Those Lazy Hazy Days of Winter…
Ya gotta love the solid state double speak that passes for environmental reporting in China. Ya gotta. Otherwise they’ll shut you down and re-educate your sorry [beep]
While Beijing citizens are gasping for breath behind their surgical masks, this is how the government tells it, through their wholly-owned news service called Xinhua.
The headline: Hazy days impede Beijing’s blue sky goal. Yep, in China, even the sky is expected to meet government targets. But don’t call it SMOG. That sooty guck is just “mid-air suspending haze.”
Beijing city government set a goal for 238 blue sky days this year, but the last nine days in January were health chokers instead. Not that we can believe any of these statistics, but Xinhua claims the capital had 64.1 percent blue sky days in 2005, meaning Beijing had, quote, “over fulfilled its objective of having 230 blue sky days set at the beginning of 2005.”
Well, comrade, even by these glowing fulfillment of objectives, that means 4 days out of ten delivered a killing smog, I mean, “mid-air suspending haze.”
You can find the rosy interpretation of disastrous air quality at news.xinhuanet.com/english. Xinhua is spelled Xinhua.
We get a more scientific explanation from livescience.com for January 20th – quote:
“Smog is blocking sunlight in China and making much of the country significantly darker than it was half a century ago.
Using nearly 500 instruments spread throughout the country that record the amount of sunlight reaching the ground, researchers found that solar radiation has decreased by about 2 percent per decade since 1954.
The country is roughly 10 percent darker on average than it was 50 years ago.”
Imagine. Humans have actually made the sky go dark!
And it isn’t more clouds. In fact, researcher Yun Qian from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory(PNNL) in Washington reports cloud cover has DECREASED in China. So the change comes from fossil fuel emissions which increased nine-fold in the last century. That smoggy coal haze is absorbing and deflecting sunlight.
You can find this study online in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
The Beijing government is trying to clear the air, especially if they want people to breath during the 2010 Olympics. Beijing formed a new “energy police” in January, to track down unnecessary lighting and wasted heat in shopping malls and office buildings. For the first time, there will be an enforcement team to back up the national slogans to reduce energy imports and pollution.
They have a long way to go. According to the Asian Development Bank, Chinese industry uses four times more power to create a unit of Gross Domestic Product, compared to the top industrialized countries.
The Independent newspaper in Britain, at www.independent.co.uk has become a leader in breaking environmental stories. On January 19th, their science editor Steve Connor reported something that should send chills up the spines of all creatures who have spines.
As you may know, the whole chain of life depends upon microscopic plants in the ocean called plankton. Now, scientists have found that global warming can starve plankton in the sea. Connor says this could have “catastrophic implications for the entire marine habitat.”
The new study comes from a team led by Jef Huisman at the University of Amsterdam. They find that global warming is heating the ocean surface waters, and interfering with the exchange of nutrients from the deep sea. Without that nitrogen, phosphorus, and iron, the plankton weaken and die.
It gets worse. We depend upon the massive banks of plankton to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and sink it into the sea. If we lose plankton, there could be a positive feed-back mechanism resulting in ever more carbon dioxide in the Earth’s air supply.
It’s a good time to hear from one of the early politicians brave enough to write about global warming. Former Vice-President Al Gore is about to publish his newest book in April. The publisher is the long-time organic house, Rodale Books. The title: “An Inconvenient Truth.” Yes indeed.
The book is a companion to a documentary about Gore’s climate campaigning recently shown at the Sundance Film Festival. That’s also called “An Inconvenient Truth.” In both book and film, Gore argues there is indisputable proof that the climate is shifting, and humans are causing it.
According to the famous scientist James Lovelock, it’s all too late anyway. In his February release called “Gaia’s Revenge.” the aging Lovelock fears that humans have failed to react to their greatest crisis since their time began.
Who is he? In the 1970’s, Doctor James Lovelock proposed the Gaia theory – that the Earth and it’s life form a complete system. Living things have modified the earth, and its atmosphere, to further the goals of living things.
Lovelock was no environmentalist. At the time he was working for Shell Oil. He’s been a huge fan of nuclear power, and continues to advocate more reactors for everyone. In science, Lovelock’s Gaia theory led to an important reconception of the operation of living systems. Many scientists have adopted it.
The Greens and the public went further, to imagine the Earth as a single living entity, perhaps a power worthy of a religion. That was beyond Lovelock’s scientific intent.
Now, at age 86, Lovelock surveys the tsunami of scientific evidence for human-induce climate change, and concludes that the carbon balance of the atmosphere has already been irrevocably changed. We can only hope to mitigate the damage, but not stop, huge, almost unimaginable, changes for life on Earth.
Without a complete U-turn of the carbon economy, Lovelock predicts that by 2100, the only place fit for human life will be the Arctic.
He writes, quote,
“It was ill luck that we started polluting at a time when the sun was too hot for comfort. We have given Gaia a fever and soon her condition will worsen to a state like a coma. She has been there before and recovered, but it took more than 100,000 years.”
“Much of the tropical land mass will become scrub and desert; before this century is over billions of us will die and the few breeding pairs that survive will be in the Arctic, where the climate remains tolerable.”
Strangely, Lovelock says that pollution itself has helped deflect some of the sun’s heat, in a phenomenon called global dimming. But, quote,
“this ‘global dimming’ is transient and could disappear in a few days like the smoke that it is, leaving us fully exposed to the heat of the global greenhouse”. “We are in a fool’s climate, accidentally kept cool by smoke.”
“We will do our best to survive, but, sadly, I can’t see the US or the emerging economies of China and India cutting back in time and they are the main source of emissions. The worst will happen and survivors will have to adapt to a hell of a climate.”
Get the full article in the Scotsman for January 17th, at thescotsman.com.
A host of scientists and public bureaucrats, including the UK environment Minister, privately agree with Lovelock’s despair about human failure to adapt to the carbon crisis.
The Independent newspaper asked the well-known scientific author Mark Lynas to write a response. Lynas says, quote,
He’s right, in my opinion, that this is the most likely scenario. But that doesn’t mean we should give up the daily slog of trying to prove otherwise. Lovelock’s grim warning shouldn’t be a recipe for fatalism. True, carbon is now accumulating in the atmosphere at a record rate(2.2ppm last year), but no-one should be misled into thinking that as things stand, it’s already too late. If all emissions stopped tomorrow, we’d almost certainly stabilize at less than two degrees, saving billions of lives and countless species from extinction. It’s the fact that emissions aren’t going to stop that is the problem – and it’s here that we need to make sure that fatalism doesn’t kick in.”
That’s been the general reaction in various Net forums, like metafilter.com. One wag said he was canceling his order for a Toyota Prius hybrid, since it was too late anyway. Survivalists are wondering if their food in the bunker will be of any use. We already know there will be millions, perhaps billions, of climate refugees.
The immanent climate catastrophe breeds its own mental and cultural problems. How can we face it? Shall we give up, or maybe, we should start standing out in the streets, with our hot red scarves or hats, in our millions, until the traffic stops, until the leaders are compelled to lead.
Do you care if the Earth goes to Hell? Will you drive that gas guzzler to edge of the cliff, to watch it?
This has been news from Radio Ecoshock, a full-time voice for the Planet, at www.ecoshock.org.
Listen to what’s happening to your Planet.