Wednesday, May 28, 2014


Microbiologist Dr. Yuri Gorbi warns fracking brings up buried life forms. Film-maker Kip Anderson's "Cowspiracy" asks why big green groups are afraid to tackle the biggest single cause of global warming: the meat industry. Radio Ecoshock 150528


I used to get 2,000 views a week reading this blog. While I wasn't paying attention, that shot up over the past month to about 10,000 views a week! Almost 40,000 views this past month. This is getting to be like a small newspaper audience. My thanks to all those who Tweet and Facebook about this blog, passing the word out. It's working.

Probably the other reason my blog readership of growing is more people realize climate change is really happening. It's possible I've broadcast more climate science than any other show on the planet. Certainly, Radio Ecoshock is right up there as one of the largest green radio shows anywhere.


Welcome to another shocking show about the state of nature and the world. For those paying attention, my two guests on this program should blow your mind.

We discover another whole side to the fracking debate, with Dr. Yuri Gorby. He's a microbiologist with a specialty in life deep underground. Gorby tells us fracking is dredging up organisms encased in the earth for the past hundreds of millions of years. Some of them have the potential to change chemistry and life on the surface in ways as yet unknown. It's sounds like sci fi, but it's truth-fi - and that's just the start, as we explore the tiny world, including toxic rain.

Then we introduce a film that dares to question the whole green movement, and your preconceptions about climate change. Maybe we should protest less about the Keystone Pipeline and Arctic drilling, and more about what's on our dinner plate? Does our vast herd of meat slaves cause more greenhouse gases than our cars, boats, trains, and planes combined? A few small voices, often silenced by laws suits and government harassment, say we have to save the world by changing what we eat. Are you brave enough to hear the awful truth?

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

Or listen on SoundCloud right now.


Fracking is the wonder-child of the energy industry these days. It's the miracle recovery tool promised by many national governments. One of the early people to question fracking was Dr. Robert Howarth of Cornell University. He came under intense pressure, including criticism from other faculty there. Then EPA studies showed he was absolutely correct about methane leaking out of the natural gas system.

Why is fracking a long-term threat? Why is underground water so polluted? Is rainwater safe to drink anymore? All of this and more - as we meet a remarkable mind in Dr. Yuri Gorby.

He's an expert in geo-microbiology - the organisms that live underground, often deep underground. He's the Howard N. Blitman Professor of Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. Gorby worked for 15 years at the Hanford Nuclear site, studying micro-organisms that can "breath" radioactive materials just as we breath oxygen. He then spent 5 years at the iconic J. Craig Venter Institute.

Dr. Gorby has studied ways of using bacteria to remediate contaminated water, as a possible source of alternative energy, and the ways microbes can cause corrosion. All of that comes to bear in the important issues Yuri Gorby raises. He surprised me. He may challenge your confidence in the environment around us.

Yuri Gorby studied microbial life in geologic deposits. I wonder if that underground network nobody sees, and few know about, be affected by this new wave of toxic chemicals arriving from the surface? What could happen to those life forms, and would it matter to us?

Yuri Gorby, from this Radio Ecoshock interview:

"My interest in ... hyrdaulic fracturing really came from these organisms that we were working with in the deep subsurface - organisms that might impact the migration of things like uranium and technisium in contaminated groundwater. I saw that there was something happening back in my home state of West Virginia that I just thought that I could help contribute to.

....There was something traumatic happening in the sub-surface. The insults that we see to those deep formations and the amount of fluids that are used and the types of chemicals that we suspected are being used, and now are coming back up out of those formations. For me it was just unbelievable that it was happening in these very sensitive ecosystems where I grew up.

I mean I worked out in the semi-arid area of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation for those 15 years, and there was problems out there with nuclear materials and uranium moving in the groundwater. But nothing of the magnitude of what I saw happening in West Virginia. And I have to say over the last few years the magnitude of that problem has increased and the serious ecological and health impacts are manifesting in front of our eyes


Another quote from this Gorby interview:

"Now the shale formations that we are currently drilling into in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio are 350 million year-old formations. We may think that they are devoid of life but in fact they are teeming with life. There are some efforts now to characterize that life. But some of that life can actually do some pretty damaging things to overlying strata if they are brought up from those depths in large volumes.

One of them being the sulphate-reducing bacteria generating hydrogen sulphide, and tremendous amounts of hydrogen sulphide forever - from these deep formations that are now communicating with the overlying strata. Those are like putting little sulphur burners in our water supplies and generating, if and when those sulphides reach our water resources, will generate hydrogen sulphide, and the sulphuric acid as it starts to de-oxidize and be transformed by bacteria.

These are things we have to take seriously because I don't think those that are driven by removing or extracting wealth from those materials - are motivated more by their ability to do so and the profits and the economic growth that it will yield. But they are not considering the long-term implications, or the long and short-term implications, of stimulating those microbial populations, and then allowing those microbial populations to be stimulated forever

Nothing to worry about? I remind Radio Ecoshock listeners of the research by Dr. Peter Ward at Washington State University. In his book "Under A Green Sky" (still an excellent read) - Ward expounded his theory that a switch to hydrogen sulphide producing organisms in the ocean were responsible for wiping out about 90% of all life on both land and oceans millions of years ago. It's still one of the best explanations for a mass extinction event that lasted for at least 10 million years.

Try this Radio Ecoshock You tube version of my previous 8 minute interview with Peter Ward about rising seas.

