Showing posts with label climat crisis. Show all posts
Showing posts with label climat crisis. Show all posts

Saturday, 11 April 2020

Defending climate in the age of Covid 19.

by Larry Powell
An Australian sun, shrouded in bushfire smoke.
A public domain photo.
As Kermit the frog famously said, “It isn’t easy being green.” And, in a world which is, by necessity, now consumed in the battle against a pandemic, it’s even harder. It’s almost as if that other “existential threat,” manmade climate change, has been forgotten, even tho it never really received the attention it deserved in the first place! 

It’s both encouraging and bewildering to watch just how this latest, terrible and unprecedented chapter in our history, is playing out; Encouraging because so many of us are actually heeding the advice of our best minds in epidemiology by hand-washing, physical-distancing and self-isolating. This is surely saving countless lives from the deadly maw of the “Covid beast.”

By contrast, our climatologists - who’ve been warning us for a generation that our planet is on a dangerous trajectory toward “hothouse Earth” if we don’t eliminate or drastically reduce our consumption of fossil fuels - have been treated quite differently. While our top doctors now dealing with Covid are rightly hailed as heroes, our climate scientists are ignored, defamed or even threatened with death.  

Meanwhile, calamitous events related to a changing climate are not going away as the virus plays out. Ice caps and glacier are still melting. Sea levels are still rising. Global temperatures, along with greenhouse gas levels continue to spiral upward. 
Australian bushfires.
Photo credit - World Weather Attribution.
Yet news media are all but ignoring such important events if they are not Covid-related. Did you know, for example, that hundreds have already died and thousands more are in hospital in Australia after inhaling smoke from the bushfires there last winter? (More than 30 people, thousands of livestock and billions of wild animals died in the actual fires.) 

A crack team of climatologists has determined those fires “down under” (which ruined an area the size of more than 40 Riding Mountain National Parks), were made much more likely due to manmade climate change.
Unharvested crop in a Manitoba field. Unusually bad weather
made 2019 an extremely poor year for both cattle & grain producers.
A PinP photo.
 On the Canadian prairies, it's shaping up to be yet another bleak growing season for farmers. According to the farm paper, "The Co-Operator," five million tonnes of canola, wheat and other crops remain in the fields following terrible weather last year. And this year's spring seeding is being delayed, too thanks to "significant" rain and snow across the region this month.

As we speak, Alberta is scrambling to deal with a new wildfire season - a job now made infinitely more complicated by Covid-19. How will fire crews even get in to areas of the province almost certainly to be plagued by monster fires similar to last year, with the travel and other restrictions now in place? 

And as long as we keep electing politicians like Alberta’s premier, Jason Kenney, things will only get worse. Instead of pledging hard-earned tax dollars to help the legion of laid off oil workers - his own citizens - get retrained in sustainable, renewable energy projects, Kenney has pledged billions to the TransMountain pipeline, to carry greatly-devalued and highly-polluting Alberta "tar" to tidewater.

Meanwhile, Covid 19, like pandemics before it, will pass.

However, without immediate and urgent action to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels - and a new-found respect for our climatologists - disastrous climate breakdown will not! 

Ironically, the tough love being applied to help us fight the pandemic, are the same kind of measures that could help us blunt the climate onslaught. It seems likely that travel restrictions - the cancellation of millions of flights by high-flying, climate-destroying jet planes - and the closure of polluting industrial plants, are already resulting in historic drops in harmful toxins and greenhouse gas levels. 

People staying in their homes has offered a reprieve for embattled species whose traditional habitats we have occupied and destroyed. While all of this won’t result in an immediate stabilization of the crisis, it will surely be a step in the right direction. But this will only work if we somehow maintain those very tough measures, to some degree, over time.

Will it be easy? Of course not. And anyone who tells you that we can save the planet from environmental degradation while still maintaining the level of economic activity we've all become accustomed to, is lying.

So the key to a better world will depend on the wisdom, not just of our leaders, but all of us, too. Not to mention our willingness to make the profound sacrifices and societal changes needed to make it all happen. 

Will we recognize that there are lessons to be learned, even from a pandemic? Or will we simply pick up where we left off once it's over and come “roaring back” in a rush to reclaim all the bells and whistles we seem to think we actually need? 

Tragically, I expect the latter will be the more likely scenario.

Please prove me wrong!

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Catastrophic changes Planet Earth is undergoing today likely mirror many of those which happened hundreds of millions of years ago. The big difference? Volcanoes - not humans - were likely the main drivers of the changes back then.

NATURE
The amount of CO2 released into the end-Triassic atmosphere from volcanic eruptions was likely comparable to the projected total amount of anthropogenic (manmade) CO2 that will be emitted during the 21st century. The findings are published in Nature Communications. Such large volumes of volcanic CO2 likely contributed to end-Triassic global warming, sea level rise, and ocean acidification.


