Archive | February 2015

Sea Levels Along The Northeast Rose Almost 4 Inches In Just 2 Years: Study



Sea levels across the Northeast coast of the United States rose nearly 3.9 inches between 2009 and 2010, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Arizona and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The waters near Portland, Maine, saw an even greater rise — 5 inches — over the two-year period.

While scientists have been observing higher sea levels across the globe in recent decades, the study found a much more extreme rise than previous averages. Such an event is “unprecedented” in the history of the tide gauge record, according to the researchers, and represents a 1-in-850 year event.

“Unlike storm surge, this event caused persistent and widespread coastal flooding even without apparent weather processes,” the study’s authors wrote. “In terms of beach erosion, the impact of the 2009-2010 [sea level rise] event is almost as significant as some hurricane events.”

The analysis relied on data from dozens of tide gauges along the eastern seaboard. The nearly 4-inch rise for the Northeast represents the average of 14 tide gauges located between New York and Canada. Tide gauges farther south in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast indicated a sea level rise far less extreme in 2009 and closer to average in some areas. The jump occurred most quickly between April 2009 and March 2010.

The study found that the increase in the Northeast was caused by a 30 percent slowdown in a major ocean current system known as the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) and a fluctuation in atmospheric pressure at sea level. The Gulf Steam is one component of the AMOC, which moves warm water northward in the upper levels of the Atlantic.

A 2014 study of the AMOC over that period found the slowdown also contributed to severe winter conditions in northwestern Europe and the intensity of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season, which was the third-most active on record.

The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate wrote in its latest report that AMOC currents are “very likely” to weaken in the 21st century. Models project that unusual rises in sea level, like that observed in the study, will be bigger and more frequent along the Northeastern seaboard this century, study coauthor Jianjun Yin told The Huffington Post.

And events like the one observed in the study, combined with ongoing global sea level rise, “will pose an even higher coastal flooding risk,” Yin told Mashable.

A 2012 study determined that sea levels between North Carolina and Boston are rising at a rate three to four times faster than the global average. Yet this only represents a rise of 2 to 3.7 millimeters per year since 1980, far less than the 100 millimeters observed in the Northeast between 2009 and 2010.

This week’s study, published in Nature Communications, follows a new report from the New York City Panel on Climate Change that warns of significant sea level rise and coastal flooding threats for the city in coming decades. Sea levels in New York City have already risen more than a foot since 1900, and the trend is very likely to accelerate: If greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are not curtailed, the panel projects seas to rise by an additional 11 to 21 inches by the middle of the century, by 18 to 39 inches by the 2080s, and by as much as 6 feet by the end of the century.

Prominent Climate Change Denier Funded by Koch Brothers, Energy Companies: Reports


A prominent climate change denier and researcher quietly took more than $1.2 million in payouts from the energy industry, including the Koch brothers and other oil lobbyists, for the past 14 years, newly released documents have shown.

Wei-Hock “Willie” Soon, a researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, accumulated a total of $1.25 million from ExxonMobil, the American Petroleum Institute, Southern Company, and a Koch brothers foundation, according to documents obtained by Greenpeace through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) filings.

For years, Soon’s work has been a go-to source for politicians angling to block climate change legislation, such as Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), who has called climate change a hoax. Soon has also testified before the U.S. Congress and appeared on numerous conservative news shows to claim that greenhouse gases are not harmful and that recent global warming trends are not caused by human activity, but by variations in the sun’s energy.

Soon’s acceptance of oil lobby money was previously known, although he has denied that it influences his work. However, the documents reveal the full extent of his ties to the industry, which was not public knowledge. His single biggest funder was Southern Company, an electricity provider which relies on coal-burning power plants and has lobbied heavily against climate legislation. Southern Company gave Soon a total of $409,000.

He also received at least $230,000 from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation.

In addition, the documents confirm that Soon neglected to disclose his close ties to the fossil fuel industry in most of his academic papers on climate change. At least 11 papers published since 2008 do not state any connection to the companies who paid him, and at least eight of those papers may have violated the ethical guidelines of the journals in which they appeared.

In correspondence with his funders, Soon called his research papers and Congressional testimony “deliverables,” which he completed in exchange for the money.

The Guardian reports:

“The question here is really: ‘What did API, ExxonMobil, Southern Company and Charles Koch see in Willie Soon? What did they get for $1m-plus,” said Kert Davies, a former Greenpeace researcher who filed the original freedom of information requests. Greenpeace and the Climate Investigations Center, of which Davies is the founder, shared the documents with news organizations.

“Did they simply hope he was on to research that would disprove the consensus? Or was it too enticing to be able to basically buy the nameplate Harvard-Smithsonian?”

