One Last Post, Because It’s Important!

 

I hadn't intended to do this. Why one more post after I retired this blog? It's because the next few weeks are so very important. Can the governments of this planet come together and agree on a binding carbon reduction plan that will continue to make our world a livable one? This is an important question for future generations and the wildlife that depend on it.

Starting today through December 11th, the UN climate change conference:COP 21 will start in Paris. Their goal will be to limit a global temperature increase to 2°C above pre-industrial levels by reducing greenhouse carbon emissions. The official name for the conference is 21st Conference of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol. That a mouthful so that explains COP21

In the background is the fact that 2015 will be the hottest year ever recorded, the predictions that carbon levels will remain above 400 ppm permanently for the first time ever, and that we have blown through half the 2°C increase already. I wrote over two years ago that 80% of all fossil fuel must remain in the ground to prevent catastrophic warming of the planet. Legislation has finally been introduced in congress to try to do just that. An interesting read about the situation comes from a climate scientist. We don't hear enough from them.

I'm hoping to find many in-depth reports on the climate conference in the media but won't hold my breath. The media these days are concerned with the Middle East Wars and it's refugees (a climate change created problem), police killings, Black Friday Christmas sales, and terrorists attacks. The Paris terrorist attack has already affected the climate conference by preventing planned massive rallies in favor of a climate deal from assembling. But hundreds of thousands rallied around the world. Activists are having to come up with innovative ways of getting their points across.

REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

Billboards begain showing up (ironically for me at bus stops) pointing out the hypocrisy of some of the conference's co-sponsors.

For the story on these billboards you can check it out here. For the story on Volkswagen, if you don't know it, you can find the story here.

So the stage is set. Our President Obama will be one of more than 190 heads of state and governments expected at the conference, taking place at Le Bourget outside Paris. More than 170 countries have submitted plans (INDC's) to curb carbon emissions. In conjunction with the event will be the World Climate Summit 2015.

It will be a big deal with celebrities and activists from around the world. Many of those activists will be from island nations asking for a plan that will stop their homes from being inundated by sea level rise. Hopefully Miami, Florida will send a representative.

What do terms like the Durban Platform, common but differentiated responsibility, Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), Loss and damage, and Ratchet mechanism mean? Check out how to understand the jargon coming out of the conference.

How do the numbers on the submitted plans of each country add up? Will they keep the planet under 2°C? The short answer is no! There is some controversy concerning the numbers but there's no difference of opinion that 2°C will be breached.

Impact of national climate pledges (aka INDCs) on world’s greenhouse gas emissions measured in CO2 equivalents (CO2e).

This means that an awful lot of extra work on lowing carbon emissions needs to be done and there's some evidence that that extra work is coming. When you have Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerman joining forces there's billions of dollars involved. Local commitments will be important.

Thousands of cities, states, regions, provinces, businesses, and non-governmental organizations have already started to move aggressively on climate change. For cities, this means setting transportation, building, and power standards that substantially lower emissions. For companies, this can mean making sustainability a core business practice all the way down the supply chain, recognizing it as a sound policy that will not only help the planet but likely also bolster profits.

What will prevent us from keeping temperatures below 2°C? There are of course the skeptics who will have their own conference in Paris. There are the billions of dollars from the fossil fuel industry confusing the issues. I'm looking at you Exxon but you're are not alone.

And of course there's the Republicans in congress willing to take much of those billions to win elections.

At a hearing Wednesday, Senate Republicans said that any financial commitments made by the United States to help other countries curb carbon emissions would not be approved by Congress, effectively promising to undercut the Paris negotiations before they even begin.

Add in oil rich countries (You will have to wait 14 seconds to get to that last link) and we're up against some powerful forces. Is Saudi Arabia trying to sabotage the Paris climate talks?

What are people around the world thinking about climate change?

Majorities in all 40 nations polled say it is a serious problem, and a global median of 54% consider it a very serious problem. Moreover, a median of 78% support the idea of their country limiting greenhouse gas emissions as part of an international agreement in Paris.

However, according to most respondents, confronting climate change will entail more than just policy changes; it will also require significant changes in how people live. A global median of 67% say that in order to reduce the effects of climate change, people will have to make major changes in their lives.

How about the numbers in the United States?

Nearly three-quarters of Americans see global climate change as a “very serious” (45%) or “somewhat serious” (29%) threat, and two-thirds (66%) say people will have to make major changes in the way they live to reduce the effects of climate change, according to a Pew Research Center report released earlier this month.

People have received all sorts of advice over the past few decades about how to reduce their climate impact – from driving less to recycling more to insulating their homes. Actual changes in behavior, though, have been very much a mixed bag.

And American drivers are showing few signs of shifting away from fossil fuels. Fewer than 3% of the cars, SUVs, pickups and other “light-duty” vehicles sold through October of this year ran on anything other than gasoline or diesel – an even smaller market share for alternative-fueled vehicles than in 2013 or 2014, according to data from the National Automobile Dealers Association.

The EPA also suggests that people consider carpooling, mass transit, working from home or other alternatives to driving to and from work solo. But driving alone remains by far the most common commuting method: About three-quarters of Americans reported last year that that was their main commuting mode, a figure that’s changed little since 2000.

This attitude is what I've found to be the case. With few exceptions, in my little part of the planet, I find that people know about climate change but are unwilling to change their lifestyles. It's business as usual.

Just a fact–the planet will continue to warm even if we stopped carbon emissions today.

Many greenhouse gases stay in the atmosphere for long periods of time. As a result, even if emissions stopped increasing, atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations would continue to increase and remain elevated for hundreds of years. Moreover, if we stabilized concentrations and the composition of today's atmosphere remained steady (which would require a dramatic reduction in current greenhouse gas emissions), surface air temperatures would continue to warm. This is because the oceans, which store heat, take many decades to fully respond to higher greenhouse gas concentrations. The ocean's response to higher greenhouse gas concentrations and higher temperatures will continue to impact climate over the next several decades to hundreds of years.

Many scientists believe that 2°C is too high and we should stay well below that mark. Some good news coming from the climate conference is a call for limiting the rise to 1.5°C.

There has always been an odd tenor to discussions among climate scientists, policy wonks, and politicians, a passive-aggressive quality, and I think it can be traced to the fact that everyone involved has to dance around the obvious truth, at risk of losing their status and influence.

The obvious truth about global warming is this: barring miracles, humanity is in for some awful shit.

I didn't want to sugarcoat this post. Are we too late? It depends on who you talk to. We should know shortly if if the world has the resolve to take action. Will the future be like the little book titled, The Collapse of Western Civilization-A View From the Future? Will it be worse? Will it be better? Time will tell.

I will leave you will some graphs. I think they tell the story of our situation. If people looking at them can't take action I don't know what will.

NASA
NASA
NASA

The one graph that I've found that explains it all is this one. I wrote about it in a post that I feel was one of my darkest.

Haisam Hussein
Finally I've been meaning to use this video in a post on this blog but never did. It's a NASA time lapse video of a warming planet over time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Was There Something Special About This Last July?

A NOTE ON THIS POST. EVEN THOUGH THIS BLOG HAS ENDED I HAVE CONTINUED TO UPDATE EACH NEW HOTTEST MONTH AT THE END OF THIS POST. DON’T EXPECT A COOLING TREND.

I have been writing these kinds of posts for going on two years. I should just get a template and insert the name of the month and I would be done. But July just might be special. The numbers aren’t all in yet but there’s a good chance that this past July was the hottest month ever recorded since instrument temperature records were first started in the late 1800’s. UPDATE: It’s now officially the hottest month ever.

Global temperatures in July vs. 1951-1980 average. Via NASA.

According to preliminary data from NASA along with information from the Japan Meteorological Administration, July 2015 was the warmest month on record since instrument temperature records began in the late 1800s.

Research using other data, such as tree rings, ice cores and coral formations in the ocean, have shown that the Earth is now the warmest it has been since at least 4,000 years ago.

According to NASA’s data, which is subject to refinement in coming weeks and months as more is analyzed, July 2015’s average temperature nudged past July 2011 by 0.02 degrees Celsius, or .36 degrees Fahrenheit.

In order for 2015 not to be the warmest year on record, the rest of the year would have to turn sharply colder, on a global average. That is not likely to happen, considering both the influence of long-term manmade global warming and a shorter-term climate cycle known as El Niño.

The heat waves began in June before the Indian Monsoon kicked into gear, as high temperatures well into the triple digits Fahrenheit hit India and Pakistan, killing more than 2,000 people.

Madrid, for example, set monthly high temperature records in both June and July, with a record high temperature on July 6 of 103.8 degrees Fahrenheit, or 39.9 degrees Celsius.

Germany broke its all-time heat record on July 5, when the temperature reached 104.5 degrees Fahrenheit, or 40.3 degrees Celsius, in Kitzingen, according to Germany’s National Meteorological Service. The U.K. set an all-time July heat record when the temperature at London’s Heathrow Airport reached 98.1 degrees Fahrenheit, or 36.7 degrees Celsius, on July 1, according to the Met Office.

Maastricht in the Netherlands, set a new national July heat record in July, when the temperature reached 100.8 degrees Fahrenheit, or 38.2 degrees Celsius, according to the Weather Channel.

