Tag Archives: climate change

Newest Climate Threat: The Ocean is Losing Oxygen

Image by NASA

Image by NASA

Shall we call this the “climate threat of the day?” With new evidence arriving daily of alarming trends and discoveries of previously unconfirmed effects from a changing climate, and a more broadly changing planet, it can be hard to keep up. Someone needs to publish a daily calendar with a fill-in-the-blank statement: “The thing that scares me the most today about planetary change is ____________________.”

For example:

The thing that scares me the most today about planetary change is ocean deoxygenation.

What is that? In essence, science has proven, just this week, that the global ocean has less oxygen today than in recent decades. The loss is greater than 2%, according to a new article in Nature by lead author Sunke Schmidtko. The trend has been predicted and demonstrated on local scales, but this composite study is the first to quantify it on a global scale.

The ocean is slowly suffocating, due to changes caused by us. If that much harm could happen within 50 years, I shudder to think what could happen within 500 years.

Wikipedia will need to update its definition of ocean deoxygenation, because it’s now an established observation, instead of a suggestion. [We also have a more immediate need of a sad Planet Ocean emoji. Here’s my sideways text-only version  (:<)  ]

Read more about this study in a Washington Post article by Chris Mooney that states: “The new study underscores once again that some of the most profound consequences of climate change are occurring in the oceans, rather than on land.”

Planetary change, not just climate

It’s more than climate change we face. Much, much more.

DOWNER WARNING: Do not read this if you’re feeling blue. Come back after you’ve put on your rainbow coat of many colors. 

photo 2

Trampling on life is ultimately self-destructive.

Climate change is as real as cancer, and it is caused by us. Just as we have the power to quit smoking, we have the power to quit burning fuel. We can do this.

But the imbalance we face is not just one, discrete cancer on Earth. It is akin to multiple cancers, multiple diseases. It is a full-on, multi-symptom, doctor’s check up from hell.

It could be worse, I guess, because daily life goes on. Yet we’re distracted and dumb. Our planetary IQ is dismally low. People are foolishly debating the reality of climate change, while other, planetary changes demand a growing awareness–not a stifled second opinion.

Don’t even listen to the quacks. Keep learning about cancer number 1, climate change, while expanding your knowledge to cancers 2 through 25 of the environment, such as ocean pollution, the depletion of soil, and the extinction crisis. Listen to what the planet is telling us.

What’s Going On

We need to find new terms to deal with our syndrome. Some scientists have agreed on a new geological term of Anthropocene, meaning that the dust of the Earth is being shaped by humanity. That’s a good start.

I’m using analogies to human disease, because we can understand them intuitively. We can conceive of Mother Earth as a person with a deadly illness. We know what a sick person needs and doesn’t need. She doesn’t have a chance if the air she breathes is toxic, the water she drinks is poisoned, and the food she eats lacks nutrition.

She is faltering. As Mother Earth goes, so go we.

Do we call it a syndrome? Does Mother Earth have AIDS? She is metaphorically HIV-positive, and we desperately need a cure. Just as we fight for a cure to real AIDS, we must learn how to fight for a cure to planetary disease.

Planetary change is happening on the ground, just as climate change is happening in the atmosphere. At the core of the change is humanity’s imbalance with Nature.

This concept is really hard to digest. I’m not even sure what to call it. Maybe you have an idea that will give us a vocabulary to deal with it.

Climate change is very important and very real. It is part of planetary change caused by humans. The sooner we accept it and learn how to deal with it, the sooner we can move on to deal with the other cancers we are unwittingly creating.

Ignorance is death.



Florida’s Wealthy Fishing Community Ready to Pay It Forward for Environment, According to Rare Study on Seafood and Climate Change

Miami—The legendary wisdom of anglers is changing with the times, according to groundbreaking new research published Thursday in the Journal of Marine Science and Engineering. The first study to use personal seafood budgets to reveal environmental orientation shows that South Florida’s recreational fishers have a newfound recognition of climate change and a strong will to open their wallets for high quality seafood.

Old timers remain stingier than newer generations, reveals researcher James W. Harper, who surveyed a selection of Florida’s more than one million registered marine fishers for the the scientific article The New Man and the Sea. But one of the study’s biggest surprises is that poorer people are not stingy when it comes to paying more for sustainable seafood. The online survey found middle to lower class households were just as willing as upper classes to pay a few dollars extra to purchase fish with a sustainability label on it. These residents living near the Florida Reef especially want local seafood, because 80 percent were in favor of higher costs to guarantee seafood caught nearby.

