Human rights & climate change

This article describes the first legal success – in the Netherlands – in bringing a government to account for failing to act to ameliorate the emissions of greenhouse gases that are leading to climate disruption and global warming. The legal success was based on human rights legislation, the case being presented as a breach of human rights  by the failure to act on the non-binding commitments of the Paris Climate Agreement. Thus this is a landmark decision. The article is written by an academic from the University of Bristol and published in The Conversation, a website for academic journalism.

Food supply limits approach

This article on new research from the  Oxford Martin Centre Programme on the Future of Food, University of Oxford suggests that by 2050 the limits of the earth’s capacity to provide sufficient food will be exceeded unless globally coordinated changes in food production, consumption and waste are implemented. The study is not simply centred on climate change effects of of agricultural activity, but also on the consequences of the spread of western-style diets combined with the expected additional growth of human population of well over a billion extra mouths to feed.

The global food system has a lot to answer for. It is a major driver of climate change, thanks to everything from deforestation to cows burping. Food production also transforms biodiverse landscapes into fields inhabited by a single crop or animal. It depletes valuable freshwater resources, and even pollutes ecosystems when fertilisers and manure washed into streams and rivers.

The planet can only take so much of this stress. Staying within its environmental limits will require a global shift towards healthy and more plant-based diets, halving food loss and waste, and improving farming practices and technologies. That’s what a team of international researchers and I found in a new study published in the journal Nature

Without concerted action, we estimated that the environmental pressure of the food system could increase by 50-90% by 2050 as a result of population growth and the continued Westernisation of diets. At that point, those environmental pressures would exceed key planetary boundaries that define a safe operating space for humanity.

SUFFICIENTARIANISM – Sufficientarianism is a theory of distributive justice. Rather than being concerned with inequalities as such or with making the situation of the least well off as good as possible, sufficientarian justice aims at making sure that each of us has enough.


$30 per tonne for carbon emissions

Johan Rockström, former Director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre and now at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, and Ottmar Edenhofer his co-Director in Potsdam make the case  in this Guardian opinion piece for an immediate hike in carbon tax (on carbon emissions) world wide if there is to be any hope of limiting global warming and avoiding widespread catastrophe.


“New global policies such as carbon pricing are needed if we are to avoid an apocalyptic increase in temperature

The already existing and planned coal-fired plants would roughly emit 330 gigatonnes of CO2 over their economic lifetime, which always exceeds 15 years. They alone would exhaust almost the whole available carbon budget for the 1.5C scenario.

Investment decisions have to be reversed now, otherwise the world economy will be locked in to a carbon-intensive pathway. To avert this, the right policies must be put in place immediately.

The climate summit in Katowice, PolandInvestment decisions have to be reversed now, otherwise the world economy will be locked in to a carbon-intensive pathway. To avert this, the right policies must be put in place immediately., in December will conclude that the voluntary contributions of the governments are currently insufficient to put the world on a 2C, let alone 1.5C, trajectory. Policies to intensify efforts are necessary. All nations need to revise their mitigation targets to accommodate the more rapid emission reductions required to truly stay well below 2C.

New global policies are needed. One such policy would be a carbon price starting around €30 per tonne of CO2, which would very likely render investments in coal-fired plants unprofitable. Zero-carbon mobility, such as electric cars, could then become an attractive option as consumers would expect an increasing carbon price, and the internal combustion engine would gradually be phased out.

Carbon pricing would be a credible signal to investors that governments are willing to act now. Governments, policymakers and civil society should heed the warnings of the IPCC report and take action immediately.”

IPCC 2018 Report findings – at a glance

100 companies responsible for 71% CO2 emissions

7 phases of climate awareness

Atlantic article – the battle against anthropogenic climate change is already lost

A short slide show that concludes that total renewable electricity generation without fossil fuel is feasible by 2050

Nobel Prize for Nordhaus economist who researched market solutions to global warming (carbon tax + cap & trade)

2018 IPCC Report Preliminary Summary

In South Korea and in Poland the upcoming IPCC events referred to in this article will take place before the end of 2018.

As the IPCC’s next comprehensive assessment of climate science will not be available until 2021, this year’s report will be vital in shaping policy.

The IPCC Report restricts itself to climate change but also suggests the economic benefits of creating ‘green’ jobs that contribute to a desirable form of economic growth. There is a danger that the now widespread focus on climate change leads to other threats to a sustainable future being overlooked or down-played, in particular the continuing increase in human passengers on Spaceship Earth being added at an estimated rate of 228000 per day – one billion in the next 14 years

The preliminary IPPC findings contained in the forthcoming report are summarised and commented upon here in this Guardian article. The central point is that 1.5C warming should now be the maximum target for restraining global warming, not 2C.

