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Atmospheric CO2 Crosses "Ominous Threshold"Monday, 16 June 2014 09:01 By Dahr Jamail, Truthout | News Analysis
(Image: Heat guage via Shutterstock; Edited: JR / TO)Despite the widespread governmental denial of anthropogenic climate disruption, many signs indicate we are already past the point of no return, headed toward a "dead planet."
- "I am poor and naked, but I am the chief of the nation. We do not want riches but we do want to train our children right. Riches would do us no good. We could not take them with us to the other world. We do not want riches."
- - Red Cloud, Oglala Lakota Sioux
- - Red Cloud, Oglala Lakota Sioux
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However, Kevin Bundy with the Center for Biological Diversity's Climate Law Institute was unimpressed, commenting, "This is like fighting a wildfire with a garden hose - we're glad the president has finally turned the water on, but it's just not enough to get the job done."
Given the increasingly rapid pace of the impacts of runaway anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD), Bundy's remark is well placed, and these recent machinations by the Obama administration are clearly too little, far too late.
This April was the second-warmest April on record globally, and marked the 350th month in a row (29 years and counting) that saw above-average temperatures.
Temperatures continue to rise across the planet.
In Australia, the last two years have been the hottest ever recorded, and there's no sign that the heat wave is going to stop any time soon, according to a recently released report. According to data compiled by Australia's Climate Council, the period from May 2012 to April 2014 was the hottest 24-month period ever recorded in the country, and the trend is increasing .
New NOAA data shows that this past April tied 2010's April as the hottest April since recordkeeping began, and Tropical Cyclone Amanda in the Pacific was the strongest May hurricane ever recorded.
Meanwhile, even broader impacts of ACD continue to make themselves evident. A new report shows that the world's oceans are acidifying ten times faster than they did 56 million years ago during an upheaval that caused a large die-off of planetary species and from which the planet took 70,000 years to recover. During that period, like now, a wave of CO2 surged into the atmosphere and raised global temperatures, and scientists believe that ocean acidification was the cause of the crisis.
The Arctic Ocean is leading the way in acidification. Just as there is a long lag time between increasing greenhouse gas emissions and increased temperature, changes in ocean acidity lag very far behind alterations in atmospheric carbon dioxide, according to the February 2014 issue of Environmental Research Letters.
All of these ominous signs point toward a world heading into a very stark future; they indicate that we are already past the point of no return.I was recently on a news program with Arctic sea ice expert Dr. Peter Wadhams from Cambridge University, who spoke of his 2008 prediction that by 2015 there would begin to be ice-free periods in the Arctic. As I've written in this column before, the US Navy predicts an ice-free Arctic by summer 2016, but this is a year later than expected by the UK Parliament, which points out that the six lowest September ice extents have occurred in the last six years.
The February 2014 issue of Geophysical Research Letters showed that sea-surface temperatures have increased 0.5 to 1.5 degrees Celsius during the last decade, and underscored the fact that the seven lowest September sea ice extents in the satellite record have all occurred in the past seven years.
All of these ominous signs point toward a world heading into a very stark future; they indicate that we are already past the point of no return.
This month's tour of how each sector of the earth is being impacted by ACD illustrates that we are well underway in that progression.
This year's Endangered Species Day reminded us of five more well-known species that are threatened with extinction due to ACD, including the grizzly bear and wild salmon. This is in addition to the 150-200 species that are already going extinct daily.
The Sahara desert, which had already been shown to be expanding due to ACD-infused desertification, is now growing even more rapidly, increasing the potential for displacing millions of people and increasing conflict over scarce resources in North Africa.
Costa Rica's Tico Times reported that the number of cases of dengue fever in Latin America have quintupled in the last ten years, affecting 2.3 million people in 2013 alone. The figures produced by the Pan American Health Organization are being attributed, in part, to ACD.
The expanding range of Lyme disease is being driven by climate change, as warming temperatures are allowing new populations of the tick vector to establish themselves in regions that were once too cold. A new study revealed the relationship between warmer temperatures and the tick's expansion into Canada.
Canadian farmers and politicians who once believed that ACD would expand their growing seasons and increase crop yields are now seeing that this was wishful thinking.