While energy companies have long funded the work of useful allies, the new documents shed light on the role of scientists like Soon who help fuel the debate over climate change and its causes.

The New York Times writes:

“The whole doubt-mongering strategy relies on creating the impression of scientific debate,” said Naomi Oreskes, a historian of science at Harvard University and the co-author of “Merchants of Doubt,” a book about such campaigns. “Willie Soon is playing a role in a certain kind of political theater.”

… Charles R. Alcock, director of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center, acknowledged on Friday that Dr. Soon had violated the disclosure standards of some journals.

“I think that’s inappropriate behavior,” Dr. Alcock said. “This frankly becomes a personnel matter, which we have to handle with Dr. Soon internally.”

Davies told the Guardian, “The company was paying him to write peer-reviewed science and that relationship was not acknowledged in the peer-reviewed literature.

“These proposals and contracts show debatable interventions in science literally on the behalf of Southern Company and the Kochs.”

The Center for Astrophysics does not require its scientists to disclose their funding sources. Both Harvard University and the Smithsonian have acknowledged that climate change is caused by human activity. Harvard remains invested in the fossil fuel industry, despite long-running calls for the university to pull its money from those companies.

Wisconsin Legislature Votes to Call “Extraordinary Sessions” for Wrong Reasons


Organizing committees of both the Wisconsin Senate and Wisconsin Assembly called both houses of the Wisconsin legislature into extraordinary sessions this week to pass a “right-to-work” bill, making it illegal for employers and labor unions to charge their employees and any new employees union dues as a condition of accepting employment. The Wisconsin State Journal reported in today’s newspaper edition that the full Senate could vote on this highly charged legislation (Senate Bill 44) as early as Wednesday and the Wisconsin Assembly could vote on this legislation (AB 61) as soon as Monday.

Governor Scott Walker has said he would sign the bill into law.

The Senate and Assembly organizing committees ought have called their “extraordinary” sessions to address what the State of Wisconsin ought do to protect its citizens from global warming and climate change instead. Greenhouse gas emissions, global warming and climate change are far more significant to the future of Wisconsin than are unions charging union dues in the state.

Governor Scott Walker Punts on Taking On Climate Change in Wisconsin’s State Budget and Other Walker Administration Decisions


While other countries and U.S. states struggle with the deadly and extremely negative economic costs of dangerous storms made worse by warming oceans and rising sea levels caused by increasing greenhouse gases concentrations in the atmosphere, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has taken a pass on including anything in his two-year budget about how or to what degree the State of Wisconsin might reduce its annual greenhouse gases emissions and better adapt to the changing climate predicted for the future in Wisconsin. Governor Walker’s two-year state budget was forwarded to the Wisconsin Legislature earlier this month for adoption by July 1, 2015.

Much of what the governor’s budget proposes for the state will exacerbate the world’s chances of ever reducing climate change, or global warming, to a safe level. Scientists now say the changing climate around the world (global warming) is overwhelmingly human-caused and will be disastrous for the planet if the amounts of fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas) we are now burning are not significantly reduced and in a timely manner – now! – worldwide, and deforestation, over has been done over the last 100 – 150 years is stopped. Forests sequester carbon dioxide (CO2) as they grow, which is also the most abundant of the greenhouse gases emitted during fuel combustion.

While Wisconsin did experience a costly drought two years ago, and suffered through two recent killing heat waves in 1995 and 2011, the state has generally been spared from such massive destruction and loss of life as occurred in the Philippine Islands caused by Typhoon Haiyan U.S. states under hit by Hurricanes Sandy Sandy, Katrina and Ike, Hurricane Irene and increasing torrential rains and flooding around the world, heavier snowfalls, and long lasting droughts in California, other western states, and other areas around the world.

The economic costs of these catastrophes, especially those occurring in the United States, negatively effects all states in the U.S. through increased prices of goods, higher insurance rates, and the overall health of the U.S. economy.

Instead of addressing the inevitable economic and environmental effects of climate change and its causes in Wisconsin, Governor Walker instead chose to include in his two year budget proposal for the state many action items that, if enacted into law by the Wisconsin Legislature will, without question, add to the already abhorrently high human, economic and environmental costs of change climate here in Wisconsin and throughout the rest of the world. For example, Governor Walker’s two-year budget, which would begin taking effect in July 2015, expands numerous major highways in the state to increase their capacity to accommodate increased driving of cars and trucks, the vast majority of which burn fossil fuels. The governor’s budget proposes to contribute millions of dollars in state bonding to help the privately owned Milwaukee Bucks build a new arena for NBA games, games that require thousands of miles of jet travel each year for each visiting team as well as their fans and supporting personnel, adding measurably to rising volumes of greenhouse gases linked with global warming.

