All posts by David Oldroyd

UN PRESS RELEASE ON ARCTIC LOCKED-IN MELT

This press release on 13 March followed a UN Environmental Protection Agency meeting in Nairobi. It starts with three points:

  • Even if Paris Agreement goals met, Arctic winter temperatures will increase 3-5°C by 2050 compared to 1986-2005 levels.
  • Thawing permafrost could wake ‘sleeping giant’ of more greenhouse gases, potentially derailing global climate goals.
  • Ocean acidification and pollution also posing major threats to Arctic

This locked-in heating that threatens a tipping point that will release stored greenhouse gases will not be prevented even if Paris Climate Agreement targets for curbing emissions are achieved which seems highly unlikely. Despite the hope expressed in my last post, this is but one tipping point of many now possible due to the exponentially growing impact of human activity on the natural world. Rockstrom’s presentation “Beyond the Anthropocene” sets out a range of 12 other tipping points which are linked to heating of the planet (Spaceship Earth). His brilliant presentation given in January 2017 to the World Economic Forum is itself a matter for hope in educating world leaders. Two years on it appears that school strikers are, however, learning faster than government representatives at COP24 who followed-up the Paris Agreement, or indeed all those corporate leaders who are still committed to growing GDP and private wealth as fast as possible irrespective of the planetary consequences for our children’s future.

REASONS FOR HOPE

Below is a document that we circulated in anticipation of an eco-psychology workshop that we are planning as part of the SPACESHIP EARTH ACTION initiative:

REASONS FOR HOPE FOR SPACESHIP EARTH

“Once we start to act, hope is everywhere” Greta Thunberg.

Hope is less intellectual than emotional; it’s a feeling.

A. Hope increases if people feel part of a community dedicated to a common purpose.

B. More people are becoming involved in Spaceship Earth action every day. There’s plenty of fellowship

“Climate solutions and possibilities already exist. Together we can limit global warming to 1.5˚.”

https://medium.com/@UNDP/talking-about-climate-change-walking-the-line-between-hope-and-despair-6605cf757ba5

The UNDP (United Nations Development Program) Strategy:

  1. Make sure everyone is sufficiently alarmed, and knows how desperate and urgent the crisis is — so that they act.
  2. Give people a sense of hope so that they know what actions to take that will have a strong impact — so that they act.

Why there is hope:

  1. Technological and industrial innovations, such as cheap renewable energy, are coming faster and faster.
  2. Local, city and national governments are committing to cut carbon, ban pollutants, protect species and replant forests.
  3. People are rising up in popular protests to pressure policymakers and companies to change direction.
  4. Humans have not, since 1945 in Japan, used the nuclear weapons that have been available.
  5. The CFC chemicals causing a hole in the ozone layer (discovered in 1973) were banned when nations agreed to cooperate (Montreal Protocol, 1987).
  6. Slavery that was once seen as normal is now seen as immoral, so maybe growth economics can be replaced by circular regenerative economics.
  7. The scientific evidence of the effects on health of smoking were recognised despite 40 years of denial and delay by the tobacco industry, so maybe the same will happen in relation to greenhouse gas emission from human activity.
  8. School pupils are starting protest to thanks to Greta Thunberg, who started this, and is still inspiring our youth to take action around the world.
  9. A political movement for a “Green New Deal” is emerging in the USA.
  10. Huge amounts of evidence for change now available: http://case4all.org

There are powerful obstacles to change – e.g. Deep vested interests are resisting climate action: those are the economies, businesses and political systems dependent on fossil fuels, polluting industries, or biodiversity destruction. We must speak truth to power. “Power concedes nothing without a demand.”

Climate scientist answers teenagers’ questions about climate

apology to student strikers

Here are many creative placards made for the March 15 strike by students around the world to remind their seniors to think globally.

An editorial comment from the Observer – note the last line.

Jeremy Leggett in this blog sums up my own feelings on the day that I make a presentation in Katowice secondary school.

Below is a summary (in English & Polish) below of my presentation.

