global warming

Exxon: What did they know and when did they know it?

Did Exxon, over 30 years ago, recognize that the burning of fossil fuels would increase atmospheric CO2 and warm the planet? Take a careful look at the graph above from an Exxon research study published in 1981 and recently posted by CleanTechnica. As you can see, Exxon scientist noted the range of global temperatures due to “natural fluctuations” would remain level beyond 2100. However, they discovered that continued release of CO2 into the atmosphere would warm the planet much above the normal historical baseline.

Instead of acting on their results and investigating alternative energy sources, Exxon began denying humans were warming the planet and obstructed corrective measures. As reported by The Guardian:

Exxon channeled about $30m to researchers and activist groups promoting disinformation about global warming over the years, according to a tally kept by the campaign group Greenpeace. But the oil company pledged to stop such funding in 2007, in response to pressure from shareholder activists.

Despite the pledge, ExxonMobile (Exxon & Mobil merged in 1999), continued their obstruction and “gave more than $2.3m to members of Congress and a corporate lobbying group that deny climate change and block efforts to fight climate change – eight years after pledging to stop its funding of climate denial.”

Pope Francis at UN: Harm to the environment is harm to humanity

Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

"First, it must be stated that a true “right of the environment” does exist, for two reasons. First, because we human beings are part of the environment. We live in communion with it, since the environment itself entails ethical limits which human activity must acknowledge and respect. Man, for all his remarkable gifts, which “are signs of a uniqueness which transcends the spheres of physics and biology” (Laudato Si’, 81), is at the same time a part of these spheres. He possesses a body shaped by physical, chemical and biological elements, and can only survive and develop if the ecological environment is favorable. Any harm done to the environment, therefore, is harm done to humanity."

Source: Full text of Pope Francis’ speech to United Nations

Geoengineering: Holding off Disaster

A new study published in Nature finds the globe will be enterring "unprecedented climates" within a few decades.  In an article in New Scientist, Michael Marshall writes on geoengineering as the means to avoid this fate: 

"THIS is how we will hold off disaster. To help us avoid dangerous climate change, we will need to create the largest industry in history: to suck greenhouse gases out of the air on a giant scale. For the first time, we can sketch out this future industry – known as geoengineering – and identify where it would operate."

Terraforming Earth: Geoengineering megaplan starts now

"Unprecedented Climates"

I am sure there is good news somewhere, but this isn’t it. According to a new study in Nature, we are heading into “unprecedented climates.”

Regarding the findings of the study, John Roach of NBC News writes:

“The world is hurtling toward a stark future where the web of life unravels, human cultures are uprooted, and millions of species go extinct, according to a new study. This doomsday scenario isn't far off, either: It may start within a decade in parts of Indonesia, and begin playing out over most of the world — including cities across the United States — by mid-century.”

And, just in case the message has not sunk in:

“The authors warn that the time is now to prepare for a world where even the coldest of years will be warmer than the hottest years of the past century and a half.”

We will need drastic measures for drastic times.

Adults Only: Ocean Health


"We know the oceans are warming. We know they are acidifying. And now, to cap it all, it turns out they are suffocating, too."

This reality is hard to share with children. On the other hand, since adults have been ineffective in stemming ocean warming and acidification - and are just now learning about ocean suffocation - maybe it's the children who will rise up and change the oceans destinies. 

Learn more

New Scientist: The oceans are heating, acidifying and choking

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Good News on Global Surface Temperatures


"While the climate models are accurate at least back to 1880, we are currently experiencing global surface temperatures less than predicted. Whether this is due to “a combination of more heat going into the deep oceans and downturns in multi-decadal cycles in global temperature” is unknown. Nevertheless, it is good news."

Source:Examining the Recent Slow-Down in Global Warming

Movie Preview: Chasing Ice

Acclaimed photographer James Balog was once a skeptic about climate change. But through his Extreme Ice Survey, he discovers undeniable evidence of our changing planet. In Chasing Ice, Balog deploys revolutionary time-lapse cameras to capture a multi-year record of the world'schanging glaciers. His hauntingly beautiful videos compress years into seconds and capture ancient mountains of ice in motion as they disappear at a breathtaking rate.


