"...there is a 'wave' of acidic atmospheric deposition-induced acidification moving across the landscape, leaving behind a 'wake' of ecological damage..." - Dr. Karen Rice, University of Virginia, "Acidification of the the World" September, 2011

"It's been said that nitrogen pollution is the biggest environmental disaster that nobody's ever heard of."  - Dr. Alan Townsend, University of Colorado, August, 2011

"Fumifugium: Or the Inconvenience of the Aer and Smoake..." - John Evelyn, 1661 

Long before Al Gore's cautionary film "An Inconvenient Truth" was produced, a few clear-eyed visionaries warned of the dangers from burning fuel - not only from CO2, which is the primary cause of destabilitzing climate change - but the even more insidious destruction of the ecosystem by those "other" ignored greenhouse gases.

Since the mid-20th century, scientific research has demonstrated conclusively that tropospheric ozone is toxic to vegetation, entering plants through stomates in foliage and needles as they absorb CO2 to photosynthesize.  Naturally occurring stratospheric ozone is beneficial, it protects the earth's surface from too much solar radiation. 

By contrast ground-level ozone is formed through complex chemical reactions when volatile organic compounds react with precursors from burning fuel, reactive nitrogen from agriculture, and methane in the presence of UV radiation from the sun...and it's poisonous to all forms of life. The Library tab at the top of the page has dozens of links to published research, from biomonitoring programs to controlled fumigation experiments. 

Government agencies such as the US Department of Agriculture and EPA and NASA measure losses of essential annual crops such as wheat, rice and soybeans in the billions of dollars every year, from stunted growth and reduced quality due to ozone. This impact is magnified because feed for livestock has less nutritive value. Agronomists are hard at work trying to develop genetic lines that have more ozone tolerance.

Even if such produce can be engineered, that will do nothing to blunt the impact to long-lived species in the wild, which suffer from cumulative exposure, season after season.  Already, trees around the world are dying incrementally, their demise typically blamed on localized conditions, or drought from climate change.

That trees are dying is empirically verifiable by a cursory inventory.  The photos here and on the blog exhibit characteristic symptoms readily located in any woods, suburban yard, park or mall; and include stippled, singed foliage with marginal burn (on the edges) and chlorosis - a loss of normal pigmentation from reduced photosynthesis producing chlorophyll; yellowing coniferous needles; thinning, transparent crowns; cracking, splitting, corroded, oozing and stained bark; early leaf senescence; loss of autumn radiance; holes; cankers; absence of terminal growth; breaking branches; rampant lichen growth and ultimately, death.

Why isn't this simply due to drought?  Because, the identical foliage damage is to be found on young trees and plants growing in pots with enriched soils and regular watering - and even aquatic plants that are always in water.

The causality is well-documented in published research and just as well understood as the relationship between tobacco smoke and lung cancer.  The reticence preventing scientists and foresters from raising the obviously commensurate degree of alarm is suicidal denial of an existential threat.  As if the damage to vegetation weren't enough, according to the WHO, ozone also kills more Americans every year than breast and prostate cancer combined - more than automobile accidents.

When you hear weather reports advising an ozone alert in a heat wave, followed by estimates of deaths attributed to high temperatures, it is merely a distraction.  Ozone kills people, especially those most vulnerable with asthma, emphysema, respiratory illnesses - which is why athletes exercising outdoors are especially cautioned, since they breathe more deeply. Ozone is linked to diabetes, cancers, heart disease, ADHD, Alzheimer's, and autism - no grand coincidence that they are all epidemics!

When foresters in a revolving door with the lumber industry blame bark beetles for killing trees, that is as inaccurate and misleading as to claim pneumonia killed an AIDS victim.  Controlled experiments have proven that ozone weakens the immune system of trees, and debilitates their innate defenses against naturally occurring insects, disease, and fungus.  Their wood loses flexibility and makes their branches more likely to break from wind, ice and snow.