As disconcerting as it is to see the incredibly fast disappearing act of Arctic sea ice, it is equally troubling to note that Antarctica's rate of ice loss has increased 50 percent in the first decade of the 2000s, according to a recent research paper.
Measurements by the European Space Agency's CryoSat-2 satellite show that the Antarctic ice sheet is now losing 159 billion tons of ice each year, a rate twice as high as when it was last surveyed. Furthermore, several other recent studies underscore scientists' concerns that we are heading toward a coastline at least 69 feet higher in the future.
The rise is already occurring, of course. Historic sites in Annapolis are under threat from the rising waters of Chesapeake Bay.
Overall, oceans warming from ACD are causing the single largest movement of marine species in two million years. A recent study revealed how swarms of venomous jellyfish and poisonous algae are migrating into British waters due to warming ocean temperatures. Plankton sampling in the north Atlantic has also shown that other species of plankton that are normally only found in the Pacific Ocean have now become common in the Atlantic.
Massive flooding events linked to ACD abound.
By 2100, Southern England is predicted to receive at least five times as many sudden summer rainstorms as it does now, according to advanced climate modeling.
The Balkans saw flooding last month that affected more than a quarter of Bosnians, and the destruction, which Bosnia's foreign minister called "terrifying," was compared to that of the country's brutal 1992-95 war. The flooding, which was the worst seen in southeastern Europe in more than 100 years, killed 35 people, destroyed 100,000 homes and left entire villages underwater. It has been linked directly to ACD.
ACD is causing a new form of pollution, as a new study shows microplastics frozen in Arctic sea ice are being released into the now-open waters.Rising oceans continue to threaten people around the globe. People who live on the tiny south Pacific island of Kiribati are seeing their lives threatened, as rising seas are contaminating delicate freshwater lenses under the atolls and causing their precious arable lands to become increasingly saline.
Rising seas are threatening coastal areas of Delaware, where people are witnessing high tides rivaling those seen during Hurricane Irene in August 2011. Norfolk, Virginia is also experiencing higher tides, where normal tides have risen 1.5 feet over the last century. The sea is rising faster there than anywhere else on the eastern seaboard.
ACD is causing a new form of pollution, as a new study shows microplastics frozen in Arctic sea ice are being released into the now-open waters.
Across the entire Arctic, scientists are logging increasing negative health effects they are linking to ACD, including an increase in rickets, Vitamin D deficiency, and an increase in waterborne diseases.
New research shows that Greenland's glaciers are more susceptible to melting than previously thought, which means that current projections of sea-level rise are too low once again.
The Athabasca glacier in Canada, the continent's most visited glacier, is losing more than five meters of ice every year and is now in danger of disappearing within a generation.
The number of glaciers in the Himalaya has increased from 3,080 in 1980 to 3,430 in 2010 due to fragmentation caused by ADC. Ice levels within said glaciers has also shrunk from 441.36 cubic meters in 1980 down to 312.4 cubic meters in 2010.
With climbing tourism still reeling from the single deadliest climbing accident in the history of Mount Everest earlier this season, Nepal opted to open up 104 new mountains for climbing. However, with another avalanche killing three more climbers, new ACD research shows how quickly the country's glaciers are melting and how this will only increase the likelihood of avalanches in the future, making more and more mountains, including Everest, likely becoming impossible to climb.
New research is showing that as temperatures continue to rise and more precipitation falls as rain rather than snow, we will see a potentially disastrous reduction in the overall volume of water in streams and rivers, as this is leading to less water for irrigating crops as well as less drinking water.
This phenomenon is being made abundantly clear in drought-stricken California, where 100 percent of the state was in one of the three worst stages of drought, according to the US drought monitor. A recent study by researchers at the University of California, Davis shows that severe economic impacts lie ahead in the state where many of the nation's fruits, nuts and vegetables are grown, and the impacts are estimated to cost around $1.7 billion and 14,500 jobs.
As a result of the ongoing drought, counties in the farm-rich Central Valley are now issuing record numbers of drilling permits for new water wells; some are waiting a year, due to the growing backlog.
