T230. Is the Arctic Sending Us A Message?

 

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Project Save the World Podcast / Talk Show Episode Number: 230
Panelists: Craig Smith
Host: Metta Spencer

Date Aired:  21 April 2021
Date Transcribed and Verified:  15 May 2021
Transcription: Otter.ai
Transcription Review and Edits: David Millar

Metta Spencer  

Hi, I’m Metta Spencer. And I tell you, I’m looking out there at snow and here it is April the 21st. And I am shivering, but I’m not gonna shoot her long because we’re going to go to sunny California, where my friend Craig Smith is living on a house, which is about to vacate. Hello, Craig.

Craig Smith  

Morning. Hi, nice to see you.

Metta Spencer  

Yeah, well, this is going to be… maybe the last time I see this particular room, I see in the background that again, that great big poster about your book “Reaching Net Zero”. And I see up on top of the cabinet, your hard-hat days when you were in charge of a construction company. Right. So, I wanted it on but you wouldn’t you wouldn’t put it on for the camera. Anyway, this is the last year of your current series of talks, about that book that you and Bill Fletcher did together. I think he’s going to be with us next week. For another conversation, then we’ll let you have a little holiday for a few weeks as you move from Northern California from Southern California to even more Southern California. Right. You’re moving from Santa Barbara… moving northward. You

Craig Smith  

— a little bit north, right. Yeah.

Metta Spencer  

to Santa Barbara from Newport Beach, is that that’s the town where Balboa Island is located right? That’s correct in the Newport… Okay, so I hope you have a good, a good move. Anyway, here we go. We’re going to talk about the Arctic today. And as I just mentioned, of all the things that give me nightmares now, the Arctic. So, the topic of our conversation, is the Arctic sending us a message. And I want to know, is it yes, or no? Is that the answer?

Craig Smith  

Well, I believe it is. And I’m basing that on lots of new reports coming out in the last year or so about with data on ice melting trends in the Arctic and in Greenland and Antarctic. So, I’d like to discuss with you today that topic and try to answer the question is the Arctic sending us a message? So, what are what are some of the signs so you know, obviously, as we see less sea ice, there are stories — one of the dramatic ones I remember from 2019 was the situation where polar bears with less sea ice… that impacts the polar bears’ hunting because they use the sea ice to catch seals, their primary game — so starving polar bears were desperate and they invaded Russian town. Novaya Zemlya and the Re –.

Metta Spencer  

That’s wow, you know, that’s the island where they tested the nuclear weapons up in the Arctic.

