September, 2018

Much of my news comes from The Daily Climate, whose wonderful subscription service clues me in to what's going on each day. Another great source of stories (and commentaries) comes from my friend Jim Poyser, at Apocadocs. They stopped collecting news at the election of U.S. President Forty-Five, which was a frickin' party pooper of a day, I'll tell ya.


September, 2018


  • For the first time, scientists prove human activity is the top cause of warming Antarctic waters: Along with other scientists from the department, and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California, Swart found that changes seen in Southern Ocean temperature are directly tied to ozone depletion and human-induced greenhouse gas emissions, as opposed to regular temperature variations or responses to natural climate changes, such as volcanic eruptions or changes in the sun.
    • Since industrialization, the ocean has absorbed nearly 40 per cent of human-made greenhouse gas emissions. The Southern Ocean, according to Swart, is responsible for absorbing the majority of those emissions.
    • "By driving an intense warming of these southern waters, we’re increasingly destabilizing the Antarctic ice sheet,” he said. That contributes to well-documented increases in sea level, affecting coastal populations, he explained, and “the warmer ocean water becomes, the less effective it becomes at absorbing CO2.”
    • Fossil fuel production and consumption are some of the greatest emitters of greenhouse gases. In 2015, 26 per cent of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions came from the oil and gas industry.
  • World 'nowhere near on track' to avoid warming beyond 1.5C target: Exclusive: Author of key UN climate report says limiting temperature rise would require enormous, immediate transformation in human activity
  • Climate Change Is Literally Making Earth ‘Wobble’: As the planet warms, ice loss at the poles—especially in Greenland—is having an effect on polar motion.
    • "There is a geometrical effect that if you have a mass that is 45 degrees from the North Pole—which Greenland is—or from the South Pole (like Patagonian glaciers), it will have a bigger impact on shifting Earth's spin axis than a mass that is right near the Pole," said co-author Erik Ivins, a JPL scientist, in a statement.
    • Fortunately, these wobble shifts are not expected to have any dire consequences for life on Earth. But they are a reminder that our behavior is altering our world on the largest scales.
  • Can New Energy Technologies Save the Planet? Ask the Sperm Whale: The history of North American whale killing reveals the lie that clean power will save us.
    • York deftly summarizes the issue. “Technologies are typically deployed to increase profits, not to conserve resources,” he writes. “Producers work to create markets and expand consumption of their products so as to further the accumulation of wealth.” This not only explains why oil didn’t save the whales, but it also explains why savings made through energy efficiency generally don’t translate into reductions in energy use. Consumers and producers just spend the savings to find more ways to consume more energy.


  • As New Mexico Reservoirs Hit Bottom, Worries Grow Over the Future: The state’s reservoirs have done their job to help water users survive record drought in 2018. Now they are almost totally dry, and tensions are building over the year ahead. ‘Climate change is really happening,’ one water official says.
    • Right now, New Mexico’s largest reservoir is at about three percent capacity, with just 62,573 acre feet of water in storage as of September 20.
    • “There was no spring runoff this year. We started this year at basically the point we left off at last year,” says Mary Carlson, a spokesperson for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates Elephant Butte Dam, just north of the town of Truth or Consequences. The federal agency runs the Rio Grande Project, which stores water that legally must be delivered downstream to the Elephant Butte Irrigation District, the state of Texas and Mexico.
    • Watching the reservoir empty out this year makes farmers feel like they are running out of water, he says. At the same time, they’re uncertain about how long their groundwater supplies will last, even though the district tries to monitor groundwater levels and has hired a full-time groundwater specialist. “We’re not cratering; it’s not Doomsville yet,” he says. “But we’ve got to find another source.” People can pray for rain and snow, he says, but the challenge is finding a long-term, consistent water source. And western states, including New Mexico, don’t have that. “Everybody’s thinking, ‘Well, climate change is really happening,’ and I think we need to change the way we’re thinking. We keep looking for improvement in the West,” he says.
  • New Climate Debate: How to Adapt to the End of the World: Researchers are thinking about social collapse and how to prepare for it.
    • At the end of 2016, before Puerto Rico’s power grid collapsed, wildfires reached the Arctic, and a large swath of North Carolina was submerged under floodwaters, Jonathan Gosling published an academic paper asking what might have seemed like a shrill question: How should we prepare for the consequences of planetary climate catastrophe?
    • Almost two years later, as the U.S. stumbles through a second consecutive season of record hurricanes and fires, more academics are approaching questions once reserved for doomsday cults. Can modern society prepare for a world in which global warming threatens large-scale social, economic, and political upheaval? What are the policy and social implications of rapid, and mostly unpleasant, climate disruption?
    • But some researchers are going further, calling for what some call the “deep adaptation agenda.” For Gosling, that means not only rapid decarbonization and storm-resistant infrastructure, but also building water and communications systems that won’t fail if the power grid collapses and searching for ways to safeguard the food supply by protecting pollinating insects.
    • Jem Bendell, a professor at the University of Cumbria who popularized the term deep adaptation, calls it a mix of physical changes—pulling back from the coast, closing climate-exposed industrial facilities, planning for food rationing, letting landscapes return to their natural state—with cultural shifts, including “giving up expectations for certain types of consumption” and learning to rely more on the people around us.
    • William Clark, a Harvard professor and former MacArthur Fellow who edited the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences paper, is among those who worry about what might come next. “We are right on the bloody edge,” he says. Clark argues that in addition to quickly and dramatically cutting emissions, society should pursue a new scale of adaptation work. Rather than simply asking people to water their lawns less often, for example, governments need to consider large-scale, decades-long infrastructure projects, such as transporting water to increasingly arid regions and moving cities away from the ocean.
    • There are even more pessimistic takes. Guy McPherson, a professor emeritus of natural resources at the University of Arizona, contends climate change will cause civilization to collapse not long after the summer Arctic ice cover disappears. He argues that could happen as early as next year, sending global temperatures abruptly higher and causing widespread food and fuel shortages within a year.


