3. We are not on track to meet climate change targets
4. The biggest emitters are China and the US
5. Urban areas are particularly under threat
6. Arctic sea ice is also in danger
7. We can all do more to help
Yet more data to consider as I finish my presentation for the Climate Hub fringe event alongside the COP mega-event that seems to have spawned far more media attention than normally exists about human impact on Spaceship Earth, at least the temperature, compunction and circulation of our atmosphere. I will try to promote the metaphor of finite Spaceship Earth and the transformation brought about in the Anthropocene – the geological Epoch of Humans that has accelerated beyond control of its unintended consequences during my lifetime.
I will put my power point presentation on this website when it is complete.
This article includes a video of a panel from the Sanders Institute inaugurated this week to promote progressive solutions to economic, environmental, racial and social justice issues. The panel includes Naomi Klein author of “This Changes Everything” and Bill McKibben the founder of 350.org. The Green New Deal is a proposal to create a GND committee in the US Congress that embeds social justice into the transformation required for keeping global warming under the targets of the IPCC Report. The IPCC report that radical political and economic change are rapidly required – the usual systemic tall order for both the environment and society. The original New Deal in the 1930s brought a response to crisis but it was neither ‘green’ nor ‘for everybody’.
Progressive International was also launched at the same time by the wife of Bernie Sanders and Varoufakis. It aims to counter the spread of right wing authoritarianism by building a global progressive movement.
Kate Raworth’s model for sustainable economics has now been developed into a new metric for locating the degree to which 150 countries are not able to maintain a safe operating space between environmental limits and social well-being indicators. In this short illustrated articlethe results are set out and classified into four categories. No countries come close to creating a secure future. The four categories are described as follows:
A. Countries that are barely crossing any planetary boundaries, but are falling very far short on meeting people’s needs, including G20 members India and Indonesia. The development path that these nations must now pursue has never taken before. Copying the degenerative industrial path of today’s high-income countries (Group C), would most likely collapse Earth’s life-supporting systems.
B. Many middle-income, ‘emerging’ economies – including G20 members like Brazil, Russia, China, Argentina and South Africa – are both falling short on social needs while already crossing biophysical boundaries. These countries are now making future-defining investments in urbanization, energy systems and transport networks. Will these infrastructural investments take them further away from the doughnut, or start bringing them towards it?
C. Today’s high-income countries – including G20 members like the US, UK, France, Germany and the EU 28 itself – cannot be called developed, given that their resource consumption is greatly overshooting Earth’s boundaries and, in the process, undermining prospects for all other countries. These high-income nations, too, are on an unprecedented developmental journey: to sustain good living standards while moving back within Earth’s biophysical boundaries.
D. No country is yet in sweet-spot cluster D (for Doughnut!) – so how many years until some are there, and which will make it there first?
The variables used in the metric are illustrated here for Argentina where the G20 nations that produce 85% of carbon emissions is taking place this weekend:
This hugely important report from 12 US government agencies was released at a time when people were preoccupied with Thanksgiving holidays, some believe, in order to minimise its impact. It has dire conclusions about the impact of climate change on the US economy but appears to remain firmly within the ‘economic growth is good’ paradigm.
“Scientists have understood the fundamental physics of climate change for almost 200 years. In the 1850s, researchers demonstrated that carbon dioxide and other naturally occurring greenhouse gases in the atmosphere prevent some of the heat radiating from Earth’s surface from escaping to space: this is known as the greenhouse effect. This natural greenhouse effect warms the planet’s surface about 60°F above what it would be otherwise, creating a habitat suitable for life. Since the late 19th century, however, humans have released an increasing amount of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere through burning fossil fuels and, to a lesser extent, deforestation and land-use change. As a result, the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, the largest contributor to human-caused warming, has increased by about 40% over the industrial era. This change has intensified the natural greenhouse effect, driving an increase in global surface temperatures and other widespread changes in Earth’s climate that are unprecedented in the history of modern civilization.”
Here is a short introduction by a journalist to the report.
