The signs of anthropogenic [man made] climate disruption are all around us now, evident to anyone willing to see them.By Dahr Jamail TruthOut (2/2/15)
I’m graced to live adjacent to Olympic National Park and have it as my backyard sanctuary.
Recently, I hiked up to an alpine lake at 5,000 feet, where my friend John and I pitched camp and settled in to climb a nearby peak. The clear, rarified air wafting through sub-alpine fir expands the soul, not to mention the power of the incredible mountain views.
But the trip, fantastic weather and summit aside, had a bittersweet edge to it.
We are at high latitude in upper Washington State, relative to the rest of the contiguous 48 states. The trip was in late January, and on the climb we were well over one mile above sea level, but we never saw the temperature drop below freezing, even at night. Large areas of our route up the peak found us slogging up scree slopes bare of snow, when normally the basin we were in would have required the use of avalanche transceivers and other precautions for traveling in heavy snow on steep slopes.
Spring conditions in January
I brought my snow shovel, but it never left my pack as we pitched our tent on terra firma, on the banks of a formerly frozen alpine lake that was melting out. “These plants are budding, I can’t believe it,” John, who has lived in the area for more than 25 years, told me from nearby our tent. “These are spring conditions, but it’s January!”
After our climb, we hiked back down toward the trailhead. The trail, just below our campsite at the lake, wound past thick, old-growth cedar trees with orange trail markers placed 10 feet up the trees in order to be visible to skiers amid deep snows. These days, we hiked up bare ground, and had to look up to see the trail markers.
The signs of anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) are all around us now, evident to anyone willing to see them.
This month’s dispatch was a difficult one to write, given the preponderance of earth-shaking reports about how far along we truly are in this anthropogenic climate catastrophe.
But don’t just take my word for it, dear reader.
2014 is officially in the books as the hottest year on record, and all 10 of the hottest years have occurred since 1998.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) data also revealed that the 2010s decade is on pace to become the hottest on record, which means it would surpass the 2000s as the previous hottest, which surpassed the 1990s as the same, which surpassed the 1980s.
The trend is clear.
What’s more, 2015 began with atmospheric carbon dioxide levels already above the 400 parts per million level, which is a troubling sign, given that annual levels tend to peak in May.
6th great mass extinction
With experts calling our current time period the sixth great mass extinction event in earth’s history, we have been warned to expect between 30 to 50 percent of all current species to go extinct by 2050 due primarily to ACD. A recent report listed several key species we must expect to see go extinct in 2015, including the Amur leopard, Sumatran elephant, Javan rhinoceros, leatherback turtle and mountain gorilla.
A stunning new study published in the prestigious journal Science concluded that we are on the verge of causing “a major extinction event” in the oceans, and one of the scientists who authored the study stated frankly, “I honestly feel there’s not much hope for normal ecosystems in the ocean” without a dramatic shift away from the current business-as-usual fossil-fueled economy.
Additionally, another recent study found that sea levels are now rising 25 percent faster than previous estimates, and the acceleration witnessed in the 1990s is even more dramatic than previously calculated.
To make matters worse, another major study published in Science recently found that human activity has already pushed the planet beyond four of its nine “planetary boundaries.” The conclusion of the study said that at the rate things are progressing, the coming decades will see the earth no longer as a “safe operating space” for human beings, let alone most other species. The four boundaries we’ve already crossed are the extinction rate, deforestation, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, and the flow of nitrogen and phosphorous (land fertilizers) into the oceans.
This is precisely why climate scientists have recently begun begging their respective governments to leave the rest of the planetary fossil fuels in the ground.
All of these terrifying developments, along with the others this series has covered over the last year, have led members of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists to recently move the hands of the Doomsday clock to three minutes to midnight. This is two minutes closer to planetary catastrophe than we were in 2014, and closer than we have been since the height of the Cold War.
Signs becoming more obvious
ACD’s impacts across the planet’s landmasses are becoming much more pronounced.
In January, a report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that California has lost half of all its large trees since the 1930s, and ACD is seen as a major factor.
Up in the Arctic, the region of the planet that continues to see the most pronounced changes, a little bird known as the dovekie (auk) has become a sentinel of ACD, due to the fact that shrinking sea ice is having a profound impact on its feeding habits, adult birds are losing body mass and their future survival rates look precarious.
There are other ways birds, as well as fish and mammals, serve as warning sentinels: Among many different species, mass die-offs, sometimes in the hundreds of thousands, are now increasing in both frequency and in the numbers of dead, according to a recent study.
In Borneo, half of the mammals there will see their habitats shrink by at least one-third by 2080, recent research shows. Conservationists warn that by then twice as many mammals will be at risk of extinction, due to ACD, loss of rainforest and hunting.
Another report in January showed that conditions across the Himalayas, which, in 2014, found 43 people killed during unseasonable snow storms on summer trekking routes and the single worst disaster ever for Sherpas on Mount Everest when a collapsing hanging glacier killed 16, are continuing to warm due to ACD.
Also in that region of the world, mountain communities in Pakistan are now facing more natural hazards than ever before, due to warmer temperatures and increasing rainfall.
Similarly in Kathmandu, Nepal, hotter temperatures are crippling the supply of power and food to the capital of what is already the poorest country in Asia, after Afghanistan.
In the United States, tens of millions of acres of mountaintop forests spanning the Southwest are now in danger of being scorched out of existence by ACD (due to lack of moisture and increasing temperatures), according to a recent report …
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