The American Bear

Sunshine/Lollipops

climateadaptation:

Global temperatures 1881 - 2010. Each bar is ten years. Colors just help visualize the graph mo beddah. Celsius to Fahrenheit conversion, here.
This excellent graph is from the World Meteorological Organization’s new summary report: The Global Climate 2001–2010 a Decade of Climate Extremes. 
Most impressive (to me) is how well written it is. Check out how they describe and compare three systems:

El Niño and La Niña episodes, for example, result from rapid changes in the sea-surface temperature in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. They influence weather patterns around the world through the subsequent large-scale interactions and transfers of heat in the coupled ocean-atmosphere system. Other patterns affect the climate by strengthening or weakening high-altitude air currents known as jet streams.
The closely related Arctic Oscillation and North Atlantic Oscillation often affect the northern hemisphere winter. Since the 1990s, these two oscillations have remained mostly in a positive phase, which is associated with warmer and wetter winters in northern and central Europe and the eastern USA, drier winters in the Mediterranean and cold, dry conditions over northern Canada and Greenland.
Unlike these natural back-and-forth oscillations, human-caused climate change is trending in just one direction. This is because atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and other greenhouse gases are increasing steadily, due to human activities. According to the WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, global-average atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide rose to 389 ppm in 2010 (an increase of 39 per cent compared to pre-industrial times), methane to 1 808.0 ppb (158 per cent) and nitrous oxide to 323.2 ppb (20 per cent).
This changing composition of the atmosphere is causing the global average temperature to rise, which, in turn, exerts a significant influence on the hydrological cycle and leads to other changes in climate and weather patterns.

climateadaptation:

Global temperatures 1881 - 2010. Each bar is ten years. Colors just help visualize the graph mo beddah. Celsius to Fahrenheit conversion, here.

This excellent graph is from the World Meteorological Organization’s new summary report: The Global Climate 2001–2010 a Decade of Climate Extremes

Most impressive (to me) is how well written it is. Check out how they describe and compare three systems:

El Niño and La Niña episodes, for example, result from rapid changes in the sea-surface temperature in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. They influence weather patterns around the world through the subsequent large-scale interactions and transfers of heat in the coupled ocean-atmosphere system. Other patterns affect the climate by strengthening or weakening high-altitude air currents known as jet streams.

The closely related Arctic Oscillation and North Atlantic Oscillation often affect the northern hemisphere winter. Since the 1990s, these two oscillations have remained mostly in a positive phase, which is associated with warmer and wetter winters in northern and central Europe and the eastern USA, drier winters in the Mediterranean and cold, dry conditions over northern Canada and Greenland.

Unlike these natural back-and-forth oscillations, human-caused climate change is trending in just one direction. This is because atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and other greenhouse gases are increasing steadily, due to human activities. According to the WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, global-average atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide rose to 389 ppm in 2010 (an increase of 39 per cent compared to pre-industrial times), methane to 1 808.0 ppb (158 per cent) and nitrous oxide to 323.2 ppb (20 per cent).

This changing composition of the atmosphere is causing the global average temperature to rise, which, in turn, exerts a significant influence on the hydrological cycle and leads to other changes in climate and weather patterns.

Lies, Betrayals, Obfuscation | Norman Pollack

The People (imprisoned in their own fantasies, delusions, false consciousness) vs. Obama (skillful practitioner of deceit, war criminal) is no contest, given the political culture of acquiescence he has intensified and accelerated, through the pervasive atmosphere of counterterrorism on one hand, and worshipful gratitude to wealth-concentration and the structural hierarchy of power—founded on that wealth– on the other, on the shoulders of his predecessors, themselves adept at pushing the fortunes of advanced capitalism. A vicious circle, or perhaps dark hole out of which the public cannot climb, defines the present, with Obama the personification, the ideal leader, from the standpoint of ruling groups, in achieving the smooth integration of capitalism and militarism—the latter critical to the prevention of stagnation in the former. In today’s New York Times editorial (May 19), practically beseeching POTUS to take action on the climate issue, rather than slamming down hard on his dismal, indeed, treacherous, record, one sees the problem: abject dependence on a policy-structure rooted in the performance and systemic requirements of capitalism, whatever the quality, character, or decisions of leadership, and the consequences to the United States and the world at large.

