Climate Change Infographic

Ignore the first sentence (only)… we can’t destroy it, just fuck it up.

Climate Change Infographic


Climate-change denial getting harder to defend

As temperatures in the Norwegian Arctic beat those in the denialists’ favourite, the Medieval Warm Period, comes this:

The United States experienced the warmest July in its history, with more than 3,000 heat records broken across the country. Overall, the summer was the nation’s third warmest on record and comes in a year that is turning out to be the hottest ever. High temperatures along with low precipitation generated drought conditions across 60% of the Lower 48 states, which affected 70% of the corn and soybean crop and rendered part of the Mississippi River non-navigable. Arctic Sea ice declined to a record low, and a surface thaw swept across 97% of the Greenland ice cap.

Though it’s not possible to definitively link any of these individual events to human-caused climate change, the summer’s extreme weather follows clear longer-term trends and is consistent with climate model projections. This was the 36th consecutive July and 329th consecutive month in which global temperatures have been above the 20th century average. In addition, seven of the 10 hottest summers recorded in the United States have occurred since 2000. Such rising temperatures and climate anomalies have been documented around the world.

But there’s also one bit of good news: The increasingly powerful evidence of a long-term warming trend is making climate-change denial more difficult to defend. Take “Climategate” — the argument that scientists have based their evidence for global warming on fraudulent science. The Koch Foundation provided funding to physicist Richard Muller of UC Berkeley, a longtime climate-change skeptic, to disprove the widespread consensus on global warming. Instead, his re-analysis showed the exact same warming trend found by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and other scientists.

Since completing his research last year, Muller has been vociferously speaking out on the reality of human-caused climate change, including in testimony before Congress. The publication this spring of an expanded weather station analysis by Britain’s Hadley Centre further confirms the trend and suggests Northern Hemisphere surface warming was about 0.1 degree Celsius greater than previously thought. With Muller’s and the Hadley Centre’s re-analysis, the idea of Climategate has become virtually impossible to take seriously. The planet is warming.

But that hasn’t silenced the climate-change deniers entirely; they’ve simply shifted their arguments. Increasingly, they are accepting evidence of recent warming, but they deny that it is largely caused by humans, attributing it instead to natural factors such as solar variability or the El Niño system. But these arguments don’t fly any better than their original ones.

Research by Grant Foster of the United States and Stefan Rahmstorf of Germany has shown that recent variations in the solar cycle, volcanic activity and El Niño/La Niña events actually had a tempering effect on warming. Similarly, Markus Huber and Reto Knutti of the Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science in Zurich found by using simulation models that non-greenhouse gas factors could have accounted for only about 1% of the warming experienced since 1950. And this summer a team headed by Peter Gleckler of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory provided strong evidence that the recent warming of the ocean surface could be traced to human activities. The evidence is now overwhelming that by and large the warming we are seeing has an anthropogenic cause.

Another common theme of the skeptics recently is that even if anthropogenic climate change is real, projections overstate future warming. Writing in August in the Wall Street Journal, physicists Roger Cohen (a retired ExxonMobil executive), William Happer of Princeton and Richard Lindzen of MIT — all noted climate skeptics — asserted that greenhouse gases, though possibly having a warming effect, were “unlikely to increase global temperature more than about one degree Celsius.”

That 1-degree Celsius, or 1.8-degree Fahrenheit, projection is based largely on a 2011 paper by Lindzen and contradicted by much other research. The Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5, for example, which represents about 20 climate modeling groups, has in 2012 generated more than 200 submissions and peer-reviewed publications testing and analyzing the newest climate models. The sum result of these improved models reaffirms the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel’s projections of an increase in global temperature of 4 to 8 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100. It is important for scientists to further refine such projections, but it’s clear that increasing greenhouse gases are likely to cause a significant rise in global temperatures.

