Who is the biggest climate change villain?

Here is an exclusive the Guardian has held back from its readers for 26 years. It is finally published on its pages today.

In 1991 the Shell oil company produced a half-hour film, Climate of Concern, for showing in schools and universities, that set out the dangers of climate change, apparently with unnerving accuracy. The Guardian calls the film “prescient”.

The paper makes the point that Shell knew from scientists precisely what havoc our addiction to oil would wreak on the planet. Despite its own warnings, Shell carried on extracting oil regardless.

But the Guardian misses the real story, probably because the villain of the piece is less Shell and the major oil companies than it is the Guardian and other liberal media.

The giveaway is provided in this line in the article:

The serious warning was “endorsed by a uniquely broad consensus of scientists in their report to the United Nations at the end of 1990”, the film noted.

Shell did not rely on its own private team of climate scientists hidden away in an underground bunker that it alone could tap for information. Planet-destroying climate change was public knowledge at the time the film was made, which was presumably why Shell made the film publicly available.

A “broad consensus of scientists” were warning us of the dangers. So why were most of us so misinformed, so unconcerned about the precipice we were hurtling towards? Who was failing to amplify the fears of scientists – and, for that matter, continues to fail to warn of the true gravity of the problem?

After all, there is nothing surprising in the fact that Shell, an oil corporation, makes profits from oil. Nor from the fact that it continued to do so even after it knew oil consumption would burn up the planet. Corporations are required to make profits for their shareholders. Corporate “ethics” are, and have always been, window-dressing to allay the consciences of liberal audiences.

The real issue is why the warnings scientists were making more than a quarter of a century ago were not being echoed by the supposed watchdogs of power: liberal media like the Guardian.

The paper should have run this story back in 1991. It should not have been left to Shell to warn of the dangers of climate change. The Guardian and the liberal media should have been doing so. The data that was published by the UN at that time was just as available to the newspaper as it was Shell. The Guardian should have been shouting this from the rooftops.

And here we get to the crunch. The Guardian ignored climate change because it too is a corporation. It needs advertising to prosper, just like Shells needs cars and planes. And the corporations that make cars and that fly planes are big advertisers in papers like the Guardian.

Serious and sustained warnings about climate change back in the early 1990s might have given us time to make the dramatic changes to our economies needed to wean us off our oil addiction. It might have put pressure on companies like Shell to reform their ways, to invest in other, safer technologies.

But the Guardian was nowhere to be seen. It carried on taking money from the car manufacturers and the airline industries, restricting its environmental coverage to plead with readers to use more efficient lightbulbs.

If you think the Guardian failed us then, but is now taking its environmental responsibilities more seriously, you have missed the point of this post. Nothing has changed.

Back in the early 1990s , the Guardian chose to overlook the climate change story. Today, when the evidence cannot be ignored, it and all the other liberal media underplay the story. Survey after survey shows record-breaking temperature shifts, at an accelerating rate that even most scientists failed to predict.

There is a lesson here. The radical climate scientists, the ones whose forecasts have been most accurate and have risked professional marginalisation and possible career damage to explain what is really going on, should be the ones who are now championed by liberal media like the Guardian. But they continue to languish largely unheard because their message grates with advertisers and would damage corporate profits.

As long as we rely on corporate media like the Guardian for our information about the world, our world doesn’t stand a chance.

— source jonathan-cook.net

Antarctic ice rift spreads

The main rift in Larsen C, which is likely to lead to one of the largest icebergs ever recorded, is currently 180 km long. The new branch of the rift is 15 km long. Last year, researchers from the UK’s Project Midas, led by Swansea University, reported that the rift was growing fast. Now, just 20km of ice is keeping the 5,000 sq km piece from floating away.

— source swansea.ac.uk

Scientists have just detected a major change to the Earth’s oceans linked to a warming climate

A large research synthesis, published in one of the world’s most influential scientific journals, has detected a decline in the amount of dissolved oxygen in oceans around the world — a long-predicted result of climate change that could have severe consequences for marine organisms if it continues.

The paper, published Wednesday in the journal Nature by oceanographer Sunke Schmidtko and two colleagues from the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany, found a decline of more than 2 percent in ocean oxygen content worldwide between 1960 and 2010. The loss, however, showed up in some ocean basins more than others. The largest overall volume of oxygen was lost in the largest ocean — the Pacific — but as a percentage, the decline was sharpest in the Arctic Ocean, a region facing Earth’s most stark climate change.

Ocean oxygen is vital to marine organisms, but also very delicate — unlike in the atmosphere, where gases mix together thoroughly, in the ocean that is far harder to accomplish. just 1 percent of all the Earth’s available oxygen mixes into the ocean; the vast majority remains in the air. Climate change models predict the oceans will lose oxygen because of several factors. Most obvious is simply that warmer water holds less dissolved gases, including oxygen.

