Antarctica is About to Lose a 2,000 Square Mile Chunk of Ice — And it Could Mean the End of the Larsen C Ice Shelf

It’s happened before. Ice shelves on the northern Antarctic Peninsula released large chunks of ice into the Southern Ocean as the world warmed up. They developed a concave shape which became unstable. Then they collapsed.

The ultimate collapse of Larsen A occurred in 1995. In 2002, further up the Antarctic Peninsula, the larger Larsen B Ice Shelf succumbed to the same fate. And it is thought that such losses haven’t happened to this section of Antarctica in at least 11,000 years and possibly as long ago as 100,000 years.

(NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory provides this narrative describing the collapse of the Larsen B Ice Shelf in 2002. Video source: JPL.)

But in the present world, one where human fossil fuel emissions have forced global temperatures above 1 C hotter than 1880s averages, the stability of many of the great great ice shelves is now endangered.

Larsen C Ice Shelf to Calve 2,000 Square Mile Ice Berg

Today, a huge rift has nearly bisected a large frontal section of the Larsen C Ice shelf — an ice system many times the size of its now deceased companions Larsen A and Larsen B. And during December — a period when Antarctica was warming into Austral Summer — this massive crack grew by 18 kilometers.

When, and not if, the crack reaches the ocean, a 2,000 square mile ice berg will float away from Larsen C. It will be one of the largest ice bergs ever to form in human memory. One the size of the state of Delaware. It will tower hundreds of feet above the ocean surface. And it will last for years before ultimately melting.

larsen-c-ice-rift-length-and-width

(The Larsen C is rift grew considerably — both lengthening and widening during December of 2016. It was an indication that a massive ice berg was about to break off. Image source: MIDAS.)

This event will change the geography of our world. And for this alteration alone, it has great consequence. But, as Chris Mooney notes in this excellent Washington Post article on the subject, it’s what happens afterward that really counts.

Event Could Presage Total Collapse

Of concern is the fact that once this massive ice berg calves off of Larsen C, the great ice sheet may become unstable. It will take on a concave form. This form will make it more vulnerable to further melt by warming waters running in toward the shelf. Furthermore, the large ice berg will take a chunk of Larsen C’s compressive arch with it. Such a compressive arch — like the arch of a flying buttress — helps to bear the weight of the shelf and keep it from smashing into thousands of tiny pieces. If too much of the arc is lost, the shelf can’t survive for long.

larsen-c-ice-rift-midas

(Researchers at The MIDAS Project have projected that a 2,000 square mile section of the Larsen C Ice Shelf is about to break off. This section represents 10 percent of the Larsen C system. Its loss risks destabilization of the entire ice shelf. If Larsen C does disintegrate, it will release glaciers capable of increasing global sea level by another 4 inches. Image source: MIDAS.)

Glaciologist Eric Rignot notes in The Washington Post:

“We studied the current rift in the past few years, it has been progressing rather ‘normally,’ the recent acceleration in the rift progression is ‘expected’ in my opinion. The consequences on the rest of the ice shelf are not clear at this point. If the calving continues and goes past the compressive arch … then the ice shelf will break up.”

Scientists are currently divided over the issue of whether or not Larsen C’s near-term demise is imminent. However, the loss of such a massive ice berg from Larsen C, the present human-forced warming of the Antarctic land and ocean environment, and the presently observed thinning of the ice shelf all point toward a rising risk of destabilization or disintegration.

As with most things geological, you can’t really say that such an event is certain until after the fact. But as for Larsen C’s prospects of long term survival, things aren’t looking too great at the moment.

Links/Credits

The MIDAS Project

Antarctica is Set to Lose an Enormous Piece of Ice

An Ice Berg the Size of Delaware is About to Break off From Antarctica

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

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73 Comments

  1. JPL

     /  January 10, 2017

    I’ve been really looking hard into the #divest stuff and I spotted something you all might appreciate.

    https://fossilfreefunds.org/carbon-footprint/

    They are attempting to provide a tCO2e metric (metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent) per $1 million USD invested for a wide range of investment funds. The underlying tCO2e info is coming from the data collected by the South Pole (see I’m staying on topic!) Group on corporate emissions for more than 40,000 companies worldwide.

    I’m really glad that this kind of information is starting to be made available. Check it out!

    Reply
    • Very nice to see this. Would like to have more support and broader publication for CO2 impact data on various corporations. Excellent metric for investment/divestment. Thanks so much for posting, JPL.

