Scientists Warn of Global Dangers
“Humanity is on a collision course with Nature.
A damaged Nature will survive. We may not.
We must change course to avert an ecological disaster.”
“Humanity is on a collision course with Nature.
A damaged Nature will survive. We may not.
We must change course to avert an ecological disaster.”
GR: Good news is beginning to overwhelm the bad. Countries, cities, and U. S. states are accelerating their efforts to cut CO2 emissions. Unlike the mouse who just wants a little milk to go with our cookie, however, we need much much more. The problem is that emission cuts haven’t begun. If emissions had slowed, the line in the chart at left would have begun to relax. Perhaps it’s too soon to tell if it’s changing. The material below indicates that it’s not.
I’m repeating portions of Barry Saxifrage’s article here to point out what’s really happening. We need to call on everyone to keep their commitments and make the cuts in emissions. If we can’t, we will be forcing our children and grandchildren to live in the dark future depicted here.
Final thought: For all those Trump supporters who accepted the idea that we had to leave the Paris Accord because we couldn’t trust other nations to keep their promises: You were right. But being right won’t save us. The world needs a leader, not a loaner off in the corner somewhere.
There are more charts in the original article. They reveal more details about the growth in fossil fuel use.
“But so far, humanity keeps burning ever more. Last year we did it again, burning an all-time record amount.
“That’s according to data compiled from the latest “BP Statistical Review of World Energy.” This annual report is one of the most widely used and referenced around the world. It’s big and comprehensive with fifty pages, thirty-three spreadsheets and forty charts. The report highlights most of the important trends in global energy. Most. But one critical trend was nowhere to be found….
“Conspicuously absent was the basic statistic on fossil fuels that I, as a climate reporter, was looking for: how much fuel is the world burning each year? Such a simple question, and the answer tells one of the most important stories in the world: are we finally turning the corner on our fossil fuel dependency?
“To find that missing story, I needed to download and combine multiple BP data sheets, do the math, and then build my own charts to reveal the trends. Here (drumroll, please) are the “missing charts” and what they have to say to us…
The missing charts: how much carbon-polluting fuel is humanity burning?
“I built three charts using the compiled BP fossil fuel data. This first chart shows the total energy consumed from burning fossil fuels each year.
“As you can see, the amount we burn continues to rise. Last year humanity set another fossil fuel energy record of 11.4 billion tonnes of oil equivalent (Gtoe). A decade ago we were at 10 Gtoe of energy. In 2000, we were at 8 Gtoe.
“There is certainly no sign in this chart of a turning point in our relationship to fossil fuels.
“My next chart uses the same BP data, but this time shows the annual increase from year to year:
“The only year in the last quarter century with a decrease was 2009. That was caused by a sharp global recession. And within a year, that rare respite was wiped out by a massive surge that followed.
“Sadly, there is no sign of a turning point in this chart either.
“Take last year for example. The increase wasn’t particularly large, but it wasn’t particularly small either. In fact, it was right in line with the 1990s average. And the nineties certainly weren’t anyone’s idea of a retreat from burning fossil fuels. Nor were they a turning point in our fight against climate change or ocean acidification. The 1990s were business-as-usual.
“Finally, here’s a third view of the same BP data. This one illustrates fossil fuels’ share of all global energy. Turning point?
“What this chart says to me is that fossil fuels continue to absolutely dominate global energy consumption. Even a quarter century of global efforts to transition to safer energy sources was unable to make any meaningful dent in the dominance of fossil fuels.
“Together, these three “missing” charts of BP’s fossil fuel data — ever rising amounts; increasing every year; and maintaining uncontested dominance — paint a sobering picture of humanity’s lackluster response to the growing threat.
“As California Governor Jerry Brown lamented in a recent New York Times interview: “No nation or state is doing what they should be doing. This is damn serious, and most people are taking it far too lightly than the reality of the threat. You can’t do too much to sound the alarm because so far the response is not adequate to the challenge.” –Barry Saxifrage (Continue reading: These ‘missing charts’ may change the way you think about fossil fuel addiction | National Observer).
