Year 4, Month 8, Day 21: Bow To Your Arthropod Overlords, Apeling!

Looks like the Clever Apes should start tuning up to join the Great Hum. The Arizona Star:

Vertebrates would have to evolve 10,000 times faster than they ever have to keep up with the pace of change predicted for their climatic niches in the next century, says a University of Arizona researcher.

“If where they live now is going to be outside their climatic niche, they either have to move or acclimate to it,” said John Wiens, UA professor of ecology and evolutionary biology.

Acclimating can be a tricky thing, Wiens said.

Some lizard and tortoise species in warming climates have been known to limit their outdoor exposure when their particular niche warms up, he said. That lessens the physiological impact of heat, but also deprives them of time for food gathering and reproducing, he said.

Wiens and co-author Ignacio Quintero, an ecologist at Yale University, examined and compared the evolutionary paths of more than 500 species, from weasels to frogs to crocodiles, to arrive at their conclusions about what would be needed to survive a predicted rise of 4 degrees Centigrade in average temperatures by the end of the century.

They found that evolution can’t keep pace with the rapid change in climate predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – not by a long shot.

Short but bitter. July 29:

Much of Earthly life will indeed be left behind in the process of evolutionary adaptation to climate change. When environmental transformations unfold over long stretches of time, evolution has a chance to do its work through the slow processes of natural selection — essential for big animals with reproductive cycles covering many years.

Human civilization’s last century introduced millions of years’ worth of previously fossilized carbon into the atmosphere in a geological eyeblink, triggering potentially catastrophic transformations that are going to happen far faster than the capacity of many species to adapt. Creatures like elephants, gorillas, moose, camels, bears, and human beings can’t reproduce rapidly enough to keep up with a climate gone mad.

Of course, Earth has many lifeforms with very rapid generational cycles, and they’ll be doing just fine in the years to come. We should probably start treating flies and cockroaches with a little more respect.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 8, Day 20: Eeeeeeeew.

Just eeeeeeeeew. The Concord Monitor:

In 1950, New Hampshire was home to just 50 moose. Today, the count is near 5,000, but state biologists fear that climate change – by way of winter ticks and other parasites – is threatening the herd.

“Shorter winters are a problem for moose because they give ticks a leg up,” said Kristine Rines, moose project leader for the state Fish and Game Department. “People have to recognize that the (climate) changes we are facing are not just changes in the Arctic. It’s not just polar bears that are going to be affected.”


It’s hard to imagine ticks taking down one of the state’s largest animals until you consider the magnitude of the problem.

In the recent issue of New Hampshire Wildlife Journal, Fish and Game biologist Dan Bergeron reported that the average number of winter ticks on a single moose in Alberta, Canada, is 32,000 but can be as much as 150,000, all of them feasting on the moose’s blood.

According to Bergeron, the number of winter ticks is directly related to fall and spring weather. If those seasons are mild and nearly snowless, ticks thrive. The winter ticks, which are different than deer or dog ticks, attach to the moose, mate and lay eggs, Bergeron wrote in his piece. That cycle repeats and repeats unless the state gets a traditional, long, cold winter.

Read that number again. 32,000 ticks on average per individual. I’m sooooo squicked out by that. July 29:

When it comes to undocumented immigrants, the most powerful causal factor is global climate change. While it’s obvious that a warming atmosphere, rising sea levels, and increasingly extreme weather are going to create burgeoning populations of climate refugees, these human casualties of the intensifying greenhouse effect are just the tip of a (rapidly melting) iceberg.

If conservatives really cared about illegal aliens they’d be working to address the greenhouse effect and its consequences, for it’s not just people, but non-native mammals, plants and insects that find their way Northward as newly hospitable ecological niches open up. Ask New Hampshire’s moose population, which is now hosting hundreds of millions of winter ticks, thriving in the warmer temperatures that constitute the region’s “new normal.” Unlike the hardworking humans so often targeted by conservative xenophobia and fear-mongering, these debilitating bloodsuckers are genuine parasites whose contribution to the local economy is entirely negative.

