September 09, 2009
CJAM 91.5 Windsor, Ontario
Music on the show:
Artist: Slow Down, Molasses CD: I’m an Old Believer
Track 7: I’m an Old Believer
Artist: Michael Jerome Browne
CD: This Beautiful Mess
Track 4: This War Will End
Michael Moore’s ‘Capitalism’ Flick Rips into Crimes of Wall Street
By Xan Brooks, The Guardian. Posted September 9, 2009.
Moore’s latest documentary drew tumultuous applause at the Venice film festival, suggesting that the veteran tub-thumper has lost none of his power to whip up a response.
The bankrobbers caught on camera at the start of Capitalism: A Love Story are a forlorn and feeble bunch. We see a bedraggled old man in a Hawaiian shirt, and what looks to be a 12-year-old boy wearing a balaclava. For all their flailing efforts, they’ve got nothing on the real crooks: the banking CEOs who recently absconded with $700bn of public money, no strings attached. That’s what’s known as a clean getaway.
Michael Moore‘s latest documentary drew tumultuous applause at the Venice film festival, suggesting that the veteran tub-thumper has lost none of his power to whip up a response. If the film finally lacks the clean, hard punch provided by the record-breaking Fahrenheit 9/11, that can only be because the crime scene is so vast and the culprits so numerous.
Undeterred, Moore jabs his finger at everyone from Reagan to Bush Jr, Hank Paulson to Alan Greenspan. He drags the viewer through a thicket of insurance scams, sub-prime bubbles and derivative trading so wilfully obfuscatory that even the experts can’t explain how it works.
The big villain, of course, is capitalism itself, which the film paints as a wily old philanderer intent on lining the pockets of the few at the expense of the many. America, enthuses a leaked Citibank report, is now a modern-day “plutonomy” where the top 1% of the population control 95% of the wealth. Does Barack Obama’s election spell an end to all this? The director has his doubts, pointing out that Goldman Sachs – depicted here as the principal agent of wickedness – was the largest private contributor to the Obama campaign.
Capitalism: A Love Story is by turns crude and sentimental, impassioned and invigorating. It posits a simple moral universe inhabited by good little guys and evil big ones, yet the basic thrust of its argument proves hard to resist.
Crucially, Moore (or at least his researchers) has done a fine job in ferreting out the human stories behind the headlines. None of these is so horrifyingly absurd as the tale of the privatised youth detention centre in Pennsylvania, run with the help of a crooked local judge who railroaded kids through his court for a cut of the profits. Some 6,500 children were later found to have been wrongly convicted for such minor infractions as smoking pot and “throwing a piece of steak at my mom’s boyfriend”. The subsequent bill for their incarceration went directly to the taxpayer.
Moore’s conclusion? That capitalism is both un-Christian and un-American, an evil that deserves not regulation but elimination. No doubt he had concluded all this anyway, well in advance of making the film, but no matter. There is something energising – even moving – about the sight of him setting out to prove it all over again. Like some shambling Columbo, he amasses the evidence, takes witness statements from the victims and then starts doorstepping the guilty parties.
“I need some advice!” Moore shouts to some hastening Wall Street trader who has just left his office. “Don’t make any more movies!” the man shoots back. Moore chuckles at that, but the last laugh is his. This, more than any other, is the movie they will wish he had never embarked on.
Iraqi shoe thrower Muntazer al-Zaidi innundated with offers and gifts
Muntazer al-Zaidi, who threw his shoes at George Bush, will be set free on 14 September. Martin Chulov meets the family of a man who who became a symbol of resistance to the US Link to this video
As his size 10s spun through the air towards George W Bush, Muntazer al-Zaidi – the man the world now knows as the shoe-thrower – was bracing for an American bullet.
“He thought the secret service was going to shoot him,” says Zaidi’s younger brother, Maitham. “He expected that, and he was not afraid to die.”
Zaidi’s actions during the former US president’s swansong visit to Iraq last December have not stopped reverberating in the nine months since.
