Frightening news – about methane, and the Arctic – Sir David King. How people around the world react to bad news on climate, Nicole Willcoxon from the Gallup Poll people. But how can we handle this black knowledge personally? With her training in psychology, Carolyn Baker helps people through each personal climate crisis.
FREE WEBINAR WITH CAROLYN BAKER
Carolyn and Eric offered two free online seminars on her new book, and you can still attend the second, which is on Thursday September 22 at 2 pm Eastern Daylight Time. Go to carolynbaker.net to connect with that. The seminars will be followed by a longer course.
THE TERRIBLE NEWS
First: more terrible news. It doesn’t come from a YouTube pundit or fringe content producer. The speaker is Sir David King, a leading scientist in the United Kingdom and the world. David has been Professor and Chancellor at prestigious British universities. From 2000 to 2007, he was Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government. He represented the United Kingdom on climate change, and currently heads the Climate Crisis Advisory Group, which is part of the Centre for Climate Repair at Cambridge.
David – he prefers “Dave” – is speaking as lead presenter at an online webinar hosted by the non-profit group methaneaction.org. The former host of Earthbeat Radio, Daphne Wysham is CEO at methaneaction. Top American scientist Rob Jackson from Stanford is an advisor to the group and participated in this webinar. Watch the full seminar “Methane Removal: On the Critical Path to Reducing Peak Global Temperatures” on YouTube!
TRANSCRIPT OF NEWS FROM SIR DAVID KING
Here is Sir David King, speaking on September 15, 2022 (transcript by Radio Ecoshock):
“Just to kick off. I’ve got to say, first of all, that when we listen to many, many people who are concerned about climate change they talk about the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere being 420 parts per million. That is the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Another correction. Methane is instantaneously, not over 100 year period, is instantaneously more than 100 times more effective per molecule than carbon dioxide. And so methane levels are now rising faster than ever before, and are a big contributor to the way in which the world is now shifting, and I have to say, we are in a crisis already. So yes, methane, the subject of this conference, is not sufficiently focused on for all sorts of reasons.
But let me just now dwell on the state of the planet as it is today, we have last week, a critically important paper published in science on the tipping points. And in that paper, it sets out the fact that at 1.5 degrees, we’re already seeing tipping points going that impact on the whole world. But at three degrees, we’ve got a whole series of tipping points that are well in the way of any form of manageable planet for humanity. Now, the bad news is that if you look at the Arctic Circle region, it has been heating up at four times the rate of the rest of the planet’s average over the last 20 years. And what that means is that the Arctic Circle is now more than three degrees centigrade above the pre-industrial level for the Arctic Circle.
So when we look at the tipping points in the Arctic Circle, we understand they have irreversibly gone, unless there’s an intervention. And so here’s the dreadful situation we are in. The Arctic Circle tipping points have gone. The reason is the Arctic Circle has lost the ice that was covering the Arctic Ocean for so many thousands of years and during the polar summer months, during those three North Pole summer months. And the consequences of this are quite simply enormous for the whole planet. Greenland now sits in that blue Arctic Ocean soaking up sunshine, whereas of course the albedo of the ice is such that the ice was reflecting sunshine back into space. The consequences that, and I say this carefully, Greenland ice is now melting irreversible. Six and a half, seven meters sea level rise are on the cards right now. And if one says, well, it might take 150 years, nevertheless, if we extrapolate forward 30 years from now, the country of Vietnam, 90% of the land mass of Vietnam will be underwater by 2030. We’re not having to look a long way ahead to see these enormous challenges arising from this.
And now comes the serious business about methane. In the land mass around the Arctic Circle, sorry, around the North Pole where the Arctic Ocean is, we have a vast amount of permafrost and in the permafrost is a vast amount of methane hydrate. Methane hydrate is now bubbling up on many, many parts of the permafrost during those three polar summer months. And the temperatures in that region are now sometimes approaching plus 30, plus 32 degrees centigrade. The boreal forests catching fire because they are experiencing lightning for the first time in any human record and the boreal forests on fire, those forests that have been there for many, many hundreds of years is a major challenge to the people, the Inuit and the Sami people living in that region, but also for the whole planet. Because the release of methane from methane hydrate as the permafrost heats up is potentially disastrous. There’s enough methane there that if it was all emitted in simply 20 years, the lifetime half life of methane in the atmosphere is about 10 to 12 years so that’s about two half lives, could lead to a tempera rise of five to eight degrees centigrade for the whole planet. And this is already beginning to happen.
So what we see is the consequences of the Arctic Circle melting and all of this is the extreme weather events we’ve been experiencing, particularly in the Northern hemisphere during exactly those three summer months. And if you create warm air over the North Pole, the cold air that was protected by the jet stream going around the North Pole, protecting the warm from the south going into the North Pole region, and the cold air from the North Pole coming down. It’s a very strong wind. That wind is now massively distorted, and those distortions really lead to most of the extreme weather events we are observing now.
