Tuesday, August 18, 2009

As Arctic Ocean warms, megatonnes of methane bubble up

As the mother of two young boys, I began to think it a bit crazy that I attended to every bump and scrape on my children's little bodies and budding egos, but largely ignored the threat likely to put sizeable areas of the world, including parts of the coastal city where we live, underwater within their lifetime.
Lisa Bennett, Berkeley, California 2008

Dear fellow Earth citizens,

Here again are a couple of news stories I really hope will convince those that care about life on Earth that taking real and tangible action is urgently needed!

And that clearly starts with our on eco-footprint, a more sustainable lifestyle and support of Fair Trade and other social and economic justice issues - no matter, what the self-serving BS of the "everything is just so wonderful" (bingo - no need to take action!) and "sending out love and kindness is enough" (voilĂ  - no behavioral and lifestyle changes required!) faction may claim...

It also means to at least starting to think about what to do when (read: before) things get real dicey. And clearly, that can only mean teaming up with others because only a concerted effort on the part of many will make sure that some of us will be able to live instead of just surviving towards the end of this century!

1) As Arctic Ocean warms, megatonnes of methane bubble up - It's been predicted for years, and now it's happening. Deep in the Arctic Ocean, water warmed by climate change is forcing the release of methane from beneath the sea floor. Over 250 plumes of gas have been discovered bubbling up from the sea floor to the west of the Svalbard archipelago, which lies north of Norway. The bubbles are mostly methane, which is a greenhouse gas much more powerful than carbon dioxide.

None of the plumes the team saw reached the surface, so the methane was not escaping into the atmosphere and thus contributing to climate change – not in that area, at least. Bigger bubbles of methane make it all the way to the top, but smaller ones dissolve. Just because it fails to reach the surface doesn't mean the methane is harmless, though, as some of it gets converted to carbon dioxide. The CO2 then dissolves in seawater and makes the oceans more acidic.

If methane began escaping at similar rates throughout the Arctic, it would dramatically increase methane levels in the atmosphere.

Note: And all that methane released into the atmosphere puts us ever closer to irreversible tipping points....

Phytoplankton Threatened by Climate Change - Populations of Antarctic phytoplankton have dropped significantly due to global warming, threatening the entire chain of ocean life, according to a study conducted by researchers from Rutgers University and published in the journal Science.

Phytoplankton are microscopic plants that form the bottom of the oceanic food chain; they are fed upon by krill, which are eaten by whales and small fish. Small fish are then eaten by larger animals all the way up the chain to Adelie penguins and other macro fauna.

Illegal logging - Illegal logging is depleting global forests at an alarming rate, in a smuggling operation that is “better than drug smuggling”. Trafficking some rain forest woods through cities such as Singapore can be just as profitable as trafficking cocaine or heroin without the severe penalties.

This is a multi-billion dollar black market industry that is taking place under the noses of government officials in more than 70 countries around the world, and has so far, been responsible for the destruction of more than 32 million acres of forest. That’s roughly the equivalent area of the state of New York.

Forests absorb some 20% of the earth’s carbon dioxide output, and when they are no longer there, decaying vegetation releases carbon dioxide directly into the atmosphere. In recent years, deforestation has been responsible for a greater amount of carbon dioxide emissions than all forms of transportation combined.

GMO Scandal: The Long Term Effects of Genetically Modified Food on Humans - An editorial in the respected American scientific monthly magazine, Scientific American, August 2009 reveals the shocking and alarming reality behind the proliferation of GMO products throughout the food chain of the planet since 1994. There are no independent scientific studies published in any reputed scientific journal in the world for one simple reason. It is impossible to independently verify that GMO crops such as Monsanto Roundup Ready Soybeans or MON8110 GMO maize perform as the company claims, or that, as the company also claims, that they have no harmful side effects because the GMO companies forbid such tests!

As a precondition to buy seeds, either to plant for crops or to use in research study, Monsanto and the gene giant companies must first sign an End User Agreement with the company. For the past decade, the period when the greatest proliferation of GMO seeds in agriculture has taken place, Monsanto, Pioneer (DuPont) and Syngenta require anyone buying their GMO seeds to sign an agreement that explicitly forbids that the seeds be used for any independent research. Scientists are prohibited from testing a seed to explore under what conditions it flourishes or even fails. They cannot compare any characteristics of the GMO seed with any other GMO or non-GMO seeds from another company. Most alarming, they are prohibited from examining whether the genetically modified crops lead to unintended side-effects either in the environment or in animals or humans.

The only research which is permitted to be published in reputable scientific peer-reviewed journals are studies which have been pre-approved by Monsanto and the other industry GMO firms.

