Most important movie of 2014? ‘Cowspiracy’ explores the darkest driver of environmental destruction on the planet.

By Nick Breeze

 

As someone who spends a great deal of time interviewing climate scientists and writing articles on what climate change really means for us in our lifetimes, I have often overlooked the minutia elements in my own daily routines that are unnecessarily contributing to the destruction of the Earth’s life support system.

 

cowspiracy

 

For parents striving to do the very best for their children in every aspect from education to exercise and social mobility, there is now the greater understanding by scientists that the challenges they will face in the next few decades alone will be driven by the impacts of climate change, only currently visible in the form of weird weather or remote extreme climate events.

 

However, the IPCC conservatively estimate a 2 degrees centigrade rise in temperature by mid century if we continue polluting as we are today.  At 2 degrees centigrade we will have already triggered other warming processes within the Earth system that will accelerate the heating further. The predicted impacts on regional climates and other factors such as agriculture, mean that we will see an exponential rise in conflicts, food price spikes and shortages, mass immigration on a scale never before witnessed (and certainly not on UKIP’s radar!!), and much more.

 

Words like “sustainability” or “global warming” are now so tired, we tend raise our eyebrows in mock fatigue when ever they’re mentioned as if their relevance was a matter of yesterday, as opposed to today. However, our problems have never been more severe and one of the biggest drivers of climate change and environmental degradation, is virtually omitted from the national and even international discourse.

 

What is this hidden driver? I’ll give you a clue: Cowspiracy! 

 

 

I am not a vegetarian and neither have I considered any radical shift in my dietary make-up. Over the last few years I took a lead from the McCartney’s ‘Meat-Free Monday’ campaign and started eating much less meat, trying to buy better quality meat and seeing its consumption as more of a treat. Earlier this year I was made aware that eating meat accounts for between 30-50% of a persons carbon emissions. 

 

The makers of Cowspiracy have been very brave in uncovering an industry that is so unsustainable and environmentally destructive that we have to take notice. If we really see ourselves as animal loving, community loving, good and honest people, then this is one issue that will not pass the viewer by without some serious consideration.

 

In the film’s journey we see exposed how organisations such as Greenpeace in the US are refusing to discuss agriculture despite the fact it is the biggest driver of rainforest destruction in the Amazon (1 acre every second cleared mostly for livestock grazing), also water depletion (staggering amounts of water that go into producing 1 kg of beef), and associated disastrous impacts from producing the feed required for all these animals. The facts keep pouring out of the movie at an alarming rate.

 

Aside from all this there is also the wellbeing of the animals. One of the lasting images is of the cows being marched around the industrial meat complex, resembling the images we have seen from broken individuals in concentration camps or such like environments. This is surely not the mechanism for how an intelligent and empathetic species sees itself in harmony with the natural world? 

 

I urge you to watch this movie and form your own opinion on the content. The more these issues are engaged with then the more we can encourage a change that will create a better world for the next generation.

 

VISIT http://www.cowspiracy.com/ to WATCH THE MOVIE!

 

Nick Breeze

Follow on Twitter: @NGBreeze

 

Video: Connecting Climate Change And Weather - Interview With Jennifer Francis

2014 will be remembered for the range of weather extremes persistent storms that battered the country at the beginning of the year, to record high temperatures at the end of October. Scientists now have evidence that these persistent extreme weather patterns are increasing in their frequency, due to the rapid heating up of the Arctic that is changing the behaviour of the jet stream.

 

 

Dr. Jennifer Francis who is one of the leading scientists in the U.S. studying the relationship between Arctic warming and changes in the jet stream, says: 

 

“The Arctic is generally very cold and the areas farther south are warm and that difference in area between those two areas is really what fuels that vast river of weather moving high over our head that we call the jet stream. 

 

The jet stream in turn creates the weather that we feel all around the northern hemisphere and the middle latitudes, so anything that affects this jet stream is going to affect weather patterns. So as the Arctic warms up much faster than the areas farther south, we’re seeing this temperature difference between these two regions get smaller. This means the force that drives those winds in the jet stream are getting smaller and that means the winds themselves in the jet stream are getting weaker.


image2

The colour band shows the jet stream moving around the northern hemisphere from west to east. Source: NASA

 

When that happens, the jet stream tends to take a wavier path as it travels around the northern hemisphere and those waves are actually what create the stormy patterns [and] the nice weather patterns. As those waves get larger because of this weakening of those winds of the jet streams, they tend to move more slowly from west to east. That means it feels like the weather patterns are sticking around longer, because those patterns are moving much more slowly and this then makes it more likely to have the kind of extreme events that are related to persistent weather patterns.”

