Thursday, March 17, 2011

Repukes Prepared to Fiddle as Earth Burns

It is a given that a person of normal intelligence will take precautions when inhabiting a condition or place that is prone to certain disasters. Thus, those living in a tornado-prone region will ensure an easy access cellar is not far away, or at least a room with no windows to which they can repair if the worst comes, like an F5 tornado. Those living in earthquake regions will have their own special precautions and plans, and ditto for those living in hurricane -prone regions. In each case one plans for the worst, and ....if it doesn't happen....well, at least you were ready!

In the case of global warming-climate change we know the worst is on its way as the latest research published in Eos: Transactions of the American Geophysical Union (Vol. 92, No. 9, March 1, 2011, 'Vulnerability and Feedbacks of Permafrost to Climate Change') shows yet another major source of carbon ready to be set loose as global temperatures soar, especially in the Arctic (which has experienced mean temperatures 5-7F higher than normal the past twenty five years).

As the graphic in the image (Fig. 1, ibid.) shows, there are multiple carbon "pools" which are accessible to thawing in warmer temperatures in northern permafrost regions. When these stores are triggered, massive amounts of carbon are released to the atmosphere, increasing the concentration of CO2 while exacerbating the Greenhouse effect. What we humans have to be aware of, then, is not only the ambient CO2 already in the atmosphere and creating a greenhouse, but the "re-mobilization" and dispersal of carbon stores from thawing permafrost with the potential to disastrously add to the existing greenhouse.

All this means our current situation is much more dire than many let on, and may not even be salvageable (in terms of preventing our planet from becoming another Venus and roasting us all alive) if action isn't taken immediately, including large carbon taxes on all fossil fuels, and rationing of fossil fuels. Yes, it will have a major impact on the economy, but which do you prefer: have fewer material things, or burning alive in a runaway Greenhouse effect?

Permafrost itself is defined as ground that remains below 0 degrees Celsius for at least two consecutive years, and which may include: bedrock, sediment, soils and organic materials and may or may not contain ground ice. Of particular significance for most earthlings, are the 2 million square kilometers (or ~ 8.8%) of the Northern Hemisphere Permafrost region (22.6 million sq. kilometers total) that possess ice -rich permafrost, meaning it contains > 20% ice.

All permafrost can be affected by thawing, but the ice-rich variety is the most critical because it can initiate and sustain particularly strong feedbacks, carbon deposition. Thus, it's nothing to fool around with or treat in cavalier fashion. Frankly, if any visiting extraterrestrials were observing us, they'd wonder why we haven't acted by now to contain the threat for our own future survival. I'd warrant that they'd likely even gauge our species' response as a kind of "celestial IQ test", indicating whether we merit a first contact...or any.

But look no further than the Republicans for the wrong response. In a dismaying demonstration yesterday, three Democrats in the House proposed motions (all denied) that showed the GOP has no interest in this planet, or the welfare of global citizens. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., asked Congress to concede that "warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level."

Diana DeGette's, (D-Colorado), amendment asked Congress to accept "the scientific finding of the Environmental Protection Agency that the 'scientific evidence is compelling' that elevated concentrations of greenhouse gases resulting from anthropogenic emissions 'are the root cause of recently observed climate change.'"

Jay Inslee, D-Wash., asked Congress to accept that "the public health of current generations is endangered and that the threat to public health for both current and future generations will likely mount over time as greenhouse gases continue to accumulate in the atmosphere and result in ever greater rates of climate change."

Every single Republican on the committee voted against all three amendments, with the sole exception of Tennessee's Martha Blackburn, who declined to vote on DeGette's amendment.

This is despicable and reprehensible. While it might remotely be possible to understand how people might disagree that humans are the main cause of rising temperatures (sunspots! natural variation!), it is confounding and depressing that 31 Republicans are willing to deny, flat-out, that temperatures are rising, period.

This despite the fact that the most esteemed scientific institutions in the country have all arrived at a consensus. Last spring, the nonpartisan National Academy of Sciences reviewed the available facts and declared that "A strong, credible body of scientific evidence shows that climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for a broad range of human and natural systems."

The NAS position makes things nice and tidy, and easily comprehensibe even to those who've never taken a high school physics course. Yet the House Republicans in charge of energy policy were unanimous in their contradiction of the findings of the United States' most august body of scientists. As was reported last fall by National Journal's Ron Brownstein, no other major political party in the world has staked out such a clear position. But then no other nation in the world has so many flat Earthers, or so many who believe in "miracles", or creationism- intelligent design over evolution. In other words, no other nation has so many semi-educated idiots and morons.

These FACTS we know:

1) The first ten years of this century were the warmest on record.

2) 2010 was tied with 2005 as the hottest year ever recorded.

3) The summer of 2010 saw the sea ice in the Arctic melt to its third lowest area ever measured.

4) Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are currently at their highest concentrations (~ 477 ppm) in at least 800,000 years.

Factoring into these findings, is the paper ‘Jokulhlaup Observed in Greenland ice sheet’, appearing in Eos: Transactions of the American Geophysical Union (Vol. 89, No. 35, 26 Aug. 2008, p. 221) which notes increased frequency of “jokalhlaups”or glacial fissures yielding bursts of melting runoff from glaciers. It is this phenomenon which plays a role in the “unusual cracks” noted underneath Greenland’s ice sheet – possibly portending a massive collapse and sea water rise of 3-5 m.

These aren’t opinions like the regressive flat Earth batallion offers (where each has one, just like an a-hole), they are measured, verified FACTS. They are part of the objective evidence (including permafrost thawing and release of CO2) that shows our planet is changing for the worst with drastic consequences for our communities.

The climate "tsunami" is well on its way. The question is what are the Repukes prepared to do about it? Defund all research and carbon control regulations, like they defunded the tsunami early warning station in Hawaii?

Probably, because all they care about is short term money and profit. Hopefully, they'll still be able to enjoy it (from their rich corporate donors and benefactors) once all the petagrams of permafrost thaw and release their additional stores of carbon, turning our world into a hellhole. At least when that happens, the idiot fundies will have something to crow about: they will finally get to experience a REAL Hell, as opposed to the delusion nestled in their amygdalas.

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