Saturday, September 21, 2013
Monday, September 16, 2013
Based upon James Balog's time-lapse photos depicting erosion and disappearance of enormous, ancient glaciers, CHASING ICE is knowledge for every skeptic on climate change
I'm reflecting upon just several of the storms this past year alone: Hurricane Sandy, the likes of which New Jersey has ever seen; tornado after tornado in Oklahoma and throughout the United States; and currently hundreds unaccounted for and thousands displaced due to flash floods throughout Colorado. Has this become the new normal? If we tend to the planet, what is the worst that can happen?
Acclaimed geomorphologist and environmental photographer James Balog heads to the Arctic in order to capture images that will help to convey the effects of global warming.
Balog was initially skeptical about climate change when the issue entered scientific discussion, but after his first trip north, he becomes convinced of the impact that humans have on the planet and becomes committed to bringing the story to the public.
Within months of the first trip to Iceland, Balog initiates The Extreme Ice Survey - an expedition to collect data on the seasonal changes of glaciers. Balog and his team deploy cameras that utilize time-lapse photography across various places in the Arctic to capture a multi-year record of the world’s glaciers. Despite camera malfunctions and Balog's knee surgery, Balog and his team are able to collect time-lapse photos that depict the drastic erosion and disappearance of enormous, ancient glaciers.
"Climate sticker shock: Arctic thaw could cost $60 trillion and 'could be the canary in the coal mine..."
(CNN) -- Scientists look at a warming Arctic and see a shift from white to green, as tundra gives way to new plant life. Governments and corporations are also seeing green, as receding ice cover opens new shipping routes and opportunities to get at long-hidden natural resources. But the downside of those opportunities is the risk that the current pace of climate change could be sped up dramatically by the release of long-trapped methane gas in the region's permafrost -- a risk to which a new study has attached an eye-popping price tag of $60 trillion in the next several decades, on top of previous estimates.
That's trillion, with a "T," a figure rivaling the entire globe's economic output in 2012. And it's a tab that's far more likely to be paid by people living in the latitudes far below the Arctic Circle, said Gail Whiteman, a researcher at Erasmus University in the Netherlands. The developing nations of Asia and Africa face more risk of bigger storms, worse flooding and more intense droughts, she said. "It will have gains for some countries," Whiteman told CNN. "But as we can see, if 80% of the impacts are going to be borne by developing regions, they're not getting any of the benefits."
Scientists have long worried that thawing the permafrost soil of the high northern latitudes could release large quantities of methane, a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide. U.S. and Russian scientists who study the region say methane has already started bubbling up from the floor of the East Siberian Sea -- a region believed to hold to 50 billion tons of the gas. "Everybody should be trying to pay attention to the shifts that are happening in the Arctic, and not just leave that up to the Arctic countries and not just to some crazy researchers that are in that beautiful white space," Whiteman said. "We all need to pay attention to what's happening, because the Arctic is the canary in the coal mine."
Using a British computer model, Whiteman and two scientists at Britain's Cambridge University estimated what would happen if the store of methane currently locked into the East Siberian Arctic Shelf were released over a 10-year period, without any other reductions in carbon emissions. The results, published Wednesday in the scientific journal Nature, indicated that global average temperatures could hit 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial levels by 2035 -- 15 years earlier than currently predicted. Even if other emissions were limited, the 2-degree mark would still be reached by about 2040, they wrote. The same model had previously computed the costs of climate change at $400 trillion by 2200. Adding a decade-long rush of methane to the atmosphere would boost that by $60 trillion, mostly between 2050 and 2075, said Chris Hope, a modeling expert at Cambridge's Judge Business School. Even a slower release, dampened by other cuts in emissions, could cost $37 trillion -- a figure that dwarfs the $100 billion that Lloyds of London estimates will be invested in the Arctic over the next decade.
The model includes the estimated effects of human health impacts and sea-level rise. Richer countries are better able to adapt to those changing conditions, but developing countries "will suffer most of the extra impact," Hope said. And while the brunt of the damage will be inflicted closer to the Equator, Northern Hemisphere nations aren't likely to escape unscathed. "Mid-latitude economies such as those in Europe and the United States could be threatened, for example, by a suggested link between sea-ice retreat and the strength and position of the jet stream, bringing extreme winter and spring weather," the paper states. Cambridge ocean physicist Peter Wadhams said receding sea ice cover in the Arctic has allowed summer temperatures in the East Siberian Sea to rise several degrees above freezing. "Up to now, you've had offshore permafrost, which is a relic of the last ice age. And that's only been kept in place by the fact that the water is roundabout the freezing point," Wadhams said. But as the water over it warms, that permafrost has been thawing --"and what's been released from it have been huge plumes of methane gas."
How much methane is being released is still under study, Wadhams said. But atmospheric methane levels rose about 1% last year, and "We think that the source is primarily this offshore methane plume from the Siberian sea," he said. While the idea of long-term, human-generated climate change is a controversial notion politically, it's accepted as fact by most researchers. Global average temperatures are up about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8 degrees Celsius) since the 1880s, according to NASA. The concentration of heat-trapping carbon dioxide hit a concentration unseen since prehistoric times at the benchmark Mauna Loa observatory in May, and scientists reported in November that the ice sheets covering Greenland and Antarctica were losing mass at an accelerating rate.
