Saturday, August 16, 2014

2028: The End of the World As We Know It?

“There is nothing radical in what we’re discussing,” journalist and climate change activist Bill McKibben said before a crowd of nearly 1,000 at the University of California Los Angeles last night. “The radicals work for the oil companies.”

Bill McKibben

Taken on its own, a statement like that would likely sound hyperbolic to most Americans—fodder for a sound bite on Fox News. Anyone who saw McKibben’s lecture in full, however, would know he was not exaggerating.

McKibben was in Los Angeles as part of his nationwide “Do the Math” tour. Based on a recent article of his in Rolling Stone, (“The one with Justin Bieber on the cover,” McKibben joked) the event is essentially a lecture circuit based on a single premise: climate change is simple math—and the numbers do not look good. If immediate action isn’t taken by global leaders: “It’s game-over for the planet.”

The math, McKibben explained, works like this. Global leaders recently came to an international agreement based on the scientific understanding that a global temperature raise of 2°C would have “catastrophic” consequences for the future of humanity. In order to raise global temperatures to this catastrophic threshold, the world would have to release 565 gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Here’s the problem: Fossil fuel companies currently have 2,795 gigatons of carbon dioxide in their fuel reserves—and their business model depends on that fuel being sold and burned. At current rates of consumption, the world will have blown through its 565-gigaton threshold in 16 years.

To prevent the end of the world as we know it, it will require no less than the death of the most profitable industry in the history of humankind.

“As of tonight,” McKibben said, “we’re going after the fossil fuel industry.”

Obviously no easy task. The oil industry commands annual profits of $137 billion and the political power to match. As McKibben noted, “Oil companies follow the laws because they get to write them.”

However, there are some numbers on McKibben’s side. Recent polling data shows 74 percent of Americans now believe in climate change, and 68 percent view it as dangerous. The problem environmental activists are facing is in converting those favorable polling numbers into grassroots action.

Enter “Do the Math.”

Using McKibben’s popularity as an author, organizers are turning what would otherwise be a lecture circuit into a political machine. Before rolling into town, Do the Math smartly organizes with local environmental groups. Prior to McKibben’s lecture, these groups are allowed to take the stage and talk about local initiatives that need fighting. Contact information is gathered to keep the audience updated on those efforts. Instead of simply listening to McKibben, as they perhaps intended, the audience has suddenly become part of their local environmental movement.

It’s a smart strategy, and an essential one—because the problem of climate change is almost exclusively a political in nature. Between renewable energy and more efficient engineering, the technology already exists to stave off catastrophic global warming. Though its application is lagging in the United States, it is being employed on a mass scale in other countries. In socially-stratified China, with its billion-plus population and tremendous wealth inequalities, 25 percent of the country still manages to use solar arrays to heat its water. Germany—Europe’s economic powerhouse—in less than a decade, has managed to get upwards of half of its energy from sustainable sources.

The same can happen here in America—provided we have the will to make it happen. McKibben says the key to realizing that goal is to battle the lifeblood of the fossil fuel industry—its bottom line.

To start, he’s calling for an immediate global divestment from fossil fuel companies. “We’re asking that people who believe in the problem of climate change to stop profiting from it. Just like with divestment movement in South Africa over apartheid, we need to eliminate the oil companies veneer of respectability.”

In conjunction with the divestment regimen, continued protests against unsustainable energy projects will also be crucial. McKibben will be in Washington, D.C. on November 18 to lead a mass rally against climate change and the Keystone Pipeline. “We can no longer just assume that President Obama is going to do everything he promised during his campaign. We need to push him.”

“I don’t know if we’re going to win. But I do know we’re going to fight.” More

 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Time to ask why

Young people have the most to gain from solving the climate crisis -- and the sooner the better.

They didn't cause the issue, but they'll have to live with it for decades. And for far too long, they and their interests have been ignored by leaders who refuse to protect the planet.

On September 23, this is going to change when exceptional young people get a chance to put their questions to the world's decision-makers -- to speak for their generation at the U.N. Climate Summit in New York City.

Today, we begin searching for the people who will ask their leaders the tough questions about global warming. We're collecting videos of young people ages 13-21 posing tough Why? or Why not? questions about the climate crisis. We'll choose the best to attend the Summit and demand serious answers from the world's leaders.

If you're between the ages of 13 and 21, submit a video. If not, encourage someone you know to submit a video of their own.


Why do we continue burning fossil fuels that cause climate change? Why not switch to clean, renewable energy?

The answers are out there, but we won't get them unless we stand together and demand them -- and refuse to be ignored.

Thanks for your continued support,

Al Gore
Founder and Chairman

SUBMIT A VIDEO

 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Climate War Room

Climate War Room - Sunday 3rd. August 2014


I have today changed the name of the Cayman Institute's climate change blog to the Climate War Room.