Next Monday, when the journalist walks out of prison, his 10 raging seconds, which came to define his country’s last six miserable years, are set to take on a new life even more dramatic than the opening act.
Across Iraq and in every corner of the Arab world, Zaidi is being feted. The 20 words or so he spat at Bush – “This is your farewell kiss, you dog. This is for the widows and orphans of Iraq” – have been immortalised, and in many cases memorised.
Pictures of the president ducking have been etched onto walls across Baghdad, made into T-shirts in Egypt, and appeared in children’s games in Turkey.
Zaidi has won the adulation of millions, who believe his act of defiance did what their leaders had been too cowed to do.
Iraq has been short of heroes since the dark days of Saddam Hussein, and many civilians are bestowing greatness on the figure that finally took the fight to an overlord.
“He is a David and Goliath figure,” said Salah al-Janabi, a white goods salesman in downtown Baghdad. “When the history books are written, they will look back on this episode with great acclaim. Al-Zaidi’s shoes were his slingshot.”
From his prison cell, Zaidi has a sense of the gathering fuss, but not the full extent of the benefactors and patrons preparing for his release.
A new four-bedroom home has been built by his former boss. A new car – and the promise of many more – awaits.
Pledges of harems, money and healthcare are pouring in to his employers, the al-Baghdadia television channel.
“One Iraqi who lived in Morocco called to offer to send his daughter to be Muntazer’s wife,” said editor Abdul Hamid al-Saij.
“Another called from Saudi offering $10m for his shoes, and another called from Morocco offering a gold-saddled horse.
“After the event, we had callers from Palestine and many women asking to marry him, but we didn’t take their names. Many of their reactions were emotional. We will see what happens when he is freed.”
From the West Bank town of Nablus, Ahmed Jouda saw the incident on television news and felt so moved that he called together his relatives for a meeting in a nearby reception hall.
Jouda, 75, a farmer and head of a large extended family, convinced his relatives to contribute tens of thousands of dollars to support Zaidi’s legal case.
Jouda himself decided to sell half his herd of goats; another man asked if he might offer a young woman from his family as a bride. Jouda said he would, if Zaidi was interested.
“I said we are willing to present him with a bride loaded with gold,” said Jouda. “We are people of our word. If he decided to marry one of our daughters we would respect what we said.
“We are compassionate and supportive to the Iraqi people for what they have gone through.
“We are people who have tasted the bitterness, sorrow and agony of occupation too. What he did, he did for all the Arabs, not just the Iraqis, because Bush was the reason behind the problems of all the Arab world.”
Zaidi’s brother insists that no one put Muntazer up to such an act. But he revealed that Muntazer had told him he had pre-scripted at least one line ahead of the fateful press conference.
From the roof of his brother’s new home, Maitham al-Zaidi said: “He always thought he would die as a martyr, either by al-Qaida or the Americans. More than once he was kidnapped by insurgents. He was surprised that Bush’s guards didn’t shoot him on the spot.”
Muntazer al-Zaidi has told Maitham, and another brother, Vergam, that he is planning to open an orphanage when he leaves prison and will not work again as a journalist.
“He doesn’t want his work to be a circus,” said Vergam. “Every time he asked someone a difficult question they would have responded by asking whether he was going to throw his shoes at them.”
Muntazer has alleged that after his actions he was tortured by government officials. Medical reports say he has lost at least one tooth and has two broken ribs and a broken foot that have not healed properly.
“He will stay in Iraq, but first he has to leave the country to get his health fixed,” said Vergam.
In the run-up to his release, Maitham has a sense of the reception awaiting his brother.
“I feel like Michael Jackson at the moment. Everywhere I go, people are taking pictures of me and asking for my photo. If they do that for me, what will they do for Muntazer himself?”
TO DECLARE A STATE OF ECONOMIC EMERGENCY IN MICHIGAN
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 12, 2009 – 11:00 A.M.
