I blog about environmental and social justice issues because I am very concerned about the health of the interdependent web of life of which we are a part.

Melting Arctic ice.......beautiful and frightening!

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Could The Federal Government Be A Tad Defensive?

From the Liberal Report on water contamination by tar sands mining entitled The Hidden Dimension: Water and Oil Sands
No should one underestimate the intensity of the reaction that any suggestion the industry is contaminating water in the region can provoke among oil sands promoters and defenders - even those in the normally staid realm of the public service.  For example, Preston McEachern, head of science, research and innovation with Alberta Environment, was recedently forced to issue a retraction and apology to two respected scientists, Kevin Tomoney and Peter Lee, for alleging they "lied in their research about the oil sands industry" in relation to its impact on Alberta's waer resources.   The same defensiveness was observed when federal environment minster Jim Prentice, answeringa a question from Liberal M.P. Francis Scarpaleggia in the House of Commons about research by world-renowned water scientist Dr. David Schindler that proved the industry is contributing to contamination of the Athabasca River, described Dr. Schindler's findings as mere "allegations."
The Liberal report found that industry developments are indeed contaminating the Athabasca River; that the framework for protecting the river is based on "bureaucratic compromise" as opposed to rigorous science-based policy; that there is inadequate baseline data and studies on the project's impact on groundwater;.... and finally that the federal government "has devolved and diluted" its water monitoring responsibilities.
Now we dismiss published peer reviewed studies as mere allegations?    Wow!!!!  

Friday, August 20, 2010

I Mentioned This

The longterm threat to Pakistan’s wellbeing is that the country is gradually drying out. The Indus river system is the main year-round source of water for both Pakistan and northwestern India, but the glaciers up on the Tibetan plateau that feed the system’s various tributaries are melting.

While they are melting, of course, the amount of water in the system will not fall steeply—but according the Chinese Academy of Sciences, some of the glaciers will be gone in as little as 20 years. Then the river levels will drop permanently, and the real problems will begin.

Fifteen or 20 years from now, the water shortage (and therefore also food scarcities) will be a permanent political obsession in Pakistan. Even now, Pakistani politicians tend to blame India for their country’s water shortage (and vice versa, of course). It will get worse when the shortage grows acute.

On the other hand, no Pakistani government, civilian or military, could just sit by as land that has been irrigated for a century goes back to desert and food rationing is imposed nationwide. Especially not if India’s fields just across the border were still green. That is the nightmare confrontation that lies down the road for these two nuclear powers.

Conflict between nuclear nations over water shortages due to climate change?    Naah - climate change isn't happening.   If it is, it's over there - ssomewhere poorer and browner than us.  Doesn't matter to us..... Sure.    We don't need to act....

One would think that this summer would have disabused people of hte notion that chillier nations such as Canada or Russia  would actually benefit from climate change.  Pretty hard to see a benefit in Moscow - or in Interior BC, Alberta or Saskatchewan at the moment. Cough, cough.  Moutnains - what mountains?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Wildfires 2010

I cannot see past the house across the street - no trees - no mountains - no river - just a wall of grey smoke.   Even the dog sneezes when she spends time outdoors as the air quality is very poor.   I think I'll take another anti-histamine while I consider the fact that most of our summers may be like this one - hot , smoky, and miserable. 

An article in Scientific American states
fires are not just a result of a changing climate, they're also contributing to the overall warming trend much more than imagined, the authors report. As vegetation burns, it releases stored-up carbon into the atmosphere, speeding global warming and thereby exacerbating conditions that may generate a greater incidence of wildfires in the coming years. But across the globe, fires have been getting larger and stronger. "We are witnessing an increasing instance of these megafires," says Thomas Swetnam, director of the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research at the University of Arizona.
In other words, wildfires are partly a result of climate change - and accelerate climate change at the same time.   BC is particlarly vulnerable to this feedback loop due to all the pine beetle killed trees.   A wonderful prospect......

