Where is the “Misanthropocene” right now in relation to past extinction events? The chart below tells the tale. Notice that our current rise in GHG’s is essentially instantaneous in relation to past warmings which took place over thousands of years. As far as scientists can tell, the current warming from industrial civilization is the most rapid in geologic time. Ice core and marine sediment data in the paleoclimatology archive have revealed brief periods of rapid warming and there is no reason to believe modern man is immune to such catastrophic and abrupt climate events. In fact, we know that the Arctic is already warming twice as fast as anywhere else on the planet. Earth sensitivity to climate change is now thought to be possibly double that of previous estimates. An entirely different planet can result from just a slight change in temperature:
We’re about halfway towards the same CO2 levels as the Paleocene Thermal Extinction, but our speed of trajectory surpasses even that of the Permian Extinction:
In 2005, Lee R. Kump and fellow scientists published a paper describing what would become known as the Kump hypothesis, implicating hydrogen sulfide (H2S) as the primary culprit in past mass extinctions. According to OSHA, “a level of H2S gas at or above 100 ppm is immediately dangerous to life and health.” Prior to Kump’s study, the working theory had been that some sort of singular, cataclysmic event such as an asteroid strike was to blame for all mass die-offs, but Kump and colleagues proposed that a global warming-induced asphyxiation via hydrogen sulfide gas(H2S) was to blame for snuffing out life under the sea, on the land, and in the air. In past mass extinctions, volcanic eruptions and thawing methane hydrates created greenhouse-gas warmings that culminated in the release of poisonous gas from oxygen-depleted oceans. Humans with their fossil fuel-eating machines are unwittingly producing the same conditions today. The Kump hypothesis (elevated CO2 with lowering O2 levels) is now regarded as the most plausible explanation for the majority of mass extinctions in earth’s history:
In the short term as both poles completely melt away and the Equator-to-Pole temperature gradient declines, the hydrologic cycle and storms will intensify, jet streams will be altered, global air circulation and ocean currents will be rearranged (especially in northern latitudes), and sea levels will rise. While some local winds will slow down, other areas may actually increase due to local temperature gradients becoming more influential than global ones. New research has indicated early warning signs of a collapse in ocean circulation. When that happens, the oceans ultimately turn into stagnant, anoxic pools belching deadly hydrogen sulfide into the atmosphere.
As others have noted, our energy, transport and building infrastructure was not constructed to withstand a mutated planet blindly molded by over seven billion humans. For example, think of all those massive wind farms rendered useless by alterations in local wind patterns, hydro-power shut down due to devastating droughts, solar farms destroyed by large hail storms, etc.
The monstrous capitalism we see today is the result of capitalism’s inherent growth dynamics. To give one modern-day example, the solar energy industry/movement began with the conception of local, i.e. decentralized, and roof-top solar electricity generation for local consumption. Today we see projects like Desertec (huge solar power plants in the Sahara that would supply 15% of Europe’s total electricity needs) and competition between European and Chinese solar panel producers for larger chunks of the world market. – Link
The destructive trend has been inexorably cumulative:
…the central trend is verifiable: mass die-offs are on the rise, increasing by one event per year for the last 70 years.
“While this might not seem like much, one additional mass mortality event per year over 70 years translates into a considerable increase in the number of these events being reported each year,” explained co-author Adam Siepielski, a biologist at the University of San Diego. “Going from one event to 70 each year is a substantial increase, especially given the increased magnitudes of mass mortality events for some of these organisms.” – Link
If we shed our anthropocentric blinders, the harsh reality is that nothing of substance is being done to prevent our own extinction, and after looking back at humanity’s track record for slowing down this beast of globalized industrial civilization even one iota, any sane and rational person would have to conclude that there are forces at work well beyond the control of any one group of people, any state, or even any one country. Humans have the dubious honor of being the earth’s first sentient beings to have thoroughly documented their own demise while arguing with each other over whose fault it is. And the longer the Keeling Curve stretches skyward, the greater the odds that we will pull the trigger on a geoengineering scheme to slow down the inevitable:
Do these experts—the top scholars and scientists researching the subject in the world—think we will see geoengineering in our lifetime?
“Let’s see it for ten years,” the emcee said. A few scientists cautiously raised their hands. Twenty and 30 years saw some more converts. When he called out “fifty years,” more than half the room had their hands up.
