SUMMARY: The world could warm 17 degrees hotter – scientist Thomas J. Goreau. Plus America’s most dangerous nuclear reactor, Indian Point 25 miles from New York City. Lawyer/activist Susan Hito-Shapiro. Radio Ecoshock
“I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists; that we don’t have enough information to act. Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what –- I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities. The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe. The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it.”
– U.S. President Barack Obama in his State of the Union address, 2015.
You can’t make this stuff up. The hub of world financial activity, Wall Street and all, is gambling every day that two old reactors just 25 miles away won’t finally melt-down, Fukushima-style. Even the Nuclear Regulatory Commission thinks Indian Point has the most at-risk-for-an-earthquake reactors in the country. Later in this program we’ll talk with environmental lawyer, activist and local resident Susan Hito-Shapiro about the real threat.
But first, I found another jaw-dropping, gasp-for-breath story in climate science. Is two degrees Centigrade of warming safe? What about 17 or 20 degrees hotter? That’s right. The United Nations panel on climate change doesn’t tell you the ultimate destination. When our current emissions at 400 parts per million finally stabilizes, London will be a tropical swamp with hippos and crocodiles –
I’ve been on the climate watch since 1990. How come nobody told us? And our source is not a blogger from nowhere-istan. He’s a scientist with decades of experience and a who’s who of scientific connections. The only good news is there is some good news. Dr. Goreau can also see a way to bring the world’s climate back to the place we can recognize, and survive. It’s all in a day’s work at Radio Ecoshock.
Or listen on Soundcloud right now!
THOMAS GOREAU INTERVIEW: TOWARD A WORLD IMPOSSIBLY HOT
Are we heading toward a super-tropical planet with today’s coastlines deep underwater? We’re going to talk about what the United Nations doesn’t tell you, and the best way to save what’s left. Our guest is Dr. Thomas J. Goreau. He studied planetary physics and astronomy, before getting his doctorate in biogeochemistry at Harvard. Born in Jamaica, among many fields of expertise, Thomas Goreau is an expert in coral reef science. He is President of the Global Coral Reef Alliance.
But I’ve asked Dr. Goreau to join us because of a startling speech he made last November at Tufts University. The conference was called “Biodiversity for a Livable Climate“.
WATCH THE TUFT SPEECH FOR YOURSELF, HERE.
Let’s just go over a few main points from my interview with Thomas Goreau. You probably haven’t heard that news before, and may not hear it again. I’m not a scientist. This is just what I’ve found in Google searches, which you can do for yourself.
The actual climate record says that the world will keep warming for thousands of years. At our current level of 400 parts per million carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, it may settle out between 17 degrees and 20 degrees C. warmer, at least 30 degrees hotter in Fahrenheit. The seas will be some 27 feet higher, at least. Back in the last great warming period, the Emian, most of the world’s coral reefs died, sea levels were super high, and the CO2 levels in the atmosphere were only 280 parts per million, much lower than today.
I found that hard to believe. So I went back into the charts myself. Has the Earth ever been that hot? We won’t count the very early days of the planet, or the time when a collision split off the moon. NASA estimates temperatures in the atmosphere may have hit 3600 degrees Fahernheit. There was no life then.
According to Wiki, the hottest point in the last 500 million years was around 15 degrees C warmer than the 1960 to 1990 average global mean temperature.
In days of living things, Earth was at least 5-8 degrees C, 13 degrees hotter in Fahrenheit than today, reaching 73 degrees global mean temperature, versus our 60 degree Fahhrenheit global average today. That was the the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum or (PETM) around 55 million years ago. There was no ice on Earth, but palm trees and crocodiles around the Arctic sea. Many species went
There are two striking points about the United Nations approach to climate change, coming out of this interview with Thomas Goreau. First, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been blinkered to look at just the next 100 years at the most. We’ve all become conditioned to that, without asking what happens in the NEXT 100 years, or 500 years.
Sure, we’ll all be dead by then. But think back. If people in Medieval Europe developed this fossil-fuelled civilization, right about now we’d all be struggling to avoid extinction, living on mountain-tops or in the Arctic. Most of our animal and plant friends, including our food, would have been long gone. That’s what we apparently agree to leave to our descendants.
In his Tufts lecture, at 6 minute 30 seconds into the video, Goreau says the actual long-term climate change operates on a sensitivity about 10 times what IPCC projects, sea level 100 times, and CO2 much more again.
The second big point about the U.N. climate framework is they don’t count carbon soil at all. They don’t measure it. Nobody rewards people who can put carbon back in the soil. Our whole effort is not agricultural, but industrial. Let’s cut back carbon emissions, close the coal mines and the Tar Sands. Sure, but that won’t stabilize Earth’s climate at all. It just makes our future less worse, or stalls the big change one or two hundred years.
