Our Destabilization

Overview

This section is a brief overview of the unprecedented global situations that are facing humanity. Looking at history to help us see where we are headed this century can be misleading, because just like human population and technology, our impact on the planet has been accelerating exponentially. There were 2.6 billion people on the planet in 1950 and there are projected to be 9.2 billion by 2050, which is an increase of 6.6 billion people in just 100 years.1  That being said, we cannot blame increased population entirely for the current state of our Earth, because roughly the richest 500 million people on the planet contribute approximately 50% of all greenhouse gas emissions.2  Our current environmentally unconscious system of cartel capitalism is running up against natural barriers in every direction, and it has become clear that a system of endless growth on a finite planet is fundamentally unsustainable.

 

Over the last four years, we have looked at the most important angles to the current global pollution situation that we could find, and what follows is an aggregate of that information. By recognizing that people and organizations often become attached to their ideas by making them into a part of their sense of self, Ourglass strives to always keep an open mind and review all relevant information without pre-judging it. Only in this way can we go beyond the constraints of cognitive dissonance to form a coherent narrative and strategy that will help humanity to navigate the increasingly complex and sometimes chaotic global reality.

  • Friedman, T. L. Hot, Flat and Crowded (Ch. 2 ~ 6:20) [Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008].                               [Narrated by Oliver Wyman]. Macmillan Audio, 2008 [Audible]. 
  • 2 Klein, N. This Changes Everything (Ch. 5 ~ 47:50) [Simon & Schuster, 2014]. [Narrated by                           Ellen Archer]. Simon & Schuster Audio, 2014 [Audible]. 

Causes of Global Climate destabilization
The Greenhouse Effect

The greenhouse effect gets its name from greenhouses used for farming. The glass of a greenhouse allows the sun’s light to pass through the glass in the form of a photon, which is absorbed by the plants and soil in the greenhouse, then radiated back toward the glass as infrared heat. Unlike the photon that passes right through the glass, the infrared heat (which is still light, but has a longer wavelength than a photon) gets trapped on its way out, and the greenhouse heats up. Our atmosphere behaves in a very similar way, except that we have greenhouse gases (GHGs) trapping heat instead of glass. Of particular concern are carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) because these are both powerful GHGs that are being rapidly increased by human activities. GHGs in our atmosphere are very important, and without them, Earth’s global average temperature would be below freezing. But our relentless release of these gases has thrown off the planet’s relative equilibrium and is sending human civilization into wholly unchartered territory. Perhaps the most concerning thing about our climate system is that there is a 40 year lag between our GHG emissions and the consequent trapping of heat, primarily due to the thermal inertia of our oceans. Think of how a pot of water takes time to reach the temperature of the flame directly beneath it. This means that the warming we are currently experiencing is from all our emissions leading up to 1975. It also means that even if we transition to 100% renewable energy and eliminate industrial animal agriculture right now, we would still have at least four decades of exponential warming built into the climate system.

Any thought that natural processes can still somehow move Earth toward the next Ice Age is utter nonsense. Humans, by rapidly burning fossil fuels, have caused global warming that overwhelmes the natural tendency toward the next Ice Age. ~ James Hanson

  • Guzman, A. T. Overheated (Ch. 5 ~ 17:05) [Oxford University Press, 2013]. [Narrated by Fleet                  Cooper]. Audible Studios, 2013 [Audible]. 
Greenhouse Gases

Carbon Dioxide (CO2): the pre-industrial revolution levels of CO2 were approximately 270 parts per million (ppm) and the current levels as of April, 2015 are 404 ppm. Climate scientists can travel back in time using data found in ice cores from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. The bubbles in the ice trap ancient air, which allows scientist to determine levels of CO2 and methane, whereas the chemical composition of the ice allows them to determine the temperature. This has allowed them to create detailed CO2 and temperature records going back 800,000 years. Not only do temperature and CO2 have a very obvious positively correlated relationship, but it is also clear that in this timeframe, CO2 never went above 300 ppm. The last time CO2 was at its current levels was around 3.6 million years ago during the middle Pliocene. During the Pliocene, there was no ice on Greenland. CO2 levels also went above 400 ppm around 14 million years ago. During this period, oceans were 25-40 meters higher than today, while temperatures were 3-6 °C warmer, which is a good indicator of where our current climate is heading.1

 

Methane (CH4): pre industrial revolution concentrations of methane were 700 parts per billion (ppb) in stark contrast to the current level of 1,800 ppb. This is a widely debated topic, but the most consistent agreement that we have found is that methane traps 84 times more heat than CO2 for every year that it is in the atmosphere, but it only persists for a quarter of the lifespan of CO2. This means that over the course of its life in the atmosphere, methane traps 21 times more heat than CO2.

