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Found 101 results

  1. Hello Greenblog folk, I just wanted to tell you about a short documentary i've made about Ireland and Climate Change, looking at how one small country contributes to and is vulnerable to climate change, it features some of Ireland's leading climate change scientists and activists and has some strong reviews from Irish national media such as the Irish Times and RTE. More info and the film here trocaire.org/drop and it's on YouTube here cheers,Alan
  2. A recurring claim in articles that warn against “environmental catastrophism” is that alerting people to the threats posed by climate change will only produce apathy and despair. To win broad support, they say, we need to stress positive messages. Robert Jensen, a professor in the School of Journalism at the University of Texas and board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center, argues the exact opposite. His recent book, We Are All Apocalyptic Now, opens with the provocative statement that “responsible intellectuals need to think apocalyptically.” He argues that unless we clearly understand and explain the threats confronting humanity in the 21st century, we will not be able to build a movement based on real hope, as opposed to fairy-tale dreams. “Thinking apocalyptically can help us confront honestly the crises of our time and strategize constructively about possible responses. It’s simply about struggling to understand – to the best of our ability, without succumbing to magical thinking – the conditions within the human family and the state of the ecosphere, and not turning away from the difficult realities we face.” Jensen’s radicalism is rooted in Christianity, but his argument deserves careful attention from all green-lefts and left-greens. He has kindly granted me permission to post the article below, which summarizes some of the key points made in his book. Thanks to Andrea Levy for drawing it to my attention.   Get Apocalyptic: Why radical is the new normal Feeling anxious about life in a broken economy on a strained planet? Turn despair into action. by Robert Jensen Feeling anxious about life in a broken-down society on a stressed-out planet? That’s hardly surprising: Life as we know it is almost over. While the dominant culture encourages dysfunctional denial — pop a pill, go shopping, find your bliss — there’s a more sensible approach: Accept the anxiety, embrace the deeper anguish — and then get apocalyptic. We are staring down multiple cascading ecological crises, struggling with political and economic institutions that are unable even to acknowledge, let alone cope with, the threats to the human family and the larger living world. We are intensifying an assault on the ecosystems in which we live, undermining the ability of that living world to sustain a large-scale human presence into the future. When all the world darkens, looking on the bright side is not a virtue but a sign of irrationality. In these circumstances, anxiety is rational and anguish is healthy, signs not of weakness but of courage. A deep grief over what we are losing — and have already lost, perhaps never to be recovered — is appropriate. Instead of repressing these emotions we can confront them, not as isolated individuals but collectively, not only for our own mental health but to increase the effectiveness of our organizing for the social justice and ecological sustainability still within our grasp. Once we’ve sorted through those reactions, we can get apocalyptic and get down to our real work. Perhaps that sounds odd, since we are routinely advised to overcome our fears and not give in to despair. Endorsing apocalypticism seems even stranger, given associations with “end-timer” religious reactionaries and “doomer” secular survivalists. People with critical sensibilities, those concerned about justice and sustainability, think of ourselves as realistic and less likely to fall for either theological or science-fiction fantasies. Many associate “apocalypse” with the rapture-ranting that grows out of some interpretations of the Christian Book of Revelation (aka, the Apocalypse of John), but it’s helpful to remember that the word’s original meaning is not “end of the world.” “Revelation” from Latin and “apocalypse” from Greek both mean a lifting of the veil, a disclosure of something hidden, a coming to clarity. Speaking apocalyptically, in this sense, can deepen our understanding of the crises and help us see through the many illusions that powerful people and institutions create. But there is an ending we have to confront. Once we’ve honestly faced the crises, then we can deal with what is ending — not all the world, but the systems that currently structure our lives. Life as we know it is, indeed, coming to an end. Let’s start with the illusions: Some stories we have told ourselves — claims by white people, men, or U.S. citizens that domination is natural and appropriate — are relatively easy to debunk (though many cling to them). Other delusional assertions — such as the claim that capitalism is compatible with basic moral principles, meaningful democracy, and ecological sustainability — require more effort to take apart (perhaps because there seems to be no alternative). But toughest to dislodge may be the central illusion of the industrial world’s extractive economy: that we can maintain indefinitely a large-scale human presence on the earth at something like current First-World levels of consumption. The task for those with critical sensibilities is not just to resist oppressive social norms and illegitimate authority, but to speak a simple truth that almost no one wants to acknowledge: The high-energy/high-technology life of affluent societies is a dead end. We can’t predict with precision how resource competition and ecological degradation will play out in the coming decades, but it is ecocidal to treat the planet as nothing more than a mine from which we extract and a landfill into which we dump. We cannot know for sure what time the party will end, but the party’s over. Does that seem histrionic? Excessively alarmist? Look at any crucial measure of the health of the ecosphere in which we live — groundwater depletion, topsoil loss, chemical contamination, increased toxicity in our own bodies, the number and size of “dead zones” in the oceans, accelerating extinction of species, and reduction of biodiversity — and ask a simple question: Where are we heading? Remember also that we live in an oil-based world that is rapidly depleting the cheap and easily accessible oil, which means we face a major reconfiguration of the infrastructure that undergirds daily life. Meanwhile, the desperation to avoid that reconfiguration has brought us to the era of “extreme energy,” using ever more dangerous and destructive technologies (hydrofracturing, deep-water drilling, mountaintop coal removal, tar sands extraction). Oh, did I forget to mention the undeniable trajectory of global warming/climate change/climate disruption? Scientists these days are talking about tipping points and planetary boundaries, about how human activity is pushing Earth beyond its limits. Recently 22 top scientists warned that humans likely are forcing a planetary-scale critical transition “with the potential to transform Earth rapidly and irreversibly into a state unknown in human experience,” which means that “the biological resources we take for granted at present may be subject to rapid and unpredictable transformations within a few human generations.” That conclusion is the product of science and common sense, not supernatural beliefs or conspiracy theories. The political/social implications are clear: There are no solutions to our problems if we insist on maintaining the high-energy/high-technology existence lived in much of the industrialized world (and desired by many currently excluded from it). Many tough-minded folk who are willing to challenge other oppressive systems hold on tightly to this lifestyle. The critic Fredric Jameson has written, “It is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism,” but that’s only part of the problem — for some, it may be easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of air conditioning. We do live in end-times, of a sort. Not the end of the world — the planet will carry on with or without us — but the end of the human systems that structure our politics, economics, and