What I’m saying is we are in a situation which demands a new look at the safe management of the planet going forward for humanity and for our biodiverse systems. And that safe management means recognizing, yes, deep and rapid emissions reduction is critical. We’re emitting, including methane of course, more than 45 billion tons of greenhouse gases a year. But if I then take you to the next page, we have to stop doing that, but the next phase must be that we’ve put too much in the way of greenhouse gases up there already. If the Arctic Circle region has heated up so rapidly and it impacts on the whole world, we’ve already passed that tipping point.
So I’m saying think again, we have to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere at scale. And the work at Cambridge is now focused on only projects that can remove more than a billion tons a year. We are looking to see if we can manage 30 or 40 billion tons a year, and it’ll take us to the end of the century, even at that rate, to get a manageable planet, which I believe is more like 350 parts per million.
Third thing is, how do we get time on our side? We have to learn to refreeze the Arctic and I leave you with this. The group that I’ve set up in Cambridge is already working with a global consortium on how we can refreeze the Arctic. And this is not putting sulfate into the stratosphere, which I think is very dangerous, but we are looking at other viable technologies. We have to roll them forward as quickly as we can. If we can keep for those three polar months, the ice that has grown during the North Pole winter over the Arctic Ocean, we have a chance because the ice will grow year on year and we begin to reflect sunlight back again.
But we will have to repeat the process of reflecting sunlight away from the Arctic Ocean every year, until we’ve brought greenhouse gases down to a reasonable level. Methane, critical. Let’s make sure that we know how to trap methane. Carbon dioxide, of course. But methane hasn’t been given enough attention. Thank you.”
Host Daphne Wyham then says: “One of the questions that has come up several times, I think perhaps Dave, you may have misspoke. Did you mean to say by 2030, that Vietnam would be 90% underwater?”
David King: “The figure I gave, 90% of the land mass by 2030. So we are looking at what happens when the moon’s trajectory brings it closest to that area of Vietnam. And so this is simply looking at the high water levels produced in the tidal basin of that region. And yes, 2030 is the right figure. And of course the rice paddy fields would be very difficult to sustain after they’ve been salinated at that sort of level, third biggest rice producer in the world.”
That was Sir David King, speaking at a methane action seminar hosted by methaneaction.org. As you heard, in the Question and Answer period, David King explained 90% of Vietnam would not be underwater by 2030 due to rising seas. Instead, with rising seas, when the moon is close enough to draw big tides, 90% of Vietnam, which includes the large and fertile Mekong Delta, would be flooded by sea water. When the sea flood subsides, croplands might be left salty. World rice exports could be affected.
The key point: the Arctic has already warmed past three degrees C over previous centuries. Sensitive tipping points have already been triggered there. Sir David thinks an emergency effort to save the remaining sea ice could prevent unstoppable changes there, or at least stall the worst until we can repair the atmosphere, somehow. Please pass on the audio of David King’s warning, available from my web site, ecoshock.org.
In a coming show, I hope to get more time to discuss the current state of methane removal technology, and Rob Jackson’s explanation of why we have to tackle methane now. It is a last-ditch effort to dial down rising heat, before the next tipping points are reached. It looks pretty bleak. Are these repeated climate-driven disasters changing minds around the world? How do people in over a hundred countries feel about the future climate? Gallup polls can tell us about the global fall of well-being. Then Carolyn Baker joins us, with her new book: “Undaunted: Living Fiercely into Climate Meltdown in an Authoritarian World.”
NICOLE WILLCOXON: CLIMATE CHANGE AND WELL-BEING AROUND THE WORLD
In recent years, billions of people suffered through extreme heat. How do they feel about it? Does it affect your outlook on life? The Gallup organization just released their new report: “Climate Change and Wellbeing Around the World – How High Temperatures Harm Wellbeing.” You can view this report free online, or download a copy here.
Dr. Nicole Willcoxon led the study. She is Research Director at Gallup, the world’s best-known polling organization. Nicole is also a Nonresident Fellow at the Brookings Institution. This report analyzes results from 1.75 million people surveyed in 160 countries, and compares that with daily, high-resolution temperature data from NASA.
THE NEW SADDER GENERATION
This Gallup report finds:
“Globally, people faced 3 [times] more “high-temperature days” in 2020 than in 2008, and rising temperatures have decreased wellbeing by 6.5% [compared to 2008].” And…
“Given climate projections, high-temperature days could decrease global wellbeing by an estimated 17% by 2030….Future declines are expected to accelerate as temperatures are estimated to rise at a faster rate. “
Happiness in life is like the bedrock that keeps people, cultures and nations going. Losing happiness is like a positive feedback: the worse you feel, the worse you feel. If people lose hope of wellbeing, why should they participate, work, or study? Are we already seeing the results of wellbeing loss – as people drop out, turn to drugs or violence, join cults, or just become depressed to the point of losing some function?
But what is “well-being”? The American Center for Disease Control (CDC) defines well-being:
“In simple terms, well-being can be described as judging life positively and feeling good. 36, 37. For public health purposes, physical well-being (e.g., feeling very healthy and full of energy) is also viewed as critical to overall well-being.”