Monday, August 16, 2010

Let's Hope They Are Wrong

The entire ice mass of Greenland will disappear from the world map if temperatures rise by as little as 2C, with severe consequences for the rest of the world, a panel of scientists told Congress today.  Greenland shed its largest chunk of ice in nearly half a century last week, and faces an even grimmer future, according to Richard Alley, a geosciences professor at Pennsylvania State University.   "Sometime in the next decade we may pass that tipping point which would put us warmer than temperatures that Greenland can survive," Alley told a briefing in Congress, adding that a rise in the range of 2C to 7C would mean the obliteration of Greenland's ice sheet.   The fall-out would be felt thousands of miles away from the Arctic, unleashing a global sea level rise of 23ft (7 metres), Alley warned. Low-lying cities such as New Orleans would vanish.

Seems like a feeble way to deal with calamity in the future.  Hope , that is.  While hope is necessary , it isn't enough.  What can one person do (besides curling up in bed in the fetal position? ) I walk to work.  One can always drive less - take public transit - insulate one's house - turn the thermostat down .  All important collectively.   However, the most important -  join or create a group of like minded people  so that you have community support and can educate and encourage other people IN A MANNER THAT MOTIVATES THEM TO ACT. (The tone of the message should reflect the interests/ motivations of the group in front of you.)   And second most important -  pressure your government to take action and to change policy. Maybe equally important!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Water Woes


Effective immediately, the BC Oil and Gas Commission (Commission) is requiring suspension of waterwithdrawal from rivers, lakes and streams, previously approved by the Commission under Section 8 of the Water Act, for the following basins within the Peace River Watershed.
I said climate change would affect everything we do.  What if this summer's  "drought" bcomes the new normal ?  We're going to have to reduce personal and industrial wataer consumption in the future - why not start now?

Floods Predicted

Those "freak " floods were predicted on June 10, 2009.


By next year - that’s how soon around 25-50 million people will be displaced by climate change as it unleashes more natural disasters and affects farm output, says a senior UN researcher. Northern India will be among the worst affected in the long term.   As climate change increases the frequency and intensity of natural hazards such as cyclones, floods and droughts, the number of temporarily displaced people will rise,” Warner told IANS in an interview.  “This will be especially true in countries that fail to invest now in disaster risk reduction and where the official response to disasters is limited.”
Pakistan's government has compared the impact of the country's devastating floods to the country's partition from India as it revealed more than 20 million people had been made homeless by the disaster.
Gee- we're almost at the number predicted to be dispalced by flooding in northern India.  Who'd have thunk it ? Those elitists with PdDs in climatology and those UN funded researachers seem to have been  - cough, cough  - correct. 

A commentoer on the first article says:

Our world’s climate is changing whether we open our eyes and accept it or not. Great changes are coming to our way of life. Will we hide from it until it overcomes us, or will we unite and cooperate with each other to meet and survive the challenges.
We will not able to pretend that human caused climate change is not happening much longer.   Why don't we use it as an opportunity to create a just way of live for everyone - and everything?  One where we cooperate - and restrain ourselves and our grred - where status is gained by who and how much we help rather than how much shit we've bought?    OK - I'm a dreamer ....but I'm not the only one.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Climate Change Will Change Everything

More accurately, the effects of climate change will change everything.  For example, from the pages of that environmental rag, the Globe and Mail, an article in today's edition (Friday, August 13, 2010 page B3) describes the problems Brookfield Renewable Power fund is having.  The fund has

had a dismal 2010 as near-record-low precipitation last winter and spring in Ontario and Quebec has deprived it of the water levels needed to turn its turbines.  The winter's sparse snowfall and the dry spring are posing challenges for hydroelectricity producers acrosss Central Canada, drawing down Hydro-Quebec's massive reservoirs...and hammering production and financial results of investor-owned power companies. ....still, he said the company is in a strong financial position to weather the drought, and is maintaining its distributions to unit holders in anticipation of a return to more normal precipitation levels.
Brookfield Renewable Power Fund will be in trouble if  precipitation levels have changed their patterns, and this "drought" is the new normal. (Just ask the Australians about a new normal - drought, that is.)  Climate change models predict that rainfall patterns will shift  -  be more unpredictable  - and more variable as the temperature climbs.

It might be a good idea to plan for increased variability in rainfall patterns among other things  - and to take meaningful steps to mitigate the effects fo climate change.  It will take years - decades - to change the  physical infrastructure of our lives - so we had better start now.    Continuing denial is not a good option - if one is concerned about the long term viability of humnaity.