But if you think that’s hot try to avoid the Middle East.

Wherever you live or happen to travel to, never complain about the heat and humidity again.

In the city of Bandar Mahshahr (population of about 110,000 as of 2010), the air felt like a searing 165 degrees (74 Celsius) today(July 30) factoring in the humidity.

To achieve today’s astronomical heat index level of 165, Bandar Mahshahr’s actual air temperature registered 115 degrees (46 Celsius) with an astonishing dew point temperature of 90 (32 Celsius).

So let’s all of us just keep doing what we’re doing. There’s no problem here. Keep moving along. Nothing to worry about.

UPDATE–August was the hottest August on record.

The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for August 2015 was 0.88°C (1.58°F) above the 20th century average of 15.6°C (60.1°F) and the highest August in the 136-year record. This value surpassed the previous record set in 2014 by 0.09°C (0.16°F). Most of the world’s surface was substantially warmer than average and, in some locations, record warm during August 2015, contributing to the monthly global record warmth. This was the sixth month in 2015 that has broken its monthly temperature record (February, March, May, June, July, and August).

UPDATE–September was hottest September on record.

The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for September 2015 was the highest for September in the 136-year period of record, at 0.90°C (1.62°F) above the 20th century average of 15.0°C (59.0°F), surpassing the previous record set last year in 2014 by 0.12°C (0.19°F). This marks the fifth consecutive month a monthly high temperature record has been set and is the highest departure from average for any month among all 1629 months in the record that began in January 1880. The September temperature is currently increasing at an average rate of 0.06°C (0.11°F) per decade.

UPDATE–Incredible October Warmth Guarantees Record Hot 2015

Month after month this year, above-average — and sometimes record — global temperatures have piled up, raising the odds that this year will be the hottest one humanity has ever experienced. And now October has blown those records out of the water.

According to newly released NASA data, October was not only the warmest October on record, but had the biggest temperature difference of any month in the 135 years of NASA’s archive. The month was more than a full degree Celsius (nearly 2°F) above the average for the 1951-1980 base period that NASA uses — an unprecedented feat in all those years of data.

Carbon dioxide levels are also currently drifting back above 400 parts per million, possibly never to dip back down again for the foreseeable future as a strong El Niño event lends the buildup of the greenhouse gas an extra push.

Q

UPDATE–No surprises, this November hottest on record.

The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for November 2015 was the highest for November in the 136-year period of record, at 0.97°C (1.75°F) above the 20th century average of 12.9°C (55.2°F), breaking the previous record of 2013 by 0.15°C (0.27°F). This marks the seventh consecutive month that a monthly global temperature record has been broken. The temperature departure from average for November is also the second highest among all months in the 136-year period of record. The highest departure of 0.99°C (1.79°F) occurred last month.

UPDATE–The Earth is on track to end 2015 with an average 1 degree C warming.

It’s all but certain that 2015 will end up as the hottest year on record. And in setting that mark, the world is on track to finish the year 1 degree C above pre-industrial levels, a dubious milestone.

That would make 2015 the first year to crack the halfway mark of 2 degrees C warming, the benchmark that’s been targeted as “safe” climate change and what nations are working toward meeting ahead of climate talks in Paris in December. But Monday’s announcement by the U.K. Met Office hints at how difficult achieving that target will be.


One of the big questions in the climate change debate: Are humans any smarter than frogs in a pot? If you put a frog in a pot and slowly turn up the heat, it won’t jump out. Instead, it will enjoy the nice warm bath until it is cooked to death. We humans seem to be doing pretty much the same thing.

Jeff Goodell

 

The President Asked Me To Do This

It's Monday, August 3, 2015. Today the EPA will issue a final Clean Power Plan rule that will, for the first time, govern carbon emissions from power plants. Initial word on the street is that it's a better plan then previously expected. President Obama has asked me to share this video. I, of course, can not refuse.

 

 

FIRE

On July 31, 2015, California’s Governor, Jerry Brown issued a Proclamation of a State of Emergency because of the wildfires burning in the state. I’ve decided to post that proclamation in full because it sums up the wildfire situation well. This is Governor Brown’s second state of emergency proclamation this year.

PROCLAMATION OF A STATE OF EMERGENCY

WHEREAS since June 17, 2015, a series of wildfires has started in the Counties of Butte, El Dorado, Humboldt, Lake, Madera, Napa, Nevada, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, Shasta, Solano, Tulare, Tuolumne, and Yolo. These fires have burned thousands of acres of land and continue to burn; and

WHEREAS these fires have destroyed structures and continue to threaten hundreds of homes, necessitating the evacuation of residents; and

WHEREAS the fires have damaged and continue to threaten critical infrastructure and have forced the closure of major highways and local roads; and

WHEREAS on January 17, 2014, I declared a State of Emergency based on the extreme drought that has now persisted in the State for four years; and

WHEREAS the drought conditions have increased the State’s risk of wildfires, caused millions of trees to die, and increased the severity and spread of the fires throughout the State; and

WHEREAS extreme weather conditions, lightning storms, and high temperatures have increased the risk and severity of fires throughout the State; and

WHEREAS as a result of the numerous fires burning throughout the State, combined with the drought conditions, California’s air quality has significantly deteriorated and impacted public health; and

WHEREAS Federal Fire Management Assistance Grants have been requested and approved for the Wragg Fire burning in the Counties of Napa, Solano, and Yolo and for the North Fire burning in the County of San Bernardino; and

WHEREAS by virtue of the number of fires burning simultaneously, the State’s resources have been significantly committed such that the State will seek the assistance and resources of other states, as necessary, pursuant to the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, Public Law 104-321, and sections 179 through 179.9 of the California Government Code; and

WHEREAS the circumstances of these wildfires, by reason of their magnitude, are or are likely to be beyond the control of the services, personnel, equipment, and facilities of any single local government and require the combined forces of a mutual aid region or regions to combat; and

WHEREAS under the provisions of section 8558(b) of the California Government Code, I find that conditions of extreme peril to the safety of persons and property exists in California due to these wildfires.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, EDMUND G. BROWN JR., Governor of the State of California, in accordance with the authority vested in me by the State Constitution and statutes, including the California Emergency Services Act, and in particular, section 8625 of the California Government Code, HEREBY PROCLAIM A STATE OF EMERGENCY to exist in the State of California due to the wildfires burning throughout the State.

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT:

1. All agencies of the state government shall utilize and employ state personnel, equipment, and facilities for the performance of any and all activities consistent with the direction of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and the State Emergency Plan. Also, all citizens are to heed the advice of emergency officials with regard to this emergency in order to protect their safety.

2. The California National Guard shall mobilize under California Military and Veterans Code section 146 (mobilization in case of catastrophic fires) to support disaster response and relief efforts and coordinate with all relevant state agencies, including the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, and all relevant state and local emergency responders and law enforcement within the impacted areas.

I FURTHER DIRECT that as soon as hereafter possible, this proclamation be filed in the Office of the Secretary of State and that widespread publicity and notice be given of this proclamation.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Great Seal of the State of California to be affixed this 31st day of July 2015.

__________________________

EDMUND G. BROWN JR.

Governor of California

ATTEST:

__________________________

ALEX PADILLA

Secretary of State

The current wildfire map of California can change rapidly. This is the latest.

The statistics for the current year are telling.

Wildfires are up over 1,200 compared to last year and over 1,300 compared to the five year average. The fact that total acreage is down might be due to increased personnel and planning for an early start of the fire season and it just might be no longer true since the Rocky Fire in Lake County, one county west of Mendocino County, has exploded to over 46,000 acres. We have a long ways to go before fire season is over if it ever is.

California’s wildfire season typically peaks in the summer and into the early fall, with the most intense fires occurring in late September and October. However, fire experts say that since 2000, the number of days considered vulnerable to fire outbreaks has been growing. Today, California’s fire season is about 70 days longer compared to 40 years ago, Weather.com says. More than half of the 20 largest wildfires in the state’s history have occurred in the past 15 years.

But California isn’t the only state that’s in bad shape.

The States of Washington and Oregon are also having a bad time.

The flames sent a terrifying message: Normally soggy Washington — nicknamed the Evergreen State for good reason and home to the wettest town in the Lower 48 — has never been hotter or drier at this point in the year, officials say, and the fire season has never begun so early or so fiercely.

“It’s more reminiscent of Southern California and the brush fires fed by the Santa Ana winds,” said Peter Goldmark, head of the state Department of Natural Resources. “Now it’s up here in the state of Washington, where this kind of behavior is unseen. It’s heralding a radical change in the kinds of fires we’re going to see.”

And what does happen when a rainforest burns?

The wettest rainforest in the continental United States had gone up in flames and the smoke was so thick, so blanketing, that you could see it miles away. Deep in Washington’s Olympic National Park, the aptly named Paradise Fire, undaunted by the dampness of it all, was eating the forest alive and destroying an ecological Eden.

