Tag Archives: global warming

Is it too late for us to do anything about climate change?

Bill McKibben answers the question, describing some dire scenarios if we don’t get off fossil fuels soon. And no government is currently planning to do that. One might argue that its never too late to try and at least slow the warming down, maybe, but we’re already in a new domain. So brace yourselves… it will get bumpier on planet Earth. 

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When the weather itself is going rogue, why not the weathergirl too?

Earlier this week, I wrote and recorded my next commentary for Valley Public Radio’s “The Moral Is” series – this time about global warming / climate change, and the moral costs of denialism. Of course, I couldn’t help but keep up a “serious academic” professorial tone to the whole thing – sadly. What can I say? Its a professional constraint/hazard of being a staid old professor. Now I wish I had really done something more along these lines:

via Weathergirl goes rogue – YouTube

How would you like to sleep with the fishes?

 

How would you like to sleep here, asks the Maldives Rangali Islands resort

Would You Sleep Here?“, asks the caption beneath this astonishing photo I just came across on Facebook (via Linda Franzen Zelnio), adding,

“This suite at the Maldives Rangali Islands resort promises an unforgettable night below the Indian ocean, complete with champagne breakfast and aquatic entertainment!”

Oh yeah!! Doesn’t sound half bad, does it? Imagine falling asleep counting the little fish (hope there aren’t any big sharks up there…) and waking up with the sun filtering in through the blue sea… one can dream! Wouldn’t you love to accept the invitation, and sleep there, for one unforgettable night?

Sadly, the invitation may no longer be open, because this was a special (limited time?) honeymoon suite offer to mark the fancy hotel’s (part of the Conrad Hilton group) 5th anniversary, although the space is actually a restaurant where you can presumably still go and enjoy some seafood. Unless, of course, the hotel was really thinking ahead and using this as a market test to prepare for the inevitable. Maybe they’re converting all of their suites into aquaria!

Because, you see, there is this small problem with any long-term business plan in the Maldives. The entire country may soon be underwater what with sea levels rising and our leaders continuing to fiddle. The country’s president became a poster boy in the fight to convince the world’s leaders to do something about climate change, because his entire nation faces a real existential threat. He even held a cabinet meeting under water (although not in the above hotel suite/restaurant which is probably beyond the price range for most Maldivians) to highlight their plight. Then he got ousted in a coup, but continues to fight the good fight.

But maybe he’s been fighting the wrong fight. Perhaps, instead of trying to put villages on stilts, or move the country’s entire population to Australia, they really should invite the tropical resort industry to invest in putting the whole country under an aquarium dome like the above honeymoon suite! Think about it!

Well, not entire islands, perhaps (don’t be absurd, I hear you say), but how about at least the houses of all the people now wondering where they might have a long-term future? Tourism is a big part of the local economy after all, so why not make the most of your soon-to-be-entirely-underwater real estate? Why not make lemonade when facing all this rising saltwater that the rest of the world refuses to do anything about? Turn the country into Atlantis, the tourist resort!

One unforgettable night? Pshaw! How about spending the rest of your lifetime sleeping with the fishes underwater?

Archaeologist Brian Fagan to visit Fresno State this week (and a repost)

I just learnt that archaeologist and writer Brian Fagan is visiting my campus this week – tomorrow (Mar 6) in fact – but I will miss his visit! I’ve been wanting to bring him to Fresno for some time now – and here I am stuck in Mumbai when he does actually arrive on campus! If you are on Fresno and reading this, please do go to his talk on the Fresno State campus tomorrow. Here’s more info on the event, which is open to the public:

Fagan_march_6

Meanwhile, since I won’t be able to participate in the event, let me at least throw in my tuppence remotely, by sharing something I had written about him a few years ago. The following is a repost:

“This is a very serious issue, in fact…”

“… that’s why you’re on this show!”

That was perhaps the most ironic exchange between Brian Fagan (who said the first part) and Jon Stewart (who came back with the swift self-deprecating retort) tonight on The Daily Show where Fagan came on to talk about his new book “The Great Warming: Climate Change and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations“. The Daily Show’s promo blurb for today’s show had a link to Fagan’s blog, where he wrote this interesting post about the forecasts of prolonged droughts in some parts of the world being the silent elephants in the climate change discussion. And it was when he was discussing that very point when the above ironic exchange occurred during the interview (look for it @ 3:35 min in the video below the fold) – a double dose of irony if you will!

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Brian Fagan
www.thedailyshow.com
http://media.mtvnservices.com/mgid:cms:item:comedycentral.com:164181
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily Show on Facebook

Meanwhile, I was touched by another post discussing the Indian monsoon in a historical context, with the opening making me ache for my favorite season of the year back home:

“The peacocks danced at eventide”, wrote the sixth-century Indian writer Subdandhu of the onset of the monsoon. The monsoon is much more than a matter of meteorology in India and Pakistan. The very fabric of human existence unfolds around two seasons–the wet and the dry. The wet season brings warm, moist conditions and heavy rain, carried by the monsoon winds blowing inland from the ocean. The other half of the year, the arid season, enjoys cool, dry air from the north. The coming of the monsoon is a highlight of the year to those who suffered through the buildup after the pleasant winter months–weeks of torrid heat. Colonel Edward Tennant of the British East India Company wrote in 1886: “The sly, instead of its brilliant blue, assumes the sullen tint of lead. . . . The days become overcast and hot, banks of clouds rise over the ocean to the west. . . . At last the sudden lightning flash among the hills, and shoot through the clouds that overhang the sea, and with a crash of thunder the monsoon bursts over the hungry land.” My father was a civil servant in the British Raj in the Punjab during the 1920s. Even in his extreme old age, he could vividly recall the most epochal day of the year, when India became cold and grey, like distant England.