(My emphasis in bold)



Quicker than ever

Dr Schmidt of Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences said: “Ocean acidification has happened before sometimes with large consequences for marine ecosystems.  But within the last 300 million years, never has the rate of ocean acidification been comparable to the ongoing acidification.” She added that the most comparable event, most likely 10 times slower than the current acidification, was 55 million years ago. “At that time, species responded to the warming, acidification, change in nutrient input and loss of oxygen – the  same processes that we now see in our oceans.  The geological record shows changes in species distribution, changes in species composition, changes in calcification and growth and in a few cases extinction,” she said. “Our current acidification rates are unparalleled in Earth history and lead most ecosystems into unknown territory.” That rate of change was echoed by Dr Claudine Hauri, an oceanographer from the University of Alaska Fairbanks: “The waters up and down the coast from our conference site here in Monterey Bay are particularly prone to the effects of ocean acidification.  The chemistry of these waters is changing at such a rapid pace that organisms now experience conditions that are different from what they have experienced in the past. And within about 20 or 30 years, the chemistry again will be different from that of even today.” Source

Climate Change: An Information Statement of the American Meteorological Society

Here’s the final remarks from the full statement

Final remarks

There is unequivocal evidence that Earth’s lower atmosphere, ocean, and land surface are warming; sea level is rising; and snow cover, mountain glaciers, and Arctic sea ice are shrinking. The dominant cause of the warming since the 1950s is human activities. This scientific finding is based on a large and persuasive body of research. The observed warming will be irreversible for many years into the future, and even larger temperature increases will occur as greenhouse gases continue to accumulate in the atmosphere. Avoiding this future warming will require a large and rapid reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions. The ongoing warming will increase risks and stresses to human societies, economies, ecosystems, and wildlife through the 21st century and beyond, making it imperative that society respond to a changing climate. To inform decisions on adaptation and mitigation, it is critical that we improve our understanding of the global climate system and our ability to project future climate through continued and improved monitoring and research. This is especially true for smaller (seasonal and regional) scales and weather and climate extremes, and for important hydroclimatic variables such as precipitation and water availability.

Technological, economic, and policy choices in the near future will determine the extent of future impacts of climate change. Science-based decisions are seldom made in a context of absolute certainty. National and international policy discussions should include consideration of the best ways to both adapt to and mitigate climate change. Mitigation will reduce the amount of future climate change and the risk of impacts that are potentially large and dangerous. At the same time, some continued climate change is inevitable, and policy responses should include adaptation to climate change. Prudence dictates extreme care in accounting for our relationship with the only planet known to be capable of sustaining human life.

Scare tactics and modern day McCarthyism used against climate scientists

Aggressive deniers practice a form of asymmetric warfare that is decentralized and largely immune to reasoned response. They launch what Aaron Huertas, a press secretary at the Union of Concerned Scientists, calls “information missiles,” anti-climate-change memes that get passed around on listservs, amplified in the blogosphere, and picked up by radio talk-show hosts or politicians. “Even if they don’t have much money, they are operating in a structure that allows them to punch above their weight,” Huertas says.

The evidence to support the theory of anthropogenic, or human-caused, climate change has been mounting since the mid-1950s, when atmospheric models predicted that growing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere would add to the natural “greenhouse effect” and lead to warming. The data was crude at first, and opinions vacillated (skeptics like to recall a 1974 Time cover story that predicted an impending ice age). But by the mid-1990s, thousands of lines of independent inquiry supported the conclusion summarized in the 1995 IPCC report: “The balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate.”

Since then, the case for anthropogenic climate change has only strengthened; 98 percent of actively publishing climate scientists now say that it is undeniable. But several finer points remain unsettled. For instance, researchers still don’t completely understand the role of aerosols in the atmosphere, the variable effects of clouds at different heights, and the influence of feedback mechanisms such as the changing reflectivity of the Earth’s surface and the release of gases from permafrost or deep seabeds. Climate-change skeptics have been keen to capitalize on those gaps in knowledge. “They play up smaller debates,” says Francesca Grifo at the Union of Concerned Scientists, “and divert the dialogue by attacking particular aspects. They represent climate science as a house of cards, where you pull out one and it all falls apart.”

In March 2001, George W. Bush’s administration declared that climate science was “too uncertain” to justify action (such as ratifying the Kyoto treaty) that might put the brakes on economic growth. That refrain would be echoed again and again, weakening or derailing successive international agreements and domestic policy. How had a small band of non-scientists managed to so quickly and thoroughly pursuade the nation’s leaders to reject an ever more coherent and definitive body of scientific evidence?

