UN head António Guterres: “Record global heating should send shivers down the spines of world leaders.” Ice-world has tipped – no going back. Dr. Twila Moon from National Snow & Ice Data Center new “State of the Cryosphere 2023 Report”. The ozone hole is back! Hannah Kessenich “Potential drivers of the recent large Antarctic ozone holes” – and how it changes weather in Southern Hemisphere.
“We are living through climate collapse in real time. This year has seen communities around the world pounded by fires, floods, and searing temperature – and the impact is devastating. Record global heating should send shivers down the spines of world leaders. And it should trigger them to act.”
That was UN secretary-general, António Guterres, speaking at Cop28 in Dubai November 30, 2023. Along with hundreds of scientist guests, I have been saying this for years. This year the global pot came to a visible boil – and we are in the early phase of a hot El Nino trend in 2024 and beyond.
In years past, we had correspondent calling in from COP Climate Conferences and expectations of action. This year, an estimated 90,000 people burned through the long flight to Dubai, many of them in private planes. Humans still don’t get it. Canadian climate scientist Paul Beckwith calls it “a Burning Man Party in the Desert”
Giant fossil fuel corporations and nationals have announced expanded production. Their trillion dollar projects have already begun. Their investments will heat the world beyond 3 degrees this century. The Climate Conference is being held by the oil industry, literally led by the CEO of a giant Middle East fossil fuel producer. Did they buy the world’s only climate agency like the Saudi’s buy sports networks?
You and I know, there will be a lot of talk, and very little action at COP28 – even as global emissions continue to rise. Don’t expect much coverage on Radio Ecoshock. The real world is talking – the glaciers, storms, disappearing species and lakes. Let’s listen to what they say.
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BAD NEWS FROM THE ICE WORLD
The best ice scientists in the world just issued this stark warning: two degrees of warming commits all future generations to shrinking land and a deader ocean. The melting temperature of water is not open to negotiation. The ice-world breaks down well before two degrees C of warming. We are heading toward three degrees or more.
“Two Degrees is Too High” says the new “State of the Cryosphere 2023 Report”. Joining us is scientist Twila Moon. Dr. Moon is Deputy Lead Scientist at the National Snow & Ice Data Center in Colorado.
Contributors to this report read like a who’s who of climate and ice specialists. About a dozen have been on Radio Ecoshock. The Preface comes from the President of Chile and Prime Minister of Iceland.
The Cryosphere is wherever snow or ice appear. That is about 10% of the land surface of this planet – plus part of the sea surface (sea ice). This ice world is a huge part of our planetary weather system, ocean levels and circulation, and serves as a reflective mirror sending solar energy back into space. Few people live there and few places matter more for the future of this world. The reaction of the cryosphere to global warming this decade could draw a strange new map of the world for thousands of years to come.
Ice experts have one of the longest takes on climate change. Looking back hundreds of thousands of years and forward thousands of years, the view is even more scary. The public seems unaware of these dangers, developing in cold remote places.
All through this big new report, we find processes that once they are started, cannot be stopped for thousands of years. Even if humans geoengineer a cooling, melting continues. Based on detailed studies of markers from past planetary melting, ice can melt much faster than it is formed. That means Earth can become a hot-house planet faster than the ice-house state. Things are changing quickly in frozen places.
Last year, a researcher in the far north island of Svalbard hammered in a long stake for measurement. This year eight feet of that rod was exposed – eight feet of glacier loss there, a vast volume of ice. It’s happening all over.
ICE SHEET WARNING!
“damage well beyond limits of feasible adaptation”
“…the opportunity to preserve much of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, with its potential 5 meters of sea-level rise, has probably passed. Its loss can be slowed, but not prevented entirely.”
In past, there have been “meltwater pulses” (most recently around 14,500 years ago) with 3.5 to 4 meters [11 to 13 feet) sea level rise per century. Sea levels have risen 12-18 meters [39 to 60 feet] within 350 years. Is it possible we could see shocking sea level rise, even pulses, this century?
The report says:
“...a threshold for both Greenland and parts of Antarctica well below 2°C, committing the planet to between 12–20 meters [39 to 65 feet] sea-level rise if 2°C becomes the new constant Earth temperature.
Many ice sheet scientists now believe that by 2°C, nearly all of Greenland, much of West Antarctica, and even vulnerable portions of East Antarctica will be triggered to very long-term, inexorable sea-level rise, even if air temperatures later decrease. This is due to a warmer ocean that will hold heat longer than the atmosphere, plus a number of self-reinforcing feed-back mechanisms, so that it takes much longer for ice sheets to regrow (tens of thousands of years) than lose their ice.
