Wednesday, March 25, 2015


Welcome to another round of Radio Ecoshock. I'm Alex Smith, with two of the world's top climate scientists talking about the severe challenges we face right now, and in the future. From the United Kingdom, we have Dr. Kevin Anderson, who pulls no punches. Then Rutgers distinguished scientist Alan Robock tells us why geoengineering might not be a good idea. Open your ears and your mind to what's coming next.

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Dr. Kevin Anderson is a Professor of energy and climate change at the University of Manchester, UK. He's also Deputy Director of the Tyndall Centre, a multi-university project for the study of climate change. Kevin has advised the UK government and European Union.

Find Kevin's web site here.

As I reported in my Radio Ecoshock show in 2012:

"In a devastating speech at the University of Bristol Tuesday November 6th, 2012, Professor Kevin Anderson accused too many climate scientists of keeping quiet about the unrealistic assessments put out by governments, and our awful odds of reaching global warming far above the proposed 2 degree safe point.

In fact, says Anderson, we are almost guaranteed to reach 4 degrees of warming, as early as 2050, and may soar far beyond that - beyond the point which agriculture, the ecosystem, and industrial civilization can survive.

Kevin Anderson is from the UK's premier climate modeling institution, the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, and the University of Manchester. He delivered the speech 'Real Clothes for the Emperor, Facing the Challenges of Climate Change' at the Cabot Institute of the University of Bristol in Britain.

Read my blog about all that here. A Radio Ecoshock listener made this transcript of that talk.

The speech is still a great listen. Download or listen to the audio of Kevin Anderson in Bristol in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


Is Kevin Anderson more optimistic 3 years later. Hardly. Practically nothing has been done about greenhouse gas emissions in the real world, and years of climate talks have not made any progress.

Still, we talk about new science, and our increasing focus on the details of what will happen as climate disruption sets in.

The climate denialists like to says that climate scientists fly about the world to conferences. Personally, I think these scientists should do exactly that, to meet and match up research. If there is a last plane flying, these are the people who should be on it.

But Kevin Anderson has taken the whole issue to heart, saying each of us must make personal sacrifices. He's pretty well stopped flying. Yes Kevin was just advising the World Bank at a conference in Iceland, but he took a more fuel efficient solution: a rather unpleasant trip on a merchant marine ship. The waves were wicked he told me.

Dr. Anderson will attend the Paris climate talks later this year. He can go by land, using the Chunnel. It's loud and clear. All of us have to re-evaluate who we are and what we do. Are you bored with winter, or just bored, and want to fly to an exotic location? Be sure and kiss the kids and grandkids goodbye, as you add to their future misery...

We talk about new science showing climate change is speeding up, and what it all means. He's a powerful voice, don't miss this interview.

Download or listen to this new Radio Ecoshock interview with Dr. Kevin Anderson in CD Quality or Lo-Fi.


What if geoengineering to save the climate turns out badly? What could go wrong? Alan Robock has some questions, and the science to back them up.

As a Distingushed Professor of environmental science at Rutgers University, Alan has published over 200 peer-reviewed scientific papers. He's an Editor at the important Earth Sciences journal called "Reviews of Geophysics". Alan has been a lead author in the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

I also ask Dr. Robock about another application of climate science: what happens if there is an exchange of nuclear weapons. Could that stop global warming?

Download or listen to this new interview with Dr. Alan Robock in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


I do a lot of research for each guest. To be honest, I don't have time for detailed notes on this week's interview with Alan. It's very powerful, and loaded with science and reality - as befits a major contributor to science, and to the web site

Instead, I'm going to give you my notes on a web presentation by Alan Robock and some of his students.

Find this online article here.

Reasons geoengineering may be a bad idea

Climate system response

1. Regional climate change, including temperature and precipitation

2. Continued ocean acidification

3. Ozone depletion

4. Effects on plants of changing the amount of solar radiation and partitioning between direct and diffuse

5. Enhanced acid precipitation

6. Effects on cirrus clouds as aerosols fall into the troposphere

7. Whitening of the sky (but nice sunsets)

8. Less solar radiation for solar power, especially for those requiring direct radiation

9. Rapid warming when it stops

10. How rapidly could effects be stopped?

11. Environmental impacts of aerosol injection, including producing and delivering aerosols Unknowns

12. Human error

13. Unexpected consequences (How well can we predict the expected effects of geoengineering? What about unforeseen effects?)

Political, ethical and moral issues

14. Schemes perceived to work will lessen the incentive to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions

15.Use of the technology for military purposes. Are we developing weapons?

16.Commercial control of technology

17. Violates UN Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques

18. Could be tremendously expensive

19. Even if it works, whose hand will be on the thermostat? How could the world agree on the optimal climate?

20. Who has the moral right to advertently modify the global climate?

We find a graph showing (a) warming at our current emissions rate up to 2050 (b) SRM by dumping 3 Million tons a year into the Arctic only from 2008 to 2030 (b) Dumping 5 million tons a year into the tropics in the same period, and 10 million tons a year into the tropics.

The Arctic experiment seems to lower Earth's mean temperature by about .2 degrees C, which could be said to counter-act or gain about 20 years in the emissions pathway. After stopping in 2030, the heat level regains entirely the original pathway upward without geoengineering.

The 5 million tons a year into the Tropics has a of about .4 degrees C, but as soon as it stops, it starts an upward curve parallel to the un-geoengineered curve, but lower by about .1 degrees by 2050.

The 10 million tons a year causes a significant drop in temperature, going from .8 degrees C above the 1951 to 1980 mean in 2020, to about .3 degrees below that mean temperature (-3 on the chart). That's a drop of 1 degree C. However, when geoengineering stops in 2030, the temperture rises again to about .1 degree C of where it would have been anyway, or 1 deg C warmer than the 1951 to 1980 mean temperature.

The Arctic drop expands over much of the Northern Hemisphere, but doesn't affect the Southern Hemisphere much. So it would affect acidity or rain and lakes, and reduce sunlight to both crops and solar power installations, in the Northern Hemisphere. The impacts don't stay in the Arctic. The impacts seem greater in Russia's north than in North America.

Precipitation also drops, the planet gets drier as it gets cooler. The tropical drop affects the whole world, but precipitation is greatly impacted in certain spots, like Northern Australia. The precipitation changes more than the temperature.

Note that the Arctic sea ice continues decline even with the 3 MT year drop in the Arctic, not much differently than having not done it at all.

"Both tropical and Arctic SO2 injection would disrupt the Asian and African summer monsoons, reducing precipitation to the food supply for billions of people."


Alan and I discuss "nuclear winter" in our interview. I ask him if he thinks a major nuclear war would lead to human extinction. Unlike Helen Caldicott, he's not so sure it would.

Alan tells us about the "Toba event" that scientists think occured about 74,000 years ago. A huge super-volcano erupted in Indonesia (leaving a hole and lake today). The sun was blotted out for several years, likely decimating plants and animals.

