMap.jpgThis map pinpoints 168 methane bubble plumes researchers located off the Oregon and Washington coasts.

Johnson worked on the study along with oceanography professor Evan Solomon, doctoral student Marie Salmi and research assistant Una Miller. The study builds upon research a University of Washington and Oregon State University team conducted last year.

In that study, scientists found that water 500 meters below the ocean surface has warmed by three-tenths of a degree Celsius over the past four decades – enough to melt methane frozen in ocean sediment.

Their work joins a growing body of research suggesting climate change might not happen in a slow and steady fashion. Rather, the earth’s warming could allow trapped greenhouse gases to escape, creating a snowball effect in which the earth could warm faster over time.

Other researchers have discovered methane plumes along the Atlantic and Norwegian coasts and in the Arctic tundra.

Under cold, high-pressure conditions, methane interacts with water by crystallizing into an ice-like solid. As temperatures warm, it takes more and more pressure to produce crystals. Under lower-pressure conditions, chemical bonds break and the methane reverts to its gaseous state.

When it shows up in the air, methane prevents solar energy from leaving earth’s atmosphere. Over time, this heats the planet in a process known as the greenhouse effect. Left unchecked, the release of greenhouse gases into Earth’s atmosphere is expected to cause catastrophic changes in the planet’s climate.

Previous models from University of Washington and Oregon State University scientists estimated present ocean warming trends are melting 100,000 metric tons of methane each year off the Washington coastline alone. Johnson said the same warming effect is happening from northern Vancouver Island down to Mendocino, California.

Only some of that gas leaves the sediment to alter ocean and air chemistry.

The research published last week backs up those models. Of 168 methane plumes discovered off the coast within the past decade, a high number originated at 500 meters below the surface. That’s the upper limit of depths at which methane could crystallize under cold, high-pressure conditions. As the ocean warms, methane requires deeper water to crystallize.

Solomon said it’s likely there are more plumes out there, yet to be discovered.

“Every time we go out on an expedition, we discover new seep sites,” he said.

Most of the resulting gas bubbles chemically react with water to create ocean-born carbon dioxide that contributes to the acidic seas that have plagued the Northwest shellfish industry. It’s unclear how significant that contribution might be, Solomon said.

A tiny fraction of the gas bubbles up to the surface, where it contributes to the greenhouse effect.

Although the research suggests seawaters warmed by global climate change are causing the plumes, more work is needed to know with certainty. The researchers’ next step is to analyze the plumes’ chemical makeup to find out.

If their hypothesis checks out, Johnson said, it’s reasonable to expect the methane melt to accelerate in the coming years. Arctic sea water that has warmed by as much as 2 degrees Celsius is heading for Oregon, but will take years to get here.

“That warming is already in the bank,” Johnson said. “We’re just waiting for it to reach us.”