Archive for June 2009

Rising Seas and Human Response

By Michael Haughey, May 30, 2009

Rising, and warming, seas are personal – for the Silvertip. It is a family matter. His (her) cousin the Polar Bear is in serious trouble. Fishing is lousy, land habitat is disappearing, and ice floes are further and further apart, making hunting and survival very difficult. They are truly endangered. The Silvertip too has lost habitat, so he understands.

You may have noticed, as I have, that scientists are very clear in saying that the IPCC climate models did not include dynamic melting influences in the land-based ice sheets on Greenland, West Antarctica, or East Antarctica. Yet statements from scientists about future possibilities for melting of these ice sheets are hard to find. James Hansen wrote an article for New Scientist in 2007 (“Huge sea level rises are coming – unless we act now“) about the possibility of rather dramatic sea level rise in this century, or the order of about 16 feet, but at least a few meters. 20 feet of sea level rise is roughly what could happen if all the ice on Greenland or all the ice on West Antarctica, but not both, melted. Melting of the ice on this planet is increasing at an increasing rate. James Hansen gave us his educated guess at what may lie ahead for rising seas. Consider two excerpts from James Hansen’s article:

As an example, let us say that ice sheet melting adds 1 centimetre to sea level for the decade 2005 to 2015, and that this doubles each decade until the West Antarctic ice sheet is largely depleted. This would yield a rise in sea level of more than 5 metres by 2095.

and

Sea level is already rising at a moderate rate. In the past decade, it increased by 3 centimetres, about double the average rate during the preceding century. The rate of sea level rise over the 20th century was itself probably greater than the rate in the prior millennium, and this is due at least in part to human activity. About half of the increase is accounted for by thermal expansion of ocean water as a result of global warming. Melting mountain glaciers worldwide are responsible for several centimetres of the increase.”

There is evidence of an accelerating rate of sea level rise, and there is ice core evidence of a precedent in similar and even lesser conditions.

Consider this excerpt from James Hansen’s article: “…the palaeoclimate record contains numerous examples of ice sheets yielding sea level rises of several metres per century when forcings were smaller than that of the business-as-usual scenario. For example, about 14,000 years ago, sea level rose approximately 20 metres in 400 years, or about 1 metre every 20 years.”

Note that by “forcings”, he means forces that result in melting of ice, such as the rise in average world-wide temperature.

One meter every 20 years is roughly 16.5 feet in 100 years. If all the ice on both Greenland and West Antarctica melts, that would result in about 40 ft of sea level rise in addition to the few meters form thermal expansion and the 10 meters or so from melting glaciers. But little is said about East Antarctica, which poses a possible addition of about 170 feet of sea level rise should all that ice melt. It is interesting to read the scientific summaries and articles because they are quite forthright in saying they simply do not know what is happening in East Antarctica nor what could happen. They also say that sea level rise from whatever might happen to the land-based ice sheets is not included in the climate models used to make the predictions. In fact melting from Greenland and West Antarctica is not included in the models used as input to the 2007 IPCC reports.

James Hansen explains that Earth is receiving 0.5 to 1.0 watts per square meter more energy from the sun than it is losing, and that amount of energy imbalance is enough to raise sea levels one meter per decade from the melting of ice, if all that energy only melted ice. It doesn’t all go to melting ice, of course, but it puts the present energy imbalance in perspective. This also contradicts the common misperception that sun-spot variations are driving global warming as those variations are much smaller over time. The 11-year sun spot cycle causes a variation of 1.3 watts per square meter reaching the earths outer atmosphere (see NASA data).  30% of that is reflected back to outer space, and 40% of what gets through to land is re-radiated back into space. The net is about 0.55 watts per square meter imbalance variation from peak to low, or 0.27 watts per square meter imbalance over the average of the cycle during the peak of the 11-year cycle. This causes a secondary sine wave imposed on the global warming trend. The positive feedback mechanisms that are occurring and about to occur will further raise the energy imbalance from the sun. It is not a constant value. It has increased or perhaps come into being due to the burning of fossil fuels and related positive feedback mechanisms and more is to come. In summary, Earth is getting hotter, faster, and sea levels will be rising faster and faster as a result.

