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The Last Decade and You. #ClimateChange #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

The Last Decade and You

Everything we love is at risk, unless we build a faster, more disruptive and more visionary climate movement, now.

By

Alex Steffen

The Last Decade is a manifesto about the need to see farther ahead, fight smarter and dream bigger — if we’re going to make it through this climate emergency.

— — —

The Last Decade: An Introduction.

Even before Donald Trump announced he was withdrawing the United States from the Paris Agreement — the first essentially universal commitment by the peoples of the Earth to pursue the same goal of an ecological future — we all knew our planet was in crisis.

We all know that at the very center of that crisis is growing climate chaos.

Most people living on Earth know this now.

What fewer of us know — and even fewer have deeply explored — is the spring driving the mechanism of our greenhouse disaster.

That tight-wound spring is time; specifically, how little of it we have left.

When we think of the climate crisis, we think of the causes and the consequences: belching smokestacks, roads packed with cars. cracking ice sheets, burning forests.

What few of us think enough about are the curves.

We all know about climate budgets — estimates of how much carbon pollution we can release and still keep the planet within a given temperature range.

Most of us understand that when you have a budget, and you’re depleting it at a steady rate, it becomes a deadline.

The only way to extend that deadline is to curve downwards the rate at which you are exhausting your budget.

With climate emissions, that curve arches inexorably towards zero, and quite possibly beyond, into a world where we commit serious resources to restoring the atmosphere to a saner chemistry.

Chart shows Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Every day that we continue filling the sky with greenhouse pollution, the curve back towards sanity grows steeper.

At a certain point, that curve grows so steep that the actions we need to take are no longer connected to the actions we might have taken before.

We are compelled to attempt large, headlong changes.

We are forced to spring forward at a tempo we wouldn’t previously have considered.

To cut to the chase, I believe we have passed that point, and everything is moving rapidly now, except for our thinking.

It’s no big mystery why our thinking is so outdated.

For more than two decades, many people tried to sell climate action — especially here in America — by arguing that it wouldn’t really demand much change, at all.

Small steps, we were told, could add up to big impacts.

Innovation would whisk away the most polluting parts of our lives, leaving us with green SUVs, McMansions and big box stores. Abstract and distant mechanisms — like cap-and-trade schemes — could do the remaining heavy lifting, and we’d barely even know they were working. Saving the planet might not be exactly easy — this argument went — but it could be slow, gradual, a barely noticeable transition.

It was a nice idea.

The problem is, it wasn’t true, even then.

There once was a time when steady incremental actions could have staved off planetary catastrophe.

That hasn’t been the case, though, since at least the mid-1990s.

As the years have passed this vision of slow climate action without large scale transformation has gone from unworkable to a downright dangerous delusion, part of the crisis itself.

The destruction of planetary stability is not some ancient curse.

Instead, it’s the momentum of choices made by people who are largely still alive.

The world we were born into was made unsustainably.

Between roughly 1990 and now, half of all greenhouse gasses humanity has ever emitted were poured into the sky.

Go back to the end of World War Two, and the percentage rises past 85%.

Now, even as the natural world is spiraling into wider (and wilder) chaos, the energy, transportation, manufacturing and agricultural systems we built in the years since World War Two are still revving at doomsday machine velocities.

There’s some evidence climate emissions have leveled off, but they’re still so dire that every year that goes by forecloses some of humanity’s options. Business as usual leads directly, quickly, inexorably to total catastrophe. It cannot go on, and what cannot go on, comes to an end.

To stay within two degrees, we need to cut greenhouse gas emissions 50% a decade, while launching a massive commitment to ecological conservation and reforestation.

The world we were born into is coming to an end. That’s the good news. The bad news is, it’s not coming to an end fast enough.

Remember those curves? We are coming to the moment where smart actions delayed become smart actions made impossible. If we miss the next decade, the 2020s, those curves become steep enough that the options we have left will be tragic and desperate, even forlorn hopes.

All good work now keeps in mind when we are. It also acknowledges that the kind of action now called for are different than the ones from earlier, gentler curves — and that the ways they’re different require us to embrace new thinking.

