Tag: Petermann Glacier

Sceptical voices, part two

More musings about determining the truth.

Those who read yesterday’s part one will undoubtedly have seen the added comment from long-time friend of Learning from Dogs, Patrice Ayme.  Yesterday, I promised to conclude Dan’s sceptical approach to climate warming with three articles that he had sent me.  Here they are,

Global Warming

“Global warming” refers to the global-average temperature increase that has been observed over the last one hundred years or more. But to many politicians and the public, the term carries the implication that mankind is responsible for that warming. This website describes evidence from my group’s government-funded research that suggests global warming is mostly natural, and that the climate system is quite insensitive to humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions and aerosol pollution.

Believe it or not, very little research has ever been funded to search for natural mechanisms of warming…it has simply been assumed that global warming is manmade. This assumption is rather easy for scientists since we do not have enough accurate global data for a long enough period of time to see whether there are natural warming mechanisms at work.

The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) claims that the only way they can get their computerized climate models to produce the observed warming is with anthropogenic (human-caused) pollution. But they’re not going to find something if they don’t search for it. More than one scientist has asked me, “What else COULD it be?” Well, the answer to that takes a little digging… and as I show, one doesn’t have to dig very far.

But first let’s examine the basics of why so many scientists think global warming is manmade. Earth’s atmosphere contains natural greenhouse gases (mostly water vapor, carbon dioxide, and methane) which act to keep the lower layers of the atmosphere warmer than they otherwise would be without those gases. Greenhouse gases trap infrared radiation — the radiant heat energy that the Earth naturally emits to outer space in response to solar heating. Mankind’s burning of fossil fuels (mostly coal, petroleum, and natural gas) releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and this is believed to be enhancing the Earth’s natural greenhouse effect. As of 2008, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was about 40% to 45% higher than it was before the start of the industrial revolution in the 1800’s.

It is interesting to note that, even though carbon dioxide is necessary for life on Earth to exist, there is precious little of it in Earth’s atmosphere. As of 2008, only 39 out of every 100,000 molecules of air were CO2, and it will take mankind’s CO2 emissions 5 more years to increase that number by 1, to 40.

Earth's atmosphere

The “Holy Grail”: Climate Sensitivity Figuring out how much past warming is due to mankind, and how much more we can expect in the future, depends upon something called “climate sensitivity”. This is the temperature response of the Earth to a given amount of ‘radiative forcing’, of which there are two kinds: a change in either the amount of sunlight absorbed by the Earth, or in the infrared energy the Earth emits to outer space.

The ‘consensus’ of opinion is that the Earth’s climate sensitivity is quite high, and so warming of about 0.25 deg. C to 0.5 deg. C (about 0.5 deg. F to 0.9 deg. F) every 10 years can be expected for as long as mankind continues to use fossil fuels as our primary source of energy. NASA’s James Hansen claims that climate sensitivity is very high, and that we have already put too much extra CO2 in the atmosphere. Presumably this is why he and Al Gore are campaigning for a moratorium on the construction of any more coal-fired power plants in the U.S.

You would think that we’d know the Earth’s ‘climate sensitivity’ by now, but it has been surprisingly difficult to determine. How atmospheric processes like clouds and precipitation systems respond to warming is critical, as they are either amplifying the warming, or reducing it. This website currently concentrates on the response of clouds to warming, an issue which I am now convinced the scientific community has totally misinterpreted when they have measured natural, year-to-year fluctuations in the climate system. As a result of that confusion, they have the mistaken belief that climate sensitivity is high, when in fact the satellite evidence suggests climate sensitivity is low.

The case for natural climate change I also present an analysis of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation which shows that most climate change might well be the result of….the climate system itself! Because small, chaotic fluctuations in atmospheric and oceanic circulation systems can cause small changes in global average cloudiness, this is all that is necessary to cause climate change. You don’t need the sun, or any other ‘external’ influence (although these are also possible…but for now I’ll let others work on that). It is simply what the climate system does. This is actually quite easy for meteorologists to believe, since we understand how complex weather processes are. Your local TV meteorologist is probably a closet ’skeptic’ regarding mankind’s influence on climate.

Climate change — it happens, with or without our help.

