As expected, the number of extreme weather events has been high this summer.  What is concerning to me is how it appears to be accelerating in frequency.  This coincides with each month reaching record high temperatures.

A documentary has been made and the creator has made this available to everyone for free on YouTube.  The issues within this documentary are important.  It illustrates some of the concerning things we face now, and in the near future. Our modern western society has been created through the provision of various forms of media.  Media can help illuminate important issues, but it can also be used to ignore, or deny, things that require our immediate attention.

I hope you take the time to watch and begin to address the issues within your community, state/province, country, continent.

New Video from Yale Climate Forum

As we approach summer in the northern hemisphere, torrential rains are happening with increasing frequency.  One thing we can say with confidence, the water cycle (or hydrologic cycle ) is intensifying due to climate change.

The Balkans, as everyone is aware, have experienced catastrophic flooding due to literally experiencing three months of rain in two days. To grasp the severity of these floods, a beautiful, yet haunting, video was shot in Croatia.

 

What has been referred to as ‘historic-level’ rains, led to flooding in south China, killed 19 people, and destroyed over 3000  structures.

In the US, heavy rains, flooding and possible tornadoes battered many parts in the United States.

This is only the beginning of what promises to be a wild year in weather. This is especially true if the El Nino event happens later on this year.  There are concerns that this will rival the 1997-1998 El Nino. One of the concerns is that rains will be taken from Asia and Australia and dumped on the Americas.  In the poorer regions of Central and South America, it could be catastrophic.

This news just in. Eastern Norway is currently experiencing flooding. The details of this event are still unclear. The sad irony is that Norway has been a significant aid to Serbia. Hopefully not many people are affected by this.
 

“The news: This year’s weather might be awfully weird — and potentially very, very dangerous. Meteorologists are preparing for an El Niño that could rival the catastrophic 1997-1998 phenomenon, which the Wire calls “potentially terrifying.” ” From Policy Mic, http://www.policymic.com/articles/89697/next-year-s-weather-forecast-is-out-and-it-s-going-to-be-weird

Video  —  Posted: May 21, 2014 in Uncategorized
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NASA and University of California confirms that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is in an inevitable state of decline and is ‘unstoppable’.  This is what climate scientists refer to as ‘feedback’ loops. Below is an animation from NASA on the ongoing melt.  Also check out the article in the New York Times on this press release. It ‘appears’ we may have a century while this occurs before it speeds up and becomes a ‘crisis’.

Extreme weather stories are getting repetitive. “I’ve never seen anything like this before” is a common reaction that people experience when they experience an intense weather event.  The situation in South Surrey, British Columbia, was no different.

“Nine acres of Yue’s crops were destroyed after the South Surrey area was pounded by more than 91 millimeters of rain on Sunday”. This represented over a months worth of rain in less than 36 hours. Other areas around the area had intense downpours, but of course its variable and often location specific.  Vancouver managed to avoid most of the deluge.  Next time, they may not be so lucky.

The issue in this story of an extreme weather event was that it hit farmer’s crops.  Hence, these torrential downpours have real consequences beyond damage to property.  Things like compromised food or water security, have the potential to affect more people than those that suffered the deluge.

We haven’t approached summer yet and these extreme events are are well underway around the globe.  It concerns me that severe events appear to be accelerating and the national conversation hasn’t even started about adaptation and possible mitigation. I have little hope that mitigation will happen. I don’t see westerners willing to sacrifice their pampered lifestyle that people in developing countries dream of having. I do not see any substantial change  within our society.  People may ‘talk’ about climate change, but how many actually understand how much petroleum is embedded in every aspect of our life?

Adaptation is something we need to address immediately.  I don’t think its possible to fully adapt to what is happening now or a sea level rise which is already  ‘locked in’  over the next few decades (cause and effect of CO2) . Unlike poor countries that are profoundly vulnerable, we still have the economic capacity to address some of our structural vulnerabilities. But even though conservative politicians think we’re close to being a third world country because of ‘debt’,  they haven’t seen anything yet as the severity of extreme weather will intensify in both severity and frequency.