[…] “…and no one doubts that he cares about it [the climate issue].” Is there any salutary position affecting a vital issue that Obama does care about? None. NYT misreads his record and intentions at every turn, climate change being an obvious case in point. Why persist with this delusion? Why grant heart and intelligence which, if only Republican obstruction did not exist, presumably would be resoundingly clear?

Face the reality, a deceitful president who would say anything to get elected and reelected, while supporting, by inaction as well as action, every vested interest working against the American people. [++]

Suicidal: Ice thaw leads to Arctic drilling rush.

quickhits:

Brian Merchant: Today, federal scientists confirmed that for the first time in millions of years, the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere had reached 400 parts per million. The pre-industrial level was 280 ppm, and the amount that top climatologists say is advisable for maintaining a stable environment is 350 ppm. The new carbon concentration signals that planetary warming will continue to accelerate—and that the rapidly melting Arctic will continue to thaw.  

“It symbolizes that so far we have failed miserably in tackling this problem,” Pieter P. Tans, who runs the chief carbon-monitoring program for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told The New York Times, in a front-page story headlined “Carbon Dioxide Level Is at Highest in Human History.” 

At about the same time that NOAA released its numbers, the White House—which has thus far not commented on the carbon milestone—published a press release called “Protecting Our Interests in the Arctic.” The release heralds the administration’s newly forged National Strategy for the Arctic Region, a document that contains the recommendations of military advisers, scientists, and policy analysts on how to cope with and exploit a slushier Arctic.

[…]

The strategy document notes that “dense, multi-year ice is giving way to thin layers of seasonal ice, making more of the region navigable year-round. Scientific estimates of technically recoverable conventional oil and gas resources north of the Arctic Circle total approximately 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil and 30 percent of the world’s undiscovered gas deposits, as well as vast quantities of mineral resources, including rare earth elements, iron ore, and nickel. These estimates have inspired fresh ideas for commercial initiatives and infrastructure development in the region.”

Sometimes I worry we’re too stupid not to go extinct.

(via other-stuff)

It symbolizes that so far we have failed miserably in tackling this problem.

The level of the most important heat-trapping gas in the atmosphere, carbon dioxide, has passed a long-feared milestone, scientists reported on Friday, reaching a concentration not seen on the earth for millions of years.

Read: Carbon Dioxide Level Passes Long-Feared Milestone - NYTimes

(via brooklynmutt)

Scientific monitors reported that the gas had reached an average daily level that surpassed 400 parts per million — just an odometer moment in one sense, but also a sobering reminder that decades of efforts to bring human-produced emissions under control are faltering.

[…]

Ralph Keeling, who runs another monitoring program at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, said a continuing rise could be catastrophic. “It means we are quickly losing the possibility of keeping the climate below what people thought were possibly tolerable thresholds,” he said.

(via mohandasgandhi)

(via mohandasgandhi)

The Last Empire? | Tom Engelhardt

Militarily, culturally, and even to some extent economically, the U.S. remains surprisingly alone on planet Earth in imperial terms, even if little has worked out as planned in Washington. The story of the years since the Soviet Union fell may prove to be a tale of how American domination and decline went hand-in-hand, with the decline part of the equation being strikingly self-generated.

And yet here’s a genuine, even confounding, possibility: that moment of “unipolarity” in the 1990s may really have been the end point of history as human beings had known it for millennia — the history, that is, of the rise and fall of empires. Could the United States actually be the last empire? Is it possible that there will be no successor because something has profoundly changed in the realm of empire building? One thing is increasingly clear: whatever the state of imperial America, something significantly more crucial to the fate of humanity (and of empires) is in decline. I’m talking, of course, about the planet itself.