Trust me, it is actually quite unlike England, being grey, yes, but definitely not cold – but rather invitingly cool after a blazing hot summer! Oh how I miss the march of those grey clouds across the Bombay coastline…

Fagan goes on to describe the discovery of correlations between the Indian monsoon and El Nìno events in the Pacific…

Generations of meteorologists have tried to forecast monsoons, notable among them Sir Gilbert Walker, a brilliant statistician with a passion for flutes and atmospheric pressure, who is remembered for his discovery of the Southern Oscillation, the driving force behind El Nino and its opposite cousin, La Nina. There is now fairly general Agreement that monsoon failures sometimes, but not invariably, coincide with El Nino conditions in the Pacific, as was the case with the terrible famine and monsoon failure of 1875-6, which killed tens of thousands and ravaged at least a third of Bengal.

… before adding some strong words about the historical context of the famine and the culpability of the British empire:

While much of India starved, the British Raj was busy exporting grain to the world market. Meanwhile, the Viceroy, the eccentric and erratic Lord Lytton, who happened to be Queen Victoria’s favorite poet, was preoccupied with a gigantic durbar in Delhi, which included a week-long feast for 68,000 maharajahs and officials. An English journalist estimated that at least 100,000 rural farmers perished during the festivities, which were designed to be gaudy enough to impress the orientals”. Lytton’s shameful famine policy was one of laissez faire. The historian Mike Davis, whose book Late Victorian Holocausts should be required reading for every historian of the nineteenth century, estimates that at least 20-30 million tropical farmers perished during that century as a result of drought, famine, and famine-related diseases.

And as Fagan rounds off with an alarm bell about how future wars will be fought over water even as we waste our current resources on unnecessary wars while avoiding facing the real problems looming ahead, I’m reminded of the Indian journalist P. Sainath’s powerful book Everybody Loves a Good Drought: Stories from India’s Poorest Districts.

Will the world’s leaders finally “Get It Done” after Anjali Appadurai’s mic-check at the UN Climate Change Conference?

Powerful call to act from the young woman which ought to shame the world’s leaders into doing what they must, for her and future generations. But, we all know, don’t we? Most of the world’s so-called “leaders” (especially those from the US and other wealthy and high carbon footprint nations) have no shame! They will continue to bow down to immediate political expediency and pressure from their corporate overlords to keep selling those future generations down the river (and the rising seas) to protect short-term profits.

So it is up to us, to carry forward Anjali’s mic-check and take up her call to ask our “leaders” to “GET IT DONE”!! Or get it done ourselves – starting with throwing these bums and their corporations out of the positions of power they currently wield!

You want proof humans are weirding the global climate? How about rock-hard proof?

http://www.sfgate.com/g/graphics/2011/11/30/hardscience_player.swf

The oceans rise, even as they decline… so long, fish!

ResearchBlogging.org

Two interesting, alarming reports this week about what’s happening (no small thanks to us) to the dominant habitat on this watery planet. First, that habitat is becoming even more dominant: a paper in PNAS meticulously reconstructs global sea-levels over the past two millenia to show that the oceans have been steadily rising, in concert with climatic changes, and that their rise has accelerated in recent years. This figure ought to worry you:

Media_httpwwwrealclim_jaxzn

Meanwhile, though, that dominant habitat is also becoming emptier of inhabitants, as we continue to deplete marine wildlife in alarming ways.

Media_httpnewsbbcimgc_trgil

So concludes an international panel of marine scientists convened by the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO). Even though conservation biologists have a reputation for being alarmists, this statement from one of the panelists, should worry you:

“The findings are shocking,” said Alex Rogers, IPSO’s scientific director and professor of conservation biology at Oxford University.

“As we considered the cumulative effect of what humankind does to the oceans, the implications became far worse than we had individually realised.

“We’ve sat in one forum and spoken to each other about what we’re seeing, and we’ve ended up with a picture showing that almost right across the board we’re seeing changes that are happening faster than we’d thought, or in ways that we didn’t expect to see for hundreds of years.”

There’s more:

“The rate of change is vastly exceeding what we were expecting even a couple of years ago,” said Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, a coral specialist from the University of Queensland in Australia.

“So if you look at almost everything, whether it’s fisheries in temperate zones or coral reefs or Arctic sea ice, all of this is undergoing changes, but at a much faster rate than we had thought.”

But more worrying than this, the team noted, are the ways in which different issues act synergistically to increase threats to marine life.

Those “different issues” include, of course, overfishing, pollution – especially from nasty plastics – ocean acidification, and warming. All adding up to the next mass extinction, one we are living through, unprecedented in being caused largely by a single species – us. So what are we to do?

IPSO’s immediate recommendations include:

  • stopping exploitative fishing now, with special emphasis on the high seas where currently there is little effective regulation
  • mapping and then reducing the input of pollutants including plastics, agricultural fertilisers and human waste
  • making sharp reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Sounds simple enough, right? Clean up our act and take responsibility? So, we may know the way to back away from this rising, empty tide. Do we have the will?

Reference:

Kemp, A., Horton, B., Donnelly, J., Mann, M., Vermeer, M., & Rahmstorf, S. (2011). Climate related sea-level variations over the past two millennia Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1015619108