This economic ‘capacity’ of counties like Canada are increasingly  tenuous.   The Canadian government has invested much energy and capital in the Alberta tarsands.  Alberta has built its economy on the tarsands. Couple that with issues like an over heated housing market in cities like Toronto and the ingredients are there for some serious financial issues.

At some point, desensitization to increasing severe weather will pass a certain point that the severity will be difficult to ignore or rationalize.  The concern is all of the vulnerable issues that societies are experiencing right now will be amplified. The fear is we have waited much too long to address this issue and issues like adaptation will be expensive and beyond the financial capacity of even first world governments to truly address.

I understand there are many issues today that are concerning to people.  Although these issues are important (social or economic inequality), if we don’t immediately attempt to address our structural infrastructure and begin planning for larger more disruptive events, problems of social or economic inequality will only get worse.

I give Obama credit for shining a huge light on this issue because countries like Canada or Australia are going in the wrong direction. That doesn’t mean that Obama will follow through on  climate change action as countries like Canada acknowledged the problem in the past, but never met emission targets. Not even close. Today, Canada and Australia won’t even openly acknowledge the way we live is contributing to climate change. To acknowledge the Alberta tar sands as a dirty oil that is worse for the environment than light sweet crude, means taking action to solve the ‘Alberta” problem.  I say the “Alberta” problem because we have an entire provincial economy dependent on their tarsands as a main driver of the economy.  Yes, Alberta is a ‘problem’.  The issues are big and this involves a lot of people. People in Alberta are overwhelming conservative in their political leaning which complicates solutions to the problem. Everyone’s conservative when they are making money because they want less government intervention and save on taxes. They are conservative until tragedy strikes and they need help from the federal government. Republican Chris Christie didn’t have a problem with ‘big’ government when his state suffered damage from Hurricane Sandy and he came to dad (federal government) for help.

Each day we wait to begin to take action on this critical issue means we are only pushing the snowball (problem) down a hill and that snowball is gathering more snow and getting bigger and bigger. Identity politics are difficult in the needed new paradigm. Addressing climate change means seeing ourselves as ‘global citizens” (not just Canadian, American, Australian, etc). It also means having to find issues we have in common to fully address the challenges ahead.  It means being honest with ourselves about how we’ve chosen to live and how that it is impacting on the environments of people in countries that are vulnerable to disaster. To address this issue in the most adaptive way means being brutally honest with ourselves on issues that were never up for discussion in the past.

Naomi Klein has been writing some interesting  pieces in relation to this topic.  It so much more than a ‘carbon tax’. This means going much deeper into how we approach life and conduct ourselves.  It requires a level of awareness that I fear we don’t collectively have. Being old enough to live in society that didn’t have smart phones, I’m amazed at how many people are distracted from their environment by this little gadget. Some people felt that  Sony Walkman’s in the 1980s was the beginning of being ‘detached’ from our environment. Smart phones take it to a whole new level. If there is one issue to watch as it grows larger and proliferates every aspect of society, its climate change and our relationship with the environment in which we depend on for life. It’ll mean putting down the phone and beginning to connect with others to address the defining issue of our ‘time’.

Cue the tornado sirens. Cue the American flag.   Minaj’s ‘Pound the Alarm’ becomes “Sound the Alarm”.  A clever video by Blink Tank Films was released this past week and its very good.  Popular culture is finally  addressing climate change and its about time.  From Showtime’s Years of Living Dangerously to comedy and parody to get the message out.  In any movement that seeks to communicate its ideas, a diversity of tactics are often employed.  Climate change deniers, whether paid for by big oil or people who see climate change as a big hoax, constantly try  to ‘drown out the alarm”.

The star of the video (Lucas Grabeel)  is portrayed as an oil executive who raps the lyrics of “Drown the Alarm” which refers to the multitude of warnings we are getting from science about the connection between fossil fuels and increasing temperatures.  The ‘message’ is being drowned out because, as suggested by the video, money is employed to create doubt and minimize the message.

What is clever about the video is that images of storms and  cities around the world being engulfed by rising sea levels , are juxtaposed with oil and gas refineries.  The wealthy oil executive is portrayed as a money loving pariah on humanity while the ‘taxpayer’  has to cover the damage.

Appropriate considering tarsands company, Suncor, just posted a record profit.

