Climate Change Robert Hunziker

Warnings from the Far North

Climate change is impacting oceans and marine life in the north, which will cause a ripple effect to the world's food chain.
From Baz Richardson on Flickr

By Robert Hunziker / CounterPunch

In a recent article published by the Los Angeles Times, staff writer Susan Rust wrote, “Forces profound and alarming are reshaping the upper reaches of the North Pacific and Arctic oceans, breaking the food chain that supports billions of creatures and one of the world’s most important fisheries.”

“Breaking the food chain that supports billions of creatures” is horrific to contemplate. It sends a powerful signal of trouble dead ahead. In that regard, scientists agree that what happens up North signals what’s in store to the South, and what’s happening up North is a gut-wrenching reality of life on a knife’s edge of catastrophe.

It’s never been more urgent and timely for the world to change its ways and abandon the current economic maelstrom that haunts all life on the planet. The pros and cons of capitalism’s experiment with neoliberal tendencies that enrich the few and bury the many should be debated in the context of strained resources throughout the biosphere, including all life forms. The GDP-to-infinity paradigm is barreling towards a wall of impending extinction. It’s already on a fast track.

In the aforementioned LA Times, aka The Times, article, “Kuletz, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist who has been observing birds in Alaska since the late 1970s, said she’s never before seen the large-scale changes of recent years. In 2013, the dead birds did not show signs of being emaciated, but in 2017, hundreds to thousands more began to wash up dead on beaches with clear signs of starvation.”

A team from The Times traveled to Alaska and spoke with dozens of scientists conducting field research in the Bering Sea and the High Arctic from whence they describe the harsh reality of a vastly/rapidly changing climate system that threatens basic food resources for marine life, as well as for humanity.

The fingerprints of anthropogenic global warming are all over the discernible shifts of sea life and/or loss of species captured in a whirlwind of unpredictability. According to boots-on-the-ground scientists in the far north, these radical shifts in the ecosystem have… “ramifications that stretch far beyond the Arctic. Moreover, the Bering Sea is one of the planet’s major fishing grounds.”

Janet Duffy-Anderson, a marine scientist who leads surveys of the Bering Sea for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center said, “Globally, cold-water ecosystems support the world’s fisheries. Halibut, all of the cod, all of the benthic crabs, lobsters, this is the majority of the food source for the world.”

She emphasized the fact that the ripple effect of what’s happening in the far north could shut down fisheries as well as leave migrating animals starving for food, which, in fact, is already omnipresent. And, of concern: “Alaska is a bellwether for what other systems can expect.”

The top of the marine food chain is in deep trouble. Since 2019 hundreds of gray whales have died along North America’s Pacific coastline. Many of the whales appeared skinny or underfed.

Addressing the whale issue, another scientific study from a year ago stated, “It is now the third year that gray whales have been found in very poor condition or dead in large numbers along the west coast of Mexico, USA and Canada, and scientist have raised their concerns. An international study suggests that starvation is contributing to these mortalities.”

When the top of the marine food chain (whales) starve, it’s only too obvious that the lower levels are failing. This one fact is cause for serious concern and thus demands action by the leaders of the world to commit to a series of international studies of marine life and ocean conditions with recommendations on how to solve the anthropogenic cause of excessive greenhouse gas emissions.

Yet, it appears that as some species in the far north struggle, some do adapt and even thrive. Thus, there may be some tradeoffs on a slightly positive note, but still, it’s the emaciated animals en mass that cannot be overlooked. The fact of the matter, stated in The Times, “Data from a Bering Sea mooring shows the average temperature throughout the water column has risen markedly in the last several years: in 2018, water temperatures were 9 degrees above the historical average.”

It should be noted that if overall global temperatures averaged 9 degrees above average, it would be “lights out” for terrestrial life.

Warmer waters appear to be at the heart of the problem, e.g., as the planet warms both humans and wildlife become more vulnerable to infectious diseases that were previously confined to certain specific locations and environments. Additionally, toxic algae that kills marine life thrives in warmer waters. Plus, marine animals do not naturally mature, and reproduce as waters warm far above historical averages. Furthermore, ocean acidification, caused by excessive CO2, is already threatening sea life by reducing carbonate, a key building block in seawater.

Only recently, a death march of extreme heat hit the Pacific. A study in Canada showed the enormous impact of heat, as an estimated one billion sea creatures off the coast of Vancouver died because of excessive ocean heat. According to professor Christopher Harley, University of British Columbia: “I’ve been working in the Pacific Northwest for most of the past 25 years, and I have not seen anything like this here. This is far more extensive than anything I’ve ever seen.”

The oceans are suffering a triple whammy, and as a result scientists believe it is distinctly possible that life in the wondrous blue seas could be gone by mid century, unless humanity changes course. Overfishing, pollution, and climate change are battering the oceans. It’s all human-caused. The question then becomes, if humans have caused the onslaught, can they reverse it, or at least stop?

