Month: June 2015

Pope Francis recruits Naomi Klein in climate change battle. #Auspol

She is one of the world’s most high-profile social activists and a ferocious critic of 21st-century capitalism. He is one of the pope’s most senior aides and a professor of climate change economics. But this week the secular radical will join forces with the Catholic cardinal in the latest move by Pope Francis to shift the debate on global warming.
Naomi Klein and Cardinal Peter Turkson are to lead a high-level conference on the environment, bringing together churchmen, scientists and activists to debate climate change action. Klein, who campaigns for an overhaul of the global financial system to tackle climate change, told the Observer she was surprised but delighted to receive the invitation from Turkson’s office.
“The fact that they invited me indicates they’re not backing down from the fight. A lot of people have patted the pope on the head, but said he’s wrong on the economics. I think he’s right on the economics,” she said, referring to Pope Francis’s recent publication of an encyclical on the environment.
Release of the document earlier this month thrust the pontiff to the centre of the global debate on climate change, as he berated politicians for creating a system that serves wealthy countries at the expense of the poorest.
Activists and religious leaders will gather in Rome on Sunday, marching through the Eternal City before the Vatican welcomes campaigners to the conference, which will focus on the UN’s impending climate change summit.
Protesters have chosen the French embassy as their starting point – a Renaissance palace famed for its beautiful frescoes, but more significantly a symbol of the United Nations climate change conference, which will be hosted by Paris this December.
Nearly 500 years since Galileo was found guilty of heresy, the Holy See is leading the rallying cry for the world to wake up and listen to scientists on climate change. Multi-faith leaders will walk alongside scientists and campaigners, hailing from organisations including Greenpeace and Oxfam Italy, marching to the Vatican to celebrate the pope’s tough stance on environmental issues.
The imminent arrival of Klein within the Vatican walls has raised some eyebrows, but the involvement of lay people in church discussions is not without precedent.
Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, delivered the keynote address at a Vatican summit in April on climate change and poverty. Anticipating the encyclical, he said he was depending on the pope’s “moral voice and moral leadership” to speed up action.

Press link for more: Rosie Scammell |

Project solar!

Climate Change

Photo from

It’s summer! The suns out, and the sun is a brilliant source of renewable energy.

Other renewable energy sources include:

  • Wind
  • Ocean
  • Hydropower
  • Biomass
  • Geothermal resources
  • Biofuels

These renewable energy sources can be used to produce electricity and can be sustained forever, meaning that less fossil fuels will have to be burned in order to produce electricity, and therefore there will be reduced emission of harmful gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. These gases would cause the earth to heat up and it would, in time, have drastic effects on all of us, however, at the moment it is affecting those in poverty most seriously, and many are struggling to cope with the destruction and chaos that severe weather such as hurricanes is causing, and this weather is made more likely by climate change.

But it’s easy for us all to make a difference; everyone can…

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David Suzuki: Pope’s Encyclical Is a ‘Scientifically and Morally Valid Call for Radical Change’

David Suzuki: Earth has existed for 4.5 billion years, humans for somewhere around 150,000. But in my brief lifetime—less than 80 years—human populations have exploded exponentially, from two billion to more than seven billion. In that short time, we’ve created consumer societies and decimated the planet’s natural systems, used up resources, filled oceans with plastic and pollution, altered water cycles and upset the Earth’s carbon cycle, disrupting global climate systems.

Our impacts on this small blue planet have been so rapid, widespread and profound that many scientists call this the Anthropocene Epoch. Much of it has coincided with the discovery and exploitation of fossil fuels, which showed great promise when I was a child. They were abundant and we didn’t understand the consequences of recklessly burning them. Cars were designed to use lots of gas and propel oil industry profits, not to conserve energy. Factories were built to create products and increase distribution efficiencies.
No longer confined to growing food and providing agricultural services, people moved to cities and, freed from the constraints of limited access to resources, grew rapidly in number, dramatically increasing consumption.
Because our technological prowess has grown faster than our knowledge, wisdom and foresight, much of what we’ve created is now crashing down around us—battered by pollution, ecosystem collapse, species extinction, resource scarcity, inequality, climate change and overpopulation.
Pope Francis recently put humanity’s situation in context—and offered hope for the future. Regardless of how you feel about religion or the Catholic Church, or even some ideas in the Pope’s encyclical, there’s no denying it contains a powerful, scientifically and morally valid call for radical change that will reach an audience far beyond the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.
In his June 18 address, the Pope called on the world—not just Catholics—to recognize the need for change in the face of ecological crises such as human-caused global warming and the failure of growth-fueled market economics to facilitate human survival, happiness and prosperity. “Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years,” he said.
In his wide-ranging address, Pope Francis spoke about pollution, climate change, water, biodiversity, inequality, poverty, economics, consumerism and spirituality. “The pace of consumption, waste and environmental change has so stretched the planet’s capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsustainable as it is, can only precipitate catastrophes, such as those which even now periodically occur in different areas of the world,” he said. “The effects of the present imbalance can only be reduced by our decisive action, here and now.”
He also called out those stalling or preventing action to confront environmental problems, especially global warming: “Obstructionist attitudes, even on the part of believers, can range from denial of the problem to indifference, nonchalant resignation or blind confidence in technical solutions.”
Connecting the dots between environmental degradation and inequality, he urged people to “integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor.”
Although parts of the address are bleak, the Pope argued that open conversation and changes in thinking, acting and governing could bring about positive change, even for the economy: “Productive diversification offers the fullest possibilities to human ingenuity to create and innovate, while at the same time protecting the environment and creating more sources of employment.”
And, he noted, “Human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start, despite their mental and social conditioning.”
The Pope joins a diverse global chorus of people calling for changes in our destructive lifestyle to confront crises such as climate change and the ever-growing gap between poor and rich.

