Energy and global warming news for February 22: Some fifty million environmental refugees by 2020 fleeing food shortages sparked by climate change

50 million ‘environmental refugees’ by 2020, experts say

Fifty million “environmental refugees” will flood into the global north by 2020, fleeing food shortages sparked by climate change, experts warned at a major science conference that ended here Monday.

“In 2020, the UN has projected that we will have 50 million environmental refugees,” University of California, Los Angeles professor Cristina Tirado said at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

“When people are not living in sustainable conditions, they migrate,” she continued, outlining with the other speakers how climate change is impacting both food security and food safety, or the amount of food available and the healthfulness of that food.

Southern Europe is already seeing a sharp increase in what has long been a slow but steady flow of migrants from Africa, many of whom risk their lives to cross the Strait of Gibraltar into Spain from Morocco or sail in makeshift vessels to Italy from Libya and Tunisia.

The flow recently grew to a flood after a month of protests in Tunisia, set off by food shortages and widespread unemployment and poverty, brought down the government of longtime ruler Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, said Michigan State University professor Ewen Todd, who predicted there will be more of the same.

“What we saw in Tunisia — a change in government and suddenly there are a whole lot of people going to Italy — this is going to be the pattern,” Todd told AFP.

“Already, Africans are going in small droves up to Spain, Germany and wherever from different countries in the Mediterranean region, but we’re going to see many, many more trying to go north when food stress comes in. And it was food shortages that put the people of Tunisia and Egypt over the top.

“In many Middle Eastern and North African countries,” he continued, “you have a cocktail of politics, religion and other things, but often it’s just poor people saying ‘I’ve got to survive, I’ve got to eat, I’ve got to feed my family’ that ignites things.”

Environmental refugees were described in 2001 by Norman Myers of Oxford University as “a new phenomenon” created by climate change.

“These are people who can no longer gain a secure livelihood in their homelands because of drought, soil erosion, desertification, deforestation and other environmental problems, together with the associated problems of population pressures and profound poverty,” Myers wrote in a journal of Britain’s Royal Society in 2001.

“In their desperation, these people feel they have no alternative but to seek sanctuary elsewhere, however hazardous the attempt.”

Monday’s panel cited ways in which climate change has impacted food security and safety.

Warmer winters allow pests that carry plant diseases to survive over the cold months and attack crops in the spring, soil physicist Ray Knighton of the US Department of Agriculture said.

Increased rainfall — another result of climate change — when coupled with more fungal pathogens can “dramatically impact crop yield and quality,” said Knighton, adding that greenhouse gases and atmospheric pollutants have changed plant structures and reduced crops’ defenses to pests and pathogens.

A lease on solar panels? Some states pitch in

For decades, high installation costs put solar energy out of most homeowners’ reach. Now a California company is offering a way to make solar panels affordable by leasing them. But there’s a catch: Consumers won’t get to take advantage of the offer unless their home state provides incentives for clean energy.

SolarCity, a four-year-old company, leases solar panels to its customers, so they don’t have to shell out a lot of money up front to buy them. Customers often pay less for the leases and their electric bills than they used to pay for their electric bills alone.

The company is quickly spreading to more states, but only ones that are subsidizing renewable energy.

“A key thing for us when we move into a market is can we save a business or homeowner money, and if there’s no local incentive you can’t do it,” says SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive.

That explains why Maryland, which offers incentives, is among the 10 states served by SolarCity, but neighboring Virginia is not.

Environmental groups launch effort to pressure House GOP on spending votes

Environmental and public health groups aim to hold House Republicans accountable next week for voting to defund a series of key environmental initiatives.

The groups plan to dispatch staffers across the country during the Presidents Day recess week to hold rallies and press conferences in key Republican districts. The goal is to lay out what the groups see as the wide-ranging environmental and public health effects of blocking or limiting major air pollution regulations.

“There are members of the House who are OK with exposing their constituents to potentially life-threatening pollution,” said Peter Iwanowicz of the American Lung Association. “Lawmakers are totally out of step with where the voters are.”

The House approved a measure Saturday to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year that cuts current spending by $61 billion. A slew of amendments were added to the package that would block funding for key environmental regulations.

