The latest, just-released data from the World Meteorological Organization show that levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have reached another new record high. Global average levels of carbon dioxide reached 407.8 parts per million in 2018. And I remember, not long ago, 400 parts per million was seen as an unthinkable tipping point. We are well over it. The last time there was a comparable concentration of CO2 was between 3 and 5 million years ago, when the temperature was between 2 and 3 degrees Celsius warmer than now and sea levels were 10 to 20 metres higher than today.
Yet our collective behavior indicate that we humans are still in denial. Here in the United States, beginning on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, commercial activity has exploded with preparations for the Christmas festivities. Whether we’re Christians or not, Christmas traditions permeate our lives.
Christmas tree lighting ceremonies, organized by our town and city halls, mark the beginning of the season. We decorate our homes. In some neighborhoods, homeowners seem to outdo each other in decorating their front yards. Our children take part in Christmas pageants that enact the birth of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the cause of joyful celebrations among Christians worldwide. Traditional Christmas carols lift our spirits. Another important part of our Christmas traditions is Santa Claus with his workshop of elves, toiling year-round to make gifts for children for delivery during the wee hours on Christmas Day. Continue reading →
On November 5, 2019 more than 11,000 scientists from 153 countries signed a declaration, published in the journal of the American Institute of Biological Sciences, that states “clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency.” Though scientists began alerting world leaders forty years ago about global warming, greenhouse gas emissions continue to soar.
In an effort to expand our understanding of the climate emergency, the scientists have prepared several graphics of the vital signs of climate change over the last forty years.
The climate crisis is closely linked to excessive consumption of the wealthy lifestyle.
The 15 charts in Figure 1 depict the changes in global human activities from 1979 to the present:
01. Human population
02. Total fertility rate
03. Ruminant livestock (cattle)
04. Per capita meat production
05. World GDP (Gross Domestic Product)
06. Global tree cover loss
07. Brazilian Amazon Forest loss
08. Energy consumption (oil, coal, gas, solar/wind)
09. Air transport (by number of passengers)
10. Total institutional fossil fuel assets divested
11. CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions
12. Per capita CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions
13. Greenhouse gas emissions covered by carbon pricing
14. Carbon price
15. Fossil fuel subsidies
The 14 charts in Figure 2 depict the climatic response time series for the same period, 1979 to the present:
01. Carbon dioxide in atmosphere
02. Methane in atmosphere
03. Nitrous oxide in atmosphere
04. Surface temperature change
05. Minimum Arctic sea ice
06. Greenland ice mass change
07. Antarctica ice mass change
08. Glacial thickness change
09. Ocean heat content change
10. Ocean acidity
11. Sea level change
12. Area burned in the United States
13. Extreme weather/climate/hydro events
14. Annual losses due to weather/climate/hydro events Continue reading →
There is no wealth on a dead planet
Global Climate Strike 2019 – New York City – USA
Photo Credit: Common Dreams
On Friday, September 20, 2019, millions of young people and supporting adults in more than 150 countries took part in the Global Climate Strike, calling on decision-makers to take immediate action to address our global climate crisis. I’m heartened that sixteen-year-old, Swedish environmentalist activist, Greta Thunberg, has awakened our youth to the future that awaits them.
“It’s just not the young people’s house,” Thunberg told the thousands of participants gathered in New York City. “We all live here. It affects all of us. Why should we study for a future that is being taken away from us? That is being stolen for profit? Some people say we should study to become climate scientists or politicians, so that we can, in the future, solve the climate crisis. But by then, it will be too late. We need to do this now.” (Emphasis mine.)
