Scientists have just detected a major change to the Earth’s oceans linked to a warming climate

February 15 at 1:00 PM

A large research synthesis, published in one of the world’s most influential scientific journals, has detected a decline in the amount of dissolved oxygen in oceans around the world — a long-predicted result of climate change that could have severe consequences for marine organisms if it continues.

The paper, published Wednesday in the journal Nature by oceanographer Sunke Schmidtko and two colleagues from the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany, found a decline of more than 2 percent in ocean oxygen content worldwide between 1960 and 2010. The loss, however, showed up in some ocean basins more than others. The largest overall volume of oxygen was lost in the largest ocean — the Pacific — but as a percentage, the decline was sharpest in the Arctic Ocean, a region facing Earth’s most stark climate change.

The loss of ocean oxygen “has been assumed from models, and there have been lots of regional analysis that have shown local decline, but it has never been shown on the global scale, and never for the deep ocean,” said Schmidtko, who conducted the research with Lothar Stramma and Martin Visbeck, also of GEOMAR.

Ocean oxygen is vital to marine organisms, but also very delicate — unlike in the atmosphere, where gases mix together thoroughly, in the ocean that is far harder to accomplish, Schmidtko explained. Moreover, he added, just 1 percent of all the Earth’s available oxygen mixes into the ocean; the vast majority remains in the air.

Climate change models predict the oceans will lose oxygen because of several factors. Most obvious is simply that warmer water holds less dissolved gases, including oxygen. “It’s the same reason we keep our sparkling drinks pretty cold,” Schmidtko said.

But another factor is the growing stratification of ocean waters. Oxygen enters the ocean at its surface, from the atmosphere and from the photosynthetic activity of marine microorganisms. But as that upper layer warms up, the oxygen-rich waters are less likely to mix down into cooler layers of the ocean because the warm waters are less dense and do not sink as readily.

“When the upper ocean warms, less water gets down deep, and so therefore, the oxygen supply to the deep ocean is shut down or significantly reduced,” Schmidtko said.

The new study represents a synthesis of literally “millions” of separate ocean measurements over time, according to GEOMAR. The authors then used interpolation techniques for areas of the ocean where they lacked measurements.

The resulting study attributes less than 15 percent of the total oxygen loss to sheer warmer temperatures, which create less solubility. The rest was attributed to other factors, such as a lack of mixing.

Matthew Long, an oceanographer from the National Center for Atmospheric Research who has published on ocean oxygen loss, said he considers the new results “robust” and a “major advance in synthesizing observations to examine oxygen trends on a global scale.”

Long was not involved in the current work, but his research had previously demonstrated that ocean oxygen loss was expected to occur and that it should soon be possible to demonstrate that in the real world through measurements, despite the complexities involved in studying the global ocean and deducing trends about it.

That’s just what the new study has done.

“Natural variations have obscured our ability to definitively detect this signal in observations,” Long said in an email. “In this study, however, Schmidtko et al. synthesize all available observations to show a global-scale decline in oxygen that conforms to the patterns we expect from human-driven climate warming. They do not make a definitive attribution statement, but the data are consistent with and strongly suggestive of human-driven warming as a root cause of the oxygen decline.

“It is alarming to see this signal begin to emerge clearly in the observational data,” he added.

“Schmidtko and colleagues’ findings should ring yet more alarm bells about the consequences of global warming,” added Denis Gilbert, a researcher with the Maurice Lamontagne Institute at Fisheries and Oceans Canada in Quebec, in an accompanying commentary on the study also published in Nature.

Because oxygen in the global ocean is not evenly distributed, the 2 percent overall decline means there is a much larger decline in some areas of the ocean than others.

Moreover, the ocean already contains so-called oxygen minimum zones, generally found in the middle depths. The great fear is that their expansion upward, into habitats where fish and other organism thrive, will reduce the available habitat for marine organisms.

In shallower waters, meanwhile, the development of ocean “hypoxic” areas, or so-called “dead zones,” may also be influenced in part by declining oxygen content overall.

On top of all of that, declining ocean oxygen can also worsen global warming in a feedback loop. In or near low oxygen areas of the oceans, microorganisms tend to produce nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas, Gilbert writes. Thus the new study “implies that production rates and efflux to the atmosphere of nitrous oxide … will probably have increased.”

The new study underscores once again that some of the most profound consequences of climate change are occurring in the oceans, rather than on land. In recent years, incursions of warm ocean water have caused large die-offs of coral reefs, and in some cases, kelp forests as well. Meanwhile, warmer oceans have also begun to destabilize glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica, and as they melt, these glaciers freshen the ocean waters and potentially change the nature of their circulation.