Having collaborated with Sir Richard Branson's Carbon War Room on their Ten Island Challenge, which is a major initiative to mitigate climate change through cutting down the global carbon output, I have realized that a similar initiative is needed to to raise awareness of the necessity for a global war on climate change rather than just carbon output.

Jim Hansen

For more input on the reality of the situation a good place to start would be Makiko Sato & James Hansen's website where they ask 'What Path is the Real World Following'? Jim Hansen was the former director of NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies who resigned because the United States Government would not let him speak out on climate change. 'Assessing Dangerous Climate Change' makes worrying reading.


The world needs to take climate change, or as James Lovelock prefers to call it 'global heating' very seriously. Dr. Lovelock is the founder of the Gaia theory and on of the great thinkers of this century, his Cirriculum Vitae is very interesting and worth reading. Mary Midgley wrote on James Lovelock, published in the New Statesman on 14 July 2003."Lovelock is an independent scientist. Though fanatically accurate over details, he never isolates those details from a wider, more demanding vision of their background. He thinks big. Preferring, as Darwin did, to work outside the tramlines of an institution, he has supported himself since 1963 through inventions and consultancies."

 

We need to take the issue very seriously as a rapidly warming climate will change life as we know it. As Jim Hansen has tried to make us aware our children and grandchildren will effectively living on a different and not very nice planet.

James Lovelock

I implore you to research and read up on this subject. Speak out to your friends and neighbors and contact your political representatives and make your views known to them.


Nicholas Robson - Grand Cayman - Cayman Islands

 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Climate Criminality': Australia OKs Biggest Coal Mine

In a decision criticized as "climate criminality," Australia's federal government announced Monday that it has given the OK to the country's biggest coal mine.

The announcement comes less than three months after the state of Queensland gave its approval to the project.

"With this decision," wrote Ben Pearson, head of programs for Greenpeace Australia Pacific, "the political system failed to protect the Great Barrier Reef, the global climate and our national interest."

"Off the back of repealing effective action on climate change," stated Australian Greens environment spokesperson Senator Larissa Waters, referring to the scrapping of the carbon tax, "the Abbott Government has ticked off on a proposal for Australia’s biggest coal mine to cook the planet and turn our Reef into a super highway for coal ships."

Adani Mining expects its Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project in Queensland's Galilee Basin to produce up to 60 million tonnes of coal a year, most of which will be sent to India. A rail line will be created from the mine to a new coal port terminal, an expansion which means up to 3 million meters of dredging waste will be dumped in the area of the World Heritage-listed Reef.

UNESCO "noted with concern" (pdf) in April the prospect of additional dredging that would negatively impact the Reef and warned that the site could be added to the List of World Heritage in Danger.

The approval for the Carmichael project came from Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt with "36 strict conditions"—conditions that did nothing to allay the environmental fears raised by critics.

Felicity Wishart, Great Barrier Reef Campaign Manager for the Australian Marine Conservation Society, stated that the conditions would be "laughable, if they weren’t so serious."

Wishart also accused the Queensland and federal government of "watering down environmental protections and fast-tracking approvals for new ports and LNG plants on the Great Barrier Reef."

"The Federal government has fast-tracked industrialization along the Reef because it is too close to the mining industry," she stated.

Pearson also admonished the close ties, saying in a statement, "The Federal Environment Minister has laid out the red carpet for a coal company with a shocking track record to dig up the outback, dump on the Great Barrier Reef and fuel climate change."

Amongst Greenpeace's list of why the project shouldn't go ahead is that

[t]he mine would steal precious water. The mine requires 12 gigaliters (12 billion liters) of water each year from local rivers and underground aquifers. That’s enough drinking water for every Queenslander for three years. Even ten kilometers away, water tables are expected to drop by over one meter.

In addition to the dangers of dredging up the sea-bed, the list adds:

The burning of coal from Carmichael mine would produce four times the fossil fuel emissions of New Zealand. It is a catastrophe for the climate.

"History will look back on the Abbott Government’s decision today as an act of climate criminality," Waters stated. More

 

Greenpeace Australia Pacific created this infographic to highlight what the group sees as risks the Carmichael mine poses:

 

 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Giant Global “Chimney” Could Alter Climate Change

Hundreds of years after humans mastered the art of chimney venting so they could heat their houses, scientists have undertaken a major research project to better understand how Earth’s atmosphere uses it’s very own version of a chimney.

More than 40 researchers recently visited a sparsely populated part of the western tropical Pacific Ocean—near the island of Guam—known as the "global chimney." The area boasts the world’s warmest ocean temperatures and vents massive volumes of warm gases from the surface high into the atmosphere, which may shape global climate and air chemistry enough to impact billions of people worldwide. Until the project’s recent start, scientists were only vaguely aware of the scale and impact of the global chimney. The warm waters in this area feed thunderstorms with heat and moisture, which loft all sorts of gases above the lowest layer of atmosphere, known as the troposphere, into the stratosphere.

