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

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Can We Avoid Collapse?

"Population Bomb" author & Stanford University biologist Paul Ehrlich on his Royal Society Paper "Can a collapse of global civilization be avoided?" From Tasmania, forest expert Dr. David Bowman: wild fires drive more global warming. Economist John Talberth suing the U.S. Government over risky ocean oil leases in the Arctic. Three interviews from a world of trouble. Radio Ecoshock 130123


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

Listen to/download the Paul Ehrlich interview (18 min) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Listen to/download the David Bowman interview (23 min) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Listen to/download the John Talberth interview (19 min) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Welcome to another triple-header with Radio Ecoshock. I'm Alex Smith with three interviews with three great guests.

I'll call Tasmania to learn why it burned and why climate-driven fires threaten all of us. Our guest is world-recognized fire expert David Bowman.

Then we'll investigate why the Obama Administration is rushing to sell off oil and gas rights on the dangerous Outer Continental Shelf. Is that fire-sale meant to fatten a Ponzi scheme of big oil stock prices? Economist John Talberth explains why his group, The Center for Sustainable Economy, is suing the government.

But first, But first Stanford's eminent biologist Dr. Paul Ehrlich (author of "The Population Bomb" and a dozen more) on his new scientific paper, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society. The title of this peer-reviewed paper is "Can a collapse of global civilization be avoided?"

Please don't forget to support Radio Ecoshock. Help pay the bills. Please donate at our web site ecoshock.org, or right here at our show blog at ecoshock.info. PAUL EHRLICH: CAN COLLAPSE BE AVOIDED?

Dr. Paul R. Ehrlich

I'll bet you know who Paul Ehrlich is. But just in case: he's a Professor of Population Studies at Stanford University, and president of Stanford's Center for Conservation Biology. Maybe you know him for the world-famous book co-authored with his wife Anne, the 1968 classic "The Population Bomb". Since then Paul, with Anne and other authors, has published dozens of books. In February 2011 we interviewed Paul for his latest: "Humanity on a Tightrope", written with Robert Ornstein.

Now Paul and Anne ask a rather extreme question, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society no less: "Can a collapse of global civilization be avoided?" This peer-reviewed paper was published online January 13th, 2013 in the Biological Sciences section of the Proceedings of the Royal Society.

Climate change is on our minds, especially as America comes out of it's hottest year ever, and Australia burns. Yet there are other big threats out there. In fact, I counted nine developing ecological nightmares in Ehrlich's paper, not counting climate change or over-population.

We can't talk with Paul Ehrlich without population. Humans cannot multiply forever. But population is not the focus of this interview.

There is a disaster porn industry these days. But Paul has published in a journal known for science. Is there science behind the possibility civilization collapsing? A couple of dozen scientists reviewed the work and found it solid. Ehrlich notes that 160 different scientific papers were cited. Indeed, if you just followed up on those papers, you would probably develop the equivalent of a college course in the realities of today.

A good part of this Ehrlich paper is devoted to food production. The Ehrlichs have some suggestions on what could be done to avert a crisis. No food crisis for you? There is for more than a billion humans who do not have enough food today. It could get worse, threatening global stability.

I have to pose an inconvenient question. I interviewed Dr. Timothy Garrett from the University of Utah. Two years ago, he published a scientific, peer-reviewed paper showing only a complete collapse of our fossil-based civilization, right now, could avoid crushing climate change. We are a deadly species creating a mass extinction event. Maybe we should help this suicidal system collapse, instead of trying to save it?

Paul replies that for the sake of the people he loves, and the people he knows, he doesn't want to see such a harsh solution.

Paul told Stephen Leahy of the Independent Press Service "We are all scared." The people frightened are not just scientists, but anyone who either has the expertise, or educates themselves, on the various challenges to our civilization, a system which is far more fragile than we want to believe. By the way, I wouldn't have found out about this paper without the independent environmental journalist Stephen Leahy. Please visit his web site, and support his efforts.

There is far too much to this interview, with one of the grand older men of science and popular culture, to list here. Please listen for yourself.


Professor David Bowman, University of Tasmania

Sydney and Melbourne his more record highs this week, as the Australian super heat wave continues. This is our future friends - so let's tune in for a listen.

The image of kids in the water clinging to a dock, under a fire-red sky, captured the situation. The great Australian heat wave of 2013 also struck the southern-most part of the country, the island of Tasmania. Maybe this is the future anywhere trees grow, as global warming heats the planet.

Professor David Bowman is at the University of Tasmania in Hobart, teaching and researching Forest Ecology. He's a published expert on fire in the earth system.

When Dunalley Tasmania burned, Bowman was out of contact in the bush. He told his research team fire conditions were catastrophic, the worst he'd seen. Just last year Bowman was so concerned about the growing fire risk, he wrote the media a warning (which was ignored).