Back in 1972, the King of Bhutan suggested countries should measure Gross National Happiness rather than Gross Domestic Product. Gallup began to track this in their mass surveys starting in 2005. The results are revealing, although maybe not surprising given the extreme weather we all go through now. Yes, it is not just you down about our climate future. Millions of people in over a hundred countries feel their sense of well-being has deteriorated because of extreme events and the threat of worse to come.
The Gallup “Life Evaluation Well-Being Index” can be simplified to three states of being: thriving, struggling, and suffering. I think those say a lot about the modern world. In the global picture, who thinks of themselves as thriving? And who suffering? The answers are surprising. People in wealthy countries are not the happiest any more.
This report points out wellbeing is more than a psychological state. Governments have to watch out for people’s perception of happiness. When humans get too unhappy, a state can fall, like the Arab spring. Corporations depend on a certain level of well-being for consumers to buy products. The polls reveal a condundrum. Even though billions of people in Asia suffer more damage and hardship due to climate change – they are less likely to demand climate action from their governments.
COMPARING CLIMATE CRISIS TO 2009 FINANCIAL CRISIS
The new Gallup report says:
“Each time a person experiences a high-temperature day, their life evaluation drops by an average of 0.56%. In more technical terms, within a 30-day period, one additional day with temperatures at least two standard deviations above the historical average is associated with a drop of 0.037 points on a 0-to-10 life evaluation scale, controlling for the respondent’s location and a range of other factors that influence life evaluations.
This decrease is substantively meaningful given the stability of the life evaluation metric, even in adverse circumstances. For example, during the 2009 global financial crisis, worldwide life evaluations fell by just 3.7% or 0.20 points on the 10-point ladder scale.”
Consider China, where the heat wave lasted almost two months. If we say about 50 days were hotter than usual, that would mean a 25% decrease in people’s sense of well-being, compared to just 3.7% for the 2009 financial crisis.
Of course this report was only up to 2020, and so does not include the even more crushing heat this past summer in Europe, the U.S., North Africa, the Middle East, India and Pakistan, plus China and Japan. That is a giant hemispheric wave of falling enjoyment of life.
But how long does this drop in well-being last? Are some people disappoint, discouraged, or fearful for life after such incidents? Certainly those threatened by mega-storms, floods, fires, drought and heat emergencies might be more distrustful of life, maybe more guarded in their expectations of a good life.
Gallup Press is also publishing a book, “Blind Spot: The Global Rise of Unhappiness and How Leaders Missed It”. That is coming out later this fall.
Find the official Gallup news story on this Well-being and climate report here.
Did the Covid-19 pandemic cause a lowering of wellbeing – and how does that compare to erosion due to climate change? We will have to wait for a future report from Gallup to find out.
CAROLYN BAKER: UNDAUNTED IN THE CLIMATE CRISIS
“We may at times feel schizophrenic as we bask in the glorious beauty of an epic sunset while realizing that Arctic ice melt has now passed the point of no return…”
– Carolyn Baker, Undaunted
Crazy heat stuck California, again, after a summer of punishing heat waves all across the the Northern Hemisphere. How can we handle knowing: extreme weather is only going to get worse? How do we go forward into a more hostile future? On Radio Ecoshock, we talk with climate scientists. This is a science-based program. But there comes a time when the awful truth changes from “facts” to real impacts in our lives. We are there now with climate change. But even then, how do we handle it, personally, mentally, and in our hearts. That is where Carolyn Baker can help.
Science is not enough. We turn now to former psychotherapist and professor of psychology, Carolyn Baker. Carolyn runs a daily newsletter, a source for Radio Ecoshock and many others. In addition to her online workshops and counseling, Baker is author of more than a dozen books, including Navigating the Coming Chaos. Her latest book is “Undaunted: Living Fiercely into Climate Meltdown in an Authoritarian World.” Find Carolyn’s other books here.
We have enough science to know humanity and all living things are in deep trouble. Some respond with denial, but others look to psychology or spirituality for personal answers. If we are science-minded, should we resist that?
Chapter One of Carolyn’s new book “Undaunted” is about the condition of shock. I began Radio Ecoshock in 2006 – thinking if natural systems became damaged and chaotic, humans would go into shock, like a state of medical shock.
“We don’t go into a state of shock when something big and bad happens; it has to be something big and bad that we do not yet understand. A state of shock is what results when a gap opens up between events and our initial ability to explain them. When we find ourselves in that position, without a story, without our moorings, a great many people become vulnerable to authority figures telling us to fear one another and relinquish our rights for the greater good. “
– Naomi Klein
Carolyn peppers her books with the best quotes coming from everywhere, in a range from alternative writing to Medieval mystics. You get ideas for books to read, people to follow, places to dig for food your mind needs, even your inner self.
In a Quillwood podcast with Eric Garza, Carolyn says with her psychological training, she believes in the conscious mind, and believes in the unconscious mind – where we know something is very wrong in the process of time developing.
In the one hour show, we close with a quote from Secretary General of the United Nations António Guterres, speaking September 14, 2022.
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