Tuesday, 06 January 2015 09:33
Dahr Jamail By Dahr Jamail,
Excerpts from a Truthout report found here: http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/28372-as-climate-disruption-advances-26-percent-of-mammals-face-extinction
Two recently released studies brought bad news for those living near coastlines around the world. One published in the peer-reviewed Nature Climate Change, the other in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the studies showed that existing computer models might have severely underestimated the risk to the Greenland ice sheet from warming global temperatures.
Bear in mind that if Greenland’s entire ice sheet melts, 20 feet would be added to global sea levels. …..
Warming temperatures in the Arctic are causing shifts in the gene pool of animals: Scientists are reporting an increasing likelihood of “grolar bears,” which are a cross between grizzly and polar bears. According to scientists, this would bring deleterious consequences, given that “genetic incompatibilities in hybrids will erase traits crucial to the long-term survival of both parent species.” They warn that if that happens, “then we can expect a great reduction in those populations, and possibly extinctions.” …
tropical deforestation, caused by both ACD and logging, could cause “significant and widespread” shifts in rainfall distribution and temperatures, which will affect agriculture far and wide.
Pine bark beetle infestations, which are exploding across vast swaths of North America, are now happening as far south as Tucson, Arizona, where pine trees are now dropping like flies.
California’s ongoing drought is having profound impacts on wildlife: Animals like squirrels, deer and bear are fleeing their homes and even risking their lives to search for food sources that have been dramatically diminished.
Another recent study showed that ACD-related habitat loss is now a threat to 314 more species of birds, whose numbers are already in decline. …
As storms continue to intensify, the Philippines’ climate chief warned recently that his country lacks the systems necessary to cope with the worsening impacts of ACD. The Philippines was recently hammered by yet another massive typhoon.
In Australia, Sydney and its surrounding region can expect an increasing number of hot days, shifting rainfall patterns and more extreme fire danger as a result of ACD, according to recently published high-resolution modeling of the future climate there.
A recently published study revealed that deadly cholera outbreaks are almost certain to increase in the more vulnerable regions of the world due to ACD, since severe heat waves and more frequent and intense flooding are on the rise.
Lastly in this section, another recent study showed that the Amazonian peatlands store approximately 10 times the amount of carbon as do undisturbed rainforests in adjacent areas, which makes them all the more critical in efforts to mitigate ACD. The areas in question are already mostly unprotected, and the deforestation there would result in “massive carbon emissions,” according to the report.
deadly heat waves in Europe are now 10 times more likely than they were just a decade ago. This is troubling news, given that during the summer of 2003 when temperatures soared to over 100 degrees throughout Western Europe, more than 35,000 people were killed – and that was the most intense heat the continent had seen in over 500 years.
As the planet goes, so goes Europe. A recent study by three independent teams of climate scientists has tied that continent’s record-breaking heat of 2014 directly to ACD. The report also showed that record-breaking years are now 35 to 80 times more likely, again thanks to ACD.
Extremes of both hot and cold temperatures across the planet are increasing faster than previously believed.
Indeed, recently released research shows that extremes of both hot and cold temperatures across the planet are increasing faster than previously believed… the Arctic is continuing to warm faster than the rest of the planet, as annual average temperatures there have continued to heat up twice as fast as the rest of the globe.
Two recent studies revealed that millions of abandoned oil and gas wells spanning the United States are likely releasing a “significant quantity” of methane into the atmosphere, which is not being included in total Environmental Protection Agency emission counts.
Lastly and perhaps most distressing in this section, new modeling revealed how warming ocean waters could well already be triggering massive methane leaks off the Pacific Northwest Coast, where 4 million tons of the potent greenhouse gas have already been released since 1970. …
…and Nature magazine has sounded the alarm that a staggering 41 percent of all amphibians on the planet now face extinction, and 26 percent of mammals and 13 percent of birds face the same threat. …
- Researchers in Germany have found that hunting significantly depleted mammoth populations in Western Europe around 30,000 years ago
- They studied the bones of mammoths, horses and reindeer
- Analysing isotopes ruled out climate change as a cause of population cuts
- All but a few isolated populations died out 20,000 to 10,000 years ago
They found that woolly mammoth numbers declined, but that climate conditions as well as food and water supplies for the giant herbivores remained stable.
