Brazil’s Great Amazon Rainforest Burns as Parched Megacities Fall Under Existential Threat

One need only look at today’s satellite image of Brazil’s Amazon Rainforest to notice something’s terribly wrong. A vast 1,000 mile swath of what should be some of the wettest lands on the globe running south of the world’s largest river is covered by a dense pall of smoke. Scores of plumes boil up out of the burning and sweltering forest. Pumping dark clouds into the sky, the fires’ tell-tale streaks out over a drought-parched Brazil, across the Atlantic, and over to Africa where the plume is again thickened by yet more wildfires.

Amazon Rainforest burns

(Massive wildfires belch smoke over a vast section of Brazil’s Amazon Rainforest. These fires are occurring as much of the country suffers from drought. In the north, the current drought is the worst in at least 50 years. In the southeast, drought is now said to be the worst in at least 85 years. Image source: LANCE MODIS.)

The greatest rainforest in the world, sometimes called Earth’s lungs, is burning, blackening, and belching out a thick pulse of carbon dioxide into an atmosphere that is already greatly over-burdened with industry-emitted greenhouse gasses. The world’s largest watershed and remaining largest rainforest combined now finds itself in a crisis of human making. A set of insults that may not now be reversible as the forest begins to succumb to both drought and fire.

It’s a crisis that threatens to turn South Brazil into a desert, to turn one of the world’s vast carbon stores into a carbon emissions source, and to eventually convert the great rainforest itself into dry grasslands. Such a transition would result in yet one more major contributor to increasing global greenhouse gas concentrations even as it puts Brazil’s mega-cities under threat of collapse. And it’s a transition that’s happening now. A violent transformation that likely started during the early 2000s. One now reaching catastrophic new intensities.

Human-Forced Warming, Slash and Burn Agriculture, Godzilla El Nino

The causes for the fires are three-fold and all too often missed in the sparse mainstream media reports of the ongoing catastrophe. First, human-caused warming of the globe is pushing the great rainforest to slowly heat up and dry out. Alone, such warming would be enough to take down the great rainforest if the Earth warmed by between 2 and 4 degrees Centigrade. Since we’ve already seen Earth System warming on the order of 1 degree Celsius above 1880s values, the great forest is now feeling the stress of this added heat. But the forest is now also suffering the insults of what amounts to a half century of slash and burn agriculture. Immense swaths of the forest have been cut and burned away, converted into farmlands. Increasingly, large sections of the forest are isolated into smaller, less productive islands. In addition, the ongoing burning of vast tracts of woodland adds a fire pressure to an already heat-stressed rainforest.

Carbon dioxide hotspots Copernicus

(The Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring System [CAMS] shows a significant carbon dioxide plume rising up off of the fires now burning in the Amazon Rainforest. It was a prediction made by global climate models that human forced warming could turn the Amazon into a net carbon emissions source by the middle of this Century. For the period of Fall 2015, heat and drought have done exactly that. Image source: CAMS.)

Finally, this year, Brazil is experiencing the effects of what is likely to become the strongest El Nino ever recorded. Such Pacific Ocean warming events have a tendency to push the rainforest to dry. And with the great Amazon already suffering from at least a decade of drought, the new, extremely intense El Nino is providing yet one more severe insult on top of all the other damage inflicted by both human warming of the atmosphere and by slash and burn agriculture.

Megacities Suffering Severe Water Shortages

As the Amazon rainforest suffers clear cutting, wildfire, and drought, it pumps less and less water into the atmosphere. Its once massive ‘flying rivers’ are drying out. The loss of these immense atmospheric moisture flows has a particularly acute impact on lands bordering the Amazon — especially in the region of Brazil’s coastal cities. Over the past two decades, the massive cities of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro have suffered from increasingly frequent droughts. However, over the past three years, drought has been particularly extreme.

In Sao Paulo, unofficial water rationing began about two years ago and has remained in effect ever since. Today, the region’s largest reservoir — the Cantariera — remains below dead pool levels even as other reservoirs have fallen under increasing stress. The result is that many of the area’s 20 million people are starting to migrate to cities with better water security. Cities like Jundiai where water conservation policies have prevented shortages despite an ongoing drying of the surrounding countryside.

Brazil Drought NOAA El Nino

(In the July-September 2015 rainfall graphic measure provided by NOAA, we see the Amazon Rainforest experiencing severe water deficits in conjunction with the warmest global temperatures on record and what is likely to become the strongest El Nino on record. A heat pressure that has resulted in severe wildfire outbreaks throughout the Amazon this month. Such impacts will further reduce the moisture content of the flying rivers the cities of Southern Brazil depend on. Image source: NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.)

In Rio de Janeiro, the situation is still somewhat better than in Sao Paulo. Water cut-offs have not yet begun in this city of 10 million even though local reservoirs are also starting to dry up. But if dry conditions continue, 2016-2017 will almost certainly see Brazil’s second largest city fall into a crisis similar to that of Sao Paulo.

A recent report by NPR highlights the severity of Brazil’s coastal cities drought:

And [Sao Paulo] is not alone. Brazil’s second largest city, Rio de Janeiro, is also facing water troubles, as are other coastal areas. It’s been an enormous shock to Brazilians, who are used to their country being called “the Saudi Arabia of Water…” But not anymore. Satellite data from NASA shows that the drought in much of southeast Brazil — also home to the region’s breadbasket — is much worse than originally believed.

If these droughts continue, they will threaten to collapse the cities of eastern Brazil. They will put a strain on electricity supplies, on commercial activity, and on practically every aspect of city life — which is largely dependent upon access to water. In eastern Brazil, more than 30 million people now face the threat of this climate change induced destabilization. But what’s worse is the fact that the ongoing burning and drought in the Amazon to the north practically ensures that the flying rivers will continue to wilt, that the droughts in the southeast will grow to become city-killers.