  • Arctic Cauldron: Across the Arctic, lakes are leaking dangerous greenhouse gases. And one lake is behaving very strangely.
    • Set against the austere peaks of the Western Brooks Range, the lake, about 20 football fields in size, looked as if it was boiling. Its waters hissed, bubbled and popped as a powerful greenhouse gas escaped from the lake bed. Some bubbles grew as big as grapefruits, visibly lifting the water’s surface several inches and carrying up bits of mud from below.
    • It’s not a pure thermokarst lake, though some thermokarst appears to be forming around the lake’s expanding edges, tipping shoreline trees as the ice in the permafrost melts and the ground destabilizes. But the thawing of permafrost at the lake bed might also have unleashed older fossil gases from a reserve that had been sealed — creating another kind of worrisome lake.
  • Monsanto's global weedkiller harms honeybees, research finds: Glyphosate – the most used pesticide ever – damages the good bacteria in honeybee guts, making them more prone to deadly infections
    • Previous studies have shown that pesticides such as neonicotinoids cause harm to bees, whose pollination is vital to about three-quarters of all food crops. Glyphosate, manufactured by Monsanto, targets an enzyme only found in plants and bacteria. However, the new study shows that glyphosate damages the microbiota that honeybees need to grow and to fight off pathogens. The findings show glyphosate, the most used agricultural chemical ever, may be contributing to the global decline in bees, along with the loss of habitat.
    • Other research, from China and published in July, showed that honeybee larvae grew more slowly and died more often when exposed to glyphosate. An earlier study, in 2015, showed the exposure of adult bees to the herbicide at levels found in fields “impairs the cognitive capacities needed for a successful return to the hive”.
    • “The biggest impact of glyphosate on bees is the destruction of the wildflowers on which they depend,” said Matt Sharlow, at conservation group Buglife. “Evidence to date suggests direct toxicity to bees is fairly low, however the new study clearly demonstrates that pesticide use can have significant unintended consequences.”
    • A spokesman for Monsanto said: “Claims that glyphosate has a negative impact on honey bees are simply not true. No large-scale study has found any link between glyphosate and the decline of the honeybee population. More than 40 years of robust, independent scientific evidence shows that it poses no unreasonable risk for humans, animal, and the environment generally.”
    • Harm to gut bacteria by glyphosate exposure has also been shown in a pilot study in rats. “Gut bacteria play a vital role in maintaining good health, in organisms as diverse as bees and humans,” said Goulson. “The finding that these bacteria are sensitive to the most widely used pesticide in the world is thus concerning.” People are known to widely consume glyphosate residues in food - such as children’s breakfast cereal - but the health impact is controversial. In August a US court ordered Monsanto to pay $289m in damages after a jury ruled that the weedkiller caused a terminally ill man’s cancer. The company filed papers to dismiss the case on 19 September.
    • Monsanto insists glyphosate is safe. [ael: imagine….]
    • Related: The man who beat Monsanto: 'They have to pay for not being honest': A jury ruled the agrochemical company caused Dewayne Johnson’s cancer. He tells the Guardian he wants to use the victory to make a difference while he still can
      • The father of three and former school groundskeeper has been learning to live with the gift and burden of being in the spotlight in the month since a California jury ruled that Monsanto caused his terminal cancer. The historic verdict against the agrochemical corporation, which included an award of $289m, has ignited widespread health concerns about the world’s most popular weedkiller and prompted regulatory debates across the globe.
      • Johnson, who goes by the name Lee, was the first person to take Monsanto to trial on allegations that the global seed and chemical company spent decades hiding the cancer risks of its herbicide. He is also the first to win. The groundbreaking verdict further stated that Monsanto “acted with malice” and knew or should have known that its chemicals were “dangerous”.
      • His main role at the district was working as an integrated pest manager, responsible for spraying Roundup and Ranger Pro (another Monsanto glyphosate herbicide) at a handful of schools and sports fields in the area. Some days, he would spray 150 gallons worth over several hours. Johnson said he wasn’t concerned about health hazards, given that Monsanto’s labels had no warning. In a training session, he was told it was “safe enough to drink”. He also followed the label instructions diligently, he testified, reading them every time he sprayed. He compared the process to the way he followed recipes when he worked at a restaurant.
      • He wore protective gear while spraying to be extra cautious. But there were occasional leaks, and one time his skin accidentally became drenched. In 2014, after about two years of regular use, he started to experience rashes and other forms of skin irritation, and he knew something was wrong.
      • At one point when his skin was getting worse, Johnson called a Monsanto hotline to discuss his illness. He spoke to a woman who sounded like she was reading from a script and told him someone would follow up with him. He never heard back and for a while continued spraying herbicide at work. But he started to do some of his own research: “I wanted to know the facts.” Eventually, he learned that there were studies linking glyphosate to cancer – a fact a supervisor at work later mentioned to him.
      • Regardless of the outcome, Johnson v Monsanto was always going to be a newsworthy trial, because the judge allowed the cancer patient’s legal team to bring scientific arguments to the courtroom. The proceedings further shined a light on internal Monsanto emails over the years that Johnson’s attorneys said showed how the company had repeatedly rejected critical research and expert warnings.