Here is my classic radio interview with Dr. Peter Ward, where he explains the role of sulfide-producing bacteria killing off life.

Lo-Fi 6 MB 26 min

And now we are bringing up swarms of those very same micro-organisms from ancient sea beds being drilled under the Marcellus Shale and other shale-beds in America. Nobody has thought this through, and nobody by Dr. Gorby has raised this problem with fracking.


Gorby and I have a wide-ranging interview. For example, he explains how micro-organisms can set up electronic nano-chains which cause the well casing of fracking operations to deteriorate relatively rapidly. These are the pipes which are supposed to protect groundwater from fracking pollution.

There is also a lot of air pollution from fracking, and that moves over heavily populated areas, causing health problems. It also falls as "toxic rain" into drinking water rivers, lakes, reservoirs and ecosystems. For example, when some West Virginians lost their drinking water supply due to a massive industrial accident, they turned to collecting rainwater. That's not a good idea says Yuri Gorby, as that rainwater is also laden with toxic chemicals.

In fact, Gory says we now have "chemical rain" in many parts of the world. Nobody is testing that rainwater. Yuri is proposing a citizen scientist project where people collect rainwater in a scientifically sound way, and send in samples to a central testing site. Let's find out what is really falling from the sky!

Yuri suggests we check out Dr. David Brown from Southwestern Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project. Search for "How's the Weather" on their site to find out the big role of weather on air quality. He also agrees people in cities should probably shelter in place by running HEPA quality air cleaners inside their homes. Folks who live in shale-drilling areas may really need to wear masks outdoors to prevent entry to their lungs by damaging silica particles used in fracking.

There's plenty more about air pollution and your lungs in past Radio Ecoshock shows, including my 2008 special Highway to Hell, How Smog Kills.


Gorby also reveals the flaws in the crazy mess of pipes heading away from fracking sites. Unlike the larger collection pipes, these temporary networks are not really regulated or inspected. Leaks of very toxic materials is a given, putting people living nearby in needless danger. Even the large pipes are carrying enough abrasive materials, including silica used in drilling, that more spectacular and damaging leaks is just a given. They will continue to happen.

Oh, and this nuclear materials expert points out the same ancient sea beds that are being drilled as shale accumulated uranium big-time. That comes up and re-enters our ecosystems and drinking water at the surface. Some fracking waste is really radioactive waste. It often gets dumped in land-fills. Nobody talks about this.

Yuri Gorby adds that his concerns are his own as a person and a scientist, and not an official statement by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

There's a lot more in the interview, and it all leads to the health of your body, and the survival of our ecosystems.

Download/listen to this 32 minute feature interview with Yuri Gorby here in CD Quality or Lo-Fi.

Or listen right now on SoundCloud


What is the single biggest cause of global warming, water depletion, deforestation, species extinction and ocean dead zones? If you answered over-population of the planet by humans, you are only slightly right. It's over-population, yes, but the problem species is cows.

That's according to a new and daring documentary film by the team of Kip Anderson and Keegan Kuhn. They call it "Cowspiracy" and we're going to find out why.

We already know it's common for industry hacks to write the laws that are passed, without even being read, by our elected repesentatives. There's plenty of proof that's true, it's common knowldege inside the Beltway. Do you think that's how people who object to our abuse of animals ended up being lumped in with Al Queda as terrorists?

I suppose the best-known story about being sued for talking about the nastiness behind hamburgers and red meat has to be the Texas cattlemen suing Oprah Winfrey. She won that case, but she has a billion dollars for lawyers if need be. I'll be you don't. How do you protect against legal SLAP suits?

This "Cowspiracy" film was funded partly by an Indiegogo campaign. It had another major non-profit sponsor, but they pulled out during the project, saying it was too controversial. The first filming was done in secret, before announcing the film, to get the hard-to-get footage they wanted.

The film is also about the failure of mainstream environmental groups to face up to the huge role of livestock in climate change. You can read this acidic commentary on the failure of big green groups here in this article by co-producer Keegan Kuhn.

As a person who worked for a large environmental organization, it's true they have to work on issues their members support. Otherwise they collapse. So maybe the real problem isn't the green groups, but a public that doesn't want to hear about the damage their diets cause. Maybe it's us.

But I totally agree with Kuhn and Anderson that we can't hope to limit climate damage without addressing the livestock industry and the whole issue of eating meat. Should we risk extinction of other species, and maybe ourselves, because we don't want to take on a controversial subject? Will we die of timidity and being polite?

Keegan Kuhn's web site is at First Spark Media.

Kip Anderson's web place is here at Animals United Movement.

You can educate yourself, and the public, at

Download/listen to this 20 minute Radio Ecoshock interview in CD Quality or Lo-Fi, or listen to it here on SoundCloud.


I want to add just a couple of notes about that interview with Kip Anderson.

During the interview, Kip mis-spoke about the amount of the Amazon destroyed, saying 91% of that great rainforest was destroyed for animal pasture. What he meant was 91% of the land deforested since 1970 was for livestock. Only 20% of the Amazon rainforest has been destroyed. "Only"!!

The 2006 FAO report "Livestock's Long Shadow" found the livestock sector was responsible for 18 percent of human-made climate emissions, far more than all cars, boats, planes and trains combined. Livestock produces even more of the most powerful greenhouse gases, like 37 percent of methane and 65 percent of nitrous oxide, which is 296 times more damaging than simple CO2.

