“Until Americans ‘care’ enough to take climate change seriously, it is unlikely the political arena will change much. The curious thing to watch is how the US, collectively or individually, ends up interpreting relevant information. Each energy industry will naturally compete to prove why it is the best, the right choice for America’s future. But what are American’s going to believe, or use as a method to discern what is right? […]“
The clathrate gun hypothesis is the popular name given to the hypothesis that rises in sea temperatures (and/or falls in sea level) can trigger the sudden release of methane from methane clathrate compounds buried in seabeds and permafrost which, because the methane itself is a powerful greenhouse gas, leads to further temperature rise and further methane clathrate destabilization – in effect initiating a runaway process as irreversible, once started, as the firing of a gun.
In its original form, the hypothesis proposed that the “clathrate gun” could cause abrupt runaway warming in a timescale less than a human lifetime, and might be responsible for warming events in and at the end of the last ice age. This is now thought unlikely.
However, there is stronger evidence that runaway methane clathrate breakdown may have caused drastic alteration of the ocean environment and the atmosphere of earth on a number of occasions in the past, over timescales of tens of thousands of years; most notably in connection with the Permian extinction event, when 96% of all marine species became extinct 251 million years ago.
“I don’t think we’ll have the luxury of a clear, compelling, obvious directive to follow – at least in terms of taking significant action on climate change. In part of how the argument is mentioned today, it’s basically an argument against a theoretically bad outcome, which is not exactly the most motivating thing for human beings. If something ‘could’ go wrong, but ‘maybe isn’t going to’, then why bother – why not let someone else take the fall and see where it goes, before you have to do anything about it? In many ways I see the climate change ‘debate’ as having some motivation along those lines. The problem is that if we do collect all of the evidence necessary, and use planet earth as an actual ‘case study’ — and the case study turns out that we royally messed up our planet, we don’t get another try, or ‘restart’. There is no reset button…”
There’s a new scientific paper out in the journal Nature called “Approaching a state shift in Earth’s biosphere.” In a sane world, it would be front page news. This is from the abstract:
Localized ecological systems are known to shift abruptly and irreversibly from one state to another when they are forced across critical thresholds. Here we review evidence that the global ecosystem as a whole can react in the same way and is approaching a planetary-scale critical transition as a result of human influence. [my emphasis]
As examples of past global state shifts, the authors cite the Cambrian explosion (“a conversion of the global ecosystem from one based almost solely on microbes to one based on complex, multicellular life,” which took a comparatively brief 30 million years), the Big Five mass extinctions, and the last glacial-interglacial transition, which started about 14 thousand years ago.
The number of major forest fires in B.C. will likely increase by 50 per cent or more in the next 40 years according to a recent report on climate change.
Telling the Weather Story, released this week by the Insurance Bureau of Canada, addresses altering weather patterns across the country in the coming decades and urges Canadians to adjust to the realities of climate change.
The study predicts B.C. can expect an increase in wildfires over the average of nearly 2,000 blazes a year between 2000 and 2010. Furthermore, the province will likely see a host of other weather-related issues like warmer temperatures, declining — and, in some regions, disappearing — mountain snowpacks, more intense rainfall during the winter, and drier summers. The number of wildfires sparked by lightning strikes — responsible for nearly 60 per cent of fires — is also expected to rise.
“It’s not a just a possibility,” said Dr. Gordon McBean, the report’s lead researcher. “There’s a very real probability it will happen.”
12 March 2012 – An unprecedented rise in the demand for food, rapid urbanization and climate change are significantly threatening global water supplies, according to a United Nations report released today, which stresses that a radical new approach to managing this essential resource is needed to be able to sustain future consumption levels.
The UN World Water Development Report, which will be launched at the World Water Forum in Marseille, estimates that there will be a 70 per cent increase in demand for food by the year 2050, leading to a 19 per cent surge in water used for agriculture. At the moment, 70 per cent of freshwater is already being used for agricultural purposes.