social life. “Apocalypse” need not involve heavenly rescue fantasies or tough-guy survival talk; to get apocalyptic means seeing clearly and recommitting to core values. First, we must affirm the value of our work for justice and sustainability, even though there is no guarantee we can change the disastrous course of contemporary society. We take on projects that we know may fail because it’s the right thing to do, and by doing so we create new possibilities for ourselves and the world. Just as we all know that someday we will die and yet still get out of bed every day, an honest account of planetary reality need not paralyze us. Then let’s abandon worn-out clichés such as, “The American people will do the right thing if they know the truth,” or “Past social movements prove the impossible can happen.” There is no evidence that awareness of injustice will automatically lead U.S. citizens, or anyone else, to correct it. When people believe injustice is necessary to maintain their material comfort, some accept those conditions without complaint. Social movements around race, gender, and sexuality have been successful in changing oppressive laws and practices, and to a lesser degree in shifting deeply held beliefs. But the movements we most often celebrate, such as the post-World War II civil rights struggle, operated in a culture that assumed continuing economic expansion. We now live in a time of permanent contraction — there will be less, not more, of everything. Pressuring a dominant group to surrender some privileges when there is an expectation of endless bounty is a very different project than when there is intensified competition for resources. That doesn’t mean nothing can be done to advance justice and sustainability, only that we should not be glib about the inevitability of it. Here’s another cliché to jettison: Necessity is the mother of invention. During the industrial era, humans exploiting new supplies of concentrated energy have generated unprecedented technological innovation in a brief time. But there is no guarantee that there are technological fixes to all our problems; we live in a system that has physical limits, and the evidence suggests we are close to those limits. Technological fundamentalism — the quasi-religious belief that the use of advanced technology is always appropriate, and that any problems caused by the unintended consequences can be remedied by more technology — is as empty a promise as other fundamentalisms. If all this seems like more than one can bear, it’s because it is. We are facing new, more expansive challenges. Never in human history have potential catastrophes been so global; never have social and ecological crises of this scale threatened at the same time; never have we had so much information about the threats we must come to terms with. It’s easy to cover up our inability to face this by projecting it onto others. When someone tells me “I agree with your assessment, but people can’t handle it,” I assume what that person really means is, “I can’t handle it.” But handling it is, in the end, the only sensible choice. Mainstream politicians will continue to protect existing systems of power, corporate executives will continue to maximize profit without concern, and the majority of people will continue to avoid these questions. It’s the job of people with critical sensibilities — those who consistently speak out for justice and sustainability, even when it’s difficult — not to back away just because the world has grown more ominous. Adopting this apocalyptic framework doesn’t mean separating from mainstream society or giving up ongoing projects that seek a more just world within existing systems. I am a professor at a university that does not share my values or analysis, yet I continue to teach. In my community, I am part of a group that helps people create worker-cooperatives that will operate within a capitalist system that I believe to be a dead end. I belong to a congregation that struggles to radicalize Christianity while remaining part of a cautious, often cowardly, denomination. I am apocalyptic, but I’m not interested in empty rhetoric drawn from past revolutionary moments. Yes, we need a revolution — many revolutions — but a strategy is not yet clear. So, as we work patiently on reformist projects, we can continue to offer a radical analysis and experiment with new ways of working together. While engaged in education and community organizing with modest immediate goals, we can contribute to the strengthening of networks and institutions that can be the base for the more radical change we need. In these spaces today we can articulate, and live, the values of solidarity and equity that are always essential. To adopt an apocalyptic worldview is not to abandon hope but to affirm life. As James Baldwin put it decades ago, we must remember “that life is the only touchstone and that life is dangerous, and that without the joyful acceptance of this danger, there can never be any safety for anyone, ever, anywhere.” By avoiding the stark reality of our moment in history we don’t make ourselves safe, we undermine the potential of struggles for justice and sustainability. As Baldwin put it so poignantly in that same 1962 essay, “Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” It’s time to get apocalyptic, or get out of the way.
  3. A study, published earlier this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, has linked a severe drought that helped fuel the Syrian conflict to climate change. The drought was one of the worst in the country’s modern history and lasted from 2007 to 2010. The Syrian conflict has been ongoing since early 2011 when the regime violently attacked peaceful anti-government protesters. With no end in sight, the Syrian war has left more than 200,000 people dead and about 11 million people have been displaced from their homes. The UN refugee agency UNHCR says Syria is now "the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era". “Nobody really expected that we would reach this stage in which we will actually be having this national disaster in Syria,” Marwan Kabalan, a Syrian academic and analyst at Doha Institute, told Al Jazeera as the conflict entered its fifth year this past Sunday. “The heavy-handed approach that was used by the regime against the peaceful protesters was the main reason that this fairly peaceful revolution has turned into the sort of conflict that we are witnessing right now.” The 3-year long drought caused widespread crop failure and a mass migration of people to urban Syrian centres. This alongside of other factors – such as corruption, inequality, poor governance and unsustainable agricultural and environmental policies – “had a catalytic effect” and contributed to increased political unrest and, ultimately, civil war. Although the region normally experiences periodic dry spells, the study, which is based on meteorological data, determined that the extreme nature of the Syrian drought couldn’t be due to natural changes alone. The study’s authors linked the drought to century-long trends towards hotter and drier conditions in the region – which mirrored computer models of human influences on the climate system, i.e. increases in greenhouse-gas emissions causing climate change. Colin Kelley, a climatologist at the University of California and the study's lead author, told The New York Times that "a drought this severe was two to three times more likely" because of the increased pressure climate change has on the region’s aridity. Francesco Femia, founder and director of the Center for Climate and Security, said that the newly released study "builds on previous work" on the relation between conflicts and climate change. “While there is a very complex array of social, economic and political factors that drive conflict, the study reinforces the fact that climate change and natural resource mismanagement are problems that can exacerbate instability in a country, and potentially make conflict more likely.” “Given continued instability and a forecast of increased drying in the region, this issue should be better integrated into the international security agenda,” Femia said. The war in Syria has caused an unimaginable humanitarian crisis, and this new study adds more weight to the debate surrounding climate change and armed conflicts. Global warming is clearly already sparking unrest around the world.
