Saturday, November 9, 2013

All Lies and Jest

And I am just a poor boy.
Though my story’s seldom told,
I have squandered my resistancewal
For a pocketful of mumbles,
Such are promises
All lies and jest
Still, a man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest.

from The Boxer

~ Paul Simon
This photo of Portland, Oregon was shared by David Lange, who blogs at WindSpiritKeeper.  It captures and epitomizes much of the tumultuous wreckage that is driving the world ever more horrendously and violently askew - crass advertisement, artificially cheap energy borrowed from the future of our children, mindless addictions to things that endanger us and any generations to come - and most ominously, the obliteration of nature.  What hasn’t been paved over or mined, has been poisoned.
Pollution Haze - Budapest
David and several other friends from disparate locations - who like me have been observing the abruptly accelerating deterioration of trees and their lacerated foliage this autumn - have been kindly forwarding images from their environs.  With thanks to all for contributing photos, they will be labelled by location, and illustrate the first part of this post.  Some are from Mark in the Ozarks, taken mid-October; others from Éva, who is recording the smog and miserable trees in Budapest, Hungary (she describes the leaves there with the extraordinary term “mummified”) plus a set from starkly barren woods provided by Roger and Susan Shamel of GWEN, taken during their holiday in Sutton, Quebec on October 24.  It appears I am not the only person who sees something abnormal in premature leaf drop and broken branches, so despite our differences (some of us pray passionately and some emphatically do not) still, we share an abiding love of nature and deep fear for the total loss of trees, surely one of the most splendid living things on earth.
Sassafras - Ozarks
As evidence of overshoot seeps into even mainstream media, the predictable insanity mounts in tandem.  Reeling from an onslaught of stories about hurricanes, droughts, and floods (how about this epic 40 foot rise in a tiny little creek in Texas?) - not to mention dieoffs of everything from butterflies to moose - more people are becoming aware of extreme environmental threats.  The ideological deniers become more shrill, and the rest commence bargaining with extinction.
If facebook pages are any indication, it’s tempting to blame a localized disaster like Fukushima for the plague on starfish, even though they’re dying on the East Coast, too, as are shrimp - along with countless other species like, oh, manatees, dophins, and bats.  Remember I said fungus is taking over the world?  New research has found that P. destructans, the fungus that causes the lethal white-nose syndrome that underlies mass bat fatalities, “...can make a meal out of just about any carbon source likely to be found in caves...It can basically live on any complex carbon source, which encompasses insects, undigested insect parts in guano, wood, dead fungi and cave fish”.
Even more alluring to those dazed by the prospect of apocalyptic prospects is the urge to pin culpability for our current trajectory towards imminent ecocide on capitalism, modern industrialization, white European privilege, or even the development of agriculture 10,000 years ago - which, it’s worth noting, was far from a singular cultural aberration, since it arose simultaneously and independently in numerous locations around the world.  And too, the evidence suggests that humans have always been slobs, generally - we just used to have so much more space to shunt our garbage.  Heres an old photo from 1905, captioned, American Idyll - a bridge in the woods, at Belle Isle Park, in Detroit, Michigan.  Lovely, with big old, healthy trees, and everyone so elegantly turned out!
If you look a little more closely, you can see trash littering the shore, and not a single person evinces concern.
Nevertheless, among the romantic it remains an article of faith that there is some elusive but more authentically primitive self, which would exist in harmony with nature if only it weren’t being artificially suppressed by modern society.  Aside from being ignorant of our long and brutal history - you know, those benign Egyptian Pharaohs and benevolent Chinese Mandarins - ultimately the result of such wishful thinking is no different than outright refusal to recognize limits on a finite planet - because it relies on magic to save us from ourselves.
XRayMike has a comprehensive list of the most recent developments in the horror show on his blog Collapse of Industrial Civilization, which is nice because it spares me having to link to them all - but although he seems to be getting ever more pessimistic about our prospects, his condemnation of capitalism as the root of our demise remains undaunted - as though war, famine and disease are the exclusive province of the last two centuries!  He writes:
“A sociopathic economic system that crushes democracy, decency, and justice in the name of growth and profits has led to the catastrophe we now see unfolding. When the masses are dumbed-down to mere ‘consumers’ and powerless to make meaningful change, then those sociopaths at the helm of the ship are free to pull us all down into the black hole of war, famine, disease, and extinction.”

It would seem that any number of prior economic systems could substitute for capitalism in his assessment, all the way back to, say, the Aztecs or the Mongols - but at least XRayMike is fully cognizant of the paramount importance of inexorable trends, the relevance of which is nimbly skirted by those whose belief in technology is unshakable.  No amount of pointing out that technology does not equal energy will dissuade them that there is some chance we get evade the banquet of consequences that awaits our attendance.  No amount of evidence-based factual observations will convince them that tipping points were passed long ago.  The reign of models is absolute, as is the belief that the same solutions to problems that created the morass will provide escape.
Sycamore Grove, Ozarks
There are many reasons why scientists will not go so far as to say with certainty that we have passed a tipping point (although a few a near - see Michael Mann talk about the IPCC downplaying higher-end scenarios, in which he brandishes the word arguably”  several times, to dilute his accusations).  Generally, saying anything remotely predictive flirts with ending a career.  Also, it goes against their training to say anything without caveats.  Instead, they conclude virtually every paper with, “more research is needed.”  

To be fair, scientists are people too.  They dont want to admit to themselves what the implications of their results are - lots of them have children, and some have grandchildren.  It’s devastating to contemplate the end of the human race, the very notion goes against everything we are conditioned to believe.
Young trees dying in Budapest
However, what I have noticed reading many research papers is that, year after year, “too late” is a perpetually moving target.  And the clock is permanently stuck at five minutes to midnight.  I doubt there is any deliberate dishonesty, just a perfectly normal instinct to deny the worst.  Nevertheless, it is possible to catch the truth in hindsight.

For instance, take research published over a year ago, written up in an LA Times article with this frantic headline:  Earth may be near tipping point, scientists warn; A group of scientists warns that population growth, climate change and environmental damage are pushing Earth toward calamitous and irreversible changes.”
Sycamore Leaf, Budapest
I posted that story at the time of publication, but after a year wherein one disaster has befallen after another, it is instructional to revisit.

A group of international scientists is sounding a global alarm, warning that population growth, climate change and environmental destruction are pushing Earth toward calamitous — and irreversible — biological changes.”
“In a paper published in Thursday’s edition of the journal Nature, 22 researchers from a variety of fields liken the human impact to global events eons ago that caused mass extinctions, permanently altering Earth’s biosphere.”

“‘Humans are now forcing another such transition, with the potential to transform Earth rapidly and irreversibly into a state unknown in human experience,’ wrote the authors, who are from the U.S., Europe, Canada and South America.”

“If current trends continue — exploding global population, rapidly rising temperatures and the clearance of more than 40% of Earth's surface for urban development or agriculture — the planet could reach a tipping point, they say.”
“‘The net effects of what we're causing could actually be equivalent to an asteroid striking the Earth in a worst-case scenario,’ the paper's lead author, Anthony Barnosky, a professor of integrative biology at UC Berkeley, said in an interview. ‘I don't want to sound like Armageddon. I think the point to be made is that if we just ignore all the warning signs of how we're changing the Earth, the scenario of losses of biodiversity — 75% or more — is not an outlandish scenario at all.’”
Hackberry - Ozarks
He doesn’t WANT to sound like Armageddon, gracious no...but he DOES.  Is there any reason to think we are going to reverse or even slow the trends they identified?  I mean, did anybody besides a tiny insignificant handful of people even pay attention to that research, never mind remember it today?  Is there any reason to assume that homo sapiens sapiens will be among the < 25% of species who might survive?

“The swiftness of climate change is likely to outpace the ability of species to adapt, especially as natural habitat becomes more fragmented, Barnosky said.”

Redbud Thicket - Ozarks
“All this could produce a biologically impoverished Earth that would rob humans of vital ecological services such as insects that pollinate crops, forests that provide clean water, and tropical species that are the source of new drugs.”

“We have created a bubble of human population and economy … that is totally unsustainable and is either going to have to deflate gradually or is going to burst,’ said co-author James Brown, a distinguished professor of biology at the University of New Mexico. ‘If it’s going to burst, the consequences are really going to be grim for people as well as biodiversity and the rest of the planet.”