That, according to the experts, is a 50-50 shot that someone is going to try, this century, to engineer the Earth’s climate. To hack the planet. – Link
Techno-capitalist carbon man’s fetish with high-tech gadgetry has already gotten the best of him. Just look at us glued to our iphones, tv’s, internet, and sundry other social media tools. We’re addicted to and dependent on our technology, and the idea of pulling the power plug on this way of life is unthinkable, not to mention fatal, for those raised within its confines.
“In Earth’s history we see climate changes over time, and we know that some of these climate changes were associated with enormous biological destruction. How could we believe that the same sort of experience moving into the modern-day wouldn’t do the same thing?” ~ Dr. Peter D. Ward
On my downtime right now and trying to recoup from doomer fatigue, but the following story simply reinforces my belief that industrial civilization will die at its own hands while taking the rest of the living planet with it in a manmade greenhouse extinction event. Capitalism gives humans the perverse incentive to value death and artificial wealth over life and nature’s wealth. Note to self – must read everything by Peter Ward.
The ratio of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere is flirting with 400 parts per million, a level last seen about 2.5 million to 5 million years ago, according to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego….
…The speed at which Earth’s atmosphere has reached that density of carbon dioxide, a known greenhouse gas, has scientists alarmed.
Scientists estimate that average temperatures during the Pliocene rose as much as 18 degrees Fahrenheit. Sea levels during that 2.8-million-year epoch ranged between 16-131 feet higher than current levels, according to Richard Norris, a Scripps geologist.
“I think it is likely that all these ecosystem changes could recur, even though the time scales for the Pliocene warmth are different than the present,” Norris said. Heating the ocean probably will cause sea level rises and change the Ph balance of the ocean, affecting a wide array of marine life, he said. “Our dumping of heat and CO2 into the ocean is like making investments in a pollution bank,” he said…
Let’s go over and update the major tipping points again(covered earlier here and here) which are currently in play:
Jason Box speaks the language of Manhattans. Not the drink—the measuring unit.
As an expert on Greenland who has traveled 23 times to the massive, mile thick northern ice sheet, Box has shown an uncanny ability to predict major melts and breakoffs of Manhattan-sized ice chunks. A few years back, he foretold the release of a “4x Manhattans” piece of ice from Greenland’s Petermann Glacier, one so big that once afloat it was dubbed an “ice island.” In a scientific paper published in February of 2012, Box further predicted “100 % melt area over the ice sheet” within another decade of global warming. As it happened, the ice sheet’s surface almost completely melted just a month later in July—an event that, in Box’s words, “signals the beginning of the end for the ice sheet.”
Box, who will speak at next week’s Climate Desk Live briefing in Washington, D.C., pulls no punches when it comes to attributing all of this to humans and their fossil fuels. “Those who claim it’s all cycles just don’t understand that humans are driving the cycle right now, and for the foreseeable future,” he says. And the coastal consequences of allowing Greenland to continue its melting—and pour 23 feet’s worth of sea level into the ocean over the coming centuries—are just staggering. “If you’re the mayor of Hamburg, or Shanghai, or Philadelphia, I think it’s in your job description that you think forward a century,” says Box. “They’re completely inundated by the year 2200.”…
3.) Unleashing of Tundra methane clathrates and sub-sea methane deposits from (1) and (2):
Courtesy of the work by Sam Carana, the multitude of reinforcing feedback loops from the loss of the Arctic Ice Sheet are listed below:
Albedo feedback: Accelerated warming in the Arctic speeds up the decline of ice and snow cover, further accelerating albedo change.
Methane feedback: Methane releases in the Arctic further add to the acceleration of warming in the Arctic, further contributing to weaken Arctic methane stores and increasing the danger that methane releases will trigger runaway global warming.
Currents feedback: Sea ice loss can cause vertical sea currents to weaken, reducing the cooling effect they had on the seabed. This can thus further cause sediments to warm up that can contain huge amounts of methane in the form of free gas and hydrates.
Storms feedback: Increased frequency and intensity of storms can cause substantially more vertical mixing of the sea water column, causing more warming of the seabed, thus further contributing to the warming of sediments, as above.
Storms feedback: Accelerated warming in the Arctic can result in more storms, causing mixing of cold Arctic air with warmer air from outside the Arctic. The net result is a warmer Arctic.
Storms feedback: More open waters can result in more storms that can push the ice across the Arctic Ocean, and possibly all the way out of the Arctic Ocean.
Storms feedback: Storms also cause more waves that break up the sea ice. Smaller pieces of ice melt quicker than large pieces. A large flat and solid layer of ice is also less susceptible to wind than many lighter and smaller pieces of ice that will stand out above the water and capture the wind like the sails of yachts.
