Sea Ice Loss 2012: What Do The Records Mean?

 

Labor Day 2012 was celebrated—if that is the word—with new record lows for the Arctic sea ice in virtually every sea ice dataset, be it ice extent, area, or volume; be it satellite or re-analysis-based; be it Danish, American, or Japanese. And those lows have kept getting lower.

Actually, the new record lows had begun to appear on August 17th, when the University of Bremen sea ice extent chart dipped below its previous all-time low. August 17th is shockingly early; the annual minimum typically falls somewhere in mid-September, and that is naturally when records are set. To see records fall a month earlier than that gave many observers serious pause.

The shock has generated some headlines—probably less than merited, but still more than enough to puzzle many folks. After all, the Arctic Ocean is very far away from most of us; how can the exact amount of ice covering it matter?

Put another way, do the new records really mean anything?

Part One

It helps to know a bit of the history. The sea ice has been declining since 1979, when we began to use satellites to monitor it. The decline was relatively slow at first, but by 2005 had become more pronounced; in that year, the minimum reached a surprising low of about 5.3 million square kilometers. Compare that to the lowest extent in the first ten years—6.4 million, observed in 1984.

Still, projections were that there would be Arctic sea ice year-round at least for the balance of the 21st century, if not longer.

Then came the minimum of 2007. That year turned out to be a 'perfect storm' for ice melt—warm temperatures, frequent clear skies to allow in lots of solar energy, and wind patterns favorable for moving ice out into the North Atlantic, all combined to shatter the record low extent of 2005, with an unprecedented 4.25 million square kilometers.

October 2007 Arctic Sea Ice report, NSIDC.
October 2007 Arctic Sea Ice report, NSIDC.
Dr. Jay Zwally.  Image courtesy NASA.
Dr. Jay Zwally. Image courtesy NASA.

Scientists studying the ice were stunned. Dr. Walter Serreze, shaken out of scientific reticence, spoke of a sea ice "death spiral." Dr. Jay Zwally pointed out that such a rate of annual loss, if continued year on year, would result in an ice-free Arctic by 2012!

But Dr. Zwally did not predict that such a rate would necessarily be sustained—and it wasn’t. 2007 remained the 'record low minimum' year—until now.

(2011 was a partial exception. There are several organizations measuring the ice, using different combinations of satellite sensors, definitions, and software "algorithms" to arrive at their numbers, and one metric had 2011 slightly lower than 2007. Call it a “split title” for that year.)

Annual sea ice minimum extent, per University of Bremen data.  Graph by L. Hamilton.
Annual sea ice minimum extent, per University of Bremen data. Graph by L. Hamilton.

The persistence of the 2007 record encouraged some people to believe that the ice was 'recovering.' 2007, they argued, was a fluke, a 'one-off' event that would not be repeated. All the ice needed was some time, and things would be back to normal.

Others pointed out that while 2007 was indeed exceptional, it was not an isolated event, but part of a clear longer-term trend of declining sea ice. Weather strongly affects sea ice extents each year, so there will always be a strong ‘randomness’ in the extents. It was not to be expected, then, that every single year would set a new record, and the gains in minimum extent following 2007 were not large enough to provide evidence of real recovery.

One could spend many words on the back-and-forth arguments between the two camps. But this year it became moot. The world saw records set--dramatically lower ones. The old marks from 2007 were not just eclipsed, they were (metaphorically) obliterated. The extent as of this writing is just over 3.6 million square kilometers—about half of typical values in the early 1980s—and still falling. No sane mind can argue any longer that the decline stopped in 2007.

The Cryosphere Today annual sea ice area minima.  Graph courtesy L. Hamilton.
The Cryosphere Today annual sea ice area minima. Graph courtesy L. Hamilton.

