Wednesday, September 2, 2015


SUMMARY: Climate change and the Western wildfires: scientists and a firefighter talk latest. Plus NASA's Benjamin Cook on the decades-long drought coming to the American Southwest and Central Plains. Radio Ecoshock 150902

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Welcome back to the new Fall season of Radio Ecoshock 2015. I'm Alex Smith and I'm in a funk.

It's been toxic to go outside for 4 days. Here in the West we are smoked in. Making a quick run outside, we got bits of falling ash in our eyes, from the big fires in Washington state. We gave up and went back. Without my walks in nature, in all weather, I'm in a skunky mood, and the body gets stiff. At least I still have a house. A few dozen families in the Rock Creek community are not so lucky.

The nearby city of Grand Forks just got an evacuation alert. It's not an evacuation order to get out. It's a warning to get your photos, documents, pet supplies, a grab bag of clothing, keys, money - and have it ready to go. The so-called "Stick-Pin" fire is just 4.5 kilometers, or about 2 miles, from the Canadian Border and rural Rural Grand Forks.

You know, I try to do a global show with information that works for people in Scandinavia, Singapore, Australia or California. Climate change is like that. But this program is unashamedly about the American West. Yes that does matter to everyone. California is probably the world's fifth largest economy, and it provides food not just for America and Canada, but the world.

I won't try and tell my listeners in England that this hellish mix of drought and fire is coming to you any time soon. In fact, it looks like another coolish, wet miserable winter coming for the British Isles and Northern Europe. Certainly listeners in Australia, South America and Indonesia should be paying attention to fire knowledge.

The carbon and ash spiralling up into the sky in North America is just part of a world pattern of deforestation due to climate change. Trees are mostly carbon, and they are releasing their storehouse. It's an open question how many of them will grow back. Their ash will be sucked up into the Arctic, where the already gray ice will get darker still, soaking up the sun, hastening melting of the glaciers.

For me now climate change is real and personal. We housed five fire refugees, and our tiny community fed hundreds of them before any government help arrived. My favorite grove of trees, Ponderosa pines growing on a small island flanked by a verdant pool, burned to the ground a couple of weeks ago. A lot is gone, and it's not over.

The nearby city of Grand Forks just got an evacuation alert. It's not an evacuation order to get out. It's a warning to get your photos, documents, pet supplies, a grab bag of clothing, keys, money - and have it ready to go. The so-called "Stick-Pin" fire is just 4.5 kilometers, or about 2 miles, from the Canadian Border and rural Rural Grand Forks.

Residents of Washington State are fleeing the largest fire that state has ever seen.

Later in this program we'll hear a NASA scientists tell us about the coming 30 year megadroughts. But first I want to share the latest report on the strong link between climate change and the fires burning up the West Coast, from California through Canada all the way into Alaska. I'm going to play you a teleconference held August 26th, arranged by the group Climate Nexus. We'll hear two scientists and a veteran fire fighter. Maybe I'm biased because we are surrounded by megafires right now, but I found this teleconference riveting and full of insight for all of us.


Thanks for joining us as we kick off this new fall season of Radio Ecoshock. Let's roll, with Climate Nexus host Paige Knappenberger, scientists Mark Cochrane and Park Williams, plus Retired Fire Captain Lou Paulson, recorded August 26th, 2015.

Here is more on our guests: A. Park Williams is a climate scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University. His research was recently featured in the New York Times: "CA Drought Made Worse by Global Warming, Scientists Say".

A. Park Williams

Dr. Mark Cochrane is climate scientist and expert on wildfires and global climate change from South Dakota State University. Mark is also a co-author of this recent paper published in Nature Communications: "Climate-induced variations in global wildfire danger from 1979 to 2013."

Mark Cochrane

Captain (Ret.) Lou Paulson, is President of the California Professional Firefighters.

Lou Paulson

Here are some key wildfire facts, as presented by Climate Nexus before the teleconference:

"Climate change is tied to the surge in Western wildfires.

Climate change has caused snow to melt earlier, decreased overall snowpack levels, and made spring and summers hotter and fire seasons longer. These warmer and drier conditions have caused an increase in the number and extent of wildfires. The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) found that, 'Since the mid-1980s, large wildfire activity in North America has been marked by increased frequency and duration, and longer wildfire seasons.'

Oregon and Washington experienced record warmth from January through July. The entire Northwest region is in the midst of severe to exceptional drought. In July, temperatures in the region were so hot that millions of fish were cooked alive in overheated waters.

Western drought amplifies fire severity.

Climate change exacerbated the 2012-2014 California drought by an estimated 15 to 20 percent, according to a recent study. As climate change worsens, we can expect rising temperatures and more intense droughts, which combined create more severe fires. According to the AR5, 'Recent wildfires in Western Canada, the USA, and Mexico relate to long and warm spring and summer droughts.'

As of August 23, wildfires have burned more than 7.4 million acres. Wildfires in Oregon and Washington remain firefighters’ top priority, including 24 large fires that have burned a total of 1,052,388 acres. Some 30,000 firefighters and additional support staff are battling the fires across the U.S.—the biggest number mobilized in 15 years. More than 200 active duty soldiers have also been called to action, marking the first time in nearly a decade that the Department of Defense has enlisted soldiers to fight fires.

Extreme wildfires pose many risks to human health.

The impacts are solidly documented, with the increase in wildfire frequency worsening air quality and causing harmful health effects. Wildfire smoke contains particulate matter and toxins and can significantly worsen air quality locally and far downwind, lasting for days or months. Research indicates that patient counts can be linked to fires as far as 200 to 300 miles away from the impacted area. Increased particulate matter is 'known to cause earlier mortality and morbidity by leading to cancer, respiratory problems (asthma, bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, reduced lung function, chest pain), discomfort (eye irritation, fatigue, headache, dizziness, and distress), cardiovascular effects, and depressed immune defenses (especially respiratory).'

Extreme fires cost the U.S. billions of dollars.

Average annual fire suppression costs increased to $3 billion from $1 billion in the 1990s. By the early 2000s, the area burned each year doubled from 3.6 million acres to 6.5 million. A recent report places the average annual burned area in the U.S. between 7 and 9 million acres.

The U.S. Forest Service spent more than half its budget this year preparing for and fighting fires, compared to just 16 percent in 1995. Ten years from now, the agency’s fire suppression costs are projected to increase from just under $1.1 billion in 2014 to nearly $1.8 billion. Fire suppression costs are only a fraction of the true costs (including property losses, healthcare costs, lost revenues, etc.) associated with a wildfire event. The total cost of U.S. wildfires is presently estimated to be between $20 billion and $125 billion annually."

My thanks to Climate Nexus for giving Radio Ecoshock permission to broadcast this teleconference. I couldn't have done it better.

You can download, listen to, or pass on this Climate Nexus teleconference (41 minutes) in either CD Quality (39 MB) or Lo-Fi (10 MB)


I have to disagree with one thing Mark Cochrane said in this teleconference. Around 32 minutes in, he says people's lungs clear up as soon as the air does. However, a recent review of the evidence compiled in March 31st 2015 says:

"PM [Particulate Matter] is one of the main contaminants from wildfire fire smoke. PM is formed in smoke, and also within the smoke plume as a result of chemical reactions and physical processes, and it is mainly composed of organic carbon and black carbon. PM2.5 is the principle public health threat from short term exposure to wildland fires because particles can reach deeper parts of the human respiratory track where they may have a range of health effects due to their physical, chemical, toxicological and carcinogenic nature. Adverse health effects of PM2.5 include respiratory and cardiovascular disease and increased mortality.

• The main components of wildfire smoke are particulate matter, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, mercury, ozone and pollutant mixtures. Trace gases include CO, O3 [ozone] and NOx [nitrous oxide]. CO is an inorganic gas produced when incomplete combustion occurs and it is transported over great distances in smoke plumes. Gaseous VOCs [volatile organic compounds] are gases with high vapor pressures, including hydrocarbons, halocarbons, and oxygenates.

• Hg [Mercury] can be a very dangerous contaminant that can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and cause severe neurological damage, but evidence linking exposure to Hg from wildfires and human health is still lacking.

• Overall effects of wildland fires on human health range from headache, dizziness, fatigue to obstructive lung disease, bronchitis, pneumonia, cardiovascular disease, asthma, reduced lung function growth, and increases risk of mortality.

This information comes from a publication from an agency of the Provincial Government of British Columbia, called the BC Centre for Disease Control. The title is: "Evidence Review - Wildfire Smoke and Public Health Risk".

