Friday, February 18, 2022

West megadrought worsens to driest in at least 1,200 years


Perhaps he should have checked with NOAA first:

image from

The American West’s megadrought deepened so much last year that it is now the driest in at least 1,200 years and is a worst-case climate change scenario playing out live, a new study finds.

A dramatic drying in 2021 — about as dry as 2002 and one of the driest years ever recorded for the region — pushed the 22-year drought past the previous record-holder for megadroughts in the late 1500s and shows no signs of easing in the near future, according to a study Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change.

The study calculated that 42% of this megadrought can be attributed to human-caused climate change.

“Climate change is changing the baseline conditions toward a drier, gradually drier state in the West and that means the worst-case scenario keeps getting worse,” said study lead author Park Williams, a climate hydrologist at UCLA. “This is right in line with what people were thinking of in the 1900s as a worst-case scenario. But today I think we need to be even preparing for conditions in the future that are far worse than this.”

Williams studied soil moisture levels in the West — a box that includes California, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, most of Oregon and Idaho, much of New Mexico, western Colorado, northern Mexico, and the southwest corners of Montana and Texas — using modern measurements and tree rings for estimates that go back to the year 800. That’s about as far back as estimates can reliably go with tree rings.

A few years ago, Williams studied the current drought and said it qualified as a lengthy and deep “megadrought” and that the only worse one was in the 1500s. He figured the current drought wouldn’t surpass that one because megadroughts tended to peter out after 20 years. And, he said, 2019 was a wet year so it looked like the western drought might be coming to an end.

But the region dried up in late 2020 and 2021.

All of California was considered in official drought from mid-May until the end of 2021, and at least three-quarters of the state was at the highest two drought levels from June through Christmas, according to the U.S. drought monitor.

“For this drought to have just cranked up back to maximum drought intensity in late 2020 through 2021 is a quite emphatic statement by this 2000s drought saying that we’re nowhere close to the end,” Williams said. This drought is now 5% drier than the old record from the 1500s, he said.

The drought monitor says 55% of the U.S. West is in drought with 13% experiencing the two highest drought levels.

This megadrought really kicked off in 2002 — one of the driest years ever, based on humidity and tree rings, Williams said.

“I was wondering if we’d ever see a year like 2002 again in my life and in fact, we saw it 20 years later, within the same drought,” Williams said. The drought levels in 2002 and 2021 were a statistical tie, though still behind 1580 for the worst single year.

Climate change from the burning of fossil fuels is bringing hotter temperatures and increasing evaporation in the air, scientists say.

Williams used 29 models to create a hypothetical world with no human-caused warming then compared it to what happened in real life — the scientifically accepted way to check if an extreme weather event is due to climate change. He found that 42% of the drought conditions are directly from human-caused warming. Without climate change, he said, the megadrought would have ended early on because 2005 and 2006 would have been wet enough to break it.

The study “is an important wake-up call,” said Jonathan Overpeck, dean of environment at the University of Michigan, who wasn’t part of the study. “Climate change is literally baking the water supply and forests of the Southwest, and it could get a whole lot worse if we don’t halt climate change soon.”

Williams said there is a direct link between drought and heat and the increased wildfires that have been devastating the West for years. Fires need dry fuel that drought and heat promote.

Eventually, this megadrought will end by sheer luck of a few good rainy years, Williams said. But then another one will start.

Daniel Swain, a UCLA climate scientist who wasn’t involved in the study, said climate change is likely to make megadrought “a permanent feature of the climate of the Colorado River watershed during the 21st century.”


British Government's Oil & Gas Authority orders abandonment of 37.6 trillion cubic meters of onshore gas

Robert Conquest’s Third Law of Politics is that “the simplest way to explain the behaviour of any bureaucratic organisation is to assume that it is controlled by a cabal of its enemies”.

When it comes to the government’s Oil & Gas Authority quango the axiom’s truth is clear. The quango has ordered Cuadrilla to permanently seal the two shale gas wells drilled at the Lancashire shale exploration site, with the result that the 37.6 trillion cubic metres of gas located in the northern Bowland Shale gas formation will continue to sit unused – when just 10% of this volume could meet UK gas needs for 50 years. UK imports of Natural Gas are expected to skyrocket to over 80% by 2050.

According to Cuadrilla’s CEO, Francis Egan:

“Cuadrilla has spent hundreds of millions of pounds establishing the viability of the Bowland Shale as a high-quality gas deposit. Shale gas from the North of England has the potential to meet the UK’s energy needs for decades to come, yet ministers have chosen now, at the height of an energy crisis, to take us to this point.

Once these wells are filled with cement and abandoned it will be incredibly costly and difficult to rectify this mistake at the PNR site. Safe shale gas offers us a chance to combat the cost-of living crisis, create 75,000 jobs and deliver on the ‘levelling up agenda’ in Red Wall areas, in addition to reducing our reliance on imported gas so that Britain becomes more energy secure. What’s more ridiculous is that leaving our own shale gas in the ground will make reducing global emissions even harder. Emissions from importing gas are far higher than those from home-produced shale gas. I don’t think that this has been properly thought through.”