Links:

LANCE MODIS

CAMS Atmospheric Monitoring

As Brazil’s Largest City Struggles with Drought, Residents are Leaving

Drought Takes Hold as Amazon’s Flying Rivers Disappear

New NASA Data Shows Brazil’s Drought Deeper than Previously Thought

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center

Drought Threatens Water Truck Lifeline in Northeastern Brazil

Is Brazil Nearly Out of Water?

Brazil, Land of Water, Goes Thirsty

Leave a comment

116 Comments

  1. Great as ever, Robert. Got an article in HuffPost and Common Dreams today that features El Nino: http://www.commondreams.org/views/2015/11/29/hard-half-within-climate-circles-there-exist-two-basic-camps

    Reply
    • Fantastic article, David. I guess I come from the camp that doesn’t like laissez faire and instead sees the necessary policy driven jettisoning of fossil fuels and a rapid transition to renewables + efficiency as progressive. Call me out as not liking the positions of the traditional camps. But, absolutely, there’s a hard line here. You can’t do this with neo-liberal structures. It’s a fail for all ideology.

      Reply
  2. One by one (and ofttimes several at once) the life-supporting “organs” and systems of this planet continue to fail. With no more anxiety than with a terminally ill hospice patient.

    Sent from my iPad 🙏🏻

    >

    Reply
  3. Time running out? Faster and faster, I think we can expect to see things change.

    Reply
  4. Jeremy

     /  November 30, 2015

    You betcha webmaster!

    COP21 is a sham .

    http://www.countercurrents.org/polya291115.htm

    More HOT AIR!

    Reply
    • If they’re honest, they’ll admit that hitting below 2 C long term will be difficult to the point that entire economies will need to be rebuilt from the ground up. That hitting below 2 C this Century will require hitting net carbon negative by or before 2030. That’s the kind of challenge we’re looking at if we’re honest. So far, we’re not really being honest about the risks or what’s really at stake.

      Reply
      • wili

         /  November 30, 2015

        That’s what Kevin Anderson has been saying for years now, for example here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jpbfGaKp4K4

        Refreshingly frank and straightforward as he is, I still wonder if Anderson is a bit optimistic here. Given lag time of effects of CO2, and given that a lion’s share of the total additional CO2 that we have added to the atmosphere has been emitted in the last fifty years, aren’t we pretty much locked in to an additional rise in temps of at least a degree even with no further emissions?

        And, as you know, there is also the fact that we are at the CO2 equivalent of 480 ppm or so, which is about 2/3s of a way towards doubling, and with a (conservative) sensitivity of 3 degrees per doubling, doesn’t that put us at about two degrees now (once the short term feedbacks and ocean heat exchange even out)?

        So short of massive sequestration (that is so far no where in sight) or some unknown massive negative feedback, is it now really possible to avoid 2 degrees, even if we totally shut down any further use of ff?

        Reply
        • It’s actually a pretty complex equation when you think about it. A decent form would be:

          Total GHG forcing = total human carbon emissions and residency over time – carbon sink draw down over time + carbon store positive feedback over time

          So the big questions now are 1. How much more carbon do humans emit and 2. what’s going on with the Earth System carbon sinks and stores. If there’s enough amplifying feedback and carbon store exhaustion to cancel out the remaining healthy sinks then we’re basically stuck with greenhouse gas levels as they are or could see them even rise a bit. But if there are still sinks strong enough to draw down a bit of the excess, then we’re looking at a better scenario. In the case of methane, now at historically very high levels, it would take a pretty significant Earth System response to lock in current atmospheric fractions and a nearly catastrophic response to keep increasing them. In the case of oceans, that carbon store still appears capable of drawing down about 10-20 ppm before hitting a long term equilibrium. But I think other responses are likely to push CO2 higher at least by a bit.

          The high methane overburden would almost certainly fall with a drop off in human emissions. We’re not yet seeing a methane release from the environment that’s strong enough to keep levels elevated in the case of a rapid human draw down.

          I guess if we go to zero carbon emissions soon, it’s possible we hit 1.5 to 1.7 C this Century and 3 to 3.5 C long term. But beyond that it’s major land use changes and other intense efforts that are needed to draw down the excess carbon. And that’s all assuming very rapid emissions reductions and a stable Earth System with a mild carbon response to the added heating. I’d call that a realistic best case scenario with a number of caveats. But notice that hitting that best case requires a recognition that we have basically no carbon budget and that we undertake a cold turkey jettisoning of fossil fuels. Under current global commitments and policies, the situation looks much, much worse.

      • Caroline

         /  November 30, 2015

        Robert, thanks for responding so thoroughly to Wili’s forthright and very important question below.
        Forgive my ignorance here (maybe I need to reread your response) but how does global dimming (or lack there of) fit into the projection: “if we go to zero carbon emissions soon, it’s possible we hit 1.5 to 1.7 C this Century and 3 to 3.5 C long term”

        Reply
        • If we lose aerosols, we end up with another +0.2 to +0.3 C short term which is already factored in to the back of the napkin numbers above. Also worth noting that I’m using Hansen ESS as a yardstick.

      • Griffin

         /  December 1, 2015

        Outstanding questions and response here! Thank you all for this discussion, I find it to be very pertinent this week!

        Reply
      • wili

         /  December 1, 2015

        Yes, thanks for the, as usual, clear analysis. So the ocean is, so far, saving our collective sorry butts, but in the process getting killed itself by acidification from carbonic acid.

        How certain are we these days about those numbers for aerosol dimming? I seem to remember a rather wider range of uncertainty there, but I haven’t been keeping up with all that has been published on the subject lately.

        Reply
    • Ashley

       /  December 1, 2015

      Yes – when a guy turns up in ‘defiance’ after playing more golf in past 6 years than a worlds to pro-player and only now is concerned !
      They care not a jot for the ecosystem of this planet all ego and PR when it is over they will all fly back home and continue as ever.

      Reply
  5. Syd Bridges

     /  November 30, 2015

    With slight apologies to Neville Chamberlain for the misquotation.