Here ‘Resilience’ summarises the impacts studied in the report
And hereis the US President’s response to the report
A similar report for EuropeClimate Impacts on Economy (European Commission)- impacts examined: Coastal floods; River floods; Droughts; Agriculture; Energy; Transport; Water resources; Habitat loss; Forest fires; Labour productivity; Mortality due to heatwaves.
This BBC article summarises a new report from the World Meteorological Organisation that has been released shortly before the COP24 Climate Summit in Katowice. The report shows no slowing in the concentrations of CO2 (405 ppm in 2017), methane, NO2 in the atmosphere and also reveals new concerns about CH11 a gas that was banned due to its effects on the ozone layer as well as global warming. These GHGs (greenhouse gases) are now at levels not seen since 3 to 5 million years ago when earth temperatures were 2C degrees higher and sea levels 10-20 metres higher.
And herethe BBC reports (with video) on how China is building coal-powered electricity power stations all around the world. The article details and example in Serbia.
This articlelooks at the failure of politicians to take a systemic view that connects economic activity and consumer preferences with effects on the environment. The politicians seem to favour economic ‘progress’ despite unfavourable, now extremely serious and destructive effects on the support systems provided by the natural world for human society. Easter island is used as a previous example of the collapse of an economic system that destroyed its environmental support system. Pro-environment US President Jimmy Carter proved unable to beat Reagan who, like Trump, promised to “make America great again”. The author uses meat eating’s global effects on climate as a current issue that politicians are afraid to face.
“…democracy has never been very good at tackling the global issue of environmental degradation. Instead politicians often go to great lengths to avoid the topic. When they do engage, they do so begrudgingly, putting all their rigour into a division of responsibility that excuses themselves to the greatest extent.
On the whole, democracies are dominated by chronic short term decision making. And while they often act as safeguards to individual human liberties, democracy, and its preference for compromise, are often part of the problem when it comes to the environment – the biggest issue of them all.
Politicians avoid the reality that only immediate alterations to human behaviour can prevent this crisis. Put simply, the planet urgently needs more compassion for the environment and much less individual ego.”
Most concede that there is an urgent need to radically transform our food systems. But the proposed innovations for more sustainable food systems are drastically different. Which we choose will have long-lasting effects on human society and the planet.
Suggested innovations in food systems can be broadly understood as either seeking to conform with – or to transform – the status quo.”
After outlining the contrasts between fossil-fuel-drive, industrialised, financialised, corporate high-tech agriculture and regenerative localised agroecological farming, the authors ask:
“Do you want to live in a world in which artificial food is produced by intelligent robots and corporations that put profits before people? Or one where agroecological innovations ensure we can nourish ourselves and our communities in a fair, ecologically regenerative, and culturally rich way?”
NYT editorial on the imminent vote https://www.wired.com/story/a-carbon-tax-is-pretty-much-inevitable-even-if-voters-said-no/in Washington State to introduce a tax on carbon emissions. It could set in train similar moves elsewhere in a long overdue development to curb carbon emissions
NYT Editorialon US mid-term election result implications for climate policy.
Meanwhile, this blog shows that oil production has unexpectedly reached 100 million barrels per day, a figure thought to be impossible as conventional oil supplies decline. The continued growth in oil use and hence CO2 emission, has been because of fracking unconventional supplies. 10 billion barrels per day from fracking come from the USA whose president opts his country out of the Paris Climate Agreement.
This Guardian article deals with a new form of activism planned in an effort to get the UK government to take climate change seriously. Rowan Williams the former Archbishop of Canterbury is one of the high profile advocates of direct action that will take to the streets on 17 November 2018.
Here are three statements from participants:
“Once you face and feel the shock of what we are facing, if you are willing to face the grief and can process those feelings, there is tremendous energy and a will to do what it takes. So that is what we have been asking people, to be willing to look at the truth of our predicament and grieve.
And something is starting to change. There is a still a disconnect between how bad things are and the action that needs to happen. But that gap is narrowing. There are more significant people starting to break ranks, both breaking from their institutions and breaking from their individual lives.
For me it goes beyond the idea of protecting my life as a privileged individual, or even the idea of protecting my children’s future to a deeper need to have been a good ancestor to future generations, to know that I did my best when the big challenge came.”
