Paris: police suppress climate protests

Several thousand gathered for the planned march on the eve of the United Nations Climate Conference (COP 21) that opened in Paris Nov. 30. But the march was banned under the State of Emergency declared following the Nov. 13 terror attacks. Defying the ban on public gatherings, some 10,000 Parisians and international activists joined hands to form a human chain along Boulevard Voltaire. When they later attempted to march on Place de la République, police deployed concussion grenades, tear-gas, pepper spray and baton charges. Some 150 who made it to Place de la République were detained for hours as police surrounded and sealed off the square. At least 174 were arrested. (Revolution News)

Hundreds of thousands joined an estimated 2,300 marches and actions in 175 countries, demanding that the negotiators in Paris agree to keep fossil fuels in the ground and shift to 100% clean energy. Protests were held in many other cities around the world to place pressure on the UN climate process. (Grist)

Naomi Klein to COP protesters: Don't riot!

Well this is delicious! Leftist icon Naomi Klein, star of the show for the would-be protesters in Paris, praises the "show of defiance against that ban on protests" on Democracy Now. But those naughty anarchists at Submedia.tv call our her organization 350.org, which "distances itself from 'violent' protesters and states that they are not part of the climate movement." Submedia also reposts a video clip that poked fun at Klein for "chilling out" the climate protesters at Copenhagen in 2009, and promoting a "Chill Doctrine" (snicker). Her words were amusingly tautological: "If this turns into a riot, it's gonna be a riot. We know this story. I'm not saying it's not an interesting story, but it is what it is."

Activists under house arrest in Paris

Radio France Internationale reported Dec. 1 that 26 of the more than 300 people placed under house arrest since the Paris attacks have been "far-left activists, suspected of planning to disrupt the climate conference rather than terror plots." France24Le Monde and EurActiv elaborate that these include activists from the Nantes area who have been organizing protests against a new airport planned for Notre-Dame des Landes who had planned to hold a cross-country bicycle rally during the climate talks to opposte the project.

Expropriate the rich to save the planet

Here we go again. A sobering report from The Guardian, Dec. 2:

The world has lost a third of its arable land due to erosion or pollution in the past 40 years, with potentially disastrous consequences as global demand for food soars, scientists have warned.

New research has calculated that nearly 33% of the world's adequate or high-quality food-producing land has been lost at a rate that far outstrips the pace of natural processes to replace diminished soil.

The University of Sheffield's Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures, which undertook the study by analysing various pieces of research published over the past decade, said the loss was “catastrophic” and the trend close to being irretrievable without major changes to agricultural practices.

How depressing that even the supposedly "leftist" Guardian has to pose the question in reactionary Malthusian terms. Is this ecological collapse being driven by "global demand for food" or capitalism's demand for export cash crops? Come on.

Fortunately, there is growing awareness of how wealth inequities are driving the collapse. Inhabitat reports:

The wealthiest 10-percent of the people on the planet are causing half of the world's carbon emissions. While world leaders gather in Paris to figure out who should carry the burden of reducing global warming, Oxfam has released numbers that show that the wealthy are using more than their fair share of our resources. Meanwhile, the poorest half of the planet – the half who will suffer the consequences of climate change the most – produce a paltry 10-percent of the emissions.

Thank you

Report: world to run out of breathable air

The news just gets better and better. From TakePart via Yahoo, Dec. 3:

As representatives from 195 nations gather in Paris to hammer out a global agreement to slash greenhouse gas emissions, a new study finds that the failure to do so could leave the world gasping for breath.

Marine plants such as phytoplankton are estimated to produce more than half the Earth’s atmospheric oxygen, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. For the study, Sergei Petrovskii, an applied mathematics professor at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom, calculated how unrestrained global warming could affect phytoplankton and thus the ocean’s ability to generate breathable air. He ran computer models that looked at what would happen to phytoplankton’s ability to photosynthesize at different temperatures.

If the world's oceans warmed by 6 degrees Celsius—a realistic possibility if global emissions continue unabated—the tiny plants would halt oxygen production, according to the study, which was published Tuesday in the Bulletin of Mathematical Biology.

However, a raise of 6 degrees Celsius may not actually be that realistic. From a National Geographic factpage on "Sea Temperature Rise"...