      Reply
      • That’s great. I did a little looking (emphasis on “little”) recently and came up with several exchange-traded funds that are aiming to steer clear of carbon. Their symbols are ETHO, LOWC, and SPYX. You can read more about them at the usual research locations. Caveat emptor–I am, of course, not an expert nor offering financial advice.

        Reply
  2. Shawn Redmond

     /  January 10, 2017

    And the co2 is a bit nuts too. I know daily is noisy but at this rate we’re going to see 411/412 ppm in April/May.
    January 9, 2017

    406.20 ppm

    NOAA-ESRL

    January 9, 2016

    402.23 ppm

    NOAA-ESRL

    The ponding on the Amery is going along nicely and whats with the hole off the Shirase? Looks like up welling if so there must be some large water running from somewhere. Haven’t been able to see for almost a week now due to cloud cover but here’s what it looked like on the 4th:
    https://worldview.earthdata.nasa.gov/?p=antarctic&l=MODIS_Aqua_CorrectedReflectance_TrueColor,MODIS_Terra_CorrectedReflectance_TrueColor,Coastlines&t=2017-01-04&z=3&v=1338819.7910688145,1694962.1452082787,1604803.7910688145,1866226.1452082787
    The ponding on Amery shows up good today. Looks a lot like the GIS that can’t bode well.
    https://worldview.earthdata.nasa.gov/?p=antarctic&l=MODIS_Aqua_CorrectedReflectance_TrueColor,MODIS_Terra_CorrectedReflectance_TrueColor,Coastlines&t=2017-01-10&z=3&v=1681470.9026825135,625811.8373831987,1947454.9026825135,797075.8373831987

    Reply
    • So the monthly increase did drop back to 2.6 ppm during December. Annual for 2016 was quite strong and will be posting about that soon. I do think that the La Nina is starting to have a bit of an impact. But if it’s just pulling us back to the 2.5 ppm per annum range that wouldn’t be good. We’ll have a better picture come March/April. I do think, though, that we’ll probably see around 410 ppm +/- 1 ppm by peak this year for the monthly values in April/May. 412 possible, but a stretch.

      Reply
    • RE ponding etc…

      I think that’s a pretty clear indication of upwelling. If it’s more warm water incursion, then yeah, it’s not great news. The ponding is quite extensive and rather stunning. I would not want to see rifting events in East Antarctic ice shelves coming on so soon. But those melt ponds do generate a good deal of pressure, especially if it becomes an annual event from this point forward. Something to add to the dynamic melt pressure on the Continent.

      Reply
      • Shawn Redmond

         /  January 10, 2017

        I see the ponding as a very serious concern in that if the floating shelf starts to disintegrate the hydro fracturing would already have the resistance of the glacier to flow, weakened. It would be poised to crumble without the shelf to support it. Collapse would be fairly rapid I should think. The instability that is manifesting around the entire continent is very disconcerting. A 1% loss of the total on Antarctica would be 2 or 3 feet. It’s easy to see that happening quickly if the entire circumference is becoming unstable. With the already unstable GIS 3 feet in the next twelve or fifteen years is beginning to look worrisomely possible. As we already know the worlds oceans aren’t a bathtub so three feet of MSLR will be vey uneven globally. More in the middle than on the top and bottom. Over simplified but you get the drift.

        Reply
        • Antarctic melt disproportionately impacts the rate of sea level rise for the U.S. East Coast. 3 feet in the next decade or two would be awfully fast. Will keep monitoring, though.

  3. Between this news and the 45-50mph winds howling across central NY, I don’t think I’ll be getting much sleep tonight.

    Regardless, good to have you back posting Robert. I’m so sorry about the loss of your friend and colleague DT but I suspect your habit of graciously acknowledging the contributions of others here meant a great deal to him.

    Reply
    • Pretty stormy all up and down the U.S. East Coast. My folks in VA Beach got about 10 inches of snow on Saturday and are looking at around 70 degree F temperatures by Thursday. Should hit in the 60s here in Gaithersburg.

      I do my best to elevate people who are putting some effort and thought in. I see this as we’re all in it together. That every voice here matters and I do my best to elevate people when I’m able to. It means a lot to me that so many folks contribute. I’ve formed so many meaningful friendships on this blog. Didn’t really think that would be the case when we started. But here we are :).