The media event Earth 2100 (see the artice “A Glimmer of Hope Amidst the Fog” on this web site under the Media category) depicts part of a devastating possible result from about 6 feet of sea level rise. Comparatively, 20 feet to 50 feet of sea level rise would likely result in unimaginable catastrophe. So how do we feel about 220 feet? Sea level rise is, of course, only one of a vast array of mostly negative results to be expected from climate change. The list is frighteningly long.

Clearly we as a society must find ways to work together collectively far beyond the economic restraints of “paybacks from energy cost savings”. Does anyone still believe that unregulated capitalism can provide the incentives necessary and in the time needed to avert such a catastrophe? A collective all-out effort planet-wide may not be enough, so clearly pure capitalism will not be the solution. Quite likely regulated capitalism can provide some very important incentives, and social-democratic mechanisms can provide many vehicles for mobilizing just about everyone toward mitigating this common threat. What else is needed? What else is there? We must put tremendous amounts of creativity to work in addressing the mitigation of the factors causing climate change. Not to do so would be to commit moral and criminal assault on future generations and likely many of the people living today. Some small communities are making significant progress. But none of the larger societies or nations on this planet are making anywhere near sufficient progress any where near fast enough. That includes capitalist, socialist, democratic, communist, dictators, theocracies, and all combinations of political systems. None of us have it right, so forcing our systems on other nations is not the answer. We must combine the best of each and create new possibilities. We must find a way to direct our efforts toward a common purpose using resource conservation far beyond what economists tell us is “economic”. All buildings, existing and new, from now on, must on average be net energy producers from renewable energy sources and from very aggressive energy conservation. All other aspects of our societies must likewise end the use of fossil and nuclear fuels and replace them with aggressive energy conservation and renewable energy sources. It must begin at that level now, and it must be competed very soon. Remember that the goal is to preserve the planet as a habitable place for humans. So the goal is not necessarily sacrifice, but rather wise abundance. Buildings are a great example. They can be more comfortable, more productive, healthier places to live and work, all the while producing more energy through renewable energy than the energy that they consume.

I say “we” and “all buildings” and such, because one person or one corporation making the necessary changes will probably just go out of business. But when we all act together, collectively, with a common understanding, then we all operate on a level playing field. Then, and only then, can we make the needed progress.

The hopeful side, and it is very hopeful, is that there is more than enough to be done to provide creative and productive work for everyone on the planet. We can solve many issues with this one effort. The first step is underway – the understanding of the extreme seriousness of the problem. Once the problem is fully understood, what we must then do will become quite obvious. Some of the next steps are also, simultaneously underway. We as a world-wide society are developing and deploying, although much, much too slowly, some of the technologies that will be a part of the solution as well as making some of the personal and societal changes that will also be needed.

Our primary goal is really very simple. We must stop and quickly reverse the increase in atmospheric CO2 levels before we are inundated with the positive feedback contribution from the methane release crisis. If methane release gets in full swing, we may not be able cope with the resulting climate change. It may be simply too much.

If you still do not believe that climate change is occurring and coming faster and faster, I urge you to study the information that is available and that is coming out of recent research. In the meantime, the rest of us have serious work to do. We can certainly use your help, and we urge you to consider that the worst that can come of our efforts is a better planet for humans and all of life. How bad can that be?

One area of research I suggest watching very closely is that studying the science behind the melting of the land-based ice on the three major ice sheets (Greenland, West Antarctica, and East Antarctica). It was only a few years ago that the moulins on Greenland were discovered and their process began to be understood. Rather than rivers of melt-water that flowed into the ice sheet and re-froze, it was discovered that they went all the way to bedrock. The melt-water not only didn’t re-freeze, but lubricated the underside of the ice sheets. The ice sheets began to slide more quickly toward the ocean. What else don’t we know about the physics of melting ice sheets? At what point do they begin to crack and fall apart, exposing more and more surface to warmer air and melting faster and faster? The planet is within 1 degree C of the warmest temperature in the last millions years. Again from James Hansen’s article: “There is strong evidence that the Earth now is within 1 °C of its highest temperature in the past million years. Oxygen isotopes in the deep-ocean fossil plankton known as foraminifera reveal that the Earth was last 2 °C to 3 °C warmer around 3 million years ago, with carbon dioxide levels of perhaps 350 to 450 parts per million. It was a dramatically different planet then, with no Arctic sea ice in the warm seasons and sea level about 25 metres higher, give or take 10 metres.”