Craig Smith  

Big bomb yes it was. And so, there were reports where there were about 50 bears, they broke into houses, in some cases, they attacked people, they were starving. So, they went up to whatever they could find. That continues to be a problem, the sea ice disappearances affecting wildlife. The other thing is that NASA’s recent temperature measurements of the planet by satellites show that the Arctic is warming more than twice as fast as the average of the globe… something called — the scientists referred to it as — Arctic amplification. And I’m going to come back to that in a minute. And we’ll discuss that a little bit later. But also, as you’ve noted, I think in your previous programs, … that permafrost is melting. And permafrost melting is an ominous sign, it means that the methane can be released and is being released. And that’s a very critical factor for future global warming. So why is this happening today? Or now I should say? Well, weather systems transport heat from the latitude and southern latitudes to the north. The heat is moved by ocean currents and air currents. And the poles warm, and dissipate this heat into… space. So, they lose heat at the poles, while in the middle latitudes, we gain it. And as that temperature differential changes, in other words, as opposed to getting warmer, then we have a situation where the currents of both sea and air are modified. And that can cause a number of different changes, very complex meteorology, affecting the jet streams. But it’s causing things that we’re all beginning to notice. Now, droughts in one place, too much rain and other places flooding, heat waves, wildfires, due in part to droughts, and in other parts to release of methane from melting of permafrost, which then causes fires. So, these are all things that are involved in the mechanism that end up in melting ice. Now, there’s a typical pattern of ice build- up in the Arctic. And it follows a pattern: it goes up in the winter, and then it goes down in the summer. So, in other words, around February or March, near the end of the winter, the ice mass area is at its maximum. By August, it’s at a minimum because of melting. So, there’ve been very careful satellite measurements beginning in 1979, of this phenomenon of the total area of the ice. And satellites provide means to make multiple passes and determine the area that is covered with ice. So going back to the first year, such measurements in the winner, there was 16, almost 17 million square kilometers of ice. By the summer of the following year, that had decreased to just about 7 million square kilometers. So about 10 million square kilometers of ice became uncovered. Now fast forward to now this winter, which we just ended, we had 14.8 million square kilometers, so it was about 2 million less than when the measurement started in 1979. And the low, which would have been last summer, 2020, was 3.7 million square kilometers. So now compared to when these measurements first began, we’re seeing only half as much ice left covered or land covered with ice left during the summer period. So dropped from about 7 down to 3.7. Last year. And the low point actually was in 2020… as low as 3.4 million square kilometers. So that is a trend that’s continuing. It’s gone up and down a little bit, but the overall picture, it’s going down. Now sea ice, you know it’s white or light gray and its surface reflects the sun back the energy from the sun back into space. About 80% of the incoming energy is reflected back. But as that melts, less ice is present, the dark surface of the sea absorbs that energy and causes more warming. And naturally, it causes more melting of ice, which leads to more warming. So, we’re concerned that this decrease in sea ice is a positive-feedback effect. It could lead to what scientists refer to as a “tipping point” and what we’ve discussed in the past… suddenly things no longer are linear, they start changing and the effects become more rapid, and potentially irreversible. Now another concern is that sea ice is getting younger. What that means is that the sea ice survives three or four years, builds up in and its height, and it’s thicker and more less likely to melt. But now the ice is thinner, doesn’t have a chance to build more, and so it’s more likely to melt. Other signs of warming. Again, you know about the opening of the Northwest Passage. These days is summer, during the summer months, large vessels can traverse that, they don’t have to go around to the Panama Canal. There are some consequences of that which are kind of intriguing from your broader perspectives which have to do with world peace. And that is a big Russian… military buildup in that area. What do they want to do with that? Maybe that’s a defensive measure, or maybe they intend to control shipping… who knows what the Russians could be up to with that? Alaska’s frozen rivers and other parts of the frozen North are starting to flow earlier, a very clear sign things are changing. Another important effect is that the loss of sea ice leads to more damage on the coast: coastal erosion. So, we have villages in Alaska, that are now not inhabitable. The sea ice acts as a buffer to protect the coast against the onslaught of winter storms. With that changing, some of these villages become uninhabitable, and occupants have to relocate to higher grounds. There are also effects on fisheries, changing of fish migration patterns with warming water. The consequences of melting permafrost are several folds. One is observed in many parts of Siberia today — in Siberia and towns in the far north — is subsidence. Roads subsiding, building foundations collapsing, buildings collapsing or becoming uninhabitable. And, and then as I mentioned earlier, some forest fires were triggered by leaking methane. So, concerning subsidence, Svalbard is a group of islands north of the Arctic Circle halfway between Norway and the North Pole. And the largest town there has a population of about 2100 people. It’s a good example, where the arctic temperatures increase now about 4 degrees centigrade versus the lower parts of the globe… 1.1-1.2 degrees centigrade. Now the permafrost is melting, and you’re seeing landslides, seeing buildings collapsing or being undermined, … foundations. Remember reading even… they had to relocate the cemetery, really. So, these are more examples that demonstrate that the Arctic is warming faster than the rest of the world. And the other thing about that, is that more precipitation is falling as rain rather than snow. So, the Svalbard estimates, the last two months of winter, they have two months less than they had in the past…m and you might think that would be nice, but on the other hand, it has other consequences. So, another thing with satellites. Scientists have satellite observations during the same period and mathematical models. calculate the total mass of ice that’s lost. It’s a huge number. It’s so huge that it’s very hard to relate it to anything. 28 trillion tons of metric tons of life is lost since 1979. Actually, that’s in 2017. So, there’s, it’s ongoing. But what’s significant about that is where is this happening? So Arctic sea ice is about almost… 8 trillion metric tons. So that would be roughly a fourth of the total Antarctic ice shelf…. Glaciers mountain glaciers are in the same league, about 6 trillion metric tons. That’s from glaciers all over the world, the retreat of glaciers that we’ve seen all over the world. And the Greenland ice sheet is about half of… that amount (compared to the Arctic or Antarctic), about 4 trillion tonnes. And then the Antarctic… ice sheet is smaller, only about 2 1/2 trillion metric tons. But that rate of loss has increased by about 50-60%… since the 1990s, so in 30 years. And it’s continuing. And the estimate is that, from that melting occurred, that’s occurred today, we’ve seen about 1.4 inches of sea level rise. Now, you’re gonna have to remember that the primary effect on rising sea levels is when the ice that’s supported on land, melts… and adds to the level of the sea. Floating sea ice doesn’t have a significant effect. But it does have a small effect, people oftentimes forget the fact that ice has a less a lesser density than sea water, otherwise, it wouldn’t flow. And so, when it melts and becomes water, it’s, it’s an effect, a denser *layer…. And so, there is a minor effect of floating ice as well…  