In all, it’s becoming only too apparent that to maintain life on the planet, the world economy needs to stabilize by massive reduction of greenhouse gases accompanied by flat-line economic activity, forget the death wish of GDP up and up “whatever percent every quarter,” which runs roughshod over the planet’s ecosystems. Worshipping GDP growth is akin to idolatry, and its moral corollary is greed. Maybe try worldwide socialism and see how that works for the planet’s life-sourcing ecosystems.

Not only that, but plain and simple, we’re running out of nature’s resourcefulness. In an article titled “Will the Ocean Really Be Dead In 50 Years?” Katie David wrote, “Today’s seas contain only 10% of the marlin, tuna, sharks and other large predators that were found in the 1950s… Overfishing puts the whole ocean ecosystem out of balance.”

Of additional interest, the documentary Seaspiracy/Netflix by Disrupt Studios, March 2021 is an eye-opener on the goings-on of marine life, what’s left of it, in the oceans.

Museum scientists have studied past periods of climate change: “Research leader Prof Richard Twitchett says, ‘We have a really good idea of what oceans look like when the climate warms. It has happened to Earth many times before, and here in the Museum we have collections of fossil animals and plants that date back millions of years, so we can see how they responded. The rocks and fossils show us that as temperature increased in the past, oxygen levels fell and huge areas of the seafloor became uninhabitable,” Ibid.

In 2019, Agence France Presse warned, “The same oceans that nourished human evolution are poised to unleash misery on a global scale unless the carbon pollution destabilizing Earth’s marine environment is brought to heel.”

Robert Hunziker

Robert Hunziker lives in Los Angeles and can be reached at rlhunziker@gmail.com.

17 comments

  1. ago. I believe that these chemicals are related to H.A.A.R.P. (High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program), which are in Alaska, Mexico, and China. They are sets of about fifty immensely powerful transmitting radio towers set in a rectangle. They are targeted to a triangular area anywhere in the world. These towers can, and have, caused hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, birds falling from the sky dead, or fish and/or porpoises in the sea dying for no apparent reason.

    We are told that pollution has caused global warming, with a major danger being in the “greenhouse effect gases.” While that fits in with what I just stated, their hot air about it being caused by automobiles emissions is what will prevail in the media and in legislation.

    Instead of developing technology (special oil mogul interest) to alter emissions, (we do already have electric automobiles), auto owners will be taxed according to carbon emissions and miles driven. This will drain our incomes. I know, I know. Those genius scientists show with their complicated diagrams, complex illustrations, and scientific terminology (science-babble) how harmful all the carbon is to the planet. And no, I don’t pretend to understand it. Because it is all BS.

    I was told as a youth (by Lewis Saper, the inventor of the heart defibrillator) that a trademark of a highly intelligent person is the ability to explain complicated matters in such a manner that anyone, even a child, could understand. The complicated explanations fed to you by the “experts” are intended to confuse you, impress you, and deceive you into thinking that they have valid points and highly developed cognitive abilities. Do not be deceived. It is all a “snow job.”

    The simple truth is that plants breathe in carbon and breathe out oxygen. Animals breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon. Plants and animals, using oxygen and carbon, are inter-dependent, they need each other and benefit one another.    

    NOW LET ME BRING HOME TWO HUGE POINTS

    Do you want to save the planet? WE CAN. Plant a lot of organic (untouched in genetic alterations) fruit trees and vegetable farms and gardens. In yards, by the side of highways, in city parks, in empty fields, everywhere. Not only will there be a proper oxygen/carbon balance, but the result will also be that there will be enough food to feed the earth’s entire inhabitants for millenniums.

    The same people who are overloading nuclear reactors, spilling oil all over the oceans, destroying our drinking water, destroying our food supply by altering its genetics; are telling us that we are overpopulating the planet.

    I watched Bill Gates do a speech on just that. First he came up with all kinds of statistics of how many people there would be on the planet decades from now. He then used statistics to show how much food we would have, of course the numbers indicated that we would not have enough. He then gave some solutions to overpopulation. One of the solutions was vaccinations. That confused me at first. Aren’t vaccinations a way to promote more life?

    The answer came a few days later in my research. Another documentary revealed that some vaccinations in Africa funded by Gates caused about 47,000 deaths. Furthermore, I learned that Gates intends to reduce world population by 15% via means of vaccinations.

    Kahn, Michael Lewis. EXPOSING THE MONEY MACHINE: TYRANNY THROUGH GOVERNMENT, RELIGIOUS INSTITUTIONS, AND MEDIA DECEPTION (pp. 57-58). Kindle Edition.