When it comes to ocean deoxygenation, as climate change continues, this trend should also increase — studies suggest a loss of up to 7 percent of the ocean’s oxygen by 2100. At the end of the current paper, the researchers are blunt about the consequences of a continuing loss of oceanic oxygen.

“Far-reaching implications for marine ecosystems and fisheries can be expected,” they write.

If carbon emissions continue unabated, expanding oceans and massive ice melt would threaten global coastal communities, according to new projections.
(Daron Taylor/The Washington Post)

Climate change brings a potentially devastating “atmospheric river” to California

Megastorms vs. megadroughts:

After years of drought, the Golden State is hit by epic storms — and it’s just the beginning of climate chaos

Megastorms vs. megadroughts: Climate change brings a potentially devastating "atmospheric river" to California
Michelle Wolfe, who had to evacuate her nearby mobile home, looks out toward flooded vineyards in the Russian River Valley, Monday, Jan. 9, 2017, in Forestville, Calif. (Credit: AP/Eric Risberg)

As the incoming Trump administration turns Washington increasingly freakish and bizarre, reinventing government as reality show, Mother Nature is doing something equally dramatic 3,000 miles away. Donald Trump can deny climate change all he wants to, but Californians can’t escape the contrasting weather extremes it’s already causing or affecting. We’re in a cycle of ever more serious droughts broken by more intense storms — harbingers of much more serious challenges to come. What’s happening in California now serves to underscore long-term realities, regardless of the day-to-day fantasies of those who temporarily hold political power.

A series of storms from the vicinity of Hawaii, known as the “Pineapple Express,” have drenched California and parts of Nevada, signaling a likely end to four years of severe drought. Just during the storm that hit Jan. 7 to 10, there were 52 reports of extreme precipitation (meaning more than eight inches of rain in a three-day period), with several measuring twice that. Strawberry Valley, on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevadas, got an amazing 20.51 inches of rain during that storm — more than Los Angeles typically gets in an entire year.

The Pineapple Express is just one example of a worldwide phenomenon known as “atmospheric rivers” or ARs. These are jet streams of moist air, tens to hundreds of miles wide, that can carry roughly 10 times as much water vapor as the Mississippi River at its mouth. Powerful as the current set of AR storms are, they pale in comparison to the month-long storms of 1861-2 that flooded much of the state, creating a 300-mile lake in the San Joaquin Valley. But even worse is possible. In 2011, the U.S. Geological Survey did a study of what a 1,000-year atmospheric river storm — known as ARkStorm — would do. Projected losses were staggering, including property losses around $400 billion (more than three Hurricane Katrinas) with another $325 billion in losses due to business interruption, lasting as long as five years. So Californians are lucky today.

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The percentage of the state that is defined as “drought-free” has almost doubled overnight, from about 18 percent to 34.5 percent, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. The drought-free area is largely in less-populated Northern California, above an east-west line running from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe, but there are broader signs of hope for the whole state.

“This is likely to be the end of the surface-storage drought for most of the state,” wrote water expert Jeffrey Mount, of the Public Policy Institute of California. With a few more days of rain, he predicted, “almost all the major reservoirs will be at or above their seasonal averages … conditions we have not seen in six years. This is great news since reservoirs are the primary source of water for cities and farms.”

Still, the good news has to be sharply qualified. Even before California’s latest drought, a much longer, continent-wide drought was underway, as shown in this panel of eight annual drought maps from the 2009 paper “Megadroughts in North America” by Edward Cook and co-authors. In a related document, they show that during the medieval period, from 1021 to 1382, the majority of the continental U.S. experienced four megadroughts lasting 22 to 40 years, interspersed with occasional isolated non-drought years. These were three to four times longer than similar modern multi-year droughts from 1855 to 1957, which ranged from seven to 10 years. Thus, California’s climate this century is already atypical for the modern era. The state may already be in the middle of a medieval-style megadrought. The state needs more than one good year of rain to begin breathing easier.

The underlying science behind these phenomena is increasingly coming into focus, according to Marty Ralph, director of the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. “It has been shown that in major parts of the West drought is due to a reduced amount of precipitation from the wettest days, many of which are AR events,” Ralph told Salon.

“We have also known for about 10 years now that most of the big flooding events in the West Coast, at least, are a result of atmospheric rivers. These findings are especially strong in the West Coast and Southwest, and in Western Europe. Thus, indeed, the future of drought and flood in this region hinges on the fate of ARs. And climate models vary substantially in how they handle this.”