“It’s that false balance thing,” Mann says. “You’re a reporter and you understand there’s an overwhelming consensus that evidence supports a particular hypothesis—let’s say, the Earth is an oblate spheroid. But you’ve got to get a comment from a holdout at the Flat Earth Society. People see the story and think there’s a serious scientific debate about the shape of the Earth.”

“When I get an e-mail that mentions my child and a guillotine,” Hayhoe says, “I sometimes want to pull a blanket over my head. The intent of all this is to discourage scientists. As a woman and a mother, I have to say that sometimes it does achieve its goal. There are many times when I wonder if it’s worth it.”

As drivers crawled along Chicago’s busy Eisenhower Expressway, they were confronted with a large billboard that compared believers in global warming with Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber. The text on the billboard read, “I still believe in global warming. Do you?” The advertisement was meant to be the first in a series. Others would liken climate-science advocates to mass murderers, including Charles Manson and Osama bin Laden. Bast did not respond for comment following the launch of the campaign, but Heartland issued a press release: “The people who believe in man-made global warming are mostly on the radical fringe of society. This is why the most prominent advocates of global warming aren’t scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen.”

“There are powerful voices of unreason,” says Ben Santer, who led the 1995 IPCC team, “but every year, the science becomes stronger and the data are telling an ever more consistent story.” As with tobacco, the more consistent the scientific story, the more difficult it will become for skeptics to reject anthropogenic climate change. That point was driven home after the Charles Koch Foundation donated $150,000 toward a study by Richard Muller, a physicist at the University of California at Berkeley who was, at the time, a darling of the climate-skeptic community. Muller spent two years investigating claims by global-warming deniers that temperature rises verified by multiple studies were skewed because of flawed analysis, unreliable weather stations and the effect of urban heat islands. Muller and his research team (which included Saul Perlmutter, the joint winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics) compiled 1.6 billion readings at 39,000 sites and examined other historical data.

Muller’s conclusion was most likely not what the Koch brothers had in mind. Last October, his team announced that the global mean temperature on land had increased by 1.6 degrees since 1950, a result that matched the numbers accepted by the mainstream climate-science community. “The skeptics raised valid points, and everybody should have been a skeptic two years ago,” Muller told me. “Now we have confidence that the temperature rises previously reported had been done without bias. Global warming is real.”

Just as in the rest of the country, belief in human-caused climate change in Oklahoma has been rising with the thermometer—according to Krosnick, a large majority of Inhofe’s constituents now believe that anthropogenic global warming is real. I ask Inhofe if he’s noticed any climate changes in his home state, such as last summer’s unprecedented heat and severe drought, withering crops, wild fires and dramatically expanded tornado season. “There’s not been any warming,” he snaps. “And there’s actually been a little bit of cooling. It’s all documented. Look at the Dust Bowl. Back then it was a lot hotter. Matter of fact, now they say the hottest time was actually during that time—1934, I guess.”

Actually, last summer’s average temperature of 86.9˚ was the highest ever recorded in Oklahoma. And last spring’s drought, when hundreds of farmers abandoned livestock they could no longer manage to feed or water, was the worst since 1921.

Many of the scientists I’ve spoken with say that no single act of harassment or intimidation has stung more than Inhofe’s “list of 17,” the call for the congressional investigation of prominent climate scientists. Mann, I tell Inhofe, said it “smacked of modern-day McCarthyism.”


120617: The incredibly still mind; Friends’ books; Secrets of Our Living Planet; Absent Fathers Day

This morning in meditation the mind so incredibly still. It’s there from nowhere, suddenly, if suddenly is without time. Previously, deep fluid breathing during morning stretches, continuing into the first part of the meditation.

Then it was back to the office after a week away for the school camp in Devon. Wading through emails, selecting the urgent ones to reply to first. After a while, remembered the Dragon Dictate system I set up before I left, so continued without typing. It’s still an odd experience, speaking to a computer instead of ‘operating’ it with the keyboard. I read yesterday that the new version of OSX, Mountain Lion, will have voice dictation built in. Mid morning we had a staff meeting, with all the foundation team in attendance, discussing the staff changes taking place this year.

