This is the fourth in my Series, presented with research, data, articles, links, context, and opinions. I hope you enjoy the Series, and please feel free to contact me directly. We can discuss a multitude of regional & world issues and explore potential solutions. I’d look forward to hearing from you.
Series: Climate Crisis Part 1
Series: Looming Economic Crisis
Series: Population Growth and Aging
Global Warming and Climate Change Part 2 (continued)
Global warming and climate change are rapidly destroying our planet. NOAA reports 17 of the 18 hottest years on record (since 1880) have all occurred since 2000. 2017 was the second hottest year on record, only the previous year 2016 was warmer.
All over the Earth, wildfires, floods, droughts, desertification, heat records, and extreme weather events are becoming more “normal” occurrences than outliers. Ocean acidification transforms our once healthy waters into dead coral reefs. Sea level rise is not some distant notion, but a certainty we all must prepare for.
We must reduce emissions of the main greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane, and water vapor.
There are many more considerations relating to global warming and climate change; some which don’t seem as obvious, some which don’t get much attention, and some consequences that will be irreversible if we fail to act immediately. It cannot be stated in clearer or simpler terms:
The actions of our generation will define all future generations on Earth.
Pests are adapting to changing weather patterns. Warmer weather is spreading insects like bark beetles and mosquitoes. Invasive species are destroying habitat, forests, and entire ecosystems. Toxic pesticide usage is contaminating our land, water, and most essential food supplies. Our climate crisis is about a lot more than just warmer weather and catastrophic sea level rise.
Termite damage is five times more likely than damage from fire in the United States, and causes more than $5 billion in U.S. property damage. Typically, termites are not covered by homeowners’ insurance policies.
Two of the most destructive termite species in the world – responsible for much of the $40 billion in economic loss caused by termites annually – might be mating and starting new hybrid colonies in South Florida. “The establishment of hybrid termite populations is expected to result in dramatically increased damage to structures in the near future.”
Termites and other pest infestations are not only about the associated nuisance, property damage, and economic loss. For example, a Delaware family were poisoned by methyl bromide at an expensive luxury resort in the U.S. Virgin Islands. They suffered comas, paralysis, and permanent brain damage as a result of the toxic pest control chemical application to their luxurious vacation villa – even though methyl bromide was banned from indoor use in the 1970s because it is considered a nerve agent.
Global warming is spreading invasive crop pests towards the North and South Poles at a rate of nearly 3 kilometers a year.
Crops that 200 million people rely on in Africa are under threat from the fall armyworm. It was found in 28 African nations, feeds on more than 80 crops, can cut maize yields by up to 60%, and could cost more than $6 billion a year in lost crops. More pests, more pesticides, more toxic emissions and runoff… To combat the fall armyworm, the Malawian Ministry of Agriculture prompted the government to buy 25,000 liters of pesticide in a bid to control the fall armyworm.
Bark beetle infestations have become a major problem throughout North America. Climate change sends beetles into overdrive.
One intensive study of spruce beetles notes “beetles preferentially attack drought-stressed trees.” Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Diana Six from the University of Montana reported on beetle outbreaks back in 2010, “Across western North America, huge tracts of forest are dying off at an extraordinary rate, mostly because of outbreaks of insects. Scientists are now seeing such forest die-offs around the world and are linking them to changes in climate.”
Bark beetles destroyed an estimated 29 million trees in California in 2015. On July 4th, 2015, the greatly increased risk of catastrophic California wildfires was already well known and acknowledged by experts, “California waits in dread of the next big wildfire…” In Climate Change Part 1, I already covered the 2017 California wildfires as the most devastating in the state’s long history.
Millions of forested acres in the United States have been affected by bark and pine beetles. As temperatures rise, these insects persist in habitats that previously constrained them by cold temperatures and altitude. By 2080, southern pine beetles could cover more than 270,000 square miles of forest from the upper Midwest to Maine and into Canada.
During the past 500 million years, there were five “mass extinctions” during which many species rapidly died. The last mass extinction was 65 million years ago and more than three-quarters of all life was eradicated.