The UN watered down the language on sinks, and focused on fossil fuels, wanted credits for photosynthesis, but not respiration. The whole carbon accounting system makes no sense. You can get credits for planting trees, even if they burn, or die. But there’s no credits for putting carbon in the ground. Soils need to be counted as carbon sinks, and use that as the ultimate measurement. Governments are running away from reality.
IS 350.ORG AIMING TOO LOW?
I know plenty of so-called realists who blast Bill McKibben’s 350.org for being so whimsical demanding we go backwards in carbon emission time. It’s obvious carbon in the atmosphere is going up, up, up. Except… that does mean we are doomed, and our world with it. Thomas Goreau is part of a growing chorus of scientists and activists who expose the awful truth: even 350 parts per million CO2 in the atmosphere is too high. We need to wind the carbon clock way back, to about 260 ppm.
Here is another video of Goreau on a panel, worth watching if you want to dive deeper.
Goreau says: Biochar treated at high temps doesn’t decompose. There are forest fire ashes 350 million years old, still recognizable, didn’t decompose.
We spend half the Radio Ecoshock interview talking not about climate catastrophe, but about the real solution that is out there in soil carbon. We do know how to do it! We could avoid climate catastrophe!
MORE SOIL CARBON RESOURCES
Find a lot more sources on soil carbon here at ecowatch.com.
Also listen to my interview with soil carbon champion Alan Savory. Here is the blog for that 2011 show on the soil carbon solution.
Or read about in this Radio Ecoshock blog entry.
Goreau’s latest book book is more of a scientific textbook (at $100-something dollars). It’s “Geotherapy: Innovative Methods of Soil Fertility Restoration, Carbon Sequestration, and Reversing CO2 Increase” by Thomas J. Goreau, Ronal W. Larson, and Joanna Campe, published in December 2014.
ALBERT BATES AND THE BIOCHAR MOVEMENT
I just had an interesting email conversation with Albert Bates, the counter-culture thinker from The Farm. He’s really into dirt, and getting carbon back into it. Albert is off teaching the ways of permaculture and carbon farming, this time in Belize. Some of the most ardent students, and maybe our best hope, come from South America, where the whole idea of biochar originated some 5,000 years ago. Some big names are getting interested in the soil carbon solution. Expect to hear more about it. If you don’t, our great grand-kids may be cooked.
My second interview for this program looks at another way the world financial system can melt down, just like Fukushima.
THE REACTOR THAT COULD CAUSE US TO ABANDON NEW YORK CITY FOREVER
Today, and every day, tens of millions of Americans in and around New York City risk a Fukushima-style melt down of two nearby reactors. The Indian Point Energy Center is just 25 miles north of New York City. These old reactors have leaks, fires, and shutdowns galore. The reactors are within a mile of a known earthquake fault. For all this and much more, Indian Point could be America’s most dangerous nuclear plant.
The triple melt-down of the Fukushima nuclear reactors in Japan taught us that a nuclear accident is not a local issue. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, or anywhere near an ocean, this is your problem. This is your story.
Two Indian Point Nuclear Reactors On the Hudson River, Outside of New York City
Radio Ecoshock investigates with long-time nuclear activist and New York State environmental lawyer Susan Hito-Shapiro.
There are so many dangerous problems there, I hardly know where to begin. Why don’t we start with mega-risk: the possibility of an earthquake. This was just in the news, as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission turned down an attempt by the reactor operator to avoid doing proper quake risk studies.
The NRC is amazingly slow to protect the public. Entergy has until 2017 to come up with a plan to protect against a quake – and then more years to implement whatever hardening is needed. We just have to hope it doesn’t blow before then!
MORE OVERLOADED SPENT FUEL POOLS – DANGEROUSLY EXPOSED
The other huge risk, revealed by the Fukushima melt-down in Japan, is the stupendous amount of highly radioactive spent fuel stored on site. What is the situation at Indian Point?
The Boraflex liners of storage ponds are aging, the battery backup is questionable, the pools are fantastically overcrowded beyond their design, some materials have been moved to dry cask, but not enough, there is no real protection for the ponds to contain nuclear radiation, and absolutely nothing to stop a jet-liner from crashing into these waste pool buildings, which have the strength of an average WalMart roof.
Other than that there’s nothing to worry about, except of course the high earth quake risk and good old human error. While looking into all this, I came across news that a former supervisor at the Indian Point nuclear plant, Daniel Wilson, has been charged with lying to federal regulators about having reliable quality fuel for the emergency power generators.
AN EASY TERRORIST TARGET
There are 2800 tons of poorly protected, poorly guarded high level radioactive waste just sitting at Indian Point, on the edge of New York City. Remember, the 911 terrorists considered flying a plane into Indian Point, but decided to hit the World Trade Center instead. One of the 911 planes flew right over the nuclear reactors. There is nothing to stop that. Shapiro says today you can paddle a kayak right up to the reactor.
