San Paulo

Existential Risk! #StopAdani 

EXISTENTIAL RISK

An existential risk is an adverse outcome that would either annihilate intelligent life or permanently and drastically curtail its potential (Bostrom 2013).

 For example, a big meteor impact or large-scale nuclear war.

Existential risks are not amenable to the reactive (learn from failure) approach of conventional risk management, and we cannot necessarily rely on the institutions, moral norms, or social attitudes developed from our experience with managing other sorts of risks. 

Because the consequences are so severe – perhaps the end of human global civilisation as we know
it – “even for an honest, truth-seeking, and well-intentioned investigator it is difficult to think and act rationally in regard to… existential risks” (Bostrom and Cirkovic 2008).

Yet the evidence is clear that climate change already poses an existential risk to global stability and to human civilisation that requires an emergency response.

 Temperature rises that are now in prospect could reduce the global human population by 80% or 90%. 

But this conversation is taboo, and the few who speak out are admonished as being overly alarmist.

Prof. Kevin Anderson considers that “a 4°C future [relative to pre-industrial levels] is incompatible with an organized global community, is likely to be beyond ‘adaptation’, is devastating to the majority of ecosystems, and has a high probability of not being stable” (Anderson 2011). 

He says: “If you have got
a population of nine billion by 2050 and you hit 4°C, 5°C or 6°C, you might have half a billion people surviving” (Fyall 2009).

Asked at a 2011 conference in Melbourne about the difference between a 2°C world and a 4°C world, Prof. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber replied in two words: “Human civilisation”. 

The World Bank reports: “There is no certainty that adaptation to
a 4°C world is possible” (World Bank 2012). 

Amongst other impacts, a 4°C warming would trigger the loss of both polar ice caps, eventually resulting, at equilibrium, in a 70-metre rise in sea level.


The present path of greenhouse gas emissions commits us
to a 4–5°C temperature increase relative to pre-industrial levels. 

Even at 3°C of warming we could face “outright chaos” and “nuclear war is possible”, according to the 2007 Age of Consequences report by two US think tanks (see page 10).

Yet this is the world we are now entering. 

The Paris climate agreement voluntary emission reduction commitments, if implemented, would result in the planet warming by 3°C, with a 50% chance of exceeding that amount.


This does not take into account “longer-term” carbon-cycle feedbacks – such as permafrost thaw and declining
efficency of ocean and terrestrial carbon sinks, which are now becoming relevant. 

If these are considered, the Paris emissions path has more than a 50% chance of exceeding 4°C warming. 

(Technically, accounting for these feedbacks means using a higher gure for the system’s “climate sensitivity” – which is a measure of the temperature increase resulting from a doubling of the level of greenhouse gases – to calculate the warming.

A median figure often used for climate sensitivity is ~3°C, but research from MIT shows that with a higher climate sensitivity gure of 4.5°C, which would account for feedbacks, the Paris path would lead to around 5°C of warming (Reilly et al. 2015).)

So we are looking at a greater than one-in-two chance of either annihilating intelligent life, or permanently and drastically curtailing its potential development.

 Clearly these end-of-civilisation scenarios are not being considered even by risk-conscious leaders in politics and business, which is an epic failure of imagination.

The world hopes to do a great deal better than Paris, but it may do far worse. 

A recent survey of 656 participants involved in international climate policy-making showed only half considered the Paris climate negotiations were useful, and 70% did not expect that the majority of countries would fulfill their promises (Dannenberg et al. 2017)

Human civilisation faces unacceptably high chances of
being brought undone by climate change’s existential risks yet, extraordinarily, this conversation is rarely heard. 

The Global Challenges Foundation (GCF) says that despite scientific evidence that risks associated with tipping points “increase disproportionately as temperature increases from 1°C to 2°C, and become high above 3°C”, political negotiations have consistently disregarded the high-end scenarios that could lead to abrupt or irreversible climate change. 

In its Global Catastrophic Risks 2017 report, it concludes that “the world is currently completely unprepared to envisage, and even less deal with, the consequences of catastrophic climate change”. (GCF 2017) 

PRess link for full report: Disaster Alley

Climate Change promises a frightening future. #StopAdani

Are the Effects of Global Warming Really that Bad?

The Missouri River encroaches on homes in Sioux City, Iowa, during a 2011 flood Stocktrek Images/Media Bakery

Eight degrees Fahrenheit. It may not sound like much—perhaps the difference between wearing a sweater and not wearing one on an early-spring day. But for the world in which we live, which climate experts project will be at least eight degrees warmer by 2100 should global emissions continue on their current path, this small rise will have grave consequences, ones that are already becoming apparent, for every ecosystem and living thing—including us.

According to the National Climate Assessment, human influences are the number one cause of global warming, especially the carbon pollution we cause by burning fossil fuels and the pollution-capturing we prevent by destroying forests. 

The carbon dioxide, methane, soot, and other pollutants we release into the atmosphere act like a blanket, trapping the sun’s heat and causing the planet to warm. 

Evidence shows that 2000 to 2009 was hotter than any other decade in at least the past 1,300 years. This warming is altering the earth’s climate system, including its land, atmosphere, oceans, and ice, in far-reaching ways.
More frequent and severe weather

Higher temperatures are worsening many types of disasters, including storms, heat waves, floods, and droughts.

A warmer climate creates an atmosphere that can collect, retain, and drop more water, changing weather patterns in such a way that wet areas become wetter and dry areas drier. “Extreme weather events are costing more and more,” says Aliya Haq, deputy director of NRDC’s Clean Power Plan initiative. 

“The number of billion-dollar weather disasters is expected to rise.”
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in 2015 there were 10 weather and climate disaster events in the United States—including severe storms, floods, drought, and wildfires—that caused at least $1 billion in losses.

 For context, each year from 1980 to 2015 averaged $5.2 billion in disasters (adjusted for inflation). 

If you zero in on the years between 2011 and 2015, you see an annual average cost of $10.8 billion.
The increasing number of droughts, intense storms, and floods we’re seeing as our warming atmosphere holds—and then dumps—more moisture poses risks to public health and safety, too. 