The high winds of yesterday subsided leaving a fair and warm day. After lunch I was sat outside in the sun talking with a friend about the correct response, and some of the other responses, to the crisis in the world, ecologically, politically, religiously, seemingly every way. We talked at length about the perhaps-failed environmental movement. We concluded that we don’t know in the slightest what is really going on here, having explored various avenues over the last twenty years. Can this ‘not knowing’ lead to a new action? And how does true communication take place? It’s clear that this century will see huge changes, if not revolution. Saw another friend’s site online this afternoon discussing the overuse of the word ‘revolution’ where in fact it is hardly ever taking place. Both friends are in the process of writing books – The Birth of a River and The Order of Thought.

The Birth of a River:

This is the story of two unlikely companions travelling from Brittany to Britain in search of a mystical river. Armoran, a child of seven, has a special gift, he can communicate with nature like no other. Pursued and vulnerable, he turns to an old lighthouse keeper to help him carry out his mission.

In a world turned increasingly disconnected and destructive, this allegory sets the stage for a contemporary rural renaissance.

Birth of a River is a transforming novel about the wisdom of innocence, learning to listen to nature, and self-discovery.

The Order of Thought:

Why is it that des­pite all the out­ward tech­no­lo­gical advances of our civil­isa­tion, over the mil­len­nia we human beings have remained essen­tially bru­tal and cal­lous, liv­ing in con­fu­sion, sorrow and fear?

Why is it that the vari­ous “solu­tions” to our press­ing global prob­lems — offered often by the “best of minds” — only seem to make mat­ters worse?

Is it really inev­it­able that our future should just be more of the same — more exploit­a­tion, more war, more destruc­tion, more suf­fer­ing, more ideo­lo­gical con­flicts, more dis­agree­ments, more con­fu­sion, more mis­un­der­stand­ings and power-struggles?

Is there really no way of over­com­ing the divi­sions between sci­ence and reli­gion, the intel­lect and the emo­tions, the indi­vidual and the com­munity, one human being and another, the world we inhabit and us?

Or, could it be that the single root of all our troubles we can find right where we are? Could it be that the source of our general inco­her­ence lies within ourselves? Is it pos­sible for our con­scious­ness to change rad­ic­ally — not in some ideal­istic “New Age” sense, nor based on accu­mu­lated know­ledge and prescribed dog­matic pat­terns from the past? Could we make room for cre­ativ­ity and intel­li­gence? Could every one of us really make a difference?

Springwatch may be over (until Summerwatch then Autumnwatch) but this evening on BBC2 Chris Packham’s new series began: Secrets of Our Living Planet. ‘Science is the art of understanding truth and beauty.’ These days all I really want to watch on TV are nature programmes. The world of humans doesn’t interest me so much, at least not in TV form. Such impressive photography and new sights in episode one alone! Here’s some great footage of a variety of hummingbirds:

Today is Fathers Day in many countries. My father is no longer alive so today is a day to remember him. I wish he’d found his way, his correct response to the world. Here’s a picture of him with one of my brothers and I:

Happy Fathers Day!

Tunguska by Fanfarlo

I came across Fanfarlo today via Word magazine’s cover disc. In this song they are singing about mysterious event in 1908 that destroyed 80 million trees in Siberia with a force 1,000 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. More songs about forests, I say!

An account of the event by a tribal child:

We had a hut by the river with my brother Chekaren. We were sleeping. Suddenly we both woke up at the same time. Somebody shoved us. We heard whistling and felt strong wind. Chekaren said, ‘Can you hear all those birds flying overhead?’ We were both in the hut, couldn’t see what was going on outside. Suddenly, I got shoved again, this time so hard I fell into the fire. I got scared. Chekaren got scared too. We started crying out for father, mother, brother, but no one answered. There was noise beyond the hut, we could hear trees falling down. Chekaren and I got out of our sleeping bags and wanted to run out, but then the thunder struck. This was the first thunder. The Earth began to move and rock, wind hit our hut and knocked it over. My body was pushed down by sticks, but my head was in the clear. Then I saw a wonder: trees were falling, the branches were on fire, it became mighty bright, how can I say this, as if there was a second sun, my eyes were hurting, I even closed them. It was like what the Russians call lightning. And immediately there was a loud thunderclap. This was the second thunder. The morning was sunny, there were no clouds, our Sun was shining brightly as usual, and suddenly there came a second one!