“Forty years ago, the Club of Rome think tank caused a stir when it argued that there were limits to world growth. In 1968, Paul Ehrlich, now a professor of population studies at Stanford University, warned of the dangers of overpopulation in his book ‘The Population Bomb.’”
“‘This is what scientists saw in the ‘60s and ‘70s,’ said Mikael Fortelius, a professor of evolutionary paleontology at the University of Helsinki in Finland and one of the paper’s authors. ‘We’ve never been quite sure when it would happen. We’re there now.’”

“Were there now”.

“Predicting the timing and exact nature of sweeping planetary change is difficult because of the complexity of biotic systems.”

“‘We may have already passed the tipping point or we may not get an early warning’ that it is near, said co-author Alan Hastings, an ecologist and distinguished professor in UC Davis’ environmental science department.”
Persimmon - Ozarks
“The authors got the idea for their review at a 2010 UC Berkeley conference devoted to the concept of a global tipping point.”

“They looked at evidence of past dramatic shifts in Earth’s biosphere, such as the end of the last glacial age, when ice disappeared from nearly a third of the planet's surface, or the lethal changes in the atmosphere that accompanied periods of intense volcanic activity. The consequences usually included mass species extinction, altered food webs and the emergence of new dominant species.”

“To avert a grim future, or at least make it less grim, the paper calls for significant reductions in world population growth and per-capita resource use, more efficient energy use, less reliance on fossil fuels and stepped-up efforts to protect the parts of Earth that have so far escaped human dominance.”

“‘I’m not personally particularly optimistic,’ Fortelius said.  ‘I think we had to speak up. We have to say what we see. Whether it will have any impact, I really don’t know.’”
Well, now we DO know.  It has had NO impact.  Do you recognize the regret and futility in his statement that he is not optimistic...but felt a moral obligation to speak up?  We will keep pillaging and despoiling, proudly chopping down trees, until the final human has twitched in his last convulsive mutilation of the natural world.  The World Meteorological Organization just announced that in 2012, the level of greenhouse gases - CO2, methane and nitrous oxides - in the atmosphere broke a new record.  CO2 has increased, over preindustrial levels, by 141%, whereas nitrous oxides have increased by 120%.  As forests expire from absorbing tropospheric ozone and become CO2 sources instead of sinks, expect the level of CO2, and temperatures, to soar.
The concentration of ozone pollution in Texas, described as “surging”, is attributed to methane fracking there and meanwhile, an international study found yet another source of ozone precursors in our expiring waters...surely one of the most horrific documents you would ever want to read, because this is happening in coastal zones EVERYWHERE:  The report, Hypoxia and Nutrient Reduction in the Coastal Zone, observes on p. 21:

“Evidence is growing that coastal and oceanic hypoxia may contribute net nitrogen oxide emissions to the atmosphere...”; and on p. 23:

“Recent studies demonstrate that fluxes of methane a potent greenhouse gas to the atmosphere from the expanding coastal hypoxic zones will probably be insignificant.  However, coastal upwelling areas with shallow OMZs represent significant sources of nitrous oxide (N2O), a 300-fold more potent greenhouse gas than CO2.
In one of the endless stories of mass animal dieoffs, which usually end by saying the cause is being studied and then are never heard about again, the tale of the elk stands out, as the culprit has been found...and, surprise surprise, despite frenzied speculation about extraterrestrials, it derives from mundane pollution:

Culprit in Mysterious Elk Deaths Found
“A hunter stumbled upon a bizarre sight on a 75,000-acre ranch north of Las Vegas, N.M., on Aug. 27: the remains of more than 100 dead elk. Livestock deaths are not unusual, but so many animals dying off, and doing so in what seems to be under 24 hours, was puzzling to scientists.”
Brown tree, Budapest
“Officials with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish investigated the mysterious elk deaths and ruled out several possible causes for the elk deaths, including poachers, anthrax, lightning strikes, epizootic hemorrhagic disease (an often-fatal virus known to affect deer and other ruminants), botulism, poisonous plants, malicious poisoning and even some sort of industrial or agricultural accident.”

“The investigation was hampered by the state of the elk: Scavengers, including bears and vultures, ate most of the bodies, with maggots and blowflies helping to reduce the elk herd to an eerie scattered sea of skeletons in the desert.”
Leaf damage, Budapest
“‘We couldn’t find anything [toxic] in their stomachs and no toxic plants on the landscape,’ said Kerry Mower, a wildlife disease specialist with New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, as quoted by the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper.”

“As news spread, some conspiracy-minded folk soon speculated about links to animal mutilations, UFOs or even the dreaded Hispanic vampire el chupacabra.”
Elm, and Boxelder - Ozarks
Pond scum of death
“Through science and further testing of elk tissue samples and water samples, the real killer has finally been found: pond scum. Or, more specifically, a neurotoxin produced by one type of blue-green algae that can develop in warm, standing water.”

“A bloom of this alga can be devastating to wildlife. ‘In warm weather, blooms of blue-green algae are not uncommon in farm ponds in temperate regions, particularly ponds enriched with fertilizer,’ according to a classic toxicology reference book, Casarett and Doull's Toxicology: The Basic Science of Poisons. ‘Under these conditions, one species of alga, Anabaena flos-aquae, produces a neurotoxin, anatoxin-A, which depolarizes and blocks acetylcholine receptors, causing death in animals that drink the pond water. The lethal effects develop rapidly, with death in minutes to hours from respiratory arrest.”
Tree amputation, Budapest
I just love how they call pollution “enriched with fertilizer”, don't you?

Barnosky was saying that if we continue on BAU, then <25% of species will survive, equivalent to an asteroid hit.  That's as close as you are going to get a scientist to predict human extinction.  We are almost certainly going to be in the >75% that don't make it, because we are large mammals.  There are a huge number of little bacteria and fungus and insects and jellyfish that are far more likely to be in the <25% that survive.  Since there is no indication whatsoever that we are going to willingly scale down extraction, habitat destruction, human population, pollution and CO2 emissions, we ARE looking at the worst case scenario.  I don’t think you have to be a scientist to see that.  You just need to think.

I’m not convinced that every single human on earth will be dead in the short term.  What I am convinced of, is that the people that are still living will wish they are dead.
Classic "bronzing" from absorbing pollution, Budapest garden
Have you seen many grand old trees like this South Carolina beauty lately??  Me neither.
Instead, there are only rotting carcasses to be found.
There is something seriously wrong when trees no longer reach their genetically programed age limit - centuries - or even more...millenia!...depending on the species - and when even the young trees die prematurely.
I was reluctant to do more depressing comparisons but since autumn is almost finished, here we go. This view of a pond in a neighboring village was taken October 29, 2010.
At the time I took the picture as an example of fall color, I considered it to be unremarkable - already a pale ghost of years prior...but it was the best I could find.  Imagine!  The deterioration since then has been so mind-boggling that in retrospect it looks astonishingly beautiful.  I went back on October 26, 2013 and this is what I found:
Some of the discrepancy is due to dull colors from brown and shriveled leaves, and some is due to earlier leaf fall.  This is the large maple that lives across the street from the pond, in 2010, which at the time I found to be sadly lacking the shimmering color I would have usually expected:
Same tree, three years (and minus four days) later:
I came across a photo essay that was shot on October 27, 2009 at the New York Botanical Garden, from which I reproduced these glowing scenes.  Ever the intrepid tree witness, I decided to venture forth on exactly the same date, the 27th of October which was a Sunday, with my friend Catarina and her husband, Peter, who generously volunteered to chauffeur us to the Bronx.
Above is one of the scenes from 2009, and below, Catarina peers into a hollowed, rotted trunk.

The park is huge, and within it is a remnant of old-growth forest, one of the only places left in the Eastern US that was never logged.  Even so, there is not a single tree within its boundaries that comes close to this specimen, photographed in 1900, captioned, The Mammoth Oak at Pass Christian, Mississippi.”  Whyever the hell not??
To really appreciate the enormity of this tree, look at the figure of the man, and the buggy above, and then at the breadth of the crown compared to the size of the trunk, depicted in another old picture:
The only evidence of trees that majestic now lie on the ground, at the arboretum.
Catarina is reading one of many informative signs along the trails.
Given the particularly dismal performance of fall colors this year, it reeks with tragic irony:  “In forest settings, the sugar maple can grow to 120 feel tall and can live for 300 years.  Instead, we are left with standing dead trunks, and crowns that are stunted:
More aching still is the declaration:  “The brilliant scarlet and gold autumn leaves of sugar maples are one of the glories of eastern forests from Canada to Tennessee when this is the BEST of what the leaves look like:

This is from the earlier set of pictures, only four years ago:

Because the park is so large it was impossible to reproduce exact locations, with the exception of the rose garden, which is well defined by the fence and stairs.  This is 2009 - in addition to the treeline in the background - notice particularly the tiny clip of a dogwood tree on the far left of the photo:

Compare both to this year:

Here is a close up of leaves from that same dogwood that were vermilion in 2009:
In this scene, a tree has been removed and left a round gaping hole:
Below, 2009 - it is not only dogwood that once were radiant as garnets:
My picture:

From a few of the leaves on the ground, it is evident they are meant to be ruby red, but most of them turned brown instead.