Researchers can't pin any particular storm on climate change, but say the warming of the air and oceans "loads the dice" in favor of more extreme weather. Whiteman said she hopes putting a price tag on one facet of the issue will spur debate and new action. The authors urged the World Economic Forum to support development of new economic models and press world leaders "to consider the economic time bomb beyond short-term gains from shipping and extraction." "We need to get our act together globally, and if we can't do it globally, we need to do it more regionally," she said. And she said there may be opportunities for business, such as finding ways to capture the methane -- it's natural gas, after all. "The story is not doom and gloom," she said. "We're hoping that we can use this to kick-start some innovative discussions."
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Tuesday, September 3, 2013
"I felt once more how simple and frugal a thing is happiness: a glass of wine, a roast chestnut, a wretched little brazier, the sound of the sea. Nothing else." Zorba the Greek
"A man needs a little madness or else he never dares cut the rope and be free."
“This is true happiness: to have no ambition and to work like a horse as if you had every ambition. To live far from men, not to need them and yet to love them. To have the stars above, the land to your left and the sea to your right and to realize of a sudden that in your heart, life has accomplished its final miracle: it has become a fairy tale.”
“God changes his appearance every second. Blessed is the man who can recognize him in all his disguises.”
“You can knock on a deaf man's door forever.”
“I was happy, I knew that. While experiencing happiness, we have difficulty in being conscious of it. Only when the happiness is past and we look back on it do we suddenly realize - sometimes with astonishment - how happy we had been.”
“Life is trouble. Only death is not. To be alive is to undo your belt and *look* for trouble.”
“Look, one day I had gone to a little village. An old grandfather of ninety was busy planting an almond tree. ‘What, grandfather!’ I exclaimed. ‘Planting an almond tree?’ And he, bent as he was, turned around and said: ‘My son, I carry on as if I should never die.’ I replied: ‘And I carry on as if I was going to die any minute.’
“When everything goes wrong, what a joy to test your soul and see if it has endurance and courage! An invisible and all-powerful enemy—some call him God, others the Devil, seem to rush upon us to destroy us; but we are not destroyed.”
“For I realize today that it is a mortal sin to violate the great laws of nature. We should not hurry, we should not be impatient, but we should confidently obey the eternal rhythm.”
“Free yourself from one passion to be dominated by another and nobler one. But is not that, too, a form of slavery? To sacrifice oneself to an idea, to a race, to God? Or does it mean that the higher the model the longer the longer the tether of our slavery?”
“Every man has his folly, but the greatest folly of all, in my view, is not to have one.”
“When shall I at last retire into solitude alone, without companions, without joy and without sorrow, with only the sacred certainty that all is a dream? When, in my rags—without desires—shall I retire contented into the mountains? When, seeing that my body is merely sickness and crime, age and death, shall I—free, fearless, and blissful—retire to the forest? When? When, oh when?”
“No, you're not free," he said. "The string you're tied to is perhaps no longer than other people's. That's all. You're on a long piece of string, boss; you come and go, and think you're free, but you never cut the string in two. And when people don't cut that string . . ."
"I'll cut it some day!" I said defiantly, because Zorba's words had touched an open wound in me and hurt.
"It's difficult, boss, very difficult. You need a touch of folly to do that; folly, d'you see? You have to risk everything! But you've got such a strong head, it'll always get the better of you. A man's head is like a grocer; it keeps accounts: I've paid so much and earned so much and that means a profit of this much or a loss of that much! The head's a careful little shopkeeper; it never risks all it has, always keeps something in reserve. It never breaks the string. Ah no! It hangs on tight to it, the bastard! If the string slips out of its grasp, the head, poor devil, is lost, finished! But if a man doesn't break the string, tell me, what flavor is left in life? The flavor of camomile, weak camomile tea! Nothing like rum-that makes you see life inside out!”
“so few in reality are the true necessities of man”
“I should learn to run, to wrestle, to swim, to ride horses, to row, to drive a car, to fire a rifle. I should fill my soul with flesh. I should fill my flesh with soul. In fact, I should reconcile at last within me the two internal antagonists.”
“Free yourself from one passion to be dominated by another and nobler one. But is not that, too, a form of slavery? To sacrifice oneself to an idea, to a race, to God? Or does it mean that the higher the model the longer the tether of our slavery? Then we can enjoy ourselves and frolic in a more spacious arena and die without having come to the end of the tether. Is that, then, what we call liberty?”
“Is he good? Or is he bad? That's the only thing I ask nowadays. And as I grow older—I'd swear this on the last crust I eat—I feel I shan't even go on asking that! Whether a man's good or bad, I'm sorry for him, for all of 'em. The sight of a man just rends my insides, even if I act as though I don't care a damn! There he is, poor devil, I think, he also eats and drinks and makes love and is frightened, whoever he is: he has his God and his devil just the same, and he'll peg out and lie as stiff as a board beneath the ground and be food for worms, just the same. Poor devil! We're all brothers! All worm-meat!”
“...I spent the whole morning coiled up in front of the fire, with my hands over it, eating nothing, motionless, just listening to the first rain of the season, softly falling. I was thinking of nothing. Rolled up in a ball, like a mole in damp soil, my brain was resting. I could hear the slight movements, murmurings and nibblings of the earth, and the rain falling and the seeds swelling. I could feel the sky and the earth copulating as in primitive times when they mated like a man and woman and had children. I could hear the sea before me, all along the shore, roaring like a wild beast and lapping with its tongue to slake its thirst.”