Limits to Growth

Eating the Earth. #auspol #qldpol Food for thought #StopAdani

A rough transcript of my speech at the Oxford Farmers’ Conference debate, on the motion “This House Believes Eating Meat Will Be A Thing of the Past by 2100”

By George Monbiot, delivered at the Oxford Union, 4th January 2018

I always speak without notes, so this is not a verbatim transcript. But these are the notes I more or less memorised. You can watch the video of the debate here

I know that what I’m about to say is as welcome as a Jehovah’s Witness at the door during the World Cup Final.

We don’t expect to win the vote tonight. But I would ask you to try to judge this case on its merits, rather than on how it might affect your own immediate interests, difficult as this might be.

The reason I’m standing here now is that in 2017 I had a realisation. It is that climate breakdown is only the third most urgent of the environmental crises we face. This is not because it has become less urgent, but because two other issues have emerged as even more pressing. They are the ecological cleansing of both land and sea to produce the food we eat.

The speed and scale of change beggars belief. All over the world, habitats and species are collapsing before our eyes. The world population of wild vertebrates – animals with backbones – has fallen by 60% since 1970.

Animals that until recently seemed safe – ranging from lions to house sparrows – are now in danger.

Insect populations are collapsing, with untold implications for both human beings and the rest of the food chain.

Soil is being stripped from the land. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, at current rates of soil loss, the world has just 60 years of harvests left.

Ground water is being drained so rapidly that some of the world’s most important aquifers are likely to disappear within a generation.

We are facing an existential crisis. And it is caused, in large part, by the unsustainable ways in which we feed ourselves.

If we are to prevent both ecological meltdown and mass starvation, we must take these issues seriously – very seriously indeed – and address them as effectively and quickly as possible.

While there is no single solution, by far the biggest one is switching from an animal-based to a plant-based diet.

Why? Because a plant-based diet requires less land and fewer resources.

When we feed animals on crops, we greatly reduce the number of people that an area of cropland can support. This is because, on average, around two-thirds of the food value of the crops fed to livestock is lost in conversion from plant to animal.

This is why the UK has a farmland footprint over twice the size of its agricultural area. We eat, on average, our bodyweight in meat each year, and we cannot do that within our own borders. We rely on other people to feed us.

With a growing world population and the rapid degradation of farmland, feeding animals on food that humans could eat is a luxury the world simply cannot afford.

Of course, there’s a second way of producing livestock: allowing them to find their own food, in a field or range. The problem here is that while we are not competing with other forms of food production, we are competing, massively, with the rest of the living world.

Grazing is an astonishingly wasteful system. It arguably has the highest ratio of destruction to production of any industry on Earth. Huge areas of land, that could otherwise support rich ecosystems and wildlife, are used to produce an appreciable amount of meat.

Let me give you a couple of figures to illustrate this.

Roughly twice as much of the world’s surface is used for grazing as for growing crops, yet animals fed entirely on pasture produce just 1 gram out of the 81 g of protein consumed per person per day.

Sheep in this country occupy roughly 4m ha – more or less equivalent to all the arable and horticultural land in the UK. Yet they produce just 1.2% of the calories we consume here.

Gareth is a lovely man, and entirely sincere. He will tell you about the Carneddau ponies on his land, the birds and the flowers, and he will do it beautifully. But what you see in the sheep pastures of Britain is a mere remnant of an ecosystem. A thriving living system contains large predators. A healthy stock of wild herbivores. A rich mosaic of vegetation. The land where Gareth farms would most likely, were it not for sheep grazing, be covered in Atlantic rainforest, punctuated by pockets of other habitats: a system many times more diverse than the one that prevails there today.

Around the world, marshes are drained, trees are felled and their seedlings grazed out, predators are exterminated, wild herbivores fenced out and other lifeforms gradually erased as grazing systems intensify. Astonishing places – such as the rainforests of Madagascar and Brazil – are laid waste to make room for yet more farm animals.

In an age of ecological collapse, this is an astonishing extravagance, which I believe is unjustified.

An analysis by the livestock farmer Simon Fairlie suggests that were we to switch to a plant-based diet in Britain, we could feed all the people of this country on just 3m of our 18m hectares of farmland. Alternatively, we could use the land here to feed 200m people. In a world threatened by starvation and ecological collapse, it seems perverse to do otherwise.

I don’t blame livestock farmers for this any more than I blame coal miners for the problems with coal. They are simply trying to survive, and God knows it’s hard enough. But the nature of this production is simply incompatible with a prosperous future for humanity. I would like to see people in Gareth’s position paid from the public purse to restore nature. And with his energy and enthusiasm, I’m sure he would be brilliant at it.

So far I’ve been considering whether meat should be a thing of the past by 2100. But the motion asks whether meat will be a thing of the past by 2100.

And the answer, again, is yes.

The reason is simple: technological change.

It might seem obscure and marginal today, just as the motorcar did in 1880 and the personal computer did in 1970, but cultured meat is coming as inexorably as those technologies.

Today, like all technologies in their infancy, it is extremely expensive

In two decades it will be merely expensive

In about four decades, it is likely to reach cost parity with processed meat.

And, like everything that can be mass produced, the price will keep falling.

It will do what the motorcar did to the horse and carriage

And the telephone did to the telegram

And the computer did to the typewriter

And in doing so it will become entirely normal.

When that happens, we will see something that has also happened many times before: technological change creating an ethical tipping point.

When hydrocarbons provided a substitute for whale oil, we began asking ourselves why we were killing these magnificent beasts.

When automation undercut child labour, we started wondering why children were working in factories.

When there is a cheaper and kinder alternative, what was permissible becomes unacceptable.

Researchers at this university have shown that cultured meat will reduce water use by at least 82% and land use by 99%. This is because it is made of plant protein, not animal protein.