 

Are critical findings influencing policy?

 

These changes in climate have huge implications as Dr. Francis points out, there are “people who worry about whether there is enough fresh water to supply cities, whether there is enough snowpack on mountains to supply reservoirs, and for agriculture… Drought and agriculture is a big problem. Storminess in certain areas is another big problem. Yes, it has a huge impact for a whole range of issues that affect the way we live.”


It is no wonder then that Dr. Francis and her colleagues have attracted the attention of President Obama’s chief science advisor, Dr. John Holdren. Dr. Holdren has been reporting directly to the President on the real time effects of climate change and is keen to understand what this new research tells us about the future impact of changes to the jet stream. Francis muses and says:

 

“Yes, we’ve had a lot of interest from policymakers… I think we’re starting to make a lot of progress now in getting policymakers to understand that this is a big problem they have to face… I think decision makers and the policymakers at the local level get it much better because they’re already seeing effects on their local areas. Sea level rise is an obvious one. They’re already seeing changes in drought and agricultural problems and dealing with fresh water issues. It is really at the local level that we’re having more success.”

 

New research supports the case that Arctic sea ice loss is driving climate changes

 

So in understanding the changes in the jet stream it is important to research how the vast atmospheric river of weather above our heads is connected to other climate mechanisms. To explain this, Francis cites new research by colleagues that has emerged in the last couple of months:

 

“It appears that over the north Atlantic, and towards Asia, there’s a mechanism that appears to be quite robust, and several groups have found this mechanism using completely different analysis techniques. So what we’re finding is that there’s an area, North of Scandinavia in the Arctic, where the ice has been disappearing particularly rapidly. When that ice disappears… there is regular ocean underneath, and that ocean absorbs a lot more energy from the sun through the summertime. So it becomes very warm there. 

 

Then as the fall comes around, all that heat that’s been absorbed all summer long, where the ice has retreated, is put back in the atmosphere and that creates a big bubble of hot air… over that region where the ice was lost. This tends to create a northward bulge in the jet stream there… that  creates a surface high pressure area that circulates in the clockwise direction. That sucks cold air down from the Arctic over northern Eurasia, and that creates a southward dip in the jet stream. So what we’re getting is this big northward bulge up over Scandinavia and a southward dip over Asia… creating, first the tendency for a larger wave in the jet stream, which tends to move more slowly, but also we’re seeing this mechanism that creates these colder winters that have been observed over Eurasia.

 

Once the jet stream gets into this wavier pattern, it sends wave energy up into the highest levels of the atmosphere, which is called the stratosphere, where we have the polar vortex, [which] is kind of similar to the jet stream but it’s much higher up in the atmosphere and it travels much faster. So as that wave energy gets sent up from this larger wave below, up into the stratosphere, it breaks down that polar vortex so that it becomes wavier as well. That wavier polar vortex sends energy back down to the lower atmosphere and it creates an even wavier jet stream in February. So we’re seeing this connection of mechanisms that starts with [Arctic] sea ice loss and it makes a wavier jet stream for different reasons all the way through winter.”

 

Will the jet stream continue to cause changes in climate?

 

By identifying these mechanisms and linking them back directly to loss of the Arctic sea ice, Dr Francis and her colleagues are demonstrating how manmade global warming is creating feedback that is changing the climate conditions in the northern hemisphere. So what next? 

 

[We are] using these climate models, or computer simulations… to try and project what we’re expecting to see happen in the future, as greenhouse gases’s continue to increase.  The early indications are that these large wavy patterns in the jet stream are going to increase in the future, as far as we can tell. It is preliminary research that I haven’t published yet but it does look as if they are going to increase.”

 

Nick Breeze - Climate change film maker and writer


This article was originally published in The Ecologist 
 

The International Center For Earth Simulation (ICES) And The Ecosequestration Trust (TEST) Join Forces To Boost Global Resilience

All around the world impacts of changing climate are being felt in a multitude of ways from droughts to tidal surges. The failure of policymakers to take action in the preceding decades and the current policy gridlock means that humanity has little choice but to move to the next stage of action: Resilience!