A scintilating orange maple in 2009:

And a struggling, thin version this year, whose leaves are falling even before it has turned color:

Before we even set off walking through the Garden, this Stewartia Pseudocamellia tree shocked me.
It stands just off the Conservatory, and retained the merest suggestion of color.
The leaves above were the brightest on the tree - most of them were completely dry and withered, they crackled in the breeze:
The picture below, from a gardener’s blog, was taken in October of 2009, and shows that the leaves should shade from brilliant yellow to bright pink or red:
Stewartia Pseudocamellia, 2009
These are leaves from another common and popular landscape shrub, in 2009:
Corylus americana, 2009
This is a similar species from Sunday:
I found an opening to the drive behind the rose garden, so I took pictures of the leaves on the trees in the back.  They explain why the overall landscape looks so different than it should.  Following are those photos (unless otherwise attributed to a news article) and others labelled from 2009.
To demonstrate the global extent of tree decline, consider research reported last month in The Hindu:  

Tropical mountains are ‘browning’, says study

“A satellite study of five mountainous tropical biodiversity hotspots around the globe, including tropical forests of the Himalayas, reveal that vegetation has been ‘browning’ due to climate change.”

“Globally rising temperatures around the mid-1990s coincided with a decrease in foliage in key tropical mountain forests, indicating the loss of photosynthetic activity, says a research paper published in the journal Global Change Biology.”

“The Himalayas appear to have witnessed the highest temperature rise among the five regions, at around 1.5 degrees Celsius in the timeframe, finds the study which looked at 47 protected areas in South Asia, Southeast Asia, Africa, South America and Central America over the period 1982–2006.”

“‘Our analysis shows that at least 75 per cent of vegetation in these forests have been impacted, and are producing less foliage than they used to before the mid-1990s,’ said the lead of the paper, Jagdish Krishnaswamy, senior fellow at Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment in Bangalore.”

“‘We can’t be sure why the 1990s appears to be a turning point, but we could hypothesise that this period saw a change in temperature and moisture regimes,’ he added.”
“While the satellite study did not find corresponding changes in precipitation, it suggested that vegetation suffered from temperature-related “moisture-stress” that inhibited transpiration in flora.”

“The research paper cautions that ‘the decline of biodiversity in species-rich mountain ecosystems could have adverse impacts on ecosystem function and decrease ecosystem services on which millions of people are dependent.’”

“Mountain ecosystems, known to be particularly ecologically sensitive and vulnerable to climate change, should be placed in ‘high priority in global conservation strategies,’ it adds.”


“The scientists also observed an increase in seasonal fluctuations in temperature and rainfall over the period. The paper was co-authored by Robert John of the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research in Kolkata, and Shijo Joseph of the Center for International Forestry Research in Indonesia.”

I took this photograph from an airplane above Costa Rica in June, 2010.  
The magnificent National Tree, the Guanacaste, or mimosa, was dying everywhere.  But is it because the climate had changed the amount of precipitation, or warmer temperatures led to greater evapotranspiration?
I think that is wrong - for one thing, far more temperature change has occurred at the poles than in the tropics, but mainly, while I was there, I stayed at a five-star resort where the groundskeepers maintained the landscaping meticulously, watering and pruning and planting.
If moistrure was the issue, why would every plant have leaves that were chlorotic, had necrotic lesions, and were falling off, despite being tended?  Stumps of dead trees that had been removed were everywhere on the grounds, and landscaping whether in pots or in the ground, was uniformly sickly.  There are lots more photos at the post, Cognitive Dissonance in Costa Rica.
Following is the abstract of the paper referred to in the article - Consistent response of vegetation dynamics to recent climate change in tropical mountain regions - and it’s not quite as unequivocal as presented in the description.  I highlighted where it dissembles:

“Global climate change has emerged as a major driver of ecosystem change. Here we present evidence for globally consistent responses in vegetation dynamics to recent climate change in the world’s mountain ecosystems located in the pan-tropical belt (30°N -30°S). We analysed decadal-scale trends and seasonal cycles of vegetation greenness using monthly time series of satellite greenness (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) and climate data for the period 1982-2006 for 47 mountain protected areas in five biodiversity hotspots. The time series of annual maximum NDVI for each of five continental regions shows mild greening trends followed by reversal to stronger browning trends around the mid-1990s. During the same period we found increasing trends in temperature but only marginal change in precipitation. The amplitude of the annual greenness cycle increased with time, and was strongly associated with the observed increase in temperature amplitude. We applied dynamic models with time-dependent regression parameters to study the time-evolution of NDVI-climate relationships. We found that the relationship between vegetation greenness and temperature weakened over time or was negative. Such loss of positive temperature-sensitivity has been documented in other regions as a response to temperature-induced moisture stress. We also used dynamic models to extract the trends in vegetation greenness that remain after accounting for the effects of temperature and precipitation. We found residual browning and greening trends in all regions, which indicate that factors other than temperature and precipitation also influence vegetation dynamics. Browning rates became progressively weaker with increase in elevation as indicated by quantile regression models. Tropical mountain vegetation is considered sensitive to climatic changes, so these consistent vegetation responses across widespread regions indicate persistent global-scale effects of climate warming and associated moisture-stresses.”

I took the following screen shots from a video in an article titled, Calamity Calling - What if We Lost the Amazon?
First of all, the title is rather annoying, because it is not a question of WHAT IF, because WE ARE losing the Amazon.  But then, if the foregone conclusion were admitted, the scientists would have no reasons to continue to receive research money to fund all their cool toys.  I confess, I am losing patience and respect for both scientists and green organizations.  Even the narration in the film says that the damage is so obvious, it hardly requires the cutting edge equipment to demonstrate it!  Following is the description from the article:
“Scientists say climate change is leading to less rain and higher temperatures. Meanwhile, logging and clear-cutting for agriculture, mining and other industries are accelerating the effect and further drying out the forest.”
“Tropical ecologist Greg Asner, with the Carnegie Institution for Science, has pioneered techniques to map changes in the forest from an airplane. His cutting-edge technology has shown dramatic changes in just a few years.”
“‘The worst case is that we could lose almost all of the basin,’ Asner says in this GlobalPost video that was filmed in the skies above the Amazon.”
What a fun plane!  See how much Tropical Ecologist Greg Asner and his colleagues are enjoying these forays over the Amazon, to obtain 3D imagery with lasers and spectrometer, read the chemicals in the leaves, and document the deterioration of the Peruvian Amazon!
Apparently, there is enough pollution in South America to warrant studies of how it reduces rainfall:  The Harvard Gazette has a video, The Hunt for How Pollution Affects Climate and describes the project:

“The research project is called GreenOceanAmazon2014 (GoAmazon2014), a collaboration among the U.S. Department of Energy and several Brazilian and other international partners. The program, for which Takeshi is project manager, studies the environmental impact of a growing pollution plume generated in Manaus, Brazil, a burgeoning industrial center carved from the dense forest.”
“…For years, scientists theorized that the air above the rainforest contained organic molecules released by plants in the forest below. The question, however, was whether those molecules reacted with chemicals in the atmosphere — like ozone or a highly reactive molecule called hydroxyl radicals — to create aerosol particles, and if and how those particles affected rainfall.
“During his 2008 sabbatical, Martin used a new 112-foot tower, where a slender copper tube sucked clean air from above the trees into a small steel container crammed with instruments, including the delicate mass spectrometer, a fine-tuned machine that can provide a fingerprint of the atmosphere and distinguish between primary organic molecules and the secondary aerosol particles they form. The results showed Martin and his colleagues that the aerosols did indeed come from chemical reactions between the organic molecules released by plants and chemicals in the atmosphere. Further testing and studies revealed that those aerosols were directly influencing levels of rainfall.”
“‘That sets up the background for the GoAmazon2014 experiment,’ Martin said, ‘because this means we can ask the question: ‘If emissions from the forest are controlling those aspects of climate, what does it mean when they couple to pollution?’ ”
“A similarly ideal condition for his current experiment — and his second sabbatical — is the proximity of Manaus. This busy industrial city, while bringing prosperity to many, has created a widening pollution plume.”