  4. New data from the International Energy Agency (IEA) shows that global CO2 emissions stalled at about 32 billion tonnes in 2014, the same number as in 2013. And even better, this happened while the global economy actually grew. It therefore marks the first time in 40 years that such a halt or reduction in emissions wasn’t tied to an economic downturn. This could suggest that climate change mitigating efforts could be having a more noticeable effect than previously thought. “This is both a very welcome surprise and a significant one,” said IEA Chief Economist Fatih Birol. “It provides much-needed momentum to negotiators preparing to forge a global climate deal in Paris in December: for the first time, greenhouse gas emissions are decoupling from economic growth.” There have only been three times – the early 1980's; 1992 and 2009 – in which emissions have stood still or fallen compared to the previous year, and all were associated with global economic weakness. In 2014, however, the global economy expanded by 3%. This remarkable change is most likely due to an increase in more sustainable and renewable energy sources. The IEA themselves attributes this to changing energy consumption patterns in mainly China and OECD countries. In 2014, China increased their share of electricity generated from renewable sources – such as hydropower, solar and wind – and burned less coal. In the more developed OECD countries, the IEA points towards increased focus on sustainable growth, including greater energy efficiency and more renewable energy being deployed. “An important factor could be that China’s coal consumption fell in 2014, driven by their efforts to fight pollution, use energy more efficiently and deploy renewables,” said Professor Corinne Le Quere, of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia. “Efforts to reduce emissions elsewhere will have played a role, but there are also more random factors such as the weather and the relative price of oil, coal and gas.” This is obviously good news. A decoupling of economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions would be highly welcomed. But while all of this is encouraging, it shouldn’t make us lose focus, we need to continue to increase our efforts to mitigate climate change. It’s still too early start talking about a new trend, because we cannot draw too many conclusions on data that only shows one year of emissions. "The latest data on emissions are indeed encouraging, but this is no time for complacency – and certainly not the time to use this positive news as an excuse to stall further action," said IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven.
  5. It’s been revealed that the Gates Foundation, run by Bill and Melinda Gates, has held at least $1.4 billion of investments in some of the world’s biggest fossil fuel companies – while at the same time calling for immediate action against climate change. “The companies include BP, responsible for the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, Anadarko Petroleum, which was recently forced to pay a $5bn environmental clean-up charge and Brazilian mining company Vale, voted the corporation with most “contempt for the environment and human rights” in the world clocking over 25,000 votes in the Public Eye annual awards,” the Guardian writes. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is one of the world’s largest charities with an endowment of $42.3 billion. Its primary aims are to enhance healthcare and reduce extreme poverty. The foundation has been giving billions in grants to various health programmes around the world since its launch back in 2011. Last year, it was involved in a health programme that helped rid India of polio. In its annual letter, titled Our Big Bet for the Future, Bill and Melinda Gates called on aggressive action against climate change: “The long-term threat [of climate change] is so serious that the world needs to move much more aggressively – right now – to develop energy sources that are cheaper, can deliver on demand, and emit zero carbon dioxide.” But apparently, both Bill and Melinda have missed that their investments in oil, gas and coal helps fuel the climate change – a crisis which they themselves deem to be a serious threat. “At this critical moment in time, if you own fossil fuels, you own climate change,” said Ellen Dorsey, executive director of the Wallace Global Fund, another charitable foundation that – compared to the Bill and Melinda Gate’s Foundation – has divested from fossil fuels. The actions by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is especially confusing considering that these fossil fuel investments puts the foundation’s hard work and progress at great risk. “The Gates Foundation has worked so hard to grapple with global poverty,” said Bill McKibben, who leads the fast-growing Go Fossil Free campaign. “But at the same time they’re investing in the same companies that drive climate change, which endless studies now show is one of the key factors behind ... global poverty. The developing world deserves better than this kind of tunnel vision.” So just why is the foundation acting in this morally and financially misguided way? Joe Romm, editor of Climate Progress, thinks it’s simply because Bill and Melinda Gates doesn’t understand the urgency of climate change. And this failure, Romm warns, will “most likely undo the foundation’s work” of ensuring long-term health and economic well-being in some of the poorest around the world. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has so far declined to comment on this story. A spokesman for Bill Gates's private office said: “We respect the passion of advocates for action on climate change, and recognise that there are many views on how best to address it. Bill is privately investing considerable time and resources in the effort [to develop clean energy].”  
  6. US President Barack Obama has signed an executive order to cut the federal government’s carbon pollution emissions by 40 percent by 2025. The new plan is expected to result in a reduction of 21 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions – which is equal to taking 4.2 million cars of the road for a year. Alongside of this, the share of renewable energy used by the federal government will increase to 25 percent. The plan is also expected to save taxpayers up to $18 billion in reduced energy costs. “Today’s action builds off of the strong progress the federal government has made over the past six years,” the White House writes in a statement. “Already, federal agencies have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent since the President took office, and increased the share of electricity consumed from renewable sources from 3 percent to 9 percent in 2013.” Other measures included in the plan consist of a reduction in energy use in federal buildings by 2.5 percent a year, a reduction in water intensity by 2 percent over the next decade, and a 30 percent reduction of per-mil greenhouse gas emissions from the federal vehicle fleet by 2015 – while at the same time increasing the use of zero-emission and plug-in hybrid vehicles. The reduction plan will be based on emission levels from 2008 and will only involve the US federal government. Although the federal government only contribute modestly to the US’s total greenhouse gas emissions, many see this as a move that’ll hopefully spur other sectors of the country into action, and especially the federal government’s supply chain. The Department of Defense currently has the largest carbon emissions of the US federal government. So far the department has reduced its emissions by 10 percent and is now aiming to install another 3 gigawatts of renewable energy on military buildings by 2025 — enough to power 750,000 homes. “Earthjustice applauds President Obama for issuing an Executive Order today that aims to make a significant cut in carbon pollution—the pollution responsible for climate change—from the government sector,” said Abigail Dillen, Earthjustice’s vice president of litigation for Climate & Energy. “The President recognizes that the federal government can lead the way in expanding our use of clean, renewable energy, a key step on the path to end our nation’s unnecessary dependence on fossil fuels that harm our health and the environment.” The US government hopes that this new sustainability plan will strengthen the country’s “leadership on the international stage”, while “ensuring that we can tackle the global threat of climate change and leave behind a safer, more prosperous world.” But for that, we’ll need to see much tougher climate ambitions from the US – something which today unfortunately seems highly unlikely.