Listen to the 20 minute Radio Ecoshock interview with David Bowman.

While the public thinks a couple of wet seasons after a drought is a good thing, forest experts around the world know that is the most dangerous time. The rain creates new fuel for bush fires - which are more likely as the planet heats up.

It gets worse when slow-growing tree species get burned over in relatively quick succession. Fires that would normally return in perhaps 75 years come back in 5 years. Bowman says some forest ecologies in the Southern Hemisphere are converting toward super fireweed species. For example the Australian Alps are in danger of an ecosystem change.

The climate impacts from fire soot has also been underestimated in climate models, Bowman suggests. The black particles absorb the sun's heat, raising warming. Fire smoke is a complex mix of chemicals which are also responsible for many deaths around the world. Much more needs to be understood about them.

We also discuss the extreme fire risk of the trend to plant Eucalyptus trees around the world, including in California and the Mediterranean. The Eucalyptus, Bowman thinks, may be a real fire tree.

David Bowman has also been working with an extended family of aboriginal people in Northern Australia over the past 15 years, trying to learn what they know about fire. That relationship is unique, with fire being a part of aboriginal culture. Too bad the colonists didn't learn from them.

Learn a lot in one short interview. This kind of fire becomes a positive feedback effect on the climate. More fires lead to more warming, which leads to more fires.


John Talberth

John Talberth is the senior economist for the Center for Sustainable Economy, which is based in New Mexico.

In our final interview this week, I bring you a case you probably haven't heard about. The U.S. Federal Government seems permanently on the edge of bankruptcy. The public always wants lower gas prices at the pump. Now the Obama Administration is auctioning off huge tracts of the Outer Continental Shelf to big oil and gas companies. Our guest, economist John Talberth says that's a bad idea, on so many levels. His group The Center for Sustainable Economy has taken the government to court to stop it.

There are many angles to this story. In a nutshell, the Center is suing a branch of the U.S. Government, called the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, saying their assessment of the risks and benefits of awarding new leases on the Outer Continental Shelf did was not proper. If you haven't heard of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, it's the former "Minerals Management Service" (MMS) disgraced by the BP Deepwater Horizon drilling accident (and so renamed).

The Center for Sustainable Economy says the BOEM simply presumed America should sell off huge areas for oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and the high Arctic above Alaska, to make a buck and bolster big oil. The BOEM, and the EPA, did not consider the true risks, the suit says. And here is the novel argument: the agencies did not consider the benefits of leaving those fossil fuels in the ground. Just consider the climate costs of burning those fuels for example - $60 billion dollars in damages from Hurricane Sandy alone, with more to come.

The group also wants the government to weigh the advantages of saving these resources for future generations. As though we give a damn about our kids and grandkids, and what they might need, instead of driving around pointlessly now.


What I found fascinating was guest John Talberth's calculation these leases might have been awarded in part to bolster the stock price of major oil and gas companies. Even if the resources are not developed for some years, the alleged oil and gas go on the big corporate books as assets, keeping stock prices high.

Oil will end eventually. And public pressure due to climate damage might bring that day sooner than later. But the companies need to keep the fascade that oil exploration and development will go on forever, to keep the Ponzi scheme going.

I also dig up possible corruption by the House leader pushing this oil drilling, none other than former Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan. The report by the Congressional Budget Office, and released August 9, 2012, was requested by Ryan analyzed a proposal to open both Outer Continental Shelf areas, but also ANWR (Arctic National Wildlife Refuge).

Look here at Climate Progress blog for the details of Paul Ryan's connections to the dirty fossil fuel industry. And here. By the way, Paul Ryan is also a global warming denier.

Here is the industry's take on this lawsuit, as found in Refinery News.

Keep in mind some of the proposed drilling areas are in the Arctic, in the Chuckchi and Beaufort Seas, where no possible solution could be found for an accident like the Deepwater Horizon. The Arctic would hold on to the oil mess almost forever. The drill sites are shown, in government maps, to be within the ice fields needed by both polar bears and aboriginal Inuit hunting. What could go wrong?

Details of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management plan are here.

The maps show giant areas for the "Proposed Final Program Areas" - two of which are in the Arctic, including the Chukchi Sea and the Beaufort Sea. All of the proposed drill areas appear to be within the area described as "Polar Bear Critical Habitat - Seaward Extent". Many are also within the area shown as ""Subsistence, High Use" (I presume by aboriginal people).

Join us again next week for more Radio Ecoshock, for more reporting from around the world. Thank you for listening.

