Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Five Stories Seldom Told

SUMMARY: Science fiction author Robert Marston Fanney selects 5 stories of science truth from his Robert Scribbler's Blog. Excerpts from oil guru Nate Hagens.

What is really going on? What are the big stories the media leaves out, while they fill the news with quirky headlines and fluff? All over the world, from pole to pole, the Earth and her species are going through big changes. The atmosphere is trapping heat into the oceans, air, and land.

This week I'm going to cover five of those big stories, with the help of one of the world's best risk watchers. He's author Robert Marston Fanney, and his launching pad is called Robert Scribbler's Blog.

At the end, we'll squeeze in a few words about the new oil poverty creeping into our lives, with a recent talk by former financial advisor and Oil Drum editor Nate Hagens.

I'm Alex Smith, and this is Radio Ecoshock.

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

Or listen on Soundcloud right now!


We know humans and all species are about to live through a huge change not seen on this planet for over a million years. We have no memory of this planetary shift. No one has experienced it. The first stages are already happening.

As a science fiction author of Luthiel's Song and other works, Robert Marston Fanney has the imagination and ability to communicate. As a former specialist on emerging threats for the prestigious military publisher Jane's Information Group, he's learned how to research and pry into things. All of that, plus a special something else that is hard to define, leads to one of the most stimulating climate change blogs on the Net. It's called Robert Scribbler's Blog.

Robert Marston Fanney

Here's the catalog of recent blog posts we cover, or uncover:

* world-changing ocean currents

* cracks in the ice castle of Antarctica

* drought and fires in South America

* methane and blown craters in the Arctic

* the coming heat


In an interview on KPFA radio Robert Fanney said North Atlantic current news should be a major story in the mainstream media, every night. It's not. If we went down the street asking about it, we won't find much comprehension. What makes a major driver of our weather, and civilization as we know it, so boring, so off the radar?

That KPFA radio interview with host Caroline Casey can be found here.

Here is Robert's blog on why we should worry about big climate-driven changes in ocean currents.


I interview scientists about Antarctica, but they are often very, very cautious. In a way, science can only study the past, and barely captures the present. The future seems beyond it. What do these developments in Antarctica really mean?

I've just read a couple of papers about sea level rise expected from the melting of Antarctic ice. Some scientists suggest we might see about 1 meter of global sea level rise from Antarctica by the end of this century.

James Lovelock famously said humans might end up as a few breeding pairs huddled around a tropical Arctic ocean. It seems inevitable to me, that if we survive, humans a thousand years from now may be settled on Antarctica, as that continent is revealed by global warming.

Oh boy! - a whole new continent to plunder!

Check out Robert's most recent blog on Antarctica. And here is my feature interview on Antarctica with scientist Roland Warner from a few weeks ago on Radio Ecoshock.


Robert Maston Fanney, you've been one of the few bloggers who really pays attention to South America. I wonder if some of the climate disruption going on in Chile, Argentina, and Brazil may be related to changes in relatively nearby Antarctica. We know that changes in the Arctic have affected the Jet Stream, and weather in the Northern Hemisphere.

I haven't seen much science saying Antarctica is changing things in the Southern Hemisphere. That's because there is less land in the Southern Hemisphere and more oceans. In fact, the Jet Stream there has more or less intensified and moved closer to Antarctica. Scientists say that's one of the reason less rain is coming to Australia.

Let's get to what we do know for sure. Last Fall Robert raised the alarm about drinking water in one of South America's biggest cities, Sao Paulo. How many people live there, and what is happening now? I can imagine the non-stop media attention if water in New York was cut off for hours or days. Yet we hardly hear about Sao Paulo. Why?

We can definitely tie the drought in Brazil to deforestation or other changes in the Amazon rainforest. The Amazon was the constant rainmaker for Souther America, and now it's smaller and not as potent. This even affects cloud formation and rain in North Africa.

There's also been dry times, and an extended fire season in Chile. Robert just reported on that in Robert Scribbler's blog.


Let's head to the other end of the Earth, the Arctic. There is a school of people who think methane eruptions from the Arctic sea bed could wipe out the human species in this century. Are you part of that crowd?

Right now, it is carbon emissions, coming from cities where we live, that is endangering the future of civilization and helping the on-going mass extinction of species. We'd like to put it far away, in the Arctic, but it's us, here in the "civilized" sub-tropics.

There are some strange signs in the far north. Robert tells us about dozens of craters that have appeared in Russia. They are likely methane explosions.

(The Yamal Crater, as seen above, would be miniscule compared to a Yakutia Crater reported by Russian Scientists yesterday. Image source: The Siberian Times via Vasily Bogoyavlensky.)

We talked earlier about the power of ocean currents. What is happening with warm waters entering the Arctic Ocean around Alaska, via the Barents Sea?


Let's talk about something that worries me. I keep hearing new science that suggests we may be entering a new warming phase. Things have been delayed, and now the heat is coming, this decade or the next. Here is Robert's blog on the prospect of heating: "Bad Climate Outcomes".

Let's say we get a warming event, in a single year, or over three years. What do you imagine that would look like?

Again, ocean currents may be a factor. The Pacific Decadal Oscillation, a cycle of warmer or cooler surface waters in the Eastern Pacific - could that play into a heating event. It may have artificially cooled us (or minimized the warming we are due for) these past few years. When that changes to El Nino, we may be a burst of heat, as the planet did in 1998. But with added global warming gases, each heating event could be hotter than the last. Always setting records.

In a way, I think some climate hawks would like to see a really visible heat wave. At least that might galvanize the world and it's leaders into action. Could it be a good thing in a way?

On the side of pessimism, we may just get a slow, slow ramping up of warming, where we don't get enough impulse to react. It's the boiling frog effect. (That's not true by the way. Frogs will jump out of boiling water, even if we don't as a civilization.)

Robert Scribbler's blog has turned into a monster. It's become really popular with those in the know, kind of a thought-leader thing. I also appreciate the community of informed commenters that have built up around it.

From Washington Grove Maryland, we've been talking with science fiction author, emerging threats specialist, and climate blogger extraordinaire, Robert Marston Fanney. In literature, he's best known for the science fiction seires called Luthiel's Song. Find out more about Luthiels's song on Facebook. His previous Radio Ecoshock interview titled "I Have A Confession to Make" continues to be downloaded by people all over the world.

Check out Robert's blog for new postings on the rampant fires in Siberia (way to early in the season for that!)(he calls it "Siberia's Road to Permaburn Hell") and his update on the terrible drought in California.


In the little time we have left, I'm going to give you a taster of a simple but important talk by former Oil Drum editor, financial advisor and academic Nate Hagens. This is from my recording at the launch of the World Watch Institute State of the World 2015 Report, on April 13, 2015 in Washington D.C.

This is where Nate Hagens explains -through the lens of energy - why real growth ended in the 1970's for most people in Western countries. Since then, as the cost of getting energy goes up, more poverty is created. At this point, about 40% of Americans are pretty well broke, and 52% don't have enough savings to survive 3 months out of work. GDP may go up, but real wealth is declining, - a fact that is hidden by ever increasing debt.

I invite you to listen to Nate Hagens' full 25 minute talk at the World Watch Institute. You can download it as a free mp3 here.

Meanwhile, we'll zip forward to Nate's quick summary of his presentation.

Get all the details, with some video, and the full World Watch report, at


Thank you so much for listening to Radio Ecoshock.

If you can afford it, I can use more help from listeners to cover the costs or producing and distributing this show. I'm shy about fund-raising, but the Ecoshock account is getting low, just as we approach the summer season. The bills will keep coming in.

I have a small crew of folks who donate $10 a month - and I'm really grateful for that steady support. You can do that easily and automatically from this page.

If you prefer a one-time donation, that's great too.

I know I should do a fancy fund-raising drive, but so far just making the program has taken up most of my time. Let's see if you can help this week, to keep Radio Ecoshock going.

Meanwhile, thank you everyone for giving me the opportunity to talks with amazing minds, and stay in the loop of people who are trying to change the world for the better.


Radio Ecoshock





twitter: @ecoshock

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Melting Antarctica Will Shake the World

SUMMARY: New science on melting Antarctica. From Tasmania, polar expert Dr. Roland C. Warner. Then the return of Marjory Wildcraft, with more tips on growing your own groceries. Radio Ecoshock 150415

This week on Radio Ecoshock, we're going to the end of the Earth. It's a feature length interview about new science that shows Antarctica is melting. I guarantee you will read headlines, and see amazing video news, from the science you'll hear this week on Radio Ecoshock. For one thing, sea levels will rise around the planet, for centuries, reshaping the coastlines and civilization.

Then we'll finish up with the return of Marjory Wildcraft, with more tips on growing your own groceries. It's all food for thought and action.

I'm Alex Smith. The journey begins.

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

Or listen on Soundcloud right now!


There's a lot of action in Antarctica - and that can bring changes all over the world. Here to discuss recent science is Dr. Roland C. Warner. He is a researcher with the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre at the University of Tasmania. Tasmania is the closest Australian state to Antarctica.

In a shocking bit of news, Antarctica just experienced the two hottest days ever recorded there, namely 63.5°F or 17.5 C at the Argentinian Esperanza Base on Antarctic Peninsula. I've heard that was warmer than the temperature in Britain on the same day in late March.