Genetic scientists chimed in that research into the X and Y chromosomes of humans seems to show a "bottleneck" possibly around the same date. Some scientists speculate that humans declined to around 10,000 individuals (for the whole of planet Earth!). That would explain why most of us share some of the same genes.

If we could survive Toba, Robock says, some people somewhere might survive the nuclear winter after a war.

We also talk about what would happen if India and Pakistan got into a "minor" nuclear war, with the smaller weapons they have. There is no "minor" nuclear war. Aside from the millions of people dead, again the cities burn with so much dust that the sun would be dimmed - all over the world! Crops in North America and Europe would suffer greatly. Food shortages would appear.

That means that any nuclear exchange anywhere happens to all of us. We can't just push it aside as a matter in some foreign lands. That is also why nuclear weapons can never be used. We really only bomb ourselves.


Title of Robock talk at the New York City Symposium: (in the morning of Day One, February 28, 2015):

"Nuclear Famine and Nuclear Winter: Climatic Affects of Nuclear War, Catastrophic Affects to the Global Food Supply"

You can listen to or download this 19 minute presentation by Alan here. It was delivered at this "Symposium: The Dynamics of Possible Nuclear Extinction l February 28-March 1, 2015 at The New York Academy of Medicine" sponsored by the Helen Caldicott Foundation (my thanks to Helen, and Dale Lehman of WZRD radio for recording this 19 minute talk).

You can find audio of all the speeches from the Symposium available for free download here.

In ground burst type of nuclear explosion, fires start with tremendous smoke, but also parts of the ground are blown into more particles in the air. Some obscure the sun, some reflect it, so very little sun reaches the ground. That causes rapid drops in surface temperature, devastating crops.

The smoke in the air also heats the upper atmosphere, which then destroys ozone. More ultraviolet radiation reaches the ground, also devastating for life.

Nuclear winter would be more cold, dry, and dark at the surface, but loaded with ultraviolet light.

The problem has not been solved.

In the 1800's one volcano caused such cooling it snowed in July, crops suffered in the "summer that never was". That's nothing compared to nuclear war.

Reagan and Gorbechov had info from both Russian and American scientists telling them a nuclear war has no winners, only losers in a nuclear winter. They both said that information from scientists helped them end the arms race.

There are now 9 nuclear nations. The current arsenal can produce a nuclear winter that would last decades. A smaller local war would not create freezing conditions at ground level, but would be terrible where it occurred, and create severe effects on agriculture around the world.


1906 Earthquake in San Francisco filled the land with smoke, firestorm for 3 days. All buildings but stone ones gone. Same in Hiroshima.

There are about 16,400 nuclear weapons in the world now. Russia has 8,000 US has 7,000. Other countries only have a couple of hundred each. That's all it takes to be a deterrent.

As in our interview, Alan spoke about the hotspot of India and Pakistan - the subject of a study, with 50 Hiroshima size weapons. It would create 6.5 million tons of smoke. Even 5 million tons of smoke can affect climate. 20 million people would die directly. He shows a movie of where the smoke would go.

Most would go into the stratosphere, beyond the level of weather, where rain cannot wash it out. So it would cover the world and last for about a decade. (Inadvertent geoengineering?) It would become 1.5 deg C or 2 degrees Fahrenheit colder. That would be "climate change unprecedent in human history, colder than the Little Ice Age" (10:20)

Two other climate models were run to check this simulation. All three found basically the same results.

In China, the largest food producer, for about 10 years rice would be down about 20 percent, winter wheat 40%; in the U.S. corn would go down by about 20%, soybeans 15%.

But it's much worse than that. The actual bombs of today are much, much more powerful than the Hiroshima-sized bombs used in these studies. One Trident submarine can produce about 1,000 Hiroshimas. The U.S. has 14 Trident subs, and that is just half the American arsenal.

That could be 150 million tons of smoke, and 7 or 8 degrees C colder! Every possible target in Russia and the U.S. had a possible 9 nuclear bombs targetting it. Even with just one on each target, we can still produce the same amount of smoke.

14:40 "yes this would solve the global warming problem" "I did a calculation, if you produce that much smoke and you stop producing CO2, the global warming is gone".

15:04 "So what's new in this work? A nuclear war between any nuclear states using much less than 1% of the current nuclear arsenal can produce climate change unprecedented in recorded human history" "Such a 'small' nuclear war could reduce food production by 20 to 40% for a decade."

They revisited nuclear winter calculations made in the 1980's, and the current US and Russian arsenal can still produce global temperatures below freezing. Old 1980's computers were less powerful than an Iphone. Now modern models confirm those results.

They can only test this theory in little bits, using analogs, like winter cold.


New START treaty signed between Obama and Medyev (sp) signed in 2010. In 7 years, each side would bring arsenal down to 1550 per side. Due to a loop-hole on bombers, it might actually be about 2,000 nuke weapons each. That could bring world total down to about 5,000 weapons.

If instead the U.S. and Russia went down to about 200 each, like other nations, that could be enough to prevent a complete nuclear winter. "We wouldn't be able to produce enough smoke to actually cause temperatures to go below freezing, and sentence the entire world to famine."

Maybe a billion people would die with just a nuclear war between India and Pakistan.

The late Carl Sagan, a leader in nuclear disarmament in the 1980's said: "For myself I would far rather have a world in which the climatic catastrophe cannot happen, - independent of the viscisitudes of leaders, institutions, and machines. This seems to me to be elementary planetary hygiene, as well as elementary patriotism."

"We've already banned biological weapons in the world, chemical weapons, land mines and cluster munitions."

Support ICAN the international campaign against nuclear weapons wants to ban nuclear weapons.

Ends with Dr. Zeuss quote: "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not."


As the climate crisis deepens, we don't know how to grasp it. That's when we call in the arts, our pathway to the heart and the inner brain. Heather Woodbury has a one-woman play with a huge cast for this coming Earth Day. Heather has been recognized in the performing arts with awards. Her work has spread into books and public radio, and inspired many.

Now Heather is launching a climate change novel on stage. It's called "As the Globe Warms".

Listen to or download this interview with Heather Woodbury (10 minutes) in CD Quality.

In this program I play a quick clip from "As the Globe Warms" the audio eco-comic novel by Heather Woodbury. The clip comes from here.

Here is a 2.25-minute scene from Episode Nine.

The whole series will be finished and available on Earth Day this April 22nd. I love that Heather tested this piece in Florida and Texas, where climate change dare not say it's name...

Here is a description of the new audio play, from the PR blurb:

"Timely and entertaining, 'As The Globe Warms' humorously explores surviving on a planet veering toward social and ecological crisis; Gripping,funny and sexy, the drama crucially connects the dots between climate change, America’s religious-secular polarity, and economic inequality. The protagonists are a working class family on the brink of extinction who befriend Tea Partiers, desperate scientists, off-the-reservation-Evangelicals, and come together via a strange form of eyewitness testimony from bees, bats, polar bears, and frogs.

