Species extinction

Projections of global warming by 2100 doubled to 5.1C.

For the no policy scenario, the researchers concluded that there is now a nine percent chance (about one in 11 odds) that the global average surface temperature would increase by more than 7°C (12.6°F) by the end of this century, compared with only a less than one percent chance (one in 100 odds) that warming would be limited to below 3°C (5.4°F).


On our current emissions path, we have a 9% chance of an incomprehensibly catastrophic warming of 7°C by century’s end, but less than a 1% chance of under 3°C warming.

“The take home message from the new greenhouse gamble wheels is that if we do little or nothing about lowering greenhouse gas emissions that the dangers are much greater than we thought three or four years ago,” said Ronald G. Prinn, professor of atmospheric chemistry at MIT. “It is making the impetus for serious policy much more urgent than we previously thought.”

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Climate Change has joined the climate realists. The realists are the growing group of scientists who understand that the business as usual emissions path leads to unmitigated catastrophe (see, for instance, “Hadley Center: “Catastrophic” 5-7°C warming by 2100 on current emissions path” and below).

The Program issued a remarkable, though little-remarked-on, report in January, “Probabilistic Forecast for 21st Century Climate Based on Uncertainties in Emissions (without Policy) and Climate Parameters,” by over a dozen leading experts.

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We have missed the chance of preventing two degrees of global warming – Forever.

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.



1. http://www.slideshare.net/uncsd2012/the-future-we-want-rio20-outcome-document

2. http://ozone.unep.org/pdfs/Montreal-Protocol2000.pdf

3. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/series/name-a-species

Have we reached the tipping point?

Today is a pivotal point in human history. We are now living in the Anthropocene: humans are the main driver of planetary change. We’re pushing global temperatures, land and water use beyond anything our species has experienced before. We’re polluting the biosphere, acidifying the oceans, and reducing biodiversity. At the same time, our global population will grow from seven billion to nine billion by 2050, and all will need food, water and clean air.

As if to illustrate the point further, last month Arctic monitors showed the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has passed 400 parts per million (before the Industrial Age, carbon dioxide levels were 275 ppm). New data shows the rate of climate change could be even faster than thought.

Perhaps most worryingly of all, 22 scientists warned last week we are approaching a planetary tipping point, beyond which environmental changes will be rapid and unpredictable. Basing their alarming conclusion on studies of ecological markers from species extinction rates (currently 1,000 times the usual rate, and comparable to those experienced during the demise of the dinosaurs) to changes in land use (more than 40% of land is dominated by humans and we affect a further 40%), these scientists fear we will enter a new, unknown state, and one which threatens us all.

Click here for more.

Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Is Far From Over

Nearly all of the 10,893 spent fuel assemblies sit in pools vulnerable to future earthquakes, with roughly 85 times more long-lived radioactivity than released at Chernobyl, still sit in pools vulnerable to earthquakes.

Several pools are 100 feet above the ground and are completely open to the atmosphere because the reactor buildings were demolished by explosions. The pools could possibly topple or collapse from structural damage coupled with another powerful earthquake.


The loss of water exposing the spent fuel will result in overheating and can cause melting and ignite its zirconium metal cladding resulting in a fire that could deposit large amounts of radioactive materials over hundreds, if not thousands of miles.

Read full article here.

Hanging by a Thread

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 whole article is a must read! and additional information here.

Ocean acidification means fish mass extinction “within one generation”

Ocean acidification and rising ocean temperatures means we are not far from disaster:

Can we understand what this means? Read this for what 2 and 3 degrees would be like.