      Reply
  4. Suzanne

     /  January 10, 2017

    I live in S.Fl, so SLR is never far off my radar. Right after the Lunatic won, I had a dream where A1A was covered by several inches of water on a sunny day…People were stunned in the dream…like this was something they did not think was possible. I woke up, not sure if I had been dreaming because it felt so real.
    Now, the Arctic ice is taking a nose dive (blue ocean event this summer or next??) and this event in Antarctica. Was my dream a premonition? I don’t know.
    What is it going to take to wake people up to the fact that CC events are happening much more rapidly than experts expected? I don’t know that either.

    Reply
    • Storms such as Matthew and Sandy during recent years have already taken out parts of A1A — forcing Florida to spend millions to repair the route. Sunny day flooding for A1A is coming soon for some parts. Possibly as early as the 2020s. Much of the route is pretty low-lying. Astronomical high tides are already starting to encroach on sections of the roadway.

      Reply
    • Ryan in New England

       /  January 11, 2017

      Sadly Suzanne, I don’t think the public will ever wake up to what’s happening. Especially with the amount of right wing propaganda that permeates into the national consciousness, the average citizen is less informed than ever. When A1A does finally become inundated, Fox News and Breitbart will explain that it’s the fault of liberals, and we need to cut taxes on the wealthy to fix it.

      Reply
  5. Syd Bridges

     /  January 10, 2017

    Thank you for this article, Robert. I saw the story recently and it made me wonder about the stability of these ice shelves. Is it similar to arches in buildings, where the arch is stable as long as it completely encloses the catenary curve? Medieval cathedral builders originally solved the problem with massive arches, but the Gothic style often had very thin stone, but still containing the catenary (like King’s College Chapel in Cambridge). I guess that the asymetric pressures might distort the stable curve on ice shelves, but the same principle would apply.

    With the undercutting of other shelves like the Totten by deep warm seawater, we might see these shelves go quite quickly if similar stable ice fronts are breached by sub-surface melt.

    Reply
    • From my understanding it’s a similar stabilizing feature. The question of stabilizing arches is addressed in this paper. One that also suggests Larsen C may be able to handle the upcoming calving event.

      http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v6/n5/full/nclimate2912.html?WT.feed_name=subjects_cryospheric-science

      More recent observation has indicated that a portion of the stabilizing arch is involved. But there is question as to whether enough of the arch would be lost to destabilize the shelf. So there isn’t a consensus that this event will take Larsen C down. It’s a risk. But scientists like Rignot and Alley have described it as a lower likelihood event. The MIDAS team appears to be more concerned.

      Reply
  6. bostonblorp

     /  January 10, 2017

    I suppose it has to be asked.. any models, precedents or theories as to where this giant berg will wander once it has calved?

    Reply
  7. JPL

     /  January 10, 2017

    Behold, the future of bus transit, in my neck of the woods, anyway. Our county transit agency just ordered dozens of these electric – battery powered buses after a successful trial last year. This short video is cool, I like how they’ve solved the battery recharge part of the equation.

    Reply
    • George W. Hayduke

       /  January 10, 2017

      The University of Montana here just went to electric/battery powered buses, hoping they can get the city bus system to go electric too. Our city did make the citywide bus system free for anyone and that did increase riders.

      Reply
    • Very cool. Now how’s that for a supercharger? Eventually, you’ll have these banks — much like telephone wires — along or above the road from which you can charge wirelessly. Imagine charging nonstop as you continue to drive and using an EZ-Pass to pay for the charge. That’s the EV future. Now how about that range anxiety for fossil fuel based vehicles?

      Reply
      • This reminds me that as a child in New Orleans over 45 years ago I frequently rode the street car powered by overhead power lines. Of course the street cars had committed tracks and windows you could open (no air conditioning).

        Reply
  8. climatehawk1

     /  January 10, 2017

    Tweet scheduled.

    Reply
  9. June

     /  January 11, 2017

    Lest we forget how important thermal expansion is for sea level rise, a new modeling study showing how long the effects last because of the time scale of the overturning circulation.

    Methane may not last long in the atmosphere — but it drives sea level rise for centuries

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2017/01/09/methane-may-not-last-long-in-the-atmosphere-but-it-drives-rising-seas-for-hundreds-of-years/?utm_term=.046fe4ed8c8d

    Reply
  10. Suzanne

     /  January 11, 2017

    “Unrelenting Global Warming Sends Sea Ice to Record Low…as Scientists Feel the Heat:
    https://insideclimatenews.org/news/09012017/arctic-antarctica-sea-ice-climate-change-noaa-nasa-trump?

