Frog Blog

Before Our Eyes: The sandbag walls of Kiribati

Kiribati (pronounced Kiribas) is a Pacific nation comprising 33 atolls and islands and a population of about 110,000. When it gained its independence from the U.K. in 1979, it became the world’s only nation with residents in all four hemispheres. The atolls and islands of Kiribati have had permanent residents since they were settled by sea-going Micronesian explorers in canoes between 3,000 and 5,000 years ago.

The lands of Kiribati rise only 3-6 feet above a sea level that has been relatively stable for the last few thousand years, but less stable recently. The residents are now engaged in an ongoing battle with a rising sea that their president has already conceded they are destined to lose.

High tides flood and salinate farmland. Families erect sandbag walls in an effort to protect their homes.

Kiribati 1

Kiribati 2

Kiribati 4

Kiribati 5

Kiribati 6
Image credits: Kadir van Lohuizen, where will we go? – rising sea levels Project, Noor Foundation. The rising sea encroaches on farmland and residential areas of the islands of Kiribati. Residents protect their homes with sandbag walls.

Kiribati is expected to be largely submerged sometime in the second half of this century, a fate that has already been set by the CO2 emissions of industrialized nations between 1850 and now. It will become the first nation to be destroyed by climate change.

While individual families erect sandbag barriers around their homes, the government of Kiribati is actively planning for its own demise. It has purchased a 5,460-acre estate on Fiji’s second largest island of Vanua Levu, where the government intends to re-settle much of its population in a staged migration. Its schools have integrated into their curricula content intended to prepare young schoolchildren for the move.

(As I have written about, Fiji faces its own challenges from climate change.)

“To plan for the day when you no longer have a country is indeed painful but I think we have to do that.”

Anote Tong, President of Kiribati, 2008

#AskYourDenierIfTheyveSeenThis

See more changes happening Before Our Eyes.

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Before Our Eyes: Fiji

Fiji Tree
2014, Fiji: A mature tree has been surrounded by the encroaching sea. It stands defiant but lonely and vulnerable, its roots exposed as the land on which it grew up is carried away by the changing climate. (Image credit: Kadir van Lohuizen, where will we go? – rising sea levels Project, Noor Foundation)

Fiji is an island nation in the South Pacific Ocean comprising 332 islands, of which 106 are permanently inhabited by its population of about 900,000 people. They are the descendants of the Lapita people who settled the islands about 5,000 years ago, probably originating in Taiwan or southern China. Expert in seamanship and navigation, the Lapita people and their Polynesian descendants relied on a strong tradition of oral history and small wooden canoes to locate and ultimately settle the Pacific islands from Fiji to Hawaii across hundreds of miles of open ocean. This amazing feat of human exploration has been recently popularized in the movie, Moana.

Can you imagine the courage, faith, and skill it must have taken to set off from one tiny Pacific island to find another, across a hundred miles of open ocean in a small wooden boat, with only the stories of your parents and the stars as your guide? That’s what these folks did, around 5,000 years ago.

In just 3% of that time, since around 1850, the most industrialized among us have begun a process to rapidly deprive those brave folks of their homes, culture, and history. Their beaches are already vanishing due to climate change driven sea-level rise, as exemplified by the lonely tree pictured above. In fact, as discussed at the recent 23rd annual “conference of the parties” (COP) meeting under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Bonn, Germany, a joint assessment of the World Bank and the Fijian government determined that Fiji will need to spend an amount equivalent to its entire yearly gross domestic product over the next 10 years to adequately prepare for higher sea levels and stronger storms due to climate change.

So the simple decision on the table is this.

Option A: Turn our backs on the 900,000 current citizens and the 5,000 year human history of Fiji. Blow off the descendants of the people who conducted their own version of the Space Race, before we did ours, by bravely exploring and settling the uncharted expanses of the South Pacific in tiny wooden boats. Enjoy our cheap fossil energy. Why challenge ourselves to do something new (solar, wind, batteries), even though engineers and economists now say those new things can sometimes be as cheap as fossil fuels? Drill, baby, drill!

Option B: Give those brave folks some respect and give ourselves a little bit of a healthy challenge. Revolutionize our relationship with energy and the earth. Replicate the glory of the last generation’s Space Race in that pursuit. We all just may be prouder, happier, and safer.

(After all, what’s been happening in Fiji is also beginning to happen in Houston and Miami. Or haven’t you heard?)

#AskYourDenierIfTheyveSeenThis

#RescueThatFrog

See more changes happening Before Our Eyes.

Fiji BoyImage credit: Kadir van Lohuizen, where will we go? – rising sea levels Project, Noor Foundation

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Americans Lament Inability to Talk About Hurricanes or Mass Shootings Because of Need to Mourn Extraordinarily Frequent Hurricanes, Mass Shootings

This “news story” is a work of satire. All linked quotes, however, are 100% real.