What is certain is that both extreme drought and extreme AR storms, driven by global climate change, pose growing challenges to California and many other places in the decades ahead. The divergent extremes place increasing stress on the whole ecosystem, as well as its physical underpinnings. “It’s a really bad combination of two extremes,” MIT’s Adam Schlosser told Pacific Standard. “The drought dries, and, in some sense, cooks up the ground. It becomes more susceptible to heavy rain. You’re putting together a meta-event that could be quite destructive.”

Schlosser was discussing a paper to which he contributed projecting that California will experience three more extreme precipitation events per year by 2100, although the number could be reduced by half that if aggressive policy measures are pursued. These results are more dramatic, but point in the same direction, as research published last summer by Christine Shields and Jeffrey Kiehl at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado.

Shields agreed with Schlosser’s warning. “Drought-stricken areas can be significantly damaged by heavy flood,” she told Salon. Although she hadn’t yet read Schlosser’s paper, she warned against overemphasizing any differences. “The different climate projections found in the literature may be due to, in part, a difference in the way the ARs are defined and tracked,” she noted.

It’s also important to distinguish between different measures. “Intensity of rain is not the same thing as overall rain totals, or mean [average] rain,” Shields said. “Potentially stronger rainfall rates would lead to increased likelihood for localized flooding, or flash flooding. Longer durations of storms also might imply increased likelihood for overall rain within the storm itself. It doesn’t say anything about changing the mean rainfall over a given season or region. Any way you slice it, projections should be used as guidelines and not ground truth.”

Those guidelines are all pointing in the same general direction: more climate and weather problems, and more intense problems. But sorting out the differences will be crucial for developing policy responses, Ralph stressed. “The already high variability of annual precipitation in this region could become even more variable in future climate scenarios,” he said. “We don’t have a good handle on which climate projections handle ARs best in the future, and those projections differ substantially in how these events look in the future.  We need to pin this down better, to help inform policy-makers on what to expect in the future for water supply and flood risk.”

When asked what can be done to improve policy responses, Ralph replied, “A major effort is needed to improve short-term predictions of ARs, so that information could be incorporated into myriad decisions made when extreme precipitation occurs, from reservoir operations to transportation to emergency response to flood control, landslides and other impacts such as we’ve seen in California, Nevada and Oregon” over the past few weeks. “Because ARs are the key to seasonal precipitation in this region, we now know what to focus on in terms of research.”

A continent away from Washington, this is what reality-based public policy planning looks like in the age of inexorable climate change. But that doesn’t mean climate science is infallible. Last winter many forecasters predicted significant precipitation fueled by the Pacific climate cycle known as El Niño, and as Ralph puts it, that was a “bust.” At the moment, there are scientific limits on the “predictability of water in the West,” he warned. “We also have the fact that hurricanes and tornadoes attract much of the attention and funding in meteorology. It has been difficult to get adequate focus on these Western water issues.”

Ralph’s center is “creating new AR-oriented forecast tools, built upon new science,” he said. Information about this can be seen in real time on the center’s website, including a “What’s New” section that has brief examples of these products for this last series of storms. You can even sign up for automated email alerts issued daily when there are extreme precipitation events in the West (like the 52 such events mentioned above).

As Californians weather the tail end of this dramatic string of storms, it can be comforting to realize that so much is being done to advance our understanding of the climate challenges facing America’s most populous state. That understanding is starting to translate into better ways of coping with what’s to come, however challenging that future may be. The reality-based community that is mobilizing to protect California’s precarious future in the face of climate change is a model worth celebrating — and also duplicating, in as many realms of public policy as possible. Finding ways to do that that is a top priority for all of us, wherever we live.

 

Planet Earth Is the Real Loser of the 2016 Elections

ELECTION 2016
At this fragile time, the environment is going to take some massive hits.

Photo Credit: esfera / Shutterstock

During the U.S. presidential debates, there was not one single question devoted to the topic of climate change. And it appears that the results from the election have only amplified the silence that Americans seem to have on the subject of the environment.

In a stunning turn of events, US voters elected conservative businessman Donald Trump as the next President of the United States. Trump will now become the only world leader to actively deny that climate change is real, which means that the environment is about to suffer an enormous blow.

And that’s not speculation — that is exactly what Donald Trump told Americans just days before the general election.

As Think Progress reported, Trump told supporters on October 26th that he would end the “wasteful” spending on climate action:

I will also cancel all wasteful climate change spending from Obama-Clinton, including all global warming payments to the United Nations. These steps will save $100 billion over 8 years, and this money will be used to help rebuild the vital infrastructure, including water systems, in America’s inner cities.”

