Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Climate: Misunderstood Impacts

We have three interviews this week, including 2 climate scientists. Andy Pitman: new science on how climate really hits us. Plus Johan Rockstrom, the Swedish leader of planetary boundaries, followed by Lynn Benander on community power in New England. Let's go.

Download or listen to this Radio Ecoshock show in CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)

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DR. ANDREW PITMAN: THE SCIENCE OF WHEN AND HOW MUCH

It may get hotter where you are, sooner than you think. New science reveals many parts of the world won't have to wait long to experience unsafe heating and disruptive changes in precipitation. Once again, we underestimate the climate threat.

Dr. Andy J. Pitman is a British atmospheric scientist. Now he's the Director of Australia's ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, at the University of New South Wales, in Sydney. [ARCCSS]





Dr. Andrew J. Pitman

Pitman is co-author of a new piece in the journal Nature, titled "Allowable CO2 emissions based on regional and impact-related climate targets". The lead author is Professor Sonia Seneviratne from the Swiss Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science.

You can read an article/press release from the University of New South Wales, explaining this paper, here.

The title of the press release says a lot: "How a 2°C rise means even higher temperatures where we live. Land based temperatures rise much faster than global average temperatures".

I think one startling result in this paper is the timing of climate impacts. We are used to reports talking about things happening by 2100, after we are dead. Now science has shortened that fuse. Serious impacts are less than 15 years away, or, as Pitman points out, they are already happening.

Let's face it, the Arctic has already warmed well beyond the two degree C danger mark. We had reports that parts of Siberia were warmer in the last week of January than Taiwan, which is right on the edge of the tropics. North-Central Siberia reported temperatures 20 degrees Celsius above normal for this time of year. That's 36 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than it should be!

According to lead author Prof Seneviratne:

"At 1.5°C we would still see temperature extremes in the Arctic rise by 4.4°C and a 2.2°C warming of extremes around the Mediterranean basin."

In our interview, Andy Pitman says two important things about the two degree C "safe" level of warming.

First of all, two degrees C warming is demonstrably not "safe". We are already experiencing extreme weather events, ocean acidification, coral die-off and much more. Pitman says the two degrees was accepted not because it was scientific, but because it was thought to be possible.

Secondly, the whole concept of a two degree global mean temperature as a goal is almost meaningless. We do not live in "average" climates. Their study found several parts of the world that will warm by two degrees (or more) as early as 2030. We're talking about the Mediterranean for example. That region will dry out and heat even more. You think you've seen mass migration now? It's only going to become worse, as more agriculture fails in North Africa, the Middle East, and places like Greece, Italy, and Spain.

Here is more from that University of New South Wales press release (and pay attention to the methane warning!)

"The extreme regional warming projected for Alaska, Canada, Northern Europe, Russia and Greenland could have global impacts, accelerating the pace of sea-level rise and increasing the likelihood of methane releases prompted by the melting of ice and permafrost regions.

'The temperature difference between global average temperatures and regional temperature extremes over land not only has direct climate impacts, it also means we may have to reconsider the amount of carbon dioxide we can emit,' said co-author and Director of ARCCSS Prof Andy Pitman.

'For instance, to keep extreme temperature changes over the Mediterranean below a 2°C threshold, the cumulative emissions of CO2 would have to be restricted to 600 gigatonnes rather than the 850 gigatonnes currently estimated to keep global average temperatures increase below 2°C.'

According to the researchers, if global average temperatures warm by 2°C compared to preindustrial times this would equate to a 3°C warming of hot extremes in the Mediterranean region and between 5.5 -- 8°C warming for cold extremes over land around the Arctic. Most land-masses around the world will see an extreme temperature rise greater than 2°C.
"

From our Radio Ecoshock interview, Andy Pitman says:

"Two degrees isn't safe because a two degree warming is expressed over the land surface by warming of much more than two degrees. And it's not expressed as a regional average warming of two degrees. It's expressed for instance by earlier spring heat waves. Or the ability of a landscape to continue growing through winter because the winter is several degrees warmer than it used to be.

Or it's expressed by summer heat waves lasting longer. And as your listeners would know, if you have a heat wave that traditionally lasts three days, and it starts to last five days, the impacts that that has on ecosystems but also primarly on human health can be way out of proportion to only an extra day or two.
"

What Pitman doesn't say, but I know from previous interviews with scientists and doctors, is that extra day or two of extreme heat is when people can begin to die off in great numbers. It happened in Russia in 2010, in France during the great heat of 2003, where tens of thousands died, and now arrives too often in Australia during extended heat waves. We've been told that heat is now a greater killer in Australia than car accidents.

Talking about Canada (where some residents think they'd like to warm up a few degrees!) Pitman warns:

"If you manage to warm a region of Eastern or Western Canada by three degrees on the annual average, but all that warming happens in July, the amount it warms in July is vastly more than three degrees. You start to get serious heat wave conditions...."

It sounds attractive to have an average annual warming, but the actual impacts may be increased deaths, wrecked eco-systems, more forest fires, or perhaps a whole year's wheat crop wiped out (again, the wheat crop in Russia was devastated).

SCIENTISTS ARE MISTAKEN TO BE SO CONSERVATIVE ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE

Andy Pitman on Radio Ecoshock:

"We have probably erred as a science community in being a little conservative in how fast climate can change. And we have also had our eye on the averages more so than the extremes.

Now that's a general statement. There have been some outstanding groups in North America and in Europe that have focussed on extremes. But in general the climate community has been really interested in how much will the global average warm.

I think what our paper says is: it doesn't matter, really, what the global average warms. It matters critically how climate warms spacially, by country, and how that warming is translated into days of heat or cold or days of extreme rainfall - because those are the things that can break a drainage system, break a health system, damage an ecosystem.

Most of what our paper is about is that we have been too generous on the scale of emissions that should be permitted, but if I was going to take the science further, I would encourage the research communities to be targeting the nature and statistics of extreme events into the future, over how much the planet as a whole will warm.
"

There's lots more in the interview. For me, this backs up people like Ottawa scientist Paul Beckwith, who is studying abrupt climate change, and extreme changes, rather than statistical averages.

Download, listen to, or share this 22 minute Radio Ecoshock interview with Dr. Andrew Pitman in CD Quality or Lo-Fi.

JOHAN ROCKSTROM: BIG WORLD, SMALL PLANET

There are limits to what humanity can do on this planet and still survive. Johan Rockstrom led a team that mapped out those Planetary Boundaries. Rockstrom is the Executive Director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre. He teaches at Stockholm University, and holds many roles in the scientific community. We talk about his latest book, written wtih Mattias Klum, "Big World, Small Planet" - and many other questions we all have about climate change.





Dr. Johan Rockstrom

Here is one for example: At a TED talk, Rockstrom told an audience that climate change may actually not be our greatest challenge! I asked what he meant by that.

His answer makes sense. There are multiple crisis happening on Earth at this time. One very serious and long-lasting change is in the climate. But we are also going through a mass extinction event (assuming we make it through). We can do something about greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, Rockstrom tells us, but once a species goes extinct, it's gone. And all the species that might have interacted with it are also endangered. You can decide to drive an electric car, or travel less, or support carbon capture research - but you can't take any action to bring back species from extinction, or really restore wrecked ecosystems.

I take issue with Rockstrom, when he wrote: "we can trigger a new wave of sustainable technological inventions" to solve our ecological crisis. On Radio Ecoshock, I just talked with another well-known Swede, Alf Hornborg. Alf says there is no technological solution to the problems of technology. We need social and ideological change instead.

Or course Rockstrom is aware of Hornborg's work, and doesn't suggest that a technical fix is all we need. A change in human civilization will also be required. But in general, in this interview and in their new book, Johan Rockstrom takes the positive outlook. He sees grave dangers, but apparently believes humans are smart enough to solve the crisis we create. I'm not so sure, but you decide, after listening to this interview.

Johan explains what is meant by "the Fourth Industrial Revolution" - and his involvement in a project called "Future Earth".

Along the way, of course, you will learn more about our situation. Rockstrom is acknowledged as one of the world's top scientists. His leadership in the concept of Planetary Boundaries is absolutely important for us all. Don't under-estimate him.

Download, listen to, or share this 23 minute Radio Ecoshock interview with Dr. Johan Rockstrom in CD Quality or Lo-Fi.