6 November 2017

AP – Hours after a gunman killed at least 26 church-goers in Sutherland Springs, Texas, and in the wake of a string of national tragedies over previous weeks including the depraved massacre of 58 people by a “lone wolf” gunman in Las Vegas only 35 days earlier and the Puerto Rican landfall of Hurricane Maria just 11 days before that, Americans widely acknowledged on Monday they had entered a new Great American Mourning Episode (GAME) observed by tradition following any such travesty on U.S. soil. Variously held for a period of weeks or months, the GAME features, by mutual agreement of all patriotic American citizens and in respectful observance of the suffering of the victims of the tragedy, a usually unspoken moratorium on any insensitive public discourse related to possible root causes of the disaster or potential methods of preventing similar travesties in the future.

This exceptional American tradition was exemplified particularly well by presidential counselor Kellyanne Conlady immediately following the August landfall of Hurricane Harvey, the first of 4 major hurricanes to ravage the U.S. coastline during this year’s unusually active hurricane season.  Just hours after its landfall in Texas, a news reporter callously deviated from the spirit of the GAME by seeking to question Conlady about whether “climate change” might be a contributing factor to the hurricane’s ability to drop a record-smashing more than 4 feet of rain on Houston, whereupon Conlady justifiably responded, “…we’re trying to help the people whose lives are literally underwater, and you want to have a conversation about climate change. I mean, that is—I’m not going to engage in that right now because I work for a president and a vice president and a country that is very focused on helping the millions of affected Texans, and, God forbid, Louisianans.”

EPA administrator Scott Prune expressed a similar patriotic sentiment hours before the state of Florida was slammed by Hurricane Irma, a multi-record-setting hurricane roughly twice the width of that state.  When questioned by an indurate reporter about the possible role of “climate change” in stirring up the most savage hurricane season on record, Prune appropriately put the reporter in his place: “To have any kind of focus on the cause and effect of the storm versus helping people, or actually facing the effect of the storm, is misplaced.  …to use time and effort to address it at this point is very, very insensitive to [the] people in Florida.” Appropriate comments indeed from the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, who we must assume had by that time put a pin in all considerations of the Environment in expectation of personally performing manual labor as part of Florida relief efforts.

Hours after the October 1 Las Vegas massacre, White House press secretary Sarah Slanders similarly urged appropriate observation of the GAME. “There’s a time and place for a political debate, but now is the time to unite as a country,” Slanders solemnly reminded members of the media. “We haven’t had the moment to have a deep dive on the policy part. We have been focused on the fact that we had a severe tragedy in our country and this is a day of mourning, a time of bringing our country together, that has been the focus of the administration this morning.”

These exemplary demonstrations of patriotism epitomized the vital principle of the GAME, that any misguided efforts to identify and discuss the merits of potential policy adjustments to prevent future calamities would only serve as distractions from the proper acknowledgement and consideration of the suffering of fellow Americans.

Indeed, the GAME demands, for all who love America, that terrestrial considerations of practical human action should rather be transcended by prayer, in the form of devout appeals to any of various higher deities to ease the suffering of the afflicted and grant relief from such tragedies in the future. Americans widely admit no documented evidence of any of the major deities obviously meddling significantly in natural events or the collective fortunes of large groups of people for thousands of years. Even in those ancient times, literary evidence suggests interference of deities only in the context of vigorous efforts on the part of a human population to improve its own fortunes. Nevertheless, the documented power wielded by the deities in those times was unquestionably awesome, so the Strategy of Prayer is widely considered a “Hail Mary play” that might eliminate future human tragedies without resorting to the sorts of terrestrial human actions forbidden by proper observation of the GAME.

External observers have questioned the wisdom of the GAME, saying it might delay sorely needed actions that could prevent future horrific events. Foreign analysts have often referenced the apparent incongruity of the GAME with pragmatic American reactions to other types of problems. Aidan O’Sullivan of Limerick, Ireland pointed out, “If’n a baseball cums crashin’ through yisser picture windy, Oi’m juicy sure yer open de door roi away ter see wha’ wee kid did it, even as you’re also mournin’ de loss of yisser windy.” While true, Aidan’s example misses the point of the GAME, which has to do with the sheer size and depth of tragedy that can result only from a category 5 Atlantic hurricane or a crazy loner wielding an AR-15 legally enhanced with an ARMATAC SAW-MAG 150 round dual drum magazine, a Slide Fire bump stock, a Black Rain silencer, and a Vortex Optics Crossfire II Riflescope purchased on Amazon Prime with free overnight shipping.

Immediate, pragmatic action is entirely appropriate for day-to-day setbacks like busted picture windows.  A hurricane landfall on a major city or a gunman in an elevated firing position menacing a dense crowd of T-shirt and sandal clad concert-goers with 20 or more military grade firearms, however, is uniquely capable of generating a scale of mayhem – scores of dead and hundreds or thousands of human lives forever altered – that can only be properly observed by strict adherence to the GAME.