The World Watch Study "Livestock and Climate Change" added up all the emissions of the meat industry, cradle to grave, and concluded a stunning 51% of our greenhouse gases are attributable to that industry. Wow! They say, quote:

"If this argument is right, it implies that replacing livestock products with better alternatives would be the best strategy for reversing climate change. In fact, this approach would have far more rapid effects on GHG emissions and their atmospheric concentrations - and thus on the rate the climate is warming - than actions to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy."

Chew on that. We'd rather die, or sentence future generations to die, than stop eating meat. It's even worse than our addiction to fossil electricity or driving around. It drives co-producer Keegan Kuhn nuts that big environmental groups don't even want to talk about it.

Meanwhile, Cowspiracy is trending into from a movie to a movement. Check it out.


I hope you caught last week's show about Antarctic glaciers melting. It's huge. We now know that over the next century or two, most of the world's coastal cities will flood, starting now. NASA says that process is now unstoppable.

Studies on Antarctica melting and sea level rise are just pouring out of science right now. In just one example, an international team partly funded by the National Science Foundation discovered that during the most recent big melt of Antarctica (within human times) "the sea level on a global basis rose about 50 feet in just 350 years – or about 20 times faster than sea level rise over the last century." That's very fast, and it could happen to us.

That study was published this week in the journal Nature. It was conducted by researchers at University of Cologne, Oregon State University, the Alfred-Wegener-Institute, University of Hawaii at Manoa, University of Lapland, University of New South Wales, and University of Bonn.

Get my program on Antarctica melting from this blog , from our web site at and from our new Soundcloud page. Just search for Radio Ecoshock on Sound cloud. In just the first three weeks, thousands have tuned in there for recent shows.

Meanwhile, make sure you help your local non-profit community or college radio station keep going. It's one of the last free places on the air waves, or in any media. Call them or Google the station web page to find out how to support commercial free, and corporate free radio.

We'll go out with a quick sample of how the free Radio Ecoshock climate quotes can be woven into a new and necessary genre of sound: climate music. Write me, or contact me through the web site, to get details on how you can download the package of quotes, and make your own climate music, podcast, or climate microphone on social media.

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

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


SUMMARY: Gasp! Antarctica is melting. Coastal cities at risk. New science direct from NASA. Plus eminent climate scientist Kevin Trenberth predicts strong El Nino impacts on world weather. Radio Ecoshock 140521

Welcome to Radio Ecoshock, I'm Alex Smith - but you won't hear much from me in this program. There is huge news from the Antarctic. Scientists fears that those glaciers will melt, lifting global sea levels above the streets of many world coastal cities - have been verified by two studies.

Later in the program, you will hear an excellent interview of top climate scientists Kevin Trenberth, conducted by Peter Sinclair.

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


At the bottom of this blog you can also find out about our new climate music contest, and links to download key climate quotes from Radio Ecoshock interviews. You can use these quotes for music, or in your podcast, radio show, or as audio for your web page or blog. Help yourself, help the world.


But right now we're going to bypass the mainstream media machine to hear from the NASA scientists who say the melt of one Antarctic glacier set is now "unstoppable". We don't often get such certainty from science, or large government agencies.

This is a moment to gasp, just like the record Arctic sea ice melt of 2007. The planet has undeniably and unmistakably been altered. It's a major tipping point crossed. Even without the Greenland Ice melt, the Antarctic glaciers will reshape the geography of land for all conceivable generations to come. Redraw the maps, and realize humans will eventually withdraw from mega-cities ranging from New York to China, a retreat from the sea by millions of people, from trillions of dollars in assets. That's what this is about.

I play you an edited-for-radio replay of the NASA press conference held May 12th for the media.

Scientists have long feared that human-made climate change would trigger melting of Antarctic glaciers, especially in the fragile West Antarctic Peninsula. Now the bad news is upon us: Antarctica is melting. The process NASA scientists say, is unstoppable. The inevitable result will be massive sea level rise over the next several centuries. Some scientists suggest 7 meters, or 22 feet of sea level rise is even possible this century, but the NASA study is more conservative, as you will hear.

Keep in mind when the study authors talk about 3 meters, or 10 feet of global sea level rise, they are discussing only the potential from a small part of the West Antarctic Peninsula they have studied, not the totals from elsewhere among the South Pole glaciers, or melt waters from Greenland.

Eric Rignot

We begin with the voice of Thomas Wagner, NASA's Program Scientist for the cryosphere and Director of the agency's polar studies. He is introducing the lead scientist for this Antarctic study, Eric Rignot. Eric is Professor of Earth System Science at the University of California, Irvine. You will hear his entire presentation for the NASA teleconference, held May 12th, 2014.

Sridhar Anandakrishnan

Our next speaker at the NASA teleconference is Sridhar Anandakrishnan, Professor of Geosciences at Pennsylvania State University.

I then play you key questions from major media to these scientists and their replies. It's also an exercise in seeing what TV networks and top tier newspapers ask. You can then compare how that filters through to the public. For example, while these NASA scientists say the Antarctic glacier melt they studied IS unstoppable, the New York Times reported it MAY be unstoppable. The certainty of science did not make it to the public.

You can watch the NASA teleconference in full here.

The fact that Antarctica is committed to melting, or at least parts of the West Antarctic Peninsula are, is one of the biggest stories in years. Joe Romm, the respected energy expert and blogger at Climate Progress, says this means coastal cities in many parts of the world will ultimately be abandoned.

