Wall Street Titans See the Light Through the Smog: The Climate Change Stories We’re Reading

JP Morgan has an epiphany and scientists try to jolt the world into sobriety: Here are the climate change stories Haaretz didn’t report on this week – but that are worth knowing

The seawall and the snag

Sea levels are going to continue rising even if we stop emissions instantly because of lags between carbon dioxide levels and temperature change. In any case, we’re not about to stop and now two scientists propose building two mega-dams – one 475 kilometers (195 miles) long between Scotland and Norway, and a second 160 kilometers long between France and England. Estimated cost: a piffling 250 to 500 billion euros ($275 to $551 billion, though mega-engineering cost estimates are always way too low). The dams would turn the North Sea into a lake and have various other horrific results. Designing and proposing these “extreme dams” is, admit Sjoerd Groeskamp, oceanographer at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, and Joakim Kjellsson at GEOMAR, less a real proposition and more a warning that “reveals the immensity of the problem hanging over our heads.” No kidding.

So we shall ignore the feasibility aspects and merely point out that we don’t know how high the seas will rise, or by when. So building seawalls or dams that can effectively and reliably protect us from the rage of Neptune is a problem – as our forefathers discovered thousands of years ago, and as we discover every time there’s a hurricane, medicane or high wind on the sea.

Protecting certain coasts from sea level rise – by damming off the North Sea?NIOZ, Sjoerd Groeskamp
When seawalls don’t quite cut it: Tyler Holland pushes his bike as Tropical Storm Barry push water from Lake Pontchartrain over the seawall in Mandeville, La., on July 13, 2019.David J. Phillip/AP

In the ocean deep, that isn’t a Meg, it’s coral!

One for the upside! Nix on megalodons, sorry, but coral forests have been discovered in deep sea canyons off Australia. Will this help us? If we are fish, sure. But deep-sea cnidarians can’t help their cousins in the shallows that are in trouble worldwide, hit by multiple ills: warming water (they don’t like it); ocean acidification (dissolves them); sedimentation (suffocates them); pollution; and even coral mining. Eilat’s coral in the Red Sea is oddly resistant to global warming, but it has other problems

A new analysis in Environmental Research Communications  concludes that methane emissions are growing, and if that persists, we can’t constrain warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius. To do anything, we need to recognize its sources. They include increasing fracking; still-increasing coal mining, including in climate change-stricken Australia; fossil fuel production in the Middle East; growing garbage and sewage output from burgeoning populations and economic development in the Third World; and increasing cow farming in Latin America and Africa. And permafrost melting, which is releasing huge amounts of methane in a self-reinforcing cycle: the more methane thawing frozen ground releases, the warmer the average temperature gets, and so on, but we can’t do a thing about that.

Meanwhile in Bangladesh…

They didn’t need to read that analysis to know there’s a problem. This month, the country entered into a collaboration with the United Kingdom, whose prime minister, Boris Johnson, is another recent climate convert, even backing down from building another runway at Heathrow Airport because of the pesky pollution aspect. The collaboration seems to be based on the U.K. helping to finance work in Bangladesh, which hasn’t the luxury of living in denial but has to actually do things as the seas and temperatures rise – from which the UK could have much to learn

Glacier-quakes are spreading

When top-heavy icebergs are calved – a euphemism for “crack off and fall into the sea” – and then flip and pitch backward and crash into the mother glacier, they can send seismic waves radiating for thousands of kilometers. Now, signals of this sort have been detected for the first time on Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica, as reported in Geophysical Research Letters and disseminated by sea level rise prophet John Englander. The implication is that the glacier is degrading, and that is a problem because Thwaite helps hold back the West Antarctic Ice Sheet lest it flow into the sea. An upside? Learning about the seismic signals emitted by fracturing ice sheets can help predict calving. Can’t hurt.