Disturbingly, an in-depth investigation by our reporters revealed that a small minority of Americans failed to uniformly observe the GAME. Indeed, in the same year that Americans from Puerto Rico to Texas were struggling to recover from a multi-record-setting string of ferocious hurricanes, Terry Dinan, an economist and environmental policy expert at the Congressional Budget Office, furtively wrote of her suggestions to link scientific knowledge about hurricanes to future public policy. “Hurricane damage in the United States is likely to increase substantially in the coming decades as a result of both climate change and coastal development,” she insensitively opined. “Two primary strategies for limiting such increases are mitigation, which entails reducing global emissions of greenhouse gases, and adaptation, which entails reducing exposure or reducing the vulnerability of exposed property. A coordinated global effort to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions could lessen hurricane damage between now and 2075…” Fortunately, Dr. Dinan wrote her crass comments in the obscure and little-read journal, Ecological Economics, sparing the collective psyches of Americans suffering the effects of 2017’s active hurricane season from the damage that might have been inflicted had the callous suggestions entered the mainstream media.

In private moments, several citizens quietly confessed some trepidation about the limits the GAME might place on Americans’ ability to engage in the collective discourse necessary to develop robust solutions to some of the nation’s most pressing problems. “It had been a full month since the Las Vegas shooting, and I‘d just gotten back to starting to think about whether some type of common-sense gun legislation might help reduce the body count when some nut becomes unhinged and decides to kill a bunch of innocent people in a school or at a concert,” explained Larry Swingvoater of Green Bay, Wisconsin. “Now, another maniac decided to open fire in a church, so of course I can’t think about policy while those poor people are suffering. But what I worry about is, if these hurricanes and mass shootings keep happening so close together, when WILL I think about that stuff? Anyway, I’m back to praying now – maybe that will eventually pay off.”

Others wondered aloud what the solutions from a supernatural deity might look like, should the Strategy of Prayer prove successful. Would future tragedies from climate change ultimately be averted by solutions resembling the “solar technology,” “wind technology,” or “battery technology” rumored to have been developed by human scientists and engineers? Or, might a deity prove capable of providing sustainable bioenergy derived from multitudes of burning bushes? Or, tidal energy afforded by repetitive parting of the earth’s seas? Might an entity akin to the Holy Spirit provide a bullet-proof energy field around the nation’s innocent civilians, enabling Americans to maintain casual public availability of thrilling, adrenaline-pumping battlefield style firearms without risk to young schoolchildren?

A handful of fringe citizens, who made their controversial remarks on condition of anonymity so as not to be identified as GAME-violators, expressed the cynical opinion that the GAME poorly serves American politics and is actually the result of a “cruel and selfish conspiracy” by a few well-funded special interests with outsized influence on U.S. legislative policy. “This is not patriotism, but simply a transparent political delay tactic,” claimed Jon Faiknaim, whose name has been changed in this article at his request. “Every time a hurricane or a gun-toting madman kills a bunch of people, politicians in the pockets of the fossil fuel industry and the National Rifle Association call it ‘insensitive’ to talk about policy changes that would solve some of our most urgent public problems but harm the narrow interests of those minority stakeholders. Then, everybody forgets about the problem the moment another issue of critical national interest demands consideration. Like the linguistic etymology of the word, ‘covfefe,’ or how football players arrange their limbs during pre-game performances of the National Anthem. Then, the next time one of these tragedies occurs, the irrational cycle repeats itself.” Fortunately, these cynical expressions of doubt were rare.

On the whole, proper observation of America’s GAME was alive and well Monday thanks, in no small part, to the stellar leadership example of President Donald Tweety, who so inspirationally addressed the nation following the earlier Las Vegas massacre. “I think the only message I can say is that we’re with you 100 percent,” Tweety remarked from the relative safety of his Secret Service perimeter, when asked by a reporter if he had a message for the citizens of Las Vegas. “I said, ‘If you’re ever in Washington, come on over to the Oval Office,’ and they’re all saying, ‘We wanna do it, how do we do it?’ And believe me, I’ll be there for them. But the message that I have is we have a great country and we are there for you, and they’re there for us,” Tweety continued, apparently extending his generous presidential invitation to the citizens of Las Vegas not dead of gunshot wounds.

But our national leader’s statements were most inspirational as he bravely defended the sanctity of the GAME when questioned by an unruly member of the press pool about whether “we have a gun violence problem.”

“We’re not going to talk about that today. We won’t talk about that,” Tweety responded, later adding that a gun policy debate “at some point, perhaps … will come.”

Possible Futures: My Political Hypothesis, Confirmed

 

I am a scientist. For me, most decisions about things involve a hypothesis and supporting evidence. I have had a particular political hypothesis for some time. Today, that hypothesis appears supported by evidence.