Futures for Spaceship Earth: Cowboys or Cosmonauts?

A. GREAT DISRUPTION; B. GREAT TRANSITION; C. COLLAPSE?

  1. Earth is a finite spaceship – highly complex life systems after 3.8 billion years and humans depend on the life support systems of the Earth
  2. We can act using two strategies: COWBOY or COSMONAUT STRATEGIES
  3. Humans have created a new geological age (The Anthropocene) by building a Machine World fuelled by fossil energy and financial debt
  4. We must now grow our economy (take-make-use-dump) at 3% per year to pay off these debts (result: rapid growth of wealth, technology, people, pollution)
  5. The rapid growth of economies and technology is exponential (rapid doubling) but they make devastating impact on the Natural World
  6. Exponential growth of population, wealth (goods + services + debt) has exceeded the carrying capacity of the Earth (Ecological Footprint)
  7. Great Acceleration since 1950s now entering Great Disruption to climate, habitat, soils, other species, oceans, ice, sea level
  8. Alternative to Great Disruption is Great Transition but few signs as many hockey stick exponential growth of symptoms of collapse
  9. The cause of collapse (‘elephant in the room’) is debt-based, profit-seeking deregulated corporate consumer capitalism
  10. Producers & consumer philosophy addicted to growth, more, more & still more –  low taxes and concentration of wealth.
  11. The story ‘growth is good’ & other Machine World myths are promoted by the media, advertising, schooling, e.g. “The American Dream”
  12. The ‘Anthropocene Trap’ now results from overshoot and scale & speed of existential threats
  13. “Elephant in the room” (global corporate consumer capitalism) is too big & too fast to stop from wrecking Spaceship Earth

WHAT TO DO to contribute to the Great Transformation?

  1. Focus on what you can change (life styles, social & political engagement). Accept what you cannot change.
  2. Prepare for the Great Disruption (personal resilience) while joining amass movement for a Great Transition (collective action)
  3. Prepare a legacy for post-collapse survivors (skills, tools, knowledge) “Deep Adaptation”

three essential videos (2 + 20 + 90 mins.)

David Oldroyd, 15.03.2019

Przyszłość „statku  kosmicznego Ziemia”: kowboje czy kosmonauci?

A. WIELKIE ZAKŁÓCENIA; B. WIELKA PRZEMIANA; C. UPADEK?

  1. Ziemia jest statkiem kosmicznym mającym swoje ograniczenia – wysoce skomplikowane systemy życia ewoluowały przez 3,8 mld lat i ludzie zależą od systemów wsparcia życia Ziemi.
  2. Możemy działać stosując dwie strategie: strategię kowboja lub kosmonauty.
  3. Ludzie stworzyli nowy wiek geologiczny (Antropocen), budując świat maszynowy napędzany przez energię kopalin i dług finansowy.
  4.  Musimy teraz rozwijać naszą gospodarkę (brać-robić-używać-wyrzucać) na 3% rocznie do spłacenia tych długów (wynik: szybki wzrost bogactwa, technologii, ludzi, zanieczyszczeń).
  5. Gwałtowny wzrost gospodarek i technologii  w postępie geometrycznym, wywiera dewastujący wpływ na świat przyrody.
  6. Wykładniczy wzrost populacji,bogactwa (towary + usługi + dług) i technologii  przekroczyły nośność ziemi (ślad ekologiczny).
  7. Wielkie Przyspieszenie od 1950 roku do teraz spowodowało Wielkie Zakłócenia (klimatu, siedliska, gleby, inne gatunki, oceany, lód, poziom morza).
  8. Alternatywą dla wielkiego zakłócenia jest Wielka Przemiana, ale niewiele jest oznak tego procesu, ze względu na gwałtowny wzrost objawów Upadku.
  9. Przyczyną Upadku (“słoń w pomieszczeniu”) jest wzrost długu, poszukiwanie zysków, przecenianie roli wolnego rynku,  dominacja konsumentów korporacyjnych.
  10. Producenci i konsumenci  kieruja się filozofią „więcej, więcej, jeszcze więcej” dążeniem do obniżania podatków i  koncentracji bogactwa.
  11. Przekonanie,ze  “wzrost jest dobry” jest promowane przez media, reklamy, nauki. .
  12. „Pułapka Antropocenu” wynika z przekroczenia skali i szybkości egzystencjalnych zagrożeń.
  13. “Słoń w pomieszczeniu” (globalny kapitalizm konsumentów korporacyjnych) jest zbyt duży i działa zbyt szybko, niesposób więc powstrzymać się go od zniszczenia  „Statku kosmicznego Ziemia”