The recent International Polar Year 2007-2008 expeditions (http://www.ipy.org/ ) are likely to ad to our collective knowledge. Reports are expected soon. Most likely there will be more questions than answers.

Warming from CO2 increases in the atmosphere is potentially catastrophic, and yet that may not be the worst of what is about to happen. It is the positive feedback mechanisms that frighten most. One of the most recently discovered is truly the most potentially catastrophic. That is the release of methane that has been sequestered for thousands and millions of years.

Sarah Simpson’s article in Scientific American “The Arctic Thaw Could Make Global Warming Worse” tells the story of courageous and hardy Katey Walter, who discovered a new methane release mechanism during her doctoral research in the Siberian Arctic tundra.

Lakes in the Arctic could release 50 billion tons of methane (there are about 5 billion tons of methane in the atmosphere now accounting for a third of the current global warming trend), per Sarah’s article. She points out that “…the Siberian shelf alone holds an estimated 1.4 trillion tons of methane in the form of gas hydrates.”  That alone is “equivalent to the newest estimates of the total greenhouse gases that would be released during a complete permafrost thaw”.  It is particularly worrisome because the impact could be huge and previously it had mostly been considered too small to be a factor:  “Conventional wisdom long held that permafrost should take thousands of years to melt away, so researchers expected it to play a negligible role in climate change. But recent findings – Walter’s lake discovery in particular – have wrecked that prediction.”  The decayed plant matter in the permafrost has been sequestered for thousands of years and has contributed to previous post-ice age warming. The methane hydrates that are sequestered below the permafrost, however, have been sequestered for millions of years. If those begin to release, the global warming impact could be monstrous.

There are at least three significant carbon stores in the Arctic. The permafrost contains carbon in the form of CO2 that is the result of decomposition of plant matter in the presence of oxygen. Under lakes in the Arctic are stores of methane within the permafrost that formed from decomposition of plant matter largely in the absence of oxygen due to the presence of overlying water. Below the permafrost are stores of frozen methane hydrate that also formed by decomposition of plant matter largely in the absence of oxygen.

To summarize, in order of increasing potential global warming impact: first is CO2 primarily from human impacts (direct, indirect, and from positive feedback mechanisms); second would be methane released from permafrost; and third, and most worrisome, would be the release of methane from the frozen methane hydrates below the permafrost. A number of factors have not yet been included in the global models that once included will doubtless move the computer predictions toward more rapid warming and faster sea level rise. Will we experience the worst case scenarios predicted for a few hundred years hence within our lifetimes?

We are entering uncharted territory at an unprecedented speed. It is not known exactly what will happen, but how often can you enter uncharted territory at an unprecedented speed and not have something very unexpected happen? Will we be lucky, or will we be reciting our full repertoire of four-letter words? Do you feel lucky? Do people in the path of a hurricane or flood feel lucky? Will we as the human race soon be wishing that hurricanes and floods were the worst we have to worry about?

Sea level rise by itself gives us a lot of reasons to worry. The fair weather sea level is one part of the problem. It can have many effects that are somewhat understood and probably more that are not understood yet. Salt water will penetrate into previously fresh water supplies. The increased weight of the water might cause seismic activity (earthquakes). Then there are the stormy weather impacts. Storms, especially hurricanes, bring what is called storm surge. The combination of wind and low atmospheric pressure in a storm raises the ocean height, similar to the pull of the moon during high tide, from a few feet to perhaps 20 feet or more in a strong hurricane. When the sea starts out higher, this storm surge will now travel much further inland. The flatter the land, the further it will travel. In addition, ocean features like barrier reefs and coastal wetlands that used to protect land near the ocean will be under water. Will they provide protection then or will the storm surge just roll by? Many of the most densely populated areas on the planet as well as productive agricultural land will eventually have to be abandoned. The immigration “problem” of today will be a fond memory by comparison.