And the next one,

Earth may be headed into a mini Ice Age within a decade

Physicists say sunspot cycle is ‘going into hibernation’

By Lewis Page

Posted in Science14th June 2011 17:00 GMT

What may be the science story of the century is breaking this evening, as heavyweight US solar physicists announce that the Sun appears to be headed into a lengthy spell of low activity, which could mean that the Earth – far from facing a global warming problem– is actually headed into a mini Ice Age.

Ice skating on the Thames by 2025?

The announcement made on 14 June (18:00 UK time) comes from scientists at the US National Solar Observatory (NSO) and US Air Force Research Laboratory. Three different analyses of the Sun’s recent behaviour all indicate that a period of unusually low solar activity may be about to begin.

The Sun normally follows an 11-year cycle of activity. The current cycle, Cycle 24, is now supposed to be ramping up towards maximum strength. Increased numbers of sunspots and other indications ought to be happening: but in fact results so far are most disappointing. Scientists at the NSO now suspect, based on data showing decades-long trends leading to this point, that Cycle 25 may not happen at all.

This could have major implications for the Earth’s climate. According to a statement issued by the NSO, announcing the research:

An immediate question is whether this slowdown presages a second Maunder Minimum, a 70-year period with virtually no sunspots [which occurred] during 1645-1715.

As NASA notes [1]:

Early records of sunspots indicate that the Sun went through a period of inactivity in the late 17th century. Very few sunspots were seen on the Sun from about 1645 to 1715. Although the observations were not as extensive as in later years, the Sun was in fact well observed during this time and this lack of sunspots is well documented. This period of solar inactivity also corresponds to a climatic period called the “Little Ice Age” when rivers that are normally ice-free froze and snow fields remained year-round at lower altitudes. There is evidence that the Sun has had similar periods of inactivity in the more distant past.

During the Maunder Minimum and for periods either side of it, many European rivers which are ice-free today – including the Thames – routinely froze over, allowing ice skating and even for armies to march across them in some cases.

“This is highly unusual and unexpected,” says Dr Frank Hill of the NSO. “But the fact that three completely different views of the Sun point in the same direction is a powerful indicator that the sunspot cycle may be going into hibernation.”

Hill’s own research focuses on surface pulsations of the Sun and their relationship with sunspots, and his team has already used their methods to successfully predict the late onset of Cycle 24.

“We expected to see the start of the zonal flow for Cycle 25 by now,” Hill explained, “but we see no sign of it. This indicates that the start of Cycle 25 may be delayed to 2021 or 2022, or may not happen at all.”

Hill’s results match those from physicists Matt Penn and William Livingston, who have gone over 13 years of sunspot data from the McMath-Pierce Telescope at Kitt Peak in Arizona. They have seen the strength of the magnetic fields which create sunspots declining steadily. According to the NSO:

Penn and Livingston observed that the average field strength declined about 50 gauss per year during Cycle 23 and now in Cycle 24. They also observed that spot temperatures have risen exactly as expected for such changes in the magnetic field. If the trend continues, the field strength will drop below the 1,500 gauss threshold and spots will largely disappear as the magnetic field is no longer strong enough to overcome convective forces on the solar surface.

In parallel with this comes research from the US Air Force’s studies of the solar corona. Richard Altrock, in charge of this, has found a 40-year decline in the “rush to the poles” – the poleward surge of magnetic activity in the corona.

“Those wonderful, delicate coronal features are actually powerful, robust magnetic structures rooted in the interior of the Sun,” Altrock says. “Changes we see in the corona reflect changes deep inside the Sun …

“Cycle 24 started out late and slow and may not be strong enough to create a rush to the poles, indicating we’ll see a very weak solar maximum in 2013, if at all. If the rush to the poles fails to complete, this creates a tremendous dilemma for the theorists … No one knows what the Sun will do in that case.”

According to the collective wisdom of the NSO, another Maunder Minimum may very well be on the cards.

“If we are right,” summarises Hill, “this could be the last solar maximum we’ll see for a few decades. That would affect everything from space exploration to Earth’s climate.”

