Greenland, Antarctica, South America, the Himalayas—it’s all going, the ice is leaving the Earth. This is a whirl-wind roundup of new science with Ottawa climate expert Paul Beckwith. We talk pollution (is it saving us?), vanishing glaciers, Tasmanian dry lightening fires, James Hansen’s latest, tech to draw down carbon dioxide, and why this scientist made 500 videos to educate and warn the public via YouTube. Catch up quick, with this week’s Radio Ecoshock.
Show by Radio Ecoshock, reposted under CC License. Episode details at https://www.ecoshock.org/2019/02/the-end-of-ice.html
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WE ARE WITNESSING THE END OF THE AGE OF ICE ON EARTH
Sea level rise is going to be wicked this century, and for centuries after that. We will redraw the maps, withdraw from our ports, lose the weather we need for agriculture, and maybe regroup into tribes that will survive. New revelations from climate science are coming in so fast, no single scientist or radio host can keep track of it all. It is like standing in front of a fire-hose.
We are going to surf some of the highlights with our favorite climate generalist, Paul Beckwith. Paul has a Masters degrees and an engineering degree. He taught climate science at two Canadian Universities. Now he is without a doubt, the world’s biggest climate teacher on YouTube, with over 500 videos full of charts, satellite images, and explanations of the bizarre unfolding of climate change. We are going to cover the whole wild world, from the South Pole through Australia to Europe, North America, all the way to the North Pole.
THE POLAR VORTEX AND THE WINTER OF CLIMATE CHANGE
When we think of global warming, we imagine hot days, way too hot days and fires. But Paul and I discuss what I call “The Winter of Climate Change”. A while back we had pro meteorologist Judah Cohen on the air. He said the term “polar vortex” really only applies to events in the Stratosphere, but now it has been stolen and popularized by TV weather forecasters. What we are really describing is a blast of super-cold Arctic air escaping lower down to the mid-latitudes, partly due to a weak and wavering Jet Stream.
In Paul’s YouTube videos, he often talks about whip-saw events where temperatures can shift as much as 70F (21C) within 24 hours. This is very hard on human infrastructure, but it’s really toxic to plants. I worry we’ll see tree die-off, and lost perennials from those sub-zero chills followed by spring-like warmth the next day.
A week ago photos in the Tasmanian highlands of Australia showed giant forest fires on the horizon, during record hot heat. Fast forward to Tuesday 12th, and you would see an unusual summer snow storm at the same spot! Whipsaw.
ICE SHEET LOSS
There is new science out, saying “Melting ice sheets may cause ‘climate chaos’ according to new modeling” and “Current international climate policies do not take into account full effects on global climate”.
Professor Natalya Gomez, from the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at McGill modeled projected changes to water levels around the globe as ice melts into the ocean. The ice sheet simulations suggest that the fastest increase in the rise of sea levels is likely to occur between 2065 and 2075. Melting ice sheets will affect water temperatures and circulation patterns in the world’s oceans, which will in turn affect air temperatures in a complex ice-ocean-atmosphere feedback loop.
“Water levels would not simply rise like a bathtub,” says Gomez. “Some areas in the world, such as the island nations in the Pacific, would experience a large rise in sea level, while close to the ice sheets the sea level would actually fall.”
The effects of ice sheet melt are far more widespread than simply leading to changes in sea levels. As warmer melt water enters the oceans, major currents such as the Gulf Stream will be significantly weakened. This will lead to warmer air temperatures in the high Arctic, Eastern Canada and Central America, and cooler temperatures over northwestern Europe.”
HEAT RECORDS AND PREDICTIONS
People mistakenly think Tasmania is tropical, but it is the closest part of Australia to Antarctica. The weather should be very temperate if not cold and wet there, most of the year. Tasmania has world-class forests that have not burned in thousands of years, until the last few years. Like me in British Columbia, Tasmanians have felt the terror of wildfires that plague the rest of Australia, now that every year is a fire year. Nowhere is safe anymore.
THE HOT SEAS
“Our model-based analysis suggests that nearly half of the industrial-era increases in global OHC have occurred in recent decades, with over a third of the accumulated heat occurring below 700m and steadily rising.”