Environmental and public health groups railed against the spending bill, focusing much of their ire on an amendment sponsored by Texas Republicans Ted Poe, Joe Barton and John Carter that would block funding for the Environmental Protection Agency’s climate rules until the end of September.

EPA fight heads to Senate

House Republicans led a charge late into the night Friday against Obama administration decisions to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, block mountaintop removal mining and allow increased use of ethanol in gasoline.

The continuing resolution faces an uphill climb in the Senate and a veto threat from President Barack Obama, but the myriad votes against the administration’s energy and environmental initiatives this week will likely not be the last.

Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), chairman of the Interior-EPA Appropriations subpanel, said the strong support for riders blocking the Environmental Protection Agency will build momentum for future attempts to pass more permanent pushbacks on the agency’s regulations.

“The same thing that you see on the floor with all the people offering amendments [on EPA] is the same thing I hear out in my district,” Simpson told POLITICO. “If the issue of the EPA comes up, it dominates the rest of the conversation, and the EPA needs to know that.”

The entire debate – covering hundreds of amendments over several days – was largely anticlimactic as well-worn partisan differences ruled the day. Democrats didn’t even bother to offer amendments aimed at stripping out the Republican language trumping EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

Infant dolphin deaths spiking in Gulf after oil spill

Baby dolphins, some barely three feet in length, are washing up along the Mississippi and Alabama coastlines at 10 times the normal rate of stillborn and infant deaths, researchers are finding.

The Sun Herald has learned that 17 young dolphins, either aborted before they reached maturity or dead soon after birth, have been collected along the shorelines.

The Institute of Marine Mammal Studies is doing necropsies, animal autopsies, on two of the babies now.

Moby Solangi, director of the institute, called the numbers an anomaly and told the Sun Herald that they are significant, especially in light of the BP oil spill throughout the spring and summer last year. Millions of barrels of crude oil containing toxins and carcinogens spewed into the Gulf of Mexico. Oil worked its way into the Mississippi and Chandeleur sounds and other bays and shallow waters where dolphins breed and give birth.

This is the first birthing season for dolphins since the spill.

U.S. says a binding climate deal ‘not on cards’ this year

A legally binding accord to combat climate change “is not on the cards” at a December summit, because developing countries such as China, Brazil and India won’t commit to it, according to U.S. negotiator Todd Stern.

With developing countries unlikely to commit to reducing greenhouse gases by set targets, the U.S. will push for non- binding agreements to slow global warming, which will eventually result in a comprehensive and binding deal, Stern, President Barack Obama’s Special Envoy on Climate Change, told reporters in Johannesburg today.

The U.S. would be “perfectly comfortable with a legal agreement provided it’s legally binding with respect to all the major players and that includes China, India, Brazil, South Africa, Indonesia etc,” Stern said. “Our pretty strong impression is that it’s not on the cards yet. China, India and others are not prepared to take on that legally binding agreement yet.”

As China slashes exports of rare earth elements, U.S. mine digs for more

In the Mojave Desert just off Interstate 15 on the way to Las Vegas, workers are digging for dirt that may be worth far more than a casino full of chips.

The massive hole is about to get even bigger. Molycorp Inc., which owns the open mine, plans to dig out about 40,000 tons of dirt a year by 2014, up 1,200% from the current rate of about 3,000 tons.

The Colorado company is boosting production to meet an insatiable global appetite for rare earth elements “” minerals that have become a hot commodity because they’re used in all kinds of electronics, including smart phone touch screens, wind turbines and fuel cells.

The U.S. clean-tech industry, which relies heavily on the minerals, is elated by the stepped-up production rate, but some believe it is not coming soon enough. In recent months the industry has been in a bit of a panic as China, which produces 97% of the world’s supply of rare earths, slashed its exports to a trickle to feed its growing domestic needs.

‘Dirty’ energy dwarfs clean in China and India

Many experts agree that for the world to rein in rising greenhouse gas emissions, the galloping economies of China and India would have to figure out how to base their future economic expansion on technologies and fuels that are “cleaner” than the fossil fuels the United States and Europe used in their own industrial revolutions long ago.

We hear a lot about how China and India are becoming world leaders in clean technology, producing and installing solar factories and wind farms at a breakneck pace. Problem solved? Well, no.