    “How horrible, fantastic, incredible it is that we should be driving less and buying less crap here because of a climate disaster in a far away country happening to people of whom we know nothing.”

    I’m sure things will work out just as well for us as they did for him.

    Reply
    • climatehawk1

       /  December 2, 2015

      Ha, I paraphrased him elsewhere just yesterday, to the same effect: “Climate unreality in our time.”

      Reply
  6. redskylite

     /  November 30, 2015

    Thanks for this excellent narrative on alarming current events in the Amazon and the vulnerability of the Earth’s lungs. It immediately reminded me of an excellent 2010 talk on Climate Change and the Forests of the West (Keeling Lecture) – given by Dr. Steve Running, a Regents Professor in the College of Forestry and Conservation at the University of Montana, on forests and the carbon balance. We need to take care of our forests – we have no alternate carbon scrubbing technology that is anywhere near the scale of our mighty rain-forests, and I cannot see us ever achieving artificial means in time.

    I attach the talk by Dr Running, he talks in depth on U.S West forests after 36 minutes. . .also a great tribute to Charles David Keeling.

    Reply
    • It’s amazing the amount of carbon draw down we’ve already taken out. And this year has been yet one more big hit to forests around the globe. Equator and Arctic particularly. But a bad year for drought and wildfire worldwide.

      Reply
    • I’d put WUWT in the same bucket as Fox News. All a part of the same media conglomerate and as such receiving the broader support of that monopoly. You basically have a monopoly interest pushing climate change denial.

      Reply
  7. Tom

     /  November 30, 2015

    New NASA study shows Brazil’s drought deeper than thought – Southeast losing 56 trillion liters of water in each of the past three years

    http://www.desdemonadespair.net/2015/11/new-nasa-study-shows-brazils-drought.html

    [begins]

    New satellite data shows Brazil’s drought is worse than previously thought, with the southeast losing 56 trillion liters of water in each of the past three years – more than enough to fill Lake Tahoe, a NASA scientist said on Friday.

    The country’s most severe drought in 35 years has also caused the Brazil’s larger and less-populated northeast to lose 49 trillion liters of water each year over three years compared with normal levels, said NASA hydrologist Augusto Getirana.

    Brazilians are well aware of the drought due to water rationing, power blackouts and empty reservoirs in parts of the country but this is the first study to document exactly how much water has disappeared from aquifers and reservoirs, Getirana said.

    “It is much larger than I imagined,” Getirana told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “With climate change, this is going to happen more and more often.” [read the rest]

    Reply
    • Total losses in the range of 105 trillion liters each year according to the NASA study. And the Amazon now under severe drought stress to the point now that it’s producing as much CO2 as one on the world’s major carbon emitters. The shift of the drought north into the Amazon with El Niño means more loss of atmospheric moisture and rainfall for the coastal cities in the future. It’s starting to look like a death spiral.

      Reply
  8. It’s even worse than what you have written here and that’s no criticism of your excellent writing. I have been investigating the worsening Amazon drought for several months since I gave a talk about the coming year in Asheville at the Kos community get together there. The situation in the Amazon is likely to become the world’s biggest disaster in the coming year. Brazil is truly screwed because the trees are a water pump that pulls in the tropical moisture than then returns to the big cities in the southeast. The loss of large areas of rainforest will slash Brazil’s water supplies permanently.

    Reply
    • You’re right, Fish. The Amazon’s going to take one hell of a blow and longer term that’s very bad news for the coastal cities. But it’s worth noting that El Nino does tend to temporarily increase rainfall in the south. So Rio on north is likely to see worse impacts as São Paulo might get enough of a respite to keep limping along for a bit. The problem comes after the recent blow to the Amazon sinks in and we get net moisture losses in the south, again, due to the withering and burning we see now.

      The Amazon’s taking some pretty heavy hits now. It’s starting to turn into something that’s just no longer capable of supplying Brazil with the moisture it’s accustomed to. It’s a long road of burning and desertification for that country that each year is worsened by the ongoing greenhouse gas additions.

      Reply
  9. Syd Bridges

     /  November 30, 2015

    Looking at today’s El Nino update, I see that the temperature anomaly in Nino 3.4 has dropped back to 3.0 deg C from last week’s 3.1 deg C. But I also notice that the anomaly in Nino 1+2 has risen from 2.1 to 2.4 deg C over the last week. I saw a comment on Wunderground.com that another Kelvin wave might be on its way across the Pacific. So now I’m wondering whether El Nino has more up its sleeve still, which would be bad news for Brazil.

    Latest NOAA El Nino data is at

    http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/analysis_monitoring/lanina/enso_evolution-status-fcsts-web.pdf

    Reply
    • Grid analysis right now puts Niño 3.4 at 2.8 or 2.9 C in the NOAA correlary. So we may see 4 weeks at or above 1997-1998 levels in the NOAA measure if this week holds. The push back to heat in Niño 3.0 is a typical shift as El Niño starts to fade. I don’t think we’ve had a strong enough WWB to generate a significant Kelvin Wave. Will have to keep an eye on WWB over the next few weeks. PDO is still rather strongly positive, though, as is the NE PAC hot pool which would tend to give this El Niño a bit more in the way of legs. Worth noting that BOM hasn’t hit peak 1997 thresholds yet, but the 3 month looks about near the mark.

      Reply
  10. James Burton

     /  November 30, 2015

    The science news was out with the story of rate of deforestation increasing across the Amazon, after a short term falling of the rate. The clearing of forest leaves relative humidity falling in adjacent forested areas, and thus fires burn hotter, longer. As one fire fighter professional said, “Fire now burn through the night, something that never used to happen.”
    It’s a bad cycle!