Dr. Warner says it's not that surprising, because there is no doubt Antarctica is warming over-all, along with the rest of the planet. This one-day event doesn't mean much. A previous record was set in 1961. It takes a few thousand days to be "climate change."

According to the British Antarctic Survey on Warming in the Antarctic Peninsula over the past 50 years: that polar continent warmed by 5 degrees Fahrenheit ( 2.8 degrees Celsius), since 1950. In the interview Warner may have said 5 degrees C. but he meant 5 degrees Fahrenheit. Even 5 degrees F. makes this arm of Antarctica pointing toward South America one of the fastest warming parts of the whole planet.

That shows up in giant ice shelves cracking off West Antarctica, like the Larsen B. ice shelf that disintegrated in February 2002. The whole of West Antarctica is losing mass, as shown by the NASA Grace satellites that can measure mass from space. That means it's melting, and eventually several meters of sea level rise will pour out of that part of the continent.


But hold on, we have to distinguish between three types of ice around the poles. They are:

* sea ice (the surface of the ocean freezes)

* ice shelves (permanently frozen water, over the sea, but anchored to the land)

* glaciers (ice based on land)

As Dr. Warner explains, we know since the famous bath-tub experiment by the ancient Greek scientist Archimedes, water levels will not rise when ice in water melts. That is why your drink does not overflow when the ice cubes in it melt: the same mass of water was already displaced by the ice.

So disappearing sea ice in the Arctic, or collapsing ice shelves in the Antarctic, do not directly add to sea level rise. However, Roland tells us, the ice shelves can retard the flow of glaciers into the sea, and speed up glacier melt when they disappear. So ice shelf collapse can indirectly add to sea level rise. There's lots of science on this.

Secondly, we've been talking about West Antarctica. The biggest portion of the Antarctic continent is "East Antarctica". (There's no point in talking about North or South Antarctica, since everywhere is more or less "North" there.) As recently as five years ago, I can remember reading that East Antarctica would not be a major factor in sea level rise in this century. Not much was happening there, it was said, and in fact some areas were getting colder, not warmer.

That's all been stood on it's head with new science. Last May I did a program on NASA's revelations that East Antarctica was also losing ice mass. Find the blog entry, and that program here.

Our guest Roland Warner is a co-author of a new study that shows massive ice loss from another giant of East Antarctica, the Totten Glacier.

The title of that new science is "Ocean access to a cavity beneath Totten Glacier in East Antarctica". The Totten is the largest glacier in East Antarctica. At 540,000 square kilometers, it's size is simply mind-boggling. For North American listeners, the Totten drains an area more than twice the size of all the Great Lakes put together. Aussies would say it's more than twice the size of the Australian State of Victoria.

Seventy billion tons of ice flows out of the Totten Glacier, into the ocean, every year. That's about the flow rate of Niagara Falls, and it is expected to increase. Why? Because, and this is the crux of the new paper, scientists have discovered deep channels where warmer water can flow right under the glacier. "Warmer" water isn't terribly warm, but it contains enough extra energy to melt the glacier from below.


That takes us to another key concept going the rounds with experts. It's the "grounding line". My understanding is that's the point where the glacier reaches the sea and floats on top of it. But also: the geography below the glacier will determine what, if anything, will retard the flow of all that ice into the sea. The problem, according to NASA scientists, in West Antarctica, they haven't found any under-glacier mountain or ridge to stop glaciers there from pouring into the sea. That means that really big sea level rise is coming, and again according to NASA, the progress of West Antarctic ice into the sea is now "unstoppable".

A large Antarctic contribution to sea level rise will happen even if we cut all carbon emissions tomorrow. We have crossed that tipping point. That is why Antarctica will shake the world.

Please listen to this interview to get the real science, from a real scientist (which I'm not).


We also talked about two strange twists to this story. I encountered the first from comments made by scientist Laurie Padman, a co-author of another paper titled "Volume loss from Antarctic ice shelves is accelerating." Here's the twist: as more glaciers lose mass in Antarctica (adding to global sea level rise) the sea levels around Antarctica, and Greenland, may actually go DOWN.

Why? Because water is attracted to mass, to heavy things, by gravity. If these polar continents lose a mile or more of ice from their land surface, there will be less mass, and so some of the water now attracted to those polar land masses will dissipate, and go elsewhere.

The kicker is that scientists think the extra (from rising seas AND from loss of polar mass) will show up in places like New England. New England sea levels may go up as much as 25% more than other place in the world. Ditto Japan.

The second twist is that Antarctica may actually see snow pile up higher, especially in East Antarctica, due to climate change. A generally warmer world holds more moisture in the atmosphere. That has to come down, and where it's cold, if falls as snow.

The projected increased snow in Antarctica is still rather an unknown. In our interview, Roland Warner said it would take another year of observations to "make it clear whether the acceleration in loss from Antarctic grounded ice sheet was a trend – disentangling the effect of variability in snowfall." In a follow-up email, he meant to say "several more years" and perhaps even another decade of observations. His comments are based on the paper “Limits in detecting acceleration of ice sheet mass loss due to climate variability”, B. Wouters, J. L. Bamber, M. R. van den Broeke, J. T. M. Lenaerts and I. Sasgen, Nature Geoscience 6, 613–616 (2013) doi:10.1038/ngeo1874 Find the abstract and illustrations for that paper here.


We talk about the real geography of Antarctica. Warner says if all the ice were gone, we could sail right through part of Antarctica, going from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean without going around Cape Horn at the tip of South America.

As Roland told me in email: "the fact that the region behind the floating part of the Totten has a large region with bedrock below sea-level is important for the potential sea level rise. This was reported in Nature in 2011: Young, D. A., et al. (2011), A dynamic early East Antarctic Ice Sheet suggested by ice covered fjord landscapes, Nature, 474(7349), 72–75, doi:10.1038/nature10114. Find the abstract for that paper here, or download a .pdf of that paper here.

It's not easy trying to map our this continent, below a mile or more of ice! Scientists are still working on it, and some parts of Antarctica are still unknown, the last frontier some would say.

We also talk about the lack of scientific consensus on how much sea level will rise by the year 2100. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been very, very conservative, suggesting one meter by the end of this century. Others say we will get one meter of sea level rise from Antarctica alone. Some scientists suggest several meters of sea level rise (more than 10 feet) is possible. We don't know yet.

Hanging in the balance are many of the world's largest cities, which would be partially submerged. Several countries in the South Pacific are almost guaranteed to disappear. Deltas supporting millions, as in Bangladesh for example, will fill with salt water, ending agriculture there. This may be the biggest question of climate change.


I had a little difficulty finding a scientist with wide interests in Antarctica willing to give us this update. Roland Warner was brave to take it on, with an eye to keeping us in the research loop - because this is really important news for all of us, even though it takes place far away. The coasts of the world will be re-arranged, no matter where our cities are, because of melting in Antarctica.

Roland is a research scientist for the government-funded Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre. That's located in Tasmania. I thought the island of Tasmania was the part of Australia closest to Antarctica, but Warner tells me Australia claims islands that are closer still. In fact, Australia has laid claim to 42% of Antarctica. Many countries claim parts of the Continent, but all those are currently on hold, under the Antarctic Treaty established in the 1950's.

Warner has flown many times in an old World-War Two vintage DC3 airplane over Antarctica, as they make painstaking maps and measurements. The propeller driven planes can fly at the slow speeds needed to operate the instruments. It's many hours out and back, with no civilization below. Warner was also aboard the Australian ice breaker Aurora Australis when it made the closest approach ever to the Totten Glacier front, where it drops giant chunks of ice into the sea.

He's been part of a research venture called ICECAP - Investigating Cryospheric Evolution through Collaborative Aerogeophysical Profiling. Apparently ICECAP can also stand for Investigating Cryospheric Evolution of the Central Antarctic Plate.

Find more about that here and here (University of Texas site)

Any way you take it, events on Antarctica will re-shape our world. We were lucky to get extended time from Dr. Warner. I also appreciate his help in educating me in preparation for this interview. Any errors found in this blog are my own, and not those by Roland Warner.

Listen to/download this 45 minute Antarctic science update with Roland C Warner in CD Quality or Lo-Fi.


Last week we featured Marjory Wildcraft, author of the wildly successful DVD series called "Grow Your Own Groceries". She organized a super-summit of small-scale growers, home gardeners and pepper gardeners - all free last week. It was the "Home Grown Food Summit" with over 30 presenters. Over 100,000 people tuned in for that!

That shows the amazing growth of people who want to grow their own food for a variety of reasons including:

* knowing factory foods are bad for your health (pesticides, toxics, fats, sugars)

* knowing factory farming is bad for the environment (global warming, soil loss, abuse of animals, GMOs)

* knowing the supermarket food system is fragile, and may fail without much warning

* experiencing the high cost of food, and looking for cheaper alternatives

That's just the short list. Did I mention crops failing due to climate change and extreme weather?

So I asked Marjory to come back, with more tips we can all use to grow food. In this interview, we assume you know why to do it. Now we get down to how to do it.

