‘We Can’t Talk Ocean Conservation Without Addressing Climate’

by on August 9, 2018 · 2 comments

in Environment, Ocean Beach

The Climate 1970-2100

By David Helvarg / Blue Notes / August 8, 2018

Wildfires are burning across California (and much of the world) this summer amidst record-breaking heat. Meanwhile I took a weekend off to go bodysurfing in Ocean Beach (where I used to live) and the water was surprisingly warm.  Now Scripps Institution of Oceanography reports it’s actually the warmest ocean water recorded in 100 years of record keeping.

Given the threats posed by offshore drilling, coral bleaching, ocean acidification, plastic (petrochemical) pollution, rising seas and much more it seems pointless to discuss ocean conservation without addressing climate. The ocean is the driver of climate and weather but is also impacted by human caused climate change in very basic ways including temperature, chemistry, and salinity.

If Jimmy Carter’s energy policy had been continued we’d already be over 50 percent fossil free in the U.S. and leading the global energy transition. But when Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980 one of the first things he did was remove solar panels from the White House roof to symbolize rejection of environmental progress that until then had been a bipartisan commitment. If we’d acted on climate change between 1970 and 2000 we’d probably be far enough into the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy so that we would face a still dangerous but not catastrophic future. The New York Times has a whole new special report that lists this critical lost opportunity as having taken place between 1979-1989. Check it out.

The 1992 Earth Summit in Rio may have been the last chance of that era to take meaningful action but 107 heads of state punted under pressure from the United States, Saudi Arabia and other fossil fuel supporters who didn’t want any concrete action.

The period we’re now living in – say 2000 to 2020 might be considered the Ah-Ha phase of the Greenhouse Century, when we recognize that the global climate regime has changed and is headed in a cataclysmic new direction in terms of mass extinctions, extreme weather, hurricanes, wildfires, heat waves, flash floods and drought, as well as huge and unacceptable economic costs and countless lost lives.

Our failure to act soon enough is directly attributable to a successful billion dollar plus lobbying and disinformation campaign to stop climate action carried out by the fossil fuel industry, the largest industrial combine in human history. I started writing about the environmental backlash in my 1994 book, ‘The War Against the Greens,’ and predicted it would only get worse as climate became central to our future security.

The next phase, say 2020 through the end of the century will hopefully become a transition time combining adaptation, eco-intervention/restoration and survival triage.  We could see the kind of rapid shift off of carbon fuels in the mid 21st century that the 19th century witnessed in the shift from whale oil to rock oil or petroleum, but taking place amidst devastating impacts from climate disruption and uncontrolled feedback loops.  These could include massive releases of additional greenhouse gasses from methane leaking off melting tundra and taiga and carbon emissions from burning wildfires, storm damaged cities, etc. This will mean continued extreme imbalance in natural systems such as weather patterns that were relatively stable during the last 10,000 years that marked the rise of human civilization.

The options left to us today are to promote the best available solutions to minimize the damage already inflicted by investing in global reforestation (including mangrove forests), coral restoration and kelp promotion for food and carbon sequestration, also new agricultural models for terrestrial food and fuel production that benefit living soils and sequester carbon along with carbon negative urban planning including super-green architecture.

Also it would be good to empower more women not only for reasons of equity but because it is the one proven effective means of reducing population growth without the kind of coercion China’s one child policy required (it’s also worth remembering that had that failed experiment not taken place there’d be a billion more humans on the planet today).

So am I hopeful or pessimistic?  Doesn’t matter. The future remains speculative until we’re living it.  All I know for certain is if we don’t try to make change for the better it won’t happen.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Frank Gormlie August 10, 2018 at 11:03 am

Now, I cannot verify that in the photo above,Dave Helvarg is actually body-surfing on an an OB wave. Although I can verify he knows how to body-surf and does it every summer in OB. Dave also donated many of the books he has written to the OB Shelf at the Library.


sealintheSelkirks August 10, 2018 at 2:25 pm

Why are so few people talking about ‘Lag Time’ that is built into the lasting effects of human CO2 atmospheric loading? The figures I am reading are saying we are only about to 1968-1970 releases in GHGs in how the climate is being affected. If the planet stopped using GHGs immediately and not ‘some day’ there are decades of vastly increased levels of our outgassing of fossil fuel burning (compared to the previous decades since) still on track to do more (and worse) damage… It don’t get better, folks sorry to say.

Read the latest 2 articles and view the charts, graphs, and vids available on arctic-news.blogspot.com from Dr Andrew Glikson, Earth and Paleo-climate science, ANU Climate Change Institute and other scientists; and Editor Sam Carena’s latest piece about heat stress on the body and what we face…

OB is hot. everywhere is hot and burning, and here, 40 air miles from the Canadian Border at 3,300 ft + in the Selkirk Range, it was 108’F yesterday in the north-side shade of the woodshed with over 50% humidity Red Alert unhealthful air quality from smoke and haze with Excessive Red Level Heat Warning. Today is supposed to be hotter with a Red Alert Hazardous Weather Outlook for dry t-cell lightning coming this evening.

And the coast down there now has a too-warm ocean temps on top of the air heat. 33 years on OB & MB beaches and we always wore wetsuits in summer. Even if it was just an unsnapped Beavertail or vest or a short sleeve 2mm Spring Suit. Now it’s like a bathtub? Bizarre the radical affects going on.

None of this bodes well but anyone reading this probably already knows that…



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