CENTRAL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH, 23 E. ADAMS, DETROIT
(Woodward & Adams at Grand Circus Park)
After the meeting, we will caravan Davis’ home for a “Stop Foreclosure Rally” at East English Village, Detroit (S. of I-94, between Outer Drive & The people of Michigan are suffering from an economic disaster comparable to the Great Depression of the 1930s. The “official” unemployment rate is over 15%, the highest rate of any state, and the highest since statistics have been kept, with real unemployment closer to 25%. Foreclosures and evictions continue in huge numbers everyday. Utility shut-offs have led to families dying, and will be a total catastrophe as winter approaches. Schools are shutting. Services are being slashed. Workers are having their wages cuts and union contracts broken. Pensions are being eliminated through bankruptcy.
A declaration of a State of Emergency gives the government the authority to take whatever measures are necessary to insure that the survival of the people, not the corporations, comes first. For example, during the 1930s, the Michigan legislature declared a State of Economic Emergency and put a 5-year moratorium (halt) on all foreclosures. This moratorium was upheld by the Michigan Supreme Court based on the U.S. Supreme Court decision of Home Building & Loan Ass’n v. Blaisdell.
For the past two and a half years we have asked Governor Granholm to declare a State of Economic Emergency in Michigan, but she has refused to do so, stating that “the bankers would never go along with it.”
It’s time for the people to declare a State of Economic Emergency and plan actions to guarantee our fundamental rights to housing, utilities, education, basic services and jobs in accordance with the law. We will develop a strategy to implement:
- Moratorium on foreclosures, evictions, and utility shut-offs
- An end to school closings and cuts in education
- Guaranteed health care and basic social services for poor and working people
- Defending union contracts and workers’ rights to living wages and pensions
- Ending plant and office closings and lay-offs and guaranteeing the right to a job consistent with the Full Employment Act
Called by the MORATORIUM NOW! COALITION TO STOP FORECLOSURES, EVICTIONS & UTILITY SHUT-OFFS
For more info, call: 313-887-4344 ● Email: email@example.com ● www.moratorium-mi.org
Real News Network
Lia Tarachansky speaks to Fatou Bensouda, the Deputy Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) about the Palestinian Authority’s appeal to join the group of nations over which the court has jurisdiction. Bensouda says that before the ICC can investigate the perpetration of war crimes during Israel’s recent attack on Gaza, the court would have to rule on whether it has jurisdiction in the Palestinian Territories. For that, there would have to be clear borders identified, a task the UN would have to take on. Once the court rules on jurisdiction it would be able to prosecute anyone who committed war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide within the territory, even if (such as in the case of Israel) the perpetrator is not part of the International Court.
Fatou Bensouda was elected in 2004 to the post of Deputy Prosecutor by the Assembly of State Parties of the International Criminal Court. She is in charge of the Prosecution Division of the Office of the Prosecutor. Prior to joining the International Criminal Court, Bensouda served as the Senior Legal Advisor and Head of The Legal Advisory Unit at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Before that, she was the Minister of Justice of The Gambia.
The following article wasn’t read on air because I was running out of time! I mentioned it would be here for you to take a look at.
The road to Copenhagen going off the cliff
By Am Johal
| September 8, 2009
Global environmental policy-making is about as credible as the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. We are basically going to have to wait a lifetime or for hell to freeze over for anything productive to happen.
Unfortunately, we don’t have that kind of time as a civilization. That is why this is the most important debate in the world today. Four or five year election cycles don’t allow for the kind of forward thinking that is required to solve such a complex global issue. Political culture has not adapted to the gravity of the times.
A 24 hours news cycle does not have the capacity to look ahead or embark on a dialogue of strategic planning. Academics are disconnected from the practices of social change and sheltered from society in academic institutions, rarely intervening in the public sphere. Without breaking out of that paradigm and old ways of thinking, we are heading full speed in to a brick wall. We have yet to figure out a way to grow the economy while reducing carbon emissions in this country. Is there a political party that doesn’t support growing the economy?
The methods of mass education and democratic deliberation are failing us in an unprecedented manner, particularly the negligence of mass media in ignoring this issue for too long. The environmental movement and political leaders of every stripe have turned the debate about emission targets in to a cryptic game of inside baseball and utilized a language which alienates a vast majority of the public.