CO-OP POWER: LYNN BENANDER

What is the answer to giant power companies with equally giant greenhouse gas emissions? Citizens doing it for themselves. One of the best examples is Co-op Power in New England. We'll find out what it is, and how this could work in your community, from Lynn Benander. She's the CEO of Co-op Power and Northeast Biodiesel.

My first reaction was to picture a group of middle-class white folks getting together to bypass the system and save money. But as Lynn tell us, this came up at the very first organizing meeting. Some people rent, and still want green power. That's why community-owned power can make more sense than just well-off people installing solar on their rooftops.





Lynn Benander

GREEN BIODIESEL

Biodiesel got a terrible name as a false climate solution, when industrialized agriculture switched off growing food to make heavily subsidized gas substitutes. How is Northeast Biodiesel different from that? The company is opening a new plant this month, designed to produce over a million gallons of diesel fuel a year. The source stock is waste cooking oil! This doesn't displace agricultural food crops. The carbon load is already in producing the cooking oil, so burning what would otherwise be waste makes green sense. As Benander points out, for now, we still run our trucks, tractors and buses on diesel fuel. Until we can do better, green diesel, produced in the community, is a better solution.

Even the financing for this biodiesel plant came from the community. Read all about that here.

Lynn and I talk about how communities can raise money for alternative energy co-ops. I want you to hear this interview, and dig further into it. We so often have hopeless news on Radio Ecoshock, without enough solutions. Here is a group of New England communities that are not waiting for the grand scheme from the federal or state government, but doing it for themselves. It's inspiring.

Check out this slide and photo explanation of co-op power here.

Download, listen to, or share this 14 minute Radio Ecoshock interview with Lynn Benander in CD Quality or Lo-Fi.

Here are some more Lynn Benander/Co-op Power links, courtesy of my friend Erik Hoffner, who suggested this story.

Post Carbon Institute Interview with Co-op Power's Lynn Benander - "Community is Created by Filling the Cup" September 2, 2015

Center for Popular Economics - Presentation on Cooperative Paths to Fossil Fuel Freedom: Stories from Community Energy Co-ops in the Co-op Power Network with Lynn Benander and Temistoclese Blessed Ferreira from Co-op Power August 23, 2015

Grist article on Diego Angarita, "Meet the Food Justice and Clean Energy Advocate who Wants to Shake up the Nonprofit World", noting his work at Co-op Power August 14, 2015

We are out of time. My thanks to the listeners who support Radio Ecoshock with a monthly donation, or a one-time gift to keep this program going. Find out about that here.

Thank you for listening, and caring about our world.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

THE DEATH OF NUCLEAR POWER

SUMMARY: Lead author of "World Nuclear Industry Status Reports" Mycle Schneider on new Nuclear Leap Forward in China. Famous activist Helen Caldicott on plan to make S. Australia a world nuclear dump; and dangerous nuke waste in St. Louis, Missouri. Radio Ecoshock 160127

A tiny but powerful number of scientists, applauded by a few famous greens, urge us to accept nuclear power. They see it as the salvation of our civilization, our climate, our future.

It isn't happening. As you'll hear, nuclear power is shrinking, not expanding. World-wide, major nuclear companies are going bankrupt, or soaking up billions more of your taxes, or both.

Expert Mycle Schneider looks into secrets of the Great Nuclear Leap Forward in China. Remember, after Chernobyl and Fukushima, an accident anywhere in the world can irradiate the Northern Hemisphere. China's new untested reactors are your reactors. Their radiation can land in your backyard.

All our lives, we've been told the problem of storing nuclear waste for a million years will be solved by science and technology. Instead, you will hear how hot waste from 70 years ago continues to threaten and poison a suburb of St. Louis Missouri. Dr. Helen Caldicott also reports on the mad rush to turn beautiful South Australia into a nuclear waste dump for the world.

Boiling water with reactors has become a time-bomb, a failed technology, a path better not taken, a threat and a burden to all succeeding generations.

This is Radio Ecoshock. I'm Alex Smith.

Listen to/download this Radio Ecoshock show in CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB).

Or listen on Soundcloud right now!





MYCLE SCHNEIDER: THE NEW NUCLEAR LEAP FORWARD IN CHINA

Nuclear energy costs are cheap because we lower our standards.”

- He Zuoxiu, in the Guardian newspaper, May 25, 2015.

While our heads are filled with day-dreams of Hollywood stars and nightmares of financial collapse, China is taking another "Great Leap Forward". China is building to become the world's largest nuclear-powered economy. A Chinese nuclear expert says the burst of reactor construction brings, quote, "the 'most probable' period for a nuclear accident in China forward to between 2020 and 2030." [Hu Zuoxiu 19.03.2013]

In fact, He Zuoxiu, who has been a government supporter and well known scientist in the nuclear field, has called the current rush to nuclear expansion in China "insane". He's 88. He can get away with it.

The risks to very heavily populated parts of China are huge to unimaginable. As we learned from Fukushima, an accident anywhere can launch radiation around the Earth.

What is going on with nuclear power in China? From Paris, our guest Mycle Schneider makes it his business to know. He's the lead author of "The World Nuclear Industry Status Reports." Schneider has advised European governments and members of the European Parliament on energy issues.

China has become an experimental lab for untested nuclear reactor technology. All the dreams of nuclear scientists are either planned or already under construction in China. There are plans and hopes for "pebble reactors" and "thorium" plants. The experiment becomes even larger when we consider so many countries, all with their different technologies, are part of the new nuclear boom in China.

The Taishan reactor complex is just one example. There the French company Areva is providing 3 European Pressurized Reactors (EPR's). These are allegedly "3rd generation" designs (although Mycle says there are very few advances over current second generation models).





Mycle Schneider (photo © Serge Ollivier.)



Experience? They have never run one of these reactors for a single day, and their track record is atrocious. The EPR at Flamanville in the far north of France (just across the channel from Britain) was begun in 2007. It's completion date kept getting delayed and delayed, by years and years. Now they say it will be finished in 2017 - oops, now it's 2018.. But that's unlikely. Areva has recently admitted finding a serious design flaw in the inner reactor. It's so serious, Mycle suggests they might have to tear down and rebuild. The French regulator published information on this flaw, but it has not been communicated to the Chinese people.

The original cost of this single EPR reactor was supposed to be 3.3 billion euros. Now it's over 10 billion euros and who knows what the final cost will be, if it opens.

The situation of Areva's reactor at Olkiluoto in Finland is even worse. This is what Wiki says about it:

"According to Financial Times in December 2014 construction of unit 3 has descended into farce as it is currently expected to open nine years late and several billions of euros over budget."

China has also contracted to buy a couple of experimental, never-before-built "third generation" reactors from Westinghouse Nuclear, now majority owned by Toshiba corporation of Japan. It's the AP-1000. Who knows what it will cost, when it will be completed, and most importantly, if this design is safe?

Mycle Schneider also worries whether China can find the technical culture needed to run reactors flawlessly. Sure China turns out zillions of engineers every year, but none of them have been nuclear operators.

China joins other countries like France in having the builders, operators, and regulators all part of a government-owned structure. Very little is known about this industry in China. There is no transparency, and little room for citizen oversight or complaint. I'll have more to say about that in another program.

Schneider points out that the world has fewer operating reactors (supply power to the grid) now than existed in 2002, even with the construction boom in China. That's because old nuclear plants are being closed in many countries, and not replaced. It's a dying technology.

The few nuclear reactor makers are being killed off in the stock market. Nuclear shares are now at pennies on the original dollar. That's another serious worry. For example, the La Hague nuclear fuel reprocessing site, again in northern France, has the largest supply of high-level nuclear materials in the world. It's run by Areva. Areva stocks have been hammered so low, and their sales so poor, that the company has announced big job cuts. When hundreds of staff are sent home from La Hague, Mycle asks "what were they doing that will not be done now?" Is safety being cut as well? What happens to all the reactors being built or operated by financially failed companies?

That alone is one reason why nuclear power is not a solution for global warming. The economic costs are far too high, and not enough could be completed before lasting damage has been done by the carbon economy it means to partially replace. It's too late.

The big reactor makers were almost toast in the west, despite billions in government subsidies. But they counted on a "nuclear renaissance" in China to survive. Schneider points out the Chinese have been blunt about their game. They are "technology shopping". They buy a couple of reactors from everybody (including from Canada) - and then break down the engineering so they can do it all themselves. There is no big market for reactors in China for any western company.

