It’s The End of the World as We Know It

Chris Searles is a friend of a friend, and is best known as the drummer for Alejandro Escovedo. It turns out he has been thinking quite a lot about the climate crisis, and has written a very thoughtful piece about it. He called it “The 5 most interesting things about the world’s biggest problem” and while I didn’t care for his original title much, the points he makes are refreshingly different from the ones that usually echo around our circles.

Chris blogs at http://chrissearles.blogspot.com/, G+es here, twitters there and Facebooks thataway

-mt


Our 10 week tour is ending on a grand note. We ate a 12 course Italian meal last night (think fancy American wedding) and played a lovely little concert in the reconditioned attic of a mid 1700s rural Italian palazzo (think Thomas Jefferson). We lived like kings of yore, but the conversation keeps turning to climate change.

Everywhere we’ve been the weather is out of whack. Across the UK it was the rainiest summer anyone had ever seen. Spain, Italy — it was either too wet, too hot, or too cold depending on the day (but never just right). Locals in western Canada told us of a 69F day last January (normally temps hover between -30 and 0 that time of the year). In late June a “non-tornado” ripped down trees and power lines from Chicago to Roanoke (across the USA). Our friends in D.C. were without power for four days. The eco press is publishing outlandish things like, “3,800 temperature records broken in the first week of July alone. Destructive wildfires in Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Nebraska. Over 50% of the country experiencing serious drought.” And more. As the band’s environmentalist i notice these things (we’ve also got a Vegan long distance runner, and a Buddhist mystic, not to mention a legendary rock songwriter) — and when our conversations turn eco i try to keep my mouth shut. But on the subject of global warming Rolling Stone ran a groundbreaking article this week … and Bingo, i’ve got a platform.

“Chris! Did you see it? There’s a big feature on global warming in Rolling Stone. It’s lighting up Facebook! Things are really, really bad,” says our guitarist as we pull onto the cobble stone road in front of our five star Italian hotel.

“I know, that’s what I was trying to tell you … yesterday,” i reply.

“Yeah, but for Rolling Stone to write about this — it’s, it’s really big.”

The conversation gets going once again. We spend 45 minutes comparing notes. I keep trying to explain that the thing about global warming is it’s going to make weather erratic. Weather. All weather. Erratic. Huh? What does that mean? Expect total disruption of our seasons, I say.

What? Expect spikes in hot and cold and wet and dry weather to be so extreme and irregular that we don’t know what season it is anymore. And it’ll be hotter, in general. That’s the forecast for the coming decades. I think it’s coming a lot sooner than most environmentalists are willing to admit. Understand this has all already started and that what’s happening today is in line (over and over and over again) with the projections of numerous scientific climate models. We’re already living in our worst case scenario, climate-stability-future-wise, and the train is not gonna stop, i say. But what? But why? How do we stop it? What’s the up side? Those are questions for a follow up blog. I’m still concerned with the fact that none of the big picture stuff seems to make a lasting impression (when i say it). So i’m inspired to get my thoughts better organized. This blog quickly lays out what i think are the five most interesting things about global warming:

#1st Most Interesting Thing — Weather Disruption.

Inconsistent weather = unreliable seasons. Imagine living outdoors, i.e. being a plant, animal or otherwise and living year round under conditions that include extreme, irregular, and/or sustained spikes in any/all of the following: 1) hot and cold weather, 2) wet and dry spells (floods and droughts), and 3) powerful storm surges (hurricanes, blizzards, tornadoes)… Sounds tough, right? In Texas where i live, across America, and around the world we’ve started seeing a lot of this in the last couple of years. (Right on schedule.) “Just google it.” Climate scientists’s computer models consistently tell us disruptive weather trends will increase in the coming years as the planet rapidly warms thanks to a proliferation of greenhouse gasses. Those of us who live indoors can expect higher costs of living, more flight delays and more inconveniences over the next 10 years. After that…? Biologists tell us our planet’s bio-diversity itself is suddenly on a steep decline and that this decline will intensify dramatically in the coming decades (think: your lifetime). Common sense tells us as life ends so does life as we know it, prices will go up, stuff will get scarce, some believe it’ll become too hot to go outside, and so on (1), but anyway, that’s global warming in a nutshell – freakish whatever whenever weather, year round.

#2nd Most Interesting Thing – Too Late To Stop It.

The second most interesting thing about Global Warming is the fact that it’s too late to stop it. As you’ll read from the Rolling Stone article we’re already over the limit emissions-wise, on track to a 11 degrees F increase in global average temps by 2100. And honestly what’s so interesting about the Rolling Stone article to me is, it’s the first admission by THE leader of the stop global warming movement, “we’re losing the fight, badly and quickly.” Other smart folks are saying the same. But to me, most of these assessments are far too conservative.

#3 Most Interesting Thing – Economic Lock In.

The third most interesting thing about Global Warming is the fact that the only way out of this mess is to change our entire, global, economic system. This is why politicians, corporations, the news media, and some of us “suck” in a nutshell. To divorce fossil fuels from our daily electrified lives, our need for fast/long-range transportation and our reliance on the construction sector would mean destroying today’s economy. (2) Nobody rich or in power is organizing for that. Global Warming, being driven by greenhouse gas emissions, is tied to the root of every aspect of modern life and wealth. “We must destroy the system to save the system. Or we can wait till the system is destroyed by natural causes.” As my friend Bobby D (bass player with Alejandro) says, “either take it all down willingly (our economic system) or wait for nature to do it.” Sadly i think he’s right. But let’s say we were going to try. We would need to: A) stop using all fossil fuels – making electricity, transportation, food, and construction reliant on something other than fossil fuels, worldwide, yesterday; and B) replant / reforest / restore / stop plundering our planet’s natural resources and biology as rapidly as possible, full tilt, no stop, faster and more comprehensively than Allied efforts in the Great War. We need a globally coordinated Apollo mission. Good luck with these noble goals in a world driven by private enterprise and self-interest. We are a people living under the values of profit, property, comfort, and constant economic growth. From my perspective, as long as profit continues to be the dominant force guiding our macroeconomics and we remain unable to manage our emissions, climate change will intensify. (3) It’s a paradox. What’s worse, even if we were to pull together and pull this off we’re too late (as stated above) and unfortunately, building a global Eden does not look to be in our human nature. Sorry fellow Gen Xers, your retirement is likely to be more about survival than relaxation.

#4 Most Interesting Thing – People.