Go to the article for several more revealing charts and explanations.
GR: I read an interesting article by Richard Heinberg published on the Post Carbon Institute website on Thursday. The article offers two responses to the coming crash that improve our chances for surviving The solutions are quite clearly presented and I think you will agree with me that they make sense.
The crash will occur because our energy-dependent industrialized societies cannot sustain their current level of energy consumption. As Heinberg points out, it is possible to live a good life on a smaller energy budget. And this means that our civilization can survive a major reset without total failure. My only quibble with the article is that Heinberg seems to assume that carbon emissions have begun to fall. We just learned that this isn’t true. This is a problem we need to deal with now.
Heinberg explains that the reason the coming crash threatens our survival is that our society is too dependent on growth. If growth fails, we crash. Growth is going to fail because of climate change, energy resource limits, the increase in the food required by our growing population, soil erosion, deforestation, species extinctions, declining fresh water, ocean acidification, and our fragile economic system.
Heinberg’s crash responses control the crash so that civilization can recover at lower population and consumption levels. Clearly, there is no certainty that civilization will survive. Nevertheless, planning ahead for the post-crash recovery is a rational response that delivers a valid hope for our future.
“Among those who understand the systemic nature of our problems, the controlled crash option is the subject of what may be the most interesting and important conversation that’s taking place on the planet just now. But only informed people who have gotten over denial and self-delusion are part of it.”
Here’s a bit more of Heinberg’s article:
“Are we doomed if we can’t maintain current and growing energy levels? And are we doomed anyway due to now-inevitable impacts of climate change?
“First, the good news. With regard to energy, we should keep in mind the fact that today’s Americans use roughly twice as much per capita as their great-grandparents did in 1925. While people in that era enjoyed less mobility and fewer options for entertainment and communication than we do today, they nevertheless managed to survive and even thrive. And we now have the ability to provide many services (such as lighting) far more efficiently, so it should be possible to reduce per-capita energy usage dramatically while still maintaining a lifestyle that would be considered more than satisfactory by members of previous generations and by people in many parts of the world today. And reducing energy usage would make a whole raft of problems—climate change, resource depletion, the challenge of transitioning to renewable energy sources—much easier to solve.
“The main good news with regard to climate change that I can point to (as I did in an essay posted in June) is that economically recoverable fossil fuel reserves are consistent only with lower-emissions climate change scenarios. As BP and other credible sources for coal, oil, and natural gas reserves figures show, and as more and more researchers are pointing out, the worst-case climate scenarios associated with “business as usual” levels of carbon emissions are in fact unrealistic.
“Now, the bad news. While we could live perfectly well with less energy, that’s not what the managers of our economy want. They want growth. Our entire economy is structured to require constant, compounded growth of GDP, and for all practical purposes raising the GDP means using more energy. While fringe economists and environmentalists have for years been proposing ways to back away from our growth addiction (for example, by using alternative economic indices such as Gross National Happiness), none of these proposals has been put into widespread effect. As things now stand, if growth falters the economy crashes.
“There’s bad climate news as well: even with current levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases, we’re seeing unacceptable and worsening impacts—raging fires, soaring heat levels, and melting icecaps. And there are hints that self-reinforcing feedbacks maybe kicking in: an example is the release of large amounts of methane from thawing tundra and oceanic hydrates, which could lead to a short-term but steep spike in warming. Also, no one is sure if current metrics of climate sensitivity (used to estimate the response of the global climate system to a given level of forcing) are accurate, or whether the climate is actually more sensitive than we have assumed. There’s some worrisome evidence the latter is case.