Some show music provided by Vastmandana at soundclick.com. We'll go out with a bit of a new song from Kukulcan "Mother Nature, Mother Earth"

Monday, January 14, 2013

Why Is the Economy Shrinking? - Richard Heinberg

Endless growth is a delusion with consequences...The spiral of climate change, peak energy, and economic crisis, with author Richard Heinberg. Fresh interview on giant new book "Energy: Overdevelopment and the Delusion of Endless Growth". Followed by speech to Chicago Bioneers "Life After Growth: Why the Economy Is Shrinking and What to Do About It”. Radio Ecoshock 130116

Download/listen to this Radio Ecoshock show (1 hour) in CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)

Download/listen to my Radio Ecoshock interview with Richard Heinberg (17 minutes) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Download/listen to Richard Heinberg's speech to the Chicago Great Lakes Bioneers conference (42 minutes) in CD Quality or Lo-fi.

Please donate to Radio Ecoshock from our blog, or from our web site. Your financial help keeps me digging and broadcasting the awful truth.

And now, one with the show.

Richard Heinberg, California.

Eye-popping, jaw-dropping, - I'm out of words to describe the tsunami of agencies and experts admitting our troubles are bigger than our brains.

But this week we're going to step back from brink. I want to explore what it means. But who can assemble the currents of climate change, peak energy, and a delusional economy into a big picture? Richard Heinberg, Senior Fellow at the Post Carbon Institute is one of the few who consistently keeps track of all three. He's the author of 10 books including "The Party’s Over", "Peak Everything", and "The End of Growth".

I start by calling Richard up about a very big new book, and then we'll hear his assessment from his keynote speech at the Great Lakes Bioneers Conference in Chicago. I knew some of the facts Richard brings out, but I didn't know how these forces of collapse interact, or when.


I wanted to give Richard Heinberg Hell for wasting resources on an eight pound monster book - about wasting precious resources!

The book "Energy, Overdevelopment and the Delusion of Endless Growth" is so big, I had to clear off my desk just to look at it. But then I got sucked in, by 2 foot photos of the-wide photos of the nasty industrial mess hiding behind our cars and smart-phones. Why didn't I know it's that bad out there?

The book has huge photos of even larger landscapes, places wrecked by our insatiable need for more and more energy. I began to wonder: why don't we see these images in the media, or in our daily lives? Are they censored, or is it because we don't want to look?

For one thing, Richard points out, if you don't have a private plane, you'll never see most of these energy reserves. They are generally in the out back lands. Plus, since 911, most of these energy farms have private security guards and the threat of being labeled a terrorist if you are there taking pictures.

I've seen horrible photos of the Canadian Tar sands oozing across the scarred landscape, as far as the eye can see. But until this book, I didn't realize the vast impact of conventional oil and gas production. Richard and I talk about "energy sprawl".

I was taken by the paper by the former Director of the C.I.A., R. James Woolsey. He says we are ready to spend billions fighting malevolent groups like Al Queda, but we totally unwilling to even talk about what he calls the "malignant threats" like system collapse of things like our electric grid, or the climate. Richard Heinberg has experienced that unwillingness to look, talk, and act for much of his professional life.

Surprisingly, this book includes green favorites like wind energy and solar farms as "blighted industrial landscape". And yet, despite the hard-headed figures on world energy sources and things like return on energy investment, I was surprised by the photos and essays on the importance of wild places and the species that live there. Is this a return to the old environmentalism?

Along those lines, I notice the flagship web site and discussion spot for the Post Carbon Institute has changed from the well-known "Energy Bulletin" to a completely new site, Resilience.org Richard Heinberg explains why, and notes some of the new resources aimed at helping us all relocalize.

He also says you can read some of the essays from the book online at resilience.org as time develops, from luminaries like Wendell Berry, James Hansen, David Orr, Amory Lovins, Sandra Steingraber, Juan Pablo Orrega and just too many more to mention. The essays are also found in the book "Energy Reader", available from the Post Carbon Institute. This Reader, Heinberg says, is already being used in some college classes.

The book "Energy: Overdevelopment and the Delusion of Endless Growth" was published with the help of the Foundation for Deep Ecology, which also spearheaded other activist large format books, including CAFO (Confined Animal Feeding Operations) and a great rainforest book.

Find the Radio Ecoshock coverage of CAFO - Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations The horrible truth about our meat production practices. Interview with Daniel Imhoff, editor of 2 new books on factory farm production. From Ecoshock 101015 Lo-Fi 4 MB 19 min


How do climate change, energy problems, and the fragile economy interact? And which will hit us worst and first? Let's hear Richard Heinberg add it all up at this keynote speech at the Great Lakes Bioneers Conference in Chicago, on November 2nd, 2012. This was recorded for Radio Ecoshock by Kelly Pierce of the Chicago Independent Media Center. The talk is titled “Life After Growth: Why the Economy Is Shrinking and What to Do About It”. We take you there. Find the links to listen to or download this speech by Richard Heinberg above.

