Wednesday, July 23, 2014


The cultural taboo against talking about global warming - George Marshall. Report on world fires and global smoke July 2014. Review of movie "Snowpiercer" by Gerri Williams. New song: Time of Trials by Alex Smith.

In just a few minutes, we're going to talk about the unspeakable. Why do humans shy away from talking about climate change. In the work place, at family dinners, all around, we instinctively sense the unfolding tragedy of global warming isn't a welcome topic of conversation.

Lifetime environmental activist and human rights campaigner George Marshall will join us from Wales in the UK. His new book is titled "Don't Even Think About It - Why Our Brains Are Wired To Ignore Climate Change." That's going to be a fascinating ride, from the Texas Tea Party to why we lie to ourselves. Don't miss it.

But first, I know Radio Ecoshock is one place we CAN talk about climate change. There is huge news coming from fires in the United States, Canada, and Russia. Fires so many and so large this spring and summer of 2014 may be the largest fire season ever. They create their own local weather systems, and have rapidly become a chain-reaction of carbon that could trigger changes to world weather we've barely imagined.

Listen to/download this Radio Ecoshock show in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

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Right about now, in the middle of July 2014, much of the Northern Hemisphere is covered with a blanket of smoke. It's smoky in the valley outside my door, from the forest fires in British Columbia and Eastern Washington State. The runaway fire in Washington is the largest ever in that State's history. We are rapidly approaching the age of superfires, where humans have no hope of controlling them.

There's been a smoke haze over Edmonton and western Canada from all the fires further north. In fact, those smoke particles have blown 5,000 miles further east, reaching the Great Lakes and cities like Toronto.

It's not just Canada. Over at the Weather Underground, Jeff Masters and his crew have posted a video showing a blackened haze pouring from numerous fires in hot, drought-striken western states all the way to the Great lakes, into Ohio. According to a NASA map released July 18th, the smoke has even reached Maryland, West Virginia, and Tennessee. All this is a danger to people's health, especially to the millions of new cases of asthma springing up across America, and around the world.

Last week there was even a thick black arm of smoke running up to the Arctic, to Hudson's Bay and Baffin Island. It's starting to reach Greenland.

That isn't the worst of it. More gigantic fires are racing uncontrolled across the Canadian Tundra in the Yukon. These are beasts that reach from the tree tops to the deep peat below the soil surface. These are the most powerful fires seen in decades in the North. The smoke clouds look like volcanoes have erupted. Thirty one new fires popped up a single day, with at least 2500 fires this year, and almost 3 million acres burned so far. Canadian authorities report the area burning is six times greater than the 25 year average.

The dean of Canadian wildfire experts is Dr. Mike Flannigan, a professor of Wildland Fire in the University of Alberta’s renewable resources department. I've recorded and played you his talk at the American Academy for the Advancement of Science conference in Vancouver in 2012, and broadcast it April 18th of that year. I've interviewed him directly for this program. Then, and now to the media, he emphasizes, quote:

What we are seeing in the Northwest Territories this year is an indicator of what to expect with climate change.” “Expect more fires, larger fires, more intense fires.

Some of those fires are so hot they sterilize the ground. In some places, Flannigan says, the slow-growing Boreal forest may not return, especially after multiple burns.

In just a minute, I'm going to explain why this growing trend to a burning sub-Arctic, and especially this year, is a danger to us all, wherever you live on the planet.

But first, let's escape the North American news lens to get the other part of this story. Siberia is burning, again.

The year 2012 was a terror for forest fires in the Russian sub-Arctic. The Russian authorities admit 548 wildfires that year, with a loss of 22,500 hectares, over 50,000 acres. The reality may have been much greater.

As of July 10th, 2014, the Itar-Tass news agency reports 13,500 hectares burned. It's so dangerous, local authorities in Siberia have banned residents, or anyone, from going into the woods. NASA reported the Siberian smoke had curled round the world to reach the west coast of America.

According to the Moscow Times, on July 18th, the size of fires in the Buryatia region doubled overnight. The Siberian Irkutsk region already declared a state of emergency in May as fires raged there.

Once again, the particles from these fires will rotate around the upper northern hemisphere, around the world.

So let's review some basic facts. Due to our carbon emissions, and increasing methane emissions in the Arctic, heating in the polar and sub-polar regions is the fastest on Earth. It was tens of degrees warmer in Alaska last winter, and tens of degrees warmer than the average around 1950, for the whole Canadian sub-Arctic, and for much of Siberia. The Yukon has seen temperatures you might expect in a Colorado summer. Like the American West, it's been abnormally dry in the Canadian north-west, as the slower Jet Stream seems to freeze into a constant weather blocking pattern.

Being the Arctic, there are collisions with colder air masses, and from that, lots of thunder storms. Lightening sets the tinder below ablaze.

As Mike Flannigan told us on Radio Ecoshock, the thinner sub-Arctic soils dry out amazingly quickly. Just three days after a rain-storm, the soils can be tinder dry, in hot weather. And they are getting plenty of hot weather.

Read more about it here, or download the 13 minute Radio Ecoshock interview with Mike Flannigan here.

There are so many reasons why these fires are really a global climate emergency. You know Boreal forests were carbon sinks, soaking up a lot of our excess carbon, and storing that CO2 in the woody fibre of the trees. But when they burn like this, boreal forests reverse that process, releasing CO2, loading the atmosphere. Add methane coming from both melting permafrost on land, and shallow sea beds in the Arctic Sea, and we get localized warming. That's the positive feed-back effect - the way the Arctic climate is spiralling out of control into warming never known during the time of humans on this planet.

That extra heat melts more sea ice, which exposes more dark ocean to the summer sun's 24 hour rays, making the ocean hotter, eating away at the edges of glaciers, speeding up ice loss. And so it goes.


There is another even more serious threat here. Some scientists have reported that up to half of all melting of glaciers and snow in places like Greenland, comes from the deposition of black particles, falling out of the atmosphere. Some of that is just our urban pollution wafting north, captured by the winds circling toward the cooler poles. They call it "dark snow". The darker color, even if just a shade of gray, attracts much more heat from the sun than a pure white snow. This soot, from all sources (fires, ships, cities) is causing significant ice melt, and then rising seas. Other science indicates up to 18% of all global warming comes from soot and other air pollution.

The same effect has been measured by scientists in the Rocky Mountains. Black particles, mostly from Asian coal burning, turn snow a grayer color, resulting in earlier spring melts, a longer fire season, and more forest fires in North America. Carbon soot bounces around the world, creating more warming, creating more carbon soot...

With that extra heat in the Arctic, more ice melts, which will speed up sea level rise around the world. You may be on a low-lying delta in Bangladesh or coastal Australia, and get the extra sea rising due to these far-away sub-polar fires.

Underlying much of this, says one of my favorite bloggers Robert Scribbler, is the change in the Polar Jet Stream.

Read this from Robert's blog posted July 17, 2014:

"Potential Amplifying Feedbacks in Context

During recent years, scientists have been concerned by what appears to be an increased waviness and northward retreat of the northern hemisphere Jet Stream. This retreat and proliferation of ridge and trough patterns is thought to be a result of a combined loss of snow and sea ice coverage over the past century and increasing over the past few decades. In 2012, sea ice coverage fell to as low as 55% below 1979 levels with volume dropping as low as 80% below previous values. Over the past seven years, not one day has seen sea ice at average levels for the late 20th Century in the north.

Meanwhile, northern polar temperatures have risen very rapidly under the rapidly rising human greenhouse gas heat forcing, increasing by 0.5 C per decade or about double the global average. It is this combination of conditions that set the stage for fixed ridges over both Russia and Canada creating extreme risk for extraordinary fires.

Should both the current sets of fires continue to rage under anomalous high amplitude jet stream waves setting off extreme heat in these Arctic regions, it is possible that large clouds of heat absorbing black carbon could ring the Arctic in a kind of hot halo. The dark smoke particles in the atmosphere would trap more heat locally even as they rained down to cover both sea ice and ice sheets. With the Canadian fires, deposition and snow darkening are a likely result, especially along the western regions of the Greenland Ice Sheet — zones that have already seen a multiplication of melt ponds and increasing glacial destabilization over recent years.....

And though climate models are in general agreement that the frequency of fires in tundra regions will increase, doubling or more by the end of this century, it is uncertain how extensive and explosive such an increase would be given the high volume of fuel available. Direct and large-scale burning of these stores, which in tundra alone house about 1,500 gigatons of carbon, could provide a major climate and Earth System response to the already powerful human heat forcing....

