Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Free the Climate Scientists!

http://bit.ly/Ad7hzA Dr. John Mashey investigates right-wing billionaires & corporations who pay alleged "charities", bloggers, & old weathermen to deny climate science. Canadian journalist Margaret Munro on government muzzling scientists, plus update by UCS Francesca Grifo on science freedom in U.S.
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The fossil fuel industry have teamed up with very wealthy idealogues to make you doubt global warming is happening, or that we are forcing big changes in the climate.

For years, we guessed and partly knew that a small group of Right-wing think tanks, weathermen, and bloggers, and even a couple of low-grade climate scientists, were being paid off. We just couldn't see through the corporate veil of deception.

Now we know many of the same people hired by the tobacco industry to create doubt that smoking killed millions of people, found a new source of funding, and a new cause. They are attacking climate science, and the scientists. Hidden money fuels a campaign of lies, inuendo, fear mongering and fake science.

In recent news, we finally got hard information on just who is paying for these attacks, and how the money flows out to so-called independent "experts" and bloggers. A well-known scientist, Peter Gleick, penetrated the secret funding sources for climate attack central - an alleged charity called "The Heartland Institute".

We didn't really need the Heartland emails, leaked to desmogblog.com. Another source, Dr. John Mashey, patiently analysed public documents to track it all down. In an exclusive radio interview, John Mashey lays out the conspiracy, and names names.

Here is a link to John Mashey's blog, and here is where to download his 200 page PDF documentation, showing the donors, the front groups, and the propaganda machine of climate denial.

Here are some more good links, and a bit of a transcript, if you want to follow up on the Heartland funding of "scientists" like Dr. Fred Singer (who spoke for the tobacco industry, and now gets $$$ to speak against climate science) and other bloggers and fake experts.

Read this George Monbiot article in the UK Guardian from February 20th. George captures what is happening: plutocrats are taking over our governments and trying to control our minds (not to mention what our kids are taught in school). "We need to know who funds these thinktank lobbyists"


FROM THE RADIO ECOSHOCK SHOW interview with Dr. John Mashey.

"Alex Smith: I see from your charts, and it was echoed in the leaked documents, the Heartland Institute received millions from a single anonymous donor. Do we have any clue who that is?

John Mashey: Oh yeah. It's pretty well in the [years of Heartland Institute] blogs. And it is something I almost included [in his 200 page report] but I still had some work to do, to track things down.

The leaked information helped remove certain possibilities. I would suggest that there is a huge amount of evidence that it's, and I don't know how to pronounce it, it's Barre Seid from Chicago area.

There's a whole pattern of him giving to Heartland for years, and then through his foundation, at least back through 1999. But around 2005 he disappears. There's a funny thing in 2005-2006 where a whole lot more money comes in, but then the next year it goes out to a bunch of different other non-profits.

Heartland had never done that before or afterwards. One of them was to a place called Shimer college, and it turns out there was a takeover attempt, sort of run by Seid, with a new Board, or attempting to have a new Board which was mostly people who worked for Seid, or people who were funded by Seid.

And then later, what happens is the money comes to Shimer College through this Donors Trust/Donors Capital combination. That entity also supplied a lot of money to Heartland. It's a big boost, came through Donors.

I can't prove beyond a shadow of a doubt, but I would bet, you know there's nobody else that fits, and in particular the other possibilities were all named as named donors in the [leaked] funding document, which says, you know, [they are?] pretty unlikely.
"

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Check out this Daily Kos expose, with tons of links, on Barre Seid's alleged take-over of a Shimer College in the U.S. (with $17 million dollars, also going through the anonymous "Donors' Trust" that donated lots of money to the Heartland Institute and other climate denial organizations).

A list of some of Seid's past donations here. It's a mix of real charities, and the usual right-wing think tanks and suspects.


CANADIAN GOVERNMENT SCIENTISTS MUZZLED

In Canada, the Prime Minister represents "the oil patch" of Alberta. He pushes the Tar Sands. His government issued draconian new rules that make it pretty well impossible for government climate scientists, ocean experts, and more - to speak to the public.

Canadian government scientists are often forbidden to speak to the press, even after publishing studies in major international journals. We'll hear three shocking cases explained by Canada's top science reporter, Margaret Munro. That is from her presentation at the 2012 American Academy for the Advancement of Science Panel "Unmuzzling Government Scientists" in Vancouver February 17th, as recorded by aven.com - the Audio Visual Education Network. You can order almost all of the talks from the AAAS 2012 conference from Aven - and there are some great presentations.

In one case, a Canadian government scientist who published about a flood in Canada's North 13,000 years ago was forbidden to speak about his scientific study. Is it because the ultra-Christians in Harper's government believe the world is only 6,000 years old, in their interpretation of the Bible?

Another scientist, Dr Kristi Miller, head of molecular genetics for the Department for Fisheries and Oceans, found a virus in wild fish. That was inconvenient for the lucrative farmed fish market. Although the international press were promised an interview with Miller - that never happened. Find out more in this BBC article on Canada muzzling it's scientists.

In fact, the Deputy Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Claire Dansereau, was supposed to speak at this AAAS Panel. It's printed in the conference listings. She didn't show up. The presenters left an empty chair where the government of Canada was supposed to be.