“One hundred and fifty years ago, Manaus, the capital of the state of Amazonas, was awash in opulence, the result of a rubber boom that drew both workers and wealthy investors. But the city’s fortunes dwindled after British explorer Henry Wickham smuggled thousands of rubber seeds out of the country in 1876, thereby ending Manaus’ nearly exclusive control of the natural resource. After decades of poverty, Manaus slowly evolved again into an economic powerhouse, thanks to a decree making it a free-trade zone in the 1950s. Today, government tax exemptions and incentives have attracted a growing list of Fortune 500 companies and their manufacturing plants. In 1970, Manaus had 500,000 inhabitants. Now, it has close to 2 million.”
“On Manaus’ crowded streets, cars and motorcycles battle in daily duels of wit and will. Development plans displayed along the road offer a glimpse of the city’s resurgence. A giant blue sign touts condos and ball fields. Nearby a massive shopping mall looms. On another busy stretch, large silver letters announce the industrial home of the electronics giant Pioneer. Farther on are a Coca-Cola plant and a brewery. High-rises, sprawling homes, and factories cover the ground, except for small sections of green where the Amazon simply refused to yield.
“One of the inevitable results of such size and growth — along with overcrowding and a distinct disparity in resources among the population — is the smog and soot that now plague the area.
As Martin explains it, the city’s primary pollutants dramatically alter the formation of atmospheric particles. Those changes then affect rainfall.”
“Pollution comes mainly from sulfur and nitrogen oxides, which can change important chemical pathways and cause formation of many more tiny particles in the atmosphere. When a cloud forms, water condenses on background particles to form water droplets. In a pristine environment, there are ‘about 300 particles per cubic centimeter. Imagine, under polluted conditions, you have 3,000 particles per cubic centimeter,’ said Martin. The more particles there are per cubic centimeter, the smaller the water droplets are that form. And a cloud with smaller water droplets is more likely to evaporate than produce rain.”
“‘If you start changing the clouds and changing the hydrological cycle, it has big implications,’ said Martin. One of them involves climate change. ‘All of these are the tough issues of climate. So, in that context, our ‘slice’ through it is to try to understand where the particles come from, what are the size of the particles, and how that links into cloud formation.’”
“To accomplish his task, Martin and his GoAmazon2014 partners will create four sites that allow them to track the air as it migrates from a clean environment through the city’s pollution and beyond. ‘We will have one site up-wind of Manaus to measure the air parcel when it’s clean, one in Manaus that captures the emissions, one just across the river from Manaus that gets the fresh pollution, and one an hour away from Manaus where we can get the aged pollution.’”
“It’s that final site with which Martin is directly involved, an open pasture on a farm near the small city of Manacapuru. There, cordoned off in a field once reserved for grazing cattle, sits a 20-foot by 10-foot white container, a mobile lab containing sensitive scientific equipment owned by the Energy Department. In the coming months, 14 similar containers will arrive in advance of two intensive operating periods (IOPs) — February through March and September through October 2014 — when the site will host upward of 50 Harvard and Brazilian researchers and students, working from dawn until dusk.”
“Six small Department of Energy labs will sample the air. Each container will have a tube on its roof, consisting of a small copper wire, protected by a screen to filter out insects, and insulated by polyurethane to keep the air temperature consistent as it flows into a dryer that sucks away any condensation. Before the air reaches the mass spectrometer’s container, another machine will filter out large dust particles that could damage the device.”
“Other containers will house sensitive radar equipment that will measure the size of the clouds and the water they hold. Another batch of containers will monitor radiation levels and other phenomena. During the IOPs, an aircraft will regularly fly overhead, gathering more data on the clouds and the pollution plume.”
“Still, this work is just the data-collecting phase for Martin, who along with his collaborators has submitted proposals for further funding that will, they hope, allow them to analyze the data they collect next year.”
“‘It’s a multi-headed hydra that will get us across the finish line,’ said Martin, who is quick with a laugh and quick to focus on the positive. ‘If you were here two years ago, you would know today that we are making progress.’”
That progress could lead to key answers, as equatorial cities blossom in the coming decades.
‘Hopefully, we can provide a knowledge base, one that lets people consider transportation or energy systems that could have a significantly reduced effect on air quality and a reduced effect on climate change.’”

Equatorial cities “blossom”?  What a sick twist to that word.  Metastasize is more like it!

Ah well, this has been known for some time.  Back in 2009, it was reported that Air Pollution in China Reduces Rainfall:
“Air pollution in eastern China over the past half century has reduced rainfall and increased the risk of drought and crop failures, reports a study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research.”

“Deliang Chen of the University of Gothenburg in Sweden and colleagues found that aerosols generated by air pollution has reduced the size of raindrops, making it more difficult for smaller raindrops to coalesce into rain clouds that can release rain,’ according to a statement from the university. The researchers note that the number of rainy days in parts of eastern China has fallen by 23 percent over the past 50 years while aerosol emissions have increased by 800 percent.”
“‘The consequences are increased drought and poorer harvests,’ the university statement said.”

“Research in other parts of the world, including the United States, the Amazon rainforest, and Borneo, have also shown that aerosols from pollution and forest fires can reduce rainfall.”

Apparently it only takes a small amount of pollution to drastically affect plants - consider wildflower research, published in February: “Safe” Nitrogen Levels Unsafe for Wildflowers
“When we think about air pollution, it’s easy to imagine airborne chemicals that kill or stunt wildlife by infiltrating tissues and disrupting cellular processes. But that is not the case with nitrogen pollution.”

“Nitrogen pollution is released from vehicle exhausts and power plant smoke stacks, which liberate the long-dormant compounds from tainted fossil fuels. Nitrogen is a fertilizer — plants lap it up — and farmers and gardeners have a habit of using too much of the stuff, causing it to spill into waterways and over nearby habitats.”

“When airborne nitrogen pollution fertilizes nutrient poor ecosystems, such as the rocky, serpentine soils of inland California, the native plant species that long ago adapted to the difficult growing conditions can be quickly edged out by weeds. It’s a typical case of environmental havoc helping generalist species displace specialists.”
“Governments are aware of the hazards of nitrogen pollution and they set limits that are considered safe. But scientists who studied wildflower populations growing within so-called safe limits of nitrogen pollution discovered major impacts on the native flowers.”

‘“We studied many grasslands along the natural gradient of pollution across Europe,’ Manchester Metropolitan University Professor Nancy Dise, one of the authors of the study, which was published in December in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, told The Ecologist. ‘We found that at even relatively clean sites, low levels of pollution had an effect on the abundance of some plant species.’”
“The scientists say their findings highlight the need for governments to review pollution rules and to vigorously protect areas that have not yet been tainted.”

“‘Our results highlight the importance of protecting currently unpolluted areas from new pollution sources,’ they wrote in their paper. ‘We cannot rule out ecological impacts from even relatively small increases in reactive N deposition.’”

Despite all the evidence that pollution reduces rainfall and directly damages vegetation, an overwhelming percentage of climate scientists tediously persist in blaming climate change for dying forests, based on nothing but correlation with a rise in CO2.  The following article reports:  New Study Documents Consequences of Climate Change on North American Forests:
“Climate change due to human induced global warming from the burning of fossil fuels makes North American forests more vulnerable to insects and disease, according to a new study published by a team of researchers from Dartmouth University in the journal Ecological Monographs.”

“After reviewing about 500 scientific studies dating back to the 1950s to produce what they called ‘the most comprehensive review of the affect of climate change on the forests’ that cover about one-third of North America — as part of the National Climate Assessment — the researchers found 27 insects and 22 diseases that are ‘notable agents of disturbance.’”
“Some areas devastated by insects or disease may be restored because of continued warming, with insects dying off because temperatures are too high for them, said Aaron S. Weed, a Dartmouth postdoctoral researcher in ecology. But the study found that warming allows insects to flourish and exaggerates their natural role in keeping forests healthy. Bark beetles, for example, are doing more damage than expected.”
“‘It is now clear that the large extent and expanding distribution of recent outbreaks have been permitted or exacerbated by increasing temperatures during the last decades,’ the paper concludes. ‘Mountain and southern pine beetles are attacking hosts farther north and at higher elevations than historic norms,’ because warmer winters are allowing insects to survive, the study found.”

“In addition to insects and disease, droughts and fires also have been linked to climate change, which also have a negative impact on forests.”
“‘These forests are of incalculable value to human society in terms of harvested resources and ecosystem services and are sensitive to disturbance regimes,’ the paper concludes. ‘Epidemics of forest insects and diseases are the dominant sources of disturbance to North American forests.’

