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sydney alternative media - non-profit community independent trustworthy
Saturday, 12 January 2008
'350 ppb' a deathknell for civilisation? Yes. Oil not blue whales!
Mood:  blue
Topic: globalWarming
Image:Bluewhale 300.jpg
Sent: Saturday, January 12, 2008 7:44 AM
Subject: 350 ppb is a deathknell for civilisation? Yes. Oil not blue whales! Re: [chipstop] Boreal forests absorbing less CO2 as world warms, study finds

[warning, not suitable for children, depressing content]


Good pick up Dave, I read it too [below re stable level of CO2 atmospheric level regarded as safe]. It's very scary because there is no realistic hope of resolving this objective. Especially when you consider the non CO2 GreenHouse Gases GHG like old refrigerants still out there. I'm not one for nihilism generally, but I think People have the Right to Know for instance if they are going to die say if ill, and hardly less their whole world as we know it. People have a right to know at least those who can bear to listen. It does take alot of courage to accept the full catastrophe.


If you read up on the history of the Montreal Protocol re ozone depleting substances ODS, involving all the same players, especially India and China, and then consider how long it took from late 80ies from memory to implement, India and China resisting all the way, even with Clinton administration onside (cp W Bush & oil industry cronies today) in the USA, AND then consider even in 2008 there is still ALOT of ODS still being released, and probably cheating too. AND this is seen as a success in UN terms. And relatively speaking it is because the hole is stabilising and reducing - maybe if memory serves 50-100 years? AND then you consider GHG reductions is 100 times, if not higher order of magnitude, HARDER to achieve economic restructure. Just how big Stephen Mayne gave a good ad lib summary on Sydney radio just before Xmas to Trigger Trioli.


Well a room full of flapping jaws of politicians and bureaucrats as in Bali is just not going to cut it, speaking as an ex local govt pollie. Maybe necessary but way insufficient. One blog I read of UN meeting junkie there referred to her memory of Rio 1992 - not much real change since then on the environment! Margaret Meade comes to mind re her saying 'never fear a small group changing things - it's the only thing that ever has' she reckons. Not a big room of mutual wanking, handwringing. The voyeurism of the Big Media and social institutions generally on dangerous climate as unfolding catastrophe is almost banal now. The course is set for modern humanity and it's probably not a bad time to get the superannuation out where it's useful.


I can feel it. One can be as rational as one likes in the business of politics but at a certain point intuition will have it's way.  One might think this is the mutterings of a marginalised depressive 43 year old mid life crisis and I could accept that as a logical accusation. But I gave up all downer drugs like alcohol  2 years ago on a diet kick and my 15 years of media and politic watching and sense of what's actually real (via zoology degree) tells me the unthinkable, the unacceptable, the grim reality. It may have been Harvard professor EO Wilson who said (recently) 'best and worst of times'. We, as in humanity, f*cked it.


I suppose peak oil might, and say $200/barrel of oil might, slow things down. But a $100/barrel hasn't slowed Australia's consumption. An addict must have, regardless of cost. Must have. It's the cost of being alive, oil/coal free is apparently worse than being dead, which is surely the addict's logic. The tar sands are being mined in Canada hammer and tongs. The oil explorers are hunting the Arctic melt, and offshore of Port Campbell in a Blue Whale feeding zone no less.
Whale test fear   09-Jan-2008 - 9:12AM | General

  Whale test fear SEISMIC exploration for oil and gas is about to start off Port Campbell at peak season for endangered blue whales, despite the concern of scientists. [more] Jan 9 2008
A blue whale at maturity apparently is like a USS nuclear submarine in the water they are so big, and move like a solar eclipse. But nothing stops for oil.


I may have to bail out of NSW eventually and go back to the home town Warrnambool where this story comes from. I want to enjoy the river estuaries before they get swamped. That'll make some of the targets of the SAM news site happy. Have to see my disabled vollie Carol's legal case through first which will take quite a while yet and then figure out how to move 5 big filing cabinets.
Of course I could be wrong, but I doubt it. In 1982 I got this environment kick suspicious humanity would  choke on itself. Goddamnit, its happening.


Gavin Gatenby, a long time anti motorway campaigner versus Macquarie Bank puts it well here in a lead letter in the SMH recently:

Similarly Gavin Gatenby who is known to be behind the Nick Possum column in the Sydney City Hub and online here had a cracking lead letter in Fairfax Sydney Morning Herald 8th Jan 08 about squandered motorway funds called  

Letters: An oil crisis long expected, but the roads just keep coming

Tom McLoughlin
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Friday, January 11, 2008 7:14 PM
Subject: RE: [chipstop] Boreal forests absorbing less CO2 as world warms, study finds

Dave says........another article on global warming.
Science puts a number on survival

Bill McKibben
January 2, 2008

The past month might have been the most important yet in the two-decade history of the fight against global warming. Al Gore received the Nobel prize; international negotiators made real progress on a treaty in Bali and the US worked up the nerve to raise petrol mileage standards for cars.


