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

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

 

Illustration by Mark Long

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Others are less sanguine. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Press link for more: The Guardian

Sea level rise’s impacts hardest to ignore. #StopAdani #auspol 

The State of Climate Science: Sea Level Rise’s Impacts Are the Hardest to Ignore – Climate Liability News
For years, politically and financially motivated campaigns have wrapped climate science in a cloak of doubt. 

Scientists, initially caught off guard, eventually responded with a relentless barrage of peer-reviewed papers producing a collection of very specific findings that together have led to irrefutable evidence of the human fingerprints on climate change. 

In this three-part series, we’ll look at the state of the science linking human-induced climate change to environmental, human and business impacts and whether the science has grown strong enough to be successful evidence in lawsuits holding fossil fuel producers accountable for those impacts.
By Amy Westervelt

Few people are clearer on the scientific evidence for anthropogenic climate change than those who study the warming, rising oceans.

 And among all of climate change’s impacts, sea level rise is the most obvious to see and quantify.
According to the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), global sea levels have risen by about 8 inches since 1880, the start of the industrial revolution.

 The report shows that rate is increasing, with projections of 2 to 7 more feet of rise this century, the higher number based on a high-emissions scenario in which the Greenland Ice Sheet melts completely by 2100.
A groundbreaking study led by Robert Kopp, associate professor in Rutgers’ Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, published last year in Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences (PNAS) quantified the extent to which human behavior has impacted sea level rise.

Kopp and his colleagues found that without human-caused global warming, global sea level would have risen by less than half the observed 20th century increase and might even have fallen. 

“The 20th-century rise was extraordinary in the context of the last three millennia – and the rise over the last two decades has been even faster,” Kopp said when the paper was published.
Ben Strauss, vice president for sea level rise and climate impacts at Climate Central, said research conducted over the past three years has been able to precisely pinpoint the human contribution to sea level rise by stripping away all other potential drivers, including natural variability, sinking land, non-emissions-related human causes, and the global cooling of the 19th century. “You need a rigorous analysis to quantify the human contribution to sea level rise, versus just quantifying total global sea rise,” he said.  
Recent research has done just that, and the results are conclusive: humans have caused the seas to rise in addition to the increases that occurred naturally.

 On average, globally, human causes have increased sea levels between 5 and 6 inches. The potential damage threatens coastal communities and infrastructure throughout the U.S., putting millions of people in harm’s way.
“In the period since 1980, atmospheric CO2 emissions attributable to man—and it doesn’t all stay in the atmosphere, some is deposited in oceans, forests, and so forth—but cumulative emissions from that period, 1980 to now, is equal to or greater than all previous emissions, going back to the pre-industrial age,” said Dan Cayan, a climate and atmospheric science researcher at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography at the University of California at San Diego.
“So in this relatively short period of time, we’ve almost doubled the amount of CO2 in the ecosystem.”
Cayan, who works with the state of California to determine the impacts of sea level rise and plan mitigation strategies, said both global and regional temperatures have responded accordingly. “According to most models, doubling emissions would increase temperatures in California by about 4 degrees Fahrenheit,” he said.
That might not seem like much, but it has cascading and worrisome consequences. “In California, for every degree Fahrenheit of warming, we lose about 20 percent of the spring snowpack,” Cayan said.
California will be hard hit by global climate change, as sea levels rise and coastal flooding increases. Science linking that rise to human-related CO2 emissions is now building the foundation for legal action. Lawsuits filed in July by the counties of San Mateo and Marin and the city of Imperial Beach charge some of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions – 37 fossil fuel companies – with public nuisance and negligence in an attempt to require these companies to absorb some of the costs associated with adapting to sea level rise.
Detailing the Damage
Other coastal cities may soon follow suit, pun intended. New York City has estimated its adaptation costs with respect to sea level rise at about $19.5 billion. Recent studies have attributed about $2 billion of the $12 billion in damage inflicted by superstorm Sandy in New York City alone to human contributions. That estimate was made possible in part by the research led by Kopp.
Strauss and his team have taken that research and run with it, analyzing the frequency of nuisance floods, defined as flooding that closes coastal area roads, overwhelms storm drains, and compromises infrastructure. Strauss calculated that from 1950 through 2014, 5,809 of the 8,726 nuisance flood days— two-thirds of them— would not have taken place without human-caused global sea level rise. Even using a low estimate, more than 3,500 of the flood days would not have taken place.