Fossil Fuels

The primary cause of Global Climate Change is the burning of fossil fuels. We currently burn over 30 Gigatons (a gigaton is a billion tons) every year, and this figure is increasing by at least 3% every year. Almost everything we do, from toasting bread and making coffee to driving our cars and heating our homes requires the burning of fossil fuels, unless a person has solar panels or is harnessing some other form of renewable energy. A common argument from climate change skeptics is that volcanoes emit far more CO2 than humans ever could, so it is not possible that our species is having an impact on the climate. At the 12:40 minute mark of the 12th episode of Cosmos, Neil deGrasse Tyson says that the largest scientific estimate for CO2 released by volcanoes each year is 500 million tons, which is less than 2% of the over 30 billion tons that humans release annually. We are a very powerful force of nature, and we are rapidly disrupting the stable climate that has allowed civilization to develop since the last ice age ended around 11,000 years ago.

Animal Agriculture

The second largest contributor to climate change, and many would argue an equal cause of global climate disruption, is animal agriculture. Although most green groups ignore the impacts of industrial animal agriculture, a 2009 Worldwatch report written by Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang said that animal agriculture was responsible for 51% of warming from greenhouse gas emissions, because methane can trap so much more heat than CO2. Animal agriculture is also the leading cause of freshwater depletion, dead zones in aquatic ecosystems, habitat loss, and deforestation. According to the documentary Cowspiracy, a remarkable 91% of all deforestation in the Amazon is to make room for the raising and grazing of cattle. As mentioned above, every year, a single methane molecule traps 84 times more heat than a CO2 molecule. This means that since methane only persists in the atmosphere for a quarter the time of CO2, reducing it decreases warming 324 times faster than reducing an equal amount of CO2: (84 x 4 =324).

Impacts of global climate destabilization
The Sixth Extinction

Five major extinction events have taken place in our Earth’s history, and we are now in the middle of a sixth. Unlike the previous five, however, this one is caused by humans, and is primarily being driven by our extractive mindset and our conditioning to pursue endless growth. The following  statement demonstrates our impact: “half of the world’s tropical and temperate forests are now gone. The rate of deforestation in the tropics continues at a rate of an acre per second. About half of the wetlands and a third of the mangroves are now gone. An estimated 90% of the large predator fish are gone, and 75% of marine fisheries are either over fished or fished at capacity. 20% of the corals are gone and another 20% are severely threatened. Species are disappearing at rates about 1,000 times faster than normal. The planet has not seen such a spasm of extinction in over 65,000,000 years, since the dinosaurs disappeared. Over half of the agricultural land in dry regions suffers from some degree of deterioration and desertification. Persistent toxic chemicals can now be found by the dozens in essentially each and every one of us.”1  Seven years have passed since this book was published and the negative impact of our species on all life on the planet has continued to grow exponentially. “Today, amphibians enjoy the dubious distinction of being the world’s most endangered class of animals. It has been calculated that the groups extinction rate could be as much as 45,000 times higher than the background rate. But extinction rates among many other groups are approaching amphibian levels. It is estimated that a third of all reef building corals, a third of all freshwater mollusks, a third of sharks and rays, a quarter of all mammals, a fifth of all reptiles and a sixth of all birds are headed toward oblivion. The losses are occurring all over: in the South Pacific and in the North Atlantic, in the Arctic and the Sahel, in lakes and on islands, on mountain tops and in valleys. If you know how to look, you can probably find signs of the current extinction event in your own backyard”.2  This may be the single thing that future generations have the hardest time accepting – the reality that they cannot experience the wondrous biodiversity of this planet, because their recent ancestors followed a belief system that degraded our Earth’s ecosystems in the pursuit of paper. The U.S. left the gold standard in 1971 under the leaderships of Richard Nixon and his advisors Dick Cheney, George Schultz, and Henry Kissinger.3  This is when our currency truly became fiat money and now falls into a similar category as monopoly money, which means that we are destroying the natural world in the pursuit of money that is not backed by anything other than faith in the U.S. government.

 

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

 
  • Speth, J. G. The Bridge at the End of the World (Ch. # 2 ~ 00:40) [Yale University Press,                           2009]. [Narrated by David Zinn]. Caravan, 2010 [Audible]. 
  • Kolbert, E. The Sixth Extinction (Ch. 3 ~ 30:30) [Picador, 2015].  [Narrated by Anne                                   Twomey]. Simon & Schuster Audio, 2014 [Audible]. 
  • Perkins, J. The Secret History of American Empire (Ch. 31 ~ 00:30) [Plume, 2008].  [Narrated                    by Jonathan Davis]. Penguin Audio, 2007 [Audible].

