Year 4, Month 11, Day 11: With A Friend Or Two I Love At Hand

The Chicago Tribune runs a piece from Bloomberg News which underlines the fact that, basically, we’re toast.

Temperatures in New York are increasing, and after 2047 they won’t return to the historical average of the past one and half centuries, according to a study Wednesday in the journal Nature.

“Climate departure,” when the average temperature for each year is expected to exceed historical averages from 1860 through 2005, will occur in Jakarta, Indonesia; and Lagos, Nigeria, in 2029; Beijing in 2046 and London in 2056, according to the study. New York will match the global departure 34 years from now and tropical areas will get there sooner.

The research highlights the urgency of cutting greenhouse- gas emissions because the warming climate may drive some species to extinction, threaten food supplies and spread disease, according to the study. By 2050, 5 billion people may face extreme climates, and migration and heightened competition for natural resources may trigger violence and instability.

“The results shocked us: regardless of the scenario, changes will be coming soon,” Camilo Mora, a geographer at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and lead author of the study, said in a statement. “Within my generation, whatever climate we were used to will be a thing of the past.”

The global point of climate departure will be 2047, with tropical areas reaching it earlier.

Sorry ’bout that, kids. November 1:

The report on climatic tipping points recently published by Nature suggests that a “business as usual” approach to our consumption of carbon-based fuels will bring near-apocalyptic outcomes by the middle of this century: devastating heat waves, crippled agriculture, and refugee populations numbering in the millions. We need to recognize that scientists are generally a mild-mannered bunch, for whom phrases like “robust correlation” and “statistically significant” are the equivalent of shouting. These authors are not wild-eyed “alarmists,” but climate experts comfortably in the scientific mainstream, who were “shocked” at the severity of their conclusions.

American history would have been drastically different if the citizens of Lexington and Concord had returned to bed instead of heeding Paul Revere’s midnight calls. Now, the overwhelming majority of the world’s climatologists are sounding an even more urgent warning to everyone on this planet. Will we heed their words , or hit the snooze button — again?

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 11, Day 10: A Dilemma For The Horns

The Albuquerque Journal (NM) runs an AP article on moose gradually going extinct…

Moose in the northern United States are dying in what scientists say may be the start of climate shock to the world’s boreal forests.

The die-off is most dire in Minnesota, where ecologists say moose could be gone within a decade. But it extends across the southern edge of the animal’s global range: Populations are falling as far away as Sweden.

No single cause seems to be responsible. In Minnesota, many moose seem to be dying of parasitic worms called liver flukes; in Wyoming, some researchers are pointing to a worm that blocks the moose’s carotid arteries; in New Hampshire, massive tick infections seem to be the culprit. This diversity of reasons makes some experts think they need to dig deeper.

“The fact that you’ve got different proximate causes killing off the moose suggests there’s an underlying ultimate cause,” says Dennis Murray, a population ecologist at Trent University in Canada.

Not surprising, but (as always) terribly saddening. October 31:

The decline in moose populations across North America is only one of many indications that climate change is already devastating the world’s biodiversity. While there are many local causes for the plummeting numbers of moose — tick infestations, habitat loss, etc. — each of these ultimately stems from the same basic problem: regional environments are changing too fast for animal and plant species to adapt.

While some life-forms are highly adaptable and will undoubtedly survive into a climatically-transformed future (we should probably start being kinder to cockroaches), our descendants may well remember moose and other such iconic animals as we think of the dodo and the passenger pigeon.

We are entering a period of mass extinctions as climate change intensifies; charismatic megafauna like moose and polar bears are only the tip of a (rapidly melting) iceberg. Scientists recently measured a forty percent drop in populations of oceanic phytoplankton, a major source of oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere.

Perhaps it’s time to stop denying the existence of climate change, and time to start working actively to stop it before it stops us.

Warren Senders

Music Is A Climate Issue — Endangered Musics: Sunda

I am not a climate scientist. I’m a scientifically literate musician. Climate change scares me for dozens of reasons. And it makes me deeply and terribly sad.

With rising sea levels, many island nations will lose much of their land, or even cease to exist. Which raises the question:

What music will become extinct?

