Opinion | It’s the End of California as We Know It – By Farhad Manjoo – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Jose Carlos Fajardo/San Jose Mercury News, via Associated Press

“I have lived nearly all my life in California, and my love for this place and its people runs deep and true. There have been many times in the past few years when I’ve called myself a California nationalist: Sure, America seemed to be going crazy, but at least I lived in the Golden State, where things were still pretty chill.

But lately my affinity for my home state has soured. Maybe it’s the smoke and the blackouts, but a very un-Californian nihilism has been creeping into my thinking. I’m starting to suspect we’re over. It’s the end of California as we know it. I don’t feel fine.

It isn’t just the fires — although, my God, the fires. Is this what life in America’s most populous, most prosperous state is going to be like from now on? Every year, hundreds of thousands evacuating, millions losing power, hundreds losing property and lives? Last year, the air near where I live in Northern California — within driving distance of some of the largest and most powerful and advanced corporations in the history of the world — was more hazardous than the air in Beijing and New Delhi. There’s a good chance that will happen again this month, and that it will keep happening every year from now on. Is this really the best America can do?”

As Sea Levels Rise, So Do Ghost Forests – The New York Times

“Up and down the mid-Atlantic coast, sea levels are rising rapidly, creating stands of dead trees — often bleached, sometimes blackened — known as ghost forests.

The water is gaining as much as 5 millimeters per year in some places, well above the global average of 3.1 millimeters, driven by profound environmental shifts that include climate change.

Increasingly powerful storms, a consequence of a warming world, push seawater inland. More intense dry spells reduce freshwater flowing outward. Adding to the peril, in some places the land is naturally sinking.

All of this allows seawater to claim new territory, killing trees from the roots up.

Rising seas often conjure the threat to faraway, low-lying nations or island-states. But to understand the immediate consequences of some of the most rapid sea-level rise anywhere in the world, stand among the scraggly, dying pines of Dorchester County along the Maryland coast.”

Opinion | Three Billion Canaries in the Coal Mine – By Margaret Renkl – The New York Times

Margaret Renkl

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

A Magnolia Warbler found recently on a suburban lawn in the northeast.

NASHVILLE — During the nearly quarter-century that my family has lived in this house, the changes in our neighborhood have become increasingly apparent: fewer trees and wildflowers, fewer bees and butterflies and grasshoppers, fewer tree frogs and songbirds. The vast majority of Tennessee is still rural, and for years I told myself that such changes were merely circumstantial, specific to a city undergoing rapid gentrification and explosive growth. I wasn’t trying to save the world by putting up nest boxes for the birds or letting the wildflowers in my yard bloom out before mowing. I was hoping only to provide a small way station for migrating wildlife, trusting they would be fine once they cleared the affluence zone that is the New Nashville.

I was wrong. A new study in the journal Science reports that nearly 3 billion North American birds have disappeared since 1970. That’s 29 percent of all birds on this continent. The data are both incontrovertible and shocking. “We were stunned by the result,” Cornell University’s Kenneth V. Rosenberg, the study’s lead author, told The Times.

This is not a report that projects future losses on the basis of current trends. It is not an update on the state of rare birds already in trouble. This study enumerates actual losses of familiar species — ordinary backyard birds like sparrows and swifts, swallows and blue jays. The anecdotal evidence from my own yard, it turns out, is everywhere.

You may have heard of the proverbial canary in the coal mine — caged birds whose sensitivity to lethal gasses served as an early-warning system to coal miners; if the canary died, they knew it was time to flee. This is what ornithologists John W. Fitzpatrick and Peter P. Marra meant when they wrote, in an opinion piece for The Times, that “Birds are indicator species, serving as acutely sensitive barometers of environmental health, and their mass declines signal that the earth’s biological systems are in trouble.”

The World’s Oceans Are in Danger, Major Climate Change Report Warns – By Brad Plumer – The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Earth’s oceans are under severe strain from climate change, a major new United Nations report warns, threatening everything from the ability to harvest seafood to the well-being of hundreds of millions of people living along the coasts.

Rising temperatures are contributing to a drop in fish populations in many regions, and oxygen levels in the ocean are declining while acidity levels are on the rise, posing risks to important marine ecosystems, according to the report issued Wednesday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of scientists convened by the United Nations to guide world leaders in policymaking.

In addition, warmer ocean waters, when combined with rising sea levels, threaten to fuel ever more powerful tropical cyclones and floods, the report said, further imperiling coastal regions and worsening a phenomenon that is already contributing to storms like Hurricane Harvey, which devastated Houston two years ago.

“The oceans are sending us so many warning signals that we need to get emissions under control,” said Hans-Otto Pörtner, a marine biologist at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany and a lead author of the report. “Ecosystems are changing, food webs are changing, fish stocks are changing, and this turmoil is affecting humans.”