Did the Roman Empire & the Han Dynasty begin the Anthropocene?


Roman sarcophagus with battle scene, Dallas Museum of Art. Source: WikimediaThe Anthropocene, a newly defined "informal" geological era, marks the timeframe in which humankind’s planetary impact has been so intense we alter Earth’s geology. But when did Anthropocene begin?

While some favor the Industrial Revolution as the start of the Anthropocene, I side with those arguing for an onset 8,000 to 10,000 years ago with the advent of agriculture. Now there is new evidence that greenhouse gasses - particularly the potent greenhouse gas methane - took a jump during the Roman empire and Han Dynasty in China which pushes the onset of the Anthropocene to at least 2,000 years ago.

In a study published October 4, 2012 of Nature, C. J. Sapart and colleagues looked at the “Natural and anthropogenic variations in methane sources during the past two millennia.” According to Richard Ingham of AFP, the research found “humans were big emitters of greenhouse gases long before the Industrial Revolution.”

For 1,800 years before industrialisation took off in the 19th century, emissions of methane rose in line with expanding populations, human conquest and agricultural techniques.

Big early increases coincided with the Chinese Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) and the Roman empire (27 BC to the last western emperor in 476 AD), which along with an advanced Indian civilisation at the time chopped down millions of trees to heat homes and power their metal-working industries, often to provide weapons.

Humankind added approximately 28 billion tonnes of methane to the atmosphere per year between 100 BC and 1600 AD through fires, deforestation, and rice paddies. And, according to the study:

Based on archaeological metal production estimates, we calculate that the charcoal used for metal production at the peak of the Roman empire alone could have produced 0.65 teragrams (650 million tonnes) per year of methane. 

More on the Anthropocene:

Trees on the edge

Seventy percent of the 226 tree species in forests around the world routinely function near the point where a serious drought would stop water transport from their roots to their leaves, says plant physiologist Brendan Choat of the University of Western Sydney in Richmond, Australia. Trees even in moist, lush places operate with only a slim safety margin between them and a thirsty death.

Trees worldwide a sip away from dehydration

Arctic Sea Ice: Who is right about the Northwest Passage?


You’ve probably seen the recent headlines announcing that Arctic sea ice reached a record low this September and the fabled Northwest Passage has been opened to shipping the past five summers. According to Climate Progress:

And, for the fifth consecutive year–and fifth time in recorded history — ice-free navigation was possible in the Arctic along the coast of Canada (the Northwest Passage), and along the coast of Russia (the Northeast Passage or Northern Sea Route.)

So, when was the last time the Northwest Passage was open? On this there are divergent views. Meteorologist Jeff Masters, co-founder the Weather Underground, writes inClimate Progress:

We can be confident that the Arctic did not see the kind of melting observed in 2012 going back over a century, as we have detailed ice edge records from ships (Walsh and Chapman, 2001). It is very unlikely the Northwest Passage was open between 1497 and 1900, since this spanned a cold period in the northern latitudes known as “The Little Ice Age”. Ships periodically attempted the Passage and were foiled during this period. Research by Kinnard et al. (2011) shows that the Arctic ice melt in the past few decades is unprecedented for at least the past 1,450 years. (emphasis added)

It is interesting the timeframe is cut off at 1900. According to Larry Bell, founder and director of the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture and author of Climate of Corruption, just 3 years later, historical records suggest the Passage may have been open. Writing about Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen:


In diary entries he wrote in 1903, sailor Ronald Amundsen reported his experience on board a ship in those waters: “The Northwest Passage was done [had opened]. My boyhood dream – at the moment it was accomplished. A strange feeling welled up in my throat; I was somewhat over-strained and worn – it was a weakness in me – but I felt tears in my eyes. Vessel in sight . . . Vessel in sight.”

Then, around mid-century:

During the early 1940’s a Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) schooner assigned to Arctic patrol made regular trips through the Northwest Passage. And in 2000, that is to say, 7 years before the first-ever satellite records), another RCMP patrol vessel was renamed the St. Roch II and recreated the voyage, making the crossing in only three weeks. The crew reported seeing very little ice except for the occasional icebergs they passed. 