The present capitalist model (the only one available) for a rising power, whether China, India, or Brazil, is also a model for planetary decline, possibly of a precipitous nature. The very definition of success — more middle-class consumers, more car owners, more shoppers, which means more energy used, more fossil fuels burned, more greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere — is also, as it never would have been before, the definition of failure. The greater the “success,” the more intense the droughts, the stronger the storms, the more extreme the weather, the higher the rise in sea levels, the hotter the temperatures, the greater the chaos in low-lying or tropical lands, the more profound the failure. The question is: Will this put an end to the previous patterns of history, including the until-now-predictable rise of the next great power, the next empire? On a devolving planet, is it even possible to imagine the next stage in imperial gigantism? [++]

Earth Day Exclusive: Tim DeChristopher Speaks Out After 21 Months in Prison for Disrupting Oil Bid | Democracy Now!

In a Democracy Now! exclusive on Earth Day, climate change activist Tim DeChristopher joins us for his first interview since being released from federal custody after serving 21 months in detention. DeChristopher was convicted of interfering with a 2008 public auction when he disrupted the Bush administration’s last-minute move to sell off oil and gas exploitation rights in Utah. He posed as a bidder and won drilling lease rights to 22,000 acres of land in an attempt to save the property from oil and gas extraction. The auction itself was later overturned and declared illegal, a fact that DeChristopher’s defense attorneys were prevented from telling the jury. His case is the subject of the documentary, “Bidder 70,” which will screen all over the country today to mark his release and Earth Day. The founder of the climate justice group Peaceful Uprising, Tim DeChristopher joins us to discuss his ordeal, his newfound freedom, and his plans to continue his activism in the climate justice movement.

climateadaptation:


Pecos River is running with cows - A warning sign of climate impacts to come, drought in the southwest obliterates rivers, snow pack, and aquifers used by farmers in New Mexico. Above, the Pecos River in New Mexico is dry for the first time in recent memory.
Farmers in Carlsbad were told last week that they will be allotted 10% of their previous water supply. Thus, a southwestern water war has begun. Welcome to the Anthropocene.


Just after the local water board announced this month that its farmers would get only one-tenth of their normal water allotment this year, Ronnie Walterscheid, 53, stood up and called on his elected representatives to declare a water war on their upstream neighbors.
The drought-fueled anger of southeastern New Mexico’s farmers and ranchers is boiling, and there is nowhere near enough water in the desiccated Pecos River to cool it down. Roswell, about 75 miles to the north, has somewhat more water available and so is the focus of intense resentment here. Mr. Walterscheid and others believe that Roswell’s artesian wells reduce Carlsbad’s surface water.
For decades, the regional status quo meant the northerners pumped groundwater and the southerners piped surface water. Now, amid the worst drought on record, some in Carlsbad say they must upend the status quo to survive. They want to make what is known as a priority call on the Pecos River.
A priority call, an exceedingly rare maneuver, is the nuclear option in the world of water. Such a call would try to force the state to return to what had been the basic principle of water distribution in the West: the lands whose owners first used the water — in most cases farmland — get first call on it in times of scarcity. Big industries can be losers; small farmers winners.
The threat of such a move reflects the political impact of the droughts that are becoming the new normal in the West. “A call on the river is a call for a shakeout,” explained Daniel McCool, a University of Utah political scientist and author of “River Republic: The Fall and Rise of America’s Rivers.”
“It’s not going to be farmers versus environmentalists or liberals versus conservatives,” he said. “It’s going to be the people who have water versus the people who don’t.” And, he said, the have-nots will outnumber the haves.
Dudley Jones, the manager for the Carlsbad Irrigation District said that water law and allocation practice have long diverged. “We have it in the state Constitution: First in time, first in right. But that’s not how it’s practiced.” In New Mexico’s political pecking order, his alfalfa farmers, despite senior priority rights dating back 100 years, have little clout. The state water authorities, he said, “are not going to cut out the city.”
“They’re not going to cut out the dairy industry,” he added. “They’re not going to cut off the oil and gas industry, because that’s economic development. So we’re left with a dilemma — the New Mexico water dilemma.”
A priority call, said Dr. McCool, “will glaringly demonstrate how unfair, how anachronistic the whole water law edifice is.”
He added, “The all-or-nothing dynamic of prior appropriation instantly sets up conflict. I get all of mine, and you get nothing.”