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

If you have prominient climate change deniers in your town,  ask them to sign the global warming skeptic's declaration.  You can download a copy from the site below. 


Commentary form the site:
Bravo, gentlemen!  Thanks to your efforts, support for climate science is sliding and the hopes that there’ll be any global action in time to slow the planet’s heating are all but lost. Good thing I’m heavily invested in hip waders.  Nice work! But I have to ask: why’d you do it?  Why do all you climate deniers risk your reputations defending positions utterly at odds with science and reason?   Much has been made of your ties to the oil and coal lobbies, but can you really be doing it just for the money?“Climate science suggests [people’s] behaviours are destroying the earth,” says Kasser. “If they accept that climate change is real, they also have to accept that they’re engaging in behaviours which conflict with their conception of themselves as good, caring people.”   To overcome all this psychology, Kasser believes scientists and environmental advocates are going to have change the way they communicate with the public — that is, if they’re serious about drowning out the misinformation.   Making the science even stronger isn’t going to cut it anymore. “What we need to do is pay more attention to the emotional state that people are in when they’re hearing our data,” he continues, “and recognize that this data is scary and when people are scared they’re not more likely to listen to the data but less.”   But Kasser notes that if changing western society’s core values fails, there’s one last way in which people will ultimately be convinced that the climate is changing.  “Once Florida is under water and once we’ve got droughts threatening our food system and all the rest — eventually there comes a point where even the most die-hard identity falls to the data,” he says.
Let's hope we don't have to wait for Florida to be under water before we generate the political will to act.   And let's hold deniers accountable: get them to sign the global warming skeptics paper  now .   Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova (for you Unitarian Universalists out there) did something very similar trying to get governments to assist displace persons after WW II.  She would ask leaders if they were concerned about the plight of dispalce persons - of course - they always answered yes.  She would note the fact in a little notebook with the date - and if they later attempted to not fund her efforts, she'd whip her notebook out and point out that opn such and such a date  - they had said they were concerned.  . 

One could use the skeptics declaration in the same way - if the denier won't sign, note the date and time and use their refusal to press them to support greenhouse gas reduction initiatives later.   If they are sure enough of their denial to sign, well.... at least you will have written proof once all hell has broken out that they were deniers.

Denial Still Exists

Floods, fires, melting ice and feverish heat: From smoke-choked Moscow to water-soaked Pakistan and the High Arctic, the planet seems to be having a midsummer breakdown. It’s not just a portent of things to come, scientists say, but a sign of troubling climate change already under way.
The weather-related cataclysms of July and August fit patterns predicted by climate scientists, the Geneva-based World Meteorological Organization says – although those scientists always shy from tying individual disasters directly to global warming.
If you read the news, you will know Russia is suffering through the hottest summer ever, Pakistan has had the heaviest monsoon rains ever, China is flooding, and the Arctic glaciers are calving.  Not to mention that the Arctic was /is scarily warm.

What did the much maligned 2007  IPCC predict?  
The 2007 IPCC report predicted a doubling of disastrous droughts in Russia this century and cited studies foreseeing catastrophic fires during dry years. It also said Russia would suffer large crop losses.
The 2007 IPCC report said rains have grown heavier for 40 years over northern Pakistan and predicted greater flooding this century in southern Asia’s monsoon region.

The IPCC reported in 2007 that rains had increased in northwest China by up to 33 per cent since 1961, and floods nationwide had increased sevenfold since the 1950s. It predicted still more frequent flooding this century.
Hmmmnnnn - could it be ?  Naaah - those scientists with PhDs in climatatology who publish in peer reveiwed journals must be wrong.   So say the commenters on the above article.  Following is a sample:

In the past people blamed demons and witches for the weather. In our so called 'englightened age' people blame fossil fuels. I don't understand why so many people have a psychological need to believe in such claptrap.
Here come the "global warming" freaks labeled as scientists out of the wood work again.  We are getting a hot-spell in August and leave to these windbags to spin it into a crisis.  Better raise taxes and mail your paychecks to the government so they can solve the problem.  Stupid socialist/marxist windbags.

