1,000 Risk Experts say: Brace for Impact

Superstorms, such as this 2012 typhoon photographed from the International Space Station, are according to risk analysts the new normal.

Superstorms, such as this 2012 typhoon photographed from the International Space Station, are according to risk analysts the new normal.

More than 1,000 experts on risk, consulted by the World Economic Forum for an upcoming annual meeting, agree that a perfect storm of rising risk, primarily driven by global climate change, and declining economic resilience pose mortal threats to governments, businesses and society in the near future. Continue reading

Australia Burning: US Smoldering

Tasmania fire 010413

Fires like this one on the island of Tasmania, the result of an historic heat wave, have been plaguing Australia all summer. Photo credit: Wikipedia

One of our continents is on fire. Australia is in the midst of a heat wave like none it has ever seen. On Monday the average high temperature — the average for the entire country — was 105 degrees Fahrenheit. It was the fifth consecutive day the national average high temperature had exceeded 102. When two young ladies at Oodnadatta, in southern Australia, tried to gas up their car to get the hell out of Dodge, the gasoline coming out of the pump vaporized before it could hit the bottom of the tank. Continue reading

Superstorm Sandy: Tasting Apocalypse Now

Lower Manhattan, lights out (except for that one building) watches Sandy approach and Braces for Impact. photo by Stefan Leijon/Flickr

Sandy has done us a great favor by giving us a preview of our new normal — a future in which storms assume the size of continents, “waterfront home” becomes an oxymoron and life — even the lives of the rich and famous — becomes much more tenuous.

Here’s what should happen now. First, there should be a national day of thanks for the climate scientists who braved our scorn and disbelief to insist we look at the reality and realize that superstorms like Sandy were going to be frequent from now on. Sandy has shown us in terms not up for argument, nor adjustable by one belief system or another, that those men and women of science were not Chicken-Little Climate Hawks,  they were American Eagles, harbingers of a bitter future we are bringing on ourselves. But wait there’s more. Continue reading

18 Wheelers: Endangered Species

The environs of the Great American 18-Wheeler, which is showing signs of going extinct. (Photo by Thomanication/Flickr)

The industrial machine that is America today is not a person (any more than a corporation is), but if it were, we would understand clearly that its vascular system — the mechanical  network that supplies petro-nutrients to all its robot parts, without which it  cannot survive for a minute — consists of highways filled with tractor-trailer rigs. Heads up: the system has severe atherosclerosis. Continue reading

Thunderstorms Threaten WV Famine

A vicious squall line moves across the northeastern US on Friday, June 29. (Photo by NASA/Goddard)

The third horseman of the Apocalypse — Famine — is abroad in West Virginia today, the day after Independence Day 2012, because of a thunderstorm. In a stunning development illustrating the fragility of the industrial food chain, people in many of West Virginia’s counties began experiencing hunger three days after the storm knocked out power in their area. Continue reading

Apocalypse Any Minute: The Sun Storm Scenario

A solar flare recorded Dec. 5, 2006, by the X-ray Imager onboard NOAA's GOES-13 satellite. The flare was so intense, it actually damaged the instrument that took the picture.

Add to the list of mortal threats to the continued existence of the industrial age another inevitable, natural event to which we have exposed the throat of our machine. You may know about the threat of solar storms — I wrote about it here in January of 2011 (“A Solar Powered Blackout”) — but did you know that one of the consequences of a strong one will be the moral equivalent of a nuclear war — a kind of Chernobyl times 100? Continue reading

Experts Shout “Fire!” in Crowded Planet. Crowd Ignores Them

Some experts believe, although not without contradiction from other experts, that increased temperatures in the place where we live may be a cause for some level of concern. (Photo by Ada Be/Flickr)

A conference in London this past weekend on climate and health concluded that the “alarming speed” of the depletion of natural resources around the world, now being accelerated by climate change, poses “an immediate, growing and grave threat” to health and security everywhere. The medical, academic and military experts predicted imminent increases in hunger, conflict, social unrest and species extinction worldwide. Continue reading

Forbes Says Brace for Impact: Believe it Now?

Having described how fast the airplane is descending, and how close it is to the rocks, Dr. Harte and his interviewer do the required fantasizing about how a soft landing might come about. (Photo by Radio Nederland/Flickr)

Forbes Magazine is a capitalist tool. That is not an insult, that is its self-proclaimed motto. Known for listing, rating and pandering to billionaires and business, serving as it does the biggest and baddest industrialists in the world, Forbes (and Forbes.com) is where you would expect to find pollution propaganda and climate-change denial. It is the last place you would look to find a hair-on-fire, climate-change authority explaining in great detail why we should, in effect, brace for impact. But guess what: the man has bitten the dog. Continue reading

Solar Storm Warning

This image provided by NASA shows a solar flare early Tuesday, Aug. 9, the largest in 5 years. The image was was captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) in extreme ultraviolet light.

A solar storm of moderate intensity will affect the earth for the next few days. Some disruption of satellite, GPS, telecommunications and electric equipment should be expected from a series of eruptions in the sun including one yesterday that was the largest seen in five years. None of the eruptions has been on a portion of the sun’s surface facing the earth, so effects should be limited to minor electronic disruptions and spectacular aurora borealis. A direct hit, such as occurred in 1859, would be another matter altogether (see  “A Solar Powered Blackout”). The danger is elevated because the sun is headed toward an 11-year maximum of such storms in 2013.

Mississippi Falling: Now What?

The Mississippi River lapped briefly at the edge of Interstate 20 in Vicksburg, Mississippi, and then receded. This time. (US Forest Service photo)

The historic Mississippi River flood of 2011 (or at least, of this far in 2011) is slowly receding now, and the catastrophic failure of the Old River Control Structures, that could have brought the US economy to its knees did not happen. What are we to make of this? But let us ask a different question first: instead of analyzing what did not happen, what are we to make of what did happen? Continue reading