THE BREAKING BAD NEWS – CLIMATE TRUMPED!
Trump has appointed a climate “skeptic” (denier) Myron Ebell from the very right wing Competitive Enterprise Institute – to dismantle climate and energy policy, and the EPA. The fox is in charge of the hen-house. The madness begins. The U.S. will not participate in the Paris climate agreement. About 20% of global emissions will continue unabated by any constraint. It’s a free pass pollute-all-you want party. But the scientific news about the climate is even worse!
America is somehow committing suicide. When the tides roll over Miami and New York, when unbearable summers stretch into winter, and plants die off, then the mistake will be too obvious to deny, and to late to repair.
The only question is: will Trump take the rest of the world with him down the path of climate delusion? Plus, climate change is a global phenomenon. The United States is only a few hundred million people among billions. If the rest of the world moves away from climate disaster, there is still a chance. Maybe.
Some scientists are beginning to admit what many of us have feared for years. It may not matter what Trump does. It may already be too late.
In the UK, the Independent newspaper has a stunning article by Ian Johnson. Here is the headline: “Climate change may be escalating so fast it could be ‘game over’, scientists warn”.
The subhead reads:
New research suggests the Earth’s climate could be more sensitive to greenhouse gases than thought, raising the spectre of an ‘apocalyptic side of bad’ temperature rise of more than 7C within a lifetime.”
Read it and weep, or read it and become more determined than ever. The paper is here.
THE REAL SCIENCE, THE REAL FUTURE
Summary: From the deep past, a shocking discovery that plants can shift the climate. Oh oh. From UC Davis, Isabel Montañez amazing science. Then veteran diplomat David Brown on the climate-driven demise of the Mekong Delta in Vietnam – the first mass casualty.
America decided to elect a President who would go back to coal and rip up the Paris Climate agreement. Meanwhile the news from reality is not good. The United Nations Environment Program just released a report showing that even if all the promises made by almost 200 countries in the Paris deal are kept – the Earth still goes way past the 2 degree C safety limit, soaring up to three degrees in the lifetimes of our younger listeners.
That report, and all the Intergovernmental Panel reports before it, do not include large-scale climate drivers coming out of new science. In my show October 12th, Dr. James Curran from Scotland explained why plants are starting to capture and store less carbon dioxide. In this program, you’ll hear startling new science showing that changes in the plant world alone can drive us into a new greenhouse world. That’s a place where the animals we know, the bugs we know, and the crops we depend on may become extinct. Eventually, if we can’t reverse the climate shift, humans may also disappear, as the dinosaurs once did.
In the Arctic scientists are alarmed once again. The Arctic ocean is much hotter than normal, with air temperatures up to 5 degrees hotter than normal, even now in what should be winter. The Arctic Sea ice is not forming properly, and there is less of it than ever seen or measured before. It’s another big red siren warning the world is tipping into a new state. The world that mothered humans and all our companion species is changing away from us.
In the second half hour we’ll go to the place which is likely the first highly populated river delta to fall victim to rising seas. At least three to five million people will be driven out of one of the world’s biggest food sources. No, it’s not Bangladesh.
Stay with us for the journey, this is Radio Ecoshock.
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ISABEL MONTANEZ – A WARNING FROM DEEP TIME
We know that a changing climate is already affecting the plant world in many ways. There are changes in rainfall, drought, pests, and fires to name a few. But what we didn’t know until now is that an altered plant world can increase the pace of climate change, leading to unpredictable outcomes.
Isabel Montañez is from the UC Davis Department of Earth and Planetary Science. Dr. Montañez is a geologist, President-Elect for the Geological Society of America, and helps edit a number of scientific journals. Isabel is the lead author of an important study published October 24th, 2016 in the journal “Nature Geoscience”. A group of scientists managed to study an ancient time relevant to our own. Their results from hundreds of millions of years ago are not comforting.
The paper is “Climate, pCO2 and terrestrial carbon cycle linkages during late Palaeozoic glacial–interglacial cycles“. That was published in the journal Nature Geoscience on October 24, 2016. Isabel Montanez is the lead author.
If I understand this paper correctly, the upper end of the range of greenhouse gases added by tropical deforestation could be 300 parts per million carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere. That’s an astounding doubling of the CO2 Earth held in the atmosphere at the start of our industrial revolution. That sounds like a big deal!
That mean that natural feedbacks could be much larger, or at least as large, as all human emissions into the atmosphere so far. That should make us shiver, because once these natural processes kick in, I suspect there is little to nothing humans could do to stop them. That is another reason why we have to start cutting our emissions drastically now.
This is new research. Previous reports by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change did not include this large-scale feed-back. Neither did the Paris climate talks. That means any carbon budgets and predictive pathways are underestimated. They will need to be adjusted.
On a personal level, I fear Nature will take over from human drivers, in a wrenching shift in the climate. At that point, we couldn’t stop the big change.
TECHNIQUES AND LINKS
Humans have a limited time to reconstruct what we need to know. Should we just continue to recover the whole past history of life on Earth, or do we need to focus on times that matter to our predicament now? Isabel says that is a hot topic now in the research community.
