Australia’s wildfires are yet more evidence that it’s time we woke up to climate change, Elizabeth Kolbert writes.
— Read on www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/01/13/what-will-another-decade-of-climate-crisis-bring
According to NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2015’s global temperature average was 1.62ºF above the 1901-2000 average, making 2015 “by far the warmest year on record”. Ten of 2015’s monthly global temperatures tied or broke existing records.
Globally-averaged temperatures in 2015 shattered the previous mark set in 2014 by 0.23 degrees Fahrenheit (0.13 Celsius). Only once before, in 1998, has the new record been greater than the old record by this much.
NOAA scientists concur with the finding that 2015 was the warmest year on record based on separate, independent analyses of the data.
“Climate change is the challenge of our generation, and this issue affects every person on Earth,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “Today’s announcement should make policy makers stand up and take notice – now is the time to act on climate.”
Global concentrations of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere surpassed 400 parts per million for a monthly average in spring, 2015, breaching a symbolic barrier set by climate scientists and policy makers.
Concentrations of other greenhouse gases produced from human activities, such as methane and nitrous oxide, also reached records in 2014, the World Meteorological Organization announced in its annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin. The report is one of several measurements made by different climate agencies to address the state of greenhouse gases.
“This evidence shows us that the concentrations are increasing, and they are increasing with increasing rates,” said Oksana Tarasova, chief of the W.M.O.’s Atmospheric Environment Research Division. “This calls for urgent and very strong actions to limit the emission of those greenhouse gasses.”
Hotter air can hold more moisture, which exacerbates greenhouse warming. According to Dr. Tarasova, if carbon dioxide levels reach 560 parts per million, or double their preindustrial levels, the feedback loop would cause water vapor and clouds to increase atmospheric warming to a rate that is three times as much as what the human-caused gases can do by themselves.
“We shouldn’t blame water vapor for making this place warmer,” she said. Rather, she said, by limiting the emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane, people can balance the feedback loop and mitigate future warming.
The planet’s average surface temperature has risen about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1.0 degree Celsius) since the late-19th century, a change largely driven by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere.
Most of the warming occurred in the past 35 years, with 15 of the 16 warmest years on record occurring since 2001. Last year was the first time the global average temperatures were 1 degree Celsius or more above the 1880-1899 average.
NASA’s analyses incorporate surface temperature measurements from 6,300 weather stations, ship- and buoy-based observations of sea surface temperatures, and temperature measurements from Antarctic research stations.
There is no refuting global warming when comparing lake temperature data from around the world from decades past to the same lakes’ temperature readings of today. The study, published in the Geophysical Research Letters and online in December, 2015, finds the Great Lakes are some of the world’s fastest warming lakes.
The decline of Great Lakes ice cover over the past several decades is contributing significantly to the rate of increase of summer water temperature, the study said.
Dozens of researchers pooled decades’ worth of data from hundreds of lakes and concluded that the world’s lakes are warming even more rapidly than the oceans or the atmosphere. The warmer waters threaten fish populations, ecosystems and fresh water supplies around the globe.
University of Minnesota Duluth Professor Jay Austin says the thick sheets of ice that blanketed Lake Superior for the past two winters did nothing to change the fact that Superior, like the other Great Lakes, is growing ever warmer.
“Lake Superior is one of the more rapidly warming lakes” among the 235 lakes in the study, Austin said in a 17 December 2015 Star Tribune report by Jennifer BrooksBy. A two-degree temperature shift can mean the difference between an iced-over Superior or an ice-free lake, he said. “Relatively small changes can lead to large changes in systems that define our region. Duluth would be a fundamentally different place if Lake Superior never formed ice”, Austin said.
The study, which was funded by NASA and the National Science Foundation, found that lakes have been warming by more than half a degree per decade. That might not sound like much, but when lakes warm up, toxic clouds of algae can bloom, fish habitats can be disrupted and invasive species currently held at bay by Superior’s inhospitable cold might be able to make themselves at home.
The lake study is the first of its kind to use both satellite temperature data and long-term ground measurements. More than 60 researchers surveyed more than 200 lakes that hold more than half the planet’s freshwater supply, using data that stretched back at least 25 years. Their findings were announced Wednesday at the American Geophysical Union in Washington, D.C.
“These results suggest that large changes in our lakes are not only unavoidable, but are probably already happening,” the study’s lead author, Catherine O’Reilly, an associate professor of geology at Illinois State University, said in a statement. O’Reilly’s research found that as lakes warm, their productivity declines.
The world’s lakes are warming faster than the oceans or the atmosphere, Austin said. Unlike air temperatures, which can fluctuate wildly from day to day or even hourly, lake temperatures are stable, making them ideal systems for measuring climate change. It takes a significant shift to change the temperature of a lake — much as it takes as much energy to heat a pot of water on the stove as it does to heat an entire room.
“Obviously, Lake Superior is going to stay cold for a very long time,” Austin said. “But these lakes provide a sort of ‘climate antenna’ that allows us to look at these global trends.”
The current rate of lake warming — an average of 0.61 degrees per decade — carries the risk of a 20 percent increase in algae blooms, which deplete oxygen in the water and can be toxic to fish.
The lakes seem to be warming faster in northern climates like Minnesota, where lakes are losing their ice cover earlier.
In 2007, Austin and his colleagues found that the average summer water temperature on Lake Superior had risen more than 4 degrees since 1979.
“We have documented, since 1970, a significant reduction in the ice on Lake Superior,” despite the past two winters, when the ice was so thick that tourists could trek across the lake to gawk at the Apostle Islands ice caves along the Wisconsin shore. “It sounds a little bit hollow, after the last two winters when we had quite a bit of ice. … I’m not suggesting that we won’t see ice on Lake Superior again, but we are going to see more years like 2012 when we had no ice.”
Meanwhile, Eli Kintisch of the journal Science reported 18 December 2015 that the global survey of hundreds of the Earth’s lakes found that climate change is causing lakes to warm faster than the oceans or the air around them. One reason is that warmer wintertime temperatures are producing less ice atop lakes that normally freeze over. Reduced lake ice coverage, in turn, increases the amount of sunlight lakes absorb. The changes could spell trouble for cold water lake species like trout. It may also have more serious global effects. Higher lake temperatures may speed the conversion of carbon-rich organic matter in lake sediments into methane and carbon dioxide, gases that once released into the atmosphere could exacerbate global warming.
At the United Nation’s Twenty-first Intergovernmental Conference of the Parties (COP21) held in Paris, France 30 November to 12 December 2015, the Conference Parties from virtually all the world’s nations agreed to hold global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) and, by 2050, to reduce emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases to a level that land and ocean ecosystems can absorb and, thus, keep them out of the atmosphere.
These “Planetary Boundaries” were proposed as global guardrails within which humanity can continue to develop and thrive for many more generations. Scientists have estimated planetary boundaries for climate warming, land use, freshwater use, ozone, nutrients (namely nitrogen and phosphorus), and other key characteristics of the earth that determine the quality of our lives and our survival, say Adam Hinterthuer and Steve Carpenter, ecology researchers at the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Limnology, located on the shore of Lake Mendota in Madison, Wisconsin. In a 17 December 2015 Center for Limnology blog post, Hinterthuruer and Carpenter, state that “by crossing these boundaries, we may risk creating large-scale environmental changes that are difficult to reverse and could forever alter life on earth”.