Read that whole post in Robert's blog here.

Robert Scribbler adds this as an update:

"Atmospheric black carbon and methane loading (more in a new post) likely contributed to temperatures in the range of 95 degrees F (35 C) near the shores of the Arctic Ocean’s Laptev Sea yesterday as recorded in the following screen capture from Earth Nullschool/GFS..."

When the high Arctic is 95 degrees, 6 degrees hotter than the same day in Richmond, Virginia - we can truly say the roof of the world is on fire. We are in it now. Global warming is feeding itself, with multiple feed-backs, and the big action is thousands of miles away from you, far from the big city news cameras, from all the trash filling our air-waves and our minds. As climate disasters continue to unfold, most of us are not even paying attention.

Although, here is a good article about the multiple feed-backs of forest fires in Mother Jones.

Radio Ecoshock listeners are, and it's up to us to spread the word, starting those difficult conversations that nobody wants to talk about. Stay tuned as George Marshall tells us why its hard, and how to do it.


Scientists warn we are headed into catastrophic climate change never before seen during human existence on this planet. Yet the most alarming facts hardly touch the lives of most people. Author George Marshall found out why. He says our minds are programmed to ignore climate change.

George is an old-school environmentalist, having worked as a senior campaigner for both Greenpeace in America, and the Rainforest Foundation. In 2004 he co-founded a charity based in Oxford UK, called the Climate Outreach and Information Network. They specialize in reaching all sorts of organizations, from churches to service clubs, scouts, trade unions and governments.

Now he's written a new book "Don't Even Think About It - Why Our Brains Are Wired To Ignore Climate Change." From Wales, George Marshall joins us.

Author and activist George Marshall

This interview is quickly becoming one of my favorites. George explains how people most anxious about climate change can turn to denial as a way to avoid that unpleasant/horrifying feeling. Polls taken in places where climate change has added to a disaster, like Hurricane Sandy, find that people who were inclined to deny climate change become even more convinced "it's just natural weather" or "God's Will", rather than our carbon pollution.

Perhaps this explains why Australians, very hard hit by drought, floods, and fires, could elect a climate denier as Prime Minister. Or why people in the American south (also hit by droughts, floods, and extreme heat) elect Tea Party members of Congress who swear climate change is an elaborate hoax.

George Marshall has met with Texan Tea Partyers, and tries to tell them that ignoring developing climate change will lead to the their worst nightmare. In the near future, desperate people may demand a climate dictator, taking away the rights and freedoms cherished by the Tea Party and Libertarians.

In fact, discouraged by seeing the same old faces at every climate rally, George and the Climate Outreach and Information Network are making special efforts to reach out to conservatives, to explain their most basic values are threatened by this problem.

Climate change is not an environmental issue, Marshall says, and it's been a mistake to label it that. It's a threat to all people, and all people need to become involved. He even found some Evangelical church leaders who raise climate change as a threat to the unborn. You may feel differently about abortion and women's rights, but we have to agree global warming is certainly a threat to the unborn.

We also have an fascinating chat about the work of Eviatar Zerubavel, Prof Sociology, Rutgers University. Eviatar has specialized in those possible topics of conversation that are somehow sidelined, and seldom talked about. You know, the silences we all agree on.

When I was growing up, the Holocaust was such a silence. I learned about it by accident from a book on my Grandfather's bookshelf. No parent, teacher, or anyone living told me about it, and it was never mentioned in any conversation. Now climate change is like that.

Perhaps you disagree, as Radio Ecoshock listeners are among the few to really talk about climate change. But polls in many countries consistently show, Marshall says, that one third of people have NEVER had a conversation about climate change. Even climate-aware people always over-estimate the actual number of conversations they have about it. The topic is forbidden at most dinner parties, or gatherings of any kind. Younger women with children are the least likely to talk about it, or tolerate talk about it. Even though this threatens their childrens' future more than anything else! We have to find a way to break through the social silence.

I ask George how to speak to a family member, work-mate, or associate who is very strongly denying climate change. You should listen to his helpful answer, but in a nutshell, don't try to tell them how wrong they are. That doesn't work. You can start out with respect for their willingness to take a position, and then explain how YOU came to your decision, without pushing it on them. George explains all that better than I can.

We get into the psychology of why the human brain did not evolve to understand or respond to a long and slow threat like climate change. This is key stuff. Give it a listen.

Climate Outreach and Information Network, or COIN, also helped broadcast "Climate Radio" with Phil England, a host I admire and learned from. The archives for that program are at Phil is doing occasional climate broadcast these days, sometimes for Resonance FM in London, which also broadcasts Radio Ecoshock.

Now we are seeing melting Arctic ice, extreme rains and flooding, especially in the UK, or massive droughts and fires in the sub-arctic of Canada, Alaska, and Russia. Many of us hope the public will finally get on board for climate action,. Is it possible many people will harden their resistance to the truth instead? How nutty will this get?

I'd like to point listeners to a another really useful video on George's site. It's from a 2009 lecture Marshall gave at the University of West England. That is called "The Ingenious Ways We Avoid Believing in Climate Change".

Or watch it on You tube here.

George's web site is

There you have it. I've worried we don't have the mental capacity to face the climate challenge. Now activist George Marshall has done the homework, and published an essential new book "Don't Even Think About It - Why Our Brains Are Wired To Ignore Climate Change." Find the book it the usual places. It's available in Europe now, and will come out in North America in August 2014.


If you were thinking of seeing the new climate-aware action film "Snowpiercer" - our own Gerri Williams has a cautionary review for you. Gerri is an independent radio journalist who also reports for Radio Ecoshock.

Essentially while Gerri was pleased to see a popular format action pic with ANY connection to climate change, this one isn't what she was waiting for. It's got the violence and all that, but doesn't really capture climate change, but rather the opposite, a freezing world after geoengineering efforts to stop climate change have gone horribly wrong. Despite the awful cold winter in central and Eastern North America last year, cold is not our problem. We've just had the hottest April, the hottest May, and the hottest June ever recorded.

You can be sure climate-driven media of all kinds will grow as our predicament deepens. There is a very busy Facebook page for cli-fi media now. The Collins dictionary is recognizing the word cli-fi, and major authors are already endorsing it. Gerri's right, given how hard it's been trying to get the real science of climate change out to the public, climate fiction, films, drama, and art of all kinds may be our last best hope.

I'm sticking with radio. You can download all our past programs as free mp3 files, perfect for your phone, IPOD, or computer, from our web site at Or try things out on our Soundcloud page.


We'll go out with another of my attempts to create a new wave of electronic music, so popular with the younger generation who will live with continuous climate challenges. Like the cli-fi authors, I'd love to see music carry more of the message, both of climate despair and the hope of a response worthy of intelligent creatures.

I'm Alex Smith. Thank you for listening to Radio Ecoshock and please join us again next week. This is my new song, "Time of Trials". Download it from Soundcloud.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


SUMMARY: In "best of" Radio Ecoshock interviews, Dr. Tim Garrett says civilization must collapse to avert devastating climate change. Dr. Peter Ward says Nature may not have friendly plans for us.

You want the big picture? Here it comes. I've picked two of my favorite power interviews from years of interviewing scientists, authors and experts.

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

Or listen to it right now on Soundcloud


You will hear a little-known Professor from the University of Utah, Dr. Tim Garrett. He's a cloud specialist. But Garrett published a paper published in America's most prestigious journal, after being championed by the father of "global warming" Wally Broecker. It still took two years to get out.

Why? Because Garrett worked out that according to the laws of physics, only a complete collapse of civilization could save us now from devastating global warming. We'd rather keep on driving around that hear about that.

I've tried. I got help from a Pakistani film maker to put out a You tube video version of our 2010 interview. I spent hours typing out a transcript. We did a second interview, even more dynamite than the first. Hardly anyone has heard about it. You will.

Here is a link where you can download or listen to the first Tim Garrett interview (17 minutes) from Radio Ecoshock February 5, 2010.

Here is the description for that interview:

"University of Utah Associate Prof. Tim Garrett says carbon burned = civilized wealth. We must either construct a nuclear reactor a day, or experience harsh economic collapse, to have a habitable climate. Interview from Radio Ecoshock 100205 17 min CD Quality 16 MB or Lo-Fi 4 MB This one shows link between growth economy and climate doom. Stays in the mind."

Read an article about Tim's science "Is Global Warming Unstoppable?" here.