    Unrelenting warmth during what should be the iciest time of year sent global sea ice extent to a record low last month, the National Snow and Ice Data Center said on Friday, with both polar ice caps at a record-low extent every single day of the month.

    Compared to the average from 1981 to 2010, the area of ice missing in the Arctic was about the size of Texas and Arizona combined; in the Antarctic, it was bigger than Alaska, according to the NSIDC.

    Temperatures in the Arctic were about 9 degrees Fahrenheit above average throughout November and December, with peak readings soaring to 50 degrees above the long-term average around Christmas, when the North Pole warmed above freezing, a mark rarely seen outside of summer.

    “Some of the crazy weather patterns we’ve seen this winter could be, in part, due to the loss of sea ice,” said NSIDC director Mark Serreze. “We’ve had very unusual weather patterns pumping warmth up into the Arctic…the changes are happening so fast that we can’t keep up with them.”

    Reply
  11. Suzanne

     /  January 11, 2017

    We are up against some really dark and evil forces when it comes to the Climate Deniers that will be in the new Regime. Here is a look at who they are and the money behind them
    at a Mother Jones article:
    http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2017/01/climate-deniers-coming-next-epa-chief-rescue

    “This is a frightening moment,” said Harvard University professor Naomi Oreskes, who’s written extensively on fossil fuel interests in politics, in December. “We have seen in the last few weeks how the reins of the federal government are being handed over to the fossil fuel industry.”

    And now, a new dark-money group has popped up to further counterattacks. Politico acquired a flier from Protecting America Now, a new 501(c)(4) that solicits anonymous contributions anywhere from $25,000 to $500,000 to confront “anti-business, environmentalist extremists.” Their website is registered by an Oklahoma public affairs firm that counts oil and utility companies and Sen. Jim Inhofe among its clients. Pruitt’s other defenders include prominent climate deniers, a Koch-supported organization, and oil-funded groups and lobbyists.

    Reply
  12. Suzanne

     /  January 11, 2017

    And now some “good news”
    Dutch trains now 100% powered by wind energy….

    https://www.yahoo.com/news/dutch-trains-now-powered-wind-energy-180952085.html

    The Hague (AFP) – All Dutch trains are now 100 percent powered by electricity generated by wind energy, the national railway company NS said Tuesday, calling it a world first.

    “Since the first of January, 100 percent of our trains are running on wind energy,” NS spokesman Ton Boon told AFP.

    Dutch electricity company Eneco won a tender launched by NS two years ago and the two firms signed a 10-year deal setting January 2018 as the date by which all NS trains should run on wind energy.

    “So we in fact reached our goal a year earlier than planned,” said Boon, adding that an increase in the number of wind farms across the country and off the coast of The Netherlands had helped NS achieve its aim.

    Eneco and NS said on a joint website that some 600,000 passengers daily are “the first in the world” to travel thanks to wind energy. NS operates about 5,500 train trips a day.

    One windmill running for an hour can power one train across some 200 kilometres (120 miles), the companies said. They now hope to reduce the energy used per passenger by 35 percent by 2020 compared with 2005.

    Reply
    • You’re on a roll here Suzanne. Thanks for the updates.

      Reply
      • Suzanne

         /  January 11, 2017

        This may sound silly, but since we lost DT…I have felt the need to find worthy CC stories to share because he was so good at keeping us all up on the latest. It has helped me to deal with his absence. I hope I am not over doing it?

        Reply
  13. Ryan in New England

     /  January 11, 2017

    It’s really good to have you back, Robert. Have you been watching the Arctic? It’s a pretty crazy Winter so far, and I have a feeling it is setting up to possibly be a killer melt season come summer.

    And thank you again for the beautiful tribute to DT. I miss him and his comments every time I come here.

    Reply
    • The Arctic is a complete basket case at the moment. I suppose there is some consolation in the fact that now average anomalies are ranging from +2 to +3.6 C as opposed to +3 to +5 C. That said, the sea ice is still struggling to hit even previous record lows. It might jump back to that range over the next week or two. Or it might not. Nevertheless, this fall and early winter has been something we’ve never seen before.

      Overall, global temperatures have started to drop off from the record high ranges for 2016. Eventually, this might lead to some respite for the Arctic. But south to north movement of warmth during La Nina periods (which we are in now) would tend to continue to hamper Arctic sea ice regrowth during the winter season. We could get an odd pattern that cools the Arctic somewhat. But that would be a bit counter to the La Nina dynamic we’ve seen during recent years.

