Radio Ecoshock Show September 3rd, 2010
[Opens with song clip from "Fire" by Arthur Brown, 1968][plus an AP news radio clip, starting with the quick quote from a woman in Moscow...]
Welcome back to Radio Ecoshock. Thanks to the 22 college and community stations that carry this show - and Green 960 AM and online in San Francisco.
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In the Summer of 2010, the world witnessed more signs of climatic instability on a grand scale.
The Arctic Ice again retreated to near-record levels. In the United States, new heat records were set in many states. In fact, 17 different countries set all-time heat records this past Summer, from Latin America through Africa and the Middle East to Russia.
In Pakistan, floods beyond imagination created the world's largest humanitarian disaster.
But the harbinger, messenger from the future, took the Russian people into uncharted Hell. Moscow, at the latitude of Alaska, boiled in the weather of Cairo, while gasping smoky air equivalent to two packs a day of cigarettes, for every man, woman and child.
Russian leaders, who bragged global warming would be good for that Northern country, got a taste of the coming century.
Scientists are still debating whether the abnormal heat, drought, and fires in Russia were caused by climate change. But we know for certain: that is the future, that is the coming century, as temperatures climb, as the greenhouse atmosphere thickens with the exhaust of our fossil civilization.
Let us see what we can learn. About how people and governments act under stress. About our vulnerabilities. About our chances of survival.
In the radio show, we go straight to Moscow, talking with Vladimir Tchouprov of Greenpeace Russia. He's got news that never made the mainstream news.
That is followed by more analysis from Dmitry Orlov, author of "Reinventing Collapse: The Soviet Example and American Prospects." Dmitry has been scanning the Russian language press and blog, while talking with people inside and outside the country. Dmitry has some suggestions for survival.
Are you interested in your food supplies? We squeeze in a clip from a press conference with Lester Brown, on the Russian grain export ban, and the impact of climate on world food stocks.
Can we even comprehend these grand events, these warning signs?
I'm Alex Smith, and let's get started.
[Listen to/download the Vladimir Tchouprov interview - 17 min 4 MB]
Was it global warming?
Scientists seem to fall in three camps. A small group say the Russian heat wave was natural, or even caused by an American climate weapon, based in Alaska. Others say this was certainly made worse by human-made greenhouse gases. The remainder say it is too soon to tell, without further study - but this is certainly what we can expect in the future. Given what we know from models, and from the deep past.
[Quick quote from Piers Corbyn, saying humans have nothing to do with it.]
Those calling the event natural are not all cranks, like Piers Corbyn who you just heard talking with Russia TV. Corbyn is a meteorologist, astrophysicist and professional weather predicter in England. In Wikipedia, he has been proven very wrong in his predictions.
Martin Hoerling is a research meteorologist, who specializes in climate for the Earth System Research Lab in Colorado - run for the American government's NOAA.
Hoerling reviewed historical data on heat waves in Russia. He concluded that global warming did not cause this event. Rather it was, he says, a "black swan" - an unusual stalling of the air streams that normally move weather systems as the Earth spins.
Russia has experienced very hot weather before, but nothing like this, and never for so long. Still, Hoerling argues all the necessary causes can be found in the normal operations weather, without climate change. Not that he disbelieves climate change - far from it. The man warns this is exactly what many places of the Earth can expect - perhaps 70 years from now, due to the accumulation of greenhouse gases.
Find a link to the NOAA draft report, dated August 13th, in my Radio Ecoshock blog entry for September 1st, 2010.
For those with a subscription, Michael Marshall makes a similar argument in New Scientist magazine, usually a reliable source. It is titled "Frozen jet stream links Pakistan floods, Russian fires"
Personally, from my 21 years following climate change in both the press and scientific reports, I've heard too many projections of climate events expected 50 years from now, that whirl up violently now. The same long-term predictions were made about the Arctic sea ice. I say, climate change is with us now.
Saying this heat wave is a "black swan" event is an oxy-moron. It means we haven't seen it before, but that explains nothing. Meteorologists tend to explain everything in terms of weather mechanics. Climate scientists look back at longer trends, and forecast events exactly like the Russian heat wave.
Instead of a swan, this one looks, walks and quacks like a duck. Maybe it is.
Let's look again at Russia, through experienced eyes.
[Dmitry Orlov interview. See link below for download.]
I've put selected links to interviews and papers by Dmitry Orlov in the Radio Ecoshock blog for this program.
Expecting Collapse. It's the new hot meme: we are going down. Interview with Dmitry Orlov, author of "Reinventing Collapse", and John Michael Greer, "The Long Descent". Plus clips from Prof Joseph Tainter & Dennis Meadows. Will it be a relief? Ecoshock 100305 1 hour Lo-Fi 14 MB
Reinventing Collapse The Soviet Example & American Prospects KMO of C-Realm interviews author Dmitry Orlov on possible devolution of America, as oil runs out. From C-Realm 92. 6 min 25 MB Lo-Fi
Re-Inventing Collapse Ecoshock interview with Dmitry Orlov, author of "Reinventing Collapse: Soviet Example and American Prospects" America after bankruptcy may be a new opportunity. 23 min 6 MB Lo-Fi
The Russian Heat Storm - Ecoshock interview with Orlov 100903 (this week's program) 18 min 4 MB Lo-Fi
The Collapse Party Program – humorous? - but very serious, look at what politicians really need to do to save this civilization. Must read.