THE BATTLE OF "KEYSTONE NORTH" - THE OTHER ENBRIDGE TAR SANDS PIPELINE

Here is another crazy example.

The environmental regulators, the supposedly neutral government called opponents of the proposed Enbridge northern pipeline unpatriotic foreign-funded radicals. These "radicals" include pretty well every aboriginal nation along the route from the Tar Sands, and a majority of Canadians opposed to the pipeline. To make sure no one talks too much at the environmental impact hearings, the government imposed Orwellian rules.

In Procedural Directive #4, the Panel ruled oral evidence should not include:

* technical or scientific information;

* opinions, views, information or perspectives of others

* detailed information on the presenter’s views on the decisions the Panel should make or detailed opinions about the Project;

* recommendations whether to approve or not approve the Project and the terms or
conditions that should be applied if the Project were to proceed;

* or questions that the presenter wants answered.

In other words, just shut up! Maybe you can talk about the weather. No facts, science, or questions allowed. Presenters, including First Nations People whose salmon streams will be crossed by the Enbridge pipeline, get just 5 minutes to speak.

Presenter and Federal Member of Parliament Nathan Cullen, whose riding is most impacted by the would-be Tar Sands pipeline, was repeatedly interupted and silenced by these rules of procedure.

DO AMERICAN SCIENTISTS HAVE FREEDOM TO SPEAK?

It's not just Canada.

The right of scientists to speak out has improved slightly in the United States, since George Bush gave way to the Obama administration. Francesco Grifo from the Union of Concerned Scientists reveals how information important to your safety was suppressed by industry lobbyists.

This is still happening. Grifo gives examples of toxic substances, dangerous to the health of consumers, that were recommended to be banned by government science studies. When it gets to the top of the Agency, or the White House, the necessary rules are dropped or stalled, by industry lobby groups.

In some departments, new rules are allowing scientists like James Hansen to exercise their First Amendment rights, to speak freely about their own views.

The out-going President of the AAAS, Dr. Nancy Fedoroff, told a press conference in Vancouver:

"Belief systems, especially when tinged with fear, are not easily dispersed with facts."

She said, as a result of a campaign of misinformation through the mainstream media and the Net, in America "fewer people believe in climate change each year."

Federoff told reporters: "I'm scared to death, because that obviously stalls what we need to be doing to adapt to climate change." She continued: "We are sliding back into a dark era."

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Hot Earth: Science & Anti-Science


http://bit.ly/w1bCQY Listen to presentations by NASA climate scientist James Hansen, and best-selling author and science writer Cris Mooney at 2012 AAAS.

Just back from the American Academy for the Advancement of Science annual conference 2012, this is Alex Smith. I've recorded two of the best speechs of the weekend gathering of thousands of scientists, held this year in Vancouver, Canada.

Download/listen to James Hansen (29 min) CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Download/listen to Chris Mooney (29 min) CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Dr. James Hansen, head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, warns it isn't enough to reduce our emissions. We must actually take carbon dioxide back out of the air, to avoid entering a new and dangerous age of greenhouse living.

We are currently at 392 parts per million CO2 in the atmosphere, and rising rapidly. The target Hansen says is 350 parts per million. That is the level where the Polar ice, which regulates the climate humans have known for the past 10,000 years, will remain on planet Earth.

Chris Mooney, author of "The Republican War on Science," says scientists fail to communicate the danger of climate change, because they wrongly believe mere facts will convince the public.

Instead, Mooney outlines studies showing humans use facts to bolster pre-existing beliefs about the world. There are large differences in the basic personalities of those who gravitate toward the Right and Left of politics.

We get a sneak preview from Mooney's upcoming book.

Recorded by Alex Smith Feb 19, 2012 in Vancouver, Canada at the event "Climate Solutions: The Challenges of Getting to 350".

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

ARCTIC EMERGENCY Global Threat

http://bit.ly/A2aJno Maybe we need a big burst of methane to get real climate action. Recent Russian expeditions to the Eastern Siberian coast find plumes of methane into the atmosphere. Is it worse than our own oil and coal pollution? I ask three top climate scientists: oceanographer Carlos Duarte, ice expert Peter Wadhams, and carbon-meister David Archer.

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Are you feeling lucky, Pilgrim? There is a growing wave of unease, even panic. Our fossil fuel civilization may be accelerating straight off the cliff of mass extinction.

Will the rapid rise in Arctic temperatures, and the disappearance of summer sea ice, trigger a runaway climate change, and a mass extinction event?

You would think a possibility so huge would fill television news and newspapers. What are political candidates saying, or business leaders? Everyone must be talking about the chance we could be killed off within a generation or two. No, the silence is deafening.

Right now, this debate is sealed off into a strong debate among scientists, and a small group of journalists and concerned citizens. You'll have to go to blogs like realclimate.org or climateprogress to find the discussion. Or listen to Radio Ecoshock.

What is the problem? New science shows seven of thirteen major feed-back mechanisms - the forces that create climate tipping points, are found in the Arctic. We'll talk to the lead author of that paper, award-winning scientist Carlos Duarte.

