Royal Society Papers Explore "Hellish Vision" of The Future

From Climate Progress, a review and links to a special issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. 12 articles are included in the issue.  The following comes from the Conclusions”

The role of interactions in a world implementing adaptation and mitigation solutions to climate change,” by Rachel Warren.  She makes a crucial point that is all too neglected in most discussions of adaptation — it is the interaction of impacts that is likely to overwhelm, particularly when you consider the very real risk of eco-system collapse over large parts of the Earth:

a 4°C world would be facing enormous adaptation challenges in the agricultural sector, with large areas of cropland becoming unsuitable for cultivation, and declining agricultural yields. This world would also rapidly be losing its ecosystem services, owing to large losses in biodiversity, forests, coastal wetlands, mangroves and saltmarshes, and terrestrial carbon stores, supported by an acidified and potentially dysfunctional marine ecosystem. Drought and desertification would be widespread, with large numbers of people experiencing increased water stress, and others experiencing changes in seasonality of water supply. There would be a need to shift agricultural cropping to new areas, impinging on unmanaged ecosystems and decreasing their resilience; and large-scale adaptation to sea-level rise would be necessary. Human and natural systems would be subject to increasing levels of agricultural pests and diseases, and increases in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.

In such a 4°C world, the limits for human adaptation are likely to be exceeded in many parts of the world, while the limits for adaptation for natural systems would largely be exceeded throughout the world. Hence, the ecosystem services upon which human livelihoods depend would not be preserved. Even though some studies have suggested that adaptation in some areas might still be feasible for human systems, such assessments have generally not taken into account lost ecosystem services.

States Stealing from Own Climate Funds

Not so good…

In New York, government officials found $90 million to pay for schools by dipping into money generated by a multistate greenhouse gas initiative.

In New Hampshire, the state took $3.1 million from a similar environmental fund. And in New Jersey, the government diverted its whole share: $65 million.

At least three financially troubled states have discovered in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cap-and-trade system, a convenient pool of money that can be drawn on to help balance state budgets.

In just over two years, the initiative, known as RGGI, has generated more than $729 million for the 10 states that have participated. Each state is supposed to use its share of the money raised to invest in renewable energy and to promote energy efficiency and consumer benefits, like programs that help low-income electricity customers pay their utility bills.

But the money is proving too much of a temptation for states not to use in other ways.

NY Times

Using Oysters to Measure Oil Impact

For the scientifically curious the SF Chron has an interesting piece on Monday, Nov 29 (not available online until 4 a.m Wendesday, Dec 1. unless you are a print subscriber.)

All bivalves (oysters, clams, quahogs etc.) grow their calcium-carbonate shells in yearly increments, creating tree-ring like growth marks.  Embedded in each year’s addition are traces of the elements in the bivalve environment that year — including any heavy metals such as vanadium, lead and barium — all constituents of oil.  Thus, measuring oyster rings from the same spot, over several years is a very good indicator of the health of that area.  Brilliant.

The work began when the “Cosco Busan” spewed oil into the San Francisco Bay in 2007.  Now it will be used in the far more serious spill in the Gulf.

Amazon 2010 Drought Worse Than Thought

Reports came out of the Amazon basis a few months ago describing the terrible drought that was beaching boats on the river, turning irrigated fields into waste lands, and threatening the whole region.

It turns out it is even worse than reported.

The world’s largest rain forest was dangerously dry, and may well be drying out.

October marked the end of one of the worst Amazon droughts on record — a period of tinder-dry forests, dusty cropland and rivers falling to unprecedented lows. Streams are the highways of the deep jungle and they’re also graveyards for dead trees, usually hidden safely under fathoms of navigable water.

But not this year, and the drought’s significance extends far beyond impeded boats.

While the region has seen dry spells before, locals and experts say droughts have grown more frequent and severe. Scientists say there’s mounting evidence the Amazon’s shifting weather may be caused by global climate change.


Lake Tahoe Warming, Along With Other Large Lakes

You wouldn’t know it from our window on the north shore of Lake Tahoe this Thanksgiving where the 9 foot drifts are finally plowed and the lake shore looks frozen in the early 10 degree mornings, but this fabled lake, as well as many others, have been steadily warming over several decades.