Metta Spencer  

When the water in the ice melts, it’s freshwater. And this is denser than salt water…?

Craig Smith  

Less, less dense. So, the otherwise it wouldn’t float. 

Metta Spencer

Freshwater stays on the top.

Craig Smith

Correct. 

Metta Spencer

Okay, that is connected to this. I don’t understand it too well, but I watched, I watched several of… Paul Beckwith’s videos. He’s a guy in Ottawa that I know a little bit and, and he’s… a meteorologist and climatologist. And he talks a lot about this overturn of the current because when the fresh water comes out of the Arctic sea into the Atlantic, it comes to where there’s, there’s normally an overturn of the water… that water sort of goes from top to bottom there [thermohaline circulation]. And that has something to do with the rest of the currents. Whether it’s the you know, the [Gulf Stream] current that warms Europe, what do you call it? That would have something to do with the addition of more fresh water from the melting ice…

Craig Smith  

That changes the salinity. Obviously, more fresh water, right dilutes the salt water. So, the changes the salinity, and I don’t, I’m not at all an expert on ocean currents at all. I just like to sail on top. But the currents, the ocean currents are extremely complex. You have levels at one height in the ocean going north [Gulf Stream] and down below much deeper —

Metta Spencer  

That’s the word I was trying to find… Gulf Stream… a good example. Finally, into me, guys, oh –.

Craig Smith  

They’re affected by salinity, by temperature by other phenomena too — it’s just very, very complicated, but it can apparently happen very quickly, when you get to a certain threshold, there can be almost within a year or two, or 5-10 years, a very quick change of ocean currents… it’s kind of like a ratchet effect. It’s irreversible, or at least would be very, very hard to reverse… very hard to change. Yeah, yeah. So that you’re you want to stay away from that, that point where, you know, and but nobody exactly knows what the point is, or how we’re close to it. Yeah. I was talking with… Paul Beckwith about that, because he’s pretty good at explaining it. But I need to have him slow down —

Metta Spencer  

Go on? 

Craig Smith  

Well, I was just gonna say that, that concern has been expressed by other people much more knowledgeable than me. And he may be one of them. That we don’t want to see the Gulf Stream, suddenly reverse direction, that would have a lot of various effects on Europe, you know, it would radically change the temperature of Europe, because of the Gulf Stream –Temperatures are moderated in the northern parts of the globe — carrying warm water. So, if it suddenly reversed, I don’t know if anybody can even predict what all the… consequences would be, but there would certainly be a lot of concern. And, and like you say, if it reversed, it’s not going to get back to the normal very quickly, because we have all this greenhouse gas inventory in the atmosphere. And till we do something about that, we’re not likely to be able to change things. 

Metta Spencer  

Well, another prediction he does make is about what you mentioned, the albedo effect of the of the melting sea ice. Yeah, he says that, he would predict that within 10 years, and maybe as soon as within four years, there’ll be no summer sea ice in the Arctic. And that, of course, and then, you know, that really has ramifications. Because as you say, there’s a tipping point where the dark black ocean water absorbs the heat more and more. And then we have to talk about clathrates. But go on, because I’m waiting for you to talk about methane at the bottom of the ocean. That’s scaring me most. Yeah.

