Climate and security are the hot topics with our guest expert Sherri Goodman – right up the headlines exploring the military risk of altering the atmosphere. Plus the science of climate in deep time: Dana Royer takes us back 420 million years. The human climate shift will top anything in that past. Radio Ecoshock 170503
Scientists have found signals of atmospheric carbon from hundreds of millions of years ago. It reveals out long-term climate history going back 420 million years. Humans are on track to make Earth hotter and faster than anything seen in those past eras. I have a real science interview with Dana Royer, co-author of a new paper presenting what might be called the biggest hockey stick graph.
First, I finally confess that like President Trump, I see a major war as a possibility. Of course that’s partly because of Trump is President. Next week I’ll explore those possibilities with scholar Michael Klare. But even the beginner’s climate impacts we’ve had so far are threatening the tenuous order of peace. Sherri Goodman joins us. When it comes to climate and security, she’s the real thing.
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SHERRI GOODMAN: THE SECURITY IMPLICATIONS OF CLIMATE CHANGE
With Trump open to war in Korea, and civil war raging across North Africa and the Middle East, we need to know how climate change will twists peace into wars. Our expert Sherri Goodman has worked in the Pentagon, and advised several governments.
Maybe you’ve heard that climate change can be a “threat multiplier”. Now you are talking Sherri Goodman’s language, because she coined that term, as her group of military experts assessed the national security risks of a shifting climate.
Long-time listener and author Guy Murphy suggested Goodman as a guest. Sherri is just back from a speaking tour of Australia. It turns out Radio Ecoshock guest and author of “Climate Code Red” David Spratt helped organize that tour. So often, a Radio Ecoshock show is a group project with listeners very much involved.
Expert Sherri Goodman
Sherri Goodman has worked in the Pentagon. She was Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Environmental Security. From 2001 to 2015 she was Senior Vice President and General Counsel for a non-profit group called CNA. CNA is the parent of the CNA Institute for Public Research, and the CNA Center for Naval Analyses. That group received federal funding to advise the United States Navy and the Marine Corp. Sherri Goodman founded and directed the CNA Military Advisory Board, which produced two key reports on climate and security.
Regular listeners will recall that in January 2017 I interviewed Erika Spanger-Siegfried from the Union of Concerned Scientists about the climate impacts now and expected on US military bases. You can download that interview and get more info from this blog.
The Union of Concerned Scientists did a report which found American bases, both navy ports and marine facilities, will become swamped by storm surges in more violent storms. Then some will be under water more often than not. Inland bases may be threatened by super fires. Can climate change endanger the military’s ability to operate?
Our guest Sherri Goodman and the CNA were instrumental in releasing two important reports: “National Security and the Threat of Climate Change” and the updated 2014 report “National Security and the Accelerating Risks of Climate Change”.
The CNA Military Advisory Board also released a report in 2015 on the national security grid. We had one expert on the show, Dr. Peter Pry who explained that a solar storm, or a hostile nuclear blast in the upper atmosphere, could crash the grid and most of the electronics behind our civilization. I ask Sherri if the thinks that is a genuine worry. Yes, it could happen, she says, but it’s a low probability high impact event. Climate change however, is already happening and certainly going to get worse.
Here is another conundrum. Democracies have failed to reign in greenhouse gas emissions. It’s possible we may enter a time of repeated shocks to the system, a kind of “Long Emergency” as Jim Kunstler called it. Maybe only the military can operate in that environment. Certainly the armed forces will be called in, time and time again. That leads to a tough question for my listeners. If the only organization still functioning is the military, and we need that level of decision and action to save the remains of the climate – would you accept a military government? Under those extreme terms, would you?
Our guest Sherri Goodman has literally been in the halls of power, advising in the Pentagon and then later with a non-profit that helps develop military planning. Sherri is also a Senior Fellow at the Wilson Center.
Here are some links to follow up further.
Sherri recommends we check out the September 2016 report on intelligence and climate change: NIC WP2016-01 Implications for US National Security.
David Spratt sends this link on how Australian media covers this issue: “US military taking climate change into account in food and energy security” by Laura Tingle, in the Australian Financial Review, 10 April 2017.
And here is an article and a radio piece on military leaders who see climate change as the big security issue of the coming decades. It’s from KNPR Nevada public radio.
At the end of this blog, I’ve posted a rant about why I think a coming “popular” war is possible, maybe likely. I’ll ask next week’s guest Michael Klare about that too.
DANA ROYER: THE CLIMATE WAY BACK AND WHAT IT CAN TELL US
The biggest most obvious thing can blind us, so we don’t see it. Like the sun. Now we begin to explore science which warns, as the title in the journal Nature says: “Future climate forcing potentially without precedent in the last 420 million years.” During the long ages of trees and flowering plants it has been hot before and often, but maybe not as hot as our fossil-powered civilization can make it.
Our tour guide is Professor Dana Royer. He’s a co-author of this new paper published in Nature, and a deep time researcher at the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Wesleyan University.
Dr. Dana Royer
This is a huge paper – as big as hundreds of millions of years. First I think we need to dispense with a very common misconception. When a human-made light begins to run out of energy, the light gets dimmer. But what happens as the Sun ages? Because the Sun is a nuclear fusion explosion that occurs for billions of years, the Sun actually gets brighter over long periods of time. It also expands. Billions of years from now the Sun will envelope the Earth, but it’s a little soon to worry about that.
