Free the data: Compiling the June 2017, Quartermaster’s Report.

While preparing the Quartermaster’s Report for June on This Spaceship Earth, I was surprised, frustrated and eventually angry about the amount of current and historical data that was not longer readily and publicly available regarding climate change, global warming and their impacts on the environment and communities. Most of the information gaps are from US Government websites or sites that have been reliant on reports and publications from government supported research.

Why? I can understand that the topics are not popular nor are they filled with stories of good cheer. But really, are we that eager to be ignorant or irresponsible? The Quartermaster’s report is analytical not political. It is a status report on where we are and the recent trends that got us there. Yes, the report does imply a question – do you like where we are and the direction of the trend line – is this the trajectory that you want humanity to follow.

As an ethicist, a scientist, a researcher, a professor and a Dad, there are a few maxims that I find important to remember. They are: you cannot use information you do not have; you cannot evaluate the importance of the answer to the question you did not ask; your formal and informal education shapes both your knowledge and your ignorance; you cannot solve a problem by ignoring it; and as much as one might hope it is not true- denying reality does not change reality.

As Jennifer McCrickerd has said, “Becoming engaged in solvable, relevant, novel problems is conducive to survival.” But we need information to help us decide the when, what, and how of where to engage.

As Donald Trump tweeted at 1:31 PM on 3 August 2015, We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. — Albert Einstein.” So let’s honor the call to a different way of thinking and up our game. The focus needs to be solving problems, not hiding them.

Free the data.






Overview of the 15 June 2017 Quartermaster’s Update

We continue to operate This Spaceship Earth in the “red zone.”

While CO2 emissions appear to be stabilizing, we are accomplishing that feat by increasing our use of a natural gas, which has a greater global warming potential than CO2.

New studies and reports show how ubiquitous our pollutants are in the ocean and the growing risk posed by plastic pollution in the marine environment.

The rate of ice melt in both Greenland and Antarctica is increasing and putting coastal communities at great risk.

We are creating greater potential risks through the loss of soil and coral reefs.


Our on-going overuse of the planet’s resources and capability puts our future at risk.

Gaylord Nelson wrote

“The wealth of the nation is its air, water, soil, forests, minerals, rivers, lakes, oceans, scenic beauty, wildlife habitats and biodiversity . . . that’s all there is. That’s the whole economy. That’s where all the economic activity and jobs come from.These biological systems are the sustaining wealth of the world.”

Functionally, even the World Bank agrees with him. Ecosystem Services represent 63% of the Planetary Economy, as those services provide us with the raw materials and primary needs to make humanity’s portion of the economy a possibility.

As you review the Quartermaster’s Update, there are two questions you might consider.

First – how well do your assumptions about each topic match the reality of the data?

Second – does the information reflect an outcome that you wish humanity to achieve?

Your reflection and your response to your answers of those two questions will determine your consciousness and participation in defining and creating our common future.

Seriously, what is the advantage, the upside, of continuing to jeopardize the future of humanity?




Quartermaster’s Update, 15 June 2017

 Tim Rumage, Chief Science Officer and Quartermaster of This Spaceship Earth

Comparing data from 15 June 2017 with 4 September 2016 and the 1st (2015) Quartermaster’s Report (QMR) published in the book “this Spaceship Earth” by David Houle and Tim Rumage.

Human Population

2017 –            7,511, 848, 787 people        (15 June 2017, 2130 EDT)

2016 –                        7,448,116, 815 people         (4 September 2016)

2015 QMR –   7,307,492,161 people

Net population increase

2017 –               159 people /minute

2016 –            159 people/min

2015 QMR – 148 people/min



NASA, NOAA Data Show 2016 Warmest Year on Record Globally

Globally averaged temperatures in 2016 were 1.78 degrees Fahrenheit (0.99 degrees Celsius) warmer than the mid-20th century mean. This makes 2016 the third year in a row to set a new record for global average surface temperatures.


Gavin Schmidt, director of Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said. “It’s unprecedented in 1,000 years. There’s no period that has the trend seen in the 20th century in terms of the inclination (of temperatures).”