Craig Smith  

Yes, and you’re right about that the clathrates keeping methane trapped in that chemical, physical form. There’s a huge inventory. If it’s released, even a small part of it, it’s gonna have a very severe effect on global warming. So, the other question that people began to ask more, more frequently. Now. I don’t want to add to your worries, but I know you and I are both worried about this is, are we actually at a tipping point in some of these phenomena, and the one that comes to mind is Greenland. Like… the Arctic, Greenland’s ice melts in the summer and is rebuilt in the winter… primarily by snow fall. But now, you know, there’s increasing evidence that the winter renewal of the Greenland ice is not sufficient. It’s less than what melts in the summer and this if this goes on and on, then eventually there will be no ice in Greenland. So, for a number of years now… the summer melt has exceeded what’s replaced by winter snowfall, and graphs you’ve seen in some videos, I’ve done some programs that were quite interesting, where scientists went on the Greenland ice sheets and looked at the crevices and undermining of the ice… under-ice rivers flowing out the sea. And that, in turn, accelerating the melting of the Greenland ice. Deep canyons are covered with ice becoming hidden rivers underneath them, from the melting and undercutting of the ice. So that’s something else we certainly need to be keeping an eye on and if we… didn’t have any other incentive to take start taking action on curtailing greenhouse gases, I mean, I think that would be enough right there. Maybe on that negative note?

Metta Spencer  

Okay, I think I’m even more pessimistic than you are. And that’s hard to be. Maybe you’re not exactly, you know, ball of laughter and fun thinking about these matters. So, I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t say you’re exuberant about the future of the Arctic. But I think I’m even more scared, because I really do not believe that reducing emissions is still sufficient to do the job. If we cut emissions instantly… a huge amount, it’s not going to be enough. And that, you know, I’ve spent most of my adulthood working against nuclear weapons, because I have felt that the threat of nuclear weapons is the most serious… danger… confronting humankind. And now, I think it is not as serious as this problem of the Arctic, I think that even nuclear weapons are not as serious because the severity of the problem, I think, has to be measured by… how bad the consequences would be of a disaster, multiplied by the probability of the disaster, and the length of time we have to fix it. Okay, all those need to go in the equation. Well, the disaster of having the melting sea ice, or … a huge amount of methane in the Arctic is… just as bad if not worse, than the threat of nuclear war. Because the number of people who be killed, it could be an extinction event. You get that they say that, you know, something like .6 degrees, they expected an increase of about .6 degrees for… just the melting of the sea ice. And that can happen within a few years, we’re talking four or five years. So, an event that’s that quick, multiplied by the severity of the thing. And the fact that is so fast, we do not have enough time to, you know, whatever solution there might be, we’re not going to have enough time to do it. To prevent that, that’s what’s scary to me. And because when you get 2.6 degrees additional heat on the planet, globally, within four or five years, that is enough, it’s gonna run… the rest of it all, you know, you’re going to really release the rest of the methane because it’s all going to melt slower, but it’s going to come out and it’ll be irreversible. So that is, to me, the scariest thing that I can imagine and we just didn’t have enough time to fix it. So… the permafrost on land is going slower than this the undersea methane. And these clathrates, which are kind of crystals of methane and hydrogen, and water…  are down in the bottom of the Arctic Ocean, especially. Now, they’re apparently the Arctic Ocean is generally so deep that by the time this stuff… releases, it gets absorbed in the water. So, you don’t, it doesn’t get out for a long time, it will eventually get out in a long time. But… on the Siberian shelf, the East Siberian sea is a very shallow shelf of the… Russian landmass… Siberian landmass. So that’s only 30 or 40 meters deep. And it doesn’t have time to get absorbed… So that stuff is coming up. And I saw images of a ship going through this stuff. And it was like, you know, when you’re in a plane is going through clouds. I mean, it’s, you look out the window, and all you see is white cloud, you know? Well, it was like that. It was exactly like that, on this ocean. The ship was plowing through miles and miles or hundreds of miles, I don’t know, of methane boiling up out of the bottom of the ocean. 

Craig Smith  

It only wanted a match.