      • The jury’s unanimous decision said Monsanto’s products presented a “substantial danger” to people and the company failed to warn consumers of the risks. “They have been hiding for years and getting away with it,” Johnson said. “They have to pay the price for not being honest and putting people’s health at risk for the sake of making a profit.”
      • Johnson said he wanted to use the platform he has been given to continue raising awareness about glyphosate. He is now advocating to get the product off every school campus and playground in California. The Benicia school district, his former employer, already said it would stop using glyphosate. He considers that a start. The case could encourage consumers to change their habits and explore alternative ways to manage weeds, he said: “I’m hoping that it snowballs and people really get the picture and they start to make decisions about what they eat, what they spray in their farms.”
      • He would now like to see Monsanto add cancer warning labels so that people can make informed decisions. He also hopes the legal process does not drag on for years, but expects Monsanto to continue aggressively fighting until the end. “That’s what big companies like that do.” He had one other request for Monsanto, something he knows he will never receive. Johnson would like an apology.
  • What’s Causing Antarctica’s Ocean to Heat Up? New Study Points to 2 Human Sources: With help from floating data-collectors, a new study reveals the impact greenhouse gas emissions and ozone depletion are having on the Southern Ocean.
    • The Southern Ocean around Antarctica is warming at an alarming rate—twice that of the rest of the world's oceans. Now, researchers have developed more powerful evidence pointing to the human causes.
    • In a new study, researchers used climate models, the past observations that did exist and data flowing in from new ocean-going sensors to show how greenhouse gas emissions and the depletion of ozone in the atmosphere have led to both a warming of the Southern Ocean and an increase in its freshwater content. The findings also rule out natural variability as a major source of those changes.
    • The study also suggested that most of the increasing freshwater content in the oceans is coming from precipitation, rather than melting ice from Antarctica.
  • Little changes can make a big difference in climate change: Small changes form new habits that not only benefit your environment, but also your health and your wallet.
    • Wash clothes in cold water. Did you know it takes five times more energy to run a load in your washing machine in hot water than cold? And, your clothes may not be getting any cleaner. According to Consumer Reports, today’s detergents contain high-power enzymes that kick into action at temperatures as low as 60 degrees.
    • If you want to go the extra mile, line-dry a load of clothes every week. Just one dryer load is equivalent to turning on 225 light bulbs for an hour.
    • Eat less meat. Intensive livestock-rearing is one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Swapping out meat for veggies, beans, and tofu can trim your carbon footprint by as much as 25 percent, as well as boosting your health with more vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. When you do eat meat, support local, sustainable ranches that are also concerned with reducing their fossil fuel consumption.
  • New study reconciles a dispute about how fast global warming will happen: Unfortunately, mainstream climate scientists are still right, and we’re running out of time to avoid dangerous global warming
    • We’re currently on pace to double the carbon dioxide-equivalent (including other greenhouse gases) in the atmosphere by around mid-century. Since the late 1800s scientists have been trying to answer the question, how much global warming will that cause? In 1979, top climate scientists led by Jule Charney published a report estimating that if we double the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from pre-industrial levels of 280 ppm to 560 ppm, temperatures will warm by 3 ± 1.5°C. Four decades later, ‘climate sensitivity’ estimates remain virtually unchanged, but some climate contrarians have argued that the number is at the low end of that range, around 2°C or less.
    • It’s an important question because if the contrarians are right, the 2°C resulting global warming would represent significantly less severe climate change consequences than if mainstream climate scientists are right and temperatures rise by 3°C. It would also mean our remaining carbon budget for meeting the 2°C Paris target is about twice as large than if the mainstream consensus is right. If the consensus is correct, we’re on pace to blow through the remaining Paris carbon budget by around 2030.
    • Over the shortest timeframes of a year or less, Goodwin found that temperatures will rise by about 2°C once carbon dioxide levels have doubled, consistent with the conclusions of the contrarian studies. That makes sense because those studies applied current climate measurements into energy balance models, but since carbon pollution is still rising, the climate still has a large energy imbalance. Climate sensitivity, on the other hand, is usually evaluated at the point when the Earth reaches a new energy equilibrium, long after carbon dioxide levels have stopped rising. Once our carbon pollution levels decline close to zero (hopefully by mid-to-late century), the planet will start to reach that new equilibrium. The slower feedbacks like melting ice will continue to kick in, and Goodwin found that on timescales close to a century thereafter, temperatures will rise by 1.9–4.6°C, most likely 2.9°C, consistent with mainstream climate science estimates since the 1979 Charney report.
    • In other words, we are indeed on track to burn through the remaining Paris carbon budget by 2030, and under current international climate policies, we’re most likely headed for about 3.4°C warming by 2100.