Prolonged dry spells mean more than just scorched lawns. Drought conditions jeopardize access to clean drinking water, fuel out-of-control wildfires, and result in dust storms, extreme heat events, and flash flooding in the States. 

Elsewhere around the world, lack of water is a leading cause of death and serious disease. At the opposite end of the spectrum, heavier rains cause streams, rivers, and lakes to overflow, which damages life and property, contaminates drinking water, creates hazardous-material spills, and promotes mold infestation and unhealthy air. A warmer, wetter world is also a boon for food-borne and waterborne illnesses and disease-carrying insects such as mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks.
Higher death rates

Today’s scientists point to climate change as “the biggest global health threat of the 21st century.” 

It’s a threat that impacts all of us—especially children, the elderly, low-income communities, and minorities—and in a variety of direct and indirect ways. 

As temperatures spike, so does the incidence of illness, emergency room visits, and death.
“There are more hot days in places where people aren’t used to it,” Haq says. “They don’t have air-conditioning or can’t afford it. 

One or two days isn’t a big deal. 

But four days straight where temperatures don’t go down, even at night, leads to severe health consequences.” 

In the United States, hundreds of heat-related deaths occur each year due to direct impacts and the indirect effects of heat-exacerbated, life-threatening illnesses, such as heat exhaustion, heatstroke, and cardiovascular and kidney diseases. 

Indeed, extreme heat kills more Americans each year, on average, than hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and lightning combined.
Dirtier air

Rising temperatures also worsen air pollution by increasing ground level ozone, which is created when pollution from cars, factories, and other sources react to sunlight and heat. 

Ground-level ozone is the main component of smog, and the hotter things get, the more of it we have. Dirtier air is linked to higher hospital admission rates and higher death rates for asthmatics. 

It worsens the health of people suffering from cardiac or pulmonary disease. And warmer temperatures also significantly increase airborne pollen, which is bad news for those who suffer from hay fever and other allergies.
Higher wildlife extinction rates

As humans, we face a host of challenges, but we’re certainly not the only ones catching heat. 

As land and sea undergo rapid changes, the animals that inhabit them are doomed to disappear if they don’t adapt quickly enough. 

Some will make it, and some won’t. 

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2014 assessment, many land, freshwater, and ocean species are shifting their geographic ranges to cooler climes or higher altitudes, in an attempt to escape warming. 

They’re changing seasonal behaviors and traditional migration patterns, too. And yet many still face “increased extinction risk due to climate change.”

 Indeed, a 2015 study showed that vertebrate species—animals with backbones, like fish, birds, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles—are disappearing 114 times faster than they should be, a phenomenon that has been linked to climate change, pollution, and deforestation.
More acidic oceans

The earth’s marine ecosystems are under pressure as a result of climate change. Oceans are becoming more acidic, due in large part to their absorption of some of our excess emissions. 

As this acidification accelerates, it poses a serious threat to underwater life, particularly creatures with calcium carbonate shells or skeletons, including mollusks, crabs, and corals. 

This can have a huge impact on shellfisheries. 

Indeed, as of 2015, acidification is believed to have cost the Pacific Northwest oyster industry nearly $110 million. 

Coastal communities in 15 states that depend on the $1 billion nationwide annual harvest of oysters, clams, and other shelled mollusks face similar long-term economic risks.
Higher sea levels


The polar regions are particularly vulnerable to a warming atmosphere. 

Average temperatures in the Arctic are rising twice as fast as they are elsewhere on earth, and the world’s ice sheets are melting fast. 

This not only has grave consequences for the region’s people, wildlife, and plants; its most serious impact may be on rising sea levels. 

By 2100, it’s estimated our oceans will be one to four feet higher, threatening coastal systems and low-lying areas, including entire island nations and the world’s largest cities, including New York, Los Angeles, and Miami as well as Mumbai, Sydney, and Rio de Janeiro.
There’s no question: Climate change promises a frightening future, and it’s too late to turn back the clock. 

We’ve already taken care of that by pumping a century’s worth of pollution into the air nearly unchecked. 

“Even if we stopped all carbon dioxide emissions tomorrow, we’d still see some effects,” Haq says. 

That, of course, is the bad news. 

But there’s also good news. 

By aggressively reducing our global emissions now, “we can avoid a lot of the severe consequences that climate change would otherwise bring,” says Haq.
Press link for more: NRDC.org

All Nations Agree to Restore Ocean Health #StopAdani 

All Nations Agree to Restore Ocean Health
By Suzanne Maxx
NEW YORK, New York, June 12, 2017 (ENS) – The 193 Member States of the United Nations agreed by consensus to a 14 point Call for Action that will begin the reversal of the decline of the ocean’s health at the conclusion of the first-ever United Nations Oceans Conference. The week-long conference, which closed Friday, addressed key topics for our common future with the oceans.
The Call for Action states, “We are particularly alarmed by the adverse impacts of climate change on the ocean, including the rise in ocean temperatures, ocean and coastal acidification, deoxygenation, sea-level rise, the decrease in polar ice coverage, coastal erosion and extreme weather events. 

We acknowledge the need to address the adverse impacts that impair the crucial ability of the ocean to act as climate regulator, source of marine biodiversity, and as key provider of food and nutrition, tourism and ecosystem services, and as an engine for sustainable economic development and growth. 

We recognise, in this regard, the particular importance of the Paris Agreement adopted under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.”
UN


The first-ever UN Oceans Conference in session, June 5, 2017 (Photo © Suzanne Maxx)

The oceans generate employment for over 200 million people, and are the primary source of protein for three billion people. 