      Oddly, La Nina appears to have produced severe weather and high rates of precipitation for the U.S. West. This is counter to the typical trend which would point to drying. I’m not sure if we can say that the tendency has changed. But there is obviously another dynamic at play which is counter to the typical trend. I wonder if this will be the case for the Arctic during January, February, and March. If so, the Arctic could really use the break. If not …

      –R

      Reply
  14. I had read somewhere that electric motors could not handle the energy density of fossil fuel powered ones, which is obviously not so. For a bit of irony, here is the description of the Marion 820, used for mining the coal that feeds the Jim Bridger, the massive coal-fired steam electric plant in Wyoming, completed in 1974. It is from John McPhee, ‘Annals of the Former World’, Book 3: Rising from the Plains.
    “… At that point, something called the Marion 8200, and eight-million-pound landship also known as a walking dragline, took over the job. The machine was so big it had to be assembled on the site – a procedure that required fourteen months. Now working within a mile or two of the generating plant, it could swing its four-chord deep-section boom and touch any spot in six acres, its bucket biting, typically, a hundred tons of rock, and dumping it to the side. The 8200 had dug a box canyon, its walls of solid coal about thirty feet thick. The inside of the machine was painted Navy gray, and had non-skid deck surfaces, thick steel bulkheads, handrails, and oval doors that looked watertight. They led from compartment to compartment, and eventually into the air-conditioned sanctum of Centralized Power Control, where, lined up in ranks, were electric motors. The foremost irony of this machine was that it was far too large and powerful to operate on diesel engines. Although the chassis was nine stories high, it could not begin to contain enough diesels to make the machine work. Only electric motors are compact enough. Out the back of the machine, like the tail of a four-thousand-ton rat, ran a huge black cable, through gully and gulch, over hill and draw, to the generating plant – whose No. 1 customer was the big machine.”

    Reply
    • Nancy

       /  January 11, 2017

      Fascinating. I googled the 8200 and saw lots of pictures. What a massive machine.

      Reply
    • So this is an oft-promoted bit of misinformation. The electric motor is far more capable of coverting electricity to energy than the ICE. It, therefore, can be much smaller while producing the same amount of power output in the form of torque or horsepower. It also has an instant-on capability that the ICE lacks.

      This reality of design edge and efficiency edge for electric motors can tend to be confused with the energy density storage capacity of batteries vs a fossil fuel sitting in the tank. In the case of FF, you have an energy dense fuel but a crappy engine converting the energy. In the case of batteries + electric motors you have a less dense storage system in the form of the battery wedded to the far superior electric motor.

      As a result, battery energy density only needs to improve by about 50-100 percent more to match the current engine + energy storage system range capabilities of fossil fuel based machinery. And it’s expected that batteries will reach an energy density comparable to fossil fuels by the 2030s. At which point, the capabilities of electrical vehicles and machinery will tend to be superior in almost every aspect to fossil fuels. This would enable even widespread use of electric aircraft, for example.

      If you can forego the battery, and directly plug in (wireless send) an electric motor to a constant power source, as seen above, the electric powered systems are already superior when it comes to efficiency and power output.

      Reply
  15. Greg

     /  January 11, 2017

    Off topic but newsworthy as we are about to embark into the unknown and need to know what the big players are up to. Absolute corruption of incoming administration. Oil powers much of this, I suspect. Unverified by buzzfeed but increasingly corroborated:
    https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/3259984-Trump-Intelligence-Allegations.html

    Reply
    • Greg

       /  January 11, 2017

      Don’t be surprised if this isn’t the U.S. intel community trolling him for his picking a fight with them. Golden showers, indeed.

      Reply
      • Suzanne

         /  January 11, 2017

        Greg…that is what I thought when I read this report and the articles related to it. The Intel Community is “playing” with PEE-OTUS (sorry I couldn’t resist).

        As the Chinese proverb says….”May you live in interesting times”.

        Reply
    • Thanks for this, Greg.

      Reply
  16. coloradobob

     /  January 11, 2017

    Average temperatures in China fell last year compared with 2015, the country’s weather bureau said on Tuesday, adding that the rainfall levels recorded were the highest ever due to climate change and the El Nino effect.

