Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Over the Climate Cliff

FRYING AUSTRALIA

Do you want to know what the future looks like? Try Australia, where bats falls dead out of the sky, and tennis players drop like flies in the heat. Coming right up: a report from the hot front with Cam Walker, Friends of Earth Australia.

Cam Walker is Friends of the Earth (FoE) Australia’s campaigns coordinator and has been active on environment and climate justice issues for more than 20 years.

How hot is it? When pavement melts and eggs fry on shovels, it must be Australia at the start of 2014. Its affecting the economy down-under. A lot of outdoor work has been cancelled as it's just too dangerous when temperatures are above 35 degrees C, hotter than 110 Fahrenheit. Some downtown streets look like a ghost-town, as people stay home, "hunkered down" against the heat.



Download/listen to this Radio Ecoshock Show 140122 in CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)

The wildlife is taking it hard. No doubt you've heard about the tens of thousands, some say hundreds of thousands of bats who fell dead out of the sky. Animals from lemurs to Kangaroos are in trouble - as are cattle on farms. Water is so hard to come by in some places, the local governments advise people to put buckets of water out in the back yard for wildlife.

Wildfires have multiplied rapidly in the past week. Thankfully they haven't killed a lot of people yet, as in years past. But it's hot dangerous work fighting them, and the next tragedy may be waiting as all vegetation becomes tinder under the burning sun. Cam Walker relays reports of "heat storms" - lightning (that starts fires) and wind without any rain. Like a dry thunderstorm.

This all comes after Australia had it's hottest year ever in 2013

. The research on causes of this incredible string of heat waves in Australia isn't complete. There are so many factors, ranging from the record hot ocean temperatures, through changes in the Monsoon and Indian Ocean, to the same distortions of the jet stream seen in the Northern Hemisphere. All in all, as James Hansen says, the dice are loaded. This extreme weather would not be happening without climate change.

Amazing to me: Australians just voted in a government of climate change deniers. Tony Abbott is dismantling all the good climate work done by previous governments. Things like the carbon tax and environmental regulations are dumped overboard, as Abbott goes for a suicidal expansion of coal mining and exports! Let's see how hot we can make the world, and Australia, and how fast! There's lots of money in that, mate. Until the bill comes due.

Download/listen to just the Cam Walker interview on Australia in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

ATMOSPHERIC RIVERS DROWN THE LAND

Then we're back to sky science. Atmospheric rivers move below the Jet Stream, carrying more water than the Amazon, and dumping it suddenly causing floods below. Expert David Lavers explains.



Why have there been so many strange floods lately in many parts of the world? Will this get worse as Earth's climate warms?

Dr. David A. Lavers is a Postdoctoral Research Scholar, formerly at the University of Redding in the United Kingdom, and now in the Hydroscience and Engineering department at the University of Iowa. His paper "Future Changes in atmospheric rivers and their implications for winter flooding in Britain" says we can expect more damaging floods to come.

We talk about why atmospheric rivers love to land in Britain. But really they hit the whole of Europe, from Spain through France and even Scandinavia.

Americans usually get more than their fair share of atmospheric river action. Just one of these giant wet streams in the air, as much as 1,000 miles long, and often only one to two hundred miles wide, can carry more water than the whole Amazon River. If the weather pattern sticks, delivering an AR to California for example, it can dump a foot or more of rain in one or two days. California could sure use one now, as they go into the biggest drought in recorded history!

There is scientific speculation that an atmospheric river caused the flooding in Boulder Colorado last year. They can even reach the East Coast.

In another show, I'll have to cover the mother of all rainstorms, the ARkStorm. The U.S. Geological Survey, a government agency, organized municipal disaster people in California a few years back. They found evidence of giant storms and floods that hit ever few hundred years. It's called "ARkStorm" as in Atmospheric River k (for one thousand year storm) storm. The last one hit California in 1862 and flooded much of the state. If that were to happen today, the food supply for much of North America would be wiped out, not to mention the human hardship and economic damage. It could even cause a world-wide Depression, give our current fragile state of the economy. I'll get to it in another show.

Meanwhile find out what atmospheric rivers are, and how they affect our lives (including in the Southern Hemisphere).

Download this Radio Ecoshock interview on atmospheric rivers in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

OUR LAST BEST HOPE FOR A FUTURE ON EARTH

Then it's journalist and author Alan Weisman. His previous book looked at the world without us. Now it's "Countdown, Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth". Are we headed for biological burnout?



I had my doubts about this book. After all, we've heard plenty about the threat(s) of overpopulation, and the usual answers (like women's education). Answers that hardly ever happen.

We are adding about 240 thousand more humans every day. Meanwhile the planetary impact of most people continues to expand, as we trample down more than half of all vegetation on Earth, and most of the species.

You know that. Apparently, just knowing is not "half the battle" as GI Joe says. We actually need to do something.

Alan Weisman presumes that most of us will not allow a government to dictate how many children we have, as China famously did. So he went on a several year quest, around the world, to find what latent capabilities there are in each culture to change the big family meme.

He found it, even in most religions. We talk about one Muslim example in Iran. The Supreme Ayatollah there said there was nothing in the Koran forbidding birth control. That country implemented a mandatory course in the cost of raising children, and birth control, for everyone getting marries. It worked.

I did read Alan's new book. He's a top quality writer (which is probably why Alan's work is published in the best known magazines.) The book is almost a travelogue, to places and mental spaces you and I have never been.

His stories from Pakistan are very revealing. That country is pretty well doomed by too many people for their resource base. There are already 180 million Pakistanis, in a country about the size of Texas. On their current path, it will be 400 million by the end of the century. Of course, the country will crash well before that. Are we all ready for the consequences?

Download/listen to the Radio Ecoshock interview with Alan Weisman in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Here is the Facebook page for Alan and this book.

HOW TO CONTACT ME

I get some of my best tips from you, the listener. Sorry I can't cover it all, but I follow up on every one. Feel free to send along news and ideas, to radio //at//ecoshock.org

The show web site, with all our previous programs as free .mp3 downloads, is ecoshock.org.

By the way, you are the publicity department. I have no staff to cross post the program, forward it on Facebook, or Tweet it all over. I count on you to do that, to get this vital information out as widely as possible.

This is Alex Smith, signing off - and thank you for caring about your world.

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