“The climate emergency is a race we are losing, but it is a race we can win. This is not a climate talk summit. We have had enough talk. This is not a climate negotiation summit. You don’t negotiate with nature. This is a climate action summit.” (Emphasis mine.) Continue reading →
Map of Active Fires in the Amazon Basin – Brazil – August 27, 2019
Photo Credit: BBC News
Brazil’s Amazon rainforest is under attack. So far this year, she has received nearly 75,000 stab wounds, setting the targeted areas ablaze. Seventy-five thousand! Her belching smoke trails turned daylight into darkness over Brazil’s largest city, some 1,677 miles away. How many trees and the non-human lives they sustain have we humans condemned to ashes? For what?
Some arsonists are loggers, raping the forest for more wood to feed global demand. Others want easy access to the mineral wealth—gold, diamonds, iron-ore, and bauxite. Most of them are land-grabbers. They covet the land for raising more cattle and expanding soybean cultivation for animal feed production. We are trading the Amazon rainforest to satiate our taste for beef.
The Amazon Basin, regarded as the ‘Lungs of Earth,’ absorbs about 25 percent of Earth’s total carbon dioxide emissions and releases oxygen into the atmosphere. What could go wrong? Continue reading →
Pam Lazos, writing at Green Life Blue Water, observes the signs of climate change around her in Central Pennsylvania. Troubled by the “unknown unknown,” using the “tortured phraseology” of former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, she calls on us to face reality and cure our global bipolar disorder.
We all know the truth: it’s time for an intervention.We can help Mother Nature deal with her issues because we are her issues.The government is not going to save us and neither are the aliens, in case you were wondering.The only ones who can save us are us.It’s time to do what we do best as a country — solve problems, innovate, lead so others might follow.The payoff — as if saving the planet and ourselves wasn’t enough — is that there’s a heck of a lot of money to be made in green technology, but first, we need to cure our global bipolar disorder and think things through in rational, logical terms.
YouthStrike4Climate Student March – London, UK – April 12, 2019
Photo Credit: Common Dreams (Photo Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
To those people who are still in denial that humanity faces a climate crisis that would most likely lead to the extinction of our species, not to mention most other species, I say, wake up to reality. We cannot afford to wait until reality strikes you in the groin or chest for us to take evasive action as a united nation.
Greta Thunberg at the World Economic Forum 2019 – Davos, Switzerland
Watch Video: World Economic Forum, Published on January 25, 2019
“I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.”
Senator Dianne Feinstein speaks with young activists of the Sunrise Movement
California Office, USA – February 22, 2019
Watch Video: Washington Post
Here in the world’s leading economy, our leadership is more concerned about preserving their self-interests, their political party, and the status quo. On February 22, 2019, when young activists of the Sunrise Movement visited the California office of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to ask her to vote for the Green New Deal, she was firm in rejecting their petition.
“We have our own Green New Deal,” Feinstein tells them. “I’ve been doing this for thirty years. I know what I’m doing. You come in here and you say it has to be my way or the highway. I don’t respond to that… I just won a big election.”
Youth climate activists during sit-in at Washington DC office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell – February 25, 2019
Photo Credit: Common Dreams (Photo Sunrise Movement)
The following Monday, February 25th, over 200 young members of the Sunrise Movement joined about twenty Kentucky high school students outside the Capitol Hill office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to demonstrate their support for the Green New Deal. They failed to meet him. Instead, the Capitol Police arrested more than forty of them.
While there is yet no consensus on the Green New Deal—which right-wing commentators view as a socialist takeover of our economy—lawmakers in Washington DC are busy undoing decades of environmental protection regulations. Then, on June 20th, the New York State Assembly passed its own Green New Deal at the state level. Their aggressive Climate Leadership & Community Protection Act calls for net zero carbon emissions statewide by 2050.
On July 9th, our young climate activists gained another victory in their call for action. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) announced the introduction of a resolution in Congress to declare that the climate emergency facing our planet demands a “national, social, industrial, and economic mobilization of the resources and labor of the United States” in order to “restore the climate for future generations.”
Over two dozen lawmakers, including most of the senators currently running for president, signed on as co-sponsors.
Blumenauer calls for a reality check. “To address the climate crisis, we must tell the truth about the nature of this threat,” he said in his statement.
