Mother Earth’s Big Ah-Choo!

Mother Earth’s rotund white polar jowls are drooping; her hot tropical pulmonary rain forest is wheezing; her inland temperature is rising, a fever has set in… it is that time of the millennia!

Doctor’s diagnosis: Get plenty of rest, preferably multi-decades back-to-back, maybe longer (could be centuries) depending upon the status of future check-ups, drink tons-upon-tons of pure water, and inhale volumes-upon-volumes of fresh, clean air. It could take a while to recover, but whatever you do, stop the arduous workload of inhaling increasingly larger volumes of putrid/foul air without some relief. Stop smoking and clean up your lifestyle… your workload is killing you!

The consequences of Mother Earth’s increasingly erratic climatic behaviour are costly, and deadly, as food prices skyrocket because of droughts (Global), submerged cities cost billions to cleanup (U.S. East Coast), mountain landslides (Bolivia) snuff out villagers’ lives, and floods (Italy & Pakistan) devastate countryside, but this is only a snapshot of the ravages of climate change around the world.

Worldwide Drought

In August 2010, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin shocked the world by announcing: “I think it is expedient to temporarily ban exports of grain and grain products from Russia.” The country’s worst drought in 40 years caused cuts in grain production forecasts from 90 million to 70-75 million tonnes.

August 2012, Russia once again dramatically cut grain forecasts because of drought-stricken eastern growing regions.

Syria, a major part of the Breadbasket of the Middle East, has suffered a series of serious droughts since 2006, causing significant loses of crops and livestock and pushing several million Syrians into extreme poverty conditions. “From 2006-2011, up to 60% of Syria’s land experienced, in the terms of one expert, ‘the worst long-term drought and most severe set of crop failures since agricultural civilizations began in the Fertile Crescent many millennia ago.’” Syria: Climate Change, Drought and Social Unrest, by Francesco Femia & Caitlin Werrell, Center for Climate & Security, March 2012.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture: “About 80% of agricultural land is experiencing drought, which makes the 2012 drought more extensive than any drought since the 1950s.”

“From Ukraine to Yellowstone, in Pakistan and Kazakhstan, the skies have stayed clear, and the earth has been parched,” The Driest Season: Global Drought Causes Major Worries,” Tim Lister, CNN, September 8, 2012. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “… the land surface temperature in the Northern Hemisphere was the warmest ever in July at 2.14 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the average and as a consequence: … late and lame monsoons in India and Pakistan…rainfall in most places has been far below average…. Records over the past century show the peaks and troughs in rainfall, particularly north of the equator, have become sharper and bigger. It’s either deluge or drought.”

Arctic- Irreversible Melting

Meanwhile, there is increasing evidence of erratic/volatile climate change as a result of warming oceans and shrinking Arctic ice cover: “This summer the ice cover is at its lowest ever, declining by about 35,000 square miles a day (an area bigger than South Carolina- every day!!!) in August,” according to Walter Meier of the National Snow and Ice Data Center at Univ. of Colorado; he says Arctic sea ice has been shrinking since 1979, and “… it dropped off the cliff in 2007, and this year we have surpassed that level.” The ice is 1/3d its thickness of 30 years ago, which Meier finds absolutely remarkable! Over the centuries, almost all the ice that melted was first-year ice. Now, multi-year ice 10-to-12 feet thick is melting annually. The Arctic ice dome is dying, exacerbating Mother Earth’s droopy, saddened appearance.

The new consensus among scientists is the declining ice of the Arctic is irreversible and accelerating. The North Pole will be ice-free during the summers within 10 years, further opening the Polar Cap up to drilling for oil and gas.

Consequently, Arctic warming slows atmospheric jet streams, which, in turn, tends to prolong weather patterns. Hence, droughts become entrenched like the recent experiences in America, the Middle East, Russia, and around the globe. According to the Global Drought Monitor, as of November 2012, exceptional drought conditions directly impact 97,909,000 people around the planet.

Global Warming in Acceleration Phase

According to NASA, for over 650,000 years, atmospheric CO2 has never been above 300 parts per million… until now, starting in 1950, zooming upwards to historic highs, and well beyond.

Ice cores drawn from Greenland, Antarctica, and tropical mountain glaciers show that in the past, large changes in climate have happened very quickly, geologically-speaking, in tens of years, not in millions or even thousands. For example: Global sea level rose about 17 centimeters (6.7 inches) in the last century. The rate in the last decade, however, is nearly double that of the last century.

Similarly, the evidence is inconvertible that global warming accelerates with time. According to NASA: “Most of this warming has occurred since the 1970s, with the 20 warmest years having occurred since 1981 and with all 10 of the warmest years occurring in the past 12 years.”

The Big Melt and erratic climate change is in its acceleration phase right now… at this very moment! For example: (1) Hurricane Sandy’s big slam into NYC; (2) aerial photos taken of the Andes in 1983 when compared to today show ½ of the 20,000-year-old glaciers have vanished within the past two decades, much faster than climatologists thought possible; (3) NASA has identified an 18-mile crack in Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier which will lop off an iceberg bigger than NYC, a Rhode Island-sized slab sheared off a few years ago; (4) Alaska’s Columbia glacier has receded 10 miles up the fjord over the past 30 years; (5) the Arctic ice sheet is 1/3rd its thickness of 30 years ago, and (6) Greenland’s temperatures are up 5 degrees Fahrenheit over the past 10 years, causing dramatic waterfalls cascading down crevasses 1-2 miles below to bedrock, lifting and lubricating the 1,500 x 500 mile ice sheet; if Greenland goes, sea waters rise 23 feet and NYC will not have to worry about sea walls.