The old-growth rainforest that stretches across the western valleys of the Olympic National Park is its crown jewel. As UNESCO wrote in recognizing the park as a World Heritage Site, it includes “the best example of intact and protected temperate rainforest in the Pacific Northwest.” In those river valleys, annual rainfall is measured not in inches but in feet, and it’s the wettest place in the continental United States. There you will find living giants: a Sitka spruce more than 1,000 years old; Douglas fir more than 300 feet tall; mountain hemlock at 150 feet; yellow cedars that are nearly 12 feet in diameter; and a western red cedar whose circumference is more than 60 feet.

For firefighters, combating such a blaze in an old-growth rainforest with steep hills is, at best, an impossibly dangerous business. Large trees are “falling down regularly,” firefighter Dave Felsen told the Seattle Times. “You can hear cracking and you try to move, but it’s so thick in there that there is no escape route if something is coming at you.”

But it is Alaska where things are grim.

Every day they update the numbers. And every day, the number of acres burned in Alaska seems to leap higher yet again.

As of Monday, it is at 4,447,182.2 acres, according to the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center — a total that puts the 2015 wildfire season in sixth place overall among worst seasons on record. It’s very likely to move into fifth place by Tuesday — and it’s still just mid-July. There is a long way to go.

According to the Center, 2015 is now well ahead of the rate of burn seen in the worst year ever, 2004, when 6,590,140 acres burned in 701 fires. “Fire acreage totals are more than 14 days ahead of 2004,” the agency notes. In other words, and although the situation could still change, we may be watching the unfolding of the worst year ever recorded.

Let’s not leave Canada out of this post.

Wildfire danger throughout Western Canada is “very high,” according to the Canadian Wildland Fire Information System (CWFIS), with the majority of fire activity taking place in three provinces: Saskatchewan, British Columbia, and Alberta. “Nationally,” the CWFIS’ most recent report reads, “fire activity has increased dramatically and is now well above average for this time of year.”

According to Mashable, more than 13,000 people in the province of Saskatchewan have been evacuated because of the fires, making it the largest wildfire evacuation in history for the relatively underpopulated province. The province’s premier, Brad Wall, told CBC News that the fires are “unprecedented” for the region, noting that the area currently burning is about 10 times the average. As of Monday, there were 112 fires burning across the province.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the wildfires up north are causing a “tremendous amount of smoke,” and it hasn’t stopped at the border: smoke from Canada’s wildfires has been seen across Midwest and as far south as North Carolina, bringing a haze to the sky and turning sunsets fiery red. But the smoke also brings dangerous fine particles, which can diminish air quality and, in high concentrations, pose a public health threat.

Smoke drifting south from wildfires burning in Canada clouds the skyline last week in Denver.

David Zalubowski/AP

Smoke conditions on June 10, 2015.

A hazy, polluted Minneapolis skyline from Ridgeway Parkway Park on Monday. (Jeff Wheeler/Star Tribune via AP)

Tiny particles in smoke from wildfires may increase the danger of acute heart problems, including cardiac arrest and ischemic heart disease, especially among vulnerable people, according to a new study published today in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

The findings are especially worrisome as heavy smoke generated from wildfires in Alaska and Canada continues to drift southward. Smoke already has made its way down into the northern United States, including Montana, the Central Plains, the Upper Mississippi Valley, and into the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.

“During bushfires there is widespread and huge quantities of smoke, and people are exposed,” said Anjali Haikerwal, study author and a doctoral candidate at the school of public health and preventive medicine at Monash University in Melbourne. “These particulates can be easily inhaled deep into the lungs. These particles may act as a trigger factor for acute cardiovascular health events.”

Then there is that other problem! What does happens when wildfire meets permafrost in Alaska and Canada?

As Sam Harrel, spokesperson for the Alaska Fire Service, puts it in understated terms, “We are on a track for a lot of acres this year.” But the real problem is that the fires could accelerate the melting of permafrost, a layer of ground that’s never supposed to get above freezing. And permafrost is one of Earth’s great storehouses of carbon. Release it, and you speed up climate change.

What ties all that together is “duff,” the thick layer of moss, twigs, needles, and other living or once-living material that blankets the forest floor. Duff can be up to a foot thick, and it provides the insulation that keeps permafrost cold through even the sunny days of summer. But when fire comes along, duff becomes fuel. Burning duff releases carbon too, of course, but losing it is like ripping the insulation out of a refrigerator.What ties all that together is “duff,” the thick layer of moss, twigs, needles, and other living or once-living material that blankets the forest floor. Duff can be up to a foot thick, and it provides the insulation that keeps permafrost cold through even the sunny days of summer. But when fire comes along, duff becomes fuel. Burning duff releases carbon too, of course, but losing it is like ripping the insulation out of a refrigerator.

It’s also a particularly bad time for the permafrost to lose insulation. Last year was Alaska’s hottest ever recorded. Alaska has warmed twice as fast as other states. Alaskans are already worried about how melting permafrost will damage the state’s transportation infrastructure—permafrost is supposed to be permanent, and northerners build roads on it. It’s also a unique habitat for animals and plants.

Losing permafrost wouldn’t just affect Alaskans and Canadians, though. All the permafrost in the world currently stores an estimated 1.4 trillion tons of carbon, twice the amount in the atmosphere. What happens if all that carbon gets released? “We don’t know the answer to that,” says Jon O’Donnell, an ecologist with the National Park Service’s Arctic Network.

 

Globel Fire Maps

On Earth, something is always burning: wildfires started by lightning or people, controlled agricultural fires, or fossil fuels. When anything made out of carbon — whether it’s vegetation, gasoline, or coal — burns completely, the only end products are carbon dioxide and water vapor. But in most situations, burning is not complete, and fires or burning fossil fuels produce a mixture of gases, including carbon dioxide, methane, and carbon monoxide.

That’s a lot of fire going on people. Think we can handle it?

I have purposely left out all of the dramatic fire pictures and the stories of lost property and death that accompany most fire related stories. This is just an unemotional post that shows that the planet is on fire.

 

When cyclones tear up Oklahoma and hurricanes swamp Alabama and wildfires scorch Texas, you come to us, the rest of the country, for billions of dollars to recover. And the damage that your polluters and deniers are doing doesn’t just hit Oklahoma and Alabama and Texas. It hits Rhode Island with floods and storms.

Sheldon Whitehouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HEAT

I haven’t really felt like writing lately. Don’t know why but maybe it’s the heat. There’s a big smile on my face as I write that comment. Thanks to the app WunderStation you can see that we’ve only had one day over 70° this summer. That was a big 72°F on June 9th. As I look at the chart, what’s scary about it are those winter temperatures.

When we first moved to the Mendocino County coast almost 10 years ago I remember joking about having to turn on the heater during the summer because of the constant fog and low temperatures. That rarely happens these summer days. I have proof that things are changing.

I have never been able to grow zucchini here on the coast. This beauty was just harvested today. So how hot has it been? How about a headline like this.

NOAA: Hottest First Half Of Year In Northern Hemisphere By Stunning 0.36°F

 

Another headline.

Another month, another global heat record broken _ by far

This AP story has some good quotes in it. Good quotes for this post not the planet.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Earth dialed the heat up in June, smashing warm temperature records for both the month and the first half of the year.

Off-the-charts heat is “getting to be a monthly thing,” said Jessica Blunden, a climate scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. June was the fourth month of 2015 that set a record, she said.

“There is almost no way that 2015 isn’t going to be the warmest on record,” she added.

NOAA calculated that the world’s average temperature in June hit 61.48 degrees Fahrenheit (16.33 Celsius), breaking the old record set last year by 0.22 degrees (.12 degrees Celsius). Usually temperature records are broken by one or two one-hundredths of a degree, not nearly a quarter of a degree, Blunden said.

And the picture is even more dramatic when the half-year is considered.

The first six months of 2015 were one-sixth of a degree warmer than the old record, set in 2010, averaging 57.83 degrees (14.35 Celsius).

June was warm nearly all over the world, with exceptional heat in Spain, Austria, parts of Asia, Australia and South America. Southern Pakistan had a June heat wave that killed more than 1,200 people — which, according to an international database, would be the eighth deadliest in the world since 1900. In May, a heat wave in India claimed more than 2,000 lives and ranked as the fifth deadliest on record.

Earth has broken monthly heat records 25 times since the year 2000, but hasn’t broken a monthly cold record since 1916.

“This is what anthropogenic global warming looks like, just hotter and hotter,” said Jonathan Overpeck, co-director of the Institute of the Environment at the University of Arizona.

Another AP story with the headline-

SUMMER IS SIZZLING: HEAT RECORDS FALL ACROSS US WEST

Seattle, not accustomed to prolonged hot weather, saw its hottest June ever.

The average high temperature each day in June was a record 78.9 degrees, breaking the 1992 record by more than 3 degrees, said Johnny Burg, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Seattle.

“Our high is supposed to be in the low to mid 70s at this time and lows in the mid-50s,” he said.

Instead, the Seattle area is seeing highs in the 80s and lows in the 60s.

Because the Seattle area suffers few heat waves, many people do not have air conditioning.

The weather was also dry in the Seattle area in June, when only 0.23 inch of precipitation was recorded. That’s the fourth driest June on record.

Meanwhile, June temperatures were scorching in in Eastern Washington, with many record highs set.

