We interrupt your life to bring you a moment of beauty.
A wonderful set of photographs sent to me by John Hurlburt. The first ten below with more over the coming weeks.
We interrupt your life to bring you a moment of beauty.
A wonderful set of photographs sent to me by John Hurlburt. The first ten below with more over the coming weeks.
The third set from Bob D.
Now a bonus of one other picture that crossed my screen, so to speak, that I wanted to share with you. (Think it was from Naked Capitalism.)
You all have a good week.
Yet more fabulous pictures from Bob D.
If you missed the first set or just fancy looking at the pictures again, then click here.
Can we mend our broken ways? Just possibly.
Yesterday’s long rant was the outcome of me promising ‘a debate’ with Patrice Ayme. Succinctly, I had disagreed with a comment from Patrice where he had written: “Force is the truth of man. Everything else is delusion, even the vegetarian style.” and wanted to respond within the space of a post rather than the more restrictive comment.
For my disagreement with Patrice had been essentially about his statement, ‘Force is the truth of man‘. I don’t recall a war in the last 50 years that has been a force for good.
But then it was Alex’s comment, see below, that stopped me short. For I realised that I was confusing ‘force’ with ‘war’ and that was probably a big mistake on my behalf. Of course, I’m writing this without the benefit of knowing better what Patrice meant in his comment! Blogging, as powerful a media as it is, does not provide for immediate interaction!
Nevertheless, Alex’s comment yesterday was powerfully inspirational. Because so many of us (and I include me in that ‘us’) all too often behave as though we are a species utterly divorced from Nature.
I closed yesterday’s post with these words;
So what to do? Because I am fundamentally at odds with the sentiment expressed by Patrice Ayme; “Force is the truth of man. Everything else is delusion, even the vegetarian style.“
The answer takes us to tomorrow’s post, A return to integrity.
And, yes, it does mention dogs! Rather a lot as it happens!
Dogs are the one species that man has lived with longer than any other species. So when we refer to the qualities of the dog it is simply because we are so familiar with them. In no way does that exclude the numerous other species that bond with man and share the same wonderful qualities.
Qualities so easily seen: Love, Honesty, Loyalty, Trust, Openness, Faithfulness, Forgiveness and Affection. Together they are Integrity.
Of course dogs will kill a rabbit, for example, as readily as a cat will kill a mouse. In this respect force is the truth of Nature.
The only way for species man to survive on this planet is for every element of man’s existence on this planet to be rethought of in terms of the natural order. Read the comment left by Alex in yesterday’s post:
Hi Paul, what you highlight are examples of disconnection between humanity with nature and each other. I have on my own blog highlighted a concept of Ubuntu – “I am because we are” – which is only possible when the self realises they are part of an inter-connected network of life. Your example of islands of fragmented forest where disconnected wildlife are dying out is how it is with disconnected humanity, we are doomed to destruction because we are cut off from the life-giving connection to nature.
All the problems you highlight are symptoms of the disease of disconnection, until there is reconnection to nature none of these symptoms can be successfully addressed.
War is an integral part of nature, when people seek to dismiss this then they add to the disconnection from nature. I was stung in the face by a drunken wasp a few days ago, this is how it is with nature, it is beautiful but also brutal. Peace and balance are illusions, life is in a becoming because of unbalance and strife. I advocate harmony, like a downhill skier we do not seek to control our surroundings, but instead act in harmony by moving around the obstacles such as rock and tree.
Disconnection can be as large as destroying whole forests by ignorant energy policies to those idiots who kicked a puffball to pieces before I could harvest it, or the new owners of my former home who have taken a chainsaw to all the trees and bushes in the garden. People who are disconnected do not consider how their actions impact nature or people contrary to the philosophy of Ubuntu.
“I am because we are!” Each and every one of us is where we are today, for good or ill, because of what we are: part of Nature. It’s so incredibly obvious – we are a natural species – yet who reading this wouldn’t admit at times to behaving “as though we are a species utterly divorced from Nature.”
Millions of us have pets and animals that we love. Yet we still miss the key truth of our pets. That we are a part of Nature, subject to Natural order, just as much as our pets are. We have so much to learn from our animals.
Take this rather sad story but, nonetheless, a formidable story of the integrity of one species for another. Watch the video.
Take this rather happier story about the integrity of one species for another. Watch the video.
Thus when we see the extraordinary benefits that arise from love and trust, from loyalty and faithfulness, and much more, why oh why is so much of our society fundamentally broken?
As John Hurlburt wrote in a recent email, it is because, “we are spiritual bankrupt. We spend too much of our time thinking about ourselves and what we want and too little of our time thinking about other people and what we all need.” John went on to add that this spiritual bankruptcy had preceded our moral and economical bankruptcy. He pointed out that the solution to our moral and financial problems, as well as our salvation as individuals and as a species, is spiritual. “We simply need to love the Nature of God, the earth and each other regardless of what we may believe God to be.”
Now whether you are a religious soul, or a heathen, or somewhere in the middle, it matters not. For if we continue to defy Nature and the natural laws of this planet we are going to be dust before the end of this century. Again in John’s powerful words:
Denying climate change is a death wish.