Find Richard at richardheinberg.com. The helpful PCI news and discussion board is resilience.org.

I'm Alex Smith for Radio Ecoshock.

Thank you for listening to the big picture.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Burning the Future

Fires in Tasmania, typhoons in the Philippines, Mexican coal criminals - another work week for Radio Ecoshock. Environmental journalist for the Nation, Mark Hertsgaard on book "Hot: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth". Robert M. Hirsch of U.S. Geological Survey on real cause of floods. Radio Ecoshock 130109 1 hour.

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

Download/listen to the Mark Hertsgaard interview only in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Download/listen to the Robert Hirsch interview only in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Welcome to another attempt to save reality from a whirlpool of superstition, wishful thinking, and propaganda. You and I will work through the biggest change humanity has ever faced. But what is climate change, and what is not? Can we hear the signal through the noise?

Scientists know the world is warming, seas are rising, and ice is melting. The denial is all over. Economic realists also know the era of never-ending growth powered by fossil fuels is also drawing to a close. Like any population in nature, we cannot grow forever.

Those certainties reveal themselves in a slow grind, and in sudden jolts. There are still a lot of guesses bound to be proved wrong. There is still room for doubt in the details.


Here is just one small example: I have reported on the surge of Jellyfish in many parts of the world, especially in the Mediterranean. Ocean specialists have suggested this could be a result of overfishing, or ocean acidification caused by incessant dumping of carbon into the atmosphere.

But now, a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, or PNAS, says "Recurrent jellyfish blooms are a consequence of global oscillations." Here is an easier to understand version from Science Daily.

One author is Cathy Lucas from the University of Southampton. Another is ocean expert Carlos Duarte who I interviewed in our February 15th, 2012 show.

A careful investigation shows there has been no increase in jellyfish over the past two hundred years. It's a boom and bust species. There was another jelly wave in the 1970's but nobody paid much attention. Another myth bites the dust.


Later in this program we're going to tackle a great divide between some climate scientists, and the flood engineers and experts in the United States. I've covered the wild floods in Nashville in May 2010 when the Grand Old Opry went underwater. There were more floods in Wisconsin and Minnesota that fall.

Are these heavily news-laden flood events a sure sign of global warming? Maybe not, says Robert M. Hirsch, research hydrologist and a former Associate Director for Water of the U.S. Geological Survey.. Hirsch isn't a climate denier. He knows the world is warming, and these floods are mostly human caused - but not from greenhouse gases. It's a tricky problem which will work our brains, as we talk with one of the prominent experts in American river systems and flooding.

If the hydrological cycle is still one of the wild cards waiting to be seen, the promise of growing heat on this planet is as sure as the laws of physics. More carbon in the atmosphere traps heat energy that would otherwise have bounced back into space. We've known that for more than a hundred years.

In just a few minutes, I'm going to chat with one of the best environmental journalists, Mark Hertsgaard. I've been waiting for this talk, while Mark wrapped up key articles for the Nation magazine and just recently Newsweek. While his seven year old daughter waits in the room, Mark has to explain what we will all have to explain to our children: the climate has already been disrupted, and will change still more. Hertsgaard's latest book is "Hot: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth".


I want to welcome our first full-time radio station to broadcast Radio Ecoshock in Australia. 3CR has been one of those activist community stations pounding at the corridors of power and injustice since 1976. That furthers my own vision for a global English-language program as we witness and create the great change, in climate, energy, agriculture, and society, in order to survive the passing industrial civilization.

It's a strange synchronicity. I just wrote an Australian scientist for an interview, saying it seemed like the land down under was getting a break from the weird dangerous weather that struck that continent from 2009 onwards. Then on the fifth of January, starting out the new year in the Australian summer, I hear this from the Australian News Network.

news.com.au clip "Australia Boils as Extreme Heat Hits"

You heard that right. Parts of Australia went hit 47 degrees C and more, that's over 117 degrees Fahrenheit. The average for the whole country was 39, a sweltering 102 Fahrenheit. Find more in this article in the UK newspaper the Telegraph.

Here is what blows me away: the extreme heat was in the South of Australia, not in the tropical North where you might expect it. In the capital of South Australia, Adelaide, the thermometer went over 45 degrees. That's 113. Nobody goes outside of air-conditioned spaces in that kind of heat.

And then there's dear Tasmania, that coolish island pointing toward Antarctica. The Tasmanian capital of Hobart peaked out at 41.8 degrees C, the highest since record keeping began 120 years ago.

That's the kind of extreme we need to watch out for, as this relentless warming develops during the next decade.

The heat wave and lack of rainfall created ideal conditions for brushfires across southern Australia. Tasmania ignited into at least a dozen fires, in a land known for its wet cool forests. At least a hundred homes burned, and a town of Dunalley was destroyed, as we hear from ABC News Australia.