 

We are now restricted to what we can do to mitigate against severe climate change impacts. The mega-trends are indicating that we have a range of conditions that will threaten lives around the world in ways that we are not used to. These include water shortages, threats to agriculture, rising tides that inundate coastal cities, and so on. The impacts have begun and we are now moving into what Dr James Hansen called “The Storms of Our Grandchildren”, only the grandparents are still very much with us. How bad things get and how much we can stand against the extremes in climate, will be largely due to what action we take to make our human systems as resilient as possible.

 

This is why the collaboration between ICES and TEST is so important. We have to accelerate the gathering, the processing, and the dissemination of knowledge that is needed in all regions of the world where livelihoods, lives and habitats are threatened. What is becoming clear is that we are all in this together. The challenges ahead are of a proportion that make us all stakeholders in determining the future quality of human life on this planet.

 

This film has been produced to promote the collaboration between two organisations: one that is focused on ground-level activity and responses to the environment, the other on the technical gathering, unifying and processing of data from as many sources that are available. The results of this work will be made available in the development of the www.resilience.io platform.

 

 

Nick Breeze

 

Related Links:

 

http://www.icesfoundation.org/

http://ecosequestrust.org/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Storms_of_My_Grandchildren

Climate Fiction (#cli-fi) Book Review: “Greenies”, A Novel by Andrew Hanson


Greenies Cli-fi by Andrew HansonCli-Fi meets Crime Thriller in a noir-esque London


‘Greenies’ is set in 2030, in a London that has been engulfed by a tidal surge claiming thousands of lives, leaving a population still functioning but burdened by psychological trauma.

Hanson’s tale is complex and often dark but strangely only subtly different to how we might view ourselves now. One criticism is that it lacks the imaginings of breakthrough technologies; the “game changers” that could transform society. But then, this tale gives us a business as usual, dystopian extrapolation of human misfortune. We can visualise the the deniers who restrict the assimilation of knowledge, protecting the mainstream cult of consumerism and consumption, contrasted against another group who are overwrought with ecological anxiety, desperate to crack the veneer of one reality, and replace it with the harsh facts of another. If this is at all representative of where we are in 2030, then it is fair to say we have bequeathed dystopia on the next generation, and the journey of our own intelligent species, over the bell curve of Earth system understanding, will have gone retrograde.

The story itself is a noir crime thriller; a gripping page turner, set in a London with limited light, beset by dark memories, restricted happiness and so many schemes going on that it might just be plausible. Much of it will be familiar to Londoner’s, or others, who have frequented this city, but there is a cold, relentless trauma following the flood, that pervades the characters motives and keeps the reader embedded within the tale.

I couldn’t help empathising with the characters, hoping they don’t make certain choices and then being guiltily pleased when they do. It also provides good insight into a psychological world that is familiar, even today in a much milder (and hopefully less threatening) form. The author, Andrew Hanson, has worked for Greenpeace and for Friend’s of the Earth, so perhaps there are some real world templates that his manifestations are based on?

 

'Greenies', by Andrew Hanson
Available from Amazon (Paperback & Kindle edition): £8.81

 

Review by Nick Breeze

 

EU President Jose Barroso Speaks Passionately About Why Britain Is Important To The EU And, Crucially, Vice Versa

Jose Barroso EU President at Chatham House

 

This morning the outgoing EU President spoke at Chatham House event in London explaining how much of the national uncertainty about Britain’s membership to the EU, is a natural response to having an interest in one’s own wellbeing, when represented beyond our island borders. He also highlighted that much of the rhetoric in politics that surrounds Britain’s position, ignores some vital details that voters should understand better. These include the fact that over 50% of Britain’s trade is with EU member states. Leaving the EU Trade block would make this trade more difficult.

 

He also states that those saying we should vote to leave have not as yet presented an economic model that Britain could adopt in moving forward. Without a viable alternative, Britain could find itself an outsider on the world stage. The EU represents 500million people with a voice in the world that is strengthened by it size. Breaking off into a smaller group would make us vulnerable and probably much more under the thumb of corporate demands, which more often than not, run counter to the wellbeing of citizens. Even on this last point, many corporations taking advantage of the UK’s favourable taxation laws, and proximity to Europe, have stated that should we vote to leave the European Union, they would themselves leave the UK, relocating to places such as Frankfurt.

 

Below are some of the points made by Barroso in this mornings session including answers to some insightful questions after his speech.