Global Anthropogenic CO2 Emissions

17,384,818,472 tons as of 15 June 2017

from fossil-fuel combustion and industrial processes


2017 –            35,295,474,384 tonnes+

2014 – 35,900,000,000 tonnes*

2012 – 34,500,000,000 tonnes (data used for 1st QMR)

+ estimate based on current rate of emissions



Translation Equivalency – global anthropogenic CO2 emissions measured in units of 4 tonne Elephants launched into the air/second /year

2017 – 280 elephants/second based on current emission rates

2014 –            284 elephants/second

2012 –            273 elephants/second


Annual Average Atmospheric Concentrations of CO2

in parts per million (ppm)

2017 – 407.68 ppm^ (average year to date) (~129.68 ppm {46.65%}                above pre-industrial levels)

2016 – 404.21 ppm^           (~126.21 ppm {45.4%} above pre-industrial levels)

2015 – 400.83 ppm*

2014 – 398.61 ppm*

2013 – 396.48 ppm*

2012 – 393.82 ppm*




pre-industrial levels of atmospheric CO2 ~ 278 ppm



Earth Overshoot Day comes earlier

2017 –                        2 August

2016 –            8 August

1st QMR –       13 August

net change –     6 days earlier than 2016, 11 days earlier than 2015/QMR


Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity’s demand for ecological resources and services in a given year exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year. Minimum safe date for balancing demand with resources and services is December 31st.

Earth Overshoot Day 2017

World’s Ecological Footprint rises to 1.7 Earths

2017-    1.7 planets

2016 –     1.6 planets

1st QMR   1.56 planets


Today humanity uses the equivalent of 1.7 planets to provide the renewable resources we use and absorb our waste. This means it now takes the Earth 20.4 months to regenerate what we use in 12 months




Greenhouse Gas Emissions

There is more to Global Warming than CO2 emissions. The 4 major greenhouse gases are Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), Nitrous Oxide (N20) and Fluorinated Carbons. Carbon Dioxide has recieived the most focus because of the large quantities of CO2 released into the atmosphere each year.


But the other gases all have greater Global Warming Potential (GWP).

When measuring their 100-year Global Warming Potential CO2 is the baseline.

CO2 = 1

CH4 = 21 (or 1 pound of CH4 has the GWP equivalent to 21 pounds of CO2)

N20 = 310 (or 1 pound of N20 has the GWP equivalent to 310 pounds of CO2)

Fluorinated Gases have a GWP ranging from 140 for the refrigerant HFC-152a to 23,900 for Sulfur hexafluoride

(or 1 pound of HFC-152a has the GWP equivalent to 140 pounds of CO2 while

1 pound of Sulfur hexafluoride has the GWP of 11.95 Tons of CO2)

CO2 emissions stay same for third year in row – despite global economy growing

Carbon dioxide emissions from energy have not increased for three years in a row even as the global economy grew, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said.

Global emissions from the energy sector were 32.1 billion metric tonnes in 2016,the same as the previous two years, while the economy grew 3.1%, the organization said.

The stabilizing of CO2 emissions reflects a decreased use of coal coupled with an increased use of shale gas/natural gas, nuclear energy and other alternative/renewable energy sources.

Natural Gas can increase Global Warming Potential

In an effort to reduce CO2 emissions, companies and countries are reducing their use of coal and switching to and increasing their use of natural gas.

Given that natural gas is a fossil fuel composed almost entirely of methane.

(, this switch can actually increase Global Warming as methane has 21 times the global warming potential of CO2.

As we examine the viability of alternative fuels and energy sources, we need to make sure that we are reducing the overall global warming potential of the fuels we use, not just looking at the relative reduction of a single component and assuming that means a net-positive improvement in reducing or reversing global warming.


Rate of Global Ice Loss increasing.


Greenland is losing 350 gigatonnes of ice annually – 50% from ice melt, and 50% from glaciers moving into the ocean and breaking up into icebergs, which then melt.

The loss of Greenland ice is six times the volume of all the glaciers in the Alps.