The woolly cousins of modern elephants roamed northern Eurasia and North America beginning 300,000 years ago, but some 10,000 to 20,000 years ago, all but a few of the isolated island populations disappeared.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2945630/Are-humans-blame-mammoth-s-demise-Hunting-caused-numbers-plunge-30-000-years-ago-study-claims.html#ixzz3RMczSqj6
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Last night I watched the timeless 1973 movie, Soylent Green, again and was again impressed (unfavorably) by how much the futuristic world that it depicted mirrored the world we’re headed for now. The temperature of the overcrowded New York of the future was a constant 90 degrees; the oceans were dying (presumably from overfishing and pollution, they hadn’t heard of acidification at the time); and the world was running out of food..
Set in 2022, the film opens with a slide show of earlier eras, back when the Earth was covered with forests and open fields, and there were only a few scattered settlements of people who travelled in horse-drawn wagons.
As the images pass quickly by, we see the first automobiles (tail pipes spewing toxic climate-changing carbon gases), followed by a massive blacktop parking lot jam packed with Model Ts. The pictures begin to flash almost more rapidly than we can focus, but we catch glimpses of factories with smokestacks billowing and crowds of people barely able to
move without trampling one another. (Come to think of it, what we are witnessing looks a lot like the inside of an average modern-day poultry barn, where chickens and turkeys are forced to live out their lives in intense confinement.)
The first scene of action takes place in a cramped little New York City apartment, the dwelling of the film’s two main characters, Thorn, a semi-corrupt detective, and his elderly room-mate and research partner, Sol, who is constantly going on about the good old days—a world that Thorn can’t possibly envision or relate to.
They are among the lucky few; most people sleep on the stairways or in the hallways or anywhere they can find shelter from the oppressive heat caused by an out of control greenhouse effect. We overhear a program on their worn out old TV which is an interview with the governor of New York, touting a new food product called “Soylent Green,” ostensibly made from the ocean’s plankton. (Everyone in that day and age knows that the land is used up, but they’re told the oceans can still provide for them).
Food in this depressing, human-ravaged world comes in the form of color-coded wafers, distributed under strict government supervision. Hordes of people stand in line for their ration of Soylent yellow or blue made from soy, or other high protein plants grown behind the fortress-walls of heavily guarded farms.
Signs remind the throng that “Tuesday is Soylent Green day.”
The multitudes are exceptionally unruly on Tuesday. Brimming with anticipation, they can’t wait to obtain a ration of the special new product. When the food distributors run out of soylent green, people start rioting and things get out of hand. “Scoops” (garbage trucks fitted with backhoe-like buckets on the front) are called in to scrape up the angry masses and haul them off…
By the end of the film, Thorn learns that the oceans are dead and the actual ingredients of Soylent Green are something a bit harder to stomach than plankton. In the final scene, a mortally-wounded Thorn is carried away on a stretcher as he desperately tries to tell bewildered onlookers, “Soylent Green is People!” “They’re making our food out of people. Next thing, they’ll be breeding us like cattle for food!”
Could it ever happen? Could the human race ever stoop so low? If the scenario seems too hard to swallow, consider this: the conditions animals are forced to endure on today’s factory farms would have seemed unimaginable to people living a hundred years ago.
Monday, 01 December 2014 09:45
Dahr Jamail By Dahr Jamail, Truthout | Interview
Some scientists, Guy McPherson included, fear that climate disruption is so serious, with so many self-reinforcing feedback loops already in play, that humans are in the process of causing our own extinction.
August, September and October were each the hottest months ever recorded, respectively. Including this year, which is on track to become the hottest year ever recorded, 13 of the hottest years on record have all occurred in the last 16 years.
Coal will likely overtake oil as the dominant energy source by 2017, and without a major shift away from coal, average global temperatures could rise by 6 degrees Celsius by 2050, leading to devastating climate change.
“Across two decades and thousands of pages of reports, the world’s most authoritative voice on climate science has consistently understated the rate and intensity of climate change and the danger those impacts represent.”