    Another science story: related to denial in general. ” A Yale researcher set out to discover how much impact mega-wealthy corporations and individuals have had on the American public’s confusion about climate change.
    The answer: Just as much as, if not more than, many have claimed—but until now could not measure objectively.
    Justin Farrell combined several kinds of statistical, semantic, and network analysis—big data, in other words—to show that over the past two decades, climate contrarians funded by ExxonMobil and the Koch brothers’ family foundations have been the most successful at spreading talking points on uncertainty about climate change science into the U.S. news media and political discussions.
    That messaging has helped fuel the American public’s disbelief about climate change despite the worldwide scientific consensus that global warming is a pressing and major threat to both humanity and the environment. The study was published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change.”

    Among general society that I interact with, denial is rampant. And it is not just denial, it is a rabid form of denial. An angry denial.

    Reply
  11. – Robert, I tweeted today’s post to Glenn Greenwald who lives in Brazil.

    “@ggreenwald A #Brazil synopsis: #Amazon Rainforest Burns as Parched Megacities Under Existential Threat robertscribbler.com/2015/11/30/brazils-great-amazon-rainforest-burns-as-parched-megacities-fall-under-existential-threat/

    Reply
  12. – The New Repubic has a piece with aCOP21 CO2 counter on it’s page.

    Paris Climate Conference

    https://newrepublic.com/paris-climate-2015

    Reply
    • So to put this into perspective — globally, volcanoes emit about 150 million tons of carbon dioxide each year. Humans currently do the same in just 48 hours.

      Reply
      • Just looking at base air pollution deaths in the hundreds of thousands to millions each year is enough to justify cessation of fossil fuel burning. With climate change we add in the threat of mass extinction, drowned cities, a dead world ocean, ridiculously extreme weather, and wrecked global agriculture.

        Reply
  13. – Denial — or acceptance of mass casualties due to a toxic air-shed and atmosphere?
    – To allow this is to deny the cruelty of the reality.

    ‘Italy highest in EU for air pollution-linked deaths’

    Air pollution caused 84,400 premature deaths in Italy – the highest among the EU states – in 2012, according to the latest report from the European Environment Agency (EEA).

    The ‘Air Quality in Europe 2015’ report was published to coincide with the opening of the climate change summit in Paris on Monday.

    The EEA said that “air pollution is still the single largest environmental health risk in Europe”, causing an estimated 524,000 premature deaths in 2012 across the 40 countries monitored.

    The most problematic pollutants affecting human health are particulate matter (PM), ground-level ozone (O3) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2).

    In 2012, the majority (59,500) of the air pollution-related deaths in Italy were attributable to PM, while 21,600 were connected to NO2 and 3,300 to O3.

    The largest number of deaths attributable to PM were in countries with the largest populations…

    http://www.thelocal.it/20151130/italy-highest-in-eu-for-pollution-linked-deaths

    Reply
  14. – Koch the brand:

    Online marketing survey: Koch Industries best-known brand in Kansas

    An online survey of the best-known brands associated with Kansas put Koch Industries at the top.

    RSA Marketing Services asked 1,300 Kansans to name the Kansas-based brand they think is the most famous. Koch was ranked 10th in last year’s survey.

    http://www.kansas.com/news/business/article47161835.html

    Reply
    • Mark in New England

       /  November 30, 2015

      What’s the matter with Kansas?😉

      Reply
      • Ryan in New England

         /  November 30, 2015

        A great book, and it really applies to the U.S. in general at this point. The insane and delusional statements coming from all the Republican presidential candidates that is just eaten up by half the populace doesn’t leave me with much hope. How can we deal with climate change when most people will vote repeatedly against their own economic, environmental and health interests because they hate gays, non-whites and non-Christians? The U.S. populace is reprehensibly ignorant. That’s what’s the matter with Kansas.

        Reply
        • I think the U.S. populace is mostly with us. Despite all the climate change denial out there, 66 percent of U.S. Citizens support action on climate change. It’s more a question of the deleterious effect fossil fuel advertising and campaign donation dollars are having on the democratic process. If you look at the U.S. House of Representatives, for example, they are not at all respresentative of American views on the climate (or much else for that matter).

      • Ryan in New England

         /  December 1, 2015

        Robert, you are correct. I think I get discouraged from talking with friends, family and acquaintances. It still seems like everybody I talk to either doesn’t know about climate change, or worse, doesn’t care. And then there are still the deniers. I always read about the percentage of Americans supporting action increasing, but I simply don’t see it in my personal life. And I live in a liberal state. My head would explode if I had to live in Oklahoma or Mississippi or anywhere that is even more hostile to facts.

        Reply
  15. – Arctic drone cam footage:

    Shocking scale of Artic ice-melt revealed in new drone footage

    https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/world/shocking-scale-of-artic-ice-melt-revealed-in-new-drone-footage.html

    Reply
  16. redskylite

     /  November 30, 2015

    Job 12:7-10New International Version (NIV)

    7
    “But ask the animals, and they will teach you,
    or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;
    8
    or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,
    or let the fish in the sea inform you.

    http://www.techtimes.com/articles/111510/20151129/messengers-of-climate-change-birds-moving-towards-poles-higher-grounds-due-to-warming-habitats.htm

    Reply
  17. – Read this first:
    “The House votes this week on several pieces of legislation aimed at confronting Obama on his climate policies, including taking aim at the administration’s controls on power plant emissions.

    – Then:
    The Latest: US House Leader Won’t Pay for Climate Deal

    U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy says the House will not go along if President Barack Obama tries to commit taxpayer money to support a climate accord reached in Paris.

    He says Congress has the authority to decide how to spend U.S. taxpayer dollars, “and I don’t think that’s the best use of our money.”

    McCarthy suggested that a must-pass year-end spending bill currently in the works could become the vehicle for language blocking any such expenditure.
    http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2015/11/30/world/europe/ap-climate-countdown-the-latest.html?_r=0

    Reply
  18. Ryan in New England

     /  November 30, 2015

    I’m so glad I never had children when I was younger, like so many of my friends. It’s really starting to seem like we are going to do the unthinkable…push this climate into self-sustained warming. We are systematically destroying all the systems that created the climate we evolved in, and the Earth will be radically different by the end of this century, likely sooner. In a world with 9+ billion trying to find food and resources, all while the climate makes it harder and harder to grow food, things are going to get pretty ugly. I would feel morally culpable for creating a child who will certainly face great hardship and one day wonder why I had him/her, knowing the suffering they were likely to experience. This is not a critique against those who have children, or still want to have some. It’s just for me, personally, I can’t even imagine having kids at this point. I’m only 34, but I’m certain I will never do it. I’m sure the human race will make it even without my contribution.

