Wednesday, April 29, 2015


SUMMARY: Welcome to a power-packed Radio Ecoshock Show. I'm Alex Smith. My guests are George Kourounis, host of the TV show "Angry Planet", and the solar-powered international musician known as Turtuga Blanku. But first, we'll talk with a high-powered international lawyer who switched from taking multinational companies into China, to creating new alternatives for local economies.

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

Or listen on Soundcloud right now!


Radio Ecoshock has remarkable guests. Our next is no exception. He was a lawyer advising China, to bring big name multinational companies into that Asian economy. Now he's writing about anti-globalization, localizing economies, and the coming eclipse of the Western banking model. His latest book is "Fusion Economics - How Pragmatism Is Changing the World".

Who is Laurence J. Brahm? Let's find out.

In the 1990's, as an international trade lawyer, Laurence Brahm was instrumental in bringing big-name multinational into China. In 1996, he wrote a book called "China's Number One" predicting China would become the world's largest economy. That drew heat and criticism, but now, according to the World Bank, China is the world's largest economy.

More and more, Brahm turned to advising the government of China, which he still does. He wrote a biography of Zhu Rongji, the former Premier of China, and often seen as an architect of the modern Chinese economy.

Laurence Brahm

In 2002 Laurence retired from his practice as an investment lawyer, to seek "Shangri-La". In 2005, he moved to Tibet, and started a business restoring buildings. He helped found the Himalayan Consensus (more about that in the interview). One of his role models is the Bengladeshi Muhammed Yunis, founder of micro-credit banking.

Also in 2011, he helped form the African Consensus. One innovations of this Consensus was to say the true cause of violence and terrorism is economic poverty and identity stripping.

In 2011 Laurence attended the Climate Conference in Durban South Africa. He found it useless, and joined the protesters outside. He says China is more aware of the dangers of climate change, especially since the disappearing Himalayan Glaciers will dry out the Yellow River. Brahm is quite aware of the challenges climate change is posing for many countries and peoples.

In 2014 he attended the Nepal Economic Forum (see You tube presentations here), and in 2013 the G20 Counter Summit in St. Petersburg (You tube here).

On the economy, Laurence sees the end of world domination by the Bretton Woods World Bank IMF model. In the near-term he sees two parallel universes: the Western reserve currency system, and the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) system, based mainly on the Chinese currency Yuan (pronounced Yen) and in Beijing.

He sees the latest sanctions on Russia driving that country closer to China. The two can be natural trading partners, because China needs to import clean food (much of China is not able to produce food, and Chinese food may be contaminated); and water (Beijing itself is facing desertification, China needs a lot of water). To make this trade happen, there needs to be more infrastructure, such as pipelines and roads, connecting the two countries.

His latest book is "Fusion Economics - How Pragmatism Is Changing the World". Brahm is a curious mix of a lawyer at home with CEO's and bankers, who also protests as an activist.

Laurence has his own You tube channel. He talks about "compassionate capital" and "conscientious consumption". Brahm recommends we set up our own alternative financial systems (like local currencies, or bitcoin).

On BBC in December, Brahm said 80% of the wealth of America comes from betting on stocks, currencies and other financial games, and not from producing goods and services. That is not sustainable.

China's super growth came at tremendous cost. Brahm told the BBC that, "about 70% of the underground water in China is undrinkable" (BBC interview 8:49) and "about 60% of all surface water is too toxic for human contact".

Brahm is not a total advocate for all things Chinese. He is critical of their use of fossil fuels, the pollution in major cities, and doesn't think top-down government is good for other countries. He says the emphasis on growth in China was a machine for burning fossil fuels, which has ruined the environment. We can learn from China, but should not try to emulate them.

He says the oil-fossil fuel sector forms an oligarchy that currently runs America. That is why there is no Amercian leadership on climate change. Oil-fossil fuels run in a partnership with the Financial Sector, labelled "Wall Street". Quantitative easing, and over a trillion of tax payer money, went to reboot that financial sector, not to the people. He advises the Chinese that government funding should go to a new green economy, instead of the banks.

Laurence is listed as "Chief Economist" for the New Earth Nation (with Sasha Stone).

Download or listen to this Radio Ecoshock interview with Laurence Brahm in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


There's so much interest in extreme weather. Almost every news cast features a storm. And with climate disruption, there will be plenty more to see.

That's good news for our next guest, George Kourounis. He travels the world looking for adventure and downright dangerous weather, for his television series "Angry Planet". There's a new batch of shows running right now, so it's a pleasure to welcome George to Radio Ecoshock.

There have been 4 Angry Planet series, running on everything from the Weather Network, the Outdoor Life Netowork in Canada to cable TV channels all over the world (including Finland MTV3, TV8 Sweden, and TVB Hong Kong).

This new season 4 has a special emphasis on stories about the impact of global warming, all over the world, but with a focus on the South Pacific. Some countries there are already flooding regularly, and some will disappear as nations during this century, due to rising seas.

You can watch the free Episode One on the Pivot TV web site here.

George got the storm-chasing bug in the 1990's. He's flow into the heart of hurricanes, and run down the back roads in Oklahoma and the Mid-West looking for the big one. He's also a fan of volcanoes. In fact, he and his wife Michelle hiked into a volcano in their wedding clothes to tie the knot in 2006. It's wasn't a dead mountain either. That one has erupted every 5 minutes for the past 800 years, he tells us.

George has been in Amazon forest fires. One time he landed in the South Pacific island of Tuvalu just as they had 354 mm of rain (13.9 inches, over a foot!) in 24 hours. That's an extreme precipitation event for sure.

It's great that Kourounis is so aware of climate change. He worries we are going to leave a legacy to coming generations they may not be able to deal with. He's getting the word out through this new Angry Planet series: the relationship between extreme weather events and climate change. It's refreshing to find an adventure TV host this climate aware. Catch his new Angry Planet series on Pivot TV if you can.

Download or listen to this Radio Ecoshock interview with Geourge Kourounis in CD Quality of Lo-Fi


Regular listeners know one of my hobbies is writing music using computer synthesizers. Martin, who is known at Turtuga Blanku, got in touch, to tell me about his solar studio in the Caribbean. You can visit the studio in this You tube video.

Here is a You tube listing of his eco music.

Why the name Turtuga Blanku? It literally means "white turtle" but is also a name given in the Caribbean to the green turtle. You see, Martin is also a diver and ocean lover. He was in the Caribbean at one of the finest dive locations in the world. That's where he got his knick-name.

During the interview, I learned something new (as I often do from guests). Martin tells us that solar panels are less efficient in high heat. While he got lots of power from his panels in the Caribbean (enough to run his house and studio) - he's get as much or more from the same panels in France. The sub-tropics are good for solar.

