David Suzuki: Declining phytoplankton another sign of climate catastrophe

As we wrote recently, nothing would please us more than if climate change deniers were right. It isn’t fun to delve daily into the ever-mounting evidence of the catastrophic consequences of climate change. And life would be easier if we didn’t have to spend it trying to get stubborn governments to do something about the problem, and trying to get the public to care without driving them to depression.

Facing daily attacks from people who deny reality isn’t much fun either.

But evidence that the world is warming, mainly because of our fossil fuel addiction, and that this is having increasingly disastrous effects on our health and on the health of the planet’s ecosystems, keeps growing.

Meanwhile, arguments from deniers keep getting knocked down, to the point where one must conclude that there really are only two types of denier: those who are paid by industry to spread misinformation in attempts to confuse the public, which is criminal, and those who are unable to see the evidence staring them in the face and who still cling to arguments that one minute with Google would dispel, which is pathetic and stupid.

The latest blow to the deniers came when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency examined in detail 10 petitions challenging its 2009 finding that climate change is endangering the planet, that it is largely caused by burning fossil fuels, and that it threatens human health and the environment.

In every case, the EPA found that the petitions misinterpreted data, contained outright false claims, and included exaggerated charges.

“The endangerment finding is based on years of science from the U.S. and around the world,” said EPA administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “These petitions—based as they are on selectively edited, out-of-context data and a manufactured controversy—provide no evidence to undermine our determination. Excess greenhouse gases are a threat to our health and welfare.”

Another recent report, published by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, looked at data from 10 climate indicators measured by 300 scientists from 160 research groups in 48 countries. It concluded that human-caused climate change is undeniable and is increasing.

And so ice in the Arctic and in glaciers continues to melt, ocean temperatures and sea levels continue to rise, ecosystems and wildlife habitats continue to shift or degrade, and extreme weather events continue to become more frequent.

On top of that, a recent study by Dalhousie University oceanographer Boris Worm and his team found that phytoplankton populations in the ocean are declining at an alarming rate because of human activity and climate change. Why should we care? Well, these microscopic plants are the base of the food chain and account for half the production of organic matter on Earth. They also remove carbon dioxide from the air and produce more than half the oxygen we breathe.

According to report co-author Marlon Lewis, "Climate-driven phytoplankton declines are another important dimension of global change in the oceans, which are already stressed by the effects of fishing and pollution.” The report, published in the July 29 edition of Nature, states that phytoplankton have declined by about 40 per cent since 1950.

We can’t live without them.

While governments stall and deniers spread confusion, it gets more and more difficult to achieve the kind of emissions reductions that scientists say are necessary to prevent the Earth from reaching a cataclysmic rise in global average temperatures. It was once possible, and may still be, but we are reaching a point where it will become impossible.

We all have a responsibility to do everything we can to reduce our own emissions, to vote for governments that make climate change a priority, and to make sure those governments focus on real solutions. We know that conserving energy and shifting to cleaner energy will not just help solve the climate crisis but will also resolve many pollution-related health issues and may even give economies a boost.

The fossil fuel industry, which continues to reap multi-billion dollar profits, has spent millions to support a handful of deniers, right-wing think tanks, and websites that call climate change “junk science” and deny human activity is influencing global warming.

It’s time we all started ignoring the insane blathering of the deniers. We’ve already wasted too much time on them—and we don’t have time to waste.

Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org.




Aug 4, 2010 at 12:36am

The solution to the worlds energy issues is obvious. The giant roadblock is Big Green and its Big Oil funding partners.

The cost to replace all fossil fuels with clean and green nuclear power would be covered by fossil fuel savings . Energy Sec Chu is slowly pounding this into Obama's thick head. Iggy is on board but Stevey "Brimstone" Harpo will have to be replaced first.

A worldwide investment in 10000 mass produced nuclear reactors paid for by ending expensive fossil fuel use, would eliminate most air pollution saving millions of lives annually, end the global warming/ peak oil problem within a ten year time frame, provide a huge job producing boost to the economy, and require only a small part of our industrial capacity.

Canada would need 150 gigawatts of mass produced nukes at $150B financed by the $100B paid every year into the coffers of Big Oil/Coal for their deadly products.

