Thursday, September 20, 2007

blood, oil, & climate


Mama Gaia is laughing at us. She's just thrown yet another feedback loop our way. Step on the carousel and hold on tight. Record Arctic heating equals thawing Tundra soil, which, regrettably, equals melting Mammoth goo. This equals massive Methane output, which equals, well, record Arctic heating. And round we go. The deposits of frozen elephant dung had been sequestered but the melt puts the glop back into the cycle. Word has it that there is a lot of CH4-releasing excrement, so much that it'll join forces with the darkening polar albedo to speed things up even faster. Call it the poop loop.

Somehow September is good for the soul -- it's confession time! But first the records. The 2007 Atlantic hurricane season, after the three climate records jointly held by Dean and Felix (thanks to Henrietta in the Pacific), sprung a fourth climate record on us with Humberto, which evolved in 16 hours from tropical depression to full-scale hurricane landfall. The AP newsblurb notes that this evolution "was faster than any storm on record" and says "meteorologists were at a loss to explain" this. O really? It's still a big mystery, eh?

How about this: after the record-breaking 2007 drought in California, and LA without a drop of rain since April, the Angelenos are now battening down for a winter storm and temperatures 15 degrees below normal when it's barely fall yet. In Colorado, the bears are freaking out. In Montana, Glacier National Park, with 150 glaciers in 1850, has now 26 left.

Or this: South Asia is experiencing a monsoon that is the worst in decades, and that has by now cost more than 3,000 lives.

Or this: Australia, after suffering through an unprecedented drought, passed new regulations that made some water cuts permanent.

Or this: Africa suffers record rains; Ghana, Togo, Burkina Faso, Uganda, and the Sudan have declared emergencies because they are hit by unusual weather patterns.

Or this: the Arctic tipping point of the last post is no hallucination--ESA satellites "witness the lowest Arctic ice coverage in history"; the melt is happening so rapidly that it triggers earthquakes in Greenland; the Northwest Passage is completely ice-free, and Greenland eskimos have started farming potato and broccoli.

The new reckoning is that while the US republicans, their media serfs, and the gringo consumers were off in lala land, not even the United Nations got it right, because the UN IPCC predictions had been too conservative. Already in March, the chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel (PhD physics), called the situation five minutes past midnight. Today, a University of Melbourne researcher, the "Australian of the Year", declared that climate change is worse than feared. A researcher with the UK Met Office and co-chair of the IPCC working group dealing with the necessary corrections states that destructive changes in temperature, rainfall, and agriculture were now forecast to occur several decades earlier than thought. The IPCC report states that the outlook is grim.

Shell concedes that peak oil is around the corner. The corporate press admits that Dick Cheney vehicles were not such a good idea after all. The alternative press admits that the suburban lifestyle, favored by many self-described liberals, wasn't such a great idea either. Nor is eating meat, by the way; bad news for Atkins-diet loving Americans. And the U.S. Federal Reserve acknowledges that Iraq was a blood-for-oil gamble. With oil money draining from Bagdhad and flowing toward Kurdistan, even the corporate confession is in: the gamble is lost.

To the chagrin of the postmodern presidency, for which truth is spin, Greenspan fessed up: true to his principles as an ethical egoist, he had been the one who advised the White House that the removal of Saddam was "essential" to secure oil supplies. Greenspan published the admission noted throughout the world: "I'm saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows -- the Iraq war was largely about oil."

Right now, the price of oil stands at $83 a barrel, at 2,000,000 refugees, at 1,200,000 civilian deaths, and at 3,800 military deaths, and wrenching, brutal personal costs, such as this and this.

Meanwhile the Brits call the climate-changer-in-chief a jihadist and reveal that a journalist appears to be dying in the concentration camp offshore Florida; the French are blowing the whistle on US concentration camps in Poland and Romania ; and the Germans report that calling for impeachment gets you tasered in Florida. Amnesty International calls out the Senate for not restoring habeas corpus. The blood-for-oil traders Bush, Cheney, and Altair Voyager are not in jail, but at least the Pope refuses to meet with thugs. And thanks to the climate-changer in chief, his snarling Nazi sidekick, and the oil tanker lady, the dollar is in free fall.

And the worst thing about all this is that it's so unnecessary. My battered old copy of the Field Guide to Florida, by the National Audobon Society, has an entry on global warming effects on page 19 that says it all. That copy was published in 1998. We could have decided to evolve to a higher IQ then, and many nations gave it a try. But the US neocons didn't want to; they flamed Kyoto and shot down the Bonn meeting. The ideas of climate dynamics, human-nature interplays, and deep ecology just don't compute. They don't fit the protestant work ethic and the postmodern relativism of the consumer society.

So now the species lost ten years, with the USA jerking off the Global Village.

Mama Gaia is laughing at us.

Call it the poop loop.


Monday, September 10, 2007

edging to the tipping point


Since the first observation of a hurricane with sustained winds faster than 250 km/h, in 1928, there were only four storm seasons that began with a Category 5 hurricane (1958, 1977, 1980, and 1992). Until 2007, that is. Dean made landfall three weeks ago, August 21. It was the first hurricane of the year and the first to max out the Saffir-Simpson scale since Wilma 2005. Wilma, incidentally, scored a record of her own two years ago, with a pressure of 882 mbar near Cuba (10/19/05), the lowest ever measured in the Atlantic, and noticeable in Tampa. See Monica 2005, Wilma 2006.