    My other book, ANGRY LOUD AND CLEAR TRUTH gives a solution to every world problem, in the form of a new idea for an ideal civilization. IN the conclusion.
    http://truthforceinternational.org

    1. Mike, I’d rather stick with the science rather than conspiracy theories. Our pollution is in overshoot: The earth is overheating and the oceans are dying. This is not a theory but a fact which will get a lot worse if we continue with business as usual. I recommend “Limits of Growth” books, and “The End Of Growth” book. If we don’t clean up our act we will pass tipping points of no return and the climate catastrophes will soon become unstoppable. I think degrowth of consumerism and consumption of resources is the solution, but that does not mean we can’t be growing in health and happiness. The transition will be most painful foe the power elites. The poor are already frugal!

    2. Mr. Hunziker, I have read most of your writings, and perused most of the videos you participated in. I have grown to both respect you, and admire your long enduring efforts to save …. well … all life from … us.

      And after all this time you have commenters such as the above, quoting Bill Gates of all people, at you.

      In short, I worry about your mental health. It can’t be stopped. It won’t be stopped. What is left will be the unrelenting witnessing of unspeakable horrors to record.

      Be well unmet friend. Yours was a valiant effort, thank you.

      1. I am afraid I must agree. Gates is monstrous and the ridiculous “plants breathe out CO2” statement make your earlier valid arguments seem unrelated to the truth. The USA is the leader in destruction by its habits which extend to the rest of us by example-the very worst and most wasteful way to live. The insistence of the USA on dominating the globe has only harmful effects , as it makes all the people “adversaries” if they do not follow the rules of the USA. This means NO cooperation to solve global issues. Even pandemics give the vast majority of vaccines to those already oversupplied, while needless conflicts like in Ukraine take over the headlines.

    3. @
      MIchael Lewis Kahn
      Your diatribe reads like a typical modern human anti-environmental rant. While I have no doubt that humans do other great harms and things like the radio towers you mentioned could certainly be very problematic, but to say that they’re the cause of global warming/climate change is absolutely ridiculous. But like other modern humans, you’ll let the planet burn before you’re willing to give up your unnatural modern conveniences like driving or electricity. To be clear, this stuff isn’t going away any time soon (see my comment on this below), but if we don’t start moving in that direction we’ll never fix the extreme environmental or ecological problems that humans have caused and are still causing.

      “[H]ot air about it being caused by automobiles emissions”? In California, the biggest state in the U.S. measured by population, auto emissions are the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions.

      Overpopulation isn’t a problem? Human population has grown like a cancer ever since humans started using agriculture, and now there are so many people on the planet (including agriculture and infrastructure) that the plants & other animals have nowhere to live. Anyone who doesn’t acknowledge human overpopulation to be the existential problem that it in fact is either doesn’t care about anything but humans, is totally ecologically ignorant, or some combination.

      The fact is that we have to both greatly lower our population AND live a lot more simply and naturally, which means eventually getting rid of industrial living and even agriculture (the former could be done in 150-200 years, the latter will take thousands). I don’t see what’s so hard to understand about that, but so many people are obsessed with solving one problem and refusing to acknowledge the other one.

      People are so obsessed with their unnatural and totally destructive lifestyles that they have complete cognitive dissonance, so they reach for false solutions, like a Green New Deal or the electric cars that you mentioned. Burning of fossil fuels is the cause of global warming, and there are no magical solutions that would allow humans to continue to live unnaturally while not harming the planet. You can’t have your cake and eat it too, and it’s way past time that humans grow up and behave like they know that.

      Global warming/climate change is very far from being the only massive environmental or ecological problem that humans are causing — the current extinction crisis and ocean acidification are as big or even bigger problems — and we need to solve the roots of the problems, not symptoms like global warming. The only reason that global warming must be addressed is because it’s such an existential problem that life on Earth will be greatly reduced or even eliminated if we don’t stop causing it, but it should not be all we’re focused on.

  2. Quit having kids! If born now, they are all guaranteed to not live past 40 and have a difficult and painful life at that.
    Has anybody actually been swimming in the north Atlantic recently?
    It’s almost fresh water now, very low salty taste, especially compared to 40 years ago; a result of all the melting ice.
    Like David Suzuki said last May of 2021, “it’s too late, we were a great experiment”.

    1. @David
      David Suzuki said that? Wow! I saw him speak once about 15 years ago, probably the greatest speech I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela. His speech explained the oneness of all things in scientific terms, which is very similar to The Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra.

      Anyway, that’s pretty depressing. My realistic expectations are the same and have been for some time, but I don’t agree that we should ever give up hope or stop trying. You never know what might happen if you keep trying — there is much more about life that we don’t know than we do, and there are almost infinite variables that we fail to consider — just look at so-called miracle endings in sports when it seemed hopeless for the eventual winning team.

