101 – Climate change

Wind turbines in Cadiz, Spain
(Source: UN.org)
The tundra’s permafrost is melting

Recommended authors to learn about climate change:

Current climate-change-related disasters happening around the world:

Rainforest destruction

The Amazon rainforest is being cut down to make room for cattle and soy growers, but the land becomes barren after 5 to 10 years (because it evolved with a jungle on top of it and now has nothing to protect it).

The agriculturalists move on to clear more virgin forest again to continue profiting off the destruction of the land and frequent murder of indigenous peoples and environmental activists there.

Poisoned water

Canada is pulling more and more heavy oil out of the ground in the Alberta tar sands, because of concerns over very modest (by world standards) economic downturns, and poisoning the local water in the process.

As usual, local indigenous groups with the least political and socioeconomic firepower suffer the worst health effects (including cancer).

Ocean destruction

The Great Barrier Reef in Australia is now over 80% dead, due to warming temperatures and ocean acidification as a result of the burning of fossil fuels.

West Coast salmon are particularly vulnerable to increased ocean temperatures.

Permafrost is melting

Arctic permafrost is melting, causing slumps (landslides).

Newly built Arctic roads (ironically, built in large part to access Arctic offshore oil) are going to suffer from astronomic maintenance costs.

New engineering challenges will extend to buildings and bridges as well.

Methane release

Fracking operations release methane, contributing to about 3% of global GHG emissions.

The Arctic permafrost is the world’s largest store of safely sequestered carbon, yet it is melting.

Manic wildfires

The fires in Australia, California and British Columbia (and other Western North American states and provinces) have broken records for several years in a row, and things are likely to get worse.

Incremental changes will not be enough

Supposedly “clean” natural gas (a main component of which is methane) is being billed by oil and gas industry supporters as a less carbon-intensive solution than heavy oils like diesel, kerosene and gasoline. In almost all cases nowadays, accessing shale gas reserves requires hydraulic fracturing (fracking).

Fracking uses sand, toxic chemicals and large amounts of water (which ends up in toxic waste ponds) to split shale rock formations, keep them open and release natural gas. Between 1% and 3% of the released methane is not collected and becomes an acute greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. The chemicals that are pumped in inevitably find their way into groundwater. Fracking also induces seismicity (earthquakes).

While the transition to a less carbon intensive fuel may have made sense 40 years ago, our politicians and leaders delayed action to the point where the UN now says that humanity must cut its CO2 emissions by nearly half by 2030, and the remaining carbon emissions by 2050 to have a chance at remaining less than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. The room in the carbon budget for half-measures like “natural gas”, instead of actually zero emission solutions, has already been overshot.

Our political leaders couldn’t care less as they chase short term profits, unsustainable “jobs” and tax revenues. Recent booms in northern British Columbia shale gas production has been further buoyed by a new LNG export terminal being built in Kitimat (near Prince Rupert), despite the pipeline passing over sovereign, un-ceded Wetsuweten territory without their consent.

The switch to “clean” fracking from “dirty” oil is business-as-usual for polluting companies and follows the playbook used by Big Tobacco and almost every other major commercial interest; hide evidence generated by internal research for 10 years, then when someone else discovers it independently, deny it for 20 years, then begrudgingly admit some harm but argue about how serious the risk really is for another 20 years, and then finally, when the public has had enough and forces an end to it, simply pivot into the most similar thing you can do to what you were already doing, requiring the least amount of new thinking and new investment, and by doing so, you force the slow-moving government regulatory process to start all over again to prove that your new activity is also harmful.

The current, alarming effects of climate change should be a wake-up call to anyone who thinks that the current short-term profit-focused system is “working”. We are not above nature, as Mother Earth is reminding us. It is not ours to dominate, neglect and take for granted.