Metta Spencer  

That’s right, exactly. It would blow up. And, but the thing is, you know how it is so extensive, and it’s coming up out of this bottom of the ocean, apparently the bottom of the ocean. There are clathrates down there, and it is sort of held down by… permafrost that came from the last ice ages, and it slid down there. And it’s, it’s like a lid holding some of it down. But there are holes in it. And it’s, it’s escaping through the holes. And even the permafrost contains methane itself. So, you have this stuff coming up. And it is really dangerous. And the worst is under the Laptev Sea… There’s a huge reservoir of methane, like a just an enormous concentration of methane. And there’s way more than … is in the atmosphere or on land or anything in the in the in the world. So, it needs to be kept down. And they think that this thing could blow like a giant explosion. And it could happen instantly. And the people that I’ve seen, I’ve interviewed Peter Wadhams, and he’s going to be on another one of my shows in about two weeks. And Peter Wadhams is the maybe the leading you know, he’s among the top leading people studying the Arctic for the last 40 years. He goes there constantly. And he has a book called farewell to ice, which is about this, the melting of the sea ice and the probability that this is going to come out that it is coming out. But there’s a woman as a Russian woman, who leads a regular expedition to the Siberian sea. Every year, she goes through this area where there’s these plumes of, and yeah, plumes of methane coming out. And she is very apprehensive about the possibility of an explosive event of a huge proportion, which would be catastrophic beyond belief. It would be an extinction event, I’m afraid, most likely. So, I was asking Peter Wadhams, what, what are the possible remedies? I don’t see who are here we have time if you’re if you’re, if the timeline is that, that urgent, but if it’s, you know, if we had the time, what would we do about it? Well, nobody’s quite sure. And there are various things that they propose, like he said, No, of course, for once, if you just burn this stuff, it’s not good, because you sure don’t want that much to add that much CO2, but methane, if you burn, it turns into CO2. So, burn it, rather than allow it to go into the atmosphere, because 28 times as bad a greenhouse gas as CO2. So, if nothing else, just burn it. And that could be done. I gather, if you go through, and I don’t think I’ve wanted the job doing it. It’s dangerous… but I don’t know, I think it can be done. But the other thing is he says fracking, you could you could go down and do the sideways drilling, you know, they can drop. So, if they could drill into some of these concentrated… pockets of methane if they knew where it was, and pull it out… You could use it, then you could, it’s a better fuel than some of the other fuels. 

Craig Smith  

It’s basically natural gas.

Metta Spencer  

Yeah, it is. It is a fossil fuel and it would have bad consequences but it’d be better than… what we normally use a lot anyway. So, but that would be, you know, a real big operation, having fracking in that in that area. But the thing that he didn’t want to talk about is, because I asked him before we did this interview, I said, Can I ask you about this project to use iron salt, iron salt aerosols? Because I’d read about it. And he said, … let’s not talk about it yet — because, he said, we don’t know enough. And… if it doesn’t work, you don’t want to necessarily get people hoping. But I did. I have read and there is… a link to it. If I can find it at the end of the show, I’ll put it on the page where I sometimes put references to things. So, people can go look at this thing about iron salt. aerosols, where you would spray iron salts into the atmosphere, or maybe on the ground too, or something, on the ice anyway, it combines with chlorine. I don’t understand chemistry worth a hoot. But it then would create a combination that would then take some of this stuff down to the bottom of the ocean. Again, I’m not, don’t believe what I just said, because it’s all probably wrong… I don’t understand the chemistry. But it looked like iron salts could be the most. And it’s and that kind of stuff is very available. And salt is everywhere, it is not scarce at all. And you could spray it around, and that could be a solution. So, I got in touch with some people, there’s a man named [Renaud K. de Richter] in Montpellier, France, a university there. And he’s going to be on my talk show eventually, if I can find another person to join him. But he’s one of the two people who authored this proposal for the iron vault salts, and the… website they have is like a PowerPoint slideshow… with plenty of evidence about their reason to believe that this would be a pretty feasible thing to do, I think you could run around spraying quite a bit of the stuff… and I believe it would have a good effect. I think it’s not that different from the whole principle (well, it is different, but there, but there are also people who believe in and I’m sure you’ve read about this) of putting iron filings in the ocean to create phytoplankton, which then are going to absorb CO2 and go to the bottom of the ocean. To carbon. Yeah. So, I don’t know how I don’t understand the chemistry of any of it. But I really want to know more about this iron salt thing, because it except for those two things that I don’t know, of, of anything else that could be proposed as a realistic solution to this problem.