You can see what the United States will look like with just ten feet (3 meters) of sea level rise here.

I also recommend this short video by Peter Sinclair - "This Is Not Cool". He interviews scientists, with a couple of news clips, about huge sea level rise coming.

Mother Jones has this key article about the West Antarctic ice sheet collapse.

You can get more essential facts from this Washington Post article.


But it's not just the West Antarctic peninsula, although that will go first. New science finds East Antarctica, long thought impervious to near-term climate change, is also at risk of melting.


The most extreme prediction comes when University of Ottawa climate scientist Paul Beckwith asks whether we could see 7 meters of sea level rise (22 feet!) by 2070. Find that in this You tube video. Paul also points out that moving massive amounts of water from land-based glaciers to the oceans could destabilize weak spots in the Earth's crust, leading to more seismic activity (read deadly earthquakes and tsunamis).

You can read Peter Sinclair's blog article about important New York Times coverage of this Antarctic melting news, plus references to the original science, here.

Unfortunately, one of the original scientific papers is behind a pay wall. Here is the link anyway.


Last week I interviewed scientists about El Nino, the weather-making system that will rock our world starting in late 2014. How serious is it? Let's listen in to a video interview done by Peter Sinclair, who runs the Climate Denial Crock of the Week web site. That's a hot spot to visit often, at

The guest is the eminent climate scientist Kevin Trenberth. He's an expert's expert, listed as "a Distinguished Senior Scientist in the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research" or NCAR. This is the clearest explanation of El Nino and it's consequences I have found anywhere.

Kevin Trenberth

Climate Crocks published the Kevin Trenberth videos in two parts. Find Part 1 here, and Part 2 here.

You won't find anything different in the video version, from my radio replay, other than the images of Kevin Trenberth talking by Skype.

Notice that Trenberth also wonders whether this coming El Nino could trip us into a warmer world, a hotter time from which we never cool down. I've suggested that several times.

This interview is courtesy of Peter Sinclair. His blog Climate Denial Crock of the Week is simply excellent. It's hot, don't miss it, at

Comedian Chris Farley on El Nino


Find all our past programs at the web site Or listen to what's new at the Radio Ecoshock Soundcloud page.

Next week I've got more news from a warming world, and some controversial guests. Thanks for listening.


We go out with a song by Dana Pearson of California. Find him as "Vastmandana" at This piece, written especially for the climate is called "Jet Stream in Florida". It works perfectly, to communicate the state that is slowly going underwater, from rising seas and extreme rains.

Climate musician Dana Pearson


I have a contest going for new climate music. If you write or play music, either on instruments or electronically, contact me for details, either through email (radio //at// or using the Contact Form on my web site.

This contest involved weaving in climate quotes from Radio Ecoshock into music you compose. Any entry containing copyright music will be rejected. The winners will be played on the 76 non-profit stations that play Radio Ecoshock.

Anyone can download the package of quotes as .wav files, wrapped up in either a .rar or .zip file. If you have a podcast or radio show, or just want some audio for your blog or web site, you can use these quotes, so long as (a) you credit the source as Radio Ecoshock and (b) don't resell any of them, or use them to promote a commercial product.

Find the files here.

RAR compact file Clime collection.rar

ZIP file

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

El Nino Storms the World?

SUMMARY: Will the Pacific ocean change-up called El Nino startle the world? The latest update from NOAA, plus two scientific experts. It's not what you think. Ends with backyard farmer Luke Kimmel and his green bag of tips. Mike Halpert, Dr. Shayne McGregor, Luke Kimmel. Radio Ecoshock 140514

Will 2014 or 2015 will be hottest in recorded human history?

First we get the latest update on El Nino from Mike Halpert, Acting Director, of NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, in College Park, Maryland.

Then I speak with ocean climate expert Dr. Shayne McGregor, and double check with Australia's Dr. Matthew England. It leads to a surprising conclusion.

But stick around for the final interview. We go from fear to action, with Luke Kimmel and the Leaf Ninjas. They are transforming a city, one backyard at a time, with success in urban agriculture and neo-green job creation. Luke has good tips for you.

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


We start with the story of the day, El Nino, first with the latest report from NOAA, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. They issued a new update on El Nino last Thursday.

Mike Halpert serves as the Acting Director, of NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, in College Park, Maryland. He co-authored articles on climate variability and prediction. He's worked with ENSO and seasonal forecast teams. We get the latest from NOAA, plus Mike's predictions for North America.

Download or listen to this 10 minute update from Mike Halpert here.

El Nino source recommended by Mike Halpert.


For America, two good things could come from a strong El Nino. As you know, the entire state of California was declared in drought. Just this past week, the weather has been sizzling hot and dry there. Wild fires have broken out in several places in the southern part of the state, with tens of thousands of people evacuated. A couple of local listeners tell me they are struggling to keep their gardens alive.

If an El Nino comes this winter, as predicted, it should bring heavy rains to California, breaking the drought. That could also allow a full planting, and may eventually reduce food prices, or at least stop the rise we've seen this year. The bad news is these storms can dump terrific amounts of rain, leading to coastal erosion and mudslides, especially where fires have stripped off the protective ground cover.

Our second guest explains the rainy weather should extend over the whole southern United States, much of which has also been suffering from long-term drought. Again, that may be the start of rebuilding the cattle herd, which may limit the rise in beef prices about a year or two from now.