Continuing, the authors state that “the warming boundary of 2 C was chosen with ecology in mind. As temperatures rise higher than 2 C, changes in the biosphere, or the living parts of the planet, can accelerate warming. In that scenario, we’ll go from worrying about how Earth’s climate impacts its ecosystems, to worrying about how these changed ecosystems drive even more warming.
“For example, the northern tundra and taiga forests of Canada and Russia contain vast amounts of organic carbon frozen in permafrost. As the planet warms, the permafrost could melt and release this carbon into the atmosphere. Such a big infusion of greenhouse gases will rapidly drive warming well above 2 C.”
“In an effort to counter this potential release, Russian scientists are conducting a large-scale experiment to convert the tundra and taiga to grassland. Ecologist Sergey Zimov and his son Nikita are re-establishing large herbivores—elk, bison, moose, horses and reindeer—in a 53-square-mile reserve in Siberia known as Pleistocene Park. The idea is that these animals’ eating habits—grazing—may turn the existing ecosystem into grassland. The hope is that the resulting grassland will insulate the permafrost, stave off melting, and thereby prevent the emission of greenhouse gases as the planet warms.
“However, it is not certain whether the big grazers will restore the grassland or if the grassland will prevent permafrost melting. Moreover, if the scheme does work, millions of square miles of taiga and tundra would have to be converted to grassland in the next few decades—a large undertaking to say the least.
“Warming could also affect the other Planetary Boundaries. For example, the phosphorus boundary depends on the amount of runoff from land to surface waters that occurs. Too much phosphorus runoff triggers toxic algal blooms, oxygen loss and fish kills in rivers, lakes and coastal ocean waters.”
In their 2009 book The Vanishing Present: Wisconsin’s Changing Lands, Waters, and Wildlife, Donald M. Waller and Thomas P. Rooney cite the work of University of Wisconsin at Madison’s Emeritus Professor John Magnuson, who documented ice cover on lakes around the globe, including Madison’s heavily researched Lake Mendota, and found markedly reduced ice cover from decade to decade during the last century.
In a matter of days, President Obama will launch his final push to pressure Congress to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). It’s a secretive trade deal that has been called “NAFTA on steroids” – and for good reason.
During his last State of the Union address on January 12, President Obama will make his case for a “trade” deal that would eviscerate broad swaths of regulations that protect consumers, workers, the environment and the soundness of our financial system. And, it would set up a legal regime where corporate profits trump the policy priorities of sovereign governments.
With the text of the deal now public even some key Republicans who supported Fast Track authority for approving the TPP are now saying they cannot support the trade deal as it stands.1 That means the President currently does not have the votes to pass the TPP. We need to keep it that way and thwart any momentum toward passage of the TPP in this Congress.
We can jump start our campaign to stop this corporate power grab by making our voices heard as loudly as possible in advance of the State of the Union next week.
In November we finally got to see what’s inside the TPP – and it’s even worse than we thought. If Congress ratifies this agreement more, American jobs would be offshored. Internet freedom would be a joke. Developing countries would lose access to lifesaving medicines. Unsafe foods and products could pour into our country while we’re powerless to stop them. The deal includes countries notorious for severe violations of human rights, but the term “human rights” does not appear in the 5,600 pages of the TPP. And, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The administration’s spin about the TPP being the most progressive trade treaty ever is not based in reality. Don’t take our word for it. Here is what Doctors Without Borders said about the TPP:
The TPP is a bad deal for medicine: it’s bad for humanitarian medical treatment providers such as MSF [Medecins Sans Frontieres, Doctors Without Borders], and it’s bad for people who need access to affordable medicines around the world, including in the United States.
The TPP would also commit the world to burning oil in shipping, a disaster for the planet.
Tell Congress: Oppose the TPP.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren has also sounded the alarm about the TPP. She previously warned that trade deals like the TPP could provide an opportunity for “banks to get something done quietly out of sight that they could not accomplish in a public place with the cameras rolling and the lights on.”3
Indeed, the TPP includes provisions that would severely hamstring the ability of governments to stem the next banking crisis. Other provisions would allow multinational corporations to push back when governmental regulations cut into corporate profits by suing governments in foreign courts staffed by corporate lawyers.
While Congress cannot amend or filibuster the TPP, they do still have to vote yes or no on it. Already some Republicans have come out against this awful deal, so if we are able to confront the big money interests behind this treaty with an onslaught of grassroots opposition, we can win.
Warehouse Houses Hundreds for People’s Trial of Exxon For Climate Crimes During Climate Negotiations in Paris
The revelations that Exxon concealed its early findings that fossil fuels cause global warming have sparked a criminal investigation by New York’s attorney general and calls for a federal probe like the one against Big Tobacco. But some aren’t waiting for the justice system to act. During the recent U.N. climate summit in Paris, environmental activists held a “mock trial” charging Exxon with “climate crimes.” Hundreds from around the world—including participants in COP21—packed into a large warehouse-like cultural space to hear a stirring indictment of Exxon. A tribunal of judges heard testimony from witnesses that included scientists, energy experts and residents of frontline communities threatened by climate change. The witnesses were questioned by two leading environmentalists acting as chief prosecutors: Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org, and journalist Naomi Klein.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: The revelations that Exxon concealed its own findings on global warming have sparked a criminal investigation by the New York attorney general and calls for a federal probe, like the one against Big Tobacco. But some aren’t waiting for the justice system to act. During the recent U.N. climate summit in Paris, environmental activists and journalists held a kind of “mock trial” to try Exxon for what they called climate crimes. Hundreds from around the world—including participants in COP21—packed into a large, dark, warehouse-like cultural space to hear a stirring indictment of Exxon. It was overcast. It was gray on this Paris afternoon. A tribunal of judges heard testimony from witnesses that included scientists, energy experts, residents of frontline communities threatened by climate change. The witnesses were questioned by two leading environmentalists acting as chief prosecutors: environmentalist Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org, and journalist Naomi Klein.
NAOMI KLEIN: These events are sometimes called mock trials. We call this a people’s trial. There is nothing mock about this. There’s nothing funny about this. The stakes could not be higher. Just as the global climate movement has been doing what our politicians fail to do, by keeping carbon in the ground, stopping pipelines, stopping Arctic drilling, just as our movements are failing—are stepping in where our politicians have failed, what we are doing here is stepping in where our courts have failed. And we firmly believe that this is a preview, that this prosecution of Exxon will happen in real courts very, very soon. So do not consider this a mock trial, but a sneak preview of Exxon’s future.
BILL McKIBBEN: At the pleasure of the court, we’d like to call our first witness, if we could.
KATHY JETNIL-KIJINER: My name is Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner. I’m a poet and activist from the Marshall Islands.
BILL McKIBBEN: Could you describe the—the sort of state of mind of people in the Marshall Islands? What is it like to live with the notion that the water is rising?
KATHY JETNIL-KIJINER: We’re living in a lot of fear. We’re living in a lot of fear that we would prefer to push back and not necessarily think about on a daily basis. I, myself, have confronted that fear that we could be losing our livelihoods, we could lose our land, we could lose our culture. And that kind of fear is haunting, because, you know, if we lose our land, we lose our identity. We lose who we are as a people.
BILL McKIBBEN: Where would people go?
KATHY JETNIL-KIJINER: We don’t know. We don’t know where we would go. There are certain islands that have, you know, relationships with bigger nations, bigger countries. We do have a bigger nation—a relationship with the United States right now, under the Compact of Free Association. However, what we’re campaigning for and what we tell everyone is that we shouldn’t have to go anywhere, and we shouldn’t have to have a policy—an evacuation strategy.