We had Sylvia Bernstein, one of the original writers about aquaponics, on our June 2013 Radio Ecoshock Show. Find the blog for that interview here. You can download or listen to that interview with Sylvia here. She's fabulous. But when I watched some serious You tube videos about it, aquaponics seems pretty tricky and demanding. It can be tricky keeping fish alive.

There's no doubt that aquaponics can provide some super veggies, really lush crops. But I worry it will require too much energy to keep the fish warm enough in the winters in northern states or Canada. Yet the people who have a mind to manage an aquaponics system have a lot of top quality food to show for it. It's up to you.

We all know gardening can help seniors maintain their mental and physical health much longer. But eventually we may not be able to handle the heavy work. We talk a bit about how can we set up a garden to keep going with very little effort. Thinks like raised beds can help those who have trouble bending over, for example. In fact busy working people need the same thing. We can't cover it all in a short interview. Check out Marjory's DVD course for her tips to save time and effort.

You know it's strange. You start following your heart into something, as Marjory did with her transition from a financial planner to personal food growing, (which I could also call personal liberty.) Then she teaches, communicates, and suddenly, Marjory Wildcraft has become a one-woman movement on her own. Of course, as we discuss, she's connected to a world-wide collection of home-growers, all sharing tips, all educating one another.

Listen to this second Radio Ecoshock interview with Marjory Wildcraft in CD Quality or Lo-Fi.

If you missed last week's longer talk with Marjory, about the Home Grown food summit and her work, find that here in CD quality or Lo-Fi.

Check out last week's blog for a list of my favorite Majory Wildcraft You tube videos. You can learn a lot!

I'm prepping my own garden right now, with two new raised beds, a better compost bin, nets for the rasberries, and 8 inches of mulch all around.

Find all our past programs as mp3 downloads at our web site Listen on the soundcloud page, at If you can afford it, please help support me making this program. That's my life, dedicated to communicating alternative truths that can help us be ready for the future. Get the details on many different ways to contribute to Radio Ecoshock here. Any amount is appreciated.

I'm Alex Smith. Thank you for listening, and I hope we'll get together again next week, as we talk with the creator of the popular and inspiring climate work called Robert Scribbler's blog.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Feed Yourself

QUICK SUMMARY: Oil guru Richard Heinberg on life after fossil fuels. Marjory Wildcraft: why you may want to grow your own groceries. Radio Ecoshock 150408

Five percent of the world's oil tanker capacity is waiting to load up near Basra Iraq, where production is way up. The United States has only one month of oil storage capacity left. After that, what comes in must go straight to market, likely for as little as $20 a barrel.

Is peak oil dead? And why isn't the economy responding to cheaper oil? We'll ask the guru, Richard Heinberg. He's one of the people who popularized the oil squeeze, with his book "The Party's Over". Heinberg has a new book out: "Afterburn, Society Beyond Fossil Fuels".

After that, during this Spring in the Northern Hemisphere, a couple of us hope to persuade you to grow some of your own food. Marjory Wildcraft, from growyourowngroceries joins us. There's a lot of reasons we need to pay attention to the food supply.

Locked and loaded, this is Radio Ecoshock.

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

Or listen on Soundcloud right now!


"We live in the time of what might be called the Burning" - Richard Heinberg.

In 2003, his book "The Party’s Over: Oil, War & the Fate of Industrial Societies" turned Peak Oil from an insider worry to a popular movement. Twelve years and eight books later, Richard Heinberg is still the go-to guy for what's happening with world energy - and there's a lot happening right now. Richard's post in California is at the Post Carbon Institute.

Of course everyone wants to know what happened to Peak Oil and the way out of this fossil fuel mess. Richard gives us that update, and whole lot more, in his latest book just out, called "Afterburn, Society Beyond Fossil Fuels".

"As energy issues become more critically important to society’s economic and ecological survival, they become more politically contested; and as a result, they tend to become obscured by a fog of exaggeration, half-truth, omission, and outright prevarication."

- Richard Heinberg, "Afterburn"

We all thought high oil prices would grind the economy into a crash. Now oil has fallen to less than half price, and it looks like THAT could trigger some very bad things. What's happening out there on the oil fields?

I've been reading that some big energy companies hedged their production at over $90 a barrel. There's no way some Wall Street betters can pay half the world's energy bill. Something has to give, yes?

Richard wrote about the fragility of the oil industry and it's massive debt, especially in the fracking industry, in his recent book "Snake Oil". Our second guest Marjory Wildcraft, who lives in West Texas, says she's toured around in Texas, seeing exactly the oil blight, abandoned rigs, and depressed towns that Richard Heinberg wrote about.

I can remember, just five years ago, a big debate about climate change and peak oil. Some Peak Oilers said we'll never get to full-blown climate catastrophe, because the oil will run out soon, very soon. Now we know humans can find and burn enough oil to wreck the climate.

Heinberg compare our rivers to the "rivers" of gasoline that flow along our highways, and throughout our society. I was struck by his observation on how open and visible water is, and how hidden the gasoline flow is at every stage. It's underground, in pipelines, in our tanks, and never seen.

In his new book "Afterburn", Richard Heinberg writes: "Quite simply, we must learn to be successfully and happily poorer." Somehow, I don't think we'll hear that in the upcoming American election campaign...

Stanford professor (and Radio Ecoshock guest) Mark Jacobson and Amory Lovins of Rocky Mountain Institute say we can continue growing the economy powered by renewable energy. Why is Heinberg so gloomy? Can he really be sure we won't find ways to continue the current wealth of civilization?


In the new book "Afterburn" he says:

"When the government tries to provide people the basics, power is centralized — but as the capacity of the government wanes, it can feel threatened by people trying to provide the basics for themselves, and act to discourage or even criminalize them."

Are we seeing signs of government resistance to self-sufficiency and going off-grid? Heinberg says yes, and gives a piercing analysis of the curious balance of big grids. At the beginning (now) only people with enough capital or credit can afford the up-front costs to install solar power systems. Then they get a free dividend, and can feed extra power back into the grid.

At some point, there is so much home-grown power, that a relatively small portion of the population (generally the poorest) are supporting a large and increasingly expensive big-grid infrastructure. Then the power companies use their leverage (read bribes to politicians) to get laws limiting local power, or making it very expensive in the permit process.

Heinberg says in the long run, the big grids will have to cave in, and become completely re-organized. For one thing, it leads to something much closer to an energy democracy, versus the current top-down monopoly structure.

Here is an RT news piece titled: "Local governments crackdown on residents going 'off-the-grid'". [starts at 3:30 ]

We talk all this through in a major interview with one of the great alternative thinkers of our times. I thought I was familiar with many of Richard's ideas, but I enjoyed reading the new book "Afterburn, Society Beyond Fossil Fuels". For me, it tied a lot of things together to create new insights and inspiration. For what it's worth, our previous Radio Ecoshock interview with Richard Heinberg is the most listened to file we have on Soundcloud.

Download or listen to this Radio Ecoshock interview with Richard Heinberg in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

If you would like to Tweet out or Facebook this interview, to pass it on, you can use this "tiny url" for the Lo-Fi version.


To get in the mood for our next guest, let's listen to a little plant music. This an ad from Peaceful Belly Farm. Watch the cool video (with that great music) here.

Yeah. Nature can sing. That's Jamie Drysdale, Blackstreet, and the crew from Peaceful Belly Farm in Boise Idaho. There spring plant sale is over, but the music lives on.

Solutions? You want solutions? Here's a prime Radio Ecoshock interview with answers. It's what I listen to, and what I'm doing to prepare for the new future.

Alex Smith, by his winter garden (tucked in with leaves as ground cover). Note 7 foot deer fence and home made garden shed.


Every time there's a hurricane or a snow storm, we see news footage of grocery store shelves going bare in a few hours of panicked buying. Our whole food system, from giant corporate farms to just-in-time truck deliveries is shaky, very shaky. So is the economy. Toss in GMO food, sugared-up with corn syrup and pesticides, and its a public health mess. Then comes the drought, flood, heat waves and freaky weather from climate change.

All this yells at us: we should grow at least some of our groceries! And Marjory Wildcraft is the person to show us how. Her course DVD course "Grow Your Own Groceries" sold over 300,000 copies. Her You tube videos how-to get tons of hits. Now she's organized a free online summit on Home Grown Food.


First the big news: all this week (April 9th to 12th) Majory has organized a free online "Food Summit" stacked with video interviews with some of the world's big names in permaculture, alternative gardening, and prepper gardening.

Here is Majory's video about that.

If you are reading this blog before April 12th, go ahead and sign up. It's totally free with no gimmicks. I've been watching a bunch of presentations. So far my favorite is with the host of, Paul Wheaton. He gave an overview of at least 10 different gardening styles.

That's what Majory says is the starting point for beginners. Find out what type of gardening appeals to you most. Is it growing in straw bales? Aquaponics? Permaculture? There's lots to choose from.

In the beginning, Marjory's husband and son were not interested. Now her backyard is a whole experiment, including aquaponics. Then husband and son got involved, liking the pumps and mechanics of aquaponics, to produce tomatoes, lettuce and fish. You need to find the technique you resonate the best.

Then she says: start small! If people take on too much right at the beginning, they may give up. A 50 square foot garden (4.6 square meters) may be all you need to start.

