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The Silence on Global Warming

Harrowing predictions of climate scientists are coming true, as glaciers melt, forests burn, heat waves proliferate and freakish weather strikes in unexpected places. But the propagandists of global-warming denial have succeeded in silencing most politicians and the mainstream press. Written by Robert Parry


File Photo credit: Brittney Misialek, former WGN-TV intern.

Something called a “derecho” – a fast-moving line of thunderstorms – strikes the Washington area knocking out power for days. Massive forest fires ravage Colorado. A record heat wave covers much of the country. The U.S. press treats these events as major stories, but two words are rarely mentioned: “global warming.”

What has become most striking about the growing evidence that climate change is a clear and present danger – indeed an emerging existential threat – is the simultaneous failure of the U.S. news media to deal seriously with the issue, another sign of how the Right can intimidate the mainstream into going silent.

Evan Vucci/AP In Pictures: Extreme weather 2012

We have seen this pattern before, as the Right sets the media agenda by bullying those who threaten its ideological interests. Before the Iraq War, anyone who dared raise questions about the Bush administration’s justifications could expect to be marginalized or worse. Just ask Phil Donahue, Scott Ritter and the Dixie Chicks.

During Ronald Reagan’s presidency, his hard-nosed propagandists dubbed this tactic “controversializing,” that is, anyone who got too much in the way could expect to be subjected to systematic smears and professional deconstruction. With so many right-wing voices willing to say almost anything, it wasn’t hard to intimidate people.

The smart career play was always to retreat when these forces were arrayed against you. Why risk your six- or seven-figure salary on some issue when there are so many other stories that you can work on without all the grief?


Shelf cloud from the developing derecho in Chicago on June 29, 2012. Image Credit: NWS Meteorologist Samuel Shea

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Sarah Palin – Oh No!

Wake me from this nightmare…………. please!!!!!!


Palin: The Real Scandal

By Leonard Doyle in Anchorage
Saturday, 6 September 2008

Seen from the air, Sarah Palin’s state is an environmental wonderland. From Anchorage to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, there is a vast landscape of snow-capped peaks, fjords, crystal glaciers, coastal lagoons, wide river deltas and tundra.

The guardian of this wilderness – and Governor of Alaska – has, this week, become one of the most recognisable faces in the world. But behind her beaming smile and wholesome family values is a woman aligned with the big oil and coal firms that are racing to exploit Alaska’s vast energy reserves. In the short term, that has bought her popularity at home.

“I love the woman,” the pilot on our flight shouts over the noise of the engine, “especially what she wants to do with oil, we just have to drill more, there is no alternative. What’s the point of leaving it all in the ground?”

It is a stance that guaranteed John McCain’s new running mate a rapturous reception at the Republican convention this week where the response to the coming energy crisis was a chant of “drill, baby, drill”.

But the woman who could soon be a 72-year-old’s heartbeat away from the United States presidency has an environmental policy so toxic it would make the incumbent, George Bush, blush.

Mr McCain has stressed he is concerned about global warming and has come out against drilling in the Arctic reserve. But, in recent weeks, he has wobbled on the issue. And environmentalists are describing Mrs Palin, who denies climate change is man-made, as “either grossly misinformed or intentionally misleading”.

She wants to start drilling. She wants to block US moves to list the polar bear as an endangered species. And she has allowed big game hunters to shoot Alaska’s bears and wolves from low-flying planes.

The 44-year-old governor says a federal government decision to protect the polar bear will cripple energy development offshore. As a result, she is suing the Bush administration, which ruled the polar bear is endangered and needs protection.

The US Geological Survey says climate change has shrunk Arctic summer sea ice to about 1.65 million sq miles, nearly 40 per cent less than the long-term average between 1979 and 2000.

In such a situation it was unconscionable for Governor Palin to ignore overwhelming evidence of global warming’s threat to sea ice, says Kassie Siegel of the Centre for Biological Diversity.

“Even the Bush administration can’t deny the reality of global warming,” Ms Siegel said. “The governor is aligning herself and the state of Alaska with the most discredited, fringe, extreme viewpoints by denying this.”

Governor Palin would also like to bring open-cast coal mining to Alaska’s Brooks Range Mountains, an act of environmental vandalism in the eyes of many.

The Palin administration has allowed Chevron to triple the amount of toxic waste it pours into the waters of Cook Inlet. This, even though the number of beluga whales in the bay has collapsed from 1,300 to 350 – the point of extinction – because of pollution and increased ship traffic.

On the Republican convention floor she said: “We Americans need to produce more of our own oil and gas and take it from a gal who knows the North Slope of Alaska: We’ve got lots of both.”