Real sustainability only comes in one variety, now: Disruptive.

All sensible people are rightly appalled at the climate denialism and carbon cronyism we see in Congress and the White House.

Having been forced to turn from the national stage to other approaches, though, we will now discover that the greatest barrier to bold climate action is no longer denialism, but delay.

Predatory delay is everywhere.

Corruption erodes the very foundations of our democracy.

Disinformation floods our media.

Civic sabotage and broken governments slow progress to a crawl.

Outdated thinking clouds our sense of what’s truly possible. The Carbon Bubble looms. Many who claim to also desire climate action throw up fierce hostility in defense of a destructive status quo.

In Blue America, anti-climate politics isn’t about disputing science, it’s about denying what science tells us about the need to act quickly.

Delay is doom, but delay has many champions.

The curve we’ve been forced onto bends so steeply, that the pace of victory is part of victory itself.

Winning slowly is basically the same thing as losing outright.

We cannot afford to pursue past strategies, aimed at limited gains towards distant goals.

In the face of both triumphant denialism and predatory delay, trying to achieve climate action by doing the same things, the same old ways, means defeat.

It guarantees defeat.

Want to win fast?

What we need now is a movement to unmake and rebuild the world we were born into.

That work must be disruptive to the dirty systems around us.

It must be achieved in the face of direct political opposition.

It must accelerate itself through cascading successes.

If climate action doesn’t aggressively out-compete and replace fossil fuel production, fossil-fuel-dependent industries and high-carbon practices, it’ll fail.

We need strategies for working together that can actually win.

This is why I’m kicking off this newsletter with a short, raw manifesto, The Last Decade.

I’ll be publishing that over the next three weeks or so.

We need a movement built to win.

I think such a movement is within our grasp.

Fighting to win, and win fast, can open up new opportunities for millions of people — especially young people — that cannot exist where change is slow and timid.

Those opportunities, in turn, give us a shot at not only solving longstanding problems — housing, jobs, health, food — but gaining the political power to win bigger changes on wider scales. Remaking the world can give us the power to go on remaking it, despite the powerful enemies we face.

Millions and millions of us are ready.

We want to not only build carbon-zero cities and regions but to live the lives that will make them thrive.

We want clean energy, sure; indeed, we demand all energy be clean energy. But generating more clean energy — vital as it is — is only one part of making the world we need.

We also need to imagine, design and rapidly build cities where prosperity demands much less energy to begin with and ends up shared with far more of our neighbors: cities of abundant housing in super-insulated green buildings; of walkable neighborhoods, effective transit, shared vehicles and abundant bike lanes; of circular flows of resources and frugal excellence; of breakthrough technologies and worldchanging designs; of lived innovation and community creativity — of more adventure, more fun, and, for fuck’s sake, more beauty.

Beauty matters. The sheer ugliness of the old industrial way of life all around us is something we’re taught not to see. We’re taught not too see its aesthetic ugliness, sure, but even more we are taught to ignore its ugliness of soul, it’s ugliness of purpose, its ugliness of effect. Look away, numb yourself, never speak of it again.

Millions of us do not want to spend our brief spans on Earth contributing to these systems of catastrophic ugliness. We want to live in systems that are beautiful to be a part of, beautiful in their workings, and beautiful for future generations.

We need to demand the freedom build the beautiful. If a new movement today is going to be about anything meaningful, it must be at its very core a fight to build the beautiful, at the scale of the necessary, in the very short time we have left.

Which brings me to the last part, the critical power of positive and practiced imagination. We can’t launch a movement we can’t imagine.

As I’ve said for years, protesting the things we oppose may slow disaster but it doesn’t build a new world. We must also imagine the future we want, and in times when only heroic actions will do, we’re called on to imagine a heroic future.

This is why I’m telling future stories now, here in this newsletter. My anticipatory journalism of life in the fictional city of San Patricio, California in 2025 is meant to offer paths into the interior lives of people working to create the kinds of changes we need. I have strong intuitions about what the transformation we’re going through means, how it might work, how it will feel. I may not be right, but if I spur you as a reader into developing your own new intuitions about the future, we’ve both won.