Currently Asian nukes are under $1.5B/Gw and 1.5 cents a kwh.Out current nuke operating cost is under 1.5 cents a kwh way less than coal or NG. AECL and Westinghouse are predicting less than half that for their new mass produced Gen 3+ units.

Suzuki and his Big Oil funded cronies at Big Green, by driving us right over that as little as ten years civilization ending Climate/Peak oil crisis with their silly "renewable" religion, and support of Big Coal/Oil's fight against nuclear power killing millions more every year from air pollution, seem bound and determined to do in lots more folks in very big ways as they destroy Gaia.

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Enough Rope to Hang ....

Aug 4, 2010 at 12:01pm

Or in this case enough deadly pollution to destroy life as the world drives itself into destruction with oil despite knowing the difference as greedy oil companies want to lead the way. Canada is up to its neck in carbon waste as prime minster takes countries away from climate action as Alberta does it damage to the environment and big oil cashes in leaving tragedy behind to remind us all of our harmful ways.

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Aug 4, 2010 at 3:18pm

Energy efficiency, wind power, solar hot water (displacing electric water heating) and cogeneration (combined heat and power), were already cheaper sources than new nuclear plants. This report illustrates that solar photovoltaics (PV) have joined the ranks of lower cost alternatives to new nuclear plants. When combined, these clean sources can provide the power that is needed, when it is needed.


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Aug 4, 2010 at 11:10pm

The current cost of Canadian nuclear power is 2.6 cents a kwh according to the OECD. The recent quotes from AECL and Areva for the Darlington upgrade were under 2 cents a kwh for the 60 year term of the bids.

The most recent Candu build in 2004 in China was under 2 cents a kwh. Current builds of American reactors in China are less than 1.5 cents a kwh.


There are no energy efficiency improvements anywhere that cheap.

Latest solar tech Archimede Italy Google it

At $80M producing 9,200 MWh/yr Archimede is 52 cents a kwh in a public utility over 100 cents in a private.

Real wind cost.

Latest big wind farm Cape Wind is 24 cents a kwh going to 34 over 15 years - approved tariff Google it.

The ncwarn report was the usual junk science sponsored by the denier shop down at Big Oil. The authors have no knowledge or expertise in energy matters.

The report was so biased that the New York Times had to issue a extremely unusual retraction after publishing an article based on it.


The report itself is debunked here.


A similar piece of antinuclear trash was published recently by our own Seth Klein at the Centre for Policy Alternatives on nuclear power in Saskatchewan. He should be disgusted with himself as it puts all the good work at CPA under suspicion and doubt.

The article full of obvious lies deviates from the old standard of nuclear deniers quoting each other as authorities and citing old debunked academic tomes. It appears the Big Oil and its wholely owned Big Green subsidiary having seen how effective climate denier junk science can be have decided to use the same tactics.

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Rainforests too

Aug 6, 2010 at 2:48pm

"Climate change could destroy 80 per cent of rainforest by next century. Fewer than one in five of the plants and animals which currently live in the world's rainforests will still be here in 90 years time, a study predicts. Rainforests currently hold more than half of all the plant and animal species on Earth."


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seth you are a moron just like your dickhead friend at TL

Aug 8, 2010 at 10:34pm

Seth, even morons like you are free to give their opinions and this is free country. Nuclear isn't sustainable. We can't keep building nuclear plants and stockpiling nuclear waste.

Moreover, we can't keep tolerating TransLink spewing out ocean killing CO2 on our trolley bus routes. I am demanding the resignation of the dickhead CEO at TransLink!

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Aug 10, 2010 at 8:14am

What the transclunker calls nuclear waste is really nuclear fuel.The worlds current supply of nuclear waste covering a football field 40 feet deep could power the world for hundreds of years either reprocessed into MOX fuel for current generation reactors, or burned in the new GenIV units like India's new 500 MW plant. Areva claims MOX fuel is already as cheap as enriched uranium.

Now that's what I call renewable energy wouldn't you say.

Since the waste is already there the only way to get rid of it is to burn it in new reactors anyway. Transclunker's argument is a canard

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