We are not helpless or without hope. We can change our energy consumption efficiency and sources of energy without degradation of quality of life. We can probably capture and do something with the methane that is being released from the Arctic lakes since, so far, it seems to come up in discreet locations (although lots and lots of locations).

Yet will we, the human race, act in time? Waiting for this crisis would be to act too late. The Silvertip, looking down from the mountains, sees a self-centered human race that seems only to react to crises. He has serious doubts that we will act in time or with sufficient resolve. Is he right?

Copyright 2009, Michael D. Haughey. Some rights reserved.

 

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Yet Another Political Sex Scandal

By Michael Haughey, June 18, 2009

You probably know the one. It was on the radio today and the last few days as well. It was probably on TV, but who watches that anymore? Another politician involved in a sex scandal. There are calls for resignation, and the usual refusal. What makes this one special? Nothing really. What makes it amazing? That “we” even care. Why is this a big deal? What does it say about us as an electorate? How can we change?

This yet-another-sex-scandal says more about us than the individuals involved. That there are calls for resignation says even more. If this is so important, does that mean it is a primary reason for choosing any particular candidate? Since no-one is perfect, does that end up forcing candidates to have to lie, at least those who want to get elected? We are, after all, voting for political candidates, not priests or popes or any other spiritual leaders. It is as if voters select politicians for spiritual and/or moral inspiration. What folly that is! For inspiration, I would suggest looking to a good book, someone like Ghandi, or your favorite spiritual or religious leader. But certainly not a politician.

There are better ways to select and judge politicians. I would suggest their understanding and position on actual issues. Do they merely throw out platitudes to get elected, or do they really seem to understand. We can show up at their town hall meetings and ask some hard questions. If the question is avoided or answered with a sleight of hand, that should tell you a lot. Do they say one thing and then do another? Their actions, how they vote, how well they bring differing constituents and viewpoints to the table – those are important to me. What is important to you?

It is hard not to notice that the media, maybe us too, seem to hold politicians to a higher standard than candidates for the local priest (talk about scandals) and even the pope. I think I’d rather have someone who is flawed, because it is from our mistakes that we learn the most. Someone who is perfect probably hasn’t learned much. Someone who appears perfect has probably learned how to create an illusion.

Finally, but not least, I suggest taking a close look at issues that are being pushed aside in the media in order to cover the scandal. There is a good chance, maybe even a high probability that it is no coincidence that someone leaked the damaging information at just the right time to take the public attention off something much more important. It need not be a scandal – any sensational news story will do. Pay attention and take notice. These things make the news right at the time we as a nation are debating something important. Not long ago it was the torture memos, and that news story almost completely disappeared. Now it is taking coverage away from the debates on health care and perhaps more telling, the possibility of a wage cap on corporate CEOs.

In summary, when a sensational news story breaks, take a hard look at what is suddenly not being discussed. Then act. Demand coverage of the important issues. Make your own coverage.

 

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Money Laundering Scheme

by guest writer Richard Reed:

money-laundering-scheme1

© 2009 Richard Reed

White House Climate Change Report

By Michael Haughey, June 16, 2009

The White House has just released the climate change impact report required by Congress every four years. This certainly is a breath of fresh air (so to speak) compared to the dark office corners where such information might previously have been relegated. It is 196 pages long and probably deserves a detailed read. If you are interested in reading it,

The report is released and discussed on this web site:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/Streaming-Now-Climate-Change-Impacts-Across-America-Renewed-Focus-for-Decisions/

The report can be downloaded by chapter or in full at this web site: http://www.globalchange.gov/publications/reports/scientific-assessments/us-impacts/download-the-report

This report is apparently an update to the draft report released by the previous administration after a lawsuit to enforce the requirement by congress for the report.

