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Global Heat Emergency by Alex Smith

Dandelion Salad

Butterfly Bushes

Image by Dandelion Salad via Flickr

by Alex Smith
crossposted from ecoshock.info
July 22, 2013

Hello wherever you are, and whenever you hear this heat emergency podcast from Radio Ecoshock.

It takes a lot to get me to make an special message like this. The last time I pulled the trigger was on Friday March 11th, 2011 – the very day the Fukushima nuclear reactors blew up in Japan. I knew those reactors had melted down. I knew it was a historic moment of high risk for the Northern Hemisphere, if not the planet. I made five special podcasts over the next five days, and then covered Fukushima ever since, including the historic conference in New York in the Spring of 2013.

Now I can’t stay quiet about what is obviously one of the first great heat alerts running almost completely around the Northern Hemisphere in this summer of 2013.

Here is a link to the audio podcast. It is 20 minutes long. Or listen to it right now courtesy of archive.org.

Starting in the Far East, Japan suffered absolute record heat with many deaths. The whole society suffered and electricity use neared the breaking point.

Crossing the Pacific to California we find more record heat waves inland, with giant fires reaching even to the coast. You heard about the record-smashing heat in Death Valley, almost reaching the hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth. Nevada, Oklahoma, Arizona and New Mexico went into melt-down mode with no relief for weeks. It’s still simmering there.

At the same time, the Eastern half of North America went through a series of extreme precipitation events, mostly rain, but even hail several feet deep in places. There were so many floods the media skipped through a dozen quick photos, never having time to really report on them all. We don’t know how many areas flooded. We don’t even have a reporting system to calculate it all. This weather is so new, we don’t know how to track and describe it.

Then the heat struck the East. All through the mid-West to the East Coast, the temperatures went to 100 degrees Fahrenheit and well above. The humidity stayed so high, it felt more like 45 degrees in Toronto Canada. That is 113 degrees Fahrenheit.

All the major cities of the East, from the Carolinas right up through Ohio, Pennsylvania, and the Canadian Provinces of Ontario and Quebec are stuck under giant domes of particulates – urban smog that clogs the lungs. Children are dying. Masses of elderly people are dying.

The cause of death is often listed as “heart attack” but as I first reported on Radio Ecoshock back in my April 2008 show “Highway to Hell – How Smog Kills” – Dr. Joel Schwartz of Harvard was briefing Congressional staff on the sudden surge of DOA cases, dead on arrival, during these hot smog waves. The victims don’t even make it to hospital.

Before we head on around the world, let’s take one more look – this time at the Canadian North. There are 85 giant fires in the Yukon Territory alone. The smog is being pulled right across the continent. The fires are burning out of control, un-opposed, and releasing vast amounts of stored carbon into the atmosphere.

Move on to Northern Quebec, where the second largest fire in Canadian history, over a million hectares, is burning in heat running over 90 degrees. And that’s just one fire set, of many, many in the Canadian Arctic. NASA can see them in satellite passovers. Your major news networks don’t bother to look, to count, to count the carbon cost. It’s a direct blast of carbon into the greenhouse.

Check out Jeff Masters Weather Underground blog dated July 13, 2013 for an extensive report on the record smashing fires in northern Quebec, Canada.

Oh, and by the way, I provide a link (here) for the scariest forest fire video I have ever seen. I’ve witnessed a forst fire fairly close up. I’ve seen trees “candle” – the jumping of fire ball across the tree tops. But few have ever witnessed one of the new super fires racing over a hillside at more than 20 miles an hour straight for the camera. They have to floor their truck and run to get out alive.

ON THROUGH EUROPE

Now over to Britain. It’s so hot in the UK that an estimated 760 deaths are attributed to the heat wave already. Some are the usual: people inexperienced with lakes and rivers are so desperate to cool off they dive in and many drown. The same happened in Russia in 2010 during their continent-sized heat wave. People in North America do not know, and are not told, about the heat wave in Japan or in Britain.

We can keep going across hot Scandinavia, but some parts of Russia, in Siberia, have not yet heated up. The whole circumferance of the globe is not yet involved. It is not yet full circle, an entire hemispheric heat wave. But it’s the first sign of such events, and they will come, more and more often.

I used to think once people experienced the extreme heat that climate change is bringing our way, they would turn in a tide of recognition and demand action. That has not happened yet, and may not happen until it is far too late to save the climate we once knew and depended on.

As just one example, the extreme precipitation event in Calgary, Canada’s oil capital, has not brought any fundamental calls to reevaluate the Tar Sands. Just a couple of weeks later, Toronto Canada flooded in a freak event. Now it’s boiling hot and so soggy, hardly anyone can stand it. There are no visible calls for climate action.

In fact, although Senator Harry Reid of Nevada bravely stated the huge spike in wild fires in the West are made worse by climage change – his voice is drowned out in Congress by an organized collection of climate deniers. People in states devastated by drought, fires, and horrendous storms, continue to vote in climate deniers. That stage may last for a decade or more.