This is dramatically worse than even the most dire predictions from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which predicts at least a 5-degree Celsius increase by 2100 as its worst-case scenario, if business continues as usual with no major mitigation efforts.
Yet things continue growing worse faster than even the IPCC can keep up with.
Scientific American has said of the IPCC: “Across two decades and thousands of pages of reports, the world’s most authoritative voice on climate science has consistently understated the rate and intensity of climate change and the danger those impacts represent.”
And there is nothing to indicate, in the political or corporate world, that there will be anything like a major shift in policy aimed at dramatically mitigating runaway anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD).
Guy McPherson is a professor emeritus of natural resources, and ecology and evolutionary biology, with the University of Arizona, who has been studying ACD for nearly 30 years.
Near-term human extinction could eventually result from losing the Arctic sea ice, which is one of the 40 self-reinforcing feedback loops of ACD.
His blog Nature Bats Last has developed a large readership that continues to grow, and for six years McPherson has been traveling around the world giving lectures about a topic that, even for the initiated, is both shocking and controversial: the possibility of near-term human extinction due to runaway ACD.
As McPherson has told Truthout: “We’ve never been here as a species, and the implications are truly dire and profound for our species and the rest of the living planet.” He told Truthout that he believes that near-term human extinction could eventually result from losing the Arctic sea ice, which is one of the 40 self-reinforcing feedback loops of ACD. “A world without Arctic ice will be completely new to humans,” he said.
At the time of our interview less than one year ago, McPherson had identified 24 self-reinforcing positive feedback loops. Today that number has grown to 40.
A self-reinforcing feedback loop can also be thought of as a vicious circle, in that it accelerates the impacts of ACD. An example would be methane releases in the Arctic. Massive amounts of methane are currently locked in the permafrost, which is now melting rapidly. As the permafrost melts, methane, a greenhouse gas 100 times more potent than carbon dioxide on a short timescale, is released into the atmosphere, warming it, which in turn causes more permafrost to melt, and so on.
In the near term, earth’s climate will change 10 times faster than during any other moment in the last 65 million years.
While McPherson’s perspective might sound way-out and like the stuff of science fiction, similar things have happened on this planet in the past. Fifty-five million years ago, a 5-degree Celsius rise in average global temperatures seems to have occurred in just 13 years, according to a study published in the October 2013 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. A report in the August 2013 issue of Science revealed that in the near term, earth’s climate will change 10 times faster than during any other moment in the last 65 million years.
Prior to that, the Permian mass extinction that occurred 250 million years ago, also known as “The Great Dying,” was triggered by a massive lava flow in an area of Siberia that led to an increase in global temperatures of 6 degrees Celsius. That, in turn, caused the melting of frozen methane deposits under the seas. Released into the atmosphere, those gases caused temperatures to skyrocket further. All of this occurred over a period of approximately 80,000 years. The change in climate is thought to be the key to what caused the extinction of most species on the planet. In that extinction episode, it is estimated that 95 percent of all species were wiped out.
Today’s current scientific and observable evidence strongly suggests we are in the midst of the same process – only this time it is anthropogenic, and happening exponentially faster than the Permian mass extinction did.
We are likely to begin seeing periods of an ice-free Arctic by as soon as this coming summer, or the summer of 2016 at the latest.
Once the summer ice begins melting, methane releases will worsen dramatically.
Our current extinction event is already greatly exceeding the speed, and might eventually even exceed the intensity, of the Permian mass extinction event.
We are currently in the midst of what most scientists consider the sixth mass extinction in planetary history, with between 150 and 200 species going extinct daily – a pace 1,000 times greater than the “natural” or “background” extinction rate. Our current extinction event is already greatly exceeding the speed, and might eventually even exceed the intensity, of the Permian mass extinction event. The difference is that ours is human caused, isn’t going to take 80,000 years, has so far lasted just a few centuries and is now gaining speed in a nonlinear fashion.
Is it possible that, on top of the vast quantities of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels that continue to enter the atmosphere in record amounts yearly, an increased release of methane could signal the beginning of the sort of process that led to the Great Dying? Some scientists, McPherson included, fear that the situation is already so serious and so many self-reinforcing feedback loops are already in play that we are in the process of causing our own extinction. Worse yet, some are convinced that it could happen far more quickly than generally believed possible – even in the course of just the next few decades.