A couple of developments this week underscored why we should not sleep easy: burgeoning economic growth in China and India requires tons of energy in whatever form it is available. So, yes, while China and India have become bold pioneers in clean technology, they are also enthusiastically developing new sources of the oldest, most polluting fuels. The investments in the latter often dwarf the new clean-tech commitments in terms of dollars and ambition.

The Financial Times reported this week that China and Colombia are discussing a plan to build a rail link across Colombia that could serve as an alternative to the Panama Canal. One major reason that China is pursuing the project, the newspaper notes, is that China has become a major importer of Colombian coal, and a rail link carrying it from the eastern coast to the western coast for export to Asia would remove a logistical barrier.

50 Responses to Energy and global warming news for February 22: Some fifty million environmental refugees by 2020 fleeing food shortages sparked by climate change

  1. Ominous Clouds Overhead says:

    We should’ve listened to Malthus. And Lester Brown.

  2. Bob Lang says:

    The numbers of environmental refugees we are seeing now are just the tip of the iceberg.

    Eminent Canadian ecologist Bill Rees, co-developer of the “Ecological Footprint”, said on EcoShock Radio that he expects some 200 million American refugees to flood into Canada by the latter half of this century because half of the U.S. will be uninhabitable by then. This will be on top of countless millions arriving from overseas.

  3. Lore says:

    I’m sure that the Western world at which point, suffering from their own problems as a result of climate change, will open their arms to these new refugees.

    Time to watch “Children of Men” again.

  4. Mimikatz says:

    Do India, China and Brazil understand the threats that climate change poses to their countries? Heat waves? Droughts? Rising sea levels flooding river deltas? Seems to me like they have the most (people) to lose, but I guess like so many others, they figure that will be someone else’s problem in the future.

  5. Time for a new term: Climate Diaspora

  6. Joan Savage says:

    The research labs on the food mono-crops usually manage to keep only a few months to a year or so ahead of the endlessly mutating grain rusts and and other blights. It will be a big challenge to anticipate what insects and fungi will adapt to forthcoming conditions of moisture and temperature.

  7. Prokaryotes says:

    What to you is the most compelling evidence that links cellphones to brain cancer?

    The brain cancer connection is in fact a very complicated one. Cancer can take a long time to develop. After the Hiroshima bomb fell, there was no increase in brain cancer for 10 years, even 20 years afterward. Forty years later, there was a significant increase in brain cancer in people who survived the bombing. Now, for studies of people who have been heavy cellphone users (defined as someone who has made a half-hour call a day for 10 years), there is a 50 percent increase in brain cancer overall. And among the heaviest users there’s a two- to fourfold increased risk.

    And what is the compelling evidence to suggest that cellphones might be tied to sterility in men?

    In 2008, researchers found that men with the lowest sperm counts were significantly more likely to keep their phones on their bodies all the time. And it’s been found that the sperm exposed to the highest level of radiation from the phone were the most deformed and the worst swimmers. An Australian team led by a fellow named John Aitkin believes that cellphone radiation weakens the ability of the sperm cell to swim because it’s affecting mitochondrial DNA (mitochondria are basically the engines of the cell). Very similar work was done at one of the top research institutions in Turkey, and in Poland, Hungary and India.

    It’s not the amount of radiation, necessarily. It’s the pulsed nature of the signal. It’s like: You can snap a rubber band, and it’s fine; but if you keep snapping it over and over again, it will break. Smart phones are constantly looking for signals, and it’s that sudden stopping and starting that I’m concerned about, not the total amount. There are also a number of appalling apps for smart phones that have arisen for children, that I’m really concerned about. One of them allows you to download white noise so you can then put the phone under the baby’s pillow and get the child to go to sleep. There are also children’s books that you can download to your phone, and then have the kid sit and play with them.

    But it depends on how you use your smart phones. If you keep them on and on your body you are violating the manufacturer’s recommendations and violating the exposure guidelines.

    … aggressive push-back by people affiliated with the cellphone industry against scientists whose findings point to safety concerns — including, in one case, a campaign to discredit someone’s findings by accusing them of manufacturing evidence. It’s pretty explosive stuff.

    I think it might have started out as nothing more than companies wanting to make profits, and wanting to keep their products in a positive light. Companies are allowed to make profits; I’m not opposed to that. And I imagine people genuinely thought these kinds of dangers from radiation weren’t possible, because the physics paradigm [at the time] said it wasn’t. But it has since been morphed into something worse. Now even the insurance industry is listening to scientists. Many companies are no longer providing coverage for health damage from cellphones.