But what may turn out to be the most crucial development went largely unnoticed. It happened at an academic conclave in San Francisco. A NASA scientist named James Hansen offered a simple, straightforward and mind-blowing bottom line for the planet: 350, as in parts per million carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It is a number that may make what happened in Bali seem quaint and nearly irrelevant. It is the number that may define our future.
To understand what it means, you need a little background.


Twenty years ago Hansen kicked off this issue by testifying before the US Congress that the planet was warming and that people were the cause. At the time we could only guess how much warming it would take to put us in real danger. Since the pre-Industrial Revolution concentration of carbon in the atmosphere was roughly 275 parts per million, scientists and policy makers focused on what would happen if that number doubled - 550 was a crude and mythical red line, but politicians and economists set about trying to see if we could stop short of that point. The answer was: not easily, but it could be done.
However, in the past five years scientists began to worry that the planet was reacting more quickly than they had expected to the relatively small temperature increases we have already seen. The rapid melt of most glacial systems, for instance, convinced many that 450 parts per million was a more prudent target. That is what the European Union and many big environmental groups have been proposing in recent years, and the economic modelling makes clear that achieving it is possible, though the chances diminish with every new coal-fired power plant.


But the data just keep getting worse. The news this (northern) autumn that Arctic sea ice was melting at an off-the-charts pace, and data from Greenland suggesting that its giant ice sheet was starting to slide into the ocean, make even 450 look too high. Consider: we are already at 383 parts per million, and it is knocking the planet off kilter in substantial ways.


So, what does that mean? Hansen says it means we have gone too far.


"The evidence indicates we've aimed too high - that the safe upper limit for atmospheric CO2 is no more than 350 ppm," he said after his presentation.


The last time the Earth warmed two or three degrees - which is what 450 parts per million implies - sea levels rose by tens of metres, something that would shake the foundations of the human enterprise should it happen again.


And we are already past 350. Does that mean we are doomed? Not quite. Not any more than your doctor telling you that your cholesterol is far too high means the game is over. Much as the way your body will thin its blood if you give up fried chips, so the Earth naturally gets rid of some of its carbon dioxide each year. We just need to stop putting more in and, over time, the number will fall, perhaps fast enough to avert the worst damage.


That "just" hides the biggest political and economic task we have ever faced: weaning ourselves from coal, gas and oil. The difference between 550 and 350 is that the weaning has to happen now, and everywhere. No more passing the buck. The gentle measures bandied about at Bali do not come close. Hansen called for an immediate ban on new coal-fired power plants that do not capture carbon, the phasing out of old coal-fired generators, and a tax on carbon high enough to make sure that we leave tar sands and oil shale in the ground. To use the medical analogy: we are not talking statins to reduce your cholesterol; we are talking huge changes in every aspect of your daily life.


Perhaps too huge. The problems of global equity alone may be too much: the Chinese are not going to stop burning coal unless we give them another way to raise people out of poverty. And we simply might have waited too long.


But at least we are homing in on the right number. Three hundred and fifty is the number every person needs to know.
The Washington Post

Subject: [chipstop] Boreal forests absorbing less CO2 as world warms, study finds

Looks like we can now start to blame forests for the increasing C02 levels.
From this journalist's report it didn't cross their minds that we might be wise to stop logging and increase the forested areas. No mention of that option - presumably to them it's not an option. No mention either of the climate benefits of increased tropical forests - in the Sahel, for example, as reported recently.
There are also different climate effects of forests of different ages and at different latitudes and of different compositions. However, too much micro-analysis can also lead to a reductionist approach of treating forests and the trees in them as no more than tools to enable destruction elsewhere to continue - that is, to avoid facing up to the need to change - really change, not just prop up the existing damaging systems.
Keith Thomas
Nature and Society Forum 

Trees absorbing less CO2 as world warms, study finds

· Shorter winters weaken forest 'carbon sinks'
· Data analysis reverses scientists' expectations

The ability of forests to soak up man-made carbon dioxide is weakening, according to an analysis of two decades of data from more than 30 sites in the frozen north.

Posted by editor at 8:13 AM EADT
Updated: Saturday, 12 January 2008 8:55 AM EADT

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