  7. This week, The Guardian newspaper has campaigned for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to divest its fossil fuel investments – which the newspaper claims are worth US$1.4 billion. The foundation can and should address the climate crisis, particularly given the threat it poses to food security, public health, human rights, and the development agenda. Practical responses The Gates Foundation has made a significant contribution to practical responses to poverty, and Bill Gates has been a long-standing advocate of “creative capitalism” to address global development issues. To their credit, Bill and Melinda Gates have shown great personal engagement with larger questions about human development, and their foundation has been a significant actor in the fields of agriculture, global health, education, and population. Bill Gates during a 2013 speech on climate change. Photo: Matthew Rimmer. Yet it has also been reluctant to address the climate question directly, stating: "The foundation believes that climate change is a major issue facing all of us, particularly poor people in developing countries, and we applaud the work that others are doing to help find solutions in this area," and: "While we do not fund efforts specifically aimed at reducing carbon emissions, many of our global health and development grants directly address problems that climate change creates or exacerbates." Sign on climate change at the Gates Foundation. Photo: Matthew Rimmer. For instance, the foundation highlights its agricultural development initiative, which it says will “help small farmers who live on less than $1 per day adapt to increased drought and flooding through the development of drought and flood resistant crops, improved irrigation efficiency, and other means”. While this certainly involves indirectly responding to climate change, it doesn’t put the issue of preventing climate change at the heart of the issue. In his annual letter, Bill Gates noted: "It is fair to ask whether the progress we’re predicting will be stifled by climate change… The most dramatic problems caused by climate change are more than 15 years away, but the long-term threat is so serious that the world needs to move much more aggressively — right now — to develop energy sources that are cheaper, can deliver on demand, and emit zero carbon dioxide." This is a somewhat curious statement, given the real and present danger already posed to food security, biodiversity, public health, and human security. The energy question Bill Gates has another keen interest: energy security. He has discussed what he sees as the need for an “energy miracle” to remedy the climate: "To have the kind of reliable energy we expect, and to have it be cheaper and zero carbon, we need to pursue every available path to achieve a really big breakthrough." He seems to have been interested in nuclear power, carbon capture, and geo-engineering - rather than renewable energy. For her part, Melinda Gates has been highly critical of climate deniers, emphasising the need for politicians to heed climate science. The Naomi Klein factor See video: This Changes Everything - Naomi Klein In a 2013 article in the Nation, the writer Naomi Klein expressed concerns about the huge fossil fuel holdings of some charities, including the Gates Foundation, and argued that this was inconsistent with public health goals: "A top priority of the Gates Foundation has been supporting malaria research, a disease intimately linked to climate… Does it really make sense to fight malaria while fueling one of the reasons it may be spreading more ferociously in some areas?" In her 2014 book, This Changes Everything, she went on to criticise the efforts of green billionaires to save us from climate change. Of Bill Gates and his foundation, she wrote: "Though he professes great concern about climate change, the Gates Foundation had at least $1.2 billion invested in just two oil giants, BP and ExxonMobil, as of December 2013, and those are only the beginning of his fossil fuel holdings." Gates has been directly questioned on this issue, both in an interview with a Dutch journalist and during a 2013 appearance on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Q&A program. See video: Bill Gates on ABC’s Q&A Klein has also criticised Bill Gates' technocratic approach to the climate crisis, considering him to be overly dismissive of renewable energy: "When Gates had his climate change epiphany, he too immediately raced to the prospect of a silver-bullet techno-fix in the future - without pausing to consider viable - if economically challenging - responses in the here and now." Will The Guardian’s campaign succeed? The Guardian’s editor Alan Rusbridger has pledged to put climate change at the “front and centre” of the newspaper’s coverage, lending support to the global divestment movement and urging philanthropic trusts like the Gates Foundation and Britain’s Wellcome Trust to follow the example of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. See video: Keep It In The Ground The Guardian said it recognised that the Gates Foundation has made “a huge contribution to human progress and equality by supporting scientific research and development projects”, but warned that “investments in fossil fuels are putting this progress at great risk, by undermining your long term ambitions.” The campaign urges the Gates Foundation “to commit now to divesting from the top 200 fossil fuel companies within five years and to immediately freeze any new investments in those companies”. Rusbridger wrote that this would be “a small but crucial step in the economic transition away from a global economy run on fossil fuels”. Hopefully, the campaign will be successful. Bill and Melinda Gates have certainly shown a willingness in the past to revise their approach, in light of new evidence, and both have been disturbed by the politics of climate denial. The Gates Foundation can make a stronger contribution to the battle against climate change, especially given how the climate issue cuts across its food security, public health, and human rights aims. This is one way it can do so.
  8. The first UN negotiating session preparing for a climate deal this fall just wrapped up in Geneva. The draft is the next step in a long process of negotiation and bargaining on the way to a treaty to finally replace the expired Kyoto Accords. The negotiations were given a boost last fall by A U.S.-China deal on limiting carbon pollution. This set the stage for more serious negotiations involving all parties, with many issues still outstanding. For the first time, the treaty is expected to include targets for both developed and developing countries. Historically, the developed countries have emitted the most carbon pollution, and so have contributed the most to the build-up of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This cumulative build-up is the cause of the global warming the world is already experiencing. However, currently, several developing countries are emitting the most carbon pollution, led by China and India. The Kyoto Accords included only the developed countries, and they expired in 2012. For several years before that expiration, and ever since, efforts to create a binding climate treaty have floundered. The U.S.-China deal raised hopes of finding new ways to include all countries in the process, and marked a major step in China's negotiating posture, and also marked a major step in the US posture, calling for major steps by both countries to limit carbon pollution. This UN process also takes place against rising demonstrations calling for climate action, most importantly the People's Climate March in NYC in September, 400,000 strong. Solidarity actions that weekend around the world added another 200,000 to the count. Many other kinds of ongoing organizing are taking place, building a multi-faceted movement. Last weekend, 350.org and many other groups staged Global Divestment Days, calling on universities, pension funds, and public funds to be divested from fossil fuel companies. Norway became the first country to pledge divestment from its wealth fund, dumping billions in investments in fossil fuel companies, though it still has billions more to go. Republicans and some Democrats in Congress have pushed through a bill trying to force Obama to okay the Keystone pipeline project, a bill he had promised to veto. Other battles are being waged over EPA rules for new and existing power plants. In addition to the growing climate action movement, these negotiations take place against the backdrop of increasingly dire predictions about the results of climate change. 2014 was the hottest year on record. NASA scientists predict that large parts of the U.S. will experience multi-decades-long massive droughts later this century. The UN negotiations are scheduled to wrap up at a major conference in Paris in November and December of 2015. While a major international treaty would be an important step forward in the fight against catastrophic climate change, the treaty will certainly not be enough by itself. Enough carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases have accumulated in the atmosphere to guarantee increasing impacts, on top of the ones already seen: increased forest fires, rising sea levels, more extreme weather events, extreme flooding and droughts, changes in weather patterns impacting agriculture, wildlife, and disease zones, glacial and ice sheet melting, and increased species extinction, to mention some.
  9. 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.
  10. 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).
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. During President Obama's visit to China, both countries announced a new climate change agreement that effectively takes away one of the right wing's major arguments against action to curb global warming. For the first time, China has agreed to set a limit on the amount of greenhouse gases it will emit by 2030, increasing its reliance on renewable energy. This is significant for two reasons-one, China is now the largest emitter of carbon dioxide emissions in the world, and two, the US government and conservatives have used China's previous unwillingness to set such limits as an excuse to avoid any and all binding targets on U.S. emissions. The U.S., as part of this agreement, sets ambitious goals for reductions in carbon pollution by 2025. The bilateral agreement is also significant because it comes in advance of UN sponsored climate talks in Paris in the fall of 2015, aimed at forging a binding international treaty on climate change. Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, notes both the historic nature of the agreement and also its limitations, in his commentary on Huffington Post. He points out that this agreement comes barely more than a month after the giant People's Climate March in New York City on Sept. 21. This massive outpouring set the pace for the upcoming struggles over environmental issues. He also notes that this agreement by itself is no reason to slow down or stop the mass struggle for more aggressive climate action. And have no doubt that there will bee sharp struggles. Mitch McConnell, the likely new Senate majority leader in 2015, has already announced that he opposes the new deal; that he will oppose the efforts of the EPA to regulate new and existing power plant carbon pollution and that he places a high priority on Congress passing legislation to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. Some Democrats propose a vote to approve the Keystone pipeline during the lame duck session to boost the chances of Mary Landrieu winning re-election to the Senate from Louisiana. The battles over climate change and other environmental issues will play a larger role in electoral and legislative struggles, and we can already see glimpses of splits in the ruling class. A new study confirms that the opposition by conservatives is not some kind of general rejection of science, it is a reaction against the steps needed to find solutions. That reinforces the points made author Naomi Klein in her new book, "This Changes Everything" that right-wing politicians recognize climate change as being a challenge to the capitalist system. The new agreement will only escalate the intensity of right-wing opposition to any and all steps to tackle climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, and all forms of carbon pollution. But it offers renewed hope for a serious international agreement to replace the expired Kyoto Accords.
  16. Bill McKibben, Co-founder of 350.org and – dare I say it – one of the most famous climate activist, has given his opinion about the latest IPCC assessment report on climate change. In the text, which was published in The Guardian, McKibben says that scientists have given us the clearest warning of the dangers of global warming yet. “At this point, the scientists who run the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change must feel like it’s time to trade their satellites, their carefully calibrated thermometers and spectrometers, their finely tuned computer models – all of them for a thesaurus. Surely, somewhere, there must be words that will prompt the world’s leaders to act. This week, with the release of their new synthesis report, they are trying the words “severe, widespread, and irreversible” to describe the effects of climate change – which for scientists, conservative by nature, falls just short of announcing that climate change will produce a zombie apocalypse plus random beheadings plus Ebola. It’s hard to imagine how they will up the language in time for the next big global confab in Paris.” McKibben warns (and rightfully so) that the IPCC documents “almost certainly underestimates the actual severity of” climate change and the situation we're in. And this is important to know. The IPCC operates on consensus among the member nations of the United Nations, which means that the words chosen in documents and reports from the IPCC will undoubtedly reflect political compromises. Another problem is that the IPCC’s reports are based on science that is already several years old. David Spratt, an Australia-based climate blogger, pointed out just this for Al Jazeera. “The cutoff date is three to four years before it’s published, meaning this report is the extent of climate science in 2010 — and a number of things have happened since then,” Spratt said. McKibben writes that “it’s a particular problem with sea level rise, since the current IPCC document does not even include the finding in May that the great Antarctic ice sheets have begun to melt. (The studies were published after the IPCC’s cutoff date.)” As such, the IPCC reports should be viewed as conservative estimates and statements of climate change. Despite this, McKibben says that we should continue to fight for climate action and that a lot of progress have been made – although we need to do much more. “Breaking the power of the fossil fuel industry won’t be easy, especially since it has to happen fast. It has to happen, in fact, before the carbon we’ve unleashed into the atmosphere breaks the planet. I’m not certain we’ll win this fight – but, thanks to the IPCC, no one will ever be able to say they weren’t warned.”
  17. Despite endless conferences, treaties and solemn promises, greenhouse gas emissions have risen 61% since 1990, and the rate of increase is accelerating. As Naomi Klein tells us in her new book, This Changes Everything, we are now experiencing an “early twenty-first century emissions explosion.” The reason for this ominous failure, she shows, is that the present capitalist profit system itself is incompatible with climate and environmental stability. Our only hope is the rise of mass movements with the combined goals of saving the environment and achieving social justice. This Changes Everything is a rich resource of fact and argument: it’s a book that every climate justice activist should read, use and share. ‘The Right is right’ Klein begins with a 2011 conference of prominent and well-financed U.S. climate deniers, whose main objection, she discovered, was not to the science of global warming but to the radical implications of actions to rein it in. Such measures require “heavy-duty interventions: sweeping bans on polluting activities, deep subsidies for green alternatives…. Everything, in short, that these think tanks … have been busily attacking for decades.” For many conservatives, she adds, quoting Australian scholar Robert Manne, climate science is “an affront to their deepest and most cherished basic faith: the capacity and indeed the right of ‘mankind’ to subdue the Earth and all its fruits and to establish a ‘mastery’ over nature.” These hard-core rightist ideologues, Klein concludes, understand the significance of climate change better than most of those in the political center, “who are still insisting that the response can be gradual and painless.” The free market trumps climate Mainstream political leaders like Barack Obama and (grudgingly) Stephen Harper, acknowledge the climate crisis and tell us they are responding to it. For 35 years they have claimed to be working to reduce carbon emissions. Klein leads off her extended analysis of their record – and that of their allies among pro-establishment environmental NGOs – by describing the devastating impact of the trade treaties that now bind the governments of all major states. “Green energy programs – the strong ones that are needed to lower global emissions fast – [are] increasingly being challenged under international trade agreements,” Klein says. Major powers are launching lawsuits against each other’s wind and solar energy programs citing the provisions in these plans encouraging local sourcing of green energy equipment. The U.S. has launched such suits against India, challenging its ambitious solar energy program, and against China, over wind power. And yet, with brazen hypocrisy, Washington denounces China and India at the United Nations for not doing enough to cut emissions, claiming this as an excuse for U.S. inaction. The people of Ontario fell victim to such an attack, Klein notes. The province’s climate action plan, the Green Energy Act, created 31,000 jobs in the local solar and wind power industry between 2009 and 2014, but when it was challenged by the European Union and Japan as a violation of World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, “the province wasted little time in nixing the local content rules.” The renewable energy programs in question represent the governments’ attempts, inadequate to be sure, to carry out promises made during world climate negotiations. Yet they are being snuffed out by these same governments on the basis of trade treaties. “The trade and climate negotiations closely paralleled one another, each winning landmark agreements within a couple of years.” World Trade Organization negotiations concluded in 1994; the Kyoto protocol on reducing carbon emissions was adopted three years later. The treaties are two solitudes — each seemed to “actively pretend that the other did not exist.” Yet it was clear from the start which treaty would prevail in case of conflict. The Kyoto protocol “effectively functioned on the honour system,” while the WTO agreement was “enforced by a dispute settlement system with real teeth,” often enforcing harsh penalties. Thus asymmetry was built in from the start: trade deals were the foundation of the new “globalized” world order, while climate agreements have been little more than public relations exercises. Globalization’s dirty underside The trade system has other less obvious but more damaging climate impacts. Food production, for example, accounts for between 19% and 29% of world carbon emissions but the treaties have “helped to entrench and expand the energy-intensive, higher-emissions model of industrial agriculture around the world.” Similarly, the massive shift of manufacturing to low-wage less-developed countries, with inefficient energy industries, has led to an increase in emissions. Swedish researcher Andreas Malm points to “a causal link between the quest for cheap and disciplined labor power and rising CO2 emissions.” Significantly, climate agreements measure emissions in the country where products are manufactured, not where they are consumed. Thus about half of China’s carbon emissions are export-related. By outsourcing, rich countries have in effect exported their emissions. Betrayed by Big Green Unfortunately some major environmental groups supported the new trade deals. When the NAFTA treaty was debated in the early 1990s, a strong coalition of unions and environmental groups rallied to lead a massive opposition to the deal, and “for a time it even looked as if they would win.” At that point, proponents of the deal tacked on two “toothless” side agreements, one for labor and one for environmentalists. “The labor movement knew better than to fall for this ploy,” Klein says, but leaders of many large environmental organizations capitulated. Some groups held firm, including Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, and the Sierra Club, but U.S. President Bill Clinton was still able to claim that “groups representing 80% of national [environmental] group membership have endorsed NAFTA.” Klein devotes many pages to a much-needed exposé of Big Green, the conservative environmental groups. Over time, she demonstrates, many NGOs and foundations fell under the domination of the extractive corporations whose power they were set up to contest, and now contribute to greenwashing oil-industry operations. The Nature Conservancy, for example, partners with BP and JP Morgan in fracking development, and has even drilled its own gas well in the middle of one of its Texas nature preserves. Toward solidarity-based trade “It is not too late for a new kind of climate movement to take up the fight against so-called free trade,” Klein says, calling for transfer of resources and green technology to developing countries and measures to support, not penalize renewable energy. She could also have pointed to the success of mass hemisphere-wide opposition in quashing the proposed Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA), one of the most dangerous of these schemes, a movement in which she played a prominent role. Although she doesn’t mention it, that campaign contributed to the formation of what might be called the anti-FTAA, a trade and cultural alliance based on solidarity – the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), which includes Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. Klein criticizes the dependence of majority-indigenous Bolivia on exports generated by extractive industries. However, as Klein herself says elsewhere of many indigenous peoples’ deals with extractive industries, they face “a paucity of good choices”; at present extraction may be essential to maintenance of sovereignty. Westerners who want poverty-stricken natives to swear off extraction for the world’s sake must ask, she says, “What are we going to do for them?” Despite their poverty, some ALBA nations have registered significant climate achievements, such as Nicaragua’s program to produce 70% of its electricity by renewable energy. Indeed, ALBA’s very existence is step forward along the path Klein outlines. Stranded assets The sense of unreality surrounding world climate negotiations is reinforced by Klein’s observations on oil and gas corporations’ balance sheets. To maintain stable share prices, Klein notes, these companies must demonstrate that they have sufficient untapped reserves to replace current wells when their production declines. “It is this structural imperative that is pushing the industry into the most extreme forms of dirty energy,” she says. Currently, the total amount of carbon in oil, gas, and coal reserves is valued at about $27 trillion – more than half again as much as the annual GDP of the United States. How much of that can be burned without launching the world into uncontrollable global warming? The best available estimates cited by Klein indicate that 80% of fossil fuel reserves – worth roughly $20 trillion – must be left in the ground if the currently accepted goal of limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius is to be achieved. Alternative sources of energy are available – that’s not the problem. The “loss” of these fossil fuel resources will make life better, not worse – that’s not the problem either. The problem, Klein says, is that “we need to keep large, extremely profitable pools of carbon in the ground – resources that the fossil fuel companies are fully intending to extract.” The $20 trillion in unusable fossil fuel reserves is written into corporate balance sheets as “assets” and sustains their share value. Oil company executives defend not the public but their shareholders’ wealth – which means defending their ‘right’ to extract without limit. To this end, corporations mobilize their immense wealth and social influence to block any move to reduce the burning of their product – fossil fuels. Under their influence, when governments act at all, it is to encourage use of renewable energy rather than to restrain the rise of carbon emissions. The oil industry and its many corporate allies have maintained a blockade against measures to rein in rising emissions for 25 years and are in no mood to change course. A troubling imperative Averting climate disaster, Klein tells us, “will mean forcing some of the most profitable companies on the planet to forfeit trillions of dollars of future earnings by leaving the vast majority of proven fossil fuel reserves in the ground. It will also require coming up with trillions more to pay for zero-carbon, disaster-ready societal transformations.” And these radical measures must be taken “democratically and without a bloodbath.” This means we must oppose unfettered capitalism –the profit-based economic and social system that wages war on our climate. This requirement poses a question that Klein finds troubling. When has there ever been a transformation that intruded on capitalist property to such an extent – moreover, a change “demanded from below, by regular people, when leaders have wholly abdicated their responsibilities”? In the West, she says, the transformative social movements have been for human rights – for blacks, women, gays, she says. “But the legal and cultural battles were always more successful than the economic ones.” As a precedent, she points to the movement in the nineteenth century to abolish slavery, particularly as it developed in the United States. The weight of slave capital in the U.S. economy then was comparable to the weight of stranded fossil fuel investment today. For many decades the slave-owners maintained full control over the U.S. state. But ultimately a mass movement broke that control and abolished slave property forever. And this was done democratically, although only at the cost of a protracted civil war. Klein’s analogy has merit. However, it is also worth considering the precedent of socialist revolutions, even if they did not occur “in the West.” One such revolution took place only 90 miles from the U.S., in Cuba. In the 1990s, Cuba carried out the world’s most successful reduction of fossil fuel dependency. Despite a damaging U.S. blockade, the Cuban revolution continues to display creative vigor, most recently in the country’s role as world leader in on-the-ground response to the Ebola virus epidemic. The experience of twentieth century socialist revolutions, while troubled, is surely relevant to what we must now accomplish in the face of a systemic crisis of capitalism triggered by climate change. It is hard to see how the fossil fuel stranglehold can be broken without popular ownership and control over dominant industries. This case is made in three books on ecology and socialism that I’ve listed below. Mass social movements Klein’s book has a single overriding strength: a comprehensive analysis – much broader than can be indicated here – that demonstrates that a movement to overcome the climate challenge must confront the prevailing economic and political system, and for that it must be massive, broad, and militant. A substantial and inspiring part of her book is devoted to first-hand accounts of what she calls “Blockadia” – grassroots movements on every continent that are directly challenging the fossil fuel industry’s destructive projects. A movement on the climate issue alone cannot win, she says. Climate activism must link up with “the unfinished business of the most powerful liberation movements of the past two centuries, from civil rights to feminism to Indigenous sovereignty.” “Climate change can be the force – the grand push – that will bring together all of these still living movements.” Calls for such a fusion are increasingly frequent. The liberation movements Klein mentions – and labor, too – were in evidence at the great People’s Climate March of 400,000 in New York on September 21 and in the surrounding conferences, as well as in parallel actions in Canada and around the globe. Naomi Klein’s book is an inspiring contribution to this movement, which is increasingly becoming identified with the goals of climate justice and system change. “Only mass social movements can save us now,” Klein concludes. “If that happens, well, it changes everything.” This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate by Naomi Klein (Alfred A Knopf, 2014), reviewed by John Riddell.
  18. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released two major reports on November 2 – a 116-page Synthesis Report (pdf), summarizing the key findings in the three working group reports issued earlier in the year, and a 40-page Summary for Policy Makers (pdf), which summarizes the Synthesis report. This is the strongest and most unequivocal statement of scientific certainty we’ve seen from the IPCC since the first assessment report in 1990, but even so, bear in mind that the IPCC operates on consensus, and the actual wording undoubtedly reflects political compromises, so the report should be viewed as a conservative statement. Also read: Near zero emissions needed by 2100 to avoid climate catastrophe The Summary for Policy Makers identifies 18 key conclusions under four headings. The numbering below is by me, but the text is taken directly from the IPCC document. Observed changes and their causes Human influence on the climate system is clear, and recent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history. Recent climate changes have had widespread impacts on human and natural systems. Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, and sea level has risen. Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have increased since the pre-industrial era, driven largely by economic and population growth, and are now higher than ever. This has led to atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide that are unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years. Their effects, together with those of other anthropogenic drivers, have been detected throughout the climate system and are extremely likely to have been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. In recent decades, changes in climate have caused impacts on natural and human systems on all continents and across the oceans. Impacts are due to observed climate change, irrespective of its cause, indicating the sensitivity of natural and human systems to changing climate. Changes in many extreme weather and climate events have been observed since about 1950. Some of these changes have been linked to human influences, including a decrease in cold temperature extremes, an increase in warm temperature extremes, an increase in extreme high sea levels and an increase in the number of heavy precipitation events in a number of regions. Future climate changes, risks and impacts Continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems. Limiting climate change would require substantial and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions which, together with adaptation, can limit climate change risks. Surface temperature is projected to rise over the 21st century under all assessed emission scenarios. It is very likely that heat waves will occur more often and last longer, and that extreme precipitation events will become more intense and frequent in many regions. The ocean will continue to warm and acidify, and global mean sea level to rise. Climate change will amplify existing risks and create new risks for natural and human systems. Risks are unevenly distributed and are generally greater for disadvantaged people and communities in countries at all levels of development. Many aspects of climate change and associated impacts will continue for centuries, even if anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are stopped. The risks of abrupt or irreversible changes increase as the magnitude of the warming increases. Future pathways for adaptation, mitigation and sustainable development Adaptation and mitigation are complementary strategies for reducing and managing the risks of climate change. Substantial emissions reductions over the next few decades can reduce climate risks in the 21st century and beyond, increase prospects for effective adaptation, reduce the costs and challenges of mitigation in the longer term, and contribute to climate-resilient pathways for sustainable development. Effective decision making to limit climate change and its effects can be informed by a wide range of analytical approaches for evaluating expected risks and benefits, recognizing the importance of governance, ethical dimensions, equity, value judgments, economic assessments and diverse perceptions and responses to risk and uncertainty. Without additional mitigation efforts beyond those in place today, and even with adaptation, warming by the end of the 21st century will lead to high to very high risk of severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts globally. Mitigation involves some level of co-benefits and of risks due to adverse side-effects, but these risks do not involve the same possibility of severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts as risks from climate change, increasing the benefits from near-term mitigation efforts. Adaptation can reduce the risks of climate change impacts, but there are limits to its effectiveness, especially with greater magnitudes and rates of climate change. Taking a longer-term perspective, in the context of sustainable development, increases the likelihood that more immediate adaptation actions will also enhance future options and preparedness. Adaptation and mitigation Many adaptation and mitigation options can help address climate change, but no single option is sufficient by itself. Effective implementation depends on policies and cooperation at all scales, and can be enhanced through integrated responses that link adaptation and mitigation with other societal objectives. Adaptation and mitigation responses are underpinned by common enabling factors. These include effective institutions and governance, innovation and investments in environmentally sound technologies and infrastructure, sustainable livelihoods, and behavioral and lifestyle choices. Adaptation options exist in all sectors, but their context for implementation and potential to reduce climate-related risks differs across sectors and regions. Some adaptation responses involve significant co-benefits, synergies and trade-offs. Increasing climate change will increase challenges for many adaptation options. Effective adaptation and mitigation responses will depend on policies and measures across multiple scales: international, regional, national and sub-national. Policies across all scales supporting technology development, diffusion and transfer, as well as finance for responses to climate change, can complement and enhance the effectiveness of policies that directly promote adaptation and mitigation. Climate change is a threat to sustainable development. Nonetheless, there are many opportunities to link mitigation, adaptation and the pursuit of other societal objectives through integrated responses. Successful implementation relies on relevant tools, suitable governance structures and enhanced capacity to respond.
  19. On November 2, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released two major reports on climate change, a 116-page Synthesis Report and a 40-page summary for policy makers. These reports represents the most comprehensive assessment on climate change to date and summarizes the work conducted by more than 800 scientists and three major climate reports – respectively laying out the causes, impacts and solutions to global warming – issued earlier in the year. In this assessment report, the IPCC warns that climate change will inflict “severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts” for humans and the natural world unless rapid action is taken to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The report shows how human activities are unequivocally responsible for global warming and details the severe impacts of climate change across the globe. IPCC notes that climate change is already responsible for an increased risk of extreme weather and severe heatwaves around the world. The report, which is meant to influence politicians and policy makers into action, warns that climate change will result in more and powerful hurricanes, more frequent droughts and floods, rising sea levels, food shortages and violent conflicts across the globe. It’s a grim picture the report paints. But we could avoid the worst effects of climate change if we act now. Thankfully, as IPCC notes, there are options available for us to both adapt to a changing climate and implement mitigation activities to curb the most severe impacts of global warming. “We have the means to limit climate change,” said R. K. Pachauri, Chair of the IPCC. “The solutions are many and allow for continued economic and human development. All we need is the will to change.” The goal is to stop the average global temperature to rise beyond 2C – but with the current trend we will badly exceed that target. To make sure we reach this goal the world needs to attain near zero emissions by 2100. “We have little time before the window of opportunity to stay within 2C of warming closes,” Pachauri warned. “To keep a good chance of staying below 2C, and at manageable costs, our emissions should drop by 40 to 70 percent globally between 2010 and 2050, falling to zero or below by 2100. We have that opportunity, and the choice is in our hands.” Despite this, many countries remain hesitant to limit their greenhouse gas emissions claiming that climate action will damage their economies. IPCC refutes this and claims that ambitious mitigation programs and policies would only reduce economic growth by about 0.06 percent with the global economy still growing by 1.6 to 3 percent per year. But obviously, the costs will increase if we wait for too long. “Compared to the imminent risk of irreversible climate change impacts, the risks of mitigation are manageable,” said Youba Sokona, who worked on the report. “The longer we wait to take action, the more it will cost to adapt and mitigate climate change.” So what now? As we currently have no global framework on how to deal with the climate crisis such a treaty will need to be devised and agreed on. The first step towards such a global agreement will take place in Peru this December. A two-week long climate summit will be held in Lima where negotiators from around the world will try and find common ground on everything from emission targets, carbon credits and the North vs. South divide. Next up is to draft and sign a global agreement on how to tackle climate change. Hopefully this will happen in Paris in 2015. But if previous climate summits have shown one thing it’s that this process won’t be easy, and that it’ll most likely end in a failure or too weak targets. Hopefully this assessment report will do its work and influence policy makers to realise the dangers of unchecked climate change and the benefits of taking climate action. Also read: Eighteen key conclusions from the summary report issued this week by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
  20. Renewable energy companies have been in a tough situation for more than twenty years (since the beginning of renewables' sector). Two fires, two enemies to fight, the first is the entire fossil fuels' sector, the second is the internal competition in its own sector. The first is a strong, old and rich institution, with thousands of billion of dollars and has exponents like Shell, BP, Total, Exxon and Chevron. The second is also strong and in a long-term can monopolize the entire energy market, it's the internal competition in renewable energy sector, where companies double their profits in less than a year (like First Solar or SunPower) and hydroelectric sector growth rises every year of 3.1%. The slow but inevitable ascent of renewables in the energy market can't be stopped although it can be delayed and this delay can represent a high environmental price and the Earth (and also us) will pay it. We're talking about the deadly consequences of climate change, triggered by an abudance of fossil fuels usage. It's vital, for our lives and for our environment, that fossil fuels leave the market in the fastest way as possible and to do that alternatives are required, strong alternatives. To improve and strengthen remewable energy market one of the two enemies must be fought: fossil fuels (already happening) and internal competition. How can renewable energy companies overpass this obstacle and become a strong, united market? Joint ventures. Someone already thought about that, like Solar Power Inc. The company, which 71% is owned by China's LDK Solar Co., has formed a partnership with Wircon GmbH to build projects in the U.K. The joint venture intends to own and sell the projects it develops in the U.K., Roseville, California-based Solar Power said today in a statement. The company initially intends to build about 55 megawatts of capacity. This will go to reach U.K. goal of the 30% of the country's power from renewable sources by 2020. In Japan the lack of land territory brought Kyocera Corp. and Century Tokyo Leasing Corp. to build two solar power stations designed to float on the surface of reservoirs. I've mentioned it already before but it's here again: DESERTEC project, building renewable power plants in territories with an abundance of solar and wind energy and connecting three continents with energy infrastructures. The consortium which administrates the project is one of the biggest companies union in the world. The Dii GmbH is composed by E.ON, ABB, Siemens, Enel Green Power, Terna, State Grid Croporation of China, Deutsche Bank, Flagsol, Abengoa Solar, Schott Solar and RWE. This consortium administrates more than $500 billion and operates in three continents. Another consortium focused on energy infrastructures is Medgrid (focused more on Middle East) and formed by Abengoa, GDF Suez, EDF and other companies. Between the many examples of joint ventures in the world there's the cooperation between First Solar and BELECTRIC for the construction of PV power plants or 3SUN, the biggest solar power joint venture in Europe including Enel Green Power, Sharp and STMicroelectronics. Joint ventures help new companies to invest in foreign countries and strengthen relationships between companies increasing the profits and the total capacity of renewable energy power plants all over the world. But if we want to accelerate the process the number of joint ventures and consortia have to double. The final target? A global renewble energy network, connecting all the companies of the sector. In fact, a renewable energy OPEC doesn't exist, it must be created. In a world where everything is connected it's unthinkable that renewable energy companies are isolated and under the pressure of fossil fuels companies. Like oil is transported from Middle East to the U.S. so renewable energy must be an international fuel to power a clean and green future.
  21. The WTF graph: methane bursts

    From the album Random images

    This graph shows methane