The audio of the You tube version has been muted, claiming that the copyright holder did not authorize it. I am the copyright holder, I did authorize it, and I have complained to You tube. Here is the link, although you will have to wait until this is corrected to hear the interview.

Here is a description of that interview:

"University of Utah Physics Professor Dr. Tim Garrett explains why fossil-based wealth leads to both hyper-inflation and a ruined climate. All from a published, peer-reviewed paper in Journal "Climatic Change". According to our energy and wealth equation, only a sudden economic collapse could save us from 5 degrees Celsius global temperature rise (or more) by 2100. And we'll get over 100% inflation along the way. One of the most important interviews of the year."

His paper is titled "Are there basic physical constraints on future anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide?"

The basic thesis, tested against past industrial development, is that neither population nor standard of living have to be included in modelling prediction of climate change. Garrett concludes that civilization, as measured by gross domestic product, is directly related to the amount of carbon burned. More emissions, more wealth. Fewer emissions, less economic production.

Here is the exact description of the theory, from an abstract of Garrett's paper:

"Here, it is shown both theoretically and observationally how the evolution of the human system can be considered from a surprisingly simple thermodynamic perspective in which it is unnecessary to explicitly model two of the emissions drivers: population and standard of living. Specifically, the human system grows through a self-perpetuating feedback loop in which the consumption rate of primary energy resources stays tied to the historical accumulation of global economic production—or p × g—through a time-independent factor of 9.7 ± 0.3 mW per inflation-adjusted 1990 US dollar."

By applying his formula, Garrett says it would take a new nuclear plant built every single day to keep up our current standard of living. As that isn't happening, and may be impossible, the only other solution is economic collapse. In our interview, Garrett suggests a horrible economic crash, which I imagine as diving perhaps to Medieval standards of life, is required just to reach 450 parts per million of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

In the conclusion of that paper we find:

"Viewed from this perspective, civilization evolves in a spontaneous feedback loop maintained only by energy consumption and incorporation of environmental matter.

Because the current state of the system, by nature, is tied to its unchangeable past, it looks unlikely that there will be any substantial near-term departure from recently observed acceleration in CO2 emission rates. For predictions over the longer term, however, what is required is thermodynamically based models for how rates of carbonization and energy efficiency evolve. To this end, these rates are almost certainly constrained by the size and availability of environmental resource reservoirs.


Garrett published a second paper in the journal "Climatic Change". During our interview, he suggests one of my questions stimulated the new work. Namely, what would it take to keep emissions to the relatively safe 450 part per million CO2 level? The title of the second paper is: "No way out? The double-bind in seeking global prosperity alongside mitigated climate change".

The new paper not only suggests that isn't going to happen, not with all the good will dreams and schemes in the world. It goes further. Using Hurricane Katrina as an example, Tim explains why the on-going pounding of our civilization by a disturbed climate will lead to horrible inflation. How does climate change lead to inflation? I asked, he answered. You must read the whole transcript here. It's from Radio Ecoshock November 19, 2010).

The audio for that interview is available as a separate mp3 file here.


Then we'll go back to one of my favorite climate scientists, Dr. Peter Ward. He's got the history of life on this planet in his back pocket. Some of the long-term future too. Peter Ward says nature isn't nice, and really there isn't much of a plan. We can dream of an intelligent Gaian God already in command of the future. But the biological record, says Ward, is more like Mr. Bean is in charge. We need to get a grip on who we really are, and where we really are.

Dr. Peter Ward with his Medea hypothesis, the mad drive of blind biology, was from the Radio Ecoshock show October 16, 2009. This is from my Radio Ecoshock blog for that program:

"Gaia - the great interconnected force of living things on a minor planet called Earth. British scientist James Lovelock wondered how life created it's own space, with the oxygen and nutrients we all need. It's a soothing idea. Some Greens took it further, suggesting Gaia is a super-consciousness that watches over balance and survival. A few worship Gaia.

Dr. Peter Ward, a deep time digger and climate investigator says Gaia, if there is one, can also be a mass murderer. The rock record shows at least 5 great mass extinctions before us. Ward offers us a different Greek myth: Medea - the wife of Jason the Argonaut, who swiped the Golden Fleece. In a fit of rage against her husband, Medea killed her own children. In a new book, the Medea Hypothesis, Peter Ward says Gaia is out.

Bountiful Nature can become ecocidal, and only intelligent life can stop the death cycle we are now approaching.

Dr. Peter Ward still teaches at the University of Washington, while continuing his research trips all over the world. The broad public still hasn't absorbed his ground-breaking explanation of why land animals were killed off in such great numbers, in past extinction events.

Peter's more recent book is "The Flooded Earth: Our Future in a World Without Ice Caps". I highly recommend this book as visionary, and I still think his first big climate book "Under A Green Sky" is one of the most frightening, readable, and informative books you can find on what our past history tells us about the future hot Earth and our prospects of extinction.

Here is a Youtube video of me interviewing Peter Ward about the coming "Flooded Earth".

or watch it on Youtube here]

Here is Part 2 of that interview on the Flooded Earth.

And Part 3 of that interview.


Last week I ran clips from the former US Treasury Secretaries who say climate change will ruin any future economy. It was one of the most important stories so far this year. We had some problems with the Radio Ecoshock server, so if you missed the "Crashing Climate News" show, be sure an grab it from our Soundcloud page. Our server is back to normal now, after a mysterious attack.

We just passed 5,000 listens on Soundcloud, not too bad for a startup a couple of months old. Thanks for tuning in.

Last week we also ran a convincing interview about the high danger of Arctic methane, with Dr. Peter Wadhams of Cambridge. That is part of a longer interview done by Nick Breeze. I mistakenly said the film was for AMEG, the Arctic Methane Emerency Group, but really it's a private venture by Nick Breeze. Follow up on Nick's work, and more of his videos, at Thanks Nick!


It may be summer holidays, but the climate news keeps on rolling in. New York state has tornados now, when it never did before. The whole water cycle of Canada's mid-West has shifted, with floods in July instead of Spring. Waterways that were always bone-dry this time of year just hit record highs. What could it be?

Meanwhile North America's West keeps on baking in record heat and drought, while the East seems to be re-experiencing something like the Polar Vortex, with cooler than normal temperatures. Even mainstream media can see the Jet Stream has changed it's character from anything we've known before. It's just another strange coincidence, isn't it?

I do have at least one new program coming up this summer, so stay tuned!

I'm Alex Smith. Thanks for listening.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


SUMMARY: Plutocrats admit U.S. economy is "Risky Business" during climate change. It will not be safe to go outside. Cambridge Polar expert Peter Wadhams on Arctic methane burst. New climate song "Too Hot". Radio Ecoshock 140709

Four years ago, on Radio Ecoshock I asked if planet Earth could get so hot, it would be dangerous for most humans to go outside on many days of the year.

Now far too soon, a new report called "Risky Business" explains the majority of Americans will experience days too hot to go out for more than an hour or so, without suffering heat stroke. Many will die. In just the South East region of the United States, by the end of this century there will be somewhere between 11,000 to 36,000 more heat deaths every year. They'll get about 130 days a year, four months, of extreme temperatures.

In the United States, as in many other parts of the world, there will be huge economic losses. Crop yields will fall as much as 50%, with some foods disappearing. It will be too hot outside to work in the fields. In fact all outdoor work, from construction to forestry, may have to be done at night.

That's the start of a long-term trend where humans may have to become more nocturnal, and build more underground, just to survive temperatures so hot they have only appeared once before on this planet. Our early mammal relatives survived only underground.

Here is what makes this report doubly shocking: it's published by top business leaders and finance experts, including Republicans. When the 1% who own most of the wealth in the world realize their own money and real estate are threatened by global warming, you know we are in trouble. But maybe that could be the turning point where we finally see some real action to move away from fossil fuels, deforestation, and agribusiness that pollutes the atmosphere with dangerous gases.

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

Or listen to it now on Soundcloud.


I play you key short clips from the report press conference. You will hear former Bush Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson say the climate threat to the economy is far greater than the 2007-2008 economic crash he helped stave off. The famous New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, himself a billionaire, explains we are heading into climate catastrophe. John Hopkins specialist Dr. Al Summers explains how heat deaths work. And Clinton Treasury Secretary Bob Rubin warns we may not even be aware of the worst to come.