Shayne McGregor says a warmer and drier winter in the northern states usually accompanies an El Nino. There's no guarantees of that though, as we have no experience in how an El Nino mixes with the dreaded Polar Vortex, though to be caused by Jet Stream disturbances in these days of Arctic warming and disappearing sea ice. It's a huge experiment with two mega-systems and nobody knows how that will turn out.


Maybe you heard that a system called El Nino could further destabilize the weather, and ring up another record hot year globally. The last big El Nino was in 1998, one of the hottest years on Earth, and a time of storms and fire-storms in may parts of the world. The next may arrive soon.

Scientists have been working furiously to find how how this weather system works. They also want to predict when an El Nino is coming. In the heart of that hunt is Shayne McGregor. He's a Research Fellow at Australia's Climate Change Research Center, at the University of New South Wales, in Sydney.

Shayne tells us what an El Nino is, and how we can tell whether it will be a MAJOR El Nino, a minor one, or something in between. It makes a big difference. We had minor El Nino's in 2005 and 2010 for example, but the El Nino of 1997/98 practically set the world on fire, racking up record global heat.

You weren't taught any of this in school. And yet El Nino can determine your food prices, the local and national weather, the fisheries catch, success of agriculture in many parts of the world, and more. We talk over impacts for North America, South America, Europe, Africa, India, and Australia.

Tune into this Radio Ecoshock interview with scientists Shayne McGregor in CD Quality or Lo-Fi.

Recent research on El Nino:

Late-twentieth-century emergence of the El Niño propagation asymmetry and future projections

Agus Santoso, Shayne McGregor, Fei-Fei Jin, Wenju Cai, Matthew H. England, Soon-Il An, Michael J. McPhaden & Eric Guilyardi

Nature 504, 126–130 (05 December 2013) doi:10.1038/nature12683 Published online 17 November 2013

This letter in Nature Climate Change expects more El Nino events as the climate warms.


Will El Nino finally be the weather disaster that jolts humans and their governments out of denial? There is plenty of fear, real and imagined, to go around.

In the May 7th edition of New Scientist magazine, under the headline "World is unprepared for major El Niño later this year" Michael Slezak writes, quote:

"The weather is preparing to go wild, and will wreak havoc and death around the globe later this year. An El Niño, a splurge of warm water in the Pacific Ocean, is coming. It will unleash floods in the Americas, while South-East Asia and Australia face drought. Yet little is being done to address these consequences."

He quotes Axel timmermann from the University of Hawaii that the tropical system is ready to fling a big El Nino at us. The last big El Nino, of 1997-98, he tells us, killed 20,000 people and cost $97 billion in damage.

Scientists and meteorologists, Slezak reports, are worried in private, but don't want to cause a public panic. The same New Scientist magazine also carries an editorial warning that overly cautious scientists may be endangering the world.

"The effects of the huge El Niño of the 1990s were all the worse because cautious forecasts didn’t allow people to prepare. It shouldn’t happen again ...A major El Niño is massing in the Pacific Ocean and is likely to cause cyclones, tornadoes, droughts, floods and sea level changes across the world.

Many leading scientists say the approaching El Niño looks similar in magnitude to the huge one that started in 1997 and went on to kill tens of thousands of people and cause tens of billions of dollars of damage. But you won't hear that sort of warning from official forecasters. They agree that an El Niño is likely, but are saying little about its potential strength

Also warning of bad things to come, is Joe Romm, the former Clinton energy advisor and honored parent of the Climate Progress blog, one of the top sources on the planet.

The headline of his article published May 8th is:

"El Niño Chances Jump To Near 80%. Add In Global Warming And We Face Record Heat."

Romm writes:

"If this El Niño does start fairly quickly and become quite strong, as many currently expect, then 2014 could well become the hottest year on record, and 2015 would likely break all previous global records."

I think he's right, but we have to be careful, about what we believe, and what we can prove so far with science. I thought, and still believe, that starting out with a hotter world, this next El Nino, whenever it comes, can create startling changes in the world. Let me explain that, and why I could be wrong.

By the way, here is another great article about El Nino from Robert Scribbler. Check out the comments below as well, I learned from those too.

And the National Geographic take on El Nino...


Common sense tells me that warming could make El Nino more powerful, more damaging. Why? Two reasons. First, the oceans are heating up, as incremental heat is transfered to the seas. (Plus: more of the sea is exposed to the sun, as the Arctic loses more sea ice for longer periods. But we'll call that a small effect for now.) El Nino, we know, is driven by hotter oceans.

Second, we know more water vapour is being held in the atmosphere with warming. There is at least 4 percent more water up there, some say 7 percent, than there was in 1970. El Nino is partly about the transfer of rains from the Western Pacific further East, possibly all the way to California and the West coast of South America. What would have been natural flooding may become super-charged extreme rainfall events with El Nino's help.

While all that's probably true, I've checked with several scientists, who are emphatic there is no science, so far, to show that climate change has made El Nino's stronger. Our guest Shayne McGregor, who is an expert in the field, says so.

I also phoned Dr. Matthew England, the Deputy Director of the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of New South Wales in Sydney Australia. He's part of a team of scientists who recently published an important paper on El Nino.

Dr. England said recent science shows El Nino events will likely become more common as the world warms. This global weather disturbance may come every ten years, instead of every 20 years. But there is no evidence that global warming has made El Nino more intense than it was 1,000 or even 70,000 years ago.