“What we need now is Congressional leadership to stand up to the fossil fuel industry and tell them that their short-term profits are not more important than the future of the planet,” Sanders said. “Climate change is a national emergency, and I am proud to be introducing this resolution with my House and Senate colleagues.”
Working to solve the climate crisis will create tens of millions of union jobs, empower communities, and improve the quality of life for people across the globe,” Ocasio-Cortez added.
Bill Snape, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity, supports the resolution. “With an unhinged climate denier in the White House, it’s on Congress to steer us away from climate suicide,” he said in a statement. “This resolution is a sane recognition that science says we need a massive transition away from the production and consumption of dirty fossil fuels.”
The time is now to break down the walls of partisanship, the walls of fear, the walls of ignorance, the walls of hatred and divisiveness, the walls of exclusion, the walls of separateness, the walls of inequality.
“Our house is on fire!” alerts the high school student Greta Thunberg.
“Let it burn!” says The Bully, sitting at the top of the world. “The oil is mine! All mine!”
The End of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption is a work of investigative journalism by Dahr Jamail, conducted during the period April 2016 to July 2017 on the front lines of human-caused climate disruption. Having lived in Alaska for ten years (1996-2006), Jamail had witnessed the dramatic impact of global warming on the glaciers there.
Jamail’s original aim was to alert readers about “the urgency of our planetary crisis through firsthand accounts of what is happening to the glaciers, forest, wildlife, coral reefs, and oceans, alongside data provided by leading scientists who study them.” His reporting took him to climate disruption hot spots in Alaska, California, Florida, and Montana in the United States; Palau in the Western Pacific Ocean; Great Barrier Reef, Australia; and the Amazon Forest in Manaus, Brazil. His grief at what was happening to nature made him realize that “only by having this intimacy with the natural world can we fully understand how dramatically our actions are impacting it.”
Below are excerpts of assessments expressed to the author by scientists and other professionals working on the front lines.
The magnitude of change in Alaska is easy to miss because Alaska is such
a massive state, and largely undeveloped. That is why you’ve had no idea that
Alaska’s glaciers are losing an estimated 75 billion tons of ice every year. ~ Dr. Mike Loso, a physical scientist
with the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.
[The rate of melting of Montana’s glaciers]
is an explosion, a nuclear explosion of geologic change. This is unusual, it is
incredibly rapid and exceeds the ability for normal adaption. We’ve shoved it
into overdrive and taken our hands off the wheel.” ~ Dr. Dan
Farge, a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) research ecologist and director of the
Climate Change in Mountain Ecosystems Project, Montana.
This last summer , the Gulf [of Alaska]
warmed up 15℃ [59℉] warmer than normal in some areas… And it is now, overall,
5℃ [41℉] above normal in both the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea, and has been
all winter long. ~ Bruce
Wright, a senior scientist with the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association
(APIA) and former section chief for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA) for eleven years.
We hardly eat seals anymore, or the birds,
and people now get food stamps and social handouts and welfare and shop at the
store. When I grew up, we didn’t need any of that because we always had seals
and birds and fish to eat. If the fur seals aren’t here, neither will we be. ~Jason
Bourdukofsky Sr., the president of TDX, Alaska’s native corporation on St. Paul
Island, Pribilof Islands, Bering Sea.
The warming [of the oceans] we’re seeing now
is happening far too fast to allow for [coral] evolution…. So what we’re seeing
now is death. That’s what [coral] bleaching is…. Right now the largest
ecosystem on Earth is undergoing its death throes and no one is there to watch
it. ~ Dr. Dean
Miller, a marine scientist and director of science and media for Great Barrier
Reef Legacy, Australia.
Even if your home [in South Florida] may be
elevated, all the infrastructure and freshwater and sewage treatment and
getting rid of the sewage…all of this infrastructure is critically vulnerable
to sea level rise. ~ Dr. Ben
Kirtman, one of the leading sea level experts in the world and program director
for the Climate and Environmental Hazards program at the University of Miami’s
Center for Computational Science.