Nature always wins in the long run.
Nature is balanced. Are we?
As if to endorse the great examples that Nature offers us in terms of the benefits of love and trust, take a look at these three recent photographs from here in Oregon.
Now these are not photographs to ‘ooh’ and ‘ah’ over, these are reminders that kindness, generosity, selflessness and trust are part of Nature. All the great virtues and values of man do not come from a vacuum, they come to us via Nature.
We have been blessed by an evolution that has allowed mankind to achieve remarkable things. Even to the point of leaving the confines of our planet and setting foot on the Moon and sending probes from out of our Solar System. There’s a sense, a distinctly tangible sense, that man has conquered all; that we have broken the link from being part of Nature; from being of Nature.
And now Mother Earth is reminding all of her species, every single one of them including species man, that everything is bound by her Natural Laws.
Does this mean that man has to revert to some form of pre-civilised stone-age era? Of course not! Progress can be as much within the Natural order than in competition with it, as it has been in recent times. In fact, Professor Pat Shipman explains our progress is benefited by being part of that Natural order. Here’s how Amazon describe her book, The Animal Connection.
The Animal Connection: A New Perspective on What Makes Us Human
A bold, illuminating new take on the love of animals that drove human evolution.
Why do humans all over the world take in and nurture other animals? This behavior might seem maladaptive—after all, every mouthful given to another species is one that you cannot eat—but in this heartening new study, acclaimed anthropologist Pat Shipman reveals that our propensity to domesticate and care for other animals is in fact among our species’ greatest strengths. For the last 2.6 million years, Shipman explains, humans who coexisted with animals enjoyed definite adaptive and cultural advantages. To illustrate this point, Shipman gives us a tour of the milestones in human civilization-from agriculture to art and even language—and describes how we reached each stage through our unique relationship with other animals. The Animal Connection reaffirms our love of animals as something both innate and distinctly human, revealing that the process of domestication not only changed animals but had a resounding impact on us as well.
It’s a powerful read and greatly recommended. Here’s an extract from the book [page 274, my emphasis]:
Clearly, part of the basis of our intimacy with tame or domesticated animals involves physical contact. People who work with animals touch them. It doesn’t matter if you are a horse breeder, a farmer raising pigs, a pet owner, a zoo keeper, or a veterinarian, we touch them, stroke them, hug them. Many of us kiss our animals and many allow them to sleep with us. We touch animals because this is a crucial aspect of the nonverbal communication that we have evolved over millennia. We touch animals because it raises our oxytocin levels – and the animal’s oxytocin levels. We touch animals because we and they enjoy it.
From the first stone tool to the origin of language and the most recent living tools, our involvement with animals has directed our course.
So to round this off. These last two posts came from my need to debate with Patrice the statement that “Force is the truth of man.” If Patrice’s meaning was that the truth of man is subject to the force of Nature, then I agree one-hundred percent.
For the time for man to recognise that the force of Nature is “the truth of man” is running out.
Each of us, whoever you are, for the sake of your children and for all of the children in the world, embrace today the qualities, the values of Nature.
Love, Honesty, Loyalty, Trust, Openness, Faithfulness, Forgiveness, Affection.
If you can resist treating a rich friend better than a poor friend,
If you can face the world without lies and deceit,
If you can say honestly that deep in your heart you have no prejudice against creed, colour, religion or politics,
Then, my friend, you are almost as good as your dog.
Let us learn from dogs.
Our beautiful planet.
As is the way of things, two completely disconnected events rang out yesterday, as if in harmony.
The first was this stunning picture released by NASA.
The full description may be read here, but I have taken the liberty of republishing this extract:
Earth, which is 898 million miles (1.44 billion kilometers) away in this image, appears as a blue dot at center right; the moon can be seen as a fainter protrusion off its right side. An arrow indicates their location in the annotated version. The other bright dots nearby are stars.
Now it doesn’t take too much imagination to put that minute speck of light, our Planet Earth, into its scale of meaning and importance vis-a-vis the universe. You get my message, I’m sure.
Excellent article. Clearly primary temperate rain forest, nearly gone everywhere except in the American North west, has to be reintroduced.
Sheep ought not to be removed by man, but be removed by wolf, bear, felids. Cows would feel whole, having to fight off lions. And man’s sense of what nature means, vital to insure our survival, would blossom in this hour of need, when we have arisen as the planet’s gods. gods of evil, or gods of wisdom? That is the most important question.
To everybody I say this. (And I am most certainly not excluding me.) When you next look at yourself in the mirror will you make a decision? Will you be a god of evil or a god of wisdom?
The power of mankind’s footprint on Planet Earth.
Last Friday, I published a post under the title of People, people, everywhere! Coincidentally, that same day over on Transition Town Payson‘s blog a post was published Urban Sprawl, a Vision from Space! It seemed like a fitting follow-on to that post on Learning from Dogs and is reproduced with the kind permission of the TTP team (thanks Rob).
Posted on June 28, 2013
Urban Sprawl has a major impact on all our Resources!
