Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Climate review October (B)

A few days ago I went to Lakeland, 50 km from USF. The only way to get there is by car. I felt stupid having to be on I-4. Why no train? There aren't high mountains and steep gorges in the way; it's all flat. Just lay track. Have a commuter bullet zip by every 15 min 24-7. Other countries can do it. Floridians, poor people, drive in their shiny bricks as if it was their religion. They are the car taliban.
But even here civil enlightenment is happening. For the first time since the summer of '68, the bourgeois paradigm is breaking up. Minds have become more open to suggestions. A new honesty, a new humility, is settling in. Is this the first step to climate evolution?

On the climate front, the first positive feedback loop--the melt loop--is up and running. Round and round it goes: thawing sea icea ... lowers marine albedo ... which increases insolation absorption ... which thaws sea ice ... and now start the sentence again. In the melt loop, we're now thirty years ahead of the predictions. In mid-autumn 2008, we see stuff that had been believed, in 2006, to happen only in 2040. The North Pole will be blue within a decade.

A second feedback loop appears to be coalescing as well. A year ago I called its first inklings the poop loop. Last fall, methane release had been seen in some spots in the high arctic, with tundra permafrost getting mushy and farting out CH4 from clathrate deposits. Now CH4 release seems to have spread to the seas. If we're lucky these will remain isolated incidents. Yet evidence is hardening that an arctic methane release has started. CH4 is a stronger greenhouse gas than CO2 but there's less of it, and to date, it has done little climate forcing. Now the poop may form a loop: more smelly CH4 heats up the air more, which warms up the sea more, which breaks down more clathrates tucked away in ocean floor sediments, which makes more CH4 bubble up to the surface ... and now start the sentence again. The poop loop. (For past reference and a present reality check, see the Permian-Triassic event.)

So the situation is sharpening. In July I guessed that even if Copenhagen 2009 will result in rational emission caps by 2012, average temps will be up 3.3 C by 2100 . Now a group, lead by J Hansen, submitted a paper to Open Atmospheric Science Journal that suggests temps will be up 6 C. Not three degrees. Six degrees. That's ten and a half in Fahrenheit. Pragmatically, this means our 385 ppm CO2 must be lowered to 350 ppm. That's where we stand.

Tearing up I-4 and turning it into a railroad corridor would be a start.


The fall issue of the Climate Philosophy Newsletter is in preparation. Kindly send information about climate-related conceptual research to the Mad Hun at schonfeld @ I plan to include an address roster of all the folks at the climate philosophy listserv. Melinda Rosenberg (U North Carolina-Pembroke) will review the conference on "Human Flourishing & Restoration in the Age of Global Warming" at Clemson University. Thom Heyd (U Victoria) will review the "Field Being and Climate" panel at the World Philosophy Congress at Seoul and the "Philosophy and Climate Symposium" at the Society for Human Ecology at Western Washington University.

This past weekend the Western Canadian Philosophical Association hosted a Climate Symposium at the University of Alberta. Thom Heyd talked on "Philosophy and Climate Change"; Kent Peacock (University of Lethbridge) made "The Case for Environmental Realism"; Bruce Morito (Athabasca University) explained "Ethics of Climate Change," and I contributed, in absentia, a paper on the Gringo Square: "The Heuristic Impact of Climate on Philosophy". Word has it that the symposium was fun, the discussion lively, and the range of ideas fresh and sparkling. Progress on critical paths ...


R F Kennedy/B De Melle, Unearthed: the News without the Chaff


"In a hundred years, all philosophy will be naturalized Hegelianism anyway."
Ivan Marquez (Bentley U), talking about Kenneth Westphal (U Kent), Oct 2008


... Yemen desert ravaged by floods 10.24.
... Honduras suffers extreme flooding 10.24.
... Siberian polar bears dying out 10.24.
... Haiti, storm-ravaged, pleas for international help 10.21.
... climate changing faster than expected (wwf)
... das Desaster naht früher als erwartet 10.20.
... climate change "faster and more extreme" 10.20.
... climate change "faster, stronger, sooner" 10.20.
... Burma typhoon help update 10.20.
... Alaska village faces eroded future 10.14.
... California wildfires lead to evacuations in LA 10.13.
... Montana gets earliest snow on record 10.11.