A fourth piece of the current irreconcilable puzzle is us. Stubborn, busy, anti-social, afraid… and confused. Fear kills progress. What do we have to be afraid of: not looking young? Calling a spade a spade? We’re collectively afraid of honesty, clarity, saying we’re sorry, saying we’re smart, taking the blame, taking a position, admitting we messed up, changing our position, changing habits, and so much more. Them’s us. So who has time for the hard work of Democracy?(read: consensus building) We’re all just trying to get home after a hard day at work. Can’t blame us for not having the capacity to deal with global warming! Who’s job is it to deal with the fact that BIOLOGICALLY things are getting worse, and fast, on a global scale? Add to that void our collective confusion at the internet-based list of cataclysms facing our times. (Bobby says, “Every era has its end of the world is near.” Our parents had nukes, before that communism, before that War, disease, famine, demons…) Today there are so many “ends” out there people are confused and global warming doesn’t look all that convincing. On Dec 21 2012 the Mayan calendar will stop, the poles will invert, a meteor will strike the Earth. There’s chemtrails, flouride, detention centers, aliens, nuclear meltdown, economic meltdown, technological meltdown, illegal immigrants, airborne contagions. As a species facing global challenges we seem to be: socially afraid, civically inactive, intellectually limited, personally distracted, politically and spiritually divided. (4)

But for environmentalists who base their views in gathering multiple scientific data sets and adding 1 + 1 + 1, such as Lester Brown, Bill McKibben or Gary Hirschberg (or for environmentalists like me who read these guys) there is a list of disasters brewin’ that have concrete measurements and warning signs. I tried to explain to Billy (our guitarist), there are probably 10 or more large scale environmental problems that given enough time could decimate what we currently call civilization. Stuff like: depleting soils, depleting aquifers, toxifying water, toxifying air, plastics in our oceans, the GMO-ification of our crops, and the toxicification of body care products. (Don’t get me started.) But, if we put all these things on a list according to urgency, Global Warming wins by a mile. Global Warming / Climate Change represents the end of biology at global scale in our lifetimes. Bumm-er. Who wants to learn more about: rapid aquatic and atmospheric warming, rapid acidification of our oceans, rapid desertification of our croplands, towns and cities, and the dissolution of seasonal regularity.

#5 Most Interesting Thing – Shoot and a Miss.
This one relates directly to The Rolling Stone article and some of what was said above. Bill McKibben, author, hero, and as mentioned above rightfully revered leader of the stop global warming movement, mis-assesses the core of what’s prevented meaningful change, i think, in the third paragraph of his (highly recommended) article. Mr. McKibben,

“Since I wrote one of the first books about global warming way back in 1989, and since I’ve spent the intervening decades working ineffectively to slow that warming, I can say with some confidence that we’re losing the fight, badly and quickly — losing it because most of all, we remain in denial about the peril human civilization is in.”

Retreading here but how can ANYONE deny something they don’t understand? We environmentalists are relying on a populist movement to change our politics and economics, but we’re missing the point: our population doesn’t understand the problem. I think we environmentalists tend to see everyone outside our movement (or “worldview” if you will) in a religious-y sort of way. “Are you a believer?” “Are you a follower?” “Well come get saved/enlightened/etc.”

It’s almost “you’re either with us or against us.” But what if they don’t know enough to care — or just don’t care? Then where’s our strategy? Of course there are dozens of fine points as to why normal, non-environmentalist people aren’t motivated or are against change, but the underlying problem in combatting global warming is the fact that people don’t understand “the perils,” don’t believe them, and/or don’t know what to do about them. Enviros, myself included, have failed in fully understanding the challenges we face in stopping global warming AND the people outside of our world view. Specifically, we’ve failed to educate and inform those whose interests and priorities differ from our own.

What may be the greatest achivement of Gore’s poorly-followed-up-on Inconvenient Truth is the fact that the movie gave people a sense of the perils. Not all people, but quite a few. (And it left so much out.) Perhaps broad scale education should have been our greatest environmentalist priority. Perhaps it still should be. Perhaps we enviros should throw our focus into better understanding the problem ourselves, its solutions, the people we’re talking to, and starting our own coordinated media networks and large scale, ongoing media events. How else do you reach out to those “in denial,” or at least unaware, and create demand for the right solutions?

What You Can Do

Now listen — it’s just too easy for me to criticize. And believe me, I’ve just spent 10 weeks in a van with the same 3 guys so I’m real clear on the value of criticism! It’s what we do and i guess it’s most of what i’m doing in this blog. (In a perfect world, wouldn’t we all love to get paid for criticizing our imperfect world?) But here’s my underlying point: i’ve tried faith in humanity, i’ve tried the belief that little changes will solve big problems, i’ve tried the idea that making green sexy will get green in place fast enough to mend the world, I’ve tried lobbying at City Hall, collaborating with local environmentalists, and speaking at churches – and yet i’m not accredited, i’m just guy who’s passionate about what he was taught in church as a kid. (5) It’s all led to this for me: simply trying to UNDERSTAND what’s preventing us from embracing these complexities at scale, and sharing my hope that others will take these ideas, get involved, and develop solutions.

Now that it’s “too late” what do we do? That part’s up to you. A few quick recommendations: 1)Get Smart. I recommend reading the cats listed above: Lester BrownBill McKibben, and Gary Hirshberg for some un-honey-coated expertise on the state of world ecology. Spend 15 minutes. 2)Talk More. Honestly, the world’s biggest problems seem to generally be solvable with better communication and a little flexibility. Talk, listen, more. You are our best hope. 3) Participate More. If you’re trying to live in a world where everybody sees things the way you do then tattoo “I give up” on your forehead. (It ain’t gonna happen.) We have problems BECAUSE of our differences; we have solutions because of our differences. It’s worth embracing diversity simply to solve big problems, in my book. Working thru uncomfortable situations, chosing to vote, trying to change your government, or your environment, or the way you shop/eat/bathe/clean/party/work/celebrate/travel/earn/learn/etc. is all we got.


NOTES
(1) This means, unbelievably – and as stated above, that likely about half of the world’s biology will cease to exist during the next 90 years. That’ll make eating on a daily basis much more difficult. (Not to mention vacationing or furnishing your bedroom or decorating your office.) It’s hard to imagine. Look around your surroundings and imagine all of it gone. The current scientific consensus is that dinosaurs went extinct 65.5 million years because an ice age destroyed 13% of the world’s biology and thus their food chain disintegrated. What’ll happen to us? As the dinosaurs of today (us, if you will) it’s hard to imagine human centric civilizations continuing to thrive without growing and harvesting everything indoors: food, water, medicine, building materials. . . which could work. . . hey, there’s a solution. . . could be “great for the economy” … (Newt? Newt?).

(2) According to my review of the Financial Times historical “most profitable companies” lists, the five most profitable industries in the world over the last 50 years are: Banking, Oil, Technology, Chemicals, and Construction. Tech’s a close 6th. Shipping’s in there too. How would each of these industries completely eliminate their fossil fuel use? How many people would need new jobs overnight if they did so? How would the world financial sector re-value the economy and make retooling and repowering profitable? How would governments be involved? … Not to mention our human-driven economy is built on “spending” (consumption) not saving.

(3) Environmentalists believe the solution to this is to make social equality and biological values as meaningful as profit. (Aren’t they already?) In such an imagined world companies that make soil healthier, for example, would be more profitable than so many of today whose business it is to deplete our soils. In short, it would appear we would need an eco-centric economy to a) survive this century and to b) eventually thrive again. I’ll call such an economic vision “the Eden Solution,” and again ask the practical question, how many jobs would have to repurposed for you to travel in a cleanly fueled vehicle that possibly returns significantly less profit to the Saudi crown or Exxon or Petro China? Or to charge your phone / listen to music / watch TV / enjoy a little ice cream and air conditioning / drink clean water / recycle all your garbage / browse the web from a 100% cleanly fueled electric grid?