“But let’s step back a bit. If we’re interested in signs of impending global crisis, there’s no need to stop with just these two global challenges. The world is losing 25 billion tons of topsoil a year due to current industrial agricultural practices; if we don’t deal with that issue, civilization will still crash even if we do manage to ace our energy and climate test. Humanity is also over-using fresh water: ancient aquifers are depleting, while other water sources are being polluted. If we don’t deal with our water crisis, we still crash. Species are going extinct at a thousand times the pre-industrial rate; if we don’t deal with the biodiversity dilemma, we still crash. Then there are social and economic problems that could cause nations to crumble even if we manage to protect the environment; this threat category includes the menaces of over-reliance on debt and increasing economic inequality.
“If we attack each of these problems piecemeal with technological fixes (for example, with desalination technology to solve the water crisis or geo-engineering to stabilize the climate) we may still crash because our techno-fixes are likely to have unintended consequences, as all technological interventions do. Anyway, the likelihood of successfully identifying and deploying all the needed fixes in time is vanishingly small.” –Richard Heinberg (Continue reading: Are We Doomed? Let’s Have a Conversation. Post Carbon Institute).
GR: Heads of major corporations, public utilities, and governments have worked for decades to hide the dangers of CO2 emissions, global warming, and climate change. The people involved have been well aware of the danger to civilization that they were supporting, but they went ahead because they were well paid to betray their race. Many elected representatives helped them. The post title represents the idea that no human would do what these people did; the traitors must be aliens in disguise.
The article below describes evidence that public utilities participated in the betrayal.
“This time, it’s the electric utility sector that’s under the microscope.
“The detailed study, backed up by reams of archival documents, was issued by the Energy and Policy Institute (EPI), an environmental advocacy and research group that favors the use of clean energy over fossil fuels.
“Forty years ago, the documents show, industry officials told Congress that the looming problem of climate change might require the world to back away from coal-fired power—something that is only now beginning to happen.
“The research presents a distinct echo of an investigation of Exxon’s climate record published by InsideClimate News almost two years ago, and casts significant new light on the duration and depth of industry’s climate research—and how electric companies that use fossil fuels responded to the emerging science from the 1960’s onward.
“The 66-page report unearths research documents and testimony published but then largely forgotten decades before the climate crisis emerged as a key public issue.
“And in this episode of the nation’s climate history, once again, the same industry that foresaw the ultimate end of coal as a main fuel for power generation later supported actions to cast doubt on the science and to stave off policies to address the problem, funding groups that deny the scientific consensus and joining the main industry group that opposed participation in the first climate treaty. To this day, there are few federal limits on emissions of carbon dioxide by utilities, one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gases.
“It’s a story with striking parallels to the investigations into ExxonMobil’s early knowledge of climate change and later efforts to deceive investors, policymakers and the public on the issue,” EPI said.
“Asked for comment, a spokesman for the Edison Electric Institute, one of the trade associations scrutinized in the report, said only that the industry has made deep reductions in its emissions of carbon dioxide since 2005.” –John H. Cushman Jr. (Source: Like Exxon, Utilities Knew about Climate Change Risks Decades Ago | InsideClimate News).
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GR: trumpeteers preparing for opening public lands to exploitation?
“The Bureau of Land Management is reassigning the directors of the Alaska, Colorado and New Mexico state offices to positions at other federal agencies as part of an Interior Department reorganization that sources say is only beginning.
“Alaska Director Bud Cribley, Colorado Director Ruth Welch and New Mexico Director Amy Lueders are among as many as 50 BLM and other Interior career officials notified this month that they are being transferred to different agencies or other positions within BLM, multiple sources with knowledge of the moves told E&E News.
“Alaska, Colorado and New Mexico have all been involved in controversial energy development and natural resource issues in the past few years, and sources say Interior brass do not view the three state directors at issue as being compatible with the Trump administration’s stated push to promote more oil and gas development and mining activity on federal lands.