... Greenpeace offers climate/economics blueprint 10.27.
... ecologists raise alarm ahead of UN summit 10.13.
... preparations for Poznan Climate conference (Oct)
... US challenges to a post-Bush climate policy 10.2.


... Humans consume 30% more than is sustainable 10.29.
... Oil at $ 59 10.27.
... USA: 10 ways to steal the election (Nov)
... USA: 12 ways to safeguard your vote (Oct)
... Oil at $ 64 10.24.
... Pakistan stares into the abyss 10.23.
... Florida electronic early-voting fraud 10.21.
... W Virginia electronic early-voting fraud 10.18.
... UN: financial chills are ill wind for climate 10.9.
... grain piles up in ports 10.8.


... partying powers Dutch nightclub 10.24.
... engineering drought-resistant crops 10.23.
... A Greenspan shocked that free markets are flawed 10.23
... C Hamilton: let's call the whole thing off! 10.21.
... Singapore ecoarchitecture 10.14.
... G. Monbiot: this is what denial does 10.14.
... P Krugman wins economics Nobel 10.13.


... UK eco-town plan falters 10.26.
... US alternative energy suddenly faces headwinds 10.20.
... Bush chooses to keep Guantanamo open 10.20.
... G Palast: will the GOP steal another US election? 10.14.
... Alaskan pollock fishery near collapse 10.13.
... US media: ABC vetos airing of climate protection ad 10.10.


K Caldeira: "Climate change: taming the angry beast," book review of Broecker/Kunzig 2008, Science 322 (2008): 376-377

W Dorn et al., "The recent decline of the arctic summer sea-ice cover in the context of internal climate variability," Open Atmospheric Science Journal 2 (2008): 91-100

M Lemonick, "Global warming: beyond the tipping point," Scientific American special issue 4 (2008): 60-68

various authors, "How our economy is killing the Earth," special report, New Scientist 2678 (2008): 40-41

P Rochette et al., "Nitrous oxide emissions respond differently to no-till in a loam and a heavy clay soil," Soil Science Society of America Journal 72 (2008): 1363-1369

Friday, October 03, 2008

climate review October (A)

Solving a problem requires the guts to see the problem. Trouble is, when the problem is scary, guts tend to be in short supply. No one likes to hear, “I think you got a problem, bud,” especially in a culture that considers itself as the solution to the world's problems. As it so happens, such trouble tends to end naturally. Problems, freely ignored and left untended, just fester out of sight. Eventually their runaway growth will have you surrounded. Then, when your knee-jerk reaction to bad news is to turn a cold shoulder and look in a different, more pleasing direction, you're trapped. The problem, encircling you, stares you in the face. Like, now.

Which is good, really, because then we're finally having a conversation. So kindly step in and stick around. Let's hunker down and see what’s happening. I blog you my piece. You email me yours. Uniform data flows open minds. I suggest we make two steps; one, to face up to the problem, and two, to point toward a solution.

The problem, as I see it, began nearly a decade ago. The US started an economic experiment and much of the world joined in. What would happen, the US experimenters wondered, if we left the dull old middle ground of market-plus-rules, tossed out rules, and freed the market? The experimenters' hope was that doing so would rock; that everything would be awesome; that the US, already on top of the world, would be, well, much more toppest.

The experiment's over. The answer is in. “Uh, Houston, please come in; we have a problem.” The US got owned. The US fell from the top. The fabulous Bushist faceplant -- an epic, epic fail. Without rules and out of whack, the market flopped. The Stern Report, of the UK Treasury 2006, defines climate change as the biggest market failure ever seen. Historic this month is that there’s a new failure now, of the market itself—at least the turbo-charged, predatory, and experimental version pushed by the US.