(4) In our recent travels across most of Italy, Spain, France, Britain, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, the US, and Canada we stayed in everything from high-end five star hotels to Travelodges; hung out with everyone from super freaks and high paid professionals’ drove over mountains, past coasts, across cities and thru countrysides — and i can tell you… While Germany, Italy and Spain are doing lots to integrate solar and wind into their electric grids rapidly, general concern and understanding about ecological problems and what to do to improve the situation is LOW everywhere; too low to make a big difference. Yes, Europeans in these countries tend to do more with less, and at all levels of life — but, these places are still not recycling, not composting, not going non-toxic, not looking critically at the scale and detail of changes needed (much less engaging in the activities truly needed) to avert catastrophic global climate change. What environmentalists in Europe appear to be doing WELL is implementing cleaner grid technology pretty fast and having recycling stations more commonly, but Europeans are still living in a wholly unsustainable paradigm just like we the Americans.

(5) Since 2005 I’ve run a small eco business, produced large eco festivals, given educational presentations to churches, public schools, women’s groups, rapt audiences & more, helped start and maintain Austin’s Interfaith Environmental Network, fought for cleaner energy and advocated at City Hall and at the local power utility, blogged extensively, considered politics, collaborated with Austin’s environmental sector on some large scale projects, attended numerous eco conferences, independently run large local eco action groups and petitions, and more.


Image: Chris Searles lurking behind Alejandro Escovedo in Pavia, Italy.


Comments:

  1. Wow, fantastic style/structure, like it! Got a lot in there. Nothing to add really, so a quick o/t point: Obama backing coal, huh? How's he doing with that 'rolling back the rise of the oceans' messianic thing? Relatedly: if this election really is all about firing up the bases (since undecideds are a tiny minority this time round), does "Ryan : fired up republicans" + "Obama : democrats go 'meh' " = "Romney wins?"

    "Compared with 2008, when about 25% of the electorate had still to make up their minds at this stage in the election, only about 5% are undecided. Both the Democratic and Republican strategists have concluded that the winner on 6 November will be the campaign that fires up its own supporters, that gets its base out, rather than the one that wins over the independent swing voters."

    Tenuously linking back to the last section of this article, whichever way it goes, it looks like 'get smart, talk more, participate more' and working at our own local government level (Ostrom-stylee) is the only way anything's going to change. No, that's too strong - an essential part of the change that needs to happen.

    • Thanks Danolner. Great comments. I have no idea who’ll win! Touring around Europe last month, reading internet headlines “about” American news and how close “the race for president” was, confused us. Didn’t Obama had this thing in the bag? He certainly has the skills.

      I look fwd to reading your Ostrum-stylee recommendation and really appreciate your toning down of “the only way anything’s going to change.” Wise.

  2. Another good pull-focus overview, including:

    "Training all of our guns on right-wing deniers is a waste of time. Don't do it personally; don't do it professionally (unless the science is your profession). Educating (unconfusing) the public matters; it's an important and critical element (see below). But if we don't as a group move past the deniers and deal with the carbon lords and their enablers, directly and forcefully, we're toast. Denialism is not what's keeping us from educating the public — it's the carbon lords and those who do their bidding. Keeping us engaged with deniers is what they want. If I were a carbon CEO, that's what I would want. It keeps the denier-discussion alive. We need to act like we've won that discussion and move on. Because we have and we have to (won, and move one)."

  3. #3 is key - the only way to slow catastrophic climate change (too late to stop, you're right about that, but wouldn't it be nice for the children if we could buy some time for them?) - is to dismantle industrial society. Ration fuel, and outlaw unnecessary burning - and that includes heating swimming pools, any air flight, travel over water unless it's powered by wind, no lawn mowing, abolish personal automobiles, etc.

    Once upon a time, people lived fulfilling lives without using fossil fuels. They wrote great books, and painted beautiful art, and made wonderful music. That's the good news. We need to collectively find a culture that values those things over plastic and electronics.

    Of course it's far more likely that the rapacious 1% will continue their plundering of the ecosystem until every last drop of oil, lump of coal, and tree has been burnt, while the rest of the world not protected in gated, guarded communities resembles Mad Max. Nobody wants to give up their toys.

    The epic fail of the climate movement is linked to the reluctance of its leaders and scientists to make it clear that radical, drastic reduction in consumption is required to save us from catastrophe. An obsession with carbon emissions to the exclusion of greater ecological damage and non-renewable resource extraction has enabled science deniers to limit the discussion to CO2.

    It's a pity, although perhaps inevitable, that environmentalism was tainted long ago with the image of tree-hugging hippies, and the complexities of ecological systems were ignored while the physics of the greenhouse effect got all the research money and attention. Also roundly rejected was any consideration of human overpopulation.

    I highly recommend Guy McPherson (http://guymcpherson.com/2012/06/were-done/) and Paul Kingsnorth (Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist in Orion: http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/6599/) if you haven't read them already.

    • I am firmly convinced that you are wrong - to "dismantle" industrial society is an even surer path to devastation than the one we are on.

      This is because of food, water, hygiene and medicine. The way we get these depends so much on technology. This is why the population of the earth is flirting with ten billion humans, when over historical times it was around one billion. Ninety per cent of us exist because of the technological changes (not to say "advances" which would be begging the question, but which ordinarily I would say) of the past two centuries. Turn them off and you have a mass mortality event. And even people who think in some larger sense that we "deserve" that should consider that desperate humans make a far bigger mess than comfortable ones.

      What we are seeking on Planet3.0 is not the most drastic imaginable path. The one we are on is drastic enough.

      What we want is the least disruptive, easiest to sell, smallest cultural change.

      Even getting beyond "growth" and into a steady state seems far beyond us. The question at hand is whether we can get away without limiting growth. If we can't, what's the smallest, gentlest change we can get away with.

      People like being comfortable, and having pleasant and fun things. It would be nice if we could preserve beauty in both the form of high culture and the form of nature. But we still need to pull Africa and a few remote areas elsewhere into something like the modern age, where food and water are not daily issues, and basic medical care is not overly rationed by social class. If we cannot achieve these things, we will get our catastrophe with carbon emissions or without.

      You seem to be proposing a future that won't work. We are not wired to surrender to Nature. We need to understand that we cannot afford to defeat Nature, but we don't have an acceptable path back to a world in which humans are not a dominant force.

      • http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/6599/ is indeed a brilliant piece. I highly recommend reading it.

        And yet I happily don the utilitarian cap it rejects. I don't want to dwell on the tragedy of what we have already lost too much. The essay may help people open to it understand what that is, but even if we can't articulate it most of us have similar experiences somehow. And those who don't can't have a truly overwhelmed-by-nature experience just by reading about somebody else's one anyway. Those of us with a capacity to understand the essay already do.

        Sneering at utility is easy. But engineering solutions are a different form of beauty. The wilderness is gone. We need to find the wisdom to find our way to the garden.

        The ancients detested wilderness and adored gardens, and for good reason. The "back to the garden" impulse is a good one, but the garden we imagine can be in the future. Our immense powers allow us a glorious and beautiful future. It is only our tiresome habits, starting with the habits of distrust and warfare, that hold us back.

