birds disappearing.... large ocean species dying off...
biggest storms ever recorded...
second hottest year on record...
polar ice melting...
oceans turning acidic...
you know, it's almost time...
[alarm bells, sirens, warning beeps...]
[broadcast news music]
It's the RAdio Ecoshock year in review, 2005.
In it's year end review, New Scientist magazine wraps up alarming stories for our times. The biggest North Atlantic tropical storms and hurricanes since records have been kept. A string of major scientists warn we are headed for Hell on earth as the climate shifts unpredictably. And all we get from world leaders is more hot air, while each of us releases tons of new carbon into the world's delicate air supply.
Hurricane Katrina was the big climate story, creating a storm surge 6 meters, or 18 feet, high. The disaster zone covered 90,000 square miles. But the largest storm ever recorded was Hurricane Wilma, the giant that covered the entire Gulf of Mexico, and wrecked parts of the Yucatan peninsula. And don't forget, 2005 was the year when the weather experts ran out of names for storms, reaching into a backup list to add new ones.
And this year saw the first hurricane ever seen forming in the South Atlantic, namely Catarina, which struck Brazil in March. Tropical storms from the Americas even reached Spain and Africa. Interpress reports 2005 storms drained more than 200 billion dollars directly out of the world economy, the costliest year ever. Insurers are reeling. They may discontinue weather insurance.
In April 2005, researchers announced that 87 per cent of Antarctic glaciers are now retreating. Ice sheets are melting into the oceans, and breaking off in huge chunks, adding to the fresh water levels in the sea. The same was found in the northern Arctic, where reputable scientists reported, for the first time, a measurable shift in the ocean currents that keep Europe habitable. Some experts have warned that global warming will be irreversible without astounding changes in the world's carbon economy within the next ten years.
Two thousand and five was the year when the world's political leaders failed to act. At G8 they stalled with "statements". At the Montreal climate talks, they agreed to talk more, as the years go by. Meanwhile the United States continued to set a new record for greenhouse gas emissions in 2004, and surpassed that in 2005. This one country produces 25 % of all greenhouse gases -that's one quarter of the coming climate catastrophe. Realists are beginning to suspect the Bush Republican climate record, at this critical time, will create a historic climate Holocaust.
This year, Americans, Canadians, and Europeans voted with their dollars to burn more and more hydrocarbons. They bought monster cars and lived in monster houses. Each public holiday continued to be an excuse to demonstrate a still more wasteful lifestyle, binges of burnt energy, oil-based plastic doo-dahs, and know-nothing media consumption.
The US Energy department reported that greenhouse gas emissions rose 2 percent last year, to an incredible 7.1 billion tones of new carbon dioxide added to the air supply. It's the biggest jump in 5 years, and part of an accelerating trend, according to the Guardian newspaper for December 23rd.
Lord Rees, the president of the UK's Royal Society, said carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was about 380 parts per billion, the highest in 20 million years, and one third more than before the industrial revolution. Rees said, quote, ""Industrialized countries will need to cut emissions by at least 60 percent by 2050 if we are to stabilize atmospheric concentrations at twice pre-industrial levels."
Ten of the 15 European countries who promised to reach Kyoto targets have failed to make their targets. Countries like Germany, who talk strongly about environmental concern, continue to increase their carbon output anyway.
New Scientist reports that even big sporting events leave massive ecological footprints.
Stephen Leahy at ipsnews.net is one of a chorus of editorial writers warning we are "racing toward climate disaster." Leahy writes: "Satellite photos taken this year revealed that there was 20 percent less Arctic sea ice compared to the first pictures taken in 1978, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado.
The loss of ice is not too surprising given the four degrees C rise in average winter temperatures in the Arctic. However, the extent and speed with which the Arctic ice is melting is unprecedented.
And that's not just bad news for polar bears and native people of the North.
"The Arctic is a major driver for Earth's weather cycle. [The melting]we see is going to be very profound in terms of global weather change," said Ted Scambos, a research scientist at the NSIDC."
"Warmer temperatures are also thawing the top three meters of permafrost beneath the western Siberian peatlands, creating giant lakes and swelling rivers. Permafrost is also melting in Alaska and northern Canada. A new study predicts that over half of the northern hemisphere's permafrost could thaw by 2050.
The melting of millions of square kilometres of permafrost will unleash billions of tonnes of methane, the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) reported in the Dec. 17 issue of Geophysical Research Letters.
