UK

Climate denial is a rejection of God’s gift of knowledge, says Episcopal leader.

The highest ranking woman in the Anglican Communion has said climate denial is a “blind” and immoral position which rejects God’s gift of knowledge.

Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church and one of the most powerful women in Christianity, said that climate change was a moral imperative akin to that of the civil rights movement. She said it was already a threat to the livelihoods and survival of people in the developing world.

“It is, in that sense, much like the civil rights movement in this country where we are attending to the rights of all people and the rights of the earth to continue to be a flourishing place,” Bishop Jefferts Schori said in an interview with the Guardian. “It is certainly a moral issue in terms of the impacts on the poorest and most vulnerable around the world already.”

In the same context, Jefferts Schori attached moral implications to climate denial, suggesting that those who reject the underlying science of climate change are turning their backs on God’s gift of knowledge.

Press link for more: Suzanne Goldenberg | grist.org

Electricity system can be 70% renewable by 2050.

A recent global research initiative conducted by DNV GL has concluded that more than 80% of global energy participants believe that the electricity system can be 70% renewable by 2050.

In fact, the research finds that almost half of those involved in the research believe that a 70% renewable energy grid is possible in the next 15 years.

But, as the report concludes, such a transition to primarily-renewable energy “is contingent upon three dynamics”: convergence, rebalancing, and expansion.

The report, Beyond Integration: Three dynamics reshaping renewables and the grid, was published by DNV GL, the world’s largest resource of independent energy experts, and surveyed over 1,600 energy sector participants from more than 70 countries to address “key questions on how to best move forward the integration of renewables into the global electricity grids to ensure the future of electricity.”

One of the primary catalysts for the report was DNV GL’s concern that “Renewables are too often conceived as something to be ‘integrated’ into status quo arrangement. A smarter approach is needed.”

The report surveyed over 1,600 people from 71 countries, seeking “views on a scenario in which renewables account for 70% of power sector generation.” Additionally, “to help interpret these findings, [DNV GL] spoke to senior industry executives from E.ON, TEPCO, DONG Energy, and NYISO to understand what the energy transition means for them.”

Press link for more: Joshua Hill | reneweconomy.com.au

Pharrell to the UN: ‘It’s time to go from climate change to climate action.

UNITED NATIONS (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – It’s time to go “from climate change to climate action” in efforts to save the planet, U.S. pop star Pharrell Williams said at the United Nations on Friday.

Singer-producer Williams, 41, partnered with the United Nations Foundation on the International Day of Happiness to raise awareness and call for more action on climate change.

“If you look at our behaviour is hard to believe we’re all aware we only have one planet,” Williams said in a General Assembly hall crowded with young people. “My main inspiration for being here today is that we’re in trouble, but we can change that. This earth is our home.”

The star is the creative director of the Live Earth movement, which campaigns for a climate deal to be reached before a global summit takes place in Paris in December.

“On this day we are using the universal language of music to show solidarity with the millions of people around the world suffering from poverty, human rights abuses, humanitarian crises and the effects of environmental degradation and climate change,” United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a video message.

As the event wrapped up, the audience got up and started dancing to “Happy”.

Williams later greeted young fans who swarmed the General Assembly hall’s stage, sending U.N. security momentarily into panic as it struggled to contain the wave of screaming young people and their parents.

Press link for more: Maria Caspani | businessinsider.com

Video: http://www.theguardian.com/music/video/2015/mar/21/pharrell-united-nations-happiness-video  

Collision Course: Endless Growth on a Finite Planet By Kerryn Higgs

The notion of ever-expanding economic growth has been promoted so relentlessly that “growth” is now entrenched as the natural objective of collective human effort. The public has been convinced that growth is the natural solution to virtually all social problems—poverty, debt, unemployment, and even the environmental degradation caused by the determined pursuit of growth. Meanwhile, warnings by scientists that we live on a finite planet that cannot sustain infinite economic expansion are ignored or even scorned. In Collision Course, Kerryn Higgs examines how society’s commitment to growth has marginalized scientific findings on the limits of growth, casting them as bogus predictions of imminent doom.