Political Hypothesis: The super rich guys who say climate change isn’t happening, or we shouldn’t be worried about climate change, or we can simply ADAPT to climate change, will vanish when the sh*t hits the fan.

Consider the following tweets from President Trump over the past few days:

“Ultimately, the government of Puerto Rico will have to work with us to determine how this massive rebuilding effort…will be funded.”  [The effort] “will end up being one of the biggest ever” [and Puerto Rico already has] “a tremendous amount of debt.” -President Trump, in a press conference on Friday.

The message? You’re already in debt and it’s super costly to rebuild your stuff.  You’re on your own.

This is a message that the town of Shishmaref, AK, I suspect, has already received loud and clear.

I am working on a draft article on the link between climate change and hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. Please look for it soon, but it takes some time. (Real research takes longer than impulsive tweets!) Suffice it to say, every expectation is that warmer oceans and atmosphere will bring us increasingly strong hurricanes (see evidence in my upcoming post!)

Please pay attention to that evidence, and consider where you, personally, come down on it. Because, …

When our leaders say, “don’t worry about climate change,” they are saying it with the exact attitude and intentions as the guy who encouraged you to steal the farmer’s apples, then took off when the farmer appeared with his shotgun.  The same as the guy who encouraged you to drink while under-age, then ran off and left you with the keg when the cops rolled up. They are having their fun, lying to you while their rich fossil fuel executive buddies get richer off fossil fuel technologies that, if rationality governed, should be going the way of rotary dial phones right now. But they have NO INTENTION of taking responsibility for the predicted consequences of climate change.

That will be up to you.

#rescuethatfrog

World’s Scientists Predict Impending Astrophysical “Eclipse” Event; American Leaders Urge Caution, Further Study and Discussion

This article is a work of satire intended to highlight, in an entertaining way, the absurdity of our ongoing public “debate” about climate change, despite a virtually unanimous consensus among scientists. See other articles on this fact-based website for more information about that consensus, a primer on the science of climate change, and a compendium of climate change effects we can already plainly see.

AP — On Wednesday, with an air of confidence reminiscent of their controversial “climate change” allegations, the world’s scientists were apparently nearly unanimous in predicting a strange astrophysical event, during which they outrageously claimed portions of the Earth’s population will experience partial, or even nearly total, darkness in the middle of the day. During this event, which scientists dubbed a “solar eclipse,” astronomers and astrophysicists explained that the moon will pass directly between the Earth and the sun from the vantage point of some observers in North America and around the world, temporarily blocking, or “occulting” the sun’s light.

NASA shadow 2006
Image credit: NASA. Photograph purportedly showing the “shadow of the moon” falling on a portion of the Earth during a “total solar eclipse” that scientists say occurred in 2006. Scientists claim the photograph showing the “shadow” was captured by a camera on a “space station,” populated by “astronauts,” that has been orbiting the Earth since 1998. On the strength of previous experiences like this, as well as “mathematical calculations” not well understood by lay people, scientists predicted a similar event will occur on August 21, 2017.

“It’s a sort of weird and very cool phenomenon, but actually not as rare as many people think,” said University of California — Berkeley astrophysicist, Rhonda Rokitpantz, Ph.D. “In fact, a solar eclipse is visible somewhere on the Earth’s surface about once every 18 months. A total solar eclipse only occurs at a given location on the Earth about once every 360 years, though, so if you get a chance you should definitely check it out. You’ll be able to see stars in the middle of the day!”

As if these outlandish claims weren’t enough, scientists further claimed the ability to forecast exactly when this event will occur at any given point on the Earth. Indeed, NASA, an American organization dedicated to space and earth sciences, was found to have wantonly expended American taxpayer money on an entire webpage dedicated to the phenomenon and alleged upcoming event including, among other content, tables of calculated locations and times of “solar eclipses” as far into the future as the year 2100.

Many people and organizations worldwide, particularly in Europe, appeared to be taking the world’s scientists’ astrophysical forecasts at face value. A company based in Stavanger, Norway, timeanddate.com, was displaying on its website highly specific predictions. For example, a search on “Hudson, Wisconsin” on that website alleged the 2017 “solar eclipse” would commence at precisely 11:44 am on Monday, August 21, reaching maximum coverage of the sun at 1:07 pm and ending at 2:29 pm.

When questioned about how they could possibly have any confidence in such specific predictions, scientists widely referred to astronomical studies that have occurred since a mathematician and astronomer named Nicolaus Copernicus, a European, first proposed in the 1500’s that the Earth orbits the sun.

“The work of Copernicus was a breakthrough,” said NASA astronomer Morgan Meteorlicker. “It enabled the correct understanding of astronomical observations over the centuries since, and the development of mathematical equations that now empower us to predict a variety of astrophysical phenomena, like eclipses, with great accuracy.”