  • Paris global warming targets could be exceeded sooner than expected because of melting permafrost, study finds: Planet on brink of 'tipping point' as thawing soil and sediment releases large volumes of carbon dioxide and methane into atmosphere
    • The world is on course to exceed global warming limits set out in the Paris climate agreement much earlier than previously thought, scientists have warned, following the first comprehensive study of the impact of melting permafrost. Experts said dangerous climate change was almost “inevitable” and the planet was on the brink of a “tipping point” as thawing permafrost releases large volumes of carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere, causing temperatures to rise and more permafrost to melt. They warned that governments were engaged in “wishful thinking” when it came to emission reductions and said their study showed previous warming projections that failed to account for permafrost thaws may be inaccurate.
    • Permafrost – soil that has been frozen for at least two years – acts as a store for large amounts of carbon and other nutrients from organic matter. However, governments have largely failed to factor the release of vast amounts of carbon held in this frozen rock and sediment into their climate projections.
    • Researchers at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, who studied the impact of thawing permafrost on emissions targets, said policymakers had made assumptions about climate change based on a “linear relationship” between global temperature rise and CO2 emissions. They found that the release of huge amounts of carbon would render past emissions projections useless as they fail to account for the exponential growth triggered by melting permafrost.
    • RCP Concentration Calculations and Data Final Version, background data, acknowledgements and further info
  • Mike's passive solar greenhouse design/build: My mission is to create a greenhouse that allows people in a cloudy and frigid environment to grow food year round. I am imagining that this will be particularly suited to the northern Midwest and New England. It may certainly work in many places but the design will be optimized for my sun angle and seasons. Once it works (I'm trying not to say if) I want to share the design broadly. I want to reduce the need for shipping produce across the country/hemisphere.
  • At this rate, Earth risks sea level rise of 20 to 30 feet, historical analysis shows: New research finds that a vast area of Antarctica retreated when Earth’s temperatures weren’t much warmer than they are now.
    • Temperatures not much warmer than the planet is experiencing now were sufficient to melt a major part of the East Antarctic ice sheet in Earth’s past, scientists reported Wednesday, including during one era about 125,000 years ago when sea levels were as much as 20 to 30 feet higher than they are now. “It doesn’t need to be a very big warming, as long as it stays 2 degrees warmer for a sufficient time, this is the end game,” said David Wilson, a geologist at Imperial College London and one of the authors of the new research, which was published in Nature. Scientists at institutions in Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Spain also contributed to the work.