You will notice that Fire Captain Lou Paulson also wondered about that claim, considering the known long-term effects of smoke on fire-fighters.


All of our speakers kept referring to the drought, which in California is in it's 4th year. That's cost billions in agricultural production, and left the landscape ready for wildfires in the hot summer. But it looks like we're in for much worse in the future, as climate change unrolls. A paper published this year suggests the American Southwest, and the Central Plains, could experience a drought lasting anywhere from ten to 40 years!

Benjamin Cook is the lead author of this paper: "Unprecedented 21st-Century Drought Risk in the American Southwest and Central Plains", published in the journal "Science Advances" on February 12, 2015.

Dr. Cook is with the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, and also works at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University. We talk about comparisons to drought we know happened during the Middle Ages, and to others in the Paleoclimate records.

Benjamin Cook

Dr. Cook is more optimistic than I am that American farmers can adapt to those kind of conditions. He also thinks cities like Las Vegas and Phoenix will manage to conserve more, and still find enough water to carry on.

I don't know about you, but I'm really doubtful our civilization can adapt to 30 or 40 year droughts. Just consider the impact of agriculture. The South West and Central Plains feed not only America, but the world. We're talking beef, corn, wheat, and much more. I don't think most farming there will survive, and I predict major cities in the area will shrink even more than Detroit just did. That's just my opinion, from the scientists and authors I've interviewed.

Listen to (or download) this 11 minute interview with Dr. Benjamin Cook here.

You can also read about this new science of unprecedented drought in the Guardian newspaper, or Common Dreams.


Next week we'll move into a review of the huge climate news that's poured out all summer. It's building like a drumbeat before the Paris climate talks this coming December. I don't hold a lot of hope that essential changes will be made there, but we have to try. Anyway, whether politicians and corporate CEO's listen or not, thousands of scientists and activists around the world are ringing that bell of warning as loud as we can.

Our opening music came courtesy of Dana Pearson, also known on Soundclick as Vastman. Dana's got a lot of great tunes there you can download for free.

From my studio in smokeville, I'm Alex Smith. Thank you for listening, and thank you for caring about your world.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Uknown Climate (replay)

Summary: Unknown tipping points, with Dr. Alan Hastings. Dr. David Orr, author of "Down to the Wire: confronting climate collapse." Plus Twelve Batty Things About James Lovelock. And why TV weathercasters never mention climate change. Radio Ecoshock 150826 (replay from 100409)

A new season of Radio Ecoshock, reporting from the front lines of climate change, begins next week - September 2nd. Stay tuned!

Download or listen to this Radio Ecoshock show in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Or listen on Soundcloud right now!

In the Spring of 2010, the East Coast of the United States was nearly drowned in an extreme precipitation event. Ditto parts of Australia, and Rio in Brazil. This is the other half of "global warming" - global wetting. Scientists have been warning about it for years - now it's happening.

In the summer of 2015, the media attention is on the drought in the West, and the super fires. But this show reminds us, the pendulum will swing the other way for millions of people. Extreme weather will bring record floods somewhere in the world again this year.


Right afterwards in 2010, Eastern Canada went way above any temperature records, hitting summer beach weather, the eighties - 25 degrees C - in the first week of April. Rhode Island hit the 90's. Still, hardly a single Network weather person mentioned "climate change". That's because a George Mason study shows that 67% of "weathercasters" believe that global warming is a natural event, and 27% think it's just a scam that isn't happening at all.

About half of those authoritative (but good looking!) faces on TV, telling us about the weather, have a degree in Meteorology. The other half just have the pretty or handsome face. Practically none have any scientific training in climate - but they talk like experts anyway. It's very damaging.

Our first guest says humans are very close to climate collapse. David W. Orr is a Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics, at Oberlin College, in Ohio. He's been a pioneer in greening higher education. He advises many leaders and foundations. His latest book is "Down to the Wire: confronting climate collapse."


Gaia theorist James Lovelock has just given another disturbing interview to the BBC in London. Lovelock claims it's too late, we shouldn't waste our money on things like wind energy, but spend it all on adapting to the inevitable climate shift.

Another worry proposed by Lovelock, is that climate change may not develop as a steady rise in either temperature or sea levels. It might happen as sudden jumps and reversals. He says previous climate records show a long-term heating can include intervals - perhaps decades or more - of cooling as well. Given all the global cooling nonsense from last winter's snowfall in the U.S., can any climate action plans can survive unsteady weather?

But Lovelock is making increasingly bizarre statements as well. Like this one: China is planning on moving it's population to Africa. Really? In this show I look into "Twelve Batty Things About James Lovelock".


I raised Lovelock's worries about irregular progression of climate change, partly because of another paper almost unknown to the general public. A theoretical ecologist at University of California Davis, Alan Hastings, says climate tipping points may not be predictable at all. According to his work, there may be no signals or warnings, before a radical shift. For example, temperatures could go up rather suddenly, and stay there.

Professor Alan Hastings

Hastings' paper didn't get much press, but it's quite important. As far as I can tell, Radio Ecoshock has the only original interview on the new paper from this distinguished scientist.

I've added a few minutes from Dr. James Hansen on radio in Australia.

Music credits: "Slow Me Down" by Emmy Rossum, Album: "Inside Out" 2:34; "White Flag" by Dido, Album: "White Flag EP" 4:00 "Enjoy Yourself (It's Later Than You Think)" Guy Lombardo, 1949.

Clips: James Hansen from ABC National Australia "Late Night Live" hosted by Philip Adams; James Lovelock from BBC.

Be sure to tune in next week for the new season opener!


Wednesday, August 19, 2015


SUMMARY: From the University of Oregon, Kathleen Dean Moore delivers an artful talk about our attack on Nature, and hope of reviving love instead. Recorded in Vancouver. With readings from her work & original songs by Libby Roderick ("The Lifeboats Are Burning" and Tempting Eve ("We Are"). Radio Ecoshock 150819 (replay from 120502) 1 hour

Download or listen to this Radio Ecoshock show in CD Quality 56 MB or Lo-Fi 14 MB.

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I record a lot of speeches, and listen to many more. This talk by Dr. Kathleen Dean Moore of Oregon State University is one of the best speeches of 2012.

The title was "It's Wrong to Wreck the World: Climate Change and the Moral Obligation to the Future". The presentation was organized by Simon Fraser University, in their Continuing Studies in Science and Environment program.

Kathleen spends every summer on a remote island off the coast of Alaska. She's in touch with Nature there, and at home in Oregon. In this artful, moving speech, we get some readings from her work - examples of why her books are so popular.

Find out more about Kathleen Dean Moore at her blog at

Her latest book, a collection of 1500 short essays about our obligation to the future, is called "Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril." The writers are among the most famous people in the world, all speaking for the rights of the next generation(s).

"Morality" sounds boring. This speech surprised and moved me. It will do the same for you.


The program also premieres a new original song by Libby Roderick: "The Lifeboats Are Burning", and a song inspired by a Radio Ecoshock Show - "We Are" by the new band Tempting Eve in Sydney Australia.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

I Have A Confession To Make (Replay)

Emerging threats analyst and author Robert Marston Fanney on new frontiers of climate change. Dr. Alex Rogers of Oxford: State of the Oceans 2013. Radio Ecoshock 131016 1 hour.

Illustration by Marek Okon for Luthiel's Song by Robert Marston Fanney.

Download/listen to this Radio Ecoshock show in CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)

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Yes, we are in trouble. Last week, in this interview with Nicole Foss, we peered into the impending crash of the economy. It may dance on for a while using funny money from the Federal Reserve and other central banks. But fall it will.

A mere Depression would be good news, if the climate could stay the same for humans and all creatures. But even during hard times, we'll keep on dragging more and more dirty fossil fuels out of the ground. It's a burning party, maybe a funeral pyre.

Coming up we'll talk it all through with emerging threats analyst and author Robert Marston Fanney. You'll also hear an interview with a top marine biologist from the UK. Alex Rogers is the co-lead author of the new State of the Oceans 2013 report.

Alex reminds us that global warming is more a story of the oceans than our experiences of floods, fires, and storms on land. Most of our excess carbon is going into the sea, changing its chemistry, temperature, and the basis of the food chain. The ocean is where it's happening, and the ocean is a news nowhere land where reporters don't go, and humans don't care.