Along those lines, I'll also be playing you a the audio from a new interview of Cambridge Polar expert Dr. Peter Wadhams. He says civilization is unlikely to survive if a 50 gigatonne release of methane burps out of the rapidly warming Arctic. Two scientists, one American, one Russian, have explained how that is quite possible.

Then we'll dive into the Radio Ecoshock archives, where I interview bloggers John Cook of Skeptical Science, and Stuart Staniford of Early Warning, about the science of human tolerance for heat and humidity.

I hope to have time to squeeze in my new climate song "Too Hot" - which I hope you can use as a tool to reach more people.


Let's get busy, with the opening remarks by Hank Paulson for the report "Risky Business,The Economic Risks of Climate Change in the United States."

This is Radio Ecoshock. We are listening to remarks made at the press release June 24th, in New York City of a stunning report on climate, human health and the economy. It's called "Risky Business". Next up is former Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin. Bob Rubin was also CEO and co-Chair of Goldman Sachs, as well as a Board member at Citigroup.

Henry Cisneros was the first Hispanic-America Mayor of San Antonio Texas, and served as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, in the Clinton Administration. He's now Chairman of the CityView companies. Finally, someone in the real estate industry speaks up about the coming price carnage coming as multi-million dollar coastal properties become worthless due to rising seas and extreme storm surge.

Eventually most of Florida real estate will go under, along with the land. The Risky Business report suggests between $238 billion and $507 billion of coastal property will be lost to the sea.

Al Sommers, is the Dean Emeritus of the Bloomberg School of Public Health at John Hopkins University. Here's the short and bitter explanation of how humans die from heat.

Dean Sommers told the press: “Montana summers will soon be the same as New Mexico today.” It will become impossible to be outside there without some kind of air-conditioned suit for about 20 days a year.

Greg Page, the executive chairman of the world's largest grains company Cargill, also spoke, but frankly he used public relations talk, extolling the can-do powers of farmers to adapt to climate change. In my opinion, even Superman can't grow crops when the rain doesn't fall, or extreme heat or floods wipe out the fields.

Others who have made statements supporting this report include former United States Senator Olympia Snowe, billionaire environmental supporter Tom Steyer, and Bush-era Secretary of State and of the Treasury, George Shultz. Professor of Political Science and President of the University of Miami, Donna Shalala minced no words on the clear threat posed by climate change to her state. You can find links to all the videos, statements, and the report in my Radio Ecoshock blog at Or go to

RISKY BUSINESS REPORT LINKS (Executive summary, press video etc)


Executive Summary here.

Find risks in your own part of the United States here.

Press release video: [recorded for this show, with notes]

Joe Romm's take here.

Reuters article here.

More here from Bloomerg and here from UK's Daily Mail (with some good graphics).


As I write this, it is 101 degrees F, 38 degrees C outside my door. I don't know about you, but I wasn't sure I'd live to hear top financial experts from both political parties admitting global warming is becoming an almost unstoppable catastrophe that will threaten the entire wealth structure of America and the world. I feel vindicated and even more worried at the same time.

Even by 2050, not all that far away, the average American will experience tow or three time more days over 95 degrees, or 36 Celsius. By the end of the century, that becomes about 3 months of such weather.

So what you say? First, a warmer atmosphere holds more water. This higher humidity will combine with higher temperatures to kill many of us. We can only sweat ourselves cool enough to avoid heat stroke if the heat and humidity are below certain levels. We'll find out more about that later in this program. Second, if you think air-conditioning will handle it all, consider our grid and power sources are already at the breaking point in hot weather. The price of oil, coal and gas will continue to go up as we go beyond the peak of what can be produced at reasonable prices.

We can't burn all those fossil fuels anyway, without completely roasting out the planet. Can we really expect solar and wind power to cool off all our inefficient shopping malls, office towers, homes and industrial plants? I doubt it.


Bob Rubin raise the problem of extreme changes that are not even quantified by the official Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. There's plenty of news from the Arctic to back that up. I could spend 3 programs just updating you on the hot Arctic, the super-heat-cell hovering over Siberia, and the giant forest fires there. But here is the head of the Head of the Polar Ocean Physics Group at Cambridge University, UK, Dr. Peter Wadhams, being interviewed by Nick Breeze for the Arctic Methane Emergency Group.

Watch that interview on You tube here.

Find the Arctic Methane Emergency Group here.

Will we get that 50 gigaton burst of methane? No one knows for sure. It could all come down to good luck, or an undersea land-slide or quake. Meanwhile, as Wadhams says, we do know more and more methane is leaking out of the frozen methane clathrates as the Arctic sea warm to extraordinary temperatures, especially with no sea ice covering. We won't even get into the methane clouds rising from land sources as the permafrost melts.


This is the Radio Ecoshock summer special on extreme heat.

Let's get the mechanics of how humans cool themselves, and why we may not be able to in a hotter and more humid world. We'll start with a slightly shortened version of my 2010 interview with John Cook, host of the popular Skeptical Science blog and video series.

Listen to or download the full John Cook interview here.

Don't forget our interview on climate and human health with Dr. Elizabeth Hanna from Australian National University. That's from our show November 27th, 2013. Here's a quick clip of Dr. Hanna on the response of the human body to extreme heat.

Download/listen to this 20 minute interview with Dr. Hanna in CD Quality or Lo-Fi.

Read more about Elizabeth Hanna with links here.

Back in 2010, another enquiring mind, Stuart Staniford, looked into human trying to work in extreme heat in Pakistan. The difference of course is Pakistan has a dryer heat, whereas the rest of us will get a deadly double-dose of heat AND high humidiy. Staniford is the host of the Early Warning blog. Find the link for the full interview here.

That was Stuart Staniford, from our Radio Ecoshock interview June 11th, 2010. Find Stuart at Although he hasn't been blogging since January.

Radio Ecoshock was literally years ahead of the mass media in covering this issue. Be sure to stay tuned as we cover climate change and our future, as no one else does.

Find all our past programs, most of them as valid as the day they were born, as free mp3 files at our web site,


So here is that song, just right for today's news and the news of tomorrow. It's called "Too Hot". I wrote this song using Ableton Live, a computer synth voice called "Blue Vox", plus voices from TextAloud.

Please forward links to this song to all your friends, and contacts in social media. We need a Twitter and Facebook barage to get out the music of climate change, and the word about this radio program. Thank you for demanding for a better world. Here is the link to share. [ ]

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


SUMMARY: What America believes about global warming, with Edward Maibach of George Mason U. Alex Smith on global threats with John Betz, KOPN radio. New climate song from 70's hit-maker Bunny Sigler.

Welcome to the holiday edition of Radio Ecoshock where we celebrate the right to speak freely about the dangers posed by our own civilization.

We start with a look at who believes we are changing the climate and who doesn't. Then a sample of an interview I did, about Radio Ecoshock and the state of the world, on KOPN radio in the central American state of Missouri. I'll top that off with a surprising new climate change song from an old hit-maker. As always, there's no time to waste.

Download or listen to this program in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Or Listen/download on Soundcloud right now!


Just a couple of quick notes on hot news in climate change. No doubt you've heard the sobering fact that May 2014 was the hottest month of May ever recorded, since we learned how to capture temperature information in the 1800's. Where are all cranks telling us the ice age is coming, or the Earth hasn't warmed, or a cold winter in New York means global warming has stopped? It's getting to the point we should all keep a list of the thought-leaders who denied climate science, who helped sooth the masses into inaction, until it was too late. Will we erect a wall of shame for them, or forget them as fools gone by?

I remember reading several years ago, in Joe Romm's blog called Climate Progress, how most of the extra heat we create was being absorbed by the oceans. About 90% of the heating has gone into the seas. Now in 2014 the gigantic thermal mass of the world's oceans, far larger than the area of land on this planet, has gone up on average about 1 degree compared to the recent period between 1979 to 2000. That's greater than the rise of global average air temperatures.

It's worst in the Arctic, exactly where we least want to see extra heat. We read in the blog of former Radio Ecoshock guest Robert Scribbler, quote:

"For encircling the Arctic from the West Coast of Greenland, to Iceland, to Svalbard, to the Barents and Kara Seas, to the Chukchi and on to the Beaufort we see surface water temperatures ranging from 2.25 to 4 C or more above average. And just west of Svalbard, we have water temperatures ranging in a zone exceeding a terrifying 8 C above average. When a sea surface temperature departure of 0.5 to 1 C above average is considered significant, these values represent extremes that are far outside what was once considered normal."

That is where the sea ice is heading into a possible further record retreat, where the Greenland glaciers are being melted at the edges, and where billions of tons of super-heating methane lies waiting on shallow sea beds, ready to melt into the atmosphere.