Technically, eliminating this $100 billion will never happen because the United States does not actually spend that much on climate actions or “payments to the UN,” but when combined with spending on renewable energy projects, the 8-year total would actually be roughly $100 billion.

This implies that Donald Trump is willing and ready to deprive these essential renewable projects of funding in order to double down on fossil fuels. His statement also shows that he will likely strip every penny of funding away from vital actions to protect our environment and help to save American citizens from the increasingly dangerous effects of climate change.

This recent proposal by Trump echoes the energy platform that his campaign put out in late May. These are some of the items that the campaign laid out for the future, as I wrote at the time:

  • Increased coal production, as Trump promised to put out-of-work coal miners back to work, blaming the decline on the industry on President Obama rather than a global decrease in demand.
  • The Keystone Pipeline will become a reality.
  • Oil drilling and fracking will be given the go-ahead to increase activities both onshore and off.
  • Remove any and all safety regulations that are in place to protect sensitive environmental areas and human health, and possibly dismantling the entire Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Repeal bans on selling oil to overseas countries.
  • Increase offshore energy exploitation.

In short, his proposals read like the talking points of every other fossil fuel-funded politician that has been in this position long before Donald Trump. More drilling, more fracking, fewer safety regulations, and less regard for the environment.

Also during his campaign, Trump promised to create half a million jobs in the dirty energy sector by opening up offshore oil drilling and tapping onshore reserves of shale, oil, natural gas, and coal.

But Donald Trump will not be operating by himself, and that’s why things are actually scarier than they appear. The majority of Republicans who will be serving in the House and Senate when the new Congress convenes in January 2017 deny climate change, and that means that the Republican Party’s 2016 platform will set the guidelines for what these Republicans attempt to accomplish now that they will control both the Legislative and Executive branches of government.

Here are a few items from the Republican Party platform that are likely to become a reality in the new administration, from Steven Rosenfeld at Alternet:

Start repealing environmental laws: “We call for a comprehensive review of federal regulations, especially those dealing with the environment, that make it harder  and  more costly for Americans to rent, buy, or sell homes.”

Open America’s shores to more oil and gas drilling: “We support the opening of public lands and the outer continental shelf to exploration and responsible production, even if these resources will not be immediately developed.”

Build the Keystone XL Pipeline: “The Keystone Pipeline has become a symbol of everything wrong with the current Administration’s ideological approach.  After years of delay, the President killed it to satisfy environmental extremists. We intend to finish that pipeline and others as part of our commitment to North American energy security.”

Expand fracking and burying nuclear waste: “A federal judge has struck down the BLM’s rule on hydraulic fracturing and we support upholding this decision.  We respect the states’ proven ability to regulate the use of hydraulic fracturing, methane emissions, and horizontal drilling, and we will end the Administration’s disregard of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act with respect to the long-term storage of nuclear waste.”

No tax on carbon products: “We oppose any carbon tax… We urge the private sector to focus its resources on the development of carbon capture and sequestration technology still in its early stages here and overseas. “

Ignore global climate change agreements: “The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a political mechanism, not an unbiased scientific institution.  Its unreliability is reflected in its intolerance toward scientists and others who dissent from its orthodoxy.  We will evaluate its recommendations accordingly.  We reject the agendas of both the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement, which represent only the personal commitments   of their signatories; no such agreement can be binding upon the United States until it is submitted to and ratified by the Senate.”

The oil and gas industries gave a staggering $88 million to politicians during the 2016 election cycle, with 88% of that money going to Republicans.

That investment has paid off tremendously for fossil fuel interests, and they are poised to get every item on their anti-environmental, anti-regulatory wishlists checked off in short order.

Meanwhile, the environment is going to take some massive hits at a time when the evidence of climate change is right before our eyes.

Farron Cousins is the executive editor of The Trial Lawyer magazine, and his writings have appeared in publications such as California’s Information Press and Pensacola’s Independent Weekly.  He has also worked for the Ring of Fire radio program with hosts Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Mike Papantonio since August 2004, and is currently the producer of the program, in charge of guest booking, research, and scripting the week’s show.  Farron also runs Mike Papantonio’s publishing company – Seville Publishing. Farron received his bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of West Florida in 2005 and became a member of American MENSA in 2009.  Follow him on Twitter @farronbalanced.

http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/planet-earth-real-loser-2016-elections?akid=14874.265072.dY-Ycv&rd=1&src=newsletter1067138&t=12

Why Trump Won and Why Clinton Lost

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Hillary Clinton’s stunning defeat reflected a gross misjudgment by the Democratic Party about the depth of populist anger against self-serving elites who have treated much of the country with disdain

A sign supporting Donald Trump at a rally at Veterans Memorial Coliseum at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in Phoenix, Arizona. June 18, 2016 (Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr/cc)

In the end, Hillary Clinton became the face of a corrupt, arrogant and out-of-touch Establishment, while Donald Trump emerged as an almost perfectly imperfect vessel for a populist fury that had bubbled beneath the surface of America.