Can anyone tell me what reductions of 25 or 50 per cent actually mean? How does that translate in to policy on the ground and how it does it affect the personal economic and social lives of citizens and communities? How do we mitigate the alienation that comes with change particularly in rural communities?
Without connecting with people in a real dialogue, an obscure scientific, political, media and academic game is being played, while citizens are once again left to be spectators. As Neil Postman would say, we are amusing ourselves to death. We are like inoperative citizens in a phantom society where almost half of us don’t even vote.
With so much at stake, the contamination of the public sphere by political parties and bureaucrats, mediated through the narrow confines of a conservative media frame, threatens to prolong our civilization’s need to completely rewrite the rules of the game, rather than simply kick the climate change ball a little further. We are caught up in the jargon, rather than acting to inspire or motivate the kind of changes that we need to make.
Politically, we have fetishized the environment and fighting climate change in to a meaningless term, a feel good aphorism for the age. Some times when those dolphins jump in to the air while Louis Armstrong sings, “It’s a wonderful world” during movie trailers that promote recycling, it does truly make me feel good inside. But it doesn’t change the fact that we are in complete crisis as a civilization.
The state of the world is, in reality, getting much worse. Things are really, really, really bad. And things are going to get even worse.
On the eve of a major international climate change conference, Canada and other industrialized countries are once again failing to grasp the urgency of the situation. Canada is heading into the United Nations’ Copenhagen gathering in December with a promise to reduce emissions by a paltry 20 per cent below 2006 levels by 2020. It has also vowed to reduce 60 to 70 per cent by 2050. Despite an international economic collapse and a once in a lifetime opportunity to remake the economic system, middle powers like Canada are simply following American foreign policy — to set agreements with major developing powers like China, India, Brazil and Indonesia rather than international targets.
Though there should be a nuanced approach in understanding the differences of developed and developing countries in setting climate policies and increasing the economic benefits to a greater number of people, advocacy organizations have yet again put the focus on international conferences such as Copenhagen as the guiding light to world environmental emancipation — unfortunately, it will prove to be misguided as much as it is well intentioned.
With or without the Harper government, Canada’s emission targets are unrealistic without a complete overhaul of federal, provincial and municipal policies that will limit economic growth. Signing global agreements without any enforcement mechanisms is nothing more than taking part in an act of bureaucratic inertia.
Reducing emissions is just one part of a broader overhaul that is necessary — we have created an international post-war economic system and a population bubble which has been perpetuating itself since the end of the Second World War. We have not invested rapidly in research and development with ecological goals in mind. Without significant government investment in R and D and the ability to commercialize such investments rapidly, the change will be too slow. Without billions of dollars in investment in urban centers for rapid transit immediately, reductions will continue to be out of reach. The federal government should be spurring on such investments by providing half of the capital costs to provinces.
Furthermore, none of these regional, national or international agreements deal with the very real crisis of world population. Though two bloody world wars led to the eventual development of the Bretton-Woods system, its very successes have relied on growth and economic indicators that have never placed a value on environmental protection. To kickstart changes, we need the equivalent of a Green ‘Marshall Plan’ with a complete redefinition of the role of the World Bank and the entire economic system. There will also be challenges, as many of these abrupt policy changes will be rightly viewed as neo-colonial in their nature and approach.
We need to understand the root causes of how we got here in the first place. We have known about the crisis of climate change for a long time. In 1957, Charles David Keeling began taking measurements annually of carbon dioxide emissions in Mauno Loa, Hawaii. Those measurements are the single longest recorded measurement of carbon dioxide emissions in the world. Keeling’s work was referenced in Al Gore’s ‘Inconvenient Truth.’ Keeling’s son Ralph continues his work today at Scripps Institute of Oceanography in San Diego.
Just after the 50th Anniversary of the Mauna Loa record, Ralph Keeling, who now studies the impact of rising CO2 emissions on oxygen levels, said in an interview:
“We are treading new ground in this from a global warming perspective as a civilisation in new ways. The nature of the threat – which is that we will see negative consequences, mostly decades or more in the future – is the kind of threat which has historically been ignored by human civilisations.
