Wednesday, May 27, 2009

climate review May

-- updated 5/28, 5/31, 6.1. --
-- thanks for all your links --

We have ninety months left.

Florida saw record heat in May followed by an early start of the rainy season. The SUV-induced drought continues; rainfall remains below average for the third year in a row, and the past dry season was the second driest on record. Local news mention neither climate change nor amerigenic causes. Ownership people are not permitted to water the lawn. Since poison is dumped in gardens that sprinklers wash off, a toxic brew runs off from suburbs to the ocean, killing things. The sprinkler ban has let sea grass beds in the Bay to recover a bit.

In the US things are moving in the right direction, but too slowly. The American way of life, with happy motoring and fossil emissions, destabilizes the Earth System. Now Mother Nature is waging war on the US. Americans holding on to their lifestyle stand little change of winning. Russia and Canada may find ways to adapt, but most of the US, just like most of China, is too far south for adaption. Within a few decades, the American Southwest will be a desert. Much of the remainder, including a slimmer, shorter Florida, will be steppe. Americans will migrate to Canada just as Chinese will leave for Russia. It appears we will have to give up some land. The uncanny thing is how half-hearted and short-sighted the responses are. Survival demands a Great Leap Forward, not American baby steps! Perhaps the problem is that social environments tune mental attitudes, and that a culture of private property, financial gain, suburban living, and car commutes happens to cloud minds.

The Obama administration issued new vehicle regulations requiring 40% more fuel efficiency of 15 klicks per liter (6.7 l/100 km) by 2016. Reality check: a Toyota Prius gets 23 km per liter (4.2 l/100 km). GM is flirting with bankruptcy. Bullet trains are not in sight.

The Republicans, a party that lives on another planet, failed to defeat the first US climate bill (it passed a House committee), which aims to lower greenhouse emissions by 2020 to 83% of 2005 levels. It's a cap-and-trade bill with lots of capitalistic candy. For the first few years, the bill gives away 85% of permits for free. The bill allows for lots of offsets (polluters can keep polluting and pay others to pollute less), a strategy that has caused problems in Europe. Overall, the climate bill is good vibes but too diluted to make a difference.

Climate change at the poles is disrupting the food web in Antarctica. The South polar ocean is fresher than it was because of ice melt. Permafrost CO2 release has come clearer into view: plant carbon uptake will be overwhelmed in a few decades, making the thawing tundra the largest source of CO2 emissions in the future, and triggering a positive feedback loop. Mt Everest's glaciers are melting. The Amazon basin is seeing climate swings. German cuckoo birds cannot deal with warming. California trees are getting smaller.

I still see no bicycles on the road. A bus stop nearby now is graced with a bench. There are no trains. Everyone still drives big cars. Lots of people have diabetes, heart disease, and weight problems. In a nice reminder of Bavaria in the 1980s, I finally saw a bus on campus with a biodiesel sticker. There are no solar panels and wind farms. The American addiction to Arab oil remains unconditional.

Atmospheric CO2 concentrations are now at 388 ppmv. Pre-industrial levels were 280 ppmv. A 3° C temperature rise this century is likely, and the chance of a 6° C rise has grown to one in three. You don't need a philosopher to tell you that a 6° C rise will end civilization. We need to get down to 350 ppmv, and time is running out.

USF Professor Al Arian is not back in his office and remains in jail.


"This is a challenge that requires imagination, political will and the vision to champion generations to come while meeting the urgent needs of today."
Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former president of Brazil, "It Doesn't Get Bigger Than This" 5.14.

"We are now in a different kind of war -- a war that we have conducted against the ecosystem and [that] has been conducted by our very own corporate leaders. ... The products built in the factories of GM, Ford and Chrysler are some of the greatest weapons of mass destruction responsible for global warming and the melting of our polar icecaps. The things we call 'cars' may have been fun to drive, but they are like a million daggers into the heart of Mother Nature. To continue to build them would only lead to the ruin of our species and much of the planet."
Michael Moore, film-maker, "Goodbye, GM" 6.1.

"It is unfair to expect China to live within constraints that we didn't have to face when our own economy was on its way up. But that unfairness doesn't change the fact that letting China match the West's past profligacy would doom the Earth as we know it."
Paul Krugman, economy Nobel laureate, "Empire of Carbon" 5.14.

"The trouble is, physics and chemistry aren't adjusting their schedule to fit our political and economic convenience."
Bill McKibben, activist, "Can Save the World?" 5.17.

"It's about whether we're serious about remaining a great nation. We don't act like it."
Bob Herbert, NYT columnist, "Our Crumbling Foundation" 5.25.


The Climate Philosophy Newsletter is almost ready to be mailed out--give us another week. If any colleague has done any recent climate-related work, please let us know so that we can add the info.

The Aarhus conference's program will be up by July 1.

The Essays in Philosophy's call for papers is October 1. The issue will come out January 2010.


