Western Europe Shatters Temperature Records During Multi-Day Heat Wave #Auspol

Temperatures sailed across Western Europe Wednesday, as Britain recorded its hottest July day ever — 98.1 degrees Fahrenheit at Heathrow Airport. Across the English Channel, Paris saw its second-hottest day on record, with a high of 103.4 degrees Fahrenheit.The high temperatures are part of a multi-day heat wave that broke records across Spain earlier this week, with Madrid setting a new June record high Monday with a temperature of 103.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

Thousands lost power in western France Tuesday, as high temperatures caused power equipment to malfunction in Brittany and the Pays de la Loire. According to the Guardian, state authorities called the situation “exceptional,” noting that its unique for high temperatures to have such an impact on power equipment. Early Wednesday morning, high temperatures caused another power cut in western France that left 120,000 homes in the town of Vannes without electricity.

Governments across the continent urged residents to take precautions, warning that the heat could pose serious health risks to young children, the elderly, and those with preexisting health conditions. In August of 2003, a heat wave killed more than 71,000 across Europe, according to statistics from the International Disaster Database, making it the deadliest heat wave in history. France alone saw more than 14,000 fatalities, mostly isolated elderly. The country has since implemented emergency heat wave measures, including registries for isolated, “at-risk” individuals, and air-conditioned spaces open to the public. Because of emergency measures like these, officials don’t expect this heat wave to be as deadly as the one in 2003.

Europe isn’t the only continent to see record high temperatures in recent weeks. Last month, a heat wave in India led to more than 2,300 deaths, making it the fifth deadliest in world history. Last week, a heat wave in Pakistan killed more than 1,200, with temperatures reaching 113 degrees Fahrenheit. Morgues in the country literally overflowed as officials struggled to deal with the crisis, which was the eighth deadliest heat wave ever recorded.

In North America, the Pacific Northwest — typically temperate, even in the summer — saw record-breaking heat last week, with temperatures soaring above 100 degrees Fahrenheit in some areas. Walla Walla, in Eastern Washington, hit 113 degrees Fahrenheit on Sunday, breaking a June record and tying the third hottest day ever recorded for the city. The heat is expected to stick around the Northwest and northern Rockies into next week, with highs in the 90s and low 100s expected in areas west of the Continental Divide.

South America also saw record-breaking temperatures last month, with the Colombian city of Urumitia setting a national June record with a high of 107.6 degrees Fahrenheit on June 27.

While it’s still too soon to connect any of the recent heat waves to climate change, scientists agree that global warming and deadly heat events are likely linked.

“Attribution of events to climate change is still emerging as a science, but recent and numerous studies continue to speak to heat waves having strong links to warming climate,” Marshall Shepherd, University of Georgia atmospheric sciences program director, told ThinkProgress during India’s deadly heat wave.

A recent study published in Nature Climate Change found that 75 percent of the world’s extremely hot days can be attributed to climate change.

Press link for more: Natasha Geiling | thinkprogress.org


EPA Report Puts a Staggering Price Tag on Climate Inaction #Auspol 

According to a report released Monday by the Obama administration, doing nothing to rein in greenhouse gas emissions would cost the United States billions of dollars and thousands lives.
The findings come as part of an attempt by the Environmental Protection Agency to quantify the human and economic benefits of cutting emissions in an effort to reduce global warming. The report is the latest piece of President Obama’s recent climate push and provides a tool that he hopes to use in negotiations at the UN climate talks in Paris later this year.
The report, which was peer reviewed, estimates that if nothing is done to curb global warming, by 2100, the United States will see an additional 12,000 annual deaths related to extreme temperatures in the 49 cities analyzed for the report. In addition, the report projects an increase of 57,000 premature deaths annually related to poor air quality. The economic costs would be enormous as well. By 2100, climate inaction will result in:
$4.2-$7.4 billion in additional road maintenance costs each year.

$3.1 billion annually in damages to coastal regions due to sea-level rise and storm surges.

$6.6-$11 billion annually in agricultural damages.

A loss of 230,000 to 360,000 acres of cold-water fish habitat.

A loss of 34 percent of the US oyster supply and 29 percent of the clam supply.

$110 billion annually in lost labor due to unsuitable working conditions.