Their roots deteriorate as more energy is allocated to ozone damage repair in foliage, and from acid rain, a persistent problem, which leaches essential nutrients from the soil, and makes them more likely to fall over.  Landslides are becoming more commonplace as root systems of perennial plants shrivel, and wildfires are proliferating at an unprecedented rate.

When foresters say that trees are dying from old age, that is a convenient lie.  Left undisturbed, most varieties have evolved to live for centuries. The oldest trees have been able to count their age in the thousands of years.  When foresters describe forests as in decline, that is a euphemism.  They are dying .

What are the implications of a world without trees?  Much the same as the parallel acidification of the ocean, which is destroying coral reefs that will lead to a collapse of the entire ecosystem.

Imagine a world without lumber, or paper...without shade, shelter, or habitat for birds and other wildlife...without walnuts, almonds, avocados, apples, pears and peaches...to say nothing of losing the splendid primeval magnificence of beautiful maples, oaks, hemlocks, tupelo, ash and sycamore.

All of the species that depend upon trees - including humans - will ultimately go extinct without them. It's a daunting, even soul-crushing prognosis to contemplate. We will either confront this existential threat consciously, and decide to do something about it, or we'll ignore it until it's too late to salvage a habitable climate, and retain the biodiversity that is essential for our own survival.

As billions of trees expire, they are already turning from a critical carbon sink to carbon emitters, driving climate change to become even worse than the worst predictions. Earth is a closed system, like a closed garage - with a car running inside.  The invisible but deadly exhaust fumes are building up and up.  If we don't turn off the engine everything will die, sooner or later.

Everyone is familiar with the corporate-funded climate change denial machine.  They have waged an even more effective campaign to hide the effects of ozone, which is why practically nobody realizes the danger. Meanwhile for activists and scientists to focus single-mindedly on climate change from CO2 is a failed strategy.  It's not working!  Emissions have not slowed at all!

It's time for those who know better to scare the wits out of people and tell them that what is most urgently at risk is not merely polar bears and exotic butterflies and cities threatened by sea level rise a hundred years off.  It's time not just to tax carbon, but to ration dirty fuel on an emergency basis.

Climate change scientists and activists must align wholeheartedly with the environmental activists who care about pollution.  The exact same industrial processes and materialistic consumer culture, based on private property, profit, and endless growth that are causing climate change mainly from CO2 emissions, are also ruining the air, water, and soil...extracting and depleting resources at an unsustainable level...and destroying habitats.

Multi-national corporations making obscene profits are united in their efforts to inhibit regulatory intervention, and to control media coverage.  We need a movement that is united to remove their influence from all three branches of government, and hold them accountable not just for economic collapse, but also for the enormous externalities - climate chaos, environmental destruction and human health costs. Occupy the trees!

 

 "The most curious result obtained appears to me to be that relating to the effect of a highly ozonized atmosphere upon the roots of plants." – M. Carey Lea, 1864."  


"To the philosopher, the physician, the meteorologist and the chemist, there is perhaps no subject more attractive than that of ozone."  - C.B Fox, 1873 


 ► Surface O3 will have an increasingly detrimental impact on future crop yields. ► Yields of wheat, soybean, and maize could be reduced by up to 26% globally in 2030. ► Global losses up to 17% are possible even in an optimistic scenario of future O3. ► Agricultural losses worldwide may be worth $17–35 billion annually by 2030. ~ Princeton University, Global Crop Yield Reductions Due To Surface Ozone, 2010 

 Welcome to my blog:

"Natural ecosystems have been altered in various ways by nitrogen, sulfur, and mercury deposited in rain, snow, or as gases and particles in the atmosphere. Through decades of scientific research, scientists have documented how local, regional, and global sources of air pollution can produce profound changes in ecosystems. These changes include acidification of soils and surface waters, harmful algal blooms and low oxygen conditions in estuaries, reduced diversity of native plants, high levels of mercury in fish and other wildlife, and decreased tolerance to other stresses, such as pests, disease, and climate change."

 - Issues in Ecology, Fall 2011 Edition - "Setting Limits - Using Air Pollution Thresholds to Protect and Restore U.S. Ecosystems"