“The transfer of Cribley, who has been BLM’s Alaska state director since November 2010, comes just weeks after Zinke toured the state and announced plans to open new sections of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska to oil and gas leasing (Energywire).” –Scott Streater (INTERIOR: 3 BLM state directors removed in reorganization — sources — Tuesday, June 27, 2017 — www.eenews.net)
GR: Creatures of the oceans are no threat to us, but we readily injure and kill them in our search for a chance to acquire material wealth. We behave as if the Earth has infinite capacity to produce and support life. Of course, we know it does not. (Trump’s position on seismic airgun blasting.)
“Seismic airguns exploding in the ocean in search for oil and gas have devastating impacts on zooplankton, which are critical food sources for marine mammals, according to a new study in Nature. The blasting decimates one of the ocean’s most vital groups of organisms over huge areas and may disrupt entire ecosystems.
“And this devastating news comes on the heels of the National Marine Fisheries Service’s proposal to authorize more than 90,000 miles of active seismic blasting. Based on the results of this study, the affected area would be approximately 135,000 square miles.
“In the study, scientists found that the blasts from a single seismic airgun caused a statistically significant decrease in zooplankton 24 hours after exposure. Abundance fell by at least 50 percent in more than half (58 percent) of the species observed. The scientists also found two to three times more dead zooplankton following airgun exposure compared to controls and, shockingly, krill larvae were completely wiped out.
“Listen to the sound of a seismic airgun blast: seismic_blast.mp4
NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory VENTS Program
The scientists used sonar backscatter, a method that reveals where animals are in the water column using sound, to detect zooplankton. They describe witnessing a large “hole” opening up in the backscatter as zooplankton were killed. Food chains are surprisingly simple in the ocean and zooplankton help form the basis of them, underpinning the ocean’s productivity. Significant damage to zooplankton will have cascading effects on animals higher up. That includes fish and marine predators such as sharks, marine mammals and even seabirds. Adult krill provide an important food source for our largest marine animals: the great whales.
“These devastating impacts on zooplankton occurred up to three quarters of a mile from the airgun. This is more than two orders of magnitude higher than the expected range of impact based on the results of previous studies; laboratory experiments and modeling techniques have estimated that impacts would only occur up to 33 feet from the airgun. This new study demonstrates the importance of validating scientific findings in the field.
“However, these findings are based on the results from a single airgun with a volume of 150 cubic inches. The companies proposing to conduct blasting in the Atlantic will use vessels that will each tow an airgun ‘array’ comprising between 24-40 airguns, with a combined value of 4808-6420 cubic inches. The guns will all blast simultaneously, every 10 seconds, 24 hours a day, for months at a time. This means the proposed surveys could affect zooplankton over much larger areas.” –Francine Kershaw (Seismic Blasting Devastates Ocean’s Most Vital Organisms)
GR: Government control over environmental decisions leaves nature open to political depredation by greedy politicians and their corporate handlers. Policy backed by science instead of politics backed by greed should regulate all forms of land use including construction, farming, fishing, forestry, grazing, and mining. Though the power of money over reason often controls the courts in the largest cases, small regional cases such as those concerned with a single pipeline are sometimes handled rationally. Since the DAPL pipeline has already leaked, there is a fair chance the court will decide to halt transmission. (Don’t you love it when I make the most obvious comments?)
Judge James Boasberg’s 91-page decision says U.S. Army Corps ‘did not adequately consider’ oil spill impacts; no ruling on whether to keep DAPL operational.
“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated the law in its fast-tracked approval of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), a U.S. District Court Judge in Washington D.C. has ruled. Judge James Boasberg said the Corps did not consider key components of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in granting the Lake Oahe easement under the Missouri River when directed to do so by President Donald Trump shortly after his swearing-in.
“The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, with the Cheyenne River Sioux as interveners, had challenged the approval on the grounds that adequate environmental study had not been conducted. Boasberg agreed on many points, though he did not rule on whether the pipeline should remain operational. It has been carrying [and leaking] oil since June 1.