The two highest readings in June were 113 degrees at Chief Joseph Dam and in the town of LaCrosse. The towns of Chelan, Ephrata, Odessa and Omak all recorded record highs of 110 degrees in June. Spokane reached a record 105 one day.

June in Las Vegas is officially the hottest ever.

The National Weather Service said the average June temperature recorded at McCarran International Airport was 91.9 degrees, breaking the previous record of 91.5 in 2013.

More than half of last month was at or above 105 degrees. A meteorologist said June 13 through June 30 brought 18 consecutive days of temperatures in that range.

There’s never been that many in a row or in total in a June month. In 1961, there was a streak of 12 days straight and in 1985, there were 17 total.

Salt Lake City also saw the hottest June on record following the warmest winter ever.

The National Weather Service said the average temperature last month was 77.5 degrees, breaking the previous record of 75.7 set in June 1988.

The average monthly low of 64.5 degrees also beat the 63.3 degrees in 1918.

Phoenix is known for its stifling summer heat, but June 2015 stood out.

It was the third hottest month the city has endured since the National Weather Service began keeping records back in 1895. The warmest June in Phoenix was in 2013 where temperatures averaged 94.8. The average temperature for this June was 94.0.

Time reported, More Than 2,300 People Have Now Died in India’s Heat Wave

Grist reported, Europe is so hot right now — and only going to get hotter

If you were in Paris or Madrid as June transitioned to July, you could be forgiven for thinking you had been transported to the equator, as temperatures across Western Europe soared over 100 degrees F, toppling records during major sporting events like the Tour de France.

The unusually early surge of summer heat was almost certainly affected by the overall warming of the planet, which has at least doubled the chances of such a heatwave, a group of scientists working with Climate Central, as part of its World Weather Attribution program, has concluded.

One of the clearest findings of climate science has been that heatwaves will become more common, more intense, and longer as a result of global warming. Heatwaves today are already happening in a world that is 1.6 degrees F warmer than at the beginning of the 20th century. Warming has also influenced the way that weather patterns, including those that usher in heatwaves, behave.

It’s not just the days that are getting hotter.

Summer Nights Are Heating Up Across U.S.

Global warming often conjures scenes of sweaty, scorching summer days, but daytime temperatures aren’t the only thing expected to rise in a warming world. Nights, too, are expected to get sultrier, with overnight lows not dropping as much as they used to.

When nighttime temperatures stay warm, they can cause health problems by not allowing bodies to cool down after hot days. This can be particularly dangerous for vulnerable populations like the elderly and for those without air conditioning. And according to the 2014 National Climate Assessment, rising nighttime lows can also tax power grids, as air conditioning demand stays high, and can negatively impact crops and farm animals.

Climate Central has a handy chart where you can plug in your state to see how nighttime temperatures have climbed since 1970.

July scorcher baking much of U.S. This recent news flash from CNN is happening now.

I’m only using this news flash in this post for one reason. How it begins and how it ends.

(CNN)It’s days like these that make you appreciate why Willis Haviland Carrier deserves a spot on Mount Rushmore.

With triple-digit heat indices across a large swath of the U.S., the man who’s credited with inventing modern air-conditioning holds a special place in the hearts and homes of the some 70 million Americans currently under a heat advisory…

…God bless you, Willis Carrier.

Pope Francis singled out air conditioning as an example of “harmful” consumption in his June 18 Environmental Encyclical,

People may well have a growing ecological sensitivity, but it has not succeeded in changing their harmful habits of consumption, which, rather than decreasing, appear to be growing all the more. A simple example is the increasing use and power of air conditioning. The markets, which immediately benefit from sales, stimulate ever-greater demand. An outsider looking at our world would be amazed at such behavior, which at times appears self-destructive.

The Pope’s mention of air conditioning caused some controversy.

That’s assuming the outsider lives in a very cool climate, or doesn’t mind sweating. Anyone not so lucky probably thinks the inventor of air conditioning should be canonized. In France about 10 years ago, roughly 15,000 mostly elderly people died during a heat wave, in part because they lacked the aforementioned wasteful air conditioning.

If saving the planet, or our souls, depends on giving up air conditioning or cars, we are all indeed on the road to perdition. The pope at one point favorably cites the example of the desert monks. But while living a life of contemplation in the middle of nowhere suited St. Anthony of Egypt just fine — he is reputed to have lived to 105 — most of us aren’t spiritual superheroes, nor does monasticism as a general matter tell us anything useful about improving the lives of the poor.

But at least when everyone died at a much earlier age, we weren’t engaging in the ravages of the planet that so exercise Francis. This sinful assault on the Earth, by the way, largely consisted in taking otherwise completely useless glop from the ground and using it to power economic and technical advances that enriched average people beyond anyone’s imagining. This is obviously a secular miracle of the highest order, although the religiously inclined might think: Thank God for fossil fuels, and above all, for the human ingenuity that figured out what to do with them.

You might want to read the above story in it’s entirety. It explains why solving the climate change problem will be next to impossible. It’s also why I’m pessimistic about the future.

Climate Central has this to say about air conditioning,

As the world swelters, so will energy demand rise: the heat extremes generated by climate change are likely to raise the global demand for air conditioning by 72 percent. So people will generate more heat and release more carbon dioxide just to stay cool as the thermometer soars.

Right now, the U.S. uses more energy to keep cool than all the other countries in the world combined. “But this distinction might not remain true for long,” he says. “Several developing countries rank both among the most populous and hottest areas of the world. As personal incomes rise in those countries, their use of air conditioning will likely go up.

In all, 87 percent of U.S. households now have air conditioning and it takes 185 billion kilowatt hours of energy annually to keep American homes cool. But other countries have begun to turn down the thermostat. In 2010 alone, 50 million air conditioning units were sold in China. Air conditioning sales in India are growing at 20 percent a year.

Altogether, he reasoned, eight of the world’s nations have the potential to exceed U.S. air conditioning use: India would surpass the U.S. 14-fold if Indians adopted U.S. standards of cooling; China more than five times and the Indonesians three times.

But, Sivak warns, as affluence increases, and as global average temperatures rise, so will demand: “This trend will put additional strains not only on global energy resources but also on the environmental prospects of a warming planet.”

Just goes to show what kind of trouble the planet is in. The first thing we can do is turn the air conditioner down.

Cold offices bad for productivity and the environment

Heading to work in the summer can often mean dressing in layers, pairing sandals and shorts with sweaters and leggings.

But not only are overly air conditioned offices affecting our summer fashion choices, they’re part of a larger environmental issue.

Jose Etcheverry, an associate professor in the faculty of environmental studies at York University and co-chair of the Sustainable Energy Initiative, says cooling down offices in particular is a big problem.

“They use way more energy than they should,” he said.

“The energy comes from dirty sources and we have this vicious cycle that ends with people freezing in their desks in the middle of a hot summer. This is happening in many, many places around the world; it’s not just here in Canada.”

An in-depth New York Times report not only condemned the use of air conditioning as an environmental problem, it cited multiple studies that find workers are less productive in cooler temperatures.

Etcheverry said there are more examples today of eco-friendly buildings, but not enough, and reducing energy usage needs to be a priority.

“We need to use the resources in a more efficient and conservative manner and also ensure that the sources of the energy that we use come from renewable energy … so we’re not destroying the planet for something as simple as air conditioning.”

By the time we see that climate change is really bad, your ability to fix it is extremely limited… The carbon gets up there, but the heating effect is delayed. And then the effect of that heat on the species and ecosystem is delayed. That means that even when you turn virtuous, things are actually going to get worse for quite a while.

Bill Gates

 

It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility.

Yogi Berra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Going a Long Way Without Gas

We are reaching a point where, if we are going to save the planet, we have to change some mental images in our heads. In many ways it's all about our EGO. Who can go the fastest, the furthest, and the highest always gets the most attention and it's generally dependent on using fossil fuels. And example in the birding world is the fossil fuel supported record breaking Big Year of Neil Hayward. Neil Hayward got much more attention then the record establishing fossil fuelless Big Year of Dorian Anderson. We have to decide who we are going to admire, respect and give our attention to. There are many people who are now pushing the limits without using climate changing fossil fuels. This post is about just a few ways that this being done.

Congratulations go out to pilots André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard and the Solar Impulse 2 team.

As noted in this thinkprogress.org article states.

Just before noon, Borschberg landed the Solar Impulse 2 plane in Hawaii after taking off from Japan nearly five days before. The plane was powered without a drop of jet fuel, using only electricity generated from the sun striking the photovoltaic panel across its wing.

Borschberg actually broke one world record before his flight ended, for taking the longest nonstop solo flight without refueling in aviation history. The previous record was a 76-hour flight, held by Steve Fossett for his nonstop flight around the world in 2005.

But when he landed, Borschberg also broke the record for the world’s longest successful solar-powered flight, both by time and by distance. The flight lasted 4 days, 21 hours and 50 minutes, and traveled 8,209 kilometers across the Pacific.

There has never been a solar flight as long as this in the history of aviation.

After today’s landing in Hawaii, Borshberg and Piccard will continue their attempt to fly around the world. The next leg will be from Honolulu to Phoenix, Arizona, and then the two will fly together across the Atlantic on a return journey to Abu Dhabi, where they first took off in May.

