The sudden collapse of thawing soils in the Arctic might double the warming from greenhouse gases

Climate News Network:

“We are watching this sleeping giant wake up right in front of our eyes,” said Merritt Turetsky, an ecologist at the University of Guelph. “We work in areas where permafrost contains a lot of ice, and our field sites are being destroyed by abrupt collapse of this ice, not gradually over decades, but very quickly over months to years.”

“One-fourth of all the land in the northern half of the globe is defined as permafrost. This long-frozen soil is home to the detritus of life over many thousands of years: the remains of plants, animals and microbes. The permanently frozen soils of the region hold, so far in a harmless state, 1,600 billion tonnes of carbon: twice as much as exists in the atmosphere.”

“And as the Arctic warms, this could release ever-greater volumes of a potent greenhouse gas, to accelerate global warming still further, and the consequent collapse of the soil, the flooding and the landslides could change not just the habitat but even the contours of the high latitudes.” Read more . . .

Read the researcher’s article published in Nature (International Journal of Science) April 30, 2019 HERE. It is well worth the time. The first image of the Batagaika crater in eastern Russia is stunning. Look closely at the trees to get a feel for its size and character.

Abrupt thawing of permafrost is dramatic to watch. Returning to field sites in Alaska, for example, we often find that lands that were forested a year ago are now covered with lakes. Rivers that once ran clear are thick with sediment. Hillsides can liquefy, sometimes taking sensitive scientific equipment with them.

Tragedy in the Heartland: The American Farm Bureau and Climate Change

On March 16, a bomb cyclone slammed the Mid-West, flooding over a million acres of farmland.

“We’re talking about an event here of historic proportions, circumstances that nobody ever recalls ever happening in their lifetime,” said Steve Wellman, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture director and third-generation farmer.

Many farmers are still not able to work their land, and many will not be able to plant their crops this year because the land is too wet or still underwater. It may be years before the situation returns to normal—for some, perhaps never.

Unfortunately, when it comes to climate change, most farmers have been hoodwinked by the Farm Bureau and the fossil fuel industry. Inside Climate News published a thorough discussion of this tragedy HERE.

“In this series of articles, InsideClimate News explores how the farm lobby has wielded its influence to undermine climate treaties and regulations. In tandem with fossil fuel allies, it sowed uncertainty and denial about the causes of global warming and the urgency to bring it under control. Embracing taxpayer-funded subsidies to insure farmers against the mounting risks, it has nurtured an unsustainable consolidation of agriculture that discourages climate-friendly farming.”

Inside Climate News is a Pulitzer Prize-winning, non-profit, non-partisan news organization dedicated to covering climate change, energy and the environment.

At what point does a new technology cause an existing industry to start losing significant value?

Writing in The New York Review of Books, Bill McKibben reviews two recent papers on climate change. The first is by Kingsmill Bond, a UK financial analyst. It is titled: “2020 Vision: Why You Should See the Fossil Fuel Peak Coming.

The central question Bond asks in his paper is this: “At what point does a new technology cause an existing industry to start losing significant value?”

McKibben says that “this may turn out to be the most important economic and political question of the first half of this century, and the answer might tell us much about our chances of getting through the climate crisis without completely destroying the planet. Based on earlier technological transitions—horses to cars, sails to steam, land lines to cell phones—it seems possible that the fossil fuel industry may begin to weaken much sooner than you’d think.”

He goes on to say: “Major technological transitions often take a while. . . . But the economic effect of those transitions can happen much earlier . . . as soon as it becomes clear to investors that a new technology is accounting for all the growth in a particular sector.”

As I consider the implications of this paper, I see the possibility that investors will be alert to all of this, and will bail out very quickly once the precipitous downward slope of the graph is definitive: they will cut their losses and run. This, along with other climate-related indicators will undermine the confidence of the super-wealthy, prompting them to protect their wealth in ways that create a destructive feedback-loop leading to unprecedented economic disruption and societal collapse. Read more . . .

Abstract Terms for Human Suffering: Migration, Displacement, Relocation.

No, this is not a list of criminals and rapists; these are suffering people, and they are members of my own family. It’s easy to forget that the terms listed below are abstract descriptions of real human lives, lives filled with disruption, chaos, grief, pain, separation and loss. Lives as valuable as my own.

Even the term “planned relocation” is a term filled with pain and suffering. Imagine yourself as part of a planned relocation project – with no insurance and no moving company!

Each of the terms in the following list can serve as an object of meditation, for each term implies an immense amount of human suffering. If nothing else, it may help us understand the complexity of human dislocation and mobility, and better appreciate what the future holds for the planet – a future that predicts, over the next 30 years, as many as 250 million people will be displaced by climate related factors. The list is derived from Groundswell: Preparing for Internal Climate Migration.