    Reply
    • When I was your age and made my final decision regarding children, I assumed I would have some measure of regret at some point in my life. I never expected to feel only relief that I decided as I did, I never expected the future to be so ominous only thirty years later.

      Reply
      • Ryan in New England

         /  December 1, 2015

        Thank you for your reply to my comment, marcyincny. It provides me with some reassurance that I’m making the right decision for myself.🙂

        Reply
    • mlparrish

       /  December 1, 2015

      Exactly as you said.

      Reply
    • I agree with you two. Me and my husband (he´s your age, I´m 36) we had already decided not to have biological childs, and last weekend we discussed whether or not to adopt. Current world conditions weighted heavily in the decision not to. It will be hard enough to see our nephews in the world that´s coming. I can only imagine the dread that those with sons and grandsons may feel.

      Reply
      • Ryan in New England

         /  December 1, 2015

        Umbrios27, I am very supportive of adoption. That would be the only way I would become a parent. In that situation you are not creating another human being who will require all the resources that a typical person will require over a lifetime. Instead, you are improving the life of an innocent child born into unfortunate circumstances. It’s beneficial from all perspectives. We could always more folks who have the means and desire to raise children to be open to adoption.

        Reply
  19. – A society which knowingly harms its children is corrupt and hardly worthy or capable of long term existence.
    – N again — nitrogen dioxide.

    ‘Almost a quarter of school children in London are being exposed to dangerously high levels of air pollution, a new report has warned.’

    In total, it estimates that 328,000 students go to schools where the level of nitrogen dioxide is too high.

    Research has found that children are particularly vulnerable to unsafe levels of air pollution – partly due to higher exposure, and partly due to children being more susceptible to the effects of air pollution.
    – ‘up in the air’ report
    http://www.itv.com/news/london/2015-11-30/a-quarter-of-london-students-exposed-to-dangerous-levels-of-air-pollution-report/

    Reply
  20. Colorado Bob

     /  November 30, 2015

    Of Climate Change and Caliphates
    How jihadist groups like Boko Haram and ISIS profit from global warming.

    Consider the territories carved out and threatened by the infamous African terror organization Boko Haram. Its fanatics operated in the vicinity of Lake Chad, which has all but disappeared over the last 50 years, shrinking from more than 22,000 square kilometers in the 1960s to fewer than 1,500 today.

    As climate patterns shifted, drought set in and attempts to compensate with irrigation drained the lake’s waters. Before anyone had ever heard of Boko Haram, a 2008 report by the UN Environment Program noted, “The changes in the lake have contributed to local lack of water, crop failures, livestock deaths, collapsed fisheries, soil salinity, and increasing poverty throughout the region.”

    As the traditional populations moved out, Boko Haram moved in, terrorizing those who stayed behind.

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/11/30/how-jihadist-groups-like-boko-haram-and-isis-profit-from-global-warming.html

    Reply
  21. The Most Ambitious Emissions Pledges on the Table in Paris Would Still Result in Catastrophic Warming

    Even if the more than 180 countries’ voluntary pledges are implemented, global temperatures would still rise to 2.7 to 3.5 C above the pre-industrial level.
    By Mark Hertsgaard
    http://www.thenation.com/article/the-most-ambitious-emissions-pledges-on-the-table-in-paris-would-still-result-in-catastrophic-warming/

    Reply
  22. – Some brave and strong young people tried.

    North Carolina Teen Loses Case Over Climate Change, Vows to Keep Fighting

    Hallie Turner, the 13-year-old girl who took North Carolina to court over climate change, received disappointing news the day before Thanksgiving.

    A Wake County Superior Court judge ruled against her effort to overturn a December 2014 decision by the NC Environmental Management Commission.

    In her petition almost a year ago to the 15 members of the commission, Hallie asked for a rule that would require North Carolina to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by at least 4 percent annually.

    The commissioners never got to the crux of her request, which included scientific data and more to support her theory for why the state should curb greenhouse gas emissions. Commissioner Benne Hutson rejected Hallie’s petition because he said it was incomplete. He also added that North Carolina law prohibited environmental agencies from enacting state laws stricter than federal law.
    http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/33841-north-carolina-teen-loses-case-over-climate-change-vows-to-keep-fighting

    Reply
    • So, in essence, North Carolina is saying it’s doing its best to be an environmental laggard. The minimum required by federal law, that’s the name of the game for North Carolina. I think the next step is start suing North Carolina for wrongful deaths and lost properties along the coast.

      Reply
  23. Colorado Bob

     /  November 30, 2015

    Paris Climate Talks Begin; Five Reasons Why They Are So Important
    By: Bob Henson

    This year’s meeting represents the best chance at a workable global agreement since Copenhagen–and perhaps our last chance for a long time to come. What makes COP21 so critical?

    1. We’ve lost years of precious time.

    Link

    Reply
  24. – WaPo – Straight talk from Pope Francis. A 55 sec. video clip.

    Pope Francis: The world is near ‘suicide’ on climate change; ‘it’s now or never’

    “I am not sure, but I can say to you ‘now or never’,” he told a group of reporters aboard the papal plane, en route home from Africa, according to Reuters. “Every year the problems are getting worse. We are at the limits. If I may use a strong word I would say that we are at the limits of suicide.”
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2015/11/30/pope-francis-the-world-is-near-suicide-on-climate-change-its-now-or-never/

    Reply
  25. dnem

     /  November 30, 2015

    Joe Romm was on the Diane Rehm show today talking about the Paris talks. I submitted a comment via email which was read on air:
    “Call me cynical, but it appears that these talks have been “pre-engineered” to achieve a very modest and in all likelihood inadequate accord. They will not collapse in failure like the previous meeting in Copenhagen, but they will not come close to achieving what needs to be done. As long as we remain addicted to economic growth as the world’s primary organizing principle, we will not be serious about addressing our existential problems.” The producers edited out the last sentence, which is to me the most important. Romm said my take on Paris was “absolutely correct.”