BILL McKIBBEN: How long have people lived on the Marshall Islands?
KATHY JETNIL-KIJINER: We’ve been living there for 2,000 years. Right? Yeah, 2,000 years. Over 2,000 years, yeah.
BILL McKIBBEN: Two thousand years. And in that time, the ocean has stayed at a level that’s made it possible to pursue life there.
KATHY JETNIL-KIJINER: Yes, actually, we just went out to visit an island, just recent—just this past weekend, that we were told went underwater. That island went underwater within 10 years. Just 10 years ago, that island was lush. It had trees. It had coconut trees. It had animals. Within 10 years, this island is already gone.
BILL McKIBBEN: So, within—within the last 25 years—
KATHY JETNIL-KIJINER: Yeah.
BILL McKIBBEN: —in the period of time that Exxon, for instance, knew about climate change—
KATHY JETNIL-KIJINER: Actually, yes, yes.
BILL McKIBBEN: —there’s been remarkable change.
KATHY JETNIL-KIJINER: Mm-hmm. I’ve talked to my elders, and none of them have seen anything like this in their entire lives. It’s just getting worse now. So, yes, within that time period.
BILL McKIBBEN: Thank you very much. No further questions.
KATHY JETNIL-KIJINER: Thank you.
BILL McKIBBEN: The prosecution would call Jannie Staffanson. Tell us your name, and describe your work, please.
JANNIE STAFFANSON: My name is Jannie Staffanson, and I am Sami from the Arctic. I was born and I live in a reindeer-herding family.
BILL McKIBBEN: Really? Tell us about the role of reindeer in the Sami culture and economy.
JANNIE STAFFANSON: It’s the center. It’s our identity, our traditions. And it’s the thing I strive to protect each and every day.
BILL McKIBBEN: Your family engages in reindeer herding.
JANNIE STAFFANSON: Yes.
BILL McKIBBEN: They have a—how do they—how does one family keep its reindeer apart from another? How do you know your own reindeer?
JANNIE STAFFANSON: The reindeers are migrating, and we are followers, nomads. They are migrating from the summer to the winter lands, and it’s very, very, very long migrations. But sometimes they are stopped, as now. My colleague, he was going up to the mountains to get the reindeers down to the winter area, where there are good vegetation. He cannot cross the rivers. They have not frozen yet. The reindeers cannot come over because they can’t get over the rivers and the lakes.
BILL McKIBBEN: Do you know how long the Sami have been engaged in reindeer herding in this part of the world?
JANNIE STAFFANSON: As long as anyone remembers.
BILL McKIBBEN: Many thousands of years?
JANNIE STAFFANSON: Yes.
BILL McKIBBEN: And in that period of time, they’ve been able to continue this work without interruption?
JANNIE STAFFANSON: Yes, yes.
BILL McKIBBEN: What is—has that begun—you’ve indicated that that’s begun to change in recent years.
JANNIE STAFFANSON: So, the temperature are increasing and decreasing, which we have never seen at such a rate, and each and every day is different. Usually, we—I have heard stories about good winters, right? where we didn’t have to be out tending for the reindeers or digging holes so they can reach the food. But with the increase and decrease of temperature, there are ice crests on the snow, which makes the reindeer unable to smell the food underneath, and therefore it will not dig for it. And even if they try, it’s not strong enough. So they starve to death.
BILL McKIBBEN: So, because of these freeze-thaw cycles, it’s becoming difficult for the reindeer to access their forage.
JANNIE STAFFANSON: Yeah, the food. Yeah, they starve. We have had bad winters as such, as long as I can remember, and my whole generation. We are the generation of climate change.
BILL McKIBBEN: Thank you.
FAITH GEMMILL: Faith Gemmill, Neets’aii Gwich’in, Pit River and Wintu, and I am from Vashrajj K’oo, Arctic Village, Alaska. And I’m the executive director of Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands.
NAOMI KLEIN: One of the things we know because of these investigations into Exxon in recent months is that as they were researching climate change as far back as the 1970s, they were interested in the economic possibilities this would present because ice would melt. And did you have a reaction to hearing that Exxon saw this as a profit-making opportunity?
FAITH GEMMILL: It makes me angry. It makes me angry, because we are ground zero. Arctic communities are ground zero for climate change. My children are going to be devastated by what’s happening. And we have to do something now. And that makes me angry that they knew, and they’re still trying to drill in these places like the Arctic Refuge, but also they’ve already devastated a whole ecosystem in Alaska. And they knew what they were doing, so it makes me angry, because it affects my children, their children, all of our children.
NAOMI KLEIN: Thank you for your testimony today.
FAITH GEMMILL: Thank you.
BILL McKIBBEN: Your Honors, if it’s all right, we will stay with this theme of the Far North for a moment, but switch to the science side of this equation. We’d like to call Jason Box. Mr. Box, could you describe your work, please?
JASON BOX: I’m a climatologist and glaciologist. We’ve been installing and maintaining a network of measurements on the surface of the Greenland ice sheet the last 20 years. And part of our work is to publish articles, so I’ve managed to be involved with about 90 externally reviewed scientific articles and contributed to the last two Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports.
MATT PAWA: Hello, I’m Matt Pawa. You said that mitigation matters, and you indicated also that you had read some of the Exxon disclosures, is that right? I’d like to show you one of the Exxon disclosures. This is a June 6, 1978, document. Is that one of the documents that you recently reviewed from InsideClimate News?
JASON BOX: Yes, I’ve been—I’m halfway through the InsideClimate News report. It’s fantastically fascinating reading, because it’s a historical account of kind of a corporation that went rogue.
MATT PAWA: And describe what you mean by “went rogue.”
JASON BOX: Well, they initially had a transparent, hardcore science profile. They were doing some of the best science in the discipline. And they then defunded those programs and then started to actively fund disinformation campaigns to perpetuate their profitability, knowing that the true cost accounting of their products would lead to, some of their own scientists are concluding, failed agricultural systems, drought, sea level rise, climate chaos. They knew that, but they went ahead and to—you know, for short-term gain, to lie to the global public. And we will be paying for that for decades to come.
NAOMI KLEIN: Can you state your name and your position, please?
CINDY BAXTER: My name is Cindy Baxter, and I’m author of the website called ExxonSecrets.org, and I’ve spent the last 15, 20 years researching the fossil fuel industry’s funding of climate denial campaigns.
NAOMI KLEIN: Based on this research, did Exxon draw inspiration from the tobacco industry and its track record of denying the link between smoking and cancer?
CINDY BAXTER: Oh, absolutely. I think—I think Exxon and all the climate deniers that it worked with and the think tanks that it worked with were directly linked back to the tobacco industry’s—
NAOMI KLEIN: Tell us about that.
CINDY BAXTER: —its “doubt is our product.” We have, for example—
NAOMI KLEIN: Wait, sorry, what was that?
CINDY BAXTER: The tobacco industry’s “doubt is our product” strategy. Doubt.
NAOMI KLEIN: “Doubt is our product.”
CINDY BAXTER: Engineering doubt is the main thing that the tobacco industry did to try and create debate around the science, so that—of the science of smoking and cancer, so that—so that the public—so that the public wouldn’t be pushing for action on tobacco control.