Chekaren and I had some difficulty getting out from under the remains of our hut. Then we saw that above, but in a different place, there was another flash, and loud thunder came. This was the third thunder strike. Wind came again, knocked us off our feet, struck against the fallen trees.

We looked at the fallen trees, watched the tree tops get snapped off, watched the fires. Suddenly Chekaren yelled ‘Look up’ and pointed with his hand. I looked there and saw another flash, and it made another thunder. But the noise was less than before. This was the fourth strike, like normal thunder.
Now I remember well there was also one more thunder strike, but it was small, and somewhere far away, where the Sun goes to sleep.

The Cane Toad in Australia

We brought you in to eat the beetles
But they were too high on the crop
And you hopped away
And mated making thousands
Who mated making thousands
And hopped away
And mated making thousands
And hopped away
Along the coast of Queensland
North and south
Greeny browny yellow and kind of panting
Bounded head-first though obstacles
Munched up the insects
And dog food
You popped when we run you down
You squirted poison when under attack
You half-killed Wallace the dog with your toxin
Then the dog came back
But wasn’t the same
It didn’t do doggy things any more they said
A little girl had you as a pet
Called you Dairy Queen
You didn’t poison her
You liked being played with
And your belly tickled
Melrose the Wonder Toad liked that too
Before he got too fat to hop
Bubbly backed
Most called you ugly
Some said beautiful
No right to be there
But it’s not your fault
Once they built a statue of you
And psychedelic postcards
And tourists came
A man made bags and hats out of your skin
Bags and hats with or without your head sticking out
Dogs licked your toxins
In just the right amount
Tripping on your ooze
Who knows what’s going on in those dogs’ minds?
I guess you might
We spiked you with spears
We froze you in bags
We melted you down into fertilizer
We tried fences and traps
And still you hopped on
Headed west on the highways
Once you numbered one hundred and two
Now one and a half billion
Hibernating in holes
Sometimes forming moving carpets
In your masses
Kimberley’s Toad Busters
Will bag you and gas you
But we can’t contain you
The country is yours, oh Cane Toad!


Tripping Dog Dobby:

Why the Global Warming Skeptics Are Wrong

The threat of climate change is an increasingly important environmental issue for the globe. Because the economic questions involved have received relatively little attention, I have been writing a nontechnical book for people who would like to see how market-based approaches could be used to formulate policy on climate change. When I showed an early draft to colleagues, their response was that I had left out the arguments of skeptics about climate change, and I accordingly addressed this at length.

But one of the difficulties I found in examining the views of climate skeptics is that they are scattered widely in blogs, talks, and pamphlets. Then, I saw an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal of January 27, 2012, by a group of sixteen scientists, entitled “No Need to Panic About Global Warming.” This is useful because it contains many of the standard criticisms in a succinct statement. The basic message of the article is that the globe is not warming, that dissident voices are being suppressed, and that delaying policies to slow climate change for fifty years will have no serious economic or environment consequences.

My response is primarily designed to correct their misleading description of my own research; but it also is directed more broadly at their attempt to discredit scientists and scientific research on climate change. I have identified six key issues that are raised in the article, and I provide commentary about their substance and accuracy. They are:

• Is the planet in fact warming?

• Are human influences an important contributor to warming?

• Is carbon dioxide a pollutant?

• Are we seeing a regime of fear for skeptical climate scientists?

• Are the views of mainstream climate scientists driven primarily by the desire for financial gain?

• Is it true that more carbon dioxide and additional warming will be beneficial?

As I will indicate below, on each of these questions, the sixteen scientists provide incorrect or misleading answers. At a time when we need to clarify public confusions about the science and economics of climate change, they have muddied the waters. I will describe their mistakes and explain the findings of current climate science and economics.

…continues here: Why the Global Warming Skeptics Are Wrong by William D. Nordhaus | The New York Review of Books.