Storms feedback: Storms cause waters to become more wavy. Calm waters can reflect much sunlight back into space, acting as a mirror, especially when the sun shines under a low angle. Wavy waters, on the other hand, absorb more sunlight.
Fires feedback: More extreme weather comes with heatwaves and storms. Thus, this is in part another storms feedback. The combination of storms and fires can be deadly. Heatwaves can spark fires that, when fueled up by storms, turn into firestorms affecting huge areas and causing huge amounts of emissions. Storms can whip up particles that when deposited on ice, snow or the bare soil, can cause more sunlight to be absorbed.
Open doors feedback: Accelerated warming in the Arctic causes the polar vortex and jet stream to weaken, causing more extreme weather and making it easier for warm air to enter the Arctic.
Two papers released last week in the journal Nature Geoscience provide evidence that warming and melt in West Antarctica are occurring at levels that are highly unusual compared to natural variability.
The West Antarctic Ice Sheet contains about 2.2 million cubic kilometers of ice; enough to raise global sea levels by 3 to 4m. What’s making glaciologists nervous is that the ice rests on bedrock which is below sea level; this makes it vulnerable to attack from below by a warming ocean as well as attack from above by increasing air temperatures.
As some of us were heading off for the Easter holiday weekend, the Brazilian government was quietly releasing deforestation trends showing an increase in deforestation for the first time in five years.
These numbers use the DETER rapid response satellite system, a system that provides estimates of deforestation rates every month. Over the time period documented, August 2012 to February 2013, the rates increased an estimated 26.82% and an area of the Amazon larger than the size of the city of London disappeared.
In absolute numbers, that means 1,695 square kilometers (654 square miles) of forest have disappeared. That equals an area the size of 237,000 soccer fields…
…The increase in deforestation rates can be directly attributed to the Brazilian government’s systematic dismantling of the laws and agencies that protect the Amazon…
…President Dilma Rousseff’s approval of a new Forest Code, a law that provides amnesty for crimes committed after 2008 in the Amazon and reduces large areas of protected land, paved the way for the increase in deforestation. The president also structurally weakened government agencies like IBAMA, the federal environmental enforcement agency, so unfortunately it won’t be a surprise if deforestation continues to rise in the Amazon…
After more than a decade, the mountain pine beetle epidemic that surged through British Columbia appears finally to be in remission. Having devastated the province’s lodgepole pine forests, the insect is running out of food.
But forest managers now see new beetle infestations appearing at the edge of the Boreal Forest, in Alberta, and in the Yukon and Northwest Territories — areas well outside the insect’s historical range. As a warming climate lifts the temperature limitations that once kept the beetle in check, scientists fear it may continue its push across the continent, perhaps as far as the Atlantic Coast…
…Without debating the causes of global climate change the effects of forest dieback can be viewed factually. The earth is warming and droughts are increasing in severity and magnitude. Temperature and drought are major contributing factors to forest dieback, so more trees will be dying in the future. As more carbon is released from dead trees, especially in the Amazon and Boreal Forests, more greenhouse gasses are released into the atmosphere. Increased levels of greenhouse gasses increase the temperature of the atmosphere. The negative feedback loop is reinforced and the biological adaptations of the species determine its survival. Projections for dieback vary, but the threat of global climate change only stands to increase the rate of dieback. The issue is complex and models are intricate, so scientists have serious work ahead of them.
Scientists do not know the tipping points of climate change and can only estimate the timescales. When a tipping point, the critical threshold, is reached a small change in human activity can have long-term consequences on the environment. Two of the nine tipping points for major climate changes forcast for the next century are directly related to forest diebacks. Scientists are worried that forest dieback in the Amazon rain forest and the Boreal evergreen forest will trigger a tipping point in the next 50 years.… – source
7.) The Sahara and Sahel in Africa
It is difficult to estimate the overall ability to increase food production, but a recent analysis suggests that human consumption may be approaching the limits of the net primary plant production (NPP) — that is, the maximum photosynthetic production that is possible on the planet.