It will relieve the pressure on the living planet, allowing habitats and species to flourish once more. It will reduce the pressure on world food supplies, enabling everyone to be fed.

So will meat eating by 2100 be a thing of the past? It should be. And it will be.

Thank you.

http://www.monbiot.com

Press link for more: Monbiot.com

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#ClimateChange among Top Risks Facing World – WEF #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

Extreme Weather and Climate Change Among Top Risks Facing World – WEF | UNFCCC

Extreme weather events such as coastal storms and droughts, failure to reduce carbon emissions and build climate resilience, and natural disasters are among the top risks that pose a serious threat to global stability, according the latest Global Risks Report 2018 published by the World Economic Forum.

The intensification of environmental and climate related risks comes on the heels of a year characterized by high-impact hurricanes – Harvey, Irma and Maria – causing major destruction in the US and the Caribbean island states, extreme temperatures and the first rise in global CO2 emissions in four years.

Speaking about the report, Alison Martin, Group Chief Risk Officer of Zurich Insurance Group, said: “Extreme weather events were ranked as a top global risk by likelihood and impact. Environmental risks, together with a growing vulnerability to other risks, are now seriously threatening the foundation of most of our commons.

Unfortunately, we currently observe a too-little-too-late response by governments and organisations to key trends such as climate change.

It’s not yet too late to share a more resilient tomorrow, but we need to act with a stronger sense of urgency in order to avoid potential system collapse.”

The report was published a few days before the beginning of the World Economic Forum in Davos, which will be attended by the Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change, Patricia Espinosa.

In Davos, the UN’s top climate change official will meet with government and non-state leaders to discuss how to drive forward the implementation of the Paris Climate Change Agreement, the key international agreement designed limit the global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius, thereby preventing the worst impacts of climate change.

The report notes that climate action initiated by a growing network of cities, states and businesses is emerging as an important means of countering climate change and other environmental risks.

Global risks are increasingly interconnected

The report also warns that biodiversity is being lost at mass-extinction rates, agricultural systems are under strain, global food supply is in danger, and pollution of the air and sea has become an increasingly pressing threat to human health. Some of these risks can cause a chain of events – large scale displacement, water scarcity – that could jeopardize social, political and economic stability in many regions of the world.

For instance, the latest data shows that over 75% of the 31 million people displaced during 2016 were forced from their homes as a result of weather-related events.

Among the 30 global risks the experts were asked to prioritize in terms of likelihood and impact, five risks – extreme weather, biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse, major natural disasters and man-made environmental disasters, and failure to mitigate and adapt to climate change – were ranked highly on both dimensions.

The report points out the interconnectedness that exists both among these environmental risks and between them and risks in other categories – such as water crises and involuntary migration. Also notable is the economic cost attached to natural disasters and coastal storms that cause devastation of critical infrastructure.

The report suggests that a trend towards nation-state unilateralism could make it more difficult to sustain the long-term, multilateral responses that are required to counter rising temperatures and the degradation of the global environment.

The report – which shares the perspectives of global experts and decision makers on the most significant risks that face the world – asked nearly 1,000 respondents for the views about the trajectory of risks in 2018. Nearly 60% of them pointed to an intensification of risks, compared with just 7% pointing to declining risks.

See the relevant World Economic Forum press release.

Download the Global Risks Report 2018 here.

Press link for more: COP23.UNFCCC.INT

Biodiversity destruction. #StopAdani #auspol #Qldpol

Could biodiversity destruction lead to a global tipping point?

We are destroying the world’s biodiversity. Yet debate has erupted over just what this means for the planet – and us.

By

Jeremy Hance

Jeremy Hance is a wildlife blogger for the Guardian and a journalist with Mongabay focusing on forests, indigenous people, climate change and more. He is also the author of Life is Good: Conservation in an Age of Mass Extinction.

Just over 250 million years ago, the planet suffered what may be described as its greatest holocaust: ninety-six percent of marine genera (plural of genus) and seventy percent of land vertebrate vanished for good. Even insects suffered a mass extinction – the only time before or since.

Entire classes of animals – like trilobites – went out like a match in the wind.

But what’s arguably most fascinating about this event – known as the Permian-Triassic extinction or more poetically, the Great Dying – is the fact that anything survived at all.

Life, it seems, is so ridiculously adaptable that not only did thousands of species make it through whatever killed off nearly everything (no one knows for certain though theories abound) but, somehow, after millions of years life even recovered and went on to write new tales.

Even as the Permian-Triassic extinction event shows the fragility of life, it also proves its resilience in the long-term. The lessons of such mass extinctions – five to date and arguably a sixth happening as I write – inform science today. Given that extinction levels are currently 1,000 (some even say 10,000) times the background rate, researchers have long worried about our current destruction of biodiversity – and what that may mean for our future Earth and ourselves.

In 2009, a group of researchers identified nine global boundaries for the planet that if passed could theoretically push the Earth into an uninhabitable state for our species. These global boundaries include climate change, freshwater use, ocean acidification and, yes, biodiversity loss (among others). The group has since updated the terminology surrounding biodiversity, now calling it “biosphere integrity,” but that hasn’t spared it from critique.

A paper last year in Trends in Ecology & Evolution scathingly attacked the idea of any global biodiversity boundary.

It makes no sense that there exists a tipping point of biodiversity loss beyond which the Earth will collapse,” said co-author and ecologist, José Montoya, with Paul Sabatier Univeristy in France. “There is no rationale for this.

Montoya wrote the paper along with Ian Donohue, an ecologist at Trinity College in Ireland and Stuart Pimm, one of the world’s leading experts on extinctions, with Duke University in the US.

Montoya, Donohue and Pimm argue that there isn’t evidence of a point at which loss of species leads to ecosystem collapse, globally or even locally. If the planet didn’t collapse after the Permian-Triassic extinction event, it won’t collapse now – though our descendants may well curse us for the damage we’ve done.