My impression is we have to separate the idea of El Nino, the giant oceanic swing state, from things like hurricanes and other storms. El Nino is not a storm.

Matthew England said there is little doubt that hurricanes, known as tropical cyclones in the southern hemisphere, will become more violent as warming develops further over the next decades.

Again, the science doesn't say there will necessarily be MORE hurricanes or typhoons. But when they do come, the extra sea heat and water vapour will give us things like super typhoon Haiyan, which raked part of the Philippines flat in November 2013. Or nasty and expensive storms like Hurricane Sandy last year.

El Nino is just the opposite. We have science saying there will be more El Nino events, but no proof that they will be stronger.

Still, I'm sticking to my common sense view, apparently echoed by Joe Romm, that if we begin a warming event from an already warmed world, it will be worse. We'll have to wait and see, as the global experiment with the weather develops in the coming years.


I started out by saying El Nino, and the whole cycle in the Pacific called ENSO, the El Nino Southern Oscillation, is hard to grasp. That's because it is not a particular thing, but a complicated large-scale system of things. We humans have trouble with global cycles that only show up every decade or two. Our attention span is smaller and shorter than that.

What we can understand easily is this: the more prevalent partner to El Nino is La Nina, the girl-child in Spanish. La Nina with its cooler mix of ocean waters, has operated like a massive air-conditioner for the world. La Nina is one of the factors which masks the actual warming we are creating with excess greenhouse gas emissions.

With El Nino, we expect the air-conditioner will be run in reverse, releasing some of the heat built up in the ocean. We may, as Joe Romm warns, experience the heat we are creating daily. It could be a record hot year globally in 2015 or even this year, if El Nino shows up in full strength. It's like an audition for the future.

That doesn't necessarily mean you won't be cold next winter. El Nino has been known for milder winters in the northern hemisphere. But there are other factors at work, another huge change in the planetary weather system, due to abnormal heating in the Arctic. The Jet Stream has been altered, scientists tell us, which may have brought the stalled Polar Vortex of cold air over most of North America last winter.

That Jet Stream change has happened in the southern hemisphere as well, Matthew England told me. Winds that used to bring rain to Australia have moved further south toward the South Pole. They may never return in thousands of years. That is why the major city of Perth, Australia had to spend 2 billion dollars on a desalinization plant, to get enough water to survive as a city. The same may be coming for California.

We have no idea how the changed jet stream will interact with El Nino. That's what happens when we mess with global-scale climate systems. The weather becomes a crap shoot, and the odds are against us.

I know many of you are expecting, not hoping for, but expecting, some major sign of climate change that will finally push the public into demanding action. Will it be El Nino this year or next? I doubt it. There will be plenty of flashy weather porn reported by the news. Maybe ten or thirty thousand people will die. If they are not Americans or Europeans, we haven't cared much. Even when thirty thousand Europeans died in the heat wave of 2003, nobody marched in the streets protesting inaction on fossil fuels.

The El Nino of 1997/98 was a disaster for the atmosphere. It occurred at a time when farmers and corporations in Indonesia were clearing and burning forests on a grand scale for palm oil plantations and simple logging. Giant areas of peat were exposed, dried, and burned.

Suddenly, Indonesia, hardly a major industrial country, vaulted up to third place among global carbon emitters. The peat fires buried Asia in smoke, and pumped a giant burst of carbon into the atmosphere. All that carbon is still there. It pushes down the accelerator on warming. But the public hardly knows about it. Ask around. They don't know.

El Nino will add to the background of worry. It will change some minds. But if you are counting on this boy-child, literally the Christ child in Spanish, as a turning point to save the world... don't.

- Alex


With an ear for solutions, Radio Ecoshock continues our long-running series on home permaculture and backyard gardening. Next we visit Calgary Canada, which just hit national news for their snowfall in May. Luke Kimmel is one of the "Leaf Ninjas" fostering green jobs and local food there.

Luke and Leaf Ninjas are in Calgary, Canada. That western prairie city, at the base of the Rocky Mountains, just went through a legendary long winter. It snowed in May!!

During the winter, there are melts occasionally from the famous warm winds called the "Chinook". But even that break can be a problem for plants exposed to the next sub-zero cold snap. I haven't even mentioned the infamous hail storms that has Calgary gardeners operating a Twitter alert service to cover up. How the heck can you grow food in Calgary?

Luke has tips that can help any cold country gardener. Like where to plant to get the most, and ways to use snow to protect perennials and trees during the winter extremes.

But we also talk about how young people (or anyone!) can create their own jobs, doing the right thing for the planet and local food. This group started by getting involved locally, and volunteering as much as they could, learning and making connections along the way. For some bigger plantings and projects, the local community organizes a "permablitz". Folks show up, spend a day planting, with breaks for workshops, and food provided by the home owner. A lot gets done fast.

Among their teachers in the ways of permaculture are Rob and Michelle Avis of The Verge. I've talked with Rob's students, and they are glowing with positive energy and hands-on knowledge of how to design local food that works with nature, rather than against it. Once a permaculture yard or lot is established, it's also less work to maintain, even as it feeds and pleasures you.

To be honest, Calgary is known as the oil capital of Canada. It's got lots of offices for Tar Sands corporations. It's a city of giant pickup trucks. But Calgarians just elected Canada's first Muslim Mayor, and has a surprisingly vibrant alternative community. Why is that?