Give it a look!

A little humor from Ellen on the California drought.

A person I follow on twitter ( @JathDeist ) recommended a documentary to me that was made just over 2 years ago, ‘Last Call at the Oasis’. The trailer is above and its available on Netflix. I’m always game for a new documentary, and this was no exception.

Probably the thing I found the most useful is it gave me context and a deeper understanding of the ongoing situation in the American southwest. Although this was not a climate change documentary, climate change is figured prominently as one of the stressors with regards to the drought.

The documentary centers on the critical issue of the human need for water. From drought, climate change, overuse and environmental degradation, the viewer is taken through these situations on how they are manifesting at this time. This was made over two years ago before the drought in California had hit the level it is today. News articles are quite limited in their scope. I appreciated how the doc gave me a deeper understanding of the issues associated with water.

The difficulty I had was I felt that like many documentaries, they try to end hopefully. This ‘part’ revolved around how water issues can make people work together and they illustrate this by giving an example from the middle east. If people in the middle east can work together on an issue, certainly we can.

This is where I began to feel uneasy. As we know, the situation in California has gotten worse. There was a quote in the documentary, “We humans have an infinite capacity to deny reality”. I agree with that 100%. I believe the problems that we experience today are because we have consistently denied reality. A reality that carbon energy is not only detrimental to the environment and climate, but its a finite resource. The documentary suggests that ‘human ingenuity’ will come to the rescue. With the water crises, human ingenuity can’t solve everything. They are pretty accurate when they say the desalination process requires a tremendous amount of energy and creates an increase greenhouse gasses. Its a dirty cycle.

The same with Canadian tarsands. The amount of energy and resources to produce this dirty oil is only now becoming feasible because the price of oil continues to grow. It continues to be detrimental to the environment. Instead of us dealing with the issue of a decreasing supply of oil and shifting to cleaner, yet not as powerful energy, people would rather pay for higher prices rather than address the underlying addiction.

The documentary suggests that recycling waste water will be a feasible option. I’m sure it can be. Our societies refuse to address our addiction to oil by changing to a weaker, yet sustainable, energy source like solar or wind because it means we will have to give up some of the benefits and luxury of oil. I don’t believe that people in this country will ever accept recycled waster water. Herein lies the problem. I don’t think western societies are willing to give up their ‘luxuries’ until they are forced to.

I’ve been pretty clear that I don’t have a lot of hope for human civilization. I don’t think the outcome to our situation is going to end happily. One thing I like about ‘some’ climate scientists is they are open to talking about human extinction. If I was the director of this documentary I probably would have explored the worst case scenarios. It frightens people to such a degree that talking about these scenarios becomes somewhat blasphemous. It is as if we are making ourselves extinct because we refuse to ‘go to that place of what might happen’. Its only when it becomes a crisis that it is impossible to ignore. We wonder why we hadn’t done something about it before. Our human need to see the positive in everything, I believe, is to our detriment.

There was a line in the documentary about how the EPA is rendered impotent because budgets have been cut to such a degree. The rhetoric I hear all of the time is how much tax people are paying and how ‘bloated’ they think the government is. That is until we experience a crisis and we then blame governments for not have taken action. This was a situation that happened here in Ontario. A government was elected twice on lesser government and lower taxes. People thought that was the right way until ‘smaller government’ also meant water testing was cut back and this resulted in a human tragedy.

If you want to have an understanding of what is happening in the American southwest, I highly recommend this documentary. You’ll learn like I did that this didn’t just happen over the past few months. This situation has been happening for some time and its getting worse. If you think there is a happy ending, that won’t happen, although, the documentary wants you to have some hope.

If you take that aspect of it (hope) with a grain of salt, then you will be more enlightened as to this ongoing, increasingly, tragic situation which did not just happen this winter, but has been in the making for the last several years.

Here is an introductory video from BenZolnoFilms (https://www.youtube.com/user/BenZolnoFilms)

I’m learning more about this, and will try to pull some of the issues together. For now, this is a great video which explains the reasons for transition movements. It’s a little ‘optimistic’, but it gives us a fundamental explanation as the ‘why’ we need to transition.

Video  —  Posted: April 18, 2014 in Uncategorized
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