The fact that drilling won’t solve every problem “is no excuse to do nothing at all”, she said, putting the country on notice that “starting in January, in a McCain-Palin administration, we’re going to lay more pipelines … build more nuclear plants … create jobs with clean coal … and move forward on solar, wind, geothermal and other alternative sources”.

Mrs Palin also took a swipe at Barack Obama’s environmental stance saying: “What does he actually seek to accomplish, after he’s done turning back the waters and healing the planet?”

Her support in Alaska relies on squeezing more money for the state from the oil companies themselves. In Alaska, every man woman and child is in line for a bonus cheque of about $2,000 (£1,100) from the state’s massive oil wealth fund. This is, in effect, a vote-buying machine for the would-be Vice-President.

Governor Palin wants nothing to hinder the oil companies. She maintains that polar bears are well managed and their population has dramatically increased over 30 years as a result of conservation. And if the ice should go away, then they will adapt to living on the land.

Many oil companies abandoned Alaska when prices fell in the 1980s but they have been rushing back to drill and prospect areas that are among the least hospitable on earth. That spirit of the Klondike is already in full swing in Prudhoe Bay the epicentre of oil production and one of the world’s largest industrial complexes. It’s so big that BP, UPS and FedEx operate a special fleet of jets from Anchorage just to service to the region.

Hundreds of spills involving tens of thousands of gallons of crude oil and other petroleum products occur in the area each year. Decades-old spills are still a problem and 17,000 acres of wildlife and marine habitat have already been destroyed.

But Prudhoe is just a tiny fraction of the area being targeted by Governor Palin and the oil companies. A similar fate of environmental destruction awaits the entire coastal plain as well as the special areas of the western Arctic – home to migratory caribou herds, musk oxen, wolverines, grizzly and polar bears should a McCain-Palin administration be elected.

The oil boom has attracted oilmen from across America. One of them is Todd Palin, husband to the vice-presidential candidate who works for BP on Alaska’s North Slope.

It is illegal to hunt polar bears, and that is not about to change. But in an area known as “Polar Bear Seas”, from Point Hope on Alaska’s far western edge to the pristine coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, one tenth of the world’s polar bear population is at risk, as well as beluga and bowheaded whales and bearded and spotted seals.

Big game hunters are happy to pay lots of money to shoot wolves and bears from the air. They also chase them across the snow to the point of exhaustion and then land the planes on skis, shooting them from point-blank range. The animals are considered endangered across the “lower 48” states of America, but not Alaska. The hunters keep and sell the animals’ pelts.

Last year, Mrs Palin proposed offering a bounty of $150 per wolf, as long as the hunter provided the wolf’s foreleg as proof of the kill. The measure did not pass. She even spent $400,000 on a state-funded campaign to block attempts to end the hunt.

Its not just wildlife conservationists who object. Many ordinary Alaskans also condemn the practice as barbaric.

Trish Rolfe, who runs the Sierra Club’s Alaska office, thinks Governor Palin has been a disaster for Alaska’s environment. “The idea that she stands up to the oil companies is a joke,” she says.

“The governor pays lip service to the issue of global warming but denies it is man made. She will not even spend money to help the Inupiaq villages which are about to fall into the sea.”

Independent UK

 

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Dead Zones

August 15, 2008
Rapid Growth Found in Oxygen-Starved Ocean ‘Dead Zones’
By BINA VENKATARAMAN

Many coastal areas of the world’s oceans are being starved of oxygen at an alarming rate, with vast stretches along the seafloor depleted of it to the point that they can barely sustain marine life, researchers are reporting.

Chesapeake Bay

Chesapeake Bay

The main culprit, scientists say, is nitrogen-rich nutrients from crop fertilizers that spill into coastal waters by way of rivers and streams.

A study to be published Friday in the journal Science says the number of these marine “dead zones” around the world has doubled about every 10 years since the 1960s. About 400 coastal areas now have periodically or perpetually oxygen-starved bottom waters, many of them growing in size and intensity. Combined, the zones are larger than Oregon.

“What’s happened in the last 40, 50 years is that human activity has made the water quality conditions worse,” the study’s leader author, Robert J. Diaz, said in an interview.

The trend portends nothing good for many fisheries, said Dr. Diaz, a professor at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science at the College of William and Mary. “Dead zones,” he said, “tend to occur in areas that are historically prime fishing grounds.”

Indeed, while the size of dead zones is small relative to the total surface of the oceans, scientists say they account for a significant part of ocean waters that support commercial fish and shellfish species.

Seasonally, low oxygen levels wipe out fish and crustaceans from dead-zone bottom waters in places like the Gulf of Mexico, Chesapeake Bay and the Baltic Sea, leaving little life other than microbes. Among places where dead zones have grown in recent years are coastal China and the Kattegat Sea, where the Norway lobster fishery collapsed. The zones have also cropped up unexpectedly in pockets off the coast of South Carolina and the Pacific Northwest.

The dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico this summer covers a swath nearly the size of Massachusetts. That zone has more than doubled in size in the last 20 years.

“There are large areas of the gulf where you can’t catch any shrimp,” said Nancy N. Rabalais, executive director of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, who has studied the dead zone there for more than two decades. “It’s sort of a losing battle.”

Scientists attribute dead zones to a process that begins when nitrogen from agricultural runoff and sewage stimulates the growth of photosynthetic plankton on the surface of coastal waters. As the organisms decay and sink to the bottom, they are decomposed by microbes that consume large amounts of oxygen. As oxygen levels drop, most animals that live at the bottom cannot survive.

NOAA

Grey Snappers, like all other Gulf species, prefer water with abundant oxygen and food. The Dead Zone provides neither. Photo by: NOAA

“The overwhelming response of the organisms in our coastal areas is to migrate or to die,” Dr. Diaz said. “To adapt to low oxygen water, it has to be a part of your evolutionary history. It’s not something you can develop in a 40- or 50-year time period.”

Many dead zones are cyclical, recurring each year in the summer months. But over time, they can permanently kill off entire species within the zone. They have also prevented the rebounding of species that are under protection after overfishing, like the Baltic Sea’s cod.

Low oxygen levels also kill off annelid worms and other sources of food for fish and crustaceans.

Once dead zones recur, “they are very hard to reverse,” said Donald F. Boesch, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, adding that “they have major consequences for the ability of fish populations to renew themselves.”

Dr. Boesch, who like Dr. Rabalais was not affiliated with the study, said that “the global proliferation” of dead zones, once mainly a problem of the developed world, had been fueled by industrialization, changing eating habits and population growth, which have led to more fertilizer use and more waste in the world’s watersheds.

Dead zones pose a serious threat to coastal ecosystems, said James N. Galloway, a professor of environmental science at the University of Virginia. “But the challenge is, How do you manage fertilizer use without compromising the ability of the world to feed people?” Dr. Galloway said.

Robert W. Howarth, a professor of ecology and environmental biology at Cornell, said methods to reduce nitrogen-rich runoff existed, including the planting of winter rye or winter wheat rather than leaving fields fallow after fall harvest. Such planting would cause much fertilizer to be absorbed by the winter crops rather than being leached into waterways by spring rains.

NYT

 

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Meltdown In The Arctic Is Speeding Up

Scientists warn that the North Pole could be free of ice in just five years’ time instead of 60

by Robin McKie

Ice at the North Pole melted at an unprecedented rate last week, with leading scientists warning that the Arctic could be ice-free in summer by 2013.

Satellite images show that ice caps started to disintegrate dramatically several days ago as storms over Alaska’s Beaufort Sea began sucking streams of warm air into the Arctic.

As a result, scientists say that the disappearance of sea ice at the North Pole could exceed last year’s record loss. More than a million square kilometres melted over the summer of 2007 as global warming tightened its grip on the Arctic. But such destruction could now be matched, or even topped, this year.

‘It is a neck-and-neck race between 2007 and this year over the issue of ice loss,’ said Mark Serreze, of the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Boulder, Colorado. ‘We thought Arctic ice cover might recover after last year’s unprecedented melting – and indeed the picture didn’t look too bad last month. Cover was significantly below normal, but at least it was up on last year.

‘But the Beaufort Sea storms triggered steep ice losses and it now looks as if it will be a very close call indeed whether 2007 or 2008 is the worst year on record for ice cover over the Arctic. We will only find out when the cover reaches its minimum in mid-September.’

This startling loss of Arctic sea ice has major meteorological, environmental and ecological implications. The region acts like a giant refrigerator that has a strong effect on the northern hemisphere’s meteorology. Without its cooling influence, weather patterns will be badly disrupted, including storms set to sweep over Britain.

At the same time, creatures such as polar bears and seals – which use sea ice for hunting and resting – face major threats. Similarly, coastlines will no longer be insulated by ice from wave damage and will suffer erosion, as is already happening in Alaska.

Other environmental changes are likely to follow. Without sea ice to bolster them, land ice – including glaciers – could topple into the ocean and raise global sea levels, threatening many low-lying areas, including Bangladesh and scores of Pacific islands. In addition, the disappearance of reflective ice over the Arctic means that solar radiation would no longer be bounced back into space, thus heating the planet even further.

On top of these issues, there are fears that water released by the melting caps will disrupt the Gulf Stream, while an ice-free Arctic in summer offers new opportunities for oil and gas drilling there – and for political disputes over territorial rights.

