Even if greenhouse emissions stopped overnight the concentrations already in the atmosphere would still mean a global rise of between 0.5 and 1C. A shift of a single degree is barely perceptible to human skin, but it’s not human skin we’re talking about. It’s the planet; and an average increase of one degree across its entire surface means huge changes in climatic extremes.
Six thousand years ago, when the world was one degree warmer than it is now, the American agricultural heartland around Nebraska was desert.
The effect of one-degree warming, therefore, requires no great feat of imagination.
Want to read what it will be like under 2 degrees, or six? Click here.
“The western United States once again could suffer perennial droughts, far worse than the 1930s. Deserts will reappear particularly in Nebraska, but also in eastern Montana, Wyoming and Arizona, northern Texas and Oklahoma. As dust and sandstorms turn day into night across thousands of miles of former prairie, farmsteads, roads and even entire towns will be engulfed by sand.”
What’s bad for America will be worse for poorer countries closer to the equator. It has beencalculated that a one-degree increase would eliminate fresh water from a third of the world’s land surface by 2100. Again we have seen what this means. There was an incident in the summer of 2005: One tributary fell so low that miles of exposed riverbank dried out into sand dunes, with winds whipping up thick sandstorms. As desperate villagers looked out onto baking mud instead of flowing water, the army was drafted in to ferry precious drinking water up the river – by helicopter, since most of the river was too low to be navigable by boat. The river in question was not some small, insignificant trickle in Sussex. It was the Amazon.
While tropical lands teeter on the brink, the Arctic already may have passed the point of no return. Warming near the pole is much faster than the global average, with the result that Arctic icecaps and glaciers have lost 400 cubic kilometres of ice in 40 years. Permafrost – ground that has lain frozen for thousands of years – is dissolving into mud and lakes, destabilising whole areas as the ground collapses beneath buildings, roads and pipelines. As polar bears and Inuits are being pushed off the top of the planet, previous predictions are starting to look optimistic. Earlier snowmelt means more summer heat goes into the air and ground rather than into melting snow, raising temperatures in a positive feedback effect. More dark shrubs and forest on formerly bleak tundra means still more heat is absorbed by vegetation.
Out at sea the pace is even faster. Whilst snow-covered ice reflects more than 80% of the sun’s heat, the darker ocean absorbs up to 95% of solar radiation. Once sea ice begins to melt, in other words, the process becomes self-reinforcing. More ocean surface is revealed, absorbing solar heat, raising temperatures and making it unlikelier that ice will re-form next winter. The disappearance of 720,000 square kilometres of supposedly permanent ice in a single year testifies to the rapidity of planetary change. If you have ever wondered what it will feel like when the Earth crosses a tipping point, savour the moment.
Mountains, too, are starting to come apart. In the Alps, most ground above 3,000 metres is stabilised by permafrost. In the summer of 2003, however, the melt zone climbed right up to 4,600 metres, higher than the summit of the Matterhorn and nearly as high as Mont Blanc. With the glue of millennia melting away, rocks showered down and 50 climbers died. As temperatures go on edging upwards, it won’t just be mountaineers who flee. Whole towns and villages will be at risk. Some towns, like Pontresina in eastern Switzerland, have already begun building bulwarks against landslides.
At the opposite end of the scale, low-lying atoll countries such as the Maldives will be preparing for extinction as sea levels rise, and mainland coasts – in particular the eastern US and Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean and Pacific islands and the Bay of Bengal – will be hit by stronger and stronger hurricanes as the water warms. Hurricane Katrina, which in 2005 hit New Orleans with the combined impacts of earthquake and flood, was a nightmare precursor of what the future holds.
Most striking of all was seeing how people behaved once the veneer of civilisation had been torn away. Most victims were poor and black, left to fend for themselves as the police either joined in the looting or deserted the area. Four days into the crisis, survivors were packed into the city’s Superdome, living next to overflowing toilets and rotting bodies as gangs of young men with guns seized the only food and water available. Perhaps the most memorable scene was a single military helicopter landing for just a few minutes, its crew flinging food parcels and water bottles out onto the ground before hurriedly taking off again as if from a war zone. In scenes more like a Third World refugee camp than an American urban centre, young men fought for the water as pregnant women and the elderly looked on with nothing. Don’t blame them for behaving like this, I thought. It’s what happens when people are desperate.
Chance of avoiding one degree of global warming: zero.
Want to read what it will be like under 2 degrees, or six? Click here.