In the Sun Belt Areas of our country, phenomenal growth has occurred over the past 30 years. Satellite images from 1984 through 2012 show the impacts on the Landscape in a time lapse image that is a scary picture of what the next 30 years may bring.
A blog article from the Atlantic Cities website forwarded to me by my friend Dave H. It is a geographic time lapse of satellite images provided by Google. Their article titled “The Devastating Impact of 30 Years of Sprawl, as Seen From Space.” gives startling images of how our cities have grown.
“These GIFs were recorded from Google’s “Landsat Annual Time Lapse” tool by Samuel Aston Williams, a young Texas architect. Williams wanted to contribute something new to a startling series of showing three decades of human-landscape intervention recently produced by a collaboration of Google, NASA, TIME and others.”
The Atlantic Cities also published a blog titled “A Terrifying, Fascinating Time lapse of 30 Years Impact on Earth.” The images in this blog shows development in other places on the earth in a scary 30 year blink of an eye.
“Since the 1970s, NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey have been amassing satellite images of every inch of our planet as part of the Landsat program. Over time, the images reveal a record of change: of cities expanding, lakes and forests disappearing, new islands emerging from the sea off the coast of rising Middle East metropolises like Dubai.
If you could thumb through these historic pictures as if in a flip book, they would show stunning change across the earth’s surface, in both our natural environments and our man-made ones. Now, the digital equivalent of that experience is possible – three decades of global change as GIF – in a project unveiled today between NASA, the USGS, TIME, Google, and the CREATE Lab at Carnegie Mellon University.
Landsat images taken between 1984 and 2012 have been converted into a seamless, navigable animation built from millions of satellite photos. As Google wrote this morning on its blog: “We believe this is the most comprehensive picture of our changing planet ever made available to the public.”
See the time lapse images here.
Here’s the Problem!
World Population Growth.
World population details here.
NASA has also been Following Urban Sprawl
“October 11, 2002: While space technology was undergoing its spectacular birth during the 1950s and ’60s, and visionaries were predicting the spread of human colonies into space, another kind of human colony was spreading rapidly–right here on Earth!
It was the dawn of the modern suburb, a time of post-war prosperity when housing developments popped up across the landscape like mushrooms after a rain.
A half-century later, we now understand that many environmental problems accompany the outward spread of cities: fragmenting and destroying wildlife habitat, for example, and discharging polluted runoff water into streams and lakes.”
More information here.
Urban Sprawl in the United States is covered in Photos by Christoph Gielen
The photo below was taken by Christoph Gielen. There is a symmetrical beauty to his aerial photos of Urban Areas. Please go to his Twisted Sifter website for phenomenal aerial photos of our Urban Centers.
Urban Sprawl is defined in detail at the Wiki website;
An interesting phenomena is that Sprawl is a term only used in America for Urban Growth, “The term “sprawl” is most often associated with US land use; outside the US (and especially outside the Anglosphere), the term “peri-urbanisation” is often used to denote similar dynamics and phenomena.”
Urban Sprawl and Public Health?
Smart Growth is the alternative to Urban Sprawl, unfortunately many people argue against high density living and it is still a contentious point. Do we continue to grow outward or upward. Will we feel more like rats trapped in a cage or free range rats. Read the following National Institute of Health article for their take on the impacts of Urban Sprawl vs. Smart Growth.
“Urban sprawl in the United States has its origins in the flight to the suburbs that began in the 1950s. People wanted to live outside of city centers to avoid traffic, noise, crime, and other problems, and to have homes with more square footage and yard space. As suburban areas developed, cities expanded in geographic size faster than they grew in population. This trend has produced large metropolitan areas with low population densities, interconnected by roads. Residents of sprawling cities tend to live in single-family homes and commute to work, school, or other activities by automobile.”
“Although there is considerable evidence that urban sprawl has adverse environmental impacts and contributes to a variety of health problems—including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and respiratory disease implementation of policies designed to combat sprawl, such as smart growth, has proven to be difficult.”
“Smart growth can be defined as a policy framework that promotes an urban development pattern characterized by high population density, walkable and bikeable neighborhoods, preserved green spaces, mixed-use development (i.e., development projects that include both residential and commercial uses), available mass transit, and limited road construction.”
From Wiki these are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Urban Sprawl
– More single family residences on larger lots.
– Lower land prices.
– Less experience of noise and pollution.
– Suburban areas generally associated with “sprawl” tend to have lower crime and higher-quality schools.
– Perceived overwhelming consumer preference for sprawl-type developments.
– High car dependence.
– Inadequate facilities e.g.: cultural, emergency, health, etc.
– Higher per-person infrastructure costs.
– Inefficient street layouts.
– Low diversity of housing and business types.
– Higher per-capita use of energy, land, and water.
– Perceived low aesthetic value
Our Human Colonies seem to be spreading about as fast as our ice caps are melting. I wonder if there is any correlation?
Is it time for mankind to adapt to a new future? No, it’s past time. We have a lot of catching up to do in implementing new technologies to provide sustainable growth options in all areas; industry, transportation, energy production, carbon footprints, food supply, to taking care of our precious fresh water supplies.