Higgs tells how in 1972, The Limits to Growth—written by MIT researchers Donella Meadows, Dennis Meadows, Jorgen Randers, and William Behrens III—found that unimpeded economic growth was likely to collide with the realities of a finite planet within a century. Although the book’s arguments received positive responses initially, before long the dominant narrative of growth as panacea took over. Higgs explores the resistance to ideas about limits, tracing the propagandizing of “free enterprise,” the elevation of growth as the central objective of policy makers, the celebration of “the magic of the market,” and the ever-widening influence of corporate-funded think tanks–a parallel academic universe dedicated to the dissemination of neoliberal principles and to the denial of health and environmental dangers from the effects of tobacco to global warming. More than forty years after The Limits to Growth, the idea that growth is essential continues to hold sway, despite the mounting evidence of its costs—climate destabilization, pollution, intensification of gross global inequalities, and depletion of the resources on which the modern economic edifice depends.

Press link for more: Collision Course | mitpress.mit.edu


Carbon pollution the cause of mass extinction events. 

A mass extinction is an event in the fossil record, a fossilised disaster if you like, in which a massive, globally widespread and geologically rapid loss of species occurred from numerous environments. The “Big five” extinctions of the Phanerozoic (that time since the beginning of the Cambrian period, 541 million years ago) are those in which, in each instance, over half of known species disappeared from the fossil record.

How did they happen? The causes of such events, with a truly global reach, have been a well-known bone of contention within the Earth Sciences community over many decades. The popular media likes to portray such things as Hollywood-style disasters, in which everything gets wiped out in an instant. But in the realms of science, things have changed. The critically important development has been the refinement of radiometric dating, allowing us to age-constrain events down to much narrower windows of time. We can now, in some cases, talk about the start and end of an event in terms of tens of thousands (rather than millions) of years.

Such dating, coupled with the other time-tools of palaeomagnetism and the fossil record, have made it possible to develop a much clearer picture of how mass-extinctions occur. That picture is one of periods of global-scale pollution and environmental stress associated with large perturbations to the carbon cycle, lasting for thousands of years. Such upheavals are related to unusual episodes of volcanic activity with an intensity that is almost impossible to imagine. The geological calling-cards of such events are known as Large Igneous Provinces (LIPs). Bringing environmental and climatic changes at rates similar to the ones we have been creating, they have been repeat-offenders down the geological timeline. This introductory piece examines LIPs in the framework of more familiar volcanic activity: it is the only way to get a handle on their vastness.

Press link for more: skepticalscience.com

Part Two: the Siberian Traps and the end Permian mass extinction.

With more than 90% of all marine species and 75% of land species wiped out, the end Permian mass extinction was the worst biosphere crisis in the last 600 million years. The extinction was global in reach: almost all animals and plants in almost all environmental settings were affected. An idea of the severity can be visualised by considering that the time afterwards was marked by the beginning of a coal gap lasting for ten million years: coal-forming ecosystems – i.e. forests – simply did not exist for that time.

The onset of the mass extinction coincided with the main part of the eruption of the late Permian Siberian Traps Large Igneous Province (LIP), 251.9 million years ago (Ma). It contains what may be the largest known volume of terrestrial flood basalt in the world. Estimates vary but they start at volumes of at least 3 million cubic kilometres of igneous rocks that were erupted onto and intruded beneath the surface during the event. There are some much larger volume estimates that take into account “missing” erupted rocks since eroded away and the likely ratio of intruded to erupted rocks. Either way, as eruptive cycles go this was one of the biggest ever.

At the same time, there was a dramatic perturbation to the global carbon cycle, involving the injection of enough carbon dioxide to the atmosphere to triple the pre-existing levels and raise temperatures substantially. There were severe problems with other pollutants: acid rain, soil erosion, algal blooms and ocean acidification and anoxia all took a dramatic toll on life on land and in the seas.