At that altitude gases move horizontally, rather than vertically, as they do in the troposphere, and can therefore spread much further around the globe. Better understanding the chemical composition and transport within the chimney, however, could greatly advance our knowledge of the atmosphere and how it may respond to a changing climate. The researchers hope an added bonus could be understanding how pollutants are transported and transformed as air is pushed along the tropics, which could have a direct effect on people living downwind of major air pollution sources. "There are a lot of consequences from this type of air motion," says Elliot Atlas, professor of marine and atmospheric chemistry at the University of Miami and a principal investigator for the project. "There is a link between the chemistry that goes on in this type of air motion and the subsequent effects on the trace gases and aerosols in the atmosphere that ultimately impact climate."

The scientists investigated the waters near Guam last winter using three different high-tech aircraft to collect air samples and examine the abundance, distribution and transformation of various gases in the tropical atmosphere. Some of those gases in the chimney system such as chlorofluorocarbons (found in refrigerants and aerosols) and bromine compounds (found in products such as fire extinguishers) are man-made and can become trapped in the stratosphere, lingering there for years. Those compounds alone can destroy ozone, which helps block the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. (Those rays can contribute to the destruction of crops as well as human skin cancer.) Other compounds, especially the more reactive bromine compounds, can be made naturally, however. Over the last decade scientists have more closely looked at the amount of bromine in the stratosphere and realized it must have sources beyond the long-lived, man-made compounds. The consensus was that natural bromine compounds were being produced by marine organisms and released into the atmosphere. These compounds are relatively short-lived, however, so the scientists suggest that they react in the tropical atmosphere to form inorganic bromine containing compounds, such as bromine monoxide, which can eventualy lead to ozone depletion. Phytoplankton and other plants in the surface ocean can emit gases containing bromine and also chlorine and iodine into the water, which then escape into the atmosphere. Although the distribution of these emissions is still uncertain, measurements have indicated that the tropical oceans could be major sources, lofting them into the atmosphere where they can ultimately contribute to reactions that control tropospheric and stratospheric ozone.

So, the scientists are actively trying to understand how ocean biology might respond to changes in water circulation, nutrient supply, temperature and other factors, all of which could influence the reactive gas emissions and, in turn, feed into the chemical cycles that further influence climate through changes in greenhouse gases. The planet’s climate ultimately becomes altered when these gases start to affect the amount of energy from the sun that is allowed to reach Earth’s surface or is stored in the atmosphere.

Besides increasing or decreasing the levels of ozone in the upper atmosphere, some of the chemicals also contribute directly to the greenhouse effect. For example, added water vapor pumped into the upper atmosphere from the chimney increases the amount of energy trapped there, in turn heating the planet further. Another principal investigator for the project, Laura Pan, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., believes storm clusters over this area of the Pacific are likely to influence climate in new ways, especially as the warm ocean temperatures (which feed the storms and chimney) continue to heat up and atmospheric patterns continue to evolve. "Understanding the impact of these storms will help us gain ground truth for improving the chemistry–climate models we use to project future climate," she says. Defining those linkages, however, is an obviously complex task, according to Ross Salawitch, a University of Maryland, College Park, professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences and another principal investigator. "The various processes and feedbacks between the physical forcing factors in the climate system are under active investigation by a whole community of climate scientists," he says. "The addition of biological interactions adds another layer of complexity (and uncertainty) to the eventual outcomes of changing temperatures, circulations and so on. Rising temperatures, for example, could either increase or decrease biological productivity," Salawitch says, as well as the emission of certain less-prevalent gases that are exchanged between the air and ocean. "Perhaps increased ocean acidification could be another controlling factor," he adds.

Only one other major circulation has been considered a "global chimney." The other (much smaller) major pathway for transporting air from the lower atmosphere to the stratosphere is the Asian monsoon circulation, which prevails in the summer. Efforts are underway to conduct similar aircraft observations in the region of the Asian monsoon. The researchers have also identified smaller circulations that could significantly affect atmospheric chemistry such as the North American monsoon and convections over Africa. The idea for this type of project dates back to 1999, according to Salawitch. He says the project didn’t swing into action until recently, however, because work involving multiple complex aircraft and research teams takes a long time to plan (especially for high-altitudes). And although the collection process is now over, the scientists have a lot of data to sift through before they can say for sure what exactly is happening in this chimney and what its future impact on the world’s climate could be. "The data collected during these missions will stand as benchmarks for testing how well the tropics are represented in computer simulations and in forecasts of future climate," Salawitch says. The complete analysis, he notes, could last two years or more. More

 

 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Summer is Coming

"Studies such as these help us gaze into the uncertain future and ask if that is what we want for our children. Most of us don’t. A few of us actually try to do something to change it. For the rest, the lag time is comforting. The complexity of non-linear feedback systems gives us an excuse to procrastinate."