In view of the recent dramatic reduction in Arctic ice this summer, Mark Serreze, Director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center, is likely correct: “We are now in uncharted territory.” However, leaving out references to the times in when the Northwest Passage may have been, or was open, you avoid the appearance of presenting only information that supports one point of view.

There is also a discrepancy regarding the year satellite records of Arctic sea ice became available. Here Bell seems to be significantly off on his dates.

If you have additional information or thoughts on issues above and the recent reduction in Arctic sea ice, please submit your comments. 

Extreme weather: Climate on steroids

"Picture a baseball player on steroids," Meehl goes on. "This baseball player steps up to the plates and hits a home run. It's impossible to say if he hit that home run because of the steroids, or whether he would have hit it anyway. The drugs just made it more likely."

It's the same with the weather, Meehl says. Greenhouse gasses are the steroids of the climate system. "By adding just a little bit more carbon dioxide to the climate, it makes things a little bit warmer and shifts the odds toward these more extreme events," he says. "What was once a rare event will become less rare.

Peter Miller
 quoting Gerald Meehl from the National Center for Atmospheric Research
Weather Gone Wild 

National Geographic, September 2012, print edition 

Breaking weather records: Hot-cold up to 12-1?

Breaking weather records is common. However, the ratio of hot to cold records should be around 1-1. Have we really been up to 12-1 this year? Send you thoughts, comments. 

The U.S. is getting hit by a range of powerful extreme weather events this summer. Record droughts in the West and Midwest are fueling historic wildfires, putting pressure on farmers, and driving up crop prices. Extreme “hurricane-like” storms took eastern states by surprise over the weekend, knocking out power to millions of people and leaving them sweltering in an ongoing heat wave. Across the country in June, more than 3,000 heat records were broken. That was after an off-the-charts heat wave in March where heat records blew out cold records 12-1.

Climate Progress

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Welcome to the Preview

Welcome to the Preview


Predicted sea level rise highest from Massachusetts to North Carolina. Image: U.S. Geological Survey

A few folks have commented on the record heat Colorado is experiencing this month. My response: it’s just a preview. And, it should'nt come as a surprise. This past May was the hottest month in North America on record. Since we are becoming accustomed to breaking records, let me repeat: not average; not below average; not above average; the hottest.

As for Coloradan’s wondering what this summer would be like, we now know. For Denver, today’s headline reads: “Heat wave of Denver weather melting away records; hits 105 again.” It is hard to keep count of the fires in the state; a new one was just announced in south Boulder. With the heat and dry conditions, it’s shaping up to be record-breaking summer.  

And, it looks like Colorado is not alone. Various areas of the country are getting Previews this month, either in fact or by prediction. The flash floods in Duluth, Minnesota dumped 5-9 inches overnight “sending what looked like raging rivers through Duluth's streets.” (Can we attribute this specific flood to climate change? No. Does planetary warming result in more saturated air that is going dump water somewhere? Yes.) The U.S. Geological Survey has determined the East Coast from Massachusetts to North Carolina is a “hot spot” for sea level rise with levels predicted to rise “three to four times faster than the global average.” And, for Southern California:

By the middle of the century, the number of days with temperatures above 95 degrees each year will triple in downtown Los Angeles, quadruple in portions of the San Fernando Valley and even jump five-fold in a portion of the High Desert in L.A. County, according to a new UCLA climate change study.

At least we are getting a Preview and we should not be surprised by climate extremes the rest of the decade and beyond.

What do we do now? Many already conserve, recycle, or are otherwise proactive in ways big and small. We all need to claim our ecological citizenshipand not wait for governmental action. Whether we care or not, we are all ecological citizens. What we individually take from, or give back to our global ecology eventually comes back to support us or bites us. Although I am optimistic and believe we will, in the clutch, solve the climate spiral, we will hit the guardrail. The question is, how hard? 