CO ROBIĆ aby przyczynić się do Wielkiej Przemiany ?

  1. Skoncentruj się na tym, co możesz zmienić (np: zmiana stylu zycia, zaangażowanie społeczne i polityczne).  Zaakceptuj to, czego nie możesz.
  2. Przygotuj się na Wielkie Zakłócenia (osobistej odporności) podczas łączenia masowego ruchu dla  Wielkiej Przemiany (zbiorowe działania)
  3. Przygotuj dziedzictwo dla ocalałych po upadku (umiejętności, narzędzia, wiedza) – “Głęboka Adaptacja”

trzy podstawowe filmy (2 + 20 + 90 mins.)

Here is the Washington Post coverage of the fridays for future strike on 15 March

And Common Dreams coverage.

The writing on the wall

The Norwegian Sovereign Fund which comprises 1% of global investment capital is divesting from pure oil and gas companies. Jeremy Leggett sets out in this blog the importance of this decision as an indicator of how investors everywhere will now start to doubt the wisdom of investing in ‘unburnable carbon’ and ‘stranded assets’. The reason for leaving these energy sources underground is that climate heating may indeed lead to oil and gas, not to mention coal, being eliminated as energy sources in order to keep the earth’s atmosphere within a temperature range that will sustain civilised life. The desire to keep the temperature of the life support systems (air, land and sea) of Spaceship Earth within a liveable range may well radically determine future business investment. For 10000 years during the Holocene geological period the planet maintained a very stable global average temperature that allowed human cicilisations to flourish. Now global heating that is now rising in a dangerous way, faster than ever before – hence we live in a new geological epoch now called the Anthropocene. In this human-made geological age, temperature rise is being accelerated by human activity primarily by burning vast amounts of fossil fuels.

TIME TO PHASE OUT CARS

Monbiot in this opinion piece from the Guardian makes a strong case about the negative effects of many kinds on both human life and the environment. He connects the explosion of private transport to oil extraction and related conflicts, deteriorating health due to emissions and lack of exercise, the effects of nitrogen emissions on ecosystems, the spread of concrete over the planet’s surface, the replacement of open space with parking lots, the psychological aggression that drivers exhibit, and so on.

Three remarkable statistics show how rapidly road vehicles have been, and are projected to be, added to the technosphere created by humans that is now dominating the natural world:

1970      250,000,000   2016   1,200,000,000
2050   2,500,000,000 (10x since 1970)

Unintended consequences?

A Multi-dimensional predicament

Margaret Atwood wrote this article in 2015 “Its not climate change – its everything change” . It has many fascinating pictures as well as her eloquent text. I found it in a comment on this very short article with the title “Why the “Anthropocene” Is Not “Climate Change”. The latter is one of the best reminders of the dangers of focusing only on climate change as opposed to the entire Earth System that is now being devastated by the weight of exponentially growing human impact. The author from Notre Dame University is currently co-authoring a book on the Anthropocene and makes the point that problems have solutions but predicaments (sometimes referred to as ‘wicked problems’?) are not amenable to solutions, especially ‘techno-fix’ solutions

The Anthropocene is a multidimensional challenge. Our future is more unpredictable than ever, with new phenomena like Category 5 megastorms, rapid species extinction, and the loss of polar ice. This change is irreversible. NASA says that levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) are higher than they have been at any time in the past 400,000 years—well before our species evolved—causing the atmosphere to warm.