As I speak, more extreme rainfall events have struck in North America, and they will continue to flash by in the news around the world for the rest of our lives. The warmer atmosphere is overloaded with extra moisture, extra energy, and a burden of industrial particulates. It's a recipe for getting a month's worth of rain in a day, or an hour.

These are serious times. I'll be watching all this over the summer, plotting the new season of Radio Ecoshock, considering how to report what has never been seen before. And how to spark the action we need to stop troubled times from becoming a long period of catastrophe. If you have suggestions for what I should cover, sources we all need to know about - feel free to write me. The address is radio //at// You may not get a reply, as I will supposedly be on holidays for a few weeks, but I will read all emails and appreciate your input.

Well, scratch that a bit. There are so many serious developments on climate science, and social responses, that I'm compelled to delay my holiday and do at least one more new program. Next week I'll be covering horrible news, that it will not be safe for our children to go outside for more than an hour, in many parts of America and the world. Plus, from the strangest corners, business leaders have finally recognized the penultimate risk climate change poses even to the richest oligarchs. Be prepared for a surprise!


The idea that the climate can shift radically is still fairly new. We hardly know what to call it. It started out as "global warming" until others suggested "climate change" was more accurate. Obama science advisor John Holdren said "climate disruption" would be better.

Does it matter what we call it? A new study conducted jointly by Yale and George Mason University says the name matters, if we want the public to act. The title of the new study is: “What’s In A Name? Global Warming Versus Climate Change”. Google that, you can read the full report online, or download it as a .pdf here.

Here to explain is Professor Edward Maibach, the Director of the Center for Climate Change Communication, at George Mason University in Virginia.

They say: "This report is based on findings from a bi-annual series of nationally representative survey studies – Climate Change in the American Mind – conducted by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication. The research was funded by the Energy Foundation, the 11th Hour Project, the Grantham Foundation, and the V.K. Rasmussen Foundation."

Edward Maiback was one of the "principal investigators."

Here from the Executive Summary are some of the key findings - you'll have to read the full report to get even more.

"This report provides results from three studies that collectively find that global warming and climate change are often not synonymous—they mean different things to different people—and activate different sets of beliefs, feelings, and behaviors, as well as different degrees of urgency about the need to respond.

1) An analysis of public information seeking via Google searches from 2004 to 2014 found that Americans have historically used global warming as a search term much more frequently than climate change.

2) A nationally representative survey (Survey Study 1) in January 2014 found that while Americans are equally familiar with the two terms, they are 4 times more likely to say they hear the term global warming in public discourse than climate change. Likewise, Americans are 2 times more likely to say they personally use the term global warming than climate change in their own conversations.

3) A separate nationally representative survey (Survey Study 2) in November-December 2013 found that almost without exception, global warming is more engaging than climate change. Compared to climate change, the term global warming generates:

* Stronger ratings of negative affect (i.e., bad feelings), especially among women, Generation Y, the Greatest Generation, African-Americans, Hispanics, Democrats, Independents, Moderates, conservatives, and evangelicals.

* Different top of mind associations and stronger negative affect, especially among political moderates:

* Overall, global warming generates significantly more top of mind associations to Icemelt (e.g., “melting glaciers”), Alarm (e.g., “world catastrophe”), Flood (e.g., “coastal flooding”), and Ozone (e.g., “the ozone hole”) categories. Climate change generates significantly more associations to Weather (e.g., “storms”) and Global Warming (e.g., “global warming”) categories.

* Within the Weather category, global warming generates a higher percentage of associations to “extreme weather"...

Essentially most Americans see "global warming" as a more immediate threat, thinking of extreme weather and so on. They are more likely to say that the government should act to stop global warming, than climate change - even if they are not sure humans are causing the shift.

The fact that so many people still think scientists are debating whether global warming is real is no accident. I've interviewed scientists who compare the strategy by big fossil fuel companies to the ploy used by big tobacco, when their PR agencies created doubt about smoking and cancer.

It seems crazy to me that anyone who calls themselves "Conservative", with the root meaning wanting to "conserve" things, could knowingly threaten not only our natural support base, but the future economy as well, not to mention our kids. Is there any way to overcome this, to get the political war out of the way? Maibach says "yes" and explains how.

Part of their answer is to get scientists to say very clearly that there is practically no debate about whether humans are modifying the climate. As soon as the public hears that about 97% of scientists know climate change is real, and we are the cause - the public estimation of the threat moves up quickly, by as much as 20 percentage points.

The American Academy for the Advancement of Science has released an unequivocal campaign affirming human-induced climate change called "What We Know". Other National Academies of Science around the world are doing the same. But the real message hasn't reached the public yet, over the doubts being sowed by the Koch Brothers, and the dunderheads on Fox News and on the Internet. We have a way to go, and little time to save ourselves and our descendants.

Unfortunately, Edward Maibach tells us, the majority of Americans still think global warming will happen in the distant future, and to people in other parts of the world, like Africa or something. This despite recent reports showing climate change is costing the US big bucks right now. It's now, and right in America.

This wasn't part of the study, but I've found when searching You tube, if I use "global warming" I'm more likely to get climate denier information. But if I search for "climate change" I'm more likely to get scientific talks and official materials. By the way listeners, that's a useful tip for you.

My objection to making that switch in terms is simple: there is so much more to this climate shift than just warming. I think it's a bad way to measure things like extreme precipitation events, rising seas, and the myriad of changes involved.

I can almost hear a Broadway show or opera in all this, where two choirs chant "global warming" and "climate change" across the stage. Hopefully we won't get stuck on the name, while we do nothing to save ourselves... is this a false debate or a useful one?

You can find a good write-up on this report, and what it means, here in the Guardian newspaper.


You get a behind-the-scenes look at Radio Ecoshock, and the issues I think top the charts for global threats. This is a shorter version of an almost hour-long interview done by radio host John Betz for the program "Skeptical Eye" on KOPN, in central Missouri USA, one of the oldest community-owned radio stations in the country.

KOPN Radio Host and Broadcaster John Betz

You can download or listen to the full 48 minute interview here.

In addition to revealing a little more about myself, I cover the major issues we face, plus a little of the good news that holds promise we might avoid the worst.


Join Radio Ecoshock on Soundcloud, or download any or all of our past programs as free .mp3s, at the web site, Soon we'll be heading into the best of Radio Ecoshock during the summer holidays. But don't miss my summer heat broadcast next week!

But I still have all the usual bills to pay. I'm so thankful to all of you who signed up for a $10 a month pledge to support this program. You are paying for the rest of the world to be able to download this program and all our past programs and interviews.

If you can afford to help, please sign up at our web site - find the details here. Your support makes this program possible for all our non-profit radio stations, and podcast subscribers around the world.

Meanwhile, we finish up this program with a remarkable new climate change song, with the full classic work-up by 70's hit-maker Bunny Sigler. Bunny developed the "Philly sound" and worked with too many famous Philadelphia artists to mention. "Tossin' and Turnin'", "Love Train", "Let the Good Times Roll" - Sigler ruled the air-waves. Thanks for coming back out Bunny, to speak out on climate change!

Watch Bunny perform this song on You tube here.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Climate Change - We Don't Want It

SUMMARY: Dr. Bill Miller, author of "The Microcosm Within" on climate & new diseases. From Wales, Lloyd Jones' new "cli-fi" work, and "Victory Gardens" Vancouver co-founder Lisa Giroday on urban farming.


There's lots to do and hear in this edition of Radio Ecoshock. I start out asking Dr. Bill Miller about climate change and disease. But we dig into humanity's weak spot - the balance of immune systems which can wipe out any species quickly - or help us evolve. Miller says the microcosm rules all.

Then we're off to a tiny village in Wales, tucked into the United Kingdom. From his family farm, author Lloyd Jones tells us about his cli-fi book, a tale of the unwinding of our good times as climate change grinds things down.

The finale is a bright young voice from Vancouver, Canada. Lisa Giroday explains her Victory Gardens workers co-op, and the ways to create green jobs deep in the city.

Off we go.

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

Or listen on Soundcloud right now!


Dr. Bill Miller has been a radiologist for decades. That brought him out of any specialty, and into the world of tiny things within our bodies. He realized the human DNA, recently discovered, hardly covers what we are as an organism.