Truthout caught up with McPherson at the Earth at Risk conference in San Francisco recently to ask him about his prediction of human extinction, and what that means for our lives today.
Dahr Jamail: What are some of the current signs and reports you’re seeing that are disconcerting, and really give you pause?
Guy McPherson: I’ve been traveling, so I’m out of date for the last 10 days. But starting with the snowstorm in Buffalo, New York, that was the biggest snowstorm ever recorded in Buffalo, at 6 feet 4 inches in 24 hours. It’s the largest one ever recorded in the United States.
Australia, meanwhile, is on fire. I just came back from New Zealand, and spring had just turned there because it’s the Southern Hemisphere. The whole time I was there people were commenting on how hot it was, and “how far into summer we already are,” and it was early to mid-spring when I was there.
So there’s all kinds of observational evidence.
“It’s hard for me to imagine we make it into the 2030s as a species.”
We triggered another self-reinforcing feedback loop, number 40, just about two weeks ago; then just a week ago there was a [scientific] paper that came out indicating that for every 1-degree temperature rise, there is 7 percent more lightning strikes. So that contributes to a previously existing self-reinforcing feedback loop, that of fires, especially in the Northern Hemisphere, and especially in the boreal forests. So, as it gets warmer and drier, there are more and bigger fires, and that kicks more carbon into the atmosphere, which of course contributes to ongoing, accelerating climate disruption.
So lightning is yet another piece of that. As there is more moisture in the atmosphere and more heat going into the atmosphere and warming the planet, we have more lightning. The whole atmosphere becomes more dynamic. So, those are things that come to mind.
From your analysis, how long do you think humanity has before extinction occurs?
That’s such a hard question, and we are such a clever species. It’s clear that abrupt climate change is underway. Methane has gone exponential in the atmosphere. Paul Beckwith, climate scientist at University of Ottawa, indicates we could experience a 6-degree Celsius temperature rise in the span of a decade. He thinks we’ll survive that. I can’t imagine how that could be. He’s a laser physicist and engineer, so I think he doesn’t understand biology and requisite habitat that we need to survive.
So it’s difficult for me to imagine a scenario where we’ll survive even a 4-degree Celsius [above pre-industrial baseline] temperature rise, and we’ll be there in the very near future, like by 2030, plus or minus. So it’s hard for me to imagine we make it into the 2030s as a species.
But when I deliver public presentations I try not to focus on any particular date; I just try to remind people that they are mortal. That birth is lethal, and that we don’t have long on this planet even if we live to be 100, so we might want to pursue what we love, instead of pursuing the next dollar.
A more micro-look from that question – what do you see happening in the US, if Beckwith and other scientists who are predicting that rapid a rise of temperatures in such a short time frame are correct?
The interior of continents heats at least twice as fast as the global average. So a 6-degree Celsius rise in the global average means at least 12 degrees Celsius in the interior of continents – that means no question there is no habitat for humans in the interior. So you would have to be in a maritime environment.
“It’s difficult for me to imagine a situation in which plants, even land plants survive, because they can’t get up and move.”
I think even before we get to 6 degrees Celsius above baseline, we lose all habitats. We lose all or nearly all the phytoplankton in the oceans, which are in serious decline already as the result of an increasingly acidified ocean environment. It’s difficult for me to imagine a situation in which plants, even land plants survive, because they can’t get up and move. So without plants there is no habitat.
At a 6-degree Celsius temperature rise in the span of decades, there’s no way for evolution by natural selection to keep up with that. Already, climate change – which at this point has been pretty slow and what we would call linear change – already climate change is outpacing evolution by natural selection by at least a factor of 10,000, so I don’t see any way the planet is going to keep up.
Also read: The Methane Monster Roars
The human species is surely impressed with itself. Even the name they chose to classify themselves—Homo sapiens (Latin for “wise man”)—suggests it. Undoubtedly, there must have been some thought involved in the process of mushrooming from a simple tree-dwelling leaf eater in one small corner of the planet, to becoming the scariest big game hunter to rule the Earth.
