Recommended books

Jeremy Williams is one of my favourite bloggers who, like this blog and resource platform, is providing material that aims to raise awareness and promote action on behalf of a sustainable future on Spaceship Earth for all its organic passengers and support systems, though he prefers the ‘make wealth history’ title for his blog rather than the spaceship metaphor. Here is an annotated list of five books that he recommends as 2014 draws to a close. They can be added to ‘Catalogue of Resources: Books’ on this website.

COP20 conflicts

The Lima Conference of the Parties (COP 20) continue their long-running failure to achieve any consensus about international collaboration to cut carbon emissions. Two very different commentaries are to be found from the BBC (12.12.14) on the one hand and from the Murgatroyd Blog (08.12.14) on the other hand. Another surprising contribution to the COP 20 debate came from an international declaration  by Catholic bishops on climate change. They are the leaders of upwards of one billion adherents world-wide – around one seventh of all the people on Spaceship Earth. Jeremy Williams comments on and provides a link to this declaration.

Implications of 4 degree global warming

Jeremy William’s blog is my favourite source of material and links on the issues that relate to the well-being or otherwise of our civilisation’s future on Spaceship Earth. In this week’s blog he introduces the World Bank’s Report “4 degrees: Turn down the heat” which firmly links climate change to human development. Here is an extract:

If the planet continues warming to 4°C, climatic conditions, heat and other weather extremes considered highly unusual or unprecedented today would become the new climate normal—a world of increased risks and instability.

The consequences for development would be severe as crop yields decline, water resources change, diseases move into new ranges, and sea levels rise. The task of promoting human development, of ending poverty, increasing global prosperity, and reducing global inequality will be very challenging in a 2°C world, but in a 4°C world there is serious doubt whether this can be achieved at all.

Another Williams blog on the implications of different rates and levels of carbon emissions is here. It is based on the Carbon Brief a website that reports daily on the latest developments and media coverage of climate science and energy policy, with a particular focus on the UK. 

Unpleasant or uninhabitable future?

Lima will be the site for yet another international attempt to frame an agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Today’s semi-optimistic article in the New York Times reports:

“After more than two decades of trying but failing to forge a global pact to halt climate change, United Nations negotiators gathering in South America this week are expressing a new optimism that they may finally achieve the elusive deal.

Even with a deal to stop the current rate of greenhouse gas emissions, scientists warn, the world will become increasingly unpleasant. Without a deal, they say, the world could eventually become uninhabitable for humans.

The aim of negotiators in Lima is, for the first time, to produce an agreement in which every nation commits to a domestic plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, along the model of the November 2014 United States-China agreement. Negotiators expect that by next March, governments will make announcements similar to those made by the United States and China in November

In order to avoid the 3.6 degree increase, global emissions must peak within the next 10 years, going down to half of current levels by midcentury. But the deal being drafted in Lima will not even be enacted until 2020. And the structure of the emerging deal — allowing each country to commit to what it can realistically achieve, given each nation’s domestic politics — means that the initial cuts by countries will not be as stringent as what scientists say is required”.

A powerful documentary film “Disruption” made before the previous Climate Summit held in New York at the UN on 21 September 2014 to mobilise the largest street protest ever seen against the failure to address climate disruption seriously. The film offers a summary of the scientific evidence about human-induced climate disruption, why we are both simultaneously bystanders and perpetrators and how street demonstrations can contribute powerfully to create ‘social tipping points’ that bring about shifts in values and political change.

For a visual account of the biggest climate march ever see this coverage an the website.

Regulation for Nature or Profits?

George Monbiot’s new article continues his David vs. Goliath campaign against government’s collusion with corporate and business interests to demonize government regulation in general and any form of regulation to protect planetary wildlife in particular, when it threatens business profits. He outlines a green paper produced by those seeking to protect the living world  from the predatory ‘Machine World’. This technological impact on the planet is the upstart Goliath that has grown exponentially on Spaceship Earth, especially in the last  60 years of cheap oil energy, at the expense of an living world evolved over 3.5 billion years.