Craig Smith  

Yeah, well, I, I don’t know a whole lot about these different concepts that go under the broad name of geoengineering, I would be very hesitant to implement one on a broad scale, without having some kind of structured pilot project there, you could actually see what the efficiency is, or effectiveness. And then what are the side effects? I mean, you’re tinkering with forces, that we really don’t know —

Metta Spencer  

And I think they would agree with you. I think any of the geoengineers would say, well, we would be apprehensive about doing it — except, look at the alternative. If we think that the alternative is something like an extinction event where life forms, not just human but everything else, gets destroyed, then you’ve got to do something. Now!

Craig Smith  

I don’t know you have to do something. But I thought it was very interesting what you said about drilling. as, for example, fracking, oh, well, this would be a different type of drilling. Early in my career, we did some work for Philips Petroleum on their offshore oil platforms in the North Sea. So, I spent a number of weeks out in the North Sea on the Philips platform is fascinating that they’re drilling under very deep conditions. And the platform I was staying on, actually supported 50 wells, as I recall. So, they had 50 wells from this one platform down and slanting off in all different areas.

Metta Spencer  

Oh, so from one platform, they go out in different directions. Right.

Craig Smith  

So… this is like an interesting concept, then the oil companies certainly have the expertise to go to the Siberian. What did you call that?

Metta Spencer  

East Siberian Sea…

Craig Smith  

Yeah, they could go there. They could set up some platforms and slant drill and collect the methane… if it’s in a form or it would flow on — me, I don’t know, no chemistry or that. But that technology is certainly known and proven and in shallow water they could do. It would be even easier. And they could, that might be something that oil companies would be interested in, because it would give them a stake in the future that they’re not going to have otherwise by —

Metta Spencer  

Well, now then. But you know, there’s also the problem of politics in Russia, because that part of the ocean is mostly… defined as part of Russia because of the shelf of the Russian is that’s where they say Russia ends where that shows them 

Craig Smith  

their economic zone.

Metta Spencer  

That’s right. So, we would it would have to be with the permission of or with the cooperation of the Russians, maybe they would want to do it themselves. Who knows? But the problem with the Russians is they’re in denial. You know, they aren’t I don’t think they out say there’s nothing to it, officially. I mean, they are part of the IPCC, aren’t they? But they’re not. I don’t know whether. But the Russians, I’ve talked to, with certainly with the exception of this woman, I haven’t talked to her. But I’ve seen her talk, and she certainly is very pessimistic. And but most of the Russians, I know, more or less poopoo it, you know, they talk about global warming as if well, it might even be an advantage. Because look at all that we could get. There was an article in The New York Times, it’s stupid, New York Times people, how could they possibly have printed a thing like that, but they have an article about… six weeks or so ago, where they talk about… Russia is going to benefit from global warming, because look at all that land, that’s going to be no longer frozen, and they can… raise crops there. And it’s huge amount of land… that’s true. But imagine what really, do they listen to what’s going to happen when that permafrost melts? I mean, it’s catastrophe. And they don’t even mention that, you know!

Craig Smith  

So, one thing that the Russians do like to do is they like to sell gas to Germany and Europe. And… they finished that second pipeline [Nord Stream] now. Right. So, I don’t know what the logistics would be to connect Siberia and methane fields, to their natural gas pipeline system. But there really might be a market potential there. Who knows? I don’t know.

Metta Spencer  

Yeah, I think could be a market. And maybe, but give it enough time. But how long it takes decades to build a pipeline at least doesn’t it? How long does it take?

Craig Smith  

takes a while. Yeah. I don’t know where the closest connection point would be. I can’t visualize

Metta Spencer  

and the distance from Europe. I mean, I don’t know what maybe there’s another place they could… get rid of it. I don’t know. But

Craig Smith  

I just have been so impressed with what companies did in the North Sea. I mean, this is like 40 years ago, or 30 years ago. I mean, they have underseas pipelines, they have pumping stations underwater. And… they move the oil; I forget which way it went. They moved the oil to I think…  from the North Sea to England and the natural gas went to Europe, something that was —

Metta Spencer  

Doesn’t Norway have most of that or I don’t know, I know that Norway has a lot, money from Norway and the UK. 