It was difficult to find scientists dissenting from the sensational view that darkness will occur in the afternoon next Monday in many American cities. In fact, even scientists in very different disciplines appeared to accept the claims with a high degree of confidence, citing a “scientific method” evidently discussed frequently in scientific circles. Scientists widely professed an almost religious faith in this “scientific method,” by which they claimed observations by scientists are reviewed by rival experts prior to detailed publication in “peer reviewed journals,” whereupon researchers in other disciplines perform related experiments to verify consistency with the published research, resulting in the correction of errors and emergent “scientific theories” widely held as revealed truths about the natural world.

Mayo Clinic neurologist Georgina Graymattur, a scientist not expert in astronomy, explained, “I’m not an expert in astro-anything, but astronomers have been applying the scientific method to this since Copernicus and publishing their work in peer reviewed journals like Science and Nature. They have a long history of making accurate predictions with those equations of theirs. Heck, they’ve successfully landed remote control cars on Mars! At this point, if NASA says there’s going to be a solar eclipse next Monday, I’d say you can take that to the bank.”

Indeed, astronomers and scientists specializing in ophthalmology were teaming up on Wednesday to warn of potential health hazards arising from the impending astrophysical “eclipse” phenomenon.

“You do need to take care not to look directly at the occulted sun during the solar eclipse,” said ophthalmologist Bartholomew Beedyiyes. “The sun appears less bright during an eclipse, which prevents the normally unconscious things, like squinting, that you usually do to protect your eyes from the sun’s UV radiation. Because of that, your eye won’t properly protect its delicate retina when you look at an eclipse, and you could sustain permanent eye damage.”

For those interested in viewing the upcoming “eclipse,” scientists recommended wearing protective eye wear, so-called “eclipse glasses,” which were being offered for sale by many companies.

Many American leaders were more circumspect about the scientists’ alarmist claims. President Donald Tweety took to social media early Thursday morning, tweeting, “This is obviously yet another Chinese hoax aimed at tricking middle class Americans into spending their hard-earned wages on ridiculous Chinese-manufactured cardboard glasses.”

EPA administrator Scott Prune lent his considerable technical authority to the argument, stating in a press conference, “I think that measuring with precision the motions of celestial bodies is something very challenging to do and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact of the moon on the sun’s shininess, so no, I would not agree that we are certain to experience darkness during the day next Monday.” Prune then argued for a “Red Team/Blue Team” process to discuss the merits of the astrophysical claims, over the objections of scientists who alleged that proposal, in fact, precisely described their obscure “scientific method.”

A Reuters poll revealed that a majority of Americans believed there was something to the scientists’ claims, though a minority of those polled believed it was likely to impact them directly. Some strenuously questioned the elitist scientists’ claims.

“The moon and the sun both shine, so it seems to me that if they teamed up they would only shine brighter together,” said Ronald Randumpurson of Sundusky, OH. This commonsense argument, apparently highlighting an obvious fact the egghead scientists had missed despite their years of college and self-important faith in complicated “equations,” cast substantial doubt about the scientists’ claims for many observers.

A web search on the issue revealed many dissenting views as well. Willard Wannabegeek, a self-described entrepreneur and blogger, wrote on his blog, “The moon has a diameter of only 2,159 miles, while the sun has a diameter of 864,576 miles. Since the area of a disc is proportional to the square of its diameter, this means the frontal area of the sun is 160,362 times that of the moon. It’s simply not mathematically possible for a disc to obscure another disc that is over 160,000 times larger.” This alternative explanation, involving numbers, mathematics, and technical language, was as convincing to many as the assertions of the “mainstream scientists.”

Still other Americans, including lawmakers, emphasized their inability to fully evaluate the claims. Senator Dirk Dumbutt (R-WI), said in a press interview, “Look, I’m not a scientist, so I can’t comment on whether it’s possible for the moon to pass in front of the sun, and I can’t recommend buying so-called eclipse glasses. The fact that the government, in which I have a leadership role, employs a multitude of expert scientists to study this stuff surprisingly turns out to be of no use to me in evaluating the issue one way or the other.”

Many lay people seemed to echo Senator Dumbutt’s views questioning the knowledge of so-called “experts.” “I know the Earth experiences frequent periods of darkness,” explained Athens, Georgia resident, Kenny Kluliss, “but I can’t say for sure the cause or whether the sun or moon is mainly responsible. It could just as well be primarily the luminosity of the blessed sap, as others have purported. Or, it could be that the UN just wants to control the glasses I put on my face.”

Our reporters asked NOAA climatologist, Doreen Damitshot, if the scientists’ sensational claims about the upcoming “eclipse” were analogous to their similarly outrageous assertions regarding “anthropogenic global warming.”

“Well yes,” she said, “that issue is similar in that scientists in a variety of disciplines have been studying it for a long time and have reached a compelling consensus that it’s something we should be paying attention to and doing something about.”