Formula E racing is the answer to Formula 1 and 2 racing.

Formula E is a new FIA single-seater championship and the world's first fully-electric racing series.

The inaugural season kick-started in Beijing in September 2014 and runs until June 2015, competing in 10 of the world's leading cities including Miami, Berlin and London. A total of 10 teams, each with two drivers, race on temporary city-centre circuits creating a unique and exciting series designed to appeal to a new generation of motorsport fans.

Formula E also aims to represent a vision for the future of the motor industry, serving as a framework for R&D around the electric vehicle, accelerating general interest in these cars and promoting clean energy and sustainability.

0-62mph in 3 seconds and a top speed currently at 140mph seems fast enough for me.

80 DAY RACE

In April, as many as 30 teams will set out from Paris on a race around the world, each aiming to cover 25,000 miles and make it back to the French capital within 80 days—which means covering about 320 miles a day. And they have to do it without burning any fossil fuels.

The “80 Day Race” obviously is inspired by Verne’s 1873 novel Around the World in 80 Days, in which protagonist Phileas Fogg bets he can circumnavigate the globe in record time, thanks to new technologies like the steam engine.

“New technology allowed [Fogg] to do something really radical,” says race co-founder Frank Manders. “We are currently now in exactly the same situation.” Electric and fuel cell vehicles are within striking range of internal combustion engine-powered vehicles when it comes to efficiency, range, and cost. An international competition to improve the technology is just what’s needed, he says.

Manders says he’s already in talks with 15 teams, and hopes that number will reach 30 by race time. “You have a group of people that really likes big challenges,” he says. “There is a general appeal to a lot of people to do something outrageous, something that really defines your life.”

One of those teams is Storm Eindhoven, a group of 29 students at Eindhoven University of Technology, basically the Netherlands’ MIT. They have no interest in pooling together their spare cash for a Chevy Spark EV. They’re building their own electric ride, and it’s a motorcycle. The world’s first all-electric touring motorcycle, in fact.

The bike will deliver 28.5 kWh of energy—more than the new Nissan Leaf’s 24 kWh—when fully loaded with batteries. The team hasn’t built the thing yet, but says simulations show its range will be a whopping 236 miles. That’s Tesla territory.

Speaking about electric motorcycles–you know things are changing when Harley-Davidson starts thinking about producing one.

Many years ago, in my youth, I briefly rode a motorcycle around. I soon realized that every gray haired person in a huge Cadillac was out to get me. If I were ever to take up riding a motorcycle again I don't think I have the characteristic attributes of a Harley rider. I might go for the Zero SR.

I will probably just keep pushing the pedals of my Gary Fisher bike for as long as I can. I have a birthday coming up. I wonder what advances they are making with electric walkers.

You know, we humans are programmed to think that big changes on the Earth happened a long time ago, or will happen a long time in the future. What we don't realize is that they actually can happen right now. Right here, right now, while we're alive, in our own hours and days and months and years.

James Balog

 

When Did Humans Become A (FITB)?

FITB stands for “fill in the blank”. I was intrigued by a Grist article recently. The title was, When, exactly, did humans become an actual geological force? The story was originally published in Mother Jones.

Signs of human impact on the planet are everywhere. Sea levels are rising as ice at both poles melts; plastic waste clogs the ocean; urban sprawl paves over landscapes while industrial agricultural empties aquifers. Between climate change, urban development, and straight-up, old-school pollution, the Earth we inhabit now would be scarcely recognizable to our earliest ancestors 150,000 year ago.

While reading the article I realized that I had written a little about the subject. It was back in October of 2014, with a post called, The Anthropocene. In rereading that post I realized that I had actually published a good article, something I'm not always sure of. It was a book review. The book was, The Sixth Extinction–An Unnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert. Much of the post was devoted to a debate about if we have moved from the Holocene Epoch to the Anthropocene.

In the field of archaeology I've alway been impressed by the layering of civilizations. Civilizations build upon the previous civilization. In a million years what will our thin layer look like? What will it tell future archaeologists about us? They are beginning to have that discussion. Who are they? The International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS) that's who. I bet you didn't know they existed. The ICS is the “group responsible for maintaining the official timetable of earth's history.” It has formed a Anthropocene Working Group which hopes to propose the Anthropocene as a new Epoch by 2016. I know–those geologists work slow:)

It's a little strange to quote myself. Elizabeth Kolbert has won a 2015 Pulitzer Prize for her book. The mentioned Grist article is all about that debate. When did the Anthropocene start? Was it July 16, 1945, when the first nuclear bomb was exploded? Was it the 1950's when, “carbon ash particles characteristic of widespread fossil fuel combustion began to appear in soil records?” Was it the late 1700s and early 1800s with the coming of the Industrial Revolution? This would be my choice but what do I know? Does it go back even further to “when humans first started to cultivate crops, up to 11,000 years ago?” It's going to be a good debate.

Let me explain FITB. The Grist article used the term ” geological force”. I thought the use of that term created a sanitized and neutral impression. I will let you, the reader, decide if you feel that's appropriate. I got out an old Thesaurus and found many words I think would fit. Words like blight, cancer, blemish, pestilence, curse or plague would fill in the blank better. I will be posting pictures that I think proves my point. Most of them will be from the Guardian website in an article called, Overpopulation, Overconsumption-in Pictures. But first let me direct you to a May 2015, issue of Vice Magazine. There is a graphic that I think explains the problem we've gotten ourselves into while also explaining the debate on the Anthropocene. It's called We Blew it-A Time Line of Human Impact on the Planet. It will be better if you click the link and enlarge the graphic yourself for a readable version.

by Haisam Hussein

After looking at the graphic I'm beginning to think that the people suggesting the 1950s just might be correct. Just think–during my lifetime carbon dioxide went from less then 311ppm to over 400ppm. Population went from 2.5 billion to over 7 billion. Large dams went from 5,760 to 31,635. Cars went from well under 177 million to over 1.3 billion. That's just in 65 years. Think about what we have to look forward to!

Vice has a companion article to go with the graphic. It's called, We’ve Damaged the Planet So Badly It’s Entering a New Epoch.

The human population, they said, had grown tenfold over the previous three centuries, and along with it the cattle population had exploded to nearly 1.4 billion. Urbanization had also ballooned tenfold during the 19th century, and that growth would exhaust fossil-fuel supplies that were several hundred million years in the making. Humans had introduced nitrogen-infused fertilizers, they wrote, and—echoing Marsh—transformed up to 50 percent of the Earth's land surface. The rate of species extinction had gone up by at least a thousandfold. Greenhouse gases had substantially increased in the atmosphere, and other pollutants had punched a hole in the Earth's ozone layer.

Mexico City

Photograph: Pablo Lopez Luz

British Columbia clear-cut

Photograph: Garth Lentz

Joe Romm of Climateprogress.org recently blogged about the relationship between a warming planet and population projections.

I personally doubt homo sapiens will go fully extinct. The more important question for me is whether the planet can support upwards of 10 billion people post-2050 given that we have already overshot the Earth’s biocapacity — and the overshoot gets worse every year.

QCREDIT: WORLD WILDLIFE FUND
 

Most significantly, we are in the process of destroying a livable climate upon which so many species, including our own, rely. We are currently on a trajectory to warm the planet 4°C (7°F) or more this century and then continue warming in the next.

In particular, “drought and desertification would be widespread” and we’d see “large areas of cropland becoming unsuitable for cultivation, and declining agricultural yields.” At the same time, we’d “also rapidly be losing [the world’s] ecosystem services, owing to large losses in biodiversity, forests, coastal wetlands, mangroves and saltmarshes, and terrestrial carbon stores, supported by an acidified and potentially dysfunctional marine ecosystem.”

The bottom line, as the Science authors explain, is that “The relatively stable, 11,700-year-long Holocene epoch is the only state of the ES [Earth System] that we know for certain can support contemporary human societies.” As we move beyond that stable state, the risks for all species — including ours — grow and grow.

Believe it or not Joe Romm is the optimistic one. He's always arguing that we can keep the temperature rise to 2°C.

Oil wells Kern county

Photograph: Mark Gamba/Corbis

Rectangular fields

No room for nature, the entire landscape is devoted to crop production in China

Photograph: Google Earth/2014 Digital Globe

Trash wave-Java

Photograph: Zak Noyle

Greenhouses grow greenhouses Almeria, Spain

Photograph: Yann Arthus Bertrand

Hill-side slum Haiti

Photograph: Google Earth/2014 Digital Globe

We all live in our little bubble. We rarely see what's going on across our planet. Out of sight out of mind. But we should realize that much of the what is happening is a product of our lifestyles. There is a cognitive dissonance between our easy fossil fuel oriented world and how we act and what we see. We never see the consequences of a convenient jump into the car to the store or to chase a bird, a vacation plane trip, how we heat our homes, where we work and live and what we eat. Pictures like these are the results.

Tar Sands Production, Canada

Garth Lenz

Feedlot-Brazil

Photograph: Daniel Beltra/Greenpeace

Satellite images of Rondônia in Western Brazil, taken in 1975 (left) and 2009 (right). (NASA, Images of Change)

I recently came upon a BBC.com article about the supply line for all our various conveniences. It's called, The dystopian lake filled by the world’s tech lust. It rather shocking to read.