There is clearly much to fear from a Trump presidency, especially coupled with continued Republican control of  Congress. Trump and many Republicans have denied the reality of climate change; they favor more tax cuts for the rich; they want to deregulate Wall Street and other powerful industries – all policies that helped create the current mess that the United States and much of the world are now in.

Further, Trump’s personality is problematic to say the least. He lacks the knowledge and the temperament that one would like to see in a President – or even in a much less powerful public official. He appealed to racism, misogyny, white supremacy, bigotry toward immigrants and prejudice toward Muslims. He favors torture and wants a giant wall built across America’s southern border.

But American voters chose him in part because they felt they needed a blunt instrument to smash the Establishment that has ruled and mis-ruled America for at least the past several decades. It is an Establishment that not only has grabbed for itself almost all the new wealth that the country has produced but has casually sent the U.S. military into wars of choice, as if the lives of working-class soldiers are of little value.

For this dangerous and uncertain moment, the Democratic Party establishment deserves a large share of the blame. Despite signs that 2016 would be a year for an anti-Establishment candidate – possibly someone like Sen. Elizabeth Warren or Sen. Bernie Sanders – the Democratic leadership decided that it was “Hillary’s turn.”

On foreign policy, the Establishment had turned decision-making over to the neoconservatives and their liberal-interventionist sidekicks, a collection of haughty elitists who often subordinated American interests to those of Israel and Saudi Arabia, for political or financial advantage.

The war choices of the neocon/liberal-hawk coalition have been disastrous – from Iraq to Afghanistan to Libya to Syria to Ukraine – yet this collection of know-it-alls never experiences accountability. The same people, including the media’s armchair warriors and the think-tank “scholars,” bounce from one catastrophe to the next with no consequences for their fallacious “group thinks.” Most recently, they have ginned up a new costly and dangerous Cold War with Russia.

For all his faults, Trump was one of the few major public figures who dared challenge the “group thinks” on the current hot spots of Syria and Russia. In response, Clinton and many Democrats chose to engage in a crude McCarthyism with Clinton even baiting Trump as Vladimir Putin’s “puppet” during the final presidential debate.

It is somewhat remarkable that those tactics failed; that Trump talked about cooperation with Russia, rather than confrontation, and won. Trump’s victory could mean that rather than escalating the New Cold War with Russia, there is the possibility of a ratcheting down of tensions.

Repudiating the Neocons

Thus, Trump’s victory marks a repudiation of the neocon/liberal-hawk orthodoxy because the New Cold War was largely incubated in neocon/liberal-hawk think tanks, brought to life by likeminded officials in the U.S. State Department, and nourished by propaganda across the mainstream Western media.

It was the West, not Russia, that provoked the confrontation over Ukraine by helping to install a fiercely anti-Russian regime on Russia’s borders. I know the mainstream Western media framed the story as “Russian aggression” but that was always a gross distortion.

There were peaceful ways for settling the internal differences inside Ukraine without violating the democratic process, but U.S. neocons, such as Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, and wealthy neoliberals, such as financial speculator George Soros, pushed for a putsch that overthrew the elected President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014.

Putin’s response, including his acceptance of Crimea’s overwhelming referendum to return to Russia and his support for ethnic Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine opposing the coup regime in Kiev, was a reaction to the West’s destabilizing and violent actions. Putin was not the instigator of the troubles.

Similarly, in Syria, the West’s “regime change” strategy, which dates back to neocon planning in the mid-1990s, involved collaboration with Al Qaeda and other Islamic jihadists to remove the secular government of Bashar al-Assad. Again, Official Washington and the mainstream media portrayed the conflict as all Assad’s fault, but that wasn’t the full picture.

From the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011, U.S. “allies,” including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and Israel, have been aiding the rebellion, with Turkey and the Gulf states funneling money and weapons to Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and even to the Al Qaeda spinoff, Islamic State.

Though President Barack Obama dragged his heels on the direct intervention advocated by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Obama eventually went in halfway, bending to political pressure by agreeing to train and arm so-called “moderates” who ended up fighting next to Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and other jihadists in Ahrar al-Sham.