Majory says our current food production is a big mistake. It leads to heart disease, diabetes, obesity and more. The food industry is over $1 trillion business in the U.S. alone. Really, Majory tells us, most of those products in the supermarket, from baked goods to meat, are mostly twelve crops, reworked with sugar, fat, and chemicals.

It looks like there is an abundance of food in grocery stores. Over 90% is imported from hundreds or thousands of miles away, depending on a just-in-time trucking and air system. People who can grow their own food have more resilience, making themselves and their community stronger.

There are at least 30 presentations from a variety of groups and authors in the online Food Summit. They include:

* John Jeavons, 43 years grow-biointensive gardening method, used in many countries around the world.

* Sylvia Bernstein, aquaponics.

* Joel Salatin.

* Toby Hemenway on permaculture.

* The Livestock Conservancy.

* John Kohler's "Growing Your Greens" from his strong You tube channel.

- and a whole ton more. Many have been guests on Radio Ecoshock.

The Summit has strong sponsors: National Gardening Association,, Mother Earth News, and the American Preppers Network.

The Summit starts Monday April 9, starting at 9 am Eastern, several up for 24 hours, so people in different time zones (all around the world) can tune in. Five new ones are posted every day. Find out more here.


If you would like to know more about Marjory, and learn from her, try some of her many excellent You tube videos. Like this one: "How to Grow Half Your Food in your Backyard in Less than an Hour Per day." Marjory works through the numbers of what it would take to grow half of your food needs in a common backyard, spending less than an hour per day!

What about the time it takes to operate all this? About an hour per day. Occasionally more for special projects. Some systems can be automated for 2 to 3 days absence.

She is developing 5 different systems, including aquaponics, with fish, veggies and quail. She has another vegetarian system, based on root crops. She's also experimenting with a backyard food forest, and polyculture.

In less than 2 generations we've lost the ability to feed ourselves, turning it over to big corporations. Now we can rediscover ways to grow food and medicine. Get lots of help online from web sites and You tube videos. Learn what works and what doesn't.

Majory also offers a full DVD video course called "Grow your own groceries" in 2 DVD's. It includes rainwater collection, gardening, rabbits (how to breed and butcher too), food forests, and more. There is a bonus CD with pdf documents, on rabbits, companion gardens, permaculture, and more. That's at a pretty decent price of $37 plus shipping.

Here are some of my other favorite Marjory Wildcraft videos:

"Highly Nutritous Food In Only 4 Sq. Ft. For Hungry Urbanites"

"How to Grow Your Own Groceries in a Dark Apartment"

"Economic Collapse Survivor - Marjory Wildcraft Interviews Rita Ojeda" (in Cuba)

And of course my favorite, the video that led me to discover Majory: "Survival Gardening In The Heat with Marjory Wildcraft". That's had 77,000 views so far. The thing is: as global warming ramps up, we need to adapt what we can grow, being ready for heat waves. There are some good tips here.

Download or listen to this Radio Ecoshock interview with Marjory Wildcraft (30 min) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

If you want to Tweet or Facebook this interview, use this tiny url, which leads to the Lo-Fi version.


Now that California has finally issued an emergency directive to save water, the world has discovered NASA scientist Jay Famiglietti. The Los Angeles Times quotes Jay and NASA satellite studies saying there is only one year of groundwater left in America's most populous state.

I knew Famiglietti's groundwater studies were dynamite when they first came out. Over a year ago, on March 5th 2014, Famiglietti was my guest in a special on the California drought. Here's the scoop: NASA has twin satellites called Grace. One follows the other, and by comparing measurements, they can determine changes in ground mass. That works to show Greenland is losing mass as it's ice melts, and so is Antarctica. But it also shows changes in the water underground, including in California. When that water evaporates, or gets pumped up, the world weights a little less in that spot.

When the snowpack is low, or missing, as it is this year in the Sierra Nevada mountains - California growers and cities make it all up by pumping from the ground reservoirs, from the Earth's savings account. That works for a year or two, but with the drought now in it's fourth year, that water bank is running dry. Already some farm wells have gone dry, and then whole orchards die, or fields lay dry and fallow.

Considering California produces about one quarter of America's vegetables, fruits, and nuts, you may need to grow some food where you are. This could affect the global food market, and may force an exodus of millions of people from California.

Of course, I interviewed Jay Famiglietti and wrote about the California drought LAST year in this March 5th, 2014 Radio Ecoshock show blog.

Oh, Oh. We are out of time again. Be sure and join us next week for more science, tips, and disturbing news on Radio Ecoshock.

I'm Alex Smith, saying thank you for listening, and caring about your world.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

THE CRUNCH - Are You Ready?

From US Dept of Energy lab, Dr. Steven J. Smith says we will get hotter faster. Paul Goddard on why sea level went up over 2 inches in New England in 1 year. Carolyn Baker: preparing our minds and hearts for the coming troubles.

The Radio Ecoshock train is all booked up, ready to leave the station. We have two science reports: how we know the world will get hotter faster, and why sea levels along Eastern North America went up a couple of inches in single year. But first, I worry how we will cope with the coming bottleneck, when the economy crashes, along with climate disruption. Are you ready inside?

Then let's turn to the scientists. First, why temperatures will go up almost 2 degrees in North America and Europe in the next 40 years. After that, we'll investigate a case extraordinary sea level rise.

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

Or listen right now on Soundcloud!

CAROLYN BAKER: Love In the Age of Ecological Apocalypse

Our next guest, Carolyn Baker returns to Radio Ecoshock. Carolyn is the author of many books, including "Collapsing Consciously", "Sacred Demise" and now a brand new book: "Love In the Age of Ecological Apocalypse: the Relationships We Need to Thrive". She has been a former psychotherapist, and currently offers life coaching.

Carolyn and I share news stories, although I get more than I give, being a subscriber to her amazing daily news service. We're kind of online friends, but we don't agree about everything. For example, I want my listeners to know that I don't agree that humans will go extinct this century.

But here's the thing. I think humans are in for some terrible shocks in the future. We are badly prepared, mentally and emotionally, to handle what is coming. Carolyn has some really useful inside tech to help us deal. We're going to need it.

We both agree that humans are approaching an awful bottleneck due to multiple causes. I would include the impacts of climate change, the economy, possibly a new plague, energy and food supply problems.

On Carolyn's web site, looking through the videos page, I was surprised, and not surprised, to find her interview with preparedness guru Chris Martenson. Chris probably has a lot of male listeners, some of them preppers with extra gold, food, and guns in the basement. Maybe they need Carolyn most, to realize relationships and community may be the survival tools we need most.

It's my theory that millions of Western people have become disengaged from fundamental human feelings. They experience emotions through characters on TV or movies. That's when they laugh or cry on cue, along with the sound-track. Soon, it's time to get real, and experience our own emotions.

Let's say we have the real economic crash we deserve. Money becomes almost worthless, and jobs disappear. Even if it's just a major depression, millions of people may find their emotions are left back in a child-like state. They didn't get or take the opportunity to feel real grief from real life.


I'm going somewhere with this. It seems obvious that an event or period where millions of people die is coming, possibly this decade, almost certainly during the next. I don't know if it will be famine, but there are just too many reasons why our population is unsustainable. What happens to the survivors, especially if they witness it all on TV?

Just think of the lasting emotional scar left by about 5 million human-caused deaths in the Holocaust during World War Two. Now let's picture millions of people dying, due to our wasteful lifestyles burning carbon, over-using pesticides and antibiotics, or filling the ocean with plastic. How would we handle it?

I think that post-traumatic stress disorder could become a result, but on a mass scale, almost viral. If we take those PTSD symptoms and draw them out on a big social scale, what does that look like?

The other possible reaction is seen in the medical diagnosis of "shock". The person becomes numb, may even fall asleep as the bombs fall, as happened in World War I. That is one of several reasons I called this program "Ecoshock". I think millions of people will go into a state of shock as the environment unravels from the stresses we have created. Can you picture that?

A third possibility arises, and that is the direction you take. We could learn to grieve and survive. How can grief help us get through things? The key question is: how do we stop grieving, and what follows next? Carolyn addresses all that in her book, and in our interview.

Carolyn has been counselling people, especially those newly aware of the coming challenges for years. A lot of that gets into this new book. A challenge we've talked about before, but which keeps coming up, is the situation where one person in a relationship sees the fragility of our system and wants "out" or at least want to prepare a fall-back position. The spouse, and it could be a man or a woman, doesn't see it, and wants to keep playing the role of debt and consumption. We talk briefly about handling that, but the in-depth material is in the book.

Is it harder to find friends and lover now, as the media and the economy encourages us to sit in our silos of the office and then the couch and TV?

Carolyn lost a friend, and in the process learned more about the hospice experience. She thinks with species disappearing daily, and beloved landscapes and natural experiences lost, we may all be in hospice. Does that mean we just sit around crying? Not at all says Carolyn. Some people in hospice find a new release, and learn to value every minute of every day. We can all learn from that. And yes, joy has an important place even in difficult times.