  3. Stop Eating Meat. It is something that everyone can do, right now Today.
    It can be as simple as eating a veggie burger instead of a meat burger.

    It is a good and important first step. If you are concerned about protein, you can still eat cows milk and cheese and chicken eggs.

    Have a Grilled cheese sandwich (I like mine with lots of grilled Sauerkraut) and a bowl of hot Vegetable soup.
    Macaroni and Cheese with lots of Broccoli.

    Just stop eating meat. Let’s shut down the slaughterhouses.
    Better for our Health, better for the Animals, better for the Environment.

    1. Cow milk is not safer than cow meat. They both have animal hormones and antibiotics that can cause cancer, obesity, heart disease and autoimmune diseases in humans. Cow milk is made for calves only. Dairy is a filthy, dangerous industry where cows are mistreated and slaughtered just like in the meat industry.

    2. @Nylene
      Giving up beef would help, but dairy is just as big of a problem. Cows need to be eliminated; they are unnatural animals that were bred into existence by humans, and they have done and are still doing immense harm to the planet, because they are huge non-native animals. In the western U.S., the grazing industry has caused more harm than any other industry. Cattle are now grossly overpopulated like humans are, except that the only proper number of them on Earth is zero.

      As to eating other animals, except for CAFO’s it doesn’t causes less harm than eating cattle or dairy. Sure, the planet would be better off if everyone were vegan, but that’s not natural and it’s never going to happen. Humans are naturally omnivores, not vegetarians, and we evolved eating meat and always have,. Humans need meat for vitamin B-12, not protein as you mentioned. But we need so little vitamin B-12 that eating meat once or twice per month would be enough. The problem is way too many people on the planet, and those who eat meat eat way too much of it.

      More to the point of this article is that cattle and animal agriculture, while contributing to global warming/climate change, animal agriculture is not a major cause. Animal agriculture and cattle existed well before industrial society, and there was no anthropogenic global warming or climate change until people started burning fossil fuels. So despite this being a big issue for you, it’s not very relevant here.

  4. liberal cocktail party deception —you are all doomed!
    nonsense
    climate change is natural. some nations are adapting. the frozen american character cannot–something documented by Tocqueville, Ostrogorski, Stendhal, Juan Linz, Jonathon Elster, Hannah Arendt, Geoffrey Gorer, Morris Berman, etc
    As Alain Badiou writes, environmentalism is “a crude..counter-revolutionary issue”

    1. @alexandr herzen
      There is nothing natural about ANTHROPOGENIC climate change. Educate yourself, you sound very foolish.

  5. —>>> The GDP-to-infinity paradigm is barreling towards a wall of impending extinction. It’s already on a fast track.

    True but only because it’s nominal growth, only , predicated on the use and overuse of debt based stimulus. We need some monetary “Yang” with our existing “Yin”, debt-free money that is created priced and distributed by the free market. This process has now actually begun using market gold and silver and where the consumer now takes the stage.

    https://medium.com/lodepaymedia/lode-announces-integration-with-solana-blockchain-expanding-presence-in-growing-defi-space-3cf7b3692803

  6. Over-population is the root of all worldly problems. Everything that happens is tied to it. Our over-consumption of goods & earth’s limited resources are due to (too many) people’s demands. I cringe when friends have kids or get new grandkids. We know what kind planet they inherit. What are these parents thinking??? Of course it is human nature to procreate, but this human urge must be stopped and contained. Otherwise, just wear a “I Believe in Mass Suicide” tee-shirt and PARTY TO EXTINCTION.
    My soapbox is tall and secure. I brought no child into this world and have only consumed my own limited goods & resources.

  7. To maintain life on Earth, humans must greatly lower BOTH their population and their consumption, the latter including complete cessation of things that humans should not be consuming, like fossil fuels, trees, and farmed meat. Anything less is just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic because people prioritize their harmful and unnatural lifestyles over life on Earth.

    BTW, this has nothing to do with capitalism or neoliberalism. While these economic systems are certainly problems, they’re symptoms, not causes. Humans caused extinctions 60-90,000 years ago wherever they went when they started leaving Africa, and agriculture, which humans started using 10-12,000 years ago, destroys habitats, ecosystems, and the plants and animals that live there, and also is the root cause of human overpopulation. These problems are deeply rooted in human attitudes and how humans have been living for thousands of years. Economic systems are not the problem here, they are very minor problems in comparison.

  8. Mankind lost its understanding of food and nutrition a long time ago, and let “industrialization” take over the likes of family farms and corrupt good agricultural lands. This is not an issue of global warming, it is an issue of capitalism. If we continue to strip mine oceans and grasslands, etc. we should not be surprised by the reduction in species that have feed humans for centuries. Blaming increasing temperatures of air and water has beome automatic, but there are other “modern” threats to the environment, including atmospheric EMR.

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