The EPA also used a number of charts to illustrate the difference between taking action to stop (or “mitigate”) climate change and continuing with business as usual (which the charts refer to as the “reference” case).
For example, if we don’t mitigate climate change, temperatures will continue to skyrocket:

Press link for more: Luke Whelan | motherjones.com


We should let climate change refugees resettle here. #Auspol 

By Michael B. Gerrard June 25Michael B. Gerrard, associate faculty chair at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, is the Andrew Sabin professor of professional practice and director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School.

Toward the end of this century, if current trends are not reversed, large parts of Bangladesh, the Philippines, Indonesia, Pakistan, Egypt and Vietnam, among other countries, will be under water. Some small island nations, such as Kiribati and the Marshall Islands, will be close to disappearing entirely. Swaths of Africa from Sierra Leone to Ethiopia will be turning into desert. Glaciers in the Himalayas and the Andes, on which entire regions depend for drinking water, will be melting away. Many habitable parts of the world will no longer be able to support agriculture or produce clean water.
The people who live there will not sit passively by while they and their children starve to death. Tens or hundreds of millions of people will try very hard to go somewhere they can survive. They will be hungry, thirsty, hot — and desperate. If the search for safety involves piling into perilous boats and enduring miserable and dangerous journeys, they will do it. They will cross borders, regardless of whether they are welcome. And in their desperation, they could become violent: Forced migration can exacerbate ethnic and political tensions. Studies show that more heat tends to increase violence.
The United Nations says the maximum tolerable increase in global average temperatures is 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial conditions. (Small island nations argued for a much lower figure; at 3.6 degrees, they’ll be gone.) But the promises that nations are making ahead of the U.N. climate summit in Paris in December would still, according to the International Energy Agency, lead the average temperature to rise by about 4.7 degrees before the end of the century. Those promises are voluntary and nonbinding, and if they aren’t kept, the thermometer could go much higher. Which means our children and grandchildren will be confronting a humanitarian crisis unlike anything the world has ever faced.
Absent the political will to prevent it, the least we can do is to start planning for it.

Press link for more: Michael B. Gerrard | washingtonpost.com


Society will collapse by 2040 due to catastrophic food shortages, says study #Auspol

A scientific model has suggested that society will collapse in less than three decades due to catastrophic food shortages if policies do not change.
The model, developed by a team at Anglia Ruskin University’s Global Sustainability Institute, does not account for society reacting to escalating crises by changing global behaviour and policies.
However the model does show that our current way of life appears to be unsustainable and could have dramatic worldwide consequences.
Dr Aled Jones, the Director of the Global Sustainability Institute, told Insurge Intelligence: “We ran the model forward to the year 2040, along a business-as-usual trajectory based on ‘do-nothing’ trends — that is, without any feedback loops that would change the underlying trend.
“The results show that based on plausible climate trends, and a total failure to change course, the global food supply system would face catastrophic losses, and an unprecedented epidemic of food riots.
In this scenario, global society essentially collapses as food production falls permanently short of consumption.”

The model follows a report from Lloyds of London which has evaluated the extent of the impact of a shock scenario on crop production, and has concluded that the “global food system is under chronic pressure.”
The report said: “The global food system is under chronic pressure to meet an ever-rising demand, and its vulnerability to acute disruptions is compounded by factors such as climate change, water stress, ongoing globalisation and heightening political instability.
“A global production shock of the kind set out in this scenario would be expected to generate major economic and political impacts that could affect clients across a very wide spectrum of insurance classes. This analysis has presented the initial findings for some of the key risk exposures.
“Global demand for food is on the rise, driven by unprecedented growth in the world’s population and widespread shifts in consumption patterns as countries develop.”

Press link for more: Louis Dore | independent.co.uk


Barack Obama interviews Sir David Attenborough. #Auspol #ClimateChange

Normally, it’s President Obama who answers the questions. But on this occasion the US President invited Sir David Attenborough into the White House for a unique interview in which he grills the broadcasting legend about his career and prescriptions to save the planet.
The summit between the President and the great natural history educator took place on Sir David’s 89th birthday.
During the candid encounter, they discussed the future of the planet, their mutual passion for nature and what can be done to protect it.
The President, long an admirer of Sir David’s work, admitted his debt to Sir David for enlightening him on the environmental threats which the planet faces. Sir David is asked his thoughts on the critical issues facing the Earth.
The meeting between the most powerful figure in the Western world and the man who has brought the wonders of our planet into millions of homes will be broadcast on BBC1 this Sunday at 10.30pm.
During their chat, President Obama tells Sir David: “I have been a huge admirer of your work for a very long time…you’ve been a great educator as well as a great naturalist.”
He added: “We’re not moving as fast as we need to and part of what I know from watching your programmes, and all the great work you’ve done, is that these ecosystems are all interconnected.
“If just one country is doing the right thing but other countries are not then we’re not going to solve the problem, we’re going to have to have a global solution to this.”
The President concludes: “What we’re seeing are global trends that depends on the entire world working together, and sadly we haven’t made as much progress as we need to on climate change.”
Sir David Attenborough told the President: “I believe if we can find ways generating and storing power from renewable resources, we will make the problem with oil and coal disappear – because economically, we’ll wish to use these other methods. If we do that, a huge step will be taken in solving the problems of the Earth.”
“I think what’s required is an understanding and a gut feeling that the natural world is part of your inheritance. This is the only planet we’ve got and we’ve got to protect it. And people do feel that, deeply and instinctively, it is after all where you go in moments of celebration and in moments of grief.”

Press link for more: Adam Sherwin | independent.co.uk


An open letter from Australian Farmers. #ClimateChange #Auspol 

Aussie farmers are on the front line of rising temperatures and more extreme weather, so global warming is a priority issue for rural, regional and remote Australia.
Hot days have doubled in the last fifty years and heatwaves are longer, hotter and more intense. Climate change is already worsening drought conditions in south-west and south-east Australia and droughts are likely to worsen in many parts of the country without deep and rapid cuts to greenhouse gas emissions. The first five months of 2015 have been the hottest ever recorded.
A strong target to cut carbon pollution, a transition plan away from coal and gas towards renewable energy, and a strong deal at the UN climate talks in Paris this December are all in the interests of Aussie farmers and our families.
We as Aussie farmers call on the Liberal Party conference to reject the motion put by the regional and rural committee of the Liberal Party questioning the basis of climate science, and instead call for post-2020 targets to cut carbon pollution that are in line with scientists’ recommendations of at least 40% by 2025, and at least 60% by 2030 over 2000 pollution levels.


We are a group of farmers from around Australia concerned about the impacts of rising temperatures and more extreme weather on our land and livelihoods.
As farmers, we listen to science and respect voices like the CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology. So should our political leaders.
We came together because farmers need a voice to counteract the motion put forward by the Rural and Regional committee of the Liberal party for their national conference for a House of Representatives Inquiry questioning the basis of climate science.
In the next fortnight the Liberal Party will decide on Australia’s next target to cut carbon pollution, and we believe it should be in line with what science tells us is necessary to stay below a 2 degrees temperature rise (see for example here).
Contact us at info@farmerletter.org

Press link for more: farmerletter.org


A child born today may live to see humanity’s end, unless #Auspol #ClimateChange 

A child born today may live to see humanity’s end, unless…By David Auerbach June 18, 2015


A couple hugs while standing on a hilly area overlooking Cairo on a dusty and hazy day where temperatures reached 46 Celsius (114 Fahrenheit)

