Year 4, Month 11, Day 14: Since You’ve Been Gone

The Pittsburgh Journal-Gazette, on autumn foliage:

Unusually warm October weather and less September rain explain why leaves failed to produce brilliant splashes of gold, orange, red and purple, with many remaining green into the first week of November.

It also raises the spectre of climate change.

Every year has seasonal variations, but some scientists say this year may be a harbinger of a more likely occurrence in coming years — warmer temperatures pushing back the peak foliage season from the third week of October to later in the month or even early November. Such a trend also forebodes duller leaf coloration.

Warmer fall temperatures and resulting duller leaves also signal that local tree species, including sugar maples, will begin migrating northward with other plant and animal species, in search of ideal climate. More extreme temperatures, storms and droughts are anticipated.

“This is precisely the sort of thing we expect to happen,” said Penn State University climatologist Michael E. Mann. “Fall comes later, spring gets earlier and summer gets hotter. NASA just reported that the globe just saw the warmest September ever.”

In coming decades, he said, extreme weather conditions and warmer autumns “will become the new normal.”

The comments on this article are pretty depressing. November 4:

Colorful autumn leaves are one of the most visible and celebrated markers for the yearly change of season, a recurring transformation that’s been a steady feature of our lives for countless generations. But there are cycles and shifts happening on timescales far larger than our own, and the diminished hues of fall foliage should remind us of a different sort of shift that is now underway.

Since the development of agriculture at the dawn of civilization, humans have made steadily more significant impacts on the world we live in. Now, thanks to industrialization’s century-long carbon binge, we’ve initiated a chain of climatic events which are ushering in not a new season but a new epoch: the end of the Holocene and the beginning of the Anthropocene.

The die is cast; there is no turning back from this grim future any more than we can wish away the frosts of November. What we must do is prepare ourselves for the totally different world which is emerging — one which evidence suggests will be far less hospitable to us and our posterity.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 6, Day 10: You Thought Y2K Was Gonna Be Bad? Try CO24C.

Yay, us:

The world’s air has reached what scientists call a troubling new milestone for carbon dioxide, the main global warming pollutant.

Monitoring stations across the Arctic this spring are measuring more than 400 parts per million of the heat-trapping gas in the atmosphere. The number isn’t quite a surprise, because it’s been rising at an accelerating pace. Years ago, it passed the 350 ppm mark that many scientists say is the highest safe level for carbon dioxide. It now stands globally at 395.

So far, only the Arctic has reached that 400 level, but the rest of the world will follow soon.

Upfucked ungood. Sorry, kids. Good luck with your lives; you’re gonna need it. Sent May 31:

As kids, we clustered around the driver’s seat when the odometer on our family car turned over; Dad would decelerate a bit and we’d call off fractions of a mile. All those zeros were tangible proof of how far we’d traveled. Sometimes we’d celebrate (ice-cream!).

Now we get to watch as another and considerably more ominous number scrolls by. When CO2 is measured at 400 parts per million in the atmosphere over the Arctic, though, it’s nothing to celebrate. Scientists agree that the survival of our civilization hinges on keeping concentrations of this greenhouse gas below 350 ppm, a landmark we crossed decades ago.

While we always came home at the end of a family drive, it now looks as though industrial humans may have driven too far. The Earth we grew up on is irreversibly behind us, thanks to the past century’s profligate consumption of fossil fuels. No cheering this time.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 6, Day 6: The Longest Moustache…

The Miami Herald runs an AP story from Neela Banerjee about our giant carbon-emission numbers:

WASHINGTON — Emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide reached an all-time high last year, further reducing the chances that the world could avoid a dangerous rise in global average temperature by 2020, according to the International Energy Agency, the energy analysis group for the world’s most industrialized states.

Global emissions of carbon-dioxide, or CO2, from fossil-fuel combustion hit a record high of 31.6 gigatonnes in 2011, according to the IEA’s preliminary estimates, an increase of 1 Gt, or 3.2 percent from 2010.

The burning of coal accounted for 45 percent of total energy-related CO2 emissions in 2011, followed by oil (35 percent) and natural gas (20 percent).

According to the vast majority of climatologists, the rapid rise of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere because of industrialization over the last 150 years has led to an increase in global average temperature by about 1 degree Celsius.

Yay, us. Sent May 27:

Most world record attainments are occasions for pride. The fastest, the strongest, the furthest, the most powerful. But the news that 2011 set a record for global carbon emissions is no cause for celebration.

It’s not just that post-industrial humans have pumped more CO2 into the atmosphere than ever before, but that we’ve known for decades about the likely consequences of a runaway greenhouse effect — thereby making 2011’s accomplishment a world record for willful ignorance as well as destructive pollution.

The huge quantities of greenhouse gases we’ve set loose indicate not just our burgeoning fossil-fuel consumption, but of our inability to clean up the waste products of our profligate lifestyle. Another landmark achievement: whether it’s turning oil into disposable plastic containers, or burning gasoline in our idling vehicles, we’re number one when it comes to converting the Carboniferous era’s ancient sunlight into toxic trash. Notify the Guinness Book of Records!

Warren Senders