Martin has just moved back to "the middle of France". He'll set up a solar studio again. Plenty of his neighbors have solar installations, some large ones, thanks to the French policy of guaranteeing a good rate for renewable power, and in some cases, helping finance the original purchase.

We talk a bit about music. Martin has more talents than I - he can play a range of instruments, which he records and then tweaks on a studio computer. It's good stuff - hard to describe - you just have to click around to find the songs you like best. I enjoyed his music, and his conversation.

Find all of Martin's songs, or at least a lot of them, on You tube here.

Then head over and buy your favorite tunes (quite inexpensive) at his Bandcamp page here. Martin has also done some podcast interviews, including with Alan Weisman, the author of the World Without Us, who also spoke on Radio Ecoshock. Find Martin's interview with Alan here.

And here's a bunch more contact info:

Web: Facebook: Soundcloud: Download or listen to this Radio Ecoshock interview with Turtuga Blanku in CD Quality (recommended for the best music) or Lo-Fi (not recommended unless you have a very slow internet connection).

In this program I play a clip from a Turtuga Blanku tune called "No More" from his album Golden Bubble.


My special thanks to those who sent donations this week, and particularly the person who arranged a $10 a month contribution. All that helps me get through the summer, when donations crash. In a way, it's almost unfair that blog readers, and podcast subscribers pay the whole cost of Radio Ecoshock. The non-profit stations prohibit anyone asking for money, other than themselves. So a few people are really paying to get Radio Ecoshock to all those radio listeners on 87 non-profit stations! You are doing a good thing.

If you can help, click here for details.

Thanks for joining us this week. Stay tuned for more shocking news from Planet Earth. I'm Alex Smith. Keep caring about your planet.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Five Stories Seldom Told

SUMMARY: Science fiction author Robert Marston Fanney selects 5 stories of science truth from his Robert Scribbler's Blog. Excerpts from oil guru Nate Hagens.

What is really going on? What are the big stories the media leaves out, while they fill the news with quirky headlines and fluff? All over the world, from pole to pole, the Earth and her species are going through big changes. The atmosphere is trapping heat into the oceans, air, and land.

This week I'm going to cover five of those big stories, with the help of one of the world's best risk watchers. He's author Robert Marston Fanney, and his launching pad is called Robert Scribbler's Blog.

At the end, we'll squeeze in a few words about the new oil poverty creeping into our lives, with a recent talk by former financial advisor and Oil Drum editor Nate Hagens.

I'm Alex Smith, and this is Radio Ecoshock.

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

Or listen on Soundcloud right now!


We know humans and all species are about to live through a huge change not seen on this planet for over a million years. We have no memory of this planetary shift. No one has experienced it. The first stages are already happening.

As a science fiction author of Luthiel's Song and other works, Robert Marston Fanney has the imagination and ability to communicate. As a former specialist on emerging threats for the prestigious military publisher Jane's Information Group, he's learned how to research and pry into things. All of that, plus a special something else that is hard to define, leads to one of the most stimulating climate change blogs on the Net. It's called Robert Scribbler's Blog.

Robert Marston Fanney

Here's the catalog of recent blog posts we cover, or uncover:

* world-changing ocean currents

* cracks in the ice castle of Antarctica

* drought and fires in South America

* methane and blown craters in the Arctic

* the coming heat


In an interview on KPFA radio Robert Fanney said North Atlantic current news should be a major story in the mainstream media, every night. It's not. If we went down the street asking about it, we won't find much comprehension. What makes a major driver of our weather, and civilization as we know it, so boring, so off the radar?

That KPFA radio interview with host Caroline Casey can be found here.

Here is Robert's blog on why we should worry about big climate-driven changes in ocean currents.


I interview scientists about Antarctica, but they are often very, very cautious. In a way, science can only study the past, and barely captures the present. The future seems beyond it. What do these developments in Antarctica really mean?

I've just read a couple of papers about sea level rise expected from the melting of Antarctic ice. Some scientists suggest we might see about 1 meter of global sea level rise from Antarctica by the end of this century.

James Lovelock famously said humans might end up as a few breeding pairs huddled around a tropical Arctic ocean. It seems inevitable to me, that if we survive, humans a thousand years from now may be settled on Antarctica, as that continent is revealed by global warming.

Oh boy! - a whole new continent to plunder!

Check out Robert's most recent blog on Antarctica. And here is my feature interview on Antarctica with scientist Roland Warner from a few weeks ago on Radio Ecoshock.


Robert Maston Fanney, you've been one of the few bloggers who really pays attention to South America. I wonder if some of the climate disruption going on in Chile, Argentina, and Brazil may be related to changes in relatively nearby Antarctica. We know that changes in the Arctic have affected the Jet Stream, and weather in the Northern Hemisphere.

I haven't seen much science saying Antarctica is changing things in the Southern Hemisphere. That's because there is less land in the Southern Hemisphere and more oceans. In fact, the Jet Stream there has more or less intensified and moved closer to Antarctica. Scientists say that's one of the reason less rain is coming to Australia.

Let's get to what we do know for sure. Last Fall Robert raised the alarm about drinking water in one of South America's biggest cities, Sao Paulo. How many people live there, and what is happening now? I can imagine the non-stop media attention if water in New York was cut off for hours or days. Yet we hardly hear about Sao Paulo. Why?

We can definitely tie the drought in Brazil to deforestation or other changes in the Amazon rainforest. The Amazon was the constant rainmaker for Souther America, and now it's smaller and not as potent. This even affects cloud formation and rain in North Africa.

There's also been dry times, and an extended fire season in Chile. Robert just reported on that in Robert Scribbler's blog.


Let's head to the other end of the Earth, the Arctic. There is a school of people who think methane eruptions from the Arctic sea bed could wipe out the human species in this century. Are you part of that crowd?

Right now, it is carbon emissions, coming from cities where we live, that is endangering the future of civilization and helping the on-going mass extinction of species. We'd like to put it far away, in the Arctic, but it's us, here in the "civilized" sub-tropics.

There are some strange signs in the far north. Robert tells us about dozens of craters that have appeared in Russia. They are likely methane explosions.

(The Yamal Crater, as seen above, would be miniscule compared to a Yakutia Crater reported by Russian Scientists yesterday. Image source: The Siberian Times via Vasily Bogoyavlensky.)

We talked earlier about the power of ocean currents. What is happening with warm waters entering the Arctic Ocean around Alaska, via the Barents Sea?


Let's talk about something that worries me. I keep hearing new science that suggests we may be entering a new warming phase. Things have been delayed, and now the heat is coming, this decade or the next. Here is Robert's blog on the prospect of heating: "Bad Climate Outcomes".