We have become frighteningly effective at altering nature. ~ Sylvia Earle

  • 1 McKibben, B. Eaarth (Ch. 1 ~ 1:16:40) [St. Martin’s Griffin, 2011].  [Narrated by Oliver                          Wyman]. Macmillan Audio, 2010 [Audible].
Ocean Acidification

Unfortunately, the oceans absorb more than just heat; around 30% to 40% of all the CO2 that we have burned since the industrial revolution has been absorbed by the oceans. The pH of the oceans has not changed this quickly in millions of years, and since the industrial revolution, we have made the oceans around 30% more acidic. When carbon dioxide mixes with water, carbonic acid is formed. This is threatening shellfish and coral reefs, because the increased acidity makes it difficult to form calcified structures like skeletons and shells. As the oceans heat up and become more acidic, they are becoming less biodiverse. For instance, jelly fish grow faster and produce more young in warmer waters. More jellyfish means fewer fish, both because jellyfish eat their larvae and outcompete them for food. Massive jellyfish blooms are taking place with increasing frequency. In the Sea of Japan, there has been a huge increase in clogged fishing nets due to a bloom of 500 million Nomura jellyfish, each of which are more than 2 meters (6.5 feet) in diameter.1  If we continue business as usual (burning fossil fuels and overfishing our oceans), we are likely to experience a mass ocean extinction before 2050. According to the Director of the Apollo-Gaia project David Wasdell, phytoplankton are at the bottom of the food chain in the oceans, and their numbers have already decreased by 40% due to acidification and warming. Phytoplankton are responsible for the creation of at least 50% of the oxygen on Earth and are a massive carbon sink; as they disappear, the Earth’s ability to turn CO2 into oxygen decreases significantly. This is just one of the clear indications that we are already in the sixth great extinction in Earth’s history. Click here or a 21 minute overview on ocean acidification.

Temperature Rise

Global average temperatures have only risen 0.8° celsius (C), or 1.5° fahrenheit (F), using 1900 as the baseline year. As chronicled below, the impacts of this have already been immense. Although 0.8 °C does not sound like much, the difference in global average temperature between right now and the last ice age is only around 6 °C. Because Earth is such a complex and dynamic system, it is difficult to estimate how hot our planet will get during this century. It is likely that any computer models that do not integrate reinforcing feedbacks will be dangerously conservative, meaning that global average temperature rise will be much greater than the models predict. Bill McKibben and 350.org created a campaign based on three numbers called “Do The Math.” The first number is 2 °C, which is the amount of warming above the 1900 baseline that every country in attendance at the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Summit committed to staying below. The only thing on which there is a political agreement is that 2 °C of warming is too much. Unfortunately, due to the massive impact of the current 0.8° C warming, many climate scientists think that 2° C is actually a route to climate chaos. Despite this, scientists tried to determine how much CO2 could be emitted into the atmosphere while having an 80% chance of staying below 2 °C warming. The number they arrived at was 565 gigatons (a gigaton is a billion tons). As of 2013, we burned over 30 gigatons every year, and at current rates of increase, we will burn through this limit before 2030. The third and most daunting number is 2,795 gigatons. This is the amount of proven carbon that is currently accounted for in the reserves of the coal, oil and gas companies and countries worldwide. This number is 5 times higher than the amount of CO2 that the most conservative governments on Earth think is safe to burn. Put another way, we need to keep 80% of the fossil fuels that have already been factored into the financials of these companies and countries, in the ground.3  An estimate for how much that 80% is worth is 21.6 trillion dollars, and because fossil fuels are controlled by the wealthiest corporations, individuals and families on the planet, there is a powerful resistance to any movement that would cause those fossil fuels to remain in the ground.4  People and organizations who want to mitigate the worst impacts of global climate disruption (climate change and ocean acidification) must find ways to inspire the wealthiest  and most powerful people on the planet to part ways with around 10 trillion dollars in sunk costs and 21.6 trillion dollars in potential revenue. The information above demonstrates that the business plan of the fossil fuel industry, if carried out, will scientifically and mathematically wreak havoc on Earth’s ecosystems, and thus significantly reduce its ability to support the ever-growing demands of civilization.

 

“Those who have the privilege to know, have the duty to act.”
~ Albert Einstein

It is worth noting that at the 13:00 minute mark of Cowspiracy, a respected and well informed environmental author and researcher named Dr. Richard Oppenlander says that even without any more fossil fuel consumption, we would exceed the 565 Gigatons that were mention in ‘Do The Math’ before 2030, “all simply by raising and eating livestock”.