Going through the emerging science, I'm also alarmed to discover big changes in Antarctica can reshape our world. Climate change is like the many-headed Hydra. We think we know it, but we don't. The Earth is re-arranging in all the places humans don't look: at sea, at the poles, deep in the melting permafrost, and in the farthest forests and mountain tops.

In our opening show this Fall of 2013, climate scientist Paul Beckwith suggested warming could come very suddenly, even in a decade or two. A new paper by Morgan Schaller and James Wright of Rutgers finds, as Joe Romm writes, "When CO2 Levels Doubled 55 Million Years Ago, Earth May Have Warmed 9°F In 13 Years". It's a shocking example of what could happen.

The helpful Rutgers press piece on this study is here.

Business and political leaders have already announced they expect, or will tolerate a doubling of CO2 levels from the pre-industrial level of 270 parts per million to over 600 parts per million. We are already on our way, touching 400 parts per million this year, and adding more carbon faster every year, as the fossil fuel party expands around the world.

Canada, Australia, the UK, Europe, Brazil, and every country who can is promising to develop more fossil fuel resources. We are investing billions, possibly trillions, into more mega-coal mines, more fracked gas and Liquid Natural Gas plants, bigger tar sands and shale oil projects. Humans seem intent on fossil suicide.

Next week we'll talk with Morgan Schaller to find out what can happen in a mere 13 years on this fragile planet.


Look at it another way. Another paper released this week says that by 2047 the coldest years will be hotter than the warmest years of the last two decades. We've already set new temperature records, and those will be the old years we look back on.

This paper was published in the Journal "Nature", by a team of post-grads at the University of Hawaii, led by Dr. Camilo Mora.

In an article by Justin Gillis of the New York Times, Dr. Mora says: quote

Go back in your life to think about the hottest, most traumatic event you have experienced.” “What we’re saying is that very soon, that event is going to become the norm.

Do it. Remember the heat wave you prayed would end. The day the sun seemed to be the enemy. You waited impatiently for the cooler darkness. That's the new day in 2047. Just 34 years from now. How old will you be then? How about your kids or grand-kids?

Other scientists suggest a concerted effort to kick the fossil fuel habit, going with reduced energy from renewable resources, could delay that heating by at least 25 years. That's more precious time for humans to move away from the rising seas on the coast, to re-think the whole food supply system, to work out ways to survive the coming heat. We must at least give our children that time.


That climate hydra pops out of this new paper again. I thought, and many scientists have suggested, that climate change would be less stressful around the equator. Most models suggest the extra heating will be the most extreme in temperate areas, and even more closer to the Poles. Certainly that's where we see the big news stories, about storms and fires in North America, Europe and Russia. Plus those crazy heat waves developing around the Arctic.

Dr. Mora says it only takes a small change in the tropics to create major damage. Why? Because the plants and animals there developed into a stable climate that doesn't change much during the year. Even a degree or two, combined with some changes in ocean or atmospheric currents, could bring down the rainforests, wreck the coral reefs, and cause mass extinctions of species. Tropical plants and animals are less able to adapt.

We simply haven't thought it through. Our unintentional geoengineering of the Earth has created a maze of cascading changes beyond our imagination. We are heading to a different world, if we survive to see it.

I'm asking for your help. I'm asking you to use every engine of communication, and every link to all the people you know, to raise the alarm. Join with me in this pledge I make for Radio Ecoshock: say it. We will speak the truth about what we are doing.

Our political and corporate leadership is bankrupt and dangerous. They don't know what they are doing, or their short-term gain seems worth risking the whole future. We let them, because we are comfortable and most of us too well fed. Geared to hunt and migrate as a species, now we have super powers to travel and kill. All of us have a thousand energy slaves to serve us delicacies every day. We're addicted to fossil fuels.

I don't know what twelve-step program can break us out of this master complex. I don't know if we will survive the fossil trap. But we have to try.

Nobody want to hear this. Your friends and family don't. But honestly, when we add up the science and our experiences in the real world, when we look the unstable weather in the face, there is no choice but to speak up.

Forget the envy of a better car or truck. Forget chasing paper wealth. Look at the young innocents and the other un-knowing species, the other passengers on this planet. Even in small steps, whatever changes we can make in our own lives matters most. Whatever sign we can make, whatever we can do, matters now.

Become a climate activist. Start with this interview with Robert Marston Fanney.


Download/listen to this Robert Fanney 34 minute interview in CD Quality (31 MB) or Lo-Fi (8 MB)

We begin with Robert Marston Fanney reading from the introduction to his new book "Growth Shock, Tragedy and Hope at the Limits of a Finite World".

"I have a confession to make. One that is not easy to vocalize. One that is equally difficult to listen to. My confession is not one of a personal nature. I am not revealing my own, petty, individual sins. Instead, I’m making a confession for us all. A revelation of the ongoing and maturing tragedy of our race. One we will each need to be made aware of soon if we are to effectively act. For the age of excess is rapidly coming to a close and we are now entering a difficult and hard to manage age of consequences.

My confession is simply this: we are in trouble...

We'll get to the book, but that isn't why I called Robert. He captured my undivided attention with his searing analysis into large-scale patterns of climate change, based on real-time events happening around the world, right now. That's in his blog called "robertscribbler" at

There it is, the scientific maps and satellite shots of extreme weather events and danger, brought together in ways we can all understand. Then Robert tops it off with analysis that I think raises whole new questions about our future together.

Maybe that's Fanney's previous training as an intelligence analyst, and years gathering scientific and technical assessments, as Editor for Jane's Information Group's emerging threats books, magazines, and electronic publications.

But there's another side to Robert Fanney that helps him imagine the future. He's the author of the science fiction series Luthiel's Song, which attracted a cult following, including many artists. You heard a few snippets written for the book "Luthiel's Song: Dreams of the Ringed Vale" by multi-media artist Ethan Jackson.

Details on composer Ethan Jackson here.


We humans have always believed the sea is so vast we can't seriously damage it. A new report warns this isn't so. It's called "The State of the Ocean 2013: Perils, Prognoses and Proposals". We've reached one of the lead authors, Professor Alex Rogers of Somerville College, Oxford, and Scientific Director of IPSO, The International Programme on the State of the Ocean.

The informative press release about this State of the Ocean is here. It contains a fast summary of the gravest concerns.

Copies of the report can be found here.

The United Nations' latest climate report concludes most of our carbon pollution is falling into, and damaging, the oceans rather than the land.

Download/listen to my 16 minute interview with Alex Rogers in CD Quality (14 MB) or Lo-Fi (4 MB)


That's it this week for radio activism. Download our past programs and help the cause at our web site,

Our opening music was DANCE Live at the Labyrinth at Shambhala Music Festival 2011. That closes the show as well.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Alex Smith on Post Carbon Radio

In the summer of 2015, it's another blistering week in North America, and around the world, as weather records fall. It's 105 degrees, or 40 degrees Celsius outside my studio in British Columbia Canada. The ocean-side city of Portland Oregon experienced back to back days over 100 degrees. A heat wave blasted the East Coast of the United States and Canada. Europe is cooler this week, after a blazing heat wave followed by freakish storms.

This same day, a city of 100,000 people in Iran experienced a combination of heat and humidity equal to 163 degrees Fahrenheit, or 74 degrees Celsius.

This El Nino year could be the record-shattering jump in global heating we've been warning is on the way. Welcome to your hotter world.

This week on Radio Ecoshock we turn the tables. Alex Smith is the guest on Post Carbon Radio, as broadcast on KWMR West Marin Community Radio outside San Francisco California. We go for the big picture on shocking climate change, and the eternal question: can we do anything about it? Let's go to Post Carbon Radio hosts Karen Nyhus and Bing Gong.

Download or listen to this Radio Ecoshock show in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Or listen on Soundcloud right now!

Post Carbon Radio has grown into a really important climate radio source you should bookmark and add to your list. Or you can subscribe on Itunes. For example, here is their description of the previous week's show:

"We interview Victor Menotti, Executive Director of the International Forum on Globalization, and Claire Greensfelder, Co-founder of Women’s Global Call for Climate Justice and Senior Advisor on Climate and Energy for Women in Europe for a Common Future and Women's Environment and Development Organization. Both guests are veteran observers of the UN climate negotiations, and were in Bonn, Germany in June for the UNFCCC climate negotiations leading up to COP 21 in Paris this December. What happened in Bonn?

What can we expect in Paris COP 21? Is the 2 degree target enough to stop catastrophic climate change, and is it even achievable?"