NAOMI KLEIN: Now, those tobacco companies were eventually taken to court and held accountable for that. Based on what you’ve seen of the Exxon revelations, do you believe that we’re going to see similar lawsuits?
CINDY BAXTER: Well, I would like to see that. I’m not a lawyer, obviously. But I would like to, because I think—I think that if you know something, and we’ve seen that Exxon knew, and then we saw—and I’ve been very much looking at what Exxon did next. And what they did was, you know, extraordinary. They spent $30 million—$31 million from 1998 to 2014 funding climate denial campaigns run by think tanks and also denying the climate science themselves.
KEN HENSHAW: My name is Ken Henshaw. I work with an NGO called Social Action in Nigeria. I’m an environmental rights campaigner.
NAOMI KLEIN: So, Rex Tillerson, the CEO, in 2012 said that humans have always adapted, will adapt. One of the ways that humans adapt is by moving, by migrating. Based on what you’re seeing of the treatment of refugees in Europe and North America, do you believe that if Africans are forced to migrate because of climate change, that they will be welcomed?
KEN HENSHAW: It doesn’t feel so, no. To me right now, it does not feel so. It doesn’t feel so at all. I mean, I don’t get the impression that if, for any reason, people in the Niger Delta, in Nigeria, who are affected by climate change have to move, they’ll be welcome here in Europe. No, I don’t think so.
NAOMI KLEIN: And what do feel when you hear those words from Exxon’s CEO?
KEN HENSHAW: I really feel bad, because it seems to me that they don’t take into consideration what people are passing through. And the revelations are becoming more and more dire. I mean, I can tell you about a community called Bodo in Ogoniland. It is the place where UNEP carried out an assessment of the environment. And it was confirmed that benzene—and I had never heard the word “benzene” before now—that benzene, a cancer-causing agent, is in the water people drink, 900 times higher than it should be. People still drink that water now. It is the water I learned how to swim in. It is the water I drink ’til now. Life expectancy in the Niger Delta has drastically, you know, dropped. The expectancy level is something between 43 and 46 years old in the Niger Delta. If you drive into Bodo, every weekend, the pastime there now are burials. What you see on each and every wall are posters announcing this burial or that burial or this burial. And every poster has got the age of the person, the deceased. It’s hardly up to 50 years old. I am really, really scared, because I still drink that water. On the 1st of August, I was 39 years old. If life expectancy is between 43 and 46, I’m afraid. I’m really getting scared.
NAOMI KLEIN: Thank you for your testimony.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Ken Henshaw, environmental rights campaigner with Social Action in Nigeria. He says burials are now more common in his community in Ogoniland because oil-related facilities in the region have contaminated the water with benzene. He was being questioned by journalist Naomi Klein. When we come back, more of the Exxon “mock trial” from the alternative climate summit that took place during the U.N. climate summit in Paris earlier this month. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we return to the “mock trial” of oil giant ExxonMobil held by activists and journalists and scientists during the recent U.N. climate summit in Paris. We first hear from one of the chief prosecutors, environmentalist Bill McKibben.
BILL McKIBBEN: Tell us your name and describe your work a little bit.
CHERRI FOYTLIN: Yeah, my name’s Cherri Foytlin. I live in Rayne, Louisiana. Mostly I work at being a mom. But when I’m not doing that, I work with BridgeTheGulfProject.org, and we help people along the Gulf Coast to tell their stories about social and environmental justice.
BILL McKIBBEN: Among other impacts of the oil industry, could you explain for a moment about what’s happened as they’ve cut channels and things through the marshes and bayous of Louisiana?
CHERRI FOYTLIN: Well, what’s happened is Exxon and other oil industry—the other parts of the oil industry has cut these long pipelines that go crisscross, kind of like tic-tac-toe, like a fly swatter, the end of a fly swatter, across our wetlands. And to date—what happens is, the salt water comes up through those channels, kills the root system on the wetlands, and then we have land loss. So, we’re losing about a football field of land an hour in South Louisiana, and we’ve lost a million football fields to this date.
BILL McKIBBEN: And what does that mean when the sea level is rising and when storms like Katrina approach?
CHERRI FOYTLIN: Well, those wetlands are our protection. They’re a buffer zone for us. So, when we have hurricanes like Katrina, really, that killed over a thousand people, come up, we don’t have that level of protection that we would have, and it’s stronger and hits the—hits harder. And there’s far more flooding, because they actually soak up that water.
BILL McKIBBEN: As a political activist, the CEO of Exxon recently donated the maximum amount of money possible to congressional candidates or members of Congress on the eve of an important vote. Why is it that you’ve not decided to donate $10,000 at a crack to congressional leaders?
CHERRI FOYTLIN: Don’t have $10,000, because I’m busy buying sand bags to keep the water out of my front door. I mean, look, just in a couple—you know, a couple more—
BILL McKIBBEN: Do you think—
CHERRI FOYTLIN: —generations here, and my whole where I live is going to be completely underwater.
BILL McKIBBEN: Do think a political system should be open to people handing $10,000 checks to—
CHERRI FOYTLIN: I don’t. I think Exxon is corporate serial killers. I think they’re murderers. And I think they need to go on trial, and I think the death penalty needs to happen.
BILL McKIBBEN: Thank you very much.
NAOMI KLEIN: Could you please state your name and your work?
SANDRA STEINGRABER: My name is Sandra Steingraber. I am a Ph.D. biologist and a co-founder and members of Concerned Health Professionals of New York.
NAOMI KLEIN: You are a specialist in the impacts of fracking. Could you tell us about Exxon’s involvement in the fracking industry in the United States?
SANDRA STEINGRABER: Sure. So, Exxon is the world’s largest public natural gas producer. And it extracts oil and gas via fracking all over the world, particularly in the United States, but more recently it’s gone after the shale gas and oil in Argentina.
NAOMI KLEIN: We’ve talked a lot about local health impacts of Exxon’s activities, and we’ll come to that, but I also would like to ask you about the climate impacts of fracking, since we are here outside a climate conference. Sometimes natural gas gets marketed as a climate solution. Is that the case in your—based on your expertise?
SANDRA STEINGRABER: Natural gas is a climate problem. In fact, it’s a catastrophe for the climate. So, in addition to the deceptions that ExxonMobil has precipitated regarding the actual existence of climate change and the role of fossil fuels, Exxon is also implicit in promulgating the idea that somehow natural gas is a more friendly fossil fuel than the other two members of the unholy trinity—oil, gas and coal.
NAOMI KLEIN: You are a mother of two children. You have written about motherhood and the responsibilities to future generations. When you learned that Exxon had been researching climate change since the 1970s, research that has been described here today as state-of-the-art, did you have a reaction as a mother or as a scientist—up to you—or both?
SANDRA STEINGRABER: I immediately had a reaction as a scientist, because I, myself, was studying climate change and what we then called the greenhouse effect as early as 1977, when I was first introduced to it by my biology professor. So, we, in the scientific community, have known about the reality of climate change for a long time.
As a mother, I know that there’s no bigger threat to my children than the dissolving climate. And the disinformation campaign perpetuated by many, but most notably Exxon, makes it difficult for me to do my job as a mother. I believe that all tasks of parenthood have fallen into one of two categories: We are called upon to plan a future for our children and to keep them safe from harm. And climate change makes that impossible, makes both of those tasks impossible. So, climate change—the climate crisis is really a parenting crisis, which means—which is to say it’s a human rights crisis. And for Exxon to be involved in the disinformation about the science of climate, which we, in biology, have known about since the 1970s, is a strike against parenthood and a strike against human knowledge and scientific progress.