I recall interviewing Dr. Bob Spicer at UK’s Open University about 7 years ago. He explained how an analysis of fossilized plant leaves can tell a whole story about the past, including the ancient atmosphere. This team led by Montanez used that technique as well as others that measure chemical residues left by plants in the soil.
(Bob Spicer interview in this Radio Ecoshock show for January 4, 2008)
The title of this paper talks about “pCO2”. What is that, and why use pCO2 instead of just CO2 for carbon dioxide? Apparently scientists use this term for atmospheric CO2 (Pressurized) as opposed to the possible liquid form of CO2. Now you know.
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DAVID BROWN – THE MEKONG DELTA GOES UNDER FROM CLIMATE CHANGE
“No delta area, not the mouths of the Ganges, the Nile or the Mississippi, is more vulnerable than the Mekong estuary to the predictable impacts of climate change.”
Unless you are one of the 17 million people living there, you probably don’t know much about the Mekong Delta. Maybe you have images of the Vietnam war, but that was in another century.
Rice pours out of the Mekong Delta, exported all over the world. But the delta is due to become the world preview of highly populated lands disappearing under rising seas. David Brown is a retired American diplomat and experienced Vietnam expert. He’s lived and taught there. David just released a stunning four part series on the perils of the Delta. Its published at the popular online site Monga Bay. We reached David at his home in Fresno California.
Part 1: Will climate change sink the Mekong Delta?
Part 2: Vietnam sweats bullets as Lao and China dam the Mekong
For me, this was a fascinating conversation with an American who transplanted himself into Vietnam. He explains the complexities in Southeast Asia expertly.
We talk about the Mekong River, 12th longest in the world. It starts on the Tibetan Plateau (which is also transitioning from an ice-house to a hotter state). As it Mekong goes through deep ravines in China, it has been dammed for power.
The Chinese love to build massive hydro dams. They have persuaded Laos, further downstream, to become “the battery for Asia”. The gigantic dams proposed, it built, will change the river pattern for Cambodia and Vietnam further down.
In those countries, the Mekong is seasonal, having a huge flood time, and then much lower levels. Everything from nature to the complex system of ditches, dikes and agriculture depend on that pattern. Instead, the mega-dams save up water, and release it slowly and regularly as power is generated. The World Bank and other western institutions have backed out of funding mega-dams on the Mekong. Chinese banks may fill in the gap.
Please read David’s articles. A huge part of the Mekong Delta, which is the size of Swizterland and home to about 17 million people, is within one or two meters of sea level (3 to 7 feet). That is below the estimates I currently hear from scientists for the amount of sea level rise by the year 2100.
The salty high tides and storm surges are already hitting the Delta, where Vietnam has established one of the world’s largest and most intensive rice farming. When the lands go salty, farmers must leave. When the lands go underwater, there will be at least 3 to 5 million climate refugees. David Brown says this will happen in the Mekong Delta BEFORE it sweeps through the mouth of the Ganges, in Bangladesh. The Mekong Delta will be the first heavily populated casualty of rising seas.
The Vietnam government is now unaware. The have been advised by foreign scientists, by their own rising group of scientists, and by experts from the Netherlands. Instead of planning heroic but pointless giant walls against the sea (is Washington listening) – the Vietnamese intend a strategic retreat. They hope that lands inundated by the ocean can be converted into enlarging their already very big shrimp farming operations. It would be better if the Vietnamese could restore the natural mangroves instead, but most countries in the region are going the other way, destroying the protective mangroves to install things like shrimp farms.
We don’t know if the Vietnamese government can follow through. Brown says the initial migration of three to five million people may not be a tragedy. Already, many Vietnamese are leaving the heavily populated countryside (where mechanization is replacing them) – going to big places like Ho Chi Minh City (the former Saigon) to find industrial jobs.
Currently we can find Vietnamese rice all over the world in supermarkets. It’s a huge export crop for them. The future of that crop is endangered by sea level rise in the Mekong Delta.
The story of the Mekong, Brown says, is a preview of rising seas washing over Miami, up the water system to Sacramento, the Gulf and Carolina coast – all over the world. Chances are good that you and I will live to see this first drama of rising seas play out in the Mekong Delta.
Download or listen to this Radio Ecoshock interview with David Brown in CD Quality or Lo-Fi.
Or listen right now.
Now you know. The next step is to dedicate yourself, as I do, to convincing our fellow humans we have to act to save the climate. We do it for ourselves, for billions of people who just want decent lives, for our kids and descendants. We do it for all the innocent creatures whose cycles and lives will be destroyed in the whirlwind of climate shift. We do it because, as the coming years and decades will reveal, there is no other choice.
My thanks to everyone who keeps this program going. Thank you to the scientists, authors, and activists who share their time with us, for free. And thank you for listening, and caring about our world.
In this new dark age of Trumpian uncertainty, I end the program 2525 done by Venice Beat and featuring Tess Timony.