Guest Dr. David Gaveau on newly seen Arctic feedback. Alex rants on COP27 Climate Conference. Al Gore’s COP27 opening remarks: we are failing and no one believes we will do anything to stop emissions.
“The clock is ticking. We are in the fight of our lives, and we are losing. Greenhouse gas emissions keep growing. Global temperatures keep rising – and our planet is fast approaching tipping points that will make climate chaos irreversible.”
– Antonio Gueterres, Secretary General of the United Nations, opening the 27th Conference of the Parties in Egypt, November 2022.
In our first interview, you will hear remarkable science. A new feedback loop of wildfires and self-perpetuating heat erupted in the last three years – in the Arctic! This has not been reported in the news, but shows up on satellite images. Don’t miss David Gaveau.
THANK YOU TO RADIO ECOSHOCK SUPPORTERS
With the COP27 and a ton of science released just before the COP, it is super busy here at Radio Ecoshock. I am literally calling scientists and experts all over the world to get you the best. Next week we get reports direct from the COP in Egypt, and the view from Johannesburg South Africa. All this goes out absolutely free to 106 non-profit radio stations in the U.S., Canada, UK, and Australia. Plus listeners all over the world download from this web site and several other posting spots. Plus 3 version podcast every week. Listeners like you pay the bills. If you can add your help this week, please do.
IS THE COP CLIMATE CONFERENCE “A SCAM”?
But first, you may ask: should this show be about the COP27 climate conference in Sharm El-Sheik Egypt, going on right now? Young climate leader Greta Thunberg calls the COP27 climate conference “a scam”. At least 35,000 people used fossil-burning aircraft to attend the 27th Conference of the Parties or COP27 climate conference, held this year in a Red Sea resort compound in Egypt. Many people flew in private planes with only a few people onboard. It is a festival of fossil fuel burning to solve the problems of fossil fuel burning.
Also in attendance, about 636 known fossil fuel lobbyists. For those keeping score, that is a 25% increase of fossil fuel pushers over the previous COP26 held in Glasgow last year. Profits for big oil, gas, and coal companies are stupendous. Individual multinational oil and gas companies are raking in sums larger than the national budgets of many countries attending the climate meeting.
Big oil and gas isn’t at Sharm El-Sheik just to delay any climate saving actions that could hurt their profits. The fossil pushers will also be looking for side-room deals to sell more oil and gas to consumer countries panicked by breakdowns of Russian energy. You hold a conference about global fentanyl addiction, and hundreds of dealer show up selling in the back rooms. That is where we are.
COVID HOLDS A MEETING?
Aside from the burst of aviation gas into the overloaded atmosphere, we can presume 35,000 people from all over the world will return home to spread both COVID-19 and the flu, as those pandemics continue. No, it’s not over.
There is some good news. The World Health Organization announced a 90% drop in COVID deaths since February, down from 75,000 confirmed COVID deaths last February to around 10,000 deaths a week at the end of November. We know from later statistics on excess mortality those numbers are far lower than reality.
Over 2 million new of COVID-19 were reported last week. With self-testing at home not reported, and millions with no access to tests, that is a wild under-report as well. The WHO says: “The five countries with the most cases were Japan, South Korea, the United States, Germany, and China. Of those countries, Japan and South Korea are reporting rising cases.” This COP27 will further spread disease and seed new variants of COVID all over the world.
Prior to the pandemic, when the COP climate meetings were held in countries with civil rights, we could partly justify this fossil burning party as a chance for well-meaning people to meet one another. As in Copenhagen 2009, and Glasgow last year, there was a hope of getting truth to power. At least climate activists could get media attention, so the rest of us don’t feel so alone with our climate knowledge. That could not and did not happen in Egypt, a military police state that jails bloggers and beats protesters. This whole COP27 is being held in a far-away resort that looks more like an exotic military compound, following several terrorist attacks there in recent years.
But maybe that is representative of where we are, and where the authoritarian drift as billions of people experience climate-driven disasters and other stress as this fossil civilization decomposes.
As Greta Thunberg says: national leaders and billionaires do not need these climate meetings at all. The science is in and so are the extreme weather damage reports. Any humans with a claim to power could begin the emergency actions we need to rescue a livable future for ourselves and all following generations. After 27 huge meetings, human greenhouse gas emissions just continue to increase each year. We set another record last year. The promises and grand plans are just hot air. The whole Conference of the Parties is just a stall.