How do we make our cities more sustainable and resilient? Start with telling your national, state and local politicians that you want a sustainable future. Let’s work together and make this happen.
Urban Sprawl or Smart Growth, your choice!
Professor Mark Cochrane’s perspective on ‘certainty’!
I’m an avid follower of Mike Stasse’s blog Damn the Matrix. So it was rather fortuitous that two days ago there was a guest post on Mike’s blog from Mark Cochrane. Dr. Mark Cochrane is a Senior Scientist and Professor at South Dakota State University where one can read:
Dr. Mark Cochrane conducts interdisciplinary work combining ecology , remote sensing, and other fields of study to provide a landscape perspective of the dynamic processes involved in land-cover change. He is an expert on wildfire, documenting the characteristics, behavior and severe effects of fire in tropical and temperate forests that are inherent to current systems of human land-use and management. His research focuses on understanding spatial patterns, interactions and synergisms between the multiple physical and biological factors that affect ecosystems. Recently published work has emphasized the climate change, human dimensions of land-cover change and the potential for sustainable development.
The guest post was called Doom and Denial two sides of the same coin; I’m extremely grateful to Mike Stasse for granting me permission to republish the essay.
19th June 2013
Another guest post by Mark Cochrane…… and I hope Guy reads this, I’d like his feedback, no pun intended!
I’ve been asked by several people to address the take of climate ‘doomists’ like McPherson and indicate how my views on what the science indicates differ. First, let me just say that my differences with the doomist views are similar to my differences with the ‘denialist’ views, namely one of actually examining the scientific findings and concluding what they signify versus beginning with a conclusion and looking for evidence to support a pre-concluded viewpoint.
Appropriate use of science (or any information), requires weighing anything being newly reported against the rest of the accumulated evidence on a subject (e.g. climate change) that we have amassed, to date, and using this knowledge to infer the most probable meaning and significance. How credible is the source, how relevant are the results to the larger question, do the new results substantially change our previous understanding? If someone is presenting new ideas that claim to massively shift what we think we know about the world, have they been vetted (e.g. peer-reviewed), do they adequately explain how their new claims better explain observed phenomena than previous studies did and also detail why previous explanations were somehow erroneous? If the results are truly stunning, can they be replicated by others? Although some may find it hard to believe, there is a lot of space between climate denial and climate doom.
I’ve only seen the one talk now by McPherson but where the ‘we are doomed and soon’ meme falls apart is on general logic. You cannot say, there are positive feedbacks A, B and C, therefore life on Earth is suddenly going to end without considering:
If you listen to McPherson’s talk, what you get is a litany of disturbing findings, especially feedbacks, and then an expectation that you must reach the same conclusion that we are doomed, and soon. If someone would like to outline the chain of logic used, I’d be happy to discuss it. Even if you accept the chain of logic though, where, in any of it, is there evidence for the timeline being suggested?
There is considerable amount of concern about the feedbacks in the Arctic, with good reason, but people do things like linking the large amount of carbon stocks in the Arctic with rapid warming, with increased rates of release, with increased rates of warming……with the obvious end of all life on Earth – near-term extinction!
As anyone who has followed this thread knows, I am usually the one pointing out feedbacks and how most are not even included in current climate projections, in contradiction to those who claim such dire projections are all because of such feedbacks (which ‘skeptics’ claim don’t exist). This does not mean though that the existence of feedbacks means that we can then make the leap to a runaway greenhouse that will soon lead us to having the climate of Venus (atmospheric acid bath at temperatures that would melt lead). Perhaps providing some perspective on the recent material posted about the NASA CARVE project and what it means for all of that carbon in the (not so) permafrost will help.
As NASA recently reported (site),
“Over hundreds of millennia, Arctic permafrost soils have accumulated vast stores of organic carbon – an estimated 1,400 to 1,850 petagrams of it (a petagram is 2.2 trillion pounds, or 1 billion metric tons). That’s about half of all the estimated organic carbon stored in Earth’s soils. In comparison, about 350 petagrams of carbon have been emitted from all fossil-fuel combustion and human activities since 1850. Most of this carbon is located in thaw-vulnerable topsoils within 10 feet (3 meters) of the surface.”
“Permafrost soils are warming even faster than Arctic air temperatures – as much as 2.7 to 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 to 2.5 degrees Celsius) in just the past 30 years,” Miller said. “As heat from Earth’s surface penetrates into permafrost, it threatens to mobilize these organic carbon reservoirs and release them into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide and methane, upsetting the Arctic’s carbon balance and greatly exacerbating global warming.”
In other words, there is 4-5 times as much carbon sitting around in those frozen soils as we have already emitted that are becoming increasingly vulnerable to being thawed out for a portion of each year.
Once those soils thaw they become accessible to microorganisms that feed on the incompletely decomposed plant materials that they contain. If there is sufficient oxygen (warm relatively dry Arctic) the process is faster and the product is CO2, if the process is anaerobic (warm relatively wet Arctic), then the product is methane.