NYTimes

climateadaptation:

Pecos River is running with cows - A warning sign of climate impacts to come, drought in the southwest obliterates rivers, snow pack, and aquifers used by farmers in New Mexico. Above, the Pecos River in New Mexico is dry for the first time in recent memory.

Farmers in Carlsbad were told last week that they will be allotted 10% of their previous water supply. Thus, a southwestern water war has begun. Welcome to the Anthropocene.

Just after the local water board announced this month that its farmers would get only one-tenth of their normal water allotment this year, Ronnie Walterscheid, 53, stood up and called on his elected representatives to declare a water war on their upstream neighbors.

The drought-fueled anger of southeastern New Mexico’s farmers and ranchers is boiling, and there is nowhere near enough water in the desiccated Pecos River to cool it down. Roswell, about 75 miles to the north, has somewhat more water available and so is the focus of intense resentment here. Mr. Walterscheid and others believe that Roswell’s artesian wells reduce Carlsbad’s surface water.

For decades, the regional status quo meant the northerners pumped groundwater and the southerners piped surface water. Now, amid the worst drought on record, some in Carlsbad say they must upend the status quo to survive. They want to make what is known as a priority call on the Pecos River.

A priority call, an exceedingly rare maneuver, is the nuclear option in the world of water. Such a call would try to force the state to return to what had been the basic principle of water distribution in the West: the lands whose owners first used the water — in most cases farmland — get first call on it in times of scarcity. Big industries can be losers; small farmers winners.

The threat of such a move reflects the political impact of the droughts that are becoming the new normal in the West. “A call on the river is a call for a shakeout,” explained Daniel McCool, a University of Utah political scientist and author of “River Republic: The Fall and Rise of America’s Rivers.”

“It’s not going to be farmers versus environmentalists or liberals versus conservatives,” he said. “It’s going to be the people who have water versus the people who don’t.” And, he said, the have-nots will outnumber the haves.

Dudley Jones, the manager for the Carlsbad Irrigation District said that water law and allocation practice have long diverged. “We have it in the state Constitution: First in time, first in right. But that’s not how it’s practiced.” In New Mexico’s political pecking order, his alfalfa farmers, despite senior priority rights dating back 100 years, have little clout. The state water authorities, he said, “are not going to cut out the city.”

“They’re not going to cut out the dairy industry,” he added. “They’re not going to cut off the oil and gas industry, because that’s economic development. So we’re left with a dilemma — the New Mexico water dilemma.”

A priority call, said Dr. McCool, “will glaringly demonstrate how unfair, how anachronistic the whole water law edifice is.”

He added, “The all-or-nothing dynamic of prior appropriation instantly sets up conflict. I get all of mine, and you get nothing.”

NYTimes

Global warming predictions prove accurate

Analysis of climate change modelling for past 15 years reveal accurate forecasts of rising global temperatures

The debate around the accuracy of climate modelling and forecasting has been especially intense recently, due to suggestions that forecasts have exaggerated the warming observed so far – and therefore also the level warming that can be expected in the future. But the new research casts serious doubts on these claims, and should give a boost to confidence in scientific predictions of climate change.

The paper, published on Wednesday in the journal Nature Geoscience, explores the performance of a climate forecast based on data up to 1996 by comparing it with the actual temperatures observed since. The results show that scientists accurately predicted the warming experienced in the past decade, relative to the decade to 1996, to within a few hundredths of a degree.

The forecast, published in 1999 by Myles Allen and colleagues at Oxford University, was one of the first to combine complex computer simulations of the climate system with adjustments based on historical observations to produce both a most likely global mean warming and a range of uncertainty. It predicted that the decade ending in December 2012 would be a quarter of degree warmer than the decade ending in August 1996 – and this proved almost precisely correct.

The study is the first of its kind because reviewing a climate forecast meaningfully requires at least 15 years of observations to compare against. Assessments based on shorter periods are prone to being misleading due to natural short-term variability in the climate.

More at The Guardian

(Source: climateadaptation)

Can Civilization Survive Capitalism? | Noam Chomsky

There have been serious debates over the years about whether capitalism is compatible with democracy. If we keep to really existing capitalist democracy – RECD for short – the question is effectively answered: They are radically incompatible.