Luke has a quick answer: "closest greenies". There are plenty of people working at jobs because they feel they must, who still want the security, better taste and nutrition of local food. They hire the Leaf Ninjas.

We talk through the whole process of setting up a permaculture yard. (Did you know you can eat the leaves of a Hosta plant?) Luke also explains "SPIN" farming, Small Plot Intensive growing.

Listen to this 20 minute interview with Luke Kimmel in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

The Leaf Ninja web site is here.


On Radio Ecoshock, we broadcast through many college stations. As part of my outreach to the younger generation who will live through climate change, I'm going to announce a competition to write modern music about climate change. Write me: radio//at// for details.

Meanwhile, here's a short tune I wrote last week, while toiling away at this program. It's called Heal Me. You can listen again, or download my music and this program, all on the Radio Ecoshock Soundcloud page. It's catching on fast. Check it out.

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

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

What to Do While Waiting (for the Crash)

SUMMARY Author Richard Heinberg on geopolitics, finance, and environment of the slow crash. Global Crossing and Green Festivals President Kevin Danaher on transition to green economy. Unicyclist for climate Joseph Boutelier. Radio Ecoshock 140507 1 hour.

Welcome to Radio Ecoshock. I'm Alex and in this program we'll visit with Kevin Danaher, a founder of Global Crossing and President of the Green Festival, plus a visit to the studio by young Joseph Boutelier, riding his unicycle across the Rocky Mountains to draw attention to climate change.

But first, I need to ask one of the old hands about what to do while waiting for the crash. Richard Heinberg is next.

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


There's a movie "What to Do in Denver When You are Dead". Now we know this carbon-based civilization is dead-ending in bankruptcy and climate chaos. What are we supposed to do while we wait for collapse?

It's time to call in a life-line. Richard Heinberg has written about this future for decades, in books like "The Party's Over", "The End of Growth" and his recent fracking book "Snake Oil". He is the Senior Fellow-in-Residence at the Post Carbon Institute in California.

My food stash from 2009 is still in my basement unused. Everyone is predicting the crash that never seems to come. What if this crazy, deadly system just keeps eating up the earth and the atmosphere for another ten or twenty years?


There's also the problem of leader burn out. The most glaring recent example is Michael C. Ruppert, the 911 activist, founder of Collapsenet, and host of the Lifeboat Hour radio show who killed himself.

Richard has known Mike Ruppert for years, and spent more time with him when Mike was living in Sebastapol. Is Mike's death a reflection on a whole movement? Heinberg says "no". Mike had his own personal problems, and had talked about suicide on many occasions. Ruppert's former lawyer says the same thing. If you are interested, the best explanation I've found is here on the Cherispeak blog. The best radio show, consisting of a half dozen interviews with those who knew Mike, was just done by Global Research. Info on the program is here or download that one hour show as a free mp3 here (from the famous

There are times when I feel tired, when I feel beat. I interview scientists warning about climate change, and really bright people trying to bring the world's attention to absolutely critical threats. But my show never gets the million viewers of a single cat video. People talk about celebrity scandals, or errant billionaires, but a dying future just doesn't make the news or even dinner table conversation.

I've had scientists like Dr. Tim Garrett on Radio Ecoshock, explaining why this fossil economy has to crash, to prevent an all-out climate catastrophe. We've had economists explain the whole banking system is based on fraud and corruption. How does this planet-killing machine keep on going?


We hear the drum beats for a divided world again, with US and Europe versus Russia and China. Is it a sign of desperation, the need to distract the population from dead-end jobs and a dead-end civilization? Is it a kind of military bail-out? Richard says an expected bonanza of fracked gas is likely not behind this geopolitical tussle. After all, Poland was supposed to be a fracking Mecca, but most companies have pulled out of there. It's a very expensive way to develop gas or oil.

Another big piece of news hardly anyone will hear: western energy companies are in bed with Vladimir Putin. BP owns part of one of the world's biggest energy companies, the Russian firm Rosneft. Exxon/Mobil has a giant play with Rosneft to do exploratory drilling in the Arctic Sea north of Siberia. The first drilling will cost more than a half billion dollars, for a reserve estimated at over 9 billion dollars. Now the CEO of Rosneft is banned from travelling to the US, and the American energy companies might get caught up in the boycotts. Everything is so interconnected with globalization that I can't help but think this so-called economic war will blow-back into a nasty fall for the world as a whole, including the United States.

The bright side could be this: nobody should be drilling in the Arctic anyway. Their is no way to "clean up" spills there, like the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Plus, the extra fossil fuels will kill off the planet for sure.


Then there's food prices. California, the whole state, is now declared in drought. The Texas cattle industry sold out last year, herds are down due to their drought. Anybody and everybody can see food prices going up and up. Will it drive more people into urban farming, back-to-the-land, kitchen gardens or what?

In the interview, we try to come up with a short-list of projects every community, and maybe even small groups of friends, can take on, to build our resiliance, and maybe a sustainable future. I'll start: I think all lawns should be ripped up and turned into food gardens. If you don't have time to garden, let a new industry of urban farmers do it.

Ripping up streets is another. We could keep a few for emergency access, but most of that pavement is helping kill us. Cars can make good planters. I've seen a couple in Vancouver that were flourishing with flowers and food, once you hack the roof off....

When a community comes to Richard, and they do, he shares that kind of advice with us that a small town, or even a mid-sized city, can proceed toward a sustainable future.