The climate has certainly changed, but so too have other aspects of the planetary system. Take the lithosphere: 193,000 human-made “inorganic crystalline compounds,” or what you and I might call “rocks,” now vastly outnumber Earth’s ~5,000 natural minerals, while 8.3 billion tons of plastics coat the land, water, and our internal organs. Due to modern agribusiness techniques, so much topsoil is washing away that England has only about 60 more harvests left.

The biosphere is equally altered. Never has the planet been so crowded with human beings. In 1900, there were around 1.5 billion of us; in the 1960s, around 3 billion; today there are upwards of 7.4 billion. Human beings and our domesticated animals comprise an astounding 97% of the total zoomass of terrestrial mammals, meaning that wild creatures make up a miserly 3%. Humans and our companion species occupy considerably more than half of the planet’s habitable land surface. Concerning the hydrosphere, fresh water renews itself at the rate of about 1% a year, but currently 21 out of 37 of the world’s major aquifers are being drawn down faster—in some cases much faster—than they can be replenished.

Alarming as each factor is on its own, the concept of the Anthropocene brings all these factors and others together.

The planet’s chemistry has changed too. Warmer oceans interfere with the production of oxygen by phytoplankton, and some scientists predict that with a rise of 6oC—which could happen as soon as 2100—this oxygen production could cease. Our production of fixed nitrogen is five times higher than it was 60 years ago; in fact, Earth has never had so much fixed nitrogen in its entire ~4.5-billion-year history. Since World War II, synthetic chemical production has increased more than thirtyfold. Of the more than 80,000 new chemicals, the United States Environmental Protection Agency has tested only about 200 for human health risks.

Alarming as each factor is on its own, the concept of the Anthropocene brings all these factors and others together. This is the only way that we can understand Earth as a single reverberating system with feedback loops and tipping points that we can’t yet predict.

Meanwhile, the plans for more school student strikes on 15 May to pressure politicians to act on climate disruption are advancing around the world as this report with maps outlines. Margaret Atwood must certainly approve, unlike the UK government who condemned the strikes as ‘truancy‘.

CLUB OF ROME CLIMATE EMERGENCY PLAN

See the pdf of the plan here.It has 6 pages of text and outlines a 10-point strategy under 5 headings:

  1. Transform Energy Systems

2. Rethink Pricing and Growth Indicators

3. Scale up Transformational Technologies

4. Accelerate Low-Carbon Land Use, Mitigation & Adaptation tools

5. Guarantee the Human Dimension

The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on the impact of 1.5 °C and 2°C warming above pre-industrial levels sends a stark reminder to humanity about the existential threat posed by climate change. To avoid the worst of the predicted outcomes, global carbon emissions must be cut by half by 2030, to zero by 2050. This is an unprecedented task, requiring a reduction rate of at least 7% annually; no country has to date achieved more than 1.5%. The only possible response is emergency action that will transform human social, economic and financial systems.

The Club of Rome and its partners call on all stakeholders – governments, civil society, scientific institutions, business – to adopt the following emergency action plan, based on the Carbon Law Initiative approach to halve global GHG emissions every decade till 2050 , and the industrialised countries’ Paris commitment to provide a minimum of US$100 billion dollars annually to low-income countries in support of low-carbon technology development and adaptation.

“The ravages of a rapidly warming climate are happening every day and will only get worse especially for the world’s most vulnerable. Transformational climate action is an opportunity for a societal renaissance of the proportions never seen before. This is a global emergency plan for a shared and just future. We have the technology and capital but most NDC’s and industry efforts are not ambitious enough. The only option now is adopting an emergency plan! Time is not going to be forgiving.” — Sandrine Dixson-Declève, Co-President of the Club of Rome

striker Thunberg and 1 trillion euro eu promise

The remarkable story of a young Swedish climate strike activist and a commitment of 25% of EU budget from 2021 to attempting to respond to the effects of fossil-fuel driven emissions of CO2. She has really manged to speak truth to power if the promise of Jean Claude Junker to redirect EU budget is to be believed. The attention of media around the world has been captured by this sole agent who has activated school age students around the world to take to the streets and “march4climate.” Even in coal-dominated Poland small stirrings of student activism are emerging – one in Katowice on 15 March which has been identified as a date for action around the world.