The acceleration of the melt this year was aided somewhat by an exceptional Arctic cyclone which, as one amateur observer pointed out, 'put the ice in a blender.' Some have attempted to blame this year’s stunning decline on that storm and not on the long-term trend. But others have pointed out that the storm, though it did accelerate the decline, did not change the overall slope on the season’s sea ice trend graphs. In fact, you would be hard pressed to tell when the storm occurred by looking at those graphs.

Great Arctic Cyclone of 2012, observed from orbit.  Image courtesy NASA.
Great Arctic Cyclone of 2012, observed from orbit. Image courtesy NASA.

What, then, was responsible for the decline? Not the weather. The weather patterns seen in 2012 were not like the ‘perfect storm’ conditions of 2007. Several times in the season, weather patterns occurred which in the past had slowed melt considerably, leading to predictions of reduced ice loss rates. Yet in 2012, the melt continued quite unhindered. Why?

The answer is not yet clear. But it may well be simple thinning of the Arctic ice. Sensing the ice extent or area from orbit is not simple, but sensing its thickness is harder still. Yet what information on ice thickness we do have suggests a persistent trend toward thinner ice. Thinner ice transmits more energy and is mechanically more fragile than thicker ice. Both factors make it more susceptible to melt. And of course there is simply less of it to melt in the first place. In 2012, the theory goes, a great deal of ice had simply thinned enough that adverse melting weather was not enough to save it.

In any case, the dramatic new records are a powerful indication that the 'alarmists' were correct. The ice has not been recovering in any meaningful way. Dr. Serreze's "death spiral" continues.

So, the records matter because they demonstrate—powerfully!—the continuing decline of the sea ice. And the numbers are getting closer and closer to zero. (For more detail on how sea ice is measured see A Love Story And A Clearance Sale.)

A portion of the Northwest Passage opens up, August 3, 2012.  Image courtesy NASA.
A portion of the Northwest Passage opens up, August 3, 2012. Image courtesy NASA.

Part Two

But this raises another question: what does the sea ice decline itself mean? What consequences are likely to follow from an ice-free Arctic? If we are to mourn the loss of the sea ice, for whom and what does the mourning bell toll?

Most obvious are the consequences for the Arctic environment. The sea ice is in itself a wildlife habitat. Its loss will be devastating for polar bears and seals, as well as less charismatic creatures depending on it. We cannot yet predict everything that a serious population crash of bears and seals will do, but consequences there will be.

Ringed seal on the ice near Svalbard.  Image courtesy M. Buschmann and Wikimedia Commons.
Ringed seal on the ice near Svalbard. Image courtesy M. Buschmann and Wikimedia Commons.

As an analogy, no-one expected that bringing wolves back to Yellowstone would restore the riverbank vegetation of the area—which means that, even today, we could not predict that the loss of the wolf populations would lead to serious degradations of the riverbanks and their vegetation. Yet it did. Wolves, like polar bears, are 'top predators' in their respective environments. So what will the loss of the bears do?

A beaver dam in Yellowstone Park, 2005--beaver colonies rose from 1 to 12 during the 15 years from the reintroduction of wolves.  Image courtesy Richard Wang & Wikimedia Commons.
A beaver dam in Yellowstone Park, 2005--beaver colonies rose from 1 to 12 during the 15 years from the reintroduction of wolves. Image courtesy Richard Wang & Wikimedia Commons.

A crash of bear and seal populations is a bad thing in itself. But it is also bad news for the indigenous population, currently about 150,000 strong in North America, with 50,000 more in Greenland, and possibly another 140,000 in Eurasia.

Innuit seal hunter, ca. 1995.  Image courtesy Ansgar Walk and Wikimedia Commons.
Innuit seal hunter, ca. 1995. Image courtesy Ansgar Walk and Wikimedia Commons.

Speaking to the North American case, food imported from the South is extremely expensive—for example, four liters of milk cost $12.95 (Canadian) in Nunavut in June 2012, nearly three times the price in Southern Canada. Unsurprisingly, many Northerners still rely on 'country food' as much as possible. And hunting is also an important source of both cash income and cultural meaning. So loss of seal populations, or loss of practical access to them due to deteriorating ice conditions, would be a devastating economic and cultural blow.