Let's say we get a warming event, in a single year, or over three years. What do you imagine that would look like?

Again, ocean currents may be a factor. The Pacific Decadal Oscillation, a cycle of warmer or cooler surface waters in the Eastern Pacific - could that play into a heating event. It may have artificially cooled us (or minimized the warming we are due for) these past few years. When that changes to El Nino, we may be a burst of heat, as the planet did in 1998. But with added global warming gases, each heating event could be hotter than the last. Always setting records.

In a way, I think some climate hawks would like to see a really visible heat wave. At least that might galvanize the world and it's leaders into action. Could it be a good thing in a way?

On the side of pessimism, we may just get a slow, slow ramping up of warming, where we don't get enough impulse to react. It's the boiling frog effect. (That's not true by the way. Frogs will jump out of boiling water, even if we don't as a civilization.)

Robert Scribbler's blog has turned into a monster. It's become really popular with those in the know, kind of a thought-leader thing. I also appreciate the community of informed commenters that have built up around it.

From Washington Grove Maryland, we've been talking with science fiction author, emerging threats specialist, and climate blogger extraordinaire, Robert Marston Fanney. In literature, he's best known for the science fiction seires called Luthiel's Song. Find out more about Luthiels's song on Facebook. His previous Radio Ecoshock interview titled "I Have A Confession to Make" continues to be downloaded by people all over the world.

Check out Robert's blog for new postings on the rampant fires in Siberia (way to early in the season for that!)(he calls it "Siberia's Road to Permaburn Hell") and his update on the terrible drought in California.


In the little time we have left, I'm going to give you a taster of a simple but important talk by former Oil Drum editor, financial advisor and academic Nate Hagens. This is from my recording at the launch of the World Watch Institute State of the World 2015 Report, on April 13, 2015 in Washington D.C.

This is where Nate Hagens explains -through the lens of energy - why real growth ended in the 1970's for most people in Western countries. Since then, as the cost of getting energy goes up, more poverty is created. At this point, about 40% of Americans are pretty well broke, and 52% don't have enough savings to survive 3 months out of work. GDP may go up, but real wealth is declining, - a fact that is hidden by ever increasing debt.

I invite you to listen to Nate Hagens' full 25 minute talk at the World Watch Institute. You can download it as a free mp3 here.

Meanwhile, we'll zip forward to Nate's quick summary of his presentation.

Get all the details, with some video, and the full World Watch report, at


Thank you so much for listening to Radio Ecoshock.

If you can afford it, I can use more help from listeners to cover the costs or producing and distributing this show. I'm shy about fund-raising, but the Ecoshock account is getting low, just as we approach the summer season. The bills will keep coming in.

I have a small crew of folks who donate $10 a month - and I'm really grateful for that steady support. You can do that easily and automatically from this page.

If you prefer a one-time donation, that's great too.

I know I should do a fancy fund-raising drive, but so far just making the program has taken up most of my time. Let's see if you can help this week, to keep Radio Ecoshock going.

Meanwhile, thank you everyone for giving me the opportunity to talks with amazing minds, and stay in the loop of people who are trying to change the world for the better.


Radio Ecoshock





twitter: @ecoshock

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Melting Antarctica Will Shake the World

SUMMARY: New science on melting Antarctica. From Tasmania, polar expert Dr. Roland C. Warner. Then the return of Marjory Wildcraft, with more tips on growing your own groceries. Radio Ecoshock 150415

This week on Radio Ecoshock, we're going to the end of the Earth. It's a feature length interview about new science that shows Antarctica is melting. I guarantee you will read headlines, and see amazing video news, from the science you'll hear this week on Radio Ecoshock. For one thing, sea levels will rise around the planet, for centuries, reshaping the coastlines and civilization.

Then we'll finish up with the return of Marjory Wildcraft, with more tips on growing your own groceries. It's all food for thought and action.

I'm Alex Smith. The journey begins.

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

Or listen on Soundcloud right now!


There's a lot of action in Antarctica - and that can bring changes all over the world. Here to discuss recent science is Dr. Roland C. Warner. He is a researcher with the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre at the University of Tasmania. Tasmania is the closest Australian state to Antarctica.

In a shocking bit of news, Antarctica just experienced the two hottest days ever recorded there, namely 63.5°F or 17.5 C at the Argentinian Esperanza Base on Antarctic Peninsula. I've heard that was warmer than the temperature in Britain on the same day in late March.

Dr. Warner says it's not that surprising, because there is no doubt Antarctica is warming over-all, along with the rest of the planet. This one-day event doesn't mean much. A previous record was set in 1961. It takes a few thousand days to be "climate change."

According to the British Antarctic Survey on Warming in the Antarctic Peninsula over the past 50 years: that polar continent warmed by 5 degrees Fahrenheit ( 2.8 degrees Celsius), since 1950. In the interview Warner may have said 5 degrees C. but he meant 5 degrees Fahrenheit. Even 5 degrees F. makes this arm of Antarctica pointing toward South America one of the fastest warming parts of the whole planet.

That shows up in giant ice shelves cracking off West Antarctica, like the Larsen B. ice shelf that disintegrated in February 2002. The whole of West Antarctica is losing mass, as shown by the NASA Grace satellites that can measure mass from space. That means it's melting, and eventually several meters of sea level rise will pour out of that part of the continent.


But hold on, we have to distinguish between three types of ice around the poles. They are:

* sea ice (the surface of the ocean freezes)

* ice shelves (permanently frozen water, over the sea, but anchored to the land)

* glaciers (ice based on land)

As Dr. Warner explains, we know since the famous bath-tub experiment by the ancient Greek scientist Archimedes, water levels will not rise when ice in water melts. That is why your drink does not overflow when the ice cubes in it melt: the same mass of water was already displaced by the ice.

So disappearing sea ice in the Arctic, or collapsing ice shelves in the Antarctic, do not directly add to sea level rise. However, Roland tells us, the ice shelves can retard the flow of glaciers into the sea, and speed up glacier melt when they disappear. So ice shelf collapse can indirectly add to sea level rise. There's lots of science on this.

Secondly, we've been talking about West Antarctica. The biggest portion of the Antarctic continent is "East Antarctica". (There's no point in talking about North or South Antarctica, since everywhere is more or less "North" there.) As recently as five years ago, I can remember reading that East Antarctica would not be a major factor in sea level rise in this century. Not much was happening there, it was said, and in fact some areas were getting colder, not warmer.

That's all been stood on it's head with new science. Last May I did a program on NASA's revelations that East Antarctica was also losing ice mass. Find the blog entry, and that program here.

Our guest Roland Warner is a co-author of a new study that shows massive ice loss from another giant of East Antarctica, the Totten Glacier.