The Post Carbon Radio show is found here on Podomatic:

Speaking of good alternative radio, don't forget "TUC Radio" with host Maria Gilardin, also in Northern California. "TUC" stands for Time of Useful Consciousness. Her latest show is a speech by one of the world's top climate scientists Hans Joachim Schellnhuber. The talk comes from the conference "Our Common Future" held in July 2015. This program also contains some of Schellnhuber's remarks at the Vatican.

You can find a complete listing of TUC Radio shows, with free mp3 downloads here on Maria's TUC Radio site is here.


Co-host Karen Nyhus begins with this:

"In my observation, the American press has dropped off its coverage of climate science in the last 5 years. The British press, by contrast, including the UK Guardian, have not, but they have also taken heat since you started broadcasting for putting out what others call “climate porn.” There’s a lot of debate about how to communicate climate science, if your goal is to inspire people to action, which presumably any non-denier wants. You’ve covered a lot about communication, despair, and climate change psychology.

You did a show recently called “How to Avoid Thinking About Climate Change. Can we start your thoughts on the responsible balance in journalism between telling hard truths and couching it in terms which can either motivate or discourage people? What have you learned in the past decade?

Alex: One thing I’ve learned is that mass media news realized we pay most attention to threats, and so the saying “if it bleeds it leads”. It’s true that programs I do with solutions get fewer listeners and downloads than very threatening news. Some have suggested our brains are really like hard drives that collect threatening information, so we can survive better the next time it happens.

Here are my notes on what I said:

Norwegian eco-psychologist Per Espen Stoknes tells us why public concern about climate may be falling, even as the science becomes more certain. His book is called "What We Think About When We Try Not To Think About Global Warming". Stoknes talks about 5 D's of Denial :distant (happening somewhere else), doom, dissonance, denial, and identity.

He also speaks of "apocalypse fatigue". The concern is the more fear and guilt, the more people become passive, and less likely to be activists. Anyway it's more pleasant to daydream about the new truck, a new dress, or the Kardashians. We all want to doubt climate science because we don't see how we can change (and that helps us want to believe industry disinformation about climate change.

According to Stoknes, psychology also shows that if new information requires us to change our identity, the new information loses; identity will over-ride the facts in our brains.

SOLUTIONS: social networks (we are more likely to install a solar panel of our neighbor does; a study showed that what neighbors do is very important, more important than a scientific argument, or even paying someone to change); making the climate framework more supportive; also we need to offer better stories. Also such simple things as labels can "nudge" us into making better buying decisions (for example the requirement to show what the annual operating cost of an appliance is).

As with other psychologists I've interviewed, Per Espen agrees it is appropriate to feel grief, but not to let that rule our lives. We should be able to open our hearts more after grief, and then let it turn into motivation.

The web page for Per Espen Stoknes is here.

My full Radio Ecoshock blog on the interview with Stoknes is here.

You can download the mp3 of that interview here.

Aside from psychological barriers to communicating climate change, there is also the educational problem. The science and our experiences of changing weather are all so new, even to climate scientists. There are new terms being invented to communicate things we’ve never seen before. None of this was taught in school (something we need to address) - so we all need to go back to school. You tube videos by scientists on climate change are a good place to start. Incidentally, I've found that on You tube, searching for "global warming" is more likely to bring up denial crap, and "climate change" is more likely to bring up real science.


In this Post Carbon Radio show I also talk about the two biggest stories in my opinion - both of them at the poles. We have the melting permafrost, gigantic fires, and more methane emissions in the Arctic (not to mention rapid ice melt from Greenland, and disappearing sea ice). Antarctica is also a huge story. We thought it was stable or even getting colder, but ice is melting there too.

Karen and Bing ask me what has most surprised me in climate news lately.

The biggest surprises for me are the number of new studies, some coming out in just the past month, which say that certain climate processes are irreversible. We tend to wish that if we just change our actions, we can go back to the way it was. That’s a common human wish mechanism. But if you think about it, time only moves in one direction, and generally so does nature. I'm developing a new show for September on "Unstoppable Climate Change".

New studies show that ocean heating is now irreversible. And the melting of Greenland, with all that sea level rise, is probably irreversible in any time frame that matters to us. Likely permafrost melting is also beyond that tipping point where it can be stopped.

The third big shocker comes from one of America’s top climate scientists, Dr. James Hansen. He was with NASA, and back in 1988 warned Congress about climate change. If only they’d listened then, or if only they’d listen now. Hansen has a new scientific paper coming out with shocking news about sea level rise. The oceans could rise as much as 20 feet by 2050 he says. We hugely underestimate the speed and amount of Greenland ice melt, among other factors. It looks like the doubling time for ice melting is much shorter than we thought, doubling anywhere between 5 and 20 years, not a hundred or two hundred years.

Sea level rise will mean a lot to ports like Los Angeles and ocean-side communities. But it will hit Florida and the East coast much harder. Elsewhere in the world, most major mega-cities are on the ocean, and millions of people farm ocean-side river deltas. All of that may have to be abandoned. Not all scientists agree on this one yet, but Hansen has been only too right about climate change, for the past 25 years.


But my biggest worry is our common human ability to lie to ourselves. We are a very imaginative species. That is mainly how science was developed - to check reality in the outside world, without relying solely on our beliefs.

Science was invented, partly by Sir Francis Bacon in the 1600’s, because of our proven ability to create schemes like angels dancing on pins, that do not mirror reality. It’s impossible to over-estimate this ability to create alternative schemes that are not based in reality.

The Internet has just added more power to that, when you consider all the schemes based on an imaginary planet hovering around, and many other conspiracies. So we spin up all kinds of fantasies based around climate change as well, and these do not help us act appropriately to save ourselves. The idea that geoengineering is already happening with chemtrails is just one example. Or the way supposed scientists working with fossil fuel companies try to blame changes in the Sun for global warming, a theory long disproven.

I'm concerned we will all keep drifting along burning fossil fuels, and accepting false solutions from our leaders, until it's too late. Recently President Obama said he believes there is such a thing as "too late".

Bing asks me: "What is the mildest, most hopeful climate perspective you consider credible?"

I think the best vision would be an emergency program to convert ourselves toward green energy, combined with global climate justice. This might lead to a new carbon-free economy which also reduces some of the other stresses caused by wealth inequality, within the developed world, and between all countries.


The discussion of emergency action leads to another of our recent guests, the psychoanalytical psychologist Margaret Klein Salaman. She talked to us about the climate mobilization pledge, found here. The historic example of mobilization during World War Two has been used by many climate leaders and thinkers. Hilary Clinton has used that example, as have Executive Directors of many NGO's, including Lester Brown of Earth Policy Institute. He was one of the signatories of a 2008 letter to President Barack Obama, calling for an effort like the World War Two mobilization, but this time to fight climate change.

Klein Salaman says psychoanalytical work helps a patient accept conflict, within themselves. For example, you might both love someone and hate them. We will have similar mixed emotions, because in spite of our climate knowledge, the fossil powered world around us is almost inescapable on an individual level. Still, we feel guilty about our energy use.

Another psychological defense against really knowing about climate impacts is "wilful ignorance". It's when you "know enough to know you don't want to know any more." We may start reading an alarming article on climate change, then quickly move on to another news item, and "forget" about it. The person could learn more about it, or really throw their lives into it, but claim they are not experts, not scientists, so they bear no responsibility.

Margaret started a Facebook group, now run by others, called "Climate Change. It's Personal". It's about how we as people live in these times. We don't have to experience the climate crisis alone.

Find my blog on Margaret Klein Salaman here.

Your can listen to or download that interview with Margaret here.


Bing Gong asks me about the Paris climate talks.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has underestimated all the changes so far. They thought Arctic sea ice would start to disappear around 2050, rather than 2007. The process involves a consensus among governments which include carbon producing countries like the United States, Saudi Arabia, Canada and Australia, who all have interests in keeping the status quo.

The idea of a 2 degree safe limit is not safe at all. And that’s what they are aiming for, and will fail even at that. Our current path is heading toward 8 degrees Centigrade warming by 2200, which means extinction for most species including ourselves.

Even worse, the plans for staying within 2 degrees C of warming all assume geoengineering to remove the CO2 from the atmosphere, a technology that does not exist, and won’t likely exist on a scale needed, like to remove 10 billion tons of CO2. We don’t have any industry on that scale. Even iron ore mining only manages to get 1 billion tons a year. So we are lying to ourselves again, which guarantees failure.

Sorry, but that's the way I see it. We should still try to pressure our leaders. I expect a large turn out in the streets of Paris, and in every major city, as common people plead for climate protection.