A couple hugs while standing on a hilly area overlooking Cairo on a dusty and hazy day where temperatures reached 114 Fahrenheit, May 27, 2015. REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih
Humans will be extinct in 100 years because the planet will be uninhabitable, said the late Australian microbiologist Frank Fenner, one of the leaders in the effort to eradicate smallpox during the 1970s. He blamed overcrowding, denuded resources and climate change.
Fenner’s prediction, made in 2010, is not a sure bet, but he is correct that there is no way emissions reductions will be enough to save us from our trend toward doom. And there doesn’t seem to be any big global rush to reduce emissions, anyway. When the G7 called on Monday for all countries to reduce carbon emissions to zero in the next 85 years, the scientific reaction was unanimous: That’s far too late.
And no possible treaty that emerges from the current United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Ch”ange in Bonn, Germany, in preparation for November’s United Nations climate conference in Paris, will be sufficient. At this point, lowering emissions is just half the story — the easy half. The harder half will be an aggressive effort to find the technologies needed to reverse the climate apocalypse that has already begun.
For years now, we have heard that we are at a tipping point. Al Gore warned us in An Inconvenient Truth that immediate action was required if we were to prevent global warming. In 2007, Sir David King, former chief scientific advisor to the British government, declared, “Avoiding dangerous climate change is impossible – dangerous climate change is already here. The question is, can we avoid catastrophic climate change?” In the years since, emissions have risen, as have global temperatures. Only two conclusions can be drawn: Either these old warnings were alarmist, or we are already in far bigger trouble than the U.N. claims. Unfortunately, the latter seems to be the case.
Lowering emissions and moving to cleaner energy sources is a necessary step to prevent catastrophic temperature rises. The general target is to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius. Higher increases — like the 5C increase currently projected by 2100 — run the risk of widespread flooding, famine, drought, sea-level rise, mass extinction and, worse, the potential of passing a tipping point (frequently set at 6C) that could render much of the planet uninhabitable and wipe out most species. Even the 2C figure predicts more than a meter’s rise in sea levels by 2100, enough to displace millions. It is no wonder that the Pentagon calls climate change a serious “threat multiplier” and is considering its potential disruptive impact across all its planning.
This is where the U.N. talks fall short — by a mile. The targets proffered by the United States (a 26 percent to 28 percent decrease from 2005 levels by 2025), the European Union (a 40 percent decrease from 1990 levels by 2030) and China (an unspecified emissions peak by 2030) are nowhere near enough to keep us under the 2C target. In 2012, journalist Bill McKibben, in a feature for Rolling Stone, explained much of the math behind the current thinking on global warming. He concluded that the United Nations’ figures were definitely on the rosy side. In particular, McKibben noted that the temperature has already increased 0.8C, and even if we were to stop all carbon-dioxide emissions today, it would increase another 0.8C simply due to the existing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. That leaves only a 0.4C buffer before hitting 2C. Even assuming the Paris conference implements everything that’s promised, we will be on track to use up the remaining “carbon budget” — the amount of carbon we can emit without blowing past the 2C threshold — within two to three decades, not even at mid-century.
These emissions-reduction frameworks, it is safe to say, are simply insufficient. By themselves, they only offer a small chance of preventing the earth from becoming mostly uninhabitable – for humans at least — over the next few centuries. For the talks to be more than just a placebo, they need to encompass aggressive plans for climate mitigation, with the assumption that current wishful targets won’t be met.
Apart from coordination to cope with climate-driven crises and associated instability, climate-change leadership needs to encourage and fund the development of technologies to reverse what we are unable to stop doing to our planet. Many of these technologies fall under the rubric of “carbon sequestration” — safely storing carbon rather than emitting it. Riskier strategies, like injecting sulfates into the air to reflect more of the sun’s heat into space and ocean iron fertilization to grow algae to suck in carbon, run a high risk of unintended consequences. Better and safer solutions to reduce CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere don’t yet exist; we need to discover them and regulate them, to avoid the chaos of what economists Gernot Wagner and Martin L. Weitzman term “rogue geoengineering” in their book Climate Shock.
None of these approaches are substitutes for emissions reductions. Achieving a carbon-neutral society is a necessary long-term goal regardless of other technological fixes. Technology could buy us the time to get there without our planet burning up. Ultimately, we need a Cold War-level of investment in research into new technologies to mitigate the coming effects of global warming. Without it, the United Nations’ work is a nice gesture, but hardly a meaningful one.

Press link for more: Reuters.com


Climate: the elephant in the room for developing northern Australia #Auspol 

The recently released white paper on developing northern Australia ignores an elephant in the room: climate change. While the paper sees a bright future for the north (roads, rail, dams and food), without considering climate change we can’t be sure the north will even be liveable.
The white paper also fails to take into account other environmental constraints such as water and soils.
On Friday morning Prime Minister Tony Abbott, together with his deputy Warren Truss, Trade Minister Andrew Robb and Federal Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch, spoke passionately to a packed breakfast in Cairns about his government’s vision for Northern Australia, with Abbott describing the white paper as a landmark report for the north. He promised the audience that the far-reaching report would be actioned and will not sit “mouldering on a shelf in Canberra”.
Other commentators have described the white paper as a game-changer for northern Australia requiring our urgent and immediate action.
Yet the rhetoric behind the development of the north is not new. Since federation the “northern Australia agenda” seems to have been popularised by Australian governments at least every 20 years or so – but with little measurable impact or influence.
Why should it be any different this time? Can the region become the food bowl for Australia and neighbouring Asia as proposed in the report? What about the environmental constraints?
Ignoring basic science
The white paper has not referenced high-quality expert advice prepared by the Northern Australian Land and Water Task Force.
The task force report elaborates a great deal about the environmental limitations for broad acre agriculture and cropping across the north, citing poor and easily damaged soils, highly seasonal and erratic rainfall and complex surface and groundwater hydrology, as major constraints for many areas of the north.
The task force found about 5-14% of northern Australian soils could be used for agriculture. They also state that “factors not considered in their assessment (such as flooding, water availability and nutrient availability) may make agricultural use of the soils unprofitable, practically unfavourable or even impossible”. Large-scale cropping in northern Australia will require special and expensive management.
The white paper ignores reference to sophisticated climate change projections for northern Australia developed by our own CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology.
Climate projections for the north this century paint a dire future and bring into question the feasibility and affordability of many of the development policies, plans and projects outlined in the white paper.