Hurricane Felix made landfall September 4. Felix is this year's winner of 3 (yes, three) climate records. The second hurricane of the year was also a Category 5 hurricane. Multiple C 5 storms had formed three times in the Atlantic since measurements started (1960, 1961, & 2005), but never before did any season kick off with two C 5's in a row. That's unprecedented--and a new record. Felix's second climate record is the speed by which it spun up from a depression to a Category 5: a mere 51 hours, quicker than any storm on record ever. Three's the charm, and Felix wins the blue ribbon by being the first hurricane ever observed making landfall at the same time as another hurricane, with Henriette in the Pacific. Thank you George Bush!

Speaking of the climate changer in chief: on September 7, he had a bad day at the APEC meeting in Australia. With his blood-for-oil mind, he thanked his hosts for inviting him to the OPEC meeting and praised the valor of the Austrian army killing people in Iraq. And that is the leader of the U.S., unimpeached and out of jail, six years after 9-11. Go figure. The climate changer in chief and his downunder crony released a declaration on climate change (pdf) that states "aspirational" goals. There are an "aspirational global emissions reduction goal" (p. 2), an "aspirational goal of a reduction in energy intensity" (p. 3 and 4), an "aspirational goal of increasing forest cover" (p. 3 and 4), and last but not least "this aspirational goal" (p. 4). I hadn't even heard of the term before coming across this declaration. Basically, it means that they "aspire" to think about getting ready to consider a goal. What goal? Beats me. Something to do with planting trees, using less power, and making less of a stink. As they put it: "we agree to work to achieve a common understanding on a long-term aspirational global emissions reduction goal to pave the way". Great! How about signing on to Kyoto instead, eh? The pompous nonsense was condemned here and here.

The clock's ticking. Just tonight news came in that we've reached the first tipping point. So James Lovelock is right after all. Thank you George Bush! This is it: arctic ice the size of Florida gone in six days. So. Put yourself in space and look at the planet from afar. Guess what happens to ocean temperature in the sunshine when white ice turns into black water. After we had to learn what the climate changer in chief means with "aspirational," now it's time to study up on the meaning of "albedo". And "feedback loop."

Good luck.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

back to school: more blisters


My apologies to the random surfer and the Homeland Security guys for no posts since Mayday. Labor Day is just around the corner. Meanwhile the data are in about the climate records of early 2007. The data are also in about Greenland's spring arriving weeks earlier.

The poor blistering orb keeps blistering. Let's see what's going down.

Currently there are record heat waves in Tennessee, Georgia, California and Japan. There are record floods in the U.S. Midwest, Bangladesh, and North Korea. Recently there were record forest fires in Greece and on the Canary Islands, which now leads to carbon feedback loops on their own: the more CO2, the more warming, the more fire, the more CO2 ... you get the picture. Glaciers are retreating at record pace in Switzerland and the Himalayas, even on Mt Everest. Texas spiders living in subtropical Texas now behave like their tropical cousins. Oh, and the deserts are spreading too.

The University of Illinois reports that arctic ice is lower than ever. The Norwegian Polar Institute reports that the Northwest Passage is nearly ice free for the first time since record keeping began. This is how it looks:

In Milan, in June, a G8 meeting on pollution caps to curb climate change ended in failure. Americans keep perpetrating climate change as happily as ever but at least they're now catching on. The domestic edition of Newsweek 8/13 led with a story on the "well-funded naysayers who still reject the overwhelming evidence of climate change," with a look "inside the denial machine". Better late than never, eh? Yet, the U.S. denial machine still works well enough to sabotage the U.N. climate talks at Vienna August 27-31, which just "ended in a cloud of discord".

Philosophy in the English-speaking world remains a mixed bag. The Journal of Global Ethics, published by Blackwell, committed itself to an issue on Climate Ethics, which is a step in the right direction. Perspectives on Science, published by MIT, however, doesn't regard climate studies as a perspective meriting philosophical discussion in a topic issue. Let's give them time. They'll come around.

In Tampa, the administration of the University of South Florida has quietly rescinded the Flaggenbefehl. The patriotic banners have disappeared from the classrooms. Perhaps even the republicans have gotten tired of their fascist decor. The flag-free lecture halls made returning to classes very agreeable. Meanwhile the first ever course on climate change is being taught, by the Mad Hun, for the USF Honors College. Speaking of South Florida: here's a map of southern Florida's 20ft/6 m inundation by 2107, at least as they're expecting it at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the University of Arizona and NASA .

In Baghdad, meanwhile, more innocents keep dying at the hands of the invaders. The blood-for-oil trade continues. Centcom at Tampa continues to send soldiers and bullets to the middle east. In fact, it was the summer of the "surge", with more troopers fighting and more innocents killed than ever. The things one needs to do to maintain one's SUV lifestyle are highly ridiculous.

In Washington, the climate changer in chief and his snarling Nazi sidekick remain unimpeached.

The Chevron lady, oil tanker Rice, still draws a paycheck too.

The postmodern manipulator, Karl Rove, is out of a job but not yet in jail.

The attorney general, Torture Gonzalez, is out of a job too but not yet in jail either.

I guess the Americans aren't ready to play the blame game yet. Let's wait a little while and see what happens. Oh, and then there's Felix.