Australian meterologists have declared that the country’s current drought is the worst in a thousand years—and its end is nowhere in sight.
I’m quoting from England’s Manchester Guardian: Mike Young, a water management expert at the University of Adelaide, told Reuters this week that Australia’s long-term climate was changing. “When the drought breaks we will not return to cooler, wetter conditions. It is the worst type of drought because we are not expecting to return back to the old regime. The last half of the last century was much wetter. What we seem to have done is … built Australia on the assumption that it was going to be wetter, and we haven’t been prepared to make the change back to a much drier regime.”
Which, by the way, is what scientists are starting to say about California.
In the Northern Hemisphere, this summer found ships sailing the Northwest Passage along the northern coast of Canada—now there’s a phrase you haven’t heard much, yet– through straits that have historically been blocked with ice year-round. On the Canadian and Alaskan tundra, hundreds of ponds are disappearing as the permafrost melts—the warming, drying soil means increased CO2 and methane releases—we’re worried about the wrong meth—it’s the methane that’ll kill us—legalize herb and no one will fool with methamphetamine! but i digress—
Scientists in England recently announced that in November of 2004, the Gulf Stream slowed down and stopped for ten days before it picked up and started moving again—nobody expected it—nobody knows what it means—Prof. Harry Bryden of England’s National Oceanographic Centre claims that the overall slowdown of the Gulf Stream’s flow so far is likely to generate a one degree Centigrade drop in temperatures in England over just the next ten years; a complete failure of the Gulf Stream would drop England’s average temperature by as much as six degrees. That would make the climate of southern England akin to what we currently find in Iceland or northern Norway—and the north of England? Will that be Spitzbergen? And what might happen to Scandanavia and northeastern Europe, especially if the rest of the world is warming up while they cool off? That’s a recipe for bigtime storm systems—there’s general agreement among climatologists that the changes we are seeing will mean more precipitation, especially in northern latitudes. More snow. Hmm. Not really the kind of climate you want to have a crowded, high-tech society in—too bad there’s one already in place there. What’s going to happen? It’s beyond our predictive abilities to tell, but we should have a definitive answer on that one in about thirty years. Stick around, it’s going to get interesting—as in the Chinese curse. Speaking of the Chinese curse, let’s take a look at East Asia.
There is now a semi-permanent haze over Southeast Asia from burning jungles in Sumatra, Borneo, and Java—it ain’t just forest fires—multinational corporations and greedy individuals are destroying the complex, carbon-sequestering ecosystem in order to sell lumber to China and plant monoculture palm plantations for the production of that wonderful new ecological fuel, biodiesel. America’s very own Archer-Daniels-Midland Company has proudly announced that they are going into the palm-oil business bigtime, touting it as “alternative energy development.”
Can you say, “greenwashing,” boys and girls?
Not only are our planet’s jungle lungs being destroyed, the smoke from the fires is a definite health hazard. The government of Singapore advises people not to go outside or exercise strenuously on the worst days, but not everyone has those options, only those wealthy enough to afford air conditioners. Children in the region are growing up with permanent lung damage.
But permanent lung damage from environmental degradation is not only a third world problem. A recent study found that kids in the South Bronx (OK, that’s pretty third world) are suffering from a 25% asthma rate due to the particulates in diesel fuel exhaust—the occurrence of their asthma attacks rises at rush hour, when the most fumes are being emitted. Hey, the good news is, biodiesel has significantly lower emissions than petrodiesel—but the bad news is, biodiesel is going to have to take a big bite out of either our ability to breathe or our ability to eat in order to become a mass fuel. Which would you rather give up? Breathing? Eating? Or driving?