An estimated massive (100,000 billion tonnes) carbon dioxide release is thought to have been responsible for the dramatic carbon isotope-spike accompanying the extinction. Let me make this plain: such a spike cannot be generated without something of a drastic nature happening that involves a lot of carbon. The underground cooking of hydrocarbon-bearing evaporite and coal-bearing rock sequences by hot magma has been convincingly blamed for at least part of the release. So how does it compare to our CO2 emissions of ca. 32.3 billion tonnes a year? The late Permian carbon isotope-spike lasted some 2,100 to 18,800 years. Let’s round off the figures to make them easier to see in the mind’s eye: 2000 to 20,000 years. On the 2000 year scale, to produce a carbon dioxide burp of this magnitude, 5,000 billion tonnes would need to be emitted per century: on the 20,000 year scale it would take 500 billion tonnes per century. That’s the range. Our emissions, if they carry on at the present (2014) rate? 3,230 billion tonnes per century. The conclusion is stark: we are outgassing carbon dioxide at the same (or greater) rate as a Large Igneous Province whose overall effects killed most of life on Earth at the end of the Permian.

Late Permian volcanism and associated mass extinction took place, it is thought, over a maximum of several tens of thousands of years. Our self-inflicted environmental changes, assuming for one dreadful moment that we don’t get cracking and do something about them, are occurring over a few centuries. The kill-mechanisms may differ slightly from the end Permian events because of the differences outlined in the paragraphs above, but the most likely cause of any future large-scale extinction is nevertheless clear: prolonged environmental stress caused by widespread pollution. Extinction-level events occur when changes to the environment’s physical and chemical properties occur on too widespread and rapid a basis for many species to successfully adapt or migrate. If anyone can think of a better incentive to clean our act up than that, let’s hear it.

Press link for more: skepticalscience.com

5 Ways to Reduce the Drivers of Climate Change

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim gave a lecture at Georgetown University on March 18, 2015, about the development challenges created by climate change and actions that can be taken now to reduce the drivers of climate change and the impact.

Climate change is fundamentally a development issue. It threatens to exacerbate poverty and hurt economic growth. At the same time, how countries grow and the investments they make to meet the energy, food and water needs of an expanding population can fuel climate change, raising risks worldwide, or contribute to solutions.

In a lecture to students at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., on March 18, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim laid out five key areas where policies and growth choices can help reduce the drivers of climate change.

“We have to keep the economy growing – there is no turning back on growth,” President Kim told the student audience. “What we have to do is decouple growth from carbon emissions.”

Put a price on carbon

Cutting emissions starts with clear policy signals.

Carbon pricing systems – such as emissions trading systems that cap emissions or carbon taxes that charge per ton – send a long-term signal to companies by creating an incentive to reduce polluting behaviors and to invest in cleaner energy choices and low-carbon innovation.

End fossil fuel subsidies

Fossil fuel subsidies send a different signal – one that can encourage waste and discourage low-carbon growth. By phasing out harmful fossil fuel subsidies, countries can reallocate their spending to where it is most needed and most effective, including proving targeted support for the poor.

Build low-carbon, resilient cities

Getting prices right is one part of the equation. Another piece is building a sustainable future, because all development happens in the context of climate change.

There will be more infrastructure built in the next 20 years than in the past 6,000, the president told the audience.  Cities are growing fast, particularly in the developing world. Just over half the global population is urban today; by 2050, cities are expected to hold two-thirds of the world population.

Increase energy efficiency and use of renewable energy

When we talk about energy, we have to talk about access. Worldwide, about 1.2 billion people lack access to electricity and 2.8 billion rely on solid fuels for cooking, such as wood, charcoal, and coal, which cause harmful indoor air pollution.

Through the Sustainable Energy for All initiative, the World Bank Group support three goals for 2030:  achieve universal access to modern energy, double the rate of improvement in energy efficiency, and double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.

