Tag Archives: climate change

Flooded future

Flooding in Jakarta, Indonesia, February 2017. Source: World Meteorological Organization / Flickr

An alarming, just published, report from Climate Central warns that flooding projected across the globe by 2050 will be far worse than previously thought. The areas affected are mostly in Asia, where millions live on or near the coast. Flooding by seawater implies not only inundation of homes, but the salting of cultivated fields. Worldwide, chronic floods will endanger 300 million people. By the end of this century, the high tide line will be permanently higher than the land where 200 million people now work, farm, and call home.

These dire predictions result from the discovery that coastal elevations are actually lower than previously estimated; hence more vulnerable to flooding, inundation and the contamination of freshwater. In fact, the incursions of saltwater could make the land uninhabitable even before it disappears under the sea.

The previous estimates of land elevation were calculated using data produced by satellite photography, which sees the tops of trees and buildings, thus overestimating the elevation of the land. The problem is particularly acute in areas of dense forest and close clusters of buildings. More accurate means of measurement, using lasers and overflights, are expensive and consequently not widely used.

Cities on the world’s coasts are the most densely populated areas on the planet, and most of them have low elevations. The older elevation estimates have been found to be too high on an average of approximately six to eight feet, which is the same as or even more than the highest sea level rise projections for all of the 21st century. The elevations of some American cities, including New York, Miami and Boston, were overestimated by an average of 15.5 feet.

As we now know, the rise in sea level occurs when the combustion of fossil fuels and other emissions caused by human activity pollute the atmosphere. The planet grows warmer, causing glaciers and ice sheets to melt and flow into the oceans. The increased volume of water raises the level of the sea.

The estimates of the number of people who will lose their farms and homes to floods of saltwater are based on moderate emissions cuts mandated by the Paris climate accords. (We are not currently meeting those goals.) If pollution and the subsequent greenhouse gases continue to increase, by the end of the century chronic flooding and permanent inundation will imperil the land that shelters and feeds 640 million people living now (actually more; based on 2010 data), close to 10 percent of the global population. Ironically, the people most likely to suffer are the ones least responsible for polluting emissions.

The United States is already experiencing the predicted effects of global warming. Hurricane Harvey caused epic flooding in Houston; diseases once confined to the tropics are increasingly occurring in the temperate zone; extreme heat is responsible for a sharp increase in deaths in Nevada and Arizona; wildfires are consuming California . . .

The loss of land and the resulting migration of climate refugees will surely give rise to humanitarian crises of unprecedented severity and have devastating effects on the world economy. Other aspects of global warming like drought and extreme heat will also have catastrophic consequences. All living creatures, from plants to insects, fish, birds and humans will have to flee their habitats and invade others. Some will survive; many won’t.

Leave a comment

Filed under Climate change, Global Warming

Smart kid, cool sign!

Seen at Earth Day / Science march CoolEarth

Leave a comment

Filed under Climate change, Global Warming, Random

Yea! The world just reached an agreement to combat climate change!

Finally! A “monumental triumph,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Nearly 200 countries agreed to combat climate change after two weeks of tense negotiations and more than of 20 years of debate and dispute and failure to stabilize, let alone slow, global warming.

Climate change “requires the widest possible cooperation by all countries,” because it “represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet,” reads the agreement. The cap it sets on global warming is below 2˚ C., which is still not enough, according to many scientists.

This agreement won’t save the planet, not even close,” climate activist and advocate Bill McKibben wrote in an email to The Huffington Post. It doesn’t include, for example, a specific timeline for phasing out fossil fuels.

But it is a giant step forward nonetheless. It is “the best chance to save the one planet we’ve got,” President Obama said in his remarks to the nation on Saturday. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Climate change, Environment, Global Warming

VBI scooped the New York Times

Sha1993_smog_wkpd

Shanghai smog, 1993

Big Oil’s long history with climate change,” posted September 19 on this blog, asserted that “Exxon Mobil has known for almost 40 years that fossil fuels pose a lethal threat to Earth and all its inhabitants.”

Exxon’s Climate Concealment” was published today in the NY Times. The article deals with the same scandalous campaign of deceit, disinformation and denial by Exxon and other industry leaders that climate change is real and caused by burning fossil fuels. The Times clearly used the same source as VBI did, Inside Climate News, a nonprofit news organization with a Pulitzer-Prize-winning web-site, because the two articles are substantially the same.

Despite the satisfaction of “scooping” the Times by three weeks, I’m glad they eventually deemed the story worthy of publication. Their readership is (obviously) orders of magnitude greater than VBI’s, and the story is important. (No) thanks to Exxon we have wasted too much precious time trying to clean up their mess and switching to alternate forms of non-polluting energy. But petrodollars talk — very loudly — and there still remains a steep uphill climb to counteract Big Oil’s propaganda.

Leave a comment

Filed under Climate change, Environment, Global Warming, Personal

Big Oil’s long history with climate change

Birds killed by oil from the Exxon Valdez spill

Birds killed by oil from the Exxon Valdez spillBig Oil

Was anyone really surprised last Wednesday when InsideClimateNews (ICN) revealed documents confirming that Exxon Mobil has known for almost 40 years that fossil fuels pose a lethal threat to Earth and all its inhabitants? ICN, a Pulitzer-Prize-winning web-site, published the first installment of an exposé of Exxon’s role in suppressing research on climate change and disseminating disinformation. (Exxon [then Esso] and Mobil merged in 1999.)

In 1977, James Black, a top technical expert at Exxon, informed a group of top-level oilmen at Exxon headquarters that

[T]here is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels.

The following year Black persisted. Speaking to a wider audience, he warned that the percentage of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere continued to increase and would raise temperatures everywhere, but especially at the poles. Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Climate change, Environment, Global Warming, Politics

Obama: mopey? no. energized, yes

Mitch McConnell, next Senate Republican Majority Leader

Mitch McConnell, next Senate Republican Majority Leader

At his post-election presser today, Pres. Obama was asked how he feels after the Republican trouncing. “It doesn’t make me mopey, it energizes me,” Obama replied.

The President fielded tough questions with aplomb, unflappable as usual. I find it reassuring to have a leader who, no matter what’s thrown at him, he keeps his composure and reflects. He doesn’t go off half-cocked, singing, “Bomb, bomb Iran!”

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama

With a Republican congress and a judiciary dominated by conservatives, what will happen to the issues dear to Democrats and spurned by Republicans? What will happen, for example, to the president’s signature achievement, the Affordable Care Act? What will happen to climate-change imperatives like emissions control when Mitch McConnell, the presumptive majority leader, represents a state whose economy is almost entirely dependent on coal?

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Climate change, Politics

Much scarier than the sequester

Mesmerizing video of glacial melt in Antarctica

On the eve of the implementation of the sequester, when across-the-board, indiscriminate slashes in federal spending take effect, mainstream economists like Fed chairman Ben Bernanke and Nobelists Paul Krugman and Joe Stiglitz predict a downturn in the sluggish economy. Of course, the cuts translate into lost jobs, but no one knows how many. There are estimates of 700,000 to 1.14 million jobs lost. (Many of the specific cuts here.)

There is good reason to be concerned.

If you have read this far, you will be wondering why this post begins with an extraordinary video that captures a glacier as it breaks off and its mountains tumble and crash into the Antarctic Ocean.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under economy, Environment, Global Warming, Politics