I'm always interested in how aware people use the media to get their message out. Carolyn writes books, pumps out a daily news service of headlines we all need to hear about, and she took over "The Lifeboat Hour" radio show after the passing of Michael C. Ruppert. The Lifeboat Hour had it's own share of collapsing, after the New York studio of the Progressive Radio Network (PRN) was flooded and badly damaged. PRN had to go to pre-recorded programs only, instead of popular call-in programs like The Lifeboat Hour.

Carolyn tried Global Collapse Radio out of the UK, but that folded when the founding partners split up recently. Now PRN is back with renovated studios, and The Lifeboat Hour is back with Carolyn Baker at a new time, Fridays at 2 pm. You can listen live at PRN, or download past shows here at

By the way, you can listen to Radio Ecoshock online on PRN every Saturday morning at 10:30 am Eastern Time. Listen to/download this Radio Ecoshock interview with Carolyn Baker in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Check out all things Carolyn Baker at her web site Speaking Truth to Power.


Scientists have predicted how hot Earth can become, depending on our greenhouse gas emissions. But they seldom say how quickly that happens, or how it will develop in the region where you live. As biologists can tell you, when it comes to survival of the species, the rate of warming may be as important as the final temperature.

What's true for the animals and plants is just as true for humans and our ability to adapt our civilization. Speed matters. Biologists have been saying for decades the rate of change is key. Plants, animals and insects can only adapt so far, and in the living network, they have to move together, or species and systems begin to fail.

That's why I welcome a new paper titled "Near-term acceleration in the rate of temperature change." The lead author is Dr. Steven J. Smith, a past lead author with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and currently a scientist with the Joint Global Change Research Institute, of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, in Maryland. That's part of the U.S. Department of Energy. Dr. Steven Smith joins us on Radio Ecoshock to discuss this new research.

This paper finds the rate of heating, and therefore the actual impacts of climate change, is speeding up. The world is heating at a faster rate than at any time in at least the past 1,000 years, probably more.

Smith tells us: "What these climate models project is that we are on the cusp right now of a new state of climate where the models are projecting that the rate of change will soon start to speed up, and be outside of the range that we saw historically."

There has been too little research into this rate of change. Previous work looked at a rate on a century scale. This paper tries to quantify what is happening in shorter, more meaningful time scales, like 40 years, something "comparable to the life-time of much of human infrastructure.

Another factor to consider: new science has emerged predicting that heat sinks like oceans and forest may not function as well in the coming decades. If those land and ocean heat sinks are declining in their uptake of CO2, could that speed up the rate of temperature increase even more?

I am referring to the 2014 study, “The declining uptake rate of atmospheric CO2 by land and ocean sinks,” M.R. Raupach et al. Biogeosciences, 11, 3453–3475, 2014 Paper here.


In the paper "Near-term acceleration in the rate of temperature change" we find this, quote:

"Although global temperature trends are on of the most commonly used metrics of climate change, climate impacts will be driven by regional trends."

Why do regional results matter as much or more than global forecasts? Farmers, and all of us care more about what will happen in our area.

Let's talk about a few regions of the Northern Hemisphere. What did these scientists find about the rate of temperature increases in North America? "In North America, the models showed a change from about .7 to about 1.8 degrees Centigrade over a 40 year period.... that's about 1 to 3 degrees Fahrenheit over that period."

What about Europe? The scientists found predictions of increasing warming there are similar to North America.

The Arctic is already fantastically warmer the past few years. Will it get even warmer, even faster? Yes, according to this study. Temperatures in the Arctic will go up 1.1 to 3 degrees degree the year 2050.

What are the predictions about warming rates in Australia or New Zealand?

"Australasia has lower rates of change in both data sets". Due to the large amount of ocean in the southern Hemisphere, warming will come slower in places like Australia.


A key point I found in this paper is the concept that as this century progresses, the human fingerprint on climate change becomes easier to see. Right now we have a hard time saying that a certain violent storm or heat wave is due to human emissions, rather than natural cycles or variations. All that should become clearer by 2040 or 2050, although the whole question is still an active topic in science.

Steven Smith says it will likely be easier to attribute heat waves to increased warming, than rainfall. Extreme rainfall events may have several complicated causes, so they will be harder to directly attribute to human caused global warming, he says.

But the scientists cannot predict how humans will react to this heating. As Smith points out, there are no laws of physics governing human behavior. So the paper cannot take into account things like a severe economic crash which slashes carbon emissions. However, their paper concentrated on the 90% most likely range, so extreme events might be found in the 10% tails on the prediction curve, which they don't cover. Let's call that a Black Swan event, which may or may not ever happen.

Download or listen to this key science interview with Steven J. Smith in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


Sea level rise has been called the single greatest impact of climate change. But we are learning sea level can go up regionally for other reasons. Surprising new research shows the ocean rose along the coast of New England by almost 4 inches for a couple of years.

Here to explain why is Paul B. Goddard. He's working on his PHD in climatology and climate modeling at the University of Arizona. Most recently, Paul was the lead author of a paper in the journal Nature Communications titled: "An extreme event of sea-level rise along the Northeast coast of North America in 2009–2010."

I've been told by experts, including scientists on Radio Ecoshock, that the major cause of sea level rise in places like New York city was subsidence - that the land was still sinking along the coast after the glaciers departed. But this new research found the sudden higher sea levels was not due to land sinking, which is a very, very slow process.

That shows just how complicated assigning the causes of sea level rise can be. If it wasn't subsidence, what did cause New England seas to go up 128 millimeters, or about 5 inches, in some places? It all has to do with ocean currents in the North Atlantic. In particular, the Gulf Stream changed.

Regular listeners must be bored with my repetitive amazement that the sea is not level. It isn't. Anyway, in this case, the outer, Eastward side of the Gulf Stream was lower than it's Western edge, which helped pile up water on the New England coast.

I'm assuming this new work is closely related to another paper. That's the one in Ocean Science led by H.L. Bryden. The title is "Impact of a 30 % reduction in Atlantic meridional overturning during 2009–2010". Scientists call it AMOC for short. Our guest Paul Goddard gives us the clearest explanation of these ocean currents that's I've heard.

I was astounded to find in that Bryden paper that this North Atlantic ocean current system is, quote:

"accounting for 25 % of the maximum combined atmosphere–ocean heat transport necessary to balance the Earth’s radiation budget."

Twenty five percent is a huge number! What happens if this system slows down - as some scientists fear it might. That could happen if a whole lot of fresh water floods into the far north Atlantic, due to melting in Greenland and elsewhere in the Arctic. The big ocean conveyor belt depends on heavy salty water sinking, and more freshwater could throw that out. That's the theme in the overblown Hollywood movie "The Day After Tomorrow". Scientists do worry about this, but on a much slower scale, perhaps over a century or two. One side effect would be much colder weather for the UK and Europe.

Another key reason I thought this paper was important is: what if ocean circulation brings another big hike in sea levels - at the same time as a big storm-surge event like Hurricane Sandy. Wouldn't Sandy flooding have been much worse if it happened in 2009 or 2010? Yes it would, Goddard tells us.

This is one reason why I think the impacts of sea level rise are routinely underestimated. Ten or twenty millimeters of sea level rise in the near-term doesn't sound like much. But we have to couple that with things like a high Spring tide, storm surge, and now periods of change in ocean circulation.

The whole subject of how the ocean works is coming into a kind of renaissance. We are coming to appreciate two things: 1. how much we really don't know about the ocean and 2. the ocean is probably the biggest single factor driving climate in the coming centuries.

Download or listen to this Radio Ecoshock interview with Paul Goddard in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Here is a good article in Science Daily to follow up on this strange case of rapid sea level rise.


Thanks for sticking with it. We all need to feed our brains until we know what to do, without a doubt to stop us.

Next week we're starting a bit of change, as Spring arrives in the Northern Hemisphere. We'll talk with energy guru Richard Heinberg about his new book "Afterburn". And then Marjory WildCraft tells us about a big online summit on growing your own groceries. I hope this plants a seed in your mind.

A big thanks to those who donated to Radio Ecoshock last week. You keep me going, and keep the shows coming. Get more details here.

Check out our web page at, the show blog with all the links at and our busy page on Soundcloud, where we went past 20,000 listeners in just our first year in the cloud.

Thanks for listening, and caring about your world.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


Welcome to another round of Radio Ecoshock. I'm Alex Smith, with two of the world's top climate scientists talking about the severe challenges we face right now, and in the future. From the United Kingdom, we have Dr. Kevin Anderson, who pulls no punches. Then Rutgers distinguished scientist Alan Robock tells us why geoengineering might not be a good idea. Open your ears and your mind to what's coming next.

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

Or listen on Soundcloud right now!


Dr. Kevin Anderson is a Professor of energy and climate change at the University of Manchester, UK. He's also Deputy Director of the Tyndall Centre, a multi-university project for the study of climate change. Kevin has advised the UK government and European Union.

Find Kevin's web site here.

As I reported in my Radio Ecoshock show in 2012:

"In a devastating speech at the University of Bristol Tuesday November 6th, 2012, Professor 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.

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.

Kevin Anderson is from the UK's premier climate modeling institution, the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, 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.

Read my blog about all that here. A Radio Ecoshock listener made this transcript of that talk.

The speech is still a great listen. Download or listen to the audio of Kevin Anderson in Bristol in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


Is Kevin Anderson more optimistic 3 years later. Hardly. Practically nothing has been done about greenhouse gas emissions in the real world, and years of climate talks have not made any progress.

