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Sobering 2018 National Climate Change Report is Leaked to the NY Times

Government climate scientists take action

Perhaps more serious for the US over the near term, is the potential slowing down and reduction in volume of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), of which the Gulf Stream is a major part, the part which keeps the winters moderate along the Eastern Seaboard and in the UK and western Europe. “Under the high emissions scenario,” the scientists write dryly, “it is likely that the AMOC will weaken over the 21st century by 12% to 54%.” (A few years ago, a branch of the Gulf Stream that cuts across the mid-Atlantic to Europe simply stopped for a few weeks, to the consternation and terror of oceanographers, who couldn't explain it, but breathed a sigh of relief when it started back up again.)

Turning to ocean acidification — which is increasing as the oceans have absorbed a quarter of the increased human-caused atmospheric carbon over the past century — the report notes that while this process has helped keep climate change in check for the past century, at the same time it has increased the acidity of the ocean at a rate not seen since the end of the dinosaur age 66 million years ago. That acidification is expected to continue to increase by 100-150% over the rest of the century, with devastating consequences for marine life and ultimately life on land too, from sea birds to humans. The base of the marine food chain is plankton most of which construct calcium-based exoskeletons which are now being eaten away by the increasing acidity of the water. If the plankton die, so do the fish that feed on them, and on up the chain to mammals and of course us humans. Dissolved oxygen in the oceans is also in decline, down by about 3.5% over the past decades, because of warming waters and decreased circulation, they note.

The government scientists, for the first time in such a document, also warn about the risks posed by the melting permafrost and the almost inevitable release of vast quantities of currently frozen and locked up carbon and methane gas. As they put it:

“Rising Alaskan permafrost temperatures (they don’t mention the must vaster permafrost regions in Canada and Siberia) are causing permafrost to thaw and become more discontinuous; this process releases additional carbon dioxide and methane resulting in additional warming. The overall magnitude of the permafrost-carbon feedback is uncertain; however it is clear that these emissions have the potential to complicate the ability to meet policy goals for the reduction of greenhouse gas concentrations.”

That’s an understated way of saying: All the plans, promises and commitments of the Paris Agreement could be pointless if the methane starts pouring out of the ground in the currently frozen but thawing north. And indeed, recent images of huge craters in Siberia, apparently caused by giant bursts of erupting methane, suggest that a catastrophe is already in the making in those regions.

Finally, in their executive summary, the scientists issue a warning, which the Trump administration, and the American people as a whole, including all those who put Trump in the White House, and climate denying Republicans in charge of Congress, deny at their own and all of our peril. They say:

story | by Dr. Radut