  • Hanson, J. Storms of my Grandchildren (Ch. 5 ~ 00:45) [Bloomsbury USA, 2010]. [Narrated                     by John Allen Nelson]. Tantor Audio, 2009 [Audible].
  • Schendler, A. Getting Green Done (2 ~ 04:35) [Public Affairs, 2010]. [Narrated by Walter                        Dixon]. Gilden Media, 2009 [Audible]. 
  • McKibben, B. Oil and Honey (Ch. 5 ~ 39:10) [St. Martin’s Griffin, 2014]. [Narrated by: Kevin                  T. Collins]. Macmillan, Audio, 2013 [Audible].
  • Klein, N. This Changes Everything (Ch. 7 ~ 25:25) [Simon & Schuster, 2014]. [Narrated by                      Ellen Archer]. Simon & Schuster Audio, 2014 [Audible]. 
 
  • McKibben, B. Eaarth (Ch. 1 ~ 12:35) [St. Martin’s Griffin, 2011].  [Narrated by Oliver                            Wyman]. Macmillan Audio, 2010 [Audible]. 
  • Guzman, A. T. Overheated (Ch. 6 ~ 28:35) [Oxford University Press, 2013]. [Narrated by                        Fleet Cooper]. Audible Studios, 2013 [Audible]. 
Melting glaciers

All around the world, glaciers are melting. Most people do not understand or appreciate the vital importance of glaciers for the year-round supply of water for agriculture and hydroelectric energy production. We have lived in the sweetest of sweet spots since the end of the last ice age, around 11,000 years ago. Since then, it has been warm enough for agriculture on most continents, but cold enough to have glaciers that supply a steady runoff for agricultural production during the dry season.1  All around the world, glaciers are in rapid retreat. South America will likely be glacier free by 2025.2  In 2009 the 18,000 year old Chacaltaya Glacier in Bolivia, once home to the worlds highest elevation ski resort, completely disappeared.2  As temperatures rise, there is more intense flooding during the wet season, because the precipitation falls as rain rather than snow. This also creates mega droughts, because as of now, we have no way of replacing the massive storage capacity that glaciers provide, which means that we will have no way of storing the water through the dry season. As they disappear, large famines will continue to become more prominent, because floods and droughts are not conducive to agriculture. The loss of ice threatens countless species and entire ecosystems all around the world, especially at the poles. This is affecting young and juveniles of different species first and worst because they are most sensitive to environmental changes and pollution. Also, there has been a general decrease in fertility because reproduction is one of the first functions to shut down when full grown animals experience environmental stress and food shortages.

Rising Seas

A basic law of physics is that when water warms, it expands. In the oceans thermal expansion is causing sea levels to rise. Luckily, thermal expansion will only cause the oceans to rise between 20 cm (7.8 in) and 50 cm (19.7 in) this century.1  Melting glaciers also increase sea levels, but even if all the glaciers completely melt, they do not have enough water to raise sea levels beyond 30 cm (11.8 in). Melting sea ice does not increase sea levels, because the ice is floating on the water and therefore has already displaced as much water as it will when it melts. However, it takes 80 times more energy to melt ice than it takes to raise the temperature of water from 0 °C to 1 °C.2  This means that once the sea ice has all melted, ocean temperatures will rise much faster because it takes far less energy to warm the temperature of water than it takes to transmute it from ice into water. In essence, we will have eliminated one of the world largest air conditioners.2  When we hear climate scientists talk about large changes in sea levels, they are talking about changes to the ice sheets. The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets hold enough water to raise sea levels by approximately 80 m or 262 ft. Scientists have no way of knowing how quickly the melting will happen, but those at the forefront of studying the changes predict a sea level rise between 80 cm (2.6 ft) and 2 m (6.5 ft) by 2100.3  These numbers will likely prove to be conservative as positive feedbacks accelerate the rate of warming beyond what current models and observations have lead scientists to predict. Just like the increase of our global population and our greenhouse gas emissions thus far, sea level rise will be an exponential phenomena. With only one meter of sea level rise, 17% of Bangladesh would be underwater and 20 million people would be permanently displaced. To cope with this likely situation, India is already building militarized fences to prevent millions of desperate climate refugees from crossing the border.4  An example of the potential impacts of sea level rise that may be closer to home, can be found in California. The Sacramento-San Joaquin river delta provides water to 20 million Californians and is below sea level. The fresh water is protected from salt water intrusion by levees, like in New Orleans. As seas rise and storms grow in intensity, many levees could collapse at once, shutting down the water supply to 20 million Californians for months. California may update the levee infrastructure before this threat is realized, but this serves as an example that all countries are at risk from climate change.5

Could the oceans really rise 10 feet in the next 50 years?

