Archive for October, 2008

More From Hansen

October 31, 2008

Someone sent me this letter from Jim Hansen. You should read it, especially the part about VP choice. I like to include anything by Hansen, who is actually a nice curmudgeon, if there is such a person..

Matt

A new post at http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/20081030_Target.pdf contains:

1. the note below (2 pages).
2. Draft press release for “Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim?” (2 pages).
3. Draft “Q&A” re that paper (2 pages).

“Target CO2” publication, “Obstruction” clarification, Paterson letter
 
will appear in 3-4 days in The Open Atmospheric Sciences Journal.  Thanks for suggestions, which improved the clarity.
 
This journal is one of the new ones with free worldwide access [we submitted the paper there after Science would not accept it because it had already been published on blogs and discussed in the media.]  This experience with an Open Journal was good, so I will probably try The Open Environment Journal for a paper now in preparation.  Publication would have been faster except their referee suggestions required adding a section on caveats and uncertainties, which took a long time because of other commitments.  The additions (sections 4.5 and Fig. 7 in the main text and section 18 and Fig. S21 in the Supplementary Material) are useful, I believe.
 
Below is a draft press release that I am providing to both NASA and Columbia University, and an incomplete draft of personal “answers to frequent questions” aimed at avoiding the need to respond to the same questions multiple times.  Criticisms are welcome.
 
2. “Obstruction of Justice. Thanks to several people who pointed out that the correct character for comparison in “Grapes of Wrath” was Tom Joad.  Responses to my “Obstruction” post show that I left a number of misimpressions.
         “Gets it”.  My statement that neither presidential candidate “gets it”, based on their enthusiasm for “clean coal” and “carbon cap and trade”, generated a few angry responses.  I am sorry if I left the impression that I saw no difference between candidates.  One reader concluded I would vote for Ralph Nader! I am surprised, because I attached voting recommendations (based on the astute analysis of the League of Conservation Voters) including the presidential race.  I believe the United States needs a third party, but the groundwork has not been laid for an effective one.  Besides, there is hope that the 2008 election could bring transformational change.
            I understand one being jaded, even cynical, due to failure of previous candidates (both parties) to deliver on promised transformation.  But the vice presidential choices should jolt even the most jaded and somnolent into getting their fannies to the polls, if they retain any concern about life and the planet left for our children.  Our best chance is to elect someone who has the capability of “getting it”, if we can ever succeed in making the climate story clear enough.
            My caution about what a winning candidate will actually deliver is based on experience.  If my “Trip Report” ( http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/20080804_TripReport.pdf), recounting dismal failure to help officials in various countries “get it”, did not convince you, I offer another example: Australia.  Response to my “Dear Prime Minister Rudd” at ( http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/20080401_DearPrimeMinisterRudd_reply.pdf ) hardly illuminates the Australian position, but their subsequently stated goals of 450-550 ppm CO2 does.  That plan appears to have been written by the coal industry, and, if adopted globally, practically guarantees destruction of most life on the planet.  I would be more critical, except that much of the problem is probably due to our failure to make the climate story clear enough.  More later on this topic and the ways in which moneyed interests finagle “cap and trade” to everybody else’s detriment.
            PowerVote.  Apologies to Andy Revkin, who responded to my “Obstruction of Justice” post thusly: “I never said you advocated ‘unlawful protest’ but that you endorsed ‘civil disobedience’.” I should be careful in getting precise quotes.  However, I do not recall endorsing civil disobedience either (yet).
            My recommendation has been that young people spend maximum effort on the democratic process, affecting upcoming elections on all levels, and then, after the election, demanding that those elected deliver on their promises.  I have cooperated with the (nominally non-partisan) PowerVote, Virginia Powershift, ReEnergize Iowa, 350.org, 1sky.org, etc., and have my t-shirts to prove it.  Of course, there will be time to reassess later, depending on whether elected leaders show that they “get it” or, instead, return to “business-as-usual”.
            In this regard, I draw your attention to a note from Holly Garrett:
I am writing to let you know that we are accepting National Council Applications for SEAC (Student Environmental Action Coalition) at this time.  This is a great opportunity for students and other youth to gain more skills and develop as leaders in the climate movement.  If you’ve met any stellar youth in your travels (especially in the UK or other countries!) please forward this to them and invite them to apply!  We’re looking for dedicated and effective leaders and organizers to join the 2009 SEAC. (Obtain application from http://www.seac.org)
            Media.  In “Obstruction” I forgot to raise the question about our American media.  Why is it that the Kingsnorth case is on the front page and the 6 o’clock news in the UK, but the Wise County case is ignored by U.S. media?  The damage in the U.S. case, both climate and mountaintop removal, exceeds that in the UK.  A case with 20-year-olds standing up for their and future generations, against powerful interests, without support of Greenpeace-level organizations, would seem to warrant coverage. Is this a case of media, in a company-town, company-state, company-country situation, intentionally looking the other way?  Or is it simply that these young people are not as media savvy as Greenpeace?
 