The end-game of all this nuclear "business" is sadly predictable. Taxpayers, somewhere, will pay and pay to prop up existing reactors, and then pay more or less forever for whatever dismantling and storage can be done. The current players will long-since be bankrupt. The nuclear sales executives will have run away.

All of this comes as the nuclear industry tried desperately, including at the Paris climate talks, to promote their industry as the answer to global warming. They didn't even make the agenda. The public doesn't want it. It's not happening. It's a dead-end.

Be sure and check out Mycle's interview. It's an eye-opener into a nuclear business built on secrecy and incredible risks. He's been an advisor on nuclear and energy to the French, German, and Belgian governments. His reports and expertise are in demand. He knows.

Download, listen to, or share this 27 minute Radio Ecoshock interview with Mycle Schneider in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Use this small URL to pass on the Lo-Fi version of this interview. Tweet on! http://tinyurl.com/z5288cx Here are a few links to follow up:

List of Mycle's publications here.

Check out the World Nuclear Industry Status Report web site.

You can find out more about nuclear energy in China with this January 2016 update "Mind the China Effect".

HELEN CALDICOTT ON EVERLASTING NUCLEAR WASTE

In a populated suburb of St. Louis Missouri, nuclear waste from American bomb-making is washing into surface water. Now all that radioactive mess is threatened by an underground fire just 1200 feet away.

If that's the best the United States can do, what chance does Australia have, with their grand plans to make South Australia a dumping ground for the world's nuclear waste? It's time for another round of nuclear madness, and the doctor is in. That's Doctor Helen Caldicott, the most famous anti-nuclear campaigner in the world.

Download, listen to, or share this 27 minute Radio Ecoshock interview with Helen Caldicott in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Pass on this interview with Helen in Lo-Fi, using this tiny url: http://tinyurl.com/z2u9n8r





Dr. Helen Caldicott

Along the way, Helen tells us about her role in founding the anti-nuclear movement in Australia in the 1970's. Then she spent 20 years in Boston. There she revived a dead non-profit called "Physicians for Nuclear Responsibility" and built it into an anti-nuclear powerhouse.

Helen met for over an hour with President Ronald Reagan. Sensing he knew little about nuclear weapons, she explained not only was any nuclear exchange unwinnable, it would cause a catastrophe where medical treatment was not an option. Reagan after that began talks with the Soviets to reduce nuclear weapons, and reduce political stress points. We owe a part of our survival of that mad nuclear age to Helen Caldicott.

Not that we are safer now. Nuclear weapons continue to be built all over the world, some in very unstable countries and/or dictatorships. The tension between nuclear neighbors has spread from just Russia and the West to places like Pakistan and India. Just yesterday, January 26th, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists announced the "Doomsday Clock" would remain at 3 minutes to midnight.

Helen continues to warn the world about the danger of nuclear weapons, but that is not why we talked this week on Radio Ecoshock.

First the Australian state of South Australia has a mad idea to replace the car plant jobs they lost. The government is pushing to become the nuclear waste dump of the world. There is a complicated back story, but that's the bald fact.

How they would do this has not been announced. So far it looks like a shed in the desert is the likely plan! South Australia called their own Royal Commission to get submissions on the project. Most of the submissions came from pro-nuclear people. The aboriginal people - who still own the land! - could not make direct entries to the Commission, because they lacked the Justice of the Peace system that was required. Their voices were ruled out.

The Royal Commission is due to release it's predestined "report" on February 15th. On February 16th Helen Caldicott will make an answering speech in Adelaide. It's all very sad.

BACK TO OLD ST. LOUIS

We've been told and told that there will be a new technical solution for nuclear waste. Here is a situation in America which shows what a great lie that is. The original nuclear waste from constructing the atomic bombs dropped on Japan - that waste is still very potent and dangerous. A great deal of it was just dumping in the ground near the airport in St. Louis Missouri.

It was badly looked after. A few tarps cover the ground. Rainstorms wash radioactive waste into local streams, and from there into rivers. The wind blows radioactive materials around. A recent study by scientists, including nuclear scientist Bob Alvarez, checked out an area about 200 kilometers around the St. Louis site near Bridgeton, a suburb. They found lots of radiation. The title is: "Tracking legacy radionuclides in St. Louis, Missouri, via unsupported 210Pb "[Lead] You can read more about that study here.

Guess what. There is a higher incidence of many kinds of cancer around this West Lake landfill site. Our old un-friend Exelon is the allegedly responsible party for this nuclear mess.

Now the kicker. An underground fire has been burning for years in the regular landfill site right next to the nuclear dump. This fire is now burning less than 1200 feet from the nuclear waste! If the atomic materials burn, you can count on radiation spreading far and wide. The US Environmental Protection Agency is proposing a wall be built underground to deflect the fire, but really nothing has been done.

You can hear a local resident and columnist Byron DeLear describe the St. Louis situation here in the Nuclear Hotseat #237 with Libbe HaLevy, from January 6, 2016, here on You tube. (You have to scroll well into the program, but don't! The whole show is very revealing about the U.S. nuclear industry.)

So like the good doctor going to where the sick patient is found, Helen Caldicott is going to St. Louis. She'll help bring the spotlight back where it belongs, on this utter failure to protect even the first nuclear waste created by humans.

Tune in to all things Helen at helencaldicott.com. Be sure to check out the latest book edited by Helen Caldicott: "Crisis Without End, The Medical and Ecological Consequences of the Fukushima Nuclear Catastrophe."

MY CONCLUSION

Any more money spent on nuclear power is a waste of the dwindling fuel, resources, and carbon space in the atmosphere. Humans will have to be very fortunate to care for the existing plants over dozens of generations. Given our history, our failed economics, and the magnitude of climate disruption developing, some reactors, somewhere, will blow out, one by one, or in concert.

I hope I am not one of the unlucky evacuees if the radioctive tanks blow up at Hanford in Washington State. I hope none of you are predestined to abandon a whole region of your country, with all the beloved places, experiences, and resources lost to humans. Accepting that risk is a betrayal of Nature. It is a betrayal of whatever or whoever initiated the possibility of ever-lasting evolution of life somewhere in space.

That's what I think. That's how I feel.

I'm Alex Smith. Thank you for listening to Radio Ecoshock again this week.

At the end of the program, I play a bit from "Talkin' End Game It's The Radioactive Song" by Michel Montecrossa.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

More Stifle Than Drown

SUMMARY: Swedish anthropologist Alf Hornborg says economic crash could empower change to save climate. UK scientist Sergei Petrovskii on new paper: warming die-off of oxygen-making plankton. Robert Shirkey gets climate warning labels on Canadian gas pumps. Radio Ecoshock 160120

WELCOME TO RADIO ECOSHOCK THIS WEEK

It sounds impossible. An expert with decades of experience says global warming between 4 to 6 degrees could lead to mass die-off of the plankton that produces up to 70% of the world's oxygen. Forget rising seas Sergei Petrovskii says, we are more likely to stifle than drown.

I'll also be talking with Robert Shirkey, the Canadian campaigner who got climate warning stickers put on gas pumps, and his campaign to take it global.

But first, we're going to visit with an "economic anthropologist" - and one of Sweden's leading thinkers on the economy, money and climate change. Alf Hornborg is hoping the next economic crisis can help us change.

I'm Alex Smith, and this is Radio Ecoshock.

Download or listen to this Radio Ecoshock show in CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)

Or listen on Soundcloud right now!



ALF HORNBORG - THE TRUE COST OF TECHNOLOGY

Imagine technology as a system that gathers up days of people's lives, mixes them with nature, physical and living things - and channels products toward a minority, in fact, to a dwindling number of the wealthy elite. All the while, the same technology reduces our chances for survival. I think that's how the Swedish author, and anthropologist Alf Hornborg sees it, but only he can say, in this Radio Ecoshock interview.

It seems everyone, from greens to super-capitalists, is looking for the next technology to save us. It's solar power, it's geoengineering, it new nuclear tech - but there are other options. It turns out that technology organizes humans to draw time and work from other people's lives, and channel it upward to a diminishing number of people at the top. We just learned that the top 1% in this world own more than the 99% rest of humans on the planet.