Woodbury, an OBIE-winning actor and recipient of the Spalding Gray Award, is known for novel-sized solo works that combine serial storytelling with high-wire performance. *What Ever*, her 1990s stage tour-de-force, was adapted and broadcast on public radio, hosted by Ira Glass, and published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Filmmaker Richard Linklater (*Boyhood)* likens being engrossed in her serial works to "living INSIDE a novel." Laurie Anderson calls her "an incredible one-woman Dickens." And The Irish Times writes of her work "What if the great American novel turns out to be a piece of theatre?" (Fintan O'Toole)

LISTEN TO The Newest Episodes from the current podcast here.

WATCH a scene from the original crowd-funded webcast here.


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

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Climate Geoengineering and Chemtrails Conspiracy

SUMMARY: In this program we talk with one of the world's top experts on geoeningeering to cool the planet, Harvard's Dr. David Keith. Then from the UK, Dr. Rose Cairns investigates the internet phenomenon of chemtrails, the belief that aircraft are already poisoning the sky. Is it an expression of public fears about geoengineering? Radio Ecoshock 150318

I'm Alex Smith. Let's go.

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When people talk about geoengineering, for or against, one name keeps coming up. For over 20 years, scientist David Keith has kept open the door for discussion and research on climate modification. At Harvard University, David is a Professor in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. He's also a Professor of Public Policy at the prestigious Harvard Kennedy School. Dr. Keith wins awards and criticism for talking about technology to stave off the worst of climate change.

Like most scientists, David Keith works hard to get a society with fewer greenhouse gas emissions. He also has a Calgary-based company trying to remove CO2 from the air. But today we pick David's brain on technology to artificially cool the planet, by blocking out some of the sun's rays. It's called Solar Radiation Management, or SRM.

First David describes how spraying sulfur into the upper atmosphere would work. Essentially, if the particles are small, they stay up there for long periods of time, reflecting some of the sun's rays back into space. The sulfur droplets would be sprayed from an airplane, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) high in the atmosphere.

Scientists in the Arctic Methane Emergency Group have already called for regional SRM in the Arctic. They hope to preserve what is left of Arctic Sea ice, to slow glacial melt, and to prevent large-scale releases of methane from the clathrates or thawing permafrost. I ask David what he thinks of this proposal.

David Keith says the concept of regional Solar Radiation Management is meaningless. The particles will spread down over at least most of the Northern Hemisphere, rather than staying over the Arctic. Due to the way this planet's air mixes, the sulfur particles would not enter the Southern Hemisphere to any large degree. So trying to cool the Arctic means repeatedly recharging the sulfur spraying over the Arctic, and essentially cooling the whole Northern Hemisphere, with expected and unknown side effects for crops in Canada, the United States, Europe and Scandinavia, and Russia.

Not all scientists agree that regional cooling is impossible. Next week I'll talk with Dr. Alan Robock. His group ran models looking at what would happen if someone dumped about 5 million tons of sulfur over the Arctic. We'll find those results next week. U of Ottawa PHD student Paul Beckwith also thinks Arctic cooling could work. We just don't know for sure.

That is one reason Dr. Keith says more research is needed into SRM, and he supports the recent call for that research by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. However the Academy support does not translate into real funding. That probably has to come from governments. That isn't happening yet. David says there is a political and social taboo about even researching geoengineering. Some groups, like the ETC Group, worry if the public thinks there is a quick technical fix, then we won't change away from burning fossil fuels.

One of the key unknowns is the impact of SRM on rainfall. It may reduce rainfall in some areas, but may also reduce extreme rainfall events. Again, we'll hear more about that next week with Dr. Robock. But David Keith says the idea that SRM will cause drought is a "false claim".

Don't get the idea that David Keith is a total supporter of geoengineering. He worries about things like damage to the ozone layer, and many other affects. Really Keith is not sure SRM should ever be used. He is sure we should do more research to see what it can and can't do.

We also discuss the possibility that the airborne sulfur might replace the cooling we currently experience by global dimming. Scientists like Dr. James Hansen (and many others) say that industrial pollution is blocking enough sunlight to hide at least 1 degree C of the heating we really create with current carbon dioxide levels. Millions of people a year, especially in Asia, but in all industrial countries, die every year because of this harmful pollution. If the public demands a clean up of the air, for health reasons, then the planet will warm significantly, due to the hidden heat "in the pipeline".

Dr. Keith thinks the relatively tiny amount of sulfur required to acheive the same global dimming would be far less harmful than the low-level smog humans are breathing. It takes 1/50th or 1/100th of the amount of sulfur to acheive the same effect.

And don't forget, we already put about 50 million tons of sulfur a year into the lower atmosphere, mostly from coal burning, but also from other industrial processes. The amount being suggested for the upper atmosphere might be 10 million tons a year. We don't know yet.

Of course we may also get more acid rain as the sulfur comes to ground. And SRM does nothing to stop ocean acidification - but Keith says there are plenty of tools we use, even though they don't solve everything.

David Keith claims SRM could reduce net effect of CO2 by about 100 gigatons, equivalent of US emissions over a century.


I ask David Keith specifically about chemtrails. He's not only on the radar of the chemtrails crowd, but is often demonized as a key figure in what they think is a world-wide conspiracy to hide the poisoning of the sky. Dr. Keith has received a few death threats, and gets hassled when he speaks at geoengineering forums and events. Anecdotally, some airline pilots have also become wary of chemtrails activists.

Keith notes in the earlier days of the chemtrails movement, say around the year 2000, a lot of internet posts thought the sky was being sprayed for mind control. Now that has shifted to one of two "reasons": either to control weather (as an economic or military weapon); or to cool off the planet. It is as though geoengineering for climate has been going on for a couple of decades (believers claim). We'll have more about chemtrails and the relationship with geoengineering science in the next interview.

Meanwhile, David Keith says geoengineering, encompassing many technologies (from sucking carbon out of the atmosphere, maybe seeding plankton, and solar radation management) - is the only way to significantly reduce global warming within a single lifetime. Maybe, given our current failure to reduce emissions, we will experience multiple climate-driven emergencies so serious, we will need this tool? David Keith says we should at least do the research to find out if SRM could work, and what the expected side effects might be. Then people and their governments could decide - although I'm not sure the public would be consulted if any government decided to go ahead and spray the sky.

Some SRM research is going on in the UK, in Germany, and likely in Russia. Like the American military, the Russian military has long had an interest in climate weapons. Most started with cloud seeding, but it may have gone much further. In that case, the chemtrails people may have actually seen real life secret experiments by the military. Who knows?