The U.S. surface temperature map from Unisys at 4 pm, June 29, 2012, shows 100° temperatures stretching almost continuously from California eastward to the Carolinas.
While Colorado burns, Washington fiddles
Bill McKibben, Guardian, 29 June 2012
Drought, wildfires, storms, floods – climate change is happening, but the real disaster is our Big Energy-owned politicians’ inaction
US wildfires are what global warming really looks like, scientists warn
Reuters/Guardian, 29 June 2012
The Colorado fires are being driven by extreme temperatures, which are consistent with IPCC projections
Massive ‘Debilitating’ Heat Wave Expands Eastward
NBC Meteorologist On Record Heat Wave: “If We Did Not Have Global Warming, We Wouldn’t See This.”
It is, perhaps, the greatest failure of collective leadership since the first world war. The Earth’s living systems are collapsing, and the leaders of some of the most powerful nations – the US, the UK, Germany, Russia – could not even be bothered to turn up and discuss it. Those who did attend the Earth summit last week solemnly agreed to keep stoking the destructive fires: sixteen times in their text they pledged to pursue “sustained growth”, the primary cause of the biosphere’s losses(1).
This is by George Monbiot of The Guardian.
The efforts of governments are concentrated not on defending the living Earth from destruction, but on defending the machine that is destroying it. Whenever consumer capitalism becomes snarled up by its own contradictions, governments scramble to mend the machine, to ensure – though it consumes the conditions that sustain our lives – that it runs faster than ever before.
The thought that it might be the wrong machine, pursuing the wrong task, cannot even be voiced in mainstream politics. The machine greatly enriches the economic elite, while insulating the political elite from the mass movements it might otherwise confront. We have our bread; now we are wandering, in spellbound reverie, among the circuses.
We have used our unprecedented freedoms, secured at such cost by our forebears, not to agitate for justice, for redistribution, for the defence of our common interests, but to pursue the dopamine hits triggered by the purchase of products we do not need. The world’s most inventive minds are deployed not to improve the lot of humankind but to devise ever more effective means of stimulation, to counteract the diminishing satisfactions of consumption. The mutual dependencies of consumer capitalism ensure that we all unwittingly conspire in the trashing of what may be the only living planet. The failure at Rio de Janeiro belongs to us all.
It marks, more or less, the end of the multilateral effort to protect the biosphere. The only successful global instrument – the Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer – was agreed and implemented years before the first Earth Summit in 1992(2). It was one of the last fruits of a different political era, in which intervention in the market for the sake of the greater good was not considered anathema, even by the Thatcher and Reagan governments. Everything of value discussed since then has led to weak, unenforceable agreements, or to no agreements at all.
This is not to suggest that the global system and its increasingly pointless annual meetings will disappear or even change. The governments which allowed the Earth Summit and all such meetings to fail evince no sense of responsibility for this outcome, and appear untroubled by the thought that if a system hasn’t worked for 20 years there’s something wrong with the system. They walk away, aware that there are no political penalties; that the media is as absorbed in consumerist trivia as the rest of us; that, when future generations have to struggle with the mess they have left behind, their contribution will have been forgotton. (And then they lecture the rest of us on responsibility).
Nor is it to suggest that multilateralism should be abandoned. Agreements on biodiversity, the oceans and the trade in endangered species may achieve some marginal mitigation of the full-spectrum assault on the biosphere that the consumption machine has unleashed. But that’s about it.
The action – if action there is – will mostly be elsewhere. Those governments which retain an interest in planet Earth will have to work alone, or in agreement with likeminded nations. There will be no means of restraining free riders, no means of persuading voters that their actions will be matched by those of other countries.
That we have missed the chance of preventing two degrees of global warming now seems obvious. That most of the other planetary boundaries will be crossed, equally so. So what do we do now?
Some people will respond by giving up, or at least withdrawing from political action. Why, they will ask, should we bother, if the inevitable destination is the loss of so much of what we hold dear: the forests, the brooks, the wetlands, the coral reefs, the sea ice, the glaciers, the birdsong and the night chorus, the soft and steady climate which has treated us kindly for so long? It seems to me that there are at least three reasons.
The first is to draw out the losses over as long a period as possible, in order to allow our children and grandchildren to experience something of the wonder and delight in the natural world and of the peaceful, unharried lives with which we have been blessed. Is that not a worthy aim, even if there were no other?