Hornborg says politics is really about the ways and means of money. Speaking in Paris a couple of years ago, he suggested only an economic crisis would open doorways for meaningful change. It looks like we are entering another crisis now. Should that give us hope? Our best hope may be for smaller disasters to come soon, rather larger ones later in this century.

"The moment we are suffering real problems in terms of food security, energy supply and so on - I mean the kinds of metabolic problems that strike civilization just before they collapse, historically - then maybe the politicians will be able to talk about more relevant things."

- Alf Hornborg, VIMEO "Thinking the Anthropocene"







He suggests that a country like France or Sweden could print a "complimentary currency which they distribute every month, to every household, in proportion to the size of those households, which can only be used to purchase local products and local services."

At 17 minutes of this video, he explains in concrete terms how this could work. It would drastically increase demand for goods and services that are locally produced. These are more likely to be equitable between people, and have a hope of being sustainable, without the ecological costs of long-range transport. "It would radically decrease the demand for long-distance imports". Fossil fuels used in global transport would be "radically reduced".

Alf Hornborg became more widely known after his 2001 book "The Power of the Machine". This year he will publish another, titled "Global Magic: Technologies of Appropriation from Ancient Rome to Wall Street.". I ask Alf for a couple of examples of the way his thinking has evolved in the last 15 years.

Hornborg has compared social blindness to slavery in Rome, or in colonial America, to our current rationalization for lifestyles we know are changing not just the weather, but the climate for millennia to come. How does it work, and is there a cure?

We started talking about technology. People grudgingly admit money could be a root of evil, but surely not technology! Is Hornborg suggesting we can unplug, and walk away from the "technomass" we have created? Would not billions of people die in short order if we did?

Actually, Alf says, the fear that billions would die without technology is a myth. There is still enough land to return to, and by the way, if all humans gave up eating animals and animal bi-products, there may be enough to feed 30 billion human vegans.

One justification is the geographical locus of this collection machine has shown an ability to shift over time. We think of the rise of Japan, Korea, and now China as centers of not just technology, but the accumulation of capital. The wealth might appear anywhere, we say. Or does technology always need slums and poverty somewhere else? Hornborg says it does. Provocatively he says "The steam engine would not have been possible without the American slave plantations".

Technology, Hornborg says, is not the idea, or the blueprints. It is the system that keeps the machinery functioning over time - and that always, he says, demands appropriation of the time, resources, or spaces of others who are disadvantaged compared to the user of the technology.

"Technological progress can thus be reconceptualized as the saving or liberation of human time and natural space in core regions of the world-system at the expense of time and space lost in the periphery. I have called this time–space appropriation (Hornborg 2006, 2013)."

I reached Alf at the prestigious Lund University in Sweden, where he has been Professor of Human Ecology since 1993.

SOME ALF HORNBORG LINKS

Download this 27 minute Radio Ecoshock interview with Alf Hornborg in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

You can find a wiki-style bio of Alf Hornborg here.

Here is a stimulating interview on the blog "Collapse of Industrial Civilization" about the way we have all been mystified by technology.

Watch this 2013 interview with Alf on Vimeo, from the Paris conference "Thinking the Anthropocene".

SERGEI PETROVSKII - THE OXYGEN THREAT

You have heard that a warming world will flood coastal cities. Hotter seas will drive more extreme weather events. All that may not matter, if a new paper on plankton is correct. The authors say: if the ocean life that creates more than half the oxygen in the atmosphere dies off, we are more likely to stifle than drown.

To understand this new threat, let's get to work. The paper is called ‘Mathematical Modelling of Plankton–Oxygen Dynamics Under the Climate Change’ as published in the Bulletin of Mathematical Biology, with an abstract here.

From the Department of Mathematics at the University of Leicester in Britain, we've reached the co-author Sergei Petrovskii. We learn in the interview that Petrovksii was a senior scientist at the Russian Shirshov Institute of Oceanology for 15 years before moving to Britain. His work in Russia involved modelling plankton growth. So he is more than qualified.







Sergei Petrovskii

From the paper:

"Plankton consists of two different taxa: phytoplankton and zooplankton. Zooplankton are animals (e.g., krill), and phytoplankton are plants. As most plants do, phytoplankton can produce oxygen in photosynthesis when sufficient light is available, e.g., in the photic layer of the ocean during the daytime. The oxygen first comes to the water and eventually into the air through the sea surface, thus contributing to the total oxygen budget in the atmosphere. This contribution appears to be massive...

It is estimated that about 70% of the Earth atmospheric oxygen is produced by the ocean phytoplankton (Harris 1986; Moss 2009). Correspondingly, one can expect that a decrease in the rate of the oxygen production by phytoplankton may have catastrophic consequences for life on Earth, possibly resulting in mass extinction of animal species, including the mankind. Therefore, identification of potential threats to the oxygen production is literally an issue of vital importance
."

THE BASICS

1. Most discussion on the impacts of global warming on the oceans focus on changes in global circulation or impacts on polar ice, with consequent sea level rising.

2. But the oceans are also the world's largest ecosystem of living things.

3. Plankton has been studied as the basis for the food chain, and consequently fisheries. It's also a good measure of the biomass in the seas.

4. Plankton also provide the majority of the world's oxygen.

5. Plankton production is well-known to be sensitive to ocean temperatures.

6. The plant type of plankton produces oxygen in the day, and consumes oxygen at night. The difference produced, and released into the atmosphere, is the "net oxygen production".

Scientists know this all-important net production of oxygen (and reduction of CO2) depends on ocean temperatures.

Studies of some plankton species find that oxygen production goes up as the oceans warm, Petrovskii and his co-author Yadigar Sekerci proceed with an abundance of caution. After all there are many, many different types of plankton, and perhaps not all will flourish with warmer water. So the authors make two models, one which assumes that plankton/oxygen will increase as the oceans warm, and one that assumes a decrease.

The amazing (and frightening) result is: whether plankton/oxygen increases or decreases as the oceans warm, IN BOTH CASES a tipping point develops where plankton, and the oxygen they make, crashes, possibly toward extinction levels.

"Our results have important implications. A lot has been said about detrimental consequences of the global warming such as possible extinction of some species (and the corresponding biodiversity loss) and the large-scale flooding resulting from melting Antarctic ice. In this paper, however, we have shown that the danger to bestifled is probably more real than to be drowned."

MY BIG TAKEAWAY - THE PLANKTON/OXYGEN TRAP IN OCEAN WARMING

If I take only one thing away from this interview with Sergei Petrovskii, it is this: reality is littered with traps. In hindsight we can see that a semi-intelligent species discovering mechanical power from stored carbon riches may well self-exterminate with them, due to the carbon/climate trap.

But consider this: if Petrovskii is right, we may advance into the future fooled by the response of plankton. As the world warms, plankton could appear to thrive, providing lots of oxygen, and sequestering more carbon dioxide. We all cheer. Apologists tell us our worries were overblown. But then, a limit beyond sustainable cycles is reached, and plankton world-wide could experience a mass die-off. That's another trap: it looks good, until, as Petrovskii and his colleagues call it, "catastrophe 2" occurs.

Maybe the model is wrong. Maybe our civilization is wrong. I hope the funding and the drive arrives to test out this plankton nightmare rather than waiting to find out the hard way.

Listen to/download this Radio Ecoshock interview with Sergei Petrovskii in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT PLANKTON AND CLIMATE CHANGE

NASA's take on global warming and plankton:

"FINDINGS

Using NASA satellite data, Jorge Sarmiento of Princeton University in Princeton, N.J., and colleagues have demonstrated the close links between ocean productivity and global trends in climate.

Surface warming increases the density difference, or vertical “stratification” of the ocean waters, leading to less mixing between the surface water layers, where phytoplankton live, and the deeper water layers, which contain the nutrients they need to flourish. This is bad news for phytoplankton that live in the tropics where nutrient supply will be reduced due to less mixing and a shallower “mixed layer”, but good news for phytoplankton that live in colder regions, where increasing temperature causes the growing season to start earlier in the year. Clearly, a changing global climate will have a different impact on ocean biology in different parts of the world.
"

IMPACT OF WARMING ON PLANKTON, ANOTHER SOURCE:

Climate Change Effects on Marine Phytoplankton

CHAPTER · OCTOBER 2013

DOI: 10.1201/b16334-4

If you hit the Full Text button for this paper, it works without signing up or needing permission. The lead author is Valeria Guinder, marine biologist at UNS Argentina.