Registered anglers are very wealthy, as they reported income twice as high as the average Floridian. The study’s survey was limited to five counties in southeastern Florida, including the Florida Keys of Monroe County, and the majority of participants owned a boat, went fishing and scuba diving, and expressed high concern about climate change damaging Florida’s coral reefs, a new finding for this community.

The study finds that greater concern about climate change inspires greater spending on sustainable seafood. But Florida’s large community born abroad is not inspired to spend more for seafood from Florida.

More than 90 percent of Florida’s seafood is imported, and imports are the norm across the Caribbean. Commercial fishing in Florida has been shrinking while the recreational boating and fishing industries have grown steadily for decades. New research is finding that recreational fishing has an equal or greater impact on coastal ecosystems as commercial fishing, even though recreational fishing has no federal regulation. Florida’s recreational fishing sector is more than twice as large as the next closest state. But little scientific research has illuminated how this community thinks and acts for the environment it uses.

The open access scientific article is available for free online at: http://www.mdpi.com/2077-1312/3/2/299/html

For more information, contact the author at:

James (Jim) W. Harper



Goodbye beach, goodbye reef

We have to let go of so many things in this lifetime, and one of those many things is living in Florida.

The new February issue of National Geographic magazine spells it clearly in the feature article Climate Change Economics. If you can only stomach one more article about climate change, read this one. Check out the excellent maps and graphics.

Treading Water – Photo Gallery – National Geographic Magazine.

It states:

“Many coastal places are at risk, but Florida is one of the most vulnerable. While government leaders around the world, in Washington, and even in Florida’s statehouse in Tallahassee dither over climate change, here on Florida’s southern tip more than a few civic leaders are preparing. Florida’s future will be defined by a noisy, contentious public debate over taxes, zoning, public works projects, and property rights—a debate forced by rising waters.”

On Monday, I spoke to the Miami-Dade County Delegation at a public hearing in Miami, and I sent this message about sea level rise: “STOP DITHERING.”

The noise and anti-dithering should extend to coral reefs, and National Geographic knows that too. Its video alongside the article, “A Stressful Time,” provides glimmers of hope in an otherwise hopeless situation for the world’s coral reefs.

Treading Water – Video: A Stressful Time – National Geographic Magazine.

Goodbye Florida. Goodbye house. Goodbye Florida Reef. Goodbye Everglades. Goodbye South Beach, and so on, and so on, and so on . . .


PCM Poem: The People’s Climate March

Birds on sticks fly kite-like

Yellow banners high, dip under wires

Space opens in silver canyon to


One hundred twenty seconds feels long

to hold a stranger’s hand, surrounded by

three hundred thousand other strangers,

street peoples bigger than your city

on an Avenue of the Americas.

All lead and all decide and

all hollered and all walked, together,


Child to great-grandparent,

Mother Earth to Father Time,

Seeking, marching,

Trying to rewire history,

To baptize, cleanse the air

To rain climate justice on fertile ground

Turning concrete into wheat

Harvest coming

Change here

United we live

One Planet,

One Life.


why i march

Soweto broke my heart when I visited as a teenager in 1985 and again in 1989. Both times, as the church broke into full-bodied song, I burst into tears. My overpowering grief grew from my fear as a white male that I represented nothing but pain to the black South Africans, yet they welcomed me warmly. I was there to represent my church and my beliefs, but I hardly knew what I was doing. I was in shock.

tumblr_namizxrCVM1rp9guao6_500This Sunday I may also be in shock as I join my comrades at the People’s Climate March in New York City. Living in Miami, I feel very isolated from places like New York and San Francisco where green living is celebrated as a way of life and climate change is recognized as a threat to all. Marching with tens of thousands of like-minded people will be a novel experience. I’ll probably cry, because that’s just part of my character.

Pollution is a civil rights issue, and climate change is simply carbon pollution writ large. It hurts everyone, but it inflicts the greatest pain on the helpless and the poor, such as the people living in the ghettos of Soweto. Or the islands of the Indian Ocean. Or the people who can’t afford to pack up and fly away from South Florida when the big hurricane eventually hits.