One of those frightening developments is the discovery by a joint Russian American research expedition that large plumes of methane are escaping into the atmosphere from the Arctic sea bed along Eastern Siberia. Scientists Natalia Shakhova and Igor Semiletov suggest a burst of 50 Gigatonnes of methane could result from an "abrupt release at any time". This would multiply current methane levels by about 12 times with "consequent catastrophic greenhouse warming".

See this article from The Independent.

As a result, a combination of scientists, journalists and other concerned people has formed the Arctic Methane Emergency Group. They call for an immediate war-scale geoengineering effort to save the last of the Arctic summer sea ice cover, so save our climate. In this program, I interview one of the world's top ice experts, Dr. Peter Wadhams of Cambridge. He warns the Arctic Sea could become virtually ice-free in September as early as 2015, just three years from now.

We may already be seeing the destabilizing results of this loss of the Arctic climate regulator in the mild almost snowless winter in North America, while Arctic cold pushed deep into Europe and even North Africa in the late winter of 2012. If you are wondering what the heck is happening with that wild weather in Eastern Europe, keep reading, and listen to the broadcast. More below and in this news article, again from the UK's Independent.

Dr. David Archer thinks the warnings of catastrophe from Arctic melting methane are either over-blown, or miss the real and known threat. You know, the threat you and I create every day, as we participate in ever-increasing emissions of carbon dioxide by burning fossil fuels. Don't miss our new interview with David Archer, a famous climate expert - and his dark dare about a methane burst.

I'm Alex Smith. The risk is huge. The outcome could determine the lives of my children and grandchildren. I've lost sleep already, and I fail to cover important angles in this program.

This story is so big, it will take many programs, over many months or years, to cover it. As long as I am able, I will keep trying. I hope you will too.

We'll start out with an overview of the Arctic tipping points, with Dr. Carlos Duarte.

SEVEN OUT OF 13 TIPPING POINTS ARE IN THE ARCTIC!

In 2012, the winter weather in America was unusually mild. Winter festivals and outdoor skating were cancelled, while New Yorkers played tennis in the park. At the same time, after a warmer than usual winter, Eastern Europe suddenly plunged into cold that killed dozens of people. Something seems different.

Our guest, Professor Carlos Duarte, may shed some light on this. His new paper, published in the journal of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, warns about developing tipping points in the Arctic.

Professor Duarte is Director of the Oceans Institute at The University of Western Australia, and he is a Research Professor with the Spanish National Research Council. Last year he won the prestigious Prix d'Excellence awarded by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea. And he's deeply worried.

I began by asking: how does a Professor in Australia, and the Mediterranean, come to study the Arctic?

Duarte considers himself a global scientist, studying global systems. And that fits with being an oceanographer - the seas are really one big connected water system. Carlos has just returned last year from an around-the world research voyage. He's led 7 expeditions to Antarctica, and finished 9 expeditions to the Arctic.

He and a team of other scientists have just published two papers. "Tipping Points in the Marine Arctic Ecosystem" was published in the journal AMBIO. "Abrupt Climate Change in the Arctic" is in Nature Climate Change.

Duarte considers a tipping point, or "tipping elements in the Earth's system" to be a mechanism that not only changes the climate, but continues to change it through a positive feedback mechanism. In a most alarming development, these scientists determined that 7 out of 13 possible tipping points (known so far) are in the Arctic, and most of them are operating already. That is why, although most of us live in cities far south and distant, we must pay very close attention to what Arctic scientists say is happening there.

What tipping points? In our interview Carlos Duarte talks about these:

(1) the Arctic has warmed 3 times faster than the rest of the planet, rising 3 degrees on average since 1980.

(2) warmer Atlantic currents are penetrating deeper into the Arctic. I do not know if that is because of sea ice retreat, changes in salinity, or changes in wind patterns.

(3) the albedo (reflective power of white ice) has changed drastically in the summer and early fall, due to record sea ice loss. That means more of the Sun's energy is entering and warming the ocean. It doesn't matter that the sea ice refreezes in the winter, since there is really no Sun shining in the Arctic at that time.

(4) fresh water discharge into the Arctic Ocean is up by 30%. That comes not just from melted sea ice, but from more glacier melt in places like Greenland. This freshwater has a huge impact on the ocean, and could change major currents that determine the climate of Europe (although that has not happened yet, we think).

(5) the melting of the Greenland ice cap is itself another major tipping point. Eventually, that will change sea levels all over the world.

(6) methane hydrates are beginning to release methane gas from shallow sea beds in the Arctic, not just in Eastern Siberia but also off the coast of Norway. More methane means more heating means more methane releases. You see how that works.

(7) the die back of the boreal forest means less carbon is absorbed into that sink, and more carbon released.

(8) peat, that matted compressed vegetation frozen over long ages, is drying out, and burning, along with the Boreal forests, to release more carbon, to cause more heating, to cause more fires...

Professor Duarte brings up the case of the 2010 fires in Russia as an example. That involved both the burning of forests, and peat, in a record heat wave that released a lot more carbon.