This paper agrees with the work of Petrovskii, saying:

"Temperature is a key parameter that directly affects physiological rates of marine biota at multiple scales, e.g., enzymatic reactions, respiration, body size, generation time, ecological interactions, community metabolism, etc. (Peters 1983). Phytoplankton experience an increase in enzymatic activity and growth rates over a moderate range of temperature rise with an average Q10= 1.88 (Eppley 1972), which suggest that an increase in SST from 18°C today to 21.5°C in 2100 (McNeil and Matear 2006), may lead to an increase of ~25% in growth rate assuming that there are no other factors (Finkel et al. 2010)."

SOME SPECIES OF PLANKTON ARE ALREADY THREATENED WITH EXTINCTION

"Research led by Deakin University (Warrnambool, Australia) and Swansea University (UK) has found that a species of cold water plankton in the North Atlantic, that is a vital food source for fish such as cod and hake, is in decline as the oceans warm. This will put pressure on the fisheries that rely on abundant supplies of these fish.

'There is overwhelming evidence that the oceans are warming and it will be the response of animals and plants to this warming that will shape how the oceans look in future years and the nature of global fisheries,' explained Deakin’s professor of marine science, Graeme Hays
."

Find out more here.

According to Wikipedia, many species of plankton went extinct before, and this paleoclimatic record is something Petrovskii continues to study, as he further refines the model. Things like ocean acidification, and ocean stratification with warming also have to be factored in.

FINALLY: GAS PUMP WARNING STICKERS!

Cigarettes kill millions and we warn users right on the pack. Burning gasoline kills the future. In Canada, Robert Shirkey left his law practice to put us right into the climate changer driver's seat.

As Robert writes in the Huffington Post

"On Nov. 16, 2015, the City of North Vancouver made world history when its council unanimously voted to mandate climate change risk disclosures on gas pumps. It's an idea that my organization developed and launched in early 2013 and it has since been endorsed by over a hundred academics from a variety of disciplines at universities across North America, including some of the top climate change researchers in the world.

North Vancouver's vote was covered by the CBC, Global News, CTV, VICE, The Atlantic, Business Insider, and many more. These articles were shared via social media around the globe. While North Vancouver was the first to actually require the labels by law, numerous municipal councils across Canada have passed resolutions in support of the proposal. We're now working to share these examples of Canadian leadership with the world and we're asking for volunteers to help us make it happen."

Read that whole article here.

The essential point is: we all like to fight against pipelines, the tar sands and all that. Meanwhile, we feel pretty innocent about putting gas in our tanks, if we think about it at all. And yet, as Robert shows in a graph, most of the emissions come not from fossil fuel production, but from OUR TAILPIPES and other end uses. We should know that.

The colorful labels fit right on the gas pump handles, where gas stations conveniently places a square spot for advertising. Instead, you get a photo of a polar bear, or a flooded city, with a warning that using gasoline endangers the climate of the world.













Robert Shirkey is the leader of the new group ourhorizon.org. You can help support his campaign to get local governments to force climate warning stickers on all gas pumps, but contributing at his site. Right now he's running the whole thing on his VISA card, he tells us.

Watch Robert's video on gas pump labels here.

Download this 10 minute Radio Ecoshock interview with Robert Shirkey in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

I totally support Robert's campaign, and expect to see warning labels on all gas pumps soon.

THANKS FOR LISTENING AGAIN THIS WEEK!

Alex

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

THROUGH A DARK PORTAL

Summary: Moving with top scientists & religious leaders, Stuart Scott: can we save the climate in time? Or will mass die-off come? Betsy Teutsch on low-tech to help women around the world. Song "2060" by Finian Makepeace.

Listen to or download this Radio Ecoshock show in CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)

Or listen on Soundcloud right now!



RAPID CLIMATE CHANGE: MASS MURDER OR MASS SUICIDE?

"If we have the kind of climate future that many scientists are saying we are heading directly and quickly towards, then it's going to be a loss of easily half the population of Earth. And I say 'half the population', when I say that to many people I interact with they say 'Oh if we get off easy, it will be only half'. We're talking about very, very serious dimensions here."

- Stuart Scott on Radio Ecoshock

Think of it. There are experts, scientists and likely policy makers, even corporate heads, who have already considered a die-off of half the population of Earth and yet (a) are not telling the public their fears/predictions and (b) many of them are not trying to stop it.

Perhaps deep down, many humans already know this is coming. They just assume that it will hit only far-away countries and leave heir own area and loved-ones intact. Everyone has that fantasy. Is it fair to say all those who can entertain this future, without dedicating themselves to preventing it, are already part of pre-meditated mass murder? Who knows how many are willing to sacrifice billions to keep driving and flying around, to keep consuming, to have a big house? Or should we call it mass suicide, to enable a giant shift in Earth's climate?

A month ago on Radio Ecoshock, I gave a heads-up that the economic system is teetering on the edge. Looking at the crashing markets around the world, desperate debt deals, bankruptcies and mass layoffs - our guest Michael T. Snyder nailed it.

The possibility of a serious crash and Depression is a hard quandary for climate-aware people. We don't want to suffer. We don't want our loved ones and neighbours to suffer. Yet if we keep going with this fossil-powered heat engine we call civilization, we WILL wreck the climate, if we haven't done it already. Do you think an economic crash may actually be the only real way to slash emissions quickly?

STUART SCOTT

Outside the official United Nations climate Press Conferences at Lima and Paris, we got the other voices, powerful voices, through a group I knew little about. It's called the "United Planet Faith & Science Initiative."

Is it reliable? Wait until you hear who's involved. Here are just a few of the many founding members: James Hansen, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Kerry Emmanuel, Katherine Hayhoe, Rabbi David Rosen, Swami Saraswati, Michael Mann, Reverend Sally Bingham, Michael Oppenheimer, the list goes on.

Often chairing high-powered press conferences in different cities, all recorded as You tube videos, is Stuart Scott. He's the Founder and Director of Strategic Planning for the "United Planet Faith & Science Initiative."





Stuart Scott

In the interview, Stuart recommends a series of maps from NCAR, the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research. These 4 maps of the coming world show a widening band of deserts forming around both subtropical lands of the world. Like parts of Brazil. Like all of North Africa, of course, but also a new desert environment for Portugal, Spain, Southern Italy and Greece. Did I mention the mid-west of the United States? Where so much of the world's food is grown? Or another food producing region in China?

This is like the map of doom that I first saw in 2006. Dr. James Lovelock presented a similar map of Earth with wide belts of deserts in a speech to the Institution of Chemical Engineers November 28th, 2006. You can listen to or download that program again with this link.

Here is one link to the maps. The images are also at this address. Sadly, all the links to Lovelock's map of doom have disappeared over time. I can no longer find it on the Net. If you do, please let me know. You can always use the "Contact" button on my web site to reach me.

And of course, you can see these maps on Stuart's ClimateMatters TV YouTube, where the maps are shown and discussed at about the 16:30 time mark.

As Stuart Scott tells us, even relatively conservative international institutions, and the U.S. government say a huge portion of the current food-production land will become too hot, and especially too dry, to grow crops. That will happen as more billions of humans are added to the planet that does not yet adequately feed the current masses. Add in flooding of fertile lands near the sea, in places like India, Bangladesh, Africa, and South America - and you can see why Scott is so pessimistic about our ability to feed 10 billion people.

I won't go into the horrifying probability of hundreds of millions of climate migrants. That will make the current refugee crisis into Europe look like good times.

WHAT ABOUT CHINA?

We discuss the role of China. Dr. James Hansen has just been there. It sounds like Stuart Scott and Hansen agree that IF there is going to be a tipping point, where one nation takes real action to cut greenhouse gas emissions - it will not happen in a Western democracy. It is far more likely to happen in China, which is currently the world's number two (or number one) polluter of the atmosphere.

But China has a working central government with enough power to literally dictate rapid transition away from fossil fuels. Scott tells us that when China decided to outlaw plastic bags in retail and grocery stores, they reputedly hired 450,00000 inspectors to go into stores and fine anyone using plastic bags. Suddenly Chinese shoppers started bringing their own reusable bags. It was a quick revolution.

From what I've heard, and as Scott tells us, the top leadership in Beijing is very aware of the coming damage from climate change. That is why they concluded a separate agreement with the United States, on greenhouse gases, before the Paris climate talks.