The Five Stages of Collapse. Orlov's site notes: "Update May 2010: Two years after its publication, this article has been read by 54000 or so people, and is still being read by an average of 1500 people each month—on this site alone. Based on this steady level of interest, and on how effective of this taxonomy of collapse has proven to be in mapping out the events of the intervening two years, I have decided to give it a book-length treatment."
Keep up with Dmitry Orlov at his web site.
15 LESSONS FOR THE FUTURE, FROM THE RUSSIAN HEAT STORM
-by Alex Smith, Radio Ecoshock
Whether or not the Russian fire storm was directly caused by climate change - it is a hard lesson on what we can expect in the future. Here are just a few of the issues stirred up by heat, the smoke, the drought, and the fires. Learn what you will, from these 15 warnings.
Deaths from heat and smog caused the death rate to double in Moscow. Large cities can be attacked by climate change, to become deadly traps.
An estimated 2,000 Russians drowned trying to escape the heat. Some died in drinking fountains. Some drank too much alcohol, trying to cope with the heat and stress.
The fires revealed the extreme and nearly uncontrollable dangers posed by climate change to nuclear facilities, both power reactors and military bases.
Many people tried to leave Moscow, but were prevented by smoke-closed roads and airports. Subways became dangerous. Traffic accidents and fatalities went way up. Essential goods, including food and medical supplies, can't get through. Transportation systems break down.
The number of homeless people grew, as villages were burned out.
Peat fires went up to 12 feet underground, and are expected to burn until winter.
Crops die. One fifth of Russian grains were lost, exports banned, and international wheat prices rose. In the future, grain importers, like the North African nations, may starve.
Home gardens, community gardens, and survival gardens died. Beyond certain limits, plants cannot cope with a hotter climate. Survivalists should begin testing their varieties and their strategies for cooling plants. Or consider relocating to a microclimate regulated by the ocean, or other large bodies of water.
Fans, air conditioners, and inflatable pools sold out quickly. Money could not buy a cool place, or fresh air. Air conditioners may be useless, if the power goes out. Consider your tools.
Some wealthy Russians were able to get out, including government officials. With the poor stuck and dying, - class stress, or even violence, is possible during extreme climate events. Think New Orleans under hurricane Katrina.
The electric grid is strained, and power lines burn down, including those coming from nuclear power stations. Brown-outs and black-outs are likely in the future, even in countries like Great Britain, or America.
People suffer extreme psychological stress. Will your baby, grandma, or asthmatic husband be OK? Are you afraid to go out for work or supplies? Will crime and violence flare in the day-after-day relentless heat? Do people come to fear the weather? What are the long-term mental health risks?
Even more carbon was released into the atmosphere. Global warming will feed more global warming. The Russian fires released millions of tons of carbon from the forests into the sky. The black particles swirled up into the international Arctic, darkening snow, hastening more melting. Brown clouds traveled as far as Beijing.
The economic costs continue to mount. Forest jobs lost. Workers don't show up. Expensive fire fighting and restoration costs. Roads wiped out. Crops wiped out, including orchards, farm equipment, and buildings. In Russia, the loss is estimated at least 1 percent of the GDP.
Public anger mounts, and big government often fails to handle anything with competence. Regime change, as we may yet see in Pakistan after the floods, is always possible after major climate hits. The long-term impact on public confidence is unknown. Governments may swing to authoritarian forms, or break down into smaller states, or anarchy.
The only known way to control our path toward the future, to limit the horror or these trends, is to control our carbon emissions, and other greenhouse gases. The alternative, as climateprogress blogger Joe Romm says, is Hell and High Water.
The top man at the Russian weather forecast agency called Rosgidromet, one Alexander Frolov, told AFP news:
"From the moment of the foundation of our country, we can say, in the last period of 1,000 years, no similar heat wave has been observed neither by ourselves nor by our ancestors."
From Moscow, Associated Press reporter Simon Schuster reported this historic moment, quote:
At a meeting of international sporting officials in Moscow on July 30, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced that in 14 regions of the country, 'practically everything is burning. The weather is anomalously hot.' Then, as TV cameras zoomed in on the perspiration shining on his forehead, Medvedev announced, 'What's happening with the planet's climate right now needs to be a wake-up call to all of us, meaning all heads of state, all heads of social organizations, in order to take a more energetic approach to countering the global changes to the climate.'"
A former employee of forest company International Paper, President Medvedev was instrumental in dismantling the forest monitoring system that could have helped save lives and the forests.
The radio show has more on Medvedev's meddling with the forest, and it's impact on these fires, in a report from theglobalreport.org
See that You tube report on mishandling of the Russian fire response here.
Previously, President Medvedev had described global warming as, quote, "some kind of tricky campaign made up by some commercial structures to promote their business projects." In 2009, Medvedev announced Russia would increase their warming gases 30 percent by 2020.
What else could the head of one of the world's largest fossil-fuel exporters say? We can expect the same denial and obstruction from Canada, for the same reasons. And like Russia, parts of Canada are burning every Summer.
We can say that the very purpose of our lives, now, is to help move carbon from deep in the Earth into the sky. That is what we do every day, you and I.
We buy a product, and that moves all the carbon - from extraction of raw resources, through production and shipping, on the way to the land-fill or incinerator, on the way to the atmosphere. Almost everything we want and do, is part of this vast system of greenhouse gas production.
We are the greenhouse makers. Our children will sweat it out in the world we leave them. Unless we find a better way.
I'm Alex Smith for Radio Ecoshock. Thank you for caring enough to listen.
This is "Power from Above" by New England folk singer Dan Berggren.
[download it here.]