I asked his opinion about worries methane hydrates will release a kind of greenhouse bomb in the coming years. His team evaluated the various risks of sudden climate change, and concluded a chronic release of methane is more likely than a sudden burst. We'll hear more about that later in our interview with Dr. David Archer.

We also talked about the impact of these rapid changes on the people who live in the Arctic, the Inuit. Their winter transport routes over the ice are no longer safe. They have to go further to hunt. Some buildings and infrastructure are tipping over or sinking as the permafrost melts. And their cultural knowledge is damaged or lost.

When I asked about plant changes, Duarte the oceanographer told me about the incursion of algae and sea grasses into the Arctic where they were never found before. This will impact large ecosystems. Increased algae growth, Duarte says, could change that part of the ocean from a heat sink into a heat source.

We agreed there is an urgent need for more monitoring of changes in the Arctic.

Note that Canada took back it's only Arctic science research ship and leased it out to the oil companies for more exploration! Don't expect Canada to help, or even care about these major changes, partly driven by Canadian Tar Sands expansion.

As a web source to follow up, Carlos Duarte recommended the charts and real-time data from the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center.

[DUARTE INTERVIEW]

This is Radio Ecoshock. We are kicking off a serious look into the biggest problems humanity has ever faced. Will we lose the climate we depend on? If so, how much time remains to save ourselves? The big developments may not be happening in cities with news media, but in the hostile far reaches of the Arctic tundra, and the Polar Sea.

In 2007, the summer sea ice melted back so far, scientists were shocked and worried as never before. Next we talk with a life-long expert on sea ice, Dr. Peter Wadhams of Cambridge.

IS ARCTIC SEA ICE RETREAT DELIVERING PUNISHING COLD TO EUROPE?

The Independent newspaper in Britain is one of several suggesting the cold and snow that crippled parts of Eastern Europe could result from the loss of sea ice.

And what a winter storm it was! Fifteen feet of snow in Romania. Hundreds dead in the Ukraine and across Eastern Europe. Snow even on the Black Sea, in Turkey, in Southern Italy and North Africa. All at the same time North American news media reported on a mild almost snowless winter - “the winter that never was".

Our radio guest is one of the leading scientists in the Arctic, and especially in Arctic Ice research. In the UK, Peter Wadhams is Professor of Ocean Physics, and Head of the Polar Ocean Physics Group at the University of Cambridge. He is President, IAPSO the International Association for the Physical Sciences of the Ocean, Commission on Sea Ice, and a member of too many Arctic study projects to mention.

While cautioning that a single weather event can never conclusively be attributed to climate change, Professor Wadhams said colder winters in Europe had been predicted by
climatologists, as the summer sea ice retreats. For example, this year there is less sea ice coverage in the Barents sea, just north of Europe, than normal. The open water releases the relatively warmer air. That rises, creating a high pressure zone. The Arctic High can drive Arctic winds further south, taking cold, and all the extra precipitation from a warming atmosphere, with it. If cold enough, the extreme precipitation event arrives as snow. Lots of it.

The Potsdam Institute in Germany was just one of several institutions who predicted colder winters for Europe as the world warmed in general. And there are others. As the Independent newspaper says: "Studies by scientists at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research have confirmed a link between the loss of Arctic sea ice and the development of high-pressure zones in the polar region, which influence wind patterns at lower latitudes further south."

There have been some thought-provoking articles on this, like this article from Joe Romm's authoritative blog "Climate Progress" (now at thinkprogress.org).

It is counter-intuitive, but the mechanics of how that works are well known. But we still have a lot of research to do, and perhaps still more surprises to come, as one of the Earth's climate regulators - the Arctic ice system - is broken down by global warming.

In any event, Wadhams says, we can expect more extreme events as the world's climate is destabilized by our greenhouse gas emissions.

The other surprise is: the ice isn't just melting back horizontally in summer. It is retreating VERTICALLY as well. Tests by submarines and satellites, going back decades, show the Arctic ice simply isn't as thick as it used to be. Few of us see that in charts, but scientists do.

Wadhams tells us Arctic ice is only half as thick as it was 30 years ago!

When we combine this general thinning with the retreat in area - Wadhams predicts the Arctic will become more or less ice free by 2015 - just three years from now. That is stunning and dangerous news! Keep in mind, this comes from one of the most experienced Arctic ice scientists in the world, head of the Polar research unit at Cambridge University. Hardly a prediction from a fringe figure.

I can't emphasize this enough: one of the regulators of the world's climate, the Arctic summer sea ice, may be gone in 3 years. We don't know what the full impact will be.

Wadhams thinks that due to the thinning of ice, year-round, it is unlikely we can recover or rebuilt the Arctic ice without serious geoengineering.

He's hesitant to say that. Wadhams points out our industrial adventures and interventions into Nature are what caused this problem in the first place. Still with the sea ice - AND signs of methane coming from the sea bed - we may now have no other choice than to try and cool the planet, while we find an alternative way to run our civilization.

The shallow sea beds, which are found not just in Eastern Siberia, but also off Norway's Arctic coast, and in both Canada and Alaska - have warmed up by as much as 5 degrees at the bottom. That is enough to melt the permafrost cap, that was keeping down methane ice structures below. While we need more research to know the extent, the Russian American expedition appears to show large methane plumes are already rising out of the sea and into the atmosphere.