The Earth is mostly water, and 97 percent of our planet’s water is in the oceans, which cover the majority of the planet’s surface.
At the opening of the conference President of the UN General Assembly Peter Thomson of Fiji who co-organized this conference with support from Sweden, began with the unifying words, “We the people of the world…”
“In small island states like Fiji, trash will outweigh fish by 2050,” he told the 6,000 conference participants from governments, small island nations, civil societies, nongovernmental organizations, corporations and scientists.
Fijians set the stage using the native ceremonial kava ritual, and from opening to the closing the barriers that usually divide those in suits from bare chested or Hawaiian shirt-clad participants were broken down.
The barriers between those living island life with the primal intimacy of the ocean and nature, and those living in the concrete sea of urban areas seemed to melt away in a common concern for the health of the oceans.
fish on reef


Schooling fairy basslets on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest reef, now threatened by climate-induced coral bleaching and industrial development. 2007 (Photo by GreensMPs)

The Ocean Conference unpacked the Sustainable Development Goal (SGD) #14, to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine life.”
Goal 14’s targets were explored through concept papers and side events on: marine pollution, coastal ecosystems, ocean acidification, biodiversity, overfishing, marine preserves, illegal, fishing industry subsidies and the World Trade Organization, small scale artisanal fishing and economic benefits to Small Island Developing States, ocean energy, shipping, the Law of Area Boundaries of National Jurisdiction, and the Law of the Sea.
All of these topics play into the equation of ocean stewardship.
Thomson commented, “Human induced problems need human induced solutions.”
Many solutions were presented in a myriad of side events. Solutions ranged from innovative ways to clean up ocean plastics on a large scale, to re-planting coral at reef scale, to tracking whale migration using drones to better understand their needs.
A solutions panel was held every day during the conference in the media zone.
Runit Dome


Aerial view of the Runit Dome located in the crater created by the Cactus nuclear weapons test in 1958. Runit Island, Enewetak Atoll, Marshall Islands (Photo by U.S. Defense Special Weapons Agency)

One of the most challenging issues, the cutting of fishing subsidies, was left in the hands of the World Trade Organization.
The conference bustled with news of problems, like the Runit Dome in the Marshall Islands that is leaking radioactive nuclear waste into the South Pacific waters, a result of nuclear testing by the United States.
There were many solutions proposed such as the Seychelles no plastic law banning the use of plastic bags, bottles, plates and cutlery, and solutions from island regions who shared their approach to creating and policing Marine Protected Areas.
The Outcome document, and 1,328 Voluntary pledges registered as the conference closed create an arena for the words to take shape in actions.
The hashtag #SavetheOceans allowed the Oceans Conference to have a presence on social media.
Attention to the humanity’s role in the oceans crisis to become aware of the problems and learn about solutions was achieved. Instagram alone showed more than 56,000 ocean posts, a tide that changes the landscape of traditional media. The commitment to the SDG14 is open on-line, and all are encouraged to participate.
“Governments can’t do it alone” was stated throughout the conference by various prime ministers. This “Multi-stakeholder Partnerships” approach to allow governments to team up is a formula devised to make the UN’s efforts more effective.
It was noted in the Plenary that just half of the global military expenditure of governments would be enough to achieve all the Sustainable Development Goals.
Ocean icons like Dr. Sylvia Earle shared a panel with Trammell Crow. They offered their insights into the degradation of the oceans over the years.
Fabien Cousteau described the state of the oceans in which 90 percent of large fish species have disappeared due to overexploitation, 50 percent of corals have died where there is ever increasing acidification.
Necker Island based Sir Richard Branson explained, “While this gathering of the new [solutions] might be a tiny blip in the history of our planet, our task is to make it the world oceans day where we change our destiny.”
Thomson Maxx


UN General Assembly President Peter Thomson with ENS reporter Suzanne Maxx, June 9, 2017 (Photo by Tomas Pico / UN)

In an interview with ENS about the financial mechanisms needed to turn proposals into solutions, such as the Green Climate Fund, green bonds or carbon offsets, Thomson expressed optimism.
“It looks good,” he said. “I was in a meeting this morning with the four largest financial houses in the world actually, “The Economist” brought us together, and we were discussing that green bonds that were nonexistent not so long ago – zero. 

In 2013 there was 11 billion worth of green bonds issued. 

The bond market now is around 20 billion in bonds. The estimate for the bonds this years is 130 billion.”
He explained this exponential growth, saying, “It had to do with humanity carrying on the way they are going, ignoring sustainability, and that has changed.” 

Ocean-related bonds are on the horizon, he said. “If that is good for green bonds, then it has to be good for blue bonds.”
Brought up with no electricity until the age of 26, Thomson said, “If you are off grid, you’ve got so many renewable energy resources. In fact, if you’re off-grid it is preferable to go with all the renewable energy options, especially with the ocean.”
“There is a huge amount of off-the-grid action for rural islands, and the ocean will provide energy as well. In Fiji, we don’t have the technology or financial resources for that, but we are interested in partnerships [to generate energy] with tidal, wave action, and the gradient of ocean temperature differences.”
“I am confident that with the broad support from member states and other stakeholders with concrete actions we can save our oceans,” Thomson said.
Thomson explained, “That is basically our work plan going forward, not just us, but everybody. The next step is for the General Assembly to endorse, at its 71st session, the call for action as adopted by the Conference.”

Press link for more: ens-newswire.com

One Canoe, One island, One Planet. #Hawaii #StopAdani 

Hawaii becomes first state to pass laws in support of Paris accord
Sentinel & Enterprise
By Katie Mettler
The Washington Post
When the traditional Hawaiian canoe Hokule’a set sail four years ago, the wayfinders on board — men and women navigating the open sea by a map of stars — vowed to seek a renewed sense of self and share with the world a treasured message:

 Malama Honua.


The Hokule’a, a voyaging canoe built to revive the centuries-old tradition of Polynesian exploration, makes its way up the Potomac River in Washington, D.C. Sailed by a crew of 12 who use only celestial navigation and observation of nature, the canoe is two-thirds of the way through a four-year trip around the world.

Bryson Hoe/C


In Hawaiian, it means to care for Island Earth, a mission especially important to Pacific Islanders, whose home and economy is under constant threat from the rising seas and coral bleaching caused by a warming planet.


This week, the wayfinders will return to a Hawaii that on Tuesday took a defiant stand, becoming the first state to legally implement portions of the landmark Paris climate agreement that President Trump chose to abandon.
“Climate change is real, regardless of what others may say,” Hawaii Gov. David Ige said at a bill signing ceremony Tuesday in Honolulu.