Climate migrant/migration: Climate migrants are people who move within countries because of climate change-induced migration.

Displacement: Forced removal of people or people obliged to flee from their places of habitual residence.

Distress migration: Movements from the usual place of residence, undertaken when an individual and/or their family perceive that there are no options open to them to survive with dignity, except to migrate. This may be a result of a rapid-onset climate event, other disasters, or conflict event, or a succession of such events, that result in the loss of assets and coping capacities.

Environmental mobility: Temporary or permanent mobility as a result of sudden or progressive changes in the environment that adversely affect living conditions, either within countries or across borders.

Forced migration: Migratory movement in which an element of coercion exists, including threats to life and livelihood, whether arising from natural or man-made causes (for example, movements of refugees and internally displaced persons as well as people displaced by natural or environmental disasters, chemical or nuclear disasters, famine, or development projects). Forced migration generally implies a lack of volition concerning the decision to move, though in reality motives may be mixed, and the decision to move may include some degree of personal agency or volition.

Immobility: Inability to move from a place of risk or not moving away from a place of risk due to choice.

Internal migration (migrant): Internal migration is migration that occurs within national borders.

International migration (migrant): Migration that occurs across national borders.

Labor mobility: The geographical and occupational movement of workers.

Migration: Movement that requires a change in the place of usual residence and that is longer term. In demographic research and official statistics, it involves crossing a recognized political/administrative border.

Mobility: Movement of people, including temporary or long-term, short- or long-distance, voluntary or forced, and seasonal or permanent movement as well as planned relocation (see also environmental mobility, labor mobility).

Planned relocation: People moved or assisted to move permanently away from areas of environmental risks.

Catholic University of America: Daylong Symposium confronts inequalities of climate change

“Joan Rosenhauer, executive director of Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, explained how climate change is causing displacement of people at a rate the world has never before experienced. She referred to climate change as a “threat multiplier.”


Climate change is now found to be the key factor accelerating all other drivers of forced displacement.

Joan Rosenhauer

“According to Rosenhauer, 41 people are displaced each minute somewhere in the world due to an extreme weather event. She said that the United Nations Refugee Agency estimated that nearly 250 million people worldwide will be displaced by climate change by 2050.Read more . . .

REPORT: A New World: The Geopolitics of the Energy Transformation

A 94 page report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (January 2019)

Excerpts from the IRENA report:

“This ongoing transition to renewables is not just a shift from one set of fuels to another. It involves a much deeper transformation of the world’s energy systems that will have major social, economic and political implications which go well beyond the energy sector.

The global energy transformation will have a particularly pronounced impact on geopolitics. It is one of the undercurrents of change that will help to redraw the geopolitical map of the 21st century. The new geopolitical reality that is taking shape will be fundamentally different from the conventional map of energy geopolitics that has been dominant for more than one hundred years.

The majority of countries can hope to increase their energy independence significantly, and fewer economies will be at risk from vulnerable energy supply lines and volatile prices. Some countries that are heavily dependent on exports of oil, gas or coal will need to adapt to avoid serious economic consequences. Many developing economies will have the possibility to leapfrog fossil fuelbased systems and centralized grids. Renewables will also be a powerful vehicle of democratization because they make it possible to decentralize the energy supply, empowering citizens, local communities, and cities.

“Global power structures and arrangements will change in many ways and the dynamics of relationships within states will also be transformed. Power will become more decentralized and diffused. The influence of some states, such as China, will grow because they have invested heavily in renewable technologies and built up their capacity to take advantage of the opportunities they create.

“By contrast, states that rely heavily on fossil fuel exports and do not adapt to the energy transition will face risks and lose influence.

The supply of energy will no longer be the domain of a small number of states, since the majority of countries will have the potential to achieve energy independence, enhancing their development and security as a result.

“The transition will generate considerable benefits and opportunities. It will strengthen the energy security and energy independence of most countries; promote prosperity and job creation; improve food and water security; and enhance sustainability and equity. Some states will be able to leapfrog technologies based on fossil fuels. The number of energy-related conflicts is likely to fall.

“Countries must prepare for the changes ahead and develop strategies to enhance the prospects of a smooth transition. At the same time, the energy transformation will generate new challenges. Fossil fuel-exporting countries may face instability if they do not reinvent themselves for a new energy age; a rapid shift away from fossil fuels could create a financial shock with significant consequences for the global economy; workers and communities who depend on fossil fuels may be hit adversely; and risks may emerge with regard to cybersecurity and new dependencies on certain minerals.