Press link for more: David Suzuki |

Pope Francis’s Encyclical Makes Waves from Brazil to the Philippines. #Auspol 

With the release of Pope Francis’ landmark encyclical last week, it seems the whole world was talking about climate change. Two Catholic Climate Reality Leaders share their perspectives from Brazil and the Philippines.

“We need to strengthen the conviction that we are one single human family. There are no frontiers or barriers, political or social, behind which we can hide, still less is there room for the globalization of indifference.” —Pope Francis
Although we hail from two different continents, speak many different languages and represent two different hemispheres of this Earth, last week was momentous for both of us. That’s because before we became Climate Reality Leaders, we were Catholics, each guided by our faith to love God’s Earth and be good stewards of creation—all living creatures and the planet.
Last week, Pope Francis delivered a historic encyclical—a letter from the pope to Catholic communities around the world—about the interrelatedness of the economy, the environment, and equity entitled Laudato Si’: On Care For Our Common Home.
Pope Francis is not just writing to Catholics in his encyclical. He also hopes it will help people around the world—no matter their faith or creed—understand how the destruction and degradation of our environment is not only harming the home we all share, but also having especially devastating consequences for the poorest among us. It’s a reminder that if we want to solve climate change and poverty, we need to address both at the same time, and that by caring for our world and pursuing a more sustainable way of life, we can lift up the neediest out of poverty and ensure a peaceful, prosperous, and healthy world for future generations.
The eco (or green) encyclical, Laudato Si’, acknowledges that mankind is responsible for climate change and its devastating effects, especially on the poor. Although the encyclical is not a scientific document, it aims to engage society on the facts of climate science and create a sense of urgency for mankind to take action:
“Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day. Its worst impact will probably be felt by developing countries in coming decades. Many of the poor live in areas particularly affected by phenomena related to warming, and their means of subsistence are largely dependent on natural reserves and ecosystemic services such as agriculture, fishing and forestry. They have no other financial activities or resources which can enable them to adapt to climate change or to face natural disasters, and their access to social services and protection is very limited.” (Pope Francis, Laudato Si’: On Care For Our Common Home, no. 15)
Faith can move mountains and, combined with scientific facts, can open people’s hearts and minds in a powerful way. The pope clearly sees that fighting climate change and restoring the Earth’s ecosystems is a moral duty we have to our fellow humans, to future generations and to Creation itself. This is a message that we find in the sacred texts of many other religions. Caring for the Earth is caring for the common good.

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The Arctic Is Speaking Truths About Climate Change. Is Anyone Listening? #Auspol

The Arctic is screaming. Can you hear her in the floods of Houston, the drought in California and the epic snowfall in Boston this past winter? In Alaska, the only Arctic state in the United States, it was a record-smashing 89 degrees in Anchorage at 6:30 at night on June 15, 2015, one of several 80 degree days. Historically, June temperatures fluctuate between the mid-60s to mid-70s. Currently, 238 wildfires, burning 408 square miles, are forcing the evacuation of residents in several communities. Fifty-seven new fires ignited on June 22.
Our collective failure to limit greenhouse gas emissions has pushed atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide — the primary driver of climate change — to levels not seen for millions of years, when the Earth did not support human life. These increases are causing significant changes in the Earth system and most profoundly in the Arctic. In the last half-century, Alaska and the Arctic have warmed twice as fast as the global average.
In Alaska, record-breaking high temperatures, lack of snowfall and decreased Arctic sea ice are colliding to accelerate dramatic environmental changes. In 2014, plants grew in January in Anchorage during a 10-day warm spell when temperatures hovered in the 40s and reached 50 degrees on January 27. In August 2014 children swam in the frigid Chukchi Sea, north of the Arctic Circle, to get relief from a heat wave. Winter snows have shifted to winter rains.
This past year was the lowest snow season on record in Anchorage, with no snowfall accumulation over four inches. February’s record-breaking temperatures in the 40s was followed in March, when snow covered the ground for only the first five days of the month — that snow cover was less than an inch when 10-13 inches of snow typically covers the city. Gardeners who traditionally wait until Memorial Day weekend, planted as early as April. May was the hottest on record and hovered in the 70s in Anchorage and the 90s further north — reaching this temperature earlier than Atlanta Georgia. In Barrow, perched on the edge of the Arctic Ocean, temperatures soared for three consecutive days, including a record high on May 19 that was eight degrees above the previous daily record set in 2009. To the south in Fairbanks, temperatures reached 86 degrees, breaking the old daily record by six degrees.