    Reply
    • – Good news, dnem.🙂
      Too bad about the last sentence being dropped — but pointed social context is often jettisoned in the media.

      Reply
    • Good on you, dnem. Following the posts here and some other sites has tempered my expectations. Christians Figueres’ statement about a month ago re: the indc’s “putting us on pathway” to 2C” sealed my low expectations. At the same time, I do think we’re at an important juncture–we can’t go back to business as usual.

      Reply
      • dnem

         /  December 1, 2015

        I agree. It appears we are now at the point where aggressively adopting renewable energy and other sustainability strategies is becoming economically viable and is being rapidly incorporated into the prevailing economic paradigm. That is obviously good and this trend should only accelerate. However, we are still quite a ways from understanding that creating some high-tech, high consumption global utopia is not going to get us there. There is no viable path that does not include dramatically scaling back the consumption machine: less, meat, less international travel, fewer gadgets and meaningless consumer goods, more local production, simpler lifestyles and more leisure.

        Reply
    • Well done, dnem. Consider this locked and loaded.

      Reply
  26. – This may have been alluded to here.
    – A slower atmospheric river by another name?

    Thinning ice leads to winter warming in the Arctic
    Heat-trapping blanket of moisture rising from the sea causes trouble for North Pole, climate simulation shows

    The heat trapped by the extra moisture is about three times as much as is gained during summer when reflective sea ice gives way to dark, light-absorbing open ocean, the researchers estimate. Arctic temperatures, therefore, will continue rapidly rising… “

    https://www.sciencenews.org/article/thinning-ice-leads-winter-warming-arctic?utm_source=Society+for+Science+Newsletters&utm_campaign=5200f61a07-editor_s_picks_week_of_November_23_201511_25_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_a4c415a67f-5200f61a07-90390197

    Reply
    • Dark Warming
      Melissa A. Burt, David A. Randall, and Mark D. Branson

      Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado

      Abstract
      http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/JCLI-D-15-0147.1

      Reply
    • The work “demonstrates that it’s really the Arctic that’s causing the Arctic to warm so fast,” says atmospheric scientist Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. “There’s a lot more going on up there than just this [summer sea ice melting] that we’ve been hearing about for so long.”

      Reply
  27. How sad. I’d forgotten about the coup in the Maldives in 2012. He’s still in prison.

    Nasheed once said, “I am not a scientist, but I know that one of the laws of physics, is that you cannot negotiate with the laws of physics. Three – Five – Oh is a law of atmospheric physics. You cannot cut a deal with Mother Nature. And we don’t intend to try.”

    http://thinkprogress.org/world/2015/11/30/3726497/leader-in-fighting-global-warming-wont-be-at-paris-conference-because-he-is-in-jail/

    Reply
  28. Ryan in New England

     /  November 30, 2015

    Ugh. Was just watching CBS Evening News’ coverage of the Climate Summit, and the reporter covering stated, and this is from memory, “World leaders are trying to limit warming to 3.6F, the level scientists say is needed to prevent floods and droughts.” Holy shit! How can she say something so wildly ignorant? Prevent floods and droughts? We passed that point ten years ago. We are trying to prevent the collapse of civilization at this point in time. The thing is, the layperson hears that and thinks, we already have floods and droughts, what’s the big deal?

    Reply
    • wili

       /  December 1, 2015

      And it’s 3.6 C, not F.

      Reply
      • Ryan in New England

         /  December 1, 2015

        No, they said 3.6F. I figured they had “Americanized” the 2C benchmark that’s widely regarded as the target by the international community. You see, we Americans are wildly ignorant, and if mainstream media starting degrees Celsius, heads would explode all across this land. And yes, I am outraged pretty all of the time. Last night’s stupidity just struck a nerve.

        Reply
    • Ryan,

      stay cool. They “study” global warming 2 hours before they report about it. Either you should be outraged all the time, or save your time and ignore it.

      Alex

      Reply
    • CBS gives new meaning to willful ignorance here. Just unbelievable. Apparently they’re not keeping up with current events. We’ve been having extreme droughts and floods that are increasingly easy to link to climate change over the past two to three decades. Heatwave mass casualty events, anyone?

      Reply
      • You nailed it. Ignorant of history, too. Was there not a Great Mississippi Flood in 1927? Was there not an immense Dust Bowl in the Great Plains in the 1930s? Talk about being stupid and ignorant… on so many levels!

        Reply
        • Maybe the editor missed the opportunity to add ‘preventing increasing drought and flood severity, sea level rise, ocean die-offs, glacial melt, severe storms, ocean circulation disruption, carbon stores disruption, extreme wildfires, loss of access to water, the inundation of arable land in the river delta regions, setting off waves of human mass migration, agricultural disruption, state collapse, and other negative impacts.

        • Now that’s a mouthful, Robert! In a nutshell, that would be, “ever worsening droughts and floods”

  29. Ryan in New England

     /  November 30, 2015

    And this is the price we are paying, just to stand up and say “let’s stop committing mass suicide, and leave a planet for our children.” 116 environmental activists were killed last year.

    http://www.truthdig.com/eartotheground/item/environmental_activists_are_being_killed_in_record_numbers_after_at_least_1

    Reply
  30. Ryan in New England

     /  December 1, 2015

    Forest destruction can be cut in half without affecting agricultural output. Although in my opinion, agricultural output shouldn’t be held as sacrosanct.

    Their paper in Global Change Biology says Brazil has proved that the rate of deforestation can be cut dramatically, while at the same time allowing an increase in agricultural output. This is significant because Brazil has been cutting down forests faster than any other country in the world.