  • National Teachers Group Confronts Climate Denial: Keep the Politics Out of Science Class: The association urged science teachers at all levels to emphasize that 'no scientific controversy exists regarding the basic facts of climate change.'
  • New White House Biodefense Plan Omits Climate Change: Research has shown that warming may aide the spread of some infectious diseases
    • A new White House strategy to combat biological threats issues a stark warning about infectious disease. But it fails to mention the many ways they can be influenced by climate change.
    • The new strategy emphasizes the importance of understanding the origins of biological dangers and preventing them as much as possible. It outlines a number of focus areas, including threats from drug-resistant pathogens, agricultural diseases and food-borne illnesses, laboratory accidents, and biological warfare. But despite acknowledging many specific events that can increase the risk of infectious disease, it makes no mention of climate change.
    • The factors affecting the spread of infectious disease tend to be complex. In addition to climate change, other forms of environmental change—such as deforestation or urbanization—may also affect the likelihood that humans could come into contact with disease-carrying pests or animals. Other aspects of human societies, including poverty, sanitation or access to clean water, can also affect the spread of disease. Climate change is by no means the only concern, or even necessarily the biggest one, when it comes to infectious disease. But it’s certainly one of them, scientists increasingly warn.


  • The Fox News Effect: In their newest piece, Paul and Anne Ehrlich discuss the political divide and severe social consequences created across the globe as a result of the Fox News Effect.
    • “One of the most remarkable threats to watercourses in the United States are concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). For example, thousands of swine are often confined in a small area and their feces collected in big ponds. Fermentation can lead to geysers in the mess, and occasionally retaining dams will break. In 1995 a CAFO caused what was up until then the largest environmental spill in the history of the nation—more than twice that of the disastrous Exxon Valdez oil spill. A North Carolina hog manure lagoon ruptured and released nearly 100 million liters (26 million gallons) of effluvium into the New River. It killed every living creature in the river, including fish by the millions. The feces also breed microbes that produce neurotoxins that can disorient people exposed to the floods of pig feces—a phenomenon known technically as the “Fox News Effect.[1]”. (ael: reference 1 is Ehrlich's own Bradshaw C, Ehrlich PR. 2015. Killing the Koala and Poisoning the Prairie: Australia, America, and the Environment. University of Chicago Press.)
    • Can anything be done to improve the chances of survival? If there is, now’s the time. The government of the United States, the most powerful nation, is pushing humanity down a suicidal path. In this election year there may be the last chance to change its course. I won’t go through here all the obvious necessary changes to avert environmental and/or socio-economic catastrophe. We must focus on the first step – removing from power the madmen now in charge. The efforts of civil society must be focused on the immediate, critical goal of taking back the Congress in the 2018 elections– not just the House but the Senate too. Trump’s infesting of the judiciary with far-right ideologues has already gone much too far. The fate of the United States and, we are afraid, of civilization truly now rests with the people.
  • Global demand for fossil fuels will peak in 2023, says thinktank: Oil and gas firms’ assets at risk from massive growth in wind and solar, says Carbon Tracker
    • ["Peaking fossil fuel consumption is good…" says Andy Long, climate change pessimist: "trouble is, 2023's way too late!"]
    • Global demand for fossil fuels will peak in 2023, an influential thinktank has predicted, posing a significant risk to financial markets because trillions of dollars’ worth of oil, coal and gas assets could be left worthless.
    • The projection is much more bullish than estimates by the global energy watchdog and oil and gas companies, which mostly expect demand to peak in the mid-2030s. Coal reached its peak in 2014.
    • The group did not look at the likelihood or impact of the Paris climate agreement being weakened by other countries following the US and quitting, as one Brazilian presidential candidate has threatened. However, Sebastian Ljungwaldh, an energy analyst at Carbon Tracker, said: “If more and more countries start to take Paris less seriously, that will have some effect on how quickly the energy transition happens.”
  • The Carbon Farming Solution: A Global Toolkit of Perennial Crops and Regenerative Agriculture Practices for Climate Change Mitigation and Food Security
    • Carbon farming is a suite of agricultural practices and crops that sequester carbon in the soil and in above-ground biomass. Combined with a massive reduction in fossil fuel emissions—and in concert with adaptation strategies to our changing environment— carbon farming has the potential to bring us back from the brink of disaster and return our atmosphere to the “magic number” of 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide. Toensmeier’s book is the first to bring together these powerful strategies in one place, including in-depth analysis of the available research and, where research is lacking, a discussion of what it will take to get us there.
    • [ael: 350 is a "magic number"? What the hell! It was proposed by James Hansen, and since rescinded: he wants a smaller number.]
    • Example from the book: The farm that grows climate solutions: Here’s how agriculture can make sequestered carbon one of its most valuable products.