In the 1980s, the grip of apartheid appeared intractable, and pain and confusion were like Berlin Walls against freedom. In the year 2014, the ogre of climate change has the future in its claws and feeds on insatiable greed. How can we possible stop the fossil fuel industry, the richest entity that has ever existed? How can we possibly overcome centuries of atmospheric pollution that has been accumulating since the Industrial Revolution?

We don’t know the future, and so we march. We march to change the arc of history. We march so that we don’t become history. We march because we have hope, and we have hope because we march.

Apartheid came crashing down and Nelson Mandela arose much quicker than I could have imagined when I visited and studied the South African situation as a college student at Columbia University, a place leading the divestment movement that exerted significant pressure on the South African government. I was not an active protester at the university, but I was willing to put my body on the line and take a stand by visiting South Africa when the situation was still very violent, tense, and hopeless.

Climate change must come crashing down quickly. Denialism must end, and action for a sustainable future must arise much quicker than we can imagine. It will be a monumental battle, and it is unclear what direction it will take. But change is coming, and some of it is still within our control. We can fight for greater justice, or we can sit down and let the stranglehold of pollution slowly choke us to death.

I march for the ocean. To me, it is the most beautiful and life-affirming place, and it is also the most vulnerable and misunderstood place. It suffers from an apartheid — an apart-ness from humans — and we are destroying it. Thinking that we are disconnected from or superior to the ocean is insane. If the oceans go, we go.

I march for the traditional, sentimental reasons too: for my nephews in their 20s, for extended family, for friends, and for the next generation. I don’t want people or the planet to suffer, period, especially when we can prevent much of it.

Climate change is very much like racism. Everyone shares some guilt of being a carbon polluter, because we have inherited that way of life, just as our history was built on racist heritages. Ending these injustices requires long-term, unwavering efforts on multiple fronts. It is complicated and confusing, but such misgivings are not an excuse for inaction. We act, or we get acted upon.

I’m not sure I can explain exactly why I am marching. If nothing else, I feel that I have to try, to make some kind of effort, in some way, to reach the leaders of the world, because we need a fundamental shift in society to address this threat. My faith in humanity is weak, but I have to believe that justice will prevail.

Sorry, kids of the future, if we break your hearts. We didn’t know who we was.

Let’s hear it for El Nino (bad boy!)

Mother Earth is pregnant, and we know it’s a boy. The next El Nino (“male child” in Spanish) is predicted to arrive this year, and its warming of the Pacific is tragic news for corals and other temperature-sensitive creatures. Think of El Nino as a bad boy that sets animals on fire.Fire Hands Couple

This month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration (NOAA) issued an official watch for El Nino, but don’t hold your breath. That baby will gestate for months before being delivered conclusively. Weather geeks will be salivating for months over maps and statistics to reveal the global pattern, much like economists freak out with quarterly indicators.

The oceanic warming trend is of particular concern to the future of coral reefs, because they were blasted during the last strong El Nino in 1997 to 1998, when large percentages of corals perished worldwide (resulting in an estimated loss of 16% of all coral reefs). The map below from NOAA shows the projected risk to corals until September this year.

This map shows areas at risk of coral bleaching due to warmer seas this year (from NOAA Coral Reef Watch).

This map shows areas at risk of coral bleaching due to warmer seas this year (from NOAA Coral Reef Watch).

When summer returns to the Southern Hemisphere later this year, you can bet that the map’s colors will migrate south. For the near term, though, the most severe warming appears clustered around the Pacific coast of Northern America, a place with relatively few tropical coral reefs.

For the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, the warming impacts could be delayed by about one year if the pattern holds from the 1997 to 1998 El Nino event. If so, the summer of 2015 could bring another devastating bleaching event to Caribbean coral reefs.

Warm water could hit the Atlantic with or without El Nino in the Pacific. In 2005, Caribbean reefs experienced severe bleaching and the highest recorded temperatures in the region, even though the El Nino effect was considered weak.

NOAA has established a special Coral Reef Watch based on satellite data to keep a close eye on changes in oceanic temperatures. Why? Reefs need to be watched closely because they are under great stress, and a major disturbance could push many reefs over the edge and into the metaphorical abyss.

Keep watching.