The effects on space exploration would be benign, as fewer or no solar storms would make space a much less hostile environment for human beings. At the moment, anyone venturing beyond the Earth’s protective magnetic field (the only people to have done so were the Apollo moon astronauts of the 1960s and ’70s) runs a severe risk of dangerous or fatal radiation exposure during a solar storm.

Manned missions beyond low Earth orbit, a stated aspiration of the USA and other nations, might become significantly safer and cheaper to mount (cheaper as there would be no requirement for possibly very heavy shielding to protect astronauts, so reducing launch costs).

The big consequences of a major solar calm spell, however, would be climatic. The next few generations of humanity might not find themselves trying to cope with global warming but rather with a significant cooling. This could overturn decades of received wisdom on such things as CO2 emissions, and lead to radical shifts in government policy worldwide.

And the last one,

On the Misdiagnosis of Surface Temperature Feedbacks from Variations in Earth’s Radiant Energy Balance

Roy W. Spencer * and William D. Braswell

ESSC-UAH, University of Alabama in Huntsville, Cramer Hall, Huntsville, AL 35899, USA

* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.Received: 24 May 2011; in revised form: 13 July 2011 / Accepted: 15 July 2011 / Published: 25 July 2011

Abstract: The sensitivity of the climate system to an imposed radiative imbalance remains the largest source of uncertainty in projections of future anthropogenic climate change. Here we present further evidence that this uncertainty from an observational perspective is largely due to the masking of the radiative feedback signal by internal radiative forcing, probably due to natural cloud variations. That these internal radiative forcings exist and likely corrupt feedback diagnosis is demonstrated with lag regression analysis of satellite and coupled climate model data, interpreted with a simple forcing-feedback model. While the satellite-based metrics for the period 2000–2010 depart substantially in the direction of lower climate sensitivity from those similarly computed from coupled climate models, we find that, with traditional methods, it is not possible to accurately quantify this discrepancy in terms of the feedbacks which determine climate sensitivity. It is concluded that atmospheric feedback diagnosis of the climate system remains an unsolved problem, due primarily to the inability to distinguish between radiative forcing and radiative feedback in satellite radiative budget observations.

So back to me!

As you can see there is every opportunity to be confused.  Not embracing contrary views to the ones that you believe, however, is not the way to determine the truth.

So let me close with a couple of my own contrary views.

The first from Bill McKibben published in the Resurgence Magazine,

WHAT COMES NEXT?

We have a tiny window of opportunity to save something of the magnificence of the Earth so let’s all grab it, writes Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org

Asked to name the biggest thing that’s happened over Resurgence’s 45-year career, I think I’d have to say the melt of the Arctic. When this magazine began publishing, there was 40% more summer sea ice in the Arctic. Viewed from space, in those first pictures from the Apollo spacecraft, the planet looked very different than it does now. In recent summers both the north-west and the north-east passages have opened, allowing sailors to circumnavigate the Arctic through waters that no one thought, even a decade ago, humans would ever navigate.

Or maybe I would pick the rapid acidification of the planet’s seas – they’re 30% more acid than they were in 1966. Which means that the small creatures at the base of the marine food chain are having more trouble forming their shells, and that coral reefs – already stressed by warming waters – have a new trauma to deal with.

Another possibility: the Earth’s atmosphere is about 4% moister than it was 45 years ago, simply because warm air holds more water vapour than cold. This loads the dice for deluge, downpour, flood – it’s not surprising that we’re seeing record rainfall and unprecedented floods. Nor, since that water has to come from somewhere, should increasing drought and desertification come as much of a shock.

Here’s what I’m trying to say: when Resurgence began its run, we were still in the Holocene. Humans had altered much of the planet’s natural environment. We had dirty rivers and dirty air, spreading toxins and endangered species. But the basic operating system of the planet was running pretty much the same as it had for the 10,000 years of human civilisation.

Sometime in the intervening decades we moved out of that comfortable and remarkably stable world, and began the transition to What Comes Next?

Any date would be arbitrary, but if you wanted to pick one, you could say 1988. That was the year NASA scientist Jim Hansen warned the US Congress that global warming was indeed real – and it was the year that we passed the benchmark of 350 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 in the atmosphere. At the time we didn’t know it was a benchmark – it was 20 years later that scientists, again led by Hansen, declared that 350ppm was the absolute upper limit if we wanted a planet “similar to the one on which civilisation developed and to which life is adapted”. If we wanted, in other words, that older world we were born onto.