What about our culture! Richard plays a mean violin, and does public speaking, like to real people instead of just TEXx on You tube. Richard tells us a sustainable planet needs culture, and gives us some examples.

We've talked a little about really living, as though the future mattered. I hope people do it. But I also think we're soft and unprepared for what our system failure, and natural system failure, will bring. Are people ready, in their heads, to sweat out a few months of hundred degree plus weather, over 30 C.? Can we withstand flooding of coastal cities time after time? Doesn't there come a point when this already bankrupt system just cannot rebuild?

Is there a way for people to get ready for a one-two punch of economic crash and climate disruption, beyond putting bullets and beans in the basement? We can't cover all that, but we try.

Richard Heinberg is one of the pioneers in the post carbon world to come. Richard appears in major publications and media. His books are all still essential reading. Try "The Party's Over", "Peak Everything", and recently "Snake Oil: How Fracking’s False Promise of Plenty Imperils Our Future." Find Richard as the senior Fellow-in-Residence at the Post Carbon Institute,, follow his ongoing "Museletter", or just visit

He also publishes regularly at the Post Carbon web site called "". That used to be Energy Bulletin, until they realized it was about much more than that. often runs Radio Ecoshock features as well. It's a great resource, take a look.

Listen to/download this 31 minute in-depth interview with Richard Heinberg in CD Quality or Lo_Fi


In the world of activism, we split into two branches. One attacks the existing human system, things like globalization, the World Bank, and social inequality. The other protests our destruction of nature, while struggling to create a pathway to a survivable future.

Our guest is one of the rare souls who marries both together. Dr. Kevin Danaher is the author, co-author, and editor of 11 books. Some expose the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the cabal of the 1 percent. Others lay out the grassroots of a greener world. Kevin co-founded the Global Exchange, long dedicated to social justice. But he also founded and continues to share leadership of Green Festivals in major American cities, including Los Angeles and New York, and coming up, Washington DC at the end of May 2014.

He's an activist in San Franciso as well, where he founded Friends of the SF Environment. Kevin's PhD from the University of California is in sociology.

Many of us desperately hope we can avert a catastrophic disruption of our climate. Kevin has talked about this, asking if humanity can save itself. Can we?

Many, if not most of us, have given up on government as an agency that can help us out. Princeton just released a study saying America is an oligarchy, not a democracy. Quoting a summary of that study by Mike Krieger "even when 80% of the population favored a particular public policy change, it was only instituted 43% of the time." Now we understand why banks get bailed out but ordinary people just lose their homes. Is democracy dead?

Kevin makes me laugh out loud with one simple idea. Members of Congress should wear uniforms he say, like other public servants, such as firemen or policement. These Senators and Congressmen could wear jump suits like NASCAR drivers, with the logos of their corporate sponsors on the outside for all to see (instead of on the inside, where we can't see those $$$).

I can see why Kevin is in demand as a public speaker. He covers everything from the corporate take over of the world to a transition to the Green economy.

Then we get down to Green Festivals. Kevin is basically in charge of those conglomerations of green businesses and speakers that visit a half dozen major American cities. There was just a Green Festival in New York in April, and Kevin will deliver a major speech at the Washington DC Green Festival at the end of May. After listening to this lively interview, D.C. listeners should get down to hear Kevin on the 31st.

Are these festivals just another excuse for more consumerism? I know some of my listeners think that. But after attending a Mother Earth News Fair last year, I found small family-run business - real people who want to make a living without damaging the Earth, and maybe even offering tools to lead a sustainable life. Even though I'm suspicious of trying to buy our way out of this eco-mess, I'll cut some slack for people trying to make an honest living. They may be the vanguard of a new, truly sustainable economy. That's my opinion. You decide after listening to Kevin in this interview.

Download or listen to this 21 minute interview with Kevin Danaher in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


Climate change hangs over the next generation even more. What can one person do?

Joseph Boutilier has set off on a cross-Canada trip to raise public awareness. His vehicle is just a single wheel, a unicycle. Joseph cycled into my village, after crossing the Coastal mountains of BC. That's not easy!

Unicycles have no gears like a mountain bike. He has a small kind of aluminum suit case attached to the unicycle, built by his Uncle. This climate activist worked at a regular job for three years saving up the money to do this trip. He's depending on finding friendly homes to stay in as he crosses Canada, so if you hear Joseph is coming, please reach out to give your support, a meal and a bed. He'll be meeting with Mayors and media all along, to bring attention to the inter-generational injustice of climate change.

As you'll hear in the interview, Joseph is well spoken, an inspiring young man. I'm so please to see youth in motion. He's certainly that. This journey began in Victoria, British Columbia, and should end this fall in Canada's captial, Ottawa BC, several thousand miles in all. Joseph hopes to get more attention for climate change before the Canadian elections.

Joseph Boutilier is an example of a young person who can't just let climate disruption sweep the Earth and keep quiet about it. He's found his way of speaking out. Have you found yours?

Follow Joseph Boutlier at his web site here.

You can listen to Radio Ecoshock on our new Soundcloud page. The opening music for this program featured links from Festival Trance 2 by Function Loops. You'll find more new music from me on the SoundCloud page, like this short 2 minute piece called "Drum Wood".

My sincere thanks to everyone who donated to Radio Ecoshock over the past month. We now have enough money to cover all the bills into the new fall season in September. Listeners make this show possible.

Thanks for paying attention to what matters. I'm Alex, for Radio Ecoshock.