The bell tolls for Inuit, Yupiat, and other Arctic peoples.

The physical environment is already being degraded, too. The warming already seen has brought serious problems with coastal erosion—problems serious enough to threaten the relocation of entire communities.

And permafrost—formerly an excellent foundation for buildings of all sorts—is increasingly melting, destabilizing or destroying existing buildings and raising design and construction costs for new ones. As we shall see in a moment, ice loss will reinforce the existing warming trend, worsening both of these problems.

Shoreline erosion in the Arctic.  Image courtesy NASA.
Shoreline erosion in the Arctic. Image courtesy NASA.

But ice loss will also affect southerners. It means more warming not only over the Arctic, but over the whole northern hemisphere, at least. Less ice to melt means that heat coming into the Arctic can raise temperatures more markedly. More exposed sea water means more sunlight absorbed to warm the oceans, and more evaporation to increase water vapor in the air. (Since water vapor is an excellent greenhouse gas, more of it translates to more warming.) And warmer air can hold more water vapor.

Marine observations of specific humidity, 1971-2011.  Image courtesy NOAA.
Marine observations of specific humidity, 1971-2011. Image courtesy NOAA.

Arctic greenhouse gases are not limited to water vapor, though. The melting permafrost mentioned above often liberates significant amounts of methane. Methane has also been observed bubbling up from numerous Arctic lakes, and even from the waters of the Arctic Ocean itself. Arctic methane concentrations have risen markedly in recent years, and now exceed 1,000 parts per billion. Since methane is a potent greenhouse gas, further methane increases will heighten the warming observed already.

In short, sea ice loss means warming both in the Arctic, and beyond it.

Dr. Katey Anthony flares a methane seep in an Alaskan lake.  Dr. Anthony has identified over 100,000 methane sources.  Image captured from Youtube video.
Dr. Katey Anthony flares a methane seep in an Alaskan lake. Dr. Anthony has identified over 100,000 methane sources. Image captured from Youtube video.

The mourning bell, then, also rings for the climatic status quo. But not only in its thermal aspect. Arctic warming also changes circulation—as Dr. Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University recently asked rhetorically, "How can it not?"

Dr. Jennifer Francis, photographed in a marine scientist's natural habitat.  Image courtesy Rutgers.
Dr. Jennifer Francis, photographed in a marine scientist's natural habitat. Image courtesy Rutgers.

Yet it is easier to be confident that it will change circulation, than it is to predict just how. Still, preliminary answers may be emerging in research by Dr. Francis and others—and emerging, perhaps, not only in scientific papers, but in headlines, the greater economy, and ultimately in people's lives.

For it seems likely that the lessening of the difference between Arctic temperatures and those at lower latitudes brings a weakening of the Jet Stream. This, in turn, makes the Jet Stream 'meander' more widely, bringing cold air further south and warm air further north than was typical in the past. Cold outbreaks in temperate zones—such as the cold winters experienced in Europe and Eastern North America in 2009 and 2010—seem to belie the overall warming trend, even as the Arctic sees 'heatwaves' beyond what the trend would lead one to expect.

The "Warm Arctic, Cold Continents" pattern, with emphasis on the role of the North Atlantic Oscillation.  Image by Eric Sorenson, Chief Meteorologist, WREX 13, Rockford, Ill, 2009.
The "Warm Arctic, Cold Continents" pattern, with emphasis on the role of the North Atlantic Oscillation. Image by Eric Sorenson, Chief Meteorologist, WREX 13, Rockford, Ill, 2009.

In the scientific language of Overland et al. (2011):

Winter 2009/10 and December 2010 showed a unique connectivity between the Arctic and more southern weather patterns when the typical polar vortex was replaced [leading to] record snow and low temperatures, [and] a warm Arctic-cold continents pattern.