See, I feel a powerful certainty that we need an explosion of creativity in the next couple years. We must see ahead with fresh eyes. That kind of seeing demands creative exploration, prototypes and experiments, cultural events and experiences, tinkering and invention, trying new things at scale, I want to be part of a movement that embraces the wild permission to do extraordinary things that comes from living in a collapsing society.

My contribution, I hope, will be my words.

Of course, we need to not only see, but act. Everywhere in the world, we desperately need to re-imagine radically better lives but the advocacy and enterprises that can make them possible. We not only we need to imagine them fast, we need to imagine them as fast. We need to imagine undertakings that can out-compete the world we were born into through political uprising, economic disruption, risk-taking innovation and above all else, speed.

Headlong speed, my friends, is the only way left to say yes to the world.

Speed, you see, means everything. Speed means planetary sanity. Speed means justice. Speed means prosperity. Speed means a future for our kids. For potentially hundreds of millions of people, speed means survival itself. Speed is beauty.

We are about to begin the last decade. The time has come to become the people who can first re-imagine and then remake the world in the time we have left. The time is now to seize the future.

Press link for more: The Nearly Now

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Time for a Department of Climate Emergency. #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange

Los Angeles lawmakers propose “climate emergency” department

Published on 18/01/2018, 11:38am

In the wake of the devastating Thomas wildfire in southern California, city council members are calling for emergency funds to ramp up climate action

The La Tuna fire of September 2017 was the biggest Los Angeles had seen for 50 years Pic: By Scott L from Los Angeles, United States of America – 1_E1C9469, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link)

By Megan Darby

Four Los Angeles city council members are calling for emergency funds to set up a department for climate action.

Citing recent devastating wildfires in California, linked to global warming, they argue current efforts to tackle the root cause are insufficient.

The city would request California State of Emergency funds to set up a “climate emergency mobilization department” with a brief to radically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, under two motions introduced on Wednesday.

“We’re out of time.

We can’t keep waiting around thinking, once it gets bad enough, we’ll have enough time to do something.

We’re here today to tell you, it’s bad enough now,” said Paul Koretz, lead proponent of the idea, at a press conference.

“We are out of time and need to act, quickly and boldly, like the very planet beneath our feet depends upon it. Like our home depends upon it. Because it does.”

Report: Bloomberg demands seat at UN climate negotiating table for cities and states

In September 2017, LA city experienced its biggest wildfire in fifty years, the La Tuna fire. In neighbouring Ventura county, the Thomas fire became the largest wildfire in California’s modern history, burning an area larger than New York City, Washington DC and San Francisco combined.

Several other fires encroached on LA’s suburban sprawl, whipped up by strong Santa Ana winds. Together with a series of wildfires in northern California, they added up to a destructive fire season for the state, killing 46 people and costing an estimated $180 billion.

“Over the past few months, we have seen some of the most vicious fires in our city’s history rip through our communities, testing the limits of our emergency management capabilities,” said Bob Blumenfield, co-filer of the motions.

“The sad reality is that due to climate change, as well as a deliberate lack of environmental leadership out of Washington, it is up to us to lead and ensure that we are doing everything possible to reduce our carbon footprint and clean our environment.”

Two more city council members seconded the motions, meaning they will move to a debate. Fourteen of the 15 members are Democrats. If they back the idea, its implementation will depend on persuading the state to release emergency funds.

Report: Jerry Brown’s climate coalition now covers 39% of the global economy

The Climate Mobilization, a grassroots network which compares the climate challenge to world war two, is backing the campaign.

Author and activist Naomi Klein also declared her support. She said in a statement: “Our collective house is on fire and nobody knows that better than the people of Los Angeles.

It’s time we started acting like it.

“These city council motions recognize the real lesson of these unprecedented winter fires and mudslides — that the time has come for an immediate, whole-of-society mobilization to address the climate emergency, with the highest priority placed upon a just transition and the needs of frontline communities.”

According to mayor Eric Garcetti’s sustainability plan, LA reduced its emissions 20% between 1990 and 2013.

It is aiming for a 45% cut by 2025, to be achieved by phasing out coal power, boosting renewables and promoting cleaner transport.

LA is signed up to the C40 group of major cities pledging to drive action on climate change, regardless of national politics.

Mayor Garcetti was one of the first to denounce US president Donald Trump’s decision in June 2017 to walk away from the Paris Agreement, saying he would continue to honour its goals.

At state level, governor Jerry Brown has taken an active climate diplomacy role, meeting China’s president Xi Jinping and preparing to host a global conference on the issue in September 2018.

Press link for more: Climate Change News

#ClimateChange Both heat & cold can kill. #StopAdani #auspol

Climate change and weather extremes: Both heat and cold can kill

Climate change is increasing the frequency and strength of some types of extreme weather in the United States

Climate change is increasing the frequency and strength of some types of extreme weather in the United States, particularly heat waves.

Last summer the U.S. Southwest experienced life-threatening heat waves, which are especially dangerous for elderly people and other vulnerable populations.

More recently, record-setting cold temperatures engulfed much of the country during the first week of 2018. This arctic blast has been blamed for dozens of deaths. Some scientists believe that Arctic warming may be a factor in this type of persistent cold spell, although others question this connection.

In a recent working paper, we studied the effect of temperature extremes on elderly mortality, using comprehensive data from Medicare covering about 35 million beneficiaries. Analyzing daily patterns at the ZIP code level, we estimated how daily temperature changes affect elderly mortality as a way to predict how people may adapt to climate change.

Our key finding is that both heat waves and cold snaps increase mortality rates.

For example, the mortality rate from a day with average temperatures between 90 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit is higher by about 1 death per 100,000 individuals than a day with an average temperature between 65 and 70 degrees. Deaths also increase, by about one-half per 100,000 individuals, on days when the average temperature is less than 20 degrees.

Several prior studies have found similar results.

This means that communities need to plan for the higher risk of deaths from both hot and cold weather extremes.

Press link for more: Salon.com

Human Emissions Made Ocean Heat Wave 53 Times More Likely #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

A series of ocean heat waves have melted ice and killed marine life over the past few years. Scientists are studying their causes.

Photograph by PAUL NICKLEN, National Geographic Creative

The consequences for Alaska were stark: dozens of whales died, as did thousands of common murres and tufted puffins, while sealife native to the tropics came up in nets pulled from sub-Arctic seas.

But an unusual mass of warm water nicknamed “the blob,” which appeared off Alaska and hung around through 2016, didn’t occur in isolation.

In northern Australia in 2016, high ocean heat bleached hundreds of miles of corals, killed mangroves, and destroyed giant clams. Off New Zealand, an ocean hot spell wiped out black abalone and brought an oyster-killing disease.

Just as atmospheric shifts can bring droughts and nasty heat waves on land, shifts in weather or ocean circulation also can spark deadly marine heat waves, which can thoroughly scramble life at sea. But until recently scientists understood little about what role climate change might play in these extreme sea events.

Now, new first-of-its-kind research is making clear that human emissions of greenhouse gases made the appearance of each patch of hot water many times—in some cases dozens, even hundreds of times—more likely to occur.

“It seems all of the big ones in recent years have a climate change role,” says Eric Oliver, an assistant professor of physical oceanography at Dalhousie University, who co-authored a pair of studies examining all three events. The latest was published this month in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

Climate 101: Oceans

In fact, while the recent excessive ocean warmth in the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea sparked the longest-lived toxic algal bloom on record, shuffled the entire marine world, and likely helped exacerbate a streptococcal outbreak that killed hundreds of sea otters outside Homer, Alaska, scientists struggled while it was happening to say whether rising temperatures from human fossil-fuel burning ultimately contributed at all.

But in reviewing Oliver’s research, they called his new assessment “a solid piece of work.”

Rising Tide of Ocean Heat Waves

Much as researchers often struggle to say just how much climate change drives any individual hurricane or dry spell, Oliver knew his colleagues faced a similar problem with the suddenly widespread ocean heat waves.

At the same time, the events were breaking all kinds of records.

The Tasman Sea heat wave was the longest and most intense ocean warm period for that region since 1900.