        The article is a brilliantly written piece of defeatism. I appreciate good writing and aspire to it myself. But I'll take a workable plan over a tragic soliloquy any day of the week.

      • Your other link starts out with "we had set into motion climate-change processes likely to cause our own extinction by 2030", an idea which is utterly indefensible.

        Please relax. You will not live to see human extinction. Even collapse (defined as an involuntary drop in population, or as in Homer-DIxon's phrase of a reduction in the complexity of social organization, which events normally go together) will not occur by 2030 without either war or some sort of massive mistake far worse than greenhouse gas accumulation.

    • Yes, Hi Gail -- some great points, thank you. I'm particularly sparked by your "The epic fail of the climate movement is linked to the reluctance of its leaders and scientists to make it clear that radical, drastic reduction in consumption is required to save us from catastrophe."

      Man, so much to say here right?!

      Since i already blogged a mile, i'll make my long story short: it seems what you're doing "talking more," having more conversations about this, is first on the to do list. There's NO unified thinking at present about where we are or what to do. Taking the right actions as an individual, whoah, that's tough. I reckon we need to learn how to function better, leverage better, in groups. The more you look at the big picture the easier it is to feel powerless, trapped.

      I enjoyed Guy's piece (thanks for that recommendation) and found this one (also recommended by a reader) to have some well organized steps: http://www.americablog.com/2012/08/solving-climate-crisis-picking-goals.html take them as you will.

      I lean towards Michael's comments that we're too dug in to modern society, and not wired to surrender to Nature (we don't like surrendering to Nature as a rule) to seriously consider bringing down the fossil fuel economy as a solution. But maybe we can call on the wealthiest to finance fixing this problem? Again, the blog suggested above has some pertinent thinking on that - how to proceed.

      It sure seems this is "economy over climate" VS "climate over economy" but that favoring either way means we're looking at challenges to the World As We Know It... comfort, necessity, survival, etc.

      So more power to you! I blog about some darker stuff here: http://chrissearles.blogspot.com/2012/08/shouldnt-we-capitalize-nature-like-we.html

      Thanks again

  4. Michael Tobis, your suggestion that we act incrementally and realistically accept human nature will have a clear result: catastrophe.

    Human nature is malleable. When things get out of hand in a few decades (I agree that civilization will still be here in 2030), drastic measures will be called for. Unfortunately, it will be too late. Starvation and deprivation of all kinds will lead to state disintegration and violence.

    Want to see our future? Afghanistan: no meaningful central government, and a society ruled by violent local warlords.

    Michael, you know what we face, whether it's in 2030 or 2080. Destruction of capitalist industrialism is not realistic, but that's not the point. We need disruptive suggestions, not play-along-with-human-frailty ones.

    • I'm not sure I did make any play-along-with-human-frailty suggestions, but no matter.

      Let's not foreclose any options. If you have any specific suggestions, by all means make 'em! The first step is to just put everything on the table, and right now, we don't even have a table!

  5. Michael, what a great essay. You do a great service by posting it. It invites us to shift our thinking.

    Our entire species will either quickly awaking or die out - either way in a great struggle ahead soon. For the first time, most all humans will be facing their existentialist challenges at roughly the same time. Just like an individual faces danger at one moment. Climate model scenarios show that destabilized and unsurvivable end-times would be globally shared by all - possibly within a few decades. Models differ in time and regional severity - but all will closely share the same calendar of hardship. The further up the hockeystick - the closer our shared experience. Near-term or multi-generational survival requires a type of unified effort never before seen or imagined.

    Individuals can philosophize and coordinate but humans are not really a unified species like ants or bees. We have not really done much group-thinking. (and so far, our best requires electricity) Historically, our most impressive human effort has been to assemble into large collections of individuals that temporarily share resources to face another large group of individuals (i.e. wars).

    I agree with the tone of this article - this is the most interesting of times. Wonderful to witness, and great to participate. But neither the physical sciences nor the human psychology show trending movement toward survival. We used to have ecological stability; now the life-support systems are broken and we must work to fix the system enough for survival.

    As to what should we do right now - whether as a unified species, an individual or a van full of musicians - we just live in the moment, change what we can, encourage the adoption of group decision-making, then accept, witness and alleviate inevitable suffering.

    Since the early space programs of the 60's, we could see that we dwell on spaceship earth. If one were to dictate a climate manifesto emergency life support policy - it would be to fully engage the task, use carbon fuels only to deploy clean energy, halt all population increases, etc... -- and just live in any environment by optimally following the physical laws of the universe. Really just a ruthless and boring set of rules to slog through, but exciting to help and thrilling to witness.

    • Thanks Danolner. Great comments. I have no idea who'll win! Touring around Europe last month, reading internet headlines "about" American news and how close "the race for president" was, confused us. Didn't Obama had this thing in the bag? He certainly has the skills.

      I look fwd to reading your Ostrum-stylee recommendation and really appreciate your toning down of "the only way anything's going to change." Wise.

  6. I hope you didn't dismiss Guy because of the 2030 date. Here's his recent presentation about building a "durable" life. It's pretty good - http://guymcpherson.com/2012/08/presenting-in-auckland/

  7. Michael, we need a group that is dedicated to action, and doing what is necessary to effect it. This group would be international, and would be either a beefed up 350.org or something different.

    Preliminary steps could include writing up people's indictments of the coal and oil barons, Fox execs, etc., and publicly submitting them to the World Court. The organization's charter would call for halting burning of all fossil fuels by 2025 except those that are willing to pay a 150% tax.

    It would be theater, of course, but we need to start to shift people's thinking.

  8. Thank you Chris for your reply and the link to your crimson blog! I'm looking forward to reading through it.

    Hm, I think persuading the rich to pay for adaptation is even less likely than bringing down industrial society, they seem to be inordinately fond of perpetually increasing profits and wealth, whether they need any more or not. But maybe that's just me.

    Michael said this: "...some sort of massive mistake far worse than greenhouse gas accumulation."

    I guess I think we're doomed because there IS something far worse than greenhouse gas accumulation (although virtually no one will admit it) which is ordinary pollution - lots of it. What concerns me most because of its global reach is the "nitrogen cascade", one of Rockström's planetary tipping points that has ALREADY been passed - and it is causing eutrophication of fresh and ocean water, and background levels of tropospheric ozone that are intolerable to vegetation. It's invisible, but it's toxic to plants that absorb it, and as a result forests are in dieback. The ecosystem, in other words, is already collapsing and we can't, despite Michael's wish for a garden to replace wildness, live without a vibrant, diverse web of life.

    But hey, there's a great show from the BBC which can be seen all the way at the end of my last blog about creating a viable garden (Farm For the Future). Even I felt almost hopeful after I saw it. http://witsendnj.blogspot.com/2012/08/nature-debauched.html

    • Gail, your claims are not exactly on my turf, but I have been warned that what you say is not really in line with the scientific consensus. And I'm pretty sure that eutrophication zones have no direct first order connection to air pollution.

      If you have unfamiliar claims to make on this site, please provide evidence. We are not here to get people worked up: there are many other places for that.