The title of that new science is "Ocean access to a cavity beneath Totten Glacier in East Antarctica". The Totten is the largest glacier in East Antarctica. At 540,000 square kilometers, it's size is simply mind-boggling. For North American listeners, the Totten drains an area more than twice the size of all the Great Lakes put together. Aussies would say it's more than twice the size of the Australian State of Victoria.

Seventy billion tons of ice flows out of the Totten Glacier, into the ocean, every year. That's about the flow rate of Niagara Falls, and it is expected to increase. Why? Because, and this is the crux of the new paper, scientists have discovered deep channels where warmer water can flow right under the glacier. "Warmer" water isn't terribly warm, but it contains enough extra energy to melt the glacier from below.


That takes us to another key concept going the rounds with experts. It's the "grounding line". My understanding is that's the point where the glacier reaches the sea and floats on top of it. But also: the geography below the glacier will determine what, if anything, will retard the flow of all that ice into the sea. The problem, according to NASA scientists, in West Antarctica, they haven't found any under-glacier mountain or ridge to stop glaciers there from pouring into the sea. That means that really big sea level rise is coming, and again according to NASA, the progress of West Antarctic ice into the sea is now "unstoppable".

A large Antarctic contribution to sea level rise will happen even if we cut all carbon emissions tomorrow. We have crossed that tipping point. That is why Antarctica will shake the world.

Please listen to this interview to get the real science, from a real scientist (which I'm not).


We also talked about two strange twists to this story. I encountered the first from comments made by scientist Laurie Padman, a co-author of another paper titled "Volume loss from Antarctic ice shelves is accelerating." Here's the twist: as more glaciers lose mass in Antarctica (adding to global sea level rise) the sea levels around Antarctica, and Greenland, may actually go DOWN.

Why? Because water is attracted to mass, to heavy things, by gravity. If these polar continents lose a mile or more of ice from their land surface, there will be less mass, and so some of the water now attracted to those polar land masses will dissipate, and go elsewhere.

The kicker is that scientists think the extra (from rising seas AND from loss of polar mass) will show up in places like New England. New England sea levels may go up as much as 25% more than other place in the world. Ditto Japan.

The second twist is that Antarctica may actually see snow pile up higher, especially in East Antarctica, due to climate change. A generally warmer world holds more moisture in the atmosphere. That has to come down, and where it's cold, if falls as snow.

The projected increased snow in Antarctica is still rather an unknown. In our interview, Roland Warner said it would take another year of observations to "make it clear whether the acceleration in loss from Antarctic grounded ice sheet was a trend – disentangling the effect of variability in snowfall." In a follow-up email, he meant to say "several more years" and perhaps even another decade of observations. His comments are based on the paper “Limits in detecting acceleration of ice sheet mass loss due to climate variability”, B. Wouters, J. L. Bamber, M. R. van den Broeke, J. T. M. Lenaerts and I. Sasgen, Nature Geoscience 6, 613–616 (2013) doi:10.1038/ngeo1874 Find the abstract and illustrations for that paper here.


We talk about the real geography of Antarctica. Warner says if all the ice were gone, we could sail right through part of Antarctica, going from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean without going around Cape Horn at the tip of South America.

As Roland told me in email: "the fact that the region behind the floating part of the Totten has a large region with bedrock below sea-level is important for the potential sea level rise. This was reported in Nature in 2011: Young, D. A., et al. (2011), A dynamic early East Antarctic Ice Sheet suggested by ice covered fjord landscapes, Nature, 474(7349), 72–75, doi:10.1038/nature10114. Find the abstract for that paper here, or download a .pdf of that paper here.

It's not easy trying to map our this continent, below a mile or more of ice! Scientists are still working on it, and some parts of Antarctica are still unknown, the last frontier some would say.

We also talk about the lack of scientific consensus on how much sea level will rise by the year 2100. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been very, very conservative, suggesting one meter by the end of this century. Others say we will get one meter of sea level rise from Antarctica alone. Some scientists suggest several meters of sea level rise (more than 10 feet) is possible. We don't know yet.

Hanging in the balance are many of the world's largest cities, which would be partially submerged. Several countries in the South Pacific are almost guaranteed to disappear. Deltas supporting millions, as in Bangladesh for example, will fill with salt water, ending agriculture there. This may be the biggest question of climate change.


I had a little difficulty finding a scientist with wide interests in Antarctica willing to give us this update. Roland Warner was brave to take it on, with an eye to keeping us in the research loop - because this is really important news for all of us, even though it takes place far away. The coasts of the world will be re-arranged, no matter where our cities are, because of melting in Antarctica.

Roland is a research scientist for the government-funded Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre. That's located in Tasmania. I thought the island of Tasmania was the part of Australia closest to Antarctica, but Warner tells me Australia claims islands that are closer still. In fact, Australia has laid claim to 42% of Antarctica. Many countries claim parts of the Continent, but all those are currently on hold, under the Antarctic Treaty established in the 1950's.

Warner has flown many times in an old World-War Two vintage DC3 airplane over Antarctica, as they make painstaking maps and measurements. The propeller driven planes can fly at the slow speeds needed to operate the instruments. It's many hours out and back, with no civilization below. Warner was also aboard the Australian ice breaker Aurora Australis when it made the closest approach ever to the Totten Glacier front, where it drops giant chunks of ice into the sea.

He's been part of a research venture called ICECAP - Investigating Cryospheric Evolution through Collaborative Aerogeophysical Profiling. Apparently ICECAP can also stand for Investigating Cryospheric Evolution of the Central Antarctic Plate.

Find more about that here and here (University of Texas site)

Any way you take it, events on Antarctica will re-shape our world. We were lucky to get extended time from Dr. Warner. I also appreciate his help in educating me in preparation for this interview. Any errors found in this blog are my own, and not those by Roland Warner.

Listen to/download this 45 minute Antarctic science update with Roland C Warner in CD Quality or Lo-Fi.


Last week we featured Marjory Wildcraft, author of the wildly successful DVD series called "Grow Your Own Groceries". She organized a super-summit of small-scale growers, home gardeners and pepper gardeners - all free last week. It was the "Home Grown Food Summit" with over 30 presenters. Over 100,000 people tuned in for that!

That shows the amazing growth of people who want to grow their own food for a variety of reasons including:

* knowing factory foods are bad for your health (pesticides, toxics, fats, sugars)

* knowing factory farming is bad for the environment (global warming, soil loss, abuse of animals, GMOs)

* knowing the supermarket food system is fragile, and may fail without much warning

* experiencing the high cost of food, and looking for cheaper alternatives

That's just the short list. Did I mention crops failing due to climate change and extreme weather?