3. “Dear Governor Paterson. Letter to the New York Governor is at
http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/20081030_DearGovernorPaterson.pdf
 

Jim Hansen

1. “Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim?

Exxon-Mobil, More Profits

October 30, 2008

These guys (Exxon-Mobil), posted their largest profits ever, a measly 16 billion dollars..while the rest of the country struggles. The question is how do they do it as oil prices fall? Where is the oil floor for us? Lets not get lulled again as our price at the gas pump continues to fall; obviously Exxon-Mobil profits are doing better than ever.

Matt

Seabird Signals

October 30, 2008

This is the title of an article that I recently found in Natinal Wildlife Federations monthly magazine, a copy which I took away from the Bozeman Public Library’s magazine bins, for reused magazines. This article appears in the August and September 2008 issue. This article is about how Global Warming is negatively impacting seabirds like the puffins.

Rhinoceras Auklets, a seabird that is found from Northern California to Alaska to the Sea of Japan, time their breeding and abundant prey very closely. Global Warming is changing the dates and the temperature that the water is at (temperatures are rising, krill, Rhinoceras Auklet food, is decreasing). This food is the same food that adult birds bring back to their nest to feed their young; a viscious cycle.

 Krill rides on water upwells to the point where in certain years it doesnt even upwell at all, so no krill is available for food (prey). The end result is that birds like the Rhino Auklet, will starve because there is no food for them….or increasing temperatues decrease the amount of food available to Rhino Auklets as a result these once common birds are decreasing right before our eyes.

Matt

An Excellent Book, And Some Concern

October 29, 2008

Harold Picton, my former major professor is supposed to be retired the same with Terry Lonner, a retired elk biologist from this region of Montana; you would never know it. Together they wrote a great book about the restoration of Montana’s Wildlife by the wildlife comunity of Montana’s Fish, Wildlife and Parks and people very much associated with that community mixed in with some ranchers and the sport hunting community.

Picton did agree with me that the high elevation whitebark pine, the nut being an important fall food for the Yellowstone grizzly bear, was being devistated by the pine bark beetle infestation that was becoming a common sight in the Yellowstone Ecosystem.

He did agree that the grizzlies future in Yellowstone was in for real trouble as the pine bark beetle infests the whitebark pine.

What I know about Picton is that when he expresses that level of concern things quickly regress. That regression is exactly what is happening to the Yellowstone Grizzly.

Matt

The IPS and Hansen Bring Us Bad Global Warming News

October 26, 2008

The post from the day before about the United Nations IPS writing that the world has a carbon dioxide quotient of 3 ppm. Jim Hansen, chimed in that by next century we (the world) are on a trajectry of adding 6 degrees to the earths temperature. Either, or prediction, wildlife on earth will be seriously impacted.