China is already the world's largest producer, and user, of solar and wind energy. The country has also invested heavily in mass transit, including thousands of miles of high speed rail. Neither the United States or Canada has a single mile of high speed rail. North America seems stuck in a dark age, even as their oil-producing economies stagger and fall.

My one reservation is about China's decision to continue on a path of nuclear power. James Hansen is all behind this, as he talks about "Fourth Generation" commercial nuclear power plants which do not yet exist. Meanwhile I understand China is building at least 29 nuclear complexes. They will be "Third Generation" at best - one step better than the old GE reactors at Fukushima. But these are still reactors that can, and eventually will melt down somewhere, again. A large part of China could be devastated virtually forever. In my opinion, nothing is worth that risk.

It's a fruitful talk with Stuart Scott, on a wide range of topics, like the Arctic, geoengineering, abrupt climate shift, clathrates and more.

Stuart Scott's first action alert, where you can help during the month of January 2016 - is to promote a Nobel Peace Prize for Sustainable Development, or more correctly for seminal figures in the creation and furtherance of the field of 'sustainable development'. It's easy to either endorse and in many cases nominate for this Peace Prize, at this web site: http://np4sd.org/

Download or listen to this interview with Stuart Scott in CD Quality or Lo-Fi.

CLIMATE MATTERS TV SHOWS FROM THE PARIS COP21 CLIMATE TALKS

Stuart Scott and his organization created a whole series of programs at the Paris COP21 conference in December 2015. He uses a more relaxed for of presentation, almost like a TV talk show, except it often features top-tier climate scientists and real thinkers. Feel free to watch and share some of the half-hour ClimateMatters.TV shows taped at COP-21 in Paris.

James Hansen Speaking Truth to Power

Moral Obligation, Scientific Imperative (with climate-rapper)

Abrupt Change, Ecological & Economic (with climate-rapper)

Our Challenge to Feed Ourselves

Acceptance & Avoidance Among Evangelicals

What Lies Ahead?

Kiribati, Tuvalu, Miami Beach

May the Force be With You

Emissions Zero Global

COP-21: Conference of Peace

Our Common Home

100 WAYS TO EMPOWER GLOBAL WOMEN: BETSY TEUTSCH

In the media, all we see or hear are relatively wealthy people talking among themselves. Billions of global poor are missing. Many of them are women. Our guest Betsty Teutsch has collected Earth-friendly ideas and technology to help them. Her new book is "One Hundred Under One Hundred Dollars: One Hundred Ideas for Empowering Global Women".





Betsy Teutsch (center) at work.

Betsy is a gem with really good ideas. Strangely, although she was talking about affordable ways that the lives of impoverished women (and their kids) around the world could be improved - I kept thinking how very useful these same ideas are for women in over-developed countries to go more low-tech (and help save the planet).

Tonight, I'm getting a bit tired as I put this blog together. It's always so long and loaded that I wonder how readers make out! Here is the bio from Betsy's site:

"Betsy Teutsch is an artist, blogger, community organizer, and environmentalist who has enjoyed a successful career as an Judaica artist and entrepreneur. As Communications Director of GreenMicrofinance, she wrote about affordable, sustainable paths out of rural poverty. She has also served as a board member for the dynamic Shining Hope for Communities and the Kibera School for Girls, and founded three chapters of Dining For Women, a national network of giving circles meeting monthly to support of women’s grassroots poverty alleviation initiatives. A Fargo, ND, native, she now lives with her husband in Philadelphia, PA."

Find Betsy on Facebook here.

Listen to this Radio Ecoshock interview with Betsy Teutsch in CD Quality or Lo-Fi. Pass the links on to people you think should hear it.

THE SONGS IN THIS SHOW

In this program you hear a clip from the "Climate Change Deniers' Anthem" created by the comedy group Funny Or Die. Watch the whole video at funnyordie.com.

FINIAN MAKEPEACE "2060"

From Ithica New York, and more lately Venice Beach California, comes Finian Makepeace. As a duo with his brother (taken from four musical brothers in the family) - Finian made it to the Quarter Finals of the TV show "America's Got Talent". And he does have talent. Now Finian is recording with "The Makes". He is also the co-founder and Policy Director for the group "Kiss the Ground" - a non-profit dedicated to restoring soil around the world.



I like this song called "2060" a lot. It's well crafted and performed in a very moving way. I thank Finian for sending it along for broadcast on Radio Ecoshock. He has also performed this song at climate rallies. His heart is in it.

THE END

... of this show and this blog. But I've already lined up a deep Swedish thinker on climate and the crash, plus a scientific study which could literally take your breath away. That's next week on Radio Ecoshock.

My super-thanks to those listeners who donated to Radio Ecoshock during January. Frankly, I thought donations would die out this time of year - but not at all. With your help I bought a giant new hard drive. It was needed because each Radio Ecoshock show, with all it's supporting files, occupies two to three gigabytes of space. I don't want to compress the original files, as that reduces sound quality. After ten years of doing this show (and counting on my old hard drive all that time, hoping it won't die today) - I now have a 4 terabyte drive.

I had a pre-amplifier die. That amp brings my microphone up to levels guests can hear on the phone. Thanks to listener donations, I ordered and received a new tube amp, just like the old one.

Seriously, thank you for helping me do this program. If you haven't supported Radio Ecoshock yet, you can do so at this page.

I appreciate your willingness to go "through the dark portal" if that's where the truth can be found. Thanks for listening!

Alex Smith

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

New Year NEW CLIMATE!

SUMMARY: Why the wild weather & floods across N. Hemisphere, rain at N. Pole? Then Alex talks with David Montgomery, author of "Dirt The Erosion of Civilizations", with co-author Anne Bikle, new book "The Hidden Half of Nature: The Microbial Roots of Life and Health". Radio Ecoshock 160106

Welcome to Radio Ecoshock in this new year of 2016. In this program I'll talk with two guests who tell us about the erosion of civilizations, climate answers in the soil, and the danger of killing off your own ecology - of microbes in your body. But first in this new year of 2016, I need a little time to talk with you.

Download or listen to this Radio Ecoshock show in CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB) Or listen on Soundcloud right now!



Image courtesy endoftheamericandream.com

AWE AND DREAD

I suppose I knew it would come to this. We've just flashed past another awful marker toward a new climate age. At the end of 2015, the hottest year ever recorded, it rained, in the 24 hour darkness, at the North Pole.

Your remember where you were on September 11, 2001. You knew it was a giant wave, a marker where nothing would ever be the same. Scientists around the world felt the same dread and awe in 2007, when the Arctic ice melted back, revealing a dark sea to the sky for the first time in many thousands of years, maybe even in a million years. It wasn't supposed to happen in this century. We knew then, the Arctic would never recover. The pendulum swung toward the great melting. More heat from the sun would be absorbed by the planet, changing the energy balance not just in the Arctic, but everywhere.

We've run interviews with scientists like Dr. Jennifer Francis of Rutgers, explaining how the loss of that white shield at the top of the world, and a warming Arctic, has changed the Jet Stream. With less difference between the polar cold and the tropics, those high atmospheric winds have morphed from a powerful West-to-East stream, to a meandering river. That river has bends that tend to freeze over regions, and extending the breadth of continents and beyond. As Paul Beckwith has told us, what you get on the ground depends on which side of the stream you are on. It can be extra hot in the West, and extra snowy in the East, or visa versa.

Lately in the northern Hemisphere, we have not had the record-breaking hurricanes that slammed into North America in 2005. We have had straight-running power winds, called "Derechos". Multiple massive hurricanes, called typhoons in the Southern Hemisphere, hit East Asia this year. The Philippines was raked over, time after time.

What the Northern Hemisphere experienced in late 2015 leads to this quote from Dr. James Hansen, in his book "Storms of My Grandchildren". He wrote about " ‘continent-sized frontal storms packing the strength of hurricanes.". Robert Scribbler reminded me of that.

Hansen writes about such mega-storms as coming in the future, in the next generation. I say we are seeing it now. In fact, we just experienced another transcontinental storm, stretching from California beyond Scandinavia, with waves reaching Russian Siberia.