So warming leads to thawing, thawing leads to microbial decomposition, and microbial activity leads to carbon emissions. These emissions are a positive feedback that makes the current process of greenhouse gas warming worse since each degree of warming yields more greenhouse gases that speed up the warming process further. This is where the message of doom goes off the tracks and extrapolates erroneously that this somehow means that all of that carbon is going to suddenly find itself in the atmosphere.
Three meters (10ft) of soil carbon doesn’t just suddenly evaporate into the atmosphere in the next few years. Thawing permafrost is not synonymous with melting carbon. Even once permafrost melts, it is still very cold. However, bacteria can start digesting it – until it freezes again. Melted permafrost does not mean permanently melted. The surface layer of the Arctic lands are already in the active layer that temporarily thaws each year and then refreezes. Now, we are making more of the Arctic soil active to greater depths and at higher latitudes. This means that there will be more emissions from those soils.
Taken out of context snippets like this (below) from that NASA press piece can be made to sound catastrophic.
“Some of the methane and carbon dioxide concentrations we’ve measured have been large, and we’re seeing very different patterns from what models suggest,” Miller said. “We saw large, regional-scale episodic bursts of higher-than-normal carbon dioxide and methane in interior Alaska and across the North Slope during the spring thaw, and they lasted until after the fall refreeze. To cite another example, in July 2012 we saw methane levels over swamps in the Innoko Wilderness that were 650 parts per billion higher than normal background levels. That’s similar to what you might find in a large city.”
Parsing the quote, please note that “episodic bursts of higher-than-normal carbon dioxide and methane” in two locations (regions) does not mean the end is nigh. Higher-than-normal is just that, but how much higher and how long did it last? The scientists are saying that the observations do not match existing ‘models’ (models are wrong, a favorite meme), it doesn’t mean that such events haven’t been happening up until now (only that we didn’t know about them). As for the 650ppb increase over a swamp, that equates to being 1/3 higher than the background level. Methane and swamps go together so some higher level is to be expected. The question is if and by how much 650ppb is higher than it would have been back around 1980 or so? If it used to be 10ppb higher than background then you have a big change (640ppb), however, if it used to be 640ppb, then not so much (10ppb difference). Even if that is all new carbon being emitted, the local change becomes very small when diluted globally. The point here is not to poo-poo the findings or the scientist’s work, they are doing very important stuff (!), it is to provide context.
Just how bad could things be? I do not work in the high Arctic but I do work in similar organic soils in the tropics (peat swamps) where, because of intentional draining, the several meter thick peat layer that is ‘active’ is increased in an analogous manner to the effects of melting permafrost. Microbial degradation is occurring, with the difference that the temperature is very warm instead of being very cold. Think of how fast fruit spoils in your refrigerator versus on a hot window sill. In these tropical peat soils we see large amounts of CO2 coming off into the atmosphere each year now, but even with such large rates of loss, this equates to taking about 20-25 years to lose 1 meter of organic soil. In the Arctic the microbial degradation will be much slower due to the relatively low temperatures. This doesn’t mean that it is not important. Slow rates of emissions over a large area is still a lot of extra carbon going into atmosphere but this is a problem that is going to take centuries to play out, not less than a decade. It makes things worse but it doesn’t suddenly end life on Earth.
Incidentally, all of that soil carbon in the Arctic isn’t a uniform petri dish either. Some of that carbon is easier to access by bacteria than other portions. Emissions will rise quickly as the bacteria chew through the cellulose, for example, but things like lignin get left behind. The point being that even for a given mass of carbon in the ‘active’ layer, there will be a dampening of the emissions growth rate as the quality of the bacteria buffet goes down when it gets picked over.
I do not pretend to know what the motivations of ‘doomists’ are, whether it be honest despair or simple misunderstanding but they are conveying the same message of do nothing as those who deny the existence or importance of climate change. Denial = don’t worry be happy, while Doom = don’t worry, you can’t do anything about it anyway. Both viewpoints are wrong in trying to turn climate change into a false dichotomy of either fantasy or inevitability. Both the science and our choices are much more complicated. It’s uncomfortable but your choices do matter now and for generations to come. There is no ‘fixing’ things at this point but you still have the ability to choose how you react to the predicament we have created. Doom and denial are respectively trying to tell you that you either have no choice or no need to choose. But, as Philip K. Dick wrote:
“Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”
“If there’s any doubt, there’s no doubt!”
I opened the first post on Monday with the sub-heading: “Certainty is perfect knowledge secure from error or doubt.” going on to write that, “Whatever your views on the effect of man’s behaviours on our planet’s climate, it’s a long way from the logical idea of ‘2 + 2‘!”
Within that very strict definition, I remain unmoved. The argument that mankind is the cause of the present change in the climate of Planet Earth is not certain!
However, if only life was that simple! The change in our planet’s atmosphere is possibly the most emotionally-laden topic of all time. For some reason that quotation attributed to Hiram Johnson comes to mind, “The first casualty when war comes is truth.” because the supporters and deniers of AGW are engaged in what amounts to a verbal war.
Each side can draw on much information.
For example, a very recent article in The New York Times by their Justin Gillis offered this:
The rise in the surface temperature of earth has been markedly slower over the last 15 years than in the 20 years before that. And that lull in warming has occurred even as greenhouse gases have accumulated in the atmosphere at a record pace.