  • From where I'm standing, the city-sized Baogang Steel and Rare Earth complex dominates the horizon, its endless cooling towers and chimneys reaching up into grey, washed-out sky. Between it and me, stretching into the distance, lies an artificial lake filled with a black, barely-liquid, toxic sludge.
  • Dozens of pipes line the shore, churning out a torrent of thick, black, chemical waste from the refineries that surround the lake. The smell of sulphur and the roar of the pipes invades my senses. It feels like hell on Earth.
  • Welcome to Baotou, the largest industrial city in Inner Mongolia. I'm here with a group of architects and designers called the Unknown Fields Division, and this is the final stop on a three-week-long journey up the global supply chain, tracing back the route consumer goods take from China to our shops and homes, via container ships and factories.
  • You may not have heard of Baotou, but the mines and factories here help to keep our modern lives ticking. It is one of the world’s biggest suppliers of “rare earth” minerals. These elements can be found in everything from magnets in wind turbines and electric car motors, to the electronic guts of smartphones and flatscreen TVs. In 2009 China produced 95% of the world's supply of these elements, and it's estimated that the Bayan Obo mines just north of Baotou contain 70% of the world's reserves. But, as we would discover, at what cost?
  • After it rains they plough, unstoppable, through roads flooded with water turned black by coal dust. They line up by the sides of the road, queuing to turn into one of Baotou’s many coal-burning power stations that sit unsettlingly close to freshly built apartment towers. Everywhere you look, between the half-completed tower blocks and hastily thrown up multi-storey parking lots, is a forest of flame-tipped refinery towers and endless electricity pylons. The air is filled with a constant, ambient, smell of sulphur. It’s the kind of industrial landscape that America and Europe has largely forgotten – at one time parts of Detroit or Sheffield must have looked and smelled like this.
  • We reached the shore, and looked across the lake. I’d seen some photos before I left for Inner Mongolia, but nothing prepared me for the sight. It’s a truly alien environment, dystopian and horrifying. The thought that it is man-made depressed and terrified me, as did the realisation that this was the byproduct not just of the consumer electronics in my pocket, but also green technologies like wind turbines and electric cars that we get so smugly excited about in the West. Unsure of quite how to react, I take photos and shoot video on my cerium polished iPhone.

Credit: Liam Young/Unknown Fields

So when do you think humans became a geological force? Or if you're like me when did we become a (FITB)?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It Keeps Going Up!

I had stopped doing these kinds of posts since they were pretty much getting predictable. But–we all have to be reminded of these things every so often. So the headline is, 2015 Is Crushing It For Hottest Year On Record. Or do you like this one better? You Just Lived Through The Earth’s Hottest January-April Since We Started Keeping Records.

Global temperatures in April vs. 1951-1980 average. Via NASA.

Last week NASA reported that this has been the Earth’s hottest January-April on record. This week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) confirmed that finding with its latest monthly report on global temperatures.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has just predicted a 90 percent chance that the El Niño it declared in March will last through the summer and “a greater than 80 percent chance it will last through 2015.” El Niños generally lead to global temperature records, as the short-term El Niño warming adds to the underlying long-term global warming trend.

That last paragraph is a good news/bad news thing. The bad news is that it will lead to higher temperatures. The good news is that an El Niño will usually, but not always, bring rain to California. In some cases too much.

1982-83 El Niño Storms

Multiple strong storms brought high wind, heavy rain, and heavy snowfall across all of California. This led to direct wind damage, higher tides, immediate flooding to coastal and valley locations, mudslides in coastal mountain areas, record snowfall in the Sierra Mountains, and resulting spring snowmelt river flooding. In one 36-hour period, 25 inches of rain fell in the Santa Cruz (coastal) mountains while 8.5 feet of snow fell in the Lake Tahoe region. Forty-six counties were disaster-declared.

– Long-term Strategic Impact: Lessons learned from this El Niño event were used to lessen the impact of the next El Niño event in 1997-98, including enhanced coordination of reservoir releases.

– Calculated Damages: 36 dead, 481 injured, $1.209 billion economic losses including 6,661 homes and 1,330 businesses damaged or destroyed.

The anticipated El Niño is a little unusual.

El Niño usually develops over the southern autumn-winter, peaks around Christmas, and decays in the southern autumn.

So this event is unusual, as an El Niño would generally be decaying by this time of the year—but observations over recent weeks show otherwise. Sea surface temperatures in the El Niño core region (eastern equatorial Pacific) are actually still warming and the pattern is now looking more like a classic El Niño.

Separately, NOAA released its monthly report on “Global Ocean Heat.” It makes clear that the ocean’s heat content down to 2000 meters (1.24 miles) has been soaring this century — and nearly gone off the charts this year…

There is another disturbing record that was set in March. We hit the 400ppm level for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for the whole planet.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 400.83 parts per million (ppm) was the average concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide in March. This news from NOAA marks the first time that the entire planet has surpassed the 400 ppm benchmark for an entire month.

With the rate of growth of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations steadily increasing — rising from about 0.75 ppm per year in 1959 to about 2.25 ppm per year in 2015 — this milestone will soon be surpassed. Still, the 400 ppm average has been a long time coming.

“It was only a matter of time that we would average 400 parts per million globally,” Pieter Tans, lead scientist of NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network, said in a statement. “Reaching 400 parts per million as a global average is a significant milestone.”

“This marks the fact that humans burning fossil fuels have caused global carbon dioxide concentrations to rise more than 120 parts per million since pre-industrial times,” he continued. “Half of that rise has occurred since 1980.”

The world famous Keeling Curve has the carbon dioxide level at 403.51ppm. It actually started the year right at the 400ppm level. Will this be the year that it will stay over that level?

 

What’s it all About Jonathan Franzen?

This last month(April) saw a pissing match between several birding organizations–or was it a “snark-battle over bird conservation strategy” as one person put it? This pissing match/snark-battle revolved around one person whose name is Jonathan Franzen. Mr. Franzen is a novelist and essayist whose works have, many times, featured birds. He was pictured on the August 2010, Times magazine cover as a, Great American Novelist.

His latest book, Freedom, was critically acclaimed, but received very mixed reviews on Amazon.com. That's a Cerulean Warbler on the cover.

The first time I heard of Jonathan Franzen was an interview in the American Birding Association's(ABA) February 2015, issue of Birding. After reading the interview I came away with several impressions of Mr. Franzen. He was a serious birder although a late starter. He had a tremendous concern for the birds he watched having written about the slaughter of birds in the Mediterranean region. But he has a huge carbon footprint. Having written and read so much about climate change I have a tendency to judge people on how much carbon they put into the air. He has two homes. One in Santa Cruz, CA and one in New York, NY. He travels worldwide for business and writing assignments. In the interview he's pictured in Brazil, Spain, the Eastern Sierras, and he mentions doing a lot of traveling in Europe in his twenties. It sounds like he's still doing a lot of traveling. He is identified in the interview as being on the board of the American Bird Conservancy(ABC) a bird conservation organization that I donate to. The interview ends with this statement,

I recommend this to anyone who cares about birds. Become active in the ABA and the local Audubons. Contribute to ABC.

In my research on climate change I've bookmarked many organizations that deal with the subject. On April 1st, I heard Jonathan Franzen's name again. It was in a ThinkProgess article called, The Corrections: Jonathan Franzen’s Deeply Irresponsible Climate Change Article.

The New Yorker has published one of the most bird-brained and hypocritical climate articles ever, “Carbon Capture: Has climate change made it harder for people to care about conservation?” Quick answer: No!

There is zero chance the New Yorker would publish such easily-debunked nonsense if it's author were anyone other than Jonathan Franzen, a fiction writer of some acclaim, with several popular books rated 3 stars on Amazon. But as I came to learn — and as the New Yorker should have known — his entire essay is a stunning exercise in hypocrisy.

I was curious so I found the article in the New Yorker and read it. It can be found here. Please read it. I will have something to say about it shortly and It might surprise you that I agreed with much of what he wrote.

To slow global warming, we could blight every landscape with biofuel crops and wind turbines. But what about wildlife today? CREDIT ILLUSTRATION BY OLIVER MUNDAY

Grist had another article called, Jonathan Franzen is Confused About Climate Change, but then, Lots of People Are.

Jonathan Franzen, noted author of depressing literary fiction, has taken to the pages of The New Yorker to lament that no one cares about saving birds any more because all anyone cares about is climate change, and anyway, maybe we should just let humanity burn from climate change and save the birds because birds aren’t big jerks like people.

The essay is … not good. Just qua essay, really not good. I can’t imagine The New Yorker publishing it under any other byline. It is odd to read in the pages of that august magazine, for instance, criticism of a peer-reviewed study the author admits he has not seen but has judged “from the Web site’s graphics.”…

Despite the many valid criticisms, I find myself nursing some small ember of sympathy for Franzen. His essay reminds me of lots of conversations I’ve had over the years. I’ll be talking with someone — a smart, well-read person — and when they find out I write about climate change, they’ll kind of hesitate, and I’ll prod, and they’ll tell me their Climate Thing.