As climate change has warmed the Earth, oceans have responded more slowly than land environments. But scientific research is finding that marine ecosystems can be far more sensitive to even the most modest temperature change.

Global warming caused by human activities that emit heat-trapping carbon dioxide has raised the average global temperature by about 1°F (0.6°C) over the past century. In the oceans, this change has only been about 0.18°F (0.1°C). This warming has occurred from the surface to a depth of about 2,300 feet (700 meters), where most marine life thrives.

Still, sobering news...

Earth's climate in 'uncharted territory'

From Climate Central, Dec. 9:

The planet reached two important climate milestones this year. The globally averaged concentration of CO2 reached 400 parts per million, and the global average temperature climbed to more than 1°C (1.8°F) above pre-industrial levels.

For hundreds of millennia, the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere underwent slow fluctuations, which largely mirrored gradual cycles in the earth's orbit and varying levels of planetary ice coverage. The levels remained below 300 ppm for more than 400,000 years. But in the last century, the burning of fossil fuels has rapidly driven atmospheric CO2 levels to new heights, overriding the natural cycle. While the monthly average levels of CO2 at Hawaii's Mauna Loa observatory exceeded 400 ppm in 2014, the globally average levels surpassed 400 ppm for the first time this year, and the rate of CO2 emissions continues to increase.

Within each year, there is a small saw-tooth pattern to the atmospheric CO2 concentration. As vegetation blossoms in the Northern Hemisphere each spring, CO2 is taken in, but returned to the atmosphere during the fall. As a result, there was a brief drop below 400 ppm this past summer. However, with winter settling in, that level will be reached again soon. Additionally, the current strong El Niño likely means more drought in tropical regions, leading to an increase in forest fires and more CO2 in the atmosphere, further suggesting the concentration is unlikely go below 400 ppm for the foreseeable future.

Massive fires related to El Niño ae already reported from the Andean region

North Pole approaches melting point...

The Washington Post reported Dec. 30, "Freak storm pushes North Pole 50 degrees above normal to melting point," raising fears for the stability of Arctic sea ice. It is linked to this year's El Niño (which BBC Mundo is saying could be most powerful yet recorded, and has dubbed "El Niño Godzilla").

But note the inherent dishonesty (or denial) of calling this a "freak" storm, when it is exactly the kind of thing climate scientists have been warning of for years. The account mentions nothing about climate change, which is simply irresponsible. As we have noted before... We are constantly being admonished that no single weather event can be attributable to climate change. But when taken together, whether these mounting examples of "global weirding" are attributable to climate change becomes a dramatically wrong question. Together, these phenomena are climate change. Asking if they are "attributable" to climate change is a classic example of missing the forest for the trees.

And, alas, this time the WaPo didn't even ask.

Coming soon: ice-free Arctic

A sobering report on Truthout notes that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are at a rate not seen "since the Pliocene epoch, which was the period 2.6 to 5.3 million years ago that saw atmospheric carbon dioxide levels between 350 and 405 parts per million and average global temperatures that ranged between 2 and 3 degrees Celsius warmer than the climate of the 1880s." While in January, a Norwegian Coast Guard icebreaker ship took an interesting trip into the Arctic. The ship found no ice to break, despite the fact that it was the dead of winter and barely 800 miles from the North Pole. Coinicidence, eh?

Sea levels set to 'rise far more rapidly than expected'

From The Guardian, March 30:

Sea levels could rise far more rapidly than expected in coming decades, according to new research that reveals Antarctica’s vast ice cap is less stable than previously thought.

The UN's climate science body had predicted up to a metre of sea level rise this century—but it did not anticipate any significant contribution from Antarctica, where increasing snowfall was expected to keep the ice sheet in balance.

According a study, published in the journal Nature, collapsing Antarctic ice sheets are expected to double sea-level rise to two metres by 2100, if carbon emissions are not cut.

Previously, only the passive melting of Antarctic ice by warmer air and seawater was considered but the new work added active processes, such as the disintegration of huge ice cliffs.

"This [doubling] could spell disaster for many low-lying cities," said Prof Robert DeConto, at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, who led the work. He said that if global warming was not halted, the rate of sea-level rise would change from millimetres per year to centimetres a year. "At that point it becomes about retreat [from cities], not engineering of defences."

[...]

The cities most at risk in richer nations include Miami, Boston and Nagoya, while cities in China, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Ivory Coast are among those most in danger in less wealthy countries.