Although extinction is a natural phenomenon, it occurs at a natural “background” rate of about one to five species per year. Scientists estimate we’re losing species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the background rate, with literally dozens going extinct every day. According to the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature), the foremost experts on endangered species, one out of four mammal species in the world are threatened with extinction. Industrial agriculture, deforestation, urbanization, and climate change are largely responsible for what we’re now facing:
Pollinating animals, which include bats, birds, bees, butterflies, beetles, and moths help fertilize more than 75 percent of global food crops. The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) reported around 16% of vertebrate pollinators are at risk of complete extinction, with “a trend towards more extinctions.” For example, the Melopina bee, the only species of bee that pollinates vanilla, is nearly extinct.
Atlantic cod is on the brink of disappearing, despite years of fishing limits aimed at rebuilding stocks. Cod spawning, maturity rate, size, and survival have been hampered by rapid, extraordinary ocean warming in the Gulf of Maine, where sea surface temperatures rose faster than anywhere else on the planet between 2003 and 2014.
A nutrient-poor and unusually warm mass of water caused what was otherwise an optimistic prediction of 50 million sockeye salmon run in Bristol Bay, Alaska to all but disappear. Tiger shrimp (Penaeus monodon) farming in Bangladesh has been adversely affected by climatic variables like coastal flooding, salinity, drought, and sea surface temperature. These events occur around the world, similar issues are faced by shrimp farmers in Brazil and the Philippines.
Species aren’t just going extinct either. More than 2,000 species from around the world are on the move. Atlantic cod and Europe’s purple emperor butterfly moved more than 125 miles in a single decade. Ones on land are moving an average of more than 10 miles per decade.
Warming, and even light pollution, is also shifting biological time cycles. Animals are mating earlier, plants flowering earlier, shrubs and trees blooming earlier. Ecological relationships are thrown off, insects hatching weeks before migrating birds arrive to feed on them. The Kodiak bear has had to alter its diet because red elderberries have ripened early enough to overlap with the salmon season.
Pollution & Smog
Delhi doctors declared an air quality health emergency as smog choked the capital city, with effects comparable to smoking 50 cigarettes a day. The Air Quality Index (AQI) rates 200 AQI as “Unhealthy,” 300 as “Very Unhealthy,” and 500+ as “Hazardous.” In November 2017, airborne pollutants surged beyond what instruments could measure with an AQI maximum of 999.
Some 460 million people in China were affected by pollution levels six times higher than the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guideline levels. Smog in Beijing grounded more than 300 flights as the Chinese government issued warning of poisonous smog that also forced school shutdowns and road traffic restrictions. The Beijing region was supposed to reduce PM2.5 levels by more than a quarter of their 2012 levels, but particulate concentration in the first half of 2017 went up 14.3 percent.
Even back in 1990, a report on urban air pollution in Latin America and the Caribbean found anthropogenic air-pollutant levels exceeding WHO guidelines affecting 81 million people, 19% of its total population. An extensive document on The Impact of Climate Change and Air Pollution on the Caribbean published in October 2017 details the current situation:
“Air quality standards are not usually enforced in many Caribbean countries thereby increasing the risks of morbidity and mortality from exposure to air pollutants… Unfortunately, dependence on fossil fuels (regionally and globally), poor land use and waste management, and industrialization all contribute to poor air quality in the Caribbean. In addition, climate change is predicted to exacerbate air pollution and its negative health effects in a region considered to be one of the most vulnerable to global climate change.”
A 2016 report by NASA and the Clean Air Institute claims Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) “has the largest motorization rate in the world” with 8 of 10 people living in cities and five times as many cars as sub-Saharan Africa or Asia and “energy consumption is expected to grow in the region around 50% by 2040 compared to 2012.”
We must understand that many studies have shown coral reefs and their related marine ecosystems are endangered by pollutants – including higher carbon dioxide emissions and other aerosol concentrations. These reefs are of extreme significance to the tourist industry for Latin America and the Caribbean. The World Travel and Tourism Council and the Caribbean Tourism Organization report this accounts for a greater share of the gross domestic product (throughout the Caribbean) than any other region in the world: 2.3 million jobs and USD $56.4 billion in 2016.
Plastics are a major component to global warming and climate change. Since the start of the plastics boom in the 1950s, humans have created more than 8 billion metric tons of plastic, and only 9% of it has been recycled.