Human nature tends to focus on the immediate and assume that something 10 years down the road can be dealt with later. What people are being asked to do and reduce the impact and make some sacrifices now that might pay off decades in the future, I think it takes a really deep understanding of the problem in a way to even consider that. We’re not quite there yet, quite honestly, as a civilisation.
We’re going to need graphic images of damage where people see suffering and feel it in their own experiences. We are being called upon to reinvent our game – civilisation as a whole, I mean, and it is a troubling thing for people to contemplate doing… The pace is pathetically slow. It takes really aggressive government action like the Manhattan Project or the Marshall Plan at a global scale, a really international one, to make this happen in a comprehensive way. It’s a better way to make big changes sooner.”
What is interesting is that there was a consensus that human beings caused climate change since the 1970s. Unfortunately, the knowledge translation of that science took until well in to the 21st Century for it to become a popularly held belief. At the policy level, we are still a decade away before substantive changes will be introduced largely due to this lag. Greenwashing is a popular tactic – utilizing public relations methods to oversell the environmental benefits of corporate and government policies.
Rio and Kyoto were great to kickstart a dialogue, but very little was accomplished in reality. The same high expectations of Copenhagen, which will see all the celebrity endorsements, endless supply of political leaders, musicians and NGO’s posturing to save the planet, the reality is that it will be another ineffective intervention if history plays itself out — the public, unfortunately, isn’t there yet and the media have done a deplorable job of explaining the urgency of the situation.
As a civilization, we have not yet figured out a way to truly make this a global issue that affects everyone and requires unprecedented sacrifices about reducing consumption and changing lifestyles. It is a global issue and it does affect everyone, but that belief is not widely held on a global scale despite Al Gore’s power point presentation. It also doesn’t help when venerable organizations like the David Suzuki Foundation, which has been credible on so many issues before, are providing environmental spin for environmentally dubious projects like the 2010 Olympic Games — a bloated, carbon-spewing environmental culprit if there ever was one.
Until we popularize the breathtaking urgency of the science, there is nothing in the history of civilization to suggest that we have the capacity to make the breadth of changes that we need to as quickly as we need to before irreparable harm occurs. Neither the Obama Administration or the Harper government are capable of pulling off what is neccessary.
For Obama, with the realpolitic of American foreign policy and its diminished capacity in the new multi-polar world with Russia, China, India, the EU and Brazil rising in stature, the reality of attempting to assert American interests requires a disproportionate reliance on oil — the highest per capita need in the world.
Investments in clean energy and new technologies may take ten to twenty years to take a significant percentage of energy market share.
There is also the sobering reality of the future. The world population will increase from 6.7 billion to 9.2 billion by 2050. Since 1970, temperature changes have increased dramatically — the most since human civilization began. From 1750 to today, the temperature has increased 0.8 degrees celsius. If we continue on this path, the temperature will increase between 3-5 degrees celsius by 2100.
Major climate catastrophes and world wars over access to resources would certainly start before that – likely by 2050. The loss of species is already starting to happen, but will magnify within decades both due to weather and the impact of increases in human population. Economic catastrophes such as the pine beetle epidemic, forest fires or Hurricane Katrina will magnify. There will be mass flooding and increased competition for resources. Countries like Bangladesh will be going through internal upheavals.
Our carrying capacity is already overstretched in the world — adding an additional 2.5 billion people by 2050 will have unforeseen implications in a warming world. Access to clean water will be a global emergency. The loss of Arctic sea ice will result in methane being released in to the atmosphere, further accelerating climate change. Disease and epidemics will be more prevalent in a populated world.
The amount of carbon in the atmosphere has increased from 280 ppm to 384 ppm since 1950. It will increase by a further 100 ppm by 2050. Increases of this nature would take millions of years to occur on their own.