In fact we are a confederation of tiny beings. At least 9 out of 10 cells found in the human body are not ours! We host other organisms on every part of us, from eyelashes to toe-nails. There is far more foreign DNA and tiny organisms in our blood, guts, - everywhere. This conglomeration of co-dependence would total a much larger DNA picture, something Miller labels the "Hologenome".

Science shows that each of these organisms, from bacteria on up, have a type of cognition. They solve problems. Miller gives the example of an organism that enters our bodies, but seeks and finds our bones as the only place to live. There's a kind of spooky recognition that we don't know who we are at all, and our daily consciousness doesn't reflect decisions made all over our bodies without our knowledge.

Miller writes:

"Current research has unexpectedly revealed that all cells and microbes have elemental cognition and a previously unappreciated capacity for discrimination and awareness. From these faculties, cooperative natural genetic engineering is enabled; and it is from this starting point that biological complexity evolves. The Microcosm Within illuminates how immunological factors dominate evolution and extinction."

This vision of the multi-self, if you will, led Miller to realize that the immune system is key to both evolution and extinction. Sure Darwin's slow process of natural selection of the fittest takes place. But there are also sweeping changes of biota due to changes in the immune landscape.

On the larger human scale, we can see this in the great plagues of the Middle Ages, or the decimation of the aboriginal people in the Americas, once European diseases arrived. There was no immunological resistance. Scientists recently found evidence of an "end-of-the-world" class disease in Ancient Egypt.

That's the great fear behind things like SARS, the Bird Flu, or the Middle Eastern disease MERS.

Bill Miller adds a new disease to our radar: Chikungunya. This tropical disease has spread in the CariBbean, and is now showing up in the US South and Latin America. With proper medical care (which is not available in many countries) you can survive Chikungunya. But then years later you suffer painful after-effects which can be disabling. Check out this recent article in Wired magazine about the disease.

The point is with climate change, the range of formerly "tropical" diseases is moving north (or south in the Sounthern Hemisphere). We're seing Dengue Fever in Florida and Texas. Nile Fever has spread as far north as Canada. Malaria has moved into the highlands of Africa which used to be safe.

Miller suggest it may be disease which determine our fate, personally and as a species. Not just our diseases, but diseases of our food animals and plants as well. The Koala Bear is threatened by a new disease, as are bananas and many other crops. Perhaps, says Miller, we should spend less on massive projects like Carbon Capture and Storage, and more on the study of the immune system which protects - or fails to protect, all of us.

Extreme weather can also affect disease. When we get those torrential downpours, a sewage plant can flood out, or mosquitos thrive - just when the human community has been weakened, possibly by homelessness or lack of food. Extreme heat also weakens us.

It's a stimulating take not just on climate change, but what life really is. I found our talk eye-opening.

You can find a lot more in his book "The Microcosm Within, Evolution and Extinction in the Hologenome" and at his website.

Download or listen to this interview with Dr. William B. Miller Jr. in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


Sometime we can see things better from the edge. Our guest, the Welsh wanderer and cli-fi novelist Lloyd Jones reports back from his personal edge.

Lloyd Jones discusses his relationship with the land and his concerns about global warming - the catalyst for his magnificent novel, "Y Dwr" (Water). We start with the moving audio in a short film on the farm in north Wales where he grew up. The film was created by Sara Penrhyn Jones for Wales Literature Exchange.

The farm is near the village of Abergwyngregyn, near Bangor Wales. The short film on Vimeo, about his life and work, touched me on several levels. In some ways, it captures a bit of my own journey, and this program.

As Jones says in his Vimeo presentation, it's not like Wales can affect this path toward a new and unknown climate. Can people in Wales really picture this coming future? Is there anybody left who knows how to survive without plenty of cheap oil and gas from abroad?

I asked hopefully if Lloyd, in his travels, encountered people organizing to live differently, say in Transition Towns, co-operative farms, or with self sufficiency? Sadly, he replied "No". In fact, during his walks, most often people are locked away each in their own homes watching television. We talk about what modern agribusiness has done to food and farms.

The novel "Y Dwr" (the Welsh word for Water) is set in rural Wales in a world changed greatly by global warming. Civilization has not been able to cope with the blows, and the cast of characters must re-learn how to survive directly from the land around them, as Lloyd's parents did on their farm. It's not easy, and in fact Jones does not provide a stock happy ending. The story of climate change may not end well for most humans.

The novel is available on Amazon in the UK (and so anywhere in the world). It is listed as a Kindle edition as well. Be warned: the novel is written in Welsh, not English!

Y Dwyr should not be confused with Llamhigyn Y Dwr, the mythological Welsh creature also called "the water leaper". That one looks like a cross between a bat and a frog.

There's a real charm about Lloyd Jones. It's hard to describe, but I think you'll like the interview, as I did.

Listen to or download this interview with Lloyd Jones in CD Quality or Lo-Fi.

A tip of the hat to journalist Dan Bloom in Taiwan for steering me to Lloyd Jones. Dan coined the term "cli-fi" for the new genre of climate-based fiction.


As soon as you start to grow food, whether in your own yard or a community garden, you'll find a network of humans comes along too. Barely a day goes by, when someone doesn't show up at our door with extra tomato plants, an arm-load of rhubarb, or a tip on where to find wild-growing cilantro.

A team of urban gardeners-for-hire in Vancouver Canada is taking that spirit to the world. It's called Victory Gardens and you can expect their video tips to show up on Youtube.

Joining us from Vancouver is one of those Victory Gardeners, Lisa Giroday.

I see urban farming as a terrific way to create a lot of green jobs. I ask Lisa for tips for people who want to start out doing this.

Listen to, or download this can-do interview with Lisa Giroday here.

Here are more links to learn about the Victory Garden project, for ideas you could apply in your own city. Their groovy web site is here. Find them on Facebook here. And check out this first Victory Garden You tube video.

I learned about the Victory Garden project from this excellent article in the Vancouver Sun newspaper.


You can download any of our years of past programs as free mp3's at our web site Or try us at radioecoshock on Soundcloud.

It's my continuing pleasure to make these programs for you. I'm Alex Smith. Tune in next week for Radio Ecoshock.

We leave the program with a snippet from a new climate song I'm working on. It's called "Climate Change - We Don't Want It." That could involve you at your next climate action, or even a rave dance. This is the chorus to chant:

Climate change

We don't want it

Climate change

We can't stand it

Climate change

Don't let it happen!

I'd love to see that chant spread around the world. If you can have a choir sing that, or record a crowd chanting it - I'd like to add that to my song.

May of 2014 was the hottest May on Earth since humans learned how to keep records of temperatures. This may end up as the hottest year ever. And those records will be broken as long as you live. Let's use music to spread the word about the challenge of global warming!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

96F/36C Degrees in the Shade!

Coping with extreme climate heat. Carbon farming with Courtney White, socially responsible investing with NYC advisor Louis Berger, plus tips for staying alive, and keeping the garden alive, during extended heat. Radio Ecoshock 140618

Yes, the hot summer is coming to the northern Hemisphere. If you are in the American south or California, it's been toasty for some months already.

The future looks hotter still, as our emissions cause the climate system to swing toward it's greenhouse state. Farms will be in trouble, and so will your own home garden. Later in this program I'll continue with our series on growing in the heat. We'll hear great tips from experts in Florida and Colorado - ideas I'm already applying in my own garden.

I also have two interviews for you. Pretty well every aspect of our problems, and the solutions, involve the flow of big money. Many of us are unwilling partners in the mal-investment in corporations profiting from damaging the environment. It could be pensions, investments, or just your savings in the bank - where is it going? We'll talk with a heavy-weight New York investment advisor about the realities of Socially Responsible Investing.

But first, I want to get back to one of the few natural big-scale possibilities to save ourselves from the worst of climate change. It's not glamorous. It's just really, really important.

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


You know we are in a big mess with climate change. At this point we need big solutions - and there may be something much more natural than geoengineering. Is it possible we could even turn back the clock, even a little, on global warming?

I've interviewed experts about the importance of carbon in the soil. Some stress there is more carbon in the earth than in the atmosphere, so we must not continue to release it by poor agricultural practices and deforestation. Others strongly believe we can capture a lot of carbon out of the atmosphere, putting it back in the soil. This could be the best, or even at this point the only, way to actually reduce the build-up of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere.

We've had Alan Savory as a guest on Radio Ecoshock. He pioneered the use of carefully controlled cattle herds to replenish carbon in the soil. We just had a guest, Kip Anderson of the film Cowspiracy, tell us that some researchers, including the World Watch Institute, say the livestock industry is the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions on the planet. Can we still eat meat without killing the climate?

