This continues to be a very relevant article as we consider the upcoming new year — Stephen

Stephen Leahy, International Environmental Journalist

This article has been picked up and widely reported around the web and that’s great as long as it continues to have my name on it with a link to my website.  (And if you like it, please help this work continue) — Stephen

By Stephen Leahy

VANCOUVER, Canada, Feb 20, 2012 (IPS)

Humanity’s failure to halt the deepening planetary emergency of climate change, extinctions of species and overconsumption of resources is a failure of imagination and mistaken beliefs that we act rationally.

The path to a truly sustainable future is through the muddy waters of emotions, values, ethics and most importantly, imagination, said artists and social scientists at the American Academy for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference here in Vancouver, British Columbia.

“We don’t live in the real world but live only in the world we imagine,” said David Maggs, a concert pianist and Phd student at the

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Radio EcoShock: Ravaging Tide or Renewable World?

Flooding of New Jersey shoreline

Can big cities like New York or Washington protect against storm surge and rising seas?

 

I highly recommend this excellent weekly radio show: RADIO ECOSHOCK  hosted by Alex Smith  — Stephen

Nov 7 Show:  

Mike Tidwell, author of “The Ravaging Tide: Strange Weather, Future Katrinas, and the Coming Death of America’s Coastal Cities.”

Professor J. Court Stevenson, University of Maryland, on city surge defenses around the world.

Daphne Wysham interviews German Green Parliamentarian Hermann Ott: leading the way to renewables before climate collapse.

Website: Radio Ecoshock 121107 1 hour

FREE DOWNLOAD: Download/listen to show in CD Quality (56 MB)

Superstorm Sandy Didn’t Play Politics but Helped to Re-elect President Obama

Hurricane Sandy Speaks:

“I am aware that my arrival last week helped re-elect President Obama.

Superstorms like me don’t play politics but it should be clear by now that your refusal to tackle global warming has serious consequences. Higher sea levels and amped-up hurricanes like me are just two of them. There is an awful price to pay for burning coal, oil, and natural gas I’m sorry to say.

Putting hundreds of millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere is trapping more of the sun’s heat energy. CO2 is the planet’s natural heating blanket but those extra hundreds of millions of tonnes of CO2 has made that blanket thicker. And it is getting thicker every year.

Nearly 200 people were killed in the 10 days I traveled from Jamaica to Canada. Most of the deaths were American. The US remains by far the largest emitter of CO2. With a fraction of the world population, the US is responsible for nearly 30 percent of the world’s CO2 emissions from 1860 to 2009. On a person by person basis, Americans have one of the biggest CO2 ‘footprints’.”

Read full post at Hurricane Sandy Speaks 

Hurricane Sandy a Taste of More Extreme Weather to Come

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Nov 2 2012 (IPS)

Killing nearly 200 people in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean and crippling much of New York City and surrounding areas earlier this week, Hurricane Sandy was the kind of extreme weather event scientists have long predicted will occur with global warming.

“Climate change is a reality,” said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo after Sandy swept through his state.

Sandy was twice the size of an average hurricane, and it hit the eastern coast of the United States, where sea levels have been rising the fastest, said Kevin Trenberth, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Researchin Boulder, Colorado.

“All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be,” Trenberth, an expert on extreme events, told IPS.

Whether climate change caused Hurricane Sandy is the wrong question to ask, added Trenberth. He explained that climate change helped make Hurricane Sandy more destructive than it otherwise would have been.

“This is the new normal,” Trenberth said. “It doesn’t make sense to rebuild in some regions – they’ll just be swept away again.”

Superstorm Sandy Was Really an “Anthrostorm”

Hurricane Sandy Speaks:

Image

Earlier I called myself a hybrid storm: part nature, part human. That’s not quite right. Humans and Hurricanes are part of nature. We both thrive on this planet thanks to sunlight, water and carbon dioxide (CO2). Hurricanes and tropical storms have been around for millions of years. In the last 50 years things have changed. The oceans are warmer. This week the waters off the US east coast were 3 degrees C warmer than normal.

Read full post at Hurricane Sandy Speaks 

Plankton Death To Come with Acid Oceans and Sunlight

A number of marine diatom cells (Pleurosigma), which are an important group of phytoplankton in the oceans.
Credit: Michael Stringer

Global Warming has made oceans 30% more acidic already

“It’s clear we are conducting a giant experiment on the planet and we don’t know what we are doing.”

[This is a repost from my May 8 2012 article – see here for more on acid ocean impacts — Stephen]

 By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, May 8, 2012 (IPS)

Without major reductions in the use of fossil fuels, sunlight will kill an unknown number of ocean phytoplankton, the planet’s most important organism, a new study reports this week.

Not only are phytoplankton, also known as marine algae, a vital component in the ocean’s food chain, they generate at least half of the oxygen we breathe.

In the not so distant future, sunlight, the very source of life for phytoplankton, will likely begin to kill them because of the ocean’s increasing acidity, researchers from China and Germany have learned.

“There’s a synergistic effect between increased ocean acidity and natural light,” says Ulf Riebesell of the Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany.

Riebesell added that it was also possible “phytoplankton could adapt”.