Healthiest and unhealthiest countries in which to live, 2012

Healthiest and unhealthiest places to live:

Top 10 EPI

1 76.69 Switzerland
2 70.37 Latvia
3 69.92 Norway
4 69.2 Luxembourg
5 69.03 Costa Rica
6 69 France
7 68.92 Austria
8 68.9 Italy
9 68.82 United Kingdom
9 68.82 Sweden

Bottom 10 EPI

123 37.68 Libyan Arab Jamahiriya
124 36.76 Bosnia and Herzegovina
125 36.23 India
126 35.54 Kuwait
127 35.49 Yemen
128 34.55 South Africa
129 32.94 Kazakhstan
130 32.24 Uzbekistan
131 31.75 Turkmenistan
132 25.32 Iraq


Climate Change Deniers ‘Orchestrate intentional and malicious campaign’

He is one of the most vilified men in the highly vilified field of climate science, yet Professor Michael Mann is surprisingly jolly. Despite being the focus of a brutal campaign orchestrated by the fossil-fuel industry and senior politicians within the US Republican Party, Mann’s cheery stoicism is positively infectious.

“I’ve been the focus for attack by those who deny the reality of climate change for so long that it almost seems like forever,” the professor of meteorology at Pennsylvania State University says. “I’m a reluctant public figure, but I have embraced the opportunity to communicate the science.”

Mann became a chief target of the climate change contrarians for being the outspoken author of an iconic graph of global warming science known as the “hockey stick” – the most politicised graph in science, according to the journal Nature.

It was the hockey stick that generated much of the opprobrium heaped upon climate scientists as a result of the “climategate” emails stolen from the University of East Anglia and leaked on to the internet two years ago. Indeed, many of the leaked emails were copies of correspondence between the UEA team in the UK and Mann and his colleagues in the US.

Mann believes the theft of the emails was not the work of a random hacker, but part of a sophisticated campaign. “It was a very successful, well-planned smear campaign intended … to go directly at the trust the public had in scientists,” he insists. “Even though they haven’t solved the crime of who actually broke in, the entire apparatus for propelling this manufactured scandal on to the world stage was completely funded by the fossil-fuel front groups.”

The hockey stick graph appeared to demonstrate how world temperatures had remained fairly steady for several hundred years before shooting up at the end of the 20th century, just like the straight blade jutting out from the shaft of an ice-hockey stick (the analogy doesn’t quite work with a curved field hockey stick).

The original study was published in Nature in 1998. Within five years, Mann had become the focus of an orchestrated campaign to undermine the entire field of climate science by rubbishing the hockey stick – a term coined by a colleague rather than Mann himself. Republican Senator Jim Inhofe picked up the hockey stick to beat climate science, famously declaring in 2003 that “global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people”.

Mann became the target of Freedom of Information requests and was served with a subpoena by Republican Congressman Joe Barton demanding access to his correspondence. This was followed with a further subpoena from Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican Attorney General of Virginia, and yet more FOI requests from industry front-organisations, notably the American Tradition Institute.

Climate contrarians argued that Mann and his colleagues were concealing their research methods because they had something to hide. In reply, Mann insists that he has been as open as he can about data and methodology, but the aim of these requests has more to do with intimidation than openness. “What they are trying to do is to blur the distinction between private correspondence and scientific data and methods, which of course should be out there for other scientists to attempt to reproduce.

“I think it’s intentional and malicious. It’s intended to chill scientific discourse, to intimidate scientists working in areas that threaten these special interests,” he says. “It’s the icing on the cake if they can also get hold of any more private correspondence that they can mine and cherry pick. It’s a win-win for them.” Why an obscure graph published in a scientific journal should enrage so many people has been the subject of much internet conspiracy (or genuine scientific debate, depending on your point of view).

via Michael Mann: The climate scientist who the deniers have in their sights – Profiles – People – The Independent.

Russia oil spills wreak devastation

Environmentalists estimate at least 1 percent of Russia’s annual oil production, or 5 million tons, is spilled every year. That is equivalent to one Deepwater Horizon-scale leak about every two months. Crumbling infrastructure and a harsh climate combine to spell disaster in the world’s largest oil producer, responsible for 13 percent of global output.

Oil, stubbornly seeping through rusty pipelines and old wells, contaminates soil, kills all plants that grow on it and destroys habitats for mammals and birds. Half a million tons every year get into rivers that flow into the Arctic Ocean, the government says, upsetting the delicate environmental balance in those waters.