 “Hawaii is seeing the impacts firsthand. 

Tides are getting higher, biodiversity is shrinking, coral is bleaching, coastlines are eroding, weather is becoming more extreme.

 We must acknowledge these realities at home.”
Ige said the state has a “kuleana,” or responsibility, to the Earth.
“Like the voyaging canoe Hokule’a, we are one canoe, one island, one planet,” the governor said. 

“We cannot afford to mess this up. 

We are setting a course to change the trajectory of Hawaii and islanders for generations to come.”
With Ige’s signature, two bills became law.

 

The first, SB 559, expanded strategies and mechanisms to reduce greenhouse gas emissions statewide, a tenet of the Paris agreement.

 The second, HB 1578, established the Carbon Farming Task Force within the state’s Office of Planning, to support the development of sustainable agriculture practices in Hawaii, a skill native islanders had once mastered before planes, freighters and Amazon linked them to the mainland.
Both bills were introduced in January, after President Trump moved into the White House and began what many climate scientists felt was a wholesale dismantling of the Environmental Protection Agency and a reversal of the steps taken by the Obama administration to combat global warming.
They weren’t meant to be signed into law for several more weeks, Scott Glenn, an environmental adviser to Ige, told The Washington Post. 

But after Trump announced the United States would exit the Paris agreement, Glenn and his co-chair on the Sustainable Hawaii Initiative recommended the bill signing and ceremony be moved up because “this was of such national importance,” he said.
Senate majority leader Sen. Kalani English, a Democrat, introduced SB 559 and said in a statement Tuesday that it gave Hawaii the “legal basis to continue adaptation and mitigation strategies . . . despite the Federal government’s withdrawal from the treaty.”
Ige also committed Hawaii to the U.S. Climate Alliance, a collection of 12 states — including Massachusetts — and Puerto Rico who have vowed to uphold the Paris climate agreement on the state level.

Press link for more: Sentine Land enterprise

No New Fossil Fuel Development! #StopAdani #auspol 

The Sky’s Limit: No New Fossil Fuel Development
An open letter to world leaders:
One year ago in Paris, the world came together to finalize a new agreement to address the climate crisis.


 Together, countries committed to “[holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5˚C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.

Now, the Paris Agreement has entered into force and the time has come to fulfill the commitments made within it.
Climate impacts are already here today, as seen in the melting of the Arctic, coral bleaching in the Pacific, droughts in Africa, stronger and more frequent hurricanes and typhoons in our oceans, and new challenges day by day the world over. 



The commitment to pursue efforts to limit global warming to 1.5˚C was an important new goal, especially for vulnerable countries and communities who are already bearing the brunt of these ever-growing impacts of the climate crisis. 

But with this necessary ambition comes responsibility and challenge.


Analysis has now shown that the carbon embedded in existing fossil fuel production, if allowed to run its course, would take us beyond the globally agreed goals of limiting warming to well below 2˚C and pursuing efforts to limit to 1.5˚C.
The global carbon budgets associated with either temperature limit will be exhausted with current fossil fuel projects, and in fact some currently-operating fossil fuel projects will need to be retired early in order to have appropriately high chances of staying below even the 2˚C limit, let alone 1.5˚C.


With this new understanding, the challenge has never been clearer.

 To live up to the goals set forth by the Paris Agreement and to safeguard our climate for this and future generations, fossil fuel production must enter a managed decline immediately, and renewable energy must be advanced to swiftly take its place in the context of a just transition.


Therefore, we, as over 400 civil society organizations from more than 60 countries, representing tens of millions around the world, call on world leaders to put an immediate halt to new fossil fuel development and pursue a just transition to renewable energy with a managed decline of the fossil fuel industry.

We can do this.

 With a managed decline to wind down fossil fuel production that ensures a smooth and just transition to a safer energy economy, we can protect workers, protect communities, bring energy access to the poor, and ramp up renewable energy as quickly as we put an end to fossil fuels.


Since rich countries have a greater historic responsibility to act, they should provide support to poorer countries to help expand non-carbon energy and drive economic development as part of their fair share of global action, with a focus on meeting the urgent priority of providing universal access to energy. 

The good news is that renewable energy can — as it must — fill in the gap and power a clean energy future.
The world can either start now in pursuing a managed decline of the fossil fuel industry and a just transition to renewable energy, or it can delay action and bring about economic upheaval and climate chaos. 

The choice is clear.
The first step in this effort is a simple one: Stop digging. 

No additional fossil fuel development, no exploration for new fossil fuels, no expansion of fossil fuel projects. 

We need to keep fossil fuels in the ground.
Signed,

Press link for more: Keep it in the ground.org

Let’s Change The Conversation #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol 

Let’s Change The Conversation From Climate Change To ‘Shared Benefits’

By Max Guinn 

Founder of Kids Eco Club

Max Guinn,16, is the founder of Kids Eco Club (www.kidsecoclub.org), an organization of over 100,000 K-12 students, which raises eco-consciousness through school environmental clubs. 

Max has collaborated with, and been recognized by, organizations such as the United Nations,The Sierra Club, the State of California, the City of San Diego – and even the Dalai Lama – as a leader in youth engagement in environmental stewardship. 

Recently, Max also co-founded Climate Change Is 4 Real (www.ccis4r.com), to virtually connect thought leaders from all academic disciplines with student groups and educators to share facts, inspiration, and scalable solutions, to promote ocean conservation, and combat human-caused climate change and mass animal extinction.
Last September, I emailed President Obama. 

His response helped me to focus on what matters. He wrote,

“Progress doesn’t come easily, and it hasn’t always followed a straight line. 

Keeping our world’s air, water, and land clean and safe takes work from all of us, and voices like yours are sparking the conversations that will help us get to where we need to be.

 I will continue pushing to protect the environment as long as I am President and beyond, and I encourage you to stay engaged as well.”
But I worry that adults will never agree on climate change.

 The issue has become too political. 

The words “climate change” have even been scrubbed from government websites!

 Our current President refers to climate change as “a hoax.” 


Most people have no interest in discussing it.