I could list at some length the various woes this new world is already causing: we see rising sea levels displacing farmers across the deltas of Bangladesh, and Aedes aegypti expanding its boundary and spreading dengue fever like wildfire. Speaking of wildfire, we see record amounts, in part because of more heat and drought, and in part because insects (once kept in check by cold weather) are now spreading.

We see millions still homeless from last year’s flood in Pakistan, and billions struggling to pay for food because a string of crop failures that began with last summer’s Russian drought have increased grain prices by 70–80%.

And I could list at even greater length the woes we expect as the century grinds on. After all, we’ve only raised the temperature about a degree so far, and the climatologists tell us to expect four or five unless we stop burning coal and oil and gas much faster than any government currently plans. Temperatures like that will guarantee the melt of Greenland; according to the agronomists they will cut grain harvests by a third or more; they’ll make current shortages of water seem barely worth mentioning.

But for the moment don’t think about consequences, current or future. Just think about the enormity of what we’ve managed to do: we’ve altered the most basic operations of the one planet we’ve got.

The air is profoundly different, the heat balance with our sun profoundly altered. It’s by far the biggest thing humans have ever done or ever contemplated doing, and were some alien watching from a great distance she’d be scratching her head-like appendage. It’s our head-like appendage that’s responsible, of course. That big brain turned out to be incredibly clever, and its cleverest trick was to figure out that buried carbon could make life easy. Everything that we know around us – the whole modern world – derives from that discovery. Much of it is good. But now we’re threatening to take down the good, and much else with it.

So here’s the question for the next 45 years of Resurgence: can the big brain bail us out?

It’s already provided us with the warnings we need, warnings that would not have been available at any other moment in human history. The scientific method, one of the greatest achievements of our civilisation, has produced a robust consensus on this difficult problem in chemistry and physics: since the mid-1990s the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has said in unmistakably plain language that there is no doubt: we have to cut carbon, and quickly.

But so far that warning has had little or no effect: our national governments, with a few noble exceptions, have paid scant attention; our attempts at global governance have been pathetic failures. The chief reason, I think, is the remarkable power of the fossil-fuel industry to stifle change; for 200 years it has grown bigger and richer and more than able to deal with the threat that science now poses to its reign. It literally makes us stupid: earlier this winter the US House of Representatives, by a 60-vote margin, defeated a resolution that merely stated that global warming was real. Exxon has promoted its own version of physics and chemistry, and they’ve managed to fool a good many too.

The real question, then, is going to be: is there a big enough heart connected to that big brain? Will we be able to heed not only the warnings of science but those of our conscience? Will we, gazing out at the growing array of ‘natural disasters’, figure out that we’ve got to make change? Change in our personal lives, yes, but even more change in our political arrangements, since that’s the only chance that actual physics and chemistry really give us for meeting the deadlines they’ve set.

I think the answer is yes – a tentative and uncertain yes, but one based on just enough real-world data to give me hope.

Three years ago we founded 350.org, the first big global grassroots climate campaign. Rooted in science but expressed in imagination, it has grown to pretty mammoth size. Our first two big global days of action, in the waning months of 2009 and 2010, were what CNN called “the most widespread days of political action in the planet’s history”, with nearly 15,000 demonstrations in every country on Earth but North Korea.

And the good news is we didn’t really ‘organise’ it – our tiny staff worked feverishly, but ultimately it was like a potluck supper. People in every corner of the Earth heard the call and did the work, figuring out what would work in their place. (An underwater demonstration on the dying coral reefs of the Maldives; a giant image of King Canute, composed of thousands of volunteers, trying to hold the sea back on the Brighton seashore!)

It’s not enough yet to beat the fossil-fuel industry – our bodies don’t yet add up to their money. But we’re growing constantly (the next big chance to join us: 24 September 2011, a day we’re calling Moving Planet). And – sad, but true – the natural world is going to continue to give us openings to make the case more strongly. Sooner or later our leaders will listen – and we’re committed to making it sooner.