Further, the more meandering Jet Stream seems to have ridges and troughs that move more slowly. Weather conditions become more persistent. Lows keep raining over the same areas, bringing floods—an effect heightened by the global increase in atmospheric water content observed over the last couple of decades. Highs sit over the same regions for weeks, bringing warm dry weather that bakes soils and shrivels crops—just as the American Midwest experienced in 2012.

The meandering jet stream.  Image courtesy NASA.
The meandering jet stream. Image courtesy NASA.

This connection is not yet confirmed. But if it is correct, then the decline of the sea ice may mean that you pay more for food—insured crop losses to US agriculture as a result of the 2012 drought are estimated at around $20 billion, and corn and soy prices have more than doubled. Further increases are expected over the coming months, and may be global in scale, according to some analysts.

So the mourning bell may be ringing for everyone’s food budget.

US drought, 2012.  Image courtesy Al Jazeera English and Wikimedia Commons.
US drought, 2012. Image courtesy Al Jazeera English and Wikimedia Commons.

If so, it is appropriate; the primary threat of climate change generally is not just to exotic fauna, to built infrastructure, or even to agriculture—it is to food security itself. The Arctic has been described as the ‘canary in the coal mine’ for climate change, because the long-known phenomenon of "Arctic amplification" has meant that warming there far exceeds warming elsewhere.

So if the quintessentially Arctic phenomenon of sea ice loss turns out to be increasing food prices in 2012, it would be a fitting omen of the food security effects we expect increasingly extreme weather to produce.

Global food prices 1990-2012.  Image courtesy FAO.
Global food prices 1990-2012. Image courtesy FAO.
John Dunne, Meditation 17, Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions.  (Line division and punctuation adjusted by author.)
John Dunne, Meditation 17, Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions. (Line division and punctuation adjusted by author.)

More by this Author


Comments 40 comments

Doc Snow profile image

Doc Snow 4 years ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA Author

Thanks for reading this Hub!

Do you care about these record lows? Why, or why not?

I'd love to hear more...


Phil Plasma profile image

Phil Plasma 4 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

I've read more about this in other places, you've done a stunning job of bringing it all together.

Of course, it is far too late now for anything to be done about it. We need to learn how to live with the consequences. If I had 103 million dollars I know what I would do.

Voted up and interesting.


Anderlan 4 years ago

You could have gone on. Higher food prices leads to political instability, in the most unstable places first. That means war and human suffering.

The defenders of fossil carbon are protecting one industry at the expense of all of humanity. It's fossil carbon idolatry.


Doc Snow profile image

Doc Snow 4 years ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA Author

Thanks, Phil. A great resource if you want to follow sea-ice related topics in more detail is Neven's Arctic Sea Ice Blog--but perhaps you already know it? ;-)

I do believe you are right that it's too late now to avoid the near-complete loss of summer sea ice. But there's always the difference between bad and worse; perhaps we can avoid losing it year-round, too. And there's a big, big difference between, say, 3 C global mean warming, which would be devastating to our economy and culture, and 12 C, which could actually make large swathes of formerly habitable lands inhospitable to all large mammals (including humans, of course.) See:

http://phys.org/news192206610.html

So we need to figure out how to adapt and survive, as well as continuing to try to reduce emissions.

Anderian, you are right. There's lots more--and, I'm sure, will be. This won't be my last Hub on the topic of climate change (Fortune willing, of course...)

Oddly enough, I've also summarized a book by legendary Canadian journalist Gwynn Dyer which looks at some of the impacts you mention in your comment:

https://letterpile.com/books/Climate-Wars-A-Review...