So I asked Marjory to come back, with more tips we can all use to grow food. In this interview, we assume you know why to do it. Now we get down to how to do it.

We had Sylvia Bernstein, one of the original writers about aquaponics, on our June 2013 Radio Ecoshock Show. Find the blog for that interview here. You can download or listen to that interview with Sylvia here. She's fabulous. But when I watched some serious You tube videos about it, aquaponics seems pretty tricky and demanding. It can be tricky keeping fish alive.

There's no doubt that aquaponics can provide some super veggies, really lush crops. But I worry it will require too much energy to keep the fish warm enough in the winters in northern states or Canada. Yet the people who have a mind to manage an aquaponics system have a lot of top quality food to show for it. It's up to you.

We all know gardening can help seniors maintain their mental and physical health much longer. But eventually we may not be able to handle the heavy work. We talk a bit about how can we set up a garden to keep going with very little effort. Thinks like raised beds can help those who have trouble bending over, for example. In fact busy working people need the same thing. We can't cover it all in a short interview. Check out Marjory's DVD course for her tips to save time and effort.

You know it's strange. You start following your heart into something, as Marjory did with her transition from a financial planner to personal food growing, (which I could also call personal liberty.) Then she teaches, communicates, and suddenly, Marjory Wildcraft has become a one-woman movement on her own. Of course, as we discuss, she's connected to a world-wide collection of home-growers, all sharing tips, all educating one another.

Listen to this second Radio Ecoshock interview with Marjory Wildcraft in CD Quality or Lo-Fi.

If you missed last week's longer talk with Marjory, about the Home Grown food summit and her work, find that here in CD quality or Lo-Fi.

Check out last week's blog for a list of my favorite Majory Wildcraft You tube videos. You can learn a lot!

I'm prepping my own garden right now, with two new raised beds, a better compost bin, nets for the rasberries, and 8 inches of mulch all around.

Find all our past programs as mp3 downloads at our web site Listen on the soundcloud page, at If you can afford it, please help support me making this program. That's my life, dedicated to communicating alternative truths that can help us be ready for the future. Get the details on many different ways to contribute to Radio Ecoshock here. Any amount is appreciated.

I'm Alex Smith. Thank you for listening, and I hope we'll get together again next week, as we talk with the creator of the popular and inspiring climate work called Robert Scribbler's blog.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Feed Yourself

QUICK SUMMARY: Oil guru Richard Heinberg on life after fossil fuels. Marjory Wildcraft: why you may want to grow your own groceries. Radio Ecoshock 150408

Five percent of the world's oil tanker capacity is waiting to load up near Basra Iraq, where production is way up. The United States has only one month of oil storage capacity left. After that, what comes in must go straight to market, likely for as little as $20 a barrel.

Is peak oil dead? And why isn't the economy responding to cheaper oil? We'll ask the guru, Richard Heinberg. He's one of the people who popularized the oil squeeze, with his book "The Party's Over". Heinberg has a new book out: "Afterburn, Society Beyond Fossil Fuels".

After that, during this Spring in the Northern Hemisphere, a couple of us hope to persuade you to grow some of your own food. Marjory Wildcraft, from growyourowngroceries joins us. There's a lot of reasons we need to pay attention to the food supply.

Locked and loaded, this is Radio Ecoshock.

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

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"We live in the time of what might be called the Burning" - Richard Heinberg.

In 2003, his book "The Party’s Over: Oil, War & the Fate of Industrial Societies" turned Peak Oil from an insider worry to a popular movement. Twelve years and eight books later, Richard Heinberg is still the go-to guy for what's happening with world energy - and there's a lot happening right now. Richard's post in California is at the Post Carbon Institute.

Of course everyone wants to know what happened to Peak Oil and the way out of this fossil fuel mess. Richard gives us that update, and whole lot more, in his latest book just out, called "Afterburn, Society Beyond Fossil Fuels".

"As energy issues become more critically important to society’s economic and ecological survival, they become more politically contested; and as a result, they tend to become obscured by a fog of exaggeration, half-truth, omission, and outright prevarication."

- Richard Heinberg, "Afterburn"

We all thought high oil prices would grind the economy into a crash. Now oil has fallen to less than half price, and it looks like THAT could trigger some very bad things. What's happening out there on the oil fields?

I've been reading that some big energy companies hedged their production at over $90 a barrel. There's no way some Wall Street betters can pay half the world's energy bill. Something has to give, yes?

Richard wrote about the fragility of the oil industry and it's massive debt, especially in the fracking industry, in his recent book "Snake Oil". Our second guest Marjory Wildcraft, who lives in West Texas, says she's toured around in Texas, seeing exactly the oil blight, abandoned rigs, and depressed towns that Richard Heinberg wrote about.

I can remember, just five years ago, a big debate about climate change and peak oil. Some Peak Oilers said we'll never get to full-blown climate catastrophe, because the oil will run out soon, very soon. Now we know humans can find and burn enough oil to wreck the climate.

Heinberg compare our rivers to the "rivers" of gasoline that flow along our highways, and throughout our society. I was struck by his observation on how open and visible water is, and how hidden the gasoline flow is at every stage. It's underground, in pipelines, in our tanks, and never seen.

In his new book "Afterburn", Richard Heinberg writes: "Quite simply, we must learn to be successfully and happily poorer." Somehow, I don't think we'll hear that in the upcoming American election campaign...

Stanford professor (and Radio Ecoshock guest) Mark Jacobson and Amory Lovins of Rocky Mountain Institute say we can continue growing the economy powered by renewable energy. Why is Heinberg so gloomy? Can he really be sure we won't find ways to continue the current wealth of civilization?


In the new book "Afterburn" he says:

"When the government tries to provide people the basics, power is centralized — but as the capacity of the government wanes, it can feel threatened by people trying to provide the basics for themselves, and act to discourage or even criminalize them."

Are we seeing signs of government resistance to self-sufficiency and going off-grid? Heinberg says yes, and gives a piercing analysis of the curious balance of big grids. At the beginning (now) only people with enough capital or credit can afford the up-front costs to install solar power systems. Then they get a free dividend, and can feed extra power back into the grid.

At some point, there is so much home-grown power, that a relatively small portion of the population (generally the poorest) are supporting a large and increasingly expensive big-grid infrastructure. Then the power companies use their leverage (read bribes to politicians) to get laws limiting local power, or making it very expensive in the permit process.

Heinberg says in the long run, the big grids will have to cave in, and become completely re-organized. For one thing, it leads to something much closer to an energy democracy, versus the current top-down monopoly structure.

