Wednesday, September 9, 2015


In this week's Radio Ecoshock, we cover global climate news, from the Syrian refugees to signs of an abrupt climate shift, with scientist Paul Beckwith. Plus I've got a few tidbits of news they just won't tell you, and my new song aimed to promote activism for the Paris climate talks in late November this year.

I'm Alex Smith, let's go.

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(image courtesy of Milint Earth Day) CLIMATE NEWS ROUNDUP WITH PAUL BECKWITH

Over the summer in the Northern Hemisphere, climate change put in an extreme appearance all over the world. It looks like 2015 will be the hottest year ever, another record-setting year in a string of hot years. Sooner or later, our civilization will begin to crack under the strain. Our next guest suggests a climate shift could be sooner than most people expect.

It's time for our climate roundup with climate scientist, and regular Radio Ecoshock guest, Paul Beckwith, from the University of Ottawa.

Climate change is behind one of the biggest stories of our times, the outpouring of refugees from the Middle East. Let me just read one paragraph from a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences March 2nd, 2015. The title is: "Climate change in the Fertile Crescent and implications of the recent Syrian drought". The lead author was Colin Kelly.

They say:

"There is evidence that the 2007-2010 drought contributed to the conflict in Syria. It was the worst drought in the instrumental record, causing widespread crop failure and a mass migration of farming families to urban centers."

They found a severe 3 year drought was 2 to 3 times more likely due to human-induced climate change, and then write: "We conclude that human influences on the climate system are implicated in the current Syrian conflict."

Are the millions on the move out of the Middle East also climate refugees? Beckwith says "yes" climate was a stimulation toward revolution (part of "the Arab Spring") and then civil war (which drove out millions of refugees). I think we have to keep in mind Syria was already home to at least million Palestinian refugees, and then took at least a million more refugees from war-torn Iraq. Add in the Syrian farm families displaced by heat and drought, and you have swarms of unemployed people, mostly very young, demanding change. It's a complicated situation, to say the least, but climate change played a role.

And let's face it, who wouldn't want to get out of the Middle East right now? They've just gone through a summer heat wave beyond human endurance. Then there's the sand storm that covered the entire region, visible from space. Cooler Europe, living in peace, with a functioning economy looks like a dream worth risking everything to reach.


Paul and I go on to discuss the new scientific estimates of much higher melt rates coming off Greenland. Where the IPCC used to suggest there would be one to three meters of sea level rise by 2100, now scientists like James Hansen (and NASA) are saying three meters of sea level rise is assured, and it may come much sooner.

Last year Paul Beckwith released a You tube video saying seven meters (23 feet!) of sea level rise was possible by 2070. I thought he was being too extreme. But now with Hansen's paper and other science coming out, it looks like Beckwith may be right about the upper limits that are possible. Last month he revisited that whole question in this You tube video.

Be sure to listen to Paul's description of the very important new paper by Dr. James Hansen, former Director of the Goddard Space Institute for NASA. Paul Beckwith did a series of 9 You tube videos to describe this paper in depth. Among many shocking conclusions is the possibility of extreme storm surges that could flood cities. Start with Part I of that series on You tube here.

Hansen's paper was made public well before the usual long delays common with scientific journals. He and his 16 co-authors thought it was that important. The title is: "Ice Melt, Sea Level Rise and Superstorms: Evidence from Paleoclimate Data, Climate Modeling, and Modern Observations that 2o C Global Warming is Highly Dangerous" The abstract is here.

There is also an interactive "Discussion" session you can read here. Paul gives us some clues on what to look for. All in all, this is probably the most important climate science paper of the year. You can read the full text of this new Hansen paper online here.

We also talk about the abnormal cold blob of water south of Greenland. This colder than normal ocean is one of the few "blue" (cold) spots on ocean maps these days, with most of the rest of the world a hotter red as the seas heat up. One explanation is that cold meltwater from Greenland has caused this blob.

Possibly related to that, the warmer Gulf Stream appears to have moved further south. This may lead to a cold and wet winter again in the UK and Scandinavia. Maybe. Big things are changing.