      We are here to make sure that what people get worked up about is correct. We are here to get to the truth, whether or not it fits our preconceptions.

      I am sure you mean well, and you write movingly, but that doesn't mean you are right. Please, show us the evidence.

    • Whoa Michael!

      You say two things that seem out of sync - for any issue:

      "I have been warned that what you say is not really in line with the scientific consensus."
      And,
      "We are here to make sure that what people get worked up about is correct."

      Full disclosure, I am a friend of Gail's - and she lead me to much science on tropospheric ozone. Much of it in EPA documents - the EPA has a huge bibliography on the subject. Lots of studies in US and Europe universities. And there used to be federal agency called the "National Crop Loss Network" that clearly pointed to ozone damage as the cause of ~10 to 20% of crop loss. The US automobile industry was scheduled to install passive ozone catalytic converters - but both the study and the device was halted by the Bush Admin.

      Now, as to Gail's personality - she is ferociously energetic, and fanatical about her subject. And she is not a trained scientist. But she is uncovering and assembling some very important and disturbing issues.

      Please don't discount her message, because of any requirement for credentials. And don't fault someone willing to demonstrate and get arrested for what she believes in.

      I am "here to warn you" that you may be missing some important science, vital political ideas and unbridled enthusiasm that could your gentle academic guidance.

      http://www.epa.gov/air/ozonepollution/
      http://www.epa.gov/apti/ozonehealth/refsfigs.html
      http://www.sciencedaily.com/search/?keyword=low+level+ozone

    • Richard, please try to understand this. This is important.

      I'm not asking for credentials. I'm just trying to be fair. If a naysayer had evidence that didn't fit in with my understanding I would challenge it. That I claim have enough context to recognize outliers and willing to participate in the conversation is exactly what makes me claim to add value to the world with this site. If you don't believe me, you are free to put your attentions elsewhere, though I hope you don't.

      But if you stay, be prepared to back up your claims.

      This site is not about encouraging each other or making each other comfortable or being on one side or another. It's about getting to the bottom of things. It's about providing the actual information that the press does not, in the way we wish the press did. This may alienate some people, and we will have a harder time building an audience this way than some others do because we don't intend to pander. I'm sure people will find it unfamiliar in that way.

      We do not believe that the truth is always in the "middle". On climate it clearly isn't. But we believe that the truth is our most important weapon. We fight for love and for life, but (ahem, getting a little pompous here, but rolling with it) truth is our sword.

    • rpauli: "The US automobile industry was scheduled to install passive ozone catalytic converters..."

      Volvo actually introduced those, marketed at least some vehicles for the California market with a nifty arrangement using catalytic coating on radiator fins, with parked cars able to get in on the act utilizing their electric cooling fans.

      No idea if cars so equipped are still being manufactured. Volvo was early in the game w/oxygen sensors, catalytic converters and the like, way back when before we began stoppering our ears to newly discovered problems. The Bush swerve and crash mentioned by rpauli probably left Volvo scratching its collective head. "Regulatory uncertainty" indeed, only not the type the GOP is constantly yapping about.

  9. Well Michael, I'm not an expert in anything, but I did my best to organize all the evidence I could find to substantiate what I said in my last comment (that trees are dying because of air pollution) - by which I mean peer-reviewed, published scientific research - into one place, a book which is available as a free download at a link here: http://www.deadtrees-dyingforests.com/pillage-plunder-pollute-llc/ - which also has a link to the Amazon page for folks who like hard copies ($20...the cost of printing).

    The virtue of my book is that it has links to the very latest research about the transcontinental transport of pollutants, the most recent research into crop impacts, EPA reports, and is global in scope. But it's just a clumsy endeavor by a non-scientist, so I highly recommend a book which makes the case more eloquently than I ever could, published in the late '90's - "An Appalachian Tragedy". This book can be obtained as a used copy very cheaply on Amazon. Its focus is on the mountain range from Georgia to Maine, but in actuality, the conclusions pertain to everywhere on Earth, and it makes a compelling case that ozone is destroying the forests.

    Someday, I hope sooner than later, this will be as obvious to people as "smoking causes cancer and other disease". Plants absorbing ozone are killed if not directly then by secondary attacks of insects, disease and fungus. A "duh moment" as one reader predicted.

    There's really no question any longer that forests are in decline globally - there have been several studies warning of that. Most of them blame warming and drought from climate change, which is no doubt an issue that will become exacerbated in the future. BUT, that reason that does not fully explain the underlying cause that trees are dying off NOW even in areas that have not been in drought or have had an increase in precipitation.

    As far as eutrophication goes, it really is all connected to the release of reactive nitrogen through various processes, summarized in Karen Rice's paper, "Acidification of the World" and the quote by Townsend, "...the nitrogen cascade is the worst environmental disaster you've never heard of". You can find those links easily on google as well as my blog. Compartmentalizing issues like acid rain, ozone, and eutrophication are ways of minimizing the overall ecological impact.

    I do appreciate you allowing my comments through moderation despite legions of detractors who just don't want to consider the empirical evidence. I am tremendously interested in any thoughts, or ideas on this topic. Please understand that my motive all along has been to inspire someone with qualifications to figure out what is happening and why - so that we can do something about it before there aren't any viable seeds left.

    Thanks, Michael.

  10. People the world over readily accept the scientific fact that changing a patch of South Pacific from warm to cool by only a couple of degrees C, and the resulting comparatively narrow El Nino/La Nina current across the Equatorial Pacific to South America, can have a profound effect on the weather. Not only here in the United States, but to a lesser degree Europe and Africa.
    On the other hand, transforming a much closer, (boarders in many cases), highly reflective patch of earth from significantly bellow freezing to dark open water above freezing, a difference of 10′s of degrees C and it is all cool? Couple that with an area that is larger than the states of Alaska and Texas combined and it is all just going to be “Ho Hum”! Get real. I am telling you, Science is telling you, and the on the ground reality are all raising red flags here. Of course vested interests are spending big bucks trotting out “red herrings” as fast as they can. Perhaps that must be factored into the attitudes of the masses, you think?
    Time to toast the deniers, not the Kidders…
    We all pay fees to dump garbage, waste water and more. Corpro/People dump tons for free and accumulate mega-bucks. Even get tax subsidies. The GOP don’t fund abortion. Fine. A precedent! Why must my tax dollars fund the ecocide of the PLANET via fossil subsidies?!!! We’re talking “MORALS” here. Try throwing 19 pounds of paper cups out the car window for each gallon of gas you burn. Who is making money here and who is losing? Toxins verses paper cups? (I bet you could be real creative about increasing your trash stream if it were paper cups.) Even absorb a “slap on the wrist” fine once in awhile. Surely a good lawyer on retainer. Once established perhaps even a congressman or two.
    I pay $150/ton to dump my household garbage. $50/T to recycle yard waste. Waste water fees, of course. I even have a rain water run of fee of $5/m. (guide lines here?) Yet Corpro/people piss all over themselves at the thought of $25/ton for TOXINS! Sweet Jesus… They are making billions, I get ~$30/day to stay alive and must fund health insurance. Go Figure!

    In brief: IMO, The most disruptive yet doable actions that "WE the PEOPLE" can take in our survival effort are:
    A. Stop profits from the pollution of the commons.
    B. Go Green, Resistance is FATAL!