Why are zombies so ubiquitous in contemporary popular culture? The HBO mini-series, Game of Thrones, supplies one theory. Unlike in the AMC series, Walking Dead, or in the film, World War Z, the undead are not coming on like a Blitzkrieg hoard. Rather, the White Walkers are building slowly, as a rumor, sometimes killing the messenger and leaving the message undelivered. “Winter is coming” is an expression that hangs in the air, deepening the sense of foreboding.

One reviewer (for The New York Times) observed that “bringing in the White Walkers might be a way to ultimately point up the pettiness of politics — which is to say, no one cares who sits on what throne once zombies start eating people.”Thrones’ first four seasons of “people slicing, stabbing, axing, poisoning, eating, crushing and moon-dooring one another in every possible context,” underscore the point — that the pettiness of politics still rules the day.

Game of Thrones resonates because outside the window is the drama of NATO expansion bumping up against retired Red Army vets in the Ukraine, the unmasking of shadow banks in the U.K. by the Financial Times and shadowing governments by Edward Snowden, or the sniper battle on the U.S. Republican right that is so entertaining to MSNBC and CNN. It is all much ado about nothing. Just North of our popular culture Wall is a climate juggernaut, building momentum.

Both scenarios — business as usual and drastic curtailment — produce a temperature and climate regime that would likely be lethal for modern civilization, if not the human race. In the Cancun round of the Committee of Parties in 2010, United Nations high level negotiators produced a general agreement — over the opposition of the USA, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Israel and other obstructionists — that "recognizing that climate change represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet,” 2°C was the “line in the sand” beyond which global temperatures should not be allowed to climb. In the latest three rounds— Durban, Doha and Warsaw — there has been a strong push from the science and civil sectors to reduce the target to 1.5°C to avert potentially unmanageable risks of tipping points from which no recovery would be possible. Since Warsaw last December some of these points — the inexorable slippage of ice in Antarctica and the release of methane from permafrost to name two — have tipped.

The NCA3 study is saying, essentially, we are in dangerous territory whether we stop emissions tomorrow or not. Summer temperatures in the U.S. have been rising on average 0.4 degrees F per decade since 1970, or about 0.2 C. Average summertime temperature increase has been 1°C overall, but the Southwest and West regions have borne the brunt of those increases, and temperatures have risen an average of 0.4°C, with a few localized areas warming as much as 0.6°C per decade. This is 5 times faster than the Earth as a whole warmed in the 20thcentury. North America, which lags other parts of the planet, is now in an exponential curve of accelerating change

“There are a number of findings in this report that sound an alarm bell signaling the need for action to combat the threats from climate change. For instance, the amount of rain coming down in heavy downpours and deluges across the U.S. is increasing; there’s an increase that’s already occurring in heat waves across the middle of the U.S.; and there are serious observed impacts of sea-level rise occurring in low-lying cities such as Miami, where, during high tides, certain parts of the city flood and seawater seeps up through storm drains. These are phenomena that are already having direct adverse impacts on human well-being in different parts of this country.”

Studies such as these help us gaze into the uncertain future and ask if it is really what we want for our children. Most of us don’t. A few of us actually try to do something to change it. For the rest, the lag time is comforting. The complexity of non-linear feedback systems gives us an excuse to procrastinate. More

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Solar is here

Solar is here.

That's right. You know the solutions to the climate crisis are available today; we simply need the public (and political) will to implement them. Clean energy is urgently necessary, abundant, and becoming increasingly more affordable. That's why on June 21, The Climate Reality Project is joining 12 other organizations in a day of action to support clean-energy solutions and show our commitment to bringing solar power to communities around the world.

If you don't already have plans to take part on Saturday, don't despair! Here are a few last minute ways to get involved:

  1. Sign: Send President Obama an email thanking him for putting solar panels on the roof of the White House.
  2. Share: Take your own #PutSolarOnIt photo and share it with your social media network.
  3. Discover: Check out the Mosaic website to find out if solar is right for you.
  4. Participate: Check out OFA's website to find an event near you, some of which are being hosted by your fellow Climate Reality Leaders.

The reality is this: solar is affordable. It's clean. And it's powerful. The cost of solar panels has plummeted 60 percent since early 2011, and the number of installations keeps growing. The United States now has enough installed solar capacity to power more than 2.2 million homes. In several states, solar power is now competitive with other sources of energy without emitting the dangerous greenhouse gases that cause climate change.

Climate Reality Leaders are the first responders to the climate crisis and lead action across the globe. We're proud so many of you will be participating on Saturday by hosting presentations, organizing events, and informing others about the benefits of solar power.

The Climate Reality Leadership Corps Team

Solar Array at Caledonian Bank, George Town, Cayman Islands