Instead, according to the researchers, every loss of species counts. But the damage is gradual and incremental, not a sudden plunge. Ecosystems, according to them, slowly degrade but never fail outright.

“Of more than 600 experiments of biodiversity effects on various functions, none showed a collapse,” Montoya said. “In general, the loss of species has a detrimental effect on ecosystem functions…We progressively lose pollination services, water quality, plant biomass, and many other important functions as we lose species. But we never observe a critical level of biodiversity over which functions collapse.”

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be deeply concerned about biodiversity, according to the researchers. Instead, we should worry about every species lost and not focus on a theoretical line in the sand.

“It is in fact the planetary boundary argument that implies that there is a lot of biodiversity that has no value. There is no problem with losing a small number of species, the argument goes,” Montoya said. “We argue that even small losses of biodiversity have important consequences for ecosystem function and service provisioning.”

In other words, extinction of species may not result in a total collapse of our ecosystems – but the more we lose, the less productive, efficient, and healthy our environment will be. And the more at risk we put ourselves.

Boundary scientists fire back

But, the Stockholm Resilience Centre recently published a long response to Montoya’s paper in the usual way of scientific sparring – publications going back and forth like boxers exchanging blows.

Johan Rockström the executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre and one of the leading researchers on planetary boundaries, said that Montoya’s critique didn’t stand up to scrutiny because its authors misunderstood the definitions built around the “biosphere integrity planetary boundary.”

Rockström agrees that there is no evidence of a planetary tipping point when it comes to biodiversity. According to Rockström, biodiversity decline does not have a hard planetary boundary like, say, climate change. Instead he describes biodiversity as a variable that operates “under the hood of the planetary system” because it influences the stability of our climate, ozone layer and oceans – all of which Rockström contends have very clear planetary boundaries.

Johan Rockstrom

Let the environment guide our development

A TED talk by Johan Rockström.

“We have never suggested a planetary scale biodiversity tipping point…” Rockström said. “Instead, the rational for biodiversity as a planetary boundary is that the composition of trees, plants, microbes in soils, phytoplankton in oceans, top predators in ecosystems…together constitute a fundamental core contributor to regulating the state of the planet.”

According to Rockström, biodiversity is one of the pillars supporting our planet – and if too much biodiversity is lost we risk “triggering a tipping point” in our climate or oceans, which in turn could risk pushing the planet into a new state.

“Without biodiversity, no ecosystems. No ecosystems, no biomes. No biomes, no living regulator of all the cycles of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide and water,” he added.

Rockström says biodiversity loss could risk the “safe operating space” for humans, leaving us in an alien world increasingly hostile to our own survival. For example, life would still survive under apocalyptic climate change – but we may not.

While ecosystems may not fully collapse, scientists have found that some ecosystems can undergo what they are called “regime shifts.” Coral reefs, overheated by climate change, will shift to a much less productive, much less biodiverse algae-based ecosystem. Climate change, or alternatively humans with chainsaws and fire, can shift forest ecosystems to grasslands. While none of these ecosystems may wholly collapse, they will look nothing like they did after the shift occurs.

Montoya admits that such regime shifts “do actually happen” and is “well established” for some ecosystems – like forests, coral reefs and Arctic sea ice – though “unclear” if it happens in all ecosystems or only a few.

And he adds, perhaps most importantly, that “the mechanisms [of regime shifts] have nothing to do with biodiversity loss.” Instead, they have been driven by climate change or human actions – such as clear-cutting.

Debating definitions

It may be that unclear or shifting definitions are at the root of the dispute.

“Fatally, the boundaries framework lacks clear definitions, or it has too many conflicting definitions, does not specify units, and fails to define terms operationally, thus prohibiting application by those who set policy,” Montoya, Donohut and Pimm write in the paper.

But Rockström contends that when understood correctly the planetary boundary framework holds up to scientific scrutiny. He says planetary boundaries do not mean that humanity can just destroy and upend all the way up to a red line without consequences.

“This is of course just nonsense,” he noted, arguing that the planetary boundary for biosphere integrity is magnitudes more ambitious than the Aichi Targets from the Convention on Biological Diversity, an international agreement set on preserving biodiversity – though already several goals have not been met.

“If the world is able to reduce biodiversity loss below the planetary boundary this would not only require major conservation efforts across the world,” he said, adding that “once inside the safe operating space, we would of course have to continue on a sustainable pathway.”

The Wider Image: Battling deforestation in the Amazon

Burning forest is seen during “Operation Green Wave” conducted by agents of the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources, or Ibama, to combat illegal logging in Apui, in the southern region of the state of Amazonas, Brazil, August 4, 2017.

Photograph: Bruno Kelly/Reuters

Rockström said that he believes the disputing researchers have much more in common than their infighting would imply.

“We are [all] working to safeguard biodiversity for sustainable development. We are [all] in the same camp. Complementing each other, they at the ecosystem level, us at the planetary level.”

But Montoya and his group stand by their criticism and are working on a second paper responding to Rockström and his team.

While Montoya’s paper does not critique the other eight planetary boundaries in their paper, Montoya told me that each of the boundaries – even the physical ones – have faced “a lot of controversy.”

“They all suffer from the tipping-point problem,” he said, “which we argue promotes a business-as-usual ethos and distracts us from taking the action that is urgently needed.”

In many ways one could argue that the planetary boundary is an easy and simple way to explain environmental impacts to world leaders – few of whom have any education on ecology or the environment – and the public.

But Montoya argues that the planetary boundaries concept is doing more harm than good.

“Poor or ill-founded science ultimately brings about ineffectual policies at best – and potentially highly damaging ones – and erodes trust in scientists,” he said.

And this can have real world impacts: Montoya and colleagues point to forest policy in Europe as one example.

“The assumption that there is a critical biodiversity level below which forest functioning will collapse prompted managers [to] plant resilient tree species to climate change, pests, and disease,” Montoya explained, adding, “this was recommended to avoid reaching a tipping point in forest service provisioning, primarily timber production.” But the recommendations have resulted in endangered old growth forests and native species, according to Montoya.

A man offers for sale a wounded common buzzard (buteo buteo) in a national road near the village of Thumane on November 8, 2017. The excessive hunting of predatory birds, including eagles the national symbol of Albania, used for stuffing to adorn restaurants or be sold as souvenirs, has led to a serious decline of the population. Worldwide overhunting is one of the major threats to wildlife. Photograph: Gent Shkullaku/AFP/Getty Images

While the on-going debate over planetary boundaries is deeply academic and wonky, it is not without importance to the public. How we communicate environmental crises – and the accuracy of the science that underpins that communication – proves more important with every passing year, as the world walks into climate and ecological uncertainty.

Yes, life itself survived the Permian-Triassic mass extinction event – but most species did not. Believe me, humans probably wouldn’t have survived the tens-of-millions of years that followed the Great Dying: oxygen levels were dangerously low, food would have been scarce, and the world would have looked largely barren and wasted even as some species and ecosystems managed to survive. Outside the moral dilemma of extinction, there is no question that if humans push more-and-more species into oblivion there will be impacts on our society – and they could become catastrophic.

Humans evolved 248 million years later in an Earth that was far more biodiverse and rich, a kind of Eden of abundance and diversity. But our current actions risk all that – and perhaps ourselves.

Press link for more: The Guardian

Coal killed 169,000 Indians in 2015. #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #AirPollution

Household burning, coal combustion behind 75% deaths

IANS

Exposure to household burning emissions and coal combustion were the main reasons behind 75 per cent of air pollution-related deaths in India in 2015 which came chiefly from rural areas, reveals a report.

The report, by experts from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)- Bombay and the US-based Health Effects Institute, found that residential biomass fuel burning contributed to some 268,000 deaths in 2015 and coal combustion from both thermal electric power plants and industry contributed to 169,000 deaths.

Anthropogenic dusts contributed to 100,000 deaths; agricultural burning to 66,000 deaths; and transport, diesel, and kilns were behind over 65,000 deaths in India.

“This systematic analysis of emissions from all sources and their impact on ambient air pollution exposure found significant contributions from regional sources (like residential biomass, agricultural residue burning and industrial coal), underlying that from local sources (like transportation and brick kilns),” said Chandra Venkataraman from IIT-Bombay.

According to the 2015 Global Burden of Disease analysis, these levels contribute to over 10 per cent of all Indian deaths each year.

The premature mortality, attributed to air pollution, contributed to over 29 million healthy years of life lost.

Overall, air pollution contributed to nearly 1.1 million deaths in 2015, with the burden falling disproportionately (75 per cent) on rural areas.

The 2017 Global Burden of Disease identified air pollution, both outdoors and in households, as the second most serious risk factor for public health in India, after malnutrition, contributing to 6.4 per cent of all healthy years of life lost in 2016.

India has some of the highest levels of outdoor air pollution in the world,” the researchers wrote in the “Special Report 21, Burden of Disease Attributable to Major Air Pollution Sources in India”.

“The most comprehensive air pollution estimates available from both satellite and Indian ground-level measurements of fine particulate matter indicate that 99.9 per cent of the Indian population is estimated to live in areas where the World Health Organisation Air Quality Guideline for fine particulate matter was exceeded in 2015, contributing to some 1.1 million deaths in India in 2015.”

This new study provides the first comprehensive assessment conducted in India to understand exposures at national and state levels from all major sources of particulate-matter air pollution (particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter of less than 2.5 µm, or PM2.5).

It takes advantage of enhanced satellite data and India’s growing network of air pollution monitors, and is the first to estimate the exposure from different air pollution sources state by state throughout India.

Press link for more: Business Standard

#ClimateChange “All Hell will break loose!” #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

When will we listen to the scientists?

To invest in new coal mines and ignore science is Criminal Negligence.

It is putting our children and future generations at extreme risk.

People all over the planet are demanding change.

We must declare a CLIMATE EMERGENCY

#ClimateChange is first & foremost a threat to human society. #StopAdani #auspol

By Ryan Cooper

NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT

Ryan Cooper is a national correspondent at TheWeek.com.

His work has appeared in the Washington Monthly, The New Republic, and the Washington Post.

Climate change is first and foremost a threat to human society.

That fact has been somewhat obscured in regular discourse, in favor of a false dichotomy portraying climate policy as an upper-middle-class noblesse oblige idea for anxious birders and other environmentalist types, and hardheaded economists who think building up yet more wealth is more important.

In reality, one obvious way that threat to humanity is going to be expressed is through economic damage.

In other words, unchecked climate change is going to be terrifically expensive.

Now, its exact cost is basically impossible to predict.

Contrary to people who would confidently rely on cost damage estimates for 2100, economic projections tend to be wildly inaccurate over even five years.

Furthermore, the amount of damage will depend greatly on what humans do in the future, and there have been few studies on what damage would be like under higher warming scenarios of 3 degrees or above.

But we can say the damage is going to be very large — indeed, it’s already quite bad.

NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information estimates that 2017 was America’s most expensive year for climate disasters of all time, with 16 disasters costing over $1 billion (more than three times the 1980-2017 average, after accounting for inflation) and a total cost of over $300 billion. That’s about 1.5 percent of total GDP — or enough to pay for a $300 per month child allowance for every parent in America, with some left over.

This year is already off to a bad climate start as well.

