The Weight of the World: Can Christiana Figueres persuade humanity to save itself? by Elizabeth Kolbert [New Yorker]
Of all the jobs in the world, Figueres’s may possess the very highest ratio of responsibility (preventing global collapse) to authority (practically none). The role entails convincing a hundred and ninety-five countries—many of which rely on selling fossil fuels for their national income and almost all of which depend on burning them for the bulk of their energy—that giving up such fuels is a good idea. When Figueres took over the Secretariat, in 2010, there were lots of people who thought the job so thankless that it ought to be abolished. This was in the aftermath of the fifteenth COP, held in Copenhagen, which had been expected to yield a historic agreement but ended in anger and recrimination.
Historians may look to 2015 as the year when shit really started hitting the fan. Some snapshots: In just the past few months, record-setting heat waves in Pakistan and India each killed more than 1,000 people. [...] London reached 98ºF during the hottest July day ever recorded in the UK. [...] In California, suffering from its worst drought in a millennium, a 50-acre brush fire swelled seventyfold in a matter of hours, jumping across the I-15 freeway during rush-hour traffic. Then, a few days later, the region was pounded by intense, virtually unheard-of summer rains. Puerto Rico is under its strictest water rationing in history as a monster El Niño forms in the tropical Pacific Ocean, shifting weather patterns worldwide. [more inside]
About once a year he has nightmares of earth becoming a very alien planet. "Part of being a scientist is you don't want to believe there is a problem you can't solve."
In the past few years, science has lurched closer to envisioning habitable Mars, though at the moment estimates for creating breathable oxygen range from hundreds to 100,000 years in the future, the soil is currently toxic to astronauts, and travel is so unwieldy that scientists have proposed "printing" humans on Mars. Meanwhile, I wondered why not make Earth's increasingly inhospitable deserts greener.[more inside]
Grist: Seattle: City Of The Future series includes -
Is Seattle a model for sustainable cities, or just a mess?
Is Seattle a model for sustainable cities, or just a mess?
In reality, of course, change is a complicated and messy thing. With that in mind, the crew at Grist decided a few months back to use our hometown as something of a laboratory. We abandoned our work stations and set off in search of stories that would illustrate how Seattle is changing, for better or worse, and how the city and its residents are coping. It was a chance to get to know the place better, put our theories and prognostications to the test, and see what lessons Seattle holds for other cities.[more inside]
But to a growing cadre of A-list winemakers, there’s actionable intelligence in the data. Many of Fruition’s clients are altering their irrigation techniques, turning laggard vineyards into top performers and using far less water than they ever imagined. Along the way they’re extracting lessons that could extend far beyond this rarified corner of agriculture. By gaining insight into the relationships between water, sunlight, yield, and taste, Fruition Sciences is showing the way for farmers of all stripes to increase productivity and quality in a world of shifting weather patterns and decreasing supplies of freshwater.
The Surprising Link Between Fjords and Carbon While fjords make up just one tenth of one percent of the oceans’ surface area they account for about 11 percent of the carbon locked away in marine sediments each year ... [more inside]
Tesla Powerwall Battery Economics: Almost There - "Elon Musk announced Tesla's home / business battery today. [video] tl;dr: It'll get enthusiastic early adopters to buy. The economics are almost there to make it cost effective for a wide market... That said, for large scale grid deployment (outside of the home), it still looks like flow batteries and advanced compressed air are likely to be far cheaper in the long run." [more inside]
Toxic, Oxygen-Depleted Oceans May Have Caused a Mass Extinction Event Changes in the ocean may have pushed some species over the edge 200 million years ago. Scientists have discovered that oxygen-depleted toxic oceans had a key role in a mass extinction event during that time. [more inside]
The Chinchorro mummies are found in northern Chile and southern Peru; the oldest of them date to thousands of years before the first Egyptian mummies. Some of them mummified naturally, but most were intentionally mummified. The hot, arid conditions of the Atacama desert aided in this process. However, these mummies are now the latest victims of climate change, as increased humidity encourages bacterial growth that is transforming them into black ooze.