If a lot comes out at once, Wadhams says, the Earth would experience a rather sudden temperature rise, with all sorts of weather instability, no doubt.

Wadhams tells us:

"The situation is so bad, and so little is being done... I mean the obvious way to counter global warming is to release less carbon dioxide and reduce our fossil fuel usage, but nobody in practice is prepared to that. We won't do it until we are forced to by the oil running out.

So, if we're not going to take the steps that we need to take to save ourselves, by reducing our carbon dioxide production - then one has to consider maybe a techno-fix might be the thing to try.

These ideas about geoengineering to try to reduce the radiative forcing that is warming us, by things like changing the colors of clouds by brightening them up, - they sound a bit science-fiction like, but it could be that those are the things we'll have to try in order to stop global warming from getting out of hand."

Wadhams also warns policy makers should not be depending upon the advice or reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC. Their latest report is from 2007, using data from 2006 or earlier. We have learned so much, and seen so much change since then, that the IPCC report is too far out of date. And due to the system of consolidating older published reports, the IPCC will always be behind both the cutting edge of science and current events. With so much at stake, government will have to go for the
latest science to make decisions.

Wadhams gives the example of what he calls "the methane catastrophe" as an example of new developments that government simply aren't reacting to.

I agree. The public hardly knows about this developing threat.

[WADHAMS INTERVIEW]

Dr. Peter Wadhams adds to the calls for immediate action to save the remains of Arctic Ice. He supports a demand for immediate action raised by the Arctic Methane Emergency Group.

I spoke with that group's founder John Nissen, a Cambridge educated scientist who chose a career in computer software instead. Now retired, Nissen tried to alert authorities, like America's John Holdren, to new warnings coming from Arctic specialists, like the Russian team of Natalia Shakhova and Igor Semiletov. They found large plumes of methane gas, the same powerful greenhouse gas which some scientists believe caused past mass extinction events.

Nissen, and his Emergency Group members are concerned a sudden burst of methane, up to 50 gigatonnes, could trigger a runaway greenhouse event, something humans could not stop, and perhaps could not survive. I will not have time in this program to do justice to this argument. Find links to a key article by film-maker Gary Houser, a member of the group, below.

We'll also have more on the Arctic methane threat in coming Radio Ecoshock programs.

DON'T LET ARCTIC METHANE DISTRACT US FROM THE REAL KNOWN THREAT: US

But one of the most respected scientists in the field, Dr. David Archer of the University of Chicago, says it is not time to panic yet. The real threat, the real fright, Archer says, is not in far-away Siberia, but right here at home, parked in your garage, and build into everything you buy. It's the carbon stupid.

Archer is less worried about methane hydrates, also called "clathrates" causing a runaway greenhouse effect.

"I don't see the potential for a runaway greenhouse effect involving methane.

But I do see the possibility that methane in ocean hydrates and carbon that's frozen into permafrost soils, could eventually release carbon to the atmosphere that would add to the cumulative effect from all the CO2 that we've been releasing.

So the methane wouldn't have much effect on climate in the next decades, but hundreds of years from now the carbon from methane and from permafrost soils could sort of be like 'matching funds'. We put in so much carbon from fossil fuels, and then the Earth throws in an amount that matches what we do, or something like that.
"

David Archer is an acknowledged expert on long-term carbon, and on methane. He is currently doing research on the amounts of methane locked up in ocean clathrates. So why isn't he as concerned as some other scientists about the discovery of methane rising out of the East Siberian sea beds?

That is a powerful question, and I refer you to David Archer's articles, like this, and this, in the respected science blog realclimate.org.

And maybe this analysis by Joe Romm.

I'll just say that for methane to enter the ice crystal form requires some serious pressure. It happens in deep oceans, which can't have warmed too much, or deep in the sea bed (hundreds of meters down) - and probably that hasn't melted much yet either.

In fact, Archer says, we don’t' know enough about this yet to be sure that the methane found off the Siberian coast is new (as opposed to part of a thousands year long warming trend) - or that it has been triggered by human-induced climate change.

In any event, Archer, like Carlos Duarte, thinks methane will be a smaller long term problem - chronic rather than catastrophic. In the interview, we discuss the difference, and what it would take to create a catastrophic methane release.

[Archer interview]

As I said, not everyone agrees with David Archer. This is a hot debate among scientists, right now. Some journalists and citizen activist are leaping into the discussion as well. See this closely reasoned rebuttal to David Archer's article, by Gary Houser.

Houser has interviewed the Russian scientists, and many others, for an upcoming documentary film he is making. I'm hoping PBS or the BBC will pick that film up when it's completed. We'll see. Does anyone care about a threat big enough to burn out the world's crops, and kill billions of people? Maybe that isn't "popular".


Everyone agrees, the big changes in the Arctic, from sea ice melt, through melting Greenland, drying Tundra peat and fires - not to mention thawing permafrost - its one big dangerous mess in the Arctic. But so far, it's still smaller than the big dangerous mess of a civilization intent on transferring all the stored fossil sunlight back into our atmosphere, with oil, gas,
coal, deforestation, and agriculture.