If we really want to avoid mass catastrophe by mid-century, governments need to invest billions in wind power, nuclear power, solar power and mass transit. Mass investments need to happen in the developing world. We also need to completely rewrite our economic framework so zero growth and population maintenance is at the heart of every nation-state’s policy framework. Consumption should be taxed, carbon should be taxed and road tolls should be utilized.
Personal energy consumption should also be measured and individuals should pay for their usage at higher rates. Everything needs to be on the table if we are going to actually make real changes.
As well, how can all of these changes be implemented in a short time frame without creating mass poverty and social unrest?
Whether it’s a conference in Copenhagen, federal politics or provincial, without citizen engagement and popular education, we will continue moving towards the cliff of climate change at an ever faster pace.
We cannot solve the crisis of climate change based on a world order, systems of decision-making and rules of the game that were developed after the Second World War. Only the collective trauma of crisis, graphic images and mass deaths have moved the world to change its international order so abruptly and so systematically before. Until we all have some sense of fear, some responsibility to intervene, some hope for making the hard choices that are necessary, our future will simply consist of varying shades of suffering.
Am Johal is a rabble columnist and the founder and Chair of the Impact on Communities Coalition.
Vancouver Am Johal is an independent writer whose work has appeared in Seven Oaks Magazine, Znet, Georgia Straight, Electronic Intifada, Arena Magazine, rabble.ca and many others. Am is presently working in the office of Jenny Kwan, MLA for Vancouver-Mt.Pleasant. He completed a Master of Economics specializing in European and International Studies at the Institute for Social and European Studies and Corvinus University in Hungary and has undergraduate degrees in Commerce and Human Kinetics. While working on the Vancouver Agreement, Am was involved with the expansion of health services in the Downtown Eastside. He was Ministerial Assistant to the Minister of Transportation and Highways and the Minister of Community Development, Cooperatives and Volunteers, and has served on the board of directors of many organizations including Better Environmentally Sound Transportation, Impact on Community Coalition, Civil Society Development Project, Urban Solutions Institute, the Or Gallery, Reach Community Health Centre, Urban Ink Theatre and Dream City’s Housing Committee. In 2003-2004, Am led an international campaign against Israel’s Citizenship Law while working in the area of human rights with the Mossawa Center. He has been a board member of the Coalition of Progressive Electors and is currently a board member of Vision Vancouver. In June 2008, he will be an intern at the UN office of Inter Press Service in New York. He lives right in front of the Chinatown Gate in Vancouver.
Bubbling methane, and other warnings
Earth’s Arctic fridge defrosting, with dire results.
Dateline: Monday, September 07, 2009
by Stephen Leahy for InterPress Service
GENEVA, September 2, 2009 (IPS) — The rapidly warming Arctic region is destabilising Earth’s climate in ways science is just beginning to comprehend.
The entire world is being affected, and without urgent action to cut emissions, a too-warm Arctic could trigger catastrophic, irreversible climate change, top scientists say in a report released Wednesday in Geneva.
“It is crucial to know the full consequences of the Arctic warming, and this is an unprecedented review of the latest science,” said Martin Sommerkorn, an Arctic researcher and senior climate change advisor to World Wildlife Fund International.
||A warmer Arctic will likely emit large volumes of carbon and methane that are currently stored in the frozen soils called permafrost.
“Simply put, if we do not keep the Arctic cold enough, people across the world will suffer the effects,” Sommerkorn told IPS.
Sea level rise of more than one metre, flooding affecting one quarter of the world’s population, and extreme global weather changes are on the way at the current pace of unchecked carbon emissions, the “Arctic Climate Feedbacks: Global Implications” report warns.
A warming Arctic has far wider and more serious consequences than previously believed based on the latest science of the past three years, including the very recent research from International Polar Year 2008-2009.
“There is a large potential that a warming Arctic will make climate change far worse,” said Sommerkorn, who acted as editor of the report written by 10 of the world’s leading climate scientists.
The planet’s cold polar regions are crucial drivers of Earth’s weather and climate. Over the past 40 years, the Arctic has begun to thaw, with warmer temperatures that are rising at twice the rate as anywhere else in the world. Every summer, the frozen Arctic Ocean thaws more and more and may be ice-free in less than a decade.