    • I don't think, capitalized or otherwise, "TOXINS " is literally the right word, but whatever the right word is, it deserves to be in all caps. Otherwise, very nicely said.

      I agree with proposal A unreservedly. I'm not sure what B means but I find it aversive. I'm also worried that some will take it as a literal threat, though I don't think it was that. It is easy to misunderstand and I would recommend using such language of violence very sparingly and carefully.

  11. This appears to be an accessible graphic on eutrophication; I hope the information is accurate.
    http://www.wri.org/project/eutrophication/about

    I've recently been looking at a lot of incidences of dead zones worldwide; the Great Lakes are a startling and dangerous example. Earth Observatory got me started. One problem I see is to treat each example of a complex interconnected breakdown which one might broadly describe as pollution independently of the others. Global warming is not IMO subsumed in this, but it is part of the same global human habit of expanding consumption and ignorance of the basic need for stewardship.

    In the chicken-egg discussion about which problem among the complex we face is more important or came first, I think we do ourselves a disservice if it distracts from the main problem. The expanding model of exploitation and stubborn refusal to invest heavily in clean energy sources will lead to tragedy if masses of people who are not at all interested in this conversation don't wake up.

    Closer to home, one of our home health aides recently got asthma for the first time (New Jersey) and it has been all over the news (MSM especially) that increased ozone is causing an increase in asthma. She makes a good case in point for climate communication, coming from a lower educational socioeconomic background. Her reaction to being told about climate change and the like is to double down and treat it as a personal threat. Her fierce defensiveness about her children causes her to resist the facts rather than thinking about joining up with those trying to address the problem.

    • "it" meaning climate change itself, or "it" meaning being told about it?

      Anyway, thanks for your comment

      The question for Gail was what eutrophication has to do with ozone.

      Climate change and ground level ozone are rather different issues, though both related to fossil fuels. Eutrophication is yet another, driven mostly by agricultural practice, so it is yet another example of unaccounted costs.

      Yes, there are systemic problems behind all of this, and P3 aims to be a place to talk about them. But there are also technical aspects. Some problems are tradeoffs, others are mutually exacerbating. Reducing particulate emissions will reduce ozone, but substantially increase (in a sense, unmask) more global warming.

      Putting all the cards on the table leads to a terrible tangle in the real world. Treating it as good guys and bad guys is something I'd like to argue against. We are all perpetrators. We are all victims. But feeling is not enough, nor is commitment. We have to parse the whole problem out in some way that heads us in the right direction at an adequate pace. So it is good to be specific about the connections.

    • Thanks, that was quick! Must be morning in Texas. I did get sidetracked by my side interest in the many problems with water.

      By "it" I meant "the chicken-egg problem". Being a nonscientist I find the parsing distracting and wish there were more of an effort to face the foundational problem of an expanding population with increasing addictions and magic thinking.

      Using more pollution (aerosols) to address a different kind of pollution (yes, I know global warming is not perfectly described as "pollution" in many circles) seems to me fraught with unintended consequences. I seem to remember than when the aerosols were removed, the source of the problem was not reduced. Given the engineering fixation of the general population and our political/financial masters, disastrous short-term "solutions" are more likely than the slow hard work of slowing down, let alone reversing, our global fixation on infotainment, comfort, and convenience.

      Another unrelated example of parsing excess is discussions about meat eating. Anyone suggesting moderation gets drowned out by the thickets of vegan versus vegetarian, let alone practicable moderation.

      This obvious distraction is meant as a parallel example of the way we appear unable to have a conversation that includes enough necessary parties without getting into low-level bickering.

      FWIW, I am far from innocent in all this. I don't bother with that as shutting down in isolation solves nothing. No doubt my mutterings don't either, but it seems worth a try.

      • Susan, that all is part of the jumble. We don't know how to think about everything at the same time. But we need to think about everything at the same time! We break down in arguments because we lack an actual coherent vision of the future. The libertarians, few and strange and borderline autistic that they are, have a vision - same as it ever was, only more so. We get "richer and richer" whatever that means.

        (We cannot all own over six acres, no matter what we do. And most of it is infertile or trashed already. So it seems to me that that is as rich as we can get. Whatever we can do with six acres, mostly lousy ones. But never mind that for now.)

        There are ethical issues. There are cultural issues. There are economic issues, whatever that really means. But there are plenty of technical issues too.

        Everybody knows where good intentions can lead, but nobody talks about that either. We have to change what needs changing as fast as it can be changed, which means we need to choose. And how can we choose when nobody understands everything, nobody knows what can be relied upon and to what extent?

        Ask me about nuclear power on odd and even numbered days. Here I am, both a scientist and an engineer, and I can't make up my mind on this very crucial question because anything on the subject I have seen reeks of motivated reasoning from one side or the other. We need information and we need clinical detachment, because the situation is actually clinical. The planet as a whole is suddenly becoming very ill.

        My claim is that the disaster at Copenhagen has a silver lining. We will accomplish nothing of substance for a decade at minimum. This may be the worst thing that ever happened. Time will tell.

        But the silver lining is that it gives us time to think about what it is we will be aiming for when the tide turns, which it inevitably will. So I'm for less parading in the streets demanding that "they" do something, and more thinking about what "we" should do. In the end, it really is our planet. And right now, for the first time since we've been around, it is a planet without a plan.

        LBJ used to quote the Bible thus: "Come, let us reason together."

    • Thanks for all - following the conversation and checking out a few other items of value at P3.0. I noticed the DK blogathon yesterday - glad you're featuring it.

      Got into a discussion of your openness vs. autocracy, and a reminder of your long-ago f*ckathon got raves all around. Sometimes its necessary.

      • I am sort of a mess in real life and don't fancy myself a role model in general, but I think I do better than other opinionated people in reading and actually enjoying opposing points of view. I think all of us on the masthead feel that way. So we are not just open to but eager for interesting and engaging controversy.

        The trouble is that "debate" (as taught in that most pernicious institution, high school debating teams, and as practiced in modern politics) unlike engaged controversy is horribly counterproductive.

        After two decades of playing this game, I find it very easy to tell the difference between someone who is thinking, and someone who has already thought but is not thinking anymore, and someone who is just spouting what their tribe believes. Sometimes I let the noise play out longer than I'd like so other people can see that we're dealing with denial as opposed to skepticism. It's sometimes a tough call when to shut somebody down, but everything other than obvious spam goes in the borehole, and all articles with borehole items are duly noted as such. So P3 is just the tiniest bit less than completely open. (Sometimes the spam filter gives false positives, and we get too much spam to look through it all carefully. There are 734 items in the spam collection at this moment.)

