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.

MEATLESS FUTURE?

$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.

Their proposal (JUST ONE OF MANY SUCH SEEMINGLY WILDLY IMPROBABLE ECONOMIC CHANGES NEEDED TO ADDRESS THE HUGE PROBLEM GIVEN ‘FREE-MARKET’ BELIEFS) follows the issue of the latest UN IPCC Report featured in my last blog.

“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.