 The majority of the Anthropogenic Global Warming clymers are ignorant fools following a core of criminal elite. If they ever grow a brain, they will become dangerous.
All comments published by people who do peer reveiwed research in climatology, of course.  I'm beginning to think that science education in high school needs to be strengthened.  But more information is not going to convince deniers like those quoted above.  In fact, if you load them with too much information, they will move directly to despair from denial - and sit around apathetically saying "it is too late - what is the point of trying - we might as well keep living the way we do."   

If you are a climate change activist,  try to work through groups to faciliate lifestyle change and political activism. (Or create a  group with a positive outlook such as a Transistion Town in your community. ) Group members will support each other  - therfore, change will be easier for the entire group.  Potential groups - churches (they have an interest in social and climate justice);  universities (they have a pool of educated people and students who care about the environment);  and business groups (many win win situations exist that save money and reduce greenhouse gas emissions). (I'm sure more  potential types of groups exist that I haven't thought of.)  Don't focus on past disasters - focus on what we can do now and in the future.  Borrow from the  Transition Town ethos - concentrate on both  internal  pyschological change and external change - and keep your message positive. 

Don't let your own despair wear you down: look after yourself and keep working. You have allies - and climate change activism is a job worth doing.   

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Many Lines of Evidence

Based on comprehensive data from multiple sources, the report defines 10 measurable planet-wide features used to gauge global temperature changes. The relative movement of each of these indicators proves consistent with a warming world. Seven indicators are rising: air temperature over land, sea-surface temperature, air temperature over oceans, sea level, ocean heat, humidity and tropospheric temperature in the “active-weather” layer of the atmosphere closest to the Earth’s surface. Three indicators are declining: Arctic sea ice, glaciers and spring snow cover in the Northern hemisphere.

(Graphic from the NOAA site.) Climate change is happening: many lines of evidence point in one direction -  up.  As in temperature rising.   And snow cover  and glaciers shrinking.   

I have seen climate change deniers skip directly from denial to  apathy between news articles. Yes - climate change is happening.    No, it isn't too late to change teh way we live.  As I've posted before, solutions exist. 

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Flooding In Pakistan

With what we know about climate change, it is a sad fact that for Oxfam the recent floods in Pakistan are not a massive surprise.

This is not the same as saying this particular flood is due to climate change - the world’s atmosphere is so complex that it is currently impossible to draw such direct, concrete conclusions. However as Oxfam research in three regions of Pakistan shows, people there are suffering more intense and heavier rainfall in coastal areas, more intense cyclones, more intense flooding in flood-prone areas along the Indus, and more pronounced droughts in the arid areas of Khuzdar. It is this flooding along the Indus that is causing such massive upheaval now.

This trend of more frequent, more intense weather patterns - and the increased suffering it brings - is a global phenomenon. Oxfam’s ‘Right to Survive’ report indicates that we can expect the number of people being affected by climate related disasters to rise by 50% from 250 million people in 2010 to 375 million people in 2015.

And that’s why as we react to the immediate needs of people suffering today and this week we need to help the people rebuild in a way that will build in future resilience to the more intense, more frequent climatic disasters that are expected in the future.
Climate models predict more frequent extreme weather events - looks like they are right.   So when is Canada going to take some meaningful steps to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions?

Scarier Than I First Thought

No details about the munitions involved were disclosed but the armed forces have said that a naval logistics base near Moscow had been destroyed by the ongoing inferno.  Russian media reported as many as 200 planes may have been destroyed at the naval air base....In Sarov, firefighters have focused on beating flames back from the top-secret Russian Federal Nuclear Research Centre.  A Sarov news website on Thursday cited local officials as saying a wall of fire had been broken down into several smaller blazes.   The officials said the closest blaze was still several kilometres from the research facilities and as a precaution all hazardous materials had been evacuated.
Wow - an even even scarier scenario than was apparent at first reading the news.  

Some Perspective

What would the Russian drought look like  if it had occurred in North America?