 Try talking about C02 levels or climate science and see how far you get. 

The reality is that climate change has become a matter of opinion, rather than a matter of scientific fact.

 It has made the opinion of the ordinary person with no scientific background equal to the findings of eminent scientists who have devoted their lives and education to the study of the problem.

Only 27 percent of Americans surveyed in a 2016 Pew study agreed with the statement that, “almost all” climate scientists believe climate change is real and primarily caused by humans.

 Contrast this to multiple peer-reviewed scientific studies finding that 97 percent of climate scientists believe climate change is real and that humans are the main contributor. 

In an age of alternative facts and a distrust of science, how do we talk about climate change and the need for action without turning people off?
Stanford Professor Rob Jackson thinks we should stop arguing over climate change and start talking about the shared benefits of addressing problems, like health, green energy jobs, and safety.

 My experience tells me that he is right.
theguardian.com

Renewable Energy Jobs

Six years ago, just before I turned 10, I started a non-profit called Kids Eco Club to inspire kids to care for the planet, its wildlife and each other.

 It starts and supports environmental clubs in K-12 schools.

 Over 100,000 kids now participate annually in Kids Eco Club activities, learning the skills necessary to lead, and to understand the issues facing our world, including climate change. 

Kids Eco Club is successful because we focus on shared values rather than C02 levels.

 Take a class snorkeling, and everyone becomes interested in protecting coral reefs.

 Bring local wildlife into the classroom, and kids will fight for green energy and clean water to protect their habitat. Passion drives us.

kidsecoclub.org

Porcupine classroom visit

My generation does not have the luxury of addressing human-caused climate change as callously or as passively as the generations before us ― because we are running out of time. 

Agriculture, deforestation, and dependence on fossil fuels release greenhouse gasses into our atmosphere, trapping heat, making the Earth warmer. 

The hottest year on record? 

Last year, 2016.

 A warmer Earth creates major impacts everywhere: on ecosystems, oceans, weather.

 Sea levels are rising because the polar ice caps are melting, and the oceans are warming, which causes them to expand. Severe weather events are created from warmer oceans – warmer water, more evaporation, clouds, and rain―causing greater storm damage, more flooding, and, ironically, larger wildfires and more severe droughts since weather patterns are also changing.

graphics.latimes.com

The morning Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans

Imagine three out of every four animal species you know disappearing off the face of the Earth.

 According to the Center for Biological Diversity, we are currently experiencing the worst species die-off since dinosaurs became extinct 65 million years ago. 

Species are vanishing at a rate roughly 100 times higher than normal. 

While things like asteroids and volcanoes caused past extinctions, humans almost entirely cause the current crisis. 

Global warming caused by climate change, habitat loss from development and agriculture, pesticide use, poaching, unsustainable fishing practices, pollution and disease spread by the introduction of exotic species, are driving the crisis beyond the tipping point. 

Can you picture a world without butterflies, penguins, elephants, rhinos, sea turtles, honeybees, orangutans, salamanders, or sharks?

Getty Images

Mother orangutan and baby

The oceans provide 50% of the earth’s oxygen and 97% of its livable habitat. 

The health of our oceans is vital to our survival and the survival of the over one million types of plants and animals living there. Climate change and fossil fuel reliance raise ocean temperatures, causing extreme weather, coastal flooding, and ocean acidification. 

Ocean acidification is beginning to cause the die-off of calcium-rich species at the base of the ocean’s food chain, like coral, shellfish, and plankton.

 This die-off would trigger a spiral of decline in all sea life – from fish to seabirds to whales – and negatively impact hundreds of millions of people who rely on the oceans for food.

 Other human threats include overfishing, pollution, oil drilling and development. 

We need to act now to create change in our own communities by protecting ocean habitats, promoting conservation, and creating sustainable solutions to nurse our oceans back to health.

mintpressnews.com

Dead sperm whales found with plastic in their stomachs

In a world with over 7 billion people, we cannot continue to divide ourselves into categories like believers and climate change deniers, or Republicans and Democrats. (labor or Liberal) 

The best chance we have of ensuring a world with clean water and clean air is to engage all of us.

 If this takes changing the conversation from “climate change,” to “shared benefits,” then change the conversation. Together all things are possible.

Press link for more: HuffingtonPost

Fuzzy Thinking Won’t Save The Planet #Science #auspol 

The Oxford Dictionary nominated post-truth as the Word of the Year in 2016. 

 Rather than objective facts, politicians promote alternative facts, emotion and personal beliefs as the basis for public debate. 

This spells disaster to a scientist like Brian Schmidt who says we can’t solve the world’s pressing problems without a renewed respect for evidence and expertise.


Professor Brian Schmidt, Nobel Laureate, cosmologist and ANU Vice-Chancellor.
Professor Schmidt delivered the annual Manning Clark lecture : Evidence and expertise in a post-truth world.
Recorded on 3 March 2017 .

Listen Here: ABC Big Ideas

I have been writing this blog for nearly four years, I have always tried to promote science and highlight the limits to growth that our planet can support. 

I have often included news on the challenges we face such as global poverty and climate change in a economic system that demands continuous growth. 

Today I listened to this lecture delivered by Professor Brian Schmidt, he mentions an annual growth of over 100 million people per year, on an already over loaded planet. 

In one hour he covers the journey I have been on, including the importance of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.


If human civilisation is to continue Professor Schmidt says we have five years left to get our act together.

I urge all who read my blog to listen to this speech and act as if your life depended on it. 

Because the Professor thinks it does 
John Pratt 

 

It’s the end of the world! #climatechange #auspol #science 

It’s the end of the world and we know it: Scientists in many disciplines see apocalypse, soon

While apocalyptic beliefs about the end of the world have, historically, been the subject of religious speculation, they are increasingly common among some of the leading scientists today. 

This is a worrisome fact, given that science is based not on faith and private revelation, but on observation and empirical evidence.
Perhaps the most prominent figure with an anxious outlook on humanity’s future is Stephen Hawking. Last year, he wrote the following in a Guardian article:

Now, more than at any time in our history, our species needs to work together. 