By and large, while largely sympathetic to the scientists’ point of view, Americans appeared to be taking a wait-and-see attitude with respect to the controversy. President Tweety offered one suggestion: “If you’re worried about the sun hurting your eyes, you’ll be safe from the sun mining coal underground. I love coal miners!

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Numbers for pondering: “250 years worth of clean, beautiful coal”

“We have nearly 100 years worth of natural gas and more than 250 years worth of clean, beautiful coal. We are a top producer of petroleum and the number one producer of natural gas. We have so much more than we ever thought possible. We are really in the driving seat…”
-President Trump, calling for loosening of environmental regulations in pursuit of a “golden era of American energy” in a June 29, 2017 speech promoting the White House’s “Energy Week”

“And the last administration had an idea of keeping it in the ground.”
-EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt, in a March 28, 2017 interview with ABC News Anchor, George Stephanopoulos

—–

Let’s ponder some numbers on those two statements. (Click hyperlinked numbers for more information…)

—–

According to the 2012 Global Energy Assessment, carbon content of estimated global recoverable fossil energy resources that remain, in gigatons of carbon: 15,000

According to the same assessment, range of estimated carbon content of remaining global reserves of “beautiful” coal (of which beauty is, I guess, in the eye of the beholder), in gigatons of carbon: 7,300 to 11,000

According to NASA scientists, based on climate modeling shown in a peer reviewed scientific analysis to produce excellent agreement with past known global conditions spanning hundreds of thousands of years of Earth’s history, expected global average temperature increase if we were to burn fossil fuels containing 10,000 gigatons of carbon on a “business as usual” trajectory from the present, in degrees Fahrenheit: 29

Over the Earth’s surface, current most common summer wet bulb temperature, degrees Fahrenheit: 80

In degrees Fahrenheit, sustained wet bulb temperature above which the human body cannot get rid of sufficient excess metabolic heat to maintain a normal core body temperature near 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit: 95

Assuming humanity burns additional fossil fuels containing 10,000 gigatons of carbon, estimated most common summer wet bulb temperature over the Earth’s surface, degrees Fahrenheit: 109

—–

“The Earth was 10-12°C [18-22°F] warmer than today … at the peak of the PETM [Palaeocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum, about 56 million years ago in Earth’s history]. How did mammals survive that warmth? Some mammals have higher internal temperatures than humans and there is evidence of evolution of surface-area-to-mass ratio to aid heat dissipation, for example transient dwarfing of mammals and even soil fauna during the PETM warming. However, human-made warming will occur in a few centuries, as opposed to several millennia in the PETM, thus providing little opportunity for evolutionary dwarfism to alleviate impacts of global warming. We conclude that the large climate change from burning all fossil fuels would threaten the biological health and survival of humanity, making policies that rely substantially on adaptation inadequate.

… Most of the remaining fossil fuel carbon is in coal and unconventional oil and gas. Thus, it seems, humanity stands at a fork in the road. As conventional oil and gas are depleted, will we move to carbon-free energy and efficiency—or to unconventional fossil fuels and coal? If fossil fuels were made to pay their costs to society, costs of pollution and climate change, carbon-free alternatives might supplant fossil fuels over a period of decades. However, if governments force the public to bear the external costs and even subsidize fossil fuels, carbon emissions are likely to continue to grow, with deleterious consequences for young people and future generations.

It seems implausible that humanity will not alter its energy course as consequences of burning all fossil fuels become clearer. Yet strong evidence about the dangers of human-made climate change have so far had little effect. Whether governments continue to be so foolhardy as to allow or encourage development of all fossil fuels may determine the fate of humanity.”

-James Hansen, Makiko Sato, Gary Russell, and Pushker Kharecha, current and former scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, in a peer reviewed scientific journal article published in 2011.

#TheNumbersDontLie

Ponder more Numbers

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Numbers for pondering: That other wall we don’t talk about

(Click hyperlinked numbers for more information…)

Using words including “mythical,” “hoax,” and “bullshit,” number of times Donald Trump tweeted climate change skepticism or denial between 2011 and 2015: 115

In a permit application filed by Trump International Golf Links Ireland, number of tons of rock proposed to make up a sea wall to protect Trump Doonbeg, a low-lying, sea-side luxury golf course and resort purchased by Trump in 2014, from “global warming and its effects” (wording from the permit application): 200,000

Proposed height, in feet, of Trump’s proposed sea wall, which Trump International Golf Links Ireland wrote is necessary in the permit application, directly citing climate change, because “it could reasonably be expected that the rate of sea level rise might become twice of that presently occurring”: 13

Number of offshore wind turbines proposed to be built 4 km from the same golf course by Clare Coastal Wind Power Ltd, which Trump International Golf Links Ireland formally opposed on the grounds that “the resort primarily relies on bookings from international and, in particular, the North American market and a reduction in bookings as a consequence of the visual impact from the proposed development will have a serious negative impact on tourism in the area”: 9