Hansen has said we (the world) would need to decrease our current output of carbon dioxide to 3 ppm by the end of the century.  At that level the polar bear will go extint, ice seals will go extinct and a vast array of mammals and birds will be close to extinction or highly threatened with extinction before the end of this century. Humans, and our way of life, will be threatened. Much of our coastlines, worldwide, will have some level of sea-level rise. Persons will live in refugee camps that are a result of Global Warming. Who is going to feed these people in refugee camps? The US will be too busy getting its own house in order; and on, and on! The litany is almost insurmountable.

This seems like a dire prediction as we face so many short term challenges. Gore, though, asked a prescient question, “how hard do we want to fall” ? I don’t think the question is answered by the world’s public, as we face so many short term challenges.  We are distracted by real issues in a world full of uncertainty.

I find it easy to point fingers, but the bottom line is it will take much strength to get out of this mess and I, for one, am willing to give most of the stregnth I do have to this dilema that I do see out there…how about you!

Matt

I Am Just A Canary, But Here We Are

October 24, 2008
 
The most recent major report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007 projects a temperature rise of three degrees Celsius, plus or minus 1.5 degrees—enough to trigger serious impacts on human life from rising sea level, widespread drought, changes in weather patterns, and the like.But according to Hansen and his nine co-authors, who have submitted their paper to Open Atmospheric Science Journal, the correct figure is closer to six degrees C. “That’s the equilibrium level,” he says. “We won’t get there for a while. But that’s where we’re aiming.” And although the full impact of this temperature increase will not be felt until the end of this century or even later, Hansen says, the point at which major climate disruption is inevitable is already upon us. “If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted,” the paper states, “CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm [parts per million] to at most 350 ppm.” The situation, he says, “is much more sensitive than we had implicitly been assuming.”

Whats Happening To The Big Cats

October 24, 2008

This occurred to me yesterday evening as I listened to Joel Berger, a well known carnivore expert, address The Wildlife Conservation Society at the Beal Art Gallery in downtown Bozeman, MT. I visited lion country, leopard country, cheetah country in Africa and the parks they were in  were surrounded by cattle raising persons whose entire culture was based on killing lions. The hunters, and all the persons around the wildlife parks, were bursting at the seams (burgeoning populations of humans).

Cheetahs are also genetically depauperate. Much has been written on this topic but bottom line is that these cheetahs are natural born killers of livestock.

Tigers also live in reserves surrounded by cattle growers, these  same tigers, and their habitats, are greatly encroached on by poverty stricken persons and the tigers are killed for a variety of reasons as they react to this encroachment. In Far East Russia, Siberian Tigers are poached heavily, where 300 may exsist. In China tigers are grown on farms where their parts are used to make humans more viril, what a laugh if it wasnt so sad!!!

Jaguars live in South America and will kill livestock. They are heavily persacuted as a result of this.

Mountain Lions in South and North America will also eat cattle. They are hunted. This all ads up. and the mountain lion can be widely prosecuted for this habit.

So the number one killer  of large cats is encroachment by droves of pesons in big cat habitat. The second reason for killing big cats, and this reason is closely related to reason #1, is that they will kill livestock as long as the opportunty presents itself.

Tolerance is a large factor in cat conservation and also as long as cats have something to eat they will eat…livestock or not. This is where Global Warming may impact the large cats. As big cat food decreases as the planet heats up big cats will be negatively impacted if enough big cats are around for that to really matter.

Bear Deaths In The Yellowstone Ecosystem Are High

October 24, 2008

This was passed on to me by a friend and its worth a read. Also today on yahoo was an article on how polar bears are being killed because they inhabit the land as the ice disappears. This dynamic is happenig in Siberia, west of Wrangell Island, a well known polar bear magnet.

This is not a good time to be a bear with so  much negatively is happening. What happens to grizzly bears when the whitebark pine fails (something featured in this blog) is that bears get into trouble and are shot as they look for food sources to replace white bark pine. Climate change is impacting whitebark pines as I write this post.