It’s part of a legacy of environmental tragedy that has plagued Russia and the countries of its former Soviet empire for decades, from the nuclear horrors of Chernobyl in Ukraine to lethal chemical waste in the Russian city of Dzerzhinsk and paper mill pollution seeping into Siberia’s Lake Baikal, which holds one-fifth of the world’s supply of fresh water.

Oil spills in Russia are less dramatic than disasters in the Gulf of Mexico or the North Sea, more the result of a drip-drip of leaked crude than a sudden explosion. But they’re more numerous than in any other oil-producing nation including insurgency-hit Nigeria, and combined they spill far more than anywhere else in the world, scientists say.

“Oil and oil products get spilled literally every day,” said Dr. Grigory Barenboim, senior researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Water Problems.

via AP Enterprise: Russia oil spills wreak devastation –

Beijing’s air is ‘slightly polluted’

I could taste it again as I read this

The homes and offices of many top leaders are filtered by high-end devices, at least according to a Chinese company, the Broad Group, which has been promoting its air-purifying machines in advertisements that highlight their ubiquity in places where many officials work and live.

The company’s vice president, Zhang Zhong, said there were more than 200 purifiers scattered throughout Great Hall of the People, the office of China’s president, Hu Jintao, and Zhongnanhai, the walled compound for senior leaders and their families. “Creating clean, healthy air for our national leaders is a blessing to the people,” boasts the company’s promotional material, which includes endorsements from a variety of government and corporate leaders, among them Long Yongtu, a top economic official who insists on bringing the device along for car rides and hotel stays. “Breathing clean air is a basic human need,” he says in a testimonial.

News that Chinese leaders are largely insulated from Beijing’s famously foul air comes at a time of unusually heavy pollution in the capital. In recent weeks, the capital has been continuously shrouded by a beige pall and readings from the United States Embassy’s rooftop air monitoring device have repeatedly registered unsafe levels of particulate matter.

But those very readings, posted hourly on Twitter or through an iPhone app, have prompted a public debate over whether the Chinese government is purposely obscuring the extent of the nation’s air pollution. Unlike the American Embassy readings, Chinese environmental officials do not publicly release data on the smallest particulates, those less than 2.5 micrometers, which scientists say are most harmful because they are able to penetrate the lungs so deeply. Instead, government data covers only pollutants larger than 10 micrometers — a category that includes sand blown in from the arid north and dust stirred up from construction sites.

In response to criticism over the heavy smog of recent weeks, a spokesman for the city’s environmental protection bureau, Du Shaozhong, assured the public that they should feel secure in the government’s own readings, which termed the city’s air “slightly polluted” even as the embassy monitor found it so hazardous that it exceeded measurable levels. “China’s air quality should not be judged from data released by foreign embassies in Beijing,” he said.

According to the Broad Group’s Web site, it did not take much to convince the nation’s Communist Party leaders that they would do well to acquire the firm’s air purifiers, some of which cost $2,000. To make their case, company executives installed one in a meeting room used by members of the Politburo Standing Committee. The deal was apparently sealed a short while later, when technicians made a show of cleaning out the soot-laden filters. “After they saw the inklike dirty water, Broad air purifier became the national leaders’ appointed air purifier!” the Web site said.

Via New York Times

Mount Everest Live

This webcam showing Everest’s western face is the highest in the world. Whatever is going on in the world of men, there it is, Chomolungma the ‘Holy Mother’, doing it’s thing, rising above us all. That must be the South Col, on the right, where climbers from the Nepal side camp before summit day.

In other news, there are calls for toilets to be installed up there after “a Nepal-based coalition of environmentalists campaigning to keep the mountain clean, has collected more than 13 tonnes of garbage, 400 kilogrammes of human waste and four bodies since 2008.”

Climate Change and the End of Australia

In the past year – one of the hottest on record – extreme weather has battered almost every corner of the planet. There have been devastating droughts in China and India, unprecedented floods and wildfires in the United States, and near-record ice melts in the Arctic. Yet the prosperous nations of the world have failed to take action to reduce the risk of climate change, in part because people in prosperous nations think they’re invulnerable. They’re under the misapprehension that, as Nobel Prize-winning economist Tom Schelling puts it, “Global warming is a problem that is going to primarily affect future generations of poor people.” To see how foolish this reasoning is, one need only look at Australia, a prosperous nation that also happens to be right in the cross hairs of global warming. “Sadly, it’s probably too late to save much of it,” says Joe Romm, a leading climate advocate who served as assistant energy secretary in the Clinton administration.