SUNDAY PALEO / February 26, 2012


The lip of the world ocean as seem from Rosemary Beach, Florida


Climate change, global warming, or whatever you call it, humans will likely adapt. We always have. (I won’t mention conflict and population reduction. Oh, I just did.) In Colorado, as the climate warms, there will be less snow for winter sports but more land conducive to growing grapes. Loose some, win some.

Unfortunately, it’s never that simple. We are not the only ones affected. We know we are loosing many of our great species, such as tigers and polar bears, which our children’s children will never see in the wild. Of course, most of us have never seen them in the wild. But just knowing they are there, somehow confirms who we are. We can’t be that destructive, right?

As some species disappear, others will thrive, for example, marmots. But so will mosquitoes, ticks, rodents and jellyfish. Lacey Johnson of Scientific American writes:

Imagine a planet where jellyfish rule the seas, giant rodents roam the mountains and swarms of insects blur everything in sight.

None of these scenarios are appealing, but let’s focus on jellyfish. Their proliferation is a sign many ocean species are not doing well and the reason appears to be ocean acidification. Lacey Johnson:

Jellyfish populations are also suspected to be swelling because of climate change. In recent years, the creatures have been clogging the nets of fishermen, stinging record numbers of beachgoers and blocking the water intake lines of power plants in at least three countries. Some scientists are linking the phenomenon to warmer waters and ocean acidification caused by high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Ocean acidification will also short-circuit the nervous system of some sea creatures:

Based on several years of observations of how baby coral fishes react to an environment with high levels of dissolved CO2, researchers have found that elevated acidity levels directly interfere with fish neurotransmitter functions, impeding their ability to hear, smell, turn and evade predators.

What effect will ocean acidity have on biodiversity? Researchers analysing biodiversity around sites where CO2 from volcanic activity seeps out of the ocean floor are providing a clue:

Directly above these CO2 seeps, pH plummets to at least 7.8, a value that is expected to occur widely by 2100 and that is substantially lower than the normal level for the area, 8.1. These sites offer a preview of what may happen to seafloor ecosystems as CO2 levels continue to rise, causing ocean water pH to drop. Species diversity was reduced by 30%.

Wait. Are they saying a reduction of ocean species by almost 1/3 in about 90 years?? 


Fortunately, creative activity is occurring throughout the world that may stem this unfavorable prognosis. Hey, even some banks are taking action. According to a recent article on the Environmental News Network:

On behalf of 92 pension funds, asset managers, insurers and banks, the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), which holds the world's largest collection of self-reported corporate environmental data, has sent letters to the CEOs of 415 of the world’s largest public companies calling for cost-effective management and reductions of their carbon emissions.


The largest new signatories include Spain's Banco Santander, Banesto and BBVA from the banking sector, fund manager Henderson and APG the asset manager. There is also a significant number of new signatories in Australia, which passed its Clean Energy Act in November last year, taking the group’s combined assets to over US$10 trillion.

For a frequent dose of progress on the environmental front, try EcoGeek, CleanTechnica, or Grist.


OK. That, was a rough start to Sunday Paleo. Maybe you have given some thought to what your role will be in creating a new future. So, it's time to cheer up.

I am told that one of the answers given by Siri to the question “What is the secret of life?” is: “All available current evidence points to chocolate.” Yes, I know, chocolate was not consumed in the Paleolithic; think of it as Paleo informed by modern knowledge.

Marks Sisson recently posted a great summary on the benefits of chocolate. Here, with a bit of tweaking, is his list. Go to his site for the full flavor.

  1. Dark chocolate contains healthy fats.
  2. Dark chocolate contains lots of polyphenols, particularly flavanols.
  3. Dark chocolate lowers blood pressure.
  4. Dark chocolate may lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
  5. Dark chocolate reduces insulin resistance.
  6. Dark chocolate may improve less severe forms of fatty liver.
  7. Dark chocolate increases resistance to UV damage.

You are now ready to pick up some dark chocolate. But which brand? The NorthWest CaveGirls recently tested six dark chocolates:

“Although we brought 12 bars of chocolate, we were only able to taste 6, because – believe it or not- we were chocolated out after that.  Take a look and see which ones won the taste test.”


Finally, looking for something more substantial to cook? Try these recipes:

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