    Cell phone exposure increases brain cell activity

    Researchers measured brain activity of 47 healthy adults — a small but scientifically valid size group for this type of study — while using a mobile device. The levels were tested when the phone was in use (transmitting radiation) against the head and when against the head but in the off position. Compared with subjects whose phones were turned off, the group whose phones were on had “significantly higher” brain activity in the area closest to the telephone antenna.

    The findings of the study, which examined the subjects during just one 50-minute exposure, raise a key question, the researchers said: What, if any, are the long-term consequences of repeated increased brain activity due to exposure to cell phone radiation?
    “We need to rule out that there is a not long-lasting effect in healthy people,” Volkow said. “We don’t know what repeated exposure and artificial activation of the glucose will have on the brain.”
    With nearly 300 million cell phones in use in the United States, some experts say the concern lies with not only with the long-term impact on healthy individuals but in consumers with unhealthy cells as well.

    “If someone already has brain damage and then stimulates it with electromagnetic exposure from a cell phone, it could trigger something dangerous,” Volkow said. “We cannot say with certainty that for a person with a vulnerability in the brain that radiation from a cell phone would not make it worse.”
    The effect of increased brain activity in children because of cell phone radiation is another area yet to be studied.
    The skull of a child is thinner, allowing radiation to penetrate deeper compared with that of an adult, according to Dr. Keith Black, chairman of Cedars-Sinai Hospital’s Department of Neurosurgery in Los Angeles. “Children’s cells divide at a faster rate, so the impact of radiation can be much larger, which is why we believe the pediatric population is at a higher risk.”

  8. Prokaryotes says:

    Not the best way to face the growing climate catastrophe

    Thousands of UK lives lost to drink, experts warn

    Accusing British ministers of pandering to drinks producers, leading doctors said France had seen “phenomenal success” in cutting death rates, partly by curbing availability of cheap alcohol, while in the UK, the alcohol industry and retailers “are reliant on people risking their health to provide profits.”

    In a worst-case scenario, up to 250,000 extra lives could be lost in England and Wales alone due to alcohol over the next 20 years unless tougher restrictions are introduced, they wrote in a report in The Lancet medical journal.

    “How many more people have to die from alcohol-related conditions, and how many more families devastated by the consequences before the government takes the situation as seriously as it took the dangers of tobacco,” said Ian Gilmore, the former president of the Royal College of Physicians, who co-wrote the report with Nick Sheron of Southampton University and Chris Hawkey of Nottingham University.

    “We already know from the international evidence that the main ways to reduce alcohol consumption are to increase the price and reduce the availability of alcohol, yet the government continues to discuss implementing marginal measures while ignoring this evidence.”

    According to the experts, Britain, The Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Australia, and New Zealand have similar cultures, genetic backgrounds and alcohol drinking cultures – and, until the mid-1980s, also had similar death rates from liver disease.

    Compare marijuana which is less lethal, however it is illegal in most countries but nobody cares in this fucked up capitalist world.

  9. Prokaryotes says:

    Suits Against Vaccine Makers Curbed by U.S. Supreme Court

    The U.S. Supreme Court reinforced the shield that protects drugmakers from lawsuits over vaccines, ruling against two parents who blame Pfizer Inc.’s Wyeth unit for their teen-age daughter’s seizure disorder.

  10. Robert In New Orleans says:

    As I have stated before on this blog:

    When does America start securing its border from Mexican and Central American climate refugees?

    When does Canada start securing its border from American climate refugees?

  11. Michael T. says:

    Next Step In NASA Climate Studies Set To Launch

    NASA’s next Earth-observing satellite mission, called Glory, is scheduled to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California early on the morning of Feb. 23. Glory’s observations of aerosols in Earth’s atmosphere and the sun’s irradiance will improve our understanding of climate.

  12. paulm says:

    #11 Robert, …Canada start securing its border from American climate refugees?

    Your kidding, right?

  13. Al Crawford says:

    “Mimikatz says:
    February 22, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    Do India, China and Brazil understand the threats that climate change poses to their countries? Heat waves? Droughts? Rising sea levels flooding river deltas? Seems to me like they have the most (people) to lose, but I guess like so many others, they figure that will be someone else’s problem in the future.”

