The Urgency of NOW

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After studying environmental issues for decades, I feel responsible to wake up as many people as possible to the fact that procrastinating on climate change is a horrific mistake.  If we wait to reduce our greenhouse-gas emissions drastically, we will make it virtually impossible to reverse, stop, or even slow global warming. Why? Because the current level of warming has already begun to trigger positive-feedback mechanisms, and, as the temperature goes up, those mechanisms will trigger more mechanisms, and then the warming will continue to accelerate to levels we don’t even want to think about.

As The Guardian explains:

Scientists are aware of a number of positive feedbacks loops in the climate system. One example is melting ice. Because ice is light-coloured and reflective, a large proportion of the sunlight that hits it is bounced back to space, which limits the amount of warming it causes. But as the world gets hotter, ice melts, revealing the darker-coloured land or water below. The result is that more of the sun’s energy is absorbed, leading to more warming, which in turn leads to more ice melting – and so on.

You can find another positive-feedback example, the release of methane as permafrost melts, in one of my earlier blogs. That post is entitled: IN WHICH I RANT IN CAPITAL LETTERS. Here’s a link to that post: https://sallywengrover.wordpress.com/2014/08/09/in-which-i-rant-in-capital-letters/

For lighter look at positive feedback, you might check out “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” from Fantasia. Here’s a link to it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ait_Fs6UQhQ

Below, you’ll find links to a couple of recent articles about where we now stand in regard to global warming.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/may/16/april-third-month-in-row-to-break-global-temperature-records

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/may/11/worlds-carbon-dioxide-concentration-teetering-on-the-point-of-no-return?CMP=share_btn_fb

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What Would You Do?

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Fire is a natural part of the boreal forest—an ecosystem dominated by black and white spruce. This species is designed to burn and has cones that release their seeds when under intense heat. (Photo: S. Rupp)Photo by Scott Rupp — http://news.uaf.edu/four-million-acres-burned-questions-alaskas-future/

 

Today, a headline in The New York Times caught my attention. It read:

Global Warming Cited as Wildfires Increase in Fragile Boreal Forest

Here’s a link to the article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/11/science/global-warming-cited-as-wildfires-increase-in-fragile-boreal-forest.html?partner=IFTTT&_r=0

And here’s the first paragraph:

Scientists have been warning for decades that climate change is a threat to the immense tracts of forest that ring the Northern Hemisphere, with rising temperatures, drying trees and earlier melting of snow contributing to a growing number of wildfires.

The first paragraph of the article notes that scientists, for decades, have been warning that global warming would lead to fires like the one that recently devastated Ft. McMurray, Canada.

I know from personal experience that scientists have been predicting for decades a future of increasingly common wildfires in boreal forests. Fifteen to twenty years ago, some of my professors were among the scientists who made those predictions, along with a number of other predictions about the effects of global warming. Much of what they foresaw back then is coming true now.

So if I seem like an alarmist regarding the state of the environment, I hope you will put yourself in the place of someone who began studying scientists’ theories and empirical research decades ago and is now seeing researchers’ predictions come true. And while you’re at it, consider that I’ve also learned over the years that we’re in line for ever-worsening ecological and social disasters.

And now, I’d appreciate your advice. If you were me, how would you handle knowing that our best hope of avoiding ongoing ecological catastrophes is to reduce the stress that we’re putting on the planet? What would you do to motivate people to act?

#@&%#$*$!!!

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CNN aired 23.5 minutes of American Petroleum Institute ads over two weeks, compared to just five minutes of coverage about climate change or the temperature

ECOWATCH.COM

Check out the story that goes with the above headline here: http://ecowatch.com/2016/04/26/cnn-fossil-fuel-ads/

 

The fact that time devoted to oil-industry ads dwarfs time spent on climate change is not a coincidence. Advertisers avoid sponsoring environmental stories on news programs, based in part on the supposition that an informed public would demand big changes, and those changes would be bad for business. So the media report environmental stories in inverse proportion to their importance, and the public assumes that environmental degradation isn’t worth worrying about because the media rarely cover it. And the media rarely cover environmental stories because polls show that the public doesn’t realize the importance of such stories, and because advertisers don’t want to foot the bill for environmental stories that could have a negative impact on their bottom lines. 

So, in my little way, I try to inform people about what’s happening. The big media organizations have the budgets and the talent to do a much better job than I will ever do, but they seem to be more interested in fulfilling their responsibility to their stockholders than fulfilling their responsibility to the public.  I, on the other hand, have only to answer to my conscience.

And my conscience tells me that I have a responsibility to talk about what I know.  I’ve been studying environmental issues for over 30 years, and I know that things are bad and they’re getting worse at an accelerating rate. We’re rushing headlong into a chaotic world of our own making — a world of cascading social, economic, medical, and ecological catastrophies. Our children and grandchildren will blame us. They will say, “You knew or should have known that your wasteful activities would create environmental havoc down the road. Why didn’t you do something while there was still time?”