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The author who Jeremy Scahill calls the “quintessential unembedded reporter” visits “hot spots” around the world in a global quest to discover how we will cope with our planet’s changing ecosystems
After nearly a decade overseas as a war reporter, the acclaimed journalist Dahr Jamail returned to America to renew his passion for mountaineering, only to find that the slopes he had once climbed have been irrevocably changed by climate disruption. In response, Jamail embarks on a journey to the geographical front lines of this crisis—from Alaska to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, via the Amazon rainforest—in order to discover the consequences to nature and to humans of the loss of ice.
In The End of Ice, we follow Jamail as he scales Denali, the highest peak in North America, dives in the warm crystal waters of the Pacific only to find ghostly coral reefs, and explores the tundra of St. Paul Island where he meets the last subsistence seal hunters of the Bering Sea and witnesses its melting glaciers. Accompanied by climate scientists and people whose families have fished, farmed, and lived in the areas he visits for centuries, Jamail begins to accept the fact that Earth, most likely, is in a hospice situation. Ironically, this allows him to renew his passion for the planet’s wild places, cherishing Earth in a way he has never been able to before.
Like no other book, The End of Ice offers a firsthand chronicle—including photographs throughout of Jamail on his journey across the world—of the catastrophic reality of our situation and the incalculable necessity of relishing this vulnerable, fragile planet while we still can.
Greenland: a remote, mysterious island five times the size of California but with a population of just 56,000. The ice sheet that covers it is 700 miles wide and 1,500 miles long, and is composed of nearly three quadrillion tons of ice. For the last 150 years, explorers and scientists have sought to understand Greenland—at first hoping that it would serve as a gateway to the North Pole, and later coming to realize that it contained essential information about our climate. Locked within this vast and frozen white desert are some of the most profound secrets about our planet and its future. Greenland’s ice doesn’t just tell us where we’ve been. More urgently, it tells us where we’re headed.
In The Ice at the End of the World, Jon Gertner explains how Greenland has evolved from one of earth’s last frontiers to its largest scientific laboratory. The history of Greenland’s ice begins with the explorers who arrived here at the turn of the twentieth century—first on foot, then on skis, then on crude, motorized sleds—and embarked on grueling expeditions that took as long as a year and often ended in frostbitten tragedy. Their original goal was simple: to conquer Greenland’s seemingly infinite interior. Yet their efforts eventually gave way to scientists who built lonely encampments out on the ice and began drilling—one mile, two miles down. Their aim was to pull up ice cores that could reveal the deepest mysteries of earth’s past, going back hundreds of thousands of years.
Today, scientists from all over the world are deploying every technological tool available to uncover the secrets of this frozen island before it’s too late. As Greenland’s ice melts and runs off into the sea, it not only threatens to affect hundreds of millions of people who live in coastal areas. It will also have drastic effects on ocean currents, weather systems, economies, and migration patterns.
Gertner chronicles the unfathomable hardships, amazing discoveries, and scientific achievements of the Arctic’s explorers and researchers with a transporting, deeply intelligent style—and a keen sense of what this work means for the rest of us. The melting ice sheet in Greenland is, in a way, an analog for time. It contains the past. It reflects the present. It can also tell us how much time we might have left.
“Jon Gertner takes readers to spots few journalists or even explorers have visited. The result is a gripping and important book.”—Elizabeth Kolbert, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Sixth Extinction
“International journalism at its best.”—Stephen Kinzer
“Every conflict spawns a handful of journalists who are willing to not only brave the war zone but to seek out the stories ignored by the press pack. The Iraq War has brought us Dahr Jamail. . . . I suspect Jamail’s account will prove an enduring document of what really happened during the chaotic years of occupation, and how it transformed ordinary Iraqis. . . . It tells everything.”—Mother Jones
“From the earliest days of the war, Dahr Jamail has been a human conduit for the voices of Iraqis living under U.S. occupation. In the face of tremendous personal risk, his commitment to the crucial, principled task of bearing witness has never wavered, and this extraordinary book is the result.”—Naomi Klein
Named by AlterNet as one of the top three progressive books of 2007 alongside Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine and Jeremy Scahill’s Blackwater, Dahr Jamail’s Beyond the Green Zone goes past the polished desks of the corporate media and Washington politicians to tell first hand of the reality of life in Iraq.
Dahr Jamail is an independent journalist who has covered the Middle East for more than four years. Jamail writes for the Inter Press Service and many other outlets and is a regular guest on Democracy Now!. He lives in California.
Amy Goodman is a best-selling author and the host of Democracy Now!.