The new research follows other recent studies warning of the possibility of ice sheet collapse in Antarctica and suggesting huge sea-level rises. But the new work suggests that major rises are possible within the lifetimes of today’s children, not over centuries.

Antarctic ice shelf as 'sword of Damocles'

From the New York Times, March 30:

For half a century, climate scientists have seen the West Antarctic ice sheet, a remnant of the last ice age, as a sword of Damocles hanging over human civilization.

The great ice sheet, larger than Mexico, is thought to be potentially vulnerable to disintegration from a relatively small amount of global warming, and capable of raising the sea level by 12 feet or more should it break up. But researchers long assumed the worst effects would take hundreds — if not thousands — of years to occur.

Now, new research suggests the disaster scenario could play out much sooner.

Continued high emissions of heat-trapping gases could launch a disintegration of the ice sheet within decades, according to a study published Wednesday, heaving enough water into the ocean to raise the sea level as much as three feet by the end of this century.

With ice melting in other regions, too, the total rise of the sea could reach five or six feet by 2100, the researchers found. That is roughly twice the increase reported as a plausible worst-case scenario by a United Nations panel just three years ago, and so high it would likely provoke a profound crisis within the lifetimes of children being born today.

As a harbinger of things to come, the account notes the 2002 incident in which an ice shelf the size of Rhode Island, the Larsen B, broke apart in two weeks...

Antarctica is melting: study

From The Independent, April 19:

Water is flowing across Antarctica in vast rivers, lakes and waterfalls and has been for decades, scientists have discovered.

While temporary meltwater streams have been encountered before by polar explorers like Ernest Shackleton, it was thought liquid water was relatively rare because the continent is so cold.

However a new study of aerial photography and satellite images found "widespread drainage of meltwater" as far south as 600km (375 miles) from the South Pole...

The researchers warned the amount of liquid they had found could increase the rate of melting on Antarctica above currently expected levels. If all the continent’s ice was lost, a process that would likely take centuries, this would raise sea levels by about 60m worldwide.

A paper about the research in the journal Nature said: "Large-scale surface drainage could deliver water to areas of ice shelves vulnerable to collapse, as melt rates increase this century..."

Professor Jonathan Kingslake, a glaciologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, said their findings had been a surprise.

"This is not in the future – this is widespread now, and has been for decades," he said.

Record annual increase of carbon dioxide: NOAA

The annual growth rate of atmospheric carbon dioxide measured at NOAA's Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii jumped by 3.05 parts per million in 2015, the largest year-to-year increase in 56 years of monitoring. In another first, 2015 was the fourth consecutive year that CO2 grew more than 2 ppm, said Pieter Tans, lead scientist of NOAA's Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network. "Carbon dioxide levels are increasing faster than they have in hundreds of thousands of years," Tans said. "It's explosive compared to natural processes." (NOAA, March 9)

Global warming is changing Earth's wobble

Global warming is changing the way the Earth wobbles on its polar axis, a new NASA study finds. Melting ice sheets, especially in Greenland, are changing the distribution of weight on Earth—causing both the North Pole and the wobble, which is called "polar motion," to change course, according to a study published in the journal Science Advances.

Scientists and navigators have measured the true pole and polar wobble since 1899, and for almost the entire 20th century they have both migrated slightly toward Canada. But that has changed this century, with a movement toward England, according to study lead author Surendra Adhikari at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab. "The recent shift from the 20th-century direction is very dramatic," Adhikari said.

The change is supposedly "harmless," but inidicative of how human activity is changing planetary systems. Since 2003, Greenland has lost an average of more than 272 trillion kilograms of ice per year. (The Guardian, April 8)

Nobody's gonna take my car, I'm gonna race it till I drown....

From AP, Nov. 3:

90 miles in your car melts a foot of Arctic sea ice
Driving a gas-powered car about 90 miles—the distance between New York and Philadelphia—melts about a square foot of Arctic sea ice in the critical month of September, according to a new study that directly links carbon pollution to the amount of ice that’s thawing.

At current carbon emission levels, the Arctic will likely be free of sea ice in September around mid-century, which could make weather even more extreme and strand some polar animals, a study published Thursday in the journal Science finds.

The study calculates that for every ton of carbon dioxide pu