Methane is a greenhouse gas that is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide, and will dramatically accelerate global warming. A major permafrost meltdown will have a major impact on climate, NCAR scientists said."
"Greenland alone has enough ice to raise global sea levels three metres."
That report came from Stephen Leahy at ipsnews.net, dated December 27, 2005.
This year, river watchers reported all the wild rivers have disappeared, replaced by dams and concrete liners for irrigation and alleged flood control.
Meanwhile, we learned this year that carbon soaked air is leaching into the oceans, creating a carbonated acidic fizz. Precious ocean species are at risk to acidic oceans, and disappearing anyway to overfishing, illegal fishing, and drastic bottom trawling. We don't control any of this, and don't even know what we are losing.
In a kind of black break through, 2005 was the year when the Chinese people, and the world, began to admit the terrible costs of uncontrolled industrialization on the environment of China. The benzene leak into China's Songhua River was just the spotlight on massive pollution of China's entire water supply, from chemical-soaked lakes and rivers to heavily polluted groundwater. A breakthrough Associated Press story, December 29th, finds government officials willing to admit that 90 percent of China's cities are using polluted groundwater for drinking. Vice minister E Jingping said that 190 million people are drinking polluted water, but others set the endangered water levels at 300 million people or more.
China suffered its usual toll of coal mining accidents, but the real problem is the world's foremost economy will soon be based mainly on the world's worst carbon polluting energy source: coal. Instead of jumping to clean renewable energy sources, the Chinese leadership has permitted a return to the worst excesses of the Victorian coal age. As the new coal fired power plants sprout up by the hundreds in the Chinese countryside, the world's climate system is doomed.
Remember how we solved the ozone hole? Except we didn't. According to the United Nations Environment Program, this September the annual Antarctic spring ozone hole was 10 million square miles, or 26 million square kilometers. The size of the hole in the earth's protection against ultra violet rays was equal to North America, and still close to the all time record set in 2003. The major signatories to the Montreal Protocol to protect the ozone layer have agreed to a piddly $470 million package to help the Third World convert from CFCs to more ozone safe technologies. You heard it right, humans are STILL using CFCs in some to the world's biggest economies, including Asia, due to a giant hole in the Montreal Protocol. We're spending less than a day of the US military in Iraq, to plug a hole in the atmosphere bigger than America. Not working.
To cap off an incredible year, the United Kingdom enjoyed the largest fireball and toxic storm since World War Two. The black plume from an exploding fuel depot covered much of Southern England and reached the European continent.
This year, we all need a magnifying glass to find the good news for the environment. In June, the International Whaling Commission resisted obvious bribery of small nations by Japan, to uphold the 19 year long ban on commercial whaling. Although a member of the IWC, Japan went ahead to double its so-called "scientific whaling" in the southern Pacific. The Greenpeace ship Esperanto has been dogging the Japanese factory ship, blocking the loading of murdered whales.
This November, the UN reported that global deforestation slowed slightly. In fact logging has increased, stripping more of the world's living cover, but replanting of mono-culture tree farms has reduced the overall rate from previous years. It's like beating your wife, less.
Under the pall of battle, bombings, and a coating of depleted uranium dust, Iraq can report that its southern marshlands are beginning to recover, as water is returned to the famous marshes.
Of course, there are potfuls of feel good advertising paid for by the world's biggest polluters. On December 22nd, the New York Times noticed the raft of full page ads and television spots painted with corporate green. General Electric, one of the world's nastiest polluters, pummeled us with ads for so-called "Ecoimagination", saying GE is "in step with nature." Is it their power plants, their nuclear weapons, their chemical wastes, that nature loves?
British Petroleum, the United Kingdom's carbon-spewing giant, must be the greenest ever. Two page advertising spreads promote their tiny renewable energy showcase, while the oil runs on. The gas guzzling kings, Ford and GM, try to promote their hybrid future, their little line of fuel efficient cars, while banking on monster SUV's like the Ford Expedition and the criminal Hummer.
Exxon Mobil, the Exxon Valdez people, almost replace the news with two page spreads on how green they are. As the oil companies rack up billions in pollution profits, they run greenwashing ads to make us feel better about them, and about our own oil addiction. The Canadian aluminum giant, Alcan, one of the biggest air polluters, spent almost half a million dollars in greenwashing ads in 2005.
Now, don't you feel better? Whatever 2005 was for you, it was a record year for human terrorism against nature. It's definitely.... time to PANIC!
This has been news from Radio Ecoshock at www.ecoshock.org.