Here is an RT news piece titled: "Local governments crackdown on residents going 'off-the-grid'". [starts at 3:30 ]

We talk all this through in a major interview with one of the great alternative thinkers of our times. I thought I was familiar with many of Richard's ideas, but I enjoyed reading the new book "Afterburn, Society Beyond Fossil Fuels". For me, it tied a lot of things together to create new insights and inspiration. For what it's worth, our previous Radio Ecoshock interview with Richard Heinberg is the most listened to file we have on Soundcloud.

Download or listen to this Radio Ecoshock interview with Richard Heinberg in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

If you would like to Tweet out or Facebook this interview, to pass it on, you can use this "tiny url" for the Lo-Fi version.


To get in the mood for our next guest, let's listen to a little plant music. This an ad from Peaceful Belly Farm. Watch the cool video (with that great music) here.

Yeah. Nature can sing. That's Jamie Drysdale, Blackstreet, and the crew from Peaceful Belly Farm in Boise Idaho. There spring plant sale is over, but the music lives on.

Solutions? You want solutions? Here's a prime Radio Ecoshock interview with answers. It's what I listen to, and what I'm doing to prepare for the new future.

Alex Smith, by his winter garden (tucked in with leaves as ground cover). Note 7 foot deer fence and home made garden shed.


Every time there's a hurricane or a snow storm, we see news footage of grocery store shelves going bare in a few hours of panicked buying. Our whole food system, from giant corporate farms to just-in-time truck deliveries is shaky, very shaky. So is the economy. Toss in GMO food, sugared-up with corn syrup and pesticides, and its a public health mess. Then comes the drought, flood, heat waves and freaky weather from climate change.

All this yells at us: we should grow at least some of our groceries! And Marjory Wildcraft is the person to show us how. Her course DVD course "Grow Your Own Groceries" sold over 300,000 copies. Her You tube videos how-to get tons of hits. Now she's organized a free online summit on Home Grown Food.


First the big news: all this week (April 9th to 12th) Majory has organized a free online "Food Summit" stacked with video interviews with some of the world's big names in permaculture, alternative gardening, and prepper gardening.

Here is Majory's video about that.

If you are reading this blog before April 12th, go ahead and sign up. It's totally free with no gimmicks. I've been watching a bunch of presentations. So far my favorite is with the host of, Paul Wheaton. He gave an overview of at least 10 different gardening styles.

That's what Majory says is the starting point for beginners. Find out what type of gardening appeals to you most. Is it growing in straw bales? Aquaponics? Permaculture? There's lots to choose from.

In the beginning, Marjory's husband and son were not interested. Now her backyard is a whole experiment, including aquaponics. Then husband and son got involved, liking the pumps and mechanics of aquaponics, to produce tomatoes, lettuce and fish. You need to find the technique you resonate the best.

Then she says: start small! If people take on too much right at the beginning, they may give up. A 50 square foot garden (4.6 square meters) may be all you need to start.

Majory says our current food production is a big mistake. It leads to heart disease, diabetes, obesity and more. The food industry is over $1 trillion business in the U.S. alone. Really, Majory tells us, most of those products in the supermarket, from baked goods to meat, are mostly twelve crops, reworked with sugar, fat, and chemicals.

It looks like there is an abundance of food in grocery stores. Over 90% is imported from hundreds or thousands of miles away, depending on a just-in-time trucking and air system. People who can grow their own food have more resilience, making themselves and their community stronger.

There are at least 30 presentations from a variety of groups and authors in the online Food Summit. They include:

* John Jeavons, 43 years grow-biointensive gardening method, used in many countries around the world.

* Sylvia Bernstein, aquaponics.

* Joel Salatin.

* Toby Hemenway on permaculture.

* The Livestock Conservancy.

* John Kohler's "Growing Your Greens" from his strong You tube channel.

- and a whole ton more. Many have been guests on Radio Ecoshock.

The Summit has strong sponsors: National Gardening Association,, Mother Earth News, and the American Preppers Network.

The Summit starts Monday April 9, starting at 9 am Eastern, several up for 24 hours, so people in different time zones (all around the world) can tune in. Five new ones are posted every day. Find out more here.


If you would like to know more about Marjory, and learn from her, try some of her many excellent You tube videos. Like this one: "How to Grow Half Your Food in your Backyard in Less than an Hour Per day." Marjory works through the numbers of what it would take to grow half of your food needs in a common backyard, spending less than an hour per day!

What about the time it takes to operate all this? About an hour per day. Occasionally more for special projects. Some systems can be automated for 2 to 3 days absence.

She is developing 5 different systems, including aquaponics, with fish, veggies and quail. She has another vegetarian system, based on root crops. She's also experimenting with a backyard food forest, and polyculture.

In less than 2 generations we've lost the ability to feed ourselves, turning it over to big corporations. Now we can rediscover ways to grow food and medicine. Get lots of help online from web sites and You tube videos. Learn what works and what doesn't.

Majory also offers a full DVD video course called "Grow your own groceries" in 2 DVD's. It includes rainwater collection, gardening, rabbits (how to breed and butcher too), food forests, and more. There is a bonus CD with pdf documents, on rabbits, companion gardens, permaculture, and more. That's at a pretty decent price of $37 plus shipping.

Here are some of my other favorite Marjory Wildcraft videos:

"Highly Nutritous Food In Only 4 Sq. Ft. For Hungry Urbanites"

"How to Grow Your Own Groceries in a Dark Apartment"

"Economic Collapse Survivor - Marjory Wildcraft Interviews Rita Ojeda" (in Cuba)

And of course my favorite, the video that led me to discover Majory: "Survival Gardening In The Heat with Marjory Wildcraft". That's had 77,000 views so far. The thing is: as global warming ramps up, we need to adapt what we can grow, being ready for heat waves. There are some good tips here.

Download or listen to this Radio Ecoshock interview with Marjory Wildcraft (30 min) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

If you want to Tweet or Facebook this interview, use this tiny url, which leads to the Lo-Fi version.


Now that California has finally issued an emergency directive to save water, the world has discovered NASA scientist Jay Famiglietti. The Los Angeles Times quotes Jay and NASA satellite studies saying there is only one year of groundwater left in America's most populous state.

I knew Famiglietti's groundwater studies were dynamite when they first came out. Over a year ago, on March 5th 2014, Famiglietti was my guest in a special on the California drought. Here's the scoop: NASA has twin satellites called Grace. One follows the other, and by comparing measurements, they can determine changes in ground mass. That works to show Greenland is losing mass as it's ice melts, and so is Antarctica. But it also shows changes in the water underground, including in California. When that water evaporates, or gets pumped up, the world weights a little less in that spot.