I ask David Keith if such experiments were taking place, would we know? Would he know? He replies that if the experiments were large enough to actually cool anything, various satellites and other tracking would pick it up. David Keith was approached by a CIA agency, asking many of the same questions I asked him. He says as a kind of "lefty" Canadian, he find it "pretty disturbing" that secret agencies were looking into this. DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is also interested.

On the other hand, the military looks at a huge range of options, and their interest doesn't mean they are actually doing anything at this time. Plus Keith feels so plugged into the few geoengineering research projects around the world, he thinks he would probably know if large-scale experiments are happening. He says they are not, at this time.


It's not just the military. A few billionaires are aware of the climate risks to their wealth. Richard Branson comes to mind, and some geoengineering research scientists hope to win Branson's $25 million prize to suck significant amounts of CO2 out of the air. Maybe then Branson's aircraft fleet could keep flying?

David Keith acknowledges he and his study group have received several million dollars from one of the world's richest men, Bill Gates. The Gates money is being used to set up scientific conferences on geoengineering to exchange research and data. That is all public knowledge, not a conspiracy.

David Keith's landmark book "A Case for Climate Engineering" is available from MIT press and the usual book sellers.

If you would like more, here is a good BBC "Hardtalk" interview with David Keith on You tube (24 minutes long)

This 2012 David Keith lecture on solar radiation management at Stanford University is very informative.

Note that many David Keith video clips are posted by his adversaries in the chemtrails movement, so beware of selective editing. I suggest you stick with complete presentations, from reliable sources.

Download or listen to this 24 minute Radio Ecoshock interview with David Keith in CD Quality or the faster-downloading but lower quality Lo-Fi version.

On most computers, you right click with your mouse to save an interview file. Just note where the computer stores it!


A group of people, perhaps even some of my listeners, believe there is a world-wide conspiracy to control the weather and maybe your mind and health - by dumping chemicals out of aircraft at high altitudes. They call these persistent high clouds "Chemtrails".

Now the internet phenomenon of the chemtrails movement sets itself up to fight off geoengineering, like solar radiation management, which it sees as more of the same. A sub-set of chemtrails believers also want to stop climate negotiations. They don't believe in human-induced climate change.

We are going to explore the meaning of the chemtrails meme. Our guest has written a sociological analysis of the chemtrails phenomenon. We will not argue whether of not the chemtrails conspiracy is true or false. Instead, Rose Cairns investigated the methods and possible meaning of this underground movement.

Dr. Rose Cairns is a research fellow at the Science and Technology Policy Research unit at the University of Sussex, in England. She's also been an environmental campaigner.

We talk about her paper titled "Climates of suspicion: 'chemtrail' conspiracy narratives and the international politics of geoengineering". It was published online in April 2014 by the Climate Geoengineering Governance project. Read the full paper as an online .pdf for free here. It's a great read!

Just for the record, Rose Cairns made plain in that interview that she doesn't believe in the chemtrails conspiracy. And just for the record, neither do I, although I keep an open mind about such things.

I don't doubt that the military in the United States, Russia, and probably now China, are working on experiments to develop weather weapons, like huge storms to strike an opposing army or navy. That's probably been going on since the 1960's. Here is a web site where you can find a lot of documents on this.

The video talk by Rosalind Peterson to go with this site is here. Rosalind believes experiments are going on to modify the weather, but stops short of saying there is a world-wide conspiracy to poison us from the sky. In this video at least, she sticks to statements that can be backed up to some degree by the documents she has collected. Peterson also links widespread tree death to common ground level air pollution. In this video, she declares against the widespead conspiracy theory. By all means, check out the many government and other documents she has collected. It's an education.

There are plenty of real conspiracies. Major banks admitted they fixed everything from interest rates to the price of gold. The George Bush Administration conspired to start a war in Iraq. So it is not irrational to believe in a conspiracy.

In my own exploration on the Net, I found a nexis of beliefs on the site called "Air Crap", and a link to a site called "His Heavenly Armies" - a Jesus blog. Both contained screeds against vaccines, abortion, the American HAARP installation, and of course, geoengineering. Is this coming from the Left or Right spectrum of political belief? Rose says it's a mixture of both. We have "left" ideas about evil corporations and protecting nature, along with "right" ideas about too much government control and the need for personal liberty.

Air Crap includes stories like: "UN Official Exposes The Intentional “Transformation Of The World Economy” As The True Purpose Of The Climate Change Lies".

One chemtrail activist wants people to go to the Paris Climate talks this year. She thinks those talks will just legitimate the spraying that is already happening, as geoengineering. And that's just the tip of the iceberg of climate change denial I found rampant on many chemtrails sites. We don't need "chemtrails" they say, because there is no global warming. It's all a hoax, they say, repeating many of the climate denial talking points common on the Net.

Being opposed to dumping chemicals in the sky, the chemtrails folks are all over any proposal to do solar radiation management. They attend public talks and conferences, posing questions that scientists find strange and hard to answer. On the other hand, chemtrails activists do monitor the situation closely, and serve as a news source for anyone concerned about geoengineering. Just be careful to cross check what you find.

Just how the chemtrails movement will affect any public discussion about geoengineering is yet to be seen. Here is a quote from Rose's paper:

"While this belief is marginal, it is not insignificant: a Google search of the term ‘chemtrails’ returns over 2.6 million hits, and a study by Mercer et al. (2011) found that 2.6% of a sample of 3105 people in the US, Canada and the UK believed entirely in the existence of a conspiracy involving chemtrails (and around 14% believed in the conspiracy to some extent)."

If we do run into a climatic emergency in the future, and scientists says they have a temporary way to cool things off, will the public response be partly shaped by the chemtrails movement now? That's where the research by Rose Cairns becomes so fascinating.

Some people encountering chemtrails go through an emotional and sometimes life-changing experience. I've heard the same from listeners who suddenly get the reality of climate change. Are they different?

Some of my Radio Ecoshock listeners are already deeply offended that we haven't spent our time proving chemtrails are real. Others are wondering how to deal with the chemtrails crowd. Are there avenues of communication, or are most chemtrails folks insulated from further facts or arguments? It's difficult, Rose says. She knows a few friends or even family members believe chemtrails are real. Once a person adopts that as their belief system, anyone questioning it becomes either (a) too blind to see the obvious record in the sky! or (b) obviously a dupe or an active part of the conspiracy. That doesn't leave us much room, or much choice.

I think there is ample evidence that if the upper atmosphere is cold enough, the moisture in air-plane exhaust becomes visible as a "contrail". Science has already shown that if we have enough contrails, in the right conditions they can stimulate the development of a layer of high cirrus-type clouds. There is more water vapor in the atmosphere of a warming planet (about 7% more since 1970, we've been told). And of course there are way more planes in the air. Aircraft traffic is traffic, just like cars.