  • Fossil fuel dependence poses 'direct existential threat', warns UN chief: A rapid global shift to clean energy is needed to prevent runaway climate change, says António Guterres
    • United Nations secretary general António Guterres has warned that the world is facing “a direct existential threat” and must rapidly shift from dependence on fossil fuels by 2020 to prevent “runaway climate change”. Guterres called the crisis urgent and decried the lack of global leadership to address global warming. “Climate change is moving faster than we are,” Guterres said on Monday. “We need to put the brake on deadly greenhouse gas emissions and drive climate action.”
    • Guterres said that when he addresses world leaders at their annual general assembly gathering in two weeks, he will tell them “that climate change is the great challenge of our time” and what is missing is leadership and a sense of urgency to respond.


  • The Most Honest Book About Climate Change: Yet William T. Vollmann’s latest opus is brilliant, but it offers no comfort to its readers.
    • It is also an almanac of global energy use. The initial volume opens with a 200-page primer busy with tables, lists, and data (“I assure you that there will be no harm in skipping to page 217”) and concludes with 80 pages of definitions, units, and conversions (“Readers should feel free to skip this section”). It is a travelogue to natural landscapes riven by energy production, most prominently Fukushima (nuclear), West Virginia (coal), Colorado (natural gas), and the United Arab Emirates (oil). It is a work of oral history, containing dozens of interviews with laborers who toil in or live beside nuclear reactors, caves, and oil refineries, paired with Vollmann’s own snapshots. And it is a compassionate work of anthropology that tries to make sense of man’s inability to weigh future cataclysm against short-term comfort. Carbon Ideologies is most fascinating, however, for what it is not: a polemic.
    • Vollmann declares from the outset that he will not offer any solutions, because he does not believe any are possible: “Nothing can be done to save [the world as we know it]; therefore, nothing need be done.” This makes Carbon Ideologies, for all its merits and flaws, one of the most honest books yet written on climate change. Vollmann’s undertaking is in the vanguard of the coming second wave of climate literature, books written not to diagnose or solve the problem, but to grapple with its moral consequences.
    • Vollmann doesn’t blame the migrant steelworker for his complacency or ignorance, of course. He blames himself—often and profusely. He takes special delight in quantifying, in painstaking detail, the energy he burns in such activities as writing a draft of Carbon Ideologies, walking around the corner from his Tokyo hotel to buy a tray of convenience-store tonkatsu, and making a milkshake for his daughter. These passages are as instructive as they are tedious. They dramatize not only the tenacity of our reliance on fossil fuels, but the impossibility of truly comprehending our own culpability in our planet’s fate. How often do you pause to think about the amount of coal burned every time you take an elevator, charge your phone, or operate your blender? Even extravagant acts of self-denial are powerless in the face of such profligate consumption. Vollmann likens our most ambitious energy-conservation efforts to “a dieter who keeps eating his daily fill of cheese, pastries and ice cream … despite the laudable fact that he put broccoli on his lunch plate last Thursday.”
    • It will not take all of India’s adopting “the American way of life” to trigger gargantuan increases in global emissions. India’s ascending to the Namibian way of life will be enough.
    • The demand problem, the growth problem, the complexity problem, the cost-benefit problem, the industry problem, the political problem, the generational-delay problem, the denial problem—Vollmann scrupulously catalogs all the major unsolved problems that contribute to the colossus of climate change. “Whatever ‘solution’ I could have proposed in 2017,” he writes, “would have been found wanting before the oceans rose even one more inch!” (The title of a late chapter, “A Ray of Hope,” is to be read sarcastically.) Nor have his six years of traveling the world, tabulating data, and interviewing experts changed his mind about any major aspect of the issue. The reader who begins Carbon Ideologies hopeless will finish it hopeless. So will the hopeful reader.