Greenland has been melting more mass than it accumulates since 2000, putting Greenland in a negative balance.



Because the planet is warming, the glaciers in the Antarctic are losing an average of 83 gigatonnes of ice per year (91.5 billion US tons).

This is the equivalent of losing the water weight of Mount Everest every two years.

‘The mass loss of these glaciers is increasing at an amazing rate,’ said scientist Isabella Velicogna,


Status of Coral Reefs:

Coral reefs, the “rainforests of the sea,” are some of the most biodiverse and productive ecosystems on earth. They occupy only 0.2% of the ocean, yet are home to a quarter of all marine species: crustaceans, reptiles, seaweeds, bacteria, fungi, and over 4000 species of fish make their home in coral reefs. With an annual global economic value of $375 billion, coral reefs provide food and resources for over 500 million people in 94 countries and territories. But tragically, coral reefs are in crisis.

The world has lost roughly half its coral reefs in the last 30 years.

Over the last 30-40 years 80% of coral in the Caribbean have been destroyed as well 50% of coral reefs in Indonesia and the Pacific.


Soil Loss

 24 billion tonnes of fertile or 12 million hectares of topsoil are lost every year.

The world population continues to increase while we destroy more and more topsoil. If this is allowed to continue there won’t be enough fertile soil left to feed a growing world population.

Earth has lost a third of arable land in past 40 years.

It takes approximately 500 years to replace 25 millimeters (1 inch) of topsoil lost to erosion. The minimal soil depth for agricultural production is 150 millimeters. From this perspective, productive fertile soil is a nonrenewable, endangered ecosystem.

“Average (US) soil loss rate is 5.8 tons per acre per year, and increasing.”

“Soil can only rebuild at a rate of 0.24 tons per acre per year.”

Stan Buman, head of Land O’ Lakes Sustain program


The United States is losing soil 10 times faster — and China and India are losing soil 30 to 40 times faster — than the natural replenishment rate

Plastics and Pollution in the Ocean

 Plastic Pollution in the World’s Oceans: More than 5 Trillion Plastic Pieces Weighing over 250,000 Tons Afloat at Sea

8 million metric tones of plastic pollution enter the oceans each year from the world’s 192 coastal countries based on 2010 data. That is the equivalent of five grocery bags full of plastic trash on every foot (30 cm) of every nation’s coastline around the globe.

Between 15 and 31% of the estimated 9.5 m tonnes (IUCN 2016) of plastic released into the oceans each year could be primary microplastics, almost two-thirds of which come from the washing of synthetic textiles and the abrasion of tyres (tires) while driving.

Tiny plastic particles washed off products such as synthetic clothes and car tyres (tires) could contribute up to 30% of the ‘plastic soup’ polluting the world’s oceans and – in many developed countries – are a bigger source of marine plastic pollution than plastic waste.

Rate of Plastic Pollution

2010 – 551 lbs./sec

2016 – 664 lbs./sec

Pollution Has Worked Its Way Down To The World’s Deepest Waters

Alan Jamieson of Newcastle University, England and his team have been able to sample amphipods from the Mariana Trench in the northern Pacific – the deepest part of the world’s oceans.

Examination of the Amphipods showed that they were contaminated with PCBs — polychlorinated biphenyls*. “Every sample we had,” Jamieson says, “had contaminants in it at very high or extraordinarily high levels.” He compared the contamination level in his Mariana amphipods to crabs living in waters fed by one of China’s most polluted rivers, as well as amphipods from other parts of the world. “And what we were finding in the deepest place in the world were (levels) hugely higher, 50 times in some cases,” he says. He thinks the pollutants might get to the trenches by latching on to plastic that’s floating in the ocean. Fish and other marine animals absorb pollutants, as well. Eventually, the plastic and the dead animals fall to the bottom.



*(PCB production was banned by the United States Congress in 1979 and by the Stockholm Convention of Persistent Organic Pollutants in 2001.

Porta, M; Zumeta, E (2002).”Implementing the Stockholm Treaty on Persistent Organic Pollutants”. Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 59:651-2.)