Looking east, ACD is causing yields in the US Corn Belt to likely drop by 30 percent, as crops continue to become increasingly sensitive to drought and because of increasingly drier air of a warming world, according to scientists. Oklahoma, where drought and wildfires continue to take their toll, wheat farmers are bracing for the worst as rainfall totals in the southwestern part of the state are inches below normal and are negatively impacting wheat crops.
Pakistan, which has seen some biblical flooding within the last decade, is also now facing water threats. Less snowfall and melting glaciers in the Himalaya amount to a lack of adequate water supplies, and farmers in Northern Pakistan are fearing for the survival of their summer crops.
In the Netherlands, a multibillion-euro program continues to reshape the watery nation, where lands are being given back to rivers and meanders are being cut back into flood plains, all as part of a back-to-nature approach that is reversing centuries of battling against water.
Along with massive drought and wildfires, California has other troubles. Having just experienced its warmest winter ever recorded, the long-term outlook for warming temperatures in the Napa Valley region does not bode well for winemakers. Warming air is also causing an increasing number of tropical storms to migrate farther north and south towards the poles over the last 30 years, which, of course, is speeding up polar melting.
A recent study shows that hurricanes will likely threaten cities like never before, as the aforementioned migration trends continue.
British scientists found three new potentially damaging gases in the atmosphere, whose global warming potential could be 10,000 times that of CO2.Summer temperatures across the US have been warming consistently since 1970, according to recent data, and CO2 levels throughout the entire northern hemisphere hit 400ppm for the first time in human history in April, according to the World Meteorological Organization.
Last but most certainly not least in this section, British scientists found three new potentially damaging gases in the atmosphere, whose global warming potential could be 10,000 times that of CO2. While the gases are found in relatively small amounts, one is estimated to be 127 times stronger than CO2, and the two others are CFC's, which are likely to be 5,000 to 10,000 times more potent than CO2.
In the US, wildfire season has barely begun, but it already looks to be another record setter - and the historical context for it is already set. Since 1984, the area burned by wildfires in the West has increased by 87,700 acres each year, according to an April study published in Geophysical Research Letters. According to federal government records, the top five years with the most acres burned all occurred in the last decade.
From 2010 to 2013, about 6.4 million acres a year burned on average; in the 1980s it was 2.9 million acres a year.
This year's fire season has kicked off with an early and powerful start, as the US West fire season now lasts 75 days longer than it did just one decade ago. From eastern Oregon down to Southern California, and over to the panhandle of Oklahoma, fire conditions are primed as the entire Southwest is struggling to adapt to ACD's year-round fire season.
California saw nearly four dozen wildfires before "normal" fire season even began.
May found 100 percent of California to be in severe (or worse) drought, and the conditions even produced a fire tornado during one of the wildfires. Meanwhile, the drought in Texas was on course to become the third worst in the last 500 years.
Early May wildfires in Texas, most of which remains stuck in a record-breaking three-year drought, destroyed at least 100 homes and forced the evacuation of 700 to 800 people. A NOAA meteorologist said there was a possibility the drought there could continue for another few years. At the time of this writing approximately 83 percent of the state was experiencing some form of drought, even forcing residents of one town to turn to recycled sewage water to use as their drinking water.
Ninety-seven percent of New Mexico is under some form of drought conditions, with the majority under "severe" to "exceptional" drought. A massive wildfire in Oklahoma left at least one person dead and forced over 1,000 people to evacuate as the wildfire burned through about 3,500 acres near Guthrie, OK and destroyed more than 30 structures.
Even Alaska is not being spared, as an early June wildfire south of Anchorage on the Kenai Peninsula doubled in size. Its smoke plume was visible from space, and could be seen stretching beyond Kodiak Island and well into the Gulf of Alaska.
Denial and Reality
Despite the constant deluge of scientific data and reports about the apocalyptic impacts of ACD, a race to see who can be the biggest climate idiot is ongoing in US politics.
In Alaska, a senate race has spawned fierce competition to prove who knows the least about climate science. Tea Party-affiliated candidate Joe Miller is claiming to be the only ACD skeptic in the bunch, and said his opponents had "joined with climate change alarmists," despite one of them having openly questioned the validity of climate science, while another opponent had led the effort in the US Supreme Court to strip the EPA of its authority to regulate greenhouse gases.