The slowdown is a bit of a mystery to climate scientists. True, the basic theory that predicts a warming of the planet in response to human emissions does not suggest that warming should be smooth and continuous. To the contrary, in a climate system still dominated by natural variability, there is every reason to think the warming will proceed in fits and starts.
But given how much is riding on the scientific forecast, the practitioners of climate science would like to understand exactly what is going on. They admit that they do not, even though some potential mechanisms of the slowdown have been suggested. The situation highlights important gaps in our knowledge of the climate system, some of which cannot be closed until we get better measurements from high in space and from deep in the ocean.
As you might imagine, those dismissive of climate-change concerns have made much of this warming plateau. They typically argue that “global warming stopped 15 years ago” or some similar statement, and then assert that this disproves the whole notion that greenhouse gases are causing warming.
Rarely do they mention that most of the warmest years in the historical record have occurred recently. Moreover, their claim depends on careful selection of the starting and ending points. The starting point is almost always 1998, a particularly warm year because of a strong El Niño weather pattern.
Dan Gomez, a long-time friend of over 40 years and a regular contributor to items on Learning from Dogs, wrote in a recent email,
I’m not sure what is meant by “believer”, Paul. The Universe unfolds as it should. Because many have been led to “believe” that AGW is inevitable and that all the facts are the ‘Truth”, we’ve created a religious substitute, almost a new “industry” with significant “tithing” obligations, etc. (e.g. Cap and Trade). Presumptions and facts are being manipulated to fulfill the prophecy.
Interesting to note in our daily lives, that weather prediction is very good 24-36 hrs out. This drops precipitously just a few days out. More than 7-10 days is nearly impossible. Even though both Europe and the USA have decreased CO2 levels by multiple percentage points over the last 20 years, the rest of the world does not care and the impact is very problematic. Recently, CO2 gas has increased overall but heat has not. In the past, warming has occurred followed by CO2 levels increasing. Global politics and redistribution of wealth schemes continue to interfere with common sense.
Let’s just deal with the facts as Science reveals its secrets. New information is discovered every day about the interaction of the Earth/Sun/Atmosphere/Lithosphere/Hydrosphere. New information is learned every day about the Universe. These are not closed subjects. Climatology, meteorology, geology and solar system dynamics will continue to shape the Earth’s future for millennia to come whether Man is involved or not.
There is much in what Dan writes that has me nodding my head; stimulates my recollection of what Luther Haave and Derek Alker wrote in 2009:
With the explosion of knowledge, particularly in the past 100 years, each of us has found it a requirement for being successful, and to being able to earn a living, to concentrate our knowledge in an ever increasingly narrow field. Just as we have come to expect others to defer to our expertise in our narrow area, we have come to assume that we need to defer to others who have a deeper comprehension of seemingly complex topics such as the science related to climate change. [Apologies, can’t find the web link for this.]
However, if we broaden the perspective from that tight definition of certainty to an analysis of probabilities, then it all changes for me and I can embrace the views so strongly put forward by Martin Lack.
For example, Martin left a comment on Monday, “ACD is not a matter of opinion or belief; it is a matter of probability. As such, all that matters now is the extremely high probability that the scientific consensus is real, reasonable and reliable.” That comment included a link to a discussion on the website Skeptical Science, Is the science settled? Let me quote from that:
Some aspects of the science of AGW are known with near 100% certainty. The greenhouse effect itself is as established a phenomenon as any: it was discovered in the 1820s and the basic physics was essentially understood by the 1950s. There is no reasonable doubt that the global climate is warming. And there is also a clear trail of evidence leading to the conclusion that it’s caused by our greenhouse gas emissions. Some aspects are less certain; for example, the net effect of aerosol pollution is known to be negative, but the exact value needs to be better constrained.
What about the remaining uncertainties? Shouldn’t we wait for 100% certainty before taking action? Outside of logic and mathematics, we do not live in a world of certainties. Science comes to tentative conclusions based on the balance of evidence. The more independent lines of evidence are found to support a scientific theory, the closer it is likely to be to the truth. Just because some details are still not well understood should not cast into doubt our understanding of the big picture: humans are causing global warming.
In most aspects of our lives, we think it rational to make decisions based on incomplete information. We will take out insurance when there is even a slight probability that we will need it. Why should our planet’s climate be any different?
That, ultimately, delivers for me what truly counts.
I am not a scientist; just a Brit living in Southern Oregon trying to make sense of the world while I still have a functioning head and body – time is not on my side! 😉 The powerful common-sense in the sentence, “Outside of logic and mathematics, we do not live in a world of certainties.” is beyond argument.
In the year 2012, the total number of passengers carried by US Airlines and other carriers in and out of the USA was a staggering 815 million people. 815,000,000 people!
Remember the sub-heading from the start of this post! “If there’s any doubt, there’s no doubt!” Years ago I heard that from Bob Derham, a long-time friend and a commercial airline Captain since the time God was a boy! It’s that cautious, safety-focused attitude that has made airline transport such an amazing mode of transport for all those millions of passengers.