Data had been clear enough already for a while. Things were vague but there was no fog. It was possible to think like a cloud. Look—in February I posted that the markets were trembling. In March I cited S Borgerson, on climate change, who wrote that self-preservation requires an enlightened, humble, and strategic response. And truly, honestly, absolutely, doesn’t it always? In April I blogged that downsizing had begun and that information was surging. In May it became clear that an opportunity for change is looming in the smoke; I cited D Korten that now is the hour. In June it became visible that systems failure had begun. In July the trendlines kept paying out – biospherical degradation worsened; economic decline accelerated. Climate-wise, July was the month in the US that climate censorship was lifted. August and September saw continuations of July’s trends, and I blogged that biospherical thumbscrews are tightening. Yet reactions to the tightening thumbscrews were ambiguous: over climate change, global policy made progress; US rulers made regress. In October, right now, the matrix is reloading. The reload has started with the economy. It is happening now. In the name of self-preservation I expect it to extend into ecology toward a new vision.

PS: A propos ecology: Hurricane Ike vanished from news right after landfall as if it had been just bad weather. Yet measured in monetary costs, Ike's damage is the worst after Andrew 1992 and Katrina 2005. Ike 2008 is number three, moneywise -- but one would have never guessed tracking US news.

PPS: And remember -- four servings of meat per week is max.


Bioneers Conference, Revolution from the Heart of Nature, 17-19 October 2008, San Rafael, California

Radboud University, Nijmegen, announces the Freude am Fluss conference "Space for the River, Space for People; Dilemmas and Directions in Multifunctional River Planning and Management, Nijmegen, Holland, 22-24 October 2008. (go here for registration)

Florida Gulf Coast University's Center for Environmental and Sustainability Education, together with the departments of language & literature, and communication & philosophy, are hosting a conference on Humanities and Sustainability, in Ft Myers, Florida, 8-9 May 2009.


"The roots of the problem of climate change are essentially cultural. The solution must be too."

Marcel Cano (U Barcelona), Climate Symposium, SHE Conference, University of Western Washington, Bellingham, WA, Sept 2008

"Now we have the wind on our backs. And when you have wind in your sails, you sail. Let's sail towards a new economic model, one that respects both nature and humanity, instead of this one that destroys them."

Pavan Sukhdev, author of Economics of Ecosystems and Sustainability, at IUCN Congress, Barcelona, Oct 2008 (read more)


U Surrey: food climate research network
dandelife: the story of global warming
B McKibben: 350 ppm
... See also: 350 friends and allies


... tropical species in climate trouble 10.9.
... hurricane Ike's environmental toll 10.5.
... US tries to censor news of Ike's human toll 10.3.
... Mediterranean seas turn acidic 10.5.
... Algeria floods in desert 10.2.
... hurricane Kyle hits Canada 9.29.
... Florida Everglades continue to decline 9.29.
... Maine coast under tropical storm warning 9.27.
... Alicante: 40 litros de agua por m2 en apenas media hora 9.24.
... the methane timebomb 9.23.
... Greenland ice melts faster than expected 9.23.
... polar bears resort to cannibalism 9.23.
... Indian monsoon kills 119 in 3 days 9.22.
... Atlanta gas shortage due to Ike and Gustav 9.22.
... Kwa Zulu Natal surprise snowfall 9.21.
... zum zweiten Mal extrem wenig Polareis 9.19.
... US jobless rise due to hurricane Gustav 9.18.


... EU climate plan watered down 10.3.
... Western Climate Initiative announced 9.24.
... Portugal switches on 'wave snakes' 9.24.
... Chicago climate strategy 9.19.


... Alaska's amazing coast erosion (at dot earth)
... No Words: the 350 ppm animation (at


... Oil at $ 77 10.10
... M Morford: planet Obama 10.8.
... US debt clock runs out of numbers 10.8.
... Oil at $ 87 10.8.
... F Norris: live blogging amid panic 10.6.
... 25 percent of mammals risk now extinction 10.5.
... US state rail projects boost by less driving 9.30.
... global climate need for rationing meat, milk 9.30.
... US worst single-day stock drop since 1987 9.29.
... America's fall from power 9.28.
... US gas shortages in the south 9.26.
... world food shortage crisis creeping up 9.26.
... greenhouse gas pollution up despite economic downturn 9.26.
... CO2 Ausstoss steigt immer rasanter an 9.26.
... Pakistani frontier turns into war zone 10.3.
... Pakistani and US troops exchange fire 9.25.
... Pakistani outrage against the US 9.25.
... US Chevy dealers packing it in 9.24.
... Bush: no apology, no regrets 9.24.
... Gore urges resistance to new coal plants 9.24.
... UK gov calls climate deniers "deluded" 9.23
... UK cost of bread, butter up 43% since 2007 9.23.
... global hunt for climate-proof crops begins 9.23.
... world oil supply crisis approaches 9.22.
... Bush confesses to economic ignorance 9.21.
... economic crisis threatens EU climate plan 9.21.
... how we became the United States of France 9.20.
... fingerpointing directed at Bush 9.19.
... planet running out of clean water 9.19.
... Oil at $ 104 9.19.
... France worries about US 'toxic waste' 9.19.


