Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Warning From the Future

Coming up in this program: leading scientist Dr. David Karoly says record heat and fires in Australia are a warning to the world. But we are not alone in the big change. Insects may adapt or die faster than humans, as told by "the bug guy", University of Maryland's Dr. Michael Raup. Then Steven Davis explains why climate solutions advanced just 9 years ago are no longer possible. A new report says existing technology is not enough to stem the climate tide. Now what?

Welcome to another full load from Radio Ecoshock.


Radio Ecoshock show 130130 1 hour in CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)

Interview with Dr. David Karoly, School of Earth Sciences at the University of Melbourne,Australia in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Interview with Dr. Michael Raupp, University of Maryland Entomologist in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Interview with Steven J. Davis, Assistant Professor Department of Earth System Science, University of California, Irvine in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


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Dr. David Karoly

You've heard about extreme heat and fires in Australia at the start of 2013. Is it climate change? We go now to one of that country's leading climate scientists, Dr. David J. Karoly. He's been a lead IPCC author and advises the Australian government through the Climate Change Authority. After a stint teaching Meteorology at the University of Oklahoma, Karoly is now at the School of Earth Sciences, University of Melbourne.

It must have been a bit of culture shock to teach at the University of Oklahoma - a state known for oil and climate denial. But Karoly was invited there to add climate experise, as he taught Meteorology. While there are denialists in Oklahoma, don't generalize! There are plenty of people in Oklahoma who know fossil fuels are damaging the atmosphere.

Listen to the program online with this player:

I called Dr. Karoly to get a top scientists' guage of the extreme weather there in late December 2012, running all through January 2013.

For a taste of Australia's extreme weather lately, try out this video from the Telegraph newspaper in Britain. Australia's Prime Minister says "whether it's bush fires, whether it's floods, we are being challenged by nature."

Karoly tells us heat record after heat record was smashed. The longest run of heat. Many all-time heat record's smashed. And most worrying of all, likely for the first time the whole continent of Australia was under a massive heat dome. Australia is as large as the continental United States, and comparable to the size of Canada. As in North America, it is common to experience very different weather between the coasts, or north to south. California may be cool, while the Mid-Atlantic states roast.

But this time, the whole of Australia was very hot. The country set an all-time record AVERAGE high temperature, indicating it was above 37 degrees C. or 100 degrees F - everywhere on the entire continent. This is new, and it's not good.

Tune into the whole interview with arguably one of the best climate and weather experts in Australia, a fine scientific mind at work.

More here: What's Causing Australia's Heatwave? (written by authors with the Australian Bureau of Meteorology)

The recent report by the Australian Climate Commission, authored in part by David Karoly, is here as a .pdf : "Off the Charts: Extreme Australian Summer Heat".


Dr. Michael Raupp

Television entertains us with weird weather striking all over the world as the planet warms. We see people coping with drought, flooded out, burned out, or blown away. It's all about us, but we are not alone here. The insects are also responding to climate change.

Here to explain is "the bug guy", University of Maryland Entomologist Dr. Michael J. Raupp.

Scientists studying leaf fossils found greatly increased signs of insect damage during the last great global warming event around 56 million years ago. Is it possible we could see a similar bug explosion in just the next hundred years?

We talk about what insects will thrive as climate change develops, and which ones could be in trouble, just like us. Mosquitoes go to the top of the list, because of the tropical diseases they carry. Are you ready for Dengue Fever?

But agricultural pests are also important. We talk food in the future.

I want to add an alert for all our gardener listeners. Be sure and watch Michael Raupp's You tube videos on pest control, including his useful and fun "CSI Garden Pests". One of Mike's books is "26 Things That Bug Me". And check out Mike's weekly insect update at bugoftheweek.com


Way back in 2004, two Princeton scientists, Stephen Pacala and Robert Socolow, wrote in the journal Science, "[h]umanity can solve the carbon and climate problem in the first half of this century, simply by scaling up what we already know how to do". They broke up the problem of greenhouse gas emissions into sections they famously called "wedges". Each represented a sector of pollution with ways to scale that back over 50 years. The authors called it the "wedge stabilization game."

One author, Robert Socolow reaffirmed wedge theory in a 2011 edition of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Although that same year, Socolow publicly worried that wedge theory made the solutions sound too easy, and so stalled real action.

We didn't do much of anything, except increase emissions. A new article published in the journal "Environmental Research Letters" suggests we've lost that chance, with just those 8 years of delay.

Let's dig into that deeper, with one of the lead authors of the new assessment. Dr. Steven J Davis is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Earth System Science at the University of California, Irvine. He's part of a team of scientists who reassessed the famous wedge theory of solving the climate crisis. Find that article "Rethinking Wedges" in the journal "Environmental Research Letters" published in January 2013.

Or start with this good article by Tim Radford at the Climate News Network.

Radford begins:

"LONDON, 11 January – A nine-year delay in starting systematic carbon emission reductions to stabilise the climate has made the challenge ahead almost impossibly large, US scientists say.

They argue in Environmental Research Letters that a programme of action proposed in 2004 could have been achieved with existing technology. Now it cannot.

'We need new ways to generate the vast quantities of power that we now use worldwide,' says Steve Davis of the University of California Irvine, one of the authors. “Current technologies cannot provide this much carbon-free power quickly enough or affordably enough.”

Ken Caldeira is a climate scientist working for the Carnegie Institution Department of Global Ecology at Stanford University in California. He says: 'It’s not enough to freeze greenhouse gas emissions at current levels. To prevent climate change, we need to stop dumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at an industrial scale.'"


Don't. And don't stop living the only life you have. We are all born into a generation with many circumstances beyond our control. While the world seems to ascend, with a positive spirit, it can also descend, with a general malaise or even despair. Within that national or global cycle, individual lives move by their own tides. You might experience happiness, and should, without guilt.

Coming up on Radio Ecoshock, I'll have an extended chat with Dr. Kathy McMahon, the clinical psychologist who helps people rethink their lives, even in times of great social crisis (whether it's peak oil, climate disruption, or a fall of the fake economy.)

Meantime, Kathy cautions me: this is not the time to give up on the great opportunity of being alive. Enjoy, and remember the future is always constructed from the unexpected.

Thank you for listening. Lots more next week. Be sure to tune in and act out.


Radio Ecoshock

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