P. Orin Zack 4 years ago

Thanks for this cogent explanation of how things are connected. In talking to people about climate change, I find that there's a disconnect between something so far away, and what they see around them. Not everyone thinks in terms of systems, and those who do not cannot easily understand why they should even care. That's why I think we need to develop a set of narratives that relate one thing to the next, eventually reaching to the listener's experience. This piece does part of that job, but as another commenter has noted, the narrative has to go much further, because the far-reaching effects of this encompass just about everything on the planet. (I write short stories to sneak ideas into people's minds through narrative.)


Doc Snow profile image

Doc Snow 4 years ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA Author

Thanks, Orin--I think your comment is shrewd.

Where can we read your stories?


Hendrika profile image

Hendrika 4 years ago from Pretoria, South Africa

Thanks for the trouble you took with this Hub. I have to say it is scary and then the politicians still argue that it is not serious yet and everyone wants the next guy to do something before they will do something


Doc Snow profile image

Doc Snow 4 years ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA Author

It is scary to see how far gone the ice is. And it is tempting but fruitless to get caught up in how much time we have already wasted in addressing this problem.

I hope that, as a society, we are starting to wake up. It's certainly not too soon.


Frank Knarf 4 years ago

Judith Curry has a two part post on this topic up at her site.


Doc Snow profile image

Doc Snow 4 years ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA Author

Thanks, Frank, I'll have to check that out.


Phil L 4 years ago

Good article. The John Donne quote is appropriate ... no-one is an island.


Doc Snow profile image

Doc Snow 4 years ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA Author

Thanks, Phil. I wondered if it was a bit over the top...


nicomp profile image

nicomp 4 years ago from Ohio, USA

"The sea ice has been declining since 1979, when we began to use satellites to monitor it. "

Sigh.


Doc Snow profile image

Doc Snow 4 years ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA Author

Indeed, nicomp. By the way, I was enjoying a beautiful corner of your state just yesterday, as we traveled through.


nicomp profile image

nicomp 4 years ago from Ohio, USA

So, we have 33 years of ice-melting records and because of that we are in a 'global panic?'


i scribble profile image

i scribble 4 years ago

You have some of the best articles I've seen on the climate crisis--well researched and comprehensive. As you point out, we can't learn to adapt except on a very short-term basis, because there's no end point for global warming; it gets worse and worse until we all die out--unless we start fighting it aggressively. Since governments won't deal with it, we need global citizen activism. Do you agree?

Please be the first to comment on my new climate crisis poem, While I Slept. ( a sneak approach, like Orin's)


Doc Snow profile image

Doc Snow 4 years ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA Author

"So, we have 33 years of ice-melting records and because of that we are in a 'global panic?'"

No, nicomp, the ice is 80% gone in 33 years, and because of that we *should* be in a panic. But most of us apparently prefer to contemplate Paul Ryan's workout plan instead.

i scribble, thank you so much for that comment! Yes, I do think that we need citizen activism. (Though some governments are taking action that is not totally inadequate, and I think more will follow as the reality and magnitude of the crisis becomes clearer to more people.) James Hansen is a great role model in this regard.

Can't wait to check out your piece!


Doc Snow profile image

Doc Snow 4 years ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA Author

Hey, nice piece! Those who, like me, want to i scribble's poem out can find it here:

http://hubpages.com/literature/While-I-Slept


nicomp profile image

nicomp 4 years ago from Ohio, USA

"No, nicomp, the ice is 80% gone in 33 years, and because of that we *should* be in a panic. But most of us apparently prefer to contemplate Paul Ryan's workout plan instead."

Sorry, no panic. If the ice is 80% gone and you think 'we' did it, then it's too late to panic about it.

If common sense prevails and we realize that 33 years is a trivial sample when compared to the many melt/freeze cycles that have come and gone, then it never mattered anyway.

Paul Ryan's workout plan has more effect on me than 33 years of ice data, and Paul Ryan's workout plan has no effect on me at all.