HOT OCEANS DRIVE WEATHER WEIRDNESS

This story is written in heat maps of the ocean, as measured from satellites. Scientists say up to 90% of the excess heat created by a more carbon-rich atmosphere has been soaked up by the oceans. That's a slow process, slow to heat, and slow to release. With that buffer, there is at least a 30 year delay for the impacts of our carbon emissions. The climate disruption we are feeling now is from rising greenhouse gas emissions in the 1980's. We've poured in almost as much again since then.





[image: earth.nullschool.net]

The oceans of the world communicate, slowly, sometimes at great depth, using the system known as "the great conveyor belt". The seas have been hot, and getting hotter, around Australia, the Philippines, Indonesia, and in East Asia generally. That heat has been moving downward toward the depths for about 15 years, since the last great El Nino of 1997/98. It mixes with colder waters below, which rising, create the La Nina weather systems we've taken for granted in this new century.

That cycle has to break. It always does. Now we have El Nino, but with the hotter seas, it's El Nino on steroids. It's the strongest El Nino recorded since the development of science.

You will hear endless collection of weather people on television explaining the floods, and soon snow storms, and even the strange warming in Eastern North America, on El Nino. That's why the cherry blossoms bloomed all up the East Coast. That's why folks in Phildelphia wore shorts and tee shirts on Christmas Day.

I've seen a report that out of over 200 local and national news casts monitored, only one even talked about the possible role of global warming. The other suspect, and notice we are never the suspects, is called "changes in the Jet Stream". It's true, but why don't they ask, why don't we ask, WHY is this such a strong El Nino? WHY has the Jet Stream changed. Why is the weather so weird, and why is never going to be normal again?

Usually, scientists tell us El Nino has little impact on the Atlantic Ocean. It is an affair of the Pacific. And yet we now see storms that blow over Texas, Missouri, and eastwards, seeming to continue on. In just days there are record winds in Iceland, and still more flooding across Ireland, Scotland, England, and Scandinavia.

In those ocean heat maps, we can see raging heat in the seas off New England. It's been so hot, the species are changing. It's still relatively warmer this winter. But that warmer water is being pushed away from Greenland by a new phenomenon that will stay with us for centuries. We now realize that massive meltwater from Greenland has created a pond of cold water in the very North Atlantic. Like putting ice into a drink, the ocean there is colder than it was, even with global warming.

So where are the hot waters of the Gulf Stream to go? They are pushed lower, heading toward Europe. The clash of the Greenland cold blob, and these record-hot waters, create mega-storms, and a storm track that is battering the British Isles again this winter. Centuries-old towns, that have not flooded since the Middle Ages, are flooded now. Historic bridges have washed away. In England, they call this storm "Frank", but it stretches from Spain to the North Pole.

Yes the mania to contain everything in concrete has had an effect. All those new suburbs and their roads, all the moors drained to raise grouse for the rich - all our activities have disturbed nature's buffers for heavy rains. Does any of that really matter when more than a foot of rain drops down from the sky in just 24 hours? No one alive in Great Britain has seen anything like this.

CLIMATE INSANITY: SUMMER IN THE ARCTIC WINTER

It doesn't stop there, or even with the big floods in Norway. The heated waters are pouring up the Norwegian coast and into the Arctic, above Finland and Russia. There is a rural inhabited area in Central-Eastern Siberia called Khatanga. According to Wikipedia, the previous December hight for Khatanga was -.2 C (31.6 F), and the average high in December is -25.5 C, or -13 F. Blogger Robin Westenra tells us that there, in the Arctic Circle, this December it was 79 degrees Fahrenheit, or 26 degrees Celsius. I can't begin to tell you how insane and how impossible that is.

Here I'm just going to quote from Robert Scribbler's blog. Nobody can say it better.

"Unprecedented doesn’t even begin to describe rain over Arctic sea ice above the 80 degree North Latitude line on the evening of Tuesday, December 29, 2015. It’s something we’d rarely see during summer time. But this rain is falling through the black of polar night during the coldest time of the year.

There, over the Arctic sea ice today, the rains began in winter time.

As the first front of warm air proceeded over the ice pack to the north of Svalbard, the rains fell through 35-40 degree (F) air temperatures. It splattered upon Arctic Ocean ice that rarely even sees rain during summer-time. Its soft pitter-patter a whisper that may well be the sound to mark the end of a geological age.

For we just don’t see rain over Arctic sea ice north of Greenland during Winter time. Or we used to not. But the warmth that liquid water falling through the black of what should be a bone-cold polar night represents something ominous. Something ushered to our world by human fossil fuel industry’s tremendous emission of heat trapping gasses. Gasses that in the range of 400 ppm CO2 and 485 ppm CO2e are now strong enough to begin to roll back the grip of Winter. Gasses, that if they keep being burned until we hit a range between 550-650 ppm CO2 (or equivalent) will likely be powerful enough to wipe out Winter as we know it entirely over the course of long and tumultuous years of painful transition.

What does the beginning of the end of Winter sound like? It’s the soft splash of rain over Arctic Ocean sea ice during what should be its coldest season.
"

CLIMATE EVENTS GREATER THAN ANY TERRORISM

So you see, that is a 911 moment that hardly anyone sees. In fact, it's far greater than mere terrorism, or human wars over religion and oil. At Chrismas 2015, we saw "the beginning of the end of winter."

I also suspected the time would come when I could just rebroadcast old Radio Ecoshock shows, since the truth about climate change is already known, already told, and now already come. I said what we've just seen is another transcontinental storm. That's because I first noticed one in 2006, the year I began this radio show. I had to dig that out of the Radio Ecoshock archives on our web site. I think you'll agree it's eerily familiar, except now we've had another ten years of very driven science, to explain why these things are happening.

So here it is: a few minutes from the Radio Ecoshock show in late 2006, as I describe a transcontinental storm, that sounds so much like today.

Audio "Stormy Future" here. Blog here (posted in early 2007)

PAINFUL TO KNOW

In a way, it's painful to make this radio show. I hope it's not too painful to hear. For whatever strange reason, it hurts me to think of rain falling in the winter Arctic. I know that means more people flooded out of their peaceful homes, or blown out of them, further south. I know that means more millions of trees will die in California from the drought, including some of the ancient giants. I know that farmers will struggle, and we will pay more for what can be run through the weather gauntlet. I know it gets harder and worse. I know too much.

Over Christmas I played with my grandson. We made towers where marbles roll down through mazes. We read stories about lions and elephants. Will they still exist when he's grown? Will everything around him be tossed about by fires, strange frosts, weird rains?

What will I tell him if we give up, and stop trying to save what's left? What will you tell the children, that you did during the great climate crisis?

NEAR LOSS OF A CLIMATE WARRIOR

All this was driven deeper by the sudden news that over Christmas we nearly lost a powerful climate warrior. You may remember how Daphne Wysham organized the conference call of Mayors and activists against building more fossil fuel infrastructure. If you missed it, download or listen to this 14 minute report from Mayors and activists, as edited for Radio Ecoshock here.

For eight years Daphne hosted the syndicated radio show "Earthbeat". She recommended Radio Ecoshock to those stations, helping to make Ecoshock what it is today. Daphne has been fighting to save the climate from her new home in Portland Oregon.

Just before Christmas, Daphne and her partner suddenly found themselves plunging into a cold mountain river, their car sinking fast. She was in the water, gulping air from a tiny pocket, for long minutes, before a Sheriff's deputy managed to rescue her. Both Daphne and her partner were air-lifted to a Reno hospital. Both are going to recover. Daphne has already declared another year of continuing battle to prevent catastrophic climate change. We need her.

So life is short and tenuous. We have a few thousand years of human history behind us, and millenia yet to come. What changes will we leave, in our short visit here on Earth? I shudder to imagine what our descendants will think of us, as we rush to buy more new things, to fly off on vacations, to waste away the world. Or did we strive to localize food without petrochemicals? Did we walk or bike more than drive? Did we use social media and circles of friends to create allies? Is this the year, after the polar rain, after the emergence of transcontinental storms, that we break out of the deadly paradigm of the old fossil age?

You decide what you will do with your life and powers. I'll keep making radio, keep talking with scientists and activists. I'll wrap up this selfish little chat with a powerful comment left on the Radio Ecoshock blog, following last week's optimistic talk by scientist and author Tim Flannery.

NOT REALLY CHANGING ANYTHING...