How could it be anything else? According to COP rules, any world plan to save the climate has to have complete consensus of all participating countries. Not a majority vote. A single country, like the United Arab Emirates which sent 70 fossil fuel lobbyists to the COP, or Saudi Arabia, the fractious American Senate, or China could just say “no”. Never mind that major world leaders are not attending. The head of the world’s biggest emitter, China, will not be there. Big producer Russia will not send Vladimir Putin, and big consumer India’s Narendra Modi is not coming. No real global action can be reached without them.
And how could it be anything else? Let’s be real. Paralyzed by fear of freezing or economic collapse, there is no mass movement calling for an end to fossil fuels. Nobody wants gas stations closed in their city. Major car makers like Toyota have already announced more production or gasoline and diesel vehicles in the next few years than the atmosphere can handle. Just like the billionaires, most people in developed countries are quietly hoping the fossil party goes on as long as it can. Maybe we will take a few last holiday trips and stock up on goodies before the hard times? Until the culture of media, academia and work decide to risk wrenching change, the base of political support will never be there. No matter what their illusions of power, politicians cannot go too far ahead of willingness by citizens.
So Elon Musk ordered the remaining thousands of Twitter workers back to their offices. Some businesses are tossing off the energy-saving solution of online work. We will just go back to the old model, which is killing us by the millions.
THIS IS NOT YOUR FATHER’S COLLAPSE
With this radio show, experts try to peer into the future. We want to see what is coming, and what to avoid at all costs. After over 1,000 interviews and a lot of research, my personal opinion is the future is a series of hard falls, and difficult re-arrangements for the survivors. More beans in the basement is not a long-term solution. The survival food business crashed itself a few years ago. And I can tell you from ten years of personal experience trying back-to-the-land, most of us cannot really support ourselves outside organized society. Maybe some could by going back to settler technology or even medieval times, but not many.
That is a problem. Suppose your social system goes into a series of crashes. Stocks go way up and way down. A random billionaire kills off a global communication system. You can’t find a doctor and the hospitals have a two day wait time even for emergencies (already happening in Ontario Canada). A hard shift in civilization is not the Big Day It Crashes event that survivalists imagine. It is a series of shocks, each with their own demands for change, whether you like it or not.
THE MISSING MIDDLE
We are missing a layer of preparation. At the top we hope national leaders and big business will come up with plans to save us, even at COP27. As individuals, we can make backstops like stored food and community building. There seems to be nothing in between the top and bottom. This is the layer where civil society used to be, before the on-going pandemic and before the strategy of stoking hate and anger as tools of power and control.
Consider radio. When radio dominated media in the 1930 and 40’s, the family had one set. People gathered in the living room to listen together. It was the same when television came out in the 1950’s. Today, most people are separated into private experiences for a large part of their day and evening. Many of us have our own screens and headsets. We think we are linking up with thousands of people on Instagram or the late Twitter, but look around. We are alone, individuated due by technology and by design.
Volunteer groups and non-profits can tell you. Local musicians and actors can tell you. Participation and donations are way down.
The middle layer of society, community action, is dying. Why should I risk my health in a climate march when I can change the world with a post online?
Big business is ready to provide you with that crippled individuality. Mark Zuckerberg wants to sell you an alternative universe. Just move into your Avatar and virtual space. Everyone can collect hits and followers. Strangely during a pandemic, we live to “go viral”. Google quietly collects everything about you and sells your “profile” to the highest bidder, which could be a state actor that hopes to help you collapse and die. Somewhere deep in the human psyche, we are still predators and sometimes cannibals.
Thirty five thousand predators and cannibals fly to a climate meeting in the land of pyramids… you write the punchline. Maybe it will go viral.
I know this is all very dark. We can be more than this. Beauty, love, and happiness are not gone. When the hurricane, fire or flood comes, people come out to help. Sometimes we risk our lives to save others. Countless thousands go daily to keep the food bank running, to teach kids, to help. That better spirit is in us too, and may yet come.
ANSWERING THE STORM:
A LETTER TO ECOSHOCK LISTENERS FROM AN AMERICAN RED CROSS VOLUNTEER
Speaking of better spirit, it is time to plug the old lady of helping people who need it: the Red Cross. Are they radical? No. Are they on the right side of politics? No. Do they show up when people’s homes are burned, flooded, or just torn up by climate-driven extremes? Yes they do.