3. Jackson Hole Daily, “Bear Deaths High”

October 24, 2008 Friday

By Cory Hatch

 

Researchers say human-caused grizzly-bear deaths have taken a toll in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem this year, despite estimates that the overall population continues to grow.

 Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team officials estimate that 39 grizzly bears have died in 2008. Seventeen of those deaths involved hunting incidents, six where the result of natural causes and four had unknown causes. The remainder of the deaths were some form of human-caused death, including management removals of problem bears.

 Male grizzly bears have already surpassed a 15 percent mortality threshold that, if observed for three consecutive years, would prompt a management review by state agencies. That review could result in grizzlies being placed back under Endangered Species Act protection.

 If another female grizzly is shot by a hunter, female mortalities would pass a 9 percent threshold that would trigger a similar review after two consecutive years.

 Those thresholds were last surpassed in 2000.

 When a person other than a wildlife manager reports a grizzly bear death, researchers count it as three toward the thresholds because roughly two-thirds of citizen-caused grizzly deaths go unreported, said study team leader and U.S. Geological Survey researcher Chuck Schwartz.

 “We know that there are bears that die in the ecosystem that we don’t hear about,“ Schwartz said.

 “A lot of bears have been shot in defense of life,” Schwartz said from his office in Montana . “We wanted to get the word out before a large number of hunters hit the field so we don’t end up with a bunch more dead bears on the ground. We want to emphasize to the public that you have to be careful out there. We don’t want to reconsider delisting the bear.”

 Hunters are taking to the woods in large numbers for the general hunting season, and bears won’t begin hibernating for the winter for another two to four weeks.

 The good news is that researchers estimate Greater Yellowstone ’s grizzly population is higher than last year — 596 bears, up from 571. Schwartz and his team made the estimate based on 84 new cubs observed with 44 females. Researchers estimate that the population continues to grow about 4 percent annually.

 

Louisa Willcox, a wildlife advocate for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said she was shocked about this year’s bear deaths so far.

  “It’s very, very disturbing and should give us all pause,” she said.

 Willcox said much of the blame belongs with the Montana, Idaho and Wyoming state wildlife agencies for not reporting the trend earlier.

 “This pileup of dead bears didn’t happen overnight,” she said. “The agencies could have developed early warning systems to say this is a bad year for bears. There was none of that. Clearly, the system is broken.”

 Willcox said the current system needs more transparency and wildlife managers need to respond faster to large numbers of bear deaths.

 “A lot of these problems can be avoided, and the agencies haven’t responded,” she said.

 Also, Willcox said this year’s deaths further validate a lawsuit that would put bears back on the endangered species list. The lawsuit was filed by the Natural Resources Defence Council, the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance , the Sierra Club and others.

 The groups argue that grizzly bears remain imperiled because of inadequate habitat for population growth and the effects of climate change on food sources such as whitebark pine seeds. The case is now before District Judge Edward Lodge in Boise , Idaho .

 Schwartz urged hunters to use extra caution when hunting in grizzly country this year. He also said recent research shows that bear spray is more effective than bullets when fending off an angry grizzly.

 “[Hunters] need to be smart about what they’re doing out in the woods, particularly if they kill something,” he said. “We can maintain healthy bear populations, but everyone has to participate.”

Hansen, As Close To A leader As We Have In Global Warming, Certainly The Smartest Person On The Subject Of Global Warming