“The recent research affirms the importance of milder winters, warmer growing seasons and changes in moisture availability to the occurrence of biotic disturbances.”
“‘The distribution and abundance of forest insects and pathogens respond rapidly to climatic variation due to their physiological sensitivity to temperature, high mobility, short generation times, and high reproductive potential,’ according to the research paper. ‘Additionally, climate affects tree defenses, tree tolerance, and community interactions involving enemies, competitors and mutualists of insects and diseases.’”

“Clear examples are offered by recent epidemics of spruce beetles in Alaska, mountain pine beetle in high-elevation five-needle pine forests of the Rocky Mountains, and southern pine beetle in the New Jersey Pinelands.”

“‘Changes in biotic disturbances have broad consequences for forest ecosystems and the services they provide to society,’ the researchers say.”
“Climatic effects on forest insect and disease outbreaks may foster further changes in climate by influencing the exchange of carbon, water and energy between forests and the atmosphere.
Predictions from the first U.S. National Climate Assessment of expansions in forest disturbances from climate change have been upheld,’ the scientists conclude, ‘in some cases more rapidly and dramatically than expected.’”

“...more rapidly and dramatically than expected.”

DUH!  I wonder why!?  Maybe because pollution, and not climate is the main driver behind forest decline and biotic attacks?

Research titled: Present and future nitrogen deposition to national parks in the United States: critical load exceedances is described in a Yale Environment article:
“Ammonia emissions from agricultural fertilizers are threatening sensitive ecosystems in U.S. national parks, a study led by Harvard researchers has found. Thirty-eight national parks are seeing nitrogen deposition levels at or above the threshold for ecological damage, the study says. In natural ecosystems, excess nitrogen can disrupt nutrient cycling in soil, cause algal overgrowth, and make aquatic environments acidic. While some of that nitrogen comes in the form of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from power plants and vehicle exhaust, existing air quality regulations and new clean energy technologies are helping reduce NOx emissions. Ammonia emissions from agricultural operations, however, are expected to climb as demand for food and biofuels surges. Daniel Jacob, who led the study, said that because ammonia is volatile, only 10 percent of the nitrogen makes it into the food, with much of it escaping through the atmosphere and being deposited across the landscape. According to the report, published in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, hardwood trees are most sensitive to excess nitrogen in eastern temperate forests, while in western national parks lichens appear to suffer first.
The first sentence in the introduction of the actual study says:

“Nitrogen (N) deposition has greatly increased over the last century due to fossil fuel combustion and production of industrial fertilizer.
The first sentence of the second paragraph says:

“Elevated N deposition from human activity is mainly driven by emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx = No + NO2) and ammonia (NH3).  NOx is produced in combustion by oxidation of atmospheric N2 and fuel nitrogen.  It is oxidized in the atmosphere on a timescale of a day to nitric acid (HNO3) which is removed rapidly by wet and dry deposition.

“We find that 24 out of 45 US national parks have a CL exceedance.  Another 14 have a marginal CL exceedance.  Most of the deposition is from NOx emissions, although NH emissions dominate in much of the central US...

Thirty-eight out of forty-five is outrageous.  By law, the national parks are to be preserved undisturbed for future generations, which is why they are studied.  It is quite likely that they are in better condition than any other forests that do not receive the same scientific scrutiny.
The NY Times published an oped excoriating the wimpy power plant emission regulations proposed by the Obama administration.  The author recommended a 2010 report from the National Academy of Sciences, called Hidden Cost of Energy, which “…estimated that the damage to human health, grain crops, timber yields, buildings and recreation from coal-fired power plant emissions in 2005 cost the nation about $62 billion.”
Grain crops?  Timber yields?  I googled it and found the original study.  Following are some excerpts:

p. 68  “The core of our analysis of local air-pollution damages uses an integrated assessment model (the Air Pollution Emissions Experiments and Policy, or APEEP model), which links emissions of SO2, oxides of nitrogen (NOx), PM2.5, PM10, ammonia (NH3), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to ambient levels of SO2, NOx, PM2.5, PM10, and ozone. The model calculates the damages associated with population exposures to these pollutants in six categories: health, visibility, crop yields, timber yields, building materials and recreation. Health damages include premature mortality and morbidity (for example, chronic bronchitis, asthma, emergency hospital admissions for respiratory and cardiovascular disease), and are calculated using concentration-response functions employed in regulatory impact analyses by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Damages to crops are limited to major field crops, and recreation damages are those associated with pollution damages to forests.”
p. 86 “One limitation of the APEEP model as used in this analysis is its limited treatment of ecosystem damages. For example, the model does not measure the impacts of acid rain associated with NOx and SO2 emissions either on tree canopy or on fish populations. It also fails to capture eutrophication of fresh-water ecosystems from nitrogen deposition.”
p. 86  “The committee is especially aware that ecological impacts, including impacts on ecosystem services, have not been monetized in this report. Evaluating these impacts economically has a long and challenging history (for example, EPASAB 2009; NRC 2004a; Cropper 2000). Ecological effects that influence the production of economic goods, such as agricultural products, timber, fish, and recreational benefits, often have been monetized, although often incompletely. This report includes some aspects of agricultural production in its monetization of the damages from emissions from electricity generation that contribute to the formation of criteria air pollutants. However, changes in ecosystem services, such as nutrient cycling and provision of habitat, and more subtle changes in ecosystem functioning that can affect ecosystem performance have not generally been monetized, largely because it is difficult to quantify those changes at present (for example, Cropper 2000). Although the committee has described these impacts qualitatively, at least to some degree, they likely are significant monetarily and otherwise.”
“The categories of damages covered by APEEP and reflected in our estimates include premature mortality associated with PM2.5, cases of chronic bronchitis and respiratory and cardiovascular hospital admissions associated with PM2.5 and PM10, changes in crop and timber yields associated with ozone, damage to building materials from SO2, impairments to visibility associated with PM2.5 and recreation damages associated with ozone-related changes in forest canopy. As described in more detail in Appendix C, APEEP calculates the impact of a ton of emissions of each pollutant on ambient air quality, and the effect of the change in ambient air quality on population-weighted exposures to PM, ozone, SO2, and NOx. The impact of changes in exposure on health, crop yields, visibility, and other categories of damages is estimated using concentration-response functions from the literature.”
p. 94  “Of the 14 categories of criteria-air-pollutant damages included in AP-EEP, 6 relate to human health and the remainder to physical impacts (materials damage, ozone damage to crops and forests, the cost foregone recreation due to SO2, NOx, ozone, and VOCs, and the cost of reduced visibility due to airborne particulate matter).”

Probably most people who are interested in ecosystem collapse have read The Ocean is Broken, the first-person account of one sailer’s recent trip across the Pacific, during which he discovered to his disbelief and horror, is almost devoid of life.  Even though the crew kept constant watch to navigate through miles of garbage, the hull of the boat was still battered.  It’s a heartrending essay.

I just wish that people who seem to be finally noticing that the food chain in the waters is imperiled could notice that the exact same crash is paralleled on the land.  Consider, the Daily Impact article - Green Slime Attacks America, or the equally charming warning that in the Gulf of Mexico - There Is No Life Out There.  Then there is the Pacific Trash Vortex.
More academic is the article published in Foreign Policy, “The Devolution of the Seas:

“Of all the threats looming over the planet today, one of the most alarming is the seemingly inexorable descent of the world’s oceans into ecological perdition. Over the last several decades, human activities have so altered the basic chemistry of the seas that they are now experiencing evolution in reverse: a return to the barren primeval waters of hundreds of millions of years ago. Over the last 50 years -- a mere blink in geologic time -- humanity has come perilously close to reversing the almost miraculous biological abundance of the deep. Pollution, overfishing, the destruction of habitats, and climate change are emptying the oceans and enabling the lowest forms of life to regain their dominance. The oceanographer Jeremy Jackson calls it the rise of slime’: the transformation of once complex oceanic ecosystems featuring intricate food webs with large animals into simplistic systems dominated by microbes, jellyfish, and disease. In effect, humans are eliminating the lions and tigers of the seas to make room for the cockroaches and rats.”
“The oceans’ problems start with pollution, the most visible forms of which are the catastrophic spills from offshore oil and gas drilling or from tanker accidents. Yet as devastating as these events can be, especially locally, their overall contribution to marine pollution pales in comparison to the much less spectacular waste that finds its way to the seas through rivers, pipes, runoff, and the air. For example, trash -- plastic bags, bottles, cans, tiny plastic pellets used in manufacturing -- washes into coastal waters or gets discarded by ships large and small. This debris drifts out to sea, where it forms epic gyres of floating waste, such as the infamous Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which spans hundreds of miles across the North Pacific Ocean.”