We also talk about whether the record heat waves hitting all around the world are just the result of El Nino, or is it climate change, and how would we know? That leads us to his two part video called "North Pacific Blow Torch" (Part 1 here, Part 2 here). It's all about the mass of hot water off the coast of North America, now called "the blob". That may be related to the drought in California, and giant wildfires in the West, but some scientists say the hot ocean blob is the result of atmospheric heating, not the cause of it. Here is a great article about the blob from Eric Simons of

When I ask Paul what that shift would look like, he gives us a peak preview of a possible book he may write on that future - if he can find time to write it all down! I have an interview with British scientist Chris Boulton coming up. I plan to ask him about the general idea that the climate may seem to stabilize right before it shifts into a new state. Paul gives us his thoughts on that.

Paul Beckwith has two Masters degrees. At the University of Ottawa he is working on his PHD with a thesis about abrupt climate change. He thinks we are already engaged in an abrupt climate shift. Now he has to prove it scientifically. That task is getting easier, as wild climate events keep rolling in.

My thanks to Paul Beckwith for communicating so much science. You can educate yourself just with his You tube videos and his Radio Ecoshock interviews. Follow Paul Beckwith on Facebook here.


In the climate news they don't tell you, Paul Beckwith talked about the heat wave that hit Japan this past August. It was hardly reported in the West, but here is a short clip from Vice News, August 6th.

But there's a huge story, lost in the mix of Western celebrity news, the refugee crisis and the developing stock market crash: Eastern Europe has been baking under a heat dome for over a month. Here is a clip from Ukraine Today on August 11th, explaining how carbon polluting coal plants can be shut down due to their own climate wrecking impacts - this time in Poland.

The heat in Ukraine itself just keeps on coming. On September 3rd, the capital Kiev ordered a shutdown of the school system due to continuing extreme heat plus... smoke from peat bog fires. Burning peat was the source of pollution that helped kill over 10,000 people in Russia in 2010, including many in the capital Moscow. Once set ablaze, peat can burn for months, perhaps into the winter, and releases a lot of extra carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Peat fires in Indonesia covered much of Southeast Asia in the winter of 1997-98, and made Indonesia the world's third largest source of carbon dioxide that year.

Peat fires are also sending up smoke in Western Russia, easily seen by satellite. Check our Robert Scribbler's blog September 3rd, titled "Smoke from Peat Bog Fires Blankets Europe and Russia Amidst Record Heat and Drought."

According to the Associate Press September 3rd, quote:

"Kiev broke an all-time record for Sept. 1 when the temperatures reached 35.5 degrees Celsius (95.9 Fahrenheit). Rainfall in August was just 4 percent of the average, according to the local weather forecasters.

Health Ministry spokesman Svyatoslav Protas said air pollution in the Ukrainian capital on Thursday was twice to 18 times higher than the normal levels, depending on the neighborhood.

My thanks to listeners who sent in these tips, of news they just don't tell you.


The Paris climate talks - are they a waste of time and carbon, or what?

The last minor climate meeting someone counted over 100 private planes arriving carrying the dignitaries. Imagine the wasted carbon there.

The other thing is: why do they hold these talks in winter? Europe may get a string of cold winters, and it just helps the deniers defuse the situation. I think they should be held in a heat wave during summer, and the air-conditioners in the conference rooms should be turned off. That would be more realistic and maybe add pressure for real action now, not 50 or a hundred years from now!

During my summer break, I worried what to make of the upcoming climate conference in Paris. My starting contribution is a new song called "In the Streets of Paris". If you like it, download it free from my blog at, or from the Radio Ecoshock soundcloud page. You can also share this tune through social media using the Soundcloud links, or embed the music in your own blog or web site - and I hope you will.

Please, Tweet your brains out about this. We're going to need all the help we can get, to pressure world leaders to get real in Paris, to save the climate and our descendants from horrible heating, extreme weather and massive extinction.

Thanks for listening. I've got lots of great guests coming up for you in the next few weeks.

Here is "In the Streets Of Paris".

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