 

Great Barrier Reef – Wikipedia

from Wikipedia:

“The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system[1][2] composed of over 2,900 individual reefs[3] and 900 islands stretching for over 2,300 kilometres (1,400 mi) over an area of approximately 344,400 square kilometres (133,000 sq mi).[4][5] The reef is located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of QueenslandAustralia. The Great Barrier Reef can be seen from outer space and is the world’s biggest single structure made by living organisms.[6] This reef structure is composed of and built by billions of tiny organisms, known as coral polyps.[7] It supports a wide diversity of life and was selected as a World Heritage Site in 1981.[1][2] CNN labelled it one of the seven natural wonders of the world.[8] The Queensland National Trust named it a state icon of Queensland.[9]

A large part of the reef is protected by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which helps to limit the impact of human use, such as fishing and tourism. Other environmental pressures on the reef and its ecosystem include runoffclimate change accompanied by mass coral bleaching, dumping of dredging sludge and cyclic population outbreaks of the crown-of-thorns starfish.[10] According to a study published in October 2012 by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the reef has lost more than half its coral cover since 1985.[11]”

Source: Great Barrier Reef – Wikipedia

Opinion | Tennessee Makes Way for the Monarchs – By Margaret Renkl – The New York Times

Margaret Renkl

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

CreditCreditWilliam DeShazer for The New York Times

“NASHVILLE — A few years ago I started noticing wildflowers blooming beside the highway: ironweed and goldenrod and snakeroot and black-eyed Susan. The first time it happened the sun was in my eyes as I drove west toward Memphis, and a late summer drought was filling the air with dust motes. For a moment I thought I was imagining flowers where flowers had never been before. A daydream on a lonesome stretch of highway as twilight came on.

There was nothing unusual about the flowers themselves — they’re the plants that commonly bloom along Nashville’s greenways during late summer — but these flowers weren’t in a park or a nature preserve. They were growing right on the interstate median and on the side of the road. I figured the state’s Department of Transportation simply hadn’t gotten around to mowing yet.

Then I started to see the flowers in springtime, too, and all summer. The decision not to mow, it turns out, was deliberate. The Tennessee Department of Transportation — like many other state transportation departments across the country — now practices swath mowing, a strategy that allows wildflowers to bloom unmolested in rural areas till after the first frost. Instead of clearing the entire space between the road and the right-of-way fence, mowers clear only a 16-foot-wide area next to the road.

The mowed swath preserves clear sightlines for drivers while allowing wildflowers to grow in the deep margins between the mowed area and the fence. After the wildflowers have gone to seed, and the seeds have had time to ripen and drop, mowers clear the entire area again to keep trees from becoming established too close to the road. In Tennessee, this plan began as an experimental program in 2013 and now encompasses all rural highways managed by the state. That’s 13,807 miles of blooming flowers across Tennessee.”

Opinion | Hurricane Dorian Makes Bahamians the Latest Climate-Crisis Victims – By Erica Moiah James – The New York Times

By 

Dr. James, an art historian, founded the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas.

CreditCreditJoe Skipper/Reuters

“MIAMI — Whoever thought Dorian might be a good name for a hurricane has some explaining to do. In the Bahamas, when we have to deal with difficulties, we try to make the saddest people among us laugh, knowing that they will return the favor in our hour of need.

So when Hurricane Dorian hit land in the Abaco Islands in the northern Bahamas a few days ago and the horrific pictures started streaming in on social media, among the videos shared early on was what appeared to be a woman running through the rain and wind to safety, only to have her wig blow from her head.

The punch line wasn’t the wig taking flight. It was that she doubled back to retrieve it, rather than continue to safety, expanding the list of life’s essentials. Many people might read this as a highly inappropriate moment for such frivolity, but for Bahamians it was perfect timing.

What we have seen in the past few days has been sublime in its horror. It has estranged us from the humor that keeps us going despite the increasing fragility of life in the breathtakingly beautiful place we call home. It has a tiny carbon footprint but carries the burden of being ground zero for our climate crisis.

We Bahamians listen to climate deniers in rich countries who are oblivious or indifferent to those who bear the weight for their wonderful life. Meanwhile, the water rises from the ground in our yards because the water table is so high during high tide, and plants we once depended upon no longer grow. We experience too much rain or too little rain, and fresh water supplies are increasingly contaminated by rising sea levels.”

Opinion | Why Are We Still Looking for Oil and Gas? – By Lee Wasserman – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Wasserman is director of the Rockefeller Family Fund.

CreditCreditIllustration by John J. Custer; Photographs by Julia Wolf and Urs Moritz Ernst/EyeEm, via Getty Images

“If an artist were to choose colors for portraits of public officials to represent their records on climate change, one color would suffice for Donald Trump: charcoal black. How better to capture the president’s efforts to increase the extraction of coal, oil and gas at a time when emissions from these fuels are likely to expose tens of millions of people to life-threatening heat waves, coastal flooding, severe storms and water shortages.

