As the second largest land mass on the planet, Canada is warming at twice the global average. The vast Canadian Arctic is heating three times average. The impacts spread around the world. Leading scientist Dr. Nathan Gillett explains a new climate change report from the Government of Canada. Then Canadian climate scientist Paul Beckwith joins me to thrash through scary new science: the limits before extinction, ocean drivers of our lives, and why weather has gone rogue.
I’m Alex Smith. This is Radio Ecoshock.
CANADA CLIMATE SCIENCE
Radio Ecoshock has listeners all over the world, so I try to keep a global perspective. But now we need to talk about the second largest country in the world: Canada. After 10 years of being shut out from talking with federal government scientists, during the Harper regime, today I talked with climate scientist Nathan Gillett from Environment and Climate Change Canada. He told us the rate of warming in Canada was double the world average.
You may think global warming would be good for colder places like Canada. A new report from the Government of Canada warns against that myth. The country has already warmed about twice the world average, and will continue to heat up faster than the rest of the planet during this century and beyond. Scientists project more flooding, more wildfires, extreme heat events, strange winters, and damage to the seas surrounding Canada’s vast coastline.
Here to explain is one of Canada’s top climate scientists. Dr. Nathan Gillett received his PhD in Atmospheric Physics from the University of Oxford. He is a Coordinating Lead Author of the chapter on human influence on climate, in the upcoming IPCC Sixth Assessment Report. Nathan leads research into climate impacts for the Canadian government.
Dr. Nathan Gillett
With my next guest Paul Beckwith in mind, I asked Dr. Gillett when the sea ice might be gone in summer, the so-called “Blue Ocean Event“. He suggested that might come around the year 2050. As you will hear, Paul Beckwith thinks the Blue Ocean Event will come much sooner, possibly in the next decade.
The rest of the world tends to think about “Canada” and “cold winter” in the same sentence. But winter here has already changed. In fact, most of the new warming from climate change has come in the winter. That means earlier snow melt, different conditions for spring rivers and flooding, possibly a longer growing season, and difficult changes for both animals and plants. Although the Canadian Arctic is warming at three times the global mean average temperature, southern Canada is warming at twice the rate.
Even so, the new report “Canada in a Changing Climate: Advancing our Knowledge for Action” warns parts of the country could experience shortages of freshwater. As an old Canadian growing up with so many lakes and rivers, that seems hard to believe. How could some Canadians face water shortages, despite annual precipitation going up?
I always remember our Canadian fire expert Mike Flannigan telling us on Radio Ecoshock that thin soils in Canada’s north can dry out to a tinder state in just three days. You could have rain, then three days of heat, and then poof! forest fires. We are already doing emergency fire planning here in the West.
You can watch a video of Nathan Gillett explaining his work here.
A FLOOD OF DANGEROUS NEW SCIENCE – PAUL BECKWITH
In the month of March 2019, the Arctic was 20 degrees hotter than it should be. Under that massive heat, sea ice is at a record low. Unprecedented Arctic warming is distorting weather in the Northern Hemisphere where the majority of humans live. Extreme weather has brought unhappiness, vast damage, and death. In this new climate age, the idea of progress has been replaced by constant efforts to recover.
In the past 3 months, I brought you the science of climate change direct from specialists publishing top papers. To draw it together, we need a generalist with climate expertise. We need Paul Beckwith. Paul has two Masters degrees. He often teaches climate science at the University of Ottawa. But his tireless effort to teach extends to the Internet. On You tube, Paul Beckwith is by far the biggest teacher of climate science to the world via You tube.
KEY INDICATORS OF ARCTIC CLIMATE CHANGE
We have a new paper, published April 8th by scientists in Alaska and Denmark. The title is “Key Indicators of Arctic Climate Change: 1971–2017”. Lead author Jason Box said “The Arctic system is trending away from its 20th century state and into an unprecedented state, with implications not only within but beyond the Arctic.”
Those scientists seemed surprised that temperature was the “smoking gun” for all the changes in the Arctic. (That seems obvious to me, what about you?) On the other hand, the fastest moving ice body on Greenland, The Jakobshavn glacier, has not only slowed down but is gaining ice mass. Paul says that is a temporary phenomenon, and who knows – maybe the glacier as it moved got snagged on some land way down below.
THE LINGERING COLD BLOB IN EASTERN NORTH AMERICA
Could that slowdown in part of Greenland be connected to the long-lasting cold and snow in the North East, including in Paul’s hometown in Ottawa? Paul says he had “a glacier” of ice remaining in his front yard, and we talk about the cold blob of air hovering over eastern North America, punctuated by storms. Here’s his video on that.
The public is so focused on global warming, it is pretty hard to convince people that a depressing cold winter could also be influenced by climate change. Nobody wants to go protest in the cold, but when it’s hot, they want to go outside and enjoy themselves. So far, there doesn’t seem to be a good time to protest. Were there climate school strikes in Ottawa or in Quebec?
Some people think Paul is a radical climate scientist. But really the whole upper echelon of climate research institutes are now radical about climate change. They are practically screaming out warnings of disaster, and we talk about some of those in this interview. But despite Paul’s efforts and mine, the public still isn’t engaged. People fly all over the place, and dream about their next pickup truck with a big gas engine. It is an addictive dream. Do you expect a rapid awakening, or more years of deadly greenhouse gas emissions?