We’re not going to stop global warming: it’s already warmed and it will warm some more. Those Apollo images of our planet are forever sepia-toned. But we’ve got a tiny window left to save something of the Earth we were born onto – its beauty, its bounty, its safety.

That’s our task, and the next 45 years will tell the tale.

Bill McKibben wrote the first book for a general audience on climate change, The End of Nature, in 1989. He is a scholar in residence at Middlebury College in Vermont.

The second from the BBC News website just a few days ago.

Arctic ice hits second-lowest level, US scientists say

Sea ice cover in the Arctic in 2011 has passed its annual minimum, reaching the second-lowest level since satellite records began, US scientists say.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) says the minimum, reached on 9 September, was 4.33 million sq km.

That value is 36% lower than the average minimum for 1979-2000.

NSIDC said the figure was preliminary, and that “changing winds could still push the ice extent lower” before final numbers are published in early October.

The preliminary value is 160,000 sq km – or 4% – above the record minimum seen in 2007.

The minimum level of cover is far below the average of 1979-2000

“While the record low year of 2007 was marked by a combination of weather conditions that favoured ice loss – including clearer skies, favourable wind patterns and warm temperatures – this year has shown more typical weather patterns but continued warmth over the Arctic,” they wrote.

“This supports the idea that the Arctic sea ice cover is continuing to thin.”

NSIDC director Mark Serreze said: “Every summer that we see a very low ice extent in September sets us up for a similar situation the following year.

“The Arctic sea ice cover is so thin now compared to 30 years ago that it just can’t take a hit any more. This overall pattern of thinning ice in the Arctic in recent decades is really starting to catch up with us.”

In fact, an analysis released last week by researchers at the University of Bremen in Germany, who use a different satellite to assess ice cover, indicated that 2011’s minimum was the lowest on record.

However, there is some controversy surrounding the result; the Bremen team’s higher-resolution data can detect small patches of water where the NSIDC team would not, but the Bremen record goes back only to 2003.

These analyses are for the extent, or area, of Arctic ice, but recent estimates released by the University of Washington’s Polar Science Center give an indication of the total amount of sea ice.

Their data indicate that the ice volume is at an all-time low for the second year in a row.

Analyses of Arctic ice in recent years consistently indicate a change in the nature of the ice itself – from one solid mass that melts and freezes at its edges towards more dispersed, piecemeal ice cover, and from robust “multi-year” ice toward seasonal floes that melt more easily.

The NSIDC data show ice cover extents consistently below earlier averages

You may want to refer to the worrying images of the Petermann Glacier that I published on the 14th September.

—oooOOOooo—

I hope this article, split over two days, has been useful.  Hopefully, they underline the need to work it out for yourself and remain open-minded at all times.

Transitions, pt Two

Reflections on these present times, concluding part.

I closed yesterday with, So maybe there’s a blindness with humans, and then set out the characteristics of that blindness.  One of those characteristics being,

Our obsession with how things are now prevents us from reflecting on those signs that indicate changes are under way, even when the likely conclusions are unmistakeable.  The ecological and climatic changes being the most obvious example of this strange blindness that mankind possesses.

Let’s move this on a little.  The arguments from a wide range of scientists are overwhelmingly in favour of the proposition that mankind is using vastly more resources from the planet than the planet can provide.  Take oil.  This graph show past and projected oil production for the whole Earth out to 2050, less than 40 years away.

Here’s an extract from that website which I encourage you to read in full,

The part before 2007 is historical fact. The part that comes afterward is an ASPO extrapolation.

This graph is worth careful attention as a lot of world history is written into it. Note the steep rise in oil production after World War II. Note that 1971 was the peak in oil production in the United States lower 48. There is a sliver of white labled Arctic oil. That is mostly Alaskan Prudhoe Bay oil, which peaked in 1990. Prudhoe Bay was almost big enough to counteract the lower 48 peak of 1971. The sliver is very narrow now. The OPEC oil embargo of 1973 is very visible. The oil produced by non-OPEC countries stayed nearly constant while OPEC production nearly halved. The embargo caused the world economy to slow. But the high cost of energy spurred the development of energy efficient automobiles and refrigerators and a lot of other things. Note the effect of the collapse of the Russian economy in 1990 on Russian oil production. Note the rapid increase in oil production when the world economy boomed near the end of the twentieth century. Oil was $12 a barrel at that time. Note that European (North Sea) oil peaked in 2000. Note especially what would have happened if the 1973 embargo had not occurred. It is possible that the world would now be on the steep part of the right side of the Hubbert curve.