The entire production cycle to lifecycle of plastic products uses fossil fuels, creates harmful emissions and toxins, and creates waste that pervades our ecosystem in many harmful ways. Add consideration for the carbon footprint of double- and triple-shipping due to offshore manufacturing and plastic products are one of the major concerns of climate change. Largely a simplistic trade-off for “convenience” in single-use packaging. Wow.
Toxic chemical release during the manufacture is another significant negative environmental impact of plastics. A whole host of carcinogenic, neurotoxic, and hormone-disruptive chemicals are standard ingredients and waste products of plastic production, and they inevitably find their way into our ecology through water, land, and air pollution.
According to Greenpeace, Coca Cola produces over 100 billion plastic bottles each year, an eye-popping 3,400 per second. Some 16 million plastic bottles end up in the environment every single day in the UK.
Over 1 trillion plastic bags are used every year, about 1 million plastic bags are used every minute. Americans use and throw away 100 billion plastic bags every year, which requires 12 million barrels of oil per year to manufacture.
Globally, we produce 300 million metric tons of plastic every year. About 50% of this volume is for disposable applications, products discarded within a year of their purchase. Nearly 9 million tons of it gets dumped into our oceans. Every single day we produce 500 million single-use drinking straws.
Plastics and plastic toxins have invaded our entire food chain and most plastic products simply don’t ever degrade. Plastic trash has been found at the bottom of the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean – the deepest place on Earth (nearly seven miles down), more than a mile deeper than Mount Everest is tall.
Every square mile of ocean has roughly 46,000 pieces of plastic floating in it. Virtually every animal on the planet now has traces of microplastics and/or plastics in their physiology.
Great Pacific Plastic Patches
The Great Pacific Plastic Patch was first “discovered” in 1997. This massive area of the Northern Pacific Ocean is larger than the size of Greenland, covering 2.5 million square kilometers, and has grown 100X larger since 1972. Last summer, Capt. Charles Moore also confirmed the existence of a second major gyre in the South Pacific.
Demand for plastics is expected to double in the next 20 years. By 2050 it is projected there will be more plastic in the world’s oceans than fish.
Reducing and recycling plastics could save the global economy USD $80 to $120 billion every year. Plastic takes at least 1,000 years to break down, and doesn’t biograde, it photodegrades. This means the materials only break down into smaller, even more toxic fragments of petro-polymers, or microplastic particles.
UV light and salt in seawater cause microscopic particles of plastic to emit toxic chemicals such as PCBs and DDT. When ingested by many types of marine species, these can be mistaken for estradiol, a sex hormone, causing a variety of symptoms related to endocrine disruption. Additionally, the chemicals tend to bioaccumulate in organisms as they move up the food chain, and can eventually lead to tainted populations of fish that humans regularly consume.
Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are “of global concern” and evidenced in the most remote and inaccessible habitats on Earth. They are pervasive due to bioaccumulation of anthropogenic contamination – the smallest insects and animals ingest microplastics, larger animals feed on those, and so on. Infinitesimal bits of plastic also “leach” or “migrate” from our plastic food or drink containers into our bodies from “virtually all food packaging materials.”
Bisphenol A (BPA)
Bisphenol A (BPA) is an industrial chemical used to make certain plastics and resins (like those used to coat the interior of soda and food cans and water supply lines) since the 1960s. BPA has been reduced or eliminated from some water bottles and food storage containers due to its toxicity and more recent consumer awareness. BPA is known to disrupt hormones and mimic the effect of estrogen in the body, leading to weight gain and hormone imbalance. Yale School of Environmental Studies links BPA and phthalate exposure to “deformities of the male and female genitals; premature puberty in females; decreased sperm quality; and increases in breast and prostate cancers, infertility, miscarriages, obesity, type 2 diabetes, allergies, and neurological problems like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.”
Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
Polyvinyl Chloride is the world’s third-most used synthetic plastic polymer – after polyethylene and polypropylene. Naturally white and brittle, PVCs are prevalent in construction, furniture, toys, healthcare, and food preparation applications. It is extremely durable and resistant to weathering, rotting, abrasion and chemical corrosion. It can last up to 70 years and is a material of choice due to its low cost and lightweight properties. Like all thermoplastics, PVC is recyclable.