    The scientists say that if Brazil—which has large areas of lawless territory—can slow the destruction, then anyone can.

    However, they are not suggesting it will be easy. Short-term financial gains, which do not take into account environmental costs or the long-term interests of the country involved, still dominate, so destruction could increase again.

    In fact their fears proved only too real. The latest figures show that deforestation in the Amazon has begun to increase again, by 16% so far in 2015, reflecting cuts in funding for the regulatory authorities.

    http://www.truthdig.com/eartotheground/item/environmental_activists_are_being_killed_in_record_numbers_after_at_least_1

    Reply
    • Ryan, I work in the Federal Police of Brasil, environmental crimes area, and I can only vouch both about cuts in funding making vigilance more tricky (those cuts are deviously placed: on site vigilance and arresting deforesters depends on travelling outside the office. Money for that kind of activity, including fuel for police cars has been restrained since June this year (ordinarily, it would be restrained in december). Arco de Fogo (Arch of Fire, the main operation against deforesting) has been downsized. And since 2012, environmental laws are laxer. Things will probably be bad for a long time before getting better, as the actual president, Dilma, has few political allies left, and the big-agro legislatives are one of her last pillars of support. In the plus side, though, the overwhelming majority voicing for the fall of the president now (things are interesting in the political side of Brasil right now) is also against anything she proposes, so some politicians that were never environmentalists are supporting environmental causes, at least in lip service (like Alckmin proposing new funding for reforestation in São Paulo… things are moving far slowlier than they should, specially with the drought, but are moving a bit foward, when two years ago they had been moving backwards).

      Reply
      • Ryan in New England

         /  December 1, 2015

        Thank you for that information Umbrios27! I hope the situation improves for you down there. When I think of the precious web of life that’s being slashed and burned, totally wiped out, it makes my heart break. And it’s happening everywhere. Natural wonders we can never replace, recreate or revive are being lost every single day. It’s sickening.

        Reply
  31. Andy in SD

     /  December 1, 2015

    During the Spring through Summer we ponder the ever growing forest fires in the North. During the Fall and Winter we discuss the same in the South. Each conversation encompasses evaluation of the year over year, decade over decade growth in these fires.

    I don’t believe a 2C limit is safe for our civilization. It may be safe for the planet (nature corrects itself), but not for the human race in it’s current form and population.

    DoD estimates put next years migration flood of refugees to Europe to increase over this years numbers.

    Reply
    • Ryan in New England

       /  December 1, 2015

      And just think, we aren’t even close to where current CO2 concentrations will take us. 2C is an unacceptable level of warming, and in retrospect we will all eventually realize this. Sadly, I think we are going to blow right through 2C before we even start reducing our emissions. We are speeding towards collective suicide, with our foot on the gas.

      Reply
  32. http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/scienceshow/the-collapse-of-western-civilization/5673714 An interview with Robyn Williams on ABC Scienceshow.
    https://www.dropbox.com/s/nw0pbvvxpvv63oo/Complete02102015.pdf?dl=0 Prof Wade Allison’s latest book – I found this comment important – ‘The atmosphere is tiny, equal to a layer of water just 10 metres thick around the world.’
    Thanks robertscribbler

    Reply
  33. Greg

     /  December 1, 2015

    The water that Brazilians are getting is often now questionable:

    Reply
      • São Paulo is getting more attention in the drought (mostly because of our size, a megalopolis without water is a scary though), but things are really bad in the northeast Brasil now. One in each five cities in Brasil has declared “state of calamity” (I´m literally translating from the portuguese expression “Estado de Calamidade” I don´t known if the correct english expression is that), but in some northeast states that count goes to 97% (Rio Grande do Norte now).

        Northeast Brasil is naturally drier (semi-desertic area), and only one big perennial river crosses it (all other rivers are seasonal, or small streams in the coast), River São Francisco. Last year, for the first time in recorded history, São Francisco´s spring dried up.

        Downriver, the most important dam in Northeast Brasil, Sobradinho Dam (on which the drinking water of lots of cities there depend, and one of the bigger eletricity generation dams in Brasil) reached the dead pool this week. Many cities in the Northeast are now depending on water trucks for drinking water, and the rain season, which should be now, is failing there (expected effects of the El Nino).

        Reply
        • Thanks for the observations and on site reports, Umbrios. Short-term it looks like the north takes a pretty heavy hit from the strong El Niño. The southeast gets a bit of a respite, but probably not enough to bring the big reservoirs fully back even under rationing. Long term, it just gets worse. Conservation and wise policy will have to be the watch word going forward if many of these cities are to have much hope for remaining viable. I’m also concerned the blow to big hydro will leave an opening for fossil fuel interests. The last thing we need is Brazil building coal or gas plants. At least the region has an abundance of sunlight.

  34. Greg

     /  December 1, 2015

    The BHP mining dam collapse has ruined the Rio Doce (and drinking water for hundreds of thousands) for an indeterminate time and the tailings (some 20,000 olympic pools worth by one estimate) have reached the Atlantic:
    https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/f325ea44127614192e7f6c7255a90217b1c963ae/0_155_3500_2100/master/3500.jpg?w=620&q=85&auto=format&sharp=10&s=bc2b0398b76867da4bcf2c3c39b42134

    Reply
  35. Griffin

     /  December 1, 2015

    Right on cue, the smog monster has reared it’s ugly head once more in Beijing.
    http://bigstory.ap.org/article/4b2e56d0afa04b4d90798454efcafb97/beijing-air-pollution-reaches-extremely-hazardous-levels

    Reply
  36. Colorado Bob

     /  December 1, 2015

    The Most Important Number in Climate Change

    Just how sensitive is Earth’s climate to increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide?

