IBI Watch 9/30/12

30 09 2012

Real Climate Gates   //

No, this is not about ‘Climategate,’ that pseudo-scandal whipped up around climate scientists’ emails.  This is about real gateways that our  changing climate is zipping through, thanks to our pumping 90 million tons of carbon dioxide daily into the atmosphere.  These are one-way gates.  The global climate will not go back to anything like it was in human lifetimes – many human generations in fact.

The recent record summer Arctic ice melt (obliterating the 2007 record) got me thinking again about an important concept I learned from Tim Flannery’s excellent book, The WeatherMakers.  There is no doubt that the melting Arctic ice cap is one of those gates.  It will have wide implications that will become clearer in the very near future.  Here is one view.  And it turns out that the summer ice is not all that is melting in the Far North.  To no great surprise, springtime snow is melting faster – as reported by NPR this week.  All this melting builds feedbacks.  Why?  It’s the albedo, or reflectivity of surfaces.  Darker surfaces – land and ocean (i.e. surfaces covered until recently by snow and ice) absorb more heat, causing more melting, producing more dark surfaces, and on and on.  What is the most reflective, (atmosphere-cooling) surface?  Snow covering a glacier.  Uh-oh.

But back to those climate gates.  Here are a few documented by Flannery:

  • Western Pacific ocean temperatures – from 1945-55, those temps were often below 66.5 degrees F.  Since 1976, they are rarely below 77.
  • Also since 1976, the balance between El Niño and La Niña has been off, in favor of El Niño (warmer Pacific waters, surprise!)
  • Since 1998, the western Pacific temps have jumped again, so they are now often above 86 degrees F.
  • Also since 1998, the jet stream has moved toward the North Pole, and recently has become more wobbly.

And to top it off, here is another feedback angle – what happens when peat burns on a massive scale in Siberia?  Hint, the effects drift way beyond Siberia.

So why does all this matter?  It becomes clearer by the day, with extreme weather becoming the norm.  And here are some looks at the impact on people.  First, a new report on climate vulnerability, i.e., those most at risk in this new era of manmade climate chaos.  Next, a projection of the incredible level of human suffering that has already begun.  Third, a summary of effects posted by the Environmental Defense Fund – a deserving organization.  And finally – I have long thought that when the insurance industry starts taking notice, policy may finally start shifting toward the sustainable.  Well, at least the first part of that change is happening, as reported in Mother Jones.

Now, with a crisis of this proportion, one would think that a rational, proportional response would be well under way.  One would think.  To be sure, good work is being done to wake people up and turn the massive ship of policy.  Here are a few examples.  First, check this article covering the recent certification training presented by the Climate Reality Project – attended by this blogger. And here is a short video presented by chief spokesperson for that group – former Vice President Al Gore.  Of course, not everything being done or contemplated can be called ‘good,’  From the insanity desk, for instance, we have the prospect of deliberately messing with the climate system in a hubristic, flailing attempt to right the wrongs we have done to the earth that has nurtured us.  Did I mention that I think geoengineering is collective suicide?  But returning to positive responses, here is a well-thought article from Grist (excellent source, that site is) covering three categories of actions to take.  And finally, from elsewhere in the same site, an entertaining and informative quiz to test your preparedness to take on the thankless task of changing Fox ‘News’-addled minds on the reality of the climate crisis.

More Junk Food for Cows; Better Health for People and the Planet

Thanks to a persistent and deepening drought in the American heartland, cattle are ‘enjoying’ some new diet enhancements.  Of course, there is a bright side to this odd story.  These foodstuffs – surplus gummy worms, ice cream sprinkles, etc. – are at least being put to some use.  And that means the resources used in their production are not completely going to waste.  But this reminded me of one of the single most important things we can do to benefit the environment.  As changes go, it is also pretty easy to make – eat less meat.   You may be surprised at the size of the difference that will make.  And it also reminded me of a group that I have been meaning to feature.  Operation Missing Link protested outside the Climate Reality training in San Francisco.  I stopped and chatted, and told them I supported their cause.  I also told them I would link to their site.

ALEC – Impressive, Destructive

I have written about the American Legislative Exchange Council before.  The group has finally been getting more well-deserved attention lately.  The power wielded by this organization virtually screams for attention.  If you have not heard of ALEC, this introduction from their web site can help . . . sort of.  The American Legislative Exchange Council works to advance the fundamental principles of free-market enterprise, limited government, and federalism at the state level through a nonpartisan public-private partnership of America’s state legislators, members of the private sector and the general public.

Sounds good, eh?  Who can argue with a process that involves partnership and ‘the general public?  Moving beyond the propaganda, Bill Moyers’ latest Moyers and Company does an impressive job explaining what these guys are up to – flying an under-the-radar mission to turn America into a permanent corporatist ‘paradise.’  The ultimate goal here, of course – one the group has made significant progress on – is the privatization of virtually everything.  I like to think of it this way – if there is something, anything, that is ‘public,’ it means some megamillionaire is being ‘cheated’ out of the chance to make more millions.  Pity, that.  Probably the most amazing thing about ALEC’s rise and striking success is this – it is not treated as a lobbying organization, but an ‘educational’ group.  You will know enough about ALEC to be aghast after watching the Moyers show.  This adds to an excellent interview from Terry Gross’s Fresh Air a while back.  A memory from that interview for me was the absolute sham of public involvement in this corporate horse-trading market.  Both the Moyers and Gross treatments might make you ask the question posed by this new book.

ALEC is near the center of what I consider the biggest challenge facing the American system – corporate money in politics.  I was happy to hear of a new initiative at the end of the Moyers show – ALICE.  Meet ALICE here and here.  Not a corporate shill in sight.  It also seems a good time to plug one of my favorite causes – the Move to Amend.  Our democracy – what is left of it – depends on reversing Citizens United.  And that is just for starters.

Obama Victory Projected?  Not so Fast!

Most recent polls show President Obama widening his lead in several key battleground states, most notably Ohio.  Things are looking good for the Democratic incumbent.  But some of us remember the deep past, like 2004.  Expect a raft of dirty tricks, not limited to voter suppression, er, ah, that is voter ID enforcement.  The New York Times’ Charles Blow agrees.  I particularly liked the nod to Donald Rumsfeld.  Think it can’t happen?  If you have the chance, ask Senator John Kerry.  Or just check this link.  Remember which candidate the massive piles of Supreme-Court-empowered corporate cash are supporting.  Yup, there’s that money-in-politics thing again.

Indentured Servers

The high-and-mighty financial masters of the baseball universe (long ago and far away, my favorite baseball team in the universe), find themselves mired in yet another greed-entangled mess.  It seems that, in order to protect that mountain of profits, they have to cheat their humblest workers out of their tips.  What is chump change to this elitist institution is big bucks to waiters.  Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of haughty capitalists.  Ah, it brings back fond memories of 2009.  Every empty seat costing the empire $2500.  This new story reflects that nostalgia, and tells how the greed beat goes on.  Anybody seen Gordon Gekko lately?

“It’s easier to fool people than to convince them they have been fooled.”  – Mark Twain

Blogger – Michael Murphy, St. Paul MN

Contributed links to this posting –Jeff Carlson, Allyson Harper

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