“Johan Rockström, a co-author of the recent Hothouse Earth report, said scientists never previously discussed 1.5C, which was initially seen as a political concession to small island states. But he said opinion had shifted in the past few years along with growing evidence of climate instability and the approach of tipping points that might push the world off a course that could be controlled by emissions reductions.

“Climate change is occurring earlier and more rapidly than expected. Even at the current level of 1C warming, it is painful,” he told the Guardian. “This report is really important. It has a scientific robustness that shows 1.5C is not just a political concession. There is a growing recognition that 2C is dangerous.”

“Time and carbon budgets are running out. By mid-century, a shift to the lower goal would require a supercharged roll-back of emissions sources that have built up over the past 250 years.

The IPCC maps out four pathways to achieve 1.5C, with different combinations of land use and technological change. Reforestation is essential to all of them as are shifts to electric transport systems and greater adoption of carbon capture technology.

Carbon pollution would have to be cut by 45% by 2030 – compared with a 20% cut under the 2C pathway – and come down to zero by 2050, compared with 2075 for 2C. This would require carbon prices that are three to four times higher than for a 2C target. But the costs of doing nothing would be far higher.

“We have presented governments with pretty hard choices. We have pointed out the enormous benefits of keeping to 1.5C, and also the unprecedented shift in energy systems and transport that would be needed to achieve that,” said Jim Skea, a co-chair of the working group on mitigation. “We show it can be done within laws of physics and chemistry. Then the final tick box is political will. We cannot answer that. Only our audience can – and that is the governments that receive it.”

“even pro-Paris deal nations involved in fossil fuel extraction that runs against the spirit of their commitments. Britain is pushing ahead with gas fracking, Norway with oil exploration in the Arctic, and the German government wants to tear down Hambach forest to dig for coal.

At the current level of commitments, the world is on course for a disastrous 3C of warming.

Here is the BBC website account of the summary of the IPCC Report.

From the Washington Post 

A further BBC website article with dramatic dynamic graphics contains David Shukman’s analysis of the IPCC findings:

Analysis by David Shukman, BBC science editor

The countdown to the worst of global warming seems to have accelerated. Seriously damaging impacts are no longer on a distant horizon later this century but within a timeframe that appears uncomfortably close.

By the same token, the report’s “pathways” for keeping a lid on temperatures all mean that hard decisions cannot be delayed:

  • a shift away from fossil fuels by mid-century
  • coal phased out far sooner than previously suggested
  • vast tracts of land given over to forests

It’s mind-bending stuff and some will say it’s hopelessly unrealistic, a climate scientists’ fantasy. So is any of it plausible? On the one hand, the global economy relies on carbon and key activities depend on it. On the other, wind turbines and solar panels have tumbled in price and more and more countries and states such as California are setting ambitious green targets.

Ultimately, politicians will face a difficult choice: persuade their voters that the revolutionary change outlined in the report is urgently needed or ignore it and say the scientists have got it wrong.

Link to the IPCC Report summary

New York Times Editorial “Coal is Killing the Planet”

Guardian opinion piece –  “A Global Emergency”

Monbiot on climate BREAKDOWN (not ‘CHANGE’)

1.5C = ‘pipe dream’ vs. Figueres optimism

FROM Jeremy Williams – “Lots of good climate change articles this week following the IPCC special report on 1.5 degrees.

2020 deadline on climate change

The UN Secretary General Antonio Gutterres has issued a stark warning  about the failure of humanity to act in the face of the rapidity of climate change arising from human activity. This article from the BBC website describes the Secretary General’s warning,

He wants heads of government to come to New York for a special climate conference next September. The call comes amid growing concerns over the slow pace of UN negotiations. Mr Guterres painted a grim picture of the impacts of climate change that he says have been felt all over the world this year, with heatwaves, wildfires, storms and floods leaving a trail of destruction. Corals are dying, he said, the oceans are becoming more acidic, and there are growing conflicts over dwindling resources. Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are at their highest level in three million years.

Despite the fact that the world agreed on a plan to tackle climate change in Paris in 2015, Mr Guterres said the world is way off track to achieve the modest goals of the pact.

Ecological repair

This article is from an Argentinian-based website. It offers a concise summary of the way that the private economy that serves wealth seekers has come to dominate the regulation of the public economy by which governments serve the general good of all citizens. Private business ignores what is termed mega-externalities such as toxic effects on society and the environment. The search for profit takes precedence and government regulation is stymied by corporate influence over political systems.

third category of economica activity is described as the core economy that is essentially local and small scale. It offers employment in a way that corporate systems fail to so and also offers hope of ecological repair of the damage to ecosystems that has resulted from large-scale impact on the planet of the financial capitalist private economy that hass accelerated enormously since the 1950s.

Arctic ocean warming

New research from Yale oceanographers has revealed a build-up of heat in the deeper levels of the Arctic Ocean that may trigger a massive melting of the sea ice above.