Craig Smith  

Yeah. Basically, when we went there, we went to flew to Norway. Then we flew from Norway out onto the platform, that helicopter is quite an experience that I will never forget. tell you one little story one of my engineers asked the pilot he said we had to put on these survival suits to get in the helicopter. And so, he asked the pilot is as you guys ever have crashes and the guy says “yeah, we had a few” and, and he says, “well do these survival suits work?”. And the pilot hesitated for many looked at my, my engineer. He said, “Well, you know, we don’t really know because everybody was killed on impact.” He says that as we’re boarding the helicopter getting ready to take off. Anyway, we had no problem. But the other thing that was fascinating to me was, once a week we had a lifeboat drill. And… on top of the platform… four lifeboat stations… on each side and you had your assigned station. And these boats were in close. So, they were designed… to be lowered into the water in the event of an accident. And one person was stationed inside the boat with an axe. So, the lowering system wasn’t where he chopped this rope and the boat dropped in the ocean from about 60 feet up. And they were supposedly able to cruise through burning oil on the water. But thank God we never had any experience like that, anyway —

Metta Spencer  

The platform? Is that similar to this… Deep Horizon thing? Or whatever was in the in the Gulf of Mexico? Same kind of facility? Is that right?

Craig Smith  

Yeah, exactly. Now,

Metta Spencer  

… in the Mexican thing did they also have slanted drills that they were going in different directions? Or what? No. Wonder Yeah. Well,

Craig Smith  

yeah, it’s amazing how they do that. I don’t understand how they did it. But they, you know, they can go in different directions and know what they’re doing some,

Metta Spencer  

you know, environmentalists are just horrified at the idea of drilling in the Arctic. And I mean, I my instinct is the same as, as yours, that and geoengineering give me the creeps. But, you know, if you got to do it, some maybe, maybe, maybe that will be driven to it?

Craig Smith  

I don’t know. Well, yeah, I mentioned we need to stop emitting. And you’re right, it’s good. That’s gonna take, that’s a long-term solution. But I put stress on that right now. Because unless we get people woken up to the fact that we have to stop the emissions, we’re not going to get anything else done, in my opinion. But the sad thing about it would be — you recognize and why you’re concerned is — that we have this huge inventory of greenhouse gases up in the atmosphere. And even when we stop, if we stopped 100%, tomorrow, those gases are there. That’s more, “glass” in the greenhouse, and the temperatures are not gonna stop, not gonna fall instantly. In fact, they’re going to keep increasing for a while. And it’s going to take dozens, maybe 100 years before that gas is gone by natural causes. So, people say, well, we’ll suck it out… carbon capture. That’s all fine. But we don’t know how to do that today. We don’t know if we can do that today. We don’t know how many 1000 plants around the world that would take to do that. And how much energy it would take… trying to suck a very dilute substance out of the atmosphere is gonna take a lot of pumping power. And then what do you do with it, you got to store it underground somewhere. And our experience with storing things underground has not been 100% perfect. Anyway, you could lay awake nights worrying about it. And then people know you, you do worry about it, and I worry about it. Right. And again, more people committed. That’s the bottom line.