Trump has been inarticulate and imprecise in describing what policies he would follow in Syria, besides suggesting that he would cooperate with the Russians in destroying Islamic State. But Trump didn’t seem to understand the role of Al Qaeda in controlling east Aleppo and other Syrian territory.

Uncharted Territory

So, the American voters have plunged the United States and the world into uncharted territory behind a President-elect who lacks a depth of knowledge on a wide variety of issues. Who will guide a President Trump becomes the most pressing issue today.

Will he rely on traditional Republicans who have done so much to mess up the country and the world or will he find some fresh-thinking realists who will realign policy with core American interests and values.

For this dangerous and uncertain moment, the Democratic Party establishment deserves a large share of the blame. Despite signs that 2016 would be a year for an anti-Establishment candidate – possibly someone like Sen. Elizabeth Warren or Sen. Bernie Sanders – the Democratic leadership decided that it was “Hillary’s turn.”

Alternatives like Warren were discouraged from running so there could be a Clinton “coronation.” That left the 74-year-old socialist from Vermont as the only obstacle to Clinton’s nomination and it turned out that Sanders was a formidable challenger. But his candidacy was ultimately blocked by Democratic insiders, including the unelected “super-delegates” who gave Clinton an early and seemingly insurmountable lead.

With blinders firmly in place, the Democrats yoked themselves to Clinton’s gilded carriage and tried to pull it all the way to the White House. But they ignored the fact that many Americans came to see Clinton as the personification of all that is wrong about the insular and corrupt world of Official Washington. And that has given us President-elect Trump.

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat. His two previous books are Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’.

Top 5 urgent Climate Change/Election Stories MSM Suppressed

climate-change

By

 Nov. 5, 2016

I used the word “suppressed” in the title quite deliberately. Corporate television media in the United States is colluding in a cover-up of the threat of climate change, and they have specifically blacked out the climate change issue with regard to this election.

The guilty parties are Comcast (owner of NBC Universal, including MSNBC/ NBC.com), the Walt Disney Company (the owner of ABC), Viacom/ CBS, Time Warner (owner of CNN), and Twenty-First Century Fox (i.e. sleazy pressslord Rupert Murdoch).

These five media conglomerates run by Stephen B. Burke, Robert A. Iger, Leslie Moonves, Jeff Zucker, and, well, Rupert Murdoch are trying to drown your grandchildren. Please do drop them a line (contacts hyperlinked except Fox, which is a multi-billion-dollar trolling operation so why bother?) and let them know you aren’t happy about their plans for genocide against our future generations.

Several studies have substantiated that none of the television news operations have bothered to report on policy during this election– it has all been horse race 24/7. This is because multi-billion dollar corporations are extracting money from you and they don’t want you getting uppity about policy issues.

Since they didn’t tell you, I will. Here are 5 climate tie-ins with the election that the news channels didn’t convene panels to dissect at length. Maybe they didn’t report them at all. Maybe it was in a single sentence or in that ticker at the bottom where they sometimes put real news.

1. It is rare for China to say anything to a US presidential candidate publicly. Beijing nevertheless came out and blasted Donald Trump for saying he would renege on the Paris climate agreement. Xie Zhenhua, China’s top climate negotiator, said that “The world is moving towards balancing environmental protection and economic growth.” Of politicians like Trump, he added, “If they resist this trend, I don’t think they’ll win the support of their people, and their country’s economic and social progress will also be affected . . . I believe a wise political leader should take policy stances that conform with global trends . . .” China is investing heavily in renewables at some social cost and won’t sit still for US backsliding.

2. While the election has been going on, something has gone seriously wrong with this year’s arctic sea ice cover. Zack Labe, a doctoral student in climate science, posted to Twitter, “Sea ice extent has set 142 new daily record lows.” and for the first time since 1970 “hadn’t reached seven million square kilometres by November.” Trust me. This is monstrously bad. The less ice on land in the arctic and antarctic, the more water in the sea. If your house is near a beach, this should concern you. A lot. Why, you might even expect it to be on the news.

NASA Goddard: ” Older Arctic Sea Ice Disappearing”

3. The Paris Climate accord became international law on Friday. Question: Is America going to be a scofflaw nation and rampage around destroying the climate for everyone on earth?

4. Americans are already being displaced from their homes by climate change.

5. Our burning of fossil fuels now seems likely to throw the Southwest into a decades-long mega-drought.

So go ahead and talk about the trivial things, about the horse race, about the petty insults back and forth and the emails (there doesn’t seem anything interesting in the emails).