I played a bit of that clip to prepare all of us for the probability that super heat will stimulate burning forests in many parts of the world. Maybe even close to your home. What will you do? The Tasmanian bush will regrow, but some global forests will never regrow, converting over to grasslands, to entirely new ecosystems.

Australia is not escaping this year, from the signs that country is destroying its own living space, by ramping up their coal mining and exports. It's a race to the fiery bottom, mates. No more coal.


Speaking of extremes, here is another wild storm the press in the Northern Hemisphere mostly missed. You've heard about Hurricane Sandy, but what about super-typhoon Bopha? Not so much.

All credit to CNN weatherman Tom Sater for picking up on another climate-powered breakthrough, reported December 4th 2012.

[CNN clip]

This time, only hundreds died in the Philippines, not thousands as in the much smaller Cyclone Washi, aka Sendong in December 2011. This study linked the Philippines storm directly to climate change.

I guess part of my point is there is a southern hemisphere. Big things happen in countries that don't have major international news services. The climate is going out of control outside London or New York. We need a system of monitors, blogs, news and alerts to remind us a global problem is unfolding. There are so many untold stories in South America, Africa, Asia and the Pacific. And so many ears who tune all that out.


I'll wrap up this ramble with just one more story that caught my eye this week. Al Jazeera reports the Mexican drug gang called the Zetas cartel, is moving into coal mining.

Reporter John Holman writes on January 4, 2013:

"On October 7, Mexican marines swooped in on one of the most powerful men in organized crime. But as the navy triumphantly announced the death of Heriberto Lazcano, leader of the Zetas gang, there was puzzlement over where he had been found. Far from the Zeta's strongholds and practically unprotected, he had been watching a baseball game in the small mining village of Progreso.

Theories abounded as to what exactly Lazcano had been doing in Progreso, a one horse town in the wide open spaces of the southern state of Coahuila. Humberto Moreira, ex-governor of Coahuila says that he has the answer: 'Heriberto Lazcano changed from being a killer, kidnapper and drug dealer to something still more lucrative: mining coal. That’s why he lived in the coal region, in a little village called Progreso.'

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Moreira says that the Zetas gang is fast discovering that illegal mining is an even more lucrative venture than drug running.

'They discover a mine, extract the coal, sell it at $30, pay the miners a miserable salary... It's more lucrative than selling drugs.'"

The Mexican government has confirmed the drug gangs have infiltrated the coal mines in the State of Coahuila.

Why do I think this matters? It says everything about where we are going.


Sure there is already a criminal conspiracy to mine climate-damaging coal in the United States. In fact, two U.S. Senators have just called for an investigation into the low rates given to big coal mining corporations on publicly owned lands in the Powder River Basin of Eastern Montana and Wyoming.

After a call by western ranchers, the Reuters news service investigated how Cloud Peak Energy Corp, Arch Coal, and Peabody Energy Group got such low royalties, while making a fortune exporting the coal to Asia. Criminal charges are possible.

Everybody with a brain knows it's just as criminal to blow the tops of Appalachian mountains for coal. Plus the coal lobby has their dirty hands in the federal government in Washington for a generation or two, making sure the Environmental Protection Agency doesn't clear up the air too much. Millions have died breathing dirty coal pollution around the world. The Zeta gang could never kill so many as the "legal" coal industry does, or make so many billions of dollars doing it.

But I think organized crime is the future of coal. As more people around the world realize they can't cope with extreme climate damage, they will demand an end to coal. We can't rebuild fast enough from major climate damage, can't find the money or the will. We can't stand the floods, heat waves and droughts. Months of hot cities well over 35 degrees, in the hundreds, will motivate a lot of people. Eventually, many of us can't survive in a four degree warmer world.

When that social tipping point comes, there will be a "War on Coal" just like the failed wars or terrorism or drugs. Where governments try to suppress the last killing mines, organized crime will fill the need. Coal will come out of the "black market", literally the "underground economy". It won't surprise me if a minor war is fought in a coming decade, not to get the coal, but to stop it from reaching the damaged atmosphere.

And how will we survive then? Mark Hertsgaard is here to tell us.


Mark Hertsgaard and daughter

First climate change was coming. Now it's here in storms, rising seas, strange weather and much more. Our guest Mark Hertsgaard first came to my attention with his late 1990's book "Earth Odyssey: Around the World In Search of Our Environmental Future". That came after a quest of many years to find our impact on the natural world. Since then, I've read Mark's leading edge work in Vanity Fair, Newsweek, the New Yorker, and in his current post as environment reporter for The Nation.

Mark's latest book is "Hot: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth". Find his web site at markhertsgaard.com.