 

Perhaps the citiznes of California will invest in upgrading th levees in the delta or protecting themselves in some other way. Fighting the ocean, however, is not for the faint of heart. One wonders whether that project will become enough of a political priority to generate the needed investments. If seas rise by a meter or more and if climate change brings more and stronger storms, it seems likely that the most populous state in the country will eventually lose a critical source of fresh water. ~Andrew T. Guzman

 
  • Guzman, A. T. Overheated (Ch. 5 ~ 07:10) [Oxford University Press, 2013]. [Narrated by                         Fleet Cooper]. Audible Studios, 2013 [Audible]. 
  • Guzman, A. T. Overheated (Ch. 5 ~ 05:00) [Oxford University Press, 2013]. [Narrated by                         Fleet Cooper]. Audible Studios, 2013 [Audible]. 
  • Guzman, A. T. Overheated (Ch. 5 ~ 25:30) [Oxford University Press, 2013]. [Narrated by                         Fleet Cooper]. Audible Studios, 2013 [Audible]. 
  • Guzman, A. T. Overheated (Ch. 4 ~ 43:30) [Oxford University Press, 2013]. [Narrated by                         Fleet Cooper]. Audible Studios, 2013 [Audible]. 
  • Guzman, A. T. Overheated (Ch. 4 ~ 1:09:45) [Oxford University Press, 2013]. [Narrated by                     Fleet Cooper]. Audible Studios, 2013 [Audible]. 
  • Hanson, J. Storms of my Grandchildren (Ch. 5 ~ 31:30) [Bloomsbury USA, 2010]. [Narrated                     by John Allen Nelson]. Tantor Audio, 2009 [Audible].
  • 2 Guzman, A. T. Overheated (Ch. 5 ~ 41:20) [Oxford University Press, 2013]. [Narrated by                           Fleet Cooper]. Audible Studios, 2013 [Audible]. 
  • 3 Klein, N. This Changes Everything (Ch. 5 ~ 30:15) [Simon & Schuster, 2014]. [Narrated by                       Ellen Archer]. Simon & Schuster Audio, 2014 [Audible]. 
Super Storms

As Earth’s systems warm up, the oceans absorb the majority of the heat. So far the oceans have absorbed around 90% of the additional heat that has been trapped by our greenhouse gas emissions.1  Not only does this accelerate the melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, but because heat is energy, when a hurricane, cyclone or typhoon crosses over warmer waters, it increases in intensity. Also, there has been and will continue to be an increase in flooding because a warmer atmosphere holds more water vapor. These two scientific facts combine to create superstorms that will continue to increase in their destructive power. In the North Atlantic and Eastern Pacific, we use the word hurricane to describe tropical storms of sufficient strength. In the Indian Ocean, those storms are referred to as cyclones, and in the Western Pacific, they are known as typhoons. During the 15 years between 1975 and 1989 there were 171 storms classified as category 4 or 5, the strongest and most destructive categories. During the next 15 years, from 1990-2004, there were 269 storms classified as category 4 and 5.1  Another sobering set of statistics is that from 1970-1980 there were 656 extreme weather events, including: droughts, floods, wildfires, extreme temperature events and tropical storms. From 2000-2010 there were 3,764 extreme weather events, more than five times the amount that occurred only three decades earlier.2  The costs of these storms is staggering. The estimated cost of Hurricane Sandy was $65 billion, and so far 2011 set the record for the costliest year ever for disasters, with total damages reaching at least $380 billion.2

Increases in Wildfires

As glaciers retreat and disappear, the water is no longer stored and slowly released throughout the year. Instead, the majority of water comes down from the mountains during the wet season as rain, which means that the trees begin to dry earlier each year. Another reason why climate change makes forests drier is that a wetter atmosphere holds more water vapor, which causes more water to evaporate from the soil. Drier trees and increased droughts cause forests all around the world to be more susceptible to catching fire. With melting glaciers, decreasing soil moisture and increasing temperatures, we are in the age of mega droughts and mega fires, and it is important to realize that the glaciers will not stop melting until they are completely gone. Another factor that contributes to an increase in wildfires is an increase in lightning. For every 1 °C increase in global average temperatures, incidences of lighting increases by 6%, according to climate scientist Amanda Staudt.1  In just one day in June 2008, lightning caused the ignition of 1,700 different wildfires in California, which burned one million square miles and set a new state record.1  “The average California fire season now runs 78 days longer than it did in the 1970’s and 1980’s.”2   There are several other important impacts of forest fires. Most significantly, they release millions of tons of CO2, which causes more warming. They also kill of large areas of trees, which makes these areas more prone to floods, and when they do occur, they are more damaging. This is because the dead trees no longer absorb runoff water, and their roots no longer hold the soil together, which increases erosion.