It is “not whether humans will reach the global NPP boundary but when they will do so.” It seems probable that the developed countries will continue their excessively high levels of consumption. The emerging economies are likely to continue to eat more protein and a larger slice of grain production in countries with an appropriate climate for grain production will be diverted to feeding animals, or ethanol to drive automobiles. A child born in the Sahel today could belong to the first generation to come to maturity in the contemporary world where the ability to feed large numbers of ecological refugees may well diminish. It is also possible that the secondary effects of the collision of population growth and climate change could create what scientists call an “asymmetrical uncertainty.” The possible consequences of this asymmetrical uncertainty on political processes and violence could range from a slow worsening of the current situation to extremely serious conflict over resources and threats to security. Biologically, adverse factors can interact in ways that can cause a rapid downward spiral. For example, as noted above, ambient temperatures over 29°C (84°F) lead to a rapid decline in crop yields.
[At least 95% of the food production in the Sahel is based on rain-fed agriculture. The agricultural sector employs, directly or indirectly, more than half of the Sahel’s population…Global warming will mean that in temperate lands, where much of the global crop production occurs, the most productive regions will migrate away from the equator. While the net aggregate change as a result of climate change at a global level may be slow, the regional effects in the Sahel will be more rapid, significant, and adverse.] – source
8.) The El Nino Southern Oscillation(ENSO):
Climate models appear to be unable to accurately predict ENSO changes. Although scientists can predict some large-scale and long-term effects of anthropogenic global warming, there remains a lot of unknowns about specific regional effects.
The problem may lie in the models’ inability to reproduce the cycling between the ENSO’s El Niño and La Niña phases, especially given that many scientists think that La Niña is the major driver of drought in the southwest. The ENSO “behaves much messier in the real world than in climate models”, says Jessica Tierney, a climate scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts who has investigated the role of the ENSO in East African rainfall variability2. “We’re not sure how it has varied in the past, and we don’t know how it might change in response to climate change. This is really one of the big uncertainties we’re facing.”
In addition to their failure to reproduce El Niño and La Niña, existing models do not fully capture other factors that influence rainfall, such as clouds and vegetation. But Smerdon adds that the atmospheric and oceanic dynamics that inhibit rainfall and favour prolonged drought may be essentially random and so almost unpredictable.
Last week’s findings highlight the broader challenge of predicting how precipitation patterns will change as the global climate warms. Models are often at odds over the very direction of regional changes. For example, different projections prepared for the Colorado Water Conservation Board disagree on whether mean precipitation in the state will increase or decrease by 2050 (ref. 3).
But the uncertainties don’t change the larger picture, scientists say. “Climate models are not perfect, but they do the big things really well,” says Tierney. “We can be pretty confident that the southwest will warm and that water will become scarcer.
…since the 1970s the atmospheric circulation patterns over the Pacific have tended to favor La Nina conditions over El Nino ones. And, they write: “The overall trend towards a stronger, La Niña-like Walker circulation is nearly concurrent with the observed increase in global average temperatures.”
We know from historical data that from these two climatic events – the Medieval Warm Period(the long stable warming period over Europe) and the Little Ice Age(a well-known described historical event) – that the temperature changed, and our big question is, “Does the ocean also respond in this very short time scale?”
And one of the major results and maybe one of the biggest prices is that the ocean and the thermohaline circulation(THC) respond to these thermal drivers within just a decade.
…What we are mostly concerned about is that there is a certain threshold which is then reached, a certain point of no return more or less. So we will have a trend where it’s getting warmer and warmer and warmer, and there will be no return from this warming… and that will change the whole system, the whole flow of the system, and the thermohaline circulation may be changed…
The major threats we see right now to the thermohaline circulation mainly derive from the Arctic region. We see increased melting from the Greenland Ice Sheet. We see a retreat of Arctic See Ice. We see large reorganizations in the Arctic ocean system which accumulate fresh water. All of these things are components which may affect the thermohaline circulation.”
The most important factors affecting changes in the conditions of the thermohaline circulation are:
1.) Global warming itself caused partly by greenhouse gases from human activity.
2.) From AGW, there will be more rainfall in the higher latitudes causing glacial melt.
Density in the water is a key factor for the THC driver mechanisms. Cold surface water temperatures make the water denser and high ocean salinity cause these waters to sink. These are the main engines that run the THC, but now more fresh water is entering the ocean through the melting of the Arctic and Greenland ice sheets.
When this is integrated into the models, a new development of the engines is revealed. In a warmer climate state, the engine of the Labrador Sea seems to simply collapse…
10.) The Indian Summer Monsoon:
…Writing in the journal Environmental Research Letters, researchers at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Potsdam University in Germany said increasing temperatures and a change in strength of a Pacific Ocean circulation pattern known as the Pacific Walker circulation in spring could cause more frequent and severe changes in monsoon rainfall.