    Total rainfall hit 6.9 trillion cubic meters in 2016, up 13 percent from the previous year, and the highest since they started keeping records in 1961, said Song Lianchun, director, China Meteorological Administration.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-climatechange-idUSKBN14U0XE

    Reply
  17. coloradobob

     /  January 11, 2017

    Thailand’s disaster resilience is being put to the test as unseasonably heavy rains continue to batter southern Thailand since the New Year, submerging thousands of villages in flood waters and affecting more than 1 million people with 21 dead so far, according to the U.N. and local media reports.

    The “severe flooding is because of the worst rainfall in more than 30 years,” Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha told reporters today, according to Agence France-Presse, and “Thailand must prepare to handle these problems” in the face of climate change.

    http://www.humanosphere.org/environment/2017/01/record-rainfall-puts-thailands-flood-resilience-test/

    Reply
  18. Suzanne

     /  January 11, 2017

    A short article at the Conversation on “Getting Scientific Messages Across Means Taking Human Nature Into Account”…..This may be helpful for those of us when we are dealing with the deniers we encounter:
    https://theconversation.com/getting-a-scientific-message-across-means-taking-human-nature-into-account-70634
    Here is a taste:

    The first step is to acknowledge that every audience has preexisting beliefs about the world. Expect those beliefs to color the way they receive your message. Anticipate that people will accept information that is consistent with their prior beliefs and discredit information that is not.

    Then, focus on framing. No message can contain all the information available on a topic, so any communication will emphasize some aspects while downplaying others. While it’s unhelpful to cherry-pick and present only evidence in your favor – which can backfire anyway – it is helpful to focus on what an audience cares about.

    For example, these University of California researchers point out that the idea of climate change causing rising sea levels may not alarm an inland farmer dealing with drought as much as it does someone living on the coast. Referring to the impact our actions today may have for our grandchildren might be more compelling to those who actually have grandchildren than to those who don’t. By anticipating what an audience believes and what’s important to them, communicators can choose more effective frames for their messages – focusing on the most compelling aspects of the issue for their audience and presenting it in a way the audience can identify with.

    Reply
    • Shawn Redmond

       /  January 11, 2017

      Suzanne this is probably more difficult than anyone suspects. Long ago the Jesuit Priests realized that what children were taught to be true and virtuous, whether it was or not, would influence their decision making processes later in life. Even if they no longer held those beliefs. To break this sort of control is nothing short of deprogramming. Lesson here: be very mindful of what the children are exposed to.

      ahttp://energyskeptic.com/2017/the-history-of-how-corporations-used-conservative-religion-to-gain-more-wealth-and-power/
      This book tells the history of how corporate America has tried to undo New Deal reforms since the 1940s by creating a new free-enterprise religion, and to erode the separation of church and state.

      Corporate America’s creation of free-enterprise Jesus began in 1935 with the founding of an organization called Spiritual Mobilization. Some of the corporations who donated money to this and similar organizations include:

      American Cyanamid and chemical corporation, Associated Refineries, AT&T, Bechtel Corporation, Caterpillar Tractor Company, Chevrolet, Chicago & Southern Airline, Chrysler corporation, Colgate-Palmolive Company, Deering-Milliken, Detroit Edison, Disney, DuPont, Eastern Airlines, General Electric, General Foods, General Motors, Goodwill, Goodyear Tire & Rubber, IBM, J. C. Penney, J. Walter Thompson, Mark A. Hanna, Marriott, Marshall Field, Monsanto Chemical Company, National Association of Manufacturers, Pacific Mutual Life Insurance, Paramount Pictures, PepsiCo, Precision Valve Corp, Quaker Oats, Republic Steel Corp, Richfield Oil Co., San Diego Gas & Electric, Schick Safety Razor, Standard Oil Company, Sun Oil company, Sun shipbuilding company, Union Carbide and Carbon Corporation, United Airlines, US Rubber company, US steel corporation, Utah Power & Light, Warner Bros. Pictures, Weyerhauser.

      In the 1930s, corporations were well known to have brought on the Great Depression with their tremendous greed and dishonesty. The New Deal reformed the financial system, distributed wealth more evenly, provided a social safety net, protected citizens by regulating businesses to prevent them from selling unsafe food, drugs, etc., emitting toxic pollution, aided farmers in slowing soil erosion to prevent more dust bowls, the federal interstate highway system, and other infrastructure and public services that benefited everyone, especially corporations.
      http://energyskeptic.com/2017/the-history-of-how-corporations-used-conservative-religion-to-gain-more-wealth-and-power/

      Reply
      • Suzanne

         /  January 11, 2017

        Shawn…thanks for the link. I have put the book on my reading list. Just reading the review makes me feel ill. Not surprised, just ill. I have been saying for years…”Why are so many of the countries with “socialist” social programs…so happy..if socialism is so bad?”