I keep listening for more soil carbon news. It's not big on CNN or You tube, but it's big news for the future. That's why I was pleased to find Courtney White has tied a lot of on-the-ground experience together for his new book "Grass, Soil, Hope." In a foreward, Michael Pollan wrote "this book promises to stir up hope even among those made cynical by relentless bad news."

Courtney White takes us on "A Journey through Carbon Country."

It's pretty wild that governments are willing to spend countless billions on all kinds of schemes, including giant farm subsidies, but I'm not aware of any government willing to pay carbon farmers.

Courtney, was a Sierra Club activist, but now he calls that the "conflict industry". We talk about why.

White went on to found the Quivira coalition, which he led until recently. Now he's taken time off to tour the country to research this book, and the promise of soil carbon.

Download/listen to this Radio Ecoshock interview with Courtney White in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

More links for Courtney White:

Here is a video about the new book.

Here is a link to the publishers page for the book.

And you can read famous foody Michael Pollan's foreword to "Grass, Soil, Hope" here.

Find the Quivira Coalition web site here.


Here on Radio Ecoshock we normally interview scientists, authors, and activists. But behind almost every problem and solution we encounter, there is a flow of big money.

After the financial crash, and admissions of guilt by major institutions we trusted, many of us are suspicious of investing. Big money is being channeled into projects that actually wreck the world. Is socially responsible investing possible?

Whether you have money to invest or not, the answer to this question could literally determine your future and the fate of our civilization. We can pretend that world of high finance is too dirty, or will fall any day. Instead, I've called up Louis Berger, the Principal and Co-Founder of Washington Square Capital in New York.

Berger was big in the financial end of Hollywood, before becoming an advisor for the Swiss bank UBS. He then co-founded his own investment firm.

I hang around the Zero Hedge website, with peak oil people, and a crowd with a bleak view of our prospects. So I ask Louis if he is optimistic or pessimistic about the economy? He is guardedly optimistic, seeing many signs of recovery - but says the original problems in the financial system were not fixed. Also, the whole market system is still too heavily dependent on the Federal Reserve buying 35 billion dollars worth of assets every month.


We talk about the move for Universities and Churches to divest from fossil fuels. Berger says the big fossil fuel companies are a bad investment in the long run anyway. as people become more aware of climate change, he thinks some kind of carbon tax is inevitable.

We discuss how to find out if "green" investments really are OK for the planet. And we talk about Louis' article about the risks of some green investments, based on the case of Mosaic - the crowd-funded company investing in small-scale solar projects. It's a good company he says, but it could be hard to get your money out if needed, and there is some risk the project could fail.


We know there are almost 50 million Americans on food stamps, and millions more very poor people in Canada, the United Kingdom, - pretty well everywhere in the developed world. At the same time, there are more millions who are making good money, plus a wave of inheritances as the generations change. What questions should the millenial generation have for experts who advise where to invest?

This whole question of investing puts some people in a strange spot. They may picture themselves critical of banks and the stock market, and yet depend on them, whether they know it or not, for pensions and savings. That's a stress-point for some folks, and they try to sit on the sidelines with cash. But is there really any "sidelines" or opting out of this financial system? All the money flows somewhere.

There is a growing resentment against Too Big To Fail Wall Street Banks, who appear to get away with price fixing or even fraud with no criminal charges. It's my impression this resentment is spilling over to ANY investment, or anyone in the investment field. This kind of disconnect could hurt the whole industry - and Louis Berger says the distrust is valid, considering the way the Too Big To Fail banks operated.

Here are some key points from investment guru Louis Berger:

"* Our view on socially responsible investing is that it's a way for a person to take ownership and responsibility over their investments -- to ensure that the companies they're invested in are aligned with their values.

* In the last several years, many progressives in the US have begun questioning their consumer choices -- where/how their food is grown, goods are made, energy is sourced etc. It's a natural progression to begin thinking about how and where their money is invested.

* Traditionally, most people have separated their investments and their philanthropy -- invest their money at a bank or brokerage and make a charitable contribution to a non-profit working in a space they care about (ex: environmental protection). Trend is now towards merging the two.

* There seems to be a movement towards SRI in the millennial generation. We're encountering new clients that are young and care about environmental/humanitarian issues. Often, they've inherited money from a parent or grandparent. They also inherit a financial advisor who is either not interested or incapable of providing SRI advice. We see it as a major growth opportunity going forward as this wealth transfer continues and the vast majority of financial advisors are not equipped to provide SRI advice. The big banks have begun to take notice as well.

* While we understand there are limitations to the amount of social good one can make by investing in the public markets, the fact is we live in a world (perhaps more so in the US) where at least some portion of our net worth is tied up in the stock/bond markets (brokerage account, retirement/pension account, college savings account, etc). This is the way our financial system currently works. Therefore, it's imperative for those people who care about environmental and humanitarian issues to ensure the companies they invest in are on the same page. By investing in oil/gas, weapons manufacturers, mining companies, tobacco companies etc -- even if it's unintentional -- you are not only endorsing their corporate behavior, you are helping to foster their growth.

* SRI is challenging many companies and industries to begin changing the way they do business. There is still a very long way to go, but it's definitely moving the needle in the right direction."

Find more info about Louis Berger here.

Download/listen to this Radio Ecoshock interview with Louis Berger in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


Last week we heard Marjory Wildcraft with tips on gardening in extreme heat. Marjory will be joining us in a program soon. You may think you will grow some of your own food - but how will you deal with record heat or drought? Even more worrying, as we heard on our show a couple of years ago from You tube garden guru HumptyDumptyTribe, if the nights don't cool down, plants won't produce fruit. You can have flowers, busy bees, and still get no tomatoes. That's going to be a problem for most of us in the coming years.

Let's start with this recording of a You tube video from Carol Omera, a horticulture expert from Colorado State University. She recorded this essential video during one of Colorado's stunning heat waves. Her tips are basic, about how we plant, ensuring enough water, and the big lesson for me: get your shade cloth ready. If you want to keep your cool-weather plants like peas and lettuce producing, we will have to shade them.

Watch the video with Carol Omera on You tube here.

So let's get to Florida, where it's hot, hot, hot - and humid too. Sumter County Extension Agent Brooke Moffis tells us how we can keep ourselves safe from heat stroke, while keeping summer plants alive. Yep, it involves broad-brimmed hats, being sensible about when you are out there, and learning the signs of heat stroke (one of which is impairment of judgement...) Then Brooke talks about plants that will still produce in high heat, like Okra.

My thanks to the University of Florida for that audio. Watch it here.

This has been Radio Ecoshock. Don't miss our Soundcloud page, and all our past programs as free mp3 files at

The theme song this week was "96 degrees in the Shade" by the band Third World. The song is about the Jamaican hero Paul Bogle, who was hanged in 1865 after demanding civil rights for all.

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

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Planet Code Red

The amount of carbon we can burn and still have a safe climate is zero. One Australian calls it Code Red, time for emergency action. Plus new science on why New York City will flood again and again. Guests David Spratt and Dr. Stefan Talke, plus special on gardening in extreme heat with Marjory Wildcraft. Radio Ecoshock 140611 1 hour in CD Quality or Lo-Fi.

In this Radio Ecoshock show: we find out the amount of carbon we can burn and still have a safe climate is zero. One Australian calls it Code Red, time for emergency action.

Then we'll zero in on one of the global cities that will flood time and time again. A new scientific report on why New York City is going under.

We end with a quick lesson from a wise garden grower in Texas. How and what to plant in the coming times of heat and water stress as the climate warps far from normal.

I'm Alex Smith. Get ready for Radio Ecoshock.

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


Our talk was pretty wide-ranging. You should listen to the interview if you have time.

We began by looking at who originally set two degrees (Centigrade) as a safe level for the world to warm. We've already seen major melting at both poles, plus storms, droughts and weird weather in between, and that's just at 1 degree hotter over pre-industrial times.

The two degree "safe" limit was from William Nordhaus, who wasn't a climate scientist at all. He was an economist when he made that limit in the 1970's. We've found out a lot since then!

Find out more in my notes on a Guy McPherson speech. Search in that document for "Where did the 2 degrees "Safe" Limit Come From".

David Spratt hit it dead on when he said the politicians think the 2 degree limit is coming from the climate scientists, while climate scientists think the 2 degree mark is just political!