It turns out “they” are mostly a lot of volunteers who donate their time. I’m going to pass on a touching email I received from a Red Cross Volunteer who also donated her time to spreading Radio Ecoshock on Facebook. Jackie writes:
“Listeners of your show know what’s going down and I’m sure many feel as hopeless as I did when I left Tetra Tech in 2012. Volunteering for you after that job experience helped me through that most difficult time, knowing what I did and what I learned about the fossil fuel industry and fracking while there. You can’t get anything worse than that. Then to find other scientists who had the same thoughts as mine was shocking as well. But I understood the people need to know, if anything, to help save themselves. And so I thank you for allowing me to help spread the word as to what we face now and what the future will bring.
I believe many of your listeners would enjoy “DAT” work within the Red Cross. That’s the disaster work. Volunteers respond to every residential fire locally, or they can deploy and do other interesting work like damage assessments as I do on homes after natural disasters. The numbers I generate help in casework and future planning. It was a very good fit with my background since it includes hydrology and construction issues. And most important to me is the emotional assistance I give to others when homeowners see us working in their neighborhood, documenting the damage. I’ve given many hugs, seen many tears, and people are truly grateful to see us, even in the neighborhoods with million dollar homes.
But we also need mental health specialists, emergency responders such as nurses and cops, GIS people, planners, food distribution, meteorologists, logistics etc. Some of these volunteer position would be at the national level too. And bilingual people are especially needed. We do everything from shelter work, case work to allow direct financial assistance to anyone affected in a major disaster or fire, and even sandwiches for the local cops and firemen served from our emergency response vehicles.
I RAN INTO THE LIGHT
I believe I began my journey there, then met with the Disaster Manager and he directed me to what courses I had to complete on line. And a few short courses later, I was off to one of the most powerful experiences in my life: shelter work at a small community shelter for two weeks a couple of miles from Mexico Beach after Hurricane Michael. Those folks lost everything, which was very little to begin with. And to see all the trees shaved off 30 feet of the ground for miles and miles was amazing for this scientist. It was eerily quiet too. Not much survived, animal or insect. Even the fish in the small pond near the shelter were belly up. (We got water for the toilets there when the generator blew.) The wind had turned up the bottom and filled the lakes with sediment, suffocating the fish. The total experience brought home nature’s response to greenhouse gas concentrations. In addition to Florida, I’ve also deployed to Texas and Georgia a couple of times for flooding, Iowa for that horrific derecho, and even the Topps shooting in Buffalo.
And since money is short, I can volunteer to supplement my financial help to the organization. Furthermore, there is a small allowance when deployed for food and incidentals. (But I usually give that money away… some people I’ve met need immediate cash for gas to get to work and food for the kids.)
Lastly, I recently learned the American Red Cross invested one billion dollars in PR for solar panels for the structures that are used by the community during disasters to ensure they have power. And after the recent hurricane that brought so much flooding, everything went as planned and the Red Cross was able to fulfill its mission to assist the community. Why can’t our governments do that!?!
I am very, very proud to be in the American Red Cross and its mission. And after a couple of years of my harping, I know they ‘get’ climate change. And they’re responding in a big way. Sorry I went on for so long, but I wanted to give you a feel for what I do, and what I see. I ran to the light, Alex. I ran to the light. “
DAVID GAVEAU – ARTIC: WILDFIRES FEED MORE HEAT
While COVID and war captured world attention, Arctic wildfires are accelerating. 44% of Arctic burns in the last 40 years came in the last three years. The pace is accelerating and scientists warn the Arctic is approaching a new tipping point pushing more warming on the whole world.
The paper is: “Unprecedented fire activity above the Arctic Circle linked to rising temperatures”. A major author is forest mapping expert Dr. David Gaveau. David has published over 60 papers, appears regularly in the media, and advises NGO’s and the United Nations process.
Dr. David Gaveau, independent research scientist
Only this summer, a paper by Mika Rantanen and colleagues revealed the Arctic is warming four times faster than the rest of the world. That is driving more wildfires in the far north. Parts of the Boreal forest appear within the Arctic Circle, especially in Russian Siberia. But all across Scandinavia, Canada and Alaska there are shrubs, and all sorts of vegetation to burn during the summer season when the sun blasts non-stop.