NAOMI KLEIN: Thank you.
ANTONIA JUHASZ: My name is Antonia Juhasz. I’m an oil and energy analyst, the author of three books on the oil industry, and an investigative journalist, including numerous investigations into ExxonMobil.
BILL McKIBBEN: Some of your work has talked about the connection between the oil industry and foreign policy. And would it be safe to say that the oil industry plays an important role in U.S. foreign policy?
ANTONIA JUHASZ: Absolutely, a key and crucial role.
BILL McKIBBEN: At this point, many of the early figures—many of the prominent figures in the war in Iraq, for instance, have said that it was a war for oil. Is that correct?
ANTONIA JUHASZ: Absolutely. We’ve seen over the last several years increasing statements by those who were deeply involved in the processes of the decision to invade Iraq, to make clear that while oil was not the only or sole objective of the war, it was a clear intention and objective of the war. And as I have reported extensively, in that objective, it was exceptionally successful.
BILL McKIBBEN: And did Exxon play some role in this politics?
ANTONIA JUHASZ: ExxonMobil was a major funder of George Bush as well as George Bush’s father. And for those here who aren’t from the United States, George Bush the junior, the longest experience he had working prior to working for the government was working in the oil sector. The only other U.S. president to come out of the oil sector was his father, George Bush Sr. They were heavily supported by Exxon and the oil industry. Bush and Cheney, the oil industry spent more money to get them into office than it had spent on any election previously. And that immediately paid off, so that the oil industry was essentially able to stop lobbying and start legislating directly. And within a week of the Bush White House, Bush taking office, Bush and Cheney taking office—and, of course, Cheney, the former head of Halliburton, one of the largest energy services companies in the world—they started meetings as part of the energy task force, which laid out America and the world’s energy future.
But one of the meetings that took place within the energy task force was, early on—and this is in 2000, early 2000, in the 2000, early 2001—looking at a series of maps and charts that were Iraq’s oil fields and a list that was called “foreign suitors to Iraqi oil.” And this was other companies in other countries that were already in negotiations with Saddam Hussein for his oil fields. And he was in negotiation with these other countries because they were members of the Security Council. And if he could convince them to drop the sanctions, he would essentially let them have access to oil. Well, nobody from those countries was in this room. This was the U.S. and British oil companies, BP and Shell, Exxon, oil guys from within the Bush administration, oil guys from outside of the Bush administration. And they essentially began the process of planning a war. One of the objectives would be to gain access to that oil, which they did. And ExxonMobil was one of the largest beneficiaries of that war, gaining access to the West Qurna oil field in Iraq, one of the largest oil fields in the world. Essentially, a country that was completely shut to Western oil companies prior to the invasion is now the home of Exxon, Chevron, BP, Shell, with Exxon being one of the significantly largest beneficiaries.
BILL McKIBBEN: You’ve heard now a collection of witnesses from every corner of the planet. Perhaps, if it pleases you, a short summation from Counselor Klein and myself before your deliberations. We believe that the testimony makes it very clear that this is some not just run-of-the-mill, usual corporate malfeasance, that this is not just Volkswagen turning back—you know, resetting its exhaust controls. It’s not the sort of thing that we’ve come to expect. Instead, this is a—this is a crime of the first order, and one that has carried the most severe implications for our planet and its future. You have heard eminent scientists explain that because of the delay in action caused by Exxon’s failure to present the truth, we’re going to see increases in the level of the sea. And you’ve heard from people who will be driven from their homes by that rise in the level of the oceans. It’s hard to imagine a set of corporate practices that could have done more damage, and more damage needlessly, since Exxon knew, as we now know, early on, precisely what the problem that we faced was, the crisis that we faced. That crisis has grown over those 25 years. But over those 25 years, Exxon continued to maintain that architecture and ecosystem of denial and deception and disinformation. And for that, we ask for a judgment against Exxon and in favor of the future of this planet.
NAOMI KLEIN: So, we aren’t asking you to put a price on that which is priceless. We have heard stories of lives lost directly because of melting life—melting ice. We have heard stories of ancient cultures threatened because of climate change. We have heard stories of the most reckless and discriminatory disregard for human life and human well-being and human health. It is Exxon’s crime that it believes that money trumps life, trumps everything. So we aren’t going to try to do the same thing. There is no price that can be placed on the Marshall Islands, on Arctic cultures, on the lives of our loved ones, on what we are unable to pass on to our children. But we have a duty to seek justice, and that is what we ask of you in rendering your verdict. Thank you.
PETER SARSGAARD: If examinations by other authorities are able to document the pattern of abuse suggested by today’s testimony, we judge that this will represent one of and perhaps the most remarkable instance of corporate crime in human history. We note that even as we meet delegates from around the world, are assembled in this city trying to work it out, at this late date, some kind of governmental response to climate change—we note, as well, that their efforts continue to be hampered by climate denial and deception. We find the evidence persuasive and compelling that had Exxon 25 years ago merely stated publicly what its scientists already concluded—notably, that climate change was real and perilous and demanded immediate action—then the world would have moved far more quickly and decisively, and extraordinary damage could have been avoided. We add, in our capacity as individual judges, that the burden of proof now rests squarely on this corporation to somehow prove that the documents and memos don’t show what prima facie they seem to demonstrate—namely, a profound disregard for the safety of the planet and its people. We render this verdict unanimously on the 5th of December, 2015, the hottest year yet measured on our Earth.
AMY GOODMAN: That was actor and activist Peter Sarsgaard, part of the tribunal at the Exxon “mock trial,” held in the midst of the U.N. climate summit in Paris, France, just a few weeks ago, the prosecutors, journalist Naomi Klein and Bill McKibben.
A copy of today’s show go to democracynow.org or Democracy NOW!
Oil and Gas Companies Knew in 1970’s that Continuing to Burn Fossil Fuels Would Lead to a Warmer Planet – Kept Results Secret and Paid Others to Show Otherwise
2015, the hottest on record, was also the year ExxonMobil was caught in a more than three-decade lie. Internal documents revealed Exxon knew that fossil fuels cause global warming in the 1970s, but hid that information from the public. Now it turns out nearly every major U.S. and multinational oil and gas company was likely aware of the impact of fossil fuels on climate change at the same time as Exxon.
Listen to full story online at Democracy NOW!
On this last day of the year, 2015 will be remembered as a pivotal one for the environment—the warmest year on record. In only the last few days, we’ve seen an historic storm hurtling toward the North Pole, threatening to warm temperatures by more than 50 degrees above average there, while in South America a massive drought has fueled wildfires across Colombia, which has issued a red alert for more than 80 percent of the country, and at least 24 people have died in Missouri and surrounding states amidst the worst flooding in two decades, while rare tornadoes killed 11 people in Texas over the weekend. And that’s only in the last five days.
The year 2015 ended with the U.N. climate treaty in Paris. It will also be remembered as the year ExxonMobil, one of the corporations with major responsibility for climate change, was caught in a more than three-decade lie. Exposés by the Pulitzer Prize-winning InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times revealed how Exxon concealed its own conclusions that fossil fuels cause global warming, alters the climate and melt the Arctic. Exxon knew about climate change as early as 1977. But instead of taking action, the oil giant lied to the public and funded bogus climate denial—paid for by the billions it made from practices it knew were harming the planet.