Take population growth. Here’s a graph that shows that going through seven billion, which is due shortly, is likely to be way short of the eventual peak.  Likely peak might be in the range of  eight to ten billion!  Just take a look at that graph,

Take global warming.  Here’s a graph from NASA, from which I quote,

The five warmest years since the late 1880s, according to NASA scientists, are in descending order 2005, 1998, 2002, 2003 and 2006. (reported in the year 2007!)

No apologies for bashing you around the head with these graphs and figures – most people have a good sense about these aspects of our life on this planet.  But, in a very real sense, that’s the point.

The point that despite powerful and obvious evidence, mankind has great difficulty accepting obvious trends and understanding that whatever ‘today’ feels like, ‘tomorrow’ is almost certainly not going to be more of the same.

At the risk of hammering this point to death, here are two pictures and some text to show how quickly ‘today’ changes and becomes ‘tomorrow’.

Scientist left speechless as vast glacier turns to water

by Helen Turner, Western Mail

THESE images show the astonishing rate of break-up of an enormous glacier in north Greenland – from ice to water in just two years.

The before and after photographs, which left a Welsh scientist who led the 24-month project “speechless”, reveal the worrying effects of climate change in an area previously thought too cold to be much affected.

The Petermann glacier pictured August, 5th, 2009
Petermann glacier, pictured from same position, July 24th, 2011

Dr Alun Hubbard, a reader at Aberystwyth University’s Centre for Glaciology, returned from the Petermann Glacier in north-west Greenland a month ago, but did not see the stark images documenting the changes until this week.

He said: “Although I knew what to expect in terms of ice loss from satellite imagery, I was still completely unprepared for the gob-smacking scale of the break-up, which rendered me speechless.  It was just incredible to see. This glacier is huge, 20km across, 1,000m high.”

“It’s like looking into the Grand Canyon full of ice and coming back two years later to find it’s full of water.”

“It’s quite hard to get your head around the scale of the change.  To be able to see that, everything changed in such a short period of time, I was speechless.”

Do read the full article on the Wales Online website here.

Stay with me a little longer, if you will.

Yves Smith in her wonderfully broad and addictive Blog, Naked Capitalism, had the first part of a powerful interview with Satyajit Das published on the 7th.  Here are a couple of extracts,

 It’s amazing how much money you can make just shuffling paper backwards and forwards. Malcolm Gladwell wrote a piece praising John Paulson who made a killing from the subprime disaster as an entrepreneur. But what did he make? What did he leave behind? Paul Volcker, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, argued: “I wish someone would give me one shred of neutral evidence that financial innovation has led to economic growth — one shred of evidence. US financial services increased its share of value added from 2% to 6.5% but is that a reflection of your financial innovation, or just a reflection of what you’re paid?”

Just let that quote from Paul Volcker stay with you for a while.  Satyajit goes on to say,

Management and directors of financial institutions cannot really understand what is going on – it’s simply not practical. They cannot be across all the products. For example, Robert Rubin, the former head of Goldman Sachs and Treasury Secretary under President Clinton, encouraged increased risk taking at CitiGroup. He was guided by a consultant’s report and famously stated that risk was the only underpriced asset. He encouraged investment in AAA securities assuming that they were ‘money good’. He seemed not to be aware of the liquidity puts that Citi had written which meant that toxic off-balance sheet assets would come back to the mother ship in the case of a crisis. Now, if he didn’t understand, others would find it near impossible. And I’m talking about executive management.

Non executives are even further removed. Upon joining the Salomon Brothers Board, Henry Kaufman, the original Dr. Doom found that most non-executive directors had little experience or understanding of banking. They relied on board reports that were, “neither comprehensive … nor detailed enough … about the diversity and complexity of our operations.” Non-executive directors were reliant “on the veracity and competency of senior managers, who in turn … are beholden to the veracity of middle managers, who are themselves motivated to take risks through a variety of profit compensation formulas.”

