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Systemic Change our only hope. #StopAdani #auspol 

By Richard Heinberg.

Systemic Change Driven by Moral Awakening Is Our Only Hope
Our core ecological problem is not climate change.

It is overshoot, of which global warming is a symptom.

Overshoot is a systemic issue.

Over the past century-and-a-half, enormous amounts of cheap energy from fossil fuels enabled the rapid growth of resource extraction, manufacturing and consumption; and these in turn led to population increase, pollution and loss of natural habitat and hence biodiversity.

The human system expanded dramatically, overshooting Earth’s long-term carrying capacity for humans while upsetting the ecological systems we depend on for our survival.

Until we understand and address this systemic imbalance, symptomatic treatment (doing what we can to reverse pollution dilemmas like climate change, trying to save threatened species and hoping to feed a burgeoning population with genetically modified crops) will constitute an endlessly frustrating round of stopgap measures that are ultimately destined to fail.

The ecology movement in the 1970s benefitted from a strong infusion of systems thinking, which was in vogue at the time (ecology—the study of the relationships between organisms and their environments—is an inherently systemic discipline, as opposed to studies like chemistry that focus on reducing complex phenomena to their components).

As a result, many of the best environmental writers of the era framed the modern human predicament in terms that revealed the deep linkages between environmental symptoms and the way human society operates.

Limits to Growth (1972), an outgrowth of the systems research of Jay Forrester, investigated the interactions between population growth, industrial production, food production, resource depletion and pollution.

Overshoot (1982), by William Catton, named our systemic problem and described its origins and development in a style any literate person could appreciate.

Many more excellent books from the era could be cited.
However, in recent decades, as climate change has come to dominate environmental concerns, there has been a significant shift in the discussion.

Today, most environmental reporting is focused laser-like on climate change, and systemic links between it and other worsening ecological dilemmas (such as overpopulation, species extinctions, water and air pollution, and loss of topsoil and fresh water) are seldom highlighted.

It’s not that climate change isn’t a big deal. As a symptom, it’s a real doozy.

There’s never been anything quite like it, and climate scientists and climate-response advocacy groups are right to ring the loudest of alarm bells. But our failure to see climate change in context may be our undoing.

Why have environmental writers and advocacy organizations succumbed to tunnel vision?

Perhaps it’s simply that they assume systems thinking is beyond the capacity of policy makers. It’s true: If climate scientists were to approach world leaders with the message, “We have to change everything, including our entire economic system—and fast,” they might be shown the door rather rudely.

A more acceptable message is, “We have identified a serious pollution problem, for which there are technical solutions.”

Perhaps many of the scientists who did recognize the systemic nature of our ecological crisis concluded that if we can successfully address this one make-or-break environmental crisis, we’ll be able to buy time to deal with others waiting in the wings (overpopulation, species extinctions, resource depletion and on and on).
If climate change can be framed as an isolated problem for which there is a technological solution, the minds of economists and policy makers can continue to graze in familiar pastures.

Technology—in this case, solar, wind and nuclear power generators, as well as batteries, electric cars, heat pumps and, if all else fails, solar radiation management via atmospheric aerosols—centers our thinking on subjects like financial investment and industrial production.

Discussion participants don’t have to develop the ability to think systemically, nor do they need to understand the Earth system and how human systems fit into it.

All they need trouble themselves with is the prospect of shifting some investments, setting tasks for engineers and managing the resulting industrial-economic transformation so as to ensure that new jobs in green industries compensate for jobs lost in coal mines.
The strategy of buying time with a techno-fix presumes either that we will be able to institute systemic change at some unspecified point in the future even though we can’t do it just now (a weak argument on its face), or that climate change and all of our other symptomatic crises will in fact be amenable to technological fixes.

The latter thought-path is again a comfortable one for managers and investors.

After all, everybody loves technology.

It already does nearly everything for us. During the last century it solved a host of problems: it cured diseases, expanded food production, sped up transportation and provided us with information and entertainment in quantities and varieties no one could previously have imagined.

Why shouldn’t it be able to solve climate change and all the rest of our problems?

Of course, ignoring the systemic nature of our dilemma just means that as soon as we get one symptom corralled, another is likely to break loose.

But, crucially, is climate change, taken as an isolated problem, fully treatable with technology?

Color me doubtful.

I say this having spent many months poring over the relevant data with David Fridley of the energy analysis program at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Our resulting book, Our Renewable Future, concluded that nuclear power is too expensive and risky; meanwhile, solar and wind power both suffer from intermittency, which (once these sources begin to provide a large percentage of total electrical power) will require a combination of three strategies on a grand scale: energy storage, redundant production capacity and demand adaptation.


At the same time, we in industrial nations will have to adapt most of our current energy usage (which occurs in industrial processes, building heating and transportation) to electricity.

Altogether, the energy transition promises to be an enormous undertaking, unprecedented in its requirements for investment and substitution.

When David and I stepped back to assess the enormity of the task, we could see no way to maintain current quantities of global energy production during the transition, much less to increase energy supplies so as to power ongoing economic growth.

The biggest transitional hurdle is scale: the world uses an enormous amount of energy currently; only if that quantity can be reduced significantly, especially in industrial nations, could we imagine a credible pathway toward a post-carbon future.

Downsizing the world’s energy supplies would, effectively, also downsize industrial processes of resource extraction, manufacturing, transportation, and waste management.

That’s a systemic intervention, of exactly the kind called for by the ecologists of the 1970s who coined the mantra, “Reduce, reuse and recycle.”

It gets to the heart of the overshoot dilemma—as does population stabilization and reduction, another necessary strategy.

But it’s also a notion to which technocrats, industrialists, and investors are virulently allergic.
The ecological argument is, at its core, a moral one—as I explain in more detail in a just-released manifesto replete with sidebars and graphics (“There’s No App for That: Technology and Morality in the Age of Climate Change, Overpopulation, and Biodiversity Loss”).

Any systems thinker who understands overshoot and prescribes powerdown as a treatment is effectively engaging in an intervention with an addictive behavior.

Society is addicted to growth, and that’s having terrible consequences for the planet and, increasingly, for us as well.

We have to change our collective and individual behavior and give up something we depend on—power over our environment.

We must restrain ourselves, like an alcoholic foreswearing booze. That requires honesty and soul-searching.
In its early years the environmental movement made that moral argument, and it worked up to a point.

Concern over rapid population growth led to family planning efforts around the world. Concern over biodiversity declines led to habitat protection. Concern over air and water pollution led to a slew of regulations.

These efforts weren’t sufficient, but they showed that framing our systemic problem in moral terms could get at least some traction.
Why didn’t the environmental movement fully succeed?

Some theorists now calling themselves “bright greens” or “eco-modernists” have abandoned the moral fight altogether.

Their justification for doing so is that people want a vision of the future that’s cheery and that doesn’t require sacrifice.

Now, they say, only a technological fix offers any hope.

The essential point of this essay (and my manifesto) is simply that, even if the moral argument fails, a techno-fix won’t work either.

A gargantuan investment in technology (whether next-generation nuclear power or solar radiation geo-engineering) is being billed as our last hope. But in reality it’s no hope at all.
The reason for the failure thus far of the environmental movement wasn’t that it appealed to humanity’s moral sentiments—that was in fact the movement’s great strength. The effort fell short because it wasn’t able to alter industrial society’s central organizing principle, which is also its fatal flaw: its dogged pursuit of growth at all cost. Now we’re at the point where we must finally either succeed in overcoming growthism or face the failure not just of the environmental movement, but of civilization itself.
The good news is that systemic change is fractal in nature: it implies, indeed it requires, action at every level of society.

We can start with our own individual choices and behavior; we can work within our communities.

We needn’t wait for a cathartic global or national sea change.

And even if our efforts cannot “save” consumerist industrial civilization, they could still succeed in planting the seeds of a regenerative human culture worthy of survival.
There’s more good news: Once we humans choose to restrain our numbers and our rates of consumption, technology can assist our efforts.

Machines can help us monitor our progress, and there are relatively simple technologies that can help deliver needed services with less energy usage and environmental damage.

Some ways of deploying technology could even help us clean up the atmosphere and restore ecosystems.
But machines can’t make the key choices that will set us on a sustainable path.

Systemic change driven by moral awakening: it’s not just our last hope; it’s the only real hope we’ve ever had.

Press link for more: Eco watch

Hope is essential to save the planet. #StopAdani #auspol 

We saved the whale. The same vision can save the planet | Susanna Rustin
Susanna RustinFriday 18 August 2017 16.00 AEST

 

Illustration by Mark Long

“Hope is essential – despair is just another form of denial,” Al Gore said last week, in an interview to promote the sequel to his 2006 climate change documentary An Inconvenient Truth. 

As well as the very bad news of Donald Trump’s science-denying presidency, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, which opens in the UK today, brings good news: the plummeting cost of renewable electricity and the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

K

In 2017, denial of the facts of climate change – and myriad linked dangers including air and ocean pollution, famine and a refugee crisis the likes of which we can hardly imagine – is in retreat, with the Trump administration the malignant exception. 

Virtually all governments know that climate change is happening, and polls show most people do too – with those living in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa particularly worried.

 The question is not whether global warming is happening, but what we are going to do about it. 

There are, and need to be, many answers to this. 

Gore believes the solutions to climate change are within reach, if people can only find the political will to enact them.

 Even if how to whip up sufficient zeal to make this happen remains a puzzle, his essential message is one of optimism.


Others are less sanguine. 

A widely shared article by David Wallace-Wells in New York magazine last month sketching out some worst-case scenarios included an interview with pioneering climate scientist Wally Broecker, now 84, who no longer believes even the most drastic reductions in carbon emissions are sufficient to avert disaster. 

Instead, he puts his hopes in carbon capture and geoengineering. 

Others oppose anything that smacks of a techno-fix, believing the very idea that human ingenuity can get us out of this mess is yet another form of denial.
The human reaction – or lack of one – to climate change is a subject of interest in itself.

 The novelist Amitav Ghosh wrote The Great Derangement, a book about why fiction writers mostly ignore the subject, and argued that the profound alteration of Earth’s climate is difficult to think about. 

Wallace-Wells, in New York magazine, refers to “an incredible failure of imagination”. 

Politics, supposed to help us make sense of the world, has sometimes been more hindrance than help: is climate change really an inconvenient truth, because it means we have to give up eating beef and taking long-distance flights, or a too-convenient truth for anti-capitalists who want to bring down the financial system?
Such left-right binarism, and the relentlessly partisan nature of US politics, is surely why Gore now prefers to frame climate change more as a “moral” issue than as a political one. 

But the clearest and simplest message from his decade of advocacy is the need for action at every level. 

Such action takes many forms, ranging from protests against the Dakota Access pipeline in the US to anti-fracking demonstrations in Lancashire. 

This year the Guardian in conjunction with Global Witness is documenting the deaths of people all over the world who are killed while attempting to defend the environment from damage or destruction.

In a similar vein, the Natural History Museum has chosen its revamped central hall to showcase a key moment for environmental activism. 

When it was first announced that Dippy the dinosaur would be replaced with a blue whale skeleton that had previously hung quietly among the mammals, there were grumbles.

 But a month after its grand reopening in the presence of royalty and Sir David Attenborough, the revamped museum is a smash hit with more than 115,000 visitors a week.
Partly this is because the installation of the skeleton brings Alfred Waterhouse’s 1870s terracotta building, with its marvellous moulded monkeys, back to life in the most magnificent way. 

Whereas visitors once mostly stuck to the ground floor until they joined the procession to the dinosaurs, the aerial position of the whale bones now draws people upstairs. From an overcrowded lobby, Hintze Hall has been raised into a wondrous public space.
But the whale, which died as a result of being stranded off the coast of Ireland in 1891, is more than a 19th-century relic. 

What the museum has done by giving this vast, dead creature such prominence is to issue a warning and a call to action. 

And it makes no bones about this: “Rescued from the brink of extinction in the 1960s, the blue whale is a symbol of hope for the future of the natural world,” says the information panel. 

“Threats such as marine pollution and climate change linger – the blue whale remains a vulnerable and endangered species.”


Like the hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica, which stopped growing after a 1987 treaty phased out chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), whale conservation is one of the global environmental movement’s greatest success stories. 

Blue whales were critically endangered, until activists persuaded governments to legislate to save them, and the museum’s new exhibit is called Hope.
Optimism alone won’t halt climate change, or prevent further extinctions. 

But like Gore, the director of the Natural History Museum, Michael Dixon, and his colleagues understand that the most vital currency of the environmental movement is hope.

 With the knowledge we now have of climate change’s likely consequences, the alternative is nihilism.
• Susanna Rustin is a Guardian columnist

Press link for more: The Guardian

Climate change denial looks a lot like psychosis #auspol #StopAdani 

New studies and new catastrophes give climate change deniers a lot to deny.

In this July 22, 2017, photo, Canadian Coast Guard Capt. Victor Gronmyr looks out over the ice covering the Victoria Strait as the Finnish icebreaker MSV Nordica traverses the Northwest Passage through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.

 Nordica has set a new record for the earliest transit of the fabled Northwest Passage. 

The once-forbidding route through the Arctic, linking the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans, has been opening up sooner and for a longer period each summer due to climate change.

