Tuesday, August 23, 2016

News Many Would Prefer Not To Know

For anyone who knows anything about climate change, the news is not good. There is a large and growing crack in the fourth-largest Antarctic ice shelf, known as the Larsen C.
Larsen C, according to the British Antarctic Survey, is “slightly smaller than Scotland.” It’s called an ice “shelf” because the entirety of this country-sized area is covered by 350-meter-thick ice that is floating on top of deep ocean waters.

The crack in Larsen C grew around 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) in length between 2011 and 2015. And as it grew, also became wider — by 2015, yawning some 200 meters in length. Since then, growth has only continued — and now, a team of researchers monitoring Larsen C say that with the intense winter polar night over Antarctica coming to an end, they’ve been able to catch of glimpse of what happened to the crack during the time when it could not be observed by satellite.
What they found is deeply disturbing:
The rift had grown another 22 kilometers (13.67 miles) since it was last observed in March 2016, and has widened to about 350 meters, ... The full length of the rift is now 130 km, or over 80 miles.
This means that at some time, likely in the next few years, another major chunk of ice will be lost, and ultimately that will be bad news for rising sea levels:
Researchers have estimated that the loss of all the ice that the Larsen C ice shelf currently holds back would raise global sea levels by 10 centimeters, or just under 4 inches.
At least equal in consequence is the loss of reflective surface area, meaning that more and more heat will be absorbed by the ocean, adding to an already warming planet, the release of methane, etc. An ugly feedback loop.

Closer to home, there are these worrisome images of a world in the grips of dangerous, if not yet runaway, climate change:

Why do I continue to post such material? In many ways, considering who reads my blog, I am preaching to the converted. But on the other hand, perhaps someone will send a link to a skeptic, at least causing him or her a moment or two of introspection. If that is too far-fetched an aspiration, it at least provides, I hope, a little bit more information for those keen to understand how our world is being destroyed while our 'leaders' mouth platitudes and we blithely continue our indulgent, self-destructive and heedless ways.


  1. Sometimes, Lorne, our task is straightforward: to document what is happening. At least, the record will be clear.

    1. Thanks, Owen. That helps put things into perspective for me.

  2. There are popular cut-outs in this climate change saga. Much of the conversation is limited to man-made events and consequences, taken in isolation of the knock-on effects or natural feedback loops that are being triggered.

    We know that we have already "locked in" 1.5C of warming with our existing atmospheric emissions but that's 1.5C short term warming. That existing atmospheric loading has another 1.5C of long term warming for the planet before it dissipates. That's a total of 3 degrees Celsius of warming, long term, that's already locked in. Only then do you get to the knock-on effects ranging from loss of sea ice and glaciers increasing the atmospheric water vapour loading to sea level rise and the increase of severe storm events (intensity, duration and frequency).

    We view all this, to the extent we don't simply turn our heads and avoid it entirely, in the context of bubbles. There's one that runs to 2030, another that goes to 2050 and so on. Small bites make it easier to those inclined to believe in our powers of adaptation.

    How many realize that what's depicted in your posts, in these NBC reports, is merely "early onset" climate change? This is just for starters. I wrote an essay on the demise of "normal." This isn't the new normal as sometimes suggested. It is just an early point in a transition to a new normal that will take centuries, perhaps millennia. It's hard to imagine but those who are around 30 or 40 years from now may look on today's cataclysms as the "good old days."

    Alison, from Creekside, said she has two brothers in the UK working in the field of resilience. All she would say about their work is that it's pretty grim. How resilient are we? How far can we bend this twig before it snaps? What are we doing to restore, reinforce and replace our obsolete core infrastructure without which our society and our economy collapse? How many mega-droughts or mega-floods can any community withstand? Why are we not having an adult conversation about these things?

    We pay lip service to these things - at times, when necessary - but we're doing next to nothing and continually falling behind.

    It's important that you continue these posts for the reasons you've given. It has to be done.

    1. Adaptation seems to be far from the federal government's mind, Mound, when I read about infrastructure grants. While it is vital to reinforce transportation infrastructure (Toronto just received $500 million for repairs and upgrades to the TTC: https://www.thestar.com/news/city_hall/2016/08/23/ttc-gets-500m-boost-from-ottawa.html), I see precious little evidence that they are serious about adaptation, as the next round of funding will focus on "culture, recreation, tourism and other sectors" that are transitioning to a green economy, whatever that really means. My guess is that it will be wasted, like it was during the Chretien years, when infrastructure grants went to things like hockey arena improvements and theatre improvements.

      Thanks, as always, for your insights about the bigger picture, frightening in all dimensions as it is.