(Carrying a torch)
“I’ll use this fire stick to chase that group of peacefully grazing, gregarious gazelles toward that cliff over there, and you guys try to spear as many as you can”
(Carrying a spear)
“Good thinking, Ugh.”
Scenes like this played themselves out over and over as the species spread out and burgeoned to 7.2 billion. Now the technology of the killingest of creatures has advanced to the point that a single hunter, dressed in camouflage and drenched in another animal’s urine to con his victim as much as possible, can bring down the mightiest moose or tallest giraffe with the slightest squeeze of a trigger.
And still the species grows exponentially and continues to claim every last habitat.
It was impressive when man built the first rocket and took a walk on the moon. However, the rockets they build to blow their enemies sky-high (while irradiating the land and sea) more clearly typify the species’ overall achievements to date. But lately it seems that nuclear annihilation won’t get to see its day; anthropogenic climate change and a man-made extinction spasm are now higher on the agenda.
Perhaps the human, the only creature capable of destroying the Earth, should have been named Homo horribilus mactabilis (Latin for “horrible, dreadful, fearful; deadly, lethal man”).
What would really be impressive is if people were to drop their steak knives (and other weapons of mass destruction) en masse and make peace with this amazing planet and all of its inhabitants. The potential is there, but do they still have the will to learn?
One of the unwelcome, unapproved hunter-comments received today asked the hypothetical question, “So what do you suggest?… Control the human population limiting each family to one child so we stop ‘encroaching’ animal habitat?” He surely knew not the wisdom of his words.
Dave Foreman, founder of the original Earth First!, posits in his book, Man Swarm and the Killing of Wildlife, that no one can call themselves a conservationist (and what hunter doesn’t like to call themselves a “conservationist”?) if they’re unwilling to at least acknowledge the human overpopulation problem.
The following quote from Man Swarm should make this point clear.
“…whenever conservationists spotlight threatened landscapes or wildlife, we need to bring in the ways high population and ongoing growth are behind that threat.
“Right now this is not being done. When horror stories pop up about the dreadful loss of wildlife somewhere in the world, population growth is rarely mentioned, much less blamed for it. A glaring example comes from a 2009 news story about the crash in wildlife numbers in the big game haven of Kenya. Nowhere in the article is Kenya’s skyrocketing population mentioned. Of the fabled big five animals only the buffalo is not now endangered, while Kenya could lose the others—lion, elephant, rhino and leopard. In all cases wildlife are threatened because swarming new populations of Men are pouring into former wildlife habitat. When conflicts arise, the wildeors are killed.
“In 1963, 20,000 lions lived in Kenya. In 2008 there were only 1,970. A ninety percent loss. Elephants went from 167,000 in 1963 to 16,000 in 1989. They are back at 32,000, which is still piddling. Black rhinos were poached down to 20,000 in 1970 to 391 in 1997. Now they are at 603 only with tough protection. Other big, wide-ranging wildlife are at all-time lows. Conservationists need to take such figures and show how exploding human populations are to blame and that, without serious birth reduction, wildlife will go.
“Now, let’s look at how growth is behind the Seven Ecological Wounds. Wound 1: overkill
“When I was in grade school I read the Weekly Reader telling us how more thorough harvesting of the seven seas would feed more and more mouths. Well, we did that. The upshot is crashing fisheries throughout the world, die-off of coral reefs, and the functional extinction of once-teeming highly interactive species such as cod, sharks, and tuna. When highly interactive species are killed off, their neighborhoods crumble and whither.
“As hungry little settlements swell and spread out, they gobble up bigger wildlife from rainforests and other wild lands. Even a little knot of huts with near-Stone Age tools can clean out the bigger wildlife in a nearby protected area. As more babies become more mommies and daddies, hunters go ever farther afield with snares, nets, and old guns. There are tropical National Parks still full of tall, never-cut trees and heavy lianas that are empty of big wildeors thanks to this belly-driven hunting.
“Historically, hunting has caused the extinction, local extirpation, or near extinction of wildlife, including once-highly abundant bison, passenger pigeons, shore birds, whales, cod, elephants, sea turtles, and many more. Such hunting has been driven by the “need” for meat and for new settlements and cropland by growing populations of Men worldwide and locally.”