Metta Spencer  

Well… you don’t want to alarm people unless you have solutions. And I think… they’ll say, “Well, we know what to do, we have the solutions.” I don’t think the solutions you have are fast enough. And certainly, they’re not being adopted fast enough. And I think that there’s more needed that in terms of actually sucking it out of the atmosphere one way or another. I don’t have much faith in the economics or the feasibility of this “direct air capture”… by machines. But… I think the most promising… for reduction is major agricultural change. But… it’s not only for the sake of global warming, but because we’re not gonna have any food unless we do. The very thing that is needed to change to improve the quality of food production. And the amount of food that we’ll be able to keep on producing is exactly the same thing that will help us with global warming. So, putting more carbon into the soil is the way to go. And I talked to one guy my friends have one of my friends said, Well, he’s a greenwasher. Greenwashing is anybody who’s gives room for private enterprise to… who believes that private industry and so on can make a beneficial difference. So, I’m not predisposed to believe one or the other, I think I don’t see any reason why corporations couldn’t make a good contribution if they wanted to. So, I don’t rule that out. And this man, named Tom Newmark, is the head of something called “The Carbon Underground”. And he’s given a couple of talks for me … he understands the, the, the soil science of, of how these, they’re discovering more and more things about fungi. And, you know, things on the roots of plants, and how it all works. And that, that you can, you can do a hell of a lot more sequestering of carbon, by agriculture, if you know what you’re doing. And he has this carbon underground. The reason I brought it up is that he says, I said, well, who’s going to push farmers to change? You know, why, why do you expect farmers would make this very drastic change in the technology that they’ve always used. My grandfather was a farmer who plowed by, by hand, you know, until he got a John Deere tractor, which was a great day, you know, he can plow, but he was tearing up the soil, you know, and exposing all this carbon and releasing it to the atmosphere, and he didn’t know any better. But anyway, what this guy says is, yeah, farmers will change, because… big corporations now know that the handwriting is on the wall, they can’t keep on producing food from the, the soil that way, we’re ruining it. And then we have to do something to replenish the soil and restore it to the condition that it was in. So, you know, he says that these companies are the most powerful source of influence, to force farmers everywhere, to make some real changes in the technology of farming, and to do more. And, and I know that the French, about five years ago have a project called [4p1000.org]… 4 per 1000, … a small amount every year, their goal is to… increase the amount of carbon in the soil by that much. And then if that is done, there’s a, you know, very significant amount of, of influence that will be made on the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. So, again, that takes a while though, you know, all these things gonna take a while. And I don’t see how with the clathrates melting, these methyl hydrate things… melting in the Arctic… I don’t see there’s going to be enough time. And I think we got to do something like iron aerosol sprays or something that can be done quickly, and would have an immediate effect.

Craig Smith  

You said earlier that our recommendations in our book [“Getting to Zero”], we’re going … to help fast enough. And, and of course, Bill and I agree with that. And we I think I hope we made that clear in the book, we outline a very ambitious plan that could be done with current technology, that’s economic and all that. And by 2050, all we did was get back to where we were by 2020, or… 2000. But our point was, we need to… make a start. And, frankly, our hope was that by getting people to recognize it’s a problem, then it’s going to be easier to try to do some more far-reaching things. So basically, thank you, you’ve outlined what our next book should be, how do we do it fast? What do we do to have an immediate effect? You need to really start thinking about that but if we can’t get the world woken to the fact that this is a problem, I have to do something we won’t have any luck trying to sell faster approach because people don’t believe it’s a problem, though. Well,

Metta Spencer  

Yeah. And getting people conscious… I lie awake at night thinking about how to break into this system of denial. You know how to break that system of denial. And… I think we have to make people talk about things more. And it’s really hard because don’t people don’t want to think about it. Yeah. And people want to believe what they want to believe. So, they’ll listen to somebody who’s saying what they like to hear. And, and they’ll believe it and no evidence or rationality, I’m very I’m getting so old, you know, it’s showing, I tell you I’m getting to be very, very cranky and old and mean, I, I don’t I don’t trust people anymore. Because I see these people making such stupid decisions. And I think, what’s wrong? 

Craig Smith  

What’s wrong?

Metta Spencer  

I have to go here in a moment. But I thank you for all that you do. And you should not be discouraged. And I think your voice is a light in the wilderness and bless you for doing what you do. And if we had 1000 more people like you, we’d have probably more people waking up to this, but keep on and don’t get discouraged. What is wrong? Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And, and, and it’s so the whole thing is, you have to blame it on human beings, because too many of us… yeah, there we go. Isn’t this an update to our little conversation, Craig, we’ve had these little visits for months now? And I’ve enjoyed it so much. But I must say, this is not the way to end it. Think of something cheerful to say, Well, thank you, you too. And you say you’re gonna get ready for your next book. Well, okay. I’ll pre order a copy today.

Craig Smith  

All right, take care…

Metta Spencer  

take care of your health and have a great, a lot of fun moving out. All right. All right. You take care. Bye Bye. Take care. Bye.