We face awesome environmental challenges: climate change, food production, overpopulation, the decimation of other species, epidemic disease, acidification of the oceans. 

Together, they are a reminder that we are at the most dangerous moment in the development of humanity. 

We now have the technology to destroy the planet on which we live, but have not yet developed the ability to escape it.
There is not a single point here that is inaccurate or hyperbolic.


 For example, consider that the hottest 17 years on record have all occurred since 2000, with a single exception (namely, 1998), and with 2016 being the hottest ever.

 Although 2017 probably won’t break last year’s record, the UK’s Met Office projects that it “will still rank among the hottest years on record.” Studies also emphasize that there is a rapidly closing window for meaningful action on climate change.

 As the authors of one peer-reviewed paper put it:
The next few decades offer a brief window of opportunity to minimize large-scale and potentially catastrophic climate change that will extend longer than the entire history of human civilization thus far.


 Policy decisions made during this window are likely to result in changes to Earth’s climate system measured in millennia rather than human lifespans, with associated socioeconomic and ecological impacts that will exacerbate the risks and damages to society and ecosystems that are projected for the twenty-first century and propagate into the future for many thousands of years.
Furthermore, studies suggest that civilization will have to produce more food in the next 50 years than in all of human history, which stretches back some 200,000 years into the Pleistocene epoch.

 This is partly due to the ongoing problem of overpopulation, where Pew projects approximately 9.3 billion people living on spaceship Earth by 2050. 

According to the 2016 Living Planet Report, humanity needs 1.6 Earths to sustain our current rate of (over)consumption — in other words, unless something significant changes with respect to anthropogenic resource depletion, nature will force life as we know it to end.

Along these lines, scientists largely agree that human activity has pushed the biosphere into the sixth mass extinction event in the entire 4.5 billion year history of Earth.

 This appears to be the case even on the most optimistic assumptions about current rates of species extinctions, which may be occurring 10,000 times faster than the normal “background rate” of extinction. 

Other studies have found that, for example, the global population of wild vertebrates — that is, mammals, birds, reptiles, fish and amphibians — has declined by a staggering 58 percent between 1970 and 2012. 

The biosphere is wilting in real time, and our own foolish actions are to blame.
As for disease, superbugs are a growing concern among researchers due to overuse of antibiotics among livestock and humans.

 These multi-drug-resistant bacteria are highly resistant to normal treatment routes, and already some 2 million people become sick from superbugs each year.
Perhaps the greatest risk here is that, as Brian Coombes puts it, “antibiotics are the foundation on which all modern medicine rests. 

Cancer chemotherapy, organ transplants, surgeries, and childbirth all rely on antibiotics to prevent infections. If you can’t treat those, then we lose the medical advances we have made in the last 50 years.” Indeed, this is why Margaret Chan, the director general of the World Health Organization, claims that “Antimicrobial resistance poses a fundamental threat to human health, development and security.”
Making matters even worse, experts argue that the risk of a global pandemic is increasing. The reason is, in part, because of the growth of megacities. According to a United Nations estimate, “66 percent of the global population will live in urban centers by 2050.”

 The closer proximity of people will make the propagation of pathogens much easier, not to mention the fact that deadly germs can travel from one location to another at literally the speed of a jetliner.

 Furthermore, climate change will produce heat waves and flooding events that will create “more opportunity for waterborne diseases such as cholera and for disease vectors such as mosquitoes in new regions.” This is why some public health researchers conclude that “we are at greater risk than ever of experiencing large-scale outbreaks and global pandemics,” and that “the next outbreak contender will most likely be a surprise.”


Finally, the acidification of the world’s oceans is a catastrophe that hardly gets the attention it deserves. 

What’s happening is that the oceans are absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and this is causing their pH level to fall. 

One consequence is the destruction of coral reefs through a process called “bleaching.” 

Today, about 60 percent of coral reefs are in danger of bleaching, and about 10 percent are already underwater ghost towns.
Even more alarming, though, is the fact that the rate of ocean acidification is happening faster today than it occurred during the Permian-Triassic mass extinction. That event is called the “Great Dying” because it was the most devastating mass extinction ever, resulting in some 95 percent of all species kicking the bucket.

 As the science journalist Eric Hand points out, whereas 2.4 gigatons of carbon were injected into the atmosphere per year during the Great Dying, about 10 gigatons are being injected per year by contemporary industrial society. 

Thus, the sixth mass extinction mentioned above, also called the Anthropocene extinction, could turn out to be perhaps even worse than the Permian-Triassic die-off.
So Hawking’s dire warning that we live in the most perilous period of our species’ existence is quite robust.

 In fact, considerations like these have led a number of other notable scientists to suggest that the collapse of global society could occur in the foreseeable future. 

The late microbiologist Frank Fenner, for example, whose virological work helped eliminate smallpox, predicted in 2010 that “humans will probably be extinct within 100 years, because of overpopulation, environmental destruction, and climate change.”

 Similarly, the Canadian biologist Neil Dawe reportedly “wouldn’t be surprised if the generation after him witness the extinction of humanity.” And the renowned ecologist Guy McPherson argues that humanity will follow the dodo into the evolutionary grave by 2026. 

(On the upside, maybe you don’t need to worry so much about that retirement plan.)
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists also recently moved the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock 30 seconds closer to midnight, or doom, primarily because of President Donald J. Trump and the tsunami of anti-intellectualism that got him into the Oval Office. 

As Lawrence Krauss and David Titley wrote in a New York Times op-ed:
The United States now has a president who has promised to impede progress on both [curbing nuclear proliferation and solving climate change]. Never before has the Bulletin decided to advance the clock largely because of the statements of a single person. But when that person is the new president of the United States, his words matter.
At two-and-a-half minutes before midnight, the Doomsday Clock is currently the closest to midnight that it’s been since 1953, after the U.S. and the Soviet Union had both detonated hydrogen bombs.
But so far we have mostly ignored threats to our existence that many leading risk scholars believe are the most serious, namely those associated with emerging technologies such as biotechnology, synthetic biology, nanotechnology and artificial intelligence. In general, these technologies are not only becoming more powerful at an exponential rate, according to Ray Kurzweil’s Law of Accelerating Returns, but increasingly accessible to small groups and even lone wolves. The result is that a growing number of individuals are being empowered to wreak unprecedented havoc on civilization. Consider the following nightmare disaster outlined by computer scientist Stuart Russell:
A very, very small quadcopter, one inch in diameter can carry a one- or two-gram shaped charge. You can order them from a drone manufacturer in China. You can program the code to say: “Here are thousands of photographs of the kinds of things I want to target.” A one-gram shaped charge can punch a hole in nine millimeters of steel, so presumably you can also punch a hole in someone’s head. You can fit about three million of those in a semi-tractor-trailer. You can drive up I-95 with three trucks and have 10 million weapons attacking New York City. They don’t have to be very effective, only 5 or 10 percent of them have to find the target.
Russell adds that “there will be manufacturers producing millions of these weapons that people will be able to buy just like you can buy guns now, except millions of guns don’t matter unless you have a million soldiers. You need only three guys,” he concludes, to write the relevant computer code and launch these drones. 
This scenario can be scaled up arbitrarily to involve, say, 500 million weaponized drones packed into several hundred semi-trucks strategically positioned around the world. The result could be a global catastrophe that brings civilization to its knees — no less than a nuclear terrorism attack or an engineered pandemic caused by a designer pathogen would severely disrupt modern life. As Benjamin Wittes and Gabriella Blum put it in their captivating book “The Future of Violence,” we are heading toward an era of distributed offensive capabilities that is unlike anything our species has ever before encountered.
What sort of person might actually want to do this, though? Unfortunately, there are many types of people who would willingly destroy humanity. The list includes apocalyptic terrorists, psychopaths, psychotics, misanthropes, ecoterrorists, anarcho-primitivists, eco-anarchists, violent technophobes, militant neo-Luddites and even “morally good people” who maintain, for ethical reasons, that human suffering is so great that we would be better off not existing at all. Given the dual technology trends mentioned above, all it could take later this century is a single person or group to unilaterally end the great experiment called civilization forever.
It is considerations like these that have led risk scholars — some at top universities around the world — to specify disturbingly high probabilities of global disaster in the future. For example, the philosopher John Leslie claims that humanity has a 30 percent chance of extinction in the next five centuries. Less optimistically, an “informal” survey of experts at a conference hosted by Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute puts the probability of human extinction before 2100 at 19 percent. And Lord Martin Rees, co-founder of the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at Cambridge University, argues that civilization has no better than a 50-50 likelihood of enduring into the next century.
To put this number in perspective, it means that the average American is about 4,000 times more likely to witness civilization implode than to die in an “air and space transport accident.” A child born today has a good chance of living to see the collapse of civilization, according to our best estimates.
Returning to religion, recent polls show that a huge portion of religious people believe that the end of the world is imminent. For example, a 2010 survey found that 41 percent of Christians in the U.S. believe that Jesus will either “definitely” or “probably” return by 2050. Similarly, 83 percent of Muslims in Afghanistan and 72 percent in Iraq claim that the Mahdi, Islam’s end-of-days messianic figure, will return within their lifetimes. The tragedy here, from a scientific perspective, is that such individuals are worried about the wrong apocalypse! Much more likely are catastrophes, calamities and cataclysms that cause unprecedented (and pointless) human suffering in a universe without any external source of purpose or meaning. At the extreme, an existential risk could tip our species into the eternal grave of extinction.
In a sense, though, religious people and scientists agree: We are in a unique moment of human history, one marked by an exceptionally high probability of disaster. The difference is that, for religious people, utopia stands on the other side of the apocalypse, whereas for scientists, there is nothing but darkness. To be clear, the situation is not by any means hopeless. In fact, there is hardly a threat before us — from climate change to the sixth mass extinction, from apocalyptic terrorism to a superintelligence takeover — that is inevitable. But without a concerted collective effort to avert catastrophe, the future could be as bad as any dystopian sci-fi writer has imagined.
Parts of this article draw from my forthcoming book “Morality, Foresight, and Human Flourishing: An Introduction to Existential Risks.”

Press link for more: Salon.com

March for Science! Today is the day to stand up for #Science 

Today is our chance to show support for science.

All over the planet people will be marching for universal values of science.

Find out where and when in your locality and join the scientists. 

Universal Literacy

A well-informed community is essential to a free and successful society. 

We support education to promote broad public knowledge and discussion of scientific work. 

As professionals, parents, and community-engaged volunteers, we enthusiastically contribute our time and expertise to helping children and students of all ages engage with the physical universe and biological world.

Open Communication

Publicly-funded scientists have a responsibility to communicate their research and public outreach and accessibility of scientific knowledge should be encouraged. 

Communication of scientific findings and their implications must not be suppressed.

Informed Policy

Public policy should be guided by peer-reviewed evidence and scientific consensus. 

Public policy must enable scientists to communicate their publicly-funded research results, and must support literacy in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Stable Investment

A long-term, strategic approach to investment in scientific research and development is essential for driving true innovation. 

Government commitment to stable science funding policy will deliver solutions to complex challenges, promoting prosperity for all.


Our acknowledgment

Science belongs to everyone. It should be pursued for the benefit of all people and for the health of the environment we depend upon.
At March for Science Australia we acknowledge the traditional custodians of the Australian continent, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and pay our respects to ancestors and Elders both past and present.
We recognise that science and scientific pursuits have been used in the past to disenfranchise many minority groups. We are committed to the promotion of science, now and in the future, as an endeavour which all persons have the right to pursue and enjoy the fruits of, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, religion or lack thereof, political affiliation, or socioeconomic status.
Diversity has strengthened and enriched scientific inquiry, and the inclusion of all peoples and the promotion of equal opportunity and training within science should be a goal pursued by scientists and non-scientists alike.

Press link for more: March for Science Australia

March for Science or March for Reality?

March for Science or March for Reality?