Arctic sea ice is also rapidly diminishing. Historically, Arctic sea ice reaches its maximum extent in March, but in 2015, Arctic sea ice was at its lowest maximum extent since record keeping began in 1979. In the past four decades, Arctic sea ice has decreased 40 percent, with projections that it will disappear entirely during summer within the next 30 years or less. This is bringing catastrophic consequences to the communities, cultures and wildlife of the region.
And, ultimately, to those beyond the Arctic, as these changes impact the polar jet stream and contribute to the extreme weather occurring in lower latitudes, such as Hurricane Sandy in New York in 2012, the 2015 blizzards in Boston, Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in 2013, and Cyclone Pam in 2015 in Vanuatu — which wiped out that island nation in the South Pacific with sustained winds of 155 mph.
Despite the vast differences in wealth, development and technological and organizational resources, no country in the world has yet been able to adapt to these weather furies. What place in the world currently has the capacity to withstand 155 mph sustained winds? A focus on adaptation efforts is urgently needed to reduce the death, damage and destruction caused by extreme weather events
But extreme weather events are not the only environmental events challenging our ability to adapt to climate change. Accelerating rates of erosion, caused by permafrost thawing and decreased Arctic sea ice, are threatening the infrastructure and the very lives of residents of many coastal communities in Alaska. Situations are so dire that several indigenous communities have decided that the relocation of their entire village is their only viable long-term adaptation strategy. State and federal government officials concur, but not a single community has yet relocated, placing residents in extreme danger from autumn storms when hurricane-force winds batter Alaska’s western coast. Only one rural Alaskan village, Newtok, is in a relocation process. The lack of a governance framework — including the policies and protocols to determine when and how a community needs to relocate — has been a major barrier. No federal or state government agency in the United States has the mandate or funding to relocate communities.
The issue of relocation is not isolated to Alaska but also impacts millions of people residing in low-lying coastal areas around the world. No relocation institutional framework exists anywhere in the world. Yet the land on which people live and maintain livelihoods will permanently disappear, swallowed by rising sea levels.

Press link for more: Robin Bronen |

Society will collapse by 2040 due to catastrophic food shortages, says study #Auspol

A scientific model has suggested that society will collapse in less than three decades due to catastrophic food shortages if policies do not change.
The model, developed by a team at Anglia Ruskin University’s Global Sustainability Institute, does not account for society reacting to escalating crises by changing global behaviour and policies.
However the model does show that our current way of life appears to be unsustainable and could have dramatic worldwide consequences.
Dr Aled Jones, the Director of the Global Sustainability Institute, told Insurge Intelligence: “We ran the model forward to the year 2040, along a business-as-usual trajectory based on ‘do-nothing’ trends — that is, without any feedback loops that would change the underlying trend.
“The results show that based on plausible climate trends, and a total failure to change course, the global food supply system would face catastrophic losses, and an unprecedented epidemic of food riots.
In this scenario, global society essentially collapses as food production falls permanently short of consumption.”

The model follows a report from Lloyds of London which has evaluated the extent of the impact of a shock scenario on crop production, and has concluded that the “global food system is under chronic pressure.”
The report said: “The global food system is under chronic pressure to meet an ever-rising demand, and its vulnerability to acute disruptions is compounded by factors such as climate change, water stress, ongoing globalisation and heightening political instability.
“A global production shock of the kind set out in this scenario would be expected to generate major economic and political impacts that could affect clients across a very wide spectrum of insurance classes. This analysis has presented the initial findings for some of the key risk exposures.
“Global demand for food is on the rise, driven by unprecedented growth in the world’s population and widespread shifts in consumption patterns as countries develop.”