Comparing photographs of glaciers from the 1920's to today: Repeat photography is a technique in which a historical photograph and a modern photograph, both having the same field of view, are compared and contrasted to quantitatively and qualitatively determine their similarities and differences. The following sections depict how this technique was used at a number of locations in Alaska... to document and understand changes to glaciers and landscapes as a result of changing climate. [more inside]
A rising tide lifts Iceland — literally A team of geoscientists has detected evidence that Iceland is literally rising along with sea levels. [more inside]
Treading Water by Laura Parker [National Geographic]
Phil Stoddard, in his third term as mayor of South Miami, is one of the few politicians willing to talk about when that time might come... He drew a graph with three lines that show population, property values, and sea level all rising. Then abruptly, population growth and property values plummet. “Something is going to upset the applecart,” he says. “A hurricane, a flood, another foot of sea rise, the loss of freshwater. People are going to stop coming here and bail.”[more inside]
In the 21st century, it almost goes without saying the past year was the hottest year on record. But it's worth mentioning 2014 was the hottest ever recorded, according to NASA and NOAA who independently confirmed. Drum roll: it was the 38th consecutive year of above-average temperatures. 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have occurred since 2000. Nobody born since 1976 has experienced a colder-than-average year on Earth. The coldest spot on Earth during 2014 (on average) was the eastern half of the United States. The hottest on average was most of Europe. British wine growers rejoice. [more inside]
Ted Cruz, Senator from Texas, global warming denier, and (attempted) NASA funding slasher, has been appointed to chair the Senate subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness. In other words, he will be overseeing NASA. [more inside]
Three visualizations of CO2 emissions: Here’s a cool way to visualize carbon emissions. New York's carbon emissions - in real time. NASA found a way to visualize the most important process behind global warming.
The Yamal Crater (previously) mysteriously appeared on the Yamal Peninsula in northern Siberia sometime in early 2014. Thought to be the result of methane accumulation in thawing permafrost, when first discovered the giant hole was too dangerous for people to enter. Now that the ground has frozen, scientists have explored the hole and released a a set of otherworldly photographs documenting their expedition.
All these grown-up monsters for my grown-up mind, they are there in the nights I wake up terrified and taunted by death. When I feel so small and broken, when despair and terror take me, I have a secret tool, a talisman against the night. I don’t use it too often so that it doesn’t lose its power.[more inside]
Disruption is a 52-minute film by 350.0rg as a promotion for the upcoming People's Climate March billed as the largest climate protest march in history, on September 21. Major cities include New York, Paris, Berlin, and Rio de Janeiro though there are over 1000 others. The march is calling for immediate action on the climate and is directed at the U.N. Climate Summit in New York City on September 23.(via)
Downloading video games from the Internet creates a larger carbon footprint than driving to the store to purchase the same game on a Blu-ray disc, according to findings published in the Journal of Industrial Ecology. [more inside]
All of California remains in drought with over 80% in worst categories of 'extreme' or 'exceptional' drought. Reservoir levels are 50% below average. (previously) [more inside]
They saw "birds entering the solar flux and igniting, consequently become a streamer," for the smoke plume that comes from birds that ignite in midair. BrightSource concentrated solar plant is a "mega-trap" for wildlife, with the bright light of the plant attracting insects, which in turn attract insect-eating birds that fly to their death in the intensely focused light rays. Estimates range as high as one streamer every two minutes at a single plant, though this is disputed. A Federal report (PDF) is "occasionally gruesome".
"Novels are no use at all in days like these, for they deal with people and their relationships, with fathers and mothers and daughters or sons and lovers, etc., with souls, usually unhappy ones, and with society etc., as if the place for all these things were assured, the earth for all time earth, the sea level fixed for all time." [more inside]
The whales are back and they'll poop us all to safety! Not ambergis, actual poop. Also carcasses, which support whole ecologies (pdf) Rates of recovery actually vary, though several populations have made good progress.
The Economic Risks of Climate Change in the United States (PDF); prospectus (PDF); press coverage (YT) - "The signature effects of human-induced climate change—rising seas, increased damage from storm surge, more frequent bouts of extreme heat—all have specific, measurable impacts on our nation's current assets and ongoing economic activity. [The report] uses a standard risk-assessment approach to determine the range of potential consequences for each region of the U.S.—as well as for selected sectors of the economy—if we continue on our current path..." [more inside]
Warm water is eating away at the bases of West Antarctic glaciers in an irreversible runaway process: West Antarctic Glacier Loss Appears Unstoppable [the damn paper (paywalled)] [more inside]
This morning the U.S. government released the newest National Climate Assessment, which "concludes that the evidence of human-induced climate change continues to strengthen and that impacts are increasing across the country." You can explore the assessment here. Previously.