The world’s largest lakes, including Lake Tahoe, have been warming rapidly for 25 years as the global climate changes, NASA scientists report.

And throughout the Northern Hemisphere, surface water temperatures of many lakes have been rising even faster than the warming air above them, according to observations by ultra-sensitive satellites.

In a report just published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, Philipp Schneider and Simon Hook of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena say the warming rate of all the major lakes observed by the satellites has averaged nearly a full degree Fahrenheit per decade. For some lakes in the Northern Hemisphere, the average increases reached nearly two degrees Fahrenheit per decade, they said.

Then, halfway around the world, Lake Baikal in Russia shows similar data:
…the lake, which holds 20 percent of the world’s liquid freshwater, has warmed by more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit since 1946, a rate three times faster than the global average air temperature rise.

New Cloud Feedback Suggests High End Estimates Of Climate Change Too Low

From Climate Progress

Journal of Climate

Co-author Kevin Hamilton concludes, “If our model results prove to be representative of the real global climate, then climate is actually more sensitive to perturbations by greenhouse gases than current global models predict, and even the highest warming predictions would underestimate the real change we could see.

Another day, another study that suggests we face climate impacts on the high end of current projections.

Contrary to the observation-free wishful thinking of the disinformers and confusionists, the best scientific evidence is, “Clouds Appear to Be Big, Bad Player in Global Warming” — an amplifying feedback (sorry Lindzen and fellow deniers).  That was how Science described one major 2009 study.

Methane Seeping Faster in Sub Polar Regions

“Gas locked inside Siberia’s frozen soil and under its lakes has been seeping out since the end of the last ice age 10,000 years ago. But in the past few decades, as the Earth has warmed, the icy ground has begun thawing more rapidly, accelerating the release of methane — a greenhouse gas 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide — at a perilous rate.

Some scientists believe the thawing of permafrost could become the epicenter of climate change. They say 1.5 trillion tons of carbon, locked inside icebound earth since the age of mammoths, is a climate time bomb waiting to explode if released into the atmosphere.

“Here, total carbon storage is like all the rain forests of our planet put together,” says the scientist, Sergey Zimov — “here” being the endless sweep of snow and ice stretching toward Siberia’s gray horizon,
…global warming is amplified in the polar regions. What feels like a modest temperature rise is enough to induce Greenland glaciers to retreat, Arctic sea ice to thin and contract in summer, and permafrost to thaw faster, both on land and under the seabed.

Yet awareness of methane leaks from permafrost is so new that it was not even mentioned in the seminal 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which warned of rising sea levels inundating coastal cities, dramatic shifts in rainfall disrupting agriculture and drinking water, the spread of diseases and the extinction of species.

“In my view, methane is a serious sleeper out there that can pull us over the hump,” said Robert Corell, an eminent U.S. climate change researcher and Arctic specialist.

Read more:

19 Countries with Extreme Heat Records in 2010

From Jeff Masters at WUnderground. com

Bolivia tied its all-time hottest temperature mark on October 29, when the mercury hit 46.7°C (116.1°F) at Villamontes. This ties the record set in Villamontes on three other dates: November 9, 2007, November 1980, and December 1980.

The year 2010 now has the most national extreme heat records for a single year–nineteen. These nations comprise 20% of the total land area of Earth. This is the largest area of Earth’s surface to experience all-time record high temperatures in any single year in the historical record. Looking back at the past decade, which was the hottest decade in the historical record, seventy-five counties set extreme hottest temperature records (33% of all countries.) For comparison, fifteen countries set extreme coldest temperature records over the past ten years (6% of all countries). My source for extreme weather records is the excellent book Extreme Weather by Chris Burt.

Jeff Masters at WUnderground. com

California Climate Change Report: Get Ready Faster

Executive Summary of California Climate Change Report

Failure to anticipate and plan for climate variability and the prospect of extreme weather and related events in land development patterns and in natural resource management could have serious impacts far beyond what has already been experienced.

