The Zero-Percent Solution

August 10, 2015

SurrealPaintingSunshine and a warm breeze this Monday afternoon on California’s north coast — at least along the shoreline we’re supposed to be in the low 70s today and tomorrow, but if the ocean breeze kicks in, all bets are off.
Forest fires continue burning to the east and south of us, but apparently winds have shifted and the smoke influence on our skies is minimal, at least for now — good update on the blaze-situation at Redheaded Blackbelt.

Feeding the fire frenzy is our worldwide environment quickly heating, apparently unabated.

(Illustration found here).

Climate change is way-by-far the defining issue for all of humanity, though, the look of it casts a ‘business-as-usual’ nonchalance that is both stupid and frightening. Although Gov. Moonbeam calls California a “tinderbox,” the fires will continue, and will get worse, to out-of-control, and past the point of no return.

Eric Holthaus at Rolling Stone last week painted a dismal-realistic picture for all the environmental art galleries on the planet — as revealed by the first sentence: ‘Historians may look to 2015 as the year when shit really started hitting the fan.’
Just a glance at reality makes it so:

On July 20th, James Hansen, the former NASA climatologist who brought climate change to the public’s attention in the summer of 1988, issued a bombshell: He and a team of climate scientists had identified a newly important feedback mechanism off the coast of Antarctica that suggests mean sea levels could rise 10 times faster than previously predicted: 10 feet by 2065.
The authors included this chilling warning: If emissions aren’t cut, “We conclude that multi-meter sea-level rise would become practically unavoidable. Social disruption and economic consequences of such large sea-level rise could be devastating. It is not difficult to imagine that conflicts arising from forced migrations and economic collapse might make the planet ungovernable, threatening the fabric of civilization.”
Water temperatures this year in the North Pacific have never been this high for this long over such a large area — and it is already having a profound effect on marine life.

Marine life is moving north, adapting in real time to the warming ocean.
Great white sharks have been sighted breeding near Monterey Bay, California, the farthest north that’s ever been known to occur. A blue marlin was caught last summer near Catalina Island — 1,000 miles north of its typical range.
Across California, there have been sightings of non-native animals moving north, such as Mexican red crabs.
No species may be as uniquely endangered as the one most associated with the Pacific Northwest, the salmon.
Every two weeks, Bill Peterson, an oceanographer and senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Oregon, takes to the sea to collect data he uses to forecast the return of salmon.
What he’s been seeing this year is deeply troubling.
Salmon are crucial to their coastal ecosystem like perhaps few other species on the planet.
A significant portion of the nitrogen in West Coast forests has been traced back to salmon, which can travel hundreds of miles upstream to lay their eggs.
The largest trees on Earth simply wouldn’t exist without salmon.

The Hansen study may have gotten more attention, but the Dutkiewicz study, and others like it, could have even more dire implications for our future.
The rapid changes Dutkiewicz and her colleagues are observing have shocked some of their fellow scientists into thinking that yes, actually, we’re heading toward the worst-case scenario.
Unlike a prediction of massive sea-level rise just decades away, the warming and acidifying oceans represent a problem that seems to have kick-started a mass extinction on the same time scale.
Jacquelyn Gill is a paleoecologist at the University of Maine.
She knows a lot about extinction, and her work is more relevant than ever.
Essentially, she’s trying to save the species that are alive right now by learning more about what killed off the ones that aren’t.
The ancient data she studies shows “really compelling evidence that there can be events of abrupt climate change that can happen well within human life spans. We’re talking less than a decade.”
Possibly worse than rising ocean temperatures is the acidification of the waters.
Acidification has a direct effect on mollusks and other marine animals with hard outer bodies: A striking study last year showed that, along the West Coast, the shells of tiny snails are already dissolving, with as-yet-unknown consequences on the ecosystem.
One of the study’s authors, Nina Bednaršek, told Science magazine that the snails’ shells, pitted by the acidifying ocean, resembled “cauliflower” or “sandpaper.”
A similarly striking study by more than a dozen of the world’s top ocean scientists this July said that the current pace of increasing carbon emissions would force an “effectively irreversible” change on ocean ecosystems during this century.
In as little as a decade, the study suggested, chemical changes will rise significantly above background levels in nearly half of the world’s oceans.
“I used to think it was kind of hard to make things in the ocean go extinct,” James Barry of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California told the Seattle Times in 2013.
“But this change we’re seeing is happening so fast it’s almost instantaneous.”

And that’s the high/low-points — a must-read, with sadness.
(h/t War In Context).

Currently, the largest, and nearly-insurmountable problem is gearing-up to slow/halt climate change, especially with our suicidal dependence on fossil fuels. Maybe, optimism may not be the answer any more.
Yesterday, Robert Samuelson at the Washington Post wrote of the obstacles, starting with President Obama’s EPA-climate initiative last week:

Even under these favorable assumptions, Obama’s plan won’t immediately depress global temperatures, which — if the logic of climate change holds — will be higher in 2030 than today.

Here’s the dilemma.
Eliminating fossil fuel emissions from coal, oil and natural gas would presumably stabilize most human impact on global warming.
But if done now, it would also destroy modern economies because fossil fuels provide four-fifths of the world’s primary energy.
There’s no quick way of finding substitutes for all the fossil fuels.
A single-minded focus on global warming would plunge the world into depression.
Politicians straddle the dilemma by talking tough on global warming while giving priority to the economy.
Obama’s approach seems in this spirit.
His rhetoric last week was stark.
No challenge poses a greater threat to our future and future generations than a changing climate,” he said.
Compared with this threat, his plan is modest.
Indeed, it builds on existing trends.
Electric utilities have already cut carbon emissions by about 15 percent since 2005 by switching from coal to cheap natural gas, which has about half of coal’s emissions.
We need more candor on global warming.
Obama’s plan is a big deal for electric utilities and, if it goes awry, potentially for millions of households.
The plan is complicated.
States receive emissions goals and can meet the goals through various policies (energy efficiencies, a cap-and-trade program, a carbon tax, more natural gas generation, preferences for wind and solar).
Love it or hate it, the plan still contributes to higher carbon dioxide concentrations.
It may be worth doing; we may learn valuable lessons.
But it’s no panacea.

Samuelson usually writes about economics and business, so a different source for despair.
Solutions mixed with scare-as-shit action might work…

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