Warren Senders


Year 4, Month 8, Day 20: I CAN’T HEAR YOU!!!!

The Reno News Review (NV) considers the wildfire situation:

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is trying to cope with drought and heat across the West.

And U.S. Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada said Western heat and fires are signs of climate change.

The heat and fires jeopardize the livelihood of ranchers who depend on grazing, and threaten urban areas like Reno that depend on snowpacks for their water supplies.

“Since last fall and winter, we have been working with grazers across the West in anticipation of tough conditions related to drought,” said BLM deputy director Neil Kornze in a prepared statement. “In southwestern Montana, for example, the BLM worked with permitted ranchers to graze no more than 70 percent of their allotted forage on BLM-managed lands. As drought conditions continue, wild horses, livestock, and wildlife that rely on rangeland forage and water will face extremely challenging conditions that may leave them in very poor condition. We are taking action to address these situations as quickly and as effectively as we can, but our options are increasingly limited by conditions on the land.”

In Nevada, the BLM has been trucking 5,000 gallons of water day, five days a week to four locations for wild horses. A veterinarian was expected to be in Lincoln County this week. BLM employees reported that horses were not eating or drinking, raising questions about their health.

“The West is burning,” Reid said in Nevada on July 17. “I could be wrong, but I don’t think we’ve ever had a fire in the Spring Mountains, Charleston range like we just had.”

“The West is being devastated by wildfires,” Reid said a day later in D.C. “Millions of acres are burning. Millions of acres have burned. … They’re occurring all over. Why? Because the climate has changed. The winters are shorter, the summers are hotter.”

La la la la la la la la la la la. July 28:

The sad fact is that as long as the majority of American news media are financially beholden to corporate interests allied with fossil-fuel producers, the grim and compelling evidence of climate change will never be presented on prime-time TV without a protective dose of false equivalence. Here’s how that works:

A petroleum company provides generous funding to a “think tank,” which hires a videogenic person with a degree in a tangentially-related field (statistics, engineering, meteorology), gives them grand-sounding but semantically meaningless title, and equips them with a full array of obfuscatory talking points (“the science isn’t settled,” “action on climate change will damage the economy,” etc.).

When a climatologist is scheduled to appear, TV programs call the think tank, which sends a “Senior Policy Analyst” to provide “the other side of the argument,” thereby creating the impression that there is a legitimate dispute. If this mechanism were in place elsewhere in our national discourse, we’d be hearing from flat-Earthers, lizard-people theorists, faked-moon-landing believers, and adherents of the medieval medical theory of “humors.”

Could this be related to the fact that responsible action on climate change will reduce oil-industry profits by a small but significant margin? I wonder.

Warren Senders


Year 4, Month 8, Day 19: Boys, This Car’s Hotter’n a Two-Dollar Pistol.

The Winnipeg Free Press writes about the debacle at Cold Lake:

CALGARY – The Alberta Energy Regulator has ordered Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. to restrict the amount of steam it pumps into two oilsands projects following four spills earlier this year.

The move comes three weeks after the AER reported an emulsion of oilsands bitumen and water had been released into an unnamed water body on the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range in eastern Alberta.

The watchdog says Canadian Natural (TSX:CNQ) must restrict steam injection, enhance monitoring and speed up clean up efforts at its Primrose and Wolf Lake projects, which use a method called high-pressure cyclic steam stimulation to extract the bitumen.

“Although there have been no risks to public safety, until we investigate these incidents, better understand the cause of these releases, and what steps CNRL will to take to prevent them, we are taking these measures as a precaution,” said AER CEO Jim Ellis.

The AER ordered the suspension of steaming operations within the eastern part of Primrose earlier this year following three bitumen emulsion releases.

In late June, Canadian Natural reported a fourth release, prompting the AER to order CNRL to take further measures, including suspending steaming within one kilometre of the leak and restrict steaming throughout the northern and southern parts of Primrose.