When the snowpack is low, or missing, as it is this year in the Sierra Nevada mountains - California growers and cities make it all up by pumping from the ground reservoirs, from the Earth's savings account. That works for a year or two, but with the drought now in it's fourth year, that water bank is running dry. Already some farm wells have gone dry, and then whole orchards die, or fields lay dry and fallow.

Considering California produces about one quarter of America's vegetables, fruits, and nuts, you may need to grow some food where you are. This could affect the global food market, and may force an exodus of millions of people from California.

Of course, I interviewed Jay Famiglietti and wrote about the California drought LAST year in this March 5th, 2014 Radio Ecoshock show blog.

Oh, Oh. We are out of time again. Be sure and join us next week for more science, tips, and disturbing news on Radio Ecoshock.

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

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

THE CRUNCH - Are You Ready?

From US Dept of Energy lab, Dr. Steven J. Smith says we will get hotter faster. Paul Goddard on why sea level went up over 2 inches in New England in 1 year. Carolyn Baker: preparing our minds and hearts for the coming troubles.

The Radio Ecoshock train is all booked up, ready to leave the station. We have two science reports: how we know the world will get hotter faster, and why sea levels along Eastern North America went up a couple of inches in single year. But first, I worry how we will cope with the coming bottleneck, when the economy crashes, along with climate disruption. Are you ready inside?

Then let's turn to the scientists. First, why temperatures will go up almost 2 degrees in North America and Europe in the next 40 years. After that, we'll investigate a case extraordinary sea level rise.

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

Or listen right now on Soundcloud!

CAROLYN BAKER: Love In the Age of Ecological Apocalypse

Our next guest, Carolyn Baker returns to Radio Ecoshock. Carolyn is the author of many books, including "Collapsing Consciously", "Sacred Demise" and now a brand new book: "Love In the Age of Ecological Apocalypse: the Relationships We Need to Thrive". She has been a former psychotherapist, and currently offers life coaching.

Carolyn and I share news stories, although I get more than I give, being a subscriber to her amazing daily news service. We're kind of online friends, but we don't agree about everything. For example, I want my listeners to know that I don't agree that humans will go extinct this century.

But here's the thing. I think humans are in for some terrible shocks in the future. We are badly prepared, mentally and emotionally, to handle what is coming. Carolyn has some really useful inside tech to help us deal. We're going to need it.

We both agree that humans are approaching an awful bottleneck due to multiple causes. I would include the impacts of climate change, the economy, possibly a new plague, energy and food supply problems.

On Carolyn's web site, looking through the videos page, I was surprised, and not surprised, to find her interview with preparedness guru Chris Martenson. Chris probably has a lot of male listeners, some of them preppers with extra gold, food, and guns in the basement. Maybe they need Carolyn most, to realize relationships and community may be the survival tools we need most.

It's my theory that millions of Western people have become disengaged from fundamental human feelings. They experience emotions through characters on TV or movies. That's when they laugh or cry on cue, along with the sound-track. Soon, it's time to get real, and experience our own emotions.

Let's say we have the real economic crash we deserve. Money becomes almost worthless, and jobs disappear. Even if it's just a major depression, millions of people may find their emotions are left back in a child-like state. They didn't get or take the opportunity to feel real grief from real life.


I'm going somewhere with this. It seems obvious that an event or period where millions of people die is coming, possibly this decade, almost certainly during the next. I don't know if it will be famine, but there are just too many reasons why our population is unsustainable. What happens to the survivors, especially if they witness it all on TV?

Just think of the lasting emotional scar left by about 5 million human-caused deaths in the Holocaust during World War Two. Now let's picture millions of people dying, due to our wasteful lifestyles burning carbon, over-using pesticides and antibiotics, or filling the ocean with plastic. How would we handle it?

I think that post-traumatic stress disorder could become a result, but on a mass scale, almost viral. If we take those PTSD symptoms and draw them out on a big social scale, what does that look like?

The other possible reaction is seen in the medical diagnosis of "shock". The person becomes numb, may even fall asleep as the bombs fall, as happened in World War I. That is one of several reasons I called this program "Ecoshock". I think millions of people will go into a state of shock as the environment unravels from the stresses we have created. Can you picture that?

A third possibility arises, and that is the direction you take. We could learn to grieve and survive. How can grief help us get through things? The key question is: how do we stop grieving, and what follows next? Carolyn addresses all that in her book, and in our interview.

Carolyn has been counselling people, especially those newly aware of the coming challenges for years. A lot of that gets into this new book. A challenge we've talked about before, but which keeps coming up, is the situation where one person in a relationship sees the fragility of our system and wants "out" or at least want to prepare a fall-back position. The spouse, and it could be a man or a woman, doesn't see it, and wants to keep playing the role of debt and consumption. We talk briefly about handling that, but the in-depth material is in the book.

Is it harder to find friends and lover now, as the media and the economy encourages us to sit in our silos of the office and then the couch and TV?

Carolyn lost a friend, and in the process learned more about the hospice experience. She thinks with species disappearing daily, and beloved landscapes and natural experiences lost, we may all be in hospice. Does that mean we just sit around crying? Not at all says Carolyn. Some people in hospice find a new release, and learn to value every minute of every day. We can all learn from that. And yes, joy has an important place even in difficult times.

I'm always interested in how aware people use the media to get their message out. Carolyn writes books, pumps out a daily news service of headlines we all need to hear about, and she took over "The Lifeboat Hour" radio show after the passing of Michael C. Ruppert. The Lifeboat Hour had it's own share of collapsing, after the New York studio of the Progressive Radio Network (PRN) was flooded and badly damaged. PRN had to go to pre-recorded programs only, instead of popular call-in programs like The Lifeboat Hour.

Carolyn tried Global Collapse Radio out of the UK, but that folded when the founding partners split up recently. Now PRN is back with renovated studios, and The Lifeboat Hour is back with Carolyn Baker at a new time, Fridays at 2 pm. You can listen live at PRN, or download past shows here at

By the way, you can listen to Radio Ecoshock online on PRN every Saturday morning at 10:30 am Eastern Time. Listen to/download this Radio Ecoshock interview with Carolyn Baker in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Check out all things Carolyn Baker at her web site Speaking Truth to Power.


Scientists have predicted how hot Earth can become, depending on our greenhouse gas emissions. But they seldom say how quickly that happens, or how it will develop in the region where you live. As biologists can tell you, when it comes to survival of the species, the rate of warming may be as important as the final temperature.

What's true for the animals and plants is just as true for humans and our ability to adapt our civilization. Speed matters. Biologists have been saying for decades the rate of change is key. Plants, animals and insects can only adapt so far, and in the living network, they have to move together, or species and systems begin to fail.