One of the biggest threats to the future of our civilization waits in the Arctic. That is peat, the soggy mass of plant material sometime build up over ages. As the Arctic warms (4X faster) – the peat can dry out and burn. Arctic peat could release more carbon dioxide and methane than the entire current stock in the atmosphere. Just think of the massive emissions erupting from the Russian heat wave fires in 2010, or Indonesia in 1997/98. Those Indonesian fires took this less industrialized country into the third largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the world during that period, just behind China and the United States. A lot of Asia was blanketed under that peat fire haze, leading to the deaths of millions of people. So Arctic peat fires are to be feared.
As you know, getting reliable data from Siberia can be difficult. Among other things, there are not a lot of measuring stations, and not much interest from the government (just like Canada and the U.S.). This group, led by French scientist Adrià Descals, used a novel mix of satellite data and artificial intelligence to get factual data about wildfires in the Arctic since 1982..
They got a rude surprise. In the last three years, the area burned by wildfires is far more than previously seen. Why is there a sudden jump in the amount of the Arctic burning? A Press Release from the Spanish National Research Council says:
“The summer of 2020 was the warmest in four decades, and the large area burned between 2019 and 2020 was unprecedented, the authors explain. Approximately 4.7 million hectares burned between 2019 and 2020, resulting in total emissions of 412.7 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent….
The authors note that ‘the 2020 average summer temperature – which was 11.35 degrees – will be very common from the second half of the century on if the Arctic warming continues at the same rate.’ As Adrià Descals warns, ‘these temperature anomalies increase fire risk factors, so the conditions that were led to the 2019 and 2020 fires will be recurrent in the Arctic by the end of the century.’”
In our interview, David Gaveau explains the interlocking factors that are powering a new regime of wildfires in the Arctic. For example, it turns out changed weather system bring more lightening to the Arctic – which is the major source of ignition for the growing wildfires.
It is really worth looking into this, not just because the prospects are frightening. This science shows how a change to one factor, like temperature, connects with a whole circle of changes – climate changes. The team even finds a knowable tipping point for fire behavior: temperatures in the Arctic are 10 degrees C. warmer, or more – then fire activity will grow – not just a little, but “exponentially”. This 10 degree danger line is reach occasionally now, but will come more often as the planet warms.
Due to the short growing season and lack of winter sun, Arctic plants do not regrow anywhere near as quickly as further south. That means there is little hope of regrowth recapturing as much carbon as was lost in these fires. That means the Arctic is adding more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. More warming will result, leading to more fires: a self-perpetuating feedback loop.
David Gaveau is a seasoned expert in reading satellite data into maps we all can see. He founded thetreemap.com and now works with a project called the Nusantara Atlas. Their web site says: “We develop the Nusantara Atlas to protect Indonesian forests. This free online platform is used by Indonesian conservation NGOs and provides regular stories and monthly reports of deforestation alerts to Indonesian civil society and journalists who conduct analyses of the companies involved, submit findings to the relevant authorities, and inform the public.
I see there is another new paper extending Arctic forest fire estimates right up to 2021. Rebecca Scholten from Free University Amsterdam just published the paper “Early snowmelt and polar jet dynamics co-influence recent extreme Siberian fire seasons”.
SEE ALSO: A RELATED PERSPECTIVE ARTICLE IN SCIENCE
Arctic wildfires at a warming threshold
Bigger wildfires in the Siberian Arctic signal release of more carbon to the atmosphere
Eric Post And Michelle C. Mack Science 3 Nov 2022
SEE ALSO: THIS ARTICLE WITH LOTS OF SATELLITE PHOTOS OF ARCTIC FIRES
“Satellite images show unprecedented Arctic fires” November 3, 2022.
SEE ALSO: NEW YORK TIMES ARTICLE ($) ABOUT THE ARCTIC PAPER
“Nearly 23 million acres burned from 1982 to 2020. But almost half of that occurred in 2019 and 2020, and the region may be near a threshold beyond which extreme fires become more common.” By Henry Fountain Nov. 3, 2022
AL GORE OPENS COP27 – SPEAKING (some) TRUTH TO POWER
Despite his own carbon sins, and my doubts about COP27, Al Gore can still tell some truth to power. He did it addressing the world powers at the opening of the climate conference at Sharm El-Sheik. You hear his entire 14 minute speech in this radio show. If you missed that, find it on YouTube here.
Stay tuned for more of the rotten truth – and tiny hope – next week on Radio Ecoshock. We have reporters from Sharm El-Sheikh and Johannesburg.
I’m Alex Smith. Thank you for listening, and caring about our world.