Overall, I like what I’m seeing in the report given the intended audience. It collects a wide assortment of the available science and information into one document. It appears to be less constrained than the IPCC report, which needed a consensus from 130 nations for the summary document. A number of graphs are included and are generally quite easy to read and understand. The range of topics discussed is also broad, so it doesn’t appear that there are attempts to hide much, even if the emphasis in certain areas might be less than needed. After perusing the report, I do have some thoughts and comments:

There is a lot to discuss in the report. For starters, in the Executive Summary is included this sentence: “If emissions continue to rise at or near current rates, temperature increases are more likely to be near the upper end of the range.”  I find that a little scary because the upper range of impacts should probably be a bit of a business-as-usual, or worst-case approach. If indeed that is the intent (and it may not be as explained in the release, that the scenarios are neither the highest or lowest possible), then it probably is not the upper range of possibility for one simple reason. That reason is that if we continue with business-as-usual, the rates of emissions release will increase. We have only to look at the impending methane crisis to see that. The release of methane from the Arctic is not really highlighted in the Summary (at least I didn’t find it), and that will be a powerful positive feedback mechanism. It is alluded to as “carbon” under the title “Carbon release and uptake” on page 16 of the summary. There is also this qualifier on page 26: “While analyses suggest that an abrupt release of methane is very unlikely to occur within 100 years, it is very likely that warming will accelerate the pace of chronic methane emissions from these sources, potentially increasing the rate of global temperature rise.”  That is a bit like saying we don’t want to say it will happen, but don’t hold us to that. Maybe it will, or not.

The report summary mentions that methane is a shorter-lived gas in the atmosphere, or at least implies that. That leaves me wondering how much methane can be released and converted naturally to something else, and of course where does it go? Does that mean that eventually the carbon stored as methane can be released and converted into something relatively harmless? How long (in centuries or more I presume) would that take?

This statement is telling: “The European heat wave of 2003 is an example of the type of extreme heat event that is likely to become much more common.  If greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase, by the 2040s more than half of European summers will be hotter than the summer of 2003, and by the end of this century, a summer as hot as that of 2003 will be considered unusually cool.”  I would not look forward to a world like that.

Regarding possible sea level rise, on page 25 I found this comment “There is some evidence to suggest that it would be virtually impossible to have a rise of sea level higher than about 6.5 feet by the end of this century.”  The referenced study is “Pfeffer, W.T., J.T. Harper, and S. O’Neel, 2008: Kinematic constraints on glacier contributions to 21st-century sea-level rise. Science, 321(5894), 1340-1343.”

This is not so reassuring when one realizes that Kinematic (or rather kinematics) means, from Dictionary.com:

” – noun (used with a singular verb) Physics. 1. the branch of mechanics that deals with pure motion, without reference to the masses or forces involved in it.
2. Also called applied kinematics. the theory of mechanical contrivance for converting one kind of motion into another.”

I have to wonder if there was an assumption that water could only travel from glaciers to the sea as ice (in other words, mechanically). Further I wonder if the study only covered glaciers as implied in the title, and not the huge ice sheets on Greenland and the Antarctic. The authors could have assumed that the ice sheets just can’t melt that fast and proceeded from there. What we would be seeing, then, is a bit of circular logic. Certainly if the ice on Greenland or on the Antarctic were to melt, the resulting water would find a path to the sea. The big question here would be what is the temperature at the land-ice interface two miles or so down where the ice sheets meet the land. Perhaps someone can find a copy of that article and review it?

This is somewhat acknowledged in the statement on page 26: “Rapid ice sheet collapse with related sea-level rise is another type of abrupt change that is not well understood or modeled and that poses a risk for the future.”

Hurricanes are also afforded some summary discussion in the report. This statement on page 36 would make a good highlight of that section: “Even without further coastal development, storm surge levels and hurricane damages are likely to increase because of increasing hurricane intensity coupled with sea-level rise, the latter being a virtually certain outcome of the warming global climate.”

There is a lot that is known about hurricanes, and even more that is not. Clearly global warming will create conditions for stronger hurricanes, and sea level rise will increase the potential for greater storm surge damage. I have noticed, however, that hurricanes are very fickle. They seem easily torn apart by what is known as wind sheer, or basically a cross wind that disrupts the circulation of the storm. I would expect global warming to also increase the winds that tear apart hurricanes. The question I have, then, is will there come a point where the hurricanes are torn apart faster than they get stronger? Even if that occurs, will there still be some monster storms that get through and make devastating landfall?