Energy efficiency improvements are crucial. Every gigawatt saved is a gigawatt that didn’t have to be produced. Globally, energy use is about one-third lower today than it would have been without the past 20 years of energy efficiency improvements.

Implement climate-smart agriculture and nurture forest landscapes

The fifth area for action takes in both mitigation and adaptation. Climate-smart agriculture techniques help farmers increase their farms’ productivity and resilience to the impacts of climate change, such as droughts, while also creating carbon sinks that help reduce net emissions. Forests, too, are valuable carbon sinks that absorb carbon and store it in soils, trees, and foliage.


Press link for more: World bank

Queensland heatwave: Parts of the state sweltering through extreme conditions.

Large parts of Queensland will continue to bake in unprecedented hot autumn conditions with the heatwave expected to last for days, according to the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM).

BoM said one outback western Queensland community yesterday recorded the hottest day this late in March in the state’s history and there were more extreme conditions predicted today.

Today’s forecast temperatures are expected to be 10 to 12 degrees above average, with the mercury to rise to the high 30s and into the 40s for most regions in Queensland.

South-east Ipswich is forecast to be 39 degrees and Toowoomba 35.

Larry Bernie is used to working through the heat, but the length of the current hot spell is unusual even for west Queensland.

Mr Bernie, who is helping to build a caravan parking lot in Longreach, said he and his colleagues do most of their work in the morning to avoid the heat.

“We try and keep our fluids up,” he said.

“We’d probably drink up to eight litres of water a day per person, and more when we get home.”

BoM forecaster Jess Carey said Bedourie yesterday saw 43.4 degrees at about 3pm.

“That is the latest, hottest temperature recorded in Queensland’s history, so I dare say that will be broken today with temperatures expected to get to 45 in Windorah and Birdsville,” Mr Carey said.

Press link for more : Chrissy Arthur | abc.net.au

Climate science predicts it will get hotter & dryer. This is just the beginning, drought & extreme heat will become the norm unless we dramatically reduce carbon pollution. 

Climate change demands immense changes to the economic system.

Mark Lynas says: “Solving climate change does not mean rolling back capitalism, suspending the free market or stopping economic growth” (Save us from the miserabilists in the battle over climate change, 12 March).

This statement would have made much sense 35 years ago. The urgency for rapid action had not been established. But all this has changed. Whether or not the new “crisis” reinforces an ideological position on the left (despite splits over nuclear power and GM crops) leading to “an outright denialist position” on the right is now so much water under the bridge.

Immense changes to the economic system must be made over the next few years, and the blame game gets us nowhere. If Klein’s belief that “corporate capitalism must be dismantled’” is wrong, it is up to the right to show how the new measures required can work under the present system. Governments should play a powerful role in facilitating compromises, where these can be made, and encouraging national debates on the basis of evidence rather than belief.
David Anderson

Bingley, West Yorkshire

David Anderson | theguardian.com


Climate change: Antarctica’s glaciers melting, sea levels rising.

SEA levels could rise by a staggering 6.8m within a century in a double whammy the world may not have even seen coming.

Humans have destabilised the great ice sheet of West Antarctica to such a level that it will cause a sea level rise of 3.4m.

However, the worst may be yet to come with predictions that another gigantic glacier in East Antarctica, could result in the same thing happening all over again, according to new research published in scientific journal Nature Geoscience.

The research, compiled by an international team of scientists representing the United States, Britain, France and Australia, found the Totten Glacier of East Antarctica is thinning faster than anyone imagined.

The scientists took a number of flights over the glacier and took measurements to try and figure out the reasons behind the ice sheet’s shrinkage and found it was melting quickly due to the warm ocean underneath it.

Scientists say it’s alarming given it holds back a much more vast catchment of ice than that and if it were to melt further could amount to a global sea level rise of 3.35m, meaning Antarctic ice melt alone could increase sea levels by almost 7 metres.

Press link for more: news.com.au