Naturally you want me to give you a conclusion. But both sides have convinced me! I can panic with nothing real to worry about. Or I can not worry about my growing sense of panic. Pretty lame choices.

The Russian scientists, including Natalia Shakhova told the world press that an earthquake could release up to 50 gigatonnes of methane in a single burst, from all the bubbles accumulated under the Siberian sea bed. That could create heat waves for a decade or more, around the world, and devastation to the world's crops. Imagine the social and political consequences.

The origins of the 50 gigatonne methane calculation can be found in this scientific paper.

"Anomalies of methane in the atmosphere over the East Siberian shelf: Is there any sign of methane leakage from shallow shelf hydrates?"

[N. Shakhova (1,2), I. Semiletov (1,2), A. Salyuk (2), D. Kosmach (2)
(1) International Arctic Research Center of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, USA
(2) V.I. Il’ichov Pacific Oceanological Institute, Far-eastern Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences, Vladivostok, Russia]

Geophysical Research Abstracts, Vol. 10, EGU2008-A-01526, 2008

Oh, and before I forget, David Archer is also offering a free university-style climate course online! Yep, you can sign up for "Open Climate Science 101", learn the science, and if you complete successfully, get a certificate from Archer. It's a great opportunity to educate yourself in the world's most important topic.

He's also got some helpful online video lectures, but for some reason I couldn't get them to work in my browser when I visited. Maybe you can.

As I stewed about this, David Archer came back with another bit of audio he'd recorded in his office. It's an awful bet. Here is Archer's point about worst-case scenarios and being right or wrong.

Archer:

"The most catastrophic proposal that I've heard comes from Shakhova who says that there are 50 gigatonnes of methane gas as bubbles underneath the sediments on the Arctic Siberian shelf, which could all come out all at once.

I don't know if I believe that the slow warming that is happening there could trigger all that to come out all at once. You would need some sort of a trigger, like, I don't know, some sort of huge earthquake or something. But if it did come out all at once, there's an interactive model that I published on my web page, that you can play with, and see what happens.

If you put in 50 gigatonnes of methane, all coming out in a year, you can compare the climate forcing, the radiative forcing energy imbalance, cause by that methane - you can compare that against the radiative forcing caused by fossil fuel CO2. And what you'd find is that the forcing from the methane after a big burp like that would be much bigger than the forcing is today from fossil fuel CO2.

But it would go away in a couple of decades. And by the end of the century, the forcing from fossil fuel CO2 will be higher even than the methane spike was, even at it's worst.

So, it almost seems to me like it would be a change for humanity to sort of try it before we buy it for keeps with CO2. It might not even be such a bad thing at that
."

So there you have it. Maybe a good burst of methane, and a climate shock, is what we need to bring humanity to our senses, to make us finally get out of denial and act.

It's a horrible thought, but nothing else has worked so far.

You can post your thoughts in comments to this blog, or write me at this address: radio /at/ ecoshock.org

Visit our web site ecoshock.org, and subscribe to our podcast, if you want to hear the next installments on this mega-story of the planet's future.

Next week, I'm off to the annual conference of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, to record as much as I can for you.

Thank you for listening - and caring about your world.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Fracking - The Rest of the Story

http://bit.ly/yVj7Jt Gasland director Josh Fox arrested at U.S. Congress Hearing on Fracking Feb 1, 2012. Speakers Rep Harris (R-MD), Rep Miller (D-NC), Kathleen Sgamma (Industry), John Fenton (well poisoned, Pavillion Wyoming), Theo Colborne (on air pollution health impacts of fracking, for Great Lakes United NGO). Then interview with EPA whistle-blower Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, inspiration for the No Fear Act. Radio Ecoshock 120208 1 hour.

In this program, you'll hear the voices of Congress, and the voices Congress doesn't want you to hear.

First Josh Fox, the Oscar nominated director of the documentary "Gasland" is arrested at the Energy and Environment Subcommittee - on EPA Hydraulic Fracturing Research. Acting Chair Andy Harris had Fox arrested for trying to film this Hearing, despite pleas from minority head Brad Miller, for freedom of the press.

Then listen Congressman Harris denounce Obama and the EPA for lack of "transparency". Why doesn't he want to be on camera? Harris attacks the EPA, and promotes the glories of the oil and gas industry, especially fracking.

But first, we hear the voices Congress didn't. Fred Fenton, rancher from Pavillion Wyoming, speaks of the suffering and neglect of those living in gas industry polluted zones. His is just one of several suffering as groundwater was poisoned by fracking chemicals. Listen to 4 speakers in the press conference call organized by WORC, the Western Organization of Resource Councils. (25 min).

Here is the Q and A (16 min)

US Representative Andy Harris, Republican from Maryland denounced the EPA study - that showed hydraulic fracking for gas poisoned ground water in Pavillion, Wyoming. The wells are owned by the Calgary-based Canadian energy company Encana.

Here is a link to that draft study, and this to the press release that went with it.

Congressman Brad Miller, Democrat from North Carolina shows up as the only person to speak for fracking victims and the EPA.

Also in this program: Theo Colborne of TEDX, The Endocrine Disruption Exchange, tells you about the choking, toxic air-born chemicals from fracking.