        Reply
      • I think there are two Americas here — the corporate America (which of course does not include all corporations, but does include those that perform social engineering to promote their power base) which is pretty dark and terrible, and the public America which has tended to be far more benevolent and helpful.

        Ironically, the original American Revolution was largely sparked by the East India Trade corporation’s abuses which were given free reign by King George who was perceived to be tyrannical and who was acting to promote and protect the interest of the corporation which was then wedded to the wealth of the state. King George, in this case, could well be seen as one of the original bad actor corporate CEOs or majority share holders. Going further back, the original colonial vessels and settlers were incorporated state-sanctioned entities — a kind of laissez faire private land and wealth acquisition corporation sanctioned by laws drawn up by various kings and queens. The colonial entities were mostly corporate and self-interest driven and a good argument could be made that they formed the basis for later corporations in their wealth-seeking activities, attempts to acquire laws that benefited their bottom line, and in their deleterious, corrosive and ultimately destructive influence among the societies they targeted for exploitation.

        This is not to say that all corporations are bad or harmful. But there is a pretty strong historical precedent for things to tend that way once corporations gain too much wealth, power or influence. That corporations tend to be more helpful in systems that promote real competition and not monopoly, where regulations tend to be stronger and where the precedent for corporations serving the public good and being constrained by laws that promote justice are strongly established. Long ago, a friend of mine once described corporations as useful, helpful, and necessary. But the key point he made was that they shouldn’t be running things. They’re more the economic engine than the brain, he noted in his analogy. And if the engine takes the place of the brain then things get corrupted.

        Reply
      • mulga mumblebrain

         /  January 13, 2017

        Shawn, I think it is essential to acknowledge that the driving force behind human destructiveness is capitalism, and those who control it. In my opinion capitalism is simply psychopathy in action, ie the operation of insatiable greed, gargantuan egotism, narcissism and absence of human empathy and compassion. And does anyone represent that constellation of moral ills more completely than Trump?
        The real trouble will hit once Trump’s sucker supporters realise that he is intent only on rewarding his people- the ‘have mores’, as GW Bush called them.By then, of course, the maniacs like Tillerson, with his lunatic plans to blockade Chinese islands, may have seen us all off already. In his psychopathy Tillerson is the perfect embodiment of the capitalist system that threw him, and Trump et al, up.

        Reply
  19. Shawn Redmond

     /  January 11, 2017

    A bit O/T but warming is warming. I notice Munich Re among other re-insurers are becoming more vocal publicly on the subject of warming. Could it be attempted softening of the coming rate hike shocks that are surely to follow a continued rise in weather related disasters?

    https://thinkprogress.org/global-warming-made-every-state-a-red-state-in-2016-53e699ca9f0f#.v5xckg8ul

    Finally, Munich Re, a top reinsurer, recently released analysis of 2016’s global natural disasters. “A look at the weather-related catastrophes of 2016 shows the potential effects of unchecked climate change,” said Peter Höppe, Head of Munich Re’s Geo Risks Research Unit. “But there are now many indications that certain events — such as persistent weather systems or storms bringing torrential rain and hail — are more likely to occur in certain regions as a result of climate change.”

    Reply
    • The challenge for re-localizing food has always been a very steep one. It is not ‘low hanging fruit,’ for example. But it is certainly helpful and shouldn’t be disparaged. Organics also definitely reduces pesticide use as well as the net carbon footprint of food agriculture. So I would tend to support that as well. That said, I think the problem is more that the Organic label has become a ‘catch all.’ Instead, we should probably have better sustainability labeling in general to include a carbon footprint and an empirical measure for overall environmental impact labeling.

      But if you really want to decarbonize agriculture, the low hanging fruit is replacing the fossil fuel base for farm equipment and in dealing with the methane issue coming from ruminants. We should also be very clear that agriculture probably represents about 20 percent of the global carbon emission (including farming machinery). The fossil fuel portion of global carbon emissions is in the range of 80 percent +. So, again, the low hanging fruit from the climate standpoint is changing the energy source.