Most people haven’t taken the time to get familiar with all the ins and outs of climate change. It’s an incredibly complex and politically charged subject with all sorts of contradictory and fragmentary information bouncing around various info-channels. It takes some dedication and a thick skin to get a well-rounded understanding of it and most people have no particular incentive to do so.

Then the ABA got into the fray on their blog defending Jonathan Franzen, their new buddy.

And while Audubon could be forgiven for interpreting Franzen’s essay as an attack, I had a hard time reading it as such. Franzen’s criticisms are couched in a respect of an organization he calls “energetic” and “activist” in the near past. Sure, he finds the turn towards climate change to be ill-considered (and granted the plush birds line was a bit of a low blow), but not because it’s not an important issue, but because Audubon has historically been at its best when the weight of hundreds of thousands of motivated members are brought to bear on issues that have more immediacy than what Franzen calls the “imponderable” issue of curbing carbon emissions. The gist being that birders want to help birds in ways beyond changing light bulbs and signing online petitions.

I learned from this blog post that Audubon had responded to Jonathan Franzen’s article.

We were hardly a hundred words into Jonathan Franzen’s essay in the New Yorker about climate change and conservation when we suddenly found Audubon taking all kinds of flak about our concern about the impacts of climate change on birds, of all things. As though doing research on the topic and taking steps to do something about it might somehow be bad for birds.

By the time we got to the end, our confusion had turned to incredulity. Just what exactly was this man trying to say?

Franzen’s flawed logic leads him to believe that people can’t work to reduce the sources of climate pollution while protecting the birds and places they love at the same time. That’s not our experience here at Audubon—far from it. Our members can walk and chew gum at the same time.

As anyone knows from reading this blog I'm not a big fan of National Audubon. You can read my posts, Carbon Intensive Bird Event Sponsored by Audubon and Dear Brigid to get a general understanding of why. By the way, Brigid McCormack did finally respond to my email and I hope to post on that response sometime soon. The release of Audubon's, Birds and Climate Change report, may be a turning point for me and I agree with David Yarnold, President of National Audubon Society that people can work on both issues. I know I can. Here in drought ravaged California I am constantly getting emails from Audubon California about Tricolored Blackbirds, Double-crested Cormorants, hummingbirds, California Gnatcatchers, Snowy Plovers, water issues and birds, lead issues and birds, etc.

I said that I agreed with much of what Jonathan Franzen stated in his article although as a novelist he plays it fast and loose with his facts. Maybe that something he thinks a novelist can do. Here are some quotes from the article that I agree with.

…it’s important to acknowledge that drastic planetary overheating is a done deal. Even in the nations most threatened by flooding or drought, even in the countries most virtuously committed to alternative energy sources, no head of state has ever made a commitment to leaving any carbon in the ground.

The science is clear on this. We are heading (already there) towards a warming planet. Our carbon budget will soon be exhausted.

Jamieson’s larger contention is that climate change is different in category from any other problem the world has ever faced. For one thing, it deeply confuses the human brain, which evolved to focus on the present, not the far future, and on readily perceivable movements, not slow and probabilistic developments. (When Jamieson notes that “against the background of a warming world, a winter that would not have been seen as anomalous in the past is viewed as unusually cold, thus as evidence that a warming is not occurring,” you don’t know whether to laugh or to cry for our brains.)

Based on my experience people don't understand climate change. They don't get it!! They don't take the time to even try to understand it. They just go along with their life hoping someone else does something about it.

Climate change shares many attributes of the economic system that’s accelerating it. Like capitalism, it is transnational, unpredictably disruptive, self-compounding, and inescapable. It defies individual resistance, creates big winners and big losers, and tends toward global monoculture—the extinction of difference at the species level, a monoculture of agenda at the institutional level. It also meshes nicely with the tech industry, by fostering the idea that only tech, whether through the efficiencies of Uber or some masterstroke of geoengineering, can solve the problem of greenhouse-gas emissions. As a narrative, climate change is almost as simple as “Markets are efficient.” The story can be told in fewer than a hundred and forty characters: We’re taking carbon that used to be sequestered and putting it in the atmosphere, and unless we stop we’re fucked.

Yes we will be fucked and so will all of Jonathan's “nature” preserves and the birds that live in them. In his article he alluded to this.

The forest in Santa Rosa seemed desperately dry to me, even for a dry forest in the dry season. Hallwachs pointed to the cloud cover on the volcanoes and said that during the past fifteen years it has steadily moved upslope, a harbinger of climate change. “I used to win cases of beer betting on the date the rains would come,” Janzen said. “It was always May 15th, and now you don’t know when they’re going to come.” He added that insect populations in Guanacaste had collapsed in the four decades he’d been studying them, and that he’d thought of describing the collapse in a paper, but what would be the point? It would only depress people. The loss of insect species is already harming the birds that eat them and the plants that need pollination, and the losses will surely continue as the planet warms.

Jonathan Franzen seems to think that there is nothing we can do about all this.

The problem here is that it makes no difference to the climate whether any individual, myself included, drives to work or rides a bike. The scale of greenhouse-gas emissions is so vast, the mechanisms by which these emissions affect the climate so nonlinear, and the effects so widely dispersed in time and space that no specific instance of harm could ever be traced back to my 0.0000001-per-cent contribution to emissions. I may abstractly fault myself for emitting way more than the global per-capita average. But if I calculate the average annual quota required to limit global warming to two degrees this century I find that simply maintaining a typical American single-family home exceeds it in two weeks. Absent any indication of direct harm, what makes intuitive moral sense is to live the life I was given, be a good citizen, be kind to the people near me, and conserve as well as I reasonably can.

Certainly a statement of convenience for a globe trotting individual. Have you noticed that climate warming is never anybody's fault? It just seems to happen. In my comments on the ABA's blog I wrote,

Mr. Franzen is correct when he's saids that. The problem with that thinking is that in our “relatively” wealthy modern society there are so many Jonathan Franzens and collectively they put lots of carbon into the atmosphere.

In The New Yorker article, Jonathan Franzen fails to identity himself as being on the board of directors of the ABC. That's part of the controversy. He also trashes the National Audubon and their Birds and Climate Change Report. The link will take you to Audubon's website where they explain the report and even links to the actual report itself.

A hundred years ago, the National Audubon Society was an activist organization, campaigning against wanton bird slaughter and the harvesting of herons for their feathers, but its spirit has since become gentler. In recent decades, it’s been better known for its holiday cards and its plush-toy cardinals and bluebirds, which sing when you squeeze them…

After I commented on the ABA Blog about the Jonathan Franzen controversy I was contacted via Facebook by a Michael Retter. He is, “the editor of the ABA's newest magazine, Birder's Guide. He also wears his ABA cap while working as a Technical Reviewer for Birding magazine”.

Hi, there. I think you may be the Richard Hubacek who commented on the ABA Blog? If so, I invite you to read the discussion on the ABA's Facebook discussion group about the Audubon climate report. Many knowledgeable people believe it is deeply flawed. That doesn't mean they don't think climate change it real and dangerous to birds. Just that there are some major issues with the climate report that should have been caught by peer-review before publication.

Readers of this blog can also read this discussion. You might have to have a Facebook account to use this link. There you will find a point counterpoint discussion about the Audubon report. I felt it to be evenly divided on the subject and It even has birding legend Kenn Kaufman, an ABA Board of Directors member and famous low carbon big year birder telling the doubters to read the small print. At this point I would like to plug his butterfly book as the best general book on the subject but maybe I should just stay on subject. What you will not find is any mention of how drastic planetary overheating is a done deal or how fucked we will be if we don't stop putting carbon into the atmosphere. It's like they only read part of the Franzen article.

I have been reading reports on birds and climate change for many years. None of these reports state that climate change is good for birds. The ABC (Jonathan Franzen is a board member) issued a report in 2002 called, The Birdwatcher's Guide to Global Warming.

Human activity – particularly the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas – is sending tremendous additional quantities of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.The buildup of these gases is causing the planet to heat up and is altering the basic climate systems to which nature is adapted.There is a growing body of scientific evidence that some birds (as well as plants and other wildlife) are already responding to the changing climate.

As we explain in this report, recent studies indicate that this global warming could affect birds in many ways, shifting their distributions and altering their migration behavior and habitat, and even diminishing their survival ability. In some places, we may no longer see our favorite birds – as many as 33 states could see a significant reduction in American Goldfinches in the summer! As birdwatchers, we enjoy seeing the same birds we have always cherished in our backyards or on a favorite hike.What’s more, we understand that if a bird’s range shifts even a few miles, it can have a trickle-down effect for wildlife sharing its ecosystem.

If every household in the United States replaced its most commonly-used incandescent light bulbs with more efficient compact fluorescent bulbs, electricity use for lighting could be cut in half, lowering our total annual CO2 emissions by approximately 125 billion pounds (Geller 2001)

The report had a rather large section about changing light bulbs. It's sort of funny that Jonathan's article puts down the value of changing light bulbs. In any case the ABC report seems to be saying the same thing that the Audubon report is saying. Bird ranges will be moved because of climate change and it will not be a benefit for many of the birds.

