Arctic Ice Death Spiral

UPDATE POSTED February 15.  Scientists Confirm: Arctic Sea Ice ‘Collapse’ at Our Door. Warming planet and new evidence portends future of ice-free Arctic. Arctic sea ice volume in 1000s of cubic kilometers. The Arctic Sea is experiencing rapid ice loss at a pace so fast that the area will soon be ice-free in warmer months — showing a collapse in total sea ice volume to one fifth of its level in 1980.

ARCTIC ICE IN DEATH SPIRAL by Stephen Leahy September 20, 2010 by Inter Press ServiceUXBRIDGE, Canada – Carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels have now melted the Arctic sea ice to its lowest volume since before the rise of human civilisation and dangerously upset the energy balance of the entire planet, climate scientists report.

Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in the U.S. City of Boulder, Colorado told IPS. “I stand by my previous statements that the Arctic summer sea ice cover is in a death spiral. It’s not going to recover.”

There can be no recovery because tremendous amounts of extra heat are added every summer to the region as more than 2.5 million square kilometres of the Arctic Ocean have been opened up to the heat of the 24-hour summer sun. A warmer Arctic Ocean not only takes much longer to re-freeze, it emits huge volumes of additional heat energy into the atmosphere, disrupting the weather patterns of the northern hemisphere. Trapping all that additional heat has impacts and those will grow in the future.

If the global average temperature increases from the present 0.8 C to two degrees C, as seems likely, the entire Arctic region will warm at least four to six degrees and possibly eight degrees due to a series of processes and feedbacks called Arctic amplification. “I hate to say it but I think we are committed to a four- to six-degree warmer Arctic,” Serreze said.

If the Arctic becomes six degrees warmer, half the world’s permafrost will likely thaw, probably to a depth of a few metres, releasing most of the carbon and methane accumulated there over thousands of years, said Vladimir Romanovsky of the University of Alaska in Fairbanks and a world expert on permafrost. Methane is a global warming gas approximately 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2).

There are no good estimates of how much CO2 and methane is being released. “Methane is always there anywhere you drill through the permafrost,” Romanovsky noted.

Much of the permafrost thaw would happen at the beginning of a massive 50-year meltdown because of rapid feedbacks. Emissions of CO2 and methane from thawing permafrost are not factored into the global climate models and it will be several years before this can be done.

Present pledges by governments to reduce emissions will still result in a global average temperature increase of 3.5 to 3.9 C by 2100, according to the latest analysis. That would result in an Arctic that’s 10 to 16 degrees C warmer, releasing most of the permafrost carbon and methane and unknown quantities of methane hydrates.

This why some climate scientists are calling for a rapid phaseout of fossil fuels, recommending that fossil fuel emissions peak by 2015 and decline three per cent per year. But even then there’s still a 50-percent probability of exceeding two degrees C current studies show. If the emissions peak is delayed until 2025, then global temperatures will rise to three degrees C, the Arctic will be eight to 10 degrees warmer and the world will lose most its permafrost.

Meanwhile, a new generation of low-cost, thin-film solar roof and outside wall coverings being made today has the potential to eliminate burning coal and oil to generate electricity, energy experts believe – if governments have the political will to fully embrace green technologies. Read more:


The Selling of America


ELIZABETH WARREN IN OFFICE – BUT NOT IN POWER Banksters Cheer Tepid Rules on Anniversary of Lehman’s Fall by Danny Schechter September 20, 2010 by

“This sounds so bleak when I say it, but we need some delusions to keep us going.”
— Woody Allen in the New York Times

“The former chairman of Lazard in London who is now chairman of Barclays, once said that the only two things that would survive a nuclear war were cockroaches and Lazard.  On the evidence of the past few years, he underestimated the tenacity of the rest of the investment banking industry” — William Wright, Editor, Financial News, London

Hooray, Elizabeth Warren is to become a Special Assistant to President Obama in charge of setting up the Consumer Protection Bureau that she conceived. Alas, it is not to be the independent agency she wanted but a bureau within the Federal Reserve Bank, a branch of government that is really run by big banks which did virtually nothing to protect consumers when they needed help the most.

She is not in the job she deserves but a post in the Executive Branch under Obama’s control and with oversight by Tim Geithner, Larry Summers, and Rahm Emanuel et al. (The White House worries that they could not win a protracted confirmation battle.)

So she’s in, but hardly in charge, or able to be an independent force.

Economics analyst Yves Smith warns, don’t believe the hype: “It is now official that Warren is at best a placeholder; she cannot have much impact. She can’t make much in the way of policy or personnel choices; that would encroach on the authority of an incoming director. And even her ability to influence the choice of a nominee is questionable. Her taking the advisory role now assures that the nomination of the permanent director will come after the midterm Congressional elections. Given the virtual certainty of Democratic losses, the odds are high that Team Obama will settle on a “conservative” meaning “won’t ruffle the banking industry” choice, and argue its hands were tied.

Most Americans don’t realize the global dimensions of the crisis and the fact that many in the world are suffering more than we are because of unchecked speculation on Wall Street. There is nothing in place that will stop a recurrence of the Lehman collapse two years ago this week. There is no real debate about whether more institutions will fail, only when.

Many of the top CEOS responsible for the loss of Trillions have landed on their feet, and are now in jobs/sinecures in new firms, and live free of any fear of prosecution. So called “conservatives” in the US are promoting austerity policies including tax cuts for the rich. Meanwhile, there is push back as 300 economists and analysts warn that the “deficit hawks” who appear to be gaining the upper hand in our economic debates are threatening to turn an already deeply painful recession into a full-blown depression.

“The experts warn that the American economy now stands at a crucial juncture. They acknowledge that public debt is mounting, and present a choice of two different ways to right the ship: impose fiscal “austerity” today, in the midst of the most serious downturn since the Great Depression, or invest in the American economy — with public spending over the short term — in order to grow our way out of the red ink.”

The alternatives are clear. Which side are you on? Denial is no longer an option.

A group called One Nation is mobilizing a march on Washington for jobs and justice on October 2. Will it be big enough and noisy enough to make a difference?

Mediachannel’s News Dissector Danny Schechter investigates the origins of the economic crisis in his new book Plunder: Investigating Our Economic Calamity and the Subprime Scandal (Cosimo Books via Amazon). Comments to READ MORE:


World Powers Tackle Climate


WORLD POWERS TO TACKLE CLIMATE AMID SKEPTICISM Monday, September 20, 2010 by Agence France Presse

NEW YORK – The 17 nations responsible for 80 percent of carbon emissions blamed for global warming will seek to unblock stalled climate negotiations this week but analysts expect little progress.

“I don’t think anyone is expecting any major announcement,” said Michael Levi, an analyst with the Council on Foreign Relations, acknowledging the Cancun meeting would likely be another stalemate.

Levi warned that a period of uncertainty could follow the November mid-term legislative elections in which Republicans are poised to retake control of the House of Representatives from Obama’s Democrats and to increase their numbers in the Senate. Last June, the House approved a bill that would launch the country’s first nationwide “cap-and-trade” system restricting carbon emissions. The Senate has yet to offer companion legislation, amid opposition from Republicans and Democrats dependent on the coal and hydrocarbon industries.

“Real change contradicts the business model of the fossil fuel industry,” environmentalist Bill McKibben said, “…the industry [is] too powerful for Congress to effectively tackle reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. He urged more global action to create a “mass movement” in support of cutting emissions.



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