Researchers were surprised to discover that diatoms, one of the most important and abundant types of phytoplankton, fared very badly during shipboard experiments conducted by co-author Kunshan Gao, from the State Key Laboratory of Marine Environmental Science at Xiamen University, Xiamen China.

Previous experiments in labs like Riebesell’s found that diatoms actually did better in high-acid seawater, unlike most other shell- forming plankton. Burning fossil fuels has made the oceans about 30 percent more acidic researchers discovered less than 10 years ago. Oceans absorb one third of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted from using fossil fuels.

The good news is this has slowed the rate of global warming. The bad news is oceans are now more acidic and it will get worse as more CO2 is emitted. This is basic, well-understood ocean chemistry.  Continue reading

Sandy says: “Childhood is Over: We’re All in this Together”

As the last of my winds and rains ebb I wish you a complete and climate-wise recovery. Our planet is not as it once was. You have seen some of the changes in your lifetime: the superstorms, floods, drought, heat waves, and the melting of the Arctic.

Other changes are invisible such as the 30 percent increase in the acidity of the oceans. This rising acidity is harming coral reefs, fish and many other inhabitants of the oceans. One third of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted from burning fossil fuels has been absorbed by the oceans. When CO2 dissolves in seawater it makes them more acidic.

All of these changes and far more with only 0.8C (1F) rise in global temperature. You want to believe all of this is natural. It is true I am part of nature but I have felt and fed off the extra heat energy in the oceans and additional moisture in the air you have unintentionally put there. The air, oceans, landscape have changed. Some call this time of major human impacts on the planet “The Anthropocene”. A big word to describe a big change: the era when humanity is influencing every aspect of life on the planet.

Read full post at Hurricane Sandy Speaks (crosspost)

Drought and New Deserts by 2060: Most of Mexico, Central America and half of US

Projected drought and dry regions in 2060-2069

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, May 22, 2012 (Tierramérica)

Mexico and Central America look like they are covered in dried blood on maps projecting future soil moisture conditions.

The results from 19 different state-of-the-art climate models project extreme and persistent drought conditions (colored dark red-brown on the maps) for almost all of Mexico, the midwestern United States and most of Central America.

If climate change pushes the global average temperature to 2.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial era levels, as many experts now expect, these regions will be under severe and permanent drought conditions.

Future conditions are projected to be worse than Mexico’s current drought or the U.S. Dust Bowl era of the 1930s that forced hundreds of thousands of people to migrate.

These are some of the conclusions of the study “Projections of Future Drought in the Continental United States and Mexico”, which was published in the December 2011 issue of the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Hydrometeorology and has gone largely unnoticed.

“Drought conditions will prevail no matter what precipitation rates are in the future,” said co-author Michael Wehner, a climate scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a U.S. government research centre in California.

“Even in regions where rainfall increases, the soils will get drier. This is a very robust finding,” Wehner told Tierramérica.

Without major reductions in carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, global temperatures will increase to at least 2.5 degrees of warming between 2050 and 2090, depending on rates of emissions of greenhouse gases, climate sensitivity and feedbacks. Continue reading

From Sandy: ‘Saddened by Damages; Surprised You are Shocked’

I am saddened by the damage and loss of life but am truly surprised you are so shocked by the extent and severity.

Haven’t you noticed hurricanes, cyclones and other storms have become more powerful in recent years?  And that extreme weather events like record flooding, droughts and heat waves are happening more frequently? In 2012 extreme weather records were broken all over the US. In 2011 there were 14 separate billion-dollar-plus weather disasters in the US including flooding, hurricanes and tornados.

Read full post at Hurricane Sandy Speaks (crosspost)

Oceans Filled with Plastic Trash – Changing Marine Ecology

Tiny bits of plastic now found throughout the world’s oceans

Ban single-use plastic: bags, bottles, cups etc, scientists say

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, May 10, 2012 (IPS)

Plastic trash is altering the very ecology of the world’s oceans. Insects called “sea skaters”, a relative of pond water striders, are now laying their eggs on the abundant fingernail-sized pieces of plastic floating in the middle of the North Pacific Ocean instead of relying on a passing seabird feather or bit of driftwood.

With an average of 10 bits of plastic per cubic metre of seawater, there are now plenty of places for sea skaters to lay eggs in a remote region known as the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, 1,500 kilometres west of North America. Not surprisingly, egg densities have soared, a new study has found.

“We’re seeing changes in this marine insect that can be directly attributed to the plastic,” says Miriam Goldstein, study co-author and graduate student at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.

This is the first proof that plastics in the open ocean are affecting marine invertebrates (animals without a backbone), which will have consequences for the entire marine food web.

“We simply don’t have the data to know what those consequences will be. It is a very remote region of the ocean, hard to get to and expensive to conduct research,” Goldstein told IPS.

The North Pacific Gyre is one of five large systems of rotating currents in the world’s oceans. It has become better known in recent years as theGreat Pacific Garbage Patch”. It has at least 100 times more plastic today than it did in 1972, according to the study published this week in the journal Biology Letters.

“There were no hard surfaces before in the North Pacific Gyre other than the occasional feather and piece of wood,” says Miriam Goldstein, study co-author and a graduate student at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.

“The ocean looks pretty normal out there in the gyre. There is no floating island of trash as some people imagine,” Goldstein told IPS. Continue reading