The Walker circulation usually brings areas of high pressure to the western Indian Ocean but in El Nino years this pattern gets shifted eastward, bringing high pressure over India and suppressing the monsoon, they said.
Computer simulations show that with future global warming the Walker circulation is likely to bring more high pressure over India even without an increase in El Nino events.
These failures of the monsoon system suggested by the simulation, defined as a 40 percent to 70 percent reduction in rainfall below normal levels, were unprecedented in the researchers’ observational record, taken from the India Meteorological Department dating back to the 1870s.
“Our study points to the possibility of even more severe changes to monsoon rainfall caused by climatic shifts that may take place later this century and beyond,” lead author Jacob Schewe said. – source
Indeed if humans were able to set aside their anthropocentric view of the world, we would be frantically changing our behavior and rearranging our economic and social activities in order to prevent our own demise. But alas, if things aren’t right between one’s ears, then everything else is moot.
(Edit on 3-9-2015: The following video has been made “private”, but it can be viewed in its entirety here.)
Climate change is indisputably anthropogenic – human-made. The long deep-pocketed propaganda, public relations, and lobbying arms of the corporate carbon industrial complex have long insisted that global warming is a reflection of unalterable natural forces that operate independently of human control. But the preponderant majority of the climate-sentient world agrees with the overwhelming consensus finding of contemporary earth scientists that global warming is anthropogenic (“human made”) – that it reflects the visible hand of human practice, politics, and policy. It knows that the story of the world’s broken ecology is about the human release of greenhouse gases resulting from the uncontrolled extraction and use of carbon-based fossil fuels.
The harsh reality has to be acknowledged in elite capitalist media. Reflecting its duty to provide its privileged readers with reasonably accurate information, even the neoliberal, arch-capitalist Anglo-American Economist magazine acknowledges the dominant role of human agency in a recent special supplemental report on “The Vanishing North.” According to The Economist last June, “The shrinkage of the sea ice is no less a result of human hands than the ploughing of the prairies. The cause is global pollution, and the risks it carries are likewise global. The Arctic, no longer distant or inviolable, has emerged, almost overnight, as a powerful symbol of the age of man.”
“Accelerating the Catastrophe”
What do the two dominant U.S. business parties offer towards the goal of saving the planet – well, its living species – from the crisis of anthropogenic global warming? Less than nothing. An escalation of the assault, in fact, making the problem worse.
Writing about the drastic melting of “the earth’s air-conditioner,” Gillis notes a chilling lack of urgency in reacting to the problem the part of rich nation governments, whose “main response has been to plan for exploitation of newly accessible minerals in the Arctic, including more oil.”
Instead of acting to limit greenhouse emissions, those governments see the retreat of the great northern ice cover as an opportunity “to accelerate the catastrophe…The reaction,” Noam Chomsky notes, “demonstrates an extraordinary willingness to sacrifice the lives of our children and grandchildren for short-term gain. Or, perhaps, an equally remarkable willingness to shut our eyes so as not to see the impending peril.” …
…The Republicans and the Democrats both decline to take the great time bomb of climate change with anything remotely like the seriousness it deserves since doing so would disrupt “the economy.” They both worship at the altar of growth and the notion that “a rising tide lifts all boats” – capitalism’s longstanding fake, eco-cidal answer to popular pressure for jobs, and end to poverty, and the downward redistribution of income and wealth. They both refuse to let long-term considerations of livable ecology and human survival interfere with the short-term pursuit of material expansion and the bottom line, not to mention the short-term logic of the election cycle.
I often wonder why people, who know that climate change is real, refuse to discuss it. They refuse to discuss it because it will upset their regimen of making money and carrying along with business-as-usual.
Bill Mckibben was on some late night TV show and he mentioned that the executive of some oil company said that if we need to move our food production north, then we will. Here is why that won’t work. Climate change means widespread famine, wars for dwindling resources, the fall of States, and the final extinction of man. There’s no more pretending that economic growth is possible or even a sane path for us to follow. Yet the system continues on through coerced participation.
I wonder if our forebears from 100 years ago would alter their actions if they knew from scientific and observable evidence that their way of life would cause the extinction of their progeny. Do you think they were more sensible back then? At that time, Edward Bernays and the tools of mass media manipulation had not yet entered society. Are not climate change deniers and free market ideologues the flat-earthers or Salem witch hunters of the 21st century? Feel free to give me an answer if you have one.
If you destroy the oceans, the cradle of life, then they will overtake you, returning you from whence you came…