WINTER IN KC CANCELLED DUE TO CLIMATE CHANGE

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The above picture is of a forsythia bush that I saw blooming on December 15th and again today, March 7th.

Although I lived away from Kansas City for most of my adult life, I remember the winter weather of my childhood, and let me tell you: What we have in K.C. now isn’t it. When I was a kid, winters were cold and drab. The ground in early March was generally covered with patches of ice and dirty snow, all shades of gray. This year, we’ve gone from roses and forsythias blooming in mid-December to magnolias and forsythias blooming in early March. As for snow, we had a couple of dustings, but they melted swiftly away.

On a walk this afternoon, I saw crocuses, daffodils, vinca, spirea, magnolias and forsythias in full bloom; crab apples and redbuds a day or two away from blooming, and yellow-green baby leaves on many of the trees and shrubs.

Unfortunately for the rest of the world, weird weather events aren’t confined to Kansas City; they’re occurring all over the planet. Did you see, for example, the story about the organizers of the Iditarod having train-loads of snow sent to Anchorage for the start of the annual dog-sled race? If you haven’t seen it and would like to, here’s a link: 

 

IT’S A BIRD! IT’S A PLANE!

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No, it’s a weathered, shredded plastic grocery bag.

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Inevitably, when I’m out for a walk, I see plastic bags blowing in the wind or snagged by a branch and flapping in the air. Often, I pick the bags up and carry them with me till I get to a store with a recycling barrel. Plastic bags weigh next to nothing., so carrying them for a little while isn’t a big deal.

I realize, of course, that picking up and recycling a bag or two makes approximately zero difference in the grand scheme of things. At the same time, I’m pretty certain that an individual turtle or sea bird or some other marine creature will be spared harm because I took a second to pick up a plastic bag.

What’s happening in the world’s oceans is appalling. If you haven’t read this before, you might think that I’m making it up, but, in fact, there are continent-sized patches of floating garbage in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans.* And most of that garbage is plastic. Consequently, more than half of the Earth’s sea turtles and almost all of its sea birds have ingested plastic.

So if you’re out for a walk and you see a plastic bag blowing by, you can prevent it from landing in a creek or a storm drain and being carried by the current to a river and then to the ocean and then to the stomach of a century-old tortoise by picking the bag up and recycling it. If recycling is too inconvenient, throwing the bag away in a trash can will at least keep it from ending up in the stomach of some marine creature.

http://education.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/great-pacific-garbage-patch/   http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/03/100302-new-ocean-trash-garbage-patch/   http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/04/140404-garbage-patch-indian-ocean-debris-malaysian-plane/

If your nerves can stand it, check out one or both of the stories linked below.

By 2050, Our Oceans Will Hold More Plastic Than Fish

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2016/01/24/oceans-more-plastic-than-fish/79267192/

By 2050, There Will Be More Plastic Than Fish in the World’s Oceans, Study Says

A Fun Stuff Sandwich

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Top Bread Layer

When we underfund regulators, making it impossible for them to do their jobs effectively, what we get is a whole lot of Flints.

America Is Flint

By Nicholas Kristof, February 6, 2016

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/07/opinion/sunday/america-is-flint.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&_r=0

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Fun Inside Layer #1

A stunning map shows how living on America’s coasts really is so different

By Ana Swanson, January 12, 2016

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/01/12/a-stunning-map-shows-how-living-on-americas-coasts-really-is-so-different/?tid=hybrid_experimentrandom_3_na

Fun Inside Layer #2

12 fascinating optical illusions show how color can trick the eye

December 29, 2015

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/12/29/12-fascinating-optical-illusions-show-how-color-can-trick-the-eye-2/?tid=a_inl

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Bottom Boring Bread Layer

This final article is almost too wonky to share!

I, Termite?

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If climate change were the only environmental crisis we face, we could switch to wind, solar, and other non-fossil forms of energy, and go on depending on economic growth to solve our enviro-politico-socio-economic problems forever. But while climate change is arguably the worst environmental crisis we face, it is not the only environmental crisis we face.

My last post included links to several articles about the species-extinction crisis. This time, my post includes a single link to a series of articles that ran in USA Today a few weeks ago on the groundwater-depletion crisis.

Did I hear a groan, Dear Reader? I think I did. So, let me just say, yeah, I know that reading about environmental degradation isn’t fun. At times, in fact, it’s downright depressing. Perhaps it’s comparable to reading reports about the condition of your home. While you probably don’t want to know that the entire back wall of your house is infested with termites, that the plumbing is corroded and needs to be replaced, that the roof is springing leaks, or that the foundation is cracked, you need to know the unpleasant facts so you can fix what’s wrong before the whole place caves in on you.

I regret putting it this way, but the sad fact is that humans have begun to feed on the Earth like termites feed on the wood in houses. But unlike termites that can move on to another house or a decaying tree to sustain them after they’ve consumed all the wood in one house, we have no other Earth that we can infest (so to speak), so we’d better take care of this one.

And now, without further ado, here’s the link to the article:

http://www.usatoday.com/pages/interactives/groundwater/