Thursday, October 21, 2010

We Have Met The Enemy...

Down at the radio station I've made Thursdays my day to cover science, environmental and global warming news. I felt it was more effective to put it all together and make it all of a piece. Sadly today's stories all put together create an alarming picture of where we are headed.

 Starting with this speech given by Maude Barlow, a former UN Senior Water Advisor, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians and founder of the Blue Planet Project, about global warming and its effect on our water systems.
Half the tropical forests in the world – the lungs of our ecosystems – are gone; by 2030, at the current rate of harvest, only 10% will be left standing. Ninety percent of the big fish in the sea are gone, victim to wanton predatory fishing practices. Says a prominent scientist studying their demise “there is no blue frontier left.” Half the world’s wetlands – the kidneys of our ecosystems – were destroyed in the 20th century. Species extinction is taking place at a rate one thousand times greater than before humans existed. According to a Smithsonian scientist, we are headed toward a “biodiversity deficit” in which species and ecosystems will be destroyed at a rate faster than Nature can create new ones.
If that's not sobering enough, she makes the case that we are in the process of polluting our lakes, rivers and streams to death.
Every day, 2 million tons of sewage and industrial and agricultural waste are discharged into the world’s water, the equivalent of the weight of the entire human population of 6.8 billion people. The amount of wastewater produced annually is about six times more water than exists in all the rivers of the world. A comprehensive new global study recently reported that 80% of the world’s rivers are now in peril, affecting 5 billion people on the planet.
She makes the point convincingly that carbon markets and the like are false solutions which, essentially, privatize the atmosphere by creating a new form of property rights over natural resources. Go read the whole thing over at alternet.org and prepare to be alarmed.

If that's not enough to make you wonder whether or not you'll ever have grandchildren, the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) uses 22 computer climate models and a comprehensive index of drought conditions and provides analysis of  predicted and extended droughts headed our way as a result of unceasing unrestricted emissions and warns we risk multiple, devastating global droughts even on moderate emissions path at this point.
Previous climate studies have indicated that global warming will probably alter precipitation patterns as the subtropics expand. The 2007 assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that subtropical areas will likely have precipitation declines, with high-latitude areas getting more precipitation.
The detailed analysis concludes that warming temperatures associated with climate change will likely create increasingly dry conditions across much of the globe in the next 30 years, possibly reaching a scale in some regions by the end of the century that has rarely, if ever, been observed in modern times.
You can go over to ClimateProgress.org and read Joe Romm's post 'Putting the "hell" in Hell and Highwater,' which has the links to a host of articles related to this story.
 
If all of this wasn't bad enough, warming is also affecting our oceans and marine eco-systems in ways that are potentially devestating.
 And yesterday the Ausralian Research Council (ARC) announced in a press release that there's been a huge coral death which has struck Southeast Asian and Indian Ocean reefs which proves the urgency and need of controlling global carbon emissions.
Scientists studying Caribbean reefs say that 2010 may be the worst year ever for coral death there. Abnormally warm water since June appears to have dealt a blow to shallow and deep-sea corals that is likely to top the devastation of 2005, when 80% of corals were bleached and as many as 40% died in areas on the eastern side of the Caribbean.

Climate change is having a dramatic impact on the tropics by pushing their boundaries towards the poles at an unprecedented rate not foreseen by computer models, which had predicted this sort of poleward movement only by the end of the century.

Many reefs are dead or dying across the Indian Ocean and into the Coral Triangle following a bleaching event that extends from the Seychelles in the west to Sulawesi and the Philippines in the east and include reefs in Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and many sites in western and eastern Indonesia.
“It is certainly the worst coral die-off we have seen since 1998. It may prove to be the worst such event known to science,” says Dr Andrew Baird of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and James Cook Universities.
Go over to the WWF climate blog where you can find more information about the devastating effects that global warming is having on the Coral Triangle which has been called ...the planet’s crown jewel of coral diversity, and what its loss will mean to ecosystems, people and societies.

7 comments:

The Mound of Sound said...

Now explain why every political leader in Canada is flatly ignoring this. We have filled Parliament with a shameless gaggle of Petro-Pols, Tar Sanders and Fossil Fuelers.

karl knox said...

Mound of Sound -- because they're all in thrall to corporate whoredom? Seriously though I have no idea why everyone thinks we can get away with more of the same behaviour and not pay for it in horrible ways.

Adapt? Great idea - just explain to me how you do it with little water and diminishing sources of arable land and mostly empty oceans bereft of marine life.

The Mound of Sound said...

Karl, I don't have any answers. Precip in Canada, nationally at least, is expected to increase. Here on Vancouver Island we have enough mountain assets to build reservoirs (we already experience drought in July & August.

My better half is finishing a degree in environmental sustainability at U.B.C. Some of her profs are highly renowned and they don't give us much chance unless we move quickly to decarbonize our economies and our society. They tend to see the big obstacle as the utter lack of political will to act.

karl knox said...

Mound of Sound

The utter lack of political will sounds about right There's also being uninformed or disinformed and the corporate propaganda that's standing in the way of action - Some of these corporatists will be criminally liable I believe - Not that that will do us or our children and grandchildren any good -

Those droughts are no doubt precipitated by earlier and more intense melting season that leave streams dry by late summer?

The Mound of Sound said...

My understanding is that the droughts are primarily due to two changes - altered precipitation patterns and simple warming that increases evaporation of ground water while increasing the air's capacity to hold water vapour.

There'll still be as much water only not where it's needed when it's needed. Farmers know they need just the right amounts of rain at just the right times. Too much rain is as bad as not enough. It doesn't make much difference to an African herder whether his cattle die of thirst or drown.

We're facing a crash course in appreciation for a variety of delicate balances nature once maintained, particularly over the last 100,000 years that enabled mankind to flourish, and grow, and destroy itself.

I'm old enough that I'll probably dodge the harsher impacts but it's troubling to know what lies in store for our kids and theirs. I live on Vancouver Island largely for the moderate climate and I hope (but am hardly certain) that areas like this will be able to adapt to the changes.

karl knox said...

You're analysis fits with what I know and what I`ve read -- I`m 53 and will not be here when it hits the fan but I seriously worry about the fate of my two kids later in life - Those projections from NCAR for 2060-2069 were insanely frightening

The worst thing is that while the evidence is piling up the Koch brothers and other corporatist sociopaths are continuing to block any actions from being taken

The Mound of Sound said...

"Corporate sociopaths" - I love it.