    By the same token, does the United States understand the threats that climate change poses to its country?

  14. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    It’s certainly the human dimension that will precipitate the coming collapse. Long before the climate is absolutely and globally destabilised, regional catastrophes, droughts, floods, pest infestations, and food shortages then wars resulting from these disasters, will set millions moving, just to survive. And judging by the mounting hysteria of vicious racism and xenophobia being deliberately fomented by the Rightwing media and certain far Right politicians in this country, targeted at refugees and Moslems already living here as immigrants, the response of the relatively safe states will probably be violent. If the response is punitive and exclusionary, if the authorities seek to incarcerate millions, or ‘deter’ them from coming, the descent into global warfare will be swift. Already in the blogs you can bring down on your head intense and threatening abuse for simply stating that refugees arriving here in boats are human beings with rights. Imagine the internal stresses when countries are resorting to violent exclusion and the humane fraction of their populations object.

  15. Bob Lang says:

    Robert in New Orleans #11

    By that time you can forget about securing borders. It will be “every man for himself”.

    There won’t be any infrastructure to handle those kinds of refugee numbers in Canada. Roads will be blocked with abandoned vehicles. Store shelves will have been cleaned out long ago. No functioning commerce, except maybe some primitive form of barter. Unimaginable chaos. I wish Hollywood would make a special-effects movie to wake people up. I hope I’m wrong.

  16. Mickey says:

    In terms of direct refugees, I doubt it by 2020, maybe 2070 or 2080 as I suspect the warming in the next decade will be similiar or slightly greater than the less decade. Otherwise low lying areas being submerged by rising sea levels will probably happen, but not in the next 10 years, but rather next century. As for indirect refugees, that I agree with, although this is the number that will apply, not necessarily be accepted as most Western Countries are clamping down on immigration and I expect all of them save Canada (where high levels of immigration are widely supported unlike pretty much everywhere else) to making applying as refugee even more restrictive. An example I can think of is Nigeria. The North is predominately Muslim while the South Christian. The Sahara Desert is rapidly growing making the North less suitable to agriculture. As such many from there will move to the south of Nigeria. Since relations between Christians and Muslims are quite uneasy, this would probably result in a fair number of refugees so it depends on how one looks at it. Had there not been climate change, there would have been no need to migrate from the North at the same time were Muslims and Christians able to leave peacefully side by side the movement of Muslims from the North would be a non-issue thus no refugees produced.

    #2 – Highly unlikely as most Canadians live near the border whose climate is very similiar to the border states of the US. In addition even under the worse case scenario, the Northern states will still be cooler than what the Southern states are today. More likely, we will see a reverse in the direction of internal migration, otherwise South to North rather than North to South as we see now. In addition people tend hate cold winters more than hot summers and much of Canada as well as places like the Dakotas and Minnesota would still be downright cold in the winter even with a 5.8C rise in winter temperatures. One thing I think is more likely to happen is illegal immigration from Mexico will increase dramatically as you will not just get your usual economic illegal aliens, but also ones leaving due to climate change.

  17. catman306 says:

    Physical scientists probably didn’t get to study much political science I was astounded to count nearly 40 propaganda techniques that the BAU crowd has turned into a creed. Well worth a peek for the uninitiated. Or as a review.

  18. Bob Wallace says:

    “Do India, China and Brazil understand the threats that climate change poses to their countries?”

    China clearly does. And they are doing their part to reduce greenhouse gases. China has been installing non-carbon based energy systems at an outstanding rate and has closed thousands of inefficient coal-burning plants.

    In 2010 China got 26.53% of its electricity from renewables and has set a goal of 33% by 2015 with an additional goal of 500 gigawatts of renewable on their grid by 2020.

    India clearly does. It’s not progressing as quickly as China but is installing wind and solar on a large scale. They have also understood what the disappearance of Himalayan glaciers will mean to their summer water supplies and are building hundreds of dams to store monsoon water.

    Brazil, I don’t know. It does seem that they are starting to work on deforestation and switching from petroleum to biofuel.

    The US I do know. We’re, in aggregate, selfish and stupid.