A look at the list of island nations gives you a sense of what’s at stake. A large nation, like Indonesia, will experience incredible economic impacts and the forced inland migrations of entire regional populations. Perhaps millions of people will be forced by rising sea levels to abandon their homes and their traditions. A small island nation may find its land area reduced to the point of unsustainability; its culture and population forced into refugee status.

Languages will become diluted and eventually dissipate. Cultural forms (like dance, drama, traditional storytelling, and music) will lose much of their context and setting, eventually becoming preserved by a few interested afficionadi as “museum pieces” — no longer embodied as living, breathing traditions.

There are a lot of island nations. Each one has its own music.

For example, in Indonesia, there is an ethnic group called the Sunda:

The Sundanese are of Austronesian origins who are thought to have originated in Taiwan, migrated though the Philippines, and reached Java between 1,500BCE and 1,000BCE.[2]

According to the Sundanese legend of Sangkuriang, which tells the creation of Mount Tangkuban Parahu and ancient Lake Bandung, the Sundanese have been living in the Parahyangan region of Java for at least 50,000 years.[citation needed]

Inland Sunda is mountainous and hilly, and until the 19th century, was thickly forested and sparsely populated. The Sundanese traditionally live in small and isolated hamlets, rendering control by indigenous courts difficult. The Sundanese, in contrast to the Javanese, traditionally engage in dry-field farming. These factors resulted in the Sundanese having a less rigid social hierarchy and more independent social manners.[1] In the 19th century, Dutch colonial exploitation opened much of the interior for coffee, tea, and quinine production, and the highland society took on a frontier aspect, further strengthening the individualistic Sundanese mindset.[1]

Court cultures flourished in ancient times, for example, the Sunda Kingdom, however, the Sundanese appear not to have had the resources to construct large religious monuments similar to those in Central and East Java.[1]

Wikipedia says around 27 million people speak Sunda. That’s a lot of people.

Here’s some of their music. It’s beautiful.

This music is called Kacapi Suling, a style which developed in the 1970s. The name simply refers to the instruments involved. There are two stringed instruments (kacapi) and a flute (suling):

The Sundanese zither (kacapi) often serves to represent Sundanese culture. It plays as either a solo or an ensemble instrument, associated with both villagers and aristocrats. The instrument may take the form of a boat in tembang Sunda, or the form of a board zither in kacapian.


In a typical performance (still primarily in recordings, as kacapi-suling is rarely performed live), the kacapi player outlines a cyclic structure of a song and the suling player improvises a melody based on the original song from the tembang Sunda repertoire. Kacapian refers to a flashy style of playing a board zither, and it is known as one of the sources of Sundanese popular music. It can be accompanied by a wide variety of instruments, and can be played instrumentally or as the accompaniment to either a male or female vocalist.


What will rising sea levels, an acidified ocean, and drastically increased heat do to Sunda, and to the rest of Indonesia?

Climate Change in Indonesia:

The devastating impact of global warming is already evident in Indonesia and will likely worsen due to further human-induced climate change, warns WWF.

The review from the global conservation organization, Climate Change in Indonesia – Implications for Humans and Nature, highlights that annual rainfall in the world’s fourth most populous nation is already down by 2 to 3 per cent, and the seasons are changing.

The combination of high population density and high levels of biodiversity, together with a staggering 80,000 kilometres of coastline and 17,500 islands, makes Indonesia one of the most vulnerable countries to the impacts of climate change.

Shifting weather patterns have made it increasingly difficult for Indonesian farmers to decide when to plant their crops, and erratic droughts and rainfall has led to crop failures. A recent study by a local research institute said that Indonesia had lost 300,000 tonnes of crop production every year between 1992-2000, three times the annual loss in the previous decade.

Climate change in Indonesia means millions of fishermen are also facing harsher weather conditions, while dwindling fish stocks affect their income. Indonesia’s 40 million poor, including farmers and fishermen, will be the worst affected due to threats including rising sea levels, prolonged droughts and tropical cyclones, the report said.