Sea level rise is going to accelerate faster
than the models, and it’s not going to stop. So the government [of the State of
Florida] has to have a plan that includes buyouts. It’s cheaper to buy this
area [Coral Gables] out than it is to maintain the infrastructure. ~ Dr.
Harold Wanless, professor and chair of the Department of Geological Science,
University of Miami, Coral Gables campus.
You know what the burden is? It’s looking up
through the political hierarchy above me to the state legislature, to the
governor, U.S. Congress, U.S. Senate, the White House, and you ask, Who is
minding the shop? Who else knows what I know?… What kind of morality allows
them to ignore what is going to happen? ~ Dr.
Philip Stoddard, mayor of South Miami and a professor in the Department of
Biological Sciences, Florida International University.
We need to educate people about what is
really going on with climate disruption…. I made a personal decision to not
have kids, because I don’t have a future to offer them. I don’t think we are
going to win this battle. I think we are really done. ~ Dr. Rita
Mesquita, a biologist and researcher with Brazil’s National Institute of
Amazonian Research (INPA), Manaus, Amazonas.
The dire position we’re in now is solid
evidence of the fact that the predominant civilization does not have a handle
on all the interrelationships between humans and what we call the natural
world. If it did, we wouldn’t be facing this dire situation. ~ Stan
Rushworth, elder of Cherokee descent who has taught Native American literature
and critical thinking classes focused on Indigenous perspectives.
Jamail concludes that we are already facing mass extinction. We can’t remove the heat now stored in the oceans, yet we keep on pumping 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year. Our future is uncertain. Writing this book was his attempt to bear witness to what we have done to the Earth. “I am committed in my bones to being with the Earth,” he writes, “no matter what, to the end.”
Dahr Jamail, a reporter for Truthout, is the author of Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq, The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, and The Mass Destruction of Iraq: Disintegration of a Nation (co-authored with William Rivers Pitt). Over the past fifteen years, Jamail has also reported from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Turkey. An accomplished mountaineer who has worked as a volunteer rescue ranger on Denali, Alaska, he won the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism and is a 2018 winner of the Izzy Award for excellence in independent journalism. Jamail is also the recipient of the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism, the Joe A. Callaway Award for Civic Courage, and five Project Censored Awards.
By Robert A. Vella. It may seem paradoxical to laypeople that we would have severe cold weather spells in wintertime given that the world is rapidly warming up due to manmade climate change; and, climate change deniers are quick to exploit this paradox for political reasons. But, it is true. Global warming is increasing the incidence of extreme weather events of every kind from prolonged droughts and powerful storms to deadly heat waves and brutal cold snaps. The following details the basic science behind the phenomenon popularly, though inaccurately, known as the “polar vortex.” The real polar vortex is something else altogether…
Sunrise Movement protesters outside then Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s Office – December 10, 2018
Photo Credit: Sunrise Movement
While our president is fixated on building a wall along our southern border to keep us safe from the invasion of “bad hombres,” he refuses to acknowledge our greatest existential threat: climate change disruption. Young climate change activists, clamoring for bold action, have found a champion in the newly elected Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York). At twenty-nine years, she is the youngest member of the US House of Representatives.
On February 7, 2019, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Edward Markey (D-Massachusetts) introduced a nonbinding resolution that sets out the framework for the Green New Deal. The proposal has gathered 64 House and nine Senate Co-Sponsors, including presidential hopefuls Sen. Cory Booker, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren. In an interview with Politico, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California), not present at the unveiling, referred to the proposal as a mere suggestion.
“It will be one of several or maybe many suggestions that we receive,” Pelosi said. “The green dream or whatever they call it, nobody knows what it is but they’re for it right?”
The Green New Deal Resolution – List of Co-Sponsors
Photo Credit: Sunrise Movement