UN Climate Report: We Must Focus On 'Decarbonization', and It Won't Wreck the Economy - "The basic message is simple: We share a planet. Let's start acting like it." [more inside]
Years of Living Dangerously is a star-studded 9-part investigative documentary on the real impacts of global warming around the world. The first episode will air on April 13, but it is now freely available online (first link, 1-hour). Series backers and producers include James Cameron, Jerry Weintraub and Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Globe says it's "a lavish, gripping production focused on the real effect of climate change in real people’s lives around the world."
In the end, the only thing that could create the necessary traction in our minds was the intimate loss of the things we loved. Zadie Smith on climate change at a personal level.
Tiny Tim's stunning prophesy of global warming. You know, for the kiddies.
Joshua - a time-lapse tribute to the beauty of Joshua trees, native to southwestern U.S. Photographer Sungjin Ahn embarked on his project after learning that climate change could "eliminate Joshua trees from 90 percent of their current range in 60 to 90 years." via PetaPixel
Climatologist Michael E. Mann, known for introducing the famous "hockey stick" graph, has filed a defamation suit against the National Review and the Competitive Enterprise Institute. [more inside]
"In October 2013, Drs. Tim Perkins and Abby van Den Berg of the University of Vermont’s Proctor Maple Research Center, revealed the findings of a study at a maple syrup conference in New Brunswick, Canada that sent waves through the industry. In 2010, they were studying vacuum systems in sap collection operations. Based on the observation that one of the mature trees in the study that was missing most of its top was still yielding high volumes of sap, they hypothesized that the maples were possibly drawing moisture from the soil and not the crown. Previously, they had presumed that the sap dripping from tap holes was coming from the upper portion of the tree. But, if the tree was missing most of its crown then, they surmised, it must be drawing moisture from the roots. ... They realized that their discovery meant sugarmakers could use saplings, densely planted in open fields, to harvest sap. In other words, it is possible that maple syrup could now be produced as a row crop like every other commercial crop in North America." [more inside]
Stuck in the Antarctic ice we set out to study - Erik van Sebille of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition 2013 describes his fieldwork in Antarctica. The Guardian has extensive coverage of the expedition, including visiting the remains of a previous expedition, how they became icebound, and their rescue.
Melting glaciers in northern Italy reveal corpses of WW1 soldiers In the decades that followed the armistice, the world warmed up and the glaciers began to retreat, revealing the debris of the White War. The material that, beginning in the 1990s, began to flood out of the mountains was remarkably well preserved.
Climate Models: A calendar of "renowned climate scientists, their research, their favorite datasets, and memorable dates in weather and climate history."
"From a street-parked GhostFood truck, Simun and Songster and their team of trained staff will be serving a menu of three items, each of which conjures up a future dining experience for a food whose supply is currently threatened by climate change. " // "Its menu offers a curious collection of substitutes for potentially endangered foods: artificial recreations of chocolate, cod, and peanut butter." // "Pop one of the placebos--or “edible textural substitutes”--in your mouth and enjoy."
Stanford University Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Mark Z Jacobson, claims that worldwide re-powering with Wind, Water, and Solar (WWS) energy, rather than continuing the use of fossil fuels and nuclear power, would save millions of lives per year from pollution, help avert disasters related to global warming, and increase worldwide economic, social, and political stability. He has a plan to achieve this goal. [more inside]
Tom Yulsman on the ignorant, misrepresentative and fictitious claims promulgated by some conservative journalists.
If I offered evidence that jellyfish are displacing penguins in Antarctica—not someday, but now, today—what would you think? If I suggested that jellyfish could crash the world’s fisheries, outcompete the tuna and swordfish, and starve the whales to extinction, would you believe me? The New York Review of Books reads Lisa-ann Gershwin's book about the rise of the jellyfish and the coming "jellification" of our oceans. (Previously but not as terrifyingly.) [more inside]