Furthermore, by not proposing other actions, many additional sources of greenhouse gases and pollution will continue and undoubtedly increase significantly in the next two years under the Walker administration and the current Republican legislature. Due to the lower price of crude oil, prices of fuel at the pump have dropped, leading to the purchase of less fuel efficient SUVs and trucks.

Americans and Wisconsinites need to drastically reduce their annual driving miles, and Governor Walker’s budget should have included positive financial benefits to encourage people to drive fewer and fewer miles each year, and compensate those individuals and Wisconsin families who manage to drive less miles, annually, than average – especially those individuals and families who don’t drive personal automobiles or fly airplanes (jet fuel is a fossil fuel and jets burn tons of fuel on each trip) during the year. The emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs) to the atmosphere from motorized transportation, jets, other internal combustion engines, as well as GHGs emitted from coal, oil, and natural gas burning power plants and household and business furnaces is “cumulative”, meaning the various emission of those gases accumulate in the atmosphere over time, rising to higher and higher levels of concentration in the atmosphere.

Scientists the world over have reached a level of consensus that the amount of GHGs present in the atmosphere are becoming increasingly of concern, more threatening each year that global warming worsens. Eventually, global warming could reach, or is close to reaching, its “tipping point” in the atmosphere – a level of accumulation of GHGs in the atmosphere after which the earth’s natural systems could keep adding more and more GHGs into the atmosphere, the point at which continued warming would become inevitable, regardless of what we humans do to reduce our GHG emissions. For example, as the permafrost region of the planet thaws (1/5 of earth’s surface exists in the form of permafrost), the GHG methane is released from the rotting permafrost. Methane is a much more potent GHG than CO2, and when the permafrost begins to thaw extensively, it will be releasing massive amounts of methane to the atmosphere, This would make matters much worse, because global warming would become less responsive, if responsive at all, to the amount of GHGs we humans cause to be emitted (or not to be emitted).

Positive Incentives Plan Wages Three-Prong-Attack Against Climate Change


Please refer to “About this Blog” before proceeding.

The planet Venus is on the left; Earth is on the right.  Nobody wants to see Earth go the route its that its commonly called twin planet Venus took, eons ago. You see Venus once had oceans of water, too, just like Earth does.  But something went very wrong on the surface of Venus (possibly it is because the Sun got hotter), which started a “runaway greenhouse effect”. The oceans of water Venus once had boiled away. As temperatures began rising ocean water converted to water vapor, also a strong greenhouse gas.  The water vapor increased the effectiveness of heat trapping and accelerated the greenhouse effect, which caused the temperature at the surface to rise further, thus causing the oceans to evaporate faster, etc., etc. This type of runaway is also called a “positive feedback loop”. When the oceans were gone the atmosphere  finally stabilized at a much higher temperature and at much higher density, making the planet uninhabitable.

The sobering warning for us is obvious: we have to be extremely concerned about processes such as burning of fossil fuels in large volumes that might have the potential to trigger a runaway greenhouse effect and produce on the Earth atmospheric conditions that are incapable of supporting life.

That is why it is so essential that we initiate actions now, worldwide, to curb all forms of unnecessary activity that causes the greenhouse effect in our atmosphere to strengthen (meaning an increase concentrations of greenhouse gases). Carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas, has increased in concentration in the atmosphere from 280 parts per million (ppm) in the 1880’s to 400 ppm today – mainly the result of humans burning coal, oil. and natural gas, the combustion producing significant amounts of (invisible) CO2.

As a result, the global average annual temperature of the Earth at the surface has risen, the temperature of Earth’s oceans have been increasing and, as a result of the ice melting off of the island of Greenland, the continent of Antarctica, and water runs down the mountainous glaciers on practically all the continents, and the property of the thermal expansion of water, Earth’s oceans levels are rising.

Meanwhile, the Earth’s once solid permafrost region, which is approximately 1/5 of the Earth’s surface, is now thawing in many places, decomposing,and releasing methane to the atmosphere, a greenhouse gas 37 times as strong as CO2 in trapping heat.

Furthermore, replacement of large areas of ice and white snow surface (ice cap) on the Arctic Ocean means the open Arctic ocean water absorbs more of the radiant heat from the Sun, causing the ice and snow to melt even faster still, an so on. If it were not for the vast amounts of ice in the Arctic Ocean, the water would warm even faster.