PVCs have a heavy chlorine content, they release toxic dioxins during manufacturing, burning, and landfilling. These dioxins can cause reproductive, developmental, and other health problems; one dioxin related to PVC is classified as carcinogenic. The National Toxicology Program lists vinyl chloride as a human carcinogen.
PVC contains chemicals that interfere with the production or activity of hormones in the human endocrine system, these are called “endocrine disruptors” and are some of the most dangerous chemicals to human health. “Endocrine disruptors may be the biggest health risk of this century.”
Phthalates (DEHP, DINP, DNOP)
Some phthalates are used as dissolving agents (solvents), others are adhesives, detergents, lubricating oils. Many phthalates are found in personal care products like lipstick, soaps, shampoos, and deodorants. Phthalates are also used in cars and clothes and widely used in PVC; in such items like plastic packaging film, garden hoses, inflatable products, and children’s toys.
The health risks from phthalates are harrowing. Name a major public health concern over the past two decades and there’s likely some link to phthalates exposure. Researchers have linked phthalates to asthma, worsening of allergy symptoms, attention- deficit disorder, breast cancer, obesity, type 2 diabetes, low IQ, neurodevelopmental issues, behavioral issues, autism spectrum disorders, preterm birth and low birthweight, altered reproductive development, testicular cancer, and both male and female fertility issues.
Children exposed to high concentrations of phthalates in the womb were 70% more likely to develop asthma between the ages of 5 and 12.
Overall chemical exposures to plastics – and various related endocrine disruptors – lead to attention problems, diabetes, obesity, cancer, reproductive issues, mental health and behavioral issues, and childhood development issues. These hormone-altering chemicals cost billions in health care costs each year.
All for the convenience of plastic. Is it really worth it?
Waste & Landfill
Trash ends up in landfill, which leaches toxins into groundwater and well water supplies, eventually reaching our rivers and oceans. Polluted water tables run into our streams, rivers, estuaries, and oceans. We’re destroying our planet through incremental increases in extremely dangerous chemicals.
The standard practice is to make trash “somebody else’s problem.” There is no away in which to throw our garbage. Japan wanted to use the Northern Mariana Island’s uninhabited Pagan Island as a tsunami debris dump site. The CNMI paid Guam to take 1,000 used car tires for dumping. Our ‘old’ technology products end up in a toxic graveyard, someplace like Ghana. Of course, these practices of neglect are nothing new. “Out of sight, out of mind,” as the saying goes. More than 100 WWII bomber airplanes were dumped into the depths of the Pacific off the Marshall Islands in the Kwajalein Atoll.
China just set a new policy that they will no longer accept the West’s plastic garbage for recycling or landfill. Of course the Brits are in a panic, they’ve no idea where they can dump their plastic trash now. Certainly it needs to become somebody else’s problem. They’d exported 2.7 million tons of total plastic waste to China and Hong Kong over the past five years, two-thirds of the UK’s total waste plastic exports.
Some of the less obvious sources of waste and landfill should get more attention. Car & truck tires are constantly neglected and abandoned – anywhere and everywhere around the world. The world’s largest tire graveyard resides in Kuwait and holds over 7 million used tires – it is so vast that it is visible from space. California’s used tires are shipped over to China and come back as smog.
Pressure-treated lumber involves many toxic chemicals. This wood – often used in construction, decking, docks, and telephone poles – can be treated with copper, chromium, and arsenic to prevent weathering, wood rot, pests, and mold. This highly toxic chromated copper arsenate (CCA) lumber has been found burned by street food vendors for cooking in impoverished countries from Africa to the Philippines. Standing telephone poles and CCA landfill leach high levels of toxins into localized soil, rainwater runoff, and groundwater.
More catastrophic natural disasters produces more waste, more trash, more landfill. Hurricane Maria’s destruction in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands combined for an estimated 175 million cubic feet of debris – 6.5 million cubic yards. The equivalent of 2,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools that would cover an area of one square mile. Standard practice for vegetative debris from U.S. disasters is to burn it via an air curtain incinerator. Horrible.
In our consumer-driven world, products are quickly disposed of. Reducing our waste stream isn’t simply recycling water bottles or banning single-use plastic bags. The root problem is we are wasteful and ultimately need better solutions to products, packaging, shipping, storage, and more localized manufacturing.