Now a new investigation reveals that in the oil industry, Exxon was not the only one with something to hide. InsideClimate News reports nearly every major U.S. and multinational oil and gas company was likely aware of the impact of fossil fuels on climate change as early as the late ’70s. From ’79 to ’83, the oil and gas industry trade group American Petroleum Institute ran a task force to monitor and share climate research. The group’s members included senior scientists and engineers from not only Exxon, but also Amoco, Phillips, Mobil, Texaco, Shell, Sunoco, Sohio and Standard Oil of California, as well as Gulf Oil, the predecessor to Chevron. Internal documents show that as early as 1979 the task force knew carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was rising steadily. The task force even briefly considered researching how to introduce a new energy source into the global market, given the research about fossil fuels’ impact on global warming. But in 1983, the task force was disbanded, and by the late ’90s, the American Petroleum Institute had launched a campaign to oppose the Kyoto Protocol, which was adopted by many countries to cut fossil fuel emissions, but was never ratified by the United States.
The Exxon revelations prompted the opening of a criminal probe in New York over whether the oil company lied to the public and its investors. Exxon’s climate deception has also sparked calls for a federal probe similar to the one that led to a racketeering conviction of Big Tobacco for hiding the dangers of smoking. With these new revelations [about] Exxon’s oil industry peers, could more companies be targeted for investigation?
Neela Banerjee is a Washington-based reporter with InsideClimate News. In response to her article: “Exxon’s Oil Industry Peers Knew About Climate Dangers in the 1970s, Too.”, Banerjee answers questions from Amy Goodman of Democracy NOW!:
AMY GOODMAN: Neela, tell us just what you found.
NEELA BANERJEE: We found that as early as 1979, the oil industry—oil companies, through the American Petroleum Institute, wanted to explore the emerging science around rising carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. And we saw this through documents that we found as part of our Exxon research. And through that, we also found the former API employee who was the director of the task force for those four years. He was—the task force was part of a broader air quality effort at API, and he filled out the picture for us, too, and that, you know, they wanted to follow the science, but that some were probably—were already doing their own modeling, though it was not as ambitious as what Exxon was doing at its site.
AMY GOODMAN: Neela, you spoke with James J. Nelson, the former director of the American Petroleum Institute’s task force on climate change, who left API in ’83. He described a shift that was taking place at the time: quote, “[API] took the environmental unit and put it into the political department, which was primarily lobbyists. They weren’t focused on doing research or on improving the oil industry’s impact on pollution. They were less interested in pushing the envelope of science and more interested in how to make it more advantageous politically or economically for the oil industry,” unquote. Expand on that.
NEELA BANERJEE: Right. And, you know, what Mr. Nelson said was that he didn’t have any issue with that. He thought that that was the right tack to take, because at that time, even though it was under the Reagan administration, the power of the EPA and regulators was growing, and so the industry felt that it was not being properly heard. And they were trying to introduce science, they were trying to get research done, they were trying to have their papers published in peer-reviewed journals. And, you know, his viewpoint, and that of the industry, was that they were—that they couldn’t get their voices heard, and they were worried about overregulation. So, rather than having scientists work on a task force and engage with policymakers, the best way to do this was to have lawyers and lobbyists, you know. And that’s how Mr. Nelson helped fill out the picture from the documents we had.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to the late ’90s and look at the oil industry’s role in opposing the Kyoto Protocol, which was adopted by many countries to cut fossil fuel emissions, but was never ratified by the United States. A draft action plan circulated by the American Petroleum Institute at the time read, quote, “Unless ‘climate change’ becomes a non-issue, meaning that the Kyoto [Protocol] is defeated and there are no further initiatives to thwart the threat of climate change, there may be no moment when we can declare victory for our efforts,” they said. The American Petroleum Institute was part of a lobbying group called the Global Climate Coalition, which included Exxon and other companies. As you write in your article, Neela Banerjee, a 2001 briefing memo quotes a top State Department official thanking the GCC because Bush, quote, “rejected the Kyoto Protocol in part, based on input from you.” Explain what this memo said.
NEELA BANERJEE: This memo talked about how to influence the public—and, I think, policymakers and scientists, as well—about climate change. The interesting thing about the Global Climate Coalition, which was formed in 1989, so about a decade before this memo came out around 1998, is that they didn’t hew to a lot of the theories that climate deniers back, so, for example, that it’s sunspots or volcanoes or natural cycles. They just kept saying the science is uncertain, and it’s too uncertain to warrant drastic action on the kinds of energy we use, and economic—you know, economic ruptures because of that. So, they kept hammering away at the uncertainty, and then they came up with this communications plan to do the same. And, you know, the point that they were making, that this was unwarranted, that the science was uncertain, that we shouldn’t ratify Kyoto, I mean, it worked. It wasn’t just the GCC. I mean, there were policymakers who believed this, too. But, you know, we did not sign onto the Kyoto Protocol—or we didn’t ratify it, rather. And then, during the Bush administration, some of the key people involved in the Global Climate Coalition went on to administrative posts, top administrative posts, and worked to—some of them worked to censor science on climate change.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to a clip from 1996, when then-Exxon CEO Lee Raymond spoke about global warming. He was also chair of the American Petroleum Institute from ’96 to ’97.
NEELA BANERJEE: Yes.
LEE RAYMOND: Proponents of the global warming theory say that higher levels of greenhouse gases are causing world temperatures to rise and that burning fossil fuels is the reason. But scientific evidence remains inconclusive as to whether human activities affect the global climate. … Many scientists agree there’s ample time to better understand climate systems and consider policy options, so there’s simply no reason to take drastic action now.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Lee Raymond, chair of the American Petroleum Institute, that excerpt from a PBS Frontline documentary. Talk about the significance, Neela, of what he’s saying and what he actually knew.
NEELA BANERJEE: Right. So, Mr. Raymond encapsulates the talking points and the strategy of the fossil fuel industry then, and that is that the science is too uncertain to warrant drastic steps to cut emissions from fossil fuels. Now, this is at a time when the science was growing more certain, and this is, you know, nearly 20 years after Exxon’s top management was told by its scientists that CO2 levels were rising, that they could drive climate change, and that the main—you know, that the main driver of higher CO2 levels was the use of fossil fuels. So, Mr. Raymond was not part of that group in 1977 that heard that, but later on, you know, scientists at Exxon continued to tell top management about CO2 and the link to fossil fuels through the ’80s, and from what we saw in the documents and the people we spoke to, Mr. Raymond was briefed on that. Now, whether he chose to believe that, why he chose to believe it or not, you know, I can’t—I can’t tell you. But we’re pretty certain he was at least exposed to the science and told about these connections by Exxon scientists.
AMY GOODMAN: Neela, can you talk about the impact of your first huge exposé about what Exxon knew, when it knew it and what it covered up, how Exxon has responded, right up to challenging the president of Columbia University, because Columbia journalism students were involved in the investigation?
NEELA BANERJEE: Well, Exxon has said, very broadly, that the reporting is inaccurate, that we’re cherry-picking, and that they’ve never stopped doing climate research. And the issue—their talking points basically don’t address the main thrust of our stories and the stories done by Columbia Graduate School of Journalism that were published in the Los Angeles Times. None of us said that Exxon stopped doing climate research—they did not. And Exxon, yes, continued to do climate research. What Exxon has not really responded to is why, despite the research that it did through the ’70s and ’80s, and really continued doing, though on a much less ambitious scale, through the ’90s, that they took a policy position that cast enormous doubt on climate science. The closest they’ve come to responding to that is to say, “Well, you know, our policy positions and what our scientists do are different things,” which—you know, which is interesting. It makes you wonder, you know, how much science informs other decisions that they take. So that’s been the Exxon position.