It is essential that people and businesses, the world over, especially those in countries burning vast quantities of fossil fuels, in power generation, motorized transportation and jet travel, for human travel and shipping, find alternatives that don’t burn fossil fuels for their pursuits. Presently, citizens from the United States fly 40% more than citizens from other countries, and more U.S. citizens are buying gas guzzling SUVs and pickup trucks than more fuel efficient vehicles – because gas is “cheap” again,  They remain apathetic about global warming, or are members of the “Earth is flat” society. As John Lennon once said, “apathy is it”. The Earth is also round. Above all, we need to Conserve, NOW!

Conserve NOW!1.doc; Final

Conserve Now ex sum

Wisconsin Must Join the All Out World Effort to Fight Global Climate Change Without Delay, BEFORE Time Runs Out


Wisconsin has traditionally prided itself as being a state that “cares”. Wisconsin residents care about its wild and domestic animals, its fish, birds and butterflies; its plants, trees, and its forests; its tens of thousands of lakes, streams and rivers, and the quality of its wetlands, groundwater and air; its mighty bluffs and gorges, its remaining prairies, and the state’s overall majestic scenic beauty.

Wisconsin has traditionally had a strong manufacturing economy, a top notch agricultural industry, a public education system second to none, a world class university system, and an equally top notch private schools, colleges, and other educational institutions. Wisconsin also boasts an excellent highway, airport, and bicycle transportation system, and communities that are walking and wheelchair friendly. It has always held all visitors to the state in high regards and treated them with respect the production and sustainability of its farms, the well being of its human population, without regard for race, heritage or creed. Wisconsinites treat visitors to their state with respect and dignity,satisfaction of its visitors and transients alike, and, perhaps above all, in leaving its land, water and its economy better condition than they received it. In a nutshell, that’s a statement of Wisconsin’s traditions and value, as I have come to know them.

Wisconsin residents often boast, and rightly so, that Wisconsin was the home of such renown conservationists and humanists as John Muir, Aldo Leopold, Senator Gaylord Nelson, Midge Miller and Vel Phillips. In the 1970s, Wisconsin was emulated by other states as the state to look at for developing effective environmental protection regulations to safeguard its treasures. With Wisconsin Departmental Resource Secretary Anthony “Tony” Earl at the helm, who would later become Wisconsin’s governor, and George “Knute” Knudson as its chief naturalist, Wisconsin natural resources were in good hands.

It is no exaggeration to say that all this is at risk the longer our Wisconsin Legislature, our governor, other state legislatures and governors, and the people’s representatives in the United States Congress continue to kick the issue of excess fossil fuel burning and greenhouse gas production by Americans down the road. What we don’t need is more highway development and expansion and more airport capacity expansion that encourage even more fossil fuel burning by the public. What we don’t need is more trade with distant countries that requires more fuel for shipping and flying. What we don’t need are more coal and natural gas burning power plants and the thousands of miles of high voltage transmission lines that go with them, and not Wisconsin power companies who restructure their rates in favor of more fossil fuel burning, thus discouraging their customers from investing in solar energy panels for their homes and businesses, and having the governor’s appointed Wisconsin Public Service Commission (the PSC) “rubber stamps” the fossil-fuel-dependent utilities’ proposals.

We are wasting valuable time and money by not relying less and less on fossil fuel dependent energy, and more on either energy conservation or on conversion to solar and wind generated power, in our homes, businesses and institutions; and that we desperately need to reduce aggregate driving and flying, which rely almost exclusively on burning fossil fuels that, when subject to combustion, release large quantities of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide (CO2), to the atmosphere. Most of the greenhouse gases, such as CO2, remain in the atmosphere for centuries, accumulating to increasingly more ominous concentration levels, or they get absorbed in the oceans, making the earth’s ocean water more acidic, harming the biological species in the oceans.

But scientists the world over are in agreement that the rising concentrations of greenhouse gases from significantly increased fossil fuel burning by humans since the time of the Industrial Revolution (early 1800’s) have remained in earth’s atmosphere, trapping more and more of the Sun’s radiant energy and changing it into heat energy, causing the earth’s surface to warm, melting more of the polar ice caps and mountain glaciers, causing the vast permafrost region to thaw, releasing more and more methane gas, another greenhouse gas that’s known to have 37 times the heat-trapping power of CO2.

Scientists don’t know when global warming could begin accelerating, but it could be any day now. What they do know is that there are higher concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere now to push global surface temperatures much higher than what we have experienced thus far. Time is of the essence for the world’s populations who are relying on fossil fuel burning for energy to stop adding even higher concentration levels of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, risking setting off positive feedback mechanisms in the system that could worsen the situation and amplify the weather extremes global warming has already caused in earth’s climate.