That's why I welcome a new paper titled "Near-term acceleration in the rate of temperature change." The lead author is Dr. Steven J. Smith, a past lead author with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and currently a scientist with the Joint Global Change Research Institute, of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, in Maryland. That's part of the U.S. Department of Energy. Dr. Steven Smith joins us on Radio Ecoshock to discuss this new research.

This paper finds the rate of heating, and therefore the actual impacts of climate change, is speeding up. The world is heating at a faster rate than at any time in at least the past 1,000 years, probably more.

Smith tells us: "What these climate models project is that we are on the cusp right now of a new state of climate where the models are projecting that the rate of change will soon start to speed up, and be outside of the range that we saw historically."

There has been too little research into this rate of change. Previous work looked at a rate on a century scale. This paper tries to quantify what is happening in shorter, more meaningful time scales, like 40 years, something "comparable to the life-time of much of human infrastructure.

Another factor to consider: new science has emerged predicting that heat sinks like oceans and forest may not function as well in the coming decades. If those land and ocean heat sinks are declining in their uptake of CO2, could that speed up the rate of temperature increase even more?

I am referring to the 2014 study, “The declining uptake rate of atmospheric CO2 by land and ocean sinks,” M.R. Raupach et al. Biogeosciences, 11, 3453–3475, 2014 Paper here.


In the paper "Near-term acceleration in the rate of temperature change" we find this, quote:

"Although global temperature trends are on of the most commonly used metrics of climate change, climate impacts will be driven by regional trends."

Why do regional results matter as much or more than global forecasts? Farmers, and all of us care more about what will happen in our area.

Let's talk about a few regions of the Northern Hemisphere. What did these scientists find about the rate of temperature increases in North America? "In North America, the models showed a change from about .7 to about 1.8 degrees Centigrade over a 40 year period.... that's about 1 to 3 degrees Fahrenheit over that period."

What about Europe? The scientists found predictions of increasing warming there are similar to North America.

The Arctic is already fantastically warmer the past few years. Will it get even warmer, even faster? Yes, according to this study. Temperatures in the Arctic will go up 1.1 to 3 degrees degree the year 2050.

What are the predictions about warming rates in Australia or New Zealand?

"Australasia has lower rates of change in both data sets". Due to the large amount of ocean in the southern Hemisphere, warming will come slower in places like Australia.


A key point I found in this paper is the concept that as this century progresses, the human fingerprint on climate change becomes easier to see. Right now we have a hard time saying that a certain violent storm or heat wave is due to human emissions, rather than natural cycles or variations. All that should become clearer by 2040 or 2050, although the whole question is still an active topic in science.

Steven Smith says it will likely be easier to attribute heat waves to increased warming, than rainfall. Extreme rainfall events may have several complicated causes, so they will be harder to directly attribute to human caused global warming, he says.

But the scientists cannot predict how humans will react to this heating. As Smith points out, there are no laws of physics governing human behavior. So the paper cannot take into account things like a severe economic crash which slashes carbon emissions. However, their paper concentrated on the 90% most likely range, so extreme events might be found in the 10% tails on the prediction curve, which they don't cover. Let's call that a Black Swan event, which may or may not ever happen.

Download or listen to this key science interview with Steven J. Smith in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


Sea level rise has been called the single greatest impact of climate change. But we are learning sea level can go up regionally for other reasons. Surprising new research shows the ocean rose along the coast of New England by almost 4 inches for a couple of years.

Here to explain why is Paul B. Goddard. He's working on his PHD in climatology and climate modeling at the University of Arizona. Most recently, Paul was the lead author of a paper in the journal Nature Communications titled: "An extreme event of sea-level rise along the Northeast coast of North America in 2009–2010."

I've been told by experts, including scientists on Radio Ecoshock, that the major cause of sea level rise in places like New York city was subsidence - that the land was still sinking along the coast after the glaciers departed. But this new research found the sudden higher sea levels was not due to land sinking, which is a very, very slow process.

That shows just how complicated assigning the causes of sea level rise can be. If it wasn't subsidence, what did cause New England seas to go up 128 millimeters, or about 5 inches, in some places? It all has to do with ocean currents in the North Atlantic. In particular, the Gulf Stream changed.

Regular listeners must be bored with my repetitive amazement that the sea is not level. It isn't. Anyway, in this case, the outer, Eastward side of the Gulf Stream was lower than it's Western edge, which helped pile up water on the New England coast.

I'm assuming this new work is closely related to another paper. That's the one in Ocean Science led by H.L. Bryden. The title is "Impact of a 30 % reduction in Atlantic meridional overturning during 2009–2010". Scientists call it AMOC for short. Our guest Paul Goddard gives us the clearest explanation of these ocean currents that's I've heard.

I was astounded to find in that Bryden paper that this North Atlantic ocean current system is, quote:

"accounting for 25 % of the maximum combined atmosphere–ocean heat transport necessary to balance the Earth’s radiation budget."

Twenty five percent is a huge number! What happens if this system slows down - as some scientists fear it might. That could happen if a whole lot of fresh water floods into the far north Atlantic, due to melting in Greenland and elsewhere in the Arctic. The big ocean conveyor belt depends on heavy salty water sinking, and more freshwater could throw that out. That's the theme in the overblown Hollywood movie "The Day After Tomorrow". Scientists do worry about this, but on a much slower scale, perhaps over a century or two. One side effect would be much colder weather for the UK and Europe.

Another key reason I thought this paper was important is: what if ocean circulation brings another big hike in sea levels - at the same time as a big storm-surge event like Hurricane Sandy. Wouldn't Sandy flooding have been much worse if it happened in 2009 or 2010? Yes it would, Goddard tells us.

This is one reason why I think the impacts of sea level rise are routinely underestimated. Ten or twenty millimeters of sea level rise in the near-term doesn't sound like much. But we have to couple that with things like a high Spring tide, storm surge, and now periods of change in ocean circulation.

The whole subject of how the ocean works is coming into a kind of renaissance. We are coming to appreciate two things: 1. how much we really don't know about the ocean and 2. the ocean is probably the biggest single factor driving climate in the coming centuries.

Download or listen to this Radio Ecoshock interview with Paul Goddard in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Here is a good article in Science Daily to follow up on this strange case of rapid sea level rise.


Thanks for sticking with it. We all need to feed our brains until we know what to do, without a doubt to stop us.

Next week we're starting a bit of change, as Spring arrives in the Northern Hemisphere. We'll talk with energy guru Richard Heinberg about his new book "Afterburn". And then Marjory WildCraft tells us about a big online summit on growing your own groceries. I hope this plants a seed in your mind.

A big thanks to those who donated to Radio Ecoshock last week. You keep me going, and keep the shows coming. Get more details here.

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Thanks for listening, and caring about your world.