“The most dangerous pollutants are chemicals. The seas are being poisoned by substances that are toxic, remain in the environment for a long time, travel great distances, accumulate in marine life, and move up the food chain. Among the worst culprits are heavy metals such as mercury, which is released into the atmosphere by the burning of coal and then rains down on the oceans, rivers, and lakes; mercury can also be found in medical waste.”
“Hundreds of new industrial chemicals enter the market each year, most of them untested. Of special concern are those known as persistent organic pollutants, which are commonly found in streams, rivers, coastal waters, and, increasingly, the open ocean. These chemicals build up slowly in the tissues of fish and shellfish and are transferred to the larger creatures that eat them. Studies by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have linked exposure to persistent organic pollutants to death, disease, and abnormalities in fish and other wildlife. These pervasive chemicals can also adversely affect the development of the brain, the neurologic system, and the reproductive system in humans.”

“Then there are the nutrients, which increasingly show up in coastal waters after being used as chemical fertilizers on farms, often far inland. All living things require nutrients; excessive amounts, however, wreak havoc on the natural environment. Fertilizer that makes its way into the water causes the explosive growth of algae. When these algae die and sink to the sea floor, their decomposition robs the water of the oxygen needed to support complex marine life. Some algal blooms also produce toxins that can kill fish and poison humans who consume seafood.”
“The result has been the emergence of what marine scientists call ‘dead zones’ -- areas devoid of the ocean life people value most. The high concentration of nutrients flowing down the Mississippi River and emptying into the Gulf of Mexico has created a seasonal offshore dead zone larger than the state of New Jersey. An even larger dead zone -- the world’s biggest -- can be found in the Baltic Sea, which is comparable in size to California. The estuaries of China’s two greatest rivers, the Yangtze and the Yellow, have similarly lost their complex marine life. Since 2004, the total number of such aquatic wastelands worldwide has more than quadrupled, from 146 to over 600 today.”

“Another cause of the oceans’ decline is that humans are simply killing and eating too many fish. A frequently cited 2003 study in the journal Nature by the marine biologists Ransom Myers and Boris Worm found that the number of large fish -- both open-ocean species, such as tuna, swordfish, and marlin, and large groundfish, such as cod, halibut, and flounder -- had declined by 90 percent since 1950. The finding provoked controversy among some scientists and fishery managers. But subsequent studies have confirmed that fish populations have indeed fallen dramatically.”
“In fact, if one looks back further than 1950, the 90 percent figure turns out to be conservative. As historical ecologists have shown, we are far removed from the days when Christopher Columbus reported seeing large numbers of sea turtles migrating off the coast of the New World, when 15-foot sturgeon bursting with caviar leaped from the waters of the Chesapeake Bay, when George Washington’s Continental army could avoid starvation by feasting on swarms of shad swimming upriver to spawn, when dense oyster beds nearly blocked the mouth of the Hudson River, and when the early-twentieth-century American adventure writer Zane Grey marveled at the enormous swordfish, tuna, wahoo, and grouper he found in the Gulf of California.”
“Today, the human appetite has nearly wiped those populations out. It’s no wonder that stocks of large predator fish are rapidly dwindling when one considers the fact that one bluefin tuna can go for hundreds of thousands of dollars at market in Japan. High prices -- in January 2013, a 489-pound Pacific bluefin tuna sold for $1.7 million at auction in Tokyo -- make it profitable to employ airplanes and helicopters to scan the ocean for the fish that remain; against such technologies, marine animals don’t stand a chance.”
“Nor are big fish the only ones that are threatened. In area after area, once the long-lived predatory species, such as tuna and swordfish, disappear, fishing fleets move on to smaller, plankton-eating fish, such as sardines, anchovy, and herring. The overexploitation of smaller fish deprives the larger wild fish that remain of their food; aquatic mammals and sea birds, such as ospreys and eagles, also go hungry. Marine scientists refer to this sequential process as fishing down the food chain.”
“The problem is not just that we eat too much seafood; it’s also how we catch it. Modern industrial fishing fleets drag lines with thousands of hooks miles behind a vessel, and industrial trawlers on the high seas drop nets thousands of feet below the sea’s surface. In the process, many untargeted species, including sea turtles, dolphins, whales, and large sea birds (such as albatross) get accidentally captured or entangled. Millions of tons of unwanted sea life is killed or injured in commercial fishing operations each year; indeed, as much as a third of what fishermen pull out of the waters was never meant to be harvested. Some of the most destructive fisheries discard 80 to 90 percent of what they bring in. In the Gulf of Mexico, for example, for every pound of shrimp caught by a trawler, over three pounds of marine life is thrown away.”
“As the oceans decline and the demand for their products rises, marine and freshwater aquaculture may look like a tempting solution. After all, since we raise livestock on land for food, why not farm fish at sea? Fish farming is growing faster than any other form of food production, and today, the majority of commercially sold fish in the world and half of U.S. seafood imports come from aquaculture. Done right, fish farming can be environmentally acceptable. But the impact of aquaculture varies widely depending on the species raised, methods used, and location, and several factors make healthy and sustainable production difficult. Many farmed fish rely heavily on processed wild fish for food, which eliminates the fish-conservation benefits of aquaculture. Farmed fish can also escape into rivers and oceans and endanger wild populations by transmitting diseases or parasites or by competing with native species for feeding and spawning grounds. Open-net pens also pollute, sending fish waste, pesticides, antibiotics, uneaten food, diseases, and parasites flowing directly into the surrounding waters.”
The problems don’t end there, of course, because there is more about habitat destruction and acidification, but let’s just skip to the preposterous obligatory hopium at the end...not ONE of the recommended “solutions” is going to happen until civilization collapses and everyone is dead:

“Governments and societies have come to expect much less from the sea. The base lines of environmental quality, good governance, and personal responsibility have plummeted. This passive acceptance of the ongoing destruction of the seas is all the more shameful given how avoidable the process is. Many solutions exist, and some are relatively simple. For example, governments could create and expand protected marine areas, adopt and enforce stronger international rules to conserve biological diversity in the open ocean, and place a moratorium on the fishing of dwindling fish species, such as Pacific bluefin tuna. But solutions will also require broader changes in how societies approach energy, agriculture, and the management of natural resources. Countries will have to make substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, transition to clean energy, eliminate the worst toxic chemicals, and end the massive nutrient pollution in watersheds.”
This big tree, which has been so extensively pruned that it looks like a lollipop, stands over the old stone mill that was built in 1840 when the Botanical Garden was still the Lorillard estate.
Although such pollarding encourages growth and prolongs life, the leaves can be seen still suffering.
Branches are bare and leaves are limp.
This is a zoom of the very top of the crown.
Another mature tree - a Tilia cordata (littleleaf linden) at a distance:
A close look reveals leaves that are curling up.
They were on their way to turning lurid black.
Below, an exotic Pterocrya fraxinifolia (Caucasian wingnut)
These leaves are also turning black, around the edges.
The remaining photographs, unless dated 2009, are all from the old-growth section of the park this year, which are supposed to be ravishing with color, like this view of the Bronx river four years ago:
Instead, now the scene is dull:
I took pictures of the brightest examples we came across, but when scrutinized, the leaves were invariably dried up:
...or damaged:
And the view looking up was worse:
It’s nothing new for me to read from John Stauber the grotesque extent to which The Progressive Movement is a PR Front for Rich Democrats, or to realize that is based on a fraud (we are never getting back to 350 and certainly not with their tactics), or that KXL is anything other than a distraction from the real causes of our converging catastrophes which they refuse to even mention (overpopulation and overconsumption), or that the Sierra Club endorses fracking.  Still I got infuriated when I learned that the Environmental Defense Fund has received $66 million from the Walmart family to promote the “greenness” of their blood-sucking slave empire, all the while pretending they haven’t.
That makes it ludicrous to see proponents of 350 arguing the merits of fighting Keystone instead of the NRDC plan to rely on EPA enforcement of the Clean Air Act.  None of them is serious, it is all just a farce they engage in together.
Take for example the Board of Trustees of a group like, say, Fauna & Flora International, which purports to be:  “empowered under state, corporate and federal tax laws to govern the affairs of its charitable endeavors to promote the conservation of biodiversity - the coexistence of people, wildlife and wild places - throughout the world, but actually, is comprised of a bunch of incredibly wealthy people in incestuous relationships with other wealthy people on the boards of other charitable organizations and foundations.  One suspects that they are all tax shelters and handy sources of travel funds throughout the world.
I mean, there is a guy with one home in Middleburg, VA plus one domicile in Hong Kong; another, with homes in Southport, CT and Miami Beach.  They have a Fleishmann heiress, a Busch heiress, and Paul Newman’s daughter...investment bankers and real estate moguls, an avid sportsman and a mother of four.  I can guarantee you, not one of them is living sustainably, or even close...or even trying.  With people like this as the leaders of environmental conservation groups, it is no wonder we are barrelling full tilt towards collapse.
Climate scientist Kevin Anderson stated on his blog that pricing carbon cannot be sufficient to save humanity from climate catastrophe:
“Today, after two decades of bluff and lies, the remaining 2°C budget demands revolutionary change to the political and economic hegemony.
By that he means, the wealthy have to sacrifice their energy-intensive lifestyles, which is another way of saying industrial civilization is incompatible with a safe climate.  Alas, there IS NO SUCH revolutionary change on the horizon.
The climate activist community has been rent asunder following the release of the open letter from Hansen et al, joining Monbiot in an appeal for support from environmentalists for nuclear power (one of many versions of the debate can be found at FairfaxClimateWatch).  There is much being claimed on either side regarding the safety of nuclear power, but what all the pearl-clutching avoids is a much more interesting aspect of their endorsement for a technology that has always been obviously insane, even before Fukushima - which is that it strongly implies that the favored technophile assumption - that we can power industrial civilization with “clean” and “renewable” energy - is a myth.
Moreover, Hansen also makes it clear in his research that merely stopping emissions is not enough to avert a climate catastrophe. We have to remove CO2 from the air with as-yet-nonexistent technology, and by planting trees. This is laughable because nobody is spending money to plant trees, instead we are cutting them down as fast as we can, they are dying from pollution and burning in record-breaking wildfires.  To that we can add being uprooted by increasingly frequent and more violent storms, like Typhoon Haiyan:

In response to Hansen and Monbiot, the technophiles have lately been pointing Mark Jacobson of Stanford University, who is the darling of the clean energy acolytes.
Yet, in his plan for conversion, Jacobson relies heavily on offshore wind turbines.  In joint research that was written in 2011 and accepted for publication in May, 2012, which outlines our purported ability to shift entirely away from fossil fuels, only the northern half of the US Eastern seaboard is deemed suitable - because the hurricane risk in the southern half is too great. Well guess what?  One word - Sandy!  Apparently, he brushes aside the certainty that hurricanes will become larger, stronger, and more frequent.
Also unaccounted for is the diminishing supply of rare earth minerals required to manufacture so-called renewable energy.

For instance, Climate Central reports on research from three French scientists published in Nature Geoscience:

“...if the contribution from wind turbines and solar energy to global energy production is to rise from the current 400 terawatt hours to 12,000 terawatt hours in 2035, and 25,000 terawatt hours in 2050, that will require 3,200 million tons of steel, 310 million tons of aluminum and 40 million tons of copper to construct state-of-the-art generating systems.”

“This in turn would mean an annual increase in global production of these metals of from 5 percent to 18 percent for the next 40 years, and that would be in addition to the already accelerating demand for metals of all kinds in both the developed and the developing world.”
Global approach
“And, they say, right now 10 percent of the world’s energy budget is spent in digging up and processing mineral resources. Unless something astounding happens, this fraction will get larger as high quality ores become harder to find, and more difficult to extract.”

“‘Humanity faces a tremendous challenge to make more rational use of the Earth’s non-renewable raw materials,’ they conclude. ‘The energy transition to renewables can only work if all the resources are managed simultaneously, as part of a global, integral whole.’”
Surely they jest!  Does anyone else see the absurdity of expecting a global approach to the allocation of mineral resources?

It happens that I wrote Professor Jacobson in August of 2009 because I had read of his work comparing emissions of ethanol to those of gasoline, which indicated that ethanol was much worse in producing ozone, as it created a 2,000% increase in acetaldehyde, an ozone precursor.  It’s my usual letter, so I crunched it all together so regular readers can ignore it and skip to his reply.
August 29, 2009
Dear Dr. Jacobson,
After much searching it appears you are one of very few scientists who is versed in the effects of ethanol emissions.
I am writing you about a severe threat that is being almost universally ignored, which is that vegetation (annual, perennial, and trees) is being rapidly poisoned by volatile organic compounds released from oil, coal, gasoline and particularly, ethanol emissions. This is visible everywhere in New Jersey, south to Virginia and north at least to Massachusetts and it wouldn't surprise me if it isn't contributing to the wildfires in California, since it is well known that the symptoms of ozone and other chemical damage are identical to those of long term drought.
If this continues, farm crops will be impacted with drastically reduced yields, and homeowners will be forced to spend tens of thousands of dollars to remove dead trees. Power outages will increase as branches fall on the lines. Wildfires can be expected on the East Coast. The financial loss will be incalculable, to say nothing of the amplifying feedback to climate change. I am documenting this to the best of my ability at The EPA and US Forestry Service and NASA are unresponsive. A good source of information is, a European group that is paying attention.

The damage in the past year is unprecedented, sudden and extreme - this is why I attribute it to the recently mandated addition of ethanol to gasoline. Ethanol as you know produces acetaldehyde, a precursor to peroxyacetyl, which is even more toxic to vegetation than the ozone that results from CO2, nitrous oxide and other volatile organic compounds reacting to sunlight when released from burning gasoline and coal. Dead trees are everywhere, and it is now impossible to find a tree that isn't showing grave symptoms of decline. I am investigating as to whether there might be an effective legal approach to 1. file for data from the EPA and NASA under the Freedom for Information Act and/or 2. file suit for EPA failure to fulfill its obligation to regulate ozone and acetaldehyde under the Clean Air Act.
This is an enormously significant story that is going to impact every person in the US, because if left unchecked it is going to destroy annual food crops and trees that produce nuts and fruits. Frankly it's incredible to me that farmers and foresters are so oblivious. One scientist wrote me that it's difficult to get people to understand that although stratospheric ozone is good, tropospheric ozone is bad. I suppose that's because there are more than two syllables involved, plus it's invisible, unlike what they see on the teevee. Just because the gasses are invisible doesn't mean they aren't lethal to plants, and unhealthy for humans, as well. And people wonder why asthma is on the rise!
It's quite important to address this issue, and quickly, because if I am correct, and it is the addition of ethanol to gasoline that is responsible for the rapid and universal plant damage, we could go a long way towards reversing it by simply eliminating ethanol. I have many pictures on my blog that illustrate just how urgent this problem has become, at least, here on the East Coast.
Unfortunately, I am having a difficult time locating scientists who specialize in researching both botany and atmospheric chemistry. Getting one to be interested in the other discipline has proved to be quite daunting. And as is noted on, there is no physical test to determine what might be causing damage, it can only be assessed by observing symptoms in the field - of which there are countless examples, should one trouble to look.
I have read a couple of articles about your thoughts on ethanol but if you have more information to share or wish to pursue this topic please feel free to write or call.
Gail Zawacki
Oldwick, NJ
His prompt answer:

Mark Z. Jacobson
Aug 29, 2009

To Wit’s End
Dear Gail,

        I think the best solution to the problem you describe is really to convert all vehicles to electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, as both will eliminate all tailpipe emissions of both gasoline and ethanol, both of which are harmful. Electric cars are now available (I just replaced my hybrid with an electric car two months ago and will never go back) and will be mass marketed within 1-2 years, reducing their cost. I would suggest lobbying towards such a conversion, as it makes common sense from a climate, air pollution, and energy security point of view, as described in the paper at

The paper there also compares deaths from ethanol vehicles to those from battery electrics and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, for example, and immediately it is evident how vastly different the impacts are.

        You have probably seen the ethanol paper, but if not it is located at

I hope this information helps.

        Unfortunately, I don't have time to work with you on this issue, but I agree with your objectives.

Mark Jacobson
I have to admit at the time I wondered, what could he be so busy with that supersedes the collapse of the ecosystem?  That was before I understood that he is planning to save the world with clean energy.  Did you see that in his message of 2009 he wrote that he expected that by 2011, electric vehicles would be mass-marketed and the cost would come down.  Although the percentage is increasing, currently electric vehicles are just over 1% of all new car sales in the US.  I would not call that mass anything, and if it is indicative of the validity of his projections, it does not build confidence.