At this Energy and Environment Subcommittee - EPA Hydraulic Fracturing Research, held February 1st, 2012 in Washington, the EPA witness was Regional Administrator James B. Martin. His defense of the science and his agency was weak.

As we'll hear in our concluding interview with whistle-blower Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is already weakened from within by persistent racism, sexism, and cover-ups for corporate America.

This program is stuffed with audio. Find still more bonus audio and source material linked below.

THE HOUSE HEARING ON FRACKING

As Committee Sub-Chairman Andy Harris begins, and calls repeatedly for "transparency", keep in mind his action before the web cameras were turned on. Harris had Josh Fox, the famous Director of the Oscar-nominated fracking film "Gas Land" arrested.

In our program, you hear the opening remarks of Rep Harris, a powerful spokesman for the oil and gas industry, promoter of fracking, and acidic critic of the Environmental Protection Agency, or any need for the Federal Government to interfere with industry. Even when sick citizens call for action, when the State fails to protect them.

Then a rebuttal by Democratic Congressman Brad Miller. Miller, from North Carolina, seems to be the only one in the room who cares about fracking victims, and supports the EPA. Maybe that is because Miller is not seeking re-election in North Carolina - so he doesn't need the oil and gas industry kick-back money (I'm sorry, "campaign donations") that most Congressmen and Senators crave.

The witnesses were heavily stacked in favor of the fossil industry. Wyoming sent Tom Doll, from the Wyoming Oil & Gas Conservation Commission. The State makes big money from fracking. Tom Doll claimed the EPA caused the pollution they found just by drilling two test wells. Even the man-made chemicals must have come from this testing, Doll seems to suggest.

Next up, Ms. Kathleen Sgamma, was a PR person from the Western Energy Alliance. She told the Hearing "mistakes happen" - but the fracking industry is still fabulous. I found her hacking at science and the EPA hard to listen to.

Note Ms. Sgamma's claim the "Ground Water Protection Council" finds fracking is a low pollution risk. Of course they do. This so-called "Protection Council" admits right on their web site they were established to sell the public on the safety of deep well injection technology. That is how the fracking industry disposes of millions of gallons of toxic liquids.

That is where we end in this Radio Ecoshock broadcast. But the hearing went on for another hour, without really saying a lot - unless you enjoy unwinding industry double-speak.

The fill list of "witnesses" (such as they were) includes:

Mr. James B. Martin, Regional Administrator, Region 8, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Mr. Tom Doll, State Oil & Gas Supervisor, Wyoming Oil & Gas Conservation Commission
Ms. Kathleen Sgamma, Vice President, Government & Public Affairs, Western Energy Alliance
Dr. Bernard Goldstein, Professor and Dean Emeritus, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh

The official Chair is supposed to be Republican Ralph M Hall. At around age 89, Hall is the oldest serving member of Congress. He did ask a couple of questions, but nobody was too sure who he was addressing.

The real head of the Committee is Andy Harris. He runs the show - including running any media out of town, before the official cameras come on.

I'm offering you the bare recording from the Republican led House Committee titled "Fractured Science – Examining EPA’s Approach to Ground Water Research: The Pavillion Analysis." The recording is 1 hour 40 minutes, taken from a House web cam, recorded by Alex Smith of Radio Ecoshock.

This is the big file CD Quality version (90 megabytes).

Or try the faster downloading Lo-Fi version (23 MB).

You can also watch the hearing in video on this page - but notice THEY CENSORED OUT all mentions of the media being kicked out!! The "official version" caught in the act, when compared to my live recording.

BUSH SAID FRACKING DOESN'T NEED TO BE REGULATED

In 2004, a law was passed prohibiting the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating fracking under the Safe Drinking Water Act. It was a Bush era give-away to the industry, which has left Americans blinded to the impacts of fracking on water supplies, and the very toxic chemicals used by the industry.

In a strange co-incidence, which company became the largest supplier of technology and toxic chemicals to the fracking industry? Remember Vice-President Dick Cheney, former CEO of... that's right, Haliburton! This
mega-corporation made more billions, in part because the fracking industry dodged the Safe Drinking Water Act, or really, any regulatory oversight at all.

THE LITTLE TOLD STORY: FRACKING CONTAMINATION OF THE AIR

What about the impacts of all the volatile chemicals going into the air? The EPA does not monitor that either.

There haven't been any real studies of air pollution health impacts of fracking for either workers or people who live near fracking. Many of them are sick.

Before you say "they shouldn't have let the companies in" - remember, especially in the West, most homeowners and ranchers don't hold the underground rights. In the case of Pavillion Wyoming, those rights were held either by the Federal Bureau of Land Management, or by native tribes. Fracking can pop up anywhere, and put 24 hour-a-day wells, generators, trucks, and pumps within 400 feet of your bedroom window. It's all perfectly legal, even if it kills you.

Gas fracking is booming all over the world, in the UK, in Canada, in New Zealand, Australia and more.

This is Radio Ecoshock. I'm Alex Smith, and here is, as the famous broadcaster Paul Harvey used to say, "the rest of the story" - on air pollution from fracking.