The Gulf coast is particularly vulnerable to sea level rise and the associated impacts of global warming. Consider this statement (regarding the Gulf coast) on page 63: “27 percent of the major roads, 9 percent of the rail lines, and 72 percent of the ports in the area shown on the map on the previous page are built on land at or below 4 feet in elevation, a level within the range of projections for relative sea-level rise in this region in this century.”  Additional discussion of the amount of infrastructure and the value of commerce conducted in the region really highlights the potential severe disruptions. Considering how little of New Orleans has been rebuilt, one can only imagine the extent of this area that might eventually be abandoned due to climate change impacts.

My overall impression of this report is that it is a hopeful step in the right direction. It may seem gloomy, mostly because that is the reality. However we must keep in mind that the first step in solving any problem is to fully understand the problem. The more the problem is understood, the more the solution becomes self-evident.

 

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Health Care: Insurance vs. The People

By Michael Haughey,  June 12, 2009

We are in the middle of an epic struggle in the U.S. between The People and Corporate Insurance. The People, or We The People as used in the U.S. Constitution, is basically comprised of the humans who inhabit the United States of America. Depending upon how the issue is ultimately decided, the group may or may not include visitors and/or residents who are not citizens. Corporate Insurance is an odd one. It doesn’t really have as constituents any real people. The U.S. Supreme Court has said that corporations have the rights of people including the right to say just about anything they want even if it is not true, and that the use of money is essentially the equivalent to the use of a voice. The health insurance system as evolved in the U.S. has become primarily a health care denial system.

Recent rate increases coupled with higher “out-of-pocket” annual maximums, coupled also with lower percentages paid by insurance, and further coupled with fewer and fewer categories and specifics of care that are actually covered, have resulted in a system that fewer and fewer people can actually afford to use even if they DO have the insurance. Pay for preventive care? Forget it. So who, really, are the constituents? Would that include the upper level managers and executives? Perhaps some can afford their part of the health care costs when something serious happens, but they’ll find they are paying through the nose for something they thought the insurance company would cover. Those at the top? They probably can afford to pay for their health care even without the insurance. So neither of these groups are really constituents. What about employees of insurance companies? Do they get a good health care plan, like the one the U.S. Congress gets? So who are the constituents? How about the uber-wealthy owners of and investors in the insurance corporations? Wealthy owners do stand to make profits from denial care. Investors, such as 401k and retirement account customers are also potential recipients of the health care denial system. So while one hand giveth the other taketh away. Thus a few uber-wealthy and the non-human person of the corporation are the only identifiable true constituents. Yet to watch Congress you would think that ALL of their constituents are screaming that they must not consider the one system that would actually be good for We The People.

Could it be that political donations and financial threats are the real constituents? That tells us one thing.  Our voices in demanding Universal Public-Funded Single-Payer User-Selected Provider Basic Health Care must be so loud and so insistent that members of congress can’t even hear the money talking above the din.

What about a Public Insurance Option? I listened (briefly due to my schedule) to Thom Hartmann and Bernie Sanders discussing the issue on the radio (Thom Hartmann & Bernie Sanders on Single-Payer: http://www.thomhartmann.com/2009/06/08/june-12th-2009-friday/ ). And let me say for the record that I am eternally grateful for the knowledge and insight and courage of both individuals. One idea they seemed to support (and I’m paraphrasing) is that a Public Insurance Option now would lead to the obvious result that single-payer would come to be better understood and seen as very favorable to the out-competed insurance options. My expectation is this: the forces of corporate Insurance, with their Supreme Court-given “right” to speak with money and to speak less than the truth, and with their substantial financial resources, will do what is necessary to “win”.  The humans they hire are very bright and will be formidable adversaries in this struggle. Further, they will find a way to skim the better-off individuals from the public option, thus making the public option appear to be less effective.