It is likely that human agency is unlikely to have the time or power to shift the system-level dynamic of economic growth that is the ‘elephant in the room’ behind the existential threat of climate change. But if one young girl in her mid-teens can exercise her agency to this extent, then hope for system change is still alive.

In this article, G/eorge Monbiot reflects on what mass movements of activists need to do to avoid the failures of previous activist movements such as Occupy Wall Street.

Not just climate – food production at risk

Yet another scientific report comes out to worry Guardian readers:
“The world’s capacity to produce food is being undermined by humanity’s failure to protect biodiversity, according to the first UN study of the plants, animals and micro-organisms that help to put meals on our plates“a “debilitating” loss of soil biodiversity, forests, grasslands, coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass beds and genetic diversity in crop and livestock species and a third of ocean fishing areas are being over-harvested”… “Over the last two decades, approximately 20% of the earth’s vegetated surface has become less productive”.  

“Agriculture was often to blame due to land-use changes and unsustainable management practices, such as over-exploitation of the soil and a reliance on pesticides, herbicides and other agro-chemicals.

Most countries said the main driver for biodiversity loss was land conversion, as forests were cut down for farm fields, and meadows covered in concrete for cities, factories and roads. Other causes include over-exploitation of water supplies, pollution, over-harvesting, the spread of invasive species and climate change.”

Two-thirds of crop production comes from just nine species (sugar cane, maize, rice, wheat, potatoes, soybeans, oil-palm fruit, sugar beet and cassava),

Over-dependence on a narrow range of species was a major factor in the famine caused by potato blight in Ireland in the 1840s, cereal crop failures in the US in the 20th century, and losses of taro production in Samoa in the 1990s.

“There is an urgent need to change the way food is produced and ensure that biodiversity is not something that is swept aside but is treated as an irreplaceable resource and a key part of management strategies.

Biodiversity loss finally linked to food production.

This is a crisis: environmental breakdown

This report published in February 2019 is from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) in the UK. It is yet another appeal to politicians to act in the face of the gravity of environmental breakdown due to human activity. It warns that the world is on a path toward “environmental breakdown” that will likely trigger “runaway collapse” of social and economic systems in the vein of the 2008 global financial crisis, and it calls for major shifts in understanding the scale and pace of environmental change, the implications of it, and the need for a radical transforming response.

It is almost half a century since warnings of this type have been appearing and have been ignored by those who are in a position to initiate the radical changes required to reverse the exponential acceleration of the damage that the “Machine World” is inflicting on Spaceship Earth. Crises are not what most leaders wish to recognise and the status quo that assumes that economic growth and human dominance can continue indefinitely is preferable to radical reversals of public policy. The dynamic of corporate profit-seeking remains all-powerful to allow serious attention to environmental breakdown.

Existential risks – the Centre for the Study of Existential Risks at Cambridge University contributed this article to the BBC website.

“the World Health Organization and the World Economic Forumboth listed climate change and its effects as one of their top risks for 2019.Recent UN talks heard climate change was already “a matter of life and death” for many regions. While many, including Sir David Attenborough, believe it could lead to the collapse of civilisations and the extinction of “much of the natural world”. The threats are complex and diverse, from killer heatwaves and rising sea levels to widespread famines and migration on a truly immense scale.
Also increasing are the potential risks from novel technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI). The scenarios range from increasingly sophisticated cyber-weapons that could hold an entire nation’s data to ransom, to autonomous algorithms that could unwittingly cause a stock-market crash. Another threat is the possibility of a nuclear war. While many focus on rising tensions between global powers, new technologies may also be making us less safe.”

Plastic pollution a distraction from worse threats