THEO COLBORNE

Our speaker in the program is Theo Colborne, founder of TEDX, The Endocrine Disruption Exchange at endocrinedisruption.org. Theo was speaking in a press teleconference for the non-profit citizens' group Great Lakes United, on January 10th, 2012.

You can download a recording of the whole teleconference from the "Energy" section at our web site, ecoshock.org. Or find it linked below.

I recommend it. You will hear so many people sick, and worried sick, about fracking.

The Great Lakes United conference call (1 hour 24 minutes) in CD Quality (big file! 77 MB)

Or try the smaller Lo-Fi version (19 MB)

The recording of Theo Colborne in this week's Radio Ecoshock show is specifically about the health impacts of AIR POLLUTION from fracking, not the usual water pollution concerns. For a video of Theo talking about the water impacts, see this Democracy Now video.

WHISTLE-BLOWING THE EPA - DR. MARSHA COLEMAN-ADEBAYO

At the start of this program we delved into the House Hearing on an EPA study. I was distressed to see the weak presentation by the EPA Regional Administrator. Maybe the EPA Regional Administrator was told to lie low, since the Republicans and their Tea Party friends are threatening to kill off the whole EPA if they can.

It turns out the EPA itself, even as it is hobbled by industry and the White House, is also weakened by a long regime of disturbing behavior.

It's an honor to talk with Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, who has been through it all.

Marsha is the author of "No Fear: A Whistleblower's Triumph Over Corruption and Retaliation at the EPA."


Essentially, Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo went to work for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency with the naive hope to protect the environment - and people.

With her expertise in African affairs, and a degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), she was quickly promoted to a key role. Marsha was appointed as a White House liaison in talks between the Vice President, Al Gore, and then Vice President of South Africa, Tabo Mbeki (who later became President after Nelson Mandela.)

As an African American woman working at the EPA, Coleman-Adebayo encountered disgusting racism and sexism. Then she found conditions in the slums of South Africa to be intolerable. But what probably pushed her over the edge was a realization that her role was to represent the interests of U.S. multi-national corporations, not the environment.

That came to a head as Coleman-Adebayo was approached for help for miners digging and processing the metal called "Vanadium". This is a strategic metal, because it makes other metals less brittle, when then are heated. For example, whether a car engine or a jet engine, metals become brittle with reheating, unless they also contain vanadium. America needs it.

There is big money in mining vanadium in South Africa, especially when you don't have to provide any safety equipment to protect workers from the toxic vanadium dust. Or pay for any decent housing. Or cover their health care costs when they become sick, disabled, or dead.

Coleman-Adebayo raise this issue, showing how little it would cost to at least provide breathing masks for works. She was told to shut up about it. A big U.S. corporation owned the mines. She couldn't shut up.

Finally, Marsha sued the U.S. Government, for racial and sex discrimination, and bullying in the workplace. Almost everybody loses against the government. Coleman-Adebayo won.

Her court win was so unusual, she managed to gather support from both Republicans and Democrats to pass an act to protect whistleblowers. It is called the No Fear Act. Marsha calls it the first civil rights legislation of the 21st century. Listen to her moving story, and her description of the requirements of this new Act.

It's still never really over. After winning her court case, Coleman-Adebayo went back to work for the EPA. They fired her. She says it's because she sued. Marsha is back in court, this time for wrongful dismissal.

Download this 19 minute Radio Ecoshock interview with Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo in CD Quality (17 MB)

Or this Lo-Fi version (4 MB)

Visit her web site here.

Subscribe to our free weekly podcast, by clicking the podcast symbol at ecoshock.org

Next week we'll talk about the emergency in the Arctic, with some of the world's best climate scientists.

I'm Alex Smith, thank you for listening.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Forever Planting (for Peak Oil & Climate Change)

http://bit.ly/xFN24v Speech by Wes Jackson of the Land Institute to ASPO 2011 (the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas USA) in Washington D.C. Recorded by Gerri Williams for Ecoshock. Plus, carbon-cycle Australian scientist Dr. Michael Raupach of CSIRO on carbon to soil solutions, including biochar. Radio Ecoshock 120201 1 hour

PLANTING A LONG-TERM SOLUTION

We depend utterly on fossil fuels, especially to grow our food. From natural gas comes the millions of tons of fertilizers. Oil provides herbicides and pesticides. All is planted and harvested with oil power, driven, shipped or flown to your table.

For now. Until fossil fuels become too expensive, too rare, too polluting to use. We only have a short time to find other ways.

Wes Jackson offers some answers, for our food supply during peak oil and climate change. Raised on a Kansas farm, Jackson is a biologist, a geneticist, and botanist. In 1976 he left university life to found "The Land Institute", which he still heads. He's going to explain "natural systems agriculture", in a powerful speech given to the Association for the Study of Peak Oil USA. Recorded in Washington D.C. November 4, 2011 by Gerri Williams for Radio Ecoshock.

Then we'll hear a different assessment of the potential for sequestering carbon in the soil, and biochar, from carbon cycle expert Dr. Michael Raupach of the Australian national science agency, CSIRO.

This Radio Ecoshock program is part of our "Big Picture" solutions series.