If global leaders cause temperatures to reach this point through continued fossil emissions, they are committing the planet to extensive coastal loss and damage well beyond limits of feasible adaptation.”
PERMAFROST A MAJOR THREAT
We could spend a whole interview on each chapter in the Cryosphere Report. It covers ice-sheets and sea level, mountain glaciers, permafrost, sea ice, and ocean acidification. Let’s pick the permafrost. Here are some key points from the State of the Cryosphere report:
“• 2°C – and even 1.5°C – is too high to prevent extensive permafrost thaw and resulting CO2 and methane emissions that will cause temperatures to continue to rise, even once human emissions reach zero, unless offset by extensive negative emissions/carbon drawdown; but 1.5°C will decrease the size of such emissions significantly.
• 2°C means 4–8°C in the Arctic where most permafrost is located, with parts of the Arctic warming 2–4 times faster than the rest of the planet. In addition, up to half of recent permafrost thaw has occurred during extreme heat events of up to 12°C above average, as a result of “abrupt thaw” processes where coastlines or hillsides collapse, or lakes form; exposing much deeper and greater amounts of permafrost to thaw.
• Once thawed, permafrost begins emitting CO2 or methane, even if temperatures later drop below freezing. These emissions are irreversibly set in motion and will not slow for 1–2 centuries, meaning that future generations must offset them (draw down carbon) at scales the size of a major emitter.
• At 2°C, annual total permafrost emissions (both CO2 and methane) would probably total the size of the entire European Union’s emissions from 2019 (150 Gt BY 2100) total by 2100 and about twice that by 2300).
Permafrost thaw at 2°C might also be accelerated further by loss of Arctic sea ice in summer for several months, as the open water absorbs more heat; and by increased wildfires in Siberia and North America.
• Even at 1.5°C, studies indicate significant permafrost thaw and related emissions, but these will be less in scale since temperatures will “only” average 3–4°C higher than today in the Arctic. “Very low” emissions (SSP1-1.9 also result in temperatures declining to below 1.4°C by the end of this century, preventing most additional new thaw.
• Annual permafrost emissions will still need to be offset by future generations, but should be 30–50% less, more on the scale of India in 2019 (150Gt by 2100).”
This is heavy load on future generations, just to save themselves. We leave a legacy of climate suffering. It is good this report sees it too.
This report says only 1.5 C. will save the ice world, and the ways it shapes our climate. Former NASA scientist James Hansen says 1.5 is “deader than a door-nail”. He is all about Earth Energy Imbalance in watts per meter squared, and changes in Earth’s reflectivity, called “albedo”. Reading the new report, I could not find the word “albedo” or any discussion of it, even when Antarctic sea ice almost as large as Europe vanished.
The tone of this report is mixed. Scientists call for “a drastic change of course.” I detect some desperation, but also a narrow possibility of retaining the Polar ice-world for coming centuries. Even the best case scenario is not that great, emissions are going the opposite direction, but these scientist still find a very narrow possible pathway to save the Cryosphere. It involves wrenching changes to our civilization and the way we live:
“Very Low Emissions (Peak 1.6° and declining by 2100): Requires 1) at least 43% greenhouse gas reductions from 2019 levels by 2030, primarily from steep declines in fossil fuel use; 2) carbon neutrality (net zero CO2 emissions) by 2050; and 3) net negative emissions (carbon drawdown) afterwards.”
“The State of the Cryosphere 2023 Report – Two Degrees Is Too High” is available free from iccinet.org.
I came away from this new report with a sense of awe and doom. Humans argue on social media or corporate boardrooms about what is true, but as they say, the melting point of ice is not up for negotiation. Here we see a pitiless process, the very physics of this universe that will keep going for thousands of years.
This time – this generation – this decade determines a difficult future for all who follow.
The authors say:
“It cannot be over-emphasized how much more slowly these shifts in temperature and CO2 concentrations occurred compared to today’s warming from human greenhouse gas emissions. CO2 levels an Ice Age were around 180 ppm, and 280 ppm during warm periods or “interglacials,” including the past 10,000 years. The CO2 peak of 424 is completely off-the-charts for the entirety of human existence, going back 3 million years; and as of 2023 is officially 50% above pre-industrial levels…….Nearly all of these changes cannot be reversed on human timescales, and they will grow with each additional tenth of a degree. Well before 2°C, they would become devastating due to the physical reality of the cryosphere’s response.”