All of that suggests to me that most impacts on the sky are not from a vast hidden conspiracy, but just the result of pollution from aircraft. But as I said, I'm willing to believe, based on some documents available, that the military of various countries have run, and may be still running, some very small scale experiments to modify the weather. These may generate "chemtrails". But personally, I doubt that's a very big impact.

Some chemtrails folks, like Dane Wigington, blame absolutely everything on this vast evil experiment to poison the sky. The California drought? That's not climate change - it's chemtrails says Wigington. Tree die off? Not our pollution, but chemtrails. Fukushima? Chemtrails. It's a single theory to explain everything, and like all such single answers, it's just not right.

That's my opinion.

Here are a couple of chemtrails skeptic sites: Contrails Science and Metabunk.

Or check out this article: by Grant Petty, Professor of Atmospheric Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison "Chemtrails: Real threat or urban legend?"

And here is Dane Wigington's site, Good luck!

A well-known pro-chemtrails movie is WIWATS - "What in the World Are They Spraying?"

Listen to or download this interview with Rose Cairns in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


We wrap up with a short piece about the endangered salamanders. It turns out North America, and not the tropics, has the most of these reclusive creatures. Japan and China have some over 5 feet long. Here's a video of a giant Japanese salamander coming out.

Matt Ellerbeck, "the salamander man" gives us an update on this threatened species - who hold the miracle of how to regenerate lost limbs, or even missing eyes. If only we knew what they know...

On Radio Ecoshock you often hear me try to expand our view beyond humans to the many other marvellous creatures that live on Earth. It's time to hear about one of them. Call them salamanders, or call them newts, but in too many parts of the world we have to call them endangered.

Our guest has dedicated his life to saving the salamanders. Matt Ellerbeck works through public education in schools and the media - and through his web site at

Download this short interview with Matt Ellerbeck (in CD Quality only).

Just like the planet, we are out of time this week for this program. My thanks to everyone who Tweets and spreads the word on Facebook. Find all our past programs as free mp3 downloads at our web site,

Thank you for listening, and please join us again next week for more thrills and spills.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Heat and the Rising Sea

Coming up in this Radio Ecoshock show: what you and your government are not being told about the threat of rising seas. Plus, how climate change was a driver of civil war in Syria - and Yemen. We finish up with a frank talk about thawing permafrost and why millions of Russians think global warming is a good idea. More of the talk usually left unsaid - right here on Radio Ecoshock.

We don't very often hear about what is happening in Russia, especially now with the latest freeze in relations. So I'm happy to bring you this next interview about how the Russian north is thawing, and what that means for their economy, and the people who live there. Will disappearing permafrost change the future for the whole world? You bet it will.

Guests: Dr. Robert Nicholls, Dr. Colin Kelly, Dr. Nikolay Shilomanov

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Scientists on Radio Ecoshock have warned that sea level rise, not heat, may be the biggest and most costly threat of climate change. We know coastal cities around the world are endangered. But are governments getting the best advice from official bodies like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change?

A new report from researchers at the University of Southampton in the UK says "no". Their commentary, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, says critical risks are not being communicated.

The lead author for the paper "Sea-level rise scenarios and coastal risk management" is Professor Jochen Hinkel. He was on Radio Ecoshock this past February. Here to explain the new work is co-author Robert James Nicholls. He's an award-winning Professor of Coastal Engineering at the University of Southhampton. I reached Dr. Nicholls in the Maldives, an endangered island nation in the Indian Ocean.

Dr. Robert Nicholls.

The commentary we talk about was published in the journal Nature Climate Change. It is titled "Sea-level rise scenarios and coastal risk management"

Right at the opening of Nicholl's published commentary, the authors say the IPCC, quote:

"aims to understand and reduce uncertainty, a viewpoint that is quite different from the one of coastal management, which aims to reduce risks. Unfortunately, this is not spelled out clearly both within and beyond the IPCC reports."

The difference is rather large. Essentially if you look at sea level risk as a large Bell curve, the IPCC scientists take the conservative view that the central assumptions are the most likely, so that's what they tell governments. That's where under 1 meter sea level rise by the year 2100 comes from.

But wait. There is a 33% chance, shown as a fat tail of probability extending away from the main curve, that sea level rise will be far more serious. The most "extreme sea level rise" is what coastal planners on the ground want to know. Once they know how bad it could get, they can decide what berms, levees, dams, or tidal control measures will be needed. Once you spend some billions of dollars on coastal defences, you don't want to find it breached within 50 years.

The paper authors also say the Intergovernmental Panel results are not 100% reliable, because they are based on models, and even those model results are hard to understand. It sounds like we really don't know.

There's another huge problem, and that is when we try to interpret these global mean sea level rises to local realities. I've seen science saying, quote:

"Sea levels across the Northeast coast of the United States rose nearly 3.9 inches between 2009 and 2010".

We'll talk to the author of that work, Paul Goddard, in an upcoming Radio Ecoshock show.

That big rise along New England is temporary. It is attributed not to land sinking, but to changes in ocean currents. So it's not a simple equation for sea level rise. So much depends on other local conditions.

The highest global mean sea level rise prediction corresponds to the worst case IPCC scenario, which they call "RCP8.5". That is the course we are currently on. What would such a world look like, when my 5 year-old grandchild is an older man?

I'm concerned that governments, and our listeners, picture a gradual sea level rise which takes a century to really matter. But the forerunners can arrive much sooner. I'm thinking of things like hurricanes, storm surges, and super-tides. If sea levels go up faster and further than the middle-ground IPCC estimates, what would we see around the world?

Should governments try to prepare for the conservative, let's say optimistic, assessment of sea level rise? Or should they prepare for the extremes, even though that may cost many more billions of dollars in the short-term?

Nicholls tells us the most advanced countries in preparing for high sea level rise are the UK, the Netherlands and Germany. London, he says, can be protected for hundreds of years. They are already making plans for 2 meters of sea level rise by 2100.

New York is very vulnerable, as Hurricane Sandy showed us. New York City is not spending a few billion dollars to build the three tidal surge control gates it needs for the 3 entrances to their harbor. But at least, Nicholls says, NYC is built on solid rock, so flood control can work.

As I heard in a recent speech by Jeremy Jackson, that is not true for Miami. The land under Miami is very porous. There is no way to stop incursion by the sea. Jackson says that city will have to be abandoned. In our interview, Nicholls says some island nations in the Pacific will also have to be abandoned, and they know it.

To hear a longer presentation by Dr. Robert Nicholls, try this one: "Adaptation to sea-level rise" at the Geological Society of London, 2012 Shell Lecture, on You tube here.

Download or listen to this Radio Ecoshock interview with Robert Nicholls in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


Scientists have predicted climate change could lead to instability within some nations, and war. Long-time listeners may recall my February 2010 show with clips from a speech by Gwynne Dyer, author of "Climate Wars". After interviewing top military people in many countries, Dyer concluded that wars driven at least in part by climate change are an inevitable part of our future history. Find those clips in this show.