Still, we talk about new science, and our increasing focus on the details of what will happen as climate disruption sets in.

The climate denialists like to says that climate scientists fly about the world to conferences. Personally, I think these scientists should do exactly that, to meet and match up research. If there is a last plane flying, these are the people who should be on it.

But Kevin Anderson has taken the whole issue to heart, saying each of us must make personal sacrifices. He's pretty well stopped flying. Yes Kevin was just advising the World Bank at a conference in Iceland, but he took a more fuel efficient solution: a rather unpleasant trip on a merchant marine ship. The waves were wicked he told me.

Dr. Anderson will attend the Paris climate talks later this year. He can go by land, using the Chunnel. It's loud and clear. All of us have to re-evaluate who we are and what we do. Are you bored with winter, or just bored, and want to fly to an exotic location? Be sure and kiss the kids and grandkids goodbye, as you add to their future misery...

We talk about new science showing climate change is speeding up, and what it all means. He's a powerful voice, don't miss this interview.

Download or listen to this new Radio Ecoshock interview with Dr. Kevin Anderson in CD Quality or Lo-Fi.


What if geoengineering to save the climate turns out badly? What could go wrong? Alan Robock has some questions, and the science to back them up.

As a Distingushed Professor of environmental science at Rutgers University, Alan has published over 200 peer-reviewed scientific papers. He's an Editor at the important Earth Sciences journal called "Reviews of Geophysics". Alan has been a lead author in the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

I also ask Dr. Robock about another application of climate science: what happens if there is an exchange of nuclear weapons. Could that stop global warming?

Download or listen to this new interview with Dr. Alan Robock in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


I do a lot of research for each guest. To be honest, I don't have time for detailed notes on this week's interview with Alan. It's very powerful, and loaded with science and reality - as befits a major contributor to science, and to the web site

Instead, I'm going to give you my notes on a web presentation by Alan Robock and some of his students.

Find this online article here.

Reasons geoengineering may be a bad idea

Climate system response

1. Regional climate change, including temperature and precipitation

2. Continued ocean acidification

3. Ozone depletion

4. Effects on plants of changing the amount of solar radiation and partitioning between direct and diffuse

5. Enhanced acid precipitation

6. Effects on cirrus clouds as aerosols fall into the troposphere

7. Whitening of the sky (but nice sunsets)

8. Less solar radiation for solar power, especially for those requiring direct radiation

9. Rapid warming when it stops

10. How rapidly could effects be stopped?

11. Environmental impacts of aerosol injection, including producing and delivering aerosols Unknowns

12. Human error

13. Unexpected consequences (How well can we predict the expected effects of geoengineering? What about unforeseen effects?)

Political, ethical and moral issues

14. Schemes perceived to work will lessen the incentive to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions

15.Use of the technology for military purposes. Are we developing weapons?

16.Commercial control of technology

17. Violates UN Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques

18. Could be tremendously expensive

19. Even if it works, whose hand will be on the thermostat? How could the world agree on the optimal climate?

20. Who has the moral right to advertently modify the global climate?

We find a graph showing (a) warming at our current emissions rate up to 2050 (b) SRM by dumping 3 Million tons a year into the Arctic only from 2008 to 2030 (b) Dumping 5 million tons a year into the tropics in the same period, and 10 million tons a year into the tropics.

The Arctic experiment seems to lower Earth's mean temperature by about .2 degrees C, which could be said to counter-act or gain about 20 years in the emissions pathway. After stopping in 2030, the heat level regains entirely the original pathway upward without geoengineering.

The 5 million tons a year into the Tropics has a of about .4 degrees C, but as soon as it stops, it starts an upward curve parallel to the un-geoengineered curve, but lower by about .1 degrees by 2050.

The 10 million tons a year causes a significant drop in temperature, going from .8 degrees C above the 1951 to 1980 mean in 2020, to about .3 degrees below that mean temperature (-3 on the chart). That's a drop of 1 degree C. However, when geoengineering stops in 2030, the temperture rises again to about .1 degree C of where it would have been anyway, or 1 deg C warmer than the 1951 to 1980 mean temperature.

The Arctic drop expands over much of the Northern Hemisphere, but doesn't affect the Southern Hemisphere much. So it would affect acidity or rain and lakes, and reduce sunlight to both crops and solar power installations, in the Northern Hemisphere. The impacts don't stay in the Arctic. The impacts seem greater in Russia's north than in North America.

Precipitation also drops, the planet gets drier as it gets cooler. The tropical drop affects the whole world, but precipitation is greatly impacted in certain spots, like Northern Australia. The precipitation changes more than the temperature.

Note that the Arctic sea ice continues decline even with the 3 MT year drop in the Arctic, not much differently than having not done it at all.

"Both tropical and Arctic SO2 injection would disrupt the Asian and African summer monsoons, reducing precipitation to the food supply for billions of people."


Alan and I discuss "nuclear winter" in our interview. I ask him if he thinks a major nuclear war would lead to human extinction. Unlike Helen Caldicott, he's not so sure it would.

Alan tells us about the "Toba event" that scientists think occured about 74,000 years ago. A huge super-volcano erupted in Indonesia (leaving a hole and lake today). The sun was blotted out for several years, likely decimating plants and animals.

Genetic scientists chimed in that research into the X and Y chromosomes of humans seems to show a "bottleneck" possibly around the same date. Some scientists speculate that humans declined to around 10,000 individuals (for the whole of planet Earth!). That would explain why most of us share some of the same genes.

If we could survive Toba, Robock says, some people somewhere might survive the nuclear winter after a war.

We also talk about what would happen if India and Pakistan got into a "minor" nuclear war, with the smaller weapons they have. There is no "minor" nuclear war. Aside from the millions of people dead, again the cities burn with so much dust that the sun would be dimmed - all over the world! Crops in North America and Europe would suffer greatly. Food shortages would appear.

That means that any nuclear exchange anywhere happens to all of us. We can't just push it aside as a matter in some foreign lands. That is also why nuclear weapons can never be used. We really only bomb ourselves.


Title of Robock talk at the New York City Symposium: (in the morning of Day One, February 28, 2015):

"Nuclear Famine and Nuclear Winter: Climatic Affects of Nuclear War, Catastrophic Affects to the Global Food Supply"

You can listen to or download this 19 minute presentation by Alan here. It was delivered at this "Symposium: The Dynamics of Possible Nuclear Extinction l February 28-March 1, 2015 at The New York Academy of Medicine" sponsored by the Helen Caldicott Foundation (my thanks to Helen, and Dale Lehman of WZRD radio for recording this 19 minute talk).

You can find audio of all the speeches from the Symposium available for free download here.

In ground burst type of nuclear explosion, fires start with tremendous smoke, but also parts of the ground are blown into more particles in the air. Some obscure the sun, some reflect it, so very little sun reaches the ground. That causes rapid drops in surface temperature, devastating crops.

The smoke in the air also heats the upper atmosphere, which then destroys ozone. More ultraviolet radiation reaches the ground, also devastating for life.

Nuclear winter would be more cold, dry, and dark at the surface, but loaded with ultraviolet light.

The problem has not been solved.

In the 1800's one volcano caused such cooling it snowed in July, crops suffered in the "summer that never was". That's nothing compared to nuclear war.

Reagan and Gorbechov had info from both Russian and American scientists telling them a nuclear war has no winners, only losers in a nuclear winter. They both said that information from scientists helped them end the arms race.

There are now 9 nuclear nations. The current arsenal can produce a nuclear winter that would last decades. A smaller local war would not create freezing conditions at ground level, but would be terrible where it occurred, and create severe effects on agriculture around the world.


1906 Earthquake in San Francisco filled the land with smoke, firestorm for 3 days. All buildings but stone ones gone. Same in Hiroshima.

There are about 16,400 nuclear weapons in the world now. Russia has 8,000 US has 7,000. Other countries only have a couple of hundred each. That's all it takes to be a deterrent.

As in our interview, Alan spoke about the hotspot of India and Pakistan - the subject of a study, with 50 Hiroshima size weapons. It would create 6.5 million tons of smoke. Even 5 million tons of smoke can affect climate. 20 million people would die directly. He shows a movie of where the smoke would go.

Most would go into the stratosphere, beyond the level of weather, where rain cannot wash it out. So it would cover the world and last for about a decade. (Inadvertent geoengineering?) It would become 1.5 deg C or 2 degrees Fahrenheit colder. That would be "climate change unprecedent in human history, colder than the Little Ice Age" (10:20)

Two other climate models were run to check this simulation. All three found basically the same results.

In China, the largest food producer, for about 10 years rice would be down about 20 percent, winter wheat 40%; in the U.S. corn would go down by about 20%, soybeans 15%.

But it's much worse than that. The actual bombs of today are much, much more powerful than the Hiroshima-sized bombs used in these studies. One Trident submarine can produce about 1,000 Hiroshimas. The U.S. has 14 Trident subs, and that is just half the American arsenal.

That could be 150 million tons of smoke, and 7 or 8 degrees C colder! Every possible target in Russia and the U.S. had a possible 9 nuclear bombs targetting it. Even with just one on each target, we can still produce the same amount of smoke.