Craig Mackinlay, the MP who chairs the Net Zero Scrutiny Group, is livid:

“Following last week’s hike in gas prices, my constituents are concerned about one thing: the cost-of-living crisis. If this government really wants to deliver on the people’s priorities, help them through the crisis and level up it should not be depriving the country of access to cheap and reliable energy sources. Doing this at the height of an energy crisis is utter madness. What’s more, if the Government wants to achieve Net Zero by 2050, this move will make it impossible. It will force us to import more gas instead, when UKOOG and the Climate Change Committee have already told us that the carbon footprint of imported gas is so much higher than homegrown shale gas."

Steve Baker also tells Guido, “By abandoning our shale gas industry, we will inflict more costs on our constituents and make Net Zero even more difficult to deliver given that importing gas is more carbon intensive than producing it at home.” Also given the geo-political situation it is bad from an energy security point of view, see how Putin has Germany over a barrel…"

Andy Samuel will be stepping down as CEO of the Oil & Gas Authority in the summer. During his tenure the organisation has become more aligned with the fashionable Net Zero goals of Extinction Rebellion than the needs of Britain’s hard pressed energy consumers facing ever-rising energy bills.

Boris and Kwasi need to ensure that the new leadership of this quango is focused on securing cheap energy resources, onshore and offshore, including abundant cheap shale, rather than closing down energy sources.


Now racism is the root cause of climate change!

Writer on environmental and social justice issues, Jeremy Williams, is just the latest polemicist to claim climate change and racism, ‘two of the biggest challenges of the 21st century’, are intertwined. In an article for the BBC, ‘Climate change divides along racial lines. Could tackling it help address longstanding injustices?’, he argues white supremacists are behind both. How generously ‘rich’ countries (primarily the Anglosphere) respond to demands from ‘vulnerable’ countries… will determine whether climate change becomes a problem that unites or divides humanity.

As evidence of climate injustice, Williams cites hurricanes Katrina and Harvey which disproportionately impacted already stretched black neighbourhoods in New Orleans and Houston.

While urban flooding affects a wide range of demographics, those who live in poorer, more densely populated neighbourhoods, where there is limited green space to absorb water, are most affected. These are predominantly black communities where ageing sewers, already near capacity, are easily overwhelmed by torrential rain. That much is true. But his proposition that the combination of climate change and racism is the reason people of colour were so affected, is not.

First, Williams assertions ignore the IPCC’s conclusion that, ‘There is low confidence in attribution of changes in tropical cyclone activity to human influence’. Current data sets indicate no significant observed trends in global tropical cyclone frequency over the past century, with 2021 being one of the quietest hurricane years in the satellite era.

Second, Williams ignores the reality that the authorities have used welfare to buy off poorer communities who, over time, have become trapped in perpetual incubators of poverty and violence. Children grow up with a sense of victimhood and learned helplessness. This restricts their social mobility and institutionalises inequality and misery. What Williams attributes to ‘racism’ is actually the cumulative failure of decades of ‘compassionate’ socialist experimentation and Tammany Hall politics.

Still, he remains secure in his ignorance. He acknowledges ‘that for some, it can be disconcerting to hear terms such as “racism” and “white supremacy” used in discussions about climate change. After all, most people believe climate change is an environmental issue’. But, for Williams, they are missing ‘institutional racism’. While there may be no one specific event or person identified, the problem lies in the way victims are treated. That he says is buried away in processes and systems – ‘racism without racists as it is sometimes described’.

For proof he instances Zambia. While Zambia’s CO2 footprint is low, innocent Zambians face environmental disaster from prolonged droughts. The resulting crop failures, livestock deaths and reduced GDP have left over one million victims in need of food assistance.

Of course, Mr Williams immediately sees institutional racism at work, conveniently ignoring that between 2001 and 2020, Zambia lost 1.87 million hectares of tree cover, equivalent to an overall decrease of 7.8 percent. Chinese loggers are particularly to blame. Compared to their foreign competitors, they have proven to be poor forest managers and engage in illegal timber trading.

As an environmental writer Williams should know that deforestation creates a negative climate feedback loop. As forests are cleared, the rain decreases at a faster rate, leading to longer droughts and higher temperatures. More prolonged droughts lead to longer and hotter fires, which clear more forest, thus speeding up the process.

Those living in rural areas, especially women, are hit hardest and make up the majority of those living in poverty. Traditionally, Zambian girls are taught to be obedient and subservient to men. Women account for 65 per cent of food production and processing, but remain dependent upon their husbands for access to land and financial resources. Gender-based violence is commonplace. The charity, Care International, reports that gender inequality is a major influence on food insecurity and poverty but there is little mood for change.