Thousands Protest Governor Brown’s Allowing Fracking for Fossil Fuels in Oakland, California


Several thousand demonstrators turned out in Oakland Saturday for a protest against hydraulic fracturing in California. The controversial technique, also known as fracking, uses high pressure water and chemicals to harvest oil and natural gas.

The demonstration was one of the largest public against fracking recently, and it was held in Governor Jerry Brown’s home town of Oakland for a reason. Environmentalists are taking aim at Governor Brown who used to be a political darling of the movement in his first tour as governor in the 1970’s.

Event organizers say Governor Brown’s administration has given a green light to oil companies to drill in California. The state is the third highest oil producer in the country.

Fracking has recently gained more interest after records analyzed by the Associated Press found that California regulators allowed oil companies to re-inject hydraulic fracturing fluids back into federally protected aquifers.

People from across the state converged in Oakland for this event.

“I came up by bus this morning. And I’m doing this because I believe in a future for all human life and all life on earth, and I believe it’s time for us to create a whole other way of being human,” said Cindy Dixon of Paso Robles.

During a news conference Friday, Governor Brown challenged protesters when he said they, along with most other Californians are still getting around on gas guzzling cars, trucks and buses.

Gas prices have been falling dramatically in the last six months, in part because of increased oil drilling in the United States. But it’s also because newer cars are more fuel efficient, and countries like Saudi Arabia have continued to pump oil despite a worldwide oil glut.

Source: ABC News – Oakland

Higher Sea Level Projections Required Along U.S. Coasts


President Barack Obama issued an executive order on Friday,January 30, 2015, directing federal, state and local agencies to incorporate projections for sea level rise in planning and construction along the coasts.

The new Federal Flood Risk Management Standard requires that all federally funded projects located in floodplains, including buildings and roads, be built to withstand flooding. The requirement, the White House said in a release Friday, would “reduce the risk and cost of future flood disasters” and “help ensure federal projects last as long as intended.”

“It is the policy of the United States to improve the resilience of communities and Federal assets against the impacts of flooding,” the order states. “These impacts are anticipated to increase over time due to the effects of climate change and other threats. Losses caused by flooding affect the environment, our economic prosperity, and public health and safety, each of which affects our national security.”

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. can expect to see up to two feet of sea level rise by the end of the century, largely due to climate change. Warmer temperatures are causing thermal expansion in the oceans, as well as the melting of sea ice, which is pushing sea levels higher globally. A study from the U.S. Geological Survey found that half of the U.S. coastline is at high or very high risk of impacts due to sea level rise.

This is a significant shift, as agencies have typically used historic information on sea level and flooding for planning, rather than future projections. The order directs agencies to use the “best-available, actionable hydrologic and hydraulic data and methods that integrate current and future changes in flooding based on climate science” when evaluating what is in the flood plain. They also have the option of building 2 feet above current base flood elevations for “non-critical” infrastructure and 3 feet above for “critical” infrastructure, or building to the standard of the 500-year flood (a flood with an estimated 0.2 percent chance of happening in any given year).

The Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience released a set of recommendations last November, and establishing this type of guideline was among them. Most coastal regions of the United States will see 30 or more days of flooding by 2050 as a result of sea level rise, according to NOAA predictions.

NOAA’s researchers looked at the anticipated frequency of what the National Weather Service considers nuisance flooding, which are floods that are 1 to 2 feet over the regular local high tide and are enough to cause problems but not pose active threats to human life. Some areas of the U.S. are already seeing increased flooding, the researchers said, and it’s only going to get worse.

“Coastal communities are beginning to experience sunny-day nuisance or urban flooding, much more so than in decades past. This is due to sea level rise,” William Sweet, an oceanographer at NOAA’s Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services and the report’s coauthor, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, once impacts are noticed, they will become commonplace rather quickly.”

The research was published in the American Geophysical Union’s peer-reviewed online journal Earth’s Future. The projections are based on data from NOAA tidal stations with at least a 50-year continuous record. Warming global temperatures cause thermal expansion of the oceans and also melt ice sheets, leading to sea level rise. The researchers also note that while much of the rise is fueled by climate change, there are parts of the country where the land is sinking as well, adding to the challenge.

The low-end expectations for sea level rise from the researchers’ analysis project a 1.5 feet increase by 2100. Sweet said that within 30 to 40 years even that low-end projection would increase flooding in many areas “to a point requiring an active and potentially costly response.” And by the end of the century, Sweet said, “there will be near-daily nuisance flooding in most of the locations that we reviewed.” The high-end projections of sea level rise they looked at would put the increase much higher, at 4 feet.

Among the places that can expect flooding sooner rather than later, according to the study: Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, the District of Columbia, San Diego and San Francisco.