The decade of the 1980s constitutes a milestone for climate change if only because so much has changed so suddenly over the past thirty years compared to prior centuries. Mother Nature is living proof that climate change is here right now… with a vengeance! Otherwise, why did the Arctic ice sheet lose 2/3rds of its thickness the past 30 years? Why did ½ of the Andes’ glaciers disappear the past 30 years? Why is Antarctica lopping off icebergs the size of Rhode Island? Why has Alaska’s Columbia glacier receded 10 miles up the fjord over the past 30 years, and its rate of ice loss is accelerating every year?

Thus, prompting the big questions of whether the planet’s Big Melt is reversible or can it be stabilized? These questions are beyond anybody’s ability to answer; however, if the current pace of the last 30 years continues, real estate values along the coastlines of America will drop to the value of a fishing license.

Deniers of Global Warming

Nevertheless, there are plenty of powerful people who do not agree with man-made climate change, famous people like Senator James Inhofe, 77 (OK), who won the 2012 Annual Rubber Dodo Award from the Center for Biological Diversity for “being the ringleader of climate-deniers in Congress….” The senator graciously accepted the award, stating, “I am truly honored that yet another radical environmental group has given me an award for my efforts to put a stop to President Obama’s far-left global warming agenda.” What Obama far-left agenda… from centrist Obama?

Coincident with Senator Inhofe’s award, this year saw the publication of Sen. Inhofe’s book, The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future, by WND Press, an entity also known for its childish “birther” campaign against President Barack Obama. Coincidentally, this year is on track to become the warmest on record; some 40,000-temperature records have been broken in the United States in 2012 alone, and according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: “… the past 332 months (nearly 30 years) have all shown above-average temperatures globally….”

This is also the year, coincidentally, of a stunning reversal of fortunes for a Berkeley climate change project heavily funded by Charles Koch Charitable Foundation because its principal mouthpiece, Richard A. Muller, professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley and co-founder of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Project announced to the world: “Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause,” Prominent Climate Change Denier Now Admits He Was Wrong, by Neela Banerjee, Tribune Washington Bureau, The Christian Science Monitor, July 30, 2012.

However, it really does not make all that much difference at this point in time who the deniers are, other than renegades like Muller, they’ll remain true to their faith, and speaking of a man who is religiously true to his faith, former Senator and seriously considered Republican presidential candidate, Rick Santorum, 54, claims, “Unlike the Earth, we’re intelligent, and we can actually manage things… We were put on this Earth as creatures of God to have dominion over the Earth, to use it wisely and steward it wisely, but for our benefit not for the Earth’s benefit.” He says climate change is “an absolute travesty of scientific research….”

The Democratic Party should fund Santorum’s next run as the Republican candidate (2016) for the White House and save the billion dollars that would otherwise be spent on TV political advertising.

In the final analysis, it seems almost hackneyed to discuss climate change because there is so much awareness, but this begs the question of how and why the public has allowed politicians to ignore the gravity of the situation until it has been scientifically pronounced that the North Pole will be ice-free within a decade.

The Big Fix and Economic Growth

Is it now too late with Mother Earth huffing & puffing like a tired prizefighter, battering coastlines, scorching agricultural land, cascading mountainsides, and costing insurance companies huge claims?

Many Americans are “… beginning to connect the dots themselves,” according to Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication in a new report, November 15, 2012. As a result, the Yale report shows 88% of Americans say the U.S. should make an effort to reduce global warming, even if it has economic costs, which, if properly channeled, could result in very powerful economic growth worldwide whilst converting from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources… the technology is already there… and very importantly, the economic growth as a result of converting from fossil fuels to new clean energy sources would be the biggest boon to world economies since the 19th century Industrial Revolution. All that’s required is 21st century political will and ignore the deniers, who are reminiscent of King Henry VIII’s court jesters, miming before the royal court and serving as laughing stocks.

Imagine this: A clean planet with powerful and enduring economic growth and low unemployment, similar to the huge economic bonanza that started with the early 20th century transportation revolution from horse & buggy to automobiles which beautifully segues in the 21st century into a green energy economic revolution of massive proportions.  The conversion from fossil fuels to clean energy, as quickly as humanly possible, would likely be the catalyst for a period of the moat powerful economic growth in history, springing forth a virtual fountain of employment with millions-upon-millions of new clean-energy jobs…and the best of all worlds.

Glacial time is no longer a cushion!

Robert Hunziker (MA, economic history, DePaul University) is a freelance writer and environmental journalist whose articles have been translated into foreign languages and appeared in over 50 journals, magazines, and sites worldwide, like Z magazine, European Project on Ocean Acidification, Ecosocialism Canada, Climate Himalaya, Counterpunch, Dissident Voice, Comite Valmy, and UK Progressive. He has been interviewed about climate change on Pacifica Radio, KPFK, FM90.7, Indymedia On Air and World View Show/UK. He can be contacted at: rlhunziker@gmail.com. Read other articles by Robert.