Doc Snow profile image

Doc Snow 4 years ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA Author

nicomp, the data may not have any effect on you. But the changes coming down the pike will. The decline we are seeing is not just 'another cycle,' as you are determined to believe. It's unlike anything seen in recent millennia, as far as study of climate proxies can determine:

"...ice loss appears to be unmatched over at least the last few thousand years and unexplainable by any of the known natural variabilities."

(Polyakov et al., 2010, "History of Sea Ice In The Arctic.")

So, yes, the evidence is that 'we did it.'

And it may indeed be too late for the sea ice, but that doesn't mean that we say blithely, "Oh, well, too bad." Because it can still get a lot worse from there; there is a big difference between 2 C of warming and 6 C. Unfortunately, the latter is entirely possible, if we don't begin to take this problem a lot more seriously than we have so far.


nicomp profile image

nicomp 4 years ago from Ohio, USA

Polyakov et al., 2010, "History of Sea Ice In The Arctic." says:

"...ice loss appears to be unmatched over at least the last few thousand years and unexplainable by any of the known natural variabilities."

Keyword = "appears"

==================================

Let me also quote from the same publication...

"Although existing records are far from complete,..."

"...and changes in extent and thickness on inter-annual and longer time scales. These changes, while driven by climate,..."

"If the multi-model mean sea-ice trend is assumed to bear reasonable representation of change forced by increased concentrations of greenhouse gases..."

===================================

:)


Doc Snow profile image

Doc Snow 4 years ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA Author

That's called 'scientific reticence.' The principle is to be upfront about the limitations of date, analysis methods, or conclusions. And, unfortunately, it's a principle often abused, as you have just done, to attempt to sow doubt by exaggerating the significance of whatever caveats may be given. You have chosen to quote cautions but not conclusions. The conclusions are, in order:

"...they indicate that sea ice became a feature of the Arctic by 47 Ma, following a pronounced decline in atmospheric pCO2 after the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Optimum, and consistently covered at least part of the Arctic Ocean for no less than the last 13–14 million years."

IOW ("in other words"), though knowledge is not perfect, there is good reason to think that the recent decline is very unusual.

"...themselves affect atmospheric and hydrographic conditions in high latitudes on various time scales..."

IOW, sea ice changes affect Arctic conditions generally.

"...then 33–38% of the observed September trend from 1953 to 2006 is externally forced, and that percentage increases to 47–57% from 1979 to 2006, when both the model mean and observed trend are larger. Although this analysis argues that natural variability has strongly contributed to the observed trend, Stroeve et al. (2007) concluded that, as a group, the models underestimate the sensitivity of sea-ice cover to forcing by greenhouse gases."

IOW, one-third to two-thirds of the decline is due to GHGs under the assumption you quote, but it's quite possible that the assumption is wrong and that the real figure is higher.

I would note that you have provided exactly zero evidentiary support for your point of view. You've picked nits and implied that there's nothing to worry about since it's 'only 33 years of records.' Read Polyakov et al through; count the bibliography citations and consider the points made by each. It's a 'review article,' which means it summarizes the existing scientific literature, so it will give you a pretty good picture of what we do and don't know. There's a PDF pre-print here:

http://www.geo.umass.edu/faculty/jbg/Pubs/Polyak%2...

You might also want to consider the predictive record of the so-called 'skeptics'--people like Steve Goddard, Joe Bastardi and Anthony Watts. While climate models have failed to capture the rate of sea ice decline observed in the real world, at least they got the 'sign' right: they have consistently predicted that there would be a decline like that seen, just much slower.

The faux skeptics, on the other hand, have consistently predicted a recovery that has stubbornly refused to manifest itself. They've claimed that the record melt of 2005 was a fluke, and the ice would soon recover; that the record melt of 2007 was a 'wind-driven' fluke, and the ice would soon recover; and now that the record melt of 2012 was 'balanced' by 'record-high Antarctic sea ice.' (Well, it did eke out a record high, but it's not even close to providing a 'balance,' if you do the math.) At least they didn't call it a 'fluke' again; but it seems some at least still expect a miraculous death-bed recovery of the sea-ice.