“I have no formal background in environmental issues and am fairly senior in my organisation. But unlike some academics I have taken the time to look properly at the evidence and have come to the clear conclusion that we are facing an imminent and potentially catastrophic climate emergency.
It has led me to re-evaluate what I am doing and why I am doing it. I am a career academic but in the face of what is likely about to happen to us I have to reconsider my priorities. I have children and I feel incredibly conflicted continuing in a ‘business as usual’ national setting, getting up and going to work when just around the corner there is a future for my children that is not the kind of future they believe they are working towards. If I am honest, it really breaks my heart. I have to ask myself, can I continue to do with integrity what I am doing when I know what is about to happen?
I am therefore asking myself, am I prepared to protest?Am I prepared to go to jail? And these are questions I am hoping many more people start to engage with. There will not be an opportunity for a ‘lessons learned’ scenario if we don’t act or if we get this wrong – there will not be an opportunity to repent at leisure.
If you understand the science, and I would put myself in that category, then I think there is an obligation to act – we are entitled to rebel because our interests are not being met. My levels of optimism are not high and this may not work but we must have the courage to try.”
This is an emergency, an unprecedented emergency. It dwarfs any other emergency we’ve known, including even World War II. And we will be judged by our children by how we respond in this emergency. Not by what are, in comparison, just distractions: such as Brexit. To future generations I would say that we are trying. Those of us who are joining this rebellion, and the many who support us, are really trying. If we fail you, it wasn’t for lack of effort.”
“As mammals whose primary calling is to care for our kids, it is therefore logical that an outright existential threat to their future, and to that of their children, must be resisted and rebelled against, no matter what the pitifully inadequate laws of our land say.
But the Extinction Rebellion seems to me the most compelling cause of them all. Unless we manage to do the near impossible, then after a period of a few decades at most there won’t be any other causes to engage with. It really now is as stark and as dark as that.
If you too feel the call, then I think you now know what to do”.
This article by Roy Scranton (author of Learning to die in the Anthropocene: reflections on the end of a civilization. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 2015) draws an analogy between the relief of suffering for dying individuals and palliative care for our species as the terminal phases of our current civilisation approaches. Here is a taster:
Like a gravely ill patient trying to remain alive, our whole world is struggling to find a silver bullet.
Our economic models are not working,
Our political structures are corrupted,
Our ability to respond and adapt to our rapidly decaying environment is wanting.
We worry about the many threats to our civilization but seem to be stubbornly confident that they will find the path to salvation.
Pundits of all stripes peddle their solutions, their prescriptions.
Economists invoke the invisible hand,
The devout pin their hopes on the divine and
Scientists assure us that – given enough funding –
They may all be deluding themselves, and us. Our proposed cures may provoke only more suffering …
In 2008, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimated that it would take US$30 billion in aid annually to eradicate hunger in the world. As of September of the following year, we had already injected over US$17 trillion into the private banking system in an effort to cure the financial crisis – enough to save the world from hunger for 600 years! 6 We can no longer say we cannot afford it.
This articlewas published in 2017 in the journal BioScience. It was endorsed by 15000 scientist signatories and contains the following extract:
Humanity is now being given a second notice, as illustrated by these alarming trends (figure 1). We are jeopardizing our future by not reining in our intense but geographically and demographically uneven material consumption and by not perceiving continued rapid population growth as a primary driver behind many ecological and even societal threats (Crist et al. 2017). By failing to adequately to
limit population growth,
reassess the role of an economy rooted in growth,
reduce greenhouse gases,
incentivize renewable energy,
halt defaunation, and
constrain invasive alien species,
humanity is not taking the urgent steps needed to safeguard our imperilled biosphere.
As most political leaders respond to pressure, scientists, media influencers, and lay citizens must insist that their governments take immediate action as a moral imperative to current and future generations of human and other life. With a groundswell of organized grassroots efforts, dogged opposition can be overcome and political leaders compelled to do the right thing. It is also time to re-examine and change our individual behaviors, including limiting our own reproduction (ideally to replacement level at most) and drastically diminishing our per capita consumption of fossil fuels, meat, and other resources.