PCBs in Marine Mammals

One of the highest concentrations of toxic pollutants ever recorded in a marine mammal has been revealed in a Scottish killer whale that died in 2016.

The adult whale, known as Lulu, was a member of the UK’s last resident pod.

The level of PCBs found in Lulu’s blubber were 950mg/kg, more than 100 times the 9mg/kg limit above which damage to the health of marine mammals is known to occur. A 2016 analysis showed the average concentration for killer whales in the North-East Atlantic was about 150mg/kg.

Submitted by

Tim Rumage

Co-author, This Spaceship Earth

Co-founder, This Spaceship Earth, Inc.

Chief Science Officer and Quartermaster – This Spaceship Earth


June 8th is World Ocean Day

If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.                     Loren Eiseley – The Immense Journey

Some of my most profound memories come from my times at sea. Watching dolphins leaving ethereal trails as they swam through a bioluminescent layer in the North Atlantic. Standing on a headland in Newfoundland and seeing a Minke Whale

charge, roll, twist and swallow a school of Capelin in one mouthful. Witnessing a class at sea as flying fish leapt from the water, and the instructor talking about the fish’s adaptation to avoid predators only to have a flock of Magnificent Frigatebirds dive down and catch the fish while they were still in mid-air.

My life and work have given me the opportunity to see icebergs roll-over in the Labrador Sea, hand-lined for cod in the Bay of Fundy, experience the intense stillness of the Sargasso Sea, recorded the songs of Humpbacked Whales in their calving areas, be mesmerized by the grace of Blue Sharks as they swam between me and the surface, and study the life ways and life cycles of pelagic birds.

This is not to say that the ocean experiences have always been kind or a friend. There have been oil spills, fish kills, harmful algae blooms, vessel strikes on marine mammals, fisheries bycatch and mass stranding events. Not to mention white squalls, storms, winds, soaking rains, waterspouts, hurricanes, storm-surges, damaged ships, fog and high seas. I know and understand why ship captains built there homes on high ground and inland. The ocean is also the final resting place for several friends, family and acquaintances: some by choice and others because the sea decided it was their time.

The ocean reminds us that we are mere humans and should have more humility than hubris. The Ocean deserves the respect that we tend not to give it. Perhaps we will learn from our folly. But the least we can do is take one day a year and reflect upon its majesty and capability.





June 5, 2017 is World Environment Day.

This year’s theme for World Environment Day is about reconnecting with Nature: go outside and enjoy Nature, value Nature, and learn about the importance of Nature in our lives and livelihoods.

We tend to take Nature, natural resources and nature’s services for granted. It can become easy to forget and under-appreciate the opportunities that Nature provides us as our lives become increasing enclosed in building and and encased in vehicles.  Most of the time we do not think about processes that provide us with the fundamental components of life – clean air, food, and water.  We lose sight of our interactions and interdependencies with the planet.

We forget that all business are reliant, in varying degrees, upon natural resources. Your computer, your phone, and other electronic devices all need copper, gold, petroleum, and other earth-sourced materials in their production. In reality, there is no economy without an ecology.   So the only way to have a healthy long-term economy is to have it synchronized and balanced with the long-term ecological systems of the planet.

Another reason to reconnect with Nature is that

Earth Overshoot Day for 2017 is August 2nd.

That is the day on which our rate of harvesting the environment and the capacity of the environment to sequester our CO2 emissions surpass what the ecological systems and natural services of the planet can provide in 1(one) year without damaging the Earth’s capability to regenerate and maintain its life support systems.

Unfortunately there will still be 152 days left in the year. So we are going to have to borrow (really steal) 152 days worth of resources from our children’s and grandchildren’s future. In 2016, Earth Overshoot Day was August 8th.  As such, we are continuing our habit of taking from future generations at an ever-increasing rate.

We now need 1.7 Earths to meet our annual demands on the ecosystems of our planet.

So yes, as the theme of World Environment Day implies and implores, we need, we must, reconnect with Nature, for that is the path to a future we would want and would want our heirs to inherit.