High pressure cyclic steam stimulation — sometimes described as a “huff and puff” method of extraction — involves injecting steam into a reservoir through a well, letting it soak for a while and then drawing the softened bitumen to the surface through the same well.

It differs from steam-assisted gravity drainage, or SAGD, which uses two wells — one to inject the steam, and one right below it to flow the bitumen to the surface. The reservoir is also fractured using cyclic steam, whereas in SAGD it is not.

More on the addiction analogy. July 27:

Industrial civilization grew up on a diet of coal and oil, the liquid fossils of Earthly life from an unimaginably distant past. Like the “crack babies” of urban legend, our consumer culture was born addicted to these carbon-based fuels, and like any other addicts, we employ extraordinary creativity and resourcefulness to maintain the supplies of our chosen drug.

The destruction wrought in Eastern Alberta is a vivid example of the kind of unintentional sociopathy that is all too characteristic of addicts. Just as the junkie who burgled your apartment didn’t want to violate your privacy, nobody wanted a beautiful lake and a vibrant ecosystem to be destroyed — but in both cases, the demands of the habit took precedence over any- and everything.

Cold lake is a small and beautiful ecosystem now endangered by a single disastrous engineering decision. And what of Earth – a medium-sized planet in an unimportant galaxy — and its denizens? We too are endangered by societal choices made in the thrall of a crippling addiction.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 8, Day 18: Sweet Sister Morphine

The Edmonton Journal talks about the Cold Lake catastrophe and the response from First Nations people:

EDMONTON – The chief and council of Cold Lake First Nations want a tour of traditional lands contaminated by four recent surface releases of bitumen emulsion from oil wells, says the First Nations industry liaison.

“We have many concerns because that’s our traditional territory,” said Christine Chalifoux, who works as liaison between Cold Lakes First Nations and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. “As always, our concern is how much damage is done to the land and the wildlife that is out there.”

After a spill reported June 24 affecting 40 hectares of land at Canadian Natural’s Primrose South location, as well as three other spills at its Primrose East location this spring, the Alberta Energy Regulator ordered the Calgary-based producer to stop a process using steam to melt bitumen, allowing it to pool into wells before turning off the steam and pumping out the bitumen.

Both projects are on the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range about 240 kilometres east of Edmonton. That range, Chalifoux said, has been federally recognized as part of the First Nation’s traditional territory.

This is utterly tragic. July 26:

The apparently unstoppable bitumen leak that is rapidly destroying Cold Lake is a demonstration of the dangers inherent in allowing our planetary energy economy to become so heavily dependent on fossil fuels. There is a grim pathology evident in the behavior of all who participate in this system — everyone from corporate CEOs and their government enablers to ordinary consumers who need to drive to work.

Rationalizations, evasions, manipulations, and thoughtlessness are all depressingly common characteristics of addicts, and it is time to start calling our relationship with carbon-based fuels what it really is: an addiction. A junkie doesn’t care about the lives he destroys or the lies he tells, as long as he can get his next fix — and our petroleum-powered consumer society is likewise unconcerned about the destruction of regional ecosystems like that centered on a beautiful Alberta lake — we’ve gotta have that oil, whether it’s good for our long-term well-being or not (hint: it’s not).

The Earth itself — a small planet in an obscure corner of a minor galaxy — is increasingly vulnerable to the climatic consequences of our addiction. We all live on the shores of Cold Lake.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 8, Day 17: A Flip Of The Tail

The Vernon County Broadcaster (WI) writes about the likely end of trout fishing:

If you were to ask neighbors over 50 years of age what the weather was like in the summer of 1993, most would not remember the great flood of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, which happened from April to October. However, ask about the weather in 2012 and most would tell you it was hot and dry.

We remember the extremes, providing they are recent. Most of us think of changes locally on a year to year basis, instead of globally for a decade, therefore it’s difficult to believe global warming has become a serious worldwide problem.