“As rainfall decreases during critical times of the year this translates into higher drought risk, consequently a decrease in crop yields, economic instability and drastically more undernourished people,” says Fitrian Ardiansyah, Director of WWF-Indonesia’s Climate and Energy Programme. “This will undo Indonesia’s progress against poverty and food insecurity.”

WWF’s review shows that increased rainfall during already wet times of the year may lead to high flood risk, such as the Jakarta flood of February this year that killed more than 65 people and displaced nearly half a million people, with economic losses of US$450 million.

Climate change impacts are noticeable throughout the Asia-Pacific region. More frequent and severe heat waves, floods, extreme weather events and prolonged droughts will continue to lead to increased injury, illness and death. Continued warming temperatures will also increase the number of malaria and dengue fever cases and lead to an increase in other infectious diseases as a result of poor nutrition due to food production disruption.


Sunda Islands Part of the coral triangle, one of the most diverse coastal areas. Already at threat from destructive fishing and reef fish trade.


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 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: This Is Mine. This Is Mine. All This Is Mine.

The LA Times, on another big attractive animal:

The world’s most endangered feline species may become extinct in the wild within 50 years, researchers say, a victim of climate change.

A new report projects that Iberian lynx could become the first cat species in at least 2,000 years to become extinct, researchers found, largely because of the decline of the European rabbit, which makes up 80% of the cat’s diet.

The report, published Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change, warns that current efforts to boost population of the distinctive tufted-eared cat will only “buy a few decades” for the animal that was once abundant in parts of Spain, Portugal and France.

Rabbit populations have drastically fallen because of overhunting, disease and habitat reduction, researchers said, with climate change a major driver.

Bla, bla, bla. July 23:

If it were only “charismatic megafauna” like the Iberian lynx that face extinction due to the onrush of climatic change, we’d have far less to worry about — although news reporters oriented towards such splashy stories might not notice the difference. Far more troubling than the fate of a single wild cat species is the ongoing decimation of Earth’s most valuable natural resource: the biodiversity which has filled every available ecological niche on the planet with life.

The fewer life-forms present in a large ecosystem, the less resilient the ecosystem. For example, monocropped agriculture is terribly vulnerable; while factory farms may be able to generate huge quantities of food, a single invasive virus or insect pest can destroy their productivity completely. Earth is currently undergoing a mass extinction event thanks to human-caused climate change; the Iberian lynx and the polar bears are just the tip of a (rapidly melting) iceberg.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 2, Day 14: And Because I Love You, I’ll Give It One More Try

The North Andover Eagle-Tribune reports on climate change in New England:

One of the harbingers of change has been the lobster industry, which Wahle called a kind of “canary in a coal mine.”

Maine fishermen have set record harvests over the past few years, perhaps due in part to higher water temperatures and fewer groundfish, which prey on young lobsters. Fishermen off Newburyport have also reported good harvests, with last year being among the best.

Meanwhile, in southern New England, it’s an entirely different story. Mass lobster kill-offs in Long Island Sound have been caused by warming waters, Wahle said, while a disease that infects lobster shells has been spreading northward through the sound and into Massachusetts waters.

“(The disease) seems to have stalled out just south of Cape Ann,” Wahle said.

If the disease spreads further north, it could have a devastating impact on northern New England’s lobster fisheries, Wahle said.

As of Feb. 6, the comment thread on this article was 100% denialist stupidity. Sent, with an optimistic tag:

New England’s not alone in feeling the increasing impact of global warming. While specific symptoms of climate change vary from place to place, regions everywhere around the planet are affected. Whether it’s drought in the corn belt, unseasonal monsoons in Asia, or warmer winters fostering pine beetle infestations in Colorado, the consequences of the greenhouse effect are hitting people painfully. Some communities may reap temporary benefits — like Maine lobstermen who are hauling in a bumper harvest — but since warmer winters may bring an end to the state’s skiing industry, there’s no real positive economic impact on a wider scale.