This is not to say that the entire continent will sink beneath the waves anytime soon. What is likely to vanish – or be transformed beyond recognition – are many of the things we think of when we think of Australia: the barrier reef, the koalas, the sense of the country as a land of almost limitless natural resources. Instead, Australia is likely to become hotter, drier and poorer, fractured by increasing tensions over access to water, food and energy as its major cities are engulfed by the rising seas.

To climate scientists, it’s no surprise that Australia would feel the effects of climate change so strongly, in part because it has one of the world’s most variable climates. “One effect of increasing greenhouse-gas levels in the atmosphere is to amplify existing climate signals,” says Karoly. “Regions that are dry get drier, and regions that are wet get wetter. If you have a place like Australia that is already extreme, those extremes just get more pronounced.” Adding to Australia’s vulnerability is its close connection with the sea. Australia is the only island continent on the planet, which means that changes caused by planet-warming pollution – warmer seas, which can drive stronger storms, and more acidic oceans, which wreak havoc on the food chain – are even more deadly here.

via Climate Change and the End of Australia | Politics News | Rolling Stone.

Who’s bankrolling the climate-change deniers?

Not too long ago, belief in climate science wasn’t a political issue. Honestly! As recently as the 2008 U.S. presidential election, both the Democratic and Republican candidates professed belief in the threat of global warming, and each advanced policies designed to curb U.S. carbon emissions. Senator John McCain had even co-sponsored one of the first congressional bills to create a carbon cap-and-trade system. And it wasn’t just McCain; Mitt Romney, runner-up for the GOP nomination last time around, supported a regional cap-and-trade program while he was governor of Massachusetts. There was still a wide gap between Democrats and Republicans on the severity of the climate-change threat and on how ambitious carbon-cutting policy should be, but at least there was a general agreement that global warming was a real thing.

Not anymore. With the exception of Jon Huntsman — who barely registers in polls — you can’t find a Republican presidential candidate who unequivocally believes in climate science, let alone one who wants to do anything about it. Instead of McCain — who has walked back his own climate-policy realism since the 2008 elections — we have Texas Governor Rick Perry, who told voters in New Hampshire over the weekend that “I don’t believe manmade global warming is settled in science enough.” And many Republicans agree with him: the percentage of self-identified Republicans or conservatives answering yes to the question of whether the effects of global warming were already being felt fell to 30% or less in 2010, down from 50% in 2007-08. Meanwhile, liberals and Democrats remained around 70% or more.(See pictures of the effects of global warming.)

That’s deeply troubling. It’s one thing when people disagree on the effectiveness of different approaches to fix a problem; it’s worse when they refuse even to believe that a problem exists — despite an overwhelming scientific consensus that says it does. One of America’s major political parties has, in effect, adopted denial as policy. How did we get here?

via Why Climate-Change Denial Is So Powerful – TIME.

Whales navigate Northwest Passage for first time in thousands of years

Bowhead whales have navigated the Northwest Passage between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans for what could be the first time in nearly 10,000 years.

Researchers from the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources used satellite tracking to monitor the movements of the whales – and found that, last year, whales from both oceans entered the passage to reach an area called Viscount Melville Sound.

Bones found on beaches in the region suggest that the last time the whales were here was around 10,000 years ago.

It was previously thought that the sea ice in the Northwest Passage was too impenetrable even for Bowhead whales, which are known for their ability to navigate ice-bound seas.

The team says the discovery has huge implications for the ecology of marine life in the region.

“[The findings] are perhaps an early sign that other marine organisms have begun exchanges between the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans across the Arctic,” they say.

“Some of these exchanges may be harder to detect than bowhead whales, but the ecological impacts could be more significant should the ice-free Arctic become a dispersion corridor between the two oceans.”

Earlier this year, researchers from the NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research spotted a single Pacific gray whale off the coasts of Spain and Israel, which was beleived to have got there via the Northwest Passage.

They say that the movement of species along this route could have implications for North Atlantic fishing stocks.

via Whales navigate Northwest Passage for first time in thousands of years | TG Daily.