Karen says "For those of us who put little faith in that process, where do we turn? Bolivia held a people’s climate summit in 2010, which Bing and I both attended along with thousands of people from around the world. But the formal political powers ignored it. What is the role and the power of civil society, regular people organized into movements, nonprofits, unions, and the like, in the struggle to reign in climate change?"

My reply: as you may know Pope Francis just hosted a gathering of the most climate-aware city mayors around the world. The most progressive climate action is happening at the municipal level, which still has more connection to direct democracy, than Congress, which has been bought off by the Koch Brothers and other oil producers. So I encourage people to literally think globally, but act locally. Get involved with city hall, but also create the new reality we want and need by things like community gardens, total recycling of products, putting shopping pressure on retailers and producers. Use the market place as a ballot box.

Of course we also talk about the big drought in California, and what El Nino means to weather.


This El Nino looks ready to create the hottest year on record. Not just by a fraction of a degree, but a significant warming. New records for the first six months have been set globally, but also in many places. We had a 30 day heat wave here that broke records. It felt like the future for sure.

But there were high heat deaths in both India and Pakisatan. Central Asia heated up strongly. Extreme heat in Spain, Portugal and Italy. London England was very, very hot. Alaska is not, as is part of Siberia. Even the Australian winter was warmer there than usual, and records were set in South America.

Our science of El Nino and La Nina is still in early stages. There’s a lot we don’t know. For example, with the flash floods in Southern California be enough to off-set the tendency to drought? So far experts say we would need extended rainy periods, for a couple of years to end the drought, and that hasn’t happened. We don’t know how this combination will work.

Strangely, it almost seems like the warm El Nino waters in the Eastern Pacific broke off into a huge blob of unusually hot water off the U.S and Canadian Pacific coast. That’s partly responsible for our heat wave here. We don’t know for sure what caused it, of how often that may come again. Vancouver, which is normally a rainy city, is now on Stage Three water alert, meaning it is illegal to water lawns. Vancouver with brown lawns is something I’ve never seen before.

To get more current El Nino science and predictions,I recommend Robert scribbler’s blog at


We talk about Radio Ecoshock guest Jeff Rubin when we discussed his new book "The Carbon Bubble: What Happens To Us When It Bursts"?

Jeff Rubin was the chief economist for a major Canadian bank. He discovered that the basis of the Canadian economy was unstable, being increasingly dependent on expensive Tar Sands oil. Now that the price of conventional oil has crashed below $50 a barrel, the Canadian dollar, stock market and economy have crashed. The current government based its budget and its politics all on Western oil. They deny we are in a Recession, even though Canadian and American bankers say we are.

Similar scenes are playing out in North Dakota and Texas over fracking. Fracking is expensive, because you have to continually drill new wells, and borrow money to do it. There have been worries that the fossil fuel energy crash in the United States could be as serious, or more damaging, than the 2007-2008 housing crash. Big banks and pension funds are heavily invested in fossil fuels. If those loans go bad, that could trigger a crash. That’s partly what Rubin was writing about.

In any case, as many people know, most of the so-called reserves claimed by big oil companies will have to be left in the ground, because they are too damaging to the climate. We can’t burn them. Again, those big energy company stocks are based on the value of their reserves as much as current profits. They could fall, and if they don’t diversify into renewable energy, they will crash as badly as buggy whip makers did when horse transport was replaced by cars.


Moving on from finance, we talk about causes for hope. I recently interviewed Dr. Jeremy Leggett on "Winning the Carbon War.” Leggett runs one of the larger solar energy companies in Britain. He’s also an expert in all kinds of energy. Like many of us, Jeremy went through a period of despair, as we failed to act. But he’s been collecting statistics that show renewable energy is being built much faster than things like new coal plants, or even gas generating plants, all over the world. We may be winning more than we know, even though it’s just a start.

After doing this for a decade, what gives me hope?

My main hope rests with the younger generation. Older people have shown they are unable to change their minds and lifestyles. Often they fall into religious excuses for their denial. But younger people were raised in a more scientific age, and question a lot of things. They also have grown up with fast-moving social networks that could communicate the movement we need to avoid the worst form of climate change.

That is partly why I am dabbling with composing electronic dance music with climate themes. I’m hoping the artistic community can inspire people where science and education may have failed. You can listen to my climate music on the Radio Ecoshock soundlcoud page here. In fact, I end this program with one of my climate songs as posted on soundcloud. It's called "Great Longing".


As we wrap up, I add this:

The reason I called my program Ecoshock is due to the medical state of shock. You survive something terrible, like a fire or a car crash, but seem unable to move further to save yourself. You may be in a state of shock. I think we are in a state of shock about the climate, and we need to treat ourselves, almost in a mass medical manner, to get out of it.

Back in the 1970’s, Alvin Toffler suggested our civilization is so complex and changing he coined the term “future shock”. Now we have “climate shock” and “ecological shock” in general.

Think about people who have been blown out of their homes by tornados, again, or flooded out where floods have never been seen before. Will they finally vote for climate action candidates, or will their reliance on old beliefs just make them more resistant? Can humans respond to this crisis never seen before in literature, in the Bible, or anywhere? That’s the drama we are now living in – the biggest drama in our hundred thousand year existence on this planet, as allegedly intelligent beings.


I thought you might put up with my thoughts in this Post Carbon Radio show. But don't worry. I'm already hard at work lining up the real scientists, authors and experts for the new season of Radio Ecoshock, as soon as September begins.

My special thanks to all the correspondents who send me climate and environment news tips all through the year. I can't always reply to each, but many of these tips end up being new Radio Ecoshock shows. Thanks to Jack Wolfe for helping with the show Facebook page. And of course I thank all those people who donated money to keep this program going. I feel blessed and grateful for the opportunity to cover this beat.


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Civilization: Change It or Leave It

Can we return to the primitive? Miles Olson on personal rewilding. Asoka Bandarage on "middle way" out of collapse. Organic grow and cook w. Barbara Damrosch of Four Season Farm. Replay of Radio Ecoshock 130612 1 hour

Could you leave civilization and survive? Are we permanently plugged in?

I'm Alex Smith Welcome to a mixed bag of greens this week. You'll hear Sri-Lankan-American author Ashoka Banadarage's solutions for collapse, and a classic conversation from the four seasons garden to your dinner table, with one of America's best known organic growers, Barbara Damrosch. But first we try to escape from the voices of society, with author and "professional dropout" Miles Olson, from the Mother Earth News Fair.

Listen to/download this Radio Ecoshock Show in CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi 14 MB

Or Listen on Soundcloud right now!


The following description is blatantly stolen from the Mother Earth News Fair blurb, for June 1st & 2nd in Pyallup, Washington.

"How to Walk Away from Civilization

Miles Olson is an author, teacher and "professional dropout" who has spent the past decade living in the woods of Vancouver Island.

Workshop Description

Ever wondered what it would be like to head to the hills and try to live off the fat of the land, outside the normal routine of modern life? Author Miles Olson shares his experiences, reflections and musings in rewilding, based on a decade of living intimately with the land and building a "feral homestead" on Vancouver Island.

Other Workshops

Fire by Friction

How to Make a Folded Basket

Speaker Bio

Miles Olson is an author, teacher and 'professional dropout' who has spent the past decade living in the woods of Vancouver Island. His experiences have put him at the forefront of the rewilding movement and given him a unique perspective on the relationship between humans and wildness.

As you'll discover in the interview, Miles struck a long-standing cord with me. As fate would have it, my family owned part of an island in Northern Ontario. I spent two months there, for my first 17 years, without electricity or really much connection to, or news from, the outside world. We seldom wore shoes, and spent a lot of time in the water, like amphibians.

Then in the late 1970's, I went "back to the land" - again in a distant cabin with no electricity for 10 years. So I understood intuitively what Miles Olsen was telling us - about the voices of civilization we all carry in our heads, and what happens when those instructions and demands go silent. Nature awaits our consciousness, but it's not easy making the transition.

If you do, it's just as hard to come "back". The traffic and structured chaos of cities can feel so un-natural. Miles chose to develop a homestead "squat" outside a town on Vancouver Island, with a few like-minded people. He didn't get the standard job and house. Yet somehow he wrote the book "Unlearn, Rewild: Earth Skills, Ideas and Inspiration for the Future Primitive" from New Society publishers.

If Miles Olson writes as lucidly as he talks, this should be a worth-while book. I felt the spark from him, as we met for the first time on radio, at the Mother Earth News Fair.