Meanwhile the single biggest story of this election season is being studiedly ignored in the campaign (well, Hillary brought out Al Gore for one day and she wants lots of solar panels) and more especially on our television sets. It is like an alternate reality where we have no idea that emitting billions of metric tons of carbon dioxide every year by driving cars and heating homes and businesses etc. are causing a planetary melt-down.

At least please let your congressional representatives know you are worried about this issue. They can be pressured. And, I think we need some nice legal marches.

Top 5 urgent Climate Change/Election Stories MSM Suppressed

Vertebrate species populations in dramatic decline

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By Philip Guelpa
1 November 2016

An alarming new study, the Living Planet Report 2016, prepared by researchers from the World Wildlife Fund and the Zoological Society of London, projects that by the year 2020, little more than three years from now, the population abundance of vertebrate species around the world will have dropped by two-thirds from what it was in 1970.

This dramatic decline encompasses species of fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. Invertebrates and plants are, undoubtedly suffering similar effects, as demonstrated by the recently reported death of a large portion of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, a 2,300-kilometer-long system of coral reefs, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and has existed for 25 million years.

The rate of decline shows no sign of slowing. Between 1970 and 2012, a span of 42 years, the overall vertebrate population abundance (the total numbers of animals for each species) dropped by 58 percent, according to the study. By 2020, only another eight years, that figure is expected to reach a 67 percent decrease. If this pace were to continue, total extinction (a decrease of 100 percent) would be reached by the middle of the 21st century. These figures are based on a large data set, the Living Planet Index (LPI), derived from the monitoring of 14,000 animal populations that encompass 3,700 species. While some level of uncertainty is to be expected when attempting to assess such a large and complex phenomenon, the general trend is clear.

This dramatic decline is mainly attributed to a combination of climate change, environmental pollution, the human-facilitated spread of diseases, over-exploitation, and habitat destruction. Vertebrate populations are clearly under tremendous stress, as indicated by the substantial decreases in population sizes. The report identifies freshwater environments—rivers and lakes—as being the hardest hit, with an 81 percent decline in species abundance between 1970 and 2012. Terrestrial species abundance has fallen by 38 percent and marine species abundance by 36 percent.

Living Planet Report 2016 is but one of many studies in recent years that have identified a dramatic trend toward species decline and extinction.

The scale of the devastation documented in the 2016 LPR, occurring over a span of only 50 years, is on a trajectory to rival the five previous mass extinctions of life on earth. However, whereas the previous events were caused by a variety of natural processes, this impending sixth extinction is conclusively attributable to the anarchic development of the capitalist economy, which mindlessly pursues profit without regard to the consequences to society or nature.

In attempting to explain the forces driving these dramatic animal population declines, the Living Planet Report refers only to empirical trends such as human population growth, increases in carbon dioxide emissions and fertilizer consumption and the like, and offers only vague remedies such as the adoption of an “Earth system perspective.” No reference is made to the fact that decisions regarding industrial growth, resource exploitation, the development of more efficient technologies, and a whole range of other economic issues that affect the environment are made by the financial and corporate elites, a tiny minority of the world’s population, to protect their own interests.

The effects of unplanned development, undertaken with little or no scientific assessment of potential impacts to the environment, did not begin in 1970. Human activities have caused disruption of natural communities for thousands of years, beginning with the development of agriculture. However, these effects have accelerated dramatically in scope and scale over the last several centuries, with the development of capitalism and the industrial revolution. The rate of change has now reached a qualitative transition, reaching a pace never before seen. The consequences of this hyper-acceleration cannot be precisely predicted, but will undoubtedly cause substantial disruption of both natural ecosystems and human communities.

Biological communities exist as complex, dynamic systems of interaction between a whole range of organisms, from top vertebrate predators to microorganisms, as well as the components of the physical environment in which they exist. The rapid removal, both quantitatively and qualitatively (i.e., by extinction) of growing numbers of species from this dialectical relationship renders such systems increasingly unstable and prone to catastrophic collapse.

This fundamental shift is now being officially recognized by the scientific community. Based on research spanning over two centuries, scientists have developed a chronological framework to study the development of life on earth. Successive periods of evolutionary change are defined, at least in part, by the existence of more or less distinct groupings of organisms, reflecting significant changes in the earth’s fauna. The most recent major subdivision, the Cenozoic, termed the Age of Mammals, spans roughly the last 65 million years (i.e., since the extinction of the dinosaurs). It, in turn, is comprised of a series of smaller units (each spanning millions of years). The latest three are the Pliocene, Pleistocene, and Holocene, which encompass the evolution of human beings. The Pleistocene alone lasted roughly 2.5 million years.