They also went after the reporters at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. They wrote to Columbia University and, you know, reminded Columbia about how much money they give Columbia, and said that what the Columbia journalism school project did was entirely irresponsible. Columbia responded and said—and basically, you know, they have a lot of emails and so on to show that Exxon’s assertions could not be backed up.
With us, as I’ve said, they’ve said very general things, but they can’t point—they’ve never challenged the authenticity of the documents that we’ve shared. And we digitized more than two dozen documents, so that people can see that we’re not cherry-picking. They can read the documents themselves. Exxon actually downloaded them and then uploaded them onto their website, so you can see our documents on Exxon’s website and ours. And they’ve never pointed out how we might be misinterpreting the documents in any specific way. So, it’s been a general response.
And as you’ve mentioned, you know, there’s been a response by lawmakers to launch investigations, and there’s been a subpoena that’s been issued for documents by the New York state attorney general. We don’t think that Exxon has delivered the documents yet. And, you know, we surmise that Exxon will probably fight this for as long as they can, because that’s been their strategy in other conflicts with prosecutors.
The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP 21 or CMP 11 will be held in Paris from November 30 to December 11. It will be the 21st yearly session of the Conference of the Parties to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 11th session of the Meeting of the Parties to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The conference objective is to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, from all the nations of the world.
The overarching goal of the Convention is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to limit the global temperature increase to 2 °C above pre-industrial levels. However, Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UNFCCC, acknowledged in the closing briefing at the 2012 Doha conference “the current pledges under the second commitment period of the Kyoto protocol are clearly not enough to guarantee that the temperature will stay below 2 °C and there is an ever increasing gap between the action of countries and what the science tells us.”
The governments of more than 190 nations will gather in Paris to discuss a possible new global agreement on climate change, aimed at reducing global greenhouse gas emissions and thus avoiding the threat of dangerous climate change.
Current commitments on greenhouse gas emissions run out in 2020, so at Paris governments are expected to produce an agreement on what happens for the decade after that at least, and potentially beyond.
Media Reports The World Will Enter A ‘Mini Ice Age’ In The 2030s; Actually, It’s the Reverse That’s the Real Truth!
U.K. tabloids, conservative media, and others are (mis)reporting that the Earth will enter a “mini ice age” in the 2030s. In fact, not only is the story wrong, the reverse is actually true.
The Earth is headed toward an imminent speed-up in global warming, as many recent studies have made clear, like this June study by NOAA. Indeed, a March study, entitled “Near-term acceleration in the rate of temperature change,” makes clear that a stunning acceleration in the rate of global warming is around the corner — with Arctic warming rising 1°F per decade by the 2020s!
Also, right now, we appear to be in the midst of a long-awaited jump in global temperatures. Not only was 2014 the hottest year on record, but 2015 is in the process of blowing that record away. On top of that, models say a massive El Niño is growing, as USA Today reported last week. Since El Niños tend to set the record for the hottest years (since the regional warming adds to the underlying global warming trend), if 2015/2016 does see a super El Niño then next year may well crush the record this year sets.
Whatever near-term jump we see in the global temperatures is thus likely to be followed by an accelerating global warming trend — one that would utterly overwhelm any natural variations such as a temporary reduction in solar intensity. A recent study concluded that “any reduction in global mean near-surface temperature due to a future decline in solar activity is likely to be a small fraction of projected anthropogenic warming.”
That’s true even for one as big as the Maunder Minimum, which was linked to the so-called Little Ice Age.
The “Little Ice Age” is a term used to cover what appears to have been two or three periods of modest cooling in the northern hemisphere between 1550 and 1850.
I know you are shocked, shocked to learn that unreliable climate stories appear in U.K. tabloids, the conservative media, and those who cite them without actually talking to leading climate scientists. Often there is a half truth underlying such stories, but in this case it is more like a nano-truth.
Last week, in Llandudno, north Wales, the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) held Cyfarfod Seryddiaeth Cenedlaethol 2015 — the “National Astronomy Meeting 2015″ (in case you don’t speak Welsh). An RAS news release had this startling headline, “Irregular Heartbeat Of The Sun Driven By Double Dynamo.”
Okay, that wasn’t the startling part. This was: “Predictions from the model suggest that solar activity will fall by 60 per cent during the 2030s to conditions last seen during the ‘mini ice age’ that began in 1645.”
Ah, but the word choice was confusing. We’re not going to have temperature “conditions” last seen during the Little Ice Age. If this one study does turn out to be right, we’d see solar conditions equivalent to the Maunder Minimum in the 2030s.
This won’t cause the world to enter a mini ice age — for three reasons:
The Little Ice Age turns out to have been quite little.
What cooling there was probably was driven more by volcanoes than the Maunder Minimum.
The warming effect from global greenhouse gases will overwhelm any reduction in solar forcing, even more so by the 2030s.
So how little was the Little Ice Age?
The most comprehensive reconstruction of the temperature of the past 2000 years done so far, the “PAGES 2k project,” concluded that “there were no globally synchronous multi-decadal hot or cold intervals that define a worldwide Medieval Warm Period or Little Ice Age.”
Green dots show the 30-year average of the new PAGES 2k reconstruction. The red curve shows the global mean temperature, according HadCRUT4 data from 1850 onwards. In blue is the original hockey stick of Mann, Bradley and Hughes (1999 ) with its uncertainty range (light blue). Graph by Klaus Bitterman.
The Little Ice Age was little in duration and in geographic extent. It was an “Age” the way Pluto is a planet.
Writing on Climate Progress, climatologist Stefan Rahmstorf noted the researchers “identify some shorter intervals where extremely cold conditions coincide with major volcanic eruptions and/or solar minima (as already known from previous studies).”
That brings us to the second point: The latest research finds that what short-term cooling there was during the Little Ice Age was mostly due to volcanoes, not the solar minimum. As “Scientific American” explained in its 2012 piece on the LIA, “New simulations show that several large, closely spaced eruptions (and not decreased solar radiation) could have cooled the Northern Hemisphere enough to spark sea-ice growth and a subsequent feedback loop.” The period associated with the LIA “coincide with two of the most volcanically active half centuries in the past millennium, according to the researchers.”
The cooling effect from the drop in solar activity during even a Maunder Minimum is quite modest. Environmental scientist Dana Nuccitelli discussed the literature underscoring that point in a U.K. Guardian post from the summer of 2013, the last time the “Maunder Minimum” issue popped up.
That brings us to the third point: Whatever cooling the Little Ice Age saw as result of the Maunder Minimum, it pales in comparison to the warming we are already experiencing — let alone the accelerated warming projected by multiple studies. That’s clear even in Pages 2k reconstruction above.
Just last month “Nature Communications” published a study called, “Regional climate impacts of a possible future grand solar minimum.” This found that, “any reduction in global mean near-surface temperature due to a future decline in solar activity is likely to be a small fraction of projected anthropogenic warming.” As with the Little Ice Age, any significant effects are likely to be regional in nature — and, of course, temporary, since a grand solar minimum typically lasts only decades.
So, no, the Daily Mail is quite wrong when it trumpets, “Scientists warn the sun will ‘go to sleep’ in 2030 and could cause temperatures to plummet.”