14:40 "yes this would solve the global warming problem" "I did a calculation, if you produce that much smoke and you stop producing CO2, the global warming is gone".

15:04 "So what's new in this work? A nuclear war between any nuclear states using much less than 1% of the current nuclear arsenal can produce climate change unprecedented in recorded human history" "Such a 'small' nuclear war could reduce food production by 20 to 40% for a decade."

They revisited nuclear winter calculations made in the 1980's, and the current US and Russian arsenal can still produce global temperatures below freezing. Old 1980's computers were less powerful than an Iphone. Now modern models confirm those results.

They can only test this theory in little bits, using analogs, like winter cold.


New START treaty signed between Obama and Medyev (sp) signed in 2010. In 7 years, each side would bring arsenal down to 1550 per side. Due to a loop-hole on bombers, it might actually be about 2,000 nuke weapons each. That could bring world total down to about 5,000 weapons.

If instead the U.S. and Russia went down to about 200 each, like other nations, that could be enough to prevent a complete nuclear winter. "We wouldn't be able to produce enough smoke to actually cause temperatures to go below freezing, and sentence the entire world to famine."

Maybe a billion people would die with just a nuclear war between India and Pakistan.

The late Carl Sagan, a leader in nuclear disarmament in the 1980's said: "For myself I would far rather have a world in which the climatic catastrophe cannot happen, - independent of the viscisitudes of leaders, institutions, and machines. This seems to me to be elementary planetary hygiene, as well as elementary patriotism."

"We've already banned biological weapons in the world, chemical weapons, land mines and cluster munitions."

Support ICAN the international campaign against nuclear weapons wants to ban nuclear weapons.

Ends with Dr. Zeuss quote: "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not."


As the climate crisis deepens, we don't know how to grasp it. That's when we call in the arts, our pathway to the heart and the inner brain. Heather Woodbury has a one-woman play with a huge cast for this coming Earth Day. Heather has been recognized in the performing arts with awards. Her work has spread into books and public radio, and inspired many.

Now Heather is launching a climate change novel on stage. It's called "As the Globe Warms".

Listen to or download this interview with Heather Woodbury (10 minutes) in CD Quality.

In this program I play a quick clip from "As the Globe Warms" the audio eco-comic novel by Heather Woodbury. The clip comes from here.

Here is a 2.25-minute scene from Episode Nine.

The whole series will be finished and available on Earth Day this April 22nd. I love that Heather tested this piece in Florida and Texas, where climate change dare not say it's name...

Here is a description of the new audio play, from the PR blurb:

"Timely and entertaining, 'As The Globe Warms' humorously explores surviving on a planet veering toward social and ecological crisis; Gripping,funny and sexy, the drama crucially connects the dots between climate change, America’s religious-secular polarity, and economic inequality. The protagonists are a working class family on the brink of extinction who befriend Tea Partiers, desperate scientists, off-the-reservation-Evangelicals, and come together via a strange form of eyewitness testimony from bees, bats, polar bears, and frogs.

Woodbury, an OBIE-winning actor and recipient of the Spalding Gray Award, is known for novel-sized solo works that combine serial storytelling with high-wire performance. *What Ever*, her 1990s stage tour-de-force, was adapted and broadcast on public radio, hosted by Ira Glass, and published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Filmmaker Richard Linklater (*Boyhood)* likens being engrossed in her serial works to "living INSIDE a novel." Laurie Anderson calls her "an incredible one-woman Dickens." And The Irish Times writes of her work "What if the great American novel turns out to be a piece of theatre?" (Fintan O'Toole)

LISTEN TO The Newest Episodes from the current podcast here.

WATCH a scene from the original crowd-funded webcast here.


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I'm Alex Smith. Thank you for listening, and caring about your world.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Climate Geoengineering and Chemtrails Conspiracy

SUMMARY: In this program we talk with one of the world's top experts on geoeningeering to cool the planet, Harvard's Dr. David Keith. Then from the UK, Dr. Rose Cairns investigates the internet phenomenon of chemtrails, the belief that aircraft are already poisoning the sky. Is it an expression of public fears about geoengineering? Radio Ecoshock 150318

I'm Alex Smith. Let's go.

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

Or listen on Soundcloud right now!


When people talk about geoengineering, for or against, one name keeps coming up. For over 20 years, scientist David Keith has kept open the door for discussion and research on climate modification. At Harvard University, David is a Professor in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. He's also a Professor of Public Policy at the prestigious Harvard Kennedy School. Dr. Keith wins awards and criticism for talking about technology to stave off the worst of climate change.

Like most scientists, David Keith works hard to get a society with fewer greenhouse gas emissions. He also has a Calgary-based company trying to remove CO2 from the air. But today we pick David's brain on technology to artificially cool the planet, by blocking out some of the sun's rays. It's called Solar Radiation Management, or SRM.

First David describes how spraying sulfur into the upper atmosphere would work. Essentially, if the particles are small, they stay up there for long periods of time, reflecting some of the sun's rays back into space. The sulfur droplets would be sprayed from an airplane, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) high in the atmosphere.

Scientists in the Arctic Methane Emergency Group have already called for regional SRM in the Arctic. They hope to preserve what is left of Arctic Sea ice, to slow glacial melt, and to prevent large-scale releases of methane from the clathrates or thawing permafrost. I ask David what he thinks of this proposal.

David Keith says the concept of regional Solar Radiation Management is meaningless. The particles will spread down over at least most of the Northern Hemisphere, rather than staying over the Arctic. Due to the way this planet's air mixes, the sulfur particles would not enter the Southern Hemisphere to any large degree. So trying to cool the Arctic means repeatedly recharging the sulfur spraying over the Arctic, and essentially cooling the whole Northern Hemisphere, with expected and unknown side effects for crops in Canada, the United States, Europe and Scandinavia, and Russia.

Not all scientists agree that regional cooling is impossible. Next week I'll talk with Dr. Alan Robock. His group ran models looking at what would happen if someone dumped about 5 million tons of sulfur over the Arctic. We'll find those results next week. U of Ottawa PHD student Paul Beckwith also thinks Arctic cooling could work. We just don't know for sure.

That is one reason Dr. Keith says more research is needed into SRM, and he supports the recent call for that research by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. However the Academy support does not translate into real funding. That probably has to come from governments. That isn't happening yet. David says there is a political and social taboo about even researching geoengineering. Some groups, like the ETC Group, worry if the public thinks there is a quick technical fix, then we won't change away from burning fossil fuels.

One of the key unknowns is the impact of SRM on rainfall. It may reduce rainfall in some areas, but may also reduce extreme rainfall events. Again, we'll hear more about that next week with Dr. Robock. But David Keith says the idea that SRM will cause drought is a "false claim".

Don't get the idea that David Keith is a total supporter of geoengineering. He worries about things like damage to the ozone layer, and many other affects. Really Keith is not sure SRM should ever be used. He is sure we should do more research to see what it can and can't do.

We also discuss the possibility that the airborne sulfur might replace the cooling we currently experience by global dimming. Scientists like Dr. James Hansen (and many others) say that industrial pollution is blocking enough sunlight to hide at least 1 degree C of the heating we really create with current carbon dioxide levels. Millions of people a year, especially in Asia, but in all industrial countries, die every year because of this harmful pollution. If the public demands a clean up of the air, for health reasons, then the planet will warm significantly, due to the hidden heat "in the pipeline".

Dr. Keith thinks the relatively tiny amount of sulfur required to acheive the same global dimming would be far less harmful than the low-level smog humans are breathing. It takes 1/50th or 1/100th of the amount of sulfur to acheive the same effect.

And don't forget, we already put about 50 million tons of sulfur a year into the lower atmosphere, mostly from coal burning, but also from other industrial processes. The amount being suggested for the upper atmosphere might be 10 million tons a year. We don't know yet.

Of course we may also get more acid rain as the sulfur comes to ground. And SRM does nothing to stop ocean acidification - but Keith says there are plenty of tools we use, even though they don't solve everything.

David Keith claims SRM could reduce net effect of CO2 by about 100 gigatons, equivalent of US emissions over a century.


I ask David Keith specifically about chemtrails. He's not only on the radar of the chemtrails crowd, but is often demonized as a key figure in what they think is a world-wide conspiracy to hide the poisoning of the sky. Dr. Keith has received a few death threats, and gets hassled when he speaks at geoengineering forums and events. Anecdotally, some airline pilots have also become wary of chemtrails activists.

Keith notes in the earlier days of the chemtrails movement, say around the year 2000, a lot of internet posts thought the sky was being sprayed for mind control. Now that has shifted to one of two "reasons": either to control weather (as an economic or military weapon); or to cool off the planet. It is as though geoengineering for climate has been going on for a couple of decades (believers claim). We'll have more about chemtrails and the relationship with geoengineering science in the next interview.

Meanwhile, David Keith says geoengineering, encompassing many technologies (from sucking carbon out of the atmosphere, maybe seeding plankton, and solar radation management) - is the only way to significantly reduce global warming within a single lifetime. Maybe, given our current failure to reduce emissions, we will experience multiple climate-driven emergencies so serious, we will need this tool? David Keith says we should at least do the research to find out if SRM could work, and what the expected side effects might be. Then people and their governments could decide - although I'm not sure the public would be consulted if any government decided to go ahead and spray the sky.