Number of golf courses within 400 miles of Shishmaref, Alaska, a town that voted last year to relocate (if it can find money to do so) because it’s being destroyed by the direct effects of climate change: 0

Approximate number of Americans who, for the time being, call Shishmaref home: 650

Including Shishmaref, Number of Alaskan towns and cities at imminent risk of destruction by the effects of climate change: 31

Dollar amount of a federal “climate resilience” grant, announced by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in January, 2016, to fund the relocation of approximately 60 residents of Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana, which is similarly being destroyed by the effects of climate change, according to the National Climate Assessment, a report co-authored by 13 federal agencies: 48,000,000

Approximate number of residents of Kiribati, a nation of 33 Pacific islands that recently paid nearly $7 million for a 6,000-acre refuge in Fiji because climate models predict much of Kiribati will be underwater by 2100: 110,000

According to the International Organization for Migration, minimum number of people who passed through Agadez, Niger in 2016 while fleeing West Africa on the so-called “Road on Fire,” due to prolonged, climate change induced failure of their subsistence farms: 311,000

Since 1983, number of people the government of China has relocated from the arid Ningxia region into new, hastily built villages, due in large part to rising temperatures and diminishing rainfall in Ningxia linked to climate change, the most recent wave of whom China formally names “ecological migrants”: 1,140,000

Approximate rate of increase, in square miles per year, of China’s deserts due to human activities including climate change: 1,300

According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, average number of people “forcibly displaced by weather-related sudden onset hazards – such as floods, storms, wildfires, extreme temperature” each year since 2008: 21,500,000

#TheNumbersDontLie

#ItsAboutMorality

#WeHaveThePOWERtoFixIt

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Numbers for pondering: Paris agreement & jobs

(Click hyperlinked numbers for more information…)

Percentage contribution of U.S. to cumulative global CO2 emissions from 1850 to 2011: 27

U.S. rank among nations in cumulative global CO2 emissions from 1850 to 2011: 1

Number of nations that have signed the Paris climate agreement and maintain their intention to honor their voluntary commitments to it: 194

Number of nations, including the U.S., that have announced their intention not to participate in the Paris climate agreement: 3

Number of references to “climate change” in President Trump’s June 1, 2017 speech announcing his decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement, an internationally negotiated agreement to work collectively to prevent the potentially catastrophic consequences of “climate change”: 0

Number of references to “innovation” or “technology” in President Trump’s June 1, 2017 speech announcing his decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement: 0

Number of references to “solar” or “wind” in President Trump’s June 1, 2017 speech announcing his decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement: 0

Number of references to “coal” in President Trump’s June 1, 2017 speech announcing his decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement: 8

Number of references to “job,” “jobs,” or “joblessness” in President Trump’s June 1, 2017 speech announcing his decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement: 18

Number of Americans employed by the coal industry in 2016, according to the DOE: 160,119

Number of Americans employed by the solar industry in 2016, according to the DOE: 373,807

Percentage of U.S. electricity generated by coal in 2016, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA): 30.4

Percentage of U.S. electricity generated by solar in 2016, according to the U.S. EIA: 0.9

Number of Americans employed by the coal industry in 2016 per percentage unit of coal’s contribution to U.S. electricity generation: 5,267

Number of Americans employed by the solar industry in 2016 per percentage unit of solar’s contribution to U.S. electricity generation: 415,341

Metric tons of CO2 emitted in 2016 by electricity generation from U.S. coal, according to the U.S. EIA: 1,241

Amount of CO2 emitted by U.S. solar electricity generation: 0

—–

According to President Trump in a February, 2017 speech, estimate of potential jobs to be created by approval of the Keystone XL pipeline project, approved in March by the Trump Administration: 42,000

According to an official U.S. State Department report, number of permanent jobs expected to be created by the Keystone XL pipeline project: 35

According to a study by the DOE, percentage increase in CO2 emissions from Canadian oil sands oil, to be transported by the Keystone XL pipeline, relative to traditional U.S. crude: 18

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Numbers for pondering, 22 June 2017 edition

(Click hyperlinked numbers for more information…)

Prior to the year 1850, average parts per million of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere over the past 800,000 years: 231

Prior to 1850, maximum parts per million of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere since the appearance on Earth of modern humans: 287

Parts per million of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere in 1850: 287

Parts per million of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere in 2016: 400.7

Global average increase in Earth’s surface temperature, in degrees Celsius, between 1850 and 2016: 1.2

In NASA’s temperature record since 1880, number of the warmest years on record that have occurred in the 19 years between 1998 and 2016: 17

Percentage reduction in September Arctic sea ice observed from 1979 to 2016, according to NASA: 34.4