Mike Grubb (Cambridge, UK) and Rick Loch (Imperial College, London) launched a journal called Climate Policy, published by earthscan journals. The inaugural issue has articles on mitigation in the Copenhagen deal; post-2012 implications of China's emissions; the issue of determining best carbon cuts; alternative money tools for mitigation; cap-and-trade mechanisms; German lessons from the same; climate effective architecture; and more. All of this sounds timely. Check it out at .


World: climate change causes 315,000 deaths a year 5.29.
... A Revkin: warming and death 5.29.
Amazon basin braces for 'extreme climate' 5.26.
Nepal's Mt Everest glaciers have started to melt 5.25.
Yosemite's giant trees disappear due to climate 5.22.
drop in CO2 in US and power use in China for now 5.21.
Argentina: tropical storm forms over dry land 5.21.
Florida rains don't end drought 5.20.
Antarctic algae vanish; climate disrupts food chain 5.19.
Florida's rainy season arrives early 5.17.
Alaska's land is rising as glaciers melt 5.17.
Florida's record-setting heat (II) 5.11.
Alaska's salmon disappear with changing climate 5.1.
Florida's record-setting heat (I) 4.7.
Germany's cuckoo cannot adapt to climate change 5.25.


US climate legislation advances 5.27.
France in climate row over attempt to appoint skeptic 5.27.
Russia shifts stance on climate-change policy 5.27.
Ontario introduces cap and trade legislation 5.27.
Copenhagen Business Climate Summit hijacked by polluters 5.25.
US climate bill worse than expected 5.21.
US climate bill as good as it gets 5.17.
Obama touts plan for cleaner cars 5.19.
US to toughen rules on emissions and mileage 5.18.
UN chief urges climate action 5.17.
US lawmakers unveil climate bill 5.15.


jet biofuel ready for takeoff 5.29.
US: despite bad economy no big shift in values 5.21.
Economist: US & climate: cap + trade, handouts & loopholes 5.21.
S Chu's proposal--should we paint everything white? 5.27.
Business Weekly: the great ethanol scam 5.15.
Gainesville Regional Utilities support solar power buy-backs 4.17.


E. Schuur, "The effect of permafrost thaw on old carbon release and net carbon exchange from tundra" Nature 459:556-559 5.28.
... editor's summary 5.28.
... study cites 'slow motion' threat from permafrost 5.29.
... Nature Climate feedback: greening vs. gassing in the Arctic 5.28.

R. Morello, "The climate gap: inequalities in how climate change hurts Americans & how to close the gap," University of Southern California PERE Publications 5/09
... climate change hits poor hardest in U.S. SciAm 5.29.

A. Hu, "Transient response of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation and climate to potential melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet in the 21st century" Geophys. Res. Let. 36 5.29.
... Greenland ice could fuel severe US sea level rise 5.27.

Univ of New Hampshire June 09 conference topic: spring agricultural fires have large impact on melting Arctic Science Daily 5.29.
... human-made fires fuel Arctic warming 5.28.

A. Thomas, "Penultimate deglacial sea-level timing from uranium/thorium dating of Tahitian corals" Science 324 5.29.
... coral clues to deglaciation

P. Wignall, "Volcanism, mass extinction, and carbon isotope fluctuations in the Middle Permian of China" Science 324 5.29.
... "severe disturbance of the ocean-atmosphere carbon cycle"

M. McPhee, "Rapid change in freshwater content of Arctic Ocean" Geophys. Res. Let. 36 5.21.
... Nature research highlight 5.28.

A. Costello, "Managing health effects of climate change"
Lancet 373 5.16.
... making climate change part of global health Lancet 373 5.16. warming biggest health threat this century 5.14.

Accuweather 2009 hurricane forecast 6.1.
...forecast for 2009 Atlantic hurricane season lowered 5.14.

C. Knappenberger, "Climate impacts of Waxman-Markey (the IPCC-based arithmetic of no gain)" Master Resource 5.6.
... Real Climate: the tragedy of climate commons 5.7.

M. Inman, "A sensitive subject: how the planet will respond to rising emissions" Nature Reports Climate Change (2009) 41 4.30.

Scientific American reports: wildfires and climate change 5/09
... wildfires fuel climate change Sci Am 4.23

N. Stern, A Blueprint for a Safer Planet (2009), review, Nature 4.9.

Climate Change: decadal scale coolings not all that unusual 4.7.


car driven society poses health risks for Americans 5.29.
Rolling Stones, Am Winehouse team up for climate charity 5.26.
Japan Times: Nuremberg sets precedent for Bush prosecution 5.26.
Sam Bergen Rescue Earth--Join Us Oxfam video 1:00 min
Netherlands to close prisons for lack of criminals 5.19.
US health care lies about Canada 5.18.
George Carlin (rip): Saving the Planet video 7:39 min
post-Bushist food for thought: thermite? 4.17.

On a personal note, we will be abroad on sabbatical and away from computers until December. It would be nice to see a continuity of monthly climate reviews during this time. Interested volunteers please contact the Mad Hun in South Florida Philosophy.

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