Like they say on the street, "It ain't gonna happen." I wish it were otherwise, but we are probably stuck with it. We are not, however, stuck with 7-10 degrees F warming over the US, which is what we might get by the end of the present century. Note the differences laid out in this map:

http://www.globalchange.gov/HighResImages/2-Nation...

The larger report can be found here:

http://www.globalchange.gov/publications/reports/s...


nicomp profile image

nicomp 4 years ago from Ohio, USA

"scientific reticence" is code for "ain't sure." No scientist is reticent unless they have to be.

I get a kick out of your "7-10 degrees F warming over the US" comment... that's a big range, leaving you sufficient wiggle room to say "even if it's on the low side, we're still doomed. "

By the way, is that 7-10 degrees or warming every day or just in the Summer? Is it in all 50 states or just the continental US, or just the rust belt where we belched out the most pollution? Anyway, keep saying it and eventually people will start to believe it's true: it worked for Communism.


Doc Snow profile image

Doc Snow 4 years ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA Author

Scientists are careful to be precise and not to over-claim. And 'not sure' is not the same as 'no idea.'

7-10 F would be an annual average, and would refer to the continental US.

And it's my hope that you and others will consider these arguments on their merits, not just because I'm forced to repeat them. (Though I know what you mean: for instance, sheer repetition managed to convince quite a few folks that there 'must' have been some kind of wrong-doing revealed by the so-called 'Climategate' hack.)


P. Orin Zack 4 years ago

Hi again, Doc. I'd forgotten to check back after posting to see if you'd replied. Anyway, you can find my stories at OpEdNews, and Open.Salon, but my home base is my short story blog: http://klurgsheld.wordpress.com


Doc Snow profile image

Doc Snow 4 years ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA Author

Thanks! I hope a lot of people check it out. So far, I've just read one story, but I'll be back for more!


Doc Snow profile image

Doc Snow 4 years ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA Author

{comments deleted}

OK, guys, I'm making the judgment call that my readers aren't especially interested in presumptive description of the personal qualities of other commenters.


nicomp profile image

nicomp 4 years ago from Ohio, USA

Doc, I agree. Thanks.


jonnycomelately profile image

jonnycomelately 4 years ago from Tasmania

Doc, your hub here is so important. I like the scientific honesty. Thank you.


nicomp profile image

nicomp 4 years ago from Ohio, USA

I am more sincere.


Doc Snow profile image

Doc Snow 4 years ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA Author

jc, thank you. It's tempting to 'puff' things if you believe, as I do, that we have a serious problem on our hands. But if you succumb, it's a high price in integrity and in credibility. (As an amateur, I have little enough of the latter in the first place...)

nicomp--??


taylorguss profile image

taylorguss 3 years ago from Virginia

Great article, very comprehensive and engaging. Have you read Barbara Kingsolver's "Flight Behavior"? A great novel to read in relation to human denial in relation to climate change.


Doc Snow profile image

Doc Snow 3 years ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA Author

Thanks for the kind words, Taylor--and for the tip. I'll have to look up "Flight Behavior."


jonnycomelately profile image

jonnycomelately 3 years ago from Tasmania

I have just returned to Australia after 2 months stay in Haiti. I was saddened by all the pollution caused by badly maintained vehicles of all kinds, pumping out exhaust fumes into the environment.

The huge amount of fuel required to lift an airliner off the tarmac, repeated thousands of times each day adds to the worlds load of greenhouse gases.

The industrial use of electrical power in the supply and servicing of airport facilities would be another significant addition to pollution and the over-use of finite resources.

If anyone imagines all of this, and more, is not contributing to our global demise, then maybe they have their heads in the sand.