    Selfish in our recognition that we are on of the top ten per capita producers of greenhouse gases but unwilling to make any sacrifices to change our lifestyles.

    And stupid enough to not understand that we are ruining the future for everyone on the planet and all those to follow.

  19. Prokaryotes says:

    Re Ziyu, the interactive presentation requires me to install JAVA. Though it is not recommended to use JAVA in at the moment …

    Oracle gives 21 (new) reasons to uninstall Java

  20. mike roddy says:

    Todd Stern has digressed to the fallback denier position of blaming it on China and India. This is facile and chickenshit.

  21. Ed Hummel says:

    One of the clearest lessons of history is that human societies will always fight to survive and those who feel threatened by others, for whatever reason, will inevitably pre-empt any perceived threat. 6 million Jews in Europe didn’t willingly go to their deaths because they simply accepted their fate, but because the Nazis overwhelmingly pre-empted anything that most Jews could do to defend themselves. And yet, when they had a chance and could get weapons, small goups of Jews did fight back such as in Warsaw and the Nazis put such uprisings down as savagely as they could because they could. This is just one of the most famous and most recent examples, but human history is filled with them. So, the future promises to be equally filled with fighting on all scales as more societies, and even individuals feel threatened enough to lash out or to fight for resources. Empty stomachs always trump ideology and civilized niceties and the world is conveniently flooded with all kinds of easy to acquire and easy to use deadly weapons. This is definitely going to be an “interesting” century.

  22. Michael T. says:

    Friday, February 18, 2011

    Record Temperatures Reach Mid-Atlantic;
    120-Year Washington, Baltimore Minimums Broken

    Temperatures soared into the 70s for the second consecutive time today in the DMV (DC/Maryland/Virginia) region. The highs of 77° at Washington National and 75° at Dulles were both new records, and the 74° at Baltimore/BWI missed the record by only 1°. The Washington high is 30° above normal.

    In addition, the morning lows were all new record high minimums. Assuming they hold through midnight, which appears to be likely, the minimums will break 120-year-old records.

    Note that these record high February temperatures, which follow a record hot summer, broke records which followed the previously warmest summer of 1980.

  23. Prokaryotes says:

    Re, #11 Robert, …Canada start securing its border from American climate refugees?

  24. paulm says:

    28 prok :)

    26 ed, …’human societies will always fight to survive and those who feel threatened by others’

    we are not at the moment fighting to survive. ‘we’ are at the moment shuffling to ensure that we don’t lose out on the wealth that was build on the limited oil resource which is now quickly depleting.

  25. paulm says:

    A 15min earthquake is many times more destructive than a season of climate extremes.

    The problem is that there maybe a link between earthquakes and global warming

    Earthquake strikes large blow to NZ economy
    A leading investment bank is estimating that there is $12 billion worth of earthquake damage in Christchurch.

  26. paulm says:

    Water pressure

    Ice melt can have an added consequence because all that melted ice has to go somewhere—namely, the ocean.

    And ice melt won’t be the only factor changing sea levels: as ocean temperatures rise, the water itself expands (a process called thermal expansion).

    As all that extra water piles up, it could apply pressure to faults near coastlines.

    “The added load of the water bends the crust, and that means that you tend to get tensional conditions in the upper part of the crust and compressional a bit lower down, just as if you bend a plank of wood or something,” McGuire explained.

    These compressional forces could push out any magma lying around underneath a volcano, triggering an eruption. (This mechanism is actually believed to be the cause of the seasonal eruptions of Alaska’s Pavlof volcano, which erupts every winter when sea levels are higher.)

    McGuire conducted a study that was published in the journal Nature in 1997 that looked at the connection between the change in the rate of sea level rise and volcanic activity in the Mediterranean for the past 80,000 years and found that when sea level rose quickly, more volcanic eruptions occurred, increasing by a whopping 300 percent.

  27. paulm says:

    Now there seems to be a link to seismic activity and el nino/la nina events.
    We also examine the relationship between the numbers of earthquakes and sea levels, as retrieved by Topex/Poseidon from October 1992 to July 2002. We observe a significant (95% confidence level) positive influence of SOI on seismicity: positive SOI values trigger more earthquakes over the following 2 to 6 months than negative SOI values. There is a significant negative influence of absolute sea levels on seismicity (at 6 months lag). We propose that increased seismicity is associated with ENSO-driven sea-surface gradients (rising from east to west) in the equatorial Pacific, leading to a reduction in ocean-bottom pressure over the EPR by a few kilopascal. This relationship is opposite to reservoir-triggered seismicity and suggests that EPR fault activity may be triggered by plate flexure associated with the reduced pressure.