The research team analysed temperature data on the Canada Basin taken over the last 30 years, and found that the amount of heat in the warmest part of the water had effectively doubled in the period 1987 to 2017.

This 30-year doubling (growth rate of between 2-3% per annum) coincides with the Great Acceleration of the impact of so many human activities at a planetary scale. In this case it is the hydrosphere and the cryosphere that are being impacted, but the connection to what is happening to the global atmosphere is obvious. The parallel increases in greenhouse gas emissions arising from fossil fuel use has many effects, just as has the massive addition of plastics to the natural environment and many other synthetic chemicals . As humans strive for wealth and accelerated consumption of technologically created goods and services, many UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES  tend to follow. A small number of scientists reveal these but the rush for ‘development’ understood as ever-increasing GDP growth, continues to accelerate as human population adds an extra 1 billion humans to an overloaded planet in the next 14 or so years.

Coastal erosion in the Arctic a new concern – report on new research.

Rapping from Me to We

This  video is targeted on secondary school learners to encourage debate about the concept of homo economicus at the core of the model of classical economics. Ego-driven competition and a price for everything is the implied assumption of human nature behind homo economicus  which overlooks other aspects of humanity such as altruism, cooperation and things that cannot be priced.  Presented in the form of puppets as rap lyrics, the creative video tries to move thinking about human nature from selfish ME to a collective concern about WE. It is 6 minutes long.

Bangkok prep for Katowice COP24

Here is the full UNFCCC news release.

I find it hard to share the optimism in this press release about the progress made towards the Paris Climate Agreement goals. December in nearby Katowice the centre of Polish coal production, will see yet another attempt to get agreement on limiting CO2 emissions that nee to be negative by 2015 if the targets are to be met for curbing global warming and all associated effects.

Against the backdrop of severe and record heatwaves, bushfires, droughts and floods across the world, governments are convening a supplementary meeting in Bangkok to prepare the implementation guidelines of the Paris Climate Change Agreement. The guidelines are needed to make the Paris Agreement work fairly and transparently for all.

Following a two-year negotiation process, the implementation guidelines are set to be adopted at the annual climate conference, COP24, to be held in Katowice, Poland in December.

While the talks have made modest progress, the Bangkok meeting is the last opportunity before COP24 to accelerate negotiations.

About the UNFCCC

With 197 Parties, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has near universal membership and is the parent treaty of the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement. The main aim of the Paris Agreement is to keep a global average temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius and to drive efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The UNFCCC is also the parent treaty of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The ultimate objective of all agreements under the UNFCCC is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system, in a time frame which allows ecosystems to adapt naturally and enables sustainable development.

See also:


This article from BioScience updates a warning given  in 1992 by 1700 scientist about the trajectories leading to environmental destruction. This updated warning was endorsed by 15000 scientists when published in December 2017. Here are the opening paragraphs:

Twenty-five years ago, the Union of Concerned Scientists and more than 1700 independent scientists, including the majority of living Nobel laureates in the sciences, penned the 1992 “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity” (see supplemental file S1). These concerned professionals called on humankind to curtail environmental destruction and cautioned that “a great change in our stewardship of the Earth and the life on it is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided.” In their manifesto, they showed that humans were on a collision course with the natural world. They expressed concern about current, impending, or potential damage on planet Earth involving ozone depletion, freshwater availability, marine life depletion, ocean dead zones, forest loss, biodiversity destruction, climate change, and continued human population growth. They proclaimed that fundamental changes were urgently needed to avoid the consequences our present course would bring.

The authors of the 1992 declaration feared that humanity was pushing Earth’s ecosystems beyond their capacities to support the web of life. They described how we are fast approaching many of the limits of what the ­biosphere can tolerate ­without ­substantial and irreversible harm. The scientists pleaded that we stabilize the human population, describing how our large numbers—swelled by another 2 billion people since 1992, a 35 percent increase—exert stresses on Earth that can overwhelm other efforts to realize a sustainable future (Crist et al. 2017). They implored that we cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and phase out fossil fuels, reduce deforestation, and reverse the trend of collapsing biodiversity.

On the twenty-fifth anniversary of their call, we look back at their warning and evaluate the human response by exploring available time-series data. Since 1992, with the exception of stabilizing the stratospheric ozone layer, humanity has failed to make sufficient progress in generally solving these foreseen environmental challenges, and alarmingly, most of them are getting far worse (figure 1file S1). Especially troubling is the current trajectory of potentially catastrophic climate change due to rising GHGs from burning fossil fuels (Hansen et al. 2013), deforestation (Keenan et al. 2015), and agricultural production—particularly from farming ruminants for meat consumption (Ripple et al. 2014). Moreover, we have unleashed a mass extinction event, the sixth in roughly 540 million years, wherein many current life forms could be annihilated or at least committed to extinction by the end of this century.