We are at a crossroads in the environmental and climate change movements. "We need more transparency, more educated people in the mainstream, and more policy makers smart enough to know how old the world is, what climate and weather are and how burning fossil fuel is polluting our world from ocean to atmosphere," is what the scientists, educators, NGO’s and citizen groups are say.
Now, let's go into another favorite topic now being looked at by the spin doctors and spin watchers: Energy and Economy are the drivers of many corporations who look at “greenwashing” as a way to move into sustainability.
“Don't Get Duped By "Eco-Pornography"
That greenwashing is a type of subterfuge, a type of memory washing. Again, the Five E’s – Environment, Equity, Education, Energy, Economics require honesty, not spin and a smoke and mirrors game. Green tricks are a way to control markets, not heal an ailing planet. Environment and Equity seem to pay the largest price of this sort of exploitation. Finally, Education seems to be the only conduit to a systems approach to understanding earth systems and human relationships with each other and the other several quadrillion members of planet.
We’ve seen information about High Fructose Corn Syrup’s negative effects on the body suppressed by some corporations with the assistance from government entities – state land grant institutions. And independent research on GMOs can be quashed by corporations –
NYT – “Biotechnology companies are keeping university scientists from fully researching the effectiveness and environmental impact of the industry’s genetically modified crops, according to an unusual complaint issued by a group of those scientists.”
The global warming foot dragging of politicians goes way beyond misinformation campaigns perpetrated by CNN or FOX News via some political flaks. The entire gamut of issues or also called debates tied to sustainability – like organics versus industrial food – has to filter through some powerful derailing obstacle courses and traps and minefields set by the government, the corporations and the media.
Just yesterday, a friend’s 56-year-old mother came at me with a bit of vindictive and ire – “That TV special I saw about organic food versus industrial food convinced me never to eat organic food again.” There is no contextualization, no steady discussion of what she meant, no breaking down any points or sub-points – it’s all about some TV special going after organics. I’m not sure if it’s a story on how industrial farms and the pollution from CAFOs contaminate organic spinach. Or if the Chinese market for organic food was exposed because of the carbon footprint of moving that stuff over here is huge, or if some reporter’s questioning of the requirements of organics in foreign countries came out of the mainstream TV piece. Or if there was some single scientist saying that sprayed bell peppers grown in mass production and picked early in the industrial model has the same vitamins and nutrition of bell peppers that are grown in rich soil, that are tended by hand, that never see or feel the fog of pesticides and artificial fertilizers.
In any case, there is a sort of anger out there against science, policy experts, and those working to expose global warming’s impacts now and in the future. There is a percolating cauldron of information about global warming, and sustainability, that people react to strongly. This is counter intuitive, some of this, or the default is that what the industrial model or corporation gives us must be the right model and anything else is cultish or hippie based. The media have been at fault, as is our government at times, admittedly so.
"U.S. organic food industry fears GMO contamination"
Or, what about that claim that scientists working independently have an axe to grind, or it’s all Al Gore’s fault to perpetrate a conspiracy to have the USA go communist by selling inconvenient truths.
Look, we’ve got this great opportunity now to move along the education sluice and bring back a sense of wonderment and awe in the work scientists and researchers do to find truths. We have now a former U of Oregon zoology professor heading up our National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and she is steeled to get the ball rolling on educating her government and her people about Global Warming. And supporting science and going to bat for the scientists and the research and materials needed to study and act on global warming.
She has worked on this research for years before taking the helm of NOAA earlier this year. As the Earth warms, sea levels will rise and the salt content of the oceans will change, as will the ability of the oceans to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. These changes will interact to affect atmospheric circulation, storm track, storm intensity frequency, and the frequency and distribution of droughts. The combination of sea level rise and harsher storms will more severely impact coastal communities and habitats.
There is no doubt the oceans are warming. Analysis of data from 1945until 2000 from different oceans around the world shows a general increase in ocean temperatures. This has enormous consequences for many different plants, animals, and microbes that live in those ocean basins. “We only know some of the consequences that are underway,” she said. That plays out in warmer water precipitating bleaching coral which has increased in frequency and severity.