    • But there exist other kinds of readers—those who do not read for advice or encouragement or comfort. Those who are sick of dishonesty crusading as optimism. Those who seek to understand human nature, and themselves. Because human nature is Vollmann’s true subject—as it must be. The story of climate change hangs on human behavior, not geophysics. Vollmann seeks to understand how “we could not only sustain, but accelerate the rise of atmospheric carbon levels, all the while expressing confusion, powerlessness and resentment.” Why did we take such insane risks? Could we have behaved any other way? Can we behave any other way? If not, what conclusions must we draw about our lives and our futures? Vollmann admits that even he has shied away from fully comprehending the damage we’ve done. “I had never loathed myself sufficiently to craft the punishment of full understanding,” he writes. “How could I? No one person could.” He’s right, though books like Carbon Ideologies will bring us closer.
    • His “letter to the future” is a suicide note. He does not seek an intervention—only acceptance. If not forgiveness, then at least acceptance.
  • With a shrinking EPA, Trump delivers on his promise to cut government: On the campaign trail, Donald Trump vowed to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency “in almost every form. We’re going to have little tidbits left, but we’re going to take a tremendous amount out.”
    • During the first 18 months of the Trump administration, records show, nearly 1,600 workers left the EPA, while fewer than 400 were hired. The exodus has shrunk the agency’s workforce by 8 percent, to levels not seen since the Reagan administration. The trend has continued even after a major round of buyouts last year and despite the fact that the EPA’s budget has remained stable.
    • “I felt it was time to leave given the irresponsible, ongoing diminishment of agency resources, which has recklessly endangered our ability to execute our responsibilities as public servants,” said Ann Williamson, a scientist and longtime supervisor in the EPA’s Region 10 Seattle office.
    • That sentiment played a role in Betsy Smith’s decision to retire in June after 20 years with the EPA’s Office of Research and Development — a department singled out for massive cuts in Trump’s first budget proposal. She said officials largely shelved a project she was leading that aimed to help port communities deal with climate change and other environmental challenges. “It’s really awful to feel like you don’t have any role to play, that there’s not any interest in the work you’re doing,” said Smith, 62. “My feeling was I could do better work to protect the environment outside the EPA.”
  • Why we don’t prepare for the future: Does America adapt by crisis or consensus? Do we spontaneously change because we see we must, or must we be coerced by events that leave us no choice? — “The Good Life and Its Discontents: The American Dream in the Age of Entitlement”
    • The jury, I think, is in: We’re relying on crises. We hope they don’t occur and pretend they’re not inevitable, whatever they might be. As a society, we have failed to confront some of the major social, political and economic realities of our time: immigration, globalization, health spending, global warming, federal budget deficits, stubborn poverty and the aging of society, among others. What almost all of these issues have in common is that the remedies they suggest are unpleasant. They demand, in the political vernacular, “sacrifice."
    • It’s hard to inflict present pain for uncertain future gain. Our political system makes us vulnerable to distant crises, because we don’t try to anticipate and defuse them. Just what kind of crisis is hard to know. A financial crisis — not unlike the 2008-2009 financial collapse — seems plausible. Other possibilities: war, pandemics and cyberattacks, to mention a few. There is one common denominator: We lose some control over our future.
  • Amazon’s Antitrust Antagonist Has a Breakthrough Idea: With a single scholarly article, Lina Khan, 29, has reframed decades of monopoly law.
  • 'Hunger stones' tell Elbe's centuries-old tale of drought: The boulder in the town of Decin, north of the capital, Prague, is roughly the size of a van and bears the foreboding inscription, "If you can see me, then weep".
    • Boatman and riverside innkeeper Franz Mayer etched the words in German — "Wenn du mich siehst, dann weine" — during a period of low water in 1904 in the days when the country was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. "Over the centuries, many people earned their living on the Elbe as rafters, and when there wasn't enough water to float their rafts, they lost their livelihoods," Vlastimil Pazourek, head of the museum in Decin, told AFP. "The rafters engraved the dates of those bad years on the soft sandstone boulders typical for this region, hence the name 'hunger stone'," Pazourek said.
    • Prague experienced its hottest summer since records started in 1775, the weather institute said last week. "Complications arise when the level of the Elbe in Decin is down to around 250 cm, and if it drops below 115 cm, river transport is no longer viable," Petr said. "A similar situation occurred in 2015 and 2016, but this year, the water level has fallen more rapidly in a way that hasn't been seen in the last two decades," he told AFP. Experts predict ebbing river levels will become the norm in coming years.