In a report released in October 2014, the U.S. Pentagon said the same thing. See my links to that Pentagon paper below. Now we have the first peer-reviewed study saying climate wars are not just the future. One may already have happened, in Syria.

We have the lead author of a new paper with us, Dr. Colin Kelley. Colin is a post-doctoral fellow and visiting scholar with the Geography Climate Hazards Group at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

His paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy, or PNAS, is titled "Climate change in the Fertile Crescent and implications of the recent Syrian drought".

Dr. Colin Kelley.


To sum up, in 2006 a multi-year drought appeared in Syria and its neighboring countries. After three years of drought, more than million Syrian farmers left their land, and went to the city to try to survive.

Syrian cities were already overcrowded. The population of the country zoomed from about 5 million in 1950 to over 20 million today. We don't know exactly how many refugees from the Iraq war streamed into Syrian cities, but it's thought to be well over 1 million people.

The government of Syria made the situation worse by helping intensive agriculture in North East Syria, considered the "bread-basket" of the country. Before the drought, about one quarter of Syria's GDP was based on wheat. That disappeared with the drought. Was it a mistake to promote such a water-intensive crop as wheat?

Have there been droughts in Syria before? Of course. But Colin Kelly and his associates calculated that the odds of a multi-year drought more than doubled with climate change. They concluded the overcrowding and crashing economy could not have happened without global warming. The authors don't call climate change a "cause" of the Syrian civil war, but a "catalyst" helping it happen.

Therefore, this is likely our first case of a "climate war". And like everything else about climate change, it arrived decades before the experts expected it!

Part of this stage was set by the 2011 study from NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. They found "Human-caused climate change [is] a major factor in more frequent Mediterranean droughts". The NOAA paper of 2011 said sea surface temperatures are the primary driver of drought in the Mediterranean.

I asked Colin Kelley if his research could apply to other countries, particularly those who felt instability or the "Arab spring" around 2010-2011. He said the climate factor was not likely associated with regime change in Libya or Egypt. But his team is now investigating the impact of climate on the problems in Yemen. Yemen is notorious for mass hunger, even starvation, and it gets very little rain lately.

Download or listen to this Radio Ecoshock interview with Dr. Colin Kelley in CD Quality or Lo-Fi.

You can read what Joe Romm at Climate Progess had to say about Syria and civil war here.

See also: Pentagon Report: U.S. Military Considers Climate Change a 'Threat Multiplier' That Could Exacerbate Terrorism by Zoe Schlanger of Newsweek 10/14/14.

The Dept of Defense press release is here.

The actual report "Department of Defense 2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap" was publicly available but has since been pulled from But it's still available for online reading here.


We live on a strange planet. Few people realize that almost a quarter of the land in the Northern half of this world is frozen. Under a thin layer that thaws under the summer sun, the land there is always frozen. It's called permafrost, and it extends from Alaska, across Northern Canada, Scandinavia, and finds another giant kingdom in the Russian north, in Siberia.

New science confirms the world's permafrost has been slowly thawing. Now with climate change, that pace has quickened. Here to explain what that means for society and the economy of Russia, is Nikolay Shilomanov. Nikolay is an associate professor in the Department of Geography at George Washington University and an Arctic researcher.

DR. Nikolay Shilomanov

What is permafrost? Shilomanov says it is just frozen dirt. It has to stay frozen for two years running to be called permafrost.

In North America, the small population of the permafrost lands have become accustomed to it. They have adapted to a solid icy foundation. In fact, they depend on it.

It's different in Russia. Due to the Soviet experiments in populating and industrializing their Arctic, there are over 5 million Russians living on permafrost. These are not aboriginal settlements, but serious cities with modern conveniences.

All the infrastructure to support those cities, and for the large oil and gas industry, is built on permafrost. As it thaws (land thaws", only ice "melts") - there is a real challenge for the foundations of buildings, and long projects like pipelines. About 25% of the world's gas reserves are found in permafrost lands.

Previous research used living materials like pollen or tree rings to study the Arctic past. Now a group from the Alfred Wegener Institute managed to measure time and temperature in land ice by taking ice cores from spikes of ice going down into the Permafrost. This is important, because biological markers, like tree rings or pollen, can show the temperature in the summer. But not what is happening in the winter, as the ice samples can.

It turns out that there was a long period where the summers were cooler than today, but the winters were warmer. Until recently, we didn't know that.

Nikolay is quite frank in saying that millions of Russians want more global warming. They are tired of long, cold winters, and see real advantages (for them) in a longer growing season.

This interview is based on the paper in Nature Geoscience "Long-term winter warming trend in the Siberian Arctic during the mid-to- late Holocene" by H. Meyer, et al Find the abstract here.

Here is a good article about this new research into Permafrost, found in E&E News.

Also see this authoritative article from the Afred-Wegener-Institut in Germany. It's interesting to note that despite the "cold war" between the U.S. and Russia, German and Russian scientists are still cooperating on tracking the impacts of climate change.


As always, I appreciate the brave minds who are willing to follow the adventure of living in this new age, the Anthropocene. The science isn't always easy for me, or for you, but we struggle together to understand, and then to act.

My special thanks to all the people who contribute real money to this Radio Ecoshock project. You keep it alive!

Don't forget to check out our soundcloud page. We're are heading toward 20,000 listens there.

Alex Smith

host and producer of Radio Ecoshock, as broadcast on 87 non-profit radio stations, in the U.S., Canada, UK, and Australia, and around the world on the Internet. Now in our 8th year.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015


SUMMARY: Dr. Jennifer Francis of Rutgers: Jet Stream waves & Polar Vortex. Dr. Daniel Brooks: parasites survive warming better than we do. Radio Ecoshock 150304

We thought global warming would be gentle and kinda nice. Instead it's weird and extreme.

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

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In the 1990's we talked about "global warming". The planet would slowly warm, scientists told us. Maybe that would be good for people living with cold winters - kind of like Florida slowly moving to your house. Then we learned other things would be affected, like rainfall and rising seas, so we called it "climate change". Around 2008, scientist John Holdren said it should be "climate disruption".

Meanwhile, Europe has been back and forth between cold, and strings of rainy storms. Instead of nice warm winters, the Eastern United States has experienced a series of Arctic cold waves and record-setting snowfalls. I know my East Coast listeners are praying these kind of vicious winters are not the new normal. Is it possible they are?

In a 2012 paper titled "Evidence linking Arctic amplification to extreme weather in mid-latitudes", Dr. Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University offered a clear answer, based on observations. The Jet Stream, that high air current that can drive weather patterns, is now slower and wavier, due to warming in the Arctic. Her work has generated a little criticism and a lot of support.

