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Thu, Jul

Coastal Cities at High Noon

CLIMATE

CLIMATE WATCH - Antarctica, the massive continent of ice, the size of the continental US and Mexico combined, is breaking apart more and more as a recent scientific expedition discovered unambiguous signals of considerably more danger than previously realized.  

“The changes to the sea-ice indicate that in the coming decades coastal cities will need to be reconfigured because of sea level rise,” according to Craig Stevens, Auckland

Professor of Physical Oceanography. (Source: Signs Found of Worryingly Fast Antarctic Ice Melt – New Zealand Expedition, RNZ, March 3, 2024) 

Sea level rise for coastal cities, the world’s worst nightmare, is coming within indeterminate decades but probably sooner than expected because that’s how science works these days. It’s always late to the party and not properly dressed for the occasion. But don’t blame the scientists, as soon as they complete research, the fast-moving climate system has outdistanced them. This is the new normal. Science is too slow for climate change. 

Moreover, reader commentary/feedback about articles such as this recognizes a distinct trend in the world’s climate system that’s starting to come apart at the seams much earlier than expected. That observation is true. But what can be done and why aren’t world leaders holding emergency meetings to challenge civilization’s biggest challenge is puzzling, to say the least. It’s only too obvious because of lack of expedient policies to halt greenhouse gas emissions global warming and consequent sea level rise are not taken seriously enough. 

In that regard, it must be noted that the world’s rich/wealthy elite that buy/own politicians, buy/own Supreme Court justices could have stopped global warming dead in its tracks decades ago when Dr James Hansen  (Earth Institute/Columbia University) warned the US Senate in 1988 of global warming when he was head of NASA Goddard Institute of Space Studies but instead chose to go along with a fossil fuel-poisoned world where the money resides. 

Since that time, the world has become a function of neoliberal capitalism, as dictated by Reagan/Thatcher almost 50 years ago. Therefore, the question must be asked: Has that socio-economic system that has made only a few filthy rich on the back of 99.75% of the world’s population been a good caretaker of the planet? Answer: No, it has not. Then, why should that warped socio-economic system be allowed to continue as absentee care-less caretaker of the planet? Neoliberal capitalism hasn’t done one positive thing for the planet, not one but has drained resources and enriched a teeny-teeny-weeny minority of people. Bravo! But what’s the ecological legacy? 

Meanwhile, a team of New Zealand scientists Antarctic Science Platform and a research team from the Italian Programma Nazionale di Ricerche in Antartide aboard the 262-foot ice-breaker research vessel Laura Bassi just returned from two months in Antarctica’s Ross Sea. They got a first-hand look at sea ice retreat and came away with deep concern. Things are happening much faster than anybody thought possible. High noon for the world’s coastal cities is closer than they expected. 

Craig Stevens, Professor of Physical Oceanography, Auckland led the expedition. The three lowest sea ice extents since modern records have been kept 2022, 2023, and 2024 are the lowest in the 46-year record of Antarctic sea ice. It’s gone fast and faster. Furthermore, the configuration of deeper parts of the ocean are changing via content of salty and oxygenated water. According to Dr. Stevens: ‘With a climate emergency underway, the work they were doing was urgent.” 

It was only a couple of months ago when the following headline caught attention: Antarctic Sea-Ice at ‘Mind-Blowing Low Alarms Experts, RNZ, Sept.17, 2023.  “It's so far outside anything we've seen, it's almost mind-blowing," according to Walter Meier, who monitors sea-ice with the National Snow and Ice Data Center. 

“It’s so far outside anything we’ve seen, it’s almost mind-blowing,” is language that’s as strong as climate scientists ever use. That one sentence about Antarctica should ring throughout the land a clarion call to take immediate action, but, so far, it hasn’t moved the needle. 

Similar to Antarctica’s cousin Arctic sea ice up north, down south huge ice expanse regulates the planet's temperature, steadily throughout a 10,000-yr episode of human history known as the Holocene Era, not too hot, not too cold. Its white surface spectacularly reflects 80-90% of solar radiation back into space, and it importantly cools the water beneath and near it. Without its cooling ice influence: “Antarctica could transform from Earth's refrigerator to a radiator,” Ibid. 

By all appearances, it is starting to transform into a radiator for the first time in human history. The real depth of the problem, moreover, is even deeper yet as both poles react in the same manner, almost regardless of the season, rapid ice melt, big losses of the all-important albedo effect reflecting 80-90% of solar radiation back to space, whilst a rapidly expanding dark ocean background absorbs considerably more heat than the surrounding ice can withstand. It’s a vicious melt-off circular that gooses the climate system into absolute nonsensical patterns turning normal jet streams (20-40,000 feet) abnormally whacky, rocking the hemisphere with massive doses of scorching heat that stays put, atmospheric rivers, massive flooding, and wildfires galore. It’s all massive scale. There is no more normal. 

Ultimately, the bruised climate system is aiming for a surprise coastal flooding of major cities that carelessly will not be prepared because, based upon many, many climate conferences, and gobs of warnings by thousands of climate scientists over many years, the risk still has not sunk into policies of major nation/states that global warming’s favored course is destructive coastal flooding and ecosystem degradation. If they truly believed, they’d do everything possible to convert fossil fuel subsidies, which the IMF says surged to a record $7 trillion, and build seawalls, very tall seawalls. This then would complete the circle of moats surrounding countries in an ongoing left-right socio-politico battle over whether revival of the Middle Ages (500 – 1400 A.D.) comes to pass. Burning at the stake could be right around the corner.

Not that many years ago, scientists never thought Antarctica would awaken from its frozen past and succumb to global warming.  Well, it’s finally awakened, and it is succumbing. “It's potentially a really alarming sign of Antarctic climate change that hasn't been there for the last 40 years. And it's only just emerging now,” Ibid.

It was only three decades ago when Martin Siegert, glaciologist University of Exeter started studying Antarctica. Today he says: “Awakening this monster of the south threatens an absolute disaster for the world,” Ibid.

Refreshingly, scientists studying Antarctica are not holding back statements of fact. According to Anna Hogg, Earth scientist at University of Leeds: There are signs that what is already happening to Antarctica's ice sheets is in “the worst-case scenario range of what was predicted,” Ibid.

The worst-case scenario is too unnerving to reiterate.

What about solutions? For starters, here’s a quote from Dr. James Hansen at a special event in Utah hosted by The Nature Conservancy: “We’ve got political parties on both sides taking money from special interests. And unless we solve this problem with our democracy, we really can’t change the climate change problem. And the public knows this.”

Answer: kill Citizens United as soon as possible

Citizens United - In 2010. the U.S. Supreme Court decided that Americans cannot prevent corporations from spending unlimited money to control elections, politicians, and policy based upon interpretation of the First Amendment.

The Supremes put the United States of America up for sale to the highest bidders.

(Robert Hunziker, MA, economic history DePaul University, awarded membership in Pi Gamma Mu International Academic Honor Society in Social Sciences is a freelance writer and environmental journalist who has over 200 published articles appearing in over 50 journals, magazines, and sites worldwide.)