  • McKibben, B. Eaarth (Ch. 1 ~ 18:25) [St. Martin’s Griffin, 2011].  [Narrated by Oliver                               Wyman]. Macmillan Audio, 2010 [Audible]. 
  • McKibben, B. Eaarth (Ch. 2 ~ 37:40) [St. Martin’s Griffin, 2011].  [Narrated by Oliver                               Wyman]. Macmillan Audio, 2010 [Audible].
Amplifying Feedbacks and Exponential Change
Melting Ice

As ice melts, less light from the sun is reflected back to space and more heat from the sun is absorbed by the dark blue oceans. Although the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicted that we would not see an ice free arctic before 2050, if current melting rates continue, we will see an ice free arctic by 2025.1  If the rate of melting ice increases, we could see an ice free arctic before 2020. When our planet arrives at an ice free arctic, the increased amount of heat that will be absorbed by the oceans instead of reflected as light back to space, will be 70% as much heat as is currently trapped by all of the greenhouse gases that humans have released since the industrial revolution.2  This increased absorption of heat causes faster ice loss, which causes more heat absorption, which cause even faster ice loss, which causes even greater heat absorption, and this continues until all the ice is gone. This feedback alone is staggering, but it is only one of many such feedbacks that the IPCC neglects to factor into its climate models. Climate change deniers often say that the IPCC is influenced by politics and that they overstate their projections in an effort to unnecessarily regulate private industry. In reality, this bureaucratic body, which runs on consensus and is wary of overstating its findings for fear of being attacked by fossil fuel interests, is making predictions that are decades behind what those on the front-lines of climate science are recording in real time.

  • 1 Lovelock, J. The Vanishing Face of Gaia (Ch. 2 ~ 11:00) [Basic Books, 2010].  [Narrated by                      Simon Vance]. Post Hypnotic Press, 2011. [Audible]. 
  • 2 Lovelock, J. The Vanishing Face of Gaia (Ch. 2 : 11:50) [Basic Books, 2010].  [Narrated by                        Simon Vance]. Post Hypnotic Press, 2011. [Audible].
  • 1 McKibben, B. Oil and Honey (Ch. 6 ~ 11:30) [St. Martin’s Griffin, 2014]. [Narrated by: Kevin                   T. Collins]. Macmillan, Audio, 2013 [Audible]. 
  • McKibben, B. Oil and Honey (Ch. 6 ~ 12:15) [St. Martin’s Griffin, 2014]. [Narrated by: Kevin                   T. Collins]. Macmillan, Audio, 2013 [Audible].
  • McKibben, B. Oil and Honey (Ch. 6 ~ 15:15) [St. Martin’s Griffin, 2014]. [Narrated by: Kevin                   T. Collins]. Macmillan, Audio, 2013 [Audible].
Decreased Albedo

The albedo of a surface describes its reflectivity – two examples: white paint has a higher albedo than black paint, just as white car seats reflect more light and thus absorb less heat than black ones. As the ice sheets melt, their albedo decreases because the jagged ice crystals that used to reflect the sunlight back to space are now melting and absorbing more sunlight as heat. As the Glaciologist Jason Box said: “You can see it with your naked eye, think of the way wet sand is darker than dry.” Fresh snow bounces back 84% of the light that hits it; even before it melts, rounded crystals can reflect as little as 70%. Pure slushy snow saturated by water–which gives it a dark-grey cast, or even a bluish tint–is as little as 60% reflective. Add dust or soot impurities, and the albedo drops below 40%”.1  Jason’s albedo measurements of the Greenland Ice Sheet show that the albedo has dropped from 74% in 2000 to 65% in 2010, and then fell an astonishing 4% at some elevations in 2011; down to 61%. During the summer of 2011, the entire Greenland Ice Sheet turned liquid and began melting simultaneously for the first time in human history. In contrast to 1970, the increased amount of energy that is being absorbed every summer by the Greenland ice sheet (due to its decreased albedo) is the equivalent of all the energy consumed by the United States every year. This increase in heat absorption causes a sharper decline in the albedo, which causes greater heat absorption, which accelerates climate change.