      Reply
  20. Suzanne

     /  January 11, 2017

    Bumble Bees now on the Endangered Species List:
    https://www.fws.gov/midwest/endangered/insects/rpbb/factsheetrpbb.html

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the rusty patched bumble bee as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Endangered species are animals and plants that are in danger of becoming extinct. Identifying, protecting and recovering endangered species is a primary objective of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s endangered species program.

    Reply
    • Bees have been under so much stress lately. The mites related to colony collapse disorder are likely an invasive and their spread could be linked to climate change and other human activities. Pesticides and other insults compound the problem. A distant relative of mine is a bee keeper and he is very concerned about the situation — especially to include risks related to climate change.

      Reply
  21. wharf rat

     /  January 11, 2017

    Law Firm Establishes Clean Energy Legal Team
    January 09, 2017

    Richmond, Va.-headquartered law firm Hunton & Williams LLP has formed a global, cross-disciplinary legal team to advise corporations and investors on issues related specifically to sustainability and efforts to increase the use of renewable energy.

    As part of the firm’s renewable energy practice group, the sustainability and corporate clean power team will counsel corporations and investors on matters related to clean power procurement; green bonds and similar clean power financing and investment transactions; the development of sustainable facilities, including data centers; tax equity investments; joint ventures with renewable energy companies; securities law compliance; renewable energy certificate trading; project permitting and real estate; and environmental law compliance.

    “Retailers, manufacturers and technology companies are either entering the renewable energy arena for the first time or are significantly bolstering their current positions,” says partner Eric R. Pogue, who heads the firm’s efforts in this space. “This multidisciplinary initiative will focus on the unique legal issues that companies face in meeting their sustainability and clean power procurement goals.”

    The global firm comprises more than 750 lawyers serving clients in the U.S., Europe, Latin America and Asia.
    http://nawindpower.com/law-firm-establishes-clean-energy-legal-team

    Reply
    • So I think there’s an underlying large demand for sustainability coming from the public. And at first, corporations have tended to move toward sustainability for PR reasons. Later, as corporate infrastructure and bottom lines have been increasingly threatened by climate change related impacts, we have seen a more serious shift. My personal opinion is that what we are seeing is a kind of old guard corporatism represented by the fossil fuel related interests facing off against a new guard that is pushing hard for sustainability. To me this is an interesting conflict in that it is pretty unprecedented in modern times. In many ways its a fight for survival by companies that are interested in clean power and sustainability. That’s why they are lawyering up.

      Reply
  22. wharf rat

     /  January 11, 2017

    Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have accidentally stumbled upon a way to capture carbon dioxide from the ambient air, creating prism-like crystals and combating global warming in the process.

    “When we left an aqueous solution of the guanidine open to air, beautiful prism-like crystals started to form,” ORNL’s Radu Custelcean said. “After analyzing their structure by X-ray diffraction, we were surprised to find the crystals contained carbonate, which forms when carbon dioxide from air reacts with water.”

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/ericmack/2017/01/10/crazy-carbon-crystals-could-combat-climate-change/#2a15e1bf6382

    Reply
    • We should be very clear that the volume of carbon that we need to capture in order for these applications to put even a small dent in the problem is immense. We already have various materials that provide this capability on small, limited scales. The big issue is scaling it up so it helps enough.

      The best way to keep carbon out of the atmosphere remains the big energy transition away from fossil fuels. Sadly, because we have failed to undergo this transition soon enough, we will likely have to hope that atmospheric carbon capture technologies become more viable on a large scale during the next couple of decades. Otherwise we are hitting 550 to 600 ppm CO2e in rather short order and the best case we could reasonably hope for is in the range of 450 ppm CO2 and 550 CO2e by 2050 and following a big draw down in overall emissions to near zero.

      Reply
    • Hatrack

       /  January 12, 2017

      An interesting discovery, and very possibly of utility, but very much a lab-bench event to date. The thing that keeps ringing in my brain is the fact that every ppm of atmospheric CO2 is roughly 2+ billion tons of the stuff, and every year, there’s another 5 to 6 billion tons that has nowhere left to go – plants or ocean.

      Reply
  23. Caco

     /  January 12, 2017

    I only recently starting reading your blog and wanted to thank your for all the interesting and well researched reads on here.

    A bit OT but I do think we need a few more good news stories about AGW in the mass media, otherwise it can all get very depressing very quickly and I think you then start to lose peoples interest in the topic.

    This was one TED talk that brought a smile to my face

    Apologies if you have discussed it before

    Reply

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