Yet Williams and his ilk insist Zambia is the victim of oppressive European (British) colonial powers. They have ‘colonised the atmospheric commons. They’ve enriched themselves as a result, but with devastating consequences for the rest of the world’. It’s they, not Zambian practices, which are primarily to blame.

Nowhere is China mentioned, even though its emissions are colonising ‘the atmospheric commons’. Indeed, China emits more greenhouse gases than the entire developed world combined. Its CO2 has trebled over the past 30 years. Undaunted, Beijing is building another 43 coal-fired power stations and 18 blast furnaces and, has directed coal production in Inner Mongolia to be increased by nearly 100 million tons annually. China has also agreed to stop funding fossil fuel projects in developing countries like Zambia, condemning them to more expensive energy and lessening the risk they will ultimately compete against Chinese manufacturers.

But the West’s oppressive colonial past is the focus. China’s use of eighteenth century mercantilist practices to colonise today’s developing nations is apparently of no consequence. Unless, like Sri Lankans, you are a victim of China’s debt trap diplomacy. Two-thirds of Colombo’s revenues now go in interest payments, leaving Sri Lanka struggling to pay for food.

Having watched this debt crisis evolve over 15 years, a distressed former Cabinet minister, Wijeyadasa Rajapaksheto, commented, ‘It is manifestly visible… you (Beijing) use our relations to achieve your ambition of becoming the world power at the stake of the lives of our innocent people’. He said he resigned from Cabinet because he ‘couldn’t stomach’ the level of Chinese corruption.

But who cares? The Chinese aren’t part of the Anglosphere and Mr Williams is so consumed with hate for it he is blind to everything else. Worse, the BBC like its counterparts in Australia and elsewhere, is eager to promote similar anti-white, climate change fantasies. They would rather contemporary Western values of reason, liberty and the devolution of authority, be sacrificed on the altar of revisionist history. Better it seems to return to a primitive world order based on self-delusion, superstition and coercion, where omnipotent non-white leaders will lead Zambians to the promised land. Try telling Sri Lankans that.


Malign focus on the long term

I’m thinking of the situation described by the writer and philosopher Phil Torres in a recent essay. He argues compellingly that what’s become called long-termism is a “dangerous secular credo”.

What is this credo? It’s the notion that what really matters is humanity’s alleged very long-term potential. This future is allegedly post-human, or will involve colonising the solar system, the galaxy and the universe. Once one starts thinking this way, almost any sacrifice or indeed crime is justified, in order to keep our species alive. More precisely: to keep alive that part of our species which is betting everything upon big tech, space exploration, cryogenesis and more.

Torres’s essay exposes how justifiable concern with the existential risks – risks to our very existence – which, increasingly, humanity has come to hang over itself, is morphing into a way of perpetuating the very system that’s created those risks. A big-tech/industrial/academic complex has sprung into existence, which is sucking up money and attention that could be going into thinking about how we could become genuinely long-termist, and is instead focusing that well-paid attention on the idea that the way to prevent ourselves from destroying ourselves is to have much more tech, much more surveillance (supposedly, to guard against existential threats to humanity coming from non-state terrorists) and much more economic growth.

If you think that Torres and I are exaggerating, here is an example. Oxford academic and leading “long-termist” Nick Bostrom proposes that everyone should permanently wear an Orwellianly-named “freedom tag”: a device that would monitor everything that you do, 24/7 for the remainder of your life to guard against the minuscule possibility that you might be part of a plot to destroy humanity.

This might sound like satire. When I first read Bostrom’s piece, I assumed he was proposing the “freedom tag” idea for rhetorical effect only, or something like that. But no – he means it quite seriously.

And here’s the real trouble: these long-termists, in backing to the hilt the idea of a big-tech, industry-heavy future appear to be calling for much more of the very things that have brought us to this desperate ecological situation.

Not a fully existential threat?

Proponents of the technotopian conception of long-termism often, extraordinarily, see climate breakdown as only a fairly minor issue since they believe it is not a fully existential threat to our species. Allegedly, technological innovation sprung from within the rich world will eventually “solve” climate change. This is why long-termists such as billionaire venture capitalist Peter Thiel and Skype co-founder Jaan Tallinn urge us to worry less than we do about the climate.

By contrast, I want to explicitly hold open the possibility that global eco-catastrophe really is a “white swan” existential threat (unlike black swan threats, which are unexpected, white swans are of course expected). If that is the case, then the wisest way to truly plan for the long term might even be a possibility virtually uncontemplated by long-termists: the deliberate reduction of our techno-power.

Ultimately, I believe we should work towards a relocalised future in which we have democratic control over what technologies get developed. Perhaps this is virtually never contemplated because long-termists are overwhelmingly technophiles from wealthy countries.

The point then is to differentiate between the valid concept of long-termism and the dubious conception of it that’s become almost hegemonic. We of course need to care more about what the world will be like in the future, after our individual lives are over. In that context, it’s dreadful news that “long-termist” has in effect been appropriated by one particular interpretation.




No comments: