Month: November 2015

How 2015’s record-breaking El Niño emerged on a warming planet #Auspol #EarthToParis #COP21

Between the official arrival of El Niño in March and NOAA’s November update, the scope of the long-awaited global phenomenon is becoming clear: the 2015 El Niño is already setting records and is on track to becoming the strongest event ever recorded.The official classification will wait for three months of data, but model estimates suggest the 2015 event will grow even stronger and could top the high mark set by the 1997-98 event.
During the week of November 8 through 14, El Niño set a new record high for sea surface temperature in the central eastern Pacific, the most closely tracked indicator for measuring the strength of El Niño/La Niña events. At 5.4°F (3.0˚C), the weekly anomaly was 7 percent higher than the 5.0°F (2.8˚C) anomaly for the week prior, a reading that in turn had tied the high mark set by the 1997 El Niño.
The various factors that scientists watch to forecast the near-term future of these events, including Kelvin waves and westerly wind bursts, suggest that ­the current El Niño will grow stronger. The model estimates th­at have most closely tracked the progress of this El Niño suggest that it will become the strongest on record when measured against the traditional three-month yardstick.
While this El Niño is unprecedented, it is not wholly unexpected. For several years now the oceans have been swallowing and drawing down much of the heat that has been accumulating in the atmosphere, including the extra heat trapped in the atmosphere by the growing blanket of carbon pollution. That heat is now reemerging.
Predicting how El Niños evolve in a warming planet is extremely challenging. The factors involved are far from well understood. However, the most recent model projections tell us that we may expect extreme El Niños (and La Niñas) to happen more frequently. Records tend to be broken when natural variation runs in the same direction as climate change, and this El Niño is moving along on a record-breaking path.
Extreme El Niño Impacts 
 Global warming has already amplified this El Niño. Together, these forces instigated the third-ever global coral bleaching event, which scientists expect will damage almost 95 percent of US coral reefs by the end of 2015. Global warming also supercharged this El Niño to drive a record-breaking storm season, with 23 Category 4 and 5 storms in the Northern hemisphere, far above the old record of 18 set in 1997 and 2004. Hurricane Patricia was the strongest hurricane ever measured, by some measurements.
Predicting exactly what this El Niño will do to extreme weather in the United States is challenging. We are now in uncharted territory. This El Niño is not only warmer where it counts, but its effect appears to be reaching much further west than El Niños in the past. It may also be connected to the record-breaking ocean temperatures along the west coast of Baja and further north.
There are also other extremely odd features in the climate system this year that can throw a curve ball into the complex work behind predicting El Niño-driven global weather patterns. One such example is the “the cold blob” in the north Atlantic that appears to be caused by ice water running off the melting Greenland ice sheet and is affecting ocean currents.

“Our scientific understanding of El Niño has increased greatly in recent years. However, this event is playing out in uncharted territory. Our planet has altered dramatically because of climate change […] So this naturally occurring El Niño event and human induced climate change may interact and modify each other in ways which we have never before experienced. Even before the onset of El Niño, global average surface temperatures had reached new records. El Niño is turning up the heat even further.”

-World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Secretary-General Michel Jarraud. 

While the exact course of the extreme rains driven by this El Niño are difficult to predict with confidence, those rains are likely to be charged with extra precipitation added in by global warming. A warmer atmosphere holds more moisture, and just as a bigger bucket dumps more water when it empties, climate models project that El Niño rains are likely to dump more water wherever they ultimately fall.
For many other areas of the world, however, El Niño means drought. And here, too, climate change is likely to intensify the event, bringing hotter temperatures that dry out soils and melt snow packs. In California, the impact of higher temperatures on the state’s critical Sierra Nevada snowpack might offset some of the hoped-for precipitation brought by El Niño.
The regional features of our climate system are becoming harder to predict due to climate change. Disaster usually strikes when a threshold is crossed. Our economic infrastructure has been built to withstand the known historical extremes; similarly, our natural ecosystems have evolved to cope with those same extremes. When faced with new extremes, however, these systems often collapse. The rising unpredictability of regional changes like El Niño magnifies the risks we face from extreme events.

Press link for more: Climate Code Red

Pregnant Silence #Auspol #EarthToParis #COP21

It’s about time we discussed the real population crisis.

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 18th November 2015
This column is about the population crisis. About the breeding that’s laying waste to the world’s living systems. But it’s probably not the population crisis you’re thinking of. This is about another one, that we seem to find almost impossible to discuss.
You’ll hear a lot about population in the next three weeks, as the Paris climate summit approaches. Across the airwaves and on the comment threads it will invariably be described as “the elephant in the room”. When people are not using their own words, it means they are not thinking their own thoughts. Ten thousand voices each ask why no one is talking about it. The growth in human numbers, they say, is our foremost environmental threat.
At their best, population campaigners seek to extend women’s reproductive choices. Some 225 million women have an unmet need for contraception. If this need were answered, the impact on population growth would be significant, though not decisive: the annual growth rate of 83 million would be reduced to 62m (1). But contraception is rarely limited only by the physical availability of contraceptives. In most cases, it’s about power: women are denied control of their wombs. The social transformations they need are wider and deeper than donations from the other side of the world are likely to achieve.
At their worst, they seek to shift the blame from their own environmental impacts. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that so many post-reproductive white men are obsessed with human population growth, as it’s about the only environmental problem of which they can wash their hands. Nor, I believe, is it a coincidence that of all such topics this is the least tractable. When there is almost nothing to be done, there is no requirement to act.
Such is the momentum behind population growth, an analysis in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences discovered, that were every government to adopt the one-child policy China has just abandoned, there would still be as many people on Earth at the end of this century as there are today. If two billion people were wiped out by a catastrophe in mid-century, the planet would still hold a billion more by 2100 than it does now.
If we want to reduce our impacts this century, the paper concludes, it’s consumption we must address. Population growth is outpaced by the growth in our consumption of almost all resources. There is enough to meet everyone’s need, even in a world of 10 billion people. There is not enough to meet everyone’s greed, even in a world of 2 billion people.
So let’s turn to a population crisis over which we do have some influence. I’m talking about the growth in livestock numbers. Human numbers are rising at roughly 1.2% a year. Livestock numbers are rising at around 2.4% a year. By 2050, the world’s living systems will have to support about 120m tonnes of extra human, and 400m tonnes of extra farm animals(2).
Raising them already uses three quarters of the world’s agricultural land. One third of our cereal crops are used to feed them. This may rise to roughly half by 2050. More people will starve as a result, because the poor rely mainly on grain for their subsistence, and diverting it to livestock raises the price. Now the grain that farm animals eat is being supplemented by oil crops, particularly soya, for which the forests and savannahs of South America are being cleared at shocking rates.
This might seem counter-intuitive, but were we to eat soya, rather than meat, the clearance of natural vegetation required to supply us with the same amount of protein would decline by 94%. Producing protein from chickens requires three times as much land as protein from soybeans. Pork needs nine times, beef 32 times.
A recent paper in the journal Science of the Total Environment suggests that our consumption of meat is likely to be “the leading cause of modern species extinctions”. Not only is livestock farming the major reason for habitat destruction and the killing of predators, but its waste products are overwhelming the world’s capacity to absorb them. Factory farms in the US generate 13 times as much sewage as the human population. The dairy farms in Tulare county, California produce five times as much as New York City.
Freshwater life is being wiped out across the world by farm manure. In England, as I reported last week, the system designed to protect us from the tide of crap has comprehensively broken down. Dead zones now extend from many coasts, as farm sewage erases ocean life across thousands of square kilometres.
Livestock farming causes around 14% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions: slightly more than the output of the world’s cars, lorries, buses, trains, ships and planes. If you eat soya, your emissions per unit of protein are 20 times lower than eating pork or chicken, and 150 times lower than eating beef.
So why is hardly anyone talking about the cow, pig, sheep and chicken in the room? Why are there no government campaigns to reduce the consumption of animal products, just as they sometimes discourage our excessive use of electricity? A survey by the Royal Institute of International Affairs found that people are not unwilling to change their diets, once they become aware of the problem, but that many have no idea that livestock farming damages the living world.
It’s not as if eating less meat and dairy will harm us. If we did as our doctors advise, our environmental impacts would decline in step with heart disease, strokes, diabetes and cancer. British people eat, on average, slightly more than their bodyweight in meat every year, while Americans consume another 50%: wildly more, in both cases, than is good for us or the rest of life on Earth.
But while plenty in the rich world are happy to discuss the dangers of brown people reproducing, the other population crisis scarcely crosses the threshold of perception. Livestock numbers present a direct moral challenge, as in this case we have agency. Hence the pregnant silence.
While the number of unintended pregnancies would fall by 52m (or 70%), this does not mean that the number of babies would fall by the same amount. The Guttmacher/UNFPA report breaks down the outcome thus: “21 million fewer unplanned births; 24 million fewer abortions; six million fewer miscarriages; and 0.6 million fewer stillbirths.”

Additional global meat consumption by this date is estimated to be roughly 200 million tonnes. Boned meat comprises roughly half the weight of a living animal. So total additional livestock biomass will be in the order of 400 million tonnes, or 400 billion kg. The average human weight is 52 kg and the anticipated rise in population by 2050 is 2.3 billion (the median estimate is 9.7 billion by that date). So the additional human weight is likely to be somewhere around 120 billion kg.

Press link for more: George Monbiot |


A Successful Climate Change Conference Is The Best Response To ISIS Brutality #Auspol #COP21 

Certain people have perhaps been thinking, after the immense shock of the attacks of November 13, that the only thing that matters from now on, as a response to terrorism, is a security reinforcement, and of course, a reexamination of our priorities– since ISIS has declared war on us all.
However, people forget that the war that’s been declared on us is also psychological. The report released by ISIS to claim the massacre in Paris uses all the tools of conditioning and psychological manipulation: a turning of tables, presenting the Islamic State as a victim instead of an assassin, while promising to continue to spread terror, and criticizing policy makers for creating internal divisions– a criticism intended to bring about self-doubt.
Our first response should be to understand this psychological tactic, so that we don’t allow them to win. No, we do not have to be guilt-tripped into fighting these barbaric groups that slit throats, rape, torture and kill innocent civilians in the most cowardly ways possible. No, our values are strong enough to refuse to sink to their level, and instead, to turn towards reinforcing national unity against their aggression. No, we do not doubt that enlightenment and democratic progress are strong enough to stand up to such behavior, which is sending us back to prehistoric times. No, we are not afraid, and it’s because we have no doubt that we will continue to live as we choose, and to defend the policies that we believe to be essential.
Amongst these is the climate change issue, which will determine, in the long term, the survival of mankind, and, in the short term, the demographic balance. Because, contrary to what many people would say –especially those who are excited about averting the dangers that an agreement on climate change may pose for them– there are definitely several undeniable links between these barbaric and fascist acts by radical Islamists and the climate.
The most important link is called: oil. ISIS lives off all sorts smuggling and trafficking all kinds of goods, but in particular, on aid coming from oil-rich countries, and oil smuggling. This raises questions about both direct and indirect consumers of this contraband oil, and about the reasons why wells supplying ISIS have not yet been neutralized. There are some ambiguities on the part of a number of countries that claim to be fighting ISIS. Consequently, reducing the locations of oil and hydrocarbons, developing energy autonomy of each country through renewable energy, and fighting the omnipotence of oil producers will all help to reduce the power of the ISIS.
But above all, getting in the way of the COP 21 meeting would quadruple the assassins’ reasons to attack. First, by demonstrating that they have won a part of the psychological war, by scaring us enough to renounce a major international conference. Second, postponing a major conference to a later date, when its main objective is to reduce the dependence on oil and gas, and therefore indirectly weaken the ISIS economy, would be unwise. Third, by giving them the priceless gift of putting the defence of mankind as a second priority, we forego the value that underpins universal human progress. It is these values that give us our strength, our cohesion and, frankly, our superiority compared to the barbarians, who only seek to spread terror, enslave women and reduce them to commodities (see Boko Haram), and to lead young to believe that killing people will take you to paradise. Finally, the consequences of climate change are forming the conditions of terrorism; mass migration tied to poor weather has destabilized a number of areas around the world, inevitably transforming them into zones of conflict.
It goes without saying that humanity is imperfect, the behavior of countries in the North is sometimes questionable, and that democracy may not have been fully achieved. But that does not mean that humanism and democracy are not the best systems that humanity could have invented to protect and defend us. That’s the reason we’re not afraid, and why all attempts of manipulation by ISIS will remain in vain. The COP 21 conference will surely take place, and we hope that it will be a great success, as well as a huge slap in the face for the ISIS butchers.
This post first appeared on HuffPost France. It has been translated into English and edited for clarity.

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In Greenland, another major glacier comes undone#Auspol #EarthToParis #COP21

It’s big. It’s cold. And it’s melting into the world’s ocean.

It’s Zachariae Isstrom, the latest in a string of Greenland glaciers to undergo rapid change in our warming world. A new NASA-funded study published today in the journal Science finds that Zachariae Isstrom broke loose from a glaciologically stable position in 2012 and entered a phase of accelerated retreat. Theconsequences will be felt for decades to come.

The reason? Zachariae Isstrom is big. It drains ice from an area of 35,440 square miles (91,780 square kilometers). That’s about 5 percent of the Greenland Ice Sheet. All by itself, it holds enough water to raise global sea level by more than 18 inches (46 centimeters) if it were to melt completely. And now it’s on a crash diet, losing 5 billion tons of mass every year. All that ice is crumbling into the North Atlantic Ocean.

North Greenland glaciers are changing rapidly,” said lead author Jeremie Mouginot, an assistant researcher in the Department of Earth System Science at the University of California, Irvine. “The shape and dynamics of Zachariae Isstrom have changed dramatically over the last few years. The glacier is now breaking up and calving high volumes of icebergs into the ocean, which will result in rising sea levels for decades to come.”

Mouginot and his colleagues from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California; and the University of Kansas, Lawrence, set out to study the changes taking place at Zachariae Isstrom.

The team used data from aerial surveys conducted by NASA’s Operation IceBridge and satellite-based observations acquired by multiple international space agencies (NASA, ESA, CSA, DLR, JAXA and ASI) coordinated by the Polar Space Task Group. The NASA satellite data used are from the joint NASA/USGS Landsat program. The various tools used — including a highly sensitive radar sounder, gravimeter and laser profiling systems, coupled with radar and optical images from space — monitor and record changes in the shape, size and position of glacial ice over long time periods, providing precise data on the state of Earth’s polar regions.

The scientists determined the bottom of Zachariae Isstrom is being rapidly eroded by warmer ocean water mixed with growing amounts of meltwater from the ice sheet surface. “Ocean warming has likely played a major role in triggering [the glacier’s] retreat,” Mouginot said, “but we need more oceanographic observations in this critical sector of Greenland to determine its future.”
“Zachariae Isstrom is being hit from above and below,” said the study’s senior author Eric Rignot, Chancellor’s Professor of Earth system science at UCI, and Joint Faculty Appointee at JPL. “The top of the glacier is melting away as a result of decades of steadily increasing air temperatures, while its underside is compromised by currents carrying warmer ocean water, and the glacier is now breaking away into bits and pieces and retreating into deeper ground.”
Adjacent to Zachariae Isstrom is another large glacier, Nioghalvfjerdsfjorden, which is also melting rapidly but is receding at a slower rate because it’s protected by an inland hill. The two glaciers make up 12 percent of the Greenland ice sheet and would boost global sea levels by more than 39 inches (99 centimeters) if they fully collapsed.
The sector where these two glaciers reside is one of three major marine-based basins in Greenland, along with Jakobshavn Isbrae in central west Greenland and the Petermann-Humboldt sector in central north Greenland. The latter two sectors hold enough water to raise global sea level by 2 feet (0.6 meters) each, and both are also undergoing significant changes at present. The authors conclude it is likely that Nioghalvfjerdsfjorden and Petermann-Humboldt glaciers will lose their ice shelves in coming years, further increasing Greenland’s future contributions to global sea level rise.
“Not long ago, we wondered about the effect on sea levels if Earth’s major glaciers in the polar regions were to start retreating,” Rignot noted. “We no longer need to wonder; for a couple of decades now, we’ve been able to directly observe the results of climate warming on polar glaciers. The changes are staggering and are now affecting the four corners of Greenland.”
In 2015, NASA kicked off a new six-year field campaign, Oceans Melting Greenland, which will examine ocean conditions around Greenland affecting the Ice Sheet. For more information on OMG, visit
Ongoing research into the health of ice sheets and glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica is supported by funding from NASA’s Cryospheric Sciences Program.
For more information on the study, visit

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Desertification: The people whose land is turning to dust #Auspol #EarthToParis #COP21

The UN predicts over 50 million people will be forced to leave their homes by 2020 because their land has turned to desert. This is already happening in Senegal, writes Laeila Adjovi.Cattle herder Khalidou Badara took me up a hill in Louga, northern Senegal, to describe to me how his area has changed.

“When I was a child, I did not even dare to walk up to here because the vegetation was so dense.

“But these past few years, the wind and sand have been taking over.

“There are almost no more trees, and the grass does not grow anymore, and so each year, we have to go further and further away to find grazing for our cattle.”

His life has become more complicated because of desertification.

He’s not the only one. The UN says land degradation affects 1.5 billion people globally.

Desertification is the persistent degradation of dry land ecosystems by human activities and by climate change.

It translates into scarcer rains and decreasing soil quality, which leads to less grazing for livestock and lower crop yield.

Lost land

Each year, UN figures say, 12 million hectares of land are lost. That’s land where 20 million tonnes of grain could have been grown.

People living off the land feel they have no choice but to migrate.

In another part of Louga – the village of Pendayayake – I met Cheikhou Lo.

He had sown hectares of peanuts and beans in the hope of selling them.

But lack of rain and soil erosion mean the peanuts and beans have not ripened.

His failed harvest is only good to feed animals.

Years ago, there was more rain and we were able to produce more,” he told me.

“We could live on the crops until the next rainy season. Now, with that drought, we can’t work.

“If we had boreholes and sufficient means, we could grow vegetables, plant trees, and we could stay here”.

“But if not, many have to leave and go elsewhere to be able to survive.”

Forced to leave

His 27-year-old nephew Amadou Souare added that in the village there is only one borehole and not enough means to dig another one.

“Here we live off the land,” he said.

“And if that does not work, we are in so much trouble.”

Many young people from the village have left. Cheikou Lo’s own children, now adults, went to find jobs in Dakar.

Some have travelled to Gabon, others are planning to go to Europe or Brazil.

“We would rather they stayed here to develop the village but with no jobs and no means, how can we ask them to stay?” he asked.

A wall of trees

One project is trying to slow the effects of desertification.

The Great Green Wall initiative aims to create a barrier of vegetation in vulnerable areas across the continent, from Senegal to Djibouti.

The organisation says hundreds of thousands of trees have already been planted in the region.

In Senegal, the wall is intended to make a 545km (338 mile) long curtain of vegetation.

The organisation also makes fodder banks for herders, vegetable gardens to prevent malnutrition and teaches children how to protect the environment.

The idea is to meet minimal living conditions so people can survive.

After all, El Hadj Goudiaby from the national agency of the Great Green Wall explained, the trees will only have an impact in 10-15 years’ time.

“Can people here really wait that long? No.”

Pushed by the desert

Month by month, people continue to leave. A few hours away, Dakar, the capital city, offers hope of a better life.

Malik Souare grew up in Pendayayake.

Unable to live off the land, he decided to move to Dakar, and found a job as a driver.

But now, he dreams of going even further away.

“You know, everyone wants to get ahead. So I would prefer to leave. Go to England maybe. That is the place where my hopes are now,” he said.

For more and more rural communities at the mercy of the environment, migration appears to be the only choice.

According to the UN, over 50 million people could move from the desertified areas of sub-Saharan Africa towards North Africa and Europe by 2020.

Pushed by the desert and pulled by opportunity, more and more people like Mr Souare will picture their future abroad.

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Map: Ocean warming could push marine species beyond their limits – Carbon Brief

GarryRogers Nature Conservation

How a warming ocean affects marine animals is about more than how high temperatures get. It also matters whether or not fish and other creatures can tolerate that change, a new study says.

The map below, published in a new paper in Nature, identifies which present-day habitats are likely to warm in excess of what shallow-water fish and invertebrates can cope with.

The study considers almost 4,000 different species in habitats around the world. The map colours indicate the proportion of existing species that are expected to be pushed beyond their limits by 2025 (upper map) and 2115 (lower map) under a high emissions scenario.

The dark blue shading illustrates where conditions will get too warm for only 10% of species. At the other end of the scale, regions with red shading are likely to exceed the tolerance of 100% of species. For the 2115 map, the red shading covers…

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Holding big polluters accountable for #ClimateChange #Auspol #ecocide 

A few weeks ago the first ever human rights legal action seeking the accountability of the 50 big polluters was launched. Filed by Filipino typhoon survivors and several environmental organizations, it demands that the Philippines Human Rights Commission (CHR) investigate and acknowledge the complicity of 50 investor-owned fossil fuel companies in causing extreme weather events.

This comes from a consensus that the typhoons and catastrophic storms that annually batter the Philippines and many other small island nations, are exacerbated by climate change caused by the burning of fossil fuels by distant and faceless energy companies. People in the Philippines know that they are at the end of a terrible chain reaction that destroys homes, ruins health and takes lives and livelihoods. It violates their basic human rights, so they, like many others, are starting to seek climate justice.

They are part of a growing number of people that will no longer stand for companies—despite knowledge of the harms associated with their products—continuing to engorge themselves on profit at the expense of the climate and human lives. These companies are morally bound to help communities at the frontline of climate change while financing a just transition to a 100 percent renewable energy future.

Cases of negligence, like the May 2014 Soma mine disaster in Turkey, which took the lives of 311 workers and injured 80 others and litigation by communities in Peru and Ecuador against Texaco/Chevron over claims of pollution are examples of people taking a stand against how fossil fuel companies do business. The Philippines’ submission is a reflection of an understanding that fossil fuel companies are acting in violation of human rights in and of itself, no matter how carefully the company undertakes their activity. In short, we and many others are declaring: it’s not the way you do business, it’s the business itself.
This story of many fossil fuel companies is sewn together by incompetence, corruption and greed. It is a history of companies who relentlessly drive forward their business with an irresponsible outlook and lack of empathy for people and the planet. However, in the era of climate impacts and extreme weather events, the story is changing.
The top 50 investor-owned polluters under public scrutiny are taken from a list of 90 entities who, according to a report by Rick Heede, are responsible for 63 percent of the carbon dioxide and methane emitted between 1751 and 2010.
Coalitions of affected communities are developing jurisprudence that recognizes impacts of climate change as a breach of human rights. If successful, this recognition will lay the foundations for what is really required: attribution and action.
The petition was submitted on behalf of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement and other local NGOs, with the support of the International Trade Union Confederation, Amnesty International, NGO legal experts and thousands of individuals. The broad coalition was put together because success in fighting climate change will only occur when organizations and individuals join hands across the globe to demand climate justice.
Climate impacts like extreme weather events hit the most vulnerable first; working people and the poor. With altered seasons and rising sea levels whole communities and nations are already suffering from corporate malfeasance. People are involved in every aspect of meeting this threat, from activists campaigning for action on climate to workers in new industries to workers in fossil fuel production.
While virtually all countries continue to depend on burning fossil fuels to drive economic growth, we know this must change rapidly and dramatically. Companies must commit to leaving at least 80 percent of the fossil fuels in the ground if we want to salvage any hope of maintaining a stable climate that allows humans and all other life to survive. Companies must engage in this transformation in full consultation with workers and communities to ensure the process is just.
We know that our sons and daughters will work in energy in the future, but they won’t work in fossil fuels. We demand that the workers who have brought us the prosperity of today be treated justly and with due respect during the transition to a renewable energy future. We are aiming for a result whereby the Philippines CHR would acknowledge these historic responsibilities and begin framing pathways for the just transition required.
The final word on why we have taken this action is perhaps best described by Elma Reyes, a mother of two who had her livelihood destroyed by Typhoon Rammasun (known in the Philippines as Typhoon Glenda):
“They say it’s going to be our way of life from now on, where typhoons will be more intense and affect our livelihood. If that’s the case, I won’t be able to provide for my family and feed my children. I won’t give up and allow big companies to continue to ruin the environment and fuel climate change.”
We encourage the Commission for Human Rights to commit to investigating the big polluters for their human rights violations as a matter of urgency.

Press link for more: Kumi Naidoo |

Veterans Day 2030 Could Look Like Syria Today, Thanks To Climate Change #Auspol #COP21

The Syrian conflict has triggered the world’s largest humanitarian crisis since World War II,” reports the European Commission. And a major 2015 study confirmed what Climate Progress has been reporting for years: “Human-caused climate change was a major trigger of Syria’s brutal civil war.

Now half of Syria’s population has fled their homes and the massive influx of refugees is taking a toll on other nations in the Middle East and Europe. The chaos has even prompted the United States to deploy troops to the decimated country.

We will have to work as hard as possible to make sure we don’t leave a world of wars to our children.

That means avoiding decades, if not centuries, of strife and conflict from catastrophic climate change, from the synergistic effect of soaring temperatures or Dust-Bowlification and extreme weather and sea level rise and super-charged storm surges, which will create the kind of food insecurity that drives war, conflict, and the competition for arable and/or habitable land.

The Pentagon itself made the climate/security link explicit in a 2014 report warning that climate change “poses immediate risks to U.S. national security,” has impacts that can “intensify the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict” and will probably lead to “food and water shortages, pandemic disease, disputes over refugees and resources.”

The world’s leading scientists and governments came to the same conclusion after reviewing the scientific literature. The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned last year that climate change will “prolong existing, and create new, poverty traps, the latter particularly in urban areas and emerging hotspots of hunger.” And it will “increase risks of violent conflicts in the form of civil war and inter-group violence.”

That same year, Tom Friedman wrote a column, “Memorial Day 2050,” which begins by quoting Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington State who observed: “We’re the first generation to feel the impact of climate change and the last generation that can do something about it.” He concludes that the fight against climate change is our most important “fight for freedom” today, and ends “Let’s act so the next generation will want to honor us with a Memorial Day, the way we honor the sacrifice of previous generations.”

Previously, Friedman had described how warming-worsened drought has exacerbated political instability even now in Syria. His piece “Without Water, Revolution” explained that while the drought didn’t “cause” the civil war, it made the Fertile Crescent fertile grounds for one:

… between 2006 and 2011, some 60 percent of Syria’s land mass was ravaged by the drought and, with the water table already too low and river irrigation shrunken, it wiped out the livelihoods of 800,000 Syrian farmers and herders, the United Nations reported. “Half the population in Syria between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers left the land” for urban areas during the last decade, said [Syrian economist Samir] Aita. And with Assad doing nothing to help the drought refugees, a lot of very simple farmers and their kids got politicized. “State and government was invented in this part of the world, in ancient Mesopotamia, precisely to manage irrigation and crop growing,” said Aita, “and Assad failed in that basic task.”

Friedman concludes, “Young people and farmers starved for jobs — and land starved for water — were a prescription for revolution.” You can watch Friedman enter Syria during the civil war to learn more about the climate change connection here.

Now, large swaths of Syria and Iraq are being overrun and terrorized by the extremist group ISIS, which was able to gain its original foothold in Syria because of the corrupt regime’s misgovernance and the subsequent civil war.

The 2015 study, “Climate change in the Fertile Crescent and implications of the recent Syrian drought,” found that global warming made Syria’s 2006 to 2010 drought two to three times more likely. “While we’re not saying the drought caused the war,” lead author Dr. Colin Kelley explained. “We are saying that it certainly contributed to other factors — agricultural collapse and mass migration among them — that caused the uprising.”

Ultimately, the poorer a country is — and the worse it is governed — the more warming-worsened drought is likely to drive instability.

The New York Times reported in 2009 that “climate-induced crises could topple governments, feed terrorist movements or destabilize entire regions, say the analysts, experts at the Pentagon and intelligence agencies who for the first time are taking a serious look at the national security implications of climate change.”

That’s a key reason 33 generals and admirals supported the comprehensive climate and clean energy jobs bill in 2010, asserting “Climate change is making the world a more dangerous place” and “threatening America’s security.”

Even with the climate pledges made in the lead up to Paris, we are headed well past the 2°C “defense line” against catastrophic climate change, where we cross carbon cycle tipping points create a world of rapid warming and a ruined climate far outside the bounds of any human experience.

It is a world with dozens of Syrias and Darfurs and Pakistani mega-floods, of countless environmental refugees — hundreds of millions in the second half of this century — all clamoring to occupy the parts of the developed world that aren’t flooded or Dust-Bowlified.

It would be a world where everyone eventually becomes a veteran. And if we don’t act swiftly and strongly to stop it, the IPCC warned in 2014 that the worst impacts were irreversible on a time scale of centuries if not millennia.

So when does this start to happen on a grand scale?

Back in 2008, Thomas Fingar, then “the U.S. intelligence community’s top analyst,” sees it happening by the mid-2020s:

By 2025, droughts, food shortages and scarcity of fresh water will plague large swaths of the globe, from northern China to the Horn of Africa.

For poorer countries, climate change “could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back,” Fingar said, while the United States will face “Dust Bowl” conditions in the parched Southwest.

…Floods and droughts will trigger mass migrations and political upheaval in many parts of the developing world.

We’ve already seen that even areas expected to become wetter can experience an extreme heat wave so unprecedented that it forces the entire country to suspend grain exports, as happened in Russia in 2010.

The U.K. government’s chief scientist, Professor John Beddington, laid out a scenario similar to Fingar’s in a 2009 speech. He warned that by 2030, “A ‘perfect storm’ of food shortages, scarce water and insufficient energy resources threaten to unleash public unrest, cross-border conflicts and mass migration as people flee from the worst-affected regions,” as the UK’s Guardian put it.

And we are not just talking about upheaval overseas. If we don’t take far stronger action on climate change, then here is what a 2015 NASA study projected the normal climate of North America will look like. The darkest areas have soil moisture comparable to that seen during the 1930s Dust Bowl.

Press link for more: Joe Romm |

We care about the destruction of society, not the natural world. #Auspol #EarthToParis #COP21

The first threat is that of the destruction of human society by global warming; the second is that of the destruction of nature by human society. They will do equal damage to the globe, but the international community cares only about the former.

The rains finally came to Kalimantan, which the Indonesians call Borneo, on 26 October and at last began to damp down the terrible fires in its forests and peatlands which, for the past three months, have covered much of Indonesia and its neighbouring states in a pall of smoke so big it could be seen clearly from space. 
Set deliberately to clear virgin land for palm oil plantations, Indonesia’s fires have been the major environmental disaster of 2015. According to the Global Fire Emissions Database at the Free University of Amsterdam, by 6 October no fewer than 120,857 of them had been detected by satellites across Sumatra as well as Kalimantan. Think about that.
If we have a big wildfire in Britain – the July 2006 fire at Thursley Common in Surrey springs to mind – it is front-page news. So imagine if we had 1,000 of them, all burning at once. 

You can’t; it’s unimaginable. Yet Indonesia has just had that, 120 times over, and the endless conflagrations have destroyed thousands of hectares of pristine rainforest, killed countless wild creatures, notably orang-utans, and have emitted more carbon dioxide on a daily basis than the United States. But does anybody care? Or, to refine the question somewhat: does the international community care? 

I think the answer is no. Not really. And the Indonesian fires of 2015 show up a great and tragic contrast between how we regard the two great environmental challenges facing the planet.
One of those challenges is climate change; the other is the ruin of the natural world. 

Let us be more precise: the first threat is that of the destruction of human society by global warming; the second is that of the destruction of nature by human society. They will do equal damage to the globe, but the international community cares only about the former. 

And it certainly cares about climate change. The British Met Office warns that record temperatures measured in the first nine months of 2014 mean we are halfway to reaching the climate change “threshold” of 2C above pre-industrial levels, beyond which catastrophe is predicted. The World Meteorological Organisation says the world is heading into uncharted territory at “frightening speed”. I wrote last week about the forthcoming UN climate conference in Paris, which will attempt to put together a new climate treaty to curb the expected warming of the atmosphere from our emissions of greenhouse gases. All the major world leaders will attend and, before the meeting finishes in mid-December, millions more words will be written about it.
So climate change has now become accepted as one of the great political causes of liberal democracy, yet the destruction of nature – or, as we are supposed to call it now, biodiversity – has not. Even though it was the killing of the great whales and the destruction of the rainforests which sparked the environmental movement in the first place, these concerns have not galvanised the international community in the way that climate change has.

Consider: just as there is a UN climate convention, so there is a UN convention on biological diversity, the CBD – but comparatively few people have heard of it. And just as the meeting of the climate convention in Paris, which begins this month, will try to draw up a plan to halt global warming, so the biodiversity convention (which met in Nagoya, Japan, in 2011) did draw up a plan to curb world wildlife destruction. It set out a series of ambitious aims, known as the “Aichi targets”, to halt biodiversity loss around the world by 2020 – but I bet that, unless you’re a specialist, you’ve never heard of them. And I further bet that unless once again you’re a specialist, you’re not aware that the Global Biodiversity Outlook of the United Nations Environment Programme stated baldly last year that the Aichi targets were not going to be met.

Because the world community doesn’t care. It pays lip service, of course, to the idea of halting the destruction of the natural world, and leaders make appropriate noises. But the American and Chinese presidents are not going to turn up at any biodiversity conference any time soon, though they will both be present at the climate change conference in Paris. This year’s Indonesian fires, and the world community’s lack of concern for them, show it clearly: there are two great environmental challenges facing the planet, but only one is being taken seriously.

Press link for more: Michael McCarthy |

4C warming equates to 9 Metres rise in sea levels. #Auspol #EarthToParis #COP21

Global warming of 4C above pre-industrial levels would raise sea levels by nearly nine metres, enough to submerge land currently home to more than half a billion people worldwide.
This comes from a new report by Climate Central, looking at what it would mean for different parts of the world if we continue to emit greenhouse gases at the speed we currently are.
This is a middle estimate for 4C – the amount of sea level rise that level of warming would lock us into could be high as 10.8 metres or as low as 6.9 metres, the report says.
It would be a steady climb, with sea levels taking centuries to rise this far. But our unrestrained emissions would mean we’re effectively locked in, making the rise unavoidable.
If emissions are kept in check, however, and we achieve the international goal of limiting warming to 2C, the risks don’t disappear, but they do come down a lot. The number of people worldwide living on land that would eventually become submerged could drop as low as 130m.
Today’s report is a global update to a paper published last month, which looked at sea level rise in the US. Ahead of the Paris climate talks, it’s meant as a demonstration of what’s at stake.
Have a go yourself. Below is an interactive map the scientists created. The left-hand side shows how the city of London would look with 4C of warming, while the right shows the same under 2C.
Click on the full version to select a location and see how sea level rise compares around the globe with 2C or 4C of warming..

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