“Although the Corps substantially complied with NEPA in many areas, the Court agrees that it did not adequately consider the impacts of an oil spill on fishing rights, hunting rights, or environmental justice, or the degree to which the pipeline’s effects are likely to be highly controversial,” Boasberg said in his 91-page decision. “To remedy those violations, the Corps will have to reconsider those sections of its environmental analysis upon remand by the Court. Whether Dakota Access must cease pipeline operations during that remand presents a separate question of the appropriate remedy, which will be the subject of further briefing.” –ICMN Staff (DAPL Approval Illegal, Judge Finds – Indian Country Media Network).
GR: Of course, Trump and his band of nature trolls will ignore the experts. Nevertheless, the thoughts of each one are worth reporting. And remember, global warming is one of the reasons that the doomsday clock is at two and a half minutes to midnight.
“President Donald Trump’s March 28 Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth is but the latest in a series of rollbacks intended to dismantle the Obama administration’s climate change policies. Although Trump never uttered the words “climate change” during the signing ceremony, his order will have profound effects on programs and environmental protections intended to rein in global warming—primarily by reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
“Among other things, Trump’s order lifts a moratorium on coal leasing on federal lands, removes restrictions on fracking on federal and tribal lands, directs the Environmental Protection Agency to rewrite the Clean Power Plan regulations designed to limit emissions from power plants, and eliminates the requirement that climate change be considered in federal environmental reviews and decision making. The White House claims that these moves will bring back jobs in coal mining and foster energy independence.
“The order does not entirely obliterate Obama’s climate legacy. The Clean Power Plan is not yet in effect, and will have to go through a lengthy rule-making process that will likely include legal challenges. Vehicle fuel-efficiency standards are still standing, although the White House says a rollback is coming soon. State mandates for renewable energy, along with other efforts aimed at reducing emissions, will continue. And the White House is thus far silent on whether the president intends to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.
“Some critics say the Trump administration’s environmental rollbacks are even worse than they expected, and that it will be impossible for the United States to achieve its Paris pledges without the programs and protections that are being cut. Others see a silver lining for the Paris Agreement: Maybe the failure of US leadership will clear the way for other nations to work toward a more ambitious shift away from fossil fuels.
“We asked leading experts on climate change to weigh in on what the Trump rollbacks mean for climate change, and for the Paris Agreement in particular. Here are their thoughts.Invited
“Expert Commentary” — Dawn Stover (Continue: Experts respond to Trump’s climate blitzkrieg | Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
GR: Here’s a review of the national benefits Trump is scrapping along with the Clean Power Plan. The con game run by the fossil-fuel industry is bearing fat fruit with this new president.
“Decades of progress on cleaning up our dirty air took a significant hit on Tuesday, along with hopes for a livable future climate, when President Trump issued his Energy Independence Executive Order. Most seriously, the order attacks the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Clean Power Plan, which requires a 32 percent reduction in CO2 emissions from existing power plants by 2030 (compared to 2005 emission rates.) — Dr Jeff Masters
“Yesterday, Donald Trump, much like that famous Luddite Don Quixote, decided to go to war with clean energy. But unlike Don Quixote, Trump did so with full knowledge that he was also fighting to rob us of our best hopes of putting millions of Americans to work for clean air and a livable climate.
“With executive order #18 from his administration, he began to lay the groundwork to start to unravel Obama’s Clean Power Plan — which made a decent first shot at removing the worst U.S. polluters, prevented about 4,500 premature deaths each year (which is like preventing a pollution 9/11 every six months), promoted a jobs-growing renewable energy revolution, and put the U.S. on track to become a global leader in the fight to prevent some of the worst impacts of climate change.
“As Trump favors coal over renewable energy, and since every dollar spent on renewable energy creates twice the number of jobs for every dollar spent on fossil fuels, his action will almost certainly result in job losses across the energy sector. In West Virginia, for example, many coal jobs have already been replaced by automation and even coal executives now say those jobs aren’t coming back.” –Robert Scribbler (Continue: Trump’s Attack on Clean Power Threatens Livable Climate, Public Health, and Hundreds of Thousands of Energy Jobs | robertscribbler.)