Planet on Fire

High Park Fire

I just finished Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math by Bill McKibben in the Rolling Stone. It begins:

If the pictures of those towering wildfires in Colorado haven’t convinced you, or the size of your AC bill this summer, here are some hard numbers about climate change: June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe.

Meteorologists reported that this spring was the warmest ever recorded for our nation – in fact, it crushed the old record by so much that it represented the “largest temperature departure from average of any season on record.” The same week, Saudi authorities reported that it had rained in Mecca despite a temperature of 109 degrees, the hottest downpour in the planet’s history.

…Since I wrote one of the first books for a general audience about global warming way back in 1989, and since I’ve spent the intervening decades working ineffectively to slow that warming, I can say with some confidence that we’re losing the fight, badly and quickly – losing it because, most of all, we remain in denial about the peril that human civilization is in.

So Climate Change Deniers, in case you missed that, the chance that our hellish weather pattern is the result of chance is statistically ZERO. It’s time to stop arguing about whether or not climate change is a reality and to start working as frantically as Bruce Willis at the end of an action flick to avert our destruction. This is due to some very stark math:

  • 2 degrees Celsius – the amount nations agreed to in Copenhagen as the maximum rise our biosphere could tolerate and still (maybe) maintain civilization as we know it. We’re at 0.8 C increase right now and computer models calculate that even if we stopped increasing CO2 now, the temperature would likely still rise another 0.8 degrees … and 2 degrees C might actually even be too high.
  • 565 Gigatons of carbon – how much can be burned before we hit that 2 degree number – 16 years is how long it will take at the current rate.
  • 2,795 Gigatons of carbon – how much is already on the books of energy companies, enough to raise temps 11 degrees Fahrenheit and create a planet straight out of science fiction. Energy companies are already treating that as extracted, borrowing money and setting value and it’sFIVE times what’s necessary to destroy our way of life.

McKibben continues with a look at what strategies have failed and what might possibly work. It’s clear that to have any chance, we must treat this issue as the single greatest threat to our society we’ve ever faced … because it is.

The photo is High Park Fire by The National Guard. See more in their 2012 Wildfire Response slideshow.

March (Mercury) Madness: It’s almost like science fiction at this point

Bud Fun

Jeff Masters of Michigan-based Weather Underground is hands-down writing some of the best articles on the March Madness that we probably should be paying the most attention to, what he calls Summer in March:

A spring heat wave like no other in U.S. and Canadian history peaked in intensity yesterday, during its tenth day. Since record keeping began in the late 1800s, there have never been so many temperature records broken for spring warmth in a one-week period–and the margins by which some of the records were broken yesterday were truly astonishing. Wunderground’s weather historian, Christopher C. Burt, commented to me yesterday, “it’s almost like science fiction at this point.” A few of the more remarkable records from yesterday:

Pellston, MI: record high broken by 32°F
Pellston, Michigan in the Northern Lower Peninsula is called “Michigan’s Icebox”, since it frequently records the coldest temperatures in the state, and in the entire nation. But the past five days, Pellston has set five consecutive records for hottest March day. Yesterday’s 85° reading broke the previous record for the date (53° in 2007) by a ridiculous 32°, and was an absurd 48°F above average.

Low temperatures beat the previous record high for the date at two stations
The low temperature at Marquette, Michigan was 52° yesterday, which was 3° warmer than the previous record high for the date!

Read on for much more including Canadian cities breaking all-time records for March and April. Also definitely see his thoughts on the statistical likelihood of breaking 100+ year-old record highs this many days in a row. Hint: the answer sounds a lot like “climate change.”

The photo is Bud Fun by LadyDragonflyCC. She’s got some great stuff.

Cabbages, Cows & Carbon Free Current

I keep hearing an argument against wind farms is that they are ugly. I can’t understand that. To me, ugly is more like this.

What is it going to take for us to invest in wind and other alternative energies the way we do in fossil fuels. How much is that, you ask? According to The Ecologist:

Subsidies for oil, coal and gas sectors were six times higher than those for renewable energy in 2009, the latest International Energy Agency (IEA) assessment has revealed

Ending government subsidies for fossil-fuels is the best way of cutting demand and stopping rising carbon emissions from the energy sector, says the Paris-based IEA, which urged the money to be switched to supporting the renewable sector.

Total subsidies paid to support fossil fuels amounted to more than $312 billion in 2009 in comparison to $57 billion in support for renewables. Iran, Saudi Arabia, Russia, India and China accounted for more than half of all the coal, gas and oil subsidies.

The photo was taken by southgeist, and is awesome. See the whole photo right here.

tiny islands are people too

Via the Michigan Land Use Institute blog:

One of the most inspiring developments this week is the way the small, underdeveloped island nations now stand up for themselves in the global climate talks.  It’s a big change: At previous climate talks, smaller countries were often pushed aside and forgotten by the superpowers.

…In a speech today, at a press conference here in Copenhagen, the president of Tuvalu explained how tough it’s been to hold their ground:

“There are some countries, like Australia, who have been trying to arrange a meeting with us to probably water down our position on 1.5 degrees Celsius. We did not attend that meeting, but I heard from other small islands that Australia was trying to tell them if they agree to the 2 degrees limit, money would be on the table for adaptation process. That’s their choice to accept the money and back down. But Tuvalu will not. As I said in my speech, 1.5 degrees Celsius is our bottom line…

As a human being, I feel that the leaders that are pushing their countries to adopt this 2 degrees should know from science that that will be killing a lot of people around the world. That should change their position. I will not sign anything less than 1.5.

We just have to prepare ourselves for the worst. We have nowhere to run to. We must prepare ourselves individually, family-wise, so that we know what to do when a cyclone comes or the hurricane blows. There is no mountain we can climb up, no inland we can run to. We just have the face it. And that’s why we’re making noises around the world … We don’t want to disappear from this Earth.
We want to exist as a nation. Because we have a fundamental right to exist alongside yourselves.”

The fact that the lives, livelihoods and homes of millions upon millions of people of this earth are treated with such casual disregard is simply appalling.

The picture above is one of a number of photos from Tuvalu by Leigh.