Listen to/download my interview with Miles Olson (24 minutes) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


You know our environment, species, climate and economy are flirting with collapse. It's global, and needs global eyes. Last week we played a reading by Asoka Bandarage. Now it's time to speak with her.

Is it possible we could be organic, solar-powered humans, and still destroy the ecology of the world? Is there an inner destructive force we need to examine, and change, in order to evolve, or even to survive?

Asoka Bandarage is the author of the new book, "Sustainability and Well-Being: The Middle Path to Environment, Society and the Economy" published by Palgrave MacMillan.

Asoka Bandarage (Yale Ph.D.) is the author of numerous publications in the fields of global political economy, environment, population, women's studies and peace and conflict resolution. She is a college professor and has taught at Brandeis, Mount Holyoke, Georgetown, American and other universities. She has published several books, ranging from an expert analysis of the recent civil war in her native Sri Lanka, to a wide-ranging view of women in the population crisis. She also writes for the Huffington Post.

In this Radio Ecoshock interview, our guest takes us from the early stages of collapse, into a different path, the middle path.

We know little to nothing about Sri Lanka, other than it is near India, was called Ceylon, and suffered both a tsunami and a civil war. For example, did you know that agrichemicals have caused widespread cancer in farm workers in Sri Lanka. Asoka tells us the same disease and death befalls farm workers in other parts of the world, including Central America. The chemical companies and the governments know very well what causes these cancers. Some toxic pesticides banned in North America and Europe are still used in developing countries, sprayed right on workers while they toil in the fields. What choice do they have?

Listen to/download my interview with Asoka Bandarage in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


Again, here is the description of Barbara from the Mother Earth News Fair brochure:

"Feasting From Your Four Season Garden

Workshop Description

Learn how to grow and store a year-round produce supply. Find out how to raise food without much time, work or garden space, and discover what Barbara Damrosch has learned about bringing that food to the table. In the kitchen she follows the same motto she follows in the garden: If it's complicated, you're doing it wrong.

Speaker Bio

Barbara Damrosch, called the "queen of organic growers" by The New York Times, is one of the nation’s most respected garden experts and writers. She is the author of Theme Gardens and The Garden Primer, and writes a weekly column for The Washington Post called "A Cook’s Garden." She appeared as a regular correspondent on the PBS series The Victory Garden, and co-hosted the series Gardening Naturally for The Learning Channel.

Damrosch and Eliot Coleman operate Four Season Farm, an experimental market garden in Harborside, Maine, that is a nationally recognized model of small-scale sustainable agriculture.

Visit for more information."

I knew about Barbara, from my previous Radio Ecoshock interview with her husband, Elliot Coleman of Four Season Farm. Here is the listing for that interview:

How to grow food in winter, even in Northern climates. Master gardener Eliot Coleman, from Four Seasons Farm in Bar Harbor Maine, grows (and sells) vegetables year-round, using inexpensive portable "hoop house" greenhouses, with no added heat source. Listen to my classic how-to interview with Eliot Coleman, from Radio Ecoshock Show 111207 23 minutes 5 MB

I felt an immediate bond with Barbara. She's a very intelligent woman who has trained her brain on growing things, eating and living on what she grows, and then communicating the whole experience in ways that we can use. That is so valuable, she is nationally and internationally recognized.

We talked about their new project, their first cookbook. It's called "The Four Seaon Farm Gardener's Cookbook". Really it's half a how-to-grow-it manual, followed by excellent recipes for preparing and enjoying what you grew. I've got a copy, and it's a keeper for sure.

During the interview, I raise the problem of busy people trying to grow food and prepare it well. Do we have time really? Barbara was all over that. She gave us a few tips, ready for her presentation at the Mother Earth News Fair - on how to cook the fast way. I also like her perspective on using different recipes to keep eating the same crop when it comes in - like three or four weeks of asparagus. It's really living on what you can grow, in season.

We just chatted easily. Barbara has a new column in the works, but no big book projects. She wants to get back to Harborside Maine, and just enjoy her time in the garden and kitchen. She's earned that... but somehow I'm doubtful. Barbara Damrosch has been giving so much, to millions of people for so long - can she just live a quiet life? We'll see.

Listen to/download my interview with Barbara Damrosch in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


My thanks to the Mother Earth News for arranging some great interviews at their recent fair in Puyallup Washington. There's plenty more for you, in coming shows. I met such unusual and productive people. Even when I had doubts, every guest brought a surprise, a new perspective you'll want to hear.

My special thanks to all the listeners who donated at our blog or web site, so I could afford to get my recording gear to the Fair. I had access to a Fifth Wheel type trailer, parked right outside the main pavilion on the Puyallup Fair Grounds. I did interviews every hour, with feature presenters, all day. It was amazingly quiet inside this mobile studio - producing radio quality audio with the crowd right outside! Of course it was all solar powered radio, with the 120 Watt solar panel on the roof providing more electricity than I needed. There were four six volt batteries to store the sun's power.

If you like what you hear, you too can become part of the program, at

I'm Alex Smith, thank you for listening again this week.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Kevin Anderson: What They Won't Tell You About Climate Catastrophe

SUMMARY: Scientists and officials are not telling the public the awful truth: we are hurtling toward catastrophic climate change. A review, summary and critique of an earth-breaking speech by Dr. Kevin Anderson, Deputy Director of the Tyndall Centre in Britain. Speaking to the Cabot Institute in Bristol November 6th, Anderson told the sold-out crowd our future is not possible. Radio Ecoshock replay from November 14, 2012 and still the best guide to the coming failure of the Paris climate talks.

Are the climate deniers right? Are some scientists colluding with government to hide the truth about climate change? "Yes", according to top British scientist Kevin Anderson - but not the scandal you've heard about. Top scientists and government reports won't tell you we are heading toward catastrophic climate change. Emissions are skidding out of control, leading us to a world six degrees Centigrade hotter on average, much faster than anyone thought possible. Why doesn't the public know?

Why are world conferences still talking about staying below 2 degrees, as though that is possible?

In a devastating speech at Bristol University Tuesday November 6th, 2012, Dr. Kevin Anderson accused too many climate scientists of keeping quiet about the unrealistic assessments put out by governments, and our awful odds of reaching global warming far above the proposed 2 degree safe point.

Dr. Kevin Anderson

In fact, says Anderson, we are almost guaranteed to reach 4 degrees of warming, as early as 2050, and may soar far beyond that - beyond the point which agriculture, the ecosystem, and industrial civilization can survive.

All this comes from one of the world's top climate scientists, plugged in to the latest research and numbers. Kevin Anderson is from the UK's premier climate modeling institution, the Tyndall Centre, and the University of Manchester. He delivered the speech "Real Clothes for the emperor, Facing the Challenges of Climate Change" at the Cabot Institute of the University of Bristol in Britain.

His estimates are backed up by recent reports from the International Energy Agency, and now the global accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. I also quote from Joe Romm's blog at, and a comment by Lewis Cleverdon from Wales, in the Transition blog at

I'm Alex Smith for Radio Ecoshock. In this program, I'm going to play selections from Kevin Anderson's latest speech, accompanied by some explanation and references to other sources. Anderson speaks very quickly, assuming a highly informed European audience, and includes some technical data and reports unknown to most of us. So we're going to work through this together.

Download or listen to this Radio Ecoshock show in CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)

Or listen on Soundcloud right now!

The image for that Soundcloud posting comes courtesy of

You may also want to check out Kevin Anderson's first chapter of a recently published book, “Climate, Development and Equity”. That's available online here: Kevin Anderson: “Climate Change going beyond dangerous: brutal numbers and tenuous hope”


All music on this program is by Suvarna, with her co-conspirator Ravi, and guest Egyptian percussionist Hossam Ramzy. The album is "Energia" on Etherean Records. Suvarna, a world music maker, has another couple of albums with White Swan Records. We end this Radio Ecoshock show with a special single she sent to Radio Ecoshock. It's dead on. The song is "Atmosphere's Lament". Suvarna home page.


You can help this radio program keep going by clicking on the donate button on our web site at - or on this blog. at My thanks to listeners who made that donation last week.

Radio Ecoshock is the second biggest environment radio show anywhere. We run the world's largest free green audio download site. Won’t you become part of the program?