The second is to preserve what we can in the hope that conditions might change. I do not believe that the planet-eating machine, maintained by an army of mechanics, oiled by constant injections of public money, will collapse before the living systems on which it feeds. But I might be wrong. Would it not be a terrible waste to allow the tiger, the rhinoceros, the bluefin tuna, the queen’s executioner beetle and the scabious cuckoo bee, the hotlips fungus and the fountain anenome(3) to disappear without a fight if this period of intense exploitation turns out to be a brief one?
The third is that, while we may possess no influence over decisions made elsewhere, there is plenty that can be done within our own borders. Rewilding – the mass restoration of ecosystems – offers the best hope we have of creating refuges for the natural world, which is why I’ve decided to spend much of the next few years promoting it here and abroad.
Giving up on global agreements or, more accurately, on the prospect that they will substantially alter our relationship with the natural world, is almost a relief. It means walking away from decades of anger and frustration. It means turning away from a place in which we have no agency to one in which we have, at least, a chance of being heard. But it also invokes a great sadness, as it means giving up on so much else.
Was it too much to have asked of the world’s governments, which performed such miracles in developing stealth bombers and drone warfare, global markets and trillion dollar bail-outs, that they might spend a tenth of the energy and resources they devoted to these projects on defending our living planet? It seems, sadly, that it was.
Its official! A building can be leaning and have bulging walls supporting a massive tank of liquid on the top floor, and still be secure from any earthquake! This means the world is safe!
The following is also well covered in this report.
The Wall Street Journal just reported that TEPCO doesn’t have a plan to deal with the collapse of Spent Fuel Pool 4 at the Fukushima nuclear reactor in Japan. Yet a host of scientists, nuclear experts and researchers, say we facing a situation right now that is so serious that it literally threatened our very existence, for the entire Northern Hemisphere is at risk of becoming largely uninhabitable if the building collapses.
According to U.S. Army General Albert Stubblebine of the Natural Solutions Foundation, the situation is extremely serious and poses a significant danger to our entire civilization. Since TEPCO and the Japanese government have refused the entombment option (as the Russians did with Chernobyl) the world is at the mercy of nature. A mistake here would cause the deaths of tens of millions of people across the globe. Read report here.
When the highly radioactive Spent Fuel Rods are exposed to air, there will be massive explosions releasing many times the amount or radiation released thus far. Bizarrely, they are stored three stories above ground in open concrete storage pools. Whether through evaporation of the water in the pools, or due to the inevitable further collapse of the structure, there is a severe risk. United States public health authorities agree that tens of thousands of North Americans have already died from the Fukushima calamity. When the final cataclysm occurs, sooner rather than later, the whole Northern Hemisphere is at risk of becoming largely uninhabitable.
The Japanese ambassador Murata wrote to UN Secretary General: ‘It is no exaggeration to say that the fate of Japan and the whole world depends on No. 4 reactor’. Before the Committee, Ambassador Murata strongly stated that if the crippled building of reactor unit 4 (with 1,535 fuel rods in the spent fuel pool 100 feet (30 meters) above the ground) collapses, not only will it cause a shutdown of all six reactors but will also affect the common spent fuel pool containing 6,375 fuel rods, located some 50 meters from reactor 4. In both cases the radioactive rods are not protected by a containment vessel; dangerously, they are open to the air. This would certainly cause a global catastrophe like we have never before experienced. He stressed that the responsibility of Japan to the rest of the world is immeasurable. Such a catastrophe would affect us all for centuries. Ambassador Murata informed us that the total numbers of the spent fuel rods at the Fukushima Daiichi site excluding the rods in the pressure vessel is 11,421.”
And this is what Mr. Robert Alvarez, US reactor pools expert, had to say: “In recent times, more information about the spent fuel situation at the Fukushima-Dai-Ichi site has become known. It is my understanding that of the 1,532 spent fuel assemblies in reactor No. 304 assemblies are fresh and unirradiated. This then leaves 1,231 irradiated spent fuel rods in pool No. 4, which contain roughly 37 million curies (~1.4E+18 Becquerel) of long-lived radioactivity. The No. 4 pool is about 100 feet above ground, is structurally damaged and is exposed to the open elements. If an earthquake or other event were to cause this pool to drain this could result in a catastrophic radiological fire involving nearly 10 times the amount of Cs-137 released by the Chernobyl accident.