Scientists are now telling us the earth is warming at a faster rate then they had previously forecast. For example, 13 of the warmest years ever recorded on earth happened in the last 15 years. World Meteorological Organization Secretary General Michel Jarroud said in November 2011, “Our science is solid and it proves unequivocally that the world is warming and that this warming is due to human activity.”

This one was pretty easy, leading up to the last line. July 25:

For hundreds of years, anglers have extolled the virtues of fishing. It teaches patience, brings us closer to the natural world, provides an excellent opportunity to drink beer, and even provides a tasty meal once in a while. That climate change may put an end to this venerable pastime is an unpleasant piece of news, but not an unsurprising one.

The painful fact is that the accelerating greenhouse effect has been affecting ecosystems all over the planet. Whether it’s farmers discovering that their crops aren’t producing because of drought, native species finding their habitats no longer welcome due to increasing temperatures, or wildfires simply wiping regional ecologies off the map completely, there is no shortage of devastation in the natural world. Sadly, this trend seems likely to continue and accelerate.

While fishermen have long been stereotyped as serial exaggerators, it’s not stretching the truth to say that in another century, the beautiful and beneficent natural world in which all of us grew up may well be the greatest and most tragic example of “the one that got away.”

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 8, Day 16: Seven New People Born

NPR’s All Things Considered recently broadcast this story:

A in a mountain range just west of Las Vegas has put at risk the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, a rare species found in the U.S.

The fire is dying down, but it may be weeks before experts can get to the remarkable area where this butterfly lives to see if it made it through.

There are few examples of fires wiping a species off the planet. In fact, fires sometimes help rare animals and plants by clearing overgrown habitat. But experts fear that such extinctions could become a consequence of two factors that are making some endangered species increasingly vulnerable: the loss of habitat and climate change.

I tried to keep this short in the hope that they’ll ask me to read it on-air. Not holding my breath, though. July 24:

A recently circulating photograph taken by the Cassini spacecraft shows Earth as a tiny dot, dwarfed by the rings of Saturn. This beautiful image highlights the fact that we live in an isolated and insignificant ecosystem, cosmologically speaking in the middle of nowhere.

In this context, the plight of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly is a microcosm of humanity’s predicament. As climate change exacerbates droughts and wildfires, a beautiful blue insect in an obscure ecosystem may vanish forever — and the beautiful blue speck which holds all the DNA in the universe is likewise teetering on the brink of catastrophic climatic transformations.

But unlike the blissfully ignorant butterfly, we humans know what is threatening us: our own waste CO2, pumped into the atmosphere — and we have the capacity to change our behavior in times of crisis. Will we?

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 8, Day 15: Moron Sacrifice

The Trenton Star-Ledger (NJ) notes a GOP doofus named Steve Lonegan:

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Steve Lonegan announced today that he signed a nationwide pledge to oppose any climate change legislation that would raise taxes.

The conservative activist also slammed Democratic candidate Rush Holt’s new web ad warning about the effects of global warming, calling it “silly hysteria.”

“Whether or not climate change is being caused by man is highly questionable,” Lonegan, the former mayor of Bogota, told The Star-Ledger in a phone interview this afternoon. “Whether New Jersey is being affected is highly suspect, to say the least. Certainly, America cannot sacrifice its economic prosperity on the alter of environmentalists.”

The “No Climate Tax Pledge” was organized by Americans for Prosperity, a conservative public policy organization co-founded by fossil fuel magnates Charles and David Koch. Lonegan was once the executive director of the group’s New Jersey branch.

It’s an endless game of whack-a-mole with these teaparty assholes. July 23:

If Steve Lonegan is really that serious about “hidden taxes” and their impact on Americans, perhaps he should look for genuine economic drains on our well-being, such as the billions of dollars each year that go in subsidies to oil and coal corporations, arguably the most profitable businesses on the planet. If having citizen dollars go to pay for CEO bonuses and the continued subornation of America’s lawmakers isn’t a “hidden tax,” then surely nothing else qualifies. And how about those oil spills cleaned up — by U.S. Government employees? Our taxes go to repairing the damages done by fossil fuel companies, while these multi-national miscreants continue to evade paying the court-determined penalties for their negligence.