A new, climate-changed world
The key messages for northern Australia from the Climate Change in Australia report are there is very high confidence that average temperatures will continue to rise in all seasons, and more hot days and warm spells are projected also with very high confidence.
Unlike southern Australia, changes to rainfall in the north are possible but unclear, but it is very likely the intensity of extreme rainfall events will increase.
In coastal areas it is very likely mean sea level will continue to rise and height of extreme sea level events will also increase. Finally it is somewhat likely that the north may expect fewer but more intense tropical cyclones in the future.
These climate projections are the most comprehensive ever released for Australia and should be taken seriously into any policies and planning for the future of northern Australia.
They raise critical questions for the economic, social and environmental integrity and viability of the north. Can we maintain sustainable cropping, grazing and tourism under such profound climate changes? How will changes in climate affect essential ecosystem services and biodiversity across the north? How will increasing heat impact on human communities?
For example, Darwin will become much less desirable as a place to live as global warming increases average temperatures and number of hot days. Darwin currently has an average of 56 days a year where maximum temperatures exceed 35C.
Under a high emission scenario Darwin may expect over 230 days a year above 35C by 2090.

Press link for more: Prof Steve Turton | theconversation.com


Climate change: the health challenge of our time. #Auspol

We had a great opportunity recently, thanks to some local nonprofits, to give a presentation and lead a discussion in Bozeman entitled, “Climate Change: THE Public Health Challenge of our Time.” We have been practicing physicians in Montana for 27 years and have concerns for the health issues associated with climate change. We were encouraged by the comments and questions from many in the crowd, including health professionals from the Bozeman community.
What causes our concern are the increasing incidences of various health problems associated with pollution and the more extreme weather events associated with climate change. They lead us to the inescapable conclusion that we need to reduce pollution and especially the amount of carbon dioxide, one of the major contributors to climate change, which is entering our atmosphere. Our health, literally, is at stake.
We are familiar with diseases and health conditions that are attributable to pollution, such as premature deaths, asthma, allergies, and cardiovascular disease. Climate change is estimated to cause 400,000 premature deaths per year worldwide. Asthma affects one in 12 Americans and has been greatly worsened by particulate matter in the air, which comes largely from burning fossil fuels, car exhausts and wildfires.

Allergies worsen as the earth continues to warm – the plants that cause allergies live longer each year and produce more pollen, herbicides are less effective, and their distribution widens. Asthmatic patients’ disease is frequently worsened by allergies. Pollution particulate has its greatest effects on cardiovascular disease (heart attacks and strokes), causing millions of deaths worldwide and tens of thousands in the U.S. per year.
There are also significant and life-threatening health problems associated with the extreme weather events driven by climate change that we often don’t think about. Flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes, drought and higher temperatures can lead to a spread of vector borne diseases, such as those caused by mosquitoes and ticks, with longer breeding seasons and higher reproduction rates; food- and water-borne illnesses, such as diarrhea, increase with both flooding and during drought conditions, both of which are becoming more frequent with climate change.
Nutrition is being affected for multiple reasons. Drought and severe flooding lower crop yields. Crop pests and pathogens are moving poleward so that we are seeing new invasives, including here in Montana, that lower crop yields and nutrition. Some pathogens and pests, such as aphids and Japanese beetles, are attracted to higher carbon dioxide levels, which allow them to proliferate and spread, reducing plants’ natural defenses, productivity and protein. Increased carbon dioxide decreases the yield for wheat (21 percent for every 1.8 degree F increase in temperature) as well as its protein content. Increased heat affects corn yields – for every day over 84 degrees F, the annual yield is decreased 0.7 percent.
One third of the world’s food is from the ocean and that food supply is increasingly at risk. Ocean acidification and pollution have destroyed over half of the coral reefs and affect the organisms at the bottom of the marine food chain, which disrupts the entire food chain in the ocean.
Over 50 million people a year have become “climate refugees” due to extreme weather: floods, sea-level rise, desertification and drought. They are at high risk of human rights abuses, including lack of access to food, water, medical care and mental health care.