But to be honest, the portraits of most of the world’s progressive leaders wouldn’t be much brighter. The United States was well on its way to becoming the world’s largest producer of fossil fuels before Donald Trump. Even today, with only a few decades left for us to reduce greenhouse gas emissions without potentially catastrophic long-term consequences, far too many officials of all political stripes continue to expand the amount of fossil fuels we now extract and burn.

It was President Barack Obama, after all, who described “all of the above” as the preferred nonchoice of energy sources. He enthusiastically embraced the fracking boom that is now primed to unleash a tidal wave of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. His successful effort to end the country’s export ban on fossil fuelsencouraged industry to go after every ounce of oil and gas it could find — and it is finding plenty. Taken together, President Obama’s legacy is a nation that produces more oil and natural gas than Saudi Arabia.

Climate policy can get complicated fast, but there is really only one question to ask when considering an official’s climate bona fides: Will his or her policies lead to an increase or decrease in the amount of fossil fuels coming out of the ground? One peer-reviewed study found that to have a 50 percent chance of meeting the Paris accord’s target of staying “well below” 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit of additional warming, we must refrain from burning much of the fossil fuel reserves currently listed as assets on the balance sheets of energy companies.

Opinion | Farmers Don’t Need to Read the Science. We Are Living It. – By Alan Sano – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Sano is a farmer.

CreditCreditLucy Nicholson/Reuters

FIREBAUGH, Calif. — Many farmers probably haven’t read the new report from the United Nations warning of threats to the global food supply from climate change and land misuse. But we don’t need to read the science — we’re living it.

Here in the San Joaquin Valley, one of the world’s most productive agricultural regions, there’s not much debate anymore that the climate is changing. The drought of recent years made it hard to ignore; we had limited surface water for irrigation, and the groundwater was so depleted that land sank right under our feet.

Temperatures in nearby Fresno rose to 100 degrees or above on 15 days last month, which was the hottest month worldwide on record, following the hottest June ever. (The previous July, temperatures reached at least 100 degrees on 26 consecutive days, surpassing the record of 22 days in 2005.) The heat is hard to ignore when you and your crew are trying to fix a broken tractor or harvest tomatoes under a blazing sun. As the world heats up, so do our soils, making it harder to get thirsty plants the water they need.

The valley’s characteristic winter tule fog is also disappearing, and winters are getting warmer. Yields of many stone fruits and nuts that feed the country are declining because the trees require cool winters and those fogs trap cool air in the valley. Warm winters also threaten the Sierra Nevada snowpack, which provides 30 percent of California’s water. We had a good wet winter this year, but a few years ago the snowpack was at its lowest level in 500 years. We also worry that last year’s record California wildfires, which blanketed the valley with smoke for weeks, might become the new normal. I don’t get sick much, but that summer I had a hard time breathing because of the congestion in my lungs.

. . . . .After harvesting our fall crops, we now use cover crops that return carbon and nitrogen to the soil and nourish the microbes and fungi essential for a living soil ecology. The plants and soil organisms work together to pull carbon out of the atmosphere and draw it down into the root zone. We minimize disturbance of our land by decreasing tillage, which protects these microorganisms and keeps carbon in the soil, where it belongs. Rather than being a source of carbon emissions, farms could store carbon where it’s needed to grow food.

This has been good for our business, too. We spend less on water, energy and fertilizer and are getting good yields. “

Climate Change Threatens the World’s Food Supply- United Nations Warns – By Christopher Flavelle – The New York Times

“The world’s land and water resources are being exploited at “unprecedented rates,” a new United Nations report warns, which combined with climate change is putting dire pressure on the ability of humanity to feed itself.

The report, prepared by more than 100 experts from 52 countries and released in summary form in Geneva on Thursday, found that the window to address the threat is closing rapidly. A half-billion people already live in places turning into desert, and soil is being lost between 10 and 100 times faster than it is forming, according to the report.

Climate change will make those threats even worse, as floods, drought, storms and other types of extreme weather threaten to disrupt, and over time shrink, the global food supply. Already, more than 10 percent of the world’s population remains undernourished, and some authors of the report warned in interviews that food shortages could lead to an increase in cross-border migration.

A particular danger is that food crises could develop on several continents at once, said Cynthia Rosenzweig, a senior research scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and one of the lead authors of the report. “The potential risk of multi-breadbasket failure is increasing,” she said. “All of these things are happening at the same time.” “

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | Pending Approval
Thank you IPCC and Christopher Flavelle for reporting on their important work. The message is clear, all hands on deck. It appears in this short summary, the human population growth, perhaps the root cause, is still a taboo subjecct and off the table. It is time for the IPCC to address human population growth and call for zero or negative population growth.
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David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion” and blogs at InconvenientNews.net.