Some SRM research is going on in the UK, in Germany, and likely in Russia. Like the American military, the Russian military has long had an interest in climate weapons. Most started with cloud seeding, but it may have gone much further. In that case, the chemtrails people may have actually seen real life secret experiments by the military. Who knows?

I ask David Keith if such experiments were taking place, would we know? Would he know? He replies that if the experiments were large enough to actually cool anything, various satellites and other tracking would pick it up. David Keith was approached by a CIA agency, asking many of the same questions I asked him. He says as a kind of "lefty" Canadian, he find it "pretty disturbing" that secret agencies were looking into this. DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is also interested.

On the other hand, the military looks at a huge range of options, and their interest doesn't mean they are actually doing anything at this time. Plus Keith feels so plugged into the few geoengineering research projects around the world, he thinks he would probably know if large-scale experiments are happening. He says they are not, at this time.


It's not just the military. A few billionaires are aware of the climate risks to their wealth. Richard Branson comes to mind, and some geoengineering research scientists hope to win Branson's $25 million prize to suck significant amounts of CO2 out of the air. Maybe then Branson's aircraft fleet could keep flying?

David Keith acknowledges he and his study group have received several million dollars from one of the world's richest men, Bill Gates. The Gates money is being used to set up scientific conferences on geoengineering to exchange research and data. That is all public knowledge, not a conspiracy.

David Keith's landmark book "A Case for Climate Engineering" is available from MIT press and the usual book sellers.

If you would like more, here is a good BBC "Hardtalk" interview with David Keith on You tube (24 minutes long)

This 2012 David Keith lecture on solar radiation management at Stanford University is very informative.

Note that many David Keith video clips are posted by his adversaries in the chemtrails movement, so beware of selective editing. I suggest you stick with complete presentations, from reliable sources.

Download or listen to this 24 minute Radio Ecoshock interview with David Keith in CD Quality or the faster-downloading but lower quality Lo-Fi version.

On most computers, you right click with your mouse to save an interview file. Just note where the computer stores it!


A group of people, perhaps even some of my listeners, believe there is a world-wide conspiracy to control the weather and maybe your mind and health - by dumping chemicals out of aircraft at high altitudes. They call these persistent high clouds "Chemtrails".

Now the internet phenomenon of the chemtrails movement sets itself up to fight off geoengineering, like solar radiation management, which it sees as more of the same. A sub-set of chemtrails believers also want to stop climate negotiations. They don't believe in human-induced climate change.

We are going to explore the meaning of the chemtrails meme. Our guest has written a sociological analysis of the chemtrails phenomenon. We will not argue whether of not the chemtrails conspiracy is true or false. Instead, Rose Cairns investigated the methods and possible meaning of this underground movement.

Dr. Rose Cairns is a research fellow at the Science and Technology Policy Research unit at the University of Sussex, in England. She's also been an environmental campaigner.

We talk about her paper titled "Climates of suspicion: 'chemtrail' conspiracy narratives and the international politics of geoengineering". It was published online in April 2014 by the Climate Geoengineering Governance project. Read the full paper as an online .pdf for free here. It's a great read!

Just for the record, Rose Cairns made plain in that interview that she doesn't believe in the chemtrails conspiracy. And just for the record, neither do I, although I keep an open mind about such things.

I don't doubt that the military in the United States, Russia, and probably now China, are working on experiments to develop weather weapons, like huge storms to strike an opposing army or navy. That's probably been going on since the 1960's. Here is a web site where you can find a lot of documents on this.

The video talk by Rosalind Peterson to go with this site is here. Rosalind believes experiments are going on to modify the weather, but stops short of saying there is a world-wide conspiracy to poison us from the sky. In this video at least, she sticks to statements that can be backed up to some degree by the documents she has collected. Peterson also links widespread tree death to common ground level air pollution. In this video, she declares against the widespead conspiracy theory. By all means, check out the many government and other documents she has collected. It's an education.

There are plenty of real conspiracies. Major banks admitted they fixed everything from interest rates to the price of gold. The George Bush Administration conspired to start a war in Iraq. So it is not irrational to believe in a conspiracy.

In my own exploration on the Net, I found a nexis of beliefs on the site called "Air Crap", and a link to a site called "His Heavenly Armies" - a Jesus blog. Both contained screeds against vaccines, abortion, the American HAARP installation, and of course, geoengineering. Is this coming from the Left or Right spectrum of political belief? Rose says it's a mixture of both. We have "left" ideas about evil corporations and protecting nature, along with "right" ideas about too much government control and the need for personal liberty.

Air Crap includes stories like: "UN Official Exposes The Intentional “Transformation Of The World Economy” As The True Purpose Of The Climate Change Lies".

One chemtrail activist wants people to go to the Paris Climate talks this year. She thinks those talks will just legitimate the spraying that is already happening, as geoengineering. And that's just the tip of the iceberg of climate change denial I found rampant on many chemtrails sites. We don't need "chemtrails" they say, because there is no global warming. It's all a hoax, they say, repeating many of the climate denial talking points common on the Net.

Being opposed to dumping chemicals in the sky, the chemtrails folks are all over any proposal to do solar radiation management. They attend public talks and conferences, posing questions that scientists find strange and hard to answer. On the other hand, chemtrails activists do monitor the situation closely, and serve as a news source for anyone concerned about geoengineering. Just be careful to cross check what you find.

Just how the chemtrails movement will affect any public discussion about geoengineering is yet to be seen. Here is a quote from Rose's paper:

"While this belief is marginal, it is not insignificant: a Google search of the term ‘chemtrails’ returns over 2.6 million hits, and a study by Mercer et al. (2011) found that 2.6% of a sample of 3105 people in the US, Canada and the UK believed entirely in the existence of a conspiracy involving chemtrails (and around 14% believed in the conspiracy to some extent)."

If we do run into a climatic emergency in the future, and scientists says they have a temporary way to cool things off, will the public response be partly shaped by the chemtrails movement now? That's where the research by Rose Cairns becomes so fascinating.

Some people encountering chemtrails go through an emotional and sometimes life-changing experience. I've heard the same from listeners who suddenly get the reality of climate change. Are they different?

Some of my Radio Ecoshock listeners are already deeply offended that we haven't spent our time proving chemtrails are real. Others are wondering how to deal with the chemtrails crowd. Are there avenues of communication, or are most chemtrails folks insulated from further facts or arguments? It's difficult, Rose says. She knows a few friends or even family members believe chemtrails are real. Once a person adopts that as their belief system, anyone questioning it becomes either (a) too blind to see the obvious record in the sky! or (b) obviously a dupe or an active part of the conspiracy. That doesn't leave us much room, or much choice.

I think there is ample evidence that if the upper atmosphere is cold enough, the moisture in air-plane exhaust becomes visible as a "contrail". Science has already shown that if we have enough contrails, in the right conditions they can stimulate the development of a layer of high cirrus-type clouds. There is more water vapor in the atmosphere of a warming planet (about 7% more since 1970, we've been told). And of course there are way more planes in the air. Aircraft traffic is traffic, just like cars.

All of that suggests to me that most impacts on the sky are not from a vast hidden conspiracy, but just the result of pollution from aircraft. But as I said, I'm willing to believe, based on some documents available, that the military of various countries have run, and may be still running, some very small scale experiments to modify the weather. These may generate "chemtrails". But personally, I doubt that's a very big impact.

Some chemtrails folks, like Dane Wigington, blame absolutely everything on this vast evil experiment to poison the sky. The California drought? That's not climate change - it's chemtrails says Wigington. Tree die off? Not our pollution, but chemtrails. Fukushima? Chemtrails. It's a single theory to explain everything, and like all such single answers, it's just not right.

That's my opinion.

Here are a couple of chemtrails skeptic sites: Contrails Science and Metabunk.

Or check out this article: by Grant Petty, Professor of Atmospheric Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison "Chemtrails: Real threat or urban legend?"

And here is Dane Wigington's site, Good luck!

A well-known pro-chemtrails movie is WIWATS - "What in the World Are They Spraying?"

Listen to or download this interview with Rose Cairns in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


We wrap up with a short piece about the endangered salamanders. It turns out North America, and not the tropics, has the most of these reclusive creatures. Japan and China have some over 5 feet long. Here's a video of a giant Japanese salamander coming out.

Matt Ellerbeck, "the salamander man" gives us an update on this threatened species - who hold the miracle of how to regenerate lost limbs, or even missing eyes. If only we knew what they know...

On Radio Ecoshock you often hear me try to expand our view beyond humans to the many other marvellous creatures that live on Earth. It's time to hear about one of them. Call them salamanders, or call them newts, but in too many parts of the world we have to call them endangered.

Our guest has dedicated his life to saving the salamanders. Matt Ellerbeck works through public education in schools and the media - and through his web site at

Download this short interview with Matt Ellerbeck (in CD Quality only).

Just like the planet, we are out of time this week for this program. My thanks to everyone who Tweets and spreads the word on Facebook. Find all our past programs as free mp3 downloads at our web site,

Thank you for listening, and please join us again next week for more thrills and spills.