In Texas, a new GOP platform is calling on politicians to ignore ACD, along with pushing for the elimination of environmental regulations.
On the federal level, the House voted to deny climate science.Dick Cheney's home state of Wyoming is rejecting education on human climate influence. There, founder of the conservative think tank Wyoming Liberty Group Susan Gore said that new national science standards for schools were a form of "coercion," asserting, "I don't think government should have anything to do with education."
On the federal level, the House voted to deny climate science, and has moved to tie the Pentagon's hands regarding its ability to respond to ACD.
Meanwhile, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, which has played a leading role in raising awareness of the perils of ACD is experiencing a severe budget crisis as federal research funding is being slashed. The organization is now making up budget shortfalls by helping oil and gas companies identify new sources of the very fossil fuels that are damaging the environment.
Despite state and federal government denials, those on the frontlines of ACD have no question about the reality of the situation.
Farmers in California do not have to be sold on the reality of what their state government must do in order to address the impacts of ACD, while in Kansas, communities in the grip of a multi-year drought are learning how to save water while taking showers by keeping buckets at their feet, and even to save water from their rooftops by collecting rainwater with collection barrels under their gutters.
A panel of 16 retired three- and four-star generals and admirals blamed a warming planet for aggravating tensions between nations, and stated that ACD is a "catalyst for conflict."Britain now faces the risk of malaria as ACD is causing mosquitoes to thrive from warming weather. Meanwhile, rising sea levels in the northeastern US are causing city and state officials to investigate ways of changing how buildings and key infrastructure projects are designed, in anticipation of future trends of stronger storms from ACD.
Despite the ACD denial prevalent in the federal government, a panel of 16 retired three- and four-star generals and admirals blamed a warming planet for aggravating tensions between nations, and stated that ACD is a "catalyst for conflict."
Militaries around the globe are acutely aware of the melting Arctic ice cap, and are well underway in their preparations towards strategic control of waterways and oil, gas and mineral deposits there that are sure to be exploited.
On a more local level, summer flounder populations are migrating further north along the east coast in the US, setting the stage for a battle between East Coast states on how to share the business of harvesting the fish.
The EPA recently added four new trends to its ever-growing list of indicators that signal that ACD is happening now. The four trends are Lyme disease (the number of Lyme disease incidents have doubled since 1991), heating and cooling degree days (trends directly or indirectly related to ACD), wildfires (nine of the ten years with the largest acreage burned by wildfires have occurred since 2000), and temperatures in the Great Lakes (which are consistently rising).
Climatologist Bill Patzert at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab warned, "A pattern of sea surface heights and temperatures has formed that reminds me of the way the Pacific looked in the spring of 1997. That turned out to be the precursor of a big El Niño." The tipping point for declaring a significant El Niño will be an even longer-lasting, larger collapse in Pacific trade winds, possibly signaling a shift in weather all around our planet.
Meanwhile, the World Meteorological Organization warned that "time is running out," as CO2 hit the aforementioned northern hemispheric 400ppm milestone, that is also a well-known "ominous threshold" for ACD.
ACD-warmed streams in Montana are pushing a native trout species towards extinction, while another recent study showed that plants and animals are becoming extinct at least 1,000 times faster than they did before humans arrived on the planet, and that the world is already beginning to experience the sixth great extinction event.
An increasing number of scientists agree that warming of 4 to 6 degrees Celsius causes a dead planet.All of this has even caused the Pope to make the biblical case for mitigating the effects of ACD, when he recently declared to a massive crowd in Rome that destroying the earth is a sin.
Nevertheless, all signs say we've already gone off the cliff regarding runaway ACD.
A new report from the conservative International Energy Agency (IEA) shows that ongoing and increasing fossil-fuel reliance has placed the world on track for a 3.6-degree Celsius degree rise in temperature. This IEA report, along with several others, continues to show that the world is most certainly looking at a global increase in temperature of between 3 and 6 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial baseline by 2100. An increasing number of scientists agree that warming of 4 to 6 degrees Celsius causes a dead planet.
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