  12. While we are all part of the problem in some percentage, many much worse than others, the root of the dilemma is seldom even brought up for discussion. That, IMO, is he biggest sell out in my view is not discussed at all. That, IMO, is the right of the select few to profit from the pollution of the commons. I can't do it. You can't do it, unless you get some skin in the game. Corporations, now Corpro/People, can do it. That ability has produced the wealthiest corporations in the world and becomes self fulfilling in that as their the wealth grows, so does there influence. (Money now votes!) All built on the ability to exploit and pollute the commons for profit. The very foundation of western capitalism. Throw a paper cup out the car window, you get fined. You don't. Pollute the commons with toxic chemicals that are threatening the survival of species world wide out the tail pipe? It is all good because the "Right" Corpro/People get rich. The GOP do not fund abortion with their tax money. How come my tax money funds the the destruction of Earth's Life Support Systems and I cannot even get the question addressed, much less stopped? Stop profits from the pollution of the commons, humanity might just have a chance, if not it looks like Toastville for the kidders...

  13. Sorry to drop the ball, MT. I'm staying with my mom on the Cape, b/c my dad had triple bypass yesterday. So I have to keep driving her around, and now here I am sitting in the hospital waiting room. (He's doing great - 84 yrs old and bikes 5,000 miles/year.)

    Anyway to answer your question, eutrophication is in there because reactive nitrogen is both a precursor to ozone in the air and also gets into the water. There's a graph on this post which illustrates the cycle, the next to the last image, so you'll have to scroll down: http://witsendnj.blogspot.com/2012/02/when-vegetation-rioted-earth-and-big.html

    and here's a nice paper that ties it all together, as well, the introductory paragraph is neat: http://csanr.wsu.edu/publications/researchreports/CFF%20Report/CSANR2010-001.Ch15.pdf

    So today while I was chauffeuring I heard a story on NPR about a high school sophomore in Maryland who discovered a brilliant new way to test early for pancreatic cancer. How he did this is very interesting but what's pertinent here is his answer when asked how he was able to obtain space in a lab with equipment to do the experiment. He said he wrote up his idea and sent it to 200 scientists - at Johns Hopkins and the NIH. He received 199 rejections. One professor gave his idea some credence and helped him out. Now, he's won a $75k prize and the test will soon be patented. Oh, and some people who might have died, won't.

    So there's consensus for ya.

    • I also have the sense that tree mortality is increasing everywhere.

      I would attribute this to climate change and invasive species.

      Ground level ozone is measurable. It may be a contributor to tree stress in heavily urbanized areas, but that's a tiny part of the world. You seem to be claiming that this is a significant fraction of mortality and thus a significant feedback in the carbon cycle.

      Active nitrogen is interesting, as it's one of the planetary boundaries and one we don't hear much about. And apparently there is a connection between active nitrogen and near-surface ozone. There is also clearly a connection to eutrophication.

      So is your complaint really about nitrogen killing trees and causing global warming via ozone?

      Is that a fair summary?

      To convince me of this you need numbers.

      Also, note that the fraction of sophomore high school students who are NOT able to contribute to oncology is more than 199 in 200. So the fact that he got accepted in the first round of 200 despite the obvious heuristic acting against him is further proof he is extraordinary.

      But there are a lot of kids at a lot of science fairs building baking soda volcanoes that are not worth my time.

      At the moment, though, I have no heuristic in your case. What are you suggesting, and why was I warned against it by someone who seems competent to me?

  14. Michael,

    Here is the one paper from the National Crop Loss Asessment Agency http://ucce.ucdavis.edu/files/repositoryfiles/ca4007p9-62962.pdf

    There are dozens of ozone maps - urban areas have the NO3 sources from cars, that plus heat and sunshine cooks and converts to O3

    http://airnow.gov/ Click the Current Ozone tab.

    http://woudc.ec.gc.ca/e/ozone/Curr_allmap_g.htm

    http://airquality.weather.gov/

    and

    https://www.google.com/search?q=ozone+maps&hl=en&rlz=1C1GGGE_enUS439US439&prmd=imvns&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=MKc2UJHmN8qkigKVyYHYAg&ved=0CDcQsAQ&biw=1392&bih=875

    A great overview is at:
    http://people.oregonstate.edu/~muirp/ozeffect.htm

  15. Well, we've made some progress if you understand that tree mortality is increasing everywhere. This has been measured by many scientists although only recently (such as Allen et al)...when I first pointed out this trend (at Real Climate about 3 years ago) and the prospect of the loss of a major carbon sink, I was ridiculed.

    Think about what you said: it's from climate change and invasive species. Those are, indeed, the most common, orthodox, consensus sources blamed by experts for tree death. And in fact, I also, for nearly a year after I first realized trees are dying, thought it was from climate change. That is actually the original reason I started to learn about climate change, and quickly realized it is an existential threat that looms far more quickly than was generally predicted at the time I started reading about the topic (2008).

    Here's why it's not climate change (YET). For the impact on trees, the climate change theory refers to decreased precipitation (frequency, duration, intensity) and increased temperature. But those influences do not explain the empirical fact that trees (and other plants) are dying in places that haven't been in drought - they are even dying in nurseries where they are being watered. Trees native to warmer climates that have been cultivated in colder climates are in no better condition than native trees.

    Foresters tend to point to insects, disease and fungus. Some are invasives, but many are native (like the bark beetle.) Foresters like to say warmer winters are causing the bark beetles to proliferate - but in the 1950's downwind of Los Angeles it was determined (by scientists) that ozone was weakening the trees' natural immunity, allowing bark beetles to finish them off. It NEVER freezes there!

    I suppose it could be a coincidence that all the sudden, everywhere, insects, diseases and fungus are killing trees that are far shy of their natural lifespan, but it certainly seems that there must be an anthropogenic influence, so if it's not temperature or precipitation, what is it?

    I've also heard road salt, chemtrails, old age, frozen roots, cell phone towers, crowding, the Holy Spirit, natural gas main leaks, shallow soil, too much rain, and many other excuses, but none of them are global influences.

    Acid rain would also exhibit more localized impacts, depending on run-off (although it's definitely still a problem). The only thing all species of trees, of all ages, in all places, share in common is the atmosphere.

    That's one part of the picture, and the other is that ozone is well known to damage vegetation, very significantly. In addition to weakening the root systems of plants, and encouraging biotic attacks, it causes characteristic damage to foliage because when it is absorbed, it interferes with the ability to photosynthesize. This type of damage can be found on every sort of leaf, even on plants that live in ponds that are in water all the time. And although ozone can be measured, there are many contentious ways of measuring it, and it isn't just one thing, it's a constant chain of complex chemical reactions. It's not at all clear that it is being adequately tracked (but then, neither are fugitive methane emissions from fracking, which also is an ozone precursor).

    I really can't answer why someone whose identity is unknown to me would "warn" you about me. I rather like that - I always wanted to be a witch! I do actually have an entire section in my book about why otherwise competent, accomplished, intelligent people deny this particular result of industrial emissions (hint: it's soul-crushing).

    If you doubt (along with many others) the damage ozone does to trees, take a look at the fumigated potatoes at ozone.org, a European center, (picture #19 here: http://witsendnj.blogspot.com/2012/03/void-between-rhetoric-and-reality.html) with the caption: On the left are potatoes grown in filtered (clean) air, the middle group in non-filtered (ambient, 2002 polluted background levels) - and on the right, additional ozone added (30 ppb/8hours/day).

    There are lots of pictures from that site there of leaves that have been exposed to ozone too. If you care to take a look around, you'll notice that leaves around you right now look similar.