Anderson begins his talk with a source that is hardly known as green or radical. Fatih Birol, Chief Economist and Director of the International Energy Agency has warned on our current energy pathway the global mean temperature will rise by 3.5 degrees C - over 7 degrees F - over pre-industrial levels by 2040. For those counting, that's just 28 years from now. The IEA predicts 4 degrees rise by 2050, and 6 degrees by 2100. In his book, "Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet", and the National Geographic series based on the book, Mark Lynas says at +4 degrees C "Southern Europe will become unlivable due to extreme heat. The West Antarctic ice sheet will melt away and add another 5 meters to global sea level." At +6 degrees C, the Amazon forest long ago burned in a giant fireball, and all the polar ice melted, Lynas simply says "we will all be dead." The short You tube version is here.

Fatih Birol of the IEA says we have only five years to change our energy system - or have it changed for us. We'll talk more about that short time frame later.


As all the international climate conferences come and go, with thousands of people flying to exotic locations, global emissions of greenhouse gases continue to increase. In fact, the atmosphere is being hit with increases on the increases. Anderson tells us:

"In 2009 to 2010, the beginning of the economic downturn, global emissions went up by 5.9%. I think that's higher than at any point [since] the industrial revolution. And even the following years, 2010 to 2011, went up by about 3.2% and this year [2012] probably a little below 3%, maybe 2.6%, we haven't got the final data on that yet."

A great mind, the late Professor Albert A. Bartlett, Professor Emeritus from the Department of Physics at the University of Boulder laments a glaring inability of Americans, and most humans, to grasp the simple mathematics of numbers that increase themselves. In a video posted as "the most important video you'll ever see", Bartlett explains how "logarithmic" increases work. The 5.9% increase in 2009, for example, was almost 6% bigger than the previous year, which was let's say 3% higher than the year previous, and so on. It's like compound interest from the bank.

Bartlett gives us this simple formula: if you have a number that increases regularly, you can find the doubling time by dividing the increase into 70. So if we say emissions are increasing by an average of 3% per year, the carbon dioxide equivalent in the atmosphere would be doubled in just 23 years. If we start at our current level, around 393 parts per million [in 2012, now over 400 ppm in 2015], and keep increasing emissions as we are, the atmosphere would theoretically hit a toxic 786 ppm in just 23 years. In reality, it doesn't work like that, because our oceans currently absorb at least 40% or our emissions, becoming more acidic in the process. I can't predict our doubling time, but the IEA and others suggest we will go well over 450 parts per million by 2050.

Returning to Kevin Anderson, he points out our infrastructure commits us to emissions for decades. Every new airplane sold, and every ship is expected to last at least 30 years, burning whatever they burn. Buildings, inefficient as they are, may last centuries. Each new power plant opened is likely to keep on burning for at least 50 years, often longer than that. We have already built more carbon capacity than the atmosphere can ever hold, with a climate suited for human survival. This leads me to conclude not another single fossil fuel based power plant should be opened anywhere in the world. Of course that's not fair to developing peoples, so we need a plan to shut down coal and oil-powered plants in North America and Europe to make room for electricity in China, India, Africa, and so on.

It is this commitment from long-lasting infrastructure, coupled with the already overloaded atmosphere, that dictates we only have about five years at best to change directions, or suffer a climate catastrophe beyond our current comprehension. Only a giant power-down by wealthy consumers (that's most of us) could possibly save us. That would include stopping recreational shopping for consumer goods that carry so much embedded energy use. And really, Anderson says, our best and possibly only hope for survival is an economic crash, or at least a planned "recession".

Remember Professor Tim Garrett from the University of Utah, following an interview on Radio Ecoshock, published a peer-reviewed paper saying exactly the same thing: the dynamics of energy in this civilization, poised against limitations in our atmosphere, show that only a deep and prolonger economic crash could really guarantee a safe climate.

At any rate, the good news, such as it is, is this: you and I have the ability to change our deadly course. We can cut our energy and consumption drastically. That's the front-line strategy that Kevin Anderson advocates. He tried to live it. Anderson does NOT fly around to climate conferences. He conserves energy personally, despite the disbelief of relatives and friends.


Kevin Anderson has brought up the new study from a most unexpected source. The report by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the generally conservative giant accounting company, is titled" "Too Late For Two Degrees?" Joe Romm at has an excellent summary posted November 6th, titled " Study: We're Headed to 11 degrees F Warming and Even 7 Degrees F Requires 'Nearly Quadrupling The Current Rate of Decarbonization".

The main conclusion in the PricewaterhouseCoopers study reads:

"Our Low Carbon Economy Index evaluates the rate of decarbonisation of the global economy that is needed to limit warming to 2oC. This report shows that global carbon intensity decreased between 2000 and 2011 by around 0.8% a year. In 2011, carbon intensity decreased by 0.7%. The global economy now needs to cut carbon intensity by 5.1% every year from now to 2050. Keeping to the 2oC carbon budget will require sustained and unprecedented reductions over four decades.

Governments’ ambitions to limit warming to 2oC appear highly unrealistic.


"We have passed a critical threshold – not once since 1950 has the world achieved that rate of decarbonisation in a single year, but the task now confronting us is to achieve it for 39 consecutive years….

Even to have a reasonable prospect of getting to a 4°C scenario would imply nearly quadrupling the current rate of decarbonisation.

Joe Romm reminds us, our speaker Kevin Anderson has already written about the 7 degree Fahrenheit increase in global mean temperature:

[is] incompatible with organized global community, is likely to be beyond ‘adaptation’, is devastating to the majority of ecosystems & has a high probability of not being stable (i.e. 4°C [7°F] would be an interim temperature on the way to a much higher equilibrium level

I'd like to just keep reading out Joe Romm's excellent if horrifying article, but I'll leave that up to you, except for this from Joe:

"Such a world would likely mean:

* Permanent Dust Bowl conditions over the U.S. Southwest, parts of the Great Plains and many other regions around the globe that are heavily populated and/or heavily farmed.

* Sea level rise of some 1 foot by 2050, then 4 to 6 feet (or more) by 2100, rising some 6 to 12 inches (or more) each decade thereafter

* Massive species loss on land and sea — perhaps 50% or more of all biodiversity.

* Much more extreme weather

These will all be happening simultaneously and getting worse decade after decade. A 2009 NOAA-led study found the worst impacts would be 'largely irreversible for 1000 years.'

In such a world there would be little prospect for feeding 9 billion people post-2050 given current dietary, economic, and agricultural practices. The word “adaptation” simply doesn’t apply in any meaningful sense.

Other evidence is pouring in from all quarters that we are headed to the high side of climate predictions. Consider this release November 8th from the U.S. Snow and Ice Date Center.

"Future Warming Likely to Be On High Side of Climate Projections, Analysis Finds" November 08, 2012


I know I shouldn't be surprised the climate is spinning out of control. After all, the Swiss re-insurance company Munich Re warned the 2 degree alleged safety limit was "no longer attainable." But that was published in a periodical called Insurance Daily.

Perhaps like me, you missed it. A continuing message from Kevin Anderson is we've all been led astray by a general fog coming from a combination of convenient climate science, reports from governments, the United Nations, and the conferences that continued with big language and no results, as emissions continued to rise.

No wonder the public doesn't know. As Kevin Anderson will tell us, those who do know, are conspiring to keep us from the awful truth.

Anderson goes on to list a host of climate and economic reports coming from governments, big institutes and universities that use obviously false low-ball numbers for greenhouse gas emissions.

The famous British Stern Report in 2006, for example, used an emissions level growth of .95 percent per year. The actual rates for that period from year 2000 to 2005 were more than 3 times higher than that. Stern had access to the latest figures. Anyone could find them on the web. Why didn't he use the actual facts? Using lower numbers have helped a number of agencies and governments achieve much more palatable predictions, leaving lots of time for Western societies to make small changes while adapting. Quite the opposite was true based on the real numbers. Counting the growth of emissions from China and the developing world, the developed West and Japan were, and are, entirely out of time to slowly reduce emissions. As Anderson calculates, to preserve a relatively safe climate below 2 degrees, the emissions of the developed countries had to drop to zero by 2010.

I won't list out all the official reports from Britain, Europe, and America that used phony low emissions figures, plus wild overestimates of all kinds, to get results that pleased the sitting politicians and big business board members. Kevin Anderson gives you all the details on that in this speech.

Just as the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche supposed it takes some ideas a long time to penetrate society, comparing it to the time light takes to arrive from distant stars, our public dialog is missing this critical fact that Anderson reveals again: we are heading toward a catastrophe that cities, agriculture, and civilization cannot survive.