According to NASA, current combined loss rate of land ice from Greenland and Antarctica, in metric tons per year, contributing directly to sea-level rise: 412,000,000,000

Global sea-level rise, in inches, between 1880 and 2014: 9

Temperature increase of Earth’s oceans since 1969, in degrees Celsius, according to NASA: 0.17

Percentage increase in acidity of the oceans since the Industrial Revolution, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: 30

Fraction of the Great Barrier Reef that suffered extreme damage from bleaching in 2016-2017, according to aerial surveys: 2/3

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Before Our Eyes: The melting glaciers in time lapse

In 2007, photographer James Balog founded the Extreme Ice Survey (EIS), the most comprehensive ground-based photographic study of the Earth’s glaciers ever undertaken. Pioneering new automated time lapse technology, James and a team of scientists, videographers, and extreme weather expedition experts have setup 43 cameras to record the changes occurring in 24 glaciers in Antarctica, Greenland, Iceland, Alaska, Canada, Austria, and the Rocky Mountains. Over the past decade, this has resulted in stunning time lapse recordings of the changing glaciers (spoiler alert, they are melting). Click each of the images below to see, in about a minute, the effects of 7-8 years of climate change on one of the world’s largest glaciers.

Along with expansion of the oceans as they heat up, the melting of the large, land-based glaciers in these videos directly contributes to sea-level rise. A recent scientific study of the melting of Antarctic land-based glaciers, published in the prestigious and extensively peer-reviewed journal, Nature, makes the following conclusion:

“Antarctica has the potential to contribute more than a metre of sea-level rise by 2100 and more than 15 metres by 2500, if emissions continue unabated. In this case atmospheric warming will soon become the dominant driver of ice loss, but prolonged ocean warming will delay its recovery for thousands of years.”

The second of the above sentences refers to modeling results that quantified the expected effects of rising atmospheric temperature on the ocean temperature. The ocean heats up more slowly than the atmosphere. This means that atmospheric temperature changes we are “locking in” now will result in delayed warming of the oceans that will take millennia to reverse, even if we were to arrest the heating of the atmosphere now. This “sluggishness” of many of the Earth’s climate responses, very well understood by scientists, is important information for all of us to understand. As our leaders dither around with ignorant and disingenuous arguments about whether climate change is even happening (it is), balancing needs of the environment against short-term jobs in the fossil fuel industry (or, as evidence suggests is really the case, short-term profits for highly influential fossil fuel executives), we must understand that the decisions we are making right now, every day, are profoundly affecting the challenges of future generations, including the kids among us right now.

As you watch the videos below, imagine our children, and their children, and their children’s children, either erecting sea walls that will grow to 15 meter (49-foot!!) heights or abandoning our favorite coastal cities. Then, balance that against the potential for short-term job losses in the fossil fuel industry (keeping in mind that new jobs would presumably be created by the aggressive development of renewable energy). Destruction of our coastal cities and job losses in the fossil fuel industry are both economic harms, there is no doubt. Which is worse?

Video credit: EIS. Time lapse footage of the Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska, 2007-2015. EIS description: “The Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, Alaska, has experienced significant retreat and deflation in the recent past. Once flowing proudly across Mendenhall Lake, the glacier now takes a small piece of lake front real-estate far from where our cameras were originally installed, and even further from the view of the thousands of visitors who travel to see the glacier each summer.”

 

Video credit: EIS. Time lapse footage of the Columbia Glacier, Alaska, 2007-2015. EIS description: “Flowing from the heart of the Chugach Mountains in South-Central Alaska, the Columbia Glacier is one of the fastest changing glaciers in North America. In the last 30 years the glacier has deflated well over one thousand feet and has retreated about ten miles. This loss contributes to approximately one percent of total sea level rise (accounting for both thermal expansion and glacier mass melt).”

 

Video credit: EIS. Time lapse footage of the Sólheimajökull Glacier, Iceland, 2007-2015. EIS description: “The Sólheimajökull Glacier is a large tongue of ice that flows southward off of the Mýrdalsjökull Ice Cap in Southern Iceland. The glacier is retreating due to a combination of stream erosion and ice melt. The cracks or “crevasses” that can be seen forming parallel to the flow of the glacier indicate that it is spreading out and thinning as it continues to flow forward.”

 

Video credit: EIS. Ilulissat Glacier, Greenland, 2007-2014. EIS description: “The Ilulissat Glacier in Western Greenland is one of the fastest flowing glaciers in the World and contributes more ice to the World Ocean than any other glacier in the Northern Hemisphere. On May 28, 2008, Adam LeWinter and Director Jeff Orlowski filmed a historic breakup at the Illulissat Glacier. The event lasted for 75 minutes during which the three mile wide terminus of the glacier retreated a full mile. This rare footage has gone on record as the largest glacier calving event ever captured on film, by the 2016 Guinness Book of World Records.”

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See more changes happening Before Our Eyes.

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