Neither is right. David Spratt explains why 2 degrees is far from safe, and anyway on our current path of fossil fuel burning we are heading to 4 degrees or more. By the way, each 1 degree of warming, David says, adds another 15 meters of sea level rise (almost 50 feet!!)over time.

Download or listen to this Radio Ecoshock interview with David Spratt in CD quality or Lo-Fi.

You can listen right now on Soundcloud here.

Here is a short URL for this David Spratt interview, in case you want to Tweet about it.


If we do get to 4 degrees what happens?

"If we get to 4 degrees of warming, we think, our best expert guess is that the carrying capacity of the planet will be under 1 billion people. So that's a very strong statement.

Other people were - James Lovelock said that many years ago. And more recently at a presentation in England Kevin Anderson [Deputy Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research] said 'I think four degrees is incomaptible with the continuation of human civilization.'

So I think there's a widespread view that it's simply - we could not go on as we are. And obviously at 4 degrees of sea level will in the end go up to 70 meters, that's going to drown most of human civilization. So it's a very dramatic scenario.

On the road to the alleged safe level of 2 degrees, a whole series of reports, from the Stern Report in Britain to the Garnaut Report in Australia, to the IPCC - they all try to calculate "the carbon budget". That's the amount of carbon we can still burn before going over 2 degrees. They talk about gradual reductions of fossil fuels over decades because that pleases industry, politicians, and classical economists.

That whole exercise is not just a farce, says David Spratt, it's an illusion so dangerous it could endanger most of humanity.

Spratt explains the real numbers. Humans so far have put up about 550 billion tons of carbon. Then the real odds chime in.

"If you want a 33% chance of staying below two degrees, then you can have 1500 in your budget. If you want a 50% chance it comes down to 1200. If you want a 66% chance of staying below 2 degrees then it's 1,000. And then if we take gases other than carbon dioxide, because we're putting up methane and nitrous oxide, and so on - then perhaps the budget is 800."

So if you want a two in three chance that we won't ruin the entire planet for all succeeding generations and most other species, the real amount left to burn could be 250 billion tons.

We are currently emitting about 10 billion tons a year, so ostensibly we can go on with our current emissions for another 25 years, and if we are lucky, get away with "just" 2 degrees of warming.

But wait. There are huge holes in even that estimate. For one thing, it doesn't account for increases in emissions. We are emitting more every year, as we fixate on global "growth" of economies. Nor does it count any growth in natural emissions, from positive feedbacks like a warming ocean due to disappearing sea ice. There is no spot in this "carbon budget" for any increase in methane in the warming Arctic, due to either frozen methane balls melting under the sea (the "clathrates"), or from melting permafrost.

Then David Spratt brings in another budget killer. We need to allow for future emissions from agriculture, to feed the growing human population. We may be able to de-industrialize somewhat, to switch to renewables, etc. - but we will still want food. Commercial agriculture, as we learned recently from our guest Kip Anderson, releases more greenhouse gases than our whole transportation system. Humans also deforest and slash burn for agriculture, which means continuing emissions.

Spratt says once we account for the future food emissions, there is no carbon budget left at all. Zero! His solution is calling for a recognition of this planetary emergency. We talk about the way Britain totally transformed their economy and way of living in 1939, as World War Two developed, and cessation of automobile production in the United States in 1942, for the same reason. We have made a major change before. We can do it again, and we must.

Getting rid of the illusion of having a "carbon budget" left to spend, like secret money in the bank, is one first step to waking up the extreme danger of our situation.

In 2008, David Spratt published his important book "Climate Code Red, the Case for Emergency Action." With his blog, and especially his recent post "Carbon budgets, climate sensitivity and the myth of 'burnable carbon'" - Spratt continues his campaign to get people and world leaders to face the facts raised by science.

Keep in touch with David Spratt's work at his influential blog Climate Code Red.


We saw it in Hurricane Sandy. Parts of Manhattan were flooded, including streets, subways, and buildings. Expect a lot more of that as sea levels rise. But you won't have to wait a century to find more flooding in America's largest city.

A recent scientific letter suggests the odds of storm tides overflowing sea walls in New York City have increased 20-fold since the mid-1800's.

Dr. Stefan Talke has a PHD in civil and environmental engineering. He's studied the way sediments work in rivers and estuaries in Europe and on the Pacific coast, where he teaches at Portland State University.

Along with scientists Philip Orton and David Jay, Stefan Talke just published these startling findings about New York City flooding in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. It's titled "Increasing Storm Tides in New York Harbor, 1844-2013". Find the abstract and paper details here.

Here is one scary quote from that paper:

"Three of the nine highest recorded water levels in the New York Harbor (NYH) region have occurred since 2010 (Mar. 2010, Aug. 2011, and Oct. 2012), and eight of the largest twenty have occurred since 1990."

OK, why is New York flooding? The answers (and there are several) aren't easy, but each one leads to a greater understanding of the planet we live on.

I hesitate to explain what Dr. Talke said eloquently in the interview, but my impressions are these:

1. New York, and much of the coast of New England is sinking. It's called "subsidence". One cause of that was the glaciers of past ages. Not because New York was covered by a glacier, but because it wasn't. Land further inland, that was flattened lower by the huge weight of ice miles deep. That land sank, and is now rising, while the coast is sinking. That is one reason New York will flood more.

2. Another factor is a huge cycle of weather in the North Atlantic. It's called the North Atlantic Oscillation. I wont' go into that here. Google it, or listen to an excellent explanation of that, and it's impact on storm surges and storm tides, in this Radio Ecoshock interview.

By the way, Stefan Talke carefully explains the critical difference between a "storm surge", and a "storm tide". The latter is when a storm surge builds on top of a rising tide, as happened in Hurricane Sandy.

3. Human interference in land use in New York Harbor makes it easier for high water to come in (and get out). There is less friction when wetlands are gone, and most of the sea side is lined with concrete.

4. Finally, as you might expect, there is the issue of rising seas as the planet warms. This adds to all the other factors. In the long run, it will become the biggest driving factor.

All this adds up to America's largest city, the hub of communications and finance, having to spend more and more trying to repair flood damage. Think flooded subways, damaged underground pipes and electrical systems, continual flooding in Manhattan and some boroughs. It's going to weight the economy down, and eventually drive part of the city underwater.

There are possible harbor defences, like tide gates which cost about $10 billion for NYC, as suggested by our guest J. Court Stevenson in my Radio Ecoshock interview linked from this show blog.

But that just adds a few more decades to New York's life. After that, it's retreat from the sea. The Wall Street bankers who finance oil and coal don't really understand that. Or it they do, they obviously don't care. It's a problem for the next generation - or is it?

We also discuss how port dredging can lead to ecological dead zones, and some strange stuff about the health of San Francisco Bay. It's real science in the real world. I like this interview.

Download or listen to this Radio Ecoshock interview with Stefan Talke, in CD Quality or Lo-Fi.

Or listen on Soundcloud here.


I've been out gardening in some hot weather. I wonder how we'll grow food when it get's even hotter!

We're all wondering how to survive in a heat stressed world. In this program I play you the 8 minute audio from the best short You tube video I've found on this subject.. It's by Marjory Wildcraft, recorded in a garden farmyard of Texas, during their incredible drought and heat wave two years ago. Listen and learn, grasshopper. Here is the link to that You tube video.

Marjory covers several things. First, the old farmers in Texas really had two seasons: spring gardens and fall gardens. Not much grows in the 108 degree heat that's been coming in summers of recent years.

Then she describes at least three food plants which can survive the heat and even drought. It's good survival prepper information, and good for the family budget, even as the climate changes.

This wise advice comes from Marjory Wildcraft at It's called "Gardining in the Heat" posted on You tube in November 2011. And check out her influential DVD called "Grow Your Own Groceries". I'm going to ask Marjorie to join us on the program.

I'll be doing more on gardening in the heat in coming shows.

That is our program for this week, from one species in trouble on the living planet. Get our past programs free from the web site Encourage your friends to listen on their local non-profit radio station, or on the Radio Ecoshock Soundcloud page.

My special thanks to those listeners who donated this week to help keep this project going out to the public.

I've also posted my new song "All the Beasts" on Soundcloud. In addition to some rocking dance music, it features quotes about an earthly paradise of plants and beasts, just waiting for you. Sadly, the recording is from Jim Jones, the deadly preacher who led his flock into a mass suicide. We live in an ironic universe.

Thank you for listening to Radio Ecoshock this week (instead of Jim Jones), and thank you for caring about your world.