Should we not travel with the same cautious, safety-focused attitude on the ‘vehicle’ that carries every man, woman and child; every animal, plant and living thing: Planet Earth!
The answer is obvious – more than obvious!
Rounding off the week.
Starting with Monday’s video of Carl Sagan reminding us all that Planet Earth is just a grain of sand in the vast cosmos right through to yesterday’s Dealing with madness post, much of the week has been reminding us all of one very fundamental truth. No better expressed than in a comment from Patrice Ayme [my emphasis]:
… there is no healthy man without a healthy world.
Regulars will have noted the high levels of debate this week. Thank you all for those comments.
I have also received a couple of emails with feedback and comments, sent to me on a personal basis. One of those emails had such a powerful message that I begged for permission to publish it on Learning from Dogs. I was asked to keep the author’s identity private but, trust me, it is from someone I know well who subscribes to ideas of integrity and honesty in spades.
The author also strongly recommended publishing in association with his personal essay an extract from Chris Hedges’ book “Death of the Liberal Class”. That extract follows straight on from the essay.
Reflections from a Vietnam Combat Veteran
War is an unnatural dichotomy. Both sides are morally and materially diminished. A future World War would most probably finish us as the self-appointed predominant intelligent species on planet earth. It seems worth noting that German industrialists coordinated fundamentalist propaganda to foster the bigotry, hatred and fear which fueled their profitable war engines prior to World War II.
United States commercial media today reflects a financially dominated military-industrial culture with liberty and justice for sale. The results are divisive and lead to both a declared international war against nebulous assailants we have been taught to dislike and an internal political war that has polarized our once fair nation.
We’ve stopped investing in the future in response to radicals who want to destroy government, human rights and what remains of the earth’s surface resources. There is an emerging police state mentality on display with a variety of candidates for local dictator.
It’s well past time for moderate republicans to ignore their uber-conservative brethren. It’s well past time for moderate democrats to renounce their corporate ties. This will only happen when our financial and political leaders awaken to the reality of what is in the best long-term interests for all life on this planet rather than our present unsustainable global economy.
To complicate the problem, our planet is under attack by a swarm of vociferous human locusts seeking profit without regard to the consequences. Meanwhile, despite human denial, the universe continues to emerge. Species which do not adapt to change do not survive.
It’s important to remember that we’re in the midst of a battle that’s as old as the conscious awareness of the human species. We generally have very little idea of the inclusive nature of our being; let alone the nature of our collective being as a species. We have as yet to learn how to surrender to reality. The battle is with our own species.
Committing collective suicide for quarterly profit is not a sane way of life. What we’ve created is a neo-feudal global economy without any foundation that feeds on an empire of consumption. When we combine a neo-feudal economy with neo-fascist politics we arrive at a moral and biological dead end.
The coup d’état of the current Corporate State is the Citizen’s United ruling that makes money a form of free speech. Money has no DNA. In case anyone missed how the “occupy” movement was crushed, there’s no question that we’re rapidly criminalizing all forms of dissent. These actions are being taking under the 1917 Espionage Act and related state secrets acts. No discernment of moral value is considered and no public hearings are conducted. People who speak up are locked up. We’ve become a fearful and secretive population.
Our self-appointed elite power structure is completely irrational in its belief that human reason is our ultimate power and money is its servant. We are made of the stuff of the stars. At best, we’re in our adolescence as a species. We think we know the answers rather than admitting our ignorance. What little we know is vastly less than what we have as yet to learn. We are often unaware of being unaware.
The lives we presently lead can not be sustained in ways that we have become accustomed to; ways we take for granted. What’s going to need to change? The simple answer is everything. Our species has systemically corrupted the small part of the cosmos which sustains our being. Nature has no sense of humor, no patience for human squabbles and no financial interest.
Fortunately, we already know what we need to do to adapt. We know how nature works through the wisdom of our earth sciences. The answer is simple. Love the earth. Love life. Share compassion. Educate, naturally energize, and transform. The resulting process of change will help re-establish a realistic world economic foundation.
By Chris Hedges
From the book “Death of the Liberal Class,” by Chris Hedges. Excerpted by arrangement with Nation Books, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright © 2010.
The following selection is taken from the first chapter of the book, published in October 201 by Nation Books.
In a traditional democracy, the liberal class functions as a safety valve. It makes piecemeal and incremental reform possible. It offers hope for change and proposes gradual steps toward greater equality. It endows the state and the mechanisms of power with virtue. It also serves as an attack dog that discredits radical social movements, making the liberal class a useful component within the power elite.
But the assault by the corporate state on the democratic state has claimed the liberal class as one of its victims. Corporate power forgot that the liberal class, when it functions, gives legitimacy to the power elite. And reducing the liberal class to courtiers or mandarins, who have nothing to offer but empty rhetoric, shuts off this safety valve and forces discontent to find other outlets that often end in violence. The inability of the liberal class to acknowledge that corporations have wrested power from the hands of citizens, that the Constitution and its guarantees of personal liberty have become irrelevant, and that the phrase consent of the governed is meaningless, has left it speaking and acting in ways that no longer correspond to reality. It has lent its voice to hollow acts of political theater, and the pretense that democratic debate and choice continue to exist.