Satellite images from 1979 compared to 2000 show that the arctic ice is melting. Consequences of the melting arctic ice to many arctic species are likely to be severe. The impact will be felt by plants and animals as well as indigenous peoples. Polar bears are one example of an animal that is threatened because of changes to ice patterns impacting their ability to hunt seals.
We need detailed satellite images to work on this issue of global warming, no matter where it takes us, the research, that is. Is it too late? That question is relevant, but we have to have a steady resolve to figure out the intensity, severity, timing and consequences of and mitigation for those consequences of ice melt and warming seas and warming air and land.
We failed as a technological power to get a much-needed satellite up into orbit in February 2009 – a NASA satellite carrying instruments to produce the first map of the Earth's carbon emissions crashed near Antarctica three minutes after lift-off. This instrument was designed to measure carbon emissions at 100,000 points around the planet every day, providing a super high quality of data compared to the 100 fixed towers currently operating as a land-based carbon measuring network.
As reported in this blog, the space race, the man in the can kind, is being decried by earth science scientists because we need to study earth and to work on earth’s systems, not get people to the moon. Additionally, the National Academy of Sciences reported that the environmental satellite network is at risk of collapse.
Lubchenco reiterated that warning because the ageing satellite fleet is not being replaced at a time when climate data is crucial to any sort of planning.
"Our primary focus is maintaining the continuity of climate observations, and those are at great risk right now because we don't have the resources to have satellites at the ready and taking the kinds of information that we need. We are playing catch-up."
She knows her science -- zoology and oceanography -- is applicable to climate change research and Lubchenco is Obama’s voice to bring climate change to the boardroom, classroom, Pentagon and local, state and federal agencies.
The canary in the mineshaft for ag, as mentioned in a previous blog here, is grape growing and the wine making art. For the Arctic, it’s the polar bear. For the globe, it’s our oceans. Almost half of the carbon dioxide put into the atmosphere thus far by human activity has been absorbed by oceans. Oceans are now phenomenally more acidic. It doesn’t take Lubchenco’s degrees to see that we have to be “seriously concerned.” Acidity determines the ability of many species to make their skeletons and shells. Animal and plant life in the ocean are being challenged. Sea stars, sea urchins, mussels, clams, oysters, and corals are all impacted be ocean acidity.
Lubchenco ramifies this point: “The information we have from the last few years is suggesting that most of the changes that were predicted are changing at faster rates than expected.”
Those dead zones around the world, impacting large fisheries, are partially attributed to global warming and to human land use: “We think it’s likely that this new phenomenon in the most productive fishing waters is in fact likely to be related to climate change.”
Professor Lubchenco is adamant about working on climate change as it affects all systems, but in particular, our seas: “The predicted impact and the surprises lend urgency to the call for reducing green house gas emissions.”
Suzanne Goldenberg and Damian Carrington of the UK Observer hit the world with this story:
“Photos from US spy satellites declassified by the Obama White House provide the first graphic images of how the polar ice sheets are retreating in the summer. The effects on the world's weather, environments and wildlife could be devastating”
"The pictures, kept secret by Washington during the presidency of George W Bush, were declassified by the White House last week. President Barack Obama is currently trying to galvanize Congress and the American public to take action to halt catastrophic climate change caused by rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
One particularly striking set of images - selected from the 1,000 photographs released - includes views of the Alaskan port of Barrow. One, taken in July 2006, shows sea ice still nestling close to the shore. A second image shows that by the following July the coastal waters were entirely ice-free.
The photographs demonstrate starkly how global warming is changing the Arctic. More than a million square kilometres of sea ice - a record loss - were missing in the summer of 2007 compared with the previous year.
Nor has this loss shown any sign of recovery. Ice cover for 2008 was almost as bad as for 2007, and this year levels look equally sparse.”
Ahh, so Americans have to deal with yet another conspiracy revealed and validated – important data has been kept from not only the average Joe Blow or Sally Garcia, but from scientists.