    Due to this strong la nina event, tides are running higher than normal…I read that they were 6inchs higher due to this effect on the Queensland coast a few weeks back.

    These last few weeks there are King Tides. ie when the moon has some of its largest influences on the tide. (and presumable also on the earths crust) So sea levels are sloshing around very high against the west Pacific rim.

    I wounder if the seesaw effect between strong el nino/la ninas also exacerbates this phenomena…we have just had this recently and we have seen major earthquake in Chile and now in New Zealand. Also intensifying seismic and volcanic activity north in the Asian basin.

    All very striking.

  28. paulm says:

    Now this all highlights another potential positive feedback mechanism…

    as we start to get more seismic activity and tsunamis due to climate change we could be seeing the destabilizing of methane clathrates directly as a result. They could be literally shaken out.

    Conceivably there could also be a direct effect on the tundra as well.

    Not good.

  29. Michael T. says:

    Welcome to the Anthropocene

    There’s nothing like looking at a timeline of Earth’s history to remind oneself that, relatively speaking, humans haven’t been around for very long. But while humans have only roamed the planet for a miniscule fraction of the planet’s 4.5 billion year history, geologists and paleontologists have learned an awful lot about different times in the ancient past. They’ve segmented time on Earth according to major events or changes that took place, such as mass extinctions or beginnings of ice ages. These events created periods of time so distinct that the effects can still be seen in layers of rock today. For example, the past 12,000 years of Earth’s history are described as the Holocene epoch.

  30. Gord says:

    #11 Well a block of 24 Senate seats and House seats for 40 million voters could be the starting point for talks for Canada joining the USA. Such a situation would mean that the ‘tail would wag the dog’ for a generation or two. Canadians would certainly vote as a block to benefit Canada.

    I’m not sure whether Americans would want to give up their freedom for Canadian resources, water, food, climate, farm land and access to huge arctic areas. But you never know about these things. The USA might find its ‘back to the wall’ such that an offer of this magnitude might have to be at least considered.

  31. Sou says:

    Seems piddly, but could it be that a drop in retail sales in Australia is now being blamed on climate change:

    “Mr Zahra also says unusual weather and intense competition among retailers for the limited consumer spending pushed down sales.”

  32. Prokaryotes says:

    ‘Gaddafi orders explosion of Libya’s oil pipelines’

  33. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Gord #31, when the US elite decide that they require Canada, they will simply take it as they did half of Mexico on the 1840s.

  34. Sou says:

    This baby dolphin death story might have some impact:

    Baby dolphins are washing up dead along the US Gulf Coast at more than 10 times the normal rate in the first birthing season since the BP disaster, researchers said.

    Some 17 baby dolphin corpses have been found along the shorelines of Alabama and Mississippi in the past two weeks, The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies said.

    “The average is one or two a month. This year we have 17, and February isn’t even over yet,” said Dr Moby Solangi, director of the Gulfport, Mississippi-based institute.

    “For some reason, they’ve started aborting or they were dead before they were born.”

    Dr Solangi is awaiting results from a necropsy performed on two of the dolphins to determine a cause of death.

    But he called the high numbers an anomaly and said the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which unleashed millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico over three months, likely played a role.

    Adult dolphin deaths tripled last year to 89 from a norm of about 30.

    “We shouldn’t really jump to any conclusions until we get some results,” Dr Solangi said. “But this is more than just a coincidence.”

    Dolphins breed in the spring – around the time of the April 20 explosion that brought down the BP-leased drilling rig – and carry their young for 11 to 12 months.

    Birthing season goes into full swing in March and April.

    The oil from the spill spread through the water column in massive underwater plumes and also worked its way into the bays and shallow waters where dolphins breed and give birth.

  35. Peter M says:

    The insurance adjuster was here last night to see the damage caused by the ‘climate disaster’ we had here in Connecticut.