Now three years later, Dr. Francis is back with co-author Stephen J Vavrus, with an update. They say we have entered a new era driven by something called "Arctic amplification". With so much at stake, it's a pleasure to welcome Jennifer Francis back to Radio Ecoshock. Her latest paper is "Evidence for a wavier jet stream in response to rapid Arctic warming." That was published in the journal Environmental Research Letters in January 2015.

Here's a great explanation of the Polar Vortex weather and the Arctic science by Climate Progress blogger Joe Romm.

I'd like to look further into several issues raised in this interview with Jennifer Francis.


First of all: why does this new paper say we are in a "new era" of Arctic amplification, or AA. We have reliable temperature and other weather readings from the Arctic starting in 1940. According to this paper, Starting in the 1990's, in the same time frame as sea ice declined, Arctic amplification could be seen in all four seasons - something not seen in records from the time records began in 1940, to 1990. So that's one sign.

Going further, the paper says, quote:

"It is important to note the recent emergence of the signal of AA from the noise of natural variability: since ~1995 near the surface and since ~2000 in the lower troposphere. This short period presents a substantial challenge to the detection of robust signals of atmospheric response amid the noise of natural variability. Thus for this study we define the period from 1995 to 2013 as the 'AA era.'"

I spent a little time with Dr. Francis on the natural cycle called the Arctic Oscillation, and sometimes called the Northern annular mode. We'll stick with Arctic Oscillation or AO.


"When the AO index is negative, there tends to be high pressure in the polar region, weaker zonal winds, and greater movement of frigid polar air into middle latitudes."

That's from Hansen's 2009 paper "If It’s That Warm, How Come It’s So Damned Cold?". It's too bad climate denier Senator James Inhofe is too dumb to understand it.

I specifically asked Jennifer Francis about the Arctic Oscillation, because if that's all it is, the awful weather pattern in the U.S. Northeast will just go away when the Arctic Oscillation goes positive. Francis has three answers really. First: the Arctic Oscillation is not a final indicator of getting a disturbed Jet Stream, and a Polar Vortex in North America. This past winter had a positive AO, and still got hit with polar weather further south. Secondly, we can see the pole is warming, with ice melting, permafrost thawing, and a much warmer winter in Alaska - because of climate change.

Finally though, the super-cold winters in Eastern North America will get less frequent over time because we are warming the whole planet. I did a Radio Ecoshock show titled "Summer in March" in 2012 because that winter was so freakily warm. Folks were playing tennis in New York city parks in January that year. Parents in Quebec couldn't get the traditional outdoor skating rinks to freeze.

The unpleasant answer is we have caused climate disruption. Expect the unexpected, good and bad.


As far as other scientists expressing doubt about the work of Francis and her collegues - that is what scientists do! Underneath those quiet proper exterior, scientists are actually cut-throat thinkers. They live to disprove what others thought was real.

There has been some criticism of the work published by Jennifer Francis. For example, in December I interviewed Dr. Kevin Trenberth of the Snow and Ice Data Center. He hesitated to agree with your work, and suggested things like Tropical Storm Nuri hitting Alaska are also important factors. There was even a paper out from Elizabeth Barnes of Colorado State University which said she couldn't duplicate the Arctic-Jet Stream connection with her methods. You can download or listen to that December 2014 Radio Ecoshock interview with Kevin Trenberth here.

After the interview, a listener sent this link to a seemingly contradictory paper by another Radio Ecoshock guest, Noah Diffenbaugh.

But I'm with Jennifer Francis on this. First of all, the observation of the distortion of the Jet Stream is indisputable. We are experiencing this now, all too often. We can argue about whether there is enough proof that warming in the Arctic is causing a wavier Jet Stream, but so far it all make a lot of sense. It's based on the basic physics that warmth will move toward cold. That's what powers our weather systems, the difference between heat at the equator and cold at the poles. Along with the spin of the Earth, the temperature difference creates wind on the planet. It doesn't seem possible to me that the Arctic could be up to 30 degrees warmer than in the past, without affecting weather world-wide.

Further research published in August 2014 by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) supports the wavy Jet Stream - Arctic connection, using different methods.

If you read through the paper "Evidence for a wavier jet stream in response to rapid Arctic warming" you'll have to learn a few new terms. Just crank up Wikipedia and Google searches. As a reward, you'll get the big picture of what is driving weird weather in your world.


Evidence is growing that the Paris Climate talks at the end of 2015 are an exercise in futility. The European Union, considered the most climate-aware and progressive block at the table, are proposing emission levels which scientist I talk with say are not survivable, at least not for human civilization.

The latest document from the EU calls for cuts in greenhouse gas emission of “at least” 60% from 2010 levels by 2050. First of all - what happened to the 1990 greenhouse gas levels used in most previous talks? Global greenhouse gas emissions went up 24% from 1990 to 2004, and rose another 3% annually pretty well every year since 2004. We're way, way higher than 1990. So a 60% cut from 2010 levels doesn't mean very much.

The kicker is even if we make that goal, we are headed for a climate catastrophe, if we are still emitting 40% of 2010 levels in 2050, scientists guarantee polar ice will disappear over the coming centuries, in an unstoppable wave of climate disruption. A sixty percent cut by 2020 might stave off the worst.

Keep in mind that most other big polluters, especially the United States and China, are promising nothing like the European goals. And goals a generation away aren't likely to be met anyway.

How to international politicians get at these deadly greenhouse gas targets? They believe in fairy tales. And governments get that science fiction from the scientists they hire. I'm talking about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The IPCC works out possible futures they call "Representative Concentration Pathways" or RCP’s. Learn that jargon, because they are talking about your future.

These days, there are three big representative concentration pathways in the latest IPCC assessment, the one that will be used by diplomats in Paris. The two lowest carbon pathways are shown on graphs. But the IPCC doesn't say those graphs assume that humanity will use a non-existent technology to geoengineer the planet, to remove billions of tons of carbon dioxide.

A couple of Radio Ecoshock listeners alerted me to this dangerous charade. It's explained best by the UK film-maker and climate blogger Nick Breeze at envisionation. Here's the audio argument from Nick's latest film warning.

In this program I play the audio from a new short film by Nick Breeze, titled "Survivable IPCC Projections Are Based On Science Fiction". You can find it at Nick does some great interviews, often with prominent climate scientists. It pays to keep visiting his site.

Watch Nick's video here. And read all about it in Nick's blog entry here.


So the Paris Climate talks are already a sell-out of humanity and all species, even if they are a "success" which is doubtful. I'd say the best climate activists can do at this point, is to push their country governments to do far more, and to include a new vision of naturally capturing carbon back into the soil.

As we've heard from recent Radio Ecoshock guests, like Thomas Goreau (interview here) and Kristin Ohlson (interview here), we can lower the burden of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by changing the way we do agriculture. That will need a parallel shift in our whole economy and lifestyles, but it can work. Unlike the fairy-tale tech of carbon capture and storage, we do know how to put large amounts of carbon back into the soil.

