It’s been summer in the Northern Hemisphere, when viewers and journalists drift into platitudes and cat videos. Meanwhile the planet is going through extreme changes, not seen during the time of humans.
We’re going to spend this program going through the science that should have been foot-high headlines around the world. Plus some small signals of big things to come. Our guest is climate scientist and returning Radio Ecoshock guest, Paul Beckwith. Paul teaches climate and Earth science at Canada’s University of Ottawa. He’s got two Masters degrees and is working on his PhD in climate science. Beckwith’s You tube videos have been seen by millions, where he lays out the case we are already in a global climate emergency.
In this feature interview we start at the bottom, so to speak. According to the UK research group Project MIDAS, a crack in the Larsen C ice sheet in Antarctica grew 14 miles longer since last March. A chunk of ice about the size of the American state of Delaware is expected to break off some time in the next few years. The whole story of ice loss in Antarctica is not well covered in the news. In many places it’s really about warming oceans reaching up under the ice to create massive losses.
The Larsen C ice sheet itself will not cause rising seas, as it’s a floating ice sheet. But it serves as a “cork in the bottle” – holding back gigantic glaciers any one of which will add feet to global sea levels over time. That would drown most coastal cities.
There are great resources out there now, science we can all participate in. One example is the web site earth.nullschool.net, giving real-time planetary reporting. For example, at the start of September, just as the long Antarctic winter was ending, a big blast of heat made it all the way from the equator to West Antarctica, setting new records and taking some areas above the melt point, months ahead of normal. Check out this article by Robert Scribbler.
I know Paul Beckwith isreaching too many people when the Washington Post thinks he is worth a good old-fashioned attack piece. It was so bad, I’m not going to dignify it with a link.
I knew that Washington Post article was a hatchet job as soon as I saw them reach out to Dr. Roy Spencer as a source. From Alabama, Spencer has been dragging down climate science, helping climate deniers make their case. He only recently had to admit the Earth really is warming, and it’s not caused by the Sun.
I’m here as a witness that Paul has been calling for climate emergency action for years. He had a powerful You tube video on that just last spring. I totally agree. My Radio Show for December 30, 2005 was called “Time to Panic“, and we’ve only gone down-hill since then.
THREE SIGNS WE ARE ENTERING ABRUPT CLIMATE CHANGE
I ask Paul to list the top three signs that we are entering a period of abrupt climate change.
His first is just the continuing stream of record-breaking global heat. In February 2016 we breached the supposed 1.5 degree above pre-industrial time limit, and for a few days, the world was even 2 degrees C hotter. Every month of the last 15 months has been a heat record for that month, according to NASA. Where is Senator Inhofe throwing snowballs to show Al Gore was wrong about the planet heating?
Second on Beckwith’s list of signs of approaching abrupt climate change: extreme ice loss at the Poles. Greenland alone is losing an astonishing 250 gigatonnes of ice per year! Beckwith says the rate of melting over Antarctica and Greenland is doubling every 7 years or so.
Number three is the non-stop extreme weather events popping up around the world. This is part of a process that Beckwith compares to “death by a thousand cuts”. Instead of a single global climate emergency, a state of emergency just goes on as floods, fires, extreme storms, intense rainfall are pushed higher and higher by climate heating.
MORE CLIMATE NEWS
More climate stories ripped out of the back pages of the news: NASA says the record low Arctic sea ice levels in the last few years are the new normal. We are not going back. Paul thinks it’s important to at least try to restore the Arctic sea ice. He tells us how and why.
Our next stop is the Middle East. The Independent newspaper in Britain ran this headline “Climate change could make parts of the Middle East and North Africa ‘uninhabitable’“.
Here’s a story I think is huge. I’m reaching out to the authors of the new paper, to get a full interview. They are talking about “zombie emissions” – a new class of greenhouse gas commitments, this time coming from tropical forests that are already cut down.
A study in the journal Current Biology found even when there is a 30 percent reduction in deforestation in the Amazon, carbon emissions only went down 10 percent. That’s because there is a huge pool of carbon making it’s way into the sky from the rotting trunks from deforestation going back a decade or more. The authors conclude those lagging stored releases may equal more than a year of direct human emissions.
There other surprise zombie emissions out there. We talk about both CO2 and methane from melting permafrost, mainly due to shorter snow seasons leaving the northern lands dark and warming under the sun.
EVEN VISIONARIES LIKE ELON MUSK THINK OUR CHANCES ARE BLEAK
Elon Musk is the visionary industrialist behind the Telsa electric car. He’s one of the biggest solar panel makers, he’s pushing a revolutionary new battery, and he runs a private space program used by NASA. Musk is building a “giga-factory” in Nevada to make the next fossil fuel-free energy on a massive scale. Even with all that, in a recent interview with MSNBC, Elon Musk is pessimistic about our ability to get out of the carbon trap. He points to all the embedded emissions in our existing power grid and transportation systems. Musk says it’s hard to see how we can slash greenhouse gases in time.
You can find that conversation between billionaire inventor Elon Musk and Chris Hayes of the program called “All In” on MSNBC.
Another subject Paul and I have discussed is the existence or non-existence of a world-wide conspiracy to cool the Earth with chemicals delivered by aircraft. Believers call them Chemtrails. But a new study published in Environmental Research Letters debunks the chemtrails conspiracy theory. This comes from a large group of the world’s top atmospheric chemists.
Find my own Radio Ecoshock blog and program on Chemtrails versus climate change right here.
I bring up the Chemtrails conspiracy because it’s a classic case where millions of people believe things easily disproven by the facts. We could say the same about most religions, but we won’t go there. Even in allegedly educated Western countries polls still find millions of people who deny climate change is happening. Stranger still, the denial is often strongest is American states where they are digging themselves out of massive wind storms, fires or floods even as we speak. The human mind is difficult to change, when it doesn’t want to change.
IS IT HOPELESS?
It’s great to point at stupid people, or coal mine owners. But I think the real thing holding politicians and corporate honchos back is… you and me! We are all so deeply embedded in the fossil-powered consumer culture it’s very, very hard to get out. I’m still driving to see relatives in a gas-powered car. It seem like everything I do is built on greenhouse gas emissions somewhere. If climate scientists are still flying to conferences (except for Britain’s Kevin Anderson), – and if I can’t stop using fossil fuels, even knowing what I know, what hope is there?
Paul says we should not give up hope, because there are still things we can do to avert the worst of climate change. He talks about a “three legged stool”. The first leg is what all politicians give lip service to: cutting greenhouse gas emissions. The second is less popular: call it geoengineering, but we need to find a way to put carbon back in the ground. Beckwith, as a member of AMEG, the Arctic Methane Emergency Group, also says we must cool the Arctic enough to preserve the remaining sea ice. We can do it by spraying sulfur into the skies over the Arctic, to mimic the action of volcanoes. That’s still controversial.
CONNECTING WITH PAUL BECKWITH
Check out Paul’s many videos on You tube. You’ll get a free education in climate science, and the amazing signs of climate change. After all, Paul does teach climate science at the University of Ottawa, in Canada’s capital. Or make use of his personal web site, with new info posted often. Others follow Paul’s busy Facebook feed.
That’s it for this week. My thanks to my loyal supporters who make my work possible with their donations. Find out how you can help here.