THE PACIFIC HAS BEEN AIR-CONDITIONING THE WORLD – FOR NOW

In my own region of British Columbia, it’s been hot, but moderate compared to the rest of the continent. That’s likely due to the cooling Pacific. That’s a key concept I raised in last week’s Radio Ecoshock broadcast. The Pacific Ocean, which you could call the largest “continent” on Earth, has been operating like a planetary air-conditioner, even as we force up the theromstat with ever rising greenhouse gas emissions.

There is a cycle in the Pacific Ocean where the cooler phase, La Nina, can dominate for most years, perhaps for a decade or more. That system then switches to a hot phase, El Nino, as we experienced in the record-setting hot year of 1998. We’ve had more La Nina lately, and very little El Nino. The Pacific is cooling the world somewhat.

Now imagine the same transcontinental heat waves I’ve been describing this summer of 2013 – in a period where the Ocean is releasing heat, rather than soaking it up. That’s when we’ll go over the top into a planetary heat emergency which could last for a decade or more. That’s when the crops die, perhaps hundreds of millions of people starve. That’s when the economy goes nuts, small wars break out, and society beings to feel the big strain running into every corner of our lives.

CLIMATE IS THE REAL “LONG EMERGENCY”

About 8 years ago, in 2005, James Howard Kunstler wrote the book titled “The Long Emergency”. It was based on the limits of oil production, the Peak Oil theory.

The expected drought of oil and gas was delayed however, by new technology. Yes I mean fracking, but also extreme deep-water drilling offshore too. It is possible drilling for oil and gas in the newly melting Arctic could add another decade of fossil fuels to the mix.

In 2006, I tended to agree with Kunstler and others who predicted Peak Oil would crash this civilization long before climate change arrived. But now I’ve changed my mind for three reasons. First, as I said, new technology has extended the reign of oil and gas. Second, Asia has risen as the world’s foremost economic engine, all powered by coal.

But the third reason is the scariest, and the reason for this emergency podcast. I collect climate information daily. I monitor 50 or more climate blogs, plus scientific publications and science journalist alerts. People all over the world send me links to climate news, or describe the weather right where they live. You know I interview scientists for radio, and I talk with still more in private email.

All of these inputs, colliding with the weather news I’ve describe above, leads me to the unstoppable conclusion that climate change is arriving much sooner, and much harder than anyone thought possible.

This is the beginning. 2013 is the beginning, of the real Long Emergency of climate change. The whole story will unfold over a couple of centuries, but the unstable, unbearable, and often unsafe weather is with us starting now.

That means I need to ramp up Radio Ecoshock in some new ways. Let me talk to you for a couple of minutes about this program, in the privacy of a podcast. This message will not be broadcast on the 71 stations that carry Radio Ecoshock. It is meant just for you, the podcast subscribers and your friends, both local and over the Net.

Why? First of all, I know that podcast subscribers have already made a committment. Many of you have been getting every Radio Ecoshock Show for years. You are a dedicated bunch. Our podcast list grows slowly. The Itunes segment, which is just part of our total downloads, has been over 1100 people for a few months now. Generally somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 people end up downloading each program, but that takes as long as a year. There is an audience over time as well as space.

SOMETHING REMARKABLE HAPPENED TO OUR AUDIENCE THIS SUMMER

This summer, as the heat rolls in, something remarkable has happened. Usually our listeners fall to about fifty percent during the summer months. Downloads fall.

The podcast numbers go down a few hundred, as people go out, and until they return in September.

Not this summer. The same dedicated people continue to download, and new people are finding the program. Our audience is threatening to grow, not shrink, during the summer. I take this continued interest as another sign that millions of people are beginning to get the reality of climate change, and hunger for more than mainstream media will ever tell them. Radio Ecoshock can deliver the scientists and activists who will tell all. We do that every week on three continents on radio, and around the world on the Net.

So I need to regroup to do two things: first, I need to survive physically. Then I need to survive a possible wave of demand for Radio Ecoshock.

HOW I WILL KEEP GOING

To prolong my own survival, I am right now cleaning up our home in Vancouver Canada. Hopefully we’ll sell it and move to a rural village in the interior of British Columbia. We already have the land. The plan is to set up a virtually carbon-free home, highly energy efficient, with space to grow at least some of our food supply.

I can name at least two well-known green radio shows, very well done, that went off the air because their hosts could not survive financially. Non-profit radio stations do not pay anything at all for programs like Radio Ecoshock. Nothing. And the non-profit stations discourage fund-raising for any show, partly because it competes with their own constant need to get money to keep independent radio stations going. Fair enough.

But I will need your help to survive financially. I can provide the home, grow some of my own food, and live on the edge from government pensions and a small bit of interest. Still, I need to raise about $15,000 a year to continue personally, and to devote my life as I have for the past seven years, to producing Radio Ecoshock. How can I do it, without using the non-profit air waves?

During this summer heat emergency, I’d like to ask you, the podcast subscriber, to make a further commitment to the program. All I need is 150 people in this great big world to buy the $10 a month membership available on our site.

I’d like to promise you special broadcasts or even videos just for members. Maybe that will be possible. Or may I can offer members these materials first.