The infrastructure to safely remove this material was destroyed as it was at the other three reactors. Spent reactor fuel cannot be simply lifted into the air by a crane as if it were routine cargo. In order to prevent severe radiation exposures, fires and possible explosions, it must be transferred at all times in water and heavily shielded structures into dry casks.. As this has never been done before, the removal of the spent fuel from the pools at the damaged Fukushima-Dai-Ichi reactors will require a major and time-consuming re-construction effort and will be charting in unknown waters. Despite the enormous destruction cased at the Da–Ichi site, dry casks holding a smaller amount of spent fuel appear to be unscathed.
You may also read Dr. Michio Kaku who stated “People don’t realize that the Fukushima reactor is on a knife’s edge; it’s near the tipping point. A small earthquake, another pipe break, another explosion could tip it over and we could have a disaster much worse, many times worse than Chernobyl. It’s like a sleeping dragon.” Full text here.
He also said on the 28th that, “Radiation levels are 1,000 milliseverts/hour. This means that workers will come down with radiation sickness with only 15 minutes of exposure. Some workers will die after 6 hours of exposure. The meaning of all this is: if radiation levels continue to rise, and workers are forced to evacuate, the accident will be in free fall.” Dr. Kaku called for an immediate entombment of the plant after the disaster began. Now it might be too late for that and will take too long to do it.
Also an independent report from Fairwinds.
Here is a picture that shows the the size of all the surface water on the earth gathered into a ball. I find it amazing that there is so little water compared to the size of the earth. It also shows side by side the amount of water in Europa (which is smaller than our moon) has more water than the earth.
Since we humans are more than 90 percent water, it raises question on our importance!
1,565 fuel rods in the Fukushima plant translates into 460 tons of nuclear fuel stored in pool in a barely intact building on its third and fourth floors. If the storage pool breaks and runs dry, the nuclear fuel inside will overheat and explode. The worst-case scenario drawn up by the government includes not only the collapse of the No. 4 reactor pool, but also the disintegration of spent-fuel rods from all the plant’s other reactors. The wall of the south side is falling apart at reactor No. 4.
If this pool collapses we would face a mass extinction event from the release of radiation in those rods. This may be the most important thing you ever pay attention to for the sake of your family, friends, your neighbors, every one you know and meet, all of humanity.
Preliminary reports of soil contamination are starting to come in from the USGS, who has seemed reluctant to share this information. Los Angeles, California, Portland, Oregon and Boulder, Colorado so far have the highest radioactive particle contamination out of the entire U.S. A host of fission products have been coming directly from Japan to the west coast for thirteen months. Reports in the past week indicate the pollen in southern California is radioactive now too, and it is flying around, and if you live there and go outside, you are breathing it in. And so are your children.
Arnold Gundersen, a former nuclear power industry executive, is claiming that the Fukushima nuclear disaster is already 10 times worse than the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown in the former Soviet Union. If that is true it’s already taps for a whole lot of men, women and children in the northern hemisphere with the absolute promise that the radiation will continue relentlessly through the coming years. It is sounding like nuclear hell coming to earth to teach us something about our arrogance, massive stupidity and pathetic weakness.
The data collected Tuesday showed the damage from the disaster was so severe, the plant operator will have to develop special equipment and technology to tolerate the harsh environment and decommission the plant, a process expected to last decades.
The other two reactors that had meltdowns could be in even worse shape. The No. 2 reactor is the only one officials have been able to closely examine so far.
Tuesday’s examination with an industrial endoscope detected radiation levels up to 10 times the fatal dose inside the chamber. Plant officials previously said more than half of the melted fuel has breached the core and dropped to the floor of the primary containment vessel, some of it splashing against the wall or the floor.
For interesting article click here.
Through a network of unbalanced, almost-invisible committees, the government gets what it wants.
“From any single perspective”, Bertrand Russell said, “power always seems to be elsewhere”(1). This article is about one of those elsewheres. It is about the network of unelected committees, boards and commissions, operating below the public radar, through which governments pursue the aims which weren’t disclosed in their manifestos. The people they appoint are an index to the interests they serve. To list them is to expose the gulf between what a government claims to be and what it is.
It would be misleading to suggest that the process I’m about to discuss is new. Blair and Brown began the abuses that the coalition government is refining: purging countervailing voices from public bodies and stuffing them with the representatives of business(2).
But Cameron and his ministers are extending this project to serve what seems to me to be their core aims. These are to marketise and covertly privatise what remains of public provision and to create a welfare state for corporations and the ultra-rich, whose income will be sustained by public contracts and captive markets for essential services.
Forthe full Monbiot article in theGuardian click here.