So far the Climate Talks do not even include the soil carbon option. Let's try and change that, before it's really, really too late. Get soil carbon into the Paris Climate talks. Pass the word.


Humans are changing the planet in many ways. But we are not alone out there. There are diseases looking for new conquests, and parasites being spread around the world by air travel, shipping, and resource extraction. Experts warn we already in a crisis of Emerging Infectious Disease, or EID.

We have one of those experts with us now. Dr. Daniel Brooks was a zoology professor at the University of Toronto. He is now a Senior Research Fellow with the Manter Laboratory of Parasitology, at the University of Nebraska. Dr. Brooks is also a visiting scholar in Brazil and Hungary.

This week's interview with Daniel Brooks has a couple of key thoughts.

First, while humans mentally long for a single threat where we can focus, the natural world is too complex to accommodate our need. Unlike the movie "The Andromeda Strain", the experts don't think we will run into a single giant disease or parasite to knock off our species. AIDS, Ebola and West Nile virus arrive and manage to stay around, but don't do us in.


By the way, if I sounded disappointed in the West Nile virus after the initial hype, here's some news. The extra-warm dry conditions in California brought the highest level of West Nile virus ever seen in that state. There were 798 human cases in 2014, five times the number recorded in 2011 at the start of this big drought. Twenty nine people died.

You might think drier weather means less mosquito diseases. But streams and even rivers that normally keep running enough to stay clear of mosquito larvae, end up with more stagnant pools to breed. Plus, with fewer water sources, more species come to those that are left, meaning a better transfer station for diseases to all kinds of species.

The Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito Control is warning Californians to expect “an intense West Nile virus year.” It's just another unexpected spin-off of climate change, and the very things Dr. Brooks warned us about.


But the first big thought from the Brooks interview is : with further warming we will be hurt by a thousand cuts. Picture finding a new beetle killing off your apple tree. It's been brought over from Asia in a furniture shipment. The bug carries a virus that slowly kills the tree. That gets into orchards all over. The cost of fruit goes up.

Meanwhile, house cats get a new virus originally from the tropics, but now capable of over-wintering in warmer climates. Vet bills, already in the billions of dollars in North America, go up.

There's another nasty tropical disease likely to arrive from the Carribean. It's "chikungunya". Before 2013, this Asian and African disease was never before seen in the Americas. It's here now, and likely to arrive in the southern United States, just like Dengue fever is now in Florida and Texas.


The second big take-away is that scientists have discovered that disease agents are very tough. In the interview, we heard about a 100 million-year-old parasite that survived the great asteroid strike 65 million years ago. When the dinosaur fish is specialized in went extinct, the parasite did not, and appears now in Arctic birds.

It's intriguing to hear that parasites can revert to ancient abilities in their genes to adapt to new hosts, and new challenges. As Dr. Brook warns at the end, the idea that we are in a golden age of health is an illusion, and there is no evidence that humans will win in the end, as climate change combines with international trade and expanding human populations. Unseen in our Twitter world, humans are always prone to becoming food for something else.

I didn't have time in this interview to get into a new concept in parasitic threats that Dr. Brooks and other scientists are using. It's called the Stockholm Paradigm. Please don't confuse that with Stockholm Syndrome, where a captive comes to love his or her captor.

After interviewing Daniel Brooks, journalist Dominic Basulto in the Washington Times summarized it this way:

"The new thinking, known as the 'Stockholm Paradigm' (not to be confused with the 'Stockholm Syndrome'), combines four different ecological concepts – ecological fitting, the geographic mosaic theory of co-evolution, taxon pulses and the oscillation hypothesis – to conjecture that pathogens may not really have as hard of a time finding a new host as we thought. They may already have the 'ancestral genetic capabilities' to switch to new hosts that are genetically close enough to the original hosts."

The Stockholm Paradigm is exactly the type of matrix of causes that breaks our simple human minds. It's hard for us to think about, but that's how nature operates, and simple is not a requirement for reality.


Meanwhile, the news is full of more examples of how climate change will influence the appearance of new diseases and pests. Just this past week, a new study from Oslo, Norway re-wrote the history books of how the plague hit Europe in the 1300's, and kept coming back for hundreds of years afterwards.

According to the book "Ghengis Khan and the Making of the Modern World" about 90% of the people in Hopei province of China died from the plague in 1331. Fifteen years later the disease made it to the Volga River in Russia. The Mongol empire partly ended because their pony express system, which likely spread the disease, couldn't find enough riders left alive. A hat tip to Scott Gardner at the Manter Lab in Nebraska for that book info.

Scientists now think that periods of warmer and wetter weather in Asia stimulated the populations of plague-carrying ticks. And these were more likely carried by gerbils, not the black rat. The gerbils likely spread the plague to pack animals plying the Silk Road trade route to Europe, rather than just arriving by ship.

Evidence seems to show that the plague did not stay resident in Europe's rats, but instead kept arriving from Asia following warm weather spells there. Rats carrying the plague were themselves killed off, rather than harboring the horrible disease.

Europe was re-infected dozens of times. Investigating over 7,000 outbreaks of the plague, scientists from the University of Oslo found that weather in Europe was not a factor. But a warming spell in Asia was. The plague arrived about 15 years after each warming period. Like today, other factors like immigration and wars also helped spread the disease.

We don't know all the surprises coming our way, as this next warming pumps up the population of disease-bearing organisms. Oh, and by the way, a brand new deadly virus was just discovered in a man in Kansas at the end of February. He'd been bitten by ticks in the Spring. It took a while for the US Centers for Disease Control to realize this was a brand new virus, never seen before.

Check out this Washington Post article about our guest: "The Weird Way that Climate Change Could Lead to New Disease Outbreaks Around the World".


The best we can do, Brooks says, is (a) admit climate change is real and then (b) start funding research and building infrastructure to deal with new pests and diseases we know are coming. Right now even in the West hospitals are operating on a just-barely basis. Agriculture is likewise dependent on a business model with no back-up system, and no fall-back position. It's not like we are rationally ready for a thousand challenges from the micro-world, much less the insects.

Here is the source for the new paper, taken from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln press release:

"Brooks' and Hoberg's article, 'Evolution in action: climate change, biodiversity dynamics and emerging infectious disease,' is part of a Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B issue on 'Climate change and vector-borne diseases of humans,' edited by Paul Parham, a specialist in infectious disease epidemiology at Imperial College in London."


...and a special shout-out to the small band of people who set up an automatic donation of $10 a month to Radio Ecoshock. I really need that support, and I think of you often - with gratitude. If you'd like to join those core supporters, just click the "subscribe" link on this page.

That's our time for this week. There are some solutions, but they all start with accepting what is real.

I'm Alex Smith. Thanks for listening, and join us again next week on Radio Ecoshock.