“Freshwater is not being used sustainably, according to needs and demands,” states the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Irina Bokova, in the report’s foreword. “Accurate information remains disparate, and management is fragmented. In this context, the future is increasingly uncertain and risks are set to deepen.”
The report, entitled “Managing Water under Uncertainty and Risk,” notes that to respond to growing demand, countries have tapped into underground water sources, with water extraction tripling over the past 50 years. However, in some underground basins, water cannot be replenished and is now at critically low levels.
It seems there is, perhaps under the radar, a consensus about some of the biggest challenges of our day - who is it? It is going to involve pointing the finger at ourselves. This comes from a debate (or blame game) about who should take the lead - private industry, governments, NGOs, no one? Again I am reminded of another article about public opinion and it’s relation to (responsibility to address?) the larger issues we are facing. “Civic engagement”, a phrase from my undergrad comes to mind. Public will to push for R&D, public will to push for solutions to the global (and domestic) economic troubles. Public will, perhaps as this latest article states, to move people towards a more enlightened perspective about the consequences of our interactions; towards conceiving a sustainable future…
[QUOTE]… said Thomas Dietz, assistant vice president for environmental research at Michigan State University. (SOURCE)
Information plays a much smaller role than we like to think, Dietz explained. In order to truly address big issues like climate change or sustainability, we need to talk at a society-wide scale about our values and reach mutual understanding about the values needed for sustainability.
“However, we don’t like to talk about our values or feelings, because it threatens our personal identity.”
Engaging the public
Treating nature as an object, separate and distinct from us, is part of the problem, said Sacha Kagan, sociologist at Leuphana University in Germany. The current environmental crisis results from technological thinking and a fear of complexity that science alone cannot help us with, Kagan said.
The objectification of the natural world began during the Age of Enlightenment about 300 years ago. People saw the world and their place in it in very different ways before that, said Robinson.
Today, he said, sustainability will not be achieved without “engaging people in numbers and at levels that have never been done before”.
For more of my thoughts throughout the week and to see what news I’m following, I invite you to join the conversation via Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr. Or visit my main website, INFLUENCE with Jesse Parent to view Case Studies, Reports, Editorials and more.
I am saddened much by this. But not surprised.
GLEICK: … My judgment was blinded by my frustration with the ongoing efforts — often anonymous, well-funded, and coordinated — to attack climate science and scientists and prevent this debate, and by the lack of transparency of the organizations involved.
The broader tragedy is that his decision to go to such extremes in his fight with Heartland has greatly set back any prospects of the country having the “rational public debate” that he wrote — correctly — is so desperately needed.
A country to watch develop in the 21st century, China’s impact on climate change, the global economy, and development in general will be historic.
Can Smarter Growth Guide
China’s Urban Building Boom?
The world has never seen anything like China’s dizzying urbanization boom, which has taken a heavy environmental toll. But efforts are now underway to start using principles of green design and smart growth to guide the nation’s future development.
Coal money, generated by one of the world’s largest open-pit mines, has built a new Ordos, a municipality in the Chinese province of Inner Mongolia. A modern city is rising there from the steppes, featuring monumental government buildings, an imposing museum, and row after row of apartment buildings and subdivisions, all designed to accommodate more than a million new residents. Spacious roads wait for cars to zoom between residential and commercial areas or feed into the highway that leads to the existing — and inhabited — old city, some 15 miles away. But cars and people remain sparse.
Ordos is emblematic of China’s urbanization boom, a construction frenzy unlike anything seen in the history of the planet. Today, half of the nation’s 1.35 billion people live in cities. From the outskirts of Shenyang in the cold northeast to the mountainous precincts of Kunming in the subtropical southwest, buildings are rising to accommodate the people now crowding into the 170 cities in China that host more than a million residents. Across the country, construction firms have built some 2 billion square meters of new apartments, offices, and skyscrapers annually in recent years. The national bird of China has become the construction crane.