We just had another freak April storm where the temperature was expected to drop 60 degrees in Denver, going from 70 or 80 Fahrenheit to blizzards. Yet another very heavy snow storm hit Montana and Nebraska in April. They are calling it a “bomb cyclone“.
Then we had flooding in the mid-west of the U.S., right in key food production areas. I think that was a major event with long-lasting consequences. Mainstream the media forgot that story already. Of course, Paul Beckwith has a new video about that.
Why is weather in the Northern Hemisphere so weird?
SIMULTANEOUS HEAT WAVES – NEW INTERVIEW COMING UP!
I want to tell listeners about brand new science, still awaiting publication. It announces a new phenomenon in the world: simultaneous heat waves across the planet. Martha Vogel, a climate researcher from ETH Zurich, just presented the findings at a European Geosciences Union press conference in Vienna in the first week of April. Studying heat waves from 1958 to 2018, they discovered that only since 2010 has modern planet Earth experienced multiple extreme heat waves at the same time. For example extreme heat in the Mediterranean might also strike in the Arctic and Russia or North America at the same time. Transcontinental heat: that has terrible implications for food production and a lot more.
My interview with scientist Martha Vogel should be next week on Radio Ecoshock
THE NEW 2018 CLIMATE REPORT FROM THE WORLD METEOROLOGICAL ORGANIZATION (WMO)
Paul discusses this report in two videos, starting with this one.
You can read that full report “WMO Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2018” as a .pdf online here.
According to the WMO, in 2018 the heat content of the upper levels of the ocean were the highest ever recorded. That is so dangerous!
People get confused about the difference between ocean HEAT absorption (which is 93%) to greenhouse gas absorption by the sea, (which is 25%). Since 93% of our excess heat goes into the ocean, that means only 7% is causing the disruption we are feeling now! If the ocean takes less carbon dioxide, as scientists predict, then not only will there be more greenhouse gases, but those gases will remain longer, and become a larger share of our actual emissions in the atmosphere. If so, we have to cut off fossil fuels and other greenhouse sources pretty well immediately. Strange to say, but our industrial culture may depend on ocean chemistry and ocean physics.
In a BBC article about the World Meteorological Report for 2018, Australian climate scientist and Professor Samantha Hepburn said:
“We know that if the current trajectory for greenhouse gas concentrations continues, temperatures may increase by 3 – 5 degrees C compared to pre-industrial levels by the end of the century and we have already reached 1 degree.”
Three to five degrees C of warming is utter disaster!
SEA ICE AT BOTH POLES DECLINING
Paul Beckwith says Sea ice may be in that critical slowing down of phase-state before a collapse of sea ice. And for our southern listeners, there has been a huge fall in Antarctic sea ice. Just a few years ago it was still expanding.
LEAVING A BUFFER FOR NATURAL EMISSIONS
Apparently it is complicated to predict what level of C02 in the atmosphere would result in 5 degrees C warming. Many factors and feedbacks come into play, and there are some things we just don’t know.
After a recent paper, and my recent interview with lead author Tapio Schneider from NASA, we now know that somewhere starting around 1200 ppm, stratocumulus clouds cannot form to shade the Earth, adding ANOTHER 8 to 14 degrees C of warming. That is definitely game over for humans and much of life. Humans of course will think at 800 ppm, they still have another 400 ppm margin before hitting that final brick wall. But that fails to realize that as the world warms, the contribution from natural processes increases as well, and most of that is irreversible. How much buffer do we need to leave for things like permafrost thawing or dying rainforests?
Regarding that idea of needing to leave room for natural emissions, we have this from another Radio Ecoshock guest, Australian super-scientist Will Steffen, quote:
“Human emissions of greenhouse gas are not the sole determinant of temperature on Earth… Our study suggests that human-induced global warming of 2 degrees Celsius may trigger other Earth system processes, often called ‘feedbacks,’ that can drive further warming — even if we stop emitting greenhouse gases“.
That was from the blockbuster study published in PNAS August 14, 2018, titled “Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene”. I interviewed Will Steffen, and Paul blogged about it and did a You tube video on that.
THE PARIS CLIMATE ACCORD WILL NOT SAVE US
Again, that Trajectories study expected the average global temperature to settle between 4 and 5 degrees C hotter than pre-industrial, even if the Paris Climate Accords were carried out, which is not happening. Sea levels would go up 10 to 60 meters, which is 33 to 197 feet. That means even our best climate plan takes us to disaster not just for this civilization, but mass extinction. That’s our plan! We can do better.
In his You tube text for his video “Earth Climate System: Terrible Trajectories to Hothouse”, Paul wrote:
“I fear that we have already gone over that cliff, and I declare a global climate change emergency to claw back up the rock face to attempt to regain system stability, or face an untenable calamity of biblical proportions.”
A LOT OF EYES ON PAUL BECKWITH
Paul gets a lot of views for his blog at paulbeckwith.net. On You tube Paul currently has over 15,000 subscribers and 538 videos. As of April 11, his channel had 3,257,000 views. Beckwith tells how he became an electronic climate science teacher to the world. Perhaps Shackleton the cat is drawing extra views as well. Be sure and support Paul Beckwith’s work.
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Thank you for listening. Let’s meet again next week.