The Holocene, characterized by the existence of the modern suite of mammals, began only 12,000 years ago, following the end of the last ice age. Therefore, compared to the length of previous periods, it has barely begun. Nevertheless, using the same procedure of defining geologic periods based on assemblages of species, some scientists have in recent years proposed that the Holocene has now ended and that a new period, the Anthropocene, has begun. The use of the prefix “anthro,” the Greek word for man, in the name, is intended to indicate that humans have now become a major factor in both biological evolution and the linked process of climate and environmental change.

Human science and technology have reached the point at which we now have an unprecedented capacity both to develop a much deeper understanding of the complexities of natural ecological systems and rationally plan an economy that takes this understanding into account in order to substantially reduce its impact on the natural world while, at the same time, meeting human needs.

However, unless capitalism is replaced by a planned socialist economy, and in relatively short order at that, the extreme negative effects of anarchic development make it highly likely that the natural systems which are fundamental to the maintenance of a livable planet will suffer drastic, and perhaps irreversible, degradation. Efforts by the rival capitalist nation states to address climate change and environmental degradation have been feeble and ineffective. The LPR 2016 report is a warning that the future of life on earth hangs in the balance.

WSWS

You Call That a Debate?

Posted on Oct 5, 2016

By By Michael Winship / Moyers & Company

  Republican vice presidential nominee Gov. Mike Pence, left, and Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Tim Kaine shake hands after their debate. (Joe Raedle / AP)

Well, that was depressing.

Not because Vice Presidential Candidate X beat Vice Presidential Candidate Y in Tuesday night’s debate. Or vice versa.

READ: Tim Kaine Puts Mike Pence on the Defensive as Candidates Take on Issues, Each Other

No, it was dispiriting because it so vividly displayed the problem with our current system of debates. This is no way to run a democracy.

If last week’s Donald Trump free-for-all, freefall debate performance was one extreme – out of control and fact-resistant – this week’s vice presidential event showed another, a demonstration of the perils of being overcoached and overprepared with stock, canned answers repeated ad nauseum and infinitum.

So there was Republican Mike Pence stolidly behaving like a real-life version of Sam the Eagle from the Muppets, shaking his head and bemoaning the fate of an America ruled by Hillary Clinton, and Tim Kaine as the overeager puppy eager to make his presence known, apparently told that the way to dispel the image some may have of him as too soft and nice is to keep interrupting; in effect, chewing the other guy’s new slippers.


Kaine may have started it, but in truth, the interruptions by each of the two were, as Rachel Maddow said on MSNBC, “maddening to the point of incomprehensibility.” The hectoring crosstalk did diminish some as the night wore on but it wasn’t conducive to any real dialogue or thoughtful discussion of the issues (the exchange on abortion at the end actually came somewhat close, thanks to Kaine).

And once again there was no talk of climate change or income inequality or education or infrastructure or healthcare, to name but a few of the topics that desperately need to be addressed. Instead, we got Pence running contrary to his running mate’s embrace of Vladimir Putin, calling the Russian leader “small and bullying” and Kaine repeatedly going after Pence for Donald Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns. No one would mistake Monday’s slapfest as a celebration of the Federalist Papers.

If, as many have suggested, the Clinton-Kaine campaign’s strategy was to put Pence on the defensive, denying that Trump has said a basket of deplorable things we all know he has said, then the evening may ultimately belong to them. We won’t know for sure until we see the impact, if any, of the fact checking that will appear over the next few days as Pence’s denials are thrown up against the videotape of Trump declaring exactly what Pence claimed he didn’t. Those facts certainly won’t change the magical thinking of the Trump-Pence base; perhaps it will affect the undecideds on the fence.

Rating by onstage performance and the response of the pundit class, Pence’s icy calm may have won out over Kaine’s hyper champing at the bit, and the Republican governor certainly has deftly positioned himself for 2020. But as Mark Twain said of Richard Wagner’s operas, Kaine’s attacks may have been better than they sound.

We’ll see. What’s for sure is that the clear losers were any Americans who hoped to hear something, anything, of real substance. Days to go: 33, and the republic is still adrift, with no sign of the lifeboats.

Michael Winship is the Emmy Award-winning senior writer of Moyers & Company and BillMoyers.com, and a former senior writing fellow at the policy and advocacy group Demos. Follow him on Twitter at @MichaelWinship.

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/you_call_that_a_debate_20161005