THE OZONE HOLE – IT’S BAAACK!
We were told the big ozone hole over Antarctica was healing, to recover by 2066 or even 2045. By 2019 the hole was shrinking. New science questions all that. “Potential drivers of the recent large Antarctic ozone holes” was published November 22, 2023. The results bear on the safety of geoengineering too. Hannah Kessenich is the lead author. She is a PhD student at the University of Otago, in New Zealand. After winning an AI-related scholarship from Australia, Kessenich and her colleagues broke the long-standing story of ozone.
NOT REALLY A “HOLE”
Just to be clear, there is no “hole” in the atmosphere. Ozone, a triple form of oxygen, is spread thinly in the upper atmosphere. Another source explains if we compressed the ozone it would be only around the thickness of two coins. The “hole” is a greatly reduced patch of ozone, about a third or less than normal. That lets in much more dangerous UV-B (ultraviolet light energy) arriving at the surface. Animals and plants are damaged by it. For example, ozone depletion can harm plankton, which affects commercial fisheries.
SEE ALSO “UV-B–induced forest sterility: Implications of ozone shield failure in Earth’s largest extinction”. You can hear my interview with the author Jeffrey Benca in this Radio Ecoshock show “Ozone Shield NOT Safe Scientists Say” posted on February 14, 2018
The ozone hole also affects weather in the whole southern hemisphere. Twila explains that in the interview. Ozone hole impacts interact with climate change in ways we are still struggling to understand.
The 1987 Montreal Protocol is considered the most effective international environment agreement ever. Last January in Nairobi, at the 103rd annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society a UN-backed panel of experts concluded “The ozone layer is on track to recover within four decades.” In 2019, ozone over Antarctica seems to mostly recover. “In 2019, NASA reported that the ozone hole was the smallest ever since it was first discovered in 1982.” The size and time length of the ozone hole was reduced.
Even in January of this year (2023) UNEP (U.N. Environment Program) put out a press release: “Ozone layer recovery is on track, helping avoid global warming by 0.5°C”. This new study shows questions remain, and for now, so does the ozone hole – becoming “large” and lasting longer in 2023.
There have been signs we should continue to worry about low ozone. In 2018 I talked with Dr. William Ball, then with ETH Zürich. His paper “Evidence for a continuous decline in lower stratospheric ozone offsetting ozone layer recovery” was cautionary. Despite public assurances the ozone problem is solved, a stream of new papers ask difficult questions.
INCREASING WILDFIRE SMOKE DAMAGES THE OZONE
The ozone-breakers are so-called halogenated chemicals, like CFCs but many other chlorinated chemicals as well. This team looks beyond CFCs or human-made chemicals for other drivers of ozone depletion. One of them is with wild smoke which can damage stratospheric ozone. Huge never-before-seen wildfires developed in recent years, and broke out again in 2023.
Recognition that increased aerosols (particles in the air) can damage the ozone also shows another possible risk to geoengineering. There are growing calls to inject particles like sulfates higher up into the Stratosphere as an emergency measure to cool the planet. That may have unintended effects, like altering rainfall patterns, but now also on the protective ozone layer.
Low ozone levels in Antarctica change Polar winds, and that changes weather in Australia, New Zealand, Africa, and South America in significant ways. To learn more, see this 2011 paper: “Stratospheric ozone depletion: the main driver of twentieth-century atmospheric circulation changes in the southern hemisphere.” It finds “…the impacts of ozone depletion are roughly 2–3 times larger than those associated with increased greenhouse gases, for the Southern Hemisphere tropospheric summer circulation.”
“The formation of the ozone hole is shown to affect not only the polar tropopause and the latitudinal position of the midlatitude jet; it extends to the entire hemisphere, resulting in a broadening of the Hadley cell and a poleward extension of the subtropical dry zones.“
This paper does not cover ozone depletion in the Arctic. Try “Springtime arctic ozone depletion forces northern hemisphere climate anomalies” Marina Friedel et al. published: 07 July 2022
OZONE CHANGES SUMMER MORE THAN GREENHOUSE GASES?
At first, I found connecting the ozone hole to Pacific cooling thousands of miles away unlikely. But then I found a series of papers, mainly led by Chinese scientists, finding connections between a thin ozone layer over Antarctica, and the cycle of El Nino/La Nina known as ENSO. The ozone hole impacts climate systems.