So what happens when one of Earth’s freezers switches into defrost? Like closing an open window in winter, those closest will notice the biggest difference, but even those much further away will be affected. The report projects changing temperature and precipitation patterns in Europe and North America, affecting agriculture, forestry and water supplies.
“Droughts may be worse in California, and the U.S. Southwest. Winters could be wetter in the Mediterranean but drier in Scandinavia based on a continued warming of the Arctic,” said Sommerkorn, who is based in Oslo, Norway.
More alarming is the likelihood that a warmer Arctic will emit large volumes of carbon and methane that are currently stored in the frozen soils called permafrost and that contain as much as three times the carbon currently in the atmosphere.
Levels of atmospheric methane, a particularly potent greenhouse gas, have been increasing for the past two years, and it is suggested that the increase comes from warming permafrost.
The report shows that the top two to three metres of permafrost across the entire Arctic region will very likely thaw by the year 2100. The amount of carbon and methane that could be released is unknown but will be more than enough to push temperatures far higher than any previous estimates.
“We are already observing permafrost melting in many parts of the Arctic,” he said.
Worse still is the potential release of some of the enormous deposits of methane hydrates — frozen natural gas — under the Arctic Ocean. In very cold or high-pressure environments, individual methane molecules get trapped in ice-like cages of frozen water. When the seas warm, the ice cages fizzle and decompose, releasing the trapped methane.
Put a match to the decomposing ice and voilà: Ice that literally burns.
Methane is already bubbling to the surface along the East Siberian coastal shelf, according to recent measurements. This very shallow water of less than 50 metres may be warming and releasing some of the frozen methane, although this has not been confirmed.
“What we do know is that globally methane levels have been rising in the last two or three years,” said Sommerkorn. However, the temperatures in East Siberia right now are very close to what will cause the hydrates to thaw.
“Less than half of one percent of what’s there could trigger abrupt temperature change,” he warned.
Last month, other researchers discovered 250 plumes of methane gas bubbling up from the sea floor to the west of the Svalbard archipelago north of Norway.
A big jump in global temperatures would undoubtedly trigger other climate feedbacks, likely pushing global warming onto an entirely new trajectory, he said.
“What this report makes evidently clear is that what happens in the Arctic affects the rest of the world,” said report co-author Mark Serreze, senior research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Centre in the U.S. state of Colorado.
“The changes we are seeing are not entirely unexpected, they are just happening far sooner,” Serreze told IPS.
If the methane hydrates start to melt or large areas of permafrost “that will be very bad news for humanity”, he said.
“The world is a very small place and we have not been good stewards. Climate change is symptom of this poor stewardship,” he said. “The way we’re going right now, I’m not optimistic that we will avoid some kind of tipping point.”
This report signals the urgency for action, Sommerkorn says. And the action required is a global carbon emission peak between 2013- 2017 to keep global warming below 2 degrees and avoid dangerous climate change.
That means developed countries must reduce emissions by at least 40 percent by 2020 compared their 1990 emissions and the developing world must reduce emissions by 30 percent from current levels.
“The scale of the reductions needed is an enormous challenge,” he acknowledged.
However, leaders should not hesitate because greening of society is also the way to solve the economic crisis and the path to a sustainable future, experts agree. The Copenhagen climate treaty to be negotiated this December must parallel the urgency of the science in this report.
Stephen Leahy is an environmental journalist based in Uxbridge, Ontario. His writing has been published in dozens of publications around the world including New Scientist, The London Sunday Times, Maclean’s Magazine, The Toronto Star, Wired News, Audubon, BBC Wildlife, and Canadian Geographic.
For the past few years he has been the science and environment correspondent for Inter Press Service News Agency (IPS), a wire service headquartered in Rome that covers global issues, and its Latin American affiliate, Tierramerica, located in Mexico City.
This article previously appeared on the InterPress Service wire. http://ipsnews.net/