We talk about "the end of Pasta", why Latinos, African Americans and youth are the new environmentalists, and much more.


Robert (Bob) Hirsch, USG

Are there more floods? Is it climate change? Our guest is Robert M. Hirsch, a well-known research hydrologist, and high ranking water expert for the United States Geological Survey.

I was surprised to find there is another whole community dealing with the year-to-year reality of floods in the United States.

I've been in correspondence with Geoff Bonnin at the National Atmosphere and Ocean Administration. He's very cautious about assigning a big role for climate change in the remarkable floods we've seen in the past 3 years or so. I'm thinking of The Mississippi River floods in the Spring of 2011, one of the worst recorded in the past century, or the strange 2010 flooding of Nashville.

Hirsch is an expert's expert on this subject. You need to hear his explanation. If I can paraphrase a difficult subject, Hirsch says yes the increased flooding is human caused - but brought about by changes to the water system on the ground. We're talking about paving over so much ground, putting rivers in concrete banks, building subdivisions on wetlands and so on.

Hirsch's study of wild rivers that have escaped this redevelopment shows they have not been flooding more against the historic record. And both Hirsch and Bonnin caution that strange floods, some that appear once in a hundred years, or five hundred, are just a fact of history.

In late 2012, Brisbane Australia and its surroundings experienced what some called "an inland tsunami". It was a flash flood. But Brisbane's streets turned into rivers back in 1893, before there was atmospheric change.

Some of the disagreement with the climate community comes down to a different definition of "extreme rainfall" and a different perspective on how we understand flood events.

Personally, I still have a lot more to learn about this subject, but at least came away with a more scientific caution about making climate change an assumed cause of all the weird weather we see.

I'm Alex Smith. Thank you for listening and tune in next week, as Radio Ecoshock takes on the world.

Please help this radio mission keep going, by making a donation. Find the "Donate" button at the top right of our show blog, or at our web site, ecoshock.org

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Dragging Hope from the Mess

After a look at weird weather around the world, passionate pleas from people victimized by nuke waste & plutonium. Recorded at NIRS Conference Chicago 121201. Then Your Environmental Road Trip film director Ben Evans on great solutions found at the grass roots. Radio Ecoshock 130102


Listen to/download this Radio Ecoshock show in CD Quality 56 MB

Or try the faster downloading, lower quality Lo-Fi version(14 MB)

You can listen to/download just the nuclear segment here in CD quality, or in Lo-Fi.

Here is the 24 minute lively interview with Ben Evans, the Director of "Your Environmental Road Trip" in CD quality or Lo-Fi


Welcome back from the holidays! And what a strange time it was for species in the Northern Hemisphere.

Let's take a quick look at Christmas day 2012 for example. In Southern France, people were sunbathing and swimming in the Bay of Biscay. It was 24 degrees C. or a balmy 75 degrees, 12 degrees above normal.

On the very same day, about 83 people were found dead of extreme cold in the Ukraine. A huge cold snap descended on Moscow, where the temperature dipped to minus 25 degrees Celsius, 13 below Fahrenheit. Russians expect that maybe later in the winter, but not in December. At least 125 people died in the extreme cold there, and dozens more in Poland, which suffered unusual cold.

That continent sized cold wave extended all the way to China. Beijing, temperatures dropped to about 5 degrees Fahrenheit. minus 15 degrees Celsius, the lowest temperature for the area since 1985.

Not in the UK. Britons suffered yet another deluge, in what has turned out to be the wettest year in the history of that famously wet island. Twenty twelve was the year the rain hardly ever stopped.

In the Southern U.S. rare Christmas tornados ripped in. Snow fell in Dallas, just the start of a one-two snow storm that traveled up through the Mid-West to New England and Eastern Canada.

At the end of December, Montreal Canada - a city fairly well-known for heavy snow dumps, experienced the heaviest snowfall in 24 hours ever. Not just for that day in history, I mean the most snow to fall in 24 hours in our records. At least 45 centimeters fell on Thursday, topping the previous high of 41 centimeters in March 1971. That's 18 inches - and over two feet fell in other parts of the Province. That is an extreme precipitation event!

Remember, it was like spring in Eastern Canada and most of the United States in early December, just two weeks previously. Over 400 heat records were set in the U.S. in December, with people in T-shirts at 70 degrees in Chicago, and jogging in shorts in Central Park. A huge change.

There are few instances in major American media revealing the cause of unstable weather. It's a wildly fluctuating jet stream, just as I've been documenting on Radio Ecoshock for some time. Looking at these weather swings in the Northern Hemisphere, I was haunted by the description by Ecoshock guest Paul Beckwith in our December 19th show. Paul nails exactly what is happening.