Because the Sun’s power changes so slowly, the brightening of the sun has generally been left out of most climate science I’ve seen. Royer and the other scientists brought it back in. The paper shows that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been overall in a gradual decline over the last few hundred million years. The planet ought to be getting colder, but that has been offset by a more powerful Sun.
There have been more hothouse periods than ice house times. It’s been hotter, and carbon dioxide levels have as much as ten times higher than our pre-industrial levels of 280 parts per million. Earth survived, so why should we worry if CO2 levels go up to 600 parts per million, or a thousand? This paper explains that when we compare CO2 levels in long distant times, we have to recall also the Sun put out less energy then. So if we go up to 1,000 ppm CO2 now, with a hotter Sun, the planet will be hotter than it would have been in times past.
Some climate “skeptics” like to double dip into this phenomenon. On the one hand, they say CO2 levels were higher in the deep past, and things were not so bad. Now we know why that is an “apples to oranges” comparison, due to different solar levels.
On the other hand, too many “skeptics” agree the planet is warming (how could they not, everybody can experience heating and disruption) – but it’s all because the Sun is getting brighter. But as we learn in this interview, it takes millions of years for that increased Watts per square meter input from the Sun to matter. The Sun has not heated up planet Earth a degree in the past couple of hundred years. That’s not science, it’s baloney.
How can we possibly know how much carbon dioxide was in the atmosphere one hundred, or four hundred million years ago? We can’t measure actual captured air, as we do with ice core samples. The authors use a number of different proxies. One of them we heard about in 2008 from the UK’s Dr. Bob Spicer. You can find that Bob Spicer interview in this Radio Ecoshock show.
Plants change their leaf structure according to how hard or easy it is to get the CO2 they need. They develop more air holes (“stomata”) when carbon dioxide is harder to get (less plentiful). We can measure that, and there are a lot of fossilized plant leaves that show us their structure, in layers of rock we can date.
There are other methods involving carbon capture by shells, bio-markers in rocks and so on. This study develops what we could call the giant version of Michael Mann’s hockey stick. It’s a record of CO2 for the past 420 million years. Incidentally, that’s the length of time containing most of the species we recognize today.
This study does not include methane and other greenhouse gases like nitrous oxide for two reasons. First, we don’t have reliable proxies to measure those gases, so it can’t be done (yet). Second, we know that carbon dioxide is the main and lasting driver of big climate change. That’s what we need to know.
This paper mentions a time when the Earth was 10 degrees C hotter than it is today. A few scientists I’ve talked to suggest human civilization, and maybe our whole species, could not survive even 6 degrees of warming. Is it possible that if we don’t survive, there could be no trace at all of this brief burst of unnatural warming?
Here is an article about this new paper in Science Daily
Here is a the official (and helpful) press release from University of Southampton.
SHOW RANT: WHY I THINK THERE WILL BE ANOTHER “POPULAR” WAR (and what that tells us about climate change)
President Trump has said “a major, major conflict with North Korea is possible”. He’s also sent more troops into the Middle East, as well as missile strikes and the mother of all bombs. But that is not why I think a popular war is coming, a war which inspires countless younger people to march, fly or sail to their deaths.
I’ve been restudying the beginnings of the Crimean War, the civil war, and the so-called Great War, World War I. It seems in every case, a technological change was sweeping thought society at a time when an increasing number of people felt or were superfluous to developing change. They were left out, and they were ready to be angry at someone.
DEATH LOVES A CROWD
But we don’t really know why vast numbers of men, and some of the women who love them, decide life is not so important. They leave the possibility of love, homes, good meals and family behind to head into the slaughter zones. Why? How deep is that biological urge?
If we have a biological urge for mass suicide, is that also a lurking force behind climate denial? We know that large numbers of Christians say that if the Earth burns, it is all part of God’s plan, perhaps a blessed event because it will be part of the return of Jesus.
But even those with little religion can fall into the urge of death. How will they resist it as climate change promises to eradicate millions, likely hundreds of millions of humans within the next generation or two? Too many of us are apparently willing to die. They appear to find life painful, or at least not rewarding enough to fight to live!
IS AMERICA PRIMED FOR WAR?
Now look at the situation in America. One in three Millenials – people between the age of 18 and 31, are living at home with their parents. Millions of people are so in debt they can no longer participate in the consumer society they see in television advertising. They may acquire a new car or truck with a liar loan, a new degree with a student loan, but many cannot afford health insurance and if they have a job, they hate it. All those people are in the first stages of fodder for a popular madness leading to war. They are gunpowder waiting for a spark, and America has a leader who plays with sparks and fires.
Let’s update that picture with mass unemployment due to robotics and artificial intelligence. That’s coming in the next decade. Now mix in hit after hit of extreme weather, as the planet heats. Those storms, droughts, fires and floods all have a direct financial cost. But studies are showing they have an even greater mental stress. You don’t have to be burned out of your home to start feeling uneasy at the news. You plant your garden three week early, and notice nature changing and feel uneasy. Stories of coastal cities flooding even in sunshine days can’t be suppressed. Food prices go up and up.
Even the news of climate change hitting people much harder in distant lands adds to the mental pressure in everyone. It’s like the operation of tectonic plates. Pressure builds on the seams, something gives, and an earth quake happens. It will not surprise me that release of social pressure will exhibit itself as a mass desire for war.
I’ll ask peace and security expert Michael Klare about all this next week, plus Dr. Noah Diffenbaugh on the new science of climate driving extreme weather events. Don’t miss it!
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