    The furious majesty of a thunderstorm defies computer simulation. In a world divided up into 10,000 square kilometer grids to make the 510 million square kilometer Earth digestible to a computer, a thundercloud that rains over two square kilometers remains too small to properly calculate in a climate simulation—as does even a hurricane like Sandy that sprawled over 280 kilometers of ocean and land in 2012.

    Link

    Reply
  37. Colorado Bob

     /  December 1, 2015

    Antarctica – Office of Ice & Rock
    from Selwynox 2 years ago / Creative Commons License: by nc ALL AUDIENCES
    Footage compiled from an expedition to Mackay Glacier, Ross Sea, Antarctica. The main aim of this expedition was to collect rock samples which can be used to work out how much the ice sheet has melted, and in turn improve our understanding of the relationships between climate, ice sheets and sea level.

    Reply
  38. Greg

     /  December 1, 2015

    Dubai presses forward setting an example with Solar panels on all Dubai roofs by 2030….through its diverse strategies and investments in clean and renewable energy, is now leading global efforts in this area despite having the second-largest oil reserves in the world.
    http://www.khaleejtimes.com/nation/government/solar-panels-on-all-dubai-roofs-by-2030

    Reply
  39. Greg

     /  December 1, 2015

    A great video on bio-mimicry thanks to Peter Sinclair. Apologies if already posted. I find, of particular interest, carbon capture in concrete (7:53). It will very likely be a major part of our civilization going forward if we don’t collapse before then.

    Reply
    • Greg—thanks so much for posting this…excellent and highly inspiring. That fish are the best desalination “plants” and a company creating a membrane that mimic’s theirs which uses much less energy was especially exciting. Observing schools of fish and “mimicking” them to create higher-output windmills….every example was terrific. Thanks again.

      Reply
    • Colorado Bob

       /  December 1, 2015

      Jeremy –
      That popped out of the rabbit hole about 2 weeks ago . Same ole’ M.O., some retired old man get’s out his pretzel protractor , and boom ! He doesn’t submit it peer review, because peer review is a “rigged game”.
      Noooo, ………… He’s right , and thousands of other people are a lying cabal.
      I await the attack on the Japanese data set soon.
      Actually , it’s a sign of defeat. If you keep losing shooting craps, then the dice must surely be loaded.

      umbrios27 –
      Nice job, keep us posted.

      Reply
  40. dnem

     /  December 1, 2015

    Here’s a question prompted by the saturation coverage of Paris I’ve been enduring. The standard line is that the INDCs (“Intended Nationally Determined Contributions” i.e. national commitments) submitted will fall short of keeping us under 2 C and will result in around 2.7-3.5 by the end of the century. How does the performance of natural sinks and climate induced feedbacks figure in to those estimates? Does that estimate even consider the possibility that natural sinks may start to fail (forest health declines, the ability of oceans to absorb CO2 declines) or that feedbacks ramp up (forest fires, methane releases)? Are those sorts of effects modeled into the predicted 2.7 C rise if every country should live up to its INDC? Robert, perhaps a post here on your take on the INDCs and how they might play out in the real world?

    Reply
  41. Colorado Bob

     /  December 1, 2015

    2 headlines the last 24 hours :
    Will Bill Gates and his billionaire friends save the planet?

    We don’t need the miracles that Gates’ new clean-tech fund promises – we need to take back democracy from the super rich

    And

    India and France launch international solar power alliance in Paris – video

    Indian prime minister Narendra Modi holds a news conference alongside French president François Hollande on Monday to launch a global initiative for the promotion of solar power. The alliance of over 120 countries has pledged to invest in providing solar energy to developing areas, with Modi stating that the project will create ‘unlimited economic opportunities’, which will form the ‘foundation of the new economy of this century’

    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/video/2015/dec/01/india-and-france-launch-international-solar-power-alliance-in-paris-video

    Reply
  42. Apneaman

     /  December 1, 2015

    Global warming disaster could suffocate life on planet Earth, research shows

    “Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 1 December 2015

    Falling oxygen levels caused by global warming could be a greater threat to the survival of life on planet Earth than flooding, according to researchers from the University of Leicester.”

    http://www2.le.ac.uk/offices/press/press-releases/2015/december/global-warming-disaster-could-suffocate-life-on-planet-earth-research-shows

    Reply
  43. Apneaman

     /  December 1, 2015

    “A Crime Against Humanity of Extraordinary Proportions”
    Indonesia’s fires are an environmental catastrophe and a climate change nightmare.

    “A Crime Against Humanity of Extraordinary Proportions”
    Indonesia’s fires are an environmental catastrophe and a climate change nightmare.

    Reply
  44. Greg

     /  December 2, 2015

    Two summers of São Paulo drought: Origins in the western tropical Pacific. Published December 01, 2015

    Geophysical Research Letters

    Abstract: Two years of drought in Southeast Brazil have led to water shortages in São Paulo, the country’s most populous city. We examine the observed drought during austral summers of 2013/14 and 2014/15 and the related large scale dynamics. The 2013-2014 precipitation deficits were more concentrated in the state of São Paulo, while in 2014-2015 moderate deficits were seen throughout the region.

    We find that a persistent warm SST anomaly in the western tropical Pacific Ocean was an important driver of drought via atmospheric teleconnection in the two DJF seasons. The warm SST and associated convective heating initiated a wave train across the South Pacific. The resulting anti-cyclonic geopotential height anomaly over the southwest Atlantic expanded the westward margin of the South Altantic high and prevented low pressure systems from entering southeast Brazil from mid-latitudes.

    This mechanism suggests a hemispheric symmetry to that proposed for the recent California drought.
    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2015GL066314/full

    Reply
    • Good to see the science tackling this issue. Seems a piece of the broader validation of the warming ocean = drying continents prediction.

      Reply
  1. Brazil’s Great Amazon Rainforest Burns as Parched Megacities Fall Under Existential Threat | GarryRogers Nature Conservation and Science Fiction (#EcoSciFi)
  2. Brazil’s Great Amazon Rainforest Burns as Parched Megacities Fall Under Existential Threat | Don't look now

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: