Four of nine planetary boundaries have now been crossed as a result of human activity, says an international team of 18 researchers in the January 16 issue of the journal Science. The four are: climate change, loss of biosphere integrity, land-system change, altered biogeochemical cycles (phosphorus and nitrogen).

Two of these, climate change and biosphere integrity, are what the scientists call “core boundaries”. Significantly altering either of these “core boundaries” would “drive the Earth System into a new state”.

“Transgressing a boundary increases the risk that human activities could inadvertently drive the Earth System into a much less hospitable state, damaging efforts to reduce poverty and leading to a deterioration of human well being in many parts of the world, including wealthy countries,” says Lead author, Professor Will Steffen, researcher at the Centre and the Australian National University, Canberra. “In this new analysis we have improved our quantification of where these risks lie.”

The new paper is a development of the Planetary Boundaries concept, which was first published in 2009, identifying nine global priorities relating to human-induced changes to the environment. The science shows that these nine processes and systems regulate the stability and resilience of the Earth System – the interactions of land, ocean, atmosphere and life that together provide conditions upon which our societies depend.

The research builds on a large number of scientific publications critically assessing and improving the planetary boundaries research since its original publication. It confirms the original set of boundaries and provides updated analysis and quantification for several of them, including phosphorus and nitrogen cycles, land-system change, freshwater use and biosphere integrity.

Though the framework keeps the same processes as in 2009, two of them have been given new names, to better reflect what they represent, and yet others have now also been assessed on a regional level.

“Loss of biodiversity” is now called “Change in biosphere integrity.” Biological diversity is vitally important, but the framework now emphasizes the impact of humans on ecosystem functioning. Chemical pollution has been given the new name “Introduction of novel entities,” to reflect the fact that humans can influence the Earth system through new technologies in many ways.

“Pollution by toxic synthetic substances is an important component, but we also need to be aware of other potential systemic global risks, such as the release of radioactive materials or nanomaterials,” says Sarah Cornell, coordinator of the Planetary Boundaries research at the Centre. “We believe that these new names better represent the scale and scope of the boundaries,” she continues.

In addition to the globally aggregated Planetary Boundaries, regional-level boundaries have now been developed for biosphere integrity, biogeochemical flows, land-system change and freshwater use. At present only one regional boundary (South Asian Monsoon) can be established for atmospheric aerosol loading.

“Planetary Boundaries do not dictate how human societies should develop but they can aid decision-makers by defining a safe operating space for humanity,” says co-author Katherine Richardson from the University of Copenhagen.



Nine planetary boundaries:
Climate change
Change in biosphere integrity (biodiversity loss and species extinction)
Stratospheric ozone depletion
Ocean acidification
Biogeochemical flows (phosphorus and nitrogen cycles)
Land-system change (for example deforestation)
Freshwater use
Atmospheric aerosol loading (microscopic particles in the atmosphere that affect climate and living organisms)
Introduction of novel entities (e.g. organic pollutants, radioactive materials, nanomaterials, and micro-plastics).
It's now official: 2014 was the warmest year in recorded history. According to two separate analyses by scientists at NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS) and the National Ocean Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the globally averaged temperature over land and ocean surfaces in 2014 was the highest since 1880 when modern records started. And, with the exception of 1998, the 10 warmest years have all occurred since the beginning of the 21st century. Prior to 2014, the Earth's warmest years were 2005 and 2010.

Since 1880, Earth’s average surface temperature has warmed by about 0.8 degrees Celsius — and the majority of that warming has occurred in the past three decades. This long-term warming trend is the direct result of human activity, says NASA. It is mainly being driven by an increase in carbon dioxide emissions and other greenhouse gas emissions released into the atmosphere from human activity.

“This is the latest in a series of warm years, in a series of warm decades. While the ranking of individual years can be affected by chaotic weather patterns, the long-term trends are attributable to drivers of climate change that right now are dominated by human emissions of greenhouse gases,” said GISS Director Gavin Schmidt.

But this doesn't mean that temperatures will keep increasing at a steady rate and that every new year will have record-breaking temperatures. There will be regional differences in temperature due to weather events such as El Nino and La Nina — natural weather phenomena that warms and cool the tropical Pacific. Year-to-year fluctuations will therefore still occur.

“The globe is warmer now than it has been in the last 100 years and more likely in at least 5,000 years,” Jennifer Francis, a Rutgers University climate scientist, told Associated Press. “Any wisps of doubt that human activities are at fault are now gone with the wind,” she said.
A nuclear power plant near the town of Brattleboro, Vermont is being shut down thanks to local environmental activism. The Vermont Yankee plant ceased splitting atoms on Dec. 29 after more than 42 years of activity. The victory is one that will surely bring relief to activists and citizens alike, as the plant's reactor was the General Electric Mark I, the same design as that of Fukushima, which infamously melted down and exploded, spewing radiation into the atmosphere.

Due to a hefty push-back in 2010 from Citizen's Awareness Network, the Vermont Senate voted 26 to 4 on Feb. 24 that year to phase Vermont Yankee out of operation after 2012. That has now come to pass, but it was largely the result of activists raising awareness of the possible negative health effects of the reactor. At the time of the vote, the plant was leaking radioactive tritium into the air following the collapse of a cooling tower back in 2007.

The structural dismantling of the plant, meanwhile, will not be completed until 2040.

The plant is owned by Entergy, a corporation that has a history almost as toxic as the fossil fuel it deals with. The company has a number of alleged misdeeds including stealing overtime wages from workers, overcharging customers, and having a general lack of regulatory oversight that likely contributed to the 2007 mishap.

A similar fiasco recently occurred at the Browns Ferry nuclear plant near Athens, Alabama, from which a leak of radioactive water released tritium into the environment sometime during the week of Jan. 5. The Tennessee Valley Authority, which operates the plant, maintained that the leak was quickly stoppered and no significant public risk was presented. One could be forgiven, however, if he or she still had qualms about the integrity of the reactors, particularly as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission determined that the plant's three units are at some risk from potential earthquakes. In the midst of climate change, that serves only to exacerbate already existing concerns.

The plant has long been in the crosshairs of Mothers Against Tennessee River Radiation, a group representing concerned citizens, environmentalists, and workers. Garry Morgan, a retired U.S. Army medical officer who has monitored radiation around Browns Ferry for the group, remarked, "Any leak of radionuclide contaminant into the environment indicates a failure of oversight and/or attention to detail, maybe both, on the part of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Tennessee Valley Authority." He added that cancer mortality rates have increased by 20 percent above the U.S. average since Browns Ferry began generating power in 1974.

The problem of leaking tritium, which is a radioactive form of hydrogen, does not end there. According to the Associated Press, the contaminant has leaked from at least 48 reactors - and perhaps as many as 65 - across the U.S., and often ends up in groundwater. This information was taken by AP from Nuclear Regulatory Commission records as part of their coverage on the matter. Furthermore, tritium from at least three of those sites - two in Illinois and one in Minnesota - has actually seeped into the drinking wells of residential homes, said the report.

In conclusion, while one plant with Fukushima-type reactors has been defeated, others remain, and are contributing to environmental toxicity. Greenpeace noted, "The world is still running more than 400 inherently dangerous nuclear reactors. Millions of people are at risk. Nuclear energy is not a necessary evil, because affordable, safer, and cleaner energy solutions exist. They are only a matter of political choice."
An organization called Idaho for Wildlife hosted a hunting derby between Jan. 1 and Jan. 4 that resulted in the deaths of two dozen coyotes for the mere purposes of obtaining their fur or for taxidermy. The Idaho event came on the heels of a wolf killing in Utah during Dec., in which "Echo," the first wolf seen wandering about the Grand Canyon in 70 years, was likely the victim after crossing state lines and being mistaken for a coyote. The two tragedies added up to what was a very bad holiday season for wild canines.

The Humane Society's Idaho director Lisa Kauffman called the event, which occurred in Salmon, Idaho, a "wolf massacre." Though no wolves were killed, in which more than 125 hunters competed for cash prizes for whoever killed the most coyotes.

Though Idaho for Wildlife did have some positive-sounding aims - they noted "we tailor it around this time of year for family, to let the kids get out to learn to hunt, gun safety, and survival skills" - the purpose of hunting coyotes remains questionable as, despite the group's claims to the contrary, coyotes are not terribly fierce or problematic predators.

The event also gave hunters ample opportunity to kill wolves anyway, as is legal in Idaho - the wolf kills simply would not be worth any "prizes." Many animal rights activists feel that hunts like these toe a dangerous line, as many wolves are mistaken for coyotes and accidentally killed, the most recent case being in Utah on Dec. 28. The wolf, which was believed to be the same one photographed near the Grand Canyon earlier last year, is part of a species that was only just removed from the Endangered Species List in 2011 (as many feel, against better judgment).

Kauffman decried the hunting of coyotes in Idaho, as it was done for pure sport. She remarked, "Rewarding shooters, including young children, with prizes takes us back to an earlier era of wanton killing that so many of us thought was an ugly, ignorant, and closed chapter in our history."

Brian Ertz, president of nonprofit animal rights advocacy group Wildlands Defense, said, "People honestly believe that sterilizing the landscape of 'predators' will enrich their economy and preserve their culture." But "Americans in general are becoming more compassionate toward non-human animals, and our appreciation of ecology and the contribution of wildlife communities is growing. This awareness and compassion threatens any culture that predicates itself on an appalling disregard for the suffering of sentient beings."
If all goes well, Northeast Scotland might soon be home to the world’s largest tidal energy park. The MeyGen project will place 269 sunken turbines on the Scottish seabed, capable of generating 400 megawatts of power and supplying nearly 175,000 homes in the UK with electricity.

Atlantis Resources, majority owner of the MeyGen project, announced last week that the energy project had now successfully met all conditions required to start drawing down finance through the UK’s Renewable Energy Investment Fund. The project is therefore now one step closer to materialize. Atlantis Resources hopes that 60 of these turbines will be up and operational by 2020. The project will use the new AR1500 turbines, designed by Lockheed Martin (as seen in the photo above).

“Having reached financial close on the first phase of our MeyGen project in Scotland, we are building momentum on our projects around the world, realising our goal of bringing cost effective clean energy to market at commercial scale,” said Tim Cornelius, Atlantis Resources CEO.

Scotland is trying hard to reach its goal of having 100 percent of its electricity produced by renewable energy by 2020. In November it was announced that renewables have become Scotland’s main source of electricity. The majority of renewable energy in Scotland comes from wind and hydro. Onshore wind generated more than half of all renewable electricity output in Scotland in 2013. Hydro power contributed almost one third of renewable electricity output. Experts say that other renewable energy sources, such as biomass, have a substantial potential for growth in the future.

And maybe, in a near future, tidal energy could play an important role in Scotland’s renewable energy mix. But it’s still a long way to go, both for Scotland and Atlantis Resources until they reach their goals. The Scottish government have been accused before of “pulling the rug” from other promising (and perhaps overhyped) renewable energy projects.

Atlantis Resources are also working on other tidal energy project in Nova Scotia off the cost of Canada, although these energy projects are much smaller. Initially, the company is planning on deploying a single (AR1500) 1.5MW tidal turbine system in Nova Scotia – enough to power up to 750 local homes.

Earlier in November this year, Atlantis Resources was awarded the wave and tidal industry’s first-ever “Navigator Award” at the International Conference on Ocean Energy (ICOE). The company was awarded for the work on the MeyGen project and its significant contribution to global marine renewable industry. “Scotland, France, Ireland and Nova Scotia are the places to watch for these prototype tidal power projects,” said Elisa Obermann of Marine Renewables Canada, the national organization hosting the ICOE this year.
A purportedly pro-environment campaign to keep out immigrants has been defeated in Switzerland.

The campaign was initiated by Ecologie et population — usually abbreviated as Ecopop — which describes itself as “the only environmental organization in Switzerland, which focuses on population growth.” In 2012 it gathered enough signatures to force a binding national referendum on a two-part proposal: to limit annual immigration to 0.2% of the country’s total population, and to devote 10% of Swiss foreign aid to population reduction programs in Third World countries.

In an interview with the BBC, a spokesman for Ecopop explained that both proposals aimed at the same goal: “For Switzerland the key source of the fast growth of population is immigration, hence we have to limit that. If however you look at poor countries the source of the population growth is clearly fertility.”

The Green Party, which called for a no vote, accused Ecopop of scapegoating immigrants for problems they didn’t cause and promoting neo-colonial policies towards poor countries: “It is not our role to say you are having too many children, when in fact we are causing 80% of the environmental pollution.”

In the referendum vote, held November 30, voters rejected the Ecopop proposal by a decisive 3-to-1 margin.

That’s an important victory, but the fight is far from over. The right-wing Swiss Peoples Party (SVP), which has more seats in the federal assembly than any other party, also favors strict limits on immigration, and is not averse to using environmental arguments to promote them.

For an idea of where this might lead, look across the border in France, where this week the virulently anti-immigrant National Front launched a movement called New Ecology to campaign for “patriotic” environmental policies including opposition to a global climate agreement and support for France’s nuclear industry. Campaigns such as Ecopop’s strengthen such groups by lending green cover to their racist policies.
A new global agreement on climate change has been reached this past weekend at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Lima, Peru. The agreement, dubbed the Lima deal, is the first important step towards a climate change deal in Paris next year. But critics say the Lima deal is a weakened agreement that will do nothing to stop catastrophic climate change.

The conference (COP20) is the 20th yearly conference on global warming and was hosted by one of the countries worst affected by climate change. Delegates from around 200 countries managed, after more than 30 hours of extended talk, to reach an agreement on a draft text that will form the basis for a global agreement on how to combat global warming by next year. Many hoped that such a global climate agreement would be reached at COP15 back in 2009 when Copenhagen hosted the conference. Hopefully such a global climate agreement will instead be reached in December next year in Paris – six long years later.

The Lima deal lays out how each nation will present their own plans for curbing global warming, preferably during the first half of next year. The deal commits all countries – both developed and developing countries – to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The draft text says that all countries have “common but differentiated responsibilities” to prevent global warming. This means that the Lima deal marks the first time all nations have agreed to cut carbon emissions – both rich and poor countries, North and South.

The draft says that wealthy and developed countries would assist poorer developing countries to fight global warming by offering climate aid and investing in clean energy technology. Countries already threatened by global warming – such as small island states – have been promised financial aid in a “loss and damage” programme.

“As a text it's not perfect but it includes the positions of the parties,” said Pulgar-Vidal, conference chairperson. “I think for the first time ever the world can contemplate a global deal applicable to all and Lima has helped that process,” the UK’s energy and climate change secretary, Ed Davey, said in response to the agreement.

Critics warn that Lima agreement fails humanity and the earth, and that it will result in a weak climate deal in Paris.

“We were deeply concerned that these talks would fail to deliver a fair and ambitious outcome as we watched events here in Lima this week,” said Jagoda Munic, chairperson of Friends of the Earth International. “Our concerns have proven to be tragically accurate. This text is desperately lacking in ambition, leadership, justice and solidarity for the people worst hit by the climate crisis.”

“The only thing these talks have achieved is to reduce the chances of a fair and effective agreement to tackle climate change in Paris next year,” said Asad Rehman, Friends of the Earth’s International Climate Campaigner. “We have the ingenuity and resources to build the low carbon future we so urgently need – but we still lack the political will.”

Rehman also notes how poorer nations once again was “bullied” by richer nations to accept a climate deal that further weakens climate justice. For example: several rich nations, such as USA and China, both whom are currently the world’s top polluters, opposed plans for a review process that would compare and assess climate pledges and emission reduction targets. And the agreed draft text in the Lima deal only says that climate pledges will be reviewed one month ahead of COP21 in Paris next year. Also, the draft only say that nations “may” (and not “shall”) include measureable information showing how they intend to meet their emissions targets.

“With the world speeding towards catastrophic climate change, wealthy industrialised nations who have contributed most to our polluted atmosphere must take the lead in tackling this threat,” Rehman said in a statement.


It’s becoming increasingly common for extreme weather events to occur during the annual COP negotiations for global deal to combat climate change.

They largely take place in developing countries who have done little to contribute to the climate change challenge; an unfortunate and noted dichotomy.

Last year, as COP began in Poland, the tragic and devastating super typhoon Haiyan wrecked havoc in the Philippines. In what became one of the highlights of a dull and ineffectual round of climate talks, Philippines climate negotiator Yeb Sano’s pleaded emotionally to the western world to take the climate threat seriously. He has since become an inspirational environmental advocate and darling of the youth climate movement and environmental NGO’s. The Philippine government was however less amused and banned him for taking part in this years climate summit as a negotiator.

This year, a week ago as negotiators were settling into long talks at the COP20 in Lima, another devastating typhoon hit the Philippines state, casting another blow on several of the regions still recovering from Haiyan. Typhoon Hagupit (known locally as Ruby) made landfall on the evening of Saturday 6th of December with wind speeds of 125mph, slowly moving west with widespread heavy rains and torrential downpours passing very close to the capital Manila. In the region of a million people were forced to evacuate their homes in preventive measures. Fortunately the this years response was strongly coordinated and the death toll has so far been low, with only 21 people confirmed dead and 920 people injured. Whilst still serious, this is nothing like the 6,300 lives lost during Haiyan.





Yeb Sano took to Twitter to encourage world leaders to strike a deal and Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director of Greenpeace International, rerouted his visit to Lima to and headed to the Philippines where he assisted the local Greenpeace office with visiting affected areas bringing relief and aid. Yeb Sano is joined him. Writing in EcoWatch, Mr Naidoo said: “I am joining Greenpeace Philippines and Yeb to visit the worst hit areas, document the devastation and SEND a clear message from climate change ground zero to Lima and the rest of the world that the ones that are responsible for the majority of emissions will be held accountable by the communities that are suffering the impacts of extreme weather events linked to climate change”.

At the time of writing it is yet unclear if a meaningful outcome has been reached in Lima as talks had been extended well into Saturday.
CARE International, one of the world’s largest and oldest humanitarian aid organizations, has condemned programs that promote birth control as a means to reduce climate change.

CARE, which strongly supports “rights to sexual and reproductive choices and health for women and girls worldwide,” warns that efforts to link family planning to environmental objectives are undermining those very rights:

“These challenges have become entangled in conversations on climate change in ways that conflate these rights with narratives of natural resource scarcity and population control. Such narratives are more likely to compromise, than to achieve, equality and just outcomes for women living in poverty who are adversely affected by climate change.”

In a strongly worded paper titled Choice, not control: Why limiting the fertility of poor populations will not solve the climate crisis (pdf), CARE makes two fundamental arguments.

First, that population reduction programs target people who are not responsible for climate change, and direct attention away from those who are. “Action on climate change hinges on tackling inequality and the consumption patterns of the wealthiest far more than on the reproductive behaviour of people living in poverty.”

Second, that family planning programs motivated by population objectives focus not on giving women choice, but on pushing for specific outcomes, even if that violates human rights. “Decades of experience of population and environment programming have shown that rights and choices are too easily undermined when misguided natural resource management concerns drive reproductive health service provision.”

The CARE paper makes four recommendations for policies and programs related to climate change, economic development, and women’s rights:
Reproductive rights must be a singular goal in their own right. Subordinating these rights under other objectives, such as the protection of natural resources, poses problematic and dangerous incentives which can undermine human rights, and must be avoided.
Efforts to promote gender equality need to safeguard women’s rights and social justice in discussions on population and the environment. Programs should not use the language of gender equity and reproductive rights to legitimize policies and actions aimed at controlling the fertility of poor populations.
Responses to climate change need to avoid victim-blaming and increasing the burden on the world’s poorest and most vulnerable populations, including the women within them. Action on climate change should draw attention to inequalities, e.g. in the global food system, carbon emissions and wealth.
Work on family planning carried out in a context of environmental degradation and climate vulnerability must include strict safeguards for human rights, in particular reproductive self-determination, and rights to land and other natural resources. Such work should also draw attention to inequalities in the access of women and girls to the information, services and supplies they need to make reproductive decisions and choices.
Needless to say, Simon Butler and I are very pleased that arguments we made in Too Many People? have been confirmed and extended by an organization with so much experience working with the world’s poorest women, and we’re honored that CARE several times cites our book as a source.
The latest in a long series of UN-sponsored talks is convening in Lima, Peru, for two weeks of negotiations. The goal is to lay the basis for a climate treaty deal in Paris in November 2015. The last international agreement, the Kyoto Accords, expired in 2012; all subsequent efforts to replace it have failed thus far.

The recent bilateral agreement between the Obama administration and the Chinese government set targets for limiting and then reducing greenhouse gas emissions. For the first time, China agreed to set a peak for its greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 and to reduce them in the decades following. China's reluctance to set such targets in the past has been a key stumbling block to reaching an international agreement, more significant since China became the world's largest emitter of carbon pollution in the last few years. This bilateral agreement has given new impetus to the likelihood of using the UN process to reach a new and more far-reaching agreement.

Similarly, the foot-dragging of U.S. negotiators has been another key roadblock to an international agreement. New steps taken by the Obama administration include the agreement with China, which sets a target of serious reductions by 2025 for the U.S.; new EPA rules for new and existing power plants limiting their carbon pollution; continued commitment to renewable energy which started with the 2009 stimulus bill; and heightened attention in Obama's 2013 Inaugural and State of the Union speeches.

While the bilateral agreement by itself is not enough, it does lay the basis for both the US and China to play a more positive role in international negotiations.

This gathering takes place against the backdrop of continuing increases in temperature worldwide.

There is a developing three-part alliance bringing pressure to reach an international agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The three parts of this de facto alliance are:

- First, the massive environmental movement demanding action on climate change, highlighted by the 400,000 strong September People's Climate March in New York City, alongside support marches around the world of many more tens of thousands of protesters, totaling over 600,000.

- Second, the continuing signs from the natural world that climate change is real, is affected by human activity, and is already causing destruction and economic losses.

- And third, the growing realization by policymakers and some economic heavyweights that action must be taken.

These three forces have combined to create an atmosphere of excitement in the international negotiations, a welcome shift from the failures of previous gatherings in Bali, Cancun, and Copenhagen.
There are significant issues and problems facing the negotiations, including many related to India.

Moreover, given the rapidly developing problems from climate change, including some unexpected ones, the danger of approaching tipping points, and the sometimes apocalyptic uncertainties of climate change, it is highly unlikely that even the most aggressive agreement possible will adequately address the need for a worldwide shift to renewable energy, and will not touch the need for a fundamental restructuring of the capitalist world economy.

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Green Blog has been online since 2007. We have green news from authors around the world, environment forums and member blogs.

We believe that human and civil rights, global peace, equality and democracy all plays central roles in safeguarding our environment and improving - in a sustainable and non-destructive way - the lives of all people on this fragile planet. Green Blog encourage people to take direct non-violent action against CO2 emitting sources and protest against the current climate change inaction.