Methane release

As discussed before, for every year that methane is in the atmosphere, it traps 84 times more heat than CO2, which is very troubling because there is methane trapped all over the planet and climate change is already causing large amounts of it to be released. Icy clathrates, also referred to as methane hydrates, are methane molecules frozen in little ice crystals, and they are abundant in both the arctic and antarctic. As the oceans warm, the ice crystals melt and release methane. The permafrost also stores massive amounts of methane, and as temperatures rise, the vegetation begins to decay. Think of how frozen vegetables rot if a freezer breaks while a family is away on vacation. This causes methane to be released, which is very troubling because a recent estimate on how much methane is trapped in the frozen permafrost was 1,600 gigatons (a gigaton is a billion tons.) A reasonable estimate for how much methane will be released from the permafrost this century is 100 gigatons, which would have the equivalent warming impact of 270 years of burning fossil fuels. This is scary, especially because unlike our cars, trucks, planes, factories and factory farms, we cannot shut this source off; it is taking on a life of its own. The methane molecules trap more heat, which causes more melting, which releases more methane, which traps even more heat, and this cycle continues indefinitely. To see why methane release and melting sea ice matter, click here for a 20 minute video by climate scientists who research this amplifying feedback. 

  • 1 McKibben, B. Eaarth (Ch. 1 ~ 1:04:50) [St. Martin’s Griffin, 2011].  [Narrated by Oliver Wyman]. Macmillan Audio, 2010 [Audible]. 
  • McKibben, B. Eaarth (Ch. 2 ~ 32:35) [St. Martin’s Griffin, 2011].  [Narrated by Oliver                                Wyman]. Macmillan Audio, 2010 [Audible]. 
  • Speth, J. G. The Bridge at the End of the World (Ch. 2 ~ 00:40) [Yale University Press, 2009].                    [Narrated by David Zinn]. Caravan, 2010 [Audible].
  • McKibben, B. Eaarth (Ch. 2 ~ 42:40) [St. Martin’s Griffin, 2011].  [Narrated by Oliver                                Wyman]. Macmillan Audio, 2010 [Audible].
Deforestation

As climate change accelerates, forests are having a hard time adapting, and the Earth is losing one of its largest carbon sinks. It is as if we are in a boat that is sinking, and we are using a bucket to remove the water, but our bucket keeps getting more holes in it. Add the impact of deforestation for wood, paper, and industrial agriculture, and it is easy to see that our forests are in trouble. An interesting phenomena of forests is that they move moisture from the oceans across continents. For example, in the Amazon, the water evaporates from the oceans and falls on the nearby rainforest. It then re-evaporates in a process called transpiration and falls again further inland. After six of these cycles, it makes it to the Andes, where it falls either as snow or as rain, and then runs through the rivers of South America.1  If the rain forests are not there, the rain simply gets absorbed by the soil or it evaporates, which is happening more frequently as global deforestation of tropical forests continues at a rate of 1 acre per second. It is likely only a matter of time before hydrological cycles are interrupted, at which point countries in South America alongside many other countries with rain forests, will not only be dealing with disappearing glaciers, but also a large drop in overall precipitation and an increase in desertification. However, deforestation is not confined to the tropics – due to pine beetle infestations in North America, many areas of forest are no longer storing carbon, they are releasing it. This is because the winters are warmer and shorter than they used to be, and since 1994, in Wyoming, pine beetle larvae mortality has dropped from 80% during the winter to only 10%. As climate change accelerates, more forests die, which causes them to release more CO2, which causes more warming, which causes even more forests to die; this is yet another amplifying feedback cycle.

Disinformation and Barriers to the Regeneration
Free Trade

Free trade is presented by corporate interests as something that will have a positive impact on average working people. In reality, free trade agreements have been used again and again to deregulate multinational corporations at the expense of the majority of life on the planet. Free trade helps to render nation states obsolete and allows multinational corporations to sue governments when they introduce regulations that infringe on a corporation’s “right” to make profits. Another issue of free trade is that when the UN is assigning greenhouse gas emissions to various countries, the emissions go to the country that created the products rather than the country that is consuming them. A similar issue is that the emissions created during transportation, which have increased by 400% since 1995 are not assigned to any country. Because there is no accountability or disincentive to burning fossil fuels while shipping products all around the planet, shipping emissions are set to double or even triple by 2050.1  On top of all this, free trade and the World Trade Organization (WTO) are often used to sue countries and regions for incentivizing local growth, which is usually a key in developing local sustainable economies. The governments of various countries will sue each other for trying to incentivize local development, because encouraging local economic growth is considered protectionist and is illegal under WTO regulations.2

  • Klein, N. This Changes Everything (Ch. 4 ~ 39:53) [Simon & Schuster, 2014]. [Narrated by                         Ellen Archer]. Simon & Schuster Audio, 2014 [Audible]. 
  • Klein, N. This Changes Everything (Ch. 4 ~ 01:25) [Simon & Schuster, 2014]. [Narrated by                         Ellen Archer]. Simon & Schuster Audio, 2014 [Audible]. 
Merchandising Doubt and the Media