“Intuitively, you could say that every coastal flood should be more damaging if it starts at a higher sea level, and most attribution science focuses on the question of whether a damaging event was made more likely by climate change,” Strauss said. “But working with sea level and coastal floods you can sidestep that question entirely. You can basically say we don’t care how or why the storm happened, in fact you can even assume climate change had no role in the strength or length of the storm, and still say it did more damage because it started at a higher sea level.”
Strauss said three out of four coastal floods over the last decade in the U.S. were tipped over the balance by human-caused climate change. “They would not have exceeded the National Weather Service’s definition of a flood if you removed that human-caused sea level rise,” he said.
Strauss and his team are now working to refine work they began in 2014, quantifying the cost of the damage inflicted by human-induced sea-level rise during superstorm Sandy. By focussing on New York City, the team initially attributed about $2 billion of the $12 billion in damages to human-related sea level rise. “That was before the Kopp et al paper came out,” Strauss said. “Now we’re working with real numbers, and we’re expanding to include the tri-state area.”
Those numbers run counter to the arguments used by fossil fuel companies for decades to justify continuing and unlimited fossil fuel burning: that climate change is not driven by human activity, and even if it was, its impacts won’t be significant and won’t be felt until far in the future.
Data and Deception
That campaign to obscure the realities of climate change has come into increasing focus in recent years.
“There is growing awareness and documentation that major fossil fuel companies knew of the impacts of their products back in the 1980s and that they invested millions of dollars and time in order to sow confusion and avoid regulation,” said Peter Frumhoff, director of science and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Much of that documentation has come to light in the cases brought against ExxonMobil by the attorneys general of New York and Massachusetts. A timeline included in the exhibits filed as part of the California cases reveals the impact of this deception. It shows mounting scientific evidence, and transparency, around the human drivers of climate change in the 1970s and 1980s, building to the summer of 1988 when several bills targeting greenhouse gas emissions were proposed (half by Republicans). The trends shift in the early 1990s, as fossil fuel industry trade groups like the Information Council for the Environment (ICE), formed by the coal industry, and the American Petroleum Institute, begin to fund national climate change denial campaigns. In the intervening years, scientists have worked to compile data that is hard, if not impossible, to politicize or deny.  
In addition to the work Kopp and Strauss have done to pinpoint how humans have impacted sea level rise, Frumhoff and his colleagues have worked to link human-induced climate change to natural disasters and their resulting deaths. Frumhoff also points to the work of Richard Heady, which quantified the contribution of a relatively small group of companies – what Heady calls the “carbon majors” – to climate change. “Heady’s work reveals the remarkable fact that two thirds of industrial emissions are attributable to a small number of companies,” Frumhoff said.
The amount of evidence mixed with the documented deception has many drawing parallels to the tobacco cases in the 1980s and 1990s.
“One thing I’ve been struck by is that in the early days of cases being brought against tobacco, juries and judges initially ruled for industry,” Frumhoff said. “They focused on smoking as a personal choice, and so forth. Over time that changed and by the 1980s cases were beginning to be adjudicated differently and hold companies liable. But the science didn’t change, it stayed the same. What changed was the evidence – some through legal discovery – that companies were engaging in obfuscation, and it was clear that they knew what they were doing and were deliberate in their behavior.”
Frumhoff sees a similar pattern now, with even more powerful new science strengthening the argument.
“There are changes in climate science that are germane,” he said. “The fact that we have this list of a few companies that are primary contributors to climate change coming out at the same time that we have this evidence of deception from companies on climate science … it would be ironic if it weren’t also catastrophic.”  

Press link for more: climateliabilitynews

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

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

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

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

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


There are people alive today who will witness these deaths. 

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

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

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

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

Press link for more: Independent.co.uk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Press link for more: Independent.co.uk

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.

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