All posts by Alex Fung

Global Plan for Sustainablility?

Almost every day I come across a new article that repeats the concerns I have long held about the imminence of socio-ecological collapse and the failure of our polictical and economic systsem leaders to acknowledge or act to address this unprecedented threat to our planetary existence on Spaceship Earth. This article by William E. Rees, professor emeritus of human ecology and ecological economics at the University of British Columbia, Canada. It laments the lack of a global sustainability plan in the face of this evident trend towards widespread collapse. This extract gives a taster from

Staving Off the Coming Global Collapse

‘Overshoot’ is when a species uses resources faster than can be replenished. We’re already there. And show no signs of changing.

 

simplistic, growth-oriented, market-based economic thinking … is all but running the world today. Prevailing neoliberal economic models make no useful reference to the dynamics of the ecosystems or social systems with which the economy interacts in the real world.

What truly intelligent species would attempt to fly spaceship Earth, with all its mind-boggling complexity, using the conceptual equivalent of a 1955 Volkswagen Beetle driver’s manual?

Failure to implement a global sustainability plan that addresses excess consumption and over-population while ensuring greater social equity may well be fatal to global civilization. Indeed, adherence to any variant of the growth-bound status quo promises a future of uncontrollable climate change, plummeting biodiversity, civil disorder, geopolitical turmoil and resource wars.

In these circumstances, should not elected politicians everywhere have an obligation to explain how their policies reflect the fact of global overshoot?

The dynamic cryosphere

This article offers an introduction to the earth’s ice cover (cryosphere) changes in which are now increasingly understood through scientific studies.  Feedback loops from changes in the cryosphere have and important effect on both the atmosphere and the hydrosphere, as significant causes and effects of climate change:

 Across land masses, seas, and oceans, roughly 70 percent of the fresh water exists as ice. But now, in response to the warming of our planet, that entire system is changing … primarily because ice responds to rising temperatures, melting with increasing heat. For example, shelf ice, which floats on the oceans near ice sheets, can weaken in response to the warming water below, causing destabilization and collapse. In the Arctic, sea ice is vanishing in the summers, changing the way in which the ocean absorbs sunlight. Across the continents, mountain glaciers and the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica are melting. Cryosphere changes like these are having profound impacts on our planet.

Planetary boundaries update

The Stockholm Resilience Centre here has updated its research on the limits to growth of the impact of human activity on the planet as a whole. As we enter what some are seeing as the post-globaisation phase of geopolitics as Trump and other nationalistic political leaders take power, the analysis of overall human impact on the planet remains off most mainstream politcal agendas.

“Four of nine planetary boundaries have now been crossed as a result of human activity, says an international team of 18 researchers in the journal Science (16 January 2015).

The four are: climate change, loss of biosphere integrity, land-system change, altered biogeochemical cycles (phosphorus and nitrogen).

Two of these, climate change and biosphere integrity, are what the scientists call “core boundaries”. Significantly altering either of these “core boundaries” would “drive the Earth System into a new state”.

In a deep and original study of the Anthropocene Era – “The Shock of the Anthropocene” – two French academics, Bonneuil and Fressoz spell out three phases of this new geological era:

  1. 1750-1950 Thermo-Industrial Revolution that saw the exploitation  of cheap fossil energy raising atmospheric CO2 emissions above the 277 ppm at the end of the climatically stable Holocene lasting around 12000 years during which human civilisations flourished. by 1950 CO2 global levels were at 311 ppm.
  2. 1950-2000 The Great Acceleration during which exponential growth of human population and industrial impact based on cheap energy multiplied enormously leading to CO2 levels of 380 ppm.
  3. 2000-present Tipping Point Phase in which CO2 levels in 2016 exceeded 400 ppm and points of no return (to long-term environmental sustainablity) across at least three planetary boundaries are evident.

The planetary boundary research offers evidence about tipping points.  How to spread awareness of their imminence to the changing leadership of our most powerful nations, some of whom seem keen to accelerate the rush to exceed planetary boundaries?

The Antarctic ice sheet offers one specific example of a tipping point arising from global warming that seems on course to raise sea levels around the planet. This article on what is happening to the Antarctic ends as follows:

“The only practical conclusion to be drawn is that climate warming has already gone to far, and the objective must be to achieve a level of greenhouse gases, and of global temperature, well below that currently prevailing.”

Planetary boundaries update

The Stockholm Resilience Centre here has updated its research on the limits to growth of the impact of human activity on the planet as a whole. As we enter what some are seeing as the post-globaisation phase of geopolitics as Trump and other nationalistic political leaders take power, the analysis of overall human impact on the planet remains off most mainstream politcal agendas.