Coal and the industrialisation of the Great Barrier Reef

Australia is on the verge of an unprecedented coal boom. The epicentre of this expansion is the yet to be developed Galilee Basin in Central Queensland. Galilee is the proposed site for a series of mega mines that will cause Australia’s coal exports to more than double within a decade. The creation of mega mines in Central Queensland, the accompanying export infrastructure and increases in shipping traffic, as well as the burning of the coal they produce, place an incredible burden on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Full report Boom_goes_the_Reef_Report

Trends and tipping points – Andrew Glikson

This is science at its best, illustrated, and a powerful read for understanding the predicament we have created. Mass extinctions in the history of Earth occurred when the atmosphere-ocean-land carbon and oxygen cycles, on which the biosphere depends, have been perturbed at rates to which species could not adapt. Rising atmospheric greenhouse gas levels above 330 ppm CO2 at rates of ~2 ppm/year and mean temperature rise of ~0.016oC/year since 1975-1976 are driving the fastest climate change trend recorded since about 34 million years ago, representing a critical climate threshold leading into uncharted territory and threatening the biosphere and human civilization. It is suggested the arrest of carbon emissions may not be sufficient to halt the current trend, except if accompanied with global efforts at down-draw of atmospheric CO2 using a range of bio-sequestration, organic and chemical methods.

Read the entire report here.

Who will be here in a hundred years?

Why does it take the old men, men like Frank Fenner, James Lovelock, King Hubbert and yours truly, to be prepared to use the E word – EXTINCTION?

Its a serious question, and is all to do with tipping points – check them out

Look at this graphic of the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon
It shows that once a certain point is reached extinction is likely. Remember the interesting observation that apparently all (original) Western DNA can be traced back to 7 females. This is known as the  Near Extinction Bottleneck.

We have been there once as a species, and can again

Having said that I refer you to Frank Fenner. The answer offered is “revolutionary changes” and who in this cosmopolitan consumerist society surfeited on coal profits is interested in revolution?


The end of the human race


Debora MacKenzie, consultant

To say Frank Fenner  is no fool is without doubt an understatement. He is an accomplished scientist, and that rarity in modern science, a polymath. As a virologist he helped lead the eradication of smallpox, while as a human ecologist he set up the respected Centre for Resource and Environmental Studies at the Australian National University.

So how worried should we be that Fenner told an Australian newspaper  that humanity will be extinct within a century because of our failure to deal with global warming?

All is not necessarily lost, at least according to Stephen Boyden, Fenner’s colleague at the John Curtin School of Medical Research, ANU, who told the same paper there is still time to prevent our extinction. The problem, he says, is to do it we will need to pull off “revolutionary changes necessary to achieve ecological sustainability”. Still hardly an optimistic view.

And it’s not just Fenner and Boyden who are gloomy about the future of our species.

More and more people who study the prospects for human well-being in coming decades agree that food will be the key limiting factor  Demand will skyrocket, fuelled, as Fenner says, by both population growth and “unbridled consumption” . Meanwhile climate change will make it harder to produce more food.

As New Scientist readers know, scientists agree the drivers of climate change are already in place They disagree only over the extent of the impacts. Fenner used the word “extinction”, perhaps knowing that doing so would attract attention. Indeed it did. Others say social and economic collapse with some human die-off.

However, the complexity of our civilisation means nobody can predict with certainty what the consequences of its collapse will be. Extinction of a species numbering nearly 7 billion may seem unlikely. But if biology teaches us anything it is that complexity contains tipping points that can be terrifyingly quick. In the 1800s, anyone watching a single flock of 2 billion passenger pigeons go by would have laughed if you said the bird would be extinct in a century

Boyden is right: there are still things we can do  But so is Fenner: if we don’t do some of them, we’re in trouble. How much trouble? Well, how lucky do you feel?



More on Fukushima

Fukushima is emitting vast quantities of radio active material, both into the air and into the water, AND that this plant will continue to do so for the next 30 years. It seems there is no way to stop this.

In addition, every earthquake since March has destabilised the foundations of the plants, opening large cracks through which the molten core is settling deeper into the earth and affecting both the water tables and the oceans.

The radio active material will affect  all imports from Japan and much of the fish we eat if trawled in the northern waters. After a while it will drift down to Australia as the radioactive material is carried around the world by air and sea currents.

There is no escape from some level of poisoning for any of us, though I am told that regular doses of Sea Kelp can help minimise the impact of radiation on the body.

Who now needs global warming?

For basic data

Last month, for example, hot celsium was found nearly doubled over a five-day period.

IAEA updates

For current reports you can check into

And in particular