In actuality, what is going to happen in the business-as-usual emissions scenario (RCP8.5) is closer to “rate of change” of warming.
Original story by Joe Romm on Climate Progress
Why Have Our Commercial and Public Media (TV, Radio, Newspapers, Magazines, Online Sources) and Officials in Federal and State Government in the United States Not Sounded the ALARM Yet on Continued Global Warming and Climate Change?
The following is a summary of a 2008 international conference entitled: “ENVIRONMENT: FROM GLOBAL WARNINGS TO MEDIA ALERT” that was held October 10 and 11, 2008, in Venice, Italy. The purpose of the conference was to challenge the international media to improve public understanding of the impact of climate change. Journalists and news executives from 29 countries representing six continents attended the conference which was held by the international World Political Forum (WPF).
Unfortunately, now almost five years after this conference was held, commercial and corporation funded TV and radio media in these United States continue to purposefully ignore said challenge by not sounding the alarm on the global warming world catastrophe in the making, as do many U.S. publicly elected government officials in federal and state government, leaving the at large public in the U.S. as confused as ever over whether human activities such as fossil fuel burning: in power plants that produce electricity; in home and business heating (natural gas; oil; propane; electric baseboard); in motor vehicle travel and product shipping, via trucks, ships, pipelines (fueling lift stations), in airplanes and in trains; and in cement making and paving the landscape (fuel burning in earth moving equipment). Another significant contributor to the growing global warming crisis is continued deforestation, worldwide, and especially the deforestation of the tropics, where previously large reductions in of carbon dioxide (CO2) were being taken out of the air by the vegetation there – through the process of photosynthesis. Less green vegetation on Earth means increasing buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere and oceans, adding to warmer global temperatures. Methane gas (unburned natural gas) that is released from oil wells, livestock, and rotting biological matter (permafrost thawing) compound the problem that is resulting in what the scientific community has called “a potentially very dangerous situation for all humanity and life on Earth and lasting far into the future. Reason is that many positive (lead to more warming) feedbacks . One such warming feedback is the loss of Earth’s albedo, where a reduction in the area of snow-covered land, ice caps, glaciers or sea ice has a compounding effect on the initial warming. As the loss of “white” snow and ice cover (the albedo) continues, the amount of solar energy absorbed by the ocean increases, leading to more warming, which reduces the albedo on the planet even more, which causes more warming, and so on. A small amount of snow melt exposes darker ground which absorbs more radiation, leading to more snowmelt.
The effect is most vividly demonstrated by the decline in Arctic sea ice in recent decades.
As humans are continuing to do things that add more heat-trapping greenhouse gases (GHGs) to the Earth’s atmosphere, the result is that climates all around Earth have been measurably and significantly changing, mostly to the detriment of humans and animal life.
The global warming that has already taken place has caused Earth’s ocean levels to rise – due to thermal expansion from increasing water temperatures and from melting glaciers on Greenland, Antarctica, and Earth’s numerous mountain ranges.
Ocean water acidification has already taken place (a 33% increase) which has already lead to significant environmental, economic, and social cost. These effects of expected to continue unabated which is expected to worsen in time, with projected increases in monetary losses, damage, and loss of human and animal life due to worse and worse “natural” disasters.
As examples of recent catastrophes suspected to have been made worse as a likely direct consequence of rising average global temperatures (global warming): in 2015 heat waves in India and Pakistan killed 1,400 and 2,500 people; in 2013, the thirtieth named storm of the 2013 Pacific typhoon season, Typhoon Haiyan — known as Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines – with an estimated one-minute sustained winds of 315 km/h (196 mph; 170 kn), making the typhoon the strongest tropical cyclone ever observed based on one-minute sustained wind speed and the deadliest typhoon hitting the Philippines in recorded modern history, killing 6,300 people in that country alone (dozens of fatalities from the storm were also reported in Taiwan, China and Vietnam) and according to United Nation’s officials, about 11 million people were adversely impacted by the storm with many left homeless and an economic cost in the billions of dollars; in 2012, Hurricane Sandy, which remains the largest Atlantic hurricane on record (as measured by diameter, with winds spanning 1,100 miles (1,800 km)) is estimated to have caused monetary damages of over $68 billion and killed at least 233 people along its path on the eastern U S. seaboard including New Jersey and New York; and in 2005, Hurricane Katrina, the fifth hurricane of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, was not only the costliest “natural” disaster in the history of the United States. Total property damage from Hurricane Katrina was estimated at $108 billion; the hurricane and subsequent flooding took 1,833 human lives and an undetermined number of domesticated and wild animal lives.
Yet today, incredibly – almost six years later – there remain deniers of human-caused global warming and climate change, including our State of Wisconsin’s own U.S. Senator Ron Johnson, as well as announced U.S. presidential candidate and our current governor, Scott Walker, who continue to spread the false message that Earth’s climates have not been shown to have changed as a result of human activities, to the delight of corporations that are financially benefiting from continued and more fossil fuel burning, which releases carbon dioxide gas, the most abundant of the greenhouse gases, which compounds from year to year in the atmosphere and Earth’s oceans, leading to monumental negative consequences for humanity and other life forms on Earth.
WPF’s President Mikhail Gorbachev, the eighth and last leader of the Soviet Union and General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991 when the party was dissolved, chaired the conference at which participants reached a consensus that the problem of climate change is “URGENT”.
“Time is running out,” Mr. Gorbachev said in his closing remarks. “The most efficient way to tackle the urgent environmental problems facing our planet is transparency, in which the media have a vital role to play. This means global glasnost.”
Climate experts and media delegates approved a declaration calling for higher standards of reporting on strategic options to avert irreversible damage to the Earth’s eco-systems.
Stressing the importance of well-informed public opinion, the declaration set out the following main recommendations:
– The media have the central role in ensuring that politicians, corporations, non-governmental organisations and scientists keep the general public informed about the latest facts and policy options regarding climate change. Civil society formation and action are essential components in deliberation on this issue.
– Journalists have a responsibility to improve their knowledge and skills in order to be able effectively to question government policy-makers, to distinguish facts from opinion or advocacy, and to evaluate scientific arguments from an independent viewpoint.
– Journalists and civil society should redouble their efforts to combat restrictive measures by governments on journalists reporting on their deficiencies in fighting environmental degradation or in informing the public about the dangers of climate change.
– Journalists should avail themselves of existing international databanks of validated statistics and scientific research on climate change.
– Scientists need to acquire improved communications skills to explain their findings in accessible terms and to build relationships of trust with the media.
– Media proprietors should be prepared to invest more resources in investigative reporting to allow specialist journalists to carry out serious and objective coverage of complex issues, based on a thorough understanding of good science.
– Editors should provide more space for in-depth treatment of environmental issues, not just on-line but in print and on air, and encourage innovative approaches that will grab the attention of the audience in a responsible, independent and non-sensational manner.
– Journalism training organisations should develop ever more sophisticated exercises to improve reporters’ skills in explaining complex scientific arguments. An international network should be created to share information about the availability of training courses and the development of new training models.
The Conference concluded on a positive note, declaring: “There is, however, cause for optimism if we act now. Numerous positive solutions to the global environmental change proposed by science and made possible by innovations in technology, the potential inherent in global civil society organization and by citizens’ groups everywhere in the world; and contributions from socially responsible business leaders can make it possible for us to provide for a decent and full life for all, and for generations to come, within the limits of our planet’s resources.”