“Four of nine planetary boundaries have now been crossed as a result of human activity, says an international team of 18 researchers in the journal Science (16 January 2015).

The four are: climate change, loss of biosphere integrity, land-system change, altered biogeochemical cycles (phosphorus and nitrogen).

Two of these, climate change and biosphere integrity, are what the scientists call “core boundaries”. Significantly altering either of these “core boundaries” would “drive the Earth System into a new state”.

In a deep and original study of the Anthropocene Era – “The Shock of the Anthropocene” – two French academics, Bonneuil and Fressoz spell out three phases of this new geological era:

  1. 1750-1950 Thermo-Industrial Revolution that saw the exploitation  of cheap fossil energy raising atmospheric CO2 emissions above the 277 ppm at the end of the climatically stable Holocene lasting around 12000 years during which human civilisations flourished. by 1950 CO2 global levels were at 311 ppm.
  2. 1950-2000 The Great Acceleration during which exponential growth of human population and industrial impact based on cheap energy multiplied enormously leading to CO2 levels of 380 ppm.
  3. 2000-present Tipping Point Phase in which CO2 levels in 2016 exceeded 400 ppm and points of no return (to long-term environmental sustainablity) across at least three planetary boundaries are evident.

The planetary boundary research offers evidence about tipping points.  How to spread awareness of their imminence to the changing leadership of our most powerful nations, some of whom seem keen to accelerate the rush to exceed planetary boundaries?

The Antarctic ice sheet offers one specific example of a tipping point arising from global warming that seems on course to raise sea levels around the planet. This article on what is happening to the Antarctic ends as follows:

“The only practical conclusion to be drawn is that climate warming has already gone to far, and the objective must be to achieve a level of greenhouse gases, and of global temperature, well below that currently prevailing.”

400 ppm CO2 now permanent

This BBC website article contains a dramatic map showing the sources of global CO2 emissions that have now surpassed 400 ppm. This level has now been recorded for a full year and suggests that the UN Paris climate agreement targets for global warming are unlikely to be met. The article offers insights into the technical reasons for the continuing high levels of CO2, methane and nitrous oxide in the atmosphere and, yet again, issues another call for urgent action.

400 ppm CO2 now permanent

This BBC website article contains a dramatic map showing the sources of global CO2 emissions that have now surpassed 400 ppm. This level has now been recorded for a full year and suggests that the UN Paris climate agreement targets for global warming are unlikely to be met. The article offers insights into the technical reasons for the continuing high levels of CO2, methane and nitrous oxide in the atmosphere and, yet again, issues another call for urgent action.

Big food lobby

This remarkable link has amazing aerial photos of industrial agricultural production on an unimaginable scale in the US. It is accompanied by an article by Micahel Pollan that shows how attempts by the Obamas to ‘take on’ the big food producers have been largely thwarted by powerful political lobbying from the corporate giants.

The massive output of industrial food production (‘farming’ is hardly the appropriate word any more) has, of course, contributed to exponential human population increase as well as the spread of obesity in human populations. It is thus a key factor in contributing to the overshooting of the earth’s capacity to sustain current human impacts on the natural world. The sheer enormity of the images in the link above leaves us in no doubt that we live in an age rightly labelled as the Anthropocene Era.

Big food lobby

This remarkable link has amazing aerial photos of industrial agricultural production on an unimaginable scale in the US. It is accompanied by an article by Micahel Pollan that shows how attempts by the Obamas to ‘take on’ the big food producers have been largely thwarted by powerful political lobbying from the corporate giants.

The massive output of industrial food production (‘farming’ is hardly the appropriate word any more) has, of course, contributed to exponential human population increase as well as the spread of obesity in human populations. It is thus a key factor in contributing to the overshooting of the earth’s capacity to sustain current human impacts on the natural world. The sheer enormity of the images in the link above leaves us in no doubt that we live in an age rightly labelled as the Anthropocene Era.

Brexit and Energy

This article from Resilence Today examines the impact of Brexit on progress in replacing non-renewabe energy sources with renewable energy. It argues that it is a setback but that there has been considerable good news in recent months concerning efforts to lessen dependence on fossil fuels and hence,  the emission of CO2 that is  contributing to anthropogenic global warming,

Brexit and Energy

This article from Resilence Today examines the impact of Brexit on progress in replacing non-renewabe energy sources with renewable energy. It argues that it is a setback but that there has been considerable good news in recent months concerning efforts to lessen dependence on fossil fuels and hence,  the emission of CO2 that is  contributing to anthropogenic global warming,