There is a severe precipitation shortfall in parts of the Southwest, with some Colorado drainages at less than 30 percent of the median snowpack. Southern California has also been rather dry — with the exception of severe rains that hammered parts of the region over the last few days, causing flooding and multiple mudslides that have killed at least 20 people.

Even the blizzard that recently struck the Northeast may have been influenced by climate change. Contrary to the notions of President Trump, who appears to believe that climate science predicts it will never be cold again anywhere at any time, it seems warming disrupts the “polar vortex,” or the belt of cold air that circles around the poles of the Earth.

With a weak polar vortex, frigid Arctic air can make it further south than usual — while warmer air can make it further north, leading to the paradoxical result of Anchorage occasionally being warmer than New York, or even Jacksonville.

The dramatic and rapid increase in climate damages over the last decade suggests that disasters may increase nonlinearly with warming — that is, a doubling of greenhouse gas concentrations might lead to more than twice the quantity of disasters.

The only way to be sure about that is after the fact, but it’s still wise to assume it might be true, due to the larger downside risk.

If not, then we have decarbonized our society more rapidly than we might otherwise have. But if it is true and we don’t take action, the result could be catastrophic.

Now, a few caveats are in order.

First, of course we cannot say with ironclad certainty that these weather disasters are 100 percent caused by climate change, because climate change isn’t the sort of phenomenon that causes individual events.

What we can say is that these are just exactly the sort of weather disasters that are predicted to become more common and worse as the planet continues to warm.

Don’t let careerist debate pedants mix you up on this point. (And in fact, preliminary work on Hurricane Harvey found that climate change significantly increased its amount of rainfall.)

Second, expense is a highly problematic metric for measuring the overall world damage to climate change.

The countries most vulnerable to climate change are generally poor, and so devastating climate disasters aren’t going to show up as costing very much in dollar terms.

Indeed, by far the worst disasters of 2017 happened outside the United States.

As Rachel Cleetus at the Union of Concerned Scientists notes, over 11,000 people were killed by weather disasters in 2017, including 2,700 in South Asia — as against perhaps 1,400 or so in the United States (the vast majority in Puerto Rico).

Nevertheless, climate disasters really are going to be hugely expensive for the United States — and not just in dollar terms.

For example, the refusal from President Trump and the Republican Congress to properly rebuild Puerto Rico has not just killed probably over 1,000 people, it has also led to a severe shortage of IV bags, no doubt killing many more.

It drives home the fact that dawdling on climate policy, as Democrats did when they had majorities in 2009-10 — or denying it’s even necessary, as virtually every person of consequence in the Republican Party does — is not going to be some profitable venture. Poor countries will be hit worse, but American cities will be wrecked, much critical infrastructure will be destroyed, and many insurance companies and programs will be bankrupted. It will require endless expensive bailouts and reconstruction packages simply to stay ahead of the damage.

Conversely, the faster we move on climate policy, the cheaper it will be.

The International Energy Agency has roughly estimated that every year of delay adds $500 billion to the world total of necessary investment to head off climate change. (A stitch in time saves nine, as the saying goes.)

On the most important issue facing humanity, the United States is becoming dangerously close to a rogue state. Let us hope we can soon rejoin the world community and start acting like sensible, moral adults again.

Press link for more: The Week

#ClimateChange America’s most pressing threat. #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

America’s Most Pressing Threat? Climate Change

The Trump administration is ignoring a huge threat to national security and global stability.

By James Stavridis

11 January 2018, 11:00 pm AEST

A truly global foe. Photographer: Ricardo R. Guzman/U.S. Navy via Getty Images

When the newest U.S. National Security Strategy was released last month, many intelligence, military and foreign-policy professionals considered it a pleasant surprise.

It hits most of the mainstream concerns facing the U.S.: the significant challenges we face from China, Russia, North Korea and Iran; the necessity of better homeland security against terrorist attacks; the importance of working with allies, partners and friends; and the need to determine sensible levels of defense spending.

I called it “shockingly normal” in a Bloomberg View column.

But it misses the mark in one particularly worrisome area: the threats related to climate change and global warming, which were all but ignored.

Early reports indicate that a similar report expected to soon be released by the Pentagon, the National Defense Strategy, will make the same error of omission.

Unfortunately, this is not surprising, given President Donald’s Trump’s campaign rhetoric expressing extreme skepticism about climate change, the appointment of an Environmental Protection Agency administrator who doesn’t believe man-made global warming is real, and the Trump administration’s foolish decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord.

By following this path, the U.S. is not only surrendering a position of global leadership on this crucial issue, but it’s laying itself open to real security risks in the decades ahead.

What makes climate change so pernicious is that while the effects will only become catastrophic far down the road, the only opportunity to fix the problem rests in the present.

In other words, waiting “to be sure climate change is real” condemns us to a highly insecure future if we make the wrong bet.

We are in danger of missing not only the vast forest of looming climate change, but the ability to see some of the specific trees that will cause us the most problems.

Some of the most obvious and pressing concerns include:

Water scarcity, droughts and resource struggles leading to wars and terrorism. Many studies have confirmed the broad effect of drought and water scarcity in driving violence across a wide variety of countries and regions. Syria, Sudan, Mali and the broad Arab world continue to be battered by rising temperatures and droughts. Resulting famines and economic hardship provide a breeding ground for recruiting disaffected, unemployed youth. You can drop a plumb line from global warming to terrorism and strife in many parts of the world.

Rising sea levels that swamp our ports and coastlines. A brilliant new novel, “The American War” by Omar El Akkad, is set in a 21st-century U.S. where rising sea levels have swamped much of Florida and led to a second Civil War. While this is evocative fiction, the grain of truth is that the seas are rising as the polar caps melt, and over time lower-lying areas of the country — including some of our most vital military bases — are at risk of flooding and eventually disappearing.

Arctic melting, rising geopolitical tension and competition.

The recent viral video of the starving polar bear whose hunting grounds were literally melting away was heart-rending, but the true geopolitical significance of what is happening in the Arctic is far more significant. As the ice inexorably melts, it will open not only shipping routes, but also vast areas of the ocean floor to hydrocarbon extraction. This will generate geopolitical competition between Russia and the five NATO countries that sit on the so-called Arctic Porch, creating high tension in the “High North.”

Economic impact that undermines our ability to spend on defense.

As climate change and global warming hurt the economy by requiring restoration of communities devastated by flooding and the loss of ports and arable land, budgets will be stretched thinner and thinner. Defense spending will be undermined, reducing our overall ability to ensure we are prepared for global military action when required.

Extreme weather. Many experts believe the past hurricane season — with devastating hits from Harvey (Texas), Irma (Florida) and Maria (Puerto Rico) — are just a small taste of what is to come. In each of those crises, the U.S. military was forced to divert enormous resources — hugely expensive ships, soldiers, aircraft and the like — away from other vital tasks in order to respond. Over time, more such responses will continue to reduce overall defense readiness.

We must address these challenges — now — in three key ways.

First, we need to acknowledge the problem.

The vast weight of scientific data supports the view that climate change and global warming are real, with immediate effects that will only grow with time. While debate is always valid for any issue of such great policy importance, we must hedge against the extremely high probability that we have a serious challenge and address it with concrete steps — reducing carbon emissions, investing in renewables, and searching for technologies to reverse damage that has already occurred.

Second, the U.S. must re-take a leadership role.

We are still the largest economy in the world, have by far the greatest military capability and — despite some missteps by the Trump administration — have the greatest number of allies, partners and friends of any nation on earth.

Washington needs to invest some of that international capital in helping create a sensible, balanced and fair global regime.

Far better that we stay inside the tent of climate negotiations than try to drive events from outside it.

And third, the U.S. needs to break out of its traditional stove-piped structure and try to address climate change coherently across all agencies and departments.

If the White House is going to leave the issue out of the National Security Strategy for domestic political reasons, the Departments of Defense, State and Homeland Security must drive it back into their long-term plans.

The federal government is the largest carbon emitter in the country, and simply by undertaking responsible in-house policies to reduce carbon and pursue renewables, it can move the needle significantly.

Both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations understood the reality of climate change and that it poses a major national security threat.

If the Trump White House insists on ignoring the inevitable, the professionals at the relevant departments and agencies have to take it upon themselves to develop real strategies, and put real resources, into keeping the U.S. and its global interests secure far into an uncertain future.

Press link for more: Bloomberg.com

#PoweringPastCoal #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

The We Mean Business coalition urges forward-looking companies to sign the declaration of the Powering Past Coal Alliance and back the powerful signal sent by more than 25 countries, states and regions that coal’s time has passed.

At COP23, the UK and Canada, alongside Costa Rica, Fiji, France, the Marshall Islands, Mexico, New Zealand, Oregon, Quebec and many others, announced the Powering Past Coal Alliance.

They stand united in taking action to accelerate clean growth and climate protection through the rapid phase-out of traditional coal power.

They now need the private sector to step up and match their level of ambition.

Companies embracing the transition to clean energy have an opportunity to show their support, giving governments their vital backing as they look to fulfil their commitments under the Paris Agreement.

Business and governments must work hand in hand to manage the transition away from coal, it must be a just transition, carefully managed to ensure it leaves no-one behind.

Coal plants still produce almost 40 percent of global electricity, making carbon pollution from coal a leading contributor to climate change and a major cause of negative health effects.

As a result, phasing out traditional coal power is one of the most important steps companies, governments, states and regions can take to tackle climate change and meet our commitment to keep the global temperature increase well below 2°C, while pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C.

Read the full declaration here and contact Jennifer Gerholdt Corporate Engagement Director at We Mean Business (jennifer@wemeanbusinesscoalition.org), to find out more and sign the declaration before the One Planet Summit on December 12, 2017.

We need a just transition

Yesterday we witnessed much needed climate leadership at the UN climate talks in Bonn, Germany. More than 25 countries, states and regions, led by the United Kingdom and Canada and including Fiji, Mexico, the Marshall Islands, France, Costa Rica, New Zealand, Quebec, Oregon and Alberta, announced their participation in the Powering Past Coal Alliance and their declaration to accelerating growth through a rapid transition from coal power to clean power.

The Powering Past Coal Alliance declared that a transition away from coal is necessary if the world is to deliver the Paris Agreement. It is also critical for climate justice and the protection of human rights.

Today we celebrate this commitment to delivering concrete action on cutting emissions. We wish to emphasise, however, that the transition away from coal to net-zero emissions can only happen with commitment from governments and businesses to work hand-in-hand with workers to ensure a just transition, which secures decent, low-emissions jobs, upholds rights, protects vulnerable workers and communities and leaves no one behind.

As B Team Leaders, we urge that the Powering Past Coal Alliance ensure that their work and statements about it include this “just transition,” as enshrined in the preamble of the Paris Agreement and by the International Labour Organisation. The fact that the declaration does not include just transition is in our view a major omission. Minister McKenna of Canada and Minister Shaw of New Zealand both reflected on the need for just transition during their remarks yesterday.

As the Powering Past Coal Alliance moves forward, we hope that it can revisit its declaration and commitments by participants, so that they reflect just transition as well as moving away from coal. Governments who support the alliance should commit to setting targets to move away from existing traditional coal power through a just transition of the workforce, that protects human rights and takes steps to revitalize affected communities. Businesses and other partners should commit to powering their operations without coal and to collaborating with unions to achieve to a just transition for workers and communities that spurs new, decent and low-emissions jobs.

We, like our fellow B Team Leaders, know that businesses will only grasp the opportunities of the net-zero economy if workers are partners in the process to develop concrete plans to protect themselves and their communities. This cooperation will ensure workers get the skills and opportunities they need for good and green new jobs that respect global labour standards.

We are pleased to see fellow B Team Leader Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, which has an industry-leading coal phase out commitment, working with the alliance to explore how the global business community can engage. We, along with partners such as We Mean Business, encourage continued support for a just transition to power past coal and encourage business to join this alliance.

Update: https://www.facebook.com/StopAdaniBrisbane/videos/395052270934742/

Press link for more : Bteam.org

wemeanbusiness

Australia’s extreme heat here to stay. #ClimateChange #StopAdani #Auspol

How Australia’s extreme heat might be here to stay

By Adam Morton

Hobart

A section of highway connecting Sydney and Melbourne started to melt.

DRIVERS were being urged to take caution while heading towards Melbourne on the Hume Highway.

A stretch of the road began to melt at Broadford in hot weather on Friday afternoon.

Bats fell dead from the trees, struck down by the heat.

Mounds of dead flying foxes in Campbelltown suburb of Sydney. (Facebook/Help Save the Wildlife and Bushlands in Campbelltown)

On the northern Great Barrier Reef, 99% of baby green sea turtles, a species whose sex is determined by temperature, were found to be female.

In outer suburban Sydney, the heat hit 47.3C (117F) before a cool change knocked it down – to the relative cool of just 43.6C in a neighbouring suburb the following day.

Scenes from a sci-fi novel depicting a scorched future?

No, just the first days of 2018 in Australia, where summer is in fierce form.

With parts of the US suffering through a particularly grim winter, extremes in both hemispheres have triggered discussions about the links between current events and the build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Climate change ‘no brainer’

The climate system is incredibly complex and no weather event can be directly attributed to rising emissions, but everything that is experienced today happens in a world that is about one degree warmer than the long-term mean.

Prof Andy Pitman, the director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes at the University of New South Wales, says given the average temperature has risen it is a “no brainer” that the likelihood of the sort of heat that hit Sydney last week has also increased.

Sydney swelters on hottest day since 1939

Reactions to extreme weather in US and Australia

“It was a meteorological anomaly, but the probability works a bit like if you stand at sea level and throw a ball in the air, and then gradually make your way up a mountain and throw the ball in the air again,” he says.

“The chances of the ball going higher increases dramatically.

That’s what we’re doing with temperature.”

Sydney has experienced a sweltering start to 2018

While it is record-breaking that tends to make news, scientists say it is the unbroken run of hot days in the high 30s and 40s that causes the significant problems for human health, and other life.

Health officials in Victoria highlighted the threat of heatwaves when they found about 374 more people died during an extreme three-day period in January 2009 than would have been expected had it been cooler.

There has, however, been relatively little investment in research into the health impact of escalating maximum temperatures.

A paper published in the journal Nature Climate Change last year said while a government report called for greater focus on the area 25 years ago, less than 0.1% of health funding since has been dedicated to the impact of climate change.

Hundreds of bats die as Sydney swelters

Australia had third-warmest year on record

VR shows terrifying reality of bushfires

Prof Pitman says Australia is yet to properly consider the health risks of a warming planet.

“It’s not being able to cool down at night, and in the days that follow, that causes problems,” he says.

“I was camping in the Blue Mountains [west of Sydney] on Saturday night. It was about 30 degrees at midnight, and I could feel my heart racing. Now, that extra stress on my cardiovascular system didn’t kill me, but it might have if I was 20 years older.”

Last year was Australia’s third-warmest year since records began, according to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

Globally, it was the second or third warmest, and comfortably the hottest year in which there was not an El Niño weather system helping push up temperatures further.

Put another way: it is now hotter without an El Niño than it was with an El Niño just a few years ago.

Far-reaching impact

In eastern Australia – where the bulk of the population lives – temperatures were particularly inflated during summer months, when an increase is most likely to lead to uncomfortable or dangerous heat.

Several locations had runs of record hot days and nights. More than 40% of the most populous state, New South Wales, recorded at least 50 days hotter than 35C. The town of Moree had 54 consecutive days of extreme heat.

“Across Australia, the last five years were all in the top seven years on record. That’s quite a striking signal,” the Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s Dr Blair Trewin says.

The extra energy warming up the climate system is also being felt in several ways. The bushfires season starts earlier than it used to, and Australia has already experienced wild blazes this season.

Along with the increased background heat, this is in part due to a clear drying pattern in some areas.

Rainfall is down for both the south-east and south-west of the country in the cooler months months between April and October.

“That also has quite significant impacts for agriculture because historically that’s when they get most of their inflows,” Dr Trewin says.

The impact of warming on the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef, the only living structure visible from space, has been well documented. Estimates suggest about half its shallow-water coral was killed during bleaching events over the past two years linked to increased water temperatures.

Damage to Australia’s reef ‘unprecedented’

Further south, the sea along Tasmania’s east coast has warmed dramatically, pushing tropical species to unlikely high latitudes and coinciding with the disappearance of giant kelp forests.

Some weather patterns have not changed. There is no evidence of variations in cyclone behaviour or the frequency or intensity of large hail and lightning, for instance.

All this comes against a backdrop of political fighting over how to tackle climate change.

It is less than a year since senior government members brandished a piece of coal in parliament to taunt the Labor opposition, whom ministers accused of wanting to see an end to the fossil fuel industry.

The Malcolm Turnbull-led government remains committed to a 2030 target pledged at the Paris climate talks: a 26-to-28% cut below 2005 emissions.

It says it can cut emissions while shielding the public and business from unnecessary price rises.

It also points out that Australia is directly responsible for little more than 1% of global emissions (though it is responsible for about 30% of the global coal trade).

But national greenhouse accounts released in the week before Christmas showed Australia’s industrial emissions have been on an upward curve since 2014, when the government repealed carbon pricing laws, which required big business to pay for its pollution.

Emissions had fallen in the two years the laws were in place. The latest projections in the accounts suggest Australia will overshoot its 2030 target unless new policies are introduced to arrest the growth.

“There really isn’t an argument that climate change isn’t true in parliament anymore,” Prof Pitman says. “You’d find a couple of members of parliament that say that, but you’d also find a couple who didn’t believe in evolution and didn’t believe in inoculating children against disease.

“The issue now is that the scale of concern – and the action under way or committed to both in Australia and internationally – doesn’t match the scale of the problem.”

Press link for more: BBC.COM

Depleting Nature’s stocks. #StopAdani Australia uses 5.4 times what earth can provide. #auspol

Humanity uses 70% more of the global commons than the Earth can regenerate

Mathis Wackernagel, CEO and co-founder of Global Footprint Network

Persistent ecological overuse inevitably depletes nature’s stocks. Photograph: NASA/REX/Shutterstock

Households and governments who want to succeed track both expenditure and income. Businesses similarly keep a keen eye on their balance sheets.

So what does the physical balance sheet of our biggest household – the Earth – look like?

The income side would tell us how much our planet provides in matter and energy.

The expenditure side would tell us how much material and energy people use – or what we call humanity’s ecological footprint.

Ecological footprint accounting was developed to address the question: how much of the biosphere’s regenerative capacity – or biocapacity – does human activity demand?

Global Footprint Network measures this human demand for ecosystem services by adding up the space occupied by food, fibre and timber provision, space occupied by infrastructure, and the absorption of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Indeed, carbon dioxide emissions take up approximately 60% of humanity’s ecological footprint.

Australians use 5.4 times

This audit can be done at any scale.

Analysing the accounts for the entire world enables us to compare the material demands of humanity against the size of the global commons.

Global Footprint Network’s most recent data show that humanity overshoots the regenerative capacity of our global commons, and now demands about 70% more than what the biosphere can regenerate.

In other words, we are using 1.7 Earths.

Keeping humanity’s ecological footprint within the planet’s biocapacity is the minimum threshold for sustainability.

That threshold can be exceeded for some time, just as households can spend more money than they earn by dipping into savings, thereby depleting their assets.

But persistent ecological overuse inevitably depletes nature’s stocks, through the collapse of fisheries, soil loss, freshwater overuse, over harvesting of forests – or leads to climate change from the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

The Stockholm Resilience Centre has identified nine planetary boundaries, required to maintain the integrity of healthy, productive ecosystems. The UN sustainable development goals (SDGs) bring together a vision for safeguarding the health of the global commons while ensuring flourishing lives and wellbeing for everyone. The Stockholm Resilience Centre calls this vision the safe operating space.

Oxford University economist Kate Raworth adds the social dimensions and calls it doughnut economics – with the outer circle of the doughnut representing the ecological boundaries within which we need to operate, and the inner one the social necessities required for thriving lives for all.

The core idea of socially and ecologically safe operating space was quantified for the first time in 2002 by Aurélien Boutaud.

He combined the Ecological Footprint and United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP)’s Human Development Index (HDI) to track sustainable development outcomes country by country, city by city. His approach has evolved into the HDI footprint diagram. His framework has been used widely, by those including UNDP, UN Environment, PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, and WWF’s Living Planet Report. It even serves as the foundation of the Philips sustainability programme.

Figure 1: Mapping sustainable development outcome: HDI and the Footprint of nations, in 2013

One axis of the diagram is sustainability – or to what extent development can be supported within the Earth’s means. It is measured by the ratio between what people take compared to what the global commons can renew. The second axis, development, is measured by HDI, which captures income, access to basic education, and longevity.

Global sustainable development occurs where these two dimensions intersect. Available biocapacity is now 1.7 hectares per person. Some of this, however, is needed to support wildlife – and we also need to leave room for a growing human population. So the average ecological footprint per person worldwide needs to be significantly smaller if we are to live within nature’s means.

The figure above shows the latest results for most countries of the world (2013), comparing their footprints per person against the world’s per capita biocapacity, to show how far their development models could be replicated worldwide.

Most countries do not meet both minimum requirements. Since every country has different amounts of biocapacity within its natural boundaries, this analysis can be adapted to each country.

Using a scale from zero to one, UNDP considers an HDI of more than 0.7 to be “high human development”, with 0.8 “very high”.

For global sustainable development to occur, the world average would need to be in the marked panel at the bottom right (the global sustainable development quadrant). This is defined by an average footprint of less than 1.7 global hectares per person and an HDI score of more than 0.7. Yet the quadrant is ominously empty.

The HDI score of the UK is 0.9, but its ecological footprint per person is five global hectares, high above the sustainable development quadrant.

India has an HDI score of 0.6, and an ecological footprint per person of 1.1 global hectares, suggesting the need to increase the quality of life of citizens and the footprint.

Global sustainable development is necessary for a thriving future.

The SDGs give us strategies on how to get there.

Global Environment Facility’s (GEF) global commons initiative makes obvious the dependence on Earth’s physical health. It reminds us that our fabulous planet enables the wellbeing of all, if we manage it carefully.

Measuring whether we are achieving these desired outcomes enables us to take charge of the future we want.

We can explore countries’ resource balances, and compare them with what would be in their economic self interest. And we can allocate our budgets and choose our development strategies more effectively so that they serve the goals we have wisely chosen through the SDGs and the Paris Climate Agreement.

Therefore, Global Footprint Network firmly endorses the GEF’s initiative, which stimulates the collaborative effort needed to create a world where all thrive within the means of the planet’s regenerative capacity.

Press link for more: The Guardian