If there is any upside to the accelerating climate crisis, it is that our species’ future requires us to realize that what we do today in our own narrow corner of the world will affect people thousands of miles — and hundreds of years — away. Only by recognizing that political boundaries and cultural differences are irrelevant in the face of the gathering storm can we humans make a happy and prosperous future for our posterity.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 2, Day 13: Too Much Confusion Going On, I Can’t Get No Relief

The Canberra Times runs an op-ed by a chap named Nicholas Stuart, who gets the brass ring:

Even if you still believe there is doubt about the specific linkage between carbon dioxide emissions and the rising global temperature – and I do not believe there is – there can be no doubt about the increasing incidence of extreme climatic events. The hottest January on record resulted in terrible bushfires across the nation, while at the same time we’ve suffered devastating floods in the tropical north: Australia can no longer rely on ”global action” to avoid the catastrophe that climate change represents.

Yet you would not know this listening to what passes for political debate in this country. Politicians still seem to believe that all that is required during a natural disaster is for them to tour the affected area, nodding sympathetically and promising relief.

Environmental catastrophe is framed as the ”work of nature” and therefore inexplicable. By pretending we cannot comprehend why this is happening we absolves ourselves from dealing with reality. This means that individuals can avoid the hard choices about the future while society pretends it can still afford to ”nationalise” the losses. A far better way of coming to terms with the way the climate is changing is provided by the internal workings of insurance companies.

Businesses don’t deal in academic theory. They deal in reality. That’s why the cost of insuring against damage caused by natural disasters is climbing, because the companies realise that the chance of these events is increasing. There’s nothing ideological about this and certainly no pro-Labor bias at work.

The opposition needs to explain immediately how it will deal with climate change because the holes in its current program are so large, and urgency so absent, that one inevitably returns to the possibility that Tony Abbott doesn’t believe in climate change at all.

Aye. Sent Feb. 5.

Nicholas Stuart has it exactly right in his description of climate change as an existential crisis. We humans have faced other crises of our own creation before this; the life-shattering forces of war and the morally overwhelming phenomena of slavery and genocide come to mind. But these, all-encompassing and inescapable though they may be, have always played out on a planetary stage that has changed its shape slowly if at all. The climate crisis, rendering our feeble political systems incompetent and impotent, is a threat of an entirely different nature.

War, slavery, and injustice transpire on a historical timescale of decades and centuries, while climatic processes have taken place over millennia, over eons. Now, climatic transformations are happening with the speed of war. With our wasteful consumer economies and our fossil fuel addictions, we have unwittingly an auto-immune response from the natural environment upon which our lives depend. Our species’ continued survival hinges on how rapidly we can understand these facts and their implications.

Warren Senders


Year 4, Month 2, Day 7: Does It Mean You Don’t Love Me Any More?

USA Today notes that climate change is happening too fast for the birds and the bees:

From birds in the Plains to bighorn sheep in California to caribou in Alaska and moose in Minnesota, a new study says animals are struggling to adapt to the new climate conditions caused by the burning of fossil fuels, which produces the carbon dioxide that warms the atmosphere.

“Climate change is the biggest threat wildlife will face this century,” says the report released today by the National Wildlife Federation, an environmental group based in Reston, Va.

Though animals have adapted to natural climate variation since the beginning of time, the changes are happening much faster than they are able to respond. “The underlying climatic conditions to which species have been accustomed for thousands of years are rapidly changing, and we are already witnessing the impacts,” according to the report, called “Wildlife in a Warming World.”

I hear that clock a’tickin’, on the mantel shelf. Sent January 30:

When they admit the existence of the greenhouse effect at all, those who downplay the seriousness of climate change like to assert that species will “adapt” to the consequences of our warming atmosphere — a profound misunderstanding of the distinction between individual and evolutionary time. Climate science shows us that while Earth’s climate has undergone radical changes in the past, they’ve unfolded over millennia, giving animals and plants a chance to evolve and adapt to their new circumstances.

By contrast, anthropogenic global warming unfolds within the span of a single human lifetime, a geological eyeblink allowing no time for the gradual processes of biological adaptation. It’s not a coincidence that the same lawmakers who deny the evidence of global climate change also consistently reject the even more overwhelming evidence of evolution. America’s policies need to be based on facts, not ideologically-driven sloganeering. We continue ignoring science at our own peril.

Warren Senders