Perhaps Mr. Lonegan could look at the extreme weather events, many of which have impacted New Jersey in the past year or so — and whose mounting costs are likewise borne by American taxpayers. Responsible governance can save money by planning for the future and anticipating the likely impacts of the actions and policies we put in place today. Signing the Koch brothers’ pledge to avoid addressing climate change is profoundly irresponsible, and solid evidence against Mr. Lonegan’s fitness for elected office.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 8, Day 14: Who Are YOU? The Answer Is In The Video.

US News and World Report features a twerp named Benjamin Zycher, a “visiting scholar” at the American Enterprise Institute (q.v.):

This issue is about wealth redistribution from red states to blue, and not about carbon dioxide, which, in the Orwellian language of the left, is “carbon pollution.” It is not toxic to humans at many times current ambient concentrations. It protects plants from various environmental stresses. It is like no other effluent; for those, less is better. That is true as well for the coercion and government planning authority inherent in the Obama proposals.

Sheesh. Don’t bother reading the whole thing; it’s all predictable denialist bullshit. July 22:

Benjamin Zycher significantly misstates multiple facts about global climate change.

First, let’s agree: even if we stopped burning fossil fuels today, CO2’s lengthy atmospheric “residence time” has “baked in” significant planetary warming for decades to come. But using this fact to justify inaction is as absurd as arguing that heart patient should continue smoking because they won’t get better immediately.

To say that global temperatures haven’t risen in the past decade is either mendacious or ignorant. An NOAA spokesperson recently noted that 2010 “…tied with 2005 as the warmest year of the global surface temperature record, beginning in 1880,” and was “…the 34th consecutive year with global temperatures above the 20th-century average.”

Please note: the American Enterprise Institute, the conservative think tank with which Mr. Zycher is affiliated, has received millions of dollars from fossil fuel corporations, who fear their unimaginable profit margins might shrink if our energy economy shifts to renewable sources.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 8, Day 13: I’ve Enjoyed About As Much Of This As I Can Stand

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette publishes the driveling of an unintentional apologist for our corporate overlords:

The resolution on climate change approved last month by the General Synod of the United Church of Christ has garnered mostly admiring attention from the news media. But I admit to a degree of perplexity and sorrow over the document, which seems to place the blame for our heavy use of fossil fuels mostly on the companies that produce them — not the consumers who demand them.

The resolution is intended to create a path toward divestment of church funds, including pension money, from “fossil fuel companies” unless they meet certain benchmarks. The text never defines “fossil fuel companies,” but it’s a good bet that the target is oil and mining enterprises.

The resolution also calls upon church members to “make shareholder engagement on climate change an immediate, top priority for the next five years” and to “demand action from legislators and advocate for the creation and enforcement of carbon-reducing laws.”

Poor pathetic little sociopaths. Sheesh. July 21:

Yes, when it comes to our societal dependence on fossil energy, we’ve all got to go beyond the call of ordinary duty to reduce our consumption of the prehistoric carbon which has fueled our civilization and triggered a rapidly accelerating greenhouse effect. But to feel “perplexity and sorrow” over deploring the roles played in the climate crisis by oil and coal companies is breathtakingly naive. In the service of higher profits, these corporate miscreants have invested countless millions of dollars in manipulative media campaigns, and even more millions in the co-optation of US lawmakers, resulting in hopelessly muddled public discussion of climate issues, and a legislative paralysis which would be hilarious if it weren’t tragic.

These “corporate persons” are the worst sort of planetary citizens, and they deserve the worst sort of reputation. There’s plenty of blame to go around, but there’s not enough blame for them.

Warren Senders