By Laurance M. klauss

Shortly after the inauguration of Donald Trump as President, it was announced that a March for Science would be held Washington DC and in a host of other cities in the United States and around the world to protest the new Administration’s apparent anti-science agenda—from denial of climate change to dismantling the EPA, to budget priorities that will cut key science programs throughout the country—and to lobby for science-based policymaking as well as support for scientific research to address the challenges of the 21st century.


Meanwhile the Trump administration’s anti-science actions continue.

 Attorney General Sessions announced just this week that he was disbanding the National Commission on Forensic Science, which advises the federal government to enhance national standards in this area.
I have no idea how the Marches for Science—now over 400 in number across the globe—will play out, and how the media will interpret them.

 A series of worrisome tweets emanating from the March for Science twitter account over the past week, following similar early statements made on the groups website that were subsequently removed, claimed that scientific research promotes violence and inequity in society. 

These have been disavowed but the variety of mixed communications from leaders of the march over the past months suggests at the very least that the organization encompasses a wide diversity of agendas.
This is not surprising. After all, the scientific community has never been a one-issue community, like, say, the anti-abortion movement.

 And the current administration is pushing so many different buttons at the same time, with various attacks on fundamental rights, privacy, diversity, and freedom of expression, that these are bound to get caught up in any movement that promotes openness and free-inquiry, the hallmarks of the scientific enterprise.
Despite any such concerns, a host major science organizations, from the American Association for the Advancement of Science to Union of Concerned Scientists, have signed on as supporters of the March, and are urging their members to join their local marches and speak out for science-based public policy on April 22.


If the event becomes a ‘March By Scientists’ rather than a March for Science—namely if it is dominated by scientists labeling themselves as such, in costumes like white lab coats, rather than by members of the general public supporting evidence-based public policy—that too could be problematic. 

The March for science could then appear as a self-serving political lobbying effort by the scientific community to increase its funding base.
Let’s imagine that this is not the case, and the organizers are wildly successful in attracting hundreds of thousands or million of marchers across the globe this coming Saturday.

 It is still reasonable to wonder what the long-term impact of the marches might be. 

After all, following the worldwide March for Women, in which millions of people marched around the world in support of women’s rights, the Trump administration reacted with a deaf ear. 

Just this past week the President signed legislation allowing states and local governments to withhold federal funding for Planned Parenthood, for example.
The situation is different in this case however, and it may have nothing directly to do with science policy, or even in those areas where science should play a key role in affecting policy.
Every week, the alternative realities invoked by the Trump administration are being demonstrated, by events, to be vacuous. 

The administration claimed it would immediately end, and then fix, problems with Obamacare, and failed miserably. Donald Trump campaigned against foreign military intervention, and this week alone initiated unilateral bombings in Syria and Afghanistan. 

Donald Trump pledged to immediately revise NAFTA, forcing Canada and Mexico to the table to make a better deal. 

Nothing has happened.
He promised Mexico would pay for a wall. 

However the first $2 billion installment for a wall was included in the budget proposal he presented to Congress, compensated by cuts in funding in key areas of science, but also in support of the arts and humanities in this country.
He promised to drain the swamp, but he removed restrictions on lobbyists entering government, and as the New York Times reported just this week, he has filled his administration with them, including individuals who are already facing conflict of interest allegations because of their former activities lobbying the organizations they now run.
He lobbied against Wall Street, but former Wall Street leaders dominate his cabinet and economic advisory groups.
He said he would release his taxes after his inauguration and has not. 

And he claimed he would immediate increase growth and the economy, but as the Wall Street Journal reported just this week, projections for growth of the economy have decreased sharply in recent months, as have retail sales, and the consumer price index.


These are just a few of the immediate and obvious inconsistencies. 

Further, as administration policies on energy and the environment take effect, citizens in communities with drinking water at risk from environmental threats will find that programs to avert further deterioration have been cut, and coal mining communities will find that the natural gas glut has much more to do with the continuing demise of coal than Obama’s efforts to improve air quality in the US by restricting coal plants, which, whatever Trump may claim, are bad for the environment. 

(Indeed as the New York Times reported this week, more than 200,000 tons of coal ash residue each year are produced by the Tennessee Valley Authority, and this has been making its way into groundwater, potentially affecting drinking water supplies, even as the EPA is now delaying compliance with rules enacted to enhance the safe storage and disposal of coal ash.).
The very essence of science, indeed that which is motivating the March for Science, involves skeptical inquiry and a reliance on empirical evidence and constant testing to weed out false hypotheses and unproductive or harmful technologies as we move toward a better understanding of reality: A willingness, in short, to force beliefs and policies to conform to the evidence of reality, rather than vice versa.


Unlike its perception among much of the public and its presentation in many schools today, science is not simply a body of facts, but rather a process for deriving what the facts are. 

This process has helped us uncover hidden secrets of the Universe that never would have been dreamed of and producing technologies that have not only been largely responsible for the standard of living enjoyed by the first world today, but have also increased lifespans around the world. 

With this process the very possibility of “alternative facts” disappears.
By providing such a constant and sharp explicit and observable contrast between policy and empirical reality, the Trump administration can encourage a new public skepticism about political assertions vs. reality, and a demand for evidence before endorsing policies and the politicians who espouse them—the very things that most marchers on April 22nd will be demanding. 

This skepticism is beginning to manifest itself in data. 

A Gallup poll result on April 17 indicated that only 45 percent of the public believe President Trump’s promises, a drop of 17 percent since February.
In this regard, it is worth remembering the words of the Nobel Prizewinning physicist, Richard Feynman, who said: For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled. 

Or, as the science fiction writer Philip K. Dick more colorfully put it: Reality is that which continues to exist even when you stop believing in it.
The Trump Administration is discovering that obfuscation, denial, and hype may work when selling real estate, but in public arena eventually reality has a way of biting you in the butt. And the public is watching. 

The March for Science may be lucky to capitalize upon a growing awareness that there is no Wizard behind the curtain. The number of marchers, their backgrounds, or even their myriad messages may not drive the success of the March. Rather, it may be driven by the harsh examples coming out every day that reality exists independent of the desires or claims of those in power. 

In this case, the greatest asset the March for Science has going for it may be Donald Trump himself.

Press link for more: Scientific American