... K Trueman: the climate meltdown 10.6.
... new atmospheric CO2 capture tool via NaOH (U Calgary; see Stolaroff et al in "Climatology" below)
... Congress for the New Urbanism transport summit (info)
... UN FAO: we need to rethink biofuels 10.7.
... P Crutzen: economic woes give planet a breather 10.7.
... R Scheer: plague on the White House/the banality of Evil 10.7.
... Nobel 2008 peace 10.10.
... Nobel 2008 literature 10.9.
... Nobel 2008 chemistry 10.8.
... Nobel 2008 physics 10.7.
... Nobel 2008 medicine 10.6.
... Nobel literature chief: US writing too 'insular' 9.30.
... C Hedges: the bailout betrayal 10.6.
... P Krugman: healthcare destruction 10.5.
... T. Van Deusen: Ike, the silent storm 10.3.
... D Jackson: Palon cold on climate warming 10.3.
... G. Keillor: where were the cops? 9.25.
... M Morford: 700 billion fluffy nothings 9.24.
... J Kunstler: all fall down 10.6.
... J Kunstler: falling into fall 9.22.
... Pleistocene park: rewilding Europe 9.22.
... P Krugman: cash for trash 9.21.
... E Margolis: US orgy of debt 9.21.
... D Schechter: our financial 9-11 9.21.
... US cities want less parking 9.20.
... K Philipps: bad money 9.19.


... how ExxonMobil manufactures uncertainty on climate (UCS)
... subsidies for US car industry 10.7.
... Real Climate: Palin on global warming 10.5.
... global CO2 emissions speed up beyond IPCC predictions 9.28.
... Palin (R) claims dinosaurs and humans coexisted 9.28.
... US dazed administration 9.19.


Harper's Magazine (vol. 316, no. 1896, p. 43-47) published "Numbers Racket: why the economy is worse than we know" by Kevin Philipps last May (p. 47):
The real numbers, to most economically minded Americans, would be a face full of cold water. Based on the criteria in place a quarter century ago [criteria since then progressively deconstructed], today's US unemployment rate is somewhere between 9 percent and 12 percent; the inflation rate is as high as 7 or even 10 percent; economic growth since the recession of 2001 has been mediocre, despite a huge surge in the wealth and income of the superrich, and we are falling back into recession. If what we have been sold in recent years has been delusional "Pollyanna Creep," what we really need today is a picture of our economy ex-distortion. For what it would reveal is a nation in deep difficulty not just domestically but globally.

... Taiwan, Kenting Park: corals are fine despite all odds 10.6.
... British rivers may dry up by 2050 10.5.
... A Revkin: climate and spotless sun 10.3.
... Global Carbon Project, carbon budget and trends 2007, 9.26.
... climate change dulls fall foliage 9.24.

... Food Climate Research Network (U Surrey): cooking up a storm--food, greenhouse gas emissions, and our changing climate (Oct 08), summary (pdf), report (long pdf)

... E Kintisch, "Impacts research seen as next climate frontier," Science 322:182-183

... J Schipper, "The status of the world's land and marine mamals" Science 322: 225

... J. Stolaroff, "CO2 capture from air using sodium hydroxide" Enviro Sci Technol 42 (2008): 2728-2735

... B. Juncosa, "Climate change, new and bigger dead zones," Scientific American (Oct 2008)

... D. Biello, "CO2 auction launches US effort to combat climate change," Scientific American 9.26.

... E Gertz, "Can offshore drilling really make the US oil independent?" Scientific American 9.12.