Now is the time, perhaps the only time in the life of the members of We The People living today, to finally enact a health care system worthy of a developed country, just as all other developed countries have done. Lose this opportunity now and we lose the opportunity for generations of Americans to have reasonable health care. Remember that the corporate media will be of little help, even though most of their employees, just like the insurance company employees, are also at the mercy of the health denial system

For a discussion of the Single Payer option as it might be gaining traction in Congress, and others who support it, see the article “The Rise of Single-Payer Health Care”, by David Swanson, truthout: http://www.truthout.org/061209R . As the article explains, it is especially important to apply pressure to the U.S. Senate. Phone calls may be the most effective, but don’t discount standing on street corners. Attend town hall meetings and more. But if you stand on a street corner, make sure a photographer gets video posted on the Internet. Don’t expect any favorable coverage from corporate media. Note to corporate media – please prove me wrong!  Do what is right.

Let me repeat: Our voices in demanding Universal Public-Funded Single-Payer User-Selected Provider Basic Health Care must be so loud and so insistent that members of congress can’t even hear the money talking above the din. We must act now.

 

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A Glimmer of Hope Amidst the Fog

By Michael Haughey, June 10, 2009

Things are not well in the U.S. or in the rest of the world today. Yet two media events signal a reason for a glimmer of hope. No doubt there are many, many other reasons for hope. These two events, however, seem to signal the possible shift that so many have worked so hard to effect. But don’t get your hopes up too fast or without keeping your eyes, ears, and other senses wide open.

Earth2100:

One media event was the broadcast, on live corporate media, ABC, of the media presentation Earth2100. I’m not sure if it is intended by the makers to be a documentary, a film, a marketing event, a way to gradually lull the populace into acceptance of the nearly inevitable, or perhaps some other motive. I’ll just refer to it as a media event. If you have not seen it, here is the link:  http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/Earth2100/ . I recommend viewing it for yourself, and I’m assuming that can be done on the Internet (someone please respond with the easiest way to do that).

The event, in brief, shows a scenario through the year 2100 of climate change and the impact on a fictitious character Lucy, and others. It is in part, or largely, animation. The picture it paints is not pretty. It depicts a turning point in the year 2015 when a world assembly is unable to agree on a path for dealing with climate change. The choice to deal with climate change, as I recall, is something like a 30% reduction in carbon energy use by something like the year 2030. This is a bit of a straw man that is put up and might give the impression that a goal to save 30% (through some unspecified measures and compared to some unspecified baseline consumption) by 2030 might avert the worst consequences to humans of climate change. My sense from following this issue is that we have already passed a turning point in terms of CO2 (carbon dioxide) concentration (when it was 350 PPM (parts per million) per James Hansen). Physical processes tend to have a hysteresis, so I would expect that to undo that turning point, the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere would have to drop far below that turning point value. Maybe it needs to drop below 250 PPM or some other level. Pre-industrial levels were about 280 PPM and now it is 387 PPM and rising fast.

CO2 is unfortunately not the only climate change driver now. Another turning point may be in the works in the form of methane release. Huge amounts of methane are sequestered in frozen tundra (permafrost) and under the Arctic Ocean bottom in a sub-sea layer of permafrost. That methane is now releasing at an accelerating rate from thawing tundra and bubbling up from the ocean and other places as well. Methane has a global warming potential that is said to be from 21 to 30 times greater than that of CO2. The amount of methane in the atmosphere is relatively small, but enough to have an effect even at present levels. We will be hearing more of the term CO2 equivalent, which means a concentration of CO2 that is equivalent in terms of global warming impact to the actual mix of gasses in the atmosphere. CO2 and methane are the biggies, but there are others. I read in 2006 that methane and other gasses accounted for a CO2 equivalent of about 50 PPM in addition to the CO2. You can find some information about that in the Stern Report. “The amount of methane stored beneath the Arctic is calculated to be greater than the total amount of carbon locked up in global coal reserves” (from Independent.co.uk ,Exclusive: The methane time bomb, By Steve Connor, Science Editor, Tuesday, 23 September 2008). So it could be serious. Very serious.

