Global warming causes ice-free region in Antarctica to disappear


You read that headline right, and no, I’m not a climate denialist. In a weird quirk, climate change has stopped the up-swelling of relatively warm ocean water in a specific area of Antarctic waters, resulting in it freezing over. A lid of fresh water, possibly from melting glaciers, has blocked that warmer salt water from reaching the surface.

Deep ocean waters only mix directly to the surface in a few small regions of the global ocean, so this has effectively shut one of the main conduits for deep ocean heat to escape.”

If and when conditions change and the deep waters do surface “it will release decades-worth of heat and carbon from the deep ocean to the atmosphere in a pulse of warming.”

Cool It. The Movie. A new approach to climate change

In Cool It, Bjoern Lomborg says current climate change initiatives are based on fear and that new approaches are needed.

He says he admires Gore’s documentary since “his movie made us all aware of climate change”. However, “it did so by creating panic, and we need to move on from that”.

I agree. The carrot works better than the stick. We should emphasize how renewable energy makes us less dependent on foreign sources for oil, more self-sufficient, with energy produced locally. And not by screaming we’re all doomed because the ice caps are melting.

Death of the climate change movement?

Derek Wall

2010 may be remembered as the year that the climate change campaign movement, at least in its current form, officially gave up and died. The mortal injuries were inflicted at Copenhagen in December 2009, and since then it has been slowly dragging its decaying corpse towards the open grave at Cancun, where it will finally be interred next month.

The US, EU, and China made much lip service about fighting climate change but in the end backstabbed any meaningful agreement. This includes Obama who played a major role in insuring that the Copenhagen attempts of 2009 would be a failure.

Fighting climate change is about making social and political reforms that would cut to the heart of the capitalist system.

It means that long-term goals would trump the short-term profit motive and that companies and governments would become genuinely socially responsible. This could actually help the companies, not hurt them.

Long time antiwar and Green Party activist Peter Camejo also ran an investing business. In his 2002 book, The SRI Advantage, he argues that investing in socially responsible companies provides a better return, saying:

Company by company, what a social screen does is remove risk. Its overall impact is therefore to lower liability. Social screens will remove companies that tend to violate the law or market products that have questionable value or are most likely to lead to litigation, such as tobacco. Social screens knock out companies that engage in discrimination or are in conflict with their local communities or their workforce. Elimination of these companies reduces a specific kind of risk, what we can refer to as “company-specific risk.”

In 2010 this is clearly true of the financial sector too. Their overwhelming bloodlust for ever-increasing profits led them to take seriously risky and probably criminal actions, and it exploded in their faces, causing shareholders to lose hundreds of billions and cratering the economy too.

Companies that are socially responsible probably aren’t going to engage in criminal actions. If such practices were adopted widely, business itself would become healthier and more trustworthy. While this certainly isn’t smashing capitalism, it would be a welcome step in the right direction because then working to end climate change becomes a basic part of business too.

The unstoppable Australian fires

australia fire melted wheels
The fire melted alloy wheels

Australian Dave Riley comments on our post about the fires there.

And they will stop them in Australia too.

No they won’t. And they haven’t. The fires will subside when they run out of fuel/wind/and the temperature drops. These fires are unstoppable.

I was trying offer some bedraggled optimism. In the Los Angeles fire I mentioned  they did extremely dangerous water drops at night to prevent the fire from cresting the other side of Topanga Canyon. Had that happened, it would have hit the more populated Palisades Highlands and been catastrophic. But the Australia fires already are catastrophic, beyond anything ever seen in southern California, even eclipsing the 1961 Bel Air fire.

So far there’s been 131 deaths with more likely and that’s not considering the deaths from polluted air among asthmatics and old people from dehydration in the searing heat — regardless of the fires.

Katherine Bradsteet has a great article here. I grew up in Victoria and know these burnt out towns very well indeed.

The article points out that global warming is clearly a factor here and that  privatization transport has failed during this crisis but public transport kept going. It’s clear that existing governmental structures are not adequate to handle the fires.

It is all quite amazing. Australia burns every year but never like this. Melbourne experienced electricity meltdown through air conditioning demands on the grid. And in the fires, corrugated iron was melted. Melted! Iron watertanks full of water simply melted!

The good news is the highly successful climate convergence last weekend: report here.

And here’s another element in the mix. Recent research here suggests that as forests replenish their growth after fires burn out, they soak up 20-30% more of the available water in the forest reducing run off in that watershed by that factor — and they impose that demand for up to 20 years. So with the droughts (indepent of this factor) the water usage for farms downstream are denied the water by the ecology of regrowth.

Victoria is in long term chronic water crisis and there is a war over water access as farming is being denied water to water the city.

Dave’s primary point, I think, it that the fires must be seen in the larger context in which they occur. Global warming, an economic system that values profit about planning for the common good, and increasingly hollowed-out central governments who can not respond effectively are all contributing factors to the Australian fires, it’s not just Mother Nature on a solitary rampage.