[…] Within the RECD system it is of extreme importance that we become the stupid nation, not misled by science and rationality, in the interests of the short-term gains of the masters of the economy and political system, and damn the consequences.

These commitments are deeply rooted in the fundamentalist market doctrines that are preached within RECD, though observed in a highly selective manner, so as to sustain a powerful state that serves wealth and power.

The official doctrines suffer from a number of familiar “market inefficiencies,” among them the failure to take into account the effects on others in market transactions. The consequences of these “externalities” can be substantial. The current financial crisis is an illustration. It is partly traceable to the major banks and investment firms’ ignoring “systemic risk” – the possibility that the whole system would collapse – when they undertook risky transactions.

Environmental catastrophe is far more serious: The externality that is being ignored is the fate of the species. And there is nowhere to run, cap in hand, for a bailout.

In future, historians (if there are any) will look back on this curious spectacle taking shape in the early 21st century. For the first time in human history, humans are facing the significant prospect of severe calamity as a result of their actions – actions that are battering our prospects of decent survival.

Those historians will observe that the richest and most powerful country in history, which enjoys incomparable advantages, is leading the effort to intensify the likely disaster. Leading the effort to preserve conditions in which our immediate descendants might have a decent life are the so-called “primitive” societies: First Nations, tribal, indigenous, aboriginal.

The countries with large and influential indigenous populations are well in the lead in seeking to preserve the planet. The countries that have driven indigenous populations to extinction or extreme marginalization are racing toward destruction.

Thus Ecuador, with its large indigenous population, is seeking aid from the rich countries to allow it to keep its substantial oil reserves underground, where they should be.

Meanwhile the U.S. and Canada are seeking to burn fossil fuels, including the extremely dangerous Canadian tar sands, and to do so as quickly and fully as possible, while they hail the wonders of a century of (largely meaningless) energy independence without a side glance at what the world might look like after this extravagant commitment to self-destruction.

This observation generalizes: Throughout the world, indigenous societies are struggling to protect what they sometimes call “the rights of nature,” while the civilized and sophisticated scoff at this silliness.

This is all exactly the opposite of what rationality would predict – unless it is the skewed form of reason that passes through the filter of RECD. [++]

Politicians and government officials who want to hide bad news use the well-known tactic of releasing it late Friday, so that it’s likely to get nothing more than a small spot in the Saturday papers, which are generally the least read papers of the week. Sunday’s paper is by that time mostly filled up with features that have already closed, and by Monday, the bad news is old news. It’s considered an underhanded tactic. It was distressing, therefore, to see the New York Times follow this model by releasing news of the Green blog’s demise at 5 pm Friday. That also happened to be the day when the Times’ public editor, Margaret Sullivan, was just back from a week away and therefore likely to be unable to jump on this news. When the Times announced the closing of its environment desk in January, she wrote, ‘If coverage of the environment is not to suffer, a lot of people — including The Times’s highest ranking editors — are going to have to make sure that it doesn’t.’ Apparently, they didn’t. New York Times Cancels Green Blog to Dismay of Critics

Newspapers have fired over 30,000 reporters in the last 5 years - Science and Climate journalists are the first to go.

climateadaptation:

The Crisis in Climate Reporting.”  - An event by climate, environment, and media experts on how journalists are a critical conduit to discussing climate change.

The speakers explored several practical solutions and then launch into a decent Q&A. Some were simple, such as directing readers to share their reading materials or collaborate with authors from various news outlets (e.g., Mother Jones partnering with, say, Washington Post to work on and cross-post the same stories, which would reach different audiences.). It was good to hear some practical solutions rather than esoteric brainstorming.

The public is poorly served by reports about climate change that follow familiar lines and surface only when there’s a severe weather event or UN conference; meanwhile, media outlets like the New York Times are scaling back on environmental reporting.

Orion and media watchdog Free Press convened a panel of authors and activists (including Kate Sheppard, M. Sanjayan, Bill McKibben, and others) to propose concrete actions for improving the state of climate reporting in the mainstream media.