What really unsettles scientists, however, is their inability to forecast precisely what is happening in the Arctic, the part of the world most vulnerable to the effects of global warming. ‘When we did the first climate change computer models, we thought the Arctic’s summer ice cover would last until around 2070,’ said Professor Peter Wadhams of Cambridge University. ‘It is now clear we did not understand how thin the ice cap had already become – for Arctic ice cover has since been disappearing at ever increasing rates. Every few years we have to revise our estimates downwards. Now the most detailed computer models suggest the Arctic’s summer ice is going to last for only a few more years – and given what we have seen happen last week, I think they are probably correct.’

The most important of these computer studies of ice cover was carried out a few months ago by Professor Wieslaw Maslowski of the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. Using US navy supercomputers, his team produced a forecast which indicated that by 2013 there will be no ice in the Arctic – other than a few outcrops on islands near Greenland and Canada – between mid-July and mid-September.

‘It does not really matter whether 2007 or 2008 is the worst year on record for Arctic ice,’ Maslowski said. ‘The crucial point is that ice is clearly not building up enough over winter to restore cover and that when you combine current estimates of ice thickness with the extent of the ice cap, you get a very clear indication that the Arctic is going to be ice-free in summer in five years. And when that happens, there will be consequences.’

This point was backed by Serreze. ‘The trouble is that sea ice is now disappearing from the Arctic faster than our ability to develop new computer models and to understand what is happening there. We always knew it would be the first region on Earth to feel the impact of climate change, but not at anything like this speed. What is happening now indicates that global warming is occurring far earlier than any of us expected.’

 

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Twenty Years Later: Tipping Points Near on Global Warming

Photography by Gracie – © All rights reserved

Again a wide gap has developed between what is understood about global warming by the relevant scientific community and what is known by policymakers and the public. Now, as then, frank assessment of scientific data yields conclusions that are shocking to the body politic. Now, as then, I can assert that these conclusions have a certainty exceeding 99 percent.

The difference is that now we have used up all slack in the schedule for actions needed to defuse the global warming time bomb. The next president and Congress must define a course next year in which the United States exerts leadership commensurate with our responsibility for the present dangerous situation.

Otherwise it will become impractical to constrain atmospheric carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas produced in burning fossil fuels, to a level that prevents the climate system from passing tipping points that lead to disastrous climate changes that spiral dynamically out of humanity’s control.

Changes needed to preserve creation, the planet on which civilization developed, are clear. But the changes have been blocked by special interests, focused on short-term profits, who hold sway in Washington and other capitals.

I argue that a path yielding energy independence and a healthier environment is, barely, still possible. It requires a transformative change of direction in Washington in the next year.

Read entire article here.

AP version

 

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Oil lobbyists convinced W.H. to drop environmental regulation plans


.. imagination .., originally uploaded by *Gracie.

Photography by Gracie – © All rights reserved

The Bush administration abandoned plans to impose Clean Air Act (CAA) regulations on power plants and other stationary pollution sources after opposition from the oil industry, according to a report released Friday by the House Select Committee on Global Warming . Based on interviews with former EPA official Jason Burnett, the committee found that there was early widespread support within both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Bush administration for extending the scope of existing environmental regulations, but that the White House reversed its approach after lobbying by oil companies:
The oil industry argued against regulatory action, and had the support of the Office of Vice President Cheney. In developing its proposals to make a positive endangerment finding and to regulate the greenhouse gas emissions from both vehicles and stationary sources, EPA consulted with a wide range of environmental and industry stakeholders. Environmental stakeholders and, interestingly, some electric utility representatives, including the Edison Electric Institute (which represents the nation’s major investor-owned utilities), agreed that it would be best for EPA to proceed with regulation of both vehicles and stationary sources using Clean Air Act authority. But others, including oil industry representatives from ExxonMobil, the American Petroleum Institute, and the National Petrochemicals and Refiners Association, adopted a “not on my watch” approach – arguing that such regulations would tarnish President Bush’s conservative anti-regulatory legacy, and should be delayed until the next President took office. Those arguments were echoed, within the White House, by Vice President Cheney’s energy adviser, F. Chase Hutto III.

Doing the oil industry’s bidding, the Bush administration reversed course. After passage of the Energy Independence and Security Act in 2007, the arguments put forward by the oil industry representatives began to prevail in inter-agency and White House discussions on how to respond to the Massachusetts v. EPA decision. By March 2008, EPA announced that, instead of issuing proposals for a positive endangerment finding and regulations, it would move forward with a non-regulatory “Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking” (ANPR). By mid-April 2008, President Bush announced in a speech that “the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act were never meant to regulate global climate change,” and went on to assert that Congress, not the Executive Branch, was responsible for deciding how to address greenhouse gas emissions.

more here

 

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Weeping

Weeping, originally uploaded by alreadygrace.

Photography by Gracie – © All rights reserved

 

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