The Earth 2100 media event mentions methane, however does not really put it in full perspective. The media event is predicated on the assumption that sea level rise will be about 6 feet by 2100 in this particular scenario. No one really knows, but it is worth mentioning that it could be a lot higher. There are basically three major sources of water for sea level rise. The one we have heard most about, and the only one accounted for in the IPCC 2007 report, is not really new water to the oceans, but water that is less dense due to warming. That is at most likely to account for just a few meters of sea level rise. Next is melting of glaciers on mountains, currently in progress, and worth a total potential of about 10 feet. The next source that has seen a lot of press recently, but is not included in the sea level rise predictions for the year 2100 is the melting of the land-based ice on Greenland, a potential of another 20 feet. Similarly, West Antarctica could account for another 20 feet. Finally, East Antarctica has enough land-based ice to account for another 170 feet of sea level rise. Many scientists don’t expect that to melt anytime soon, however we have to ask the question “what if” because all the previous predictions are now being exceeded. None of those predictions accounted for even the melting on Greenland let alone the potential release of methane or the melting of the land-based ice on East Antarctica. We, and I say we lightly as I probably won’t be around then, but “we” might wish the sea level rise would only be 6 feet.

The Earth2100 media event does “break the ice” in terms of corporate media exposure. Yet we must remain vigilant and make sure the corporate media does not put out a false scenario of what needs to be done that is likely in fact to be far, far less than what really needs to be done. What is really needed in my opinion is to reduce carbon output to less than 1990 levels about 5 years ago, to make all buildings net energy producers via aggressive energy conservation and use of renewable energy technologies, and to make all other energy uses very efficient and using only renewable energy. A tall order, yes. But also necessary in my opinion.

Press For Truth on KBDI Channel 12 in Broomfield, Colorado:

The other media event that gives rise to a glimmer of hope was the presentation of the documentary film “Press For Truth” on KBDI Channel 12 in Broomfield, Colorado. It was presented on television during their fund-raiser. Here is the link:  http://www.kbdi.org/tv_schedule/program_details.cfm?series_id=27672920. While not corporate media, the presentation on KBDI was a first for a major TV broadcast. The documentary raises questions about the World Trade Center Tower demolitions on September 11, 2001. Questions that need to be answered and that so far have been seriously covered up.

The importance of this event lies in the implications of the forces that remain and that unless exposed are likely to continue to wreak havoc. This is not necessarily to say that individuals must be prosecuted, although certainly in some cases that will be appropriate and just. Lets just say the hippies of the 60’s got it right. It is the system. In spite of changes to the U.S. presidency and administration, the forces of that system remain fully in place. The unchecked “profit motive” and the fiduciary requirement of corporations to make a profit for shareholders above all other considerations remains in place. The granting of personhood and associated “free speech” rights to corporations that the U.S. Supreme Court has extended to allow lying as protected free speech has put the incredible power of corporate money ahead of the public good. That remains in place. The influence and power of both the wealthy and their paid lobbyists also remains. All this and more, taken together, has throughout history, and again on September 11, 2001, resulted in an event of unbelievable magnitude and implication. The World Trade Center Towers 1, 2, and 7 were brought down by controlled demolition. By whom and for what specific reasons? That is why we need an investigation that is complete, thorough, transparent, and independent. To find out. To learn. To make changes. The list of possible suspects is long indeed. The investigation may need to be international due to the probable conflicts of interest that will be difficult to know in advance of knowing the results.

The documentary “Press For Truth” lays out a small part of the case for a true investigation. There are many other films as well that make different parts of the case. It is a cause for optimism that KBDI Channel 12 Colorado has found the courage to air this film. We can hope many more TV networks will also find that same courage.

Remember that “9/11” has been the rallying cry for just about anything that those in power wanted to do to others that had no reasonable justification ever since. Two undeclared wars plus a “war on terror”, a war against a strategy, have been so justified. The loss of freedoms in the U.S. through the “Patriot Act” has been so justified. The U.S. lost its reputation in the court of world opinion because of the actions of the U.S. administration justified by “9/11”. Denouncement of dissent is another, although false patriotism has always been used toward that end. The list is long. Time is short.

The cause for optimism? The truth is leaking out, and more and more people are demanding answers.

 

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