The European media is generally more up on their science, and less dependent on climate denial. When the BBC looks into Britain's never-ending rain, they find the scientists who explain the big waves of the Jet stream, that stick and stall in certain weather patterns.

Professor Tim Palmer, Oxford

Tim Palmer, professor of climate physics at the University of Oxford, explains: “When the jet stream moves up to the north, and then travels back down to the UK, it brings with it cold air, blizzards, very severe and unpleasant weather from that perspective.

“On the other hand, when the jet stream moves south, then we get these periods of intense flooding, which we have seen through the second part of this year.”

But Professor Palmer says that with climate change, the jet stream could become far more variable.

He says: “The question of how it will change is still a very active research problem, and we don’t have clear-cut answers yet.

“But I think there is quite a big possibility that what we will see is the jet stream undergoing quite dramatic and erratic excursions. And the UK’s geographical position under the jet stream means that we could see the worst of this."

Prof Palmer explains: “I think it is a bit unwise, and possibly even a bit dangerous, to think that the climate of the UK will just gradually warm and we’ll transition to a more balmy southern European climate.

And you'll recall that 2011 was just the opposite in Great Britain. They suffered a major drought that hurt agriculture. Wild, wild swings in extreme weather. What could possibly cause that? Who could have foreseen it?

Scientists have predicted exactly that scenario for more than a decade. Even the staid Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change felt driven to release a special report on extreme weather events in a warming world. Most of them thought, even I thought, we'd see big the really big disruption coming much later, perhaps by 2030 or 2040. But just like the record melt-back of the Arctic sea ice, and the quickening pace of glacier melt, severe climate change is coming much faster than we thought.

As Professor Palmer says, it's a mistake to picture a gradual warming that will make cool places more pleasant and winters a happy season. Instead, we're going to get buffeted by big temperature swings and extreme precipitation events, whether in rain or snow. Welcome to the new normal, when nothing is normal.

All that is going to hurt the plant and animal world. Which means unpredictable food prices as well. Who can predict when the flooded fields will allow planting in Britain, or when the U.S. West and mid-west will get enough water to feed cattle and corn?

These conditions also cost governments more and more. The paralyzed and nearly bankrupt American government still had not passed the sixty billion dollar aid package for Hurricane Sandy victims. That's not to speak of the multi-billions we now know are needed for storm surge protection for major American cities like New York, Washington, and many more.

The British government is also broke and slashing budgets - including the very flood defense money they need right now. As John Vidal reports in the Guardian newspaper December 28th, the UK government is cutting flood protection money. They'd cut 95 million pounds a year until the embarrassing floods in Wales this past October. Now there are bigger promises to spend more over many years, but it's still less than previous governments allotted to flood protection.

My point is simple: due to a combination economic fraud at the highest levels of banking, wild government misallocation of funds, continued militarism and the consumer dream of infinite growth - we are socially fragile just as climate damage is beginning. These are very early days of climate disruption and we are handling it badly if at all.

Our best hope is the continued cost of punishing climate change could divert military spending into climate resilience, concurrent with a demand for a rapid shift away from fossil fuels.

You can comment in this Radio Ecoshock show blog. Or write me with your tips and ideas. My email address is radio [a]t ecoshock dot org.

Don't forget to donate to keep this program going, if you can. Find the donate button on this page.

Meanwhile, watch out for those big waves in the Jet Stream, and hope you are on the right side of the bend. It will help is you can use what you learn on Radio Ecoshock to educate your friends, family, and neighbors to the real causes of the so-called "weird weather".


Next up in this week's show we look at nuclear hot spots all around America. That's partly to honor the world's leading anti-nuclear activist Dr. Helen Caldicott. After 197 shows, Caldicott is ending her radio show called "If You Love This Planet". She wants to concentrate on organizing conferences and books, starting with the Symposium on The Medical and Ecological Impacts of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident, to be held at the New York Academy of Medicine in March 2013. Get the details at Helencaldicott.com.

There is a huge pile of stinking badness coming from the nuclear mafia in the United States. Two states are begging for tons of the worst radiation on earth, deadly plutonium. And a small village in Alaska is the testing ground for a new push of mini-reactors the big corporations want you to swallow, now that their so-called "renaissance" of giant reactors has failed.

Imagine you know and love your state, province or region deeply. You adventure through the highlands, gaze over rivers that seem almost sacred in their beauty. You imagine that timeless gift passing down through the generations. So how do you feel when your government teams up with some mega-corporation to experiment with radioactive materials that remain dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years? When they truck bomb-grade plutonium along your freeways and neighborhoods?

On December 1st 2012, the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, or NIRS held their Mountain of Waste 70 Years High Conference in Chicago, USA. I got this audio courtesy of Dale Lehman at WZRD the free-form radio station operating from Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago.