Listener Wanda Harding wrote:

"I would like to be positive, but, it seems to me, that all these "solutions" are dreamed up to allow for the current, CAPITALISTIC SYSTEM TO CONTINUE... when ...and I am going to say it this way... WE KNOW THAT IS A REALLY BIG PART OF THE PROBLEM.... I do not see ANY ideas about REDUCING CONSUMPTION...ESPECIALLY FOR THE RICH... LESS FLYING, LESS BUYING... we just want to keep buying cars and stupid plastic stuff... that we DO NOT NEED... I do not hear anything about coming up with a whole new global culture that is not about consuming....especially things we do not need and activities we shouldn't be doing... LIKE PROFESSIONAL SPORTS... NASCAR...

Also, Tim brings up women in developing countries needing birth control... yes, they do and I am all for them having it and I bet they really want it...

However, why do we allow the upper classes, the rich to do what ever they want? Why do they not have to change their lifestyles? ... Oh,wait, gee they have to buy an electric car.... when someone says that there is a law passed that states that anyone making over maybe, 150,000 a year IS LEGALLY REQUIRED TO PUT SOME TYPE OF RENEWABLE ENERGY SYSTEM ON THEIR HOME ... THEN, WE WILL START TO MAKE SOME PROGRESS.. When the rich or even the business sector, is legally limited to how much they can fly or even IF hey can fly... then, I'll believe we are making progress...

when we start to REALLY go in the direction of small farmers...and use THAT AS A JOBS PROGRAM...and give out land grants for people to do so, and then, the do not have to travel to work in rural areas, negating the necessity of a car... at least not having to run one every day... then, I'll start to believe we are making progress... so far, all we do is come up with GADGETS... we STILL DO NOT BELIEVE WE HAVE TO CHANGE OUR BEHAVIORS AND LIFE STYLES..
"

Thank you Wanda Harding.

You see how it is? I know many of my listeners are powerful and articulate people. I appreciate so much all the emails you send me. In fact, without listener tips, ideas and criticism, I simply could not continue this program. Radio Ecoshock has become listener-powered. Thank you for giving me another year of opportunity, as hard as the news may be.

I've got some great guests lined up for you, including a top scientist from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, to explain this year's Arctic report card. Let's get to our first guests of 2016 now.

"DIRT", CLIMATE, AND HEALTH - DAVID MONTGOMERY AND ANNE BILKE

We're going to take a big journey, into time, and across the globe. Eventually, we will arrive right back at the center of your own body. Our tour guides are Dr. David Montgomery from the University of Washington, and biologist Anne Bikle.

I know this team just released a new book "The Hidden Half of Nature: The Microbial Roots of Life and Health." That is a personal journey with a big message for us all.





But at the risk of being rude, I start with David. A recent guest, Benoit Lambert, and several listeners, asked for this interview, based on his previous book "Dirt The Erosion of Civilizations." That is coming back, not only because we may farm ourselves right out of soil in this century - but also because of the promise we could reverse the process of climate change, putting giant amounts of carbon back into the soil.

David is a "geomorphologist" at the University of Washington. He also won a $500,000 MacArthur Foundation “genius” award in 2008.

This is a deep interview. We talk about how formerly fertile places like Syria and Libya became soil poor, leading to the troubles we see today. It happened even in Colonial America, where tobacco farming stripped the south, forcing migration westward. Soil degradation is happening all over the world, but now there are few frontiers left with new soil to use up. "Dirt" as Montgomery wrote in his classic book, determines the course of civilizations, including the present one.

But the soil also holds promise as a place that can be enriched, rather than eroded with ploughing , agrichemicals and monocrops. The process of putting organic life, and life-supporting microbes back into the soil means enriched food possibilities, but also means carbon can be removed from the atmosphere on a large scale, helping to alleviate climate disruption. Montgomery says we could alleviate up to 15% of fossil fuel use by relatively simple changes to the way we farm.

Here is a fascinating talk by David Montgomery, on You tube. I took extensive notes for my own use, including this: "Agricultural soil loss is not because humanity farms but arises from how we farm." From Plato to Roosevelt, from his study of 1400 papers on soil loss, Montgomery gives the big picture.

In our Radio Ecoshock interview, we discuss how long carbon can stay in the soil, and the possible role of biochar, to keep it there longer.

Montgomery got a personal lesson on how to restore soil with his partner biologist Anne Bilke. They rejuvenated poor soil in their Seattle area yard for a garden, without using petrochemicals. That gave Montgomery more hope for the future of humans.

But as the two studied the astounding world of microbes in the soil, disaster struck. Anne was hit was a bad kind of cancer - which it turns out is also caused by microbes. There are life-giving microbes, and from a human perspective, life-threatening microbes.

Their second book "The Hidden Half of Nature: The Microbial Roots of Life and Health" describes a new threat, and a new hope for the health of all of us. Not only is petro-industrial culture killing off life in the soil, it's killing off the essential balance of microbes in our own bodies. Over-use of antibiotics is just one facet, added to chemical-laden food. This is information you need to know.





Download or listen to this Radio Ecoshock interview with David Montgomery and Anne Bilke (31 minutes) in either CD Quality (30 MB) or Lo-Fi (8 MB).

Follow David and Anne at their web site: dig2grow.com. That is also their Twitter handle: @dig2grow. Here is their Facebook page.



Thanks for listening again this year! There's lots more Radio Ecoshock to come.

Alex



Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Tim Flannery - Atmosphere of Hope

Australian scientist & author of "The Weather Makers" on new book "Atmosphere of Hope". Despite what he knows, Tim Flannery explains new "natural" based tech that may prevent climate catastrophe.

Can our desire to overcome [the climate crisis] drive humanity’s next great waves of positive technological economic and social revolutions, or will we be plunged into the dystopian collapses and terrors of civilizations past?

That's the question asked by Dr. Tim Flannery in his new book "Atmosphere of Hope: Searching for Solutions to the Climate Crisis".

Flannery rocked the world with his 2003 book "The Weather Makers". For a while, the Australian government hired him to coordinate climate communications. He left to form the Climate Council, with community funding. Flannery is also with the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, at the University of Melbourne. He's trained as a specialist in mammals and palaeontology.





Dr. Tim Flannery



We're about to hear Tim Flannery speak about his new book, at the Town Hall in Seattle, on November 12, 2015. I thank Mike McCormack of talkingsticktv for this recording.

Download or listen to this Radio Ecoshock show, the full speech with question and answer period, in either CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB).

Or listen right now on Soundcloud.





Tim begins this talk with a climate reality check. He outlines an overview of climate science, and the huge challenges facing us. Flannery doesn't try to sugar-coat our situation, and admits that from about 2008 to 2013 he was somewhat depressed about the prospects of severe climate change, and our lack of appropriate response.

However, in 2007, following his publication of the Weathermakers, Tim was called to the Caribbean island owned by multi-billionaire Richard Branson. From that was born the $25 million dollar Virgin Climate Challenge for the best invention to remove carbon dioxide from the air. Flannery tells us Branson himself was doubtful humans will get themselves out of this civilization-wide problem.

During the following years, the Virgin Challenge received about 11,000 entries. Reading through many of these, Flannery tells us he began to see hopeful signs toward solutions to lower carbon in the atmosphere. In this talk he mentions several, including carbon-negative cement (it removes CO2 as it hardens); fibre and plastics that can be made directly from CO2.

There is also a type of rock (Serpentinite) that can remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Perhaps this fairly common rock could be crushed and used as beaches (as the seas rise) to capture more carbon dioxide. This is known as "carbon sequestration by mineral carbonation". Serpentinite has been used by a Dutch firm to make allegedly carbon neutral shingles for houses.

We need to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The first way is to cut emissions drastically. That must be done, but it will not reduce carbon dioxide already there, and already too high.

The second way, Flannery says, is to use geoengineering techniques, like spraying sulfur into the atmosphere to deflect sunlight. But this has grave risks for weather systems, he says.

Flannery tells us there is a "third way": solutions to save nature without wrecking nature. Although these ideas mimic nature or use nature's tech, they do require some energy to deploy them. That energy would have to come from solar, wind, or perhaps burning biomass?

I recommend this talk as inspiring, and it will teach you new things. Personally, I did not find enough in the talk to convince me we have a way out, yet.

My thanks to Mike McCormick of talkingsticktv, and host of the Mind Over Matters radio show for this recording. Mike produces a lot of worthwhile original material.