Remember, the 2011 paper “Stratospheric Ozone Depletion” by Lorenzo M. Polvani et al. found:
“…the impacts of ozone depletion are roughly 2–3 times larger than those associated with increased greenhouse gases, for the Southern Hemisphere tropospheric summer circulation…The formation of the ozone hole is shown to affect not only the polar tropopause and the latitudinal position of the midlatitude jet; it extends to the entire hemisphere, resulting in a broadening of the Hadley cell and a poleward extension of the subtropical dry zones.”
PREVIOUS ECOSHOCK SHOWS ON OZONE HOLE
“Extreme Antarctica, Ozone & Heat” Posted on September 13, 2023
Posted on June 17, 2020, by Radio Ecoshock
Global warming can cause an extinction-level hole in the ozone, says Dr. John Marshall from UK’s University of Southampton.
Science Advances is: “UV-B radiation was the Devonian-Carboniferous boundary terrestrial extinction kill mechanism”. The lead author is Professor John Marshall from the University of Southampton in the UK.
Posted on September 7, 2022
Strange droughts, flash floods, weird weather, welcome to La Nina in the age of climate change. Why are La Nina years coming more often? Dr. Dennis Hartmann has a surprising answer: it could be the ozone hole. Worse, this trend might hide real warming to come. Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy August 22nd, 2022, Hartmann’s new paper is: “The Antarctic ozone hole and the pattern effect on climate sensitivity”. The paper is available free, in full text here.
THE ALEX RANT:
WE ARE THE ASTEROID!
What is happening would be a best-selling science fiction plot. Except older Europeans can see snow and ice shrinking away in the Alps. Large ice dams have broken in the Himalayan mountains, crushing everything below with epic floods. Greenland already lost so much ice. Iceland put out a memorial plaque for a former glacier. The Antarctic sea ice has become a shadow of it’s former self. The world’s largest iceberg just floated free. This is reality.
You can find maps of the New Earth coastlines on the Internet. Florida becomes just a stub, with southern cities underwater. New York, London, Hong Kong – the list is long, the underwater pyramids of a former civilization. Fertile river deltas feeding a billion humans and countless species disappear under the sea. There is literally less land for the survivors to stand on. The whole rich diversity of coastal areas, including coral reefs, can be wiped away by a single generation of humans – this generation.
Reports from COP28 read like the Doom report. Doom will not be short and merciful. It takes time. Heartless heat and commanding waves increase over centuries, once the die is cast, once the carbon limit is crossed. How awful to know, to measure the height and speed, to see it coming, and still do nothing but make it worse.
If humans survive with a history, the first three decades of this century was the decision time, the beginning of the end. The rest is written, not in stone, but in heat, water, another Great Dying of the species, the quickest and most dramatic change on this planet since the Asteroid 66 million years ago. As innocent as we seem, we are the asteroid. We kill it all for a holiday flight, another hit of carbon, another day in the death of nature. The Brahman age of creativity is done. Next is Kali, the Hindu Goddess of time, change, and death. We are here for the funeral.
But maybe this is just a nightmare illusion? These scientists are just voices, reports from distant places. We hop in the only car we have, heat or cool the only shelter we have, eat from the carbonized global table. It all seems normal for a while. We drop back into the Matrix where computers and satellites guide the world into a darkening future. No one will seriously talk about this. No one will criticize or prevent privilege from eating the living system alive. We are time cannibals, feasting on the future, flying with solar energy captured ages ago. Paid voices tell us the demise of this age is just a science plot, from the Greenies who hate our system but live in it. Waking up is the most frightening thing.
As we just heard, nothing and nobody can stop the ice world from melting once it fully begins. As the Cryosphere report begins: “We cannot negotiate with the melting point of ice.” The ideas and aspirations of our short history are melting, falling like the ice cliffs into the sea, running unseen and cold a mile below the surface, lubricating the speed of change, evaporating like snow on the Tundra. The ancient past reveals itself again. Crocodiles hunt in the Arctic. The last fish come to feed among drowned office towers where men sought to control the world. Revenge of Gaia.
Recently, records were set for the most flights and driving in American history, over the Thanksgiving weekend. Nobody knows the trouble we are in.
I’m Alex Smith. Thank for listening, and caring about our world.
At the end of this show, I play part of a song I wrote for those who don’t listen, or don’t care.