Press link for more: Louis Dore |

Wall Street Pumps Billions Into Renewable Energy. #Auspol #ClimateChange

After years of lofty promises, Wall Street believes the renewable energy industry can produce a payoff.
In just a few years, investors have gone from zero to billions in the amount of money they’re pumping into renewable-energy companies and environmentally friendly projects.
Tax-equity funds and specialty financial tools like “green bonds” and yieldcos have become increasingly popular. And investments in the renewable-energy companies that benefit from these financial tools have far outperformed those in oil-and-gas drilling and coal mining since the start of 2013, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, a research arm of Bloomberg LP.
Analysts, bankers and investors at the Renewable Energy Finance Forum in New York this week were ebullient. Many see the sector as past a tipping point: Skepticism has melted among the financial brokers of the energy world, and they have started to fund the renewable-power sector as a legitimate upcoming rival to fossil fuels.
“Wall Street is really warming up to this,” said Kevin Birzer, chief executive of Tortoise Capital Advisors, which manages $18 billion. “And I think we’ll see a lot more of it.”
U.S. solar companies had closed a cumulative $2.6 billion in tax-equity funds by late 2014, up from nothing about five years before. “Green bonds,” a type of debt designed to fund environmentally friendly projects, drew $40 billion in investment in 2014, about eight times what it had seen in 2012. Yieldcos have had $4 billion in issuances announced this year, up from about $2.5 billion in each of the last two years, according to Bloomberg NEF.
Including renewable-energy assets into financial packages like securitized debt, green bonds and yieldcos have been one of the biggest sparks for new investment. Many investment fund managers avoid the risk of direct investment in real estate and infrastructure, so these financial tools allow them to put money behind those same projects in a way that is designed to diffuse the risk. They can also market the investments to clients as environmentally friendly.
Yieldcos are a corporate structure akin to master limited partnerships (MLPs) and real estate investment trusts (REITs), designed to produce steady dividends.
Tortoise ramped up its investments in yieldcos starting in 2014, Mr. Birzer said. The firm targets long-term investments and has confidence in yieldcos because their assets come with purchase contracts that guarantee revenue for 20 years, he added. Big gains by yieldcos have helped the firm’s Tortoise Select Opportunity Fund gain 9% this year, a spokeswoman said.
Many investors have also become convinced that, beyond fancy financing tools, renewable power can simply compete. The costs for a new wind power in the U.S. and Europe have now fallen below $100 a megawatt-hour, about on par with coal, according to Bloomberg NEF. It projects solar- and wind-power costs will continue to decline around the world, largely falling behind coal and gas in the decades to come.

It’s Not Just Sao Paulo — Much of South America and Caribbean Swelters Under Extreme Drought


In Sao Paulo today, a Latin American megalopolis that is now home to 20 million people, public water supplies are cut off for as long as three days at a time. But despite this draconian rationing, the Cantareira Reservoir sits at 9 percent below dead pool. A level so low that utility managers had to install new pipes into the reservoir bottom to tap water supply dregs. A controversial policy due to the fact that drawing water from so low in the pool both results in fish kills and in much more polluted water going into rivers (like the foaming Tiete) and the drinking and bathing supply.

Cantareira Reservoir bone dry

(The Cantareira Reservoir has been bone dry for more than a year and a half now. Severe water rationing has managed to keep levels about steady for the time being. Image source: UOL.)

At least the dramatic cuts in…

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Oslo builds its bees a highway of flowers


Oslo is transforming a strip through the city into a series of bee pastures — parks, and green roofs, and balcony flower beds — each a short flight from the next. I like to imagine that from the air you could look down and see ribbon of blossoms, stretching from one side of the city to the other.

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 10.51.28

According to theGuardian:

Oslo’s “bee highway” aims to give the insects a safe passage through the city, lined with relays providing food and shelter – the first such system in the world, according to the organizers.

Participants in the project – state bodies, companies, associations and private individuals – are invited to post their contribution on a website (, which maps out the bees’ route across the city.

Like many living creatures, insects are struggling to survive in the world that humans have altered and shaped. (I’ve been writing about bees’…

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What can cure fossil fuel dependency and treat bipolar disorder?


Lithium is not just the anthem of millions of angst-ridden teens circa 1992 — it’s also a pretty wild mineral! As one key element of electric cars and Tesla’s new mega-batteries, it’s been touted by some as the “new oil.” And occasionally it happens that things that can save the planet can also save our wildly complicated, unpredictable brains from themselves: Lithium is also a potentially life-changing treatment for bipolar disorder.

This weekend’s issue of the New York Times Magazine features Jaime Lowe’s beautiful, in-depth exploration of her decades-long battle with bipolar disorder, and how the material that can make a less fossil fuel-dependent lifestyle possible also allows people diagnosed with manic depression to have normal, functional lives.

Lowe writes:

The lithium we have on Earth now — part stardust, part primordial dust and part earth dust — is a constituent part of our planet, one that sometimes shapes personalities. The thought…

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