Censoring James Hansen (US’s chief climate change expert working for NASA) was indeed one of Bush’s ways to shunt Dr. Hansen’s huge influence on global climate change science. Now the US taxpayer paid-for satellite’s used by DOD have been employed to photograph the melting ice but those images have been locked up in what amounts to this huge vault of censorship and subterfuge. Go to these two places for more information on the Hansen story:
"Censoring Science: Inside the Political Attack on Dr. James Hansen and the Truth of Global Warming"
Dr. James Hansen is widely regarded as the leading climate change scientist in the country. For the past twenty-five years, he has headed NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Just over a year ago, Dr. Hansen went public with a charge that made headlines around the world—that the Bush administration had been trying to silence his warnings about the urgent need to address climate change. Dr. Hansen joins us in our firehouse studio. His story is detailed in a new book by author Mark Bowen titled Censoring Science: Inside the Political Attack on Dr. James Hansen and the Truth of Global Warming. Mark Bowen joins us from Massachusetts.
January 8, 2008
James Hansen has been widely described as NASA's leading climate scientist; he's been studying the topic for more than three decades, and he began speaking publicly about the threat of global warming almost 20 years ago.
Just over a year ago, he went public with a charge that made headlines around the world: The Bush administration, Hansen said, had been trying to silence his warnings about the urgency of the need to address climate change.
Now, writer and scientist Mark Bowen has written a book on the affair. It's called Censoring Science: Inside the Political Attack on Dr. James Hansen and the Truth of Global Warming.
Now, go to National Public Radio’s Climate Change site for their mainstream media reports.
Okay, back to those spy photos of melting ice and drowning bears – the resolution of the images, according to Thorsten Markus of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, are key to understanding the summertime ice dynamic of the Arctic. "This is the main reason why we are so thrilled about it. One-meter resolution is the dimension that's been missing."
Suzanne Goldenberg and Damian Carrington write: “Disappearing summer sea ice poses considerable dangers, scientists have warned. Ice shelves are used by animals such as polar bears as platforms for hunting seals and other sea creatures. Without them, they could starve. In addition, ice reflects solar radiation. Without that process, the Arctic sea could warm up even more. The phenomenon threatens to set off runaway heating of the planet, say climatologists.”
Even before [Lubchenco’s] warning, scientists were saying that America, the world's scientific superpower, was virtually blinding itself to climate change by cutting funds to the environmental satellite programs run by the Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA.
So, the money from DOD and pork barrel programs for defense contractors might be moved toward this climate modeling work? Not really. The NOAA wants $390 million more in its 2010 budget “to upgrade environmental satellites, and help make data more available to researchers and government officials.”
Can this funding occur with a veil of secrecy over the eyes of policymakers, constituents and the lame media pundits who still poke fun at Gore, climate change experts, and the reality of inundated coastlines and lost island.
And, finally, how does China and the USA negotiate some climate change agreement ahead of the Copenhagen summit when this obfuscation and propaganda overwhelm Americans and Chinese alike? A memorandum of understanding? Hillary Clinton wouldn’t release it, but she says the document shows the USA and China were committed to tackling climate change.
“It also provides our countries with direction as we work together to support international climate negotiations and accelerate the transition to a low carbon economy," she said at the signing ceremony.
These are two of the world’s biggest pollution-producing countries. Plus, Beijing holds about $800 billion to $1 trillion of US treasury securities, while Washington is facing its largest budget deficit ever. Washington needs Beijing, the world's third-largest economy, to keep buying its debt to finance a budget deficit that is expected to reach $1.8 trillion by the end of the fiscal year in September 2009.
Let’s see – economic growth, expansion of resource extraction/exploitation in other countries, pushing into more and more markets, consumption as a primary driver of economy? That’s not a prescription for climate change solutions or mitigation. Nor is keeping scientific data, including spy photos of Alaskan waters and the like, secret going. A more informed population can begin to make the hard decisions surrounding climate change/global warming/peak oil/and freedom of information.