    I'll just leave you with some excerpts from published research reproduced and linked to here:

    "'This research quantifies the mean response of trees to ozone pollution measured in terms of total tree biomass, and all component parts such as leaf, root and shoot, lost due to ozone pollution,' said Dr. Victoria Wittig, lead author of the study. 'Looking at how ozone pollution affects trees is important because of the indirect impact on carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere which will further enhance global warming, in addition to ozone's already potent direct impact.'"

    "'Beyond the consequences for global warming, the study also infers that in mixed forests conifers will be favored over broad-leaved trees, and that the decrease in root size will increase the vulnerability to storms,' said Wittig."

    Last sentence of the abstract: "This implies that a key carbon sink currently offsetting a significant portion of global fossil fuel CO2 emissions could be diminished or lost in the future."

    "Diminished or LOST."

    • I think you have won me over. I would have preferred just quoting from Wittig:

      The best available ground level measurements of tropospheric [O3] before the Industrial Revolution in the northern temperate zone, suggest an average concentration of 10 ppb (Volz & Kley, 1988). Today, summer daytime surface background concentrations in the northern temperate zone may average 40 ppb (Fowler et al., 1999b; Ehhalt et al., 2001). Several modeling studies, based on limited datasets suggest that this increase in [O3] is likely to decrease carbon uptake into forests (Ollinger et al., 1997; Felzer et al., 2004). A meta-analysis of measured leaf photosynthetic rates showed an 11% average decrease due to elevation of [O3] to 47 ppb (Wittig et al., 2007). Is this inferred decrease detectable in the actual measurements of biomass and productivity? This meta-analytic review of 263 peer-reviewed articles reporting O3 impacts on tree biomass shows that ambient [O3] of 40 ppb averaged across all studies resulted in a statistically significant 7% reduction (CI 4–10%, df=99; Fig. 1). This decrease is relative to CF controls, which had a mean [O3] of 17 ppb across all studies, and so was slightly higher than the assumed preindustrial [O3]. Therefore, even this 7% loss may be a slight underestimate.
      ...
      Ollinger et al. (1997) predicted net primary productivity (NPP) of the northeastern US forest by coupling a simple model of ambient [O3] effects on leaf photosynthesis to a forest ecosystem model (PnET-II). They projected that ambient [O3] could be reducing NPP by 3–16% and that the greatest losses were in aboveground woody biomass in comparison with leaf or root biomass.
      ...
      Modeled estimates of carbon sequestration by forests of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park attribute a 50% loss (0.9 Tg) to ambient [O3] between 1971 and 2001 (Zhang et al., 2007).

      The first time I was shocked by tree mortality was on a drive through eastern PA near Scranton, maybe about 20 years ago. The pattern was bizarre; patchy but pervasive, with whole stands dead here and there. That definitely fits in with O3. I've seen it in other places that don't match, though, e.g., around Rantool IL a few years back.

      But while parsimony would indicate a global problem had a global cause, the causes of worldwide amphibian decline have never been identified (last I heard - biology is not my field). There could just be a sort of general low level anthropogenic stress, plus climate, plus invasives, plus ozone, and another candidate is trace chemicals - measurable quantities of substances that do not appear in nature. CFCs may have done the most harm so far, but there are many others.

      Anyway. Cripes. One more thing to worry about. I'll add it to the list.

  16. Thank you Michael. Trees are magnificent, mysterious organisms, but they are silent and need vocal advocates. We take them for granted, and it is as though they have AIDS. Any ole thing wil take them down now. Often you see advice - plant trees, grow plants indoors - they absorb pollution and clean the air!! Indeed they do but we have to ask, what happens to THEM when they soak up our toxins?

  17. Good to see your efforts getting legs Gail.

    I have been a wooden boat builder all my life and have watch with interest the tree damage from the East Coast storms of late. Actually there is a lot of inadvertent information in the pictures that are taken of the damaged trees.
    I would ask anyone to break a twig of a green healthy tree and observe the break point. You will notice a lot of resiliency and a very difficult separation of the fibers. Considerable Twisting and continued bending is needed to fatigue the twig before separation occurs. Then try the same thing with a dead or dying tree. The twigs will snap cleanly. With a sharp "snap" sound. Now go back and look at the storm damage. Big limbs and even trunks "snapped" in two. Often in the middle of the limbs or trunk. You will see a toppled tree with very little root fiber pulled up as well. The roots broken off at a defined distance from the trunk and a small foot print. Try breaking a small healthy root. What i said about healthy wood applies to roots in spades. Very tenacious. The broken and downed trees are dead or almost dead in my view The wood acts like kiln dried wood not seasoned quality boat building wood. Zombie trees if you will. Look at the photos and test for yourself. Toxins in the air are a obvious culprit.

  18. Thank you for the reply earlier MT. "B." is a take off on the "Star Trek Borg" comment. "Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated. The "fatal" is a reference to the tens of thousands currently dying and yet to die scattered around the world in a loosing battle against climatic disruption and pitted against the Corpro/People quest for double digit profits and damn the torpedos. (Heat waves, disease, starvation, political unrest, floods, fires, etc.) As for "TOXINS," by what euphemism would would you suggest for mercury, lead, arsenic, acid rain, ozone, methane and more. Quibble about CO2 if you like but the heat generated and ocean acidification along with it will be responsible for uncountable deaths yet to be, not only human but Earth's life support systems as well. I apologies for my bluntness but I have been fighting inequality since the 60s. My time runs short, my diplomacy as well.

    • Leif,

      Precision is a core value of this site. By "toxins" you meant CO2, which is what I thought the $25 per ton meant. ANd CO2 is not really directly toxic in the quantities we are talking about. The reason for the endless quibbles about this is because in the US, there is an issue about what a "pollutant" means. I have no problem with calling CO2 a "pollutant" at present day quantities.

      You can defend the world better if you are credible. Getting things worn costs credibility.

      Also consider how easy it is for people to misunderstand each other. Yes I caught the Borg thing and that is sort of what I thought you meant, but read it from a hostile point of view and you can imagine a person reading it as a threat.

      Words are powerful in our world. Please wield them carefully.

      best
      mt

  19. Thank you yet again Mike. I am a retired boat builder and "word smith" is new to me. These blog efforts are new as well and the learning curve is steep. I just got Joe Romm's book "Language Intelligence" yesterday and attempting assimilation.

    Two Palms UP.

    Leif

    • Please note that I don't answer to "Mike". I prefer to be called "Michael" or "mt".

      That said, thanks back! Please stick around and pitch in.

  20. If this is a duplicate, please delete. Didn't save, sadly, but it seemed interesting enough to duplicate:

    Not entirely on topic, but some good materials on ocean bloom found on excellent Neven Sea Ice updates and comments (this one #6 page 2 - 7 and 8 appeared this morning):

    http://www.whoi.edu/redtide/page.do?pid=15776&tid=523&cid=27946

    This seems more substantive to me:
    http://www.whoi.edu/redtide/page.do?pid=15776&tid=523&cid=27946

    FWIW, I follow this desultorily, mostly through Earth Observatory and it *is* on the increase. As a subscriber I get their daily updates and this is a topic they cover.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>