 

 - Britain has played a leading role in the European debate on climate change. Britain is also at the forefront of a push to set a target of 40% emissions reductions by 2030 (to be decided this Friday).

 

Greater integration is the route to solving long-term issues including jobs, industry, climate change and peace. It is only in a larger trading block that individual states can maximise their power to influence world events.

 

Over half of Britain’s trade is with EU member states, representing a market of 500 million people.

 

Maintaining our own identities is important; Barroso prefer’s a couple of glasses of red wine to beer, while on the campaign trail.

 

Too much focus on the spending figures with very little analysis of the quality of the spending of EU budgets. These include investing in research into new technologies and into the future for young people.

 

House of Lords represents one of the best analytical body’s there is, for holding legislation to account.

 

Barroso asks: What is the Euro sceptic’s economic model? How can Britain have the advantage of the single market whilst existing outside of it?

 

Large international businesses have stressed that they will leave Britain if there is an opt out, relocating to places like Frankfurt.

 

Enlargement of the EU is one of Europe’s greatest achievements ever. Now we are in a period of enlargement fatigue. The door is still open to the Balkan States, but it is unlikely there will be any enlargement for five years.

 

The EU has been a provider of stability when one considers regions including Ukraine. Serbia and Montenegro (swing states) will probably join.

 

Discussing immigration: If we have freedom of trade, joint defence and agricultural treaties, then we must have a “freedom of movement” principal. Of course the European Commission is aware of the issues of abuses of welfare systems. It is a discussion that has to be had by member governments.

 

1.4million Brits live in Europe (2.3% of the population), except in winter when the figure grows to 2million (3%).

 

If you restrict Freedom of Movement by wealth then you create first and second class citizens: “No… no!”.

 

Is Barroso an unelected Bureaucrat as claimed by British Conservative Party Chairman? He has been elected by his own country to positions such as Finance Minister and Prime Minister. He was elected by the European representatives of the member states who were themselves elected by their own people. The system is complex and often inefficient but they are working to make it less intrusive and more accountable.

 

“Britain has a lot of friends in Europe but please… keep them!”

 

On the issue of recognising Palestine as an independent state: This is an issue for individual member states and currently will remain so. Each state has a right to agree their own position.

 

Can Turkey ever become a member of the EU? The door is open but after a decade of talks, there have been developments that worry EU governments.

 

“The European Commission is not the most popular, but it is indispensable!”

 

Notes from José Manuel Barroso, Speaking at Chatham House, London 20th October 2014

 

by Nick Breeze

Russian Scientists Excluded From Presenting Important Research As NASA Goddard Director Tries To Discredit Observational Scientific Research

Following on from my recent post regarding the attempt by Dr Gavin Schmidt to rubbish the research of Russian scientists, led by Dr Natalia Shakhova and Dr Igor Semiletov, it now emerges that the latter were not even invited to the high profile meeting at the Royal Society.

 

The event, held a fortnight ago, is still causing controversy beyond the negative tweeting by NASA Goddard Director, Dr Gavin Schmidt. Schmidt aimed his presentation at discrediting the Russian’s work, using theoretical models, without expertise in methane, or credible data. The end result is that the Russian team have composed a letter to Royal Society President, Sir Paul Nurse, asking for an opportunity to present their findings, including contributions from over 30 scientists working in the region for over 20 years.

 

One of the longstanding major triumphs of the scientific community has been a commitment to apolitical analysis of important research. We all know there are geopolitical tensions between Russia and the West, but are these now making an unwelcome entree into an area that could pose enormous risk for humanity at large?

 

The risk of large-scale releases of the deadly greenhouse gas, methane, from the East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS) may be a subject of debate in the scientific community, but to purposefully exclude one side of the debate and openly denounce their findings is not just immoral, it is reckless.

 

The letter, signed by Semiletov and Shakhova on behalf of more than 30 scientists, does state to the Royal Society President that the evidence shown by Dr Schmidt (based on work by Dr David Archer) is purely theoretical and that, despite both being very skilled climate modellers, neither has expertise in methane or the area in question, The East Siberian Arctic Shelf.

 

Whilst the meeting was in process, an expedition in the ESAS was in progress, with over 80 Russian and Swedish scientists. So why would such high profile Western scientists try to discredit a large and growing body of research? It is a hard question to answer, but the intent is certainly evident.