This graph is from a blogpost by a climate skeptic, who is nevertheless knowledgeable about ethanol.  He wrote:

“The EPA is ignoring the growing evidence that ethanol increases ozone pollution.  Every increase in ethanol use as fuel will increases the amount of ozone pollution in the United States.  This is one of the times where regardless of a persons views on global warming, the pollution effects of ethanol are real and need to be taken into account.”
Ozone is one of the most more hazardous pollutants that is regularly produced by emissions. It is so corrosive that it will degrade stainless steel in periods of less than a year. The OSHA limit for job exposure is 100 ppb for an 8 hour day. At 1 ppm (1,000 ppb) coughing starts and a person will have difficulty breathing. Once it reaches 2 ppm (2,000 ppb) it will cause watering eyes, decreased pulse rate and blood pressure and potentially severe coughing.  Levels as low as 40 ppb can cause problems for people that are sensitive (asthma or other respiratory problems).  Worldwide the most commonly  accepted limits are 60 ppb.  It is also possible that lung cancer is associated with increased levels of ozone pollution (NEJM).”
“I work with ozone on a daily basis for my job and I understand the safety precautions that are needed to safely work with ozone. I have seen the stainless steel piping that is pitted and chewed up by flowing ozone through it at small concentrations. Ozone is truly nasty stuff. Reducing ozone is important for the environment.  All forms of life suffer when ozone concentrations are elevated.”

“The EPA considers ozone as one of the primary pollutants that needs to be reduced.  How to reduce it is where the problems arise.  As most people are well aware there is a current push for renewable fuels and ethanol is synonymous with renewable fuel.  The problem is that ethanol also increases ozone pollution.  In study after study the direct comparison shows that ethanol results in more ozone pollution than gasoline.”

“The difference can be large. The higher the ethanol content in the fuel the more ozone that is produced. It is not a direct emission, but a multiple step reaction of volatile organic compounds (VOC) or nitrogen oxides (NOx).  Adding any amount of ethanol to gasoline increases the content of VOC’s  in the car emissions. The higher the ethanol content the more VOC’s that are released into the atmosphere.”
“These VOC’s include formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, 1,3-butadiene, benzene and PAN. All of these VOC’s are directly unhealthy for humans, but they also generate ozone when they decompose in the atmosphere. In all situations these direct emissions result in higher ozone concentrations.  Ethanol is more volatile than gasoline and oxidizing (burning) ethanol forms the aldehyde.  Gasoline has no such direct conversion to the aldehyde structure.”
“This can be seen in the large cities of Brazil. In Brazil sugar cane is used to produce ethanol fuel. The blends there use more ethanol than anywhere else at the moment and they are seeing the pollution effects already. The VOC’s are present in higher concentrations than would typically be found if gasoline were used. The study by (Ginnebaugh, et al 2010) found that the concentrations of acetaldehyde, formaldehyde and PAN are markedly higher as a result of the ethanol fuels that are being used. Ethanol causes more pollution than gasoline.”

“The studies show even worse news for the United States and any climate that is colder than Brazil (Europe, China, Japan). In colder climates the pollution difference is even greater with ethanol. Pure ethanol cannot be used in cold climates for reasons unrelated to pollution, but the highest concentration that could be used (85% ethanol, called E85) shows large increases in final ozone pollution over gasoline.”
“In a cold climate E85 would produce 40 ppb higher ozone pollution than gasoline. Switching to high ethanol blends would increase ozone pollution by almost 100% in colder climates. The difference in final emissions of 80 ppb to 40 ppm. High ethanol blends produce emissions HIGHER than the EPA allowable limits.”

“The worst case scenario would be in the spring and fall when the air warms up in the afternoon, but the fuel in the gas tank would remain cold. In that situation ethanol blends would cause the highest increases in ozone pollution. Higher ozone would also be an indicator that the other reactive hydrocarbons would also be present in higher concentrations in such situations.”
“In all situations ethanol causes higher levels of hazardous pollution. It is worse for plants, animals and humans. It is worse for the environment as a whole. Despite the consistent science that shows the hazards of ethanol, the EPA considers it one of the solutions to ozone pollution. That is correct, the document from the EPA lists ethanol as one of the future alternative fuels that will help reduce future ozone pollution.  They completely ignore the science that indicates that ethanol will increase ozone pollution.”
This net is positioned to catch the nuts from a Shagbark Hickory, which according to the sign, can live for 300 years if left undisturbed, partly thanks to deep tap roots that allow it to “...withstand the windy seasonal storms of the northeast”.  The nuts are said to be a source of food for squirrels, chipmunks and birds, and are also edible for people.  There were, however, no nuts to be seen at all, so perhaps we can assume that sooner or later, there will be a lack in the diet of squirrels, chipmunks, birds and people.
Even before we emerged from the old-growth forest, we had been almost asphyxiated by the noxious smoke of a fire, acrid, like rubber burning.  There must have been well over a dozen fire engines, judging by the sirens, and the air became thick and hazy, obscuring the gardens.  (But I am sure that is in no way a portent for the future.)
Following is David Letterman’s interview with Mark Jacobson, who is obviously a sincere, endearingly dorky braniac.  But, even Letterman looks incredulous at his nerdy optimism, and laughs skeptically when Jacobson admits that it is oh, just a little haha ironic that aerosol pollution is masking (get ready) AT LEAST HALF of the warming we would otherwise have!  (If you don’t know how that works, the BBC documentary Global Dimming explains it quite well).

So Mark Jacobson has the ability to simply dismiss as “ironic” the fact that his solution for climate change - eliminating pollution by switching to clean energy - will accelerate warming so precipitously that with all the amplifying feedbacks will easily make most if not all of the planet uninhabitable.  I guess that is someone else’s department, as is the other minor problem he admits which is that NONE of what he proposes will occur without government policy implementing it.  And that’s not only not happening, it’s not going to happen.  We are out of time.  Oh gosh, there I go being too negative again.


  1. Hi Gail - another fantastic, scholarly article, thank you for sharing your research with us. A couple points: that Caucasian wingnut, why there's a bunch of 'em in the U.S. Congress in Washington D.C. - hopefully they're dying out. Secondly, my large oaks and hickory (all over 100') have produced prodigious amounts of nuts this year, but dropped a ton of branches and leaves all year long too. They were thin as well and show lichen on their non-sun sides now. It's hard to believe that a mere four years ago the trees were so different. I think between Fukushima radiation raining out all over the northern hemisphere combined with both the increase in pests and another record year of (pre-cursor) pollution, we're getting ever closer to the silent spring, where they don't bloom at all and the birds disappear. It's beyond heart-breaking, witnessing this swift decline and knowing it isn't coming back . . .


  2. Thanks Tom. What is so infuriating is the trees aren't all dead yet, we could still save them if we stopped poisoning them grrrr. But all indications are we won't. Hey I just started a new facebook page, if you (or anyone) is interested in joining, for people that aren't holding out hope anymore!! Just about every group I join is overrun with people who believe something will rescue us so I thought maybe I'm not the only one who would like to talk about doom without tacking on some spirituality at the's an experiment.

  3. Gail: good luck with the farcebook page, I don't go there (I signed up once and never went back). One other thing I forgot about (it's a long article) is the part near the top where you cite the Coastal Zone document as showing hypoxia developing. I visit a site every day that shows examples of how hydrogen sulfide and methane are pluming out of the oceans, the lakes, rivers, streams, & ponds in increasing amounts and concentrations and that it's causing all manner of explosions, fires and death. If you'd like to check it out, I think it's worth your time:

    Here's a summary of his hypothesis:

    The seas, lakes and oceans are now pluming deadly hydrogen sulfide and suffocating methane. Hydrogen sulfide is a highly toxic water-soluble heavier-than-air gas and will accumulate in low-lying areas. Methane is slightly more buoyant than normal air and so will be all around, but will tend to contaminate our atmosphere from the top down. These gases are sickening and killing oxygen-using life all around the world, including human life, as our atmosphere is increasingly poisoned. Because both gases are highly flammable and because our entire civilization is built around fire and flammable fuels, this is leading to more fires and explosions. This is an extinction level event and will likely decimate both the biosphere and human population and it is debatable whether humankind can survive this event.

    and some of his predictions:

    A. More fires and more explosions, especially along the coasts, but everywhere generally.
    B. Many more animal die-offs, of all kinds, and especially oceanic species.
    C. More multiples of people will be found dead in their homes, as if they'd dropped dead.
    D. More corpses found in low-lying areas, all over the world.
    E. More unusual vehicular accidents.
    F. Improved unemployment numbers as people die off.


  4. Can't wait for that, Tom. Sounds lovely!

    Bravo, Gail. I'll join your FB group!


  6. Has anyone noticed trees seem to be budding way early? It seems like some of them are producing awfully large buds already considering its not even winter yet nevermind spring here on the Southwest coast of Canada. Maybe this is normal I don't know.


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