Then Anderson reveals a startling twist on what we need to do now. He says we do not have time to implement large scale alternatives. We need not focus on the supply side, like the Tar Sands, Arctic oil, fracked gas, alternative energy or nuclear power. Those technologies all take more time to implement than we have to save the climate.

Anderson concluded in a science paper published by the British Royal Society, only a planned economic downturn accompanies by severe energy austerity by the one percent who use 50% of the world's energy - that's us! - can avoid this climate disaster. We needed to start action yesterday. We start, we must campaign, on the demand side. We still have time to each and every one of us drastically slash our energy use.

As he tells us, just to burn a 100 Watt bulb demands several times that amount of energy down the power chain, to mine the resource, transport it, burn it with only partial efficiency, and then lose another 50% or so in transmission. So turning off the bulb grows in impact up the power chain, if we can all cut back deeply, quickly.

The result of that energy austerity of course, when we stop buying useless consumer junk with all that embedded energy, is an economic crash. Is that better than a climate that wipes out at least half of all living species, possibly including ourselves? You be the judge.

We must always keep in mind the target of keeping under 2 degrees C of warming was always an arbitrary political decision. It doesn't necessarily guarantee a safe climate, as we are already finding out these days. The droughts, super-floods, super-storms like Sandy, and drastic melt-back of Arctic sea ice all come when we are only officially approaching 1 degree of warming over pre- industrial times. 2 degrees gives us double that, at the very least.

Anderson says scientists have been keeping quiet about the tendency, one could even say "plot" to underplay everything about the looming climate catastrophe.

Anderson should know. He's working every day with scientists from around the world who "just keep quiet".

In reality, once we factor in continuing emissions coming from things like agriculture and deforestation, there is no room left for emissions from the developed countries.


Anderson also leaves aside the whole issue of natural climate feedbacks that could dramatically add more carbon dioxide and methane to our atmosphere. He's a specialist in energy, even working in that field for companies like Shell Oil in the past. In this speech Dr. Anderson takes us on a straight path through the impacts of our fossil fuel extraction and burning alone. He acknowledges there may be much more, but says science knows too little about them at this time.

We can think for example about recent science finding methane coming from the Siberian sea bed, and from the warming waters along the East Coast of North America. Other studies, in speeches already broadcast on Radio Ecoshock, show that melting permafrost in the Arctic and sub-Arctic could add far more greenhouse gases than all fossil fuel burning.

Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition Town movement in the UK, did a written interview with Kevin Anderson in Hopkins' blog "Transition Culture" published on November 2nd, 2012. In the comments, we find this compact addition to the warming forces Kevin Anderson did not cover, written by the Wales farmer Lewis Cleverdon:

Kevin Anderson said: “Rapid and deep emissions reductions may not be easy, but 4°C to 6°C will be much worse”

In the comments at, Lewis Cleverdon writes:

"I’m sorry to say that this presents a false dichotomy. And doubly sorry to hear it from one of Anderson’s standing.

Taking a credible best case for emissions reduction of getting to near zero output by 2050,

- regardless of whether that is by personal virtue demonstrations suddenly sweeping the whole world -

- or by determined popular global efforts at steering the politics to achieve an equitable and efficient global climate treaty -

- or by the latter adamantly supported by the former

- we are going to emit enough GHGs by 2050 for at least 0.6C of further warming.

Adding this to 0.7C of warming now time lagged “in the pipeline” of ocean thermal inertia, plus the 0.8C of warming already realized, would give 2.1C of warming as a total, but for one critical factor.

Ending our fossil fuel emissions means ending those of fossil sulphate which maintain the ‘Sulphate Parasol’ that veils the planet. As Hansen & Sato reported, the loss of the Sulphate Parasol will mean a rise of warming by 110%, (+/- 30%), raising the projected 2.1C to a total 4.41C (+/- 0.6C), that would be realized by about 2080, due the time lag of around 30 years after 2050. Our ‘best case’ for emissions control would thus give between 3.8C and 5.0C of warming.

However, there is a further critical factor, namely that of the interactive mega-feedbacks, of which at least six are already accelerating and several have the potential to dwarf anthropogenic GHG emissions. The most advanced of these, cryosphere decline (loss of snow & ice cover) causing albedo loss, is reportedly already causing warming equivalent to around 30% of our CO2 emissions. This feedback alone is already nearing the capacity to offset the 43% average annual intake of our CO2 output by the natural carbon sinks.

In the 68 years between now and 2080, under our ‘best case’ emissions control, those feedbacks would have continuously intensifying warming to drive their interactions and outputs far beyond any possibility of our control. Under this scenario we should certainly have substantially more than 5.0C of warming in 2080, and warming would then continue at a pace dictated by the interactive feedbacks.

Arguments over emissions control via personal virtue or via collective political action for the global climate treaty are thus missing the point. Even the best case of emissions control is patently not remotely commensurate with our predicament.

Lewis Cleverdon goes on to say only geoengineering to increase our albedo effect, namely by spraying sulfur particles into the air to brighten clouds, and thus turn away some solar energy, could possibly save us. That is the least toxic, and most easily reversed proposal for geoengineering, but it's a topic for another day.

The main point here is this: Kevin Anderson's speech sticks to the simple math of our fossil fuel trajectory. That alone promises to take us to at least 4 degrees hotter, and possibly much more if we don't act immediately. The mega feedbacks and warming hidden by pollution loom as even greater shadows over this already dark picture.

In his November 6th speech in Bristol, UK, Anderson warns again and again, we allow ourselves to be fooled, year after year.

The American scientists are playing the same incredible game, pretending world emissions peaked in the past.


Every big report assumes we will rescue ourselves by sucking CO2 out of the air by some magic as yet undiscovered technology assembled almost instantly on a massive scale. It's geoengineering, the technical fix. And it presumes a kind of magic that goes like this: "if we reduce the CO2 in the atmosphere, things will go back to the way they were." Except nature doesn't work like that. If you could reduce greenhouse gases, by the time you do, the whole ecosystem has already changed. A large percentage of species will be extinct. Coral reefs won't be around. Like the Amazon rainforest won't either. There is not backward path through time. It's a huge fallacy in the public mind, and in too many government reports.

Anderson notes there is not a single big commercial scale operation taking CO2 out of the air, and storing it for long periods, anywhere in the world.

Most schemes, and governments use this idea in most big reports, involve taking biomass, burning it in power plants, capture the CO2 as it goes up the stack, and then burying that CO2 somewhere in a geologically stable hole. Anderson dissects this idea and finds giant leaks of greenhouse gases into the sky at every step.

We must grow the biomass - agriculture and the food industry contributes about 30% of all human-made emissions currently. Producing fertilizers (often from fossil fuels), transporting things around, it all adds up to emissions. Then the power plant only burns at a peak of about 70% efficiency. More wasted. The best smokestack capture techniques only grab 70 to 80%, so at least 20% will still go into the sky as greenhouse gases. Then we have to store the CO2 somehow, and that hasn't been worked out yet. It's like nuclear waste, where everyone expects a solution will come up in the future, that hasn't developed so far.

Bottom line: it's not going to work, at any scale comparable to our current energy use, and more importantly - such a massive energy change would take at least 20 or 30 years to implement (we haven't even started yet) - and we don't have that long! Fail. It all sounds good on paper, but fail.


In the radio show, I play you a longer passage from Dr. Kevin Anderson as he spoke at the Cabot Institute at the University of Bristol on November 6th. Anderson gives example after example of scientists, policy advisors and government ministers who (a) know the 2 degree target is no longer attainable, and (b) admit the public can't be told this. Our awful predicament is being hidden by official process, deliberate underestimates of known facts, and scientists keeping quiet. No one wants to alarm the herd, and politicians want to win the next election. Corporate board members want the next big quarter's profits, and big investors want their payback. Nobody rock the boat!


Don't despair Anderson tells us. We are the very people who can do something to save the climate, right now.

Anderson goes into an interesting analysis that find half the world's emissions are coming from about 1 percent of the world's population. It's almost a play off the Occupy 99% and 1% model. We need to reach those high carbon emitters, and get them to change.

It's likely this expose of sweetened climate projections, with known bad numbers and reassuring official talk, could be my speech of the year.

Now you've got the tools you need to take another hour out of your life, to hear the truth about climate change. Listen, learn, worry, and rededicate yourself to change, before the new out-of-control climate changes everything and everyone we love.

Thank you for taking the time, and having the courage, to listen.

I'm Alex Smith, for Radio Ecoshock.