Kaufman later joined the board of Lehman Brothers. Nine out of ten members of the Lehman board were retired, four were 75 years or more in age, only two had banking experience, but in a different era. The octogenarian Kaufman sat on the Lehman Risk Committee with a Broadway producer, a former Navy admiral, a former CEO of a Spanish-language TV station and the former chairman of IBM. The Committee only had two meetings in 2006 and 2007. AIG’s board included several heavyweight diplomats and admirals; even though Richard Breeden, former head of the SEC told a reporter, “AIG, as far as I know, didn’t own any aircraft carriers and didn’t have a seat in the United Nations.”

In other words, there is no shortage of information from all corners of the world to show, with very little doubt, that the last few decades have seen unprecedented mistakes by national governments, mistakes in corporate governance, a lack of understanding of economic fundamentals, poor financial and social management, and on and on and on.

But practically all of us, and I mean all of us, didn’t see it at the time, didn’t see where it was heading and only now, when it is full in our faces, do we get it and see it for what it has really been, a long period of over two decades where the ‘me‘ has been more important than the ‘us‘.

That me versus us even being promoted, if that’s the right word, by a British Prime Minister twenty-five years ago.  That quote from Margaret Thatcher back in 1987,  “And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families.” (Margaret Thatcher, talking to Women’s Own magazine, October 31 1987)

Let me draw this all together, yesterday’s part and this concluding part.

There is significant evidence, real hard evidence, that the patterns of mankind’s behaviours of the last few decades cannot continue.  Simply because mankind will go over the edge of self-extinction.  Darwin’s evidence and all that!  We have to accept that humans will see the bleedin’ obvious before it is too late.  We have to keep the faith that our species homo sapiens is capable of huge and rapid change when that tipping point is reached, so eloquently written by Paul Gilding in his book, The Great Disruption, reviewed by me here.  We have to embrace the fact that just because the world and his wife appears to be living in total denial, the seedlings of change, powerful change, are already sprouting, everywhere, all over the world.

So let’s welcome those changes. Let’s nurture those seedlings, encourage them to grow and engulf our society with a new richness, a new fertile landscape.

Let’s embrace the power of now, the beauty of making today much better and letting go of tomorrow.

For today, I am in charge of my life,

Today, I choose my thoughts,

Today, I choose my attitudes,

Today, I choose my actions and behaviours.

With these, I create my life and my destiny.

It’s very difficult to make predictions, especially when they involve the future!

More on Bill McKibben’s book, eaarth.

Some very telling points.

I first mentioned this book on the 13th May when I was about a third of the way in.  Because I thought there might be material useful to the course that has been running here in Payson, I did skip around the book looking for ‘attention-grabbing’ points.  It wasn’t difficult to find numerous extracts.

Try this on page 214 from the Chapter Afterword.

As it turns out, however, the BP spill was not the most dangerous thing that happened in the months after this book was first published.  In fact, in the spring and summer of 2101, the list of startling events in the natural world included:

  • Nineteen nations setting new all-time high temperature records, which in itself is a record.  Some of those records were for entire regions – [then some of the details]
  • Scientists reported that the earth had just come through the warmest six months, the warmest year, and the warmest decade for which we have records; it appears 2010 will be the warmest calendar year on record.
  • The most protracted and extreme heat wave in a thousand years of Russian history (it had never before topped 100 degrees in Moscow) led to a siege of peat fires that shrouded the capital in ghostly, deadly smoke.  [Then goes on to mention the effect of this heat on global grain prices.]
  • Since warm air holds more water vapour that cold air, scientists were not surprised to see steady increases in flooding.  Still, the spring and summer of 2010 were off the charts.  We saw “thousand-year storms” across the globe [goes into details]
  • Meanwhile, in the far north, the Petermann Glacier on Greenland calved an iceberg four times the size of Manhattan.
  • And the most ominous news of all might have come from the pages of the eminent scientific journal Nature, which published an enormous study of the productivity of the earth’s seas. [More details follow – not good news!]
That last point can be read in more detail from Nature‘s website.  It’s here.
The book closes thus (referring to how the BP oil spill was, ultimately, an accident),
But the greatest danger we face, climate change, is no accident.  It’s what happens when everything goes the way it’s supposed to go.  It’s not a function of bad technology, it’s a function of a bad business model: of the fact that Exxon Mobil and BP and Peabody Coal are allowed to use the atmosphere, free of charge, as an open sewer for the inevitable waste from their products.  They’ll fight to the end to defend that business model, for it produces greater profits that any industry has ever known.  We won’t match them dollar for dollar: To fight back, we need a different currency, our bodies and our spirit and our creativity.  That’s what a movement looks like; let’s hope we can rally one in time to make a difference.
Powerful stuff from a powerful book.
Fired up?  Then go and join:  350.org