Baran: A Movie of Afghan Immigrants to Iran

Baran, another very fine movie from Iranian master Majid Majidi [see reviews of his Color of Paradise and The Song of the Sparrows ] informs us in his usual beautiful, well paced way of lives we know little or nothing at all, combined with emotions and relations we know bone deep.  Baran takes us to the Iranian border with Afghanistan where over 1 million refugees fled from the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and wars following wars following wars.  As everywhere, the plight of refugees is cruel.  Removed from their own countries, often from remote rural areas which once constituted their entire world, living in squalid, hastily put together camps without plumbing, electricity or the tools or sense of belonging to use them, they seek work where they find it, at wages below the prevailing native norm.

Much of Baran takes place on a building site where men build and destroy cinder-block and mortar walls in the most appalling safety conditions you can imagine.  I’ve been on Mexican building sites.  They are absolutely Inspection Ready compared to this one.  Many of the workers are Afghan refugees; all men and all illegal.  When one of them falls from the unguarded second floor and shatters his foot not only is his family in extreme difficulty but the building inspectors begin to descend on the Iranian contractor doing the work.

“Afghans!  Afghans run! the shout is taken up and half the workforce clears out — just as Migra raids in Southern California.

A work partner of the disabled Afghani brings his “son,” Rahmat to take his place, promising to watch over him.  The boy soon shows himself as too weak and clumsy to carry sacks of cement up and down make-shift stairways, or wield a sledge hammer.  He is swapped with a tall young Iranian boy, Lateef,  who had been doing the kitchen duties and resents his promotion to much harder work.  He begins to spy on and taunt Rahmat until he discovers what we have suspected from the beginning.  Rahmat is a young girl.

The wonderful central theme is Lateef’s increasing care for her, protecting her while trying to live within the customs of men and women apart, his own love-born shyness, and not wanting to jeopardize her work, and therefore nearness to him.  He goes to increasing lengths to help her, demanding his back wages from the brusque but kind hearted contractor, and selling his identity card on the black market.  Each time the money does not work as he intended.  He is as far as ever from her though eventually she recognizes him, and his intentions.

The ending is bitter sweet as the last gift of money doesn’t help the crippled father stay in Iran but to take the family back to Afghanistan.  The parting scene between the two is very compelling stuff.  The family is boarding a rickety pickup truck in the driving rain when the two finally exchange their recognition of love.  The best  best Cinderella moment I’ve ever seen in life or a movie takes place and then, water splashing into her footprint, the truck moves off.  She is gazing out through a netted niqab at him.  He is smiles at footprint and the water.  Water thrown at departing friends in Iran is a promise of return.

As is typical with Majidi the colors are saturated and rich.  Here, instead of flowers, and streams — though there is one river of particular and harrowing importance– he brings us into the construction site, with billowing gray dust, pouring rain, ruined barrels of steaming liquids, fires to heat the material, the slop of mortar.  It is very much a Dantesque scene, with great snow covered mountains in the background.  Steam coming from the workers mouths and nostrils, eagerly reaching semi-gloved fingers for the hot tea served all around.

I’ve never seen a movie so bound to workers lives as Baran; the constant, brutal physical labor, the fear of losing the job, the intimidating shouts and threats of the contractor.  Even away from this job site work is hard and dangerous.  Women, in full Afghan dress, pull stones and branches from a rushing river — again no safety equipment.  Them major theme of fierce sexual separation and how it is both “natural” and deformative runs the length of the movie.   The girl’s determination to break that wall as best she can to help her family; the Iranian suitor stepping outside his own walls to answer the mystery of his heart.

Our view of immigrants up against the larger culture, the disdain for them, their language and customs from the dominant one will ring familiar to all who pay attention to life here in the United States– but in the movie it is between people we would hardly have thought of in such a context.  And of course, we are reminded, mostly as background but also in one wrenching scene, of the war and the wars that continue to take lives of young people, and leave their families with gaping holes.

And through this, a  dawning love softens a crazy kid, puts him into his very best clothes to make an impression and drives him towards his loved one, despised immigrant or not.  This, he understands in the pouring rain,  is the love I will have in my life.

Every film of Majid Majidi’s is so wonderfully wrought I would go hours out of my way to see anything with his name on it, no title or plot needed, confident I would come away, once again, stirred by the shimmering colors of his human palate.