The liberal class refuses to recognize the obvious because it does not want to lose its comfortable and often well-paid perch. Churches and universities—in elite schools such as Princeton, professors can earn $180,000 a year—enjoy tax-exempt status as long as they refrain from overt political critiques. Labor leaders make lavish salaries and are considered junior partners within corporate capitalism as long as they do not speak in the language of class struggle. Politicians, like generals, are loyal to the demands of the corporate state in power and retire to become millionaires as lobbyists or corporate managers. Artists who use their talents to foster the myths and illusions that bombard our society live comfortably in the Hollywood Hills.
The media, the church, the university, the Democratic Party, the arts, and labor unions—the pillars of the liberal class—have been bought off with corporate money and promises of scraps tossed to them by the narrow circles of power. Journalists, who prize access to the powerful more than they prize truth, report lies and propaganda to propel us into a war in Iraq. Many of these same journalists assured us it was prudent to entrust our life savings to a financial system run by speculators and thieves. Those life savings were gutted. The media, catering to corporate advertisers and sponsors, at the same time renders invisible whole sections of the population whose misery, poverty, and grievances should be the principal focus of journalism.
In the name of tolerance—a word the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., never used—the liberal church and the synagogue refuse to denounce Christian heretics who acculturate the Christian religion with the worst aspects of consumerism, nationalism, greed, imperial hubris, violence, and bigotry. These institutions accept globalization and unfettered capitalism as natural law. Liberal religious institutions, which should concern themselves with justice, embrace a cloying personal piety expressed in a how-is-it-with-me kind of spirituality and small, self-righteous acts of publicly conspicuous charity. Years spent in seminary or rabbinical schools, years devoted to the study of ethics, justice, and morality, prove useless when it comes time to stand up to corporate forces that usurp religious and moral language for financial and political gain.
Universities no longer train students to think critically, to examine and critique systems of power and cultural and political assumptions, to ask the broad questions of meaning and morality once sustained by the humanities. These institutions have transformed themselves into vocational schools. They have become breeding grounds for systems managers trained to serve the corporate state. In a Faustian bargain with corporate power, many of these universities have swelled their endowments and the budgets of many of their departments with billions in corporate and government dollars. College presidents, paid enormous salaries as if they were the heads of corporations, are judged almost solely on their ability to raise money. In return, these universities, like the media and religious institutions, not only remain silent about corporate power but also condemn as “political” all within their walls who question corporate malfeasance and the excesses of unfettered capitalism.
Unions, organizations formerly steeped in the doctrine of class struggle and filled with members who sought broad social and political rights for the working class, have been transformed into domesticated negotiators with the capitalist class. Cars rolling off the Ford plants in Michigan were said to be made by UAW Ford. But where unions still exist, they have been reduced to simple bartering tools, if that. The social demands of unions in the early twentieth century that gave the working class weekends off, the right to strike, the eight-hour workday, and Social Security, have been abandoned. Universities, especially in political science and economics departments, parrot the discredited ideology of unregulated capitalism and have no new ideas. The arts, just as hungry as the media or the academy for corporate money and sponsorship, refuse to address the social and economic disparities that create suffering for tens of millions of citizens. Commercial artists peddle the mythical narrative, one propagated by corporations, self-help gurus, Oprah and the Christian Right, that if we dig deep enough within ourselves, focus on happiness, find our inner strength, or believe in miracles, we can have everything we desire.
Such magical thinking, a staple of the entertainment industry, blinds citizens to corporate structures that have made it impossible for families to lift themselves out of poverty or live with dignity. But perhaps the worst offender within the liberal class is the Democratic Party.
The party consciously sold out the working class for corporate money. Bill Clinton, who argued that labor had nowhere else to go, in 1994 passed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which betrayed the working class. He went on to destroy welfare and in 1999 ripped down the firewalls between commercial and investment banks to turn the banking system over to speculators. Barack Obama, who raised more than $600 million to run for president, most of it from corporations, has served corporate interests as assiduously as his party. He has continued the looting of the U.S. Treasury by corporations, refused to help the millions of Americans who have lost their homes because of bank repossessions or foreclosures, and has failed to address the misery of our permanent class of unemployed.
Populations will endure the repression of tyrants, as long as these rulers continue to manage and wield power effectively. But human history has demonstrated that once those in positions of power become redundant and impotent, yet insist on retaining the trappings and privileges of power, their subject populations will brutally discard them. Such a fate awaits the liberal class, which insists on clinging to its positions of privilege while at the same time refusing to play its traditional role within the democratic state. The liberal class has become a useless and despised appendage of corporate power. And as corporate power pollutes and poisons the ecosystem and propels us into a world where there will be only masters and serfs, the liberal class, which serves no purpose in the new configuration, is being abandoned and discarded. The death of the liberal class means there is no check to a corporate apparatus designed to enrich a tiny elite and plunder the nation. An ineffectual liberal class means there is no hope, however remote, of a correction or a reversal. It ensures that the frustration and anger among the working and middle classes will find expression outside the confines of democratic institutions and the civilities of a liberal democracy.