But another factor is the growing stratification of ocean waters. Oxygen enters the ocean at its surface, from the atmosphere and from the photosynthetic activity of marine microorganisms. But as that upper layer warms up, the oxygen-rich waters are less likely to mix down into cooler layers of the ocean because the warm waters are less dense and do not sink as readily.

The resulting study attributes less than 15 percent of the total oxygen loss to sheer warmer temperatures, which create less solubility. The rest was attributed to other factors, such as a lack of mixing.

Because oxygen in the global ocean is not evenly distributed, the 2 percent overall decline means there is a much larger decline in some areas of the ocean than others.

Moreover, the ocean already contains so-called oxygen minimum zones, generally found in the middle depths. The great fear is that their expansion upward, into habitats where fish and other organism thrive, will reduce the available habitat for marine organisms.

In shallower waters, meanwhile, the development of ocean “hypoxic” areas, or so-called “dead zones,” may also be influenced in part by declining oxygen content overall.

On top of all of that, declining ocean oxygen can also worsen global warming in a feedback loop. In or near low oxygen areas of the oceans, microorganisms tend to produce nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas, Gilbert writes. Thus the new study “implies that production rates and efflux to the atmosphere of nitrous oxide … will probably have increased.”

The new study underscores once again that some of the most profound consequences of climate change are occurring in the oceans, rather than on land. In recent years, incursions of warm ocean water have caused large die-offs of coral reefs, and in some cases, kelp forests as well. Meanwhile, warmer oceans have also begun to destabilize glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica, and as they melt, these glaciers freshen the ocean waters and potentially change the nature of their circulation.

When it comes to ocean deoxygenation, as climate change continues, this trend should also increase — studies suggest a loss of up to 7 percent of the ocean’s oxygen by 2100. At the end of the current paper, the researchers are blunt about the consequences of a continuing loss of oceanic oxygen.

— source washingtonpost.com by Chris Mooney

7,000 underground gas bubbles poised to ‘explode’ in Arctic

Scientists have discovered as many as 7,000 gas-filled ‘bubbles’ expected to explode in Actic regions of Siberia after an exercise involving field expeditions and satellite surveillance, TASS reported. The region has seen several recent examples of sudden ‘craters’ or funnels forming from pingos after what scientists believe are caused by eruptions from methane gas released by the thawing of permafrost which is triggered by climate change.

— source siberiantimes.com

Soils Could Release Much More Carbon Than Expected as Climate Warms

Soils could release much more CO2 than expected into the atmosphere as the climate warms, according to new research by scientists from the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab).

Their findings are based on a field experiment that, for the first time, explored what happens to organic carbon trapped in soil when all soil layers are warmed, which in this case extend to a depth of 100 centimeters. The scientists discovered that warming both the surface and deeper soil layers at three experimental plots increased the plots’ annual release of CO2 by 34 to 37 percent over non-warmed soil. Much of the CO2 originated from deeper layers, indicating that deeper stores of carbon are more sensitive to warming than previously thought.

They report their work online March 9 in the journal Science.

— source newscenter.lbl.gov

Massive Permafrost Thaw Documented in Canada

Huge slabs of Arctic permafrost in northwest Canada are slumping and disintegrating, sending large amounts of carbon-rich mud and silt into streams and rivers. A new study that analyzed nearly a half-million square miles in northwest Canada found that this permafrost decay is affecting 52,000 square miles of that vast stretch of earth—an expanse the size of Alabama.

According to researchers with the Northwest Territories Geological Survey, the permafrost collapse is intensifying and causing landslides into rivers and lakes that can choke off life downstream, all the way to where the rivers discharge into the Arctic Ocean.

Permafrost is land that has been frozen stretching back to the last ice age, 10,000 years ago. As the Arctic warms at twice the global rate, the long-frozen soils thaw and decompose, releasing the trapped greenhouse gases into the air. Scientists estimate that the world’s permafrost holds twice as much carbon as the atmosphere.

— source insideclimatenews.org

Global hydropower boom will add to climate change

For many years new hydropower dams were assumed to be zero greenhouse gas emitters. Now with 847 large (more than 100 MW) and 2,853 smaller (more than 1 MW) hydropower projects currently planned or under construction around the world, a new global study has shown that dam reservoirs are major greenhouse gas emitters.

The study looked at the carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O) emitted from 267 reservoirs across six continents. Globally, the researchers estimate that reservoirs contribute 1.3 percent of human-made greenhouse gas emissions, comparable to those from rice paddy cultivation or biomass burning.

Reservoir emissions are not currently counted within the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (UN IPCC) emissions assessments, but they should be, argue the researchers. In fact, countries are currently eligible under the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) to receive carbon credits for newly built dams.

The study raises the question as to whether hydropower should continue to be counted as green power or be eligible for UN CDM carbon credits.

— source news.mongabay.com