    When I advised him that I would be moving in 2 years from my current home to something far smaller and sustainable, he said, ‘Moving south’? I said NO. I told him the problems with extreme weather events will become far worse this decade. He seemed without a clue.

    It amazes me how some people are still out of the loop regarding climate change- especially the insurance adjuster, who should know far more.

    The great migration to the ‘Sunbelt’ in American demographics is just about over. By 2020 it will have begin to switch to a migration to the northern tier fringes of the country; upper great lakes, northeast (from New York city into the Canadian maritime) and the northwest. (north of San Francisco- to Vancouver/Victoria BC.)

  36. catman306 says:

    Broun plans hearings on climate change and EPA
    (US Representative Paul Broun R-GA)

    “What I see from this administration is utilizing global warming to try to promote a political agenda,” Broun said. “I’m a scientist. I’m a physician. I believe we need to look at it on a scientific basis. I don’t know for certain, but we need to get the science out to the public so that all voices can be heard.”

    Maybe the voices of deceit and oil power need to be toned down a bit.

  37. Mike#22 says:

    Mimikatz asked: Do India, China and Brazil understand the threats that climate change poses to their countries? Heat waves? Droughts? Rising sea levels flooding river deltas?

    Coincidentally, I came across this report yesterday while looking for something else: which survey 15 countries (incl India, China and Brazil) on climate confidence, concern, commitment, optimism, etc. China and India are far more committed, concerned, and optimistic about the problem than the US. Its a short read, seven pages, but full of surprises.

  38. peter whitehead says:

    paulm#34: re – methane clathrates in sediments on continental shelves and continental slopes. Has anyone researched whether these are released when turbidity currents are triggered down the continental slopes? These currents carve submarine canyons and deposit graded sedimentary layers on the ocean floors.

  39. Michael Tucker says:

    China, Oh China…so many hope you will save the world…so many are impressed by your clean energy investments.

    The reality, today, is that China is not polluting less. China is polluting more!
    China “…burns more coal than the U.S., Europe and Japan combined, the main reason why it is now the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases. “Will China’s carbon dioxide emissions overwhelm the world?” asks Mark D. Levine, a senior staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory who works in the country on energy-efficiency measures. “That’s the question.””

    That is from a Scientific American article in the March issue titled “Coal Fires Burning Bright
    With promises to curb CO2 emissions by 2020, China will need more than blackouts to get there”
    It discusses how China managed to meet its 2010 emissions goals by hiding the emissions.

    I do not believe China currently gets more that a quarter of it electricity from ‘renewables’. If that figure comes from the central government it is suspect!

    China IS still building coal power plants and those will stay in service for another two decades.

    China needs cheap electricity. China is engaged in a massive project to move vast amounts of water from the south of the country to the drought prone north. That requires a large energy investment and China must keep the costs down.

    YES, China is investing in wind and solar. They want to dominate that market and they will, eventually, clean up their own pollution but they will do it in their own good time. And many in China believe “a double standard on the part of the U.S.” exists.

    “We have only developed our economy for three decades, and now we face great pressure [to clean up]. That is unfair,” NDRC’s Zhang says. He reaffirmed his commitment to expanding sources of alternative energy, but, he added, “for the foreseeable future, coal will continue to take up a big part of our energy mix.””

    That quote was made by “Zhang Guobao, vice chair of China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC)”

    The SA article is here:

  40. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    paulm #34, I seem to recall reading of methane clathrates being released precipitously and in so doing causing submarine landslides, that triggered mega-tsunamis, as happens when the Hawaiian islands collapse from time to time, as do other oceanic volcanic islands.

  41. Paulm says:

    And now all he’ll about to break lose…triggered by warming???
    Massive iceberg shears off after N. Zealand quake

  42. sailrick says:

    @CW 30.

    “Danish Companies’ New Shipping Vessels to cut emissions in half”

    This is encouraging. Good to see companies taking the initiative to use energy more efficiently.

    I’m hoping that the shipping industry moves toward wind assist power, like SkySails has developed. It’s cheap and green.

    According to SkySails, a ship can be retrofitted with this system for about $250,000. To put that in perspective; back when large bulk carriers were commanding high prices(before the economic disaster of 2008) day rates on leasing a Cape size bulk carrier were about $125,000.

    Fuel savings of 10-35%.