Press link for more: Drs Lori & Rob Byron | bozemandailychronicle.com


Indiana Jones of collapsed cultures: Our Western civilization itself is a bubble #Auspol

Editor’s Note: How can you spot an economy, indeed a civilization, in collapse? Anthropology gives us some answers.
Ted Fischer, a professor of anthropology and director of the Center for Latin American Studies at Vanderbilt University, studies the ways cultural values influence economic decisions. Today on Making Sen$e he interviews the “real Indiana Jones,” aka Arthur Demarest, about the fate of our own society. Demarest, also an anthropology professor at Vanderbilt University, sees signs of collapse.

I ask Demarest, given his study of the fall of societies, what are the lessons we should take away for our own system. His answer: “We are in trouble.” But the reasons why might surprise you.
Ted Fischer: Is there a common theme in collapses, or is each one different?
Arthur Demarest: Paradoxically, the key strengths of civilizations are also their central weaknesses. You can see that from the fact that the golden ages of civilizations are very often right before the collapse.

The Golden Age of Greece was the same thing: status rivalry with architecture, literature, and all these wonderful things—along with warfare—at the end of which Greece was conquered by Macedonia and remained under the control of foreign powers for 2,300 years.

We see this pattern repeated continuously, and it is one that should make us nervous. I just heard Bill Gates say that we are living in the greatest time in history. Now you can understand why Bill Gates would think that, but even if he is right, that is an ominous thing to say.
Ted Fischer: We talk a lot about sustainability these days, but your work raises the question: Is collapse inevitable?
Arthur Demarest: On the future of the U.S., or of Western civilization in general, I tend to be quite pessimistic. Perhaps that is simply because “collapse” is what I do. As an archaeologist, I have excavated single trenches, just a few meters deep, in which you can see stratigraphic levels of several civilizations. We find layers of artifacts and evidence indicating periods of great prosperity, but always separated by levels of burned earth, ash and artifacts that reflect the epochs of social disintegration, chaos and tragedy that seem to conclude the achievements and aspirations of every society.
With that caveat about my gloomy perspective, I would say that today I see most of the symptoms of societies on the brink of collapse, not just in the U.S., but in the tightly interconnected societies of Western civilization – now essentially world civilization.

Ted Fischer: You have observed that in a crisis, leaders “do what they always do, just more of it.” Could you explain?
Arthur Demarest: When there is pressure for leaders to respond to problems or crises, they often simply intensify their efforts in their particular defined sphere of activity – even if that’s not relevant to the real problem. To do otherwise requires taking on entrenched practices and asserting power in areas where it often will not be well received. And leaders tend to see major crises more as threats to their own position rather than as systemic challenges for the societies that they govern or the institutions that they manage.
Frenzied grand constructions, wars and great rituals are among the common responses of ancient leaders to crises. These demonstrate powerful responses by the leaders (enhancing their threatened hold on power), but almost never really address the problems themselves. A cynic might characterize the giant U.S. stimulus bill of 2009 as such an effort.

Leaders may recognize that they are not addressing the real problems, but they rationalize their actions with the argument that they must first politically survive in order to later address the hard problems and sacrifices. Of course, they usually don’t ever actually get around to addressing the fundamental problems later, either because they don’t make it through the initial crisis or because, even later, they are not willing to risk sacrificing their own position (or “career”) with needed measures that usually require tough sacrifices by the population.
Ted Fischer: You are currently excavating the Classic Maya city of Cancuén. Do you see these trends at play there?
Arthur Demarest: Yes. The divine kings of the Classic Maya civilization led their societies in religion, religious constructions, and enormous rituals, as well as warfare. When that civilization ran into problems of overpopulation, environmental damage, drought and economic competition in the late eighth century, they could only respond with ever greater rituals and temple construction to appease the (clearly unsatisfied) deities, as well as responding through warfare against other states.
These steps were actually counterproductive, imposing additional costs and damage and not addressing the real problems. Yet, any really helpful response would have involved political change to redefine the very nature [of] leadership and its roles and institutions.

Press link for more: Edward Fischer | pbs.org