According to WHO, in 1960 the world’s urban population was 34%. In 2014, 54% of the total global population lived in urban areas. Similarly, World Bank reported 55% for 2016. The United Nations reports almost 180,000 people are added to the urban population each day and projects that by 2050 66% of the world population will live in urban areas.
Urbanization is creating massive dynamical shifts around the world. Less farming and agriculture is done as younger generations seek city life and its offerings. More concrete and urban development is increasing urban heat islands and flood risks – with less water absorption from rainfall, king tides, and storm surge.
These surface heat island impacts, particularly during the summer, can warm air temperatures as much as 22°F (12°C) compared to air in neighboring, less developed regions.
But the mass migration of people – to the appeal of urban areas – is much more complex than just the carbon footprint of construction costs and more infrastructure development. As previously noted, infrastructure everywhere is aging and failing. Consumer behaviors also shift with urban life.
Companies like Amazon.com thrive on new consumer habits afforded by e-commerce and fast/cheap shipping options to urban regions. This trend is running brick-and-mortar SME (small-to-medium size enterprise) locals out of business. That means more money is being withdrawn from localized economies as the rich get richer. Jeff Bezos became the first hundred-billionaire through Amazon’s horrific labor exploitation. More details about zero-hour contract workers here.
Urbanization usually means more electrical usage and a reduction of parks and green space. This cascades into a host of climate change-related issues. Trees are our greatest assets to fight global warming, one tree can ‘remove’ (sequester) up to 48 pounds of CO2 a year and 1 ton in 40 years. Tree shade and vegetation can also lower daytime temperatures by as much as 9°F (5°C). Trees and available green space increases property value while also helping mitigate flood risk.
Parks and green spaces are highly related to psychological well-being. The poorest areas tend to have less, richer communities tend to have more. This furthers the inequality between socioeconomic classes.
France has been hit by the third wettest three-month period of rainfall on record since 1900. Paris and 240 regional towns just saw the Seine River flood to nearly 20 feet (6 meters). Paris faced a similar (“Vigicrues”) flood in 2016, the last time prior to that was in 1910.
According to The Lancet Planetary Health Journal, Europe’s death toll from weather disasters, including heat waves, wildfires and drought, could increase 50-fold by the end of the century.
Our world is facing catastrophic threats due to global warming and climate change. These are largely man-made contributions, anthropogenic factors. Smog, pollution, toxins, waste, landfills, plastics, ocean acidification, coral bleaching, sea level rise, drought, desertification, heat waves, flooding, pest infestation, wildfires…
We’re losing 12 million hectares to desert each year. South Africa’s capital, Cape Town, and nearly 4 million people could be out of water by April 2018. Towing icebergs is clearly not going to be the solution.
Two category 5 hurricanes in 2017 broke all kinds of records for most accumulated cyclone energy (ACE), consecutive days with a cat 5, longest combined cumulative track distance traveled. September 2017 set the record for highest accumulated cyclone energy. ACE is skyrocketing.
At what point do we decide to pay full attention to the signs of telltale destruction of the only place we call home? At what point do we collectively decide we’ve passed the tipping point and do all we can to save our planet?
The Dust Bowl of the 1930s wasn’t enough. The Donora Smog in 1948 wasn’t either. 2005 Hurricane Katrina didn’t move the needle enough for America to act with precision and purpose. The Danube Floods of 2006 weren’t enough. In 2011, Japan suffered a major earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster. The sad thing is, no matter how many disasters are listed, there are always more left off.
15,000 of the world’s most respected scientists from 184 countries have already issued a second “Warning to Humanity.” This is an extreme climate crisis.
It’s time to work with full effort to save our Earth.
I’m ready to help anybody anywhere who will offer me a chance.
Please tell me how I can help you.
I’m certain I can help develop an outline of specific cross-platform solutions that can help you and your region. I can help research, design, plan, implement, and execute.
I’m available to assist you in any ways I can.
I am available to move anywhere in the world and help in any way – on the most difficult of challenges. I likely could work for less than $1,000 per month, depending on cost-of-living in your region. I would move to any impoverished area. I am not afraid of whatever hardships in living conditions I would face. I want to help solve any of the world’s toughest problems.
I hope to hear from you. Thank you.