 

It is a matter for all of our concern if there is a posed risk of environmental devastation emanating from any region of the world. The Earth system does not acknowledge sovereignty or nationalist interests. International collaboration and respect are vital if we are to understand the changes that are going on as a result of man made climate change. The Earth is heating up and many feedbacks from the heating, such as methane releases, are not fully understood but are known to have caused enormous changes in the global climate.

 

The division between the climate modelling camp and the scientists carrying out observational research is completely nonsensical. It seems perfectly logical that the data collected by one group should be used by the other in order to make the models more accurate. If climate models have no basis in reality, then how can we trust their reliability?

 

The disdain shown by Dr Schmidt for his international colleagues should now be put aside and the doors of the Royal Society opened to allow the Russian team to present their findings. It is in all of our interests that this takes place, so, Sir Paul, over to you…

 

Author: Nick Breeze

 

 

Letter From Dr Shakhova & Dr Semiletov to Sir Paul Nurse:

 

October 4th, 2014
By mail and email

 

Dear Sir Paul Nurse,

 

We are pleased that the Royal Society recognizes the value of Arctic science and hosted an important scientific meeting last week, organised by Dr D. Feltham, Dr S. Bacon, Dr M. Brandon, and Professor Emeritus J. Hunt (https://royalsociety.org/events/2014/arctic-sea-ice/).  

 

Our colleagues and we have been studying the East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS) for >20 years and have detailed observational knowledge of changes occurring in this region, as documented by publications in leading journals such as Science, Nature, and Nature Geosciences.  During these years, we performed >20 all-seasonal expeditions that allowed us to accumulate a large and comprehensive data set consisting of hydrological, biogeochemical, and geophysical data and providing a quality of coverage that is hard to achieve, even in more accessible areas of the World Ocean.

 

To date, we are the only scientists to have long-term observational data on methane in the ESAS.  Despite peculiarities in regulation that limit access of foreign scientists to the Russian Exclusive Economic Zone, where the ESAS is located, over the years we have welcomed scientists from Sweden, the USA, The Netherlands, the UK, and other countries to work alongside us. A large international expedition performed in 2008 (ISSS-2008) was recognized as the best biogeochemical study of the IPY (2007-2008). The knowledge and experience we accumulated throughout these years of work laid the basis for an extensive Russian-Swedish expedition onboard I/B ODEN (SWERUS-3) that allowed > 80 scientists from all over the world to collect more data from this unique area.  The expedition was successfully concluded just a few days ago.

 

To our dismay, we were not invited to present our data at the Royal Society meeting.  Furthermore, this week we discovered, via a twitter Storify summary (circulated by Dr. Brandon), that Dr. G. Schmidt was instead invited to discuss the methane issue and explicitly attacked our work using the model of another scholar, whose modelling effort is based on theoretical, untested assumptions having nothing to do with observations in the ESAS. While Dr. Schmidt has expertise in climate modelling, he is an expert neither on methane, nor on this region of the Arctic. Both scientists therefore have no observational knowledge on methane and associated processes in this area. Let us recall that your motto “Nullus in verba” was chosen by the founders of the Royal Society to express their resistance to the domination of authority; the principle so expressed requires all claims to be supported by facts that have been established by experiment. In our opinion, not only the words but also the actions of the organizers deliberately betrayed the principles of the Royal Society as expressed by the words “Nullus in verba”.

 

In addition, we would like to highlight the Anglo-American bias in the speaker list.  It is worrisome that Russian scientific knowledge was missing, and therefore marginalized, despite a long history of outstanding Russian contributions to Arctic science. Being Russian scientists, we

believe that prejudice against Russian science is currently growing due to political disagreements with the actions of the Russian government.  This restricts our access to international scientific journals, which have become exceptionally demanding when it comes to publication of our work compared to the work of others on similar topics. We realize that the results of our work may interfere with the crucial interests of some powerful agencies and institutions; however, we believe that it was not the intent of the Royal Society to allow political considerations to override scientific integrity.  

 

We understand that there can be scientific debate on this crucial topic as it relates to climate. However, it is biased to present only one side of the debate, the side based on theoretical assumptions and modelling. In our opinion, it was unfair to prevent us from presenting our more-than-decadal data, given that >200 scientists were invited to participate in debates. Furthermore, we are concerned that the Royal Society proceedings from this scientific meeting will be unbalanced to an unacceptable degree (which is what has happened on social media).

Consequently, we formally request the equal opportunity to present our data before you and other participants of this Royal Society meeting on the Arctic and that you as organizers refrain from producing any official proceedings before we are allowed to speak.


Sincerely,
On behalf of >30 scientists,


Natalia Shakhova and Igor Semiletov

 

 

 

Tweeting On Thin Ice - Reflecting On The Arctic Sea Ice Meeting At The Royal Society

By Nick Breeze

When it comes to changes in the global climate, one of the most visible and disturbing sites is the data that shows the diminishing state of sea ice in the Arctic region. It is both dramatic and symbolic, with known and unknown consequences. As someone who has been following the scientific literature on this for a few years now, I cannot help feeling that our collective societies, and especially those with real power, will rue the days they turned their backs on this dynamic and important component of our climate.

With this in mind, I was positively excited to attend the two day event at the Royal Society on the 22nd and 23rd of September, titled, ‘Arctic sea ice reduction: the evidence, models, and global impacts’. The list of scientists attending read like a dream team of big brains on Arctic sea ice matters:

Dr Julienne Stroeve, University of Colorado, USA; Reduction of summer sea ice extent
Professor Mark Serreze, National Snow and Ice Center, USA; Changes in Arctic sea ice and the polar atmosphere
Professor Peter Wadhams, University of Cambridge, UK; Sea ice thickness from submarines
Professor Ronald Kwok, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, CALTECH, USA; Satellite observations of sea ice thickness
Dr Andrey Proshuntinsky, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, USA; Arctic circulation regimes
Dr Helene Hewitt, Met Office Hadley Centre, UK; Using models to understand and predict Arctic Sea Ice
Professor John Turner, British Antarctic Survey, UK; Why is sea ice increasing in the Southern Ocean?
Dr Marika Holland, National Center for Atmospheric Research, USA; The capabilities and limitations of Arctic sea ice ocean climate models
Professor Daniel Feltham, University of Reading, UK; Sea ice mechanics and the next generation of sea ice physics
Dr Dirk Notz, Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Germany; Processes controlling the Arctic sea ice mass balance
Professor Don Perovich, Dartmouth College, USA; Field studies of sea ice melt
Professor Grae Worster, University of Cambridge, UK; Sea ice thermodynamics and brine drainage
Dr Gavin Schmidt, NASA, USA, Atmospheric composition and radiative impacts of Arctic sea ice loss
Professor Jennifer Francis, Rutgers University, USA, The impact of Arctic sea ice loss on extreme weather
Dr Sheldon Bacon, National Oceanography Centre, UK, The Arctic Ocean freshwater budget and implications for climate

One of the most striking debates in the discussion of Arctic sea ice is the rate of loss and risk of feedbacks, such as large-scale methane release. The large-scale methane releases are a feature of the Earth’s history, where huge amounts of this deadly gas are released at a rate where they cannot be broken down, and therefore overwhelm the atmosphere. This heating effect, in turn, creates amplified heating making it difficult for life to survive. It is estimated that when the last big methane burst occurred, millions of years ago, 90% of life on Earth died and the recovery rate for biodiversity was millions of years more.

Russian scientist’s, Dr Natalia Shakhova and Dr Igor Semilitov have been conducting annual trips to the East Siberian Arctic Shelf for over ten years and are reporting an increased destabilisation of the permafrost on the shallow Arctic ocean floor in the region. The loss of ice has meant that significant heating has occurred this sensitive region, causing the frozen seabed to rise from -7 degrees centigrade to between -1C and +3C. Obviously, above zero the seabed changes state from ice to water and releases methane from the rotting organic debris that has been frozen for thousands, or millions of years.

More importantly this permafrost layer acts as a seal over an enormous store of methane hydrates conservatively estimated to be around 1500 gigatonnes. To put this in perspective, there is currently about 5.5 gigatonnes of methane in the Earth’s atmosphere. A release of a small percentage of 50 gigatonnes has been cited as a risk. Wadhams and his colleagues used the Stern model to calculate that such a release would have the equivalent economic value of $50 trillion USD (roughly the same as global GDP). That is obviously much more than we could ever afford and the world, post-release, would look vastly different, with hardly any humans, or other species, remaining compared to what we see today.

Professor Wadhams gave his talk at the Royal Society focusing on the behaviour of sea ice, using submarine data to back up previous estimates of sea ice decline in volume over multi decades. As these are observations, it is not really something that can be contested. Wadhams has been going on trips to the Arctic aboard military submarines for many years, collecting data to feed into the models, calculating volume in addition to the ice area (extent) shown from the satellites. This has shown a dramatic drop in sea-ice volume by 40% since the late 1970’s. The implications are that we are risking setting off a feedback process of methane release that could cause a huge boost to global warming. That is the view from those collecting data from the region.

On the other side of the debate stands the modellers. David Archer (not present at the event) is referred to as the “go to man” on Arctic methane. Archer says that no risk is posed from methane releases from Arctic shelves such as the one in Eastern Siberia. To represent this view at the Royal Society meeting was Dr Gavin Schmidt, the newly positioned Director of NASA’s Goddard Institute For Space Studies. Dr. Schmidt presented his modelling data, positing that there is no evidence such a risk exists. This is as a result of his examination of the data record of the Holocene period; a period of climate stability in which we and many other species have flourished. There are other scientists who look at our unprecedented climate situation and conclude that this this is the beginning of the “Anthropocene”; a period of climate driven by human activity.

Schmidt does acknowledge there was a huge methane release way back in the geological record but states that the world was a very different place then and we cannot draw conclusions from it. Schmidt’s view is based much more on modelling data and theory, which is viewed with suspicion by some, due to the inability of the models to keep pace in real-time of the rapid decline of Arctic sea ice. The argument goes that if you cannot get the model to reproduce what is happening today, how can you draw conclusions of what the sea ice will do in 10, 20 or 100 years? All scientists use models and they are very useful in looking at climate and their results are always getting better, as both the technological capacity, and the scientists understanding of Earth system processes gets better.

Dr Schmidt’s presentation was especially crafted to dispel the idea of a risk from methane releases and to directly discredit the work of Shakhova et al. Even when he mentioned the word methane he did so encouraging the audience to make horror noises. This seems to me a thoughtless act, considering people are risking their lives to collect the data on the subject. I interviewed Shakhova in June and she gave examples of other expeditions that have had fatal outcomes for those involved. Also, considering Professor Wadhams was sat in the audience and held a different view, it seemed divisive and childish. Schmidt presented in his summary that there was no risk of a methane “bomb”, or other large-scale multi gigatonne release from hydrate stores in the Arctic.

Although he didn’t explicitly say it, the implication was that the work of those saying “there is a risk” is rubbish. He showed models developed by Archer to prove it. However, I failed to draw a similar conclusion as Schmidt, because the scientists telling us there IS an issue, are the only ones actually visiting the region and collecting data. Shakhova said in June, when we spoke, that a decade ago there were hardly no bubbles coming out and the ice pack on top was frozen solid. They could drive heavy vehicles out on the ice. Due to global warming, it has vanished and now the dark open water is absorbing the suns heat energy and the waves that occur during intensifying storms (a new phenomenon for the East Siberian Shelf) are transporting this heat down to the seabed, where the melting occurs. Thus their observations show plumes of methane pouring off the seabed, from melting permafrost and over a kilometre wide.

The opposing views portended to set up a scenario for great discussion and perhaps, potentially, collaboration on how scientists could move forward to get to the bottom of what is happening in the volatile polar region. However, what really transpired was that Dr Schmidt was not that interested in any serious consideration of views outside those of his colleagues and had come here to only try and discredit what he might call “opponents”. Even when Professor Wadhams asked him a serious question at the end of his presentation, about what sea water temperature data is feeding Archer’s model (as it was being shown as evidence), he simply replied that “it’s [the answer] in the paper”. Conversely, when Wadhams was on the stage Schmidt only raised his hand to ask “Is any of this based on Physics?” to which Wadhams replied “no” referring to the fact that it is collected observational data.

Although having two opposing camps adds a bit of flavour to the proceedings, what soured the taste afterwards was Schmidt’s insulting tweeting during Wadhams presentation. Probably aware that an older professor is not so likely to be microblogging during a serious conference on his main subject of expertise, Schmidt released the following tweets in reference to him:


"Some anticipation for Peter Wadhams. Audience members already crying" "Wadhams still using graphs with ridiculous projections with no basis in physics". "Wadhams now onto methane pulse of 50 GT. But no better justified than his previous statements" "Wadhams clearly states that there is no physics behind his extrapolations.”