5) Book review:
Waste The True Cost of What the Global Food Industry Throws Away - The world has a 'food problem' - rapidly rising prices, shortages, 100 million people starving, environmental depredation - or it thinks it does. This book shows that farmers, manufacturers, supermarkets and consumers in North America and Europe discard between 30 and 50 per cent of their fresh produce - enough to feed the starving in the world six times over. Additionally, while affluent nations throw away food through neglect, up to 40 per cent of some crops in the developing world are wasted because farmers lack the basic infrastructure to process and store them before they rot.


Monday, August 10, 2009

Climate-Change - Why it's even worse than we feared.

Hi Phil,

Good to hear from you :)

Of course, there are still things that can be done (and I'm sure some will be done) but increasingly so for adaptation and preparation rather than avoidance. And the current (and very likely continued) inaction will make future action that much harder and more costly. I also don't think that truly decisive action will be taken in time to avoid worse to happen. For that I'm afraid its already years, if not decades, too late.

Recently for example it was discovered that the combined permafrost of Alaska and Siberia contains about 1.6 trillion (!) tons of greenhouse gases, three times more than previously estimated. And both the permafrost and the coastal methane clathrates have started to thaw.... In other words, it seems that if the current generation doesn't get their act together action-wise things will become very dicey indeed!

Yes, Van Jones does great and inspiring work (he recently was on KPFA, btw.) But very likely his ideas and those of other inspiring and progressive thinkers won't hit the mainstream until things have gotten so bad people will have to act to simply survive and stay alive (or very nearly so).

I'm absolutely convinced that some of humanity is going to survive and some of the survivors are going to be the part and founders of more enlightened societies (under very different circumstances and conditions than what today's activists are seeing, though).

Sorry about my less than optimistic views. But what I see in my neighborhood on a daily basis and what I hear in the news leaves me with no other conclusion. More to the point, there are tons and tons and tons of relatively easy and inexpensive things that we all can do to lower our collective eco-footprint, live more sustainably and support and further social and economic justice, all of which would make our lives that much better and have a huge impact if only more folks would agree to doing them.

So, why on God's Earth are people not doing them, let alone encouraging their neighbors to do likewise??? It's after all about living vs. mere survival a mere few decades away!

I'm trying my darndest to lower my personal eco-footprint and pass on "actionable tips and info". At best I get polite indifference, at worst I experience outright hostility. Not a lot of fun...

On that happy note.....

Take care,


I'm afraid you're right in that the 2 degree warmup is unavoidable. Our generation failed to avert the coming disaster, and now our kids and grandkids will pay the price. The skeptics have one for now, but it's only a matter of time before they are proven wrong.

But the next generation still has a chance to do something about it and hopefully avoid making things any worse than they already are. For a bit of optimism, read "The Green Collar Economy" by Van Jones. If we can get enough people behind this movement, maybe we'll still see some real change within our lifetimes.


Sunday, August 9, 2009

Climate-Change - Why it's even worse than we feared.

Dear fellow Earth citizens:

This just in from NHNE News: Climate-Change Calculus - Why it's even worse than we feared - (Excerpt) Jim Watson of the University of Sussex wrote that "a new breed of climate skeptic is becoming more common": someone who doubts not the science but the policy response. Given the pathetic (non)action on global warming at the G8 summit, and the fact that the energy/climate bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives is so full of holes and escape hatches that it has barely a prayer of averting dangerous climate change, skepticism that the world will get its act together seems appropriate. For instance, the G8, led by Europe, has vowed to take steps to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius by reducing CO2 emissions. We're now at 0.8 degree. But the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is already enough to raise the mercury 2 degrees (Celsius, that is). The only reason it hasn't is that the atmosphere is full of crap (dust and aerosols that contribute to asthma, emphysema, and other diseases) that acts as a global coolant. As that pollution is reduced for health reasons, we're going to blast right through 2 degrees, which is enough to ex-acerbate droughts and storms, wreak havoc on agriculture, and produce a planet warmer than it's been in millions of years. The 2-degree promise is a mirage.

The test of whether the nations of the world care enough to act will come in December, when 192 countries meet in Copenhagen to hammer out a climate treaty. Carlson vows that IPY will finish its Arctic assessment in time for the meeting, and one conclusion is already clear. "A consensus has developed during IPY that the Greenland ice sheet will disappear," he says.

Since the Internet is chockfull with tips and ideas about how to lower one's eco and carbon footprint I won't add any - it seems a waste of time, anyway. More to the point, I only know one (1) person who's sincerely lowering his impact on our still beautiful planet, alerting others about the dangers ahead and who is working hard on getting more folks on board! Go figure...

Frustrated, worried and disgusted (by people's inaction and dumb excuses, even the more aware, educated, smart and financially better-off folks and... even those with kids),


Phytoplankton Threatened by Climate Change...
In addition to forming the base of the food chain, phytoplankton also...
absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and emit large quantities of oxygen.
Lower levels of plankton means more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and faster global warming...
leading to still lower plankton populations and successively more warming.
Rutgers University