The northern Australian ocean hot spell caused the most catastrophic and extensive damage to the northern Great Barrier Reef ever measured.

And the Alaska event, which saw sea-surface temperatures rise more than 4 degrees Fahrenheit across thousands of square miles of ocean, was entirely new, Chelle Gentemann, a Seattle-based physical geographer, told National Geographic last year. “There’s just nothing like it in our historical record,” she says. (The deadly Alaskan heat wave was also the subject of a September 2016 National Geographic magazine story.)

But just like on land, ocean temperatures swing naturally over months or years, as part of the globe’s normal variability.

“The atmosphere gets a lot of attention when we talk about global warming,” Oliver says. “But something like 93 percent of the heat with climate change is stored in the ocean, so it’s not unexpected that we might see increases in ocean heat waves.”

But how much did a warming planet contribute in these three cases?

To find out, Oliver and his colleagues used an assortment of temperature records and climate models to explore how possible these events would have been in a world without greenhouse gases—and how that compared to what we saw in 2016. The results were striking.

The Climate Connection

Off Alaska, where sea temperatures tend to vary more widely than they do closer to the equator, it was 7 times more likely that an ocean heat wave would last a year and be so intense as a result of climate change.

In northern Australia, the findings were even more dramatic. Scientists projected that climate change made it 53 times more likely that an event would last as long as that one did—224 days.

A hawksbill sea turtle, Eretmochelys imbricata, at Jayne’s Gulley, Kimbe bay Papua New Guinea. Photograph by David Doubilet, National Geographic Creative

A leatherback sea turtle nesting on a beach, Dermochelys coriacea, in Adah Foah, Ghana.Photograph by Frans Lanting, National Geographic Creative

But it was the eight-month heat wave in the Tasman Sea, a region where previous warm spells usually only lasted 60 to 90 days, that saw the greatest shift.

Scientists found that climate change made a hot spell lasting that long 330 times more likely than it would have been without human greenhouse gas emissions.

That event was associated with shifts in westerly winds in the interior South Pacific that slightly altered ocean currents, bringing more warm water. “And it’s been argued that these changes are consistent with climate change,” says one of Oliver’s co-authors, Neil Holbrook, with the University of Tasmania.

The two scientists most familiar with Alaska’s blob say the work done by Oliver’s team makes sense. By using climate models to compare more “natural” conditions to today’s you find “human-caused global warming has substantially increased the risk of seeing large marine heat waves,” says Nate Mantua, a landscape ecologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in California. “I think it really is that simple—at least from the global climate modeling perspective.”

In fact, Nick Bond, a University of Washington climatologist who gave “the blob” its name, has been using models to try and see how such ocean heat waves might change in coming years. So far, the news isn’t great.

“We are finding that events like the recent Alaskan marine heat wave crop up a lot more in future decades in climate model simulations,” Bond says. “And, importantly, the more intense ones are way beyond the 2014 to 2016 event.”

Craig Welch writes about the environment for National Geographic.

Press link for more: National Geographic

2C Warming is still Dangerous #ClimateChange So what is the MAGIC NUMBER? #auspol #StopAdani

What is the magic number?

2017 was already a year of records.

2017: the third warmest year on record

As we settle in to 2018, the data crunchers at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology have been busy looking back at 2017—its highs, its lows and what caused them.

Overall, 2017 was another warm year for Australia.

It takes out the bronze medal—it was Australia’s third warmest year on record, with a mean average temperature 0.95 °C above the average for the period 1961–1990.

This 30-year period is used as a ‘baseline’ value against which we can compare other periods of climate data, 30 years being long enough to capture enough of the natural variation that occurs from year to year, but not so long that it’s influenced by long-term climate trends.

Most of the increased warmth of 2017 can be accounted for by increased daytime temperatures—average maximum daytime temperatures were 1.27 °C above the 1961–1990 average.

These increases in average temperatures are consistent with the overall warming trend we’re seeing across the planet.

All states except Tasmania experienced hottest summer days of more than 40 °C—the monitoring station at Tarcoola Airport in South Australia took out the title for absolute hottest day of 2017, with a temperature of 48.2 °C.

Coldest night goes to Perisher in the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales, with a temperature of -12.1 °C.

Press link for more: Science.org.au

Sydney, Melbourne urged to prepare for 50C days by end of century

Sydney and Melbourne have been warned to prepare for scorcher days reaching 50 degrees Celsius by the end of the century — even if global warming is contained to the Paris Agreement target of a 2C increase.

A new study led by Australian National University (ANU) climate scientist Dr Sophie Lewis has projected daily temperatures 3.8C above existing records for the two cities and even hotter extremes.

“We have to be thinking now about how we can be prepared for large population groups commuting to and from the CBD on these extremely hot days, how we send young children to school on 50C days, how our hospitals are prepared for a larger number of admissions of young or old people, and how our infrastructure can cope with it,” Dr Lewis said.

The study found containing global warming to 1.5C — the more ambitious target set by the Paris Agreement — would limit extreme heat, but Dr Lewis said angrier summers were inevitable.

“A lot of warming is locked into the climate system and we really have to be prepared for extremes in the future to get much worse than they are now,” she said.

“We’ve already seen an increase in excess heat deaths in heatwaves in 2009, due to those extreme heatwaves, and that’s likely to occur even more under these 50C days.”

Pockets of Australia have tasted temperatures close to 50C, mostly remote country towns.

But Dr Lewis said heats like that would look very different in Sydney or Melbourne.

“In the city we have a lot more concrete and a lot less air flow, there’s a lot less ability to escape from the heat,” she said.

The ANU study only analysed Bureau of Meteorology data from Sydney and Melbourne, but Dr Lewis said all of Australia could expect to see hotter extremes in the future.

Press link for more: ABC.NET.AU

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

#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

Paris 1.5C Goal Crucial to Protecting Communities from Rising Seas #auspol #StopAdani #ClimateChange

A study by scientists from Tufts University, Rutgers University, and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany projects that aiming for the lower global average temperature increase under the Paris Climate Change Agreement could save coastal communities and ecosystems from the most dire consequences of global sea-level change.

It also shows that even meeting the Paris targets will result in sizeable sea-level rise.

The 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement has the goal to hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Research studies forecast that warming the planet by more than 2 degrees Celsius will result in not only extreme weather events—floods, wildfires, landslides, and hurricanes—but also catastrophic sea level changes, leading to ecosystem loss and mass migration. As temperatures rise, sea levels rise and directly affect coastal areas.

The researchers found that stabilizing global temperature rise at 1.5 degrees Celsius between now and 2150—which would require a swifter reduction in carbon emissions than under the 2-degree Celsius goal—would lower the impact of sea-level rise significantly; the global average sea-level in 2150 would be about 7 inches—or 17.7 centimeters—less than under a 2-degree Celsius rise.

The study’s lead author, Klaus Bittermann, a postdoctoral student in the Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences, said that the 0.5 degree difference could be a matter of life and death, as ecosystems and populations are overwhelmed by tidal flooding and other ecological changes. “For example, salt marshes and mangroves can be drowned if the local rate of relative sea-level rise exceeds their ecological ability” to adapt, he said.

“Some people might argue there will be no sizable difference between the two targets, so we should aim for the higher one, because it’s easier,” Bittermann said. But the findings challenge that idea.

“Those differences turn out to be significant,” he said.

Bittermann did the computational research along with Andrew Kemp, an assistant professor in the Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences, and colleagues from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany and Rutgers University. He said that highlighting the differences between the two targets contributes to the growing body of evidence that countries should step up efforts to reduce carbon emissions and protect the planet’s future.

Bittermann added that the paper, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, will be included in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2018 special report on 1.5 degrees Celsius, which aggregates current literature.

“I think this special report will be an important contribution to the public discourse,” he said. “It will inform also policymakers about what these Paris goals really mean from a physical and an economic point of view.

To those who want to know what the difference from a global sea level point of view is if you lower the temperature by just another 0.5 degrees Celsius, I think that our paper provides a very clear answer, and I think it is a difference that is worth fighting for.”

To learn more, visit the Tufts University website.

You can download the study here.

Press link for more: Cop23.UNFCCC.INT