There is no doubt that such “tweets” must resonate with his own choir of over 5800 followers on Twitter but does it add anything whatsoever to the meeting in the room? In terms of credibility alone, it should be highlighted that Wadhams has been studying the sea ice for over 40years and published over 300 papers on the subject. He has made countless voyages to both polar regions and even Prime Minister of the day, Margaret Thatcher was heard to shout out in Downing Street, “Dennis… The ICE MAN is here!”, having previously telephoned him during an expedition to the Antarctic ahead of a conference in the 1980’s. Even if Professor Wadhams was not a person of such high stature, Dr Schmidt’s treatment of him does sully a framework for finding answers to serious questions that science has always been so good at. It undermines the purpose of the meeting hosted by the Royal Society and also the reputation of his current position at Goddard (a position held by one of the most excellent and modest of climate experts we have seen, James Hansen, whom I was fortunate to meet and interview in 2012).

To conclude, the opportunity to discuss in depth the opposing views was squandered in place of a shallow and degrading barrage of Tweets. These were designed to undermine and dismiss a growing field of research that is being published around the world by many institutions such as the United Nations Environment Programme, as well the peer reviewed literature. Instead of an arena of informed and intellectual discussion, this behaviour is more akin to playground politics blended with egotistical nastiness.

On completely different level altogether, one major triumph of the event was the presentation given by Professor Jennifer Francis from Rutgers University, USA, titled, ‘The impact of Arctic sea ice loss on extreme weather’. Francis has been regularly cited by the mainstream media in recent months when we have experienced extreme weather events.  Her teams work has produced evidence linking the decline in Arctic sea ice to the changes in the oscillation of the jet stream, that delivers our weather and is now being affected by manmade climate change. Such work has been picked up by President Obama’s Chief science advisor, Dr John Holdren who is thus briefing the President. I was lucky enough to catch up with Professor Francis later in the week and conduct an interview. We’ll be posting this very shortly.


Is It Time To Start Discussing Climate Engineering?

This controvertial topic creates strong divisions of opinion about how we should plan our response to the predicted severe effects of climate change. With the Arctic sea ice collapsing at much faster rate than previously expected, is it time to start seriously discussing climate engineering to buy ourselves time to respond to the threat of climate catastrophe?
 




More posts by Nick Breeze

The jet stream is responsible for what kind of weather we experience and it’s behaviour is changing. Dr Jennifer Francis, a research professor at Rutgers University's Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, explains how a combination of factors are going to drastically impact agricultural systems in Europe and Eurasia.

It is easy to look at the fires in southern Europe and think that “global warming” is a regional problem often on someone else doorstep. This misconception could not be further from the truth because the “global” bit refers only to global mean temperature. As scientists start to look at what is happening around the world, it becomes very clear that the interconnected global system is changing for all.

 

Dr. Saleemul Huq Director International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) at the Independent University, Bangladesh. In this short interview Dr Huq talks about his work and explains how those most vulnerable to the effects of manmade climate change are seeking recompense from the worlds greatest polluters.   

 

In 2014 Marks & Spencer became the only retailer in the world with carbon neutral operations. This huge undertaking across over 1400 stores has been rewarded with international recognition by the UNFCC winning Momentumn For Change award for carbon neutrality. 

 

UK based Carbon Tracker Initiative has played a key role showing big businesses, including fossil fuel companies, a route out of the business as usual high CO2 emitting path that is driving humanity towards catastrophe. Anthony Hobley has been at COP23 telling delegates “we are in a technology driven low carbon energy transition” and changing course “just makes financial sense”. NICK BREEZE catches up with him.

Nick Breeze: We are 2yrs on from Paris. Are we making any progress at the COP?

 

Earlier this week Environment Minister Michael Gove stated that he was convinced “climate change is a danger”, stating that it “is one of the biggest threats and challenges to biodiversity in the UK”.

By localising the issue to the UK, Gove seeks to belittle the global risk posed by climate change. This week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief science adviser and founding director of the Potsdam Institute, Professor Schellnhuber was in London speaking at the Royal Society. When I asked him to respond to the Environment Minister’s comments he replied:  

In part 1 of this wide ranging interview, Anton Golub discusses why the world needs Lykke, the truth about financial regulators and why only 1% Initial Coin Offerings (ICO’s) they assess make it onto the exchange.

Anton Golub: The core vision of Lykke is the vision of Richard Olsen, the founder of Lykke. I am a cofounder. I met him seven years ago when I joined him for an internship.

I sat down to eat my croissant and he sat down next to me and said: “Anton, we have to completely  change the financial system. It totally doesn’t work. Everything is broken inside.”