What’s Left for Wildlife
The recent rushed passage of the National Defense Authorization Act with numerous anti-environmental riders exposes the sham of representative democracy. The Public Lands Council correctly describes the overwhelming vote for NDAA as clear case of Congress siding with ranchers. The act overturned grazing regulations which have been in effect over 30 years. Valles Caldera in northern New Mexico became a livestock operation funded by the National Park Service. As Congress would not dare to question, let alone defeat, a military appropriation, passage of this bill was a forgone conclusion. While a few liberal senators such as independent Bernie Sanders voted against the bill, the overwhelming majority of Democrats, including Elizabeth Warren, supported the military funding. Anti-environmental riders were of no concern to them.
Does the Democratic Party’s loss of the U.S. Senate mean anything for wildlife? Democratic Party support for the Keystone XL pipeline was the key to a failed attempt to keep control this year. It was a Democrat, Senator Jon Tester of Montana, who pioneered the practice of using riders to “must-pass” legislation to reverse decades of endangered species protection. With no significant opposition, Tester removed protection for wolves in the Northern Rockies, encouraging the Federal government to follow suit for other wolf populations. A recent court decision has temporarily reinstated protection for wolves in the Great Lakes region, but it remains to be seen if this decision will withstand appeal.
The legislative process is a competition of special interest groups, primarily funded by the wealthiest 1%. Lobbyists write legislation in closed-door committee meetings, which Congress rubber stamps with no meaningful discussion. Without a background in radical critiques of society, wildlife supporters know only liberal politics. Environmental and animal protection organizations, once based on grass-roots activism, are now merely insignificant lobbying organizations, whose primary purpose is raising funds for their own professional staff. Liberals challenge the National Rifle Association on gun control issues, but don’t seem to be aware that the NRA’s positions reflect its nature as a hunting organization. By working with so-called “hunter-conservationists,” environmental lobbyists legitimize the NRA agenda.
If there is anything more threatening to life on this planet than climate change it is nuclear war. Of course, New Mexico Senator Martin Heinrich, who has campaigned to increase hunting on Federal Lands, as well as supporting the Los Alamos nuclear lab, enthusiastically supported the military funding bill. It is particularly symbolic that the bill also included a national historic park commemorating the Manhattan Project, which launched the nuclear age. Perhaps we will someday see a national prehistoric park commemorating the discovery at Clovis of the weapons which launched the first anthropogenic mass extinction when humans arrived in the Americas during the Pleistocene.
The second anthropogenic mass extinction is now underway. In the latest Living Planet Index the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) estimates that over half of the population of wild vertebrates has disappeared in the last 40 years. Among the report’s conclusions: “The loss of habitat to make way for human land use – particularly for agriculture, urban development and energy production – continues to be a major threat to the terrestrial environment. When habitat loss and degradation is compounded by the added pressure of wildlife hunting, the impact on species can be devastating.”
International climate conferences are a sham, as debates focus only on how to raise money to help people adapt to inevitable climate change. There is no way to reverse climate change without drastically reducing the human population, an issue which liberal humanists ignore. The so-called radical left advocates “environmental justice” to help poor people adapt to climate change, while ignoring the destruction of wildlife habitat. Environmental justice for wildlife requires a movement to establish corridors to help wildlife adapt, as they once did when climate change occurred. Without a political left for wildlife there will be nothing at all left for wildlife.
Today’s my birthday. Big deal, huh? It may have seemed like a big deal for someone born in 1960, but nowadays, 227 HUNDRED THOUSAND people are born each and every day!
Here’s some light reading on overpopulation, for those who want to take a look at the bigger and bigger picture: http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/population_and_sustainability/
Human population growth and overconsumption are at the root of our most pressing environmental issues, including the species extinction crisis, habitat loss and climate change. To save wildlife and wild places, we use creative media and public outreach to raise awareness about runaway human population growth and unsustainable consumption — and their close link to the endangerment of other species.
There are more than 7 billion people on the planet, and we’re adding 227,000 more every day. The toll on wildlife is impossible to miss: Species are disappearing 1,000 to 10,000 times faster than the natural rate. It’s clear that these issues need to be addressed before it’s too late…