I play you the introductions to the guests for the panel at the conference, in case you want to download the full audio. Then we get to the fireworks during the Q and A.

The first-rate panelists were no match for the residents and activists that are hopping mad about horrible machinations to irradiate and endanger their home grounds, from South Carolina, through the South West, all the way to Alaska. You have to listen to the pain and betrayal in South Carolina, as the government works on "the factory to nowhere". That will mix super-dangerous plutonium with merely insanely dangerous enriched uranium to create the so-called "MOX" reactor fuel.

ROBERT ALVAREZ, Institute for Policy Studies

As Robert "Bob" Alvarez from the Institute for Policy Studies explains, by the time they finish this five billion dollar manufacturing plant, most of the nuclear reactors that could have burned this MOX fuel will be shut down. Other estimates show the lifetime cost of this boondoggle at $20 to $25 billion dollars.

The reactors only burn about 20% of the plutonium in the fuel, meaning the resulting "spent" fuel is so hot it has to cool for about 150 years before it could be stored in any geological facility, if America had a geological storage facility. That's one hundred and fifty years of babysitting and never failing to cool this radioactive nightmare waste just to power more outdoor lights and consumer electricity waste.

Susan Corbett of the South Carolina Chapter of the Sierra Club was in the audience. She worries the U.S. government-controlled TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) reactors, old as they are, will be ordered to burn this billion dollar MOX fuel.

Even worse, the state of South Carolina is begging for the whole country's nuclear waste, now that Yucca Mountain has failed! That is such treason for Carolinians. We have to ask ourselves why governments go suicidal, even terroristic, on their own people? Only big lobby money and the hope of endless government subsidies could explain it.

The same dangerous plutonium game is going on in New Mexico, where tons of plutonium are being shipped to the Los Alamos facility to make more highly radioactive fuel rods that nobody wants.

We might as well poison the whole Yukon River basin with nuclear waste too. Why leave the Arctic without a whack of radioactivity. Thank you Toshiba Corporation. That Japanese mega-company is trying to sell a village of 800 people a "mini-reactor" to be buried 100 feet below the permafrost (until that melts) in the Yukon River flood plain.


You hear from Nikos Pastos, co-founder of Alaska's Big Village Network. Find their blog entry about the Chicago conference here.

Now that the big reactor "renaissance" has died after the Fukushima melt-downs, expect to fight off these mini-nukes in your backyard.

To know why we don't want any of this, I play you a clip from former industry VP Arnie Gundersen, now with the consulting firm Fairewinds.com. When Gundersen was in Tokyo last spring on a book tour, he grabbed 5 samples of soil in Tokyo and bagged them in plastic. Back in the USA, Arnie had them tested - and all of them would qualify as dangerous radioactive waste under American law. Common soil in Tokyo is radioactive from the Fukushima reactor blow-out. Millions of people are living with radioactive materials - and that will last for centuries.

You can download the full audio for this session from radio4all.net or even the whole series. I found this audio courtesy of Dale Lehman at WZRD the free-form radio station operating from Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago.


What if you could spend a year on the road, visiting all the cool projects in America? You'd interview the big names, and cover the big cities trying to become sustainable. But you'd also hunt down interesting folks socked away on the back roads, with unique projects that really work.

Save your gas money and the greenhouse gas emissions. Now it's been done. You can go on a voyage discovering that unknown country, the really smart America, with a new film. It's called "YERT" standing for "Your Environmental Road Trip". Check out their web site - there is lots to do and see there!

The movie producer is Mark Dixon. A co-conspirator and YERT tripper is Julie Dingman Evans. Our guest is her husband and the film's Director Ben Evans.

This film is loaded. We have lots to talk about. There is a list out a bunch of the famous names interviewed, but the real stars for me are all the creative people I would never have known about, including rural back-to-the-landers, and people with great ideas to make cities where most us live more sustainable.

This is one of the big messages I got out of the YERT film. From bloggers to newspapers, it's all about how awful things are in America. Collapse is right around the corner, and Americans suck. But this film shows just how dangerous it is to generalize about a few hundred million people. To abuse George Bush's slogan, they found a thousand points of light out there in the darkness. It helps tip the doom meter toward the creative solvers found.

Dixon and the Evans attack some of the heaviest subjects without blinking. Yes, we're heading over several final cliffs. And yet I found myself laughing during the movie. The road-trip team seems to be having fun all along. They also take on some Survivor-like challenges as they go along, including packing all the waste they create into their already overloaded car. It ain't easy trying to be green on the road in America!

This is one of the best films of 2012 in my opinion. Lively, full of interesting characters and really helpful suggestions without being preachy at all. You can arrange a screening, or buy the CD at yert.com

Thanks for listening again this week. And welcome to our new Australian station in Melbourne, 3CR 855 AM, starting Sunday January 6th.