The end-Triassic extinction (approximately 201 million years ago) resulted in the demise of large proportions of all marine and terrestrial species. It is thought that this extinction was caused by dramatic climate change and rising sea levels which, are known to have occurred at that time. Volcanic CO2 released during the large volume Central Atlantic Magmatic Province eruptions has been considered as an important contributor to the process, but this is debated.
Manfredo Capriolo and colleagues found evidence of abundant CO2 in basaltic rocks from the end-Triassic Central Atlantic Magmatic Province, by analysing tiny gas exsolution bubbles preserved within the rocks. The authors used their analyses to estimate the total volume of volcanic CO2 released during these eruptions. They found that one eruption phase (100,000 km3 of lava over 500 years) is likely to have emitted a total volume of COequivalent to that projected from anthropogenic activities during the 21st century, in the 2⁰ C warming scenario.

The authors suggest that the end-Triassic climatic and environmental changes, driven by the large volume volcanic CO2 emissions, may have been similar to those predicted for the near future under anthropogenic warming.
-30-

Sunday, 24 November 2019

The loss of ‘eternal ice’ threatens Mongolian reindeer herders’ way of life


ScienceNews
Map: Distribution of Rangifer tarandus (Caribou/Reindeer)
TBjornstad

Newly-recorded oral histories of the Tsaatan people help researchers document climate change.

Thursday, 14 November 2019

Climate change poses 'lifelong' child health risk


Phys Org
It's feared that a changing climate may be providing improved
conditions for the mosquito which spreads the zika virus,
sometimes responsible for severe brain conditions in infants like this.
Climate change will damage the health of an entire generation unless there are immediate cuts to fossil fuel emissions, from a rise in deadly infectious diseases to surging malnutrition, experts warned Thursday. Story here.

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Humanity Sleepwalks as Earth Burns.

-->
by Larry Powell

This is the Ashcroft Reserve fire in BC in 2017. That was the worst year ever for wildfires in that province - until this year!  Photo by Shawn Cahill.

As I write this, human bodies incinerated beyond recognition, are being pulled from the ruins of wildfires in California. More than a thousand people are either missing or confirmed dead, with property damage set to top several billions of dollars. Smoke from the fires has now enveloped San Francisco.


President Trump blames "poor forest management,"and, after first threatening to withhold it, finally grants emergency aid. His critics take him to task for his lack of empathy for the victims. After visiting the fire zones, he continues, disgracefully, to deny the role manmade climate change is surely playing here.

But what's worse, his absence of a heart (which has been evident for some time), or his actual policies which have shown him to be complicit in these horrible disasters? Those critics seem determined not to mention that, since "day-one," Trump and his administration have been busy reversing steps taken under President Obama to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions, whether they come from power plants, the planes we fly, or the cars, trucks, quads, speedboats, lawnmowers or snowmobiles we drive. 


All of these emissions (but especially those from coal), are trapping the sun's rays, dangerously over-heating our planet, creating conditions favourable to all kinds of extreme events, droughts and wildfires among them. All the while, Trump has slashed regulations aimed at curbing the massive toxic pollution which coal creates, claiming he wants to get people back working again in this dirty and dangerous industry.


He has gutted his own Environmental Protection Agency by putting skunks like Scott Pruitt in charge. Trump, Pruitt and others have monumentally betrayed their civic duty, by crippling the very branch of government which is supposed to protect human, animal and plant life. Instead, they are greasing the wheels for more harmful oil and gas development in places like the once-pristine Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge.

Recently, Trump also rolled back federal rules aimed at reducing the escape of methane into the atmosphere. It's a  greenhouse gas which is way more potent than the most common one, carbon dioxide. Methane, a prime component of natural gas, has been leaking into the air in alarming amounts from unknown numbers of "fracking sites,"where natural gas is often produced around the world.

And last, but not least, Trump has thumbed his nose at the rest of the world by withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord. Scores of countries have signed on, promising to keep "global heating" in some kind of check, so that planet Earth can continue to be a place where life forms like ours, can continue to exist and flourish.


So, exactly why are Trump's critics, who often appear more like impotent bunglers than responsible lawmakers, not holding his feet to the fire over things like this, far more than they are?


Sadly, I fear that they do not want to offend an uninformed, poorly-educated or, dare I say it, stupid public, who form much of Trump's base. As a result, this Polluter-in-Chief is given a pass for his misguided, reckless and even criminal behaviour. Polls show the majority of Americans still believe that the science around climate change is somehow not "settled"yet.  It is! Reams of scientific wisdom, accumulated for at least a generation, prove this!