October 23, 2008

 Obstruction of Justice
 

            “You’re Hannah, right?”  Hannah Morgan, a 20-year old from Appalachia, Virginia, was one of 11 protesters in handcuffs early Monday morning September 15 at the construction site for a coal-fired power plant being built in Wise County Virginia by Dominion Power.  The handcuffs were applied by the police, but the questioner, it turns out, was from Dominion Power.
            “Mumble, mumble, mumble”, the discussion between police and the Dominion man were too far away to be heard by the young people.  But it almost seemed that the police were working for Dominion.  Maybe that’s the way it works in a company town.  Or should we say company state?  Virginia has got one of the most green-washed coal-blackened governors in the nation ( http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/20080529_DearGovernorGreenwash.pdf ).
It seems Hannah had been pegged by Dominion as a “ringleader”.  She had participated for two years in public meetings and demonstrations against the plan for mountaintop removal, strip mining and coal burning, and she had rejected their attempts to either intimidate or bargain.
“Bargain?”  What bargain is possible when Dominion is guaranteed 14% return on their costs, whether the coal plant’s power is needed or not.  Utility customers have to cough this up, and they aren’t given any choice.  The meetings and demonstrations were peaceful. Forty-five thousand signatures against the plant were collected.  But money seems to talk louder.
         Dominion’s “mumble, mumble” must have been convincing.  Hannah and Kate Rooth were charged with 10 more crimes than the other 10 defendants.  Their charges included “encouraging or soliciting” others to participate in the action and were topped by “obstruction of justice”.  Penalty if convicted: up to 14 years in prison. [Why does this remind me of Jim Jobe in “Grapes of Wrath”?]
         “Obstruction of justice??”  My first thought was that this case might help draw attention to the inter-generational injustice and inequity of continued building of coal-fired power plants.  Is the Orwellian double-speak in the charge of “obstruction of justice” not apparent?
Executives in the coal and other fossil fuel industries are now aware of the damage that continued coal emissions causes for present and future life on the planet.  Yet their response is to promote continued use of coal, and in some cases even encourage contrarians to muddy the issue in the public’s mind.  Their actions raise issues of ethical responsibility to the young and the unborn, and a question of legal liability, it seems to me.
Mountaintop removal is not the only potential source of energy.  The governor of neighboring West Virginia asserted that if there were an alternative energy source, they would not need to continue strip mining.  A case has since been made that over time wind power on the mountaintops could provide more power than coal ( http://www.coalriverwind.org/), but if the mountaintops are removed for coal mining, the wind quality becomes less useful for power generation.  The governor has not taken up the suggestion of wind instead of coal.
         In Wise County the defense case is even stronger than at Kingsnorth in the United Kingdom ( http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/20080910_Kingsnorth.pdf), because of demonstrable local effects of strip-mining.  Twenty-five percent of Wise County is already devastated by mountaintop removal.  Health problems of local residents associated with coal dust have been well documented ( http://www.uvawise.edu/gmec/AnnualReport2007/annualreport2007.pdf ).  Given all this, the peaceful protest of the demonstrators is commendable.  They are just asking business to invest in Appalachia, not destroy it ( http://understory.ran.org/2008/09/16/wise-up-dominion/).
         However, let me correct an error in a recent article by Andy Revkin in the New York Times.  I have argued that it is time to “draw a line in the sand” and demand “no new coal plants”, but I have not advocated unlawful protest.  My recommendation, as you can see in my presentation at Virginia Tech last week ( http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/2008/VirginiaTech_20081011.pdf) (also pdf -> ppt) is that this is the time to exert maximum effort to use the democratic process. 
         I participated in a press conference of PowerVote, and the above talk was in cooperation with Virginia Powershift 2008.  The upcoming election potentially could be a tipping point, but it requires a lot of changes.  Young people are doing a great job of informing people and getting out the vote.  The organizations do not generally endorse specific candidates, but I have a very astute young friend who identified the most important races, where the outcome could affect actions on the climate matter. 
         That friend’s opinions (recommendations of the League of Conservation Voters) are below.  They include Democrats and Republicans.  (BTW, I am an Independent, and I believe that the United States needs a third party, but that will be the subject of a different e-mail.)
Don’t expect the election to solve the climate problem.  There are differences between Presidential candidates, but neither appears to “get it”.  They both seem to think that “clean coal” exists.  They both (and special interests) are likely to favor the hidden tax and market distortions of the inefficient “carbon cap and trade” game.  For politicians and CEOs the shenanigan potential of “carbon cap and trade” is irresistible – it beats the pants off a simple, honest, effective “carbon tax and 100% dividend” that would put money in the hands of consumers and drive innovations and energy/carbon efficiency in the most economically effective way.
         Back to Hannah Morgan et al. and the proposed coal plant.  No happy ending here, at least not yet.  The defense lawyer realized that a trial would be dangerous.  An “unfavorable jury pool” made the possibility of prison time real.  With 14 charges against Hannah and Kate, it was unlikely that a jury would find them innocent of all charges.  Result: a “B-minus” plea bargain.
         This, it seems to me, is the reality of the present situation in the United States.  The fossil fuel industry has enormous power, with big influence on the public, as well as on politicians.  Although practical steps to stabilize climate, with other benefits, can be defined, it will be difficult to overcome fossil fuel special interests, and we are running out of time.  That is my rationale for interjecting comments/recommendations about the upcoming election into this note.
Don’t expect the young people to give up.  But they shouldn’t be standing alone.  They didn’t even create the mess.  They are just inheriting it.
 