The State of the Birds 2010 Report on Climate Change found National Audubon and the American Bird Conservancy collaborating along with other groups and government agencies on a report that says basically the same thing.

In 2007, National Audubon and ABC seemed to get along well enough to release, The United States WatchList of Birds of Conservation Concern.

In 2009, Audubon California released a report called, “Curbing Greenhouse Gas Emissions Will Reduce Future California Bird Loss“. In it they state,

Up to 110 of 310 California native bird species will experience significant reductions in their geographic range in the next several decades due to climate change, according to new research from Audubon California. These reductions will be part of massive range shifts to all of the state's bird species caused wholly or in part by the effects of climate change.

Did Jonathan Franzen, living in California, ever write an essay attacking the science or conservation ethics of Audubon California? Maybe he just wasn't as grumpy then as he is now. For those that don't get that last sentence read The New Yorker article. Being in the grip of a four year drought, Jonathan is in a bad mood. Here in California we are reading and writing a lot about our situation. An example that caught my attention recently was a 4/12/15, front page article in the San Francisco Chronicle called, Rich water wasters slow to turn off tap. It would appear that many rich people don't care how much they pay for water. One quote from a Palos Verdes Estates women (I used to live and work on the Palos Verdes Peninsula) was especially telling.

The longtime Palos Verdes Estates resident argued that any concessions she might make would probably have little effect on the statewide drought. (She) admitted, however, to recent pangs of guilt…

How do you think people whose wells have gone dry, who have lost their jobs in Central California's fields, who are actually conserving water, or are concerned about California wildlife would react to that statement? But isn't that what the Jonathan Franzen's of our world believe?

At the very start of this post I stated that there was a pissing match between various birding organizations. Maybe I was wrong about that. Although Jonathan Franzen is a board member of the ABC I can find no mention of the controversy on their website or their social media. Is Jonathan representing the ABC as a few people seem to think or is it just his personal opinion? I would like to know. Audubon certainly was entitled to respond to his article. Where did I find most of the sniping coming from? It was from the American Birding Association. To be fair I don't have a wide ranging view of these things. But Jonathan Franzen's name keeps popping up on their social media. Here. Here. Here. They seem to be keeping his name highlighted. Is it because, based on his interview in Birding, he's their new bro? Seems like it but I really don't know.

I wrote about the ABA back in 2013 when I had just started to blog. It was called, Is the ABA Schizophrenic? As a birding organization the ABA has no little conservation conscious. The ABA was founded on certain principles.

The next few issues were devoted to lively discussions of what the association and its publication should focus on, as well as an abundance of lists. An early consensus was reached that ABA would devote itself to promoting the hobby and sport of birding and would leave scientific contributions and conservation efforts to other organizations. To ensure that its direction would not be subverted, turning the organization into an armchair-bird-watchers' society or a conservation lobby, an elective membership policy was instituted, in imitation of that of the AOU.

It wasn't until a vote of it's members in July of 2011 that the ABA was even allowed to advocate on birding issues. I believe that I joined the ABA in 2007. That was well before my “green” birding conversion. I had heard rumors about the ABA's troubles but had no idea of how bad they were until I recently came upon a blog called, Birding with Kenn & Kimberly. In July of 2010, there was a post titled, Which Way For ABA?

The basic gist of the post was that Kenn Kaufman had been asked to help find a new president for the ABA.

The fact is that the American Birding Association is facing a tough situation right now. Membership numbers have been declining for the last few years, there have been a number of bad management decisions, and the organization is in financial difficulties. Whoever comes in as the new president is going to have to overcome some major challenges.

There are fifty comments to the post. It makes for an interesting read. Many of the names that commented were known to me as a reader of Birding. ABA's Birding was about the only thing universally praised in the comments. There were calls for a mass resignation of the board of directors. Allegations of lack of communication and even staff abuse from the board were made. You can even see the tensions between the hobby and sport people and the conservation people.

Keep conservation limited to Birders' Exchange and “North American Birds”. Leave the shouting and oil-soaked beach media-moments to the professional advocacy groups.

It would be absolutely fatal for ABA to move in the direction of spending more time, money and staff on conservation-related activities.

Versus

Members of the broad recreational birding community should be visibly, forcefully and effectively involved with conserving habitats and the bird species that “we” profess to “love.” ABA has never placed sufficient emphasis on conservation!!!! There is absolutely no reason why working singly or in broad partnerships to achieve what is in the long-term best interests of birds and other biodiversity shouldn't be FUN.

In response to other blogs that say that ABA should drop conservation, I would disagree. An organization that represents people who derive their enjoyment from watching birds would be remiss not to acknowledge bird-related conservation issues and not to support bird-conservation measures.

i must admit that my favorite comments came from a person named Brush Freeman.

First let me just allow why I no longer am with Birding. Frankly, in my case, I just “matured” beyond the whole list,listing and chase thing list thing which is what Birding more and more and more about..I don't condemn that, it just bores me to tears now, even though I was a sucker for all of that stuff once……I dropped ABA in part because it became more and more a less GREEN org., touting the 'who gives a flip” accomplishments of individuals that burn barrels of oil chasing a single species for some sort of stupid list. Frankly no one cares about my list or yours, so why does ABA even bother with this garbage anymore..?. Let ABA buy a few preserves, some habitat in critical areas, and really make a difference. Dump the sports end of the dollar-sucking publications and do something useful for future generations..

Brush, it's called ego. That's why they publish that “garbage”. Birders have to see where they stand in the birding world. I wish Jeff Gordon all the luck in the world as ABA's President.

So have I offended everybody with this little post on my blog? The answer is no I haven't. Nothing bad about the ABC in this article. I don't have anything bad to say about them except for having a controversial board member but I will be keeping an eye on them. Not too long ago they sent me an email promoting The Biggest Week in American Birding. I noticed something unusual about the email. The event is promoting a carbon offset to protect the Cerulean Warbler. From the ABC's website.

(Washington, D.C., March 19, 2015) One of the world’s premier annual birding festivals, known as The Biggest Week in American Birding (“Biggest Week”), will feature for the second year in a row a “carbon offset” component to advance bird conservation. This year, the festival suggests a $10-per-person donation to enhance habitat for the imperiled Cerulean Warbler and other migratory birds.

The funds raised through the carbon offset will boost reforestation efforts by American Bird Conservancy (ABC) in Latin America, which has supported the planting of more than 3.5 million trees and shrubs to date, improving wintering habitat for Cerulean Warblers and many other bird species.

I've noticed that this is happening more and more. Somewhere in the back reaches of some birder's brains is the fact that birders put lots of carbon into the atmosphere having “fun” chasing birds. Let me highlight a member of ABA's staff. Noah Strycker was formerly the Associate Editor of Birding. He is still a Department Editor in charge of “interviews”. In fact he did the Jonathan Franzen interview. Noah is on a Birding Without Borders year.

This year I will try to become the first person to see 5,000 species of birds in one calendar year, a sort of cosmopolitan, modern version of Wild America and Kingbird Highway. Rather than hiring international tour guides, I’ll spend my time with passionate locals—individuals who care about their home patches, and who are making a difference for birds in their own areas. Along the way, I will explore how birding, and the conservation of birds, fits into our new, crowded, globalized millennium.

Noah seems to get it!!

It sounds like a lot of flying, but a year is a long time to trace one methodical circuit of the globe. Contrasted with the quick overseas vacations taken by many birders, the environmental impact of this project seems less extreme—or at least more efficient. Traveling with a purpose carries other benefits, too; in my view, if everyone could visit just one other country, the world would become more humane. Still, I know I will be responsible for burning a lot of fuel in 2015, so I have joined a carbon offset program. It’s not a perfect system, but in theory my net carbon footprint during this trip will be zero.

And where did I happen to read about Noah's adventure? How about the National Audubon Society's Blog. It always amazes me how interconnected birding organizations are.

Here's an idea. What would happen if the ABA incorporated a carbon offset into their fabled Code of Birding Ethics? Make it 1(e) right there under Promote the welfare of birds and their environment.

That's something I think I could get behind.

This is undoubtedly the longest post I have ever written. I guess that proves that just about anyone can write a long rambling essay. How do I want to end this thing? How did Jonathan Franzen end his essay? Does anyone remember?

The animals may not be able to thank us for allowing them to live, and they certainly wouldn’t do the same thing for us if our positions were reversed. But it’s we, not they, who need life to have meaning.

It's a pretty good ending. I'm going to leave you with a quote from a climate scientist and surprisingly a trailer from Emptying the Skies a documentary based on Jonathan Franzen's articles on the bird slaughter in the Mediterranean. He co-produced the film. It seems like it is a powerful film on an important issue. We all have a part to play in saving birds.

A Grist article titled, Should climate scientists give up flying? reports on a moral dilemma that climate scientists have. Even though, “climate scientists curtailing their air travel would make a microscopic dent in reducing emissions”, they are in a small subset of the population that really knows what's going on with climate change. I personally feel that birders should also be in that small subset of population if they really care about what happens to the birds we love. Richard Alley, a climate scientist at Penn State ends the article with a quote that totally encompasses my feelings on the subject.

Individual actions cannot solve this problem and build a sustainable future. But we cannot solve this problem and build a sustainable future without individual actions.