  • Interactive Map: Climate in 2050: How will rising temperatures affect your community? We mapped what the world will look like under current climate change projections.
    • 4 degrees C for Mattawa region
    • 3.3 for Campbell County
    • 3.4 for Wood County
    • This is under the high emissions scenario
    • They're showing Togo at around 2 degrees C.


  • Dire Climate Change Warnings Cut From Trump Power-Plant Proposal: Warnings about potentially severe consequences of climate change were deleted from a Trump administration plan to weaken curbs on power plant emissions during a White House review. Drafts had devoted more than 500 words to highlighting the impacts — more heat waves, intense hurricanes, heavy rainfalls, floods and water pollution — as part of the proposal to replace Obama-era restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions. That language was left out of the Trump administration’s final analysis of the Environmental Protection Agency proposal, when it was unveiled Aug. 21.
  • Pacific Islands call on U.S. to recommit to the Paris Agreement on climate change: Australia, New Zealand, and nations of the Pacific Islands are calling on the U.S. to return to the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change after Donald Trump officially withdrew the country from it last year. They've also signed an agreement deeming climate change "the single greatest threat" to the region.
  • Fighting climate change could boost the global economy by $26 trillion: Concerted efforts to stop climate change by 2030 would also create 65 million new jobs and–this part is important–stop 700,000 premature deaths.


  • Governments 'not on track' to cap temperatures at below 2 degrees: U.N.: Governments are not on track to meet a goal of the 2015 Paris agreement of capping temperatures well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) before the end of the century, a United Nations official said on Sunday ahead of climate-change talks in Bangkok this week.
    • Patricia Espinosa, head of the Executive Secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which steers the climate talks, said both the public and private sector need to act with urgency to avoid “catastrophic effects”.


  • Climate change could render many of Earth’s ecosystems unrecognizable: After the end of the last ice age — as sea levels rose, glaciers receded and global average temperatures soared as much as seven degrees Celsius — the Earth’s ecosystems were utterly transformed. Forests grew up out of what was once barren, ice-covered ground. Dark, cool stands of pine were replaced by thickets of hickory and oak. Woodlands gave way to scrub, and savanna turned to desert. The more temperatures increased in a particular landscape, the more dramatic the ecological shifts. It’s about to happen again, researchers are reporting Thursday in the journal Science. A sweeping survey of global fossil and temperature records from the past 20,000 years suggests that Earth’s terrestrial ecosystems are at risk of another, even faster transformation unless aggressive action is taken against climate change.
  • Alberta pulls out of Canada's climate plan: Premier Rachel Notley pulled Alberta out of the national climate agreement Thursday until the federal government gets the Trans Mountain pipeine expansion back on track. "Alberta is pulling out of the federal climate plan," Notley told reporters following a nationally-televised address after the pipeline project construction was halted by a court ruling. "Without Alberta the climate plan isn't worth the paper it's printed on."
  • Crop losses to pests will soar as climate warms, study warns: Rising temperatures make insects eat and breed more, leading to food losses growing world population cannot afford, say scientists

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