To top it off, because I was on travel, I couldn’t make it to the court proceedings.  They had decided to accept the plea bargain, but asked me to write a statement on their behalf (which follows), but when I sent an e-mail in the wee hours that morning I failed to attach the attachment!  It figures – they are pretty much on their own anyhow.

Statement of James E. Hansen*

                If this case had gone to trial I would have requested permission to testify on behalf of these young people, who, for the sake of nature and humanity, had the courage to stand up against powerful “authority”.  In fact, these young people speak with greater authority and understanding of the consequences of continued coal mining, not only for the local environment, but for the well-being of nature itself, of creation, of the planet inherited from prior generations.
                The science of climate change has become clear in recent years: if coal emissions to the atmosphere are not halted, we will drive to extinction a large fraction of the species on the planet.  Already almost half of summer sea ice in the Arctic has been lost, coral reefs are under great stress, mountain glaciers are melting world-wide with consequences for fresh water supplies of hundreds of millions of people within the next several decades, and climate extremes including greater floods, more intense heat waves and forest fires, and stronger storms have all been documented.
                Our parents did not realize the long-term effects of fossil fuel use.  We no longer have that excuse.  Let us hope that the courage of these young people will help spark public education about the climate and environmental issues, and help us preserve nature for the sake of our children and grandchildren.

*For the sake of identification, I am director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Adjunct Professor at the Columbia University Earth Institute, but these are my personal opinions and do not represent any organization.

Jim Hansen

More Information On Global Warming, At Least My Opinion

October 22, 2008

To the northeast of this valley are the Bridger Mountains. Due north of here is the Big Belt Mountains and the Horseshoe Hills. West of here are the Tobacco Roots To the southwest are the Spanish Peaks of the Madison Range and to the south are the Hyalites of the Gallatin Range. To the east are the Story Hills. All have beetle infestation in varying degrees. The Big Belts are the most advanced .

How will this impact grizzly bears and black bears as these infestations work their way into the whitebark pines…if they hav’nt, already.

This is a gorgeous day, this after yesterday,which was snowy and dreary.

The people of this town seem very disconnected to the financial crisis, and like most person’s I know, about Global Warming.

I am not looking for the day that the citizens of Bozeman, and Montana, for that matter, become more connected to these issues but I think that day is near for the financial fiasco and in the next 2 decades for Global Warming.

Trivia

Last evenings Front Line was on Global Warming and it was an awesome show. Today’s “To the Point” there was an interesting debate on alternative forms of energy that was quite good. Both shows are on NPR.

The points in the energy debate were that we, as a country, have the infastructure in place to have wind power, but we are not ready for other alternative forms…at least not yet. My thinking is that it (infrastructure for alternative forms of energy) has to happen soon to mitigate Global Warming, or I do not think we can accomplish these changes without real deterioration to our environment and great costs to us (all humans). At all times water will be an issue that we have to “watch closely”.

Matt