Total, utter madness, Pt 4

Continuing the review of Lester Brown’s book World on the Edge.

Regular readers will be aware that I have been summarising each chapter of this pivotal book.  Chapters 2, 3 and 4 are part of the section that Lester Brown calls A Deteriorating Foundation.  But I am aware that wall-to-wall gloom is often too much for people to take in so I wanted to let you know that the third section, The Response: Plan B, is very much a realistic and pragmatic approach to the alternative, a planet that will let countless future generations live in harmony and sustainably.

So please take in the dire situation that we are in by reading these summaries or, better still, buy the book!

Chapter Four, Rising Temperatures, Melting Ice, and Food Security.

  • The Petermann Glacier calves an iceberg that covered 97 square miles on August 5th, 2010.
  • Scientists for some years have been reporting that the Greenland ice sheet was melting at an accelerating rate.
  • Richard Bates, from the University of St Andrews, part of a team monitoring Greenland ice melt, was reported as saying:

Dr Richard Bates, who is monitoring the ice alongside researchers from America, said the expedition had expected to find evidence of melting this year after “abnormally high” temperatures in the area. Climate change experts say that globally it has been the warmest six months globally since records began.

But he was “amazed to see an area of ice three times the size of Manhattan Island had broken off.

“It is not a freak event and is certainly a manifestation of warming. This year marks yet another record breaking melt year in Greenland; temperatures and melt across the entire ice sheet have exceeded those in 2007 and of historical records.”

  • A temperate rise of between 2C and 7C would cause the entire Greenland ice mass to melt – raising sea-levels world-wide by 23 feet (7 metres)!
  • In the United States last year saw record hot temperatures on the East Coast.
  • On September 27th Los Angeles recorded an all-time high of 113 degrees F, then the official thermometer broke.
  • A nearby thermometer survived to register a temperature of 119 degrees F, a record for the region.
  • Crop ecologists use a rule of thumb that for each 1-degree-Celsius rise in temperature above the optimum during the growing season, we can expect a 10-percent decline in grain yields.
  • Temperatures are rising much faster in the Arctic than elsewhere.  Winter temperatures in the Arctic, including Alaska, western Canada and eastern Russia, have climbed by 4-7 degrees F. over the last half-century.
  • This record rise in temperatures in the Arctic region could lead to changes in climate patterns that will affect the entire planet.
  • Even a 3-foot rise in sea level would sharply reduce the rice harvest in Asia. It would inundate Bangladesh, a country of 164 million people, submerge part of the Mekong Delta ( a region that produces half of Viet Nam’s rice).

That’s enough from me, simply because although this chapter in the book continues with many more frightening facts, I can’t continue to list them in this particular Post.  If the above doesn’t cause you to think and want to change, then a couple of dozen more facts aren’t going to do it either.

Just look at the photograph below and ponder on what we are leaving our children and our grand-children.  Indeed, if you are, say 50 years or younger, ponder on what the next few decades could offer for you.

We have to break our addiction with our modern way of living – or Planet Earth will do it for us.

A mother of an iceberg!

On Aug. 5, 2010, an enormous chunk of ice, roughly 97 square miles (251 square kilometers) in size, broke off the Petermann Glacier, along the northwestern coast of Greenland. The Canadian Ice Service detected the remote event within hours in near real-time data from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite. The Petermann Glacier lost about one-quarter of its 70-kilometer (40-mile) long floating ice shelf, said researchers who analyzed the satellite data at the University of Delaware. Taken from here.