But I have to be honest with you. It takes all I’ve got to do the research, do the interviews, interact with listeners, and distribute the weekly show. It’s possible the weekly Radio Ecoshock Show is all I can do. We’ll see.

That is what I am asking you to subsidize – the radio show! If I can develop a larger core of people who are commited to getting this program out, we can continue for years to come, as the emergency deepens. There is a small hope we can still rescue the future from the worst of climate change. To do it, I hope I have a useful role in continuing to campaign with information, getting the big picture out there.

Most of you, and most of my listeners are communicators. I know this from the emails I receive. Many of my Twitter followers are actually large groups, with thousands of followers themselves. Some journalists listen to this podcast and get ideas. It’s small, but powerful. Though I know, in the great Internet, Radio Ecoshock numbers are tiny. Still, somewhere out there on over 70 radio stations, a few hundred thousand people hear what is now the alternative version of reality, but actually the science-based best grasp of reality. We are trying to struggle out of a mass delusion – which has ensnared all of us, including you, including me.

Please do two things for me. Whether you can afford to become part of the base which keeps me going with Radio Ecoshock or not, you can pass on this heat emergency warning to as many people as you can. Second, can you go to the web site at ecoshock.org, click on “About”, and become a member? Everyone who does that, gives me more power to keep on going, even during very difficult times.

OK, IT DOES LOOK BLEAK

Frankly, it’s looking bleak. A new Swiss study says if we measure all climate impacts/change, not just temperature, the need for rapid carbon reductions double. And our time to act is cut in half. The Swiss are considering things like extreme precipitation events, stronger storms, higher storm surges as sea levels rise, ocean acidification, species extinction – there is so much more to climate change than just temperature! The current heat alert is just part of the picture.

But the killer news comes from James Hansen, the person who first warned the American Congress about climate change in 1988. Hansen just retired as the Chief Scientist at the prestigious Goddard Space Research Center of NASA.

There is a tremendous must-read article by Nafeez Ahmed in the UK Guardian newspaper on July 10th. Here is the title:

“James Hansen: Fossil fuel addiction could trigger runaway global warming. Without full decarbonisation by 2030, our global emissions pathway guarantees new era of catastrophic climate change.”

Let me read you the opening paragraphs, which are littered with direct quotes from James Hansen.

“The world is currently on course to exploit all its remaining fossil fuel resources, a prospect that would produce a “different, practically uninhabitable planet” by triggering a “low-end runaway greenhouse effect.” This is the conclusion of a new scientific paper by Prof James Hansen, the former head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the world’s best known climate scientist.

The paper due to be published later this month by Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A (Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A) focuses less on modelling than on empirical data about correlations between temperature, sea level and CO2 going back up to 66 million years.

Given that efforts to exploit available fossil fuels continue to accelerate, the paper’s principal finding – that “conceivable levels of human-made climate forcing could yield the low-end runaway greenhouse effect” based on inducing “out-of-control amplifying feedbacks such as ice sheet disintegration and melting of methane hydrates” – is deeply worrying.

The paper projects that global average temperatures under such a scenario could eventually reach as high as between 16C and 25C over a number of centuries.

Such temperatures “would eliminate grain production in almost all agricultural regions in the world”, “diminish the stratospheric ozone layer”, and “make much of the planet uninhabitable by humans.”

That was from the Guardian article by Nafeez Ahmed. In my blog at ecoshock.info, under the title “Global Heat Emergency”, published in July 2013, you’ll find a link to Hansen’s latest paper.

WHAT IS AT STAKE

We are in danger of losing much more than the public can imagine. Even scientists who work non-stop on climate admit they can’t picture a world three degrees hotter, much less 16 degrees hotter. This generation, this time, will decide whether we plunge into a mass extinction, including humans. That may not come for one or two hundred years, but our action time is more or less now or never.

I’m going out to a dry hot place by the cool river. I’ll be rearranging my energy for the coming challenge, and driving deeper roots into the community where I hope to ride it out. In September, we’ll mount another battle for the next 11 months.

Meanwhile, you can help me get this critical message out on radio in the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom. You can help me feed our fans in Scandinavia, Europe, Pakistan, India, China – the lot.

I’m looking for 150 brave people to put up $10 a month. Is it you? Could it be someone you know?

Do that, and I’ll contribute my 30 years of experience in finding the climate dragon, and finding solutions we can live with. I’ll do what I always do: I’ll give it all I’ve got to keep it coming, as real as it gets.

Thank you for being part of a select club: the Radio Ecoshock podcast listeners, and the network of supporters following the weekly blog. You keep me going.

see

How Can We Face A Future Of Climate Change If We Have Forgotten Our Past? by Lesley Docksey

We Are All Aboard the Pequod by Chris Hedges

How Much Change On Climate Change? by Chris Williams

If We Love Our Children, Why Are We Dooming Them? by Ed Ciaccio + The Campaign to Mislead the Public on Climate Change

Spinning Out Of Control by Lesley Docksey

The Last Possible Refuge by Tristan A. Shaw

The Nuclear Nightmare Continues – Helen Caldicott interviewed by Alex Smith

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  1. […] Global Heat Emergency by Alex Smith […]

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