The same nuclear physicists and corporate funded think tanks that fought against government regulation on cigarettes, acid rain, chlorofluorocarbons, DDT, Agent Orange and second hand smoke, are now fighting the overwhelming scientific agreement on man made climate change. Only this time, the financial resources to create doubt and misinformation within the public consciousness are much larger. This is because six of the 12 most profitable corporations on the planet belong to the fossil fuel industry and four of the 12 manufacture cars and trucks.1  There has never been so much money spent to confuse the public on an issue that the scientific community has clearly understood for decades. Some notable scientists who have fought any kind of government regulation are Bill Nuremberg, Fred Singer and Fred Sights. Some notable conservative free-market think tanks that have magnified their message are Philip Morris, The Marshall Institute, The Heartland Institute and the Koch brother created CATO Institute.3  The Heartland institute holds conferences that try to mimic credible science, but there is nothing scientific about it. The various contrarian theses presented at the Heartland Institute conferences, such as: “tree rings, sunspots and the medieval warm period, are old news and were thoroughly debunked long ago. And most of the speakers are not even scientists, but rather hobbyist, engineers, economists and lawyers, mixed in with a weatherman, an astronaut and a space architect; all convinced that they have outsmarted 97% of the world’s leading climate scientists with their back of the envelope calculations.” 4  The few scientists that do give presentations not only contradict each other, but they make no effort to debate and distinguish which view is supported by real world evidence. These meetings are primarily to give influential conservatives talking points and arguments to take with them out into the world, in the hope that the fossil fuel industry will avoid regulations for another decade. The media has had a major impact on public perception of climate change, not only by giving climate change deniers a stage to share their misinformation, but also through avoiding the subject altogether. Despite an increase in extreme weather between 2007 and 2011, NBC, ABC and CBS ran 147 stories on climate change in 2007, and only 14 in 2011.5   This huge drop was reflected in public opinion: a poll from 2007 showed that 71% of Americans believed that the continued burning of fossil fuels would alter the climate, but by 2011, the number was down to only 44%.5  During this same time, climate change was becoming more glaringly obvious, and climate scientists were becoming both more frightened by real world measurements and more confident in their models. Despite this, the financial power and mass merchandising of doubt by the fossil fuel industry managed to drop public belief in a scientific fact well below 50%. In 2004, Naomi Oreskis of the University of California San Diego, went looking for skepticism in the American peer reviewed scientific community. “She examined 900 peer reviewed articles and found exactly zero that contradicted the idea that climate change is happening, and that humans are causing it.” 6

 

Six of the 12 most profitable corporations on the planet belong to the fossil fuel industry and four of the 12 manufacture cars and trucks.

 

This statistic stands in stark contrast to the understanding of climate change that prevails in Washington, specifically because the largest corporate donations to political campaigns is from the fossil fuel industry. There are 2,500 fossil fuel interest lobbyist on K-Street and Capitol Hill, who ensure that progressive legislation, which would incentivize the much needed decarbonization of our energy supply, remains elusive. To view fossil fuel industry donations to politicians in the US congress, visit: www.dirtyenergymoney.com

  • McKibben, B. Eaarth (Ch. 2 ~ 08:34) [St. Martin’s Griffin, 2011].  [Narrated by Oliver                              Wyman]. Macmillan Audio, 2010 [Audible]
  • Oreskis, N. & Conway, E. W. Merchants of Doubt (Ch. 7 ~ 2:07:35) [Bloomsbury Press,                            2011]. [Narrated by Peter Johnson]. Audible Studios, 2010 [Audible].
  • Schulman, D. Sons of Wichita (Ch. 6 ~ 29:20) [Grand Central Publishing, 2015]. [Narrated by                  Allen O’Reilly]. Hachette Audio, 2014. [Audible].
  • Klein, N. This Changes Everything (Ch. 2 ~ 06:20) [Simon & Schuster, 2014]. [Narrated by                      Ellen Archer]. Simon & Schuster Audio, 2014 [Audible].
  • Klein, N. This Changes Everything (Ch. 2 ~ 09:05) [Simon & Schuster, 2014]. [Narrated by                      Ellen Archer]. Simon & Schuster Audio, 2014 [Audible].
  • Guzman, A. T. Overheated (Ch. 3 ~ 14:00) [Oxford University Press, 2013]. [Narrated by                          Fleet Cooper]. Audible Studios, 2013 [Audible].