David Goldman AP

August 10, 2017 7:01 PM
Denial begins to look like psychosis.
Just in the past week, a cascade of new findings and climate anomalies have added to the scientific consensus that we’re cooked. Miami in particular.
We’re seeing wildfires in Greenland, for heaven’s sake. 

Famously soggy Seattle has just gone through a record 54 consecutive days (and counting) without rain.
On Thursday, Arctic explorer Pen Hadow left Nome, Alaska, in a 50-foot sailboat intent on something unfathomable before the onset of global warming.

 He and his crew intend to sail through the melting ice pack to the very North Pole. “If we can produce a visual image of a sail boat at 90 degrees north I think that could become an iconic image of the challenge that the twenty-first century faces,” Hadow wrote in his blog.
That image would nicely illustrate the National Climate Assessment draft report publicized this week by the New York Times.

 “Evidence for a changing climate abounds, from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans,” noted the assessment, based on input by scientists from 13 different federal agencies.


Scientists involved in the report were worried that Donald Trump, our climate-denier-in-chief (a Chinese hoax, he called global warming) would suppress the final report, which concluded that it was “extremely likely” that human activity accounted for more than half of the rising global temperatures since 1951.
“Evidence for a changing climate abounds, from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans.”
Draft report of the National Climate Assessment
The assessment makes for particularly gloomy reading in South Florida, where rising waters already plague our ritziest zip codes. “It is very likely that the accelerated rate of Arctic warming will have a significant consequence for the United States due to accelerating land and sea ice melting that is driving changes in the ocean including sea level rise threatening our coastal communities.”
Yeah, that’s us.
That ought to convince even the most obstinate politicians that unless something is done about greenhouse emissions, we’re in deep, deep (as in encroaching sea waters) trouble.
But there was more.
A young student on her bicycle carefully crosses the water logged street on Lincoln Road Court as water levels have risen on the begimming of the annual King’s Tide where certain areas of Miami Beach become flooded, on Oct. 13, 2016.

C.M. GUERRERO. cmguerrero@elnuevoherald.com

On Wednesday, researchers from the University of Florida published findings in the journal Geophysical Research Letters that sea levels along the southeast Atlantic coast, south of Cape Hatteras down to South Florida, are rising six times faster than the global averages. So if sea level rise is bad elsewhere, it’s going to be hell in Miami.
That was published the very same day that Swiss Re, a Switzerland-based reinsurance company, released an analysis that climate change and rising seas, in league with population growth and coastal development, has rendered Miami vulnerable to unimaginable losses if a Hurricane Andrew-sized storm strikes the city. “Losses in this case are estimated to be $100-$300 billion, making it the costliest natural disaster ever seen in the U.S.,” Swiss Re reported. Only $60-180 billion of Miami’s property losses would be covered by the private insurance market, “leaving a huge shortfall in funding to rebuild.”
Swiss Re added that “risk mitigation and climate adaptation are keys to strengthening community resilience.”
That ought to be obvious. Except we have a president in Washington and a governor and a speaker of the House in Tallahassee who pretend global warming is some kind of liberal invention. Two years ago, employees of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection claimed they had been barred from using the terms “climate change” or “global warming” in emails, reports or official communications. That doesn’t sound like an administration ready to confront Florida’s coming climate crisis.
Meanwhile, a dozen of Florida’s U.S. representatives and one of its U.S. senators (Marco Rubio) are essentially climate change deniers.
They’ve somehow held onto their “it ain’t happening” beliefs even during what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has described as the second-warmest year in the contiguous United States (so far) in 123 years of record keeping. In case you didn’t notice, July was the hottest month ever in Miami, according to Climate Central.
While 2016 was the second warmest year on record (after 2012) in the U.S., it was the hottest ever for the planet. NOAA reports that 16 of the 17 warmest years on record, worldwide, have occurred since 2001.


Yet our pols pretend otherwise. (They ignore a report on the effects of climate change in Architectural Digest that said rising seas have made South Florida “the worst metropolitan area in the country in regards to storm surge risk, with an estimated 780,000 homes potentially affected.”)
They just keep denying. Even during a week when a Russian tanker, without an ice breaker escort, was able to traverse the Arctic with a load of liquid natural case. In a week when the Asian Development Bank warned that, “unabated climate change” would lead to “disastrous climate impacts for the people of Asia and the Pacific.” Which echoed a study published this week in the journal Science Advances warning that “Climate change, without mitigation, presents a serious and unique risk in South Asia, a region inhabited by about one-fifth of the global human population, due to an unprecedented combination of severe natural hazard and acute vulnerability.” The journal warned that “the most intense hazard from extreme future heat waves is concentrated around densely populated agricultural regions of the Ganges and Indus river basins.”
It was a week when geologists warned that “all glaciers in Iceland are retreating at an unprecedented pace.” A week when a study published in the Lancet Planetary Health declared, “Climate change is one of the biggest global threats to human health of the 21st century.”
So much dire news in single week. Not that our steadfastly oblivious leaders in Washington and Tallahassee were deterred by melting glaciers or droughts or wildfires or record temperatures or rising seas or disappearing polar ice or threats to human health. Deniers just keep on denying.

Press link for more: App.com

Wake up call: We need to act now on #ClimateChange #auspol 

Wake-Up Call: Asia-Pacific Needs to Act Now on Climate Change
Hans Joachim SchellnhuberAugust 11, 2017

An interview with Founding Director of Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research

From L) Nobel prize winners French climatologist Jean Jouzel, German physicist Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, French physicist Claude Cohen-Tannoudji and French physicist Serge Haroche pose outside the Elysee Presidential Palace in Paris. 
Photo: Eric Feferberg/AFP/Getty Images
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“The Asian countries hold Earth’s future in their hands. 

If they choose to protect themselves against dangerous climate change, they will help to save the entire planet.” 

That’s how Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, a leading climate change researcher and founding director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, sees it.


He made the comments recently during the launch of a new report from the Asian Development Bank and its research institute. 

The report, A Region at Risk: The Human Dimensions of Climate Change in Asia and the Pacific, presents the latest research on the dire consequences of climate change in Asia and the Pacific under a business-as-usual scenario.


Schellnhuber spoke with ADB about the climate-related challenges facing Asia and the Pacific.
Asian Development Bank: What are the main impacts of climate change foreseen under the business-as-usual scenario?
Hans Joachim Schellnhuber: First of all, one needs to get a sense of what it really means. 

We talk about 4 to 6 degrees of warming—planetary warming, so the global average—by 2100 if we do business-as-usual. 


Think of the global mean temperature as your body temperature. 

If you have 2 degrees warming in your body you have fever. 

Six degrees warming means you are dead. 

That’s the metaphor to use for the planet. 

That means with 4 to 6 degrees warming our world would completely change. The world as we know it would disappear.
Maybe it’s most clearly understood in terms of sea level rise. 

One degree warming means at least 3 to 4 meters’ sea level rise; 2 degrees warming would mean 7 or 8 meters’ rise. 

This would simply mean that many of the low-lying island states would disappear. 

Their home would be destroyed. We need to do everything to avoid that.

ADB: How will climate change impact individuals?
Schellnhuber: Just a week ago in Asia you had temperatures of 54 degrees centigrade in Pakistan and in Iran. 

We can calculate that with 5 to 6 degrees global warming you would create uninhabitable zones on this planet. 

There would be regions, in particular in Asia, where you could not survive in the open without air conditioning physiologically. 

Temperatures would hit 60 degrees and it simply would mean that you would have no-go areas.

 Now think of slums, where people do not have air conditioning now. 

There will be places where you cannot work and you cannot survive.


So it is really about, “Can you survive under climate change?” And the answer is, “No”— at least in certain regions in Asia.
ADB: The report also anticipates significant climate-related migration.
Schellnhuber: What we are really worried about is migration and conflict. In the end, all these knock-on effects will heavily impact on national security and international migration. It might mean that hundreds of millions of people will be displaced because of global warming; and you have to accommodate them.
We in Europe just had this experience. In Germany in particular, we have taken up a million refugees. Believe me, this is very hard to digest. Now, we are talking about a million being absorbed by one of the richest countries in the world. Think of hundreds of millions of people being absorbed by poor people, by poorer countries.
If people are displaced in Bangladesh they will generally go to West Bengal in India, for example. If Tuvalu gets inundated, people will hop to the next island. They will not buy a business class ticket and go to Los Angeles.
Digesting, absorbing major migration waves is a challenge I think most of the current nations will not be able to meet. So let’s avoid it.
ADB: What are the implications for business and the regional economy?
Schellnhuber: We often make this joke that the first law of capitalism is, “Don’t kill your customers!” If you kill your customers, you cannot do business. But in a more sober way you can look at the various sectors, agriculture, fisheries, and so on.
For fisheries, climate change comes with ocean acidification. Half of the CO2that we put into the air by burning fossil fuels is absorbed by the oceans. If this isn’t stopped, under a business-as-usual scenario oceans will get so acidic that the coral reefs will dissolve virtually.
Now one-third of marine productivity—including the top predators, fish—is created in the corals. So, the marine business will just be destroyed. The same is true for tourism: If you have no corals you will have no people going to the coral reefs. The Great Barrier Reef, for example, is at stake as well as the Coral Triangle.
We did a study, and this is in the report, of how global supply chains will be disrupted or even interrupted by extreme events. When there were the big floods in Thailand, for example, a sort of wave was created all over the planet. First the computer industry in Japan was hit, and ultimately in the U.S. and so on. You have knock-on effects, cascades of impacts. To put it in one sentence: Climate change is really bad for business.
ADB: How should governments, business, and citizens respond?
Schellnhuber: First, you have to recognize the problem.

 Our report is a wake-up call. 

If you read it you get scared.

 But you need to be scared because the future would be very bleak if we just do business-as-usual. 

Once you know there is a big problem, then you have to assess how the various nations and regions will be affected.

Even 2 degrees warming will deliver a completely new world. 

You have to find out what are you going to do in Vietnam, what are you going to do in South India, in Kazakhstan, in Uzbekistan. 

What needs to happen in Tuvalu and Vanuatu?
First, try to provide the evidence and based on that you can do good projects. But you have to do it within a strategic framework. I would urge ADB to first come up with a differentiated assessment of the situation and then go in and implement best practice and act on the best proposals.
ADB: Do you see any silver lining?
Schellnhuber: People feel there is a trade-off between development and climate protection, but that’s not true. As our report makes clear, if you do not stabilize the climate you will actually destroy the good prospects for development. And if you take climate action in a clever way you will create new opportunities for doing business.
I will give you just one example: The modern society was based on the use of fossil fuels. The industrial revolution started 200 years ago in England and Scotland. 

This was based on using, in a clever way, coal and later gas and oil. But now this model has come to an end.


This may just push us into adopting a new model for growth. Solar energy is abundant in Asia, for example. It is free. The sun is shining without any charge. I think the climate issue is giving us the right push to go into a new industrial model and that will be built on renewables, recycling, a circular economy, and the better use of resources.
In a way, it’s an eye-opener. Because we almost destroyed our civilization through the externality of climate change, we wake up and say, “Oh, there is an even better model of doing sustainable business.”
I think we will have another industrial revolution, even a bigger one. And it will be the most important modernization project in the 21st century. The opportunity is there. Let’s do new business, better business involving more people, and as a nice side effect we will save the planet.
This interview first appeared on the Asian Development Bank’s website.

Press link for more: Brink News

Coal is a big contributor to air pollution. #StopAdani #Auspol 

Energy the key to fight climate change
President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the landmark Paris climate accord must not become a distraction from urgent global efforts to combat climate change.


Countries in Asia were among the most committed supporters of the Paris goals.

 Thailand, for example, has committed to a 20 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030.

 Now is not the time to break stride, but to reinforce the resolve.
Energy demand is set to double this century, with the world’s population reaching 11 billion, up from 7.5 billion today. 
As the world changes, so will the energy system that powers it, driven by the need to reduce carbon emissions and – crucially for Asia – tackle air pollution that blights so many lives. 

Coal is a big contributor to that air pollution. 

This can, and must, change. 

Put simply: we will need more and cleaner energy if Asian countries are to continue to thrive in the coming decades. 

Today, coal is still the biggest source of power in the region, at 47 per cent of the power mix, compared to natural gas at 10 per cent. 

In some countries, coal’s share is rising.

For Asia’s population, renewable energy will be essential to meeting growing demand while tackling climate change and air pollution.
But renewables chiefly produce electricity. 

And there are parts of the economy, such as industries that produce iron, steel, cement, plastic and chemicals, that cannot be electrified yet – certainly not at a reasonable cost. 

That’s one reason why the world will still need oil and gas in large quantities in the coming decades.
During this time we will see a big change in the way energy is produced, used and made available to people. 

And I see a combination of renewables, such as wind and solar, and natural gas – the cleanest-burning hydrocarbon – playing an increasingly important role.

 Modern gas-fired power plants can quickly respond to an increase in demand for electricity when there’s no sun or little wind.
By the end of the century many millions of people in emerging economies will join the middle class. 

Most will use cell phones and refrigerators. 

Many will drive cars – or travel in self-driving cars – as their quality of life improves.
All this will create enormous pressures on the global energy system. 

At the same time, we face serious environmental challenges.

 What kind of air will our children and grandchildren breathe?

 How will climate change effect the quality of life of people in the most exposed areas, such as coastal regions?

Natural gas is one of the few energy sources that can be used across all sectors of the global economy, including fuelling transport, heating and lighting homes, and powering industries. Reserves are abundant and available in many regions. 
The environmental benefits are also clear. 

In power generation, for example, natural gas emits around half the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and less than one-tenth of air pollutants compared to coal.
Some countries are already taking significant steps to boost the use of gas.
In Thailand, the government has introduced policies to open up the market to new suppliers of liquefied natural gas (LNG) as it aims to meet the country’s future energy needs while reducing emissions.
China plans to raise the share of gas in primary energy from 6 per cent today to 15 per cent by 2030. 

It is also widely using gas for transport, with more than 200,000 trucks and buses fuelled by LNG.
In the city of Lanzhou, strict air pollution policies reduced coal consumption by 40 per cent and significantly increased the number of days with clear skies between 2012 and 2016.
In India, where gas makes up only 8 per cent of the energy mix, the government is moving towards its greater use, creating infrastructure such as gas pipelines and LNG terminals. 

In Gujarat, India’s most industrialised state, gas now makes up 25 per cent of the energy system, fuelling transport and cooking, as well as major plants producing petrochemicals, fertilisers and glass. 

Policies of successive governments will determine the extent to which gas will play a key role in coming decades.

 Their decisions must reflect the commitments made at the UN Paris climate summit. 

Government-led mechanisms that put a price on CO2 emissions would stimulate the development of low-carbon and renewable technologies. 

Singapore, for example, will be the first country in Southeast Asia to have a carbon tax to encourage industries to reduce emissions.
Beyond policy choices from governments, a lot will also depend on the action of energy companies. 

For Shell’s part, we continue to increase our investment in gas, now around half of our total production. And we are exploring commercial opportunities in areas such as biofuels, hydrogen and wind power. 
Governments, companies and consumers have the power to shape a new energy future, where renewables and natural gas play critical roles. Now is the time to step up the drive to deliver on the environmental pledges made in Paris. 
The writer is integrated gas and new energies director of Shell

Press link for more: Nation Multimedia

What ice cores tell us about #ClimateChange #StopAdani #auspol 

This is what ancient, 3km long ice cores tell us about climate change

Cracks are seen on the Fourcade glacier near Argentina’s Carlini Base in Antarctica, January 12, 2017. Picture taken January 12, 2017. REUTERS/Nicolas Misculin – RTSW9RN

The speed at which CO₂ is rising has no comparison in the recorded past.

Image: REUTERS/Nicolas Misculin

There are those who say the climate has always changed, and that carbon dioxide levels have always fluctuated.

 That’s true. But it’s also true that since the industrial revolution, CO₂ levels in the atmosphere have climbed to levels that are unprecedented over hundreds of millennia.
So here’s a short video we made, to put recent climate change and carbon dioxide emissions into the context of the past 800,000 years.

The temperature-CO₂ connection
Earth has a natural greenhouse effect, and it is really important. Without it, the average temperature on the surface of the planet would be about -18℃ and human life would not exist. Carbon dioxide (CO₂) is one of the gases in our atmosphere that traps heat and makes the planet habitable.
We have known about the greenhouse effect for well over a century. About 150 years ago, a physicist called John Tyndall used laboratory experiments to demonstrate the greenhouse properties of CO₂ gas. Then, in the late 1800s, the Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius first calculated the greenhouse effect of CO₂ in our atmosphere and linked it to past ice ages on our planet.
Modern scientists and engineers have explored these links in intricate detail in recent decades, by drilling into the ice sheets that cover Antarctica and Greenland. Thousands of years of snow have compressed into thick slabs of ice. The resulting ice cores can be more than 3km long and extend back a staggering 800,000 years.
Scientists use the chemistry of the water molecules in the ice layers to see how the temperature has varied through the millennia. These ice layers also trap tiny bubbles from the ancient atmosphere, allowing us to measure prehistoric CO₂ levels directly.

 

The ice cores reveal an incredibly tight connection between temperature and greenhouse gas levels through the ice age cycles, thus proving the concepts put forward by Arrhenius more than a century ago.
In previous warm periods, it was not a CO₂ spike that kickstarted the warming, but small and predictable wobbles in Earth’s rotation and orbit around the Sun. CO₂ played a big role as a natural amplifier of the small climate shifts initiated by these wobbles. As the planet began to cool, more CO₂ dissolved into the oceans, reducing the greenhouse effect and causing more cooling. Similarly, CO₂ was released from the oceans to the atmosphere when the planet warmed, driving further warming.
But things are very different this time around. Humans are responsible for adding huge quantities of extra CO₂ to the atmosphere – and fast.
The speed at which CO₂ is rising has no comparison in the recorded past. The fastest natural shifts out of ice ages saw CO₂ levels increase by around 35 parts per million (ppm) in 1,000 years. It might be hard to believe, but humans have emitted the equivalent amount in just the last 17 years.
Before the industrial revolution, the natural level of atmospheric CO₂ during warm interglacials was around 280 ppm. The frigid ice ages, which caused kilometre-thick ice sheets to build up over much of North America and Eurasia, had CO₂ levels of around 180 ppm.
Burning fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and gas, takes ancient carbon that was locked within the Earth and puts it into the atmosphere as CO₂. Since the industrial revolution humans have burned an enormous amount of fossil fuel, causing atmospheric CO₂ and other greenhouse gases to skyrocket.
In mid-2017, atmospheric CO₂ now stands at 409 ppm. This is completely unprecedented in the past 800,000 years.


The massive blast of CO₂ is causing the climate to warm rapidly. The last IPCC report concluded that by the end of this century we will get to more than 4℃ above pre-industrial levels (1850-99) if we continue on a high-emissions pathway.
If we work towards the goals of the Paris Agreement, by rapidly curbing our CO₂ emissions and developing new technologies to remove excess CO₂ from the atmosphere, then we stand a chance of limiting warming to around 2℃.
The fundamental science is very well understood. The evidence that climate change is happening is abundant and clear. The difficult part is: what do we do next? More than ever, we need strong, cooperative and accountable leadership from politicians of all nations. Only then will we avoid the worst of climate change and adapt to the impacts we can’t halt.

Press link for more: weforum.org

“Our planet is being destroyed!” #StopAdani #Auspol 

Every second we waste denying climate change exists is time we steal from the next generation who will suffer the terrible consequences
Friday 4 August 2017
Our planet is being destroyed. 

But it is not only the forests and the oceans, the wildlife and the Arctic sea ice that is being wiped out – soon it will be the people, too.

The Lancet has today published a report that lays bare the devastating impact climate change will have on populations across Europe. 

Between 1981 and 2010, extreme weather events killed about 3,000 people a year.
According to the research, this will increase 50 times to an estimated 152,000 people who will die in weather-related disasters every year between 2071 and 2100.


There are people alive today who will witness these deaths. 

I could be one of them – in 2071, I would be approaching my 86th birthday. 

Climate change is not a far-off problem of the future. 

It is happening right now – and if we do not take action, our lives, and the lives of our children and grandchildren, will be put at risk.
Every second we waste denying climate change exists and ignoring its deadly impact is time we steal from the next generation, who will suffer the terrible consequences.

It is the poor who will suffer first – particularly those who live in the most hostile climates and lack the resources to protect themselves. In fact, they are already suffering.
The suicides of nearly 60,000 Indian farmers over the last three decades have been linked to climate change – despite them contributing very little to the emissions that cause global warming.
Perhaps most devastating of all is the fact that those with wealth and power, who have such a disproportionate effect on the planet, will pay little attention until it is their livelihood and their peers under threat from extreme weather.
Donald Trump’s favourite golf course will need to be underwater before he starts to pay attention to the environmental havoc he has played such a pertinent role in. But by then, it will be too late.
As our European neighbours enter their fifth day of a blistering heatwave, as Portugal mourns more than 60 people killed in its worst forest fires in recorded history and as Cornwall cleans up after a mid-summer flood, we must heed the warning signs.
Since 2002, Britain has lost green space equivalent to the size of Liverpool. That’s a rich heritage of woodlands, gardens, parks that have gone to waste. At the same time, our Government has recklessly promoted intensive and polluting fossil fuel extraction in the face of the enormous threat that we face from climate change.
The Lancet paper makes for grim reading, but it should also serve as a much needed wake-up call for governments across Europe. We cannot continue to tinker around the edges and hope for a miracle cure to climate change.
We have to pull up our boots and get on with it – and do so with vigour. The UK has the chance to be a world leader by kickstarting a renewables revolution to create clean and stable energy for all. The alternative does not bear thinking about.
Amelia Womack is deputy leader of the Green Party

Press link for more: Independent.co.uk

#ClimateChange could kill 150,000 people PA in Europe #StopAdani #auspol

Extreme weather could kill 150,000 people each year in Europe by the end of the century, say scientists
Andrew Griffin Science ReporterFriday 4 August 2017 23:46 BST

More than 150,000 people could die as a result of climate change each year in Europe by the end of the century, shocking new research has found.
The number of deaths caused by extreme weather events will increase 50-fold and two in three people on the continent will be affected by disasters, the study – that serves as a stark warning of the deadly impact of global warming – found.

The research by European Commission scientists lays out a future where hundreds of thousands of people die from heatstroke, heart and breathing problems, and flash flooding. It describes a world where droughts bring food shortages, people are at an increased risk of being killed by disease and infection, and the countryside is ravaged by wildfires.
It used historical records of extreme weather events and combined them with projections of the damage of climate change and changes in the population to project how, where and who will die from the effects of global warming.

In what they say is a “much needed wake-up call” to governments across the continent, campaign groups insisted that action is needed now to avoid being responsible for deaths across the world.
“This is a stark warning showing why we need greater action on climate change fast,” said Friends of the Earth campaigner Donna Hume. “People across the globe are already dying due to extreme weather events and without concerted action this will get worse, including right here in Europe.

“This fate can be avoided but only if governments get serious about making the switch away from dirty fossil fuels. Three quarters of existing coal, oil and gas has to remain unused if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change – so why is the UK Government intent on digging and drilling for more across the British countryside?
“It’s time to ditch plans for fracking and new coal mines and instead invest in the renewable energy revolution.”

The report is a dire warning that worldwide policy needs to change to address the dangers – and effects – of climate change, said the World Wildlife Fund.
“The evidence keeps on stacking up – climate change should be one of our top public policy concerns,” said Gareth Redmond-King, head of climate and energy at WWF. “This report reinforces what we know about the impacts and unless we tackle the problem, that will put strain on our health and welfare systems, and ultimately cost lives.
“However this future is not inevitable. We know the causes of climate change, and we understand the solutions to climate change. It is in our power to keep the global rise in temperature to 1.5 degrees – but only if we act now and embrace a low carbon future. That means governments, including the UK, being bold – taking action to grow low-carbon industries, to support technological solutions, and to cut our greenhouse gas emissions. This is essential for the health, wellbeing and prosperity of people and the protection of nature the whole world over.”


The Green Party warned that people who deny climate change exists are putting future generations in danger.
“Our planet is being destroyed and this report lays bare the devastating impact of climate change,” said deputy leader Amelia Womack. “There are people alive today who will witness thousands of deaths every year due to extreme weather events. Every second we waste denying climate change exists and ignoring its deadly impact is time we steal from the next generation who will suffer the terrible consequences.
“This report makes for grim reading but it should also serve as a much needed wake-up call for governments across Europe that we cannot continue to tinker around the edges and hope for a miracle cure to climate change – we have to pull up our boots and get on with it now and do so with vigour. The UK and Europe needs to kick start a renewables revolution to create clean and stable energy for all and reclaim green spaces in the heart of our towns and cities.”
The researchers who conducted the paper said that the commitments in the Paris accord must be upheld and that global warming must be addressed as a “matter of urgency” or that people will soon start dying in huge numbers.
“Climate change is one of the biggest global threats to human health of the 21st century, and its peril to society will be increasingly connected to weather-driven hazards,” said lead author Dr Giovanni Forzieri, from the European Commission Joint Research Centre in Italy. “Unless global warming is curbed as a matter of urgency and appropriate measures are taken, about 350 million Europeans could be exposed to harmful climate extremes on an annual basis by the end of the century.”

The scientists behind the paper said that it served as a clear warning that the world needs to address climate change, working to do less damage to the environment and make the world more resilient. They said that it is necessary for governments to ensure better land use and city planning – including the reduction of urban sprawl and car use, and fitting buildings with better air conditioning, insulation and floodproofing.
“This study contributes to the ongoing debate about the need to urgently curb climate change and minimise its consequences,” said Dr Forzieri. “The substantial projected rise in risk of weather-related hazards to human beings due to global warming, population growth, and urbanisation highlights the need for stringent climate mitigation policies and adaptation and risk reduction measures to minimise the future effect of weather-related extremes on human lives.”
Yearly deaths could soar 50 times from 3,000 between 1981 and 2010 to 152,000 between 2071 and 2100, the research published in the journal The Lancet Planetary Health found.

Most of those people will die from heatwaves, which could cause 99 per cent of all weather-related deaths. Fatalities will surge from 2,700 per year now to 151,500 each year by 2071.
Donald Trump says something could happen on the Paris Climate Agreement
Such catastrophic global warming will hit the UK too, killing people at a similar rate. By 2080, up to 7,500 Britons could be dead from heatwaves, cold snaps and flooding.
“With a one-in-three chance of record rainfall in England and Wales each winter, flooding is the most significant impact of climate change in the UK,” said Greenpeace UK executive director John Sauven. “And yet the Government’s own advisers have warned that ministers have no coherent plan to deal with this threat.
“The most important way we can prevent the risk of serious floods is by using nature, especially tree planting, to slow water flow. Additional measures should also include paying farmers to store water in fields and ensuring housebuilders make new homes resilient to flooding.
“While natural flood management is key, the Government will need to guarantee long-term funding for flood defence as storms like Desmond, that caused £5bn in damages, will become more frequent. When it comes to floods, prevention is far cheaper than cure, and the Government should demonstrate they’ve learned that lesson.”
But much of the danger will come in southern Europe, where almost everyone will be affected by weather-related disasters.
The study looked at the impact of the seven most dangerous forms of extreme weather events: heatwaves, cold snaps, wildfires, droughts, river and coastal floods and windstorms, in the 28 EU member states as well as Switzerland, Norway and Iceland. Researchers analysed 2,300 disasters records from between 1981 and 2010 and combined them with projections of how climate change will progress and what it will do to populations.
Scientists found one reduction in deaths: the number of people killed by cold snaps. But that was only a small reduction and was clearly not enough to outweigh any of the other dangers.
And they said that 10 per cent of the risk would come from developments other than climate change, such as population growth, migration and urbanisation.
The caution comes as a deadly heatwave dubbed “Lucifer” spreads across Europe. Authorities in several countries have issued health warnings and temperatures have been registered as high as 47C, fanning dozens of forest fires in Italy, France, Spain, Macedonia and Albania. 
And it follows a run of stark warnings about the state of the environment by the end of the century. This week, scientists said that by 2100, temperatures would be so high in south Asia that simply going outside could be deadly, and that there was only a 10 per cent chance that we would be available to avoid the 2C rise that scientists see as a tipping point by that year.
Scientists noted that the research assumed that humans would not adapt to the extreme weather events. But they said that it was an urgent warning that the world should look to halt the advance of climate change and limit the world’s vulnerability to its now inevitable effects.
The research assumed that there would be no reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and that there would be no improvements in the policies used to reduce the effects of the extreme weather events it studied. Those might include medical technology or the introduction of new kinds of air conditioning, for instance.
“While the analysis only considered extreme events, and assumed no reduction in human vulnerability over time from adaptation, it is yet another reminder of the exposures to extreme weather and possible human impacts that might occur if emissions of greenhouse gases continue unabated,” said Paul Wilkinson, professor environmental epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “It adds further weight to the powerful argument for accelerating mitigation actions to protect population health.”
Researchers added that as well as the fact that the study could be underestimating the effect of climate change by not considering changes to populations, it could actually be far higher than projected. The paper does not account for the fact that weather-related disasters could combine and then amplify each other.

Press link for more: Independent.co.uk

Scientists: Action needed on #ClimateChange #StopAdani #Auspol 

Scientists: Action Needed on Climate
Various studies suggest the problem of rising temperatures is growing.

As new reports indicate that Earth’s temperature will likely increase by two degrees Celsius by the end of the century, scientist and economists are once again urging the government to take immediate action to avoid the most devastating consequences of climate change.


The call for change comes at an unusual time in U.S. climate policy. 

President Donald Trump recently said the United States would withdraw from the Paris Agreement, and key officials in his administration continue to cast doubt on the evidence surrounding global warming.
Two studies this week from the University of Washington and the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Studies, confirmed previous findings on global warming. 

Former Vice President Al Gore also released a new documentary, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, on August 4, to draw attention to the climate crisis.

 

Scientists and economists call on the federal government to implement carbon pricing and invest in carbon capture technologies to slow the process of global warming, and to establish adaptation measures to deal with inevitable temperature rises.
The reports, published in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change, build on the existing research on climate change. 

They demonstrate that “we have to move even faster,” said Michael Mehling, deputy director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

 “The trend overall has been us underestimating climate change,” he said. “Each new study has been more and more sobering.”
One study used observational data to show that even if all greenhouse gas emissions were suddenly turned off today, Earth would still continue heating up about 1.3 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.

“[The study] tells us about the momentum of the climate system,” said Robert Pincus, one of the lead authors and a scientist at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Studies, a partnership of the University of Colorado–Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 

“Even if you stop pushing on the climate system, it continues to change and warm.”
The study also shows a 13 percent chance that we are already committed to a 1.5-degree C increase by the end of the century. 

The 2016 Paris Agreement set a target for keeping temperature increases to 1.5 degrees or lower by 2100.
The other study from the University of Washington used statistical analysis to show only a 5 percent chance that Earth will warm 2 degrees or less by the end of the century.
Climate Change Could Do Damage By Century’s End
“Our analysis shows that the goal of 2 degrees is very much a best-case scenario,” said lead author Adrian Raftery, a professor of statistics and sociology at the University of Washington, in a news release. 

“It is achievable, but only with major, sustained effort on all fronts over the next 80 years.”
The 2 degree threshold was first introduced by economist William Nordhaus in his 1977 paper, “Economic Growth and Climate: The Carbon Dioxide Problem,” and is commonly seen by scientists as the “line in the sand that we shouldn’t cross,” said Gilbert Metcalf, professor of economics at Tufts University, whose research centers on environmental economics.
Two degrees corresponds closely to when carbon dioxide levels have doubled from pre-industrial levels, explained Kevin Trenberth, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. The threshold marks the point “when disruptions from climate change become so large, they can’t just be brushed aside and adapted to in the normal way of things. The environmental pressures and the number of people that are affected by them become potentially overwhelming.”
Researchers say that slowing the warming process and adapting to the rise in temperature that has already happened are crucial. “The clear implication [of the studies] is we need to get to a zero-carbon economy as quickly as we can,” Metcalf said.
Carbon pricing––either in the form of a carbon tax or a cap on the total level of emissions allowed by each company––is an especially important tool.
“It’s the single most impactful policy we could put in place,” Metcalf stated. A carbon tax would increase the price of carbon-intensive goods to the point that consumers begin seeking out alternatives, he said. “A carbon tax is a way for the invisible hand to have a green thumb.”

But John Reilly, co-director of the Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change at MIT, pointed out the difficulty involved in convincing governments to impose carbon prices at necessary levels.

 And without economic consequences, most industries continue emitting greenhouse gases.


“It’s hard for [companies] to imagine cutting their emissions by 80 percent by 2050 without the right economic incentives to do it,” Reilly said. “If companies want to do good, and do good, and go out of business, then all the efforts are wasted.”
Right now, few regions have implemented sufficiently high carbon prices, Mehling said, echoing Reilly. 

The International Monetary Fund has proposed a carbon price of $25 per ton, but carbon prices in most regions in the world with such prices are still far below that.
Investing in carbon capture and storage technologies is another, more aggressive, way to mitigate the effects of global warming, specialists say. Those technologies involve capturing and storing carbon from the atmosphere. But Mehling said carbon capture has not yet been deployed at scale anywhere.
Other possible solutions are in the works, notably with battery development, which is crucial to an “electric economy,” Gilbert said.
But given the inevitability of global warming, experts also advocate developing adaptation measures to deal with more extreme weather conditions including rising sea levels, stronger storms, greater risk of wildfires, and longer dry spells.

Press link for more: USnews.com

Why we are naively optimistic about #ClimateChange #StopAdani #auspol 

Why We Are Naively Optimistic About Climate Change
Marcelo GleiserAugust 2, 20178:36 AM ET

Sunset at Paranal Observatory in northern Chile.

S. Guisard/ESO

There is comfort in distance, especially when the distance is in time.
Things that will happen far in the future seem not to bother us much, given that we will, most likely, be out of the picture.

This is certainly true when I put on my astrophysicist hat and talk about how the sun will turn into a red giant star in about five billion years, engulfing Mercury and Venus in the process, swelling up to almost Earth’s orbit. 

Clearly, such cosmic cataclysm will mark the definitive end of our planet as we know it. A roasted chunk of stuff will remain, but nothing like we see today.
But who cares, right? 

It’s so far away in the future, that even if I say that changes in the sun will turn Earth inhospitable for life much earlier, perhaps under a billion years from now, people will still shrug. 

A billion years? 

I can’t comprehend that kind of time.
Fair enough. 

But if we could bring the cataclysmic clock a bit closer to us, what would be the timeframe that would make people start to care, hopefully fear, the horrendous oncoming destruction of our way of life? 

One million years?

 Too far out. 

One thousand years? 

Still, not really relevant. 

One hundred years? 

Okay, here it starts to get uncomfortable. 

Seventy years?

 Now we are within the lifetime of most people under 10 years old.

So, if the world as we know it would cease to be in 70 years, people should start to take notice now. 

I have an 11-year-old and a 5-year-old.

 Barring unforeseen catastrophe, they will be around in 70 years.

 I would want their world to be better than mine, not worse. 

That should be the legacy of our generation.

 Unfortunately, we are failing, and those who deny it won’t have to see the consequences of their choices. 

How comfortable.

Seventy takes us near the end of this century, when predictions from climate models describe terrifying scenarios.

 We tend to focus on the rising of the oceans, and the forced displacement of tens of millions to the interior. 

Miami, New York, Rio, Bangladesh — How is that going to work, exactly? 

Where will the people go? 

How are they going to eat, find shelter?

 Are we, or the government, doing enough to prepare, even for a just-in-case scenario?

Last month, a trillion-ton iceberg the size of Delaware broke off from the Western coast of Antarctica, part of the Larsen C shelf.

 (Make sure you watch the video too.) 

The geographical change is so dramatic that maps of the continent will have to be redrawn. 

Although it’s hard to attribute a particular weather-related event to climate change — scientific modeling of global warming describes the relative statistical possibilities of different scenarios, not sure-shot predictions — the cumulative effect of this event and others that preceded it in Larsen shelves A and B add up to a radical change in Antarctica’s landscape.

As David Wallace-Wells pointed out last month in an important article for New York Magazine, even if we enjoy watching movies and TV series about dystopian futures, such as Mad Max, The Hunger Games, and Black Mirror, we tend to dismiss such scenarios as a realistic possibility in our lifetimes. 

Unless, that is, things begin to crumble. 

As Wallace-Wells remarked: “It is unlikely that all of these warming scenarios will be fully realized, largely because the devastation along the way will shake our complacency.” We will react under pressure, even if, by then, it will be too late to reverse or even slow down, in any relevant way, the warming trend.
According to the latest report from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), over the next decades the sea level will rise gradually anywhere from 0.2 meter (0.67 ft.) to 1 meter (3.3 ft.) by 2100. 


In their assessment, scientists working for the IPCC use words like “highly likely” and “high confidence,” and only rarely “virtually certain,” which are not dramatic enough for the general public or politicians. 

Models show that temperatures will fluctuate more widely, with heat waves increasing over time. 

The planet is already warming up, as recent decades have been the warmest on average over the past 150 years. 

Heat waves impact food production, increase disease, and affect those in need more directly. A European heat wave in 2003 killed 2,000 people a day, with more than total 35,000 dead. 

As Wallace-Wells summarizes from interviews with many professional scientists who have spent their careers studying the weather and climate change: “No plausible program of emissions reductions alone can prevent climate disaster.” This is a runaway train.
The list of horrors is long. Widespread famine leads to massive migration, making what’s happening in Europe today pale in comparison. As the temperature rises, the Arctic permafrost (land that is permanently frozen, or should be) has started to melt, potentially releasing enormous amounts of trapped carbon in the form of methane into the atmosphere. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, with an impact that can reach 34 times that of carbon dioxide by century’s end. If the melting accelerates to two decades, the impact is 86 times as powerful. While the temperature rises, diseases spread, some of them from trapped ice in high latitudes, ancient bugs we have no antibodies to fight. Even if many of these bugs may die during the thawing process, many will survive, carried by air currents and infected people to overpopulated latitudes.
Meanwhile, the excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere causes the oceans to acidify at an alarming rate, compromising corals and fisheries. Coral reefs supply about one-quarter of marine life and feed more than half a billion people today. The dead zones spur the growth of oxygen-eating bacteria, making it impossible for fish to survive. Decomposing organic matter generates hydrogen sulfide, a highly poisonous gas that shuts down the nerves regulating breathing, killing in seconds even at low concentrations. Hydrogen sulfide played a key role in the most severe of all mass extinctions in Earth’s past, when 97 percent of all life died 252 million years ago.
Interestingly, as Wallace-Wells remarks, many climatologists remain optimistic, believing that we will find technological mechanisms to sequester the excess amounts of carbon that are slowly chocking the planet. This trust in science as savior is understandable: If we engineered this mess, we should be able to fix it. But it is also very dangerous. To trust human ingenuity alone is a risky wager, one we can’t afford to lose. The mindset needs to change, and scientists can only do so much to promote this change. People are not getting scared, and scaring tactics often backfire.
Perhaps it will be those who are now 10-years-old that will fix this, knowing that their elders messed it up for them. Shame on us.

Marcelo Gleiser is a theoretical physicist and writer — and a professor of natural philosophy, physics and astronomy at Dartmouth College. He is the director of the Institute for Cross-Disciplinary Engagement at Dartmouth, co-founder of 13.7 and an active promoter of science to the general public. His latest book is The Simple Beauty of the Unexpected: A Natural Philosopher’s Quest for Trout and the Meaning of Everything. You can keep up with Marcelo on Facebook and Twitter: @mgleiser

Press link for more: NPR.ORG