One of the most remarkable weather events of my lifetime is unfolding this summer in Russia, where an unprecedented heat wave has brought another day of 102°F heat to the nation's capital. At 3:30 pm local time today, the mercury hit 39°C (102.2°F) at Moscow's Domodedovo Airport. Moscow had never recorded a temperature exceeding 100°F prior to this year, and today marks the second time the city has beaten the 100°F mark. The first time was on July 29, when the Moscow observatory recorded 100.8°C and Baltschug, another official downtown Moscow weather site, hit an astonishing 102.2°F (39.0°C). Prior to this year, the hottest temperature in Moscow's history was 37.2°C (99°F), set in August 1920. The Moscow Observatory has now matched or exceeded this 1920 all-time record five times in the past eleven days, including today. The 2010 average July temperature in Moscow was 7.8°C (14°F) above normal, smashing the previous record for hottest July, set in 1938 (5.3°C above normal.) July 2010 also set the record for most July days in excess of 30°C--twenty-two. The previous record was 13 such days, set in July 1972. The past 24 days in a row have exceeded 30°C in Moscow, and there is no relief in sight--the latest forecast for Moscow calls for high temperatures near 100°F (37.8°C) for the next seven days. It is stunning to me that the country whose famous winters stopped the armies of Napoleon and Hitler is experiencing day after day of heat near 100°F, with no end in sight.

To put this in rough perspective -- and note this is not absolutely precise, it's purely ballpark to give you some feel for what the Russian people are enduring -- if this heat wave was hitting North America, it would be near 100°F in Fairbanks, Alaska. Most of Canada would be baking at 100° or higher, the northeast, from Maine to the Great Lakes region would be hitting upwards of 105° everyday, even the nightly low in the massive urban heat islands of New York and Chicago would be over 90°! The midwest grain belt and parts of the Pacific Northwest would not see a drop of rain for two months and pushing as high as 110° in places. The desert southwest, even some of the higher elevations of Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and West Texas, would be as uninhabitable as Death Valley or the Sahara.
It would mean nation-wide massive power brownouts, unprecedented crop failures, water rationing like you have never seen, record wildfires raging in dozens of states, thousands of deaths [Correction: Dr. Jeff Masters at WeatherUnderground informs me it would probably more like tens of thousands of deaths] and life threatening heat related illness, roads and highways clogged with broken-down, over-heated cars, and emergency services stretched beyond the breaking point across the US and Canada.
So nothing to worry about, right?  Well, it's gonna affect the price of your pasta and toast.


At least 20 percent of Russia’s wheat crop has already been destroyed by the drought, the extreme heat—circa 40 ยบ C for several weeks now—and the wildfires. The export ban is needed, explained Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, because “we shouldn’t allow domestic prices in Russia to rise, we need to preserve our cattle and build up supplies for next year”. If anybody starves, it won’t be Russians.

This is the vision of the future that has the soldiers and security experts worried: a world where access to enough food becomes a big political and strategic issue even for developed countries that do not have big surpluses at home. It would be a very ugly world indeed, teeming with climate refugees and failed states and interstate conflicts over water (which is just food at one remove).

What is happening in Russia now, and its impacts elsewhere, give us an early glimpse of what that world will be like. And although nobody can say for certain that the current disaster there is due to climate change, it certainly could be.

Late last year, Britain’s Hadley Centre for Climate Change produced a world map showing how different countries will be affected by the rise in average global temperature over the next 50 years. The European countries that the Hadley map predicts will be among the hardest hit—Greece, Spain, and Russia—are precisely the ones have suffered most from extreme heat, runaway forest fires, and wildfires in the past few years.

The main impact of global warming on human beings will be on the food supply, and eating is a non-negotiable activity. Today Russia, tomorrow the world.
Here's a novel thought - why don't we take measures to reduce greenhosue gas emissions now?

Swimming on Mt Everest

The glaciers are melting in the Himalyas -and one can go swimming in the lakes left behind.  Please listen until the end: I found Mr Pugh's statements on the mind set required to tackle the problem of climate change very interesting.

I'm Back

That was a lovely holiday.  I'm back  - to floods in Pakistan, wildfires and drought in Russia, floods in Saskatcheqan, wildfires in the interior of BC - extreme weather events everywhere.  Hmmmnnns  - climate models predict an increase frequency of extreme weather events as climate change begins to bite.   Could it be ?????