Climate Science Communications Week is winding down at Climate Adaptation!  For the entire week of Feb. 18 - 23, I covered how climate change is discussed by the media, scientists, researchers, academics, and politicians. If you have sources or ideas on communicating climate change, send to: http://climateadaptation.tumblr.com/submit

Forty-Eight Arrested as Sierra Club Protests Keystone XL Pipeline and Ends Ban on Civil Disobedience | The Dissenter

Dozens of people demonstrated in front of the White House to protest construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which is being built by the multinational corporation TransCanada. Forty-eight of them engaged in civil disobedience and were arrested.

Those arrested included: Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club; Allison Chin, president of the Sierra Club; Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org; Julian Bond, former president of the NAACP; Danny Kennedy, CEO of Sungevity (a solar power company); Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Connor Kennedy and actress Daryl Hannah.

According to the Tar Sands Blockade, Yudith Nieto, who “grew up in the fence-line refining community of Manchester in Houston, TX,” was arrested. Nieto had previously participated in actions against the pipeline organized by the Blockade. Jerry Hightower, “nephew to David Hightower, whose muscadine grape vineyard was destroyed by Keystone XL construction despite protests by Tar Sands Blockade and the objections of the local community,” was also one of the people arrested.

The arrest of the Sierra Club executive director and its president marked the end of a 120-year ban against participation in civil disobedience. It indicated that a well-established environmental organization, which has played the game of beltway politics, was ready to admit the oil industry wields tremendous power over the political process. It will take protest, including nonviolent direct action, to save the Earth and humanity from climate change. [++]

When the climate crisis merits civil disobedience

With the announcement that the Sierra Club will engage in an act of civil disobedience for the first time in its 120-year history, this grassroots environmental organization is stepping up to join a long and honorable American tradition that civil rights advocates and so many others have used to strengthen American values.

In the 19th century, the searing injustice of slavery inspired Henry David Thoreau to lay out the principles of civil disobedience, even as he and other antislavery activists helped fugitive slaves reach freedom in Canada via the Underground Railroad. In the 20th century, Martin Luther King, Jr., led a courageous campaign of nonviolent resistance that ultimately prevailed over a caustic national legacy of racism and segregation. Now the threat of climate disruption, hammered home last year by wildfires, droughts, and superstorm Sandy, again tests our moral values.

Civil disobedience is the response of ordinary people to injustices committed by powerful and entrenched special interests. The NAACP and the Sierra Club share a long history fighting for justice. Both of our organizations recognize that environmental pollution and recklessness causes enormous suffering in communities of color, where people still face a hugely disproportionate share of the burden. From “Cancer Alley” on Louisiana’s Gulf Coast, to the brownfields of Camden, NJ, to the coal-ash–contaminated lands of the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians in Nevada, good people with little power suffer from the indefensible actions of rich and powerful corporations — and no corporations wield their power to more corrosive effect than those in fossil fuel industries.

Simply facing a powerful foe does not justify civil disobedience. Anyone familiar with the histories of the Sierra Club and the NAACP knows that both organizations have long and proud traditions of working within the system to effect change — through the courts, public opinion, community organizing, and the ballot box. How, then, do we choose the moment that demands something more? In truth, it is the moment that chooses us.

… [A]lthough President Obama has declared his own determination to act, much that is within his power to accomplish remains undone. Worse, he could make decisions, such as allowing the construction of a pipeline to carry millions of barrels of the most-polluting oil on Earth from Canada’s tar sands to the Gulf Coast of the U.S. — that would make it virtually impossible to stop climate disruption from spinning out of control and “betray[ing] … [his word] future generations.”

This is the moment that has chosen us. We must seize it. [more]

Will the Keystone XL Pipeline Go Down? | Michael Klare

Presidential decisions often turn out to be far less significant than imagined, but every now and then what a president decides actually determines how the world turns. Such is the case with the Keystone XL pipeline, which, if built, is slated to bring some of the “dirtiest,” carbon-rich oil on the planet from Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast.  In the near future, President Obama is expected to give its construction a definitive thumbs up or thumbs down, and the decision he makes could prove far more important than anyone imagines.  It could determine the fate of the Canadian tar-sands industry and, with it, the future well-being of the planet. [continue]