Doc Snow profile image

Doc Snow 3 years ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA Author

Creating a sustainable energy economy is no small task--and after several years during which renewable energy capacity grew by leaps and bounds (though from a very small base), we seem to be in a situation where unconventional gas and oil are on the increase. That's thanks in no small part to the fact that they still get a free pass on the pollution costs that they create, in effect subsidizing them. Ideally, the owners of those badly-maintained vehicles you mention would have incentives to avoid polluting our shared atmosphere.

There are a few places where carbon pollution costs: British Columbia has a carbon tax, and California's cap-and-trade plan just began. Of course, the EU has had a cap-and-trade plan for several years, though apparently they overdid the free allowances at the front end. We'll have to watch what happens with these plans as we look for ways to ameliorate the terrible mess we are creating for ourselves.


nicomp profile image

nicomp 3 years ago from Ohio, USA

"Creating a sustainable energy economy is no small task"

Actually it's impossible. Economies can't be created.


nicomp profile image

nicomp 3 years ago from Ohio, USA

"we seem to be in a situation where unconventional gas and oil are on the increase."

Hallelujah . Let's use up the cheapest energy and move on. The rest of the world is already doing that. Germany found out the hard way that nationalized solar is a disaster. http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/proble...


Doc Snow profile image

Doc Snow 3 years ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA Author

Problems don't mean "disaster"--and, as a side note, Germany's solar is not "nationalized." There's a subsdized feed-in tariff, true, but the infrastructure is privately developed and held, and operated for profit (mostly.)

For a more up-to-date assessment--noting both problems and continued development of both wind and solar, with capacity running ahead of targets--see this:

http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/artic...

I would say that this is precisely what the "creation of a sustainable energy economy" looks like--and, in part, why it is "no small task."

As to the "cheapest energy," all fossil fuels come with huge unaccounted costs--an enormous subsidy for them, paid by all of us, and increasingly by our kids. It's easy to see the financial debt that we are piling up (and failing to deal with), but the environmental debt will make it seem like small potatoes, if we keep going the way we are.


jonnycomelately profile image

jonnycomelately 3 years ago from Tasmania

I would also suggest, from knowledge gained in Haiti, that we need a fair economical system in order to surmount all our energy and food problems.

In Haiti, if you simply ask the average person to live more "environmentally," or more "sustainably," they might go along with you, if YOU are doing all the work and putting in all the thought/development ideas. But then, in many cases, once you step away they will not be interested in carrying on after you. They will not see any incentive for themselves, individually.

If we worked up a economy that promotes a flow-on of cash value, all the way along the line, from resource to end-user product, and make sure that every one gets paid their fair due, then we would hardly see a "waste product" at all.

For example, the collection of P.E.T. bottles and containers has already been started. You see large sacks of the collected bottles, on the side of the main road, waiting to be picked up by a truck. Persons go along picking up the bottles, and getting paid for what they supply. I don't know how much, but if it's not regulated in some way I bet they don't get very much. However, it's a start.

The remaining plastic waste, like small water sachets, bags of all sizes and colours, torn sheets of polythene, etc., gets left. It accumulates, along with other compostable garbage, in heaps at every niche in the road. Ultimately it gets washed down and down and eventually into the rivers and ocean, where marine life is the victim.

If uses, like have been/are being tried in India and Argentine, could be found locally, within Haiti, with a cash value all the way along the line, then gradually you would see no plastic garbage on the streets.

Since there is obviously a health hazard arising within that street garbage, it will have to be picked up be mechanical means, sanitized, and shredded. But if the people who can finance such a scheme are really honest and fair, and looking to the longer term, they will ensure that all who work within the industry get their fair share.

I am not saying everyone gets the same amount, in a "socialist" set-up. A little bit of the "more I do the more I'll get" incentive must be built into it.


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Doc Snow 3 years ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA Author

Thanks for sharing that perspective, johnny. Clearly, your trip provided some good food for thought. And maybe a new Hub or three--?

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