Trump (who thinks climate change is a hoax), along with "pseudo-scientists," hired by the oil industry, now seem to have actually captured the hearts and minds of a largely "unconscious" public. This is a nation where enlightened, proven truth is somehow largely missing from the homes, churches. schools and boardrooms of an otherwise advanced civilization.

Numbness to scientific fact is no stranger to Canada, either.

As I watch TV here at home in Manitoba, I see (as does everyone else) endless streams of ads from the car companies. Perhaps as many as ten each hour,  carpet-bomb the viewer, day and night. Slick, beautiful cars and trucks, each better than the other, are available with rebates and low interest on each purchase. Children appear in some, lured with the promise of onboard "wi-fi," so they can watch their favourite movie while on yet another carefree trip with their families. 


Yet there's never a whisper of advice warning either those children or anyone else, that these very cars and trucks, most powered by fossil fuels, are major contributors to air pollution. Transportation is a major source of global warming emissions. Pollutants from vehicle exhaust have long been linked to adverse impacts on nearly every organ in the body. (Source, US Union of Concerned Scientists.)



Neither does it seem to matter that Canada was a proud signatory to the Paris Accord a scant few years ago, pledging to keep emissions low enough so the planet does not incinerate. But in our so-called western democracy, vehicle-makers are allowed to engage in such disgraceful behaviour with impunity. 



To give the Devil his due, at least in the 'States, the world's biggest oil company, Exxon, is being indicted for covering up decades-old evidence of the harm its product does to our planet. No such thing here. So the ads continue, unabated and unchallenged. 

What role are people of faith playing here?


Anecdotes told by survivors of the California wildfires on TV news offer disturbing insights into what a lot of people actually think and believe. One couple told a remarkable tale of escaping the flames by sliding down a huge cliff to safety. The woman gave thanks to God for saving their lives.



A man, who was almost blind, thanked the Lord for guiding him as he managed, by following a police car, to drive through the flames to safety. This is a common refrain among people who never bother to explain where God was when, in this case, as they were being "saved," hundreds of others were burning to death!



In Canada, a pastor who writes a regular column in a rural newspaper, without mentioning climate change, confidently informed his readers a couple of years ago, that "God loves storm victims." He was referring to a series of super-hurricanes which whipped the southern U.S., sending countless God-fearing Texans into the streets, with floodwaters up to their armpits. When I challenged him as to how such terrible events could possibly be an act of God's love, he assured me, well, God didn't really make the storms happen. He just let them happen! 

Now I understand completely.



After all, why should the faithful believe in science, when scripture, especially to Evangelicals on the religious right, promises them the rapture, the Second Coming and everlasting life? Or what purpose does it serve to cut back on fuel consumption when it is God who will have the last word anyway, including the option of either raining fire and brimstone down on his wicked flock (inflicting "Armageddon" or "end days"on all of them), or, indeed, saving us all by just refraining from doing so? 



In such scenarios, I would argue that religion does nothing but stand in the way of practical, useful solutions - and helps ensure runaway climate change will culminate in a worst-case scenario - where places on Earth become "hothouses" - in which even the healthiest among us, will perish. In other words, it will prove to be, as Karl Marx famously stated, "the opiate of the masses." 


This unwillingness or inability of people to grasp the reality of our climate crisis is, sadly, evident, not only south of the border but, in Canada, as well. 

Evidence of this is everywhere. Vehicles, both big and small, regardless of the weather, are left mindlessly parked and running while their owners run errands. Excuses are either weak or non-sensical. A semi-driver told me he would have turned his rig off had he been away from it longer. As it was, he left it idling while he did some banking across the street. And he looked at me as if I was crazy when I told him "Mother Earth will thank you if you turn it off, next time!"

Some years ago, I asked a Greyhound bus driver if he ever thought of climate change when he left his vehicle running during prolonged stopovers (as he was doing in this case). He looked at me blankly and replied, "Oh, do you mean that guy in England?" 

Each time I sit outside on my patio, I try to spot vehicles driving by with more than one occupant in each. Most everyone should know by now that, the more people each vehicle carries, the more fuel-efficient travel then becomes. Hence the wisdom behind the push for more public (bus, light rail and rapid) transit. Yet, to my dismay, the vast majority of vehicles I see, carry only one occupant - the driver.


This astonishingly low level of what I would call "eco-wisdom" is there to see pretty much everywhere I look.



It has been argued that we can't possibly tell the unvarnished truth to our children. It would simply upset them too much. Yet we seem alright (and rightly so), with teaching them as much as we can about the horrors of past wars as a cautionary tale, to ensure they "never happen again." 



                                                   -30-









Could a million freshwater turtles help clean up some of Australia's polluted rivers? A team of scientists believes, they could!

by Larry Powell The freshwater turtle, Emydura macquarii. Credit: Claudia Santori. For well over a century,  invasive fresh...