On the same day as Monbiot’s article Paul Krugman in the New York Times wrote this piece on the politicization of  environmental protection relating to ozone emissions. Similar value conflicts on both sides of the Atlantic hold back the preservation of our planet’s well-being and that of its passengers. Profits first; planet second?

World Bank on Climate Change

We are locked in to inevitable global warming according to a new report from the World Bank based on projections  prepared for The World Bank by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics.  The data show that dramatic climate changes, heat and weather extremes are already impacting people, damaging crops and coastlines and putting food, water, and energy security at risk.

There is growing evidence, that even with very ambitious mitigation action, warming close to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels by mid-century is already locked-in to the Earth’s atmospheric system and climate change impacts such as extreme heat events may now be unavoidable.  If the planet continues warming to 4°C, climatic conditions, heat and other weather extremes considered highly unusual or unprecedented today would become the new climate normal—a world of increased risks and instability.

UNESCO on-line Library of Science

A new on-line global library of resources for science teaching and learning was launched on 10 November . The World Library of Science, launched by UNESCO and two partners, will give students and teachers around the world access to the latest science information and the opportunity to create a “global community for science education”, the developers say.

The library ‘contains’ more than 300 articles, 25 eBooks and some 70 videos, as well as a digital platform that “provides a community hub” for learning, according to UNESCO, which created the site jointly with the international Nature Education publishing group and the Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche.

The United Nations agency says it will “dedicate special attention to training teachers and students in least developed countries” in how to use the WLoS, so as to “equalise” and “accelerate” science education.

As reported by  University World News “The world needs more science and more scientists to face today’s global challenges,” said UNESCO’s Director General Irina Bokova. “Achieving this requires better and more accessible science education.” She added that the WLoS project highlights science education to “address global and local problems”.

Copenhagen Accord ignored

The Copenhagen Accord of 2009 was a non-binding international agreement by states to attempt to limit global warming to within 2 degrees Centigrade. It is hardly featured in public dialogue or the mainstream press and this week’s report that the G20 nation states are investing 88 billion USD dollars in subsidising the corporate search for new sources of fossil fuels will also receive little press coverage except in the on-line, non-commercial progressive news outlets. This article in Common Dreams is one of those outlets. The report (a link to the pdf is in the article) recommends the immediate phasing out of these subsidies if the Copenhagen Accord is to mean anything. Another article in Truth-out points out that these huge state subsidies come in the wake of recent news of global emissions rising 2.3 percent in 2013 to set yet another record and marking the largest year-to-year increase in 30 years, the IPCC announced that the world isn’t moving anywhere near fast enough to have a chance at mitigating the impacts of ACD (anthropogenic climate disruption) in any real way.

Technological optimism dismissed

George Monbiot offers, in his blog, a savage  critique of those who fantasise about adapting to global warming rather than trying to solve the root problems of our impact on the planet. While dismissing this technological optimism, he decries the surrender of politicians from taking seriously the scientific evidence of where unbridled consumerism and economic growth are leading. Political defeatism and technological optimism combined are a recipe for trashing our planetary home.

Geoengineering: solution or delusion?

The New York Times is an opinion leader in the US, at least among the liberal progressive community. In November it featured an article that anticipates the  publication of a major new report by the National Academy of Sciences on geo-engineering – ways of intentionally manipulating nature to counter climate change.

One approach outlined in the article is mining and spreading widely the mineral olivine on land and on ocean floors. Olivine absorbs CO2, a process already being used and researched in the Netherlands. A second example is solar radiation management (SRM) – spraying sulfuric acid droplets into the stratosphere to block incoming energy from the sun. Experiments are already underway in the UK and elsewhere.

Those advocating geoengineering argue that effects of climate change may become so severe that significant research should begin now and that the world must start to think about geoengineering — how it might be done and at what cost, who would do it and how it would be governed.

Geoengineering sounds like the ultimate self-deception of our ingenious species. The thought of intentionally manipulating something as huge, complex and not well understood as the atmosphere seems incredibly arrogant until you realise that a similar sort of arrogance – the blind commitment to unrestrained economic growth based on fossil fuel combustion –  this time unintended, is a cause of the problem in the first place.