But Shapiro says the real every day risk is not terrorism – it’s those old corroded reactors, unsafe at any speed. In a sense, until we shut these ageing reactors down, WE are the terrorists.
FIRE CODES? WE DON’T NEED NO STINKING FIRE CODES!
Amazingly, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has granted an exemption to Entergy at Indian Point when it comes to fire regulations. The Indian Point reactors don’t begin to meet basic fire safety requirements.
Here’s just one example that Susan explains. The equipment is supposed to have fire suppression material. They used a material called “Hemyc” that was meant to give hours of protection, but under real-world testing only lasts about 24 minutes. That’s how long before a major fire and nuclear accident can happen.
Here is a .pdf report “Fire When Not Ready” on the whole fire protection mess in pretty well all American nuclear reactors. The NRC knows some materials were simply falsified in testing, while others don’t work even for an hour.
EVACUATION IS A SICK JOKE
Let’s talk about getting out of Rockland County, or maybe even New York City, if and when the Indian Point nuclear plant blows. It looks to me like the NRC is only requiring an evacuation plan for a ten mile radius around Indian Point. That’s strange, considering the American government advised its citizens to pull back 50 miles during the Fukushima nuclear accident.
Even the Governor of New York State acknowledges that there is no workable way to evacuate ten or twenty million people. As Susan Shapiro tells us, New York City is actually surrounded by the remains of an ancient mountain range. There are geographical bottlenecks which make an evacuation a nightmare.
We talk about the high cancer rates around the Indian Point reactor. Thyroid cancers near the Indian Point reactors are way, way above the average for the United States. Go to radiation.org for all the details on that. Then there’s the incessant fish kills as hot reactor water goes into the Hudson River.
The list of negative effects just goes on and on – and that’s even before there is a big accident there. When Indian Point melts down – think about it! Fukushima was much further from Tokyo, but the Japanese government at one point considered abandoning Tokyo. Only a fortunate wind saved that city. The prevailing winds in New York blow straight from the Indian Point reactor site.
I said at the start of our chat, that a blown reactor is everybody’s problem. That’s triple-true of New York City, the world’s financial capital. You would think Wall Street might worry they could have to leave town permanently due to a nearby nuclear accident.
Here are some notes from Susan Hito-Shapiro, as a follow-up to our interview. The study she refers to about putting solar on NYC municipal buildings was some years ago.
“More recently the City University of New York did a study – the link is here – that show NYC rooftops can generate up to 5,847 MW. Indian Point only produces 2200 MW and since 2014 NYC only purchases 550 MW from Indian Point.”
Other key points Susan forwards:
* NRC doesn’t use the Richter Scale , instead they use g-force ground acceleration. Indian Point containment buildings and spent fuel pools are designed to withstand .15g
* The 5.8 Earthquake in Virginia in 2011 registered .26g -.28 g.
* The epicenter of North Ana was 10 miles from the Reactor, Indian Point’s reactors are one mile from the intersection to two intersecting faults.
* The 2013 Consolidated Edison Annual Report says 350 MW are being contracted from Indian Point.
An unspecified amount of additional energy goes into the Lower New York State Grid, through daily auction of NYISO. NYS has not required Entergy to provide records on sales and profits.
* New York City must have internal capacity to supply 80% of its own energy.“
ACTIVIST GROUPS TO CONTACT FOR MORE INFORMATION ON SHUTTING DOWN INDIAN POINT
River Keepers and their close Indian Point campaign
All these groups co-operate as part of the Indian Point Faith Energy Coalition
…and this activist blog “Shut Down Indian Point Now!“
Here is Susan Hito-Shapiro’s Facebook page.
What I didn’t know, is that Susan Hito-Shapiro is also a film-maker, who more recently started up a biodynamic farm with her husband, Santi Hitorangi, in New York State. It’s called “Goshen Green Farm”. This is one high-powered woman, who can go from growing green to making formal legal presentations at nuclear waste hearings. Thanks Susan for all you do!
You may have heard more bad news about ocean extinction. I’ll be talking with lead author Douglas McCauley about that. Paul Beckwith is coming back. Maybe we’ll argue about Arctic methane. And I’ve got more mind-boggling climate science for you, as Radio Ecoshock paces back and forth inside the carbon cage.
Until then, keep calm and carry on.
I close out this program with a tune from my buddy, California musician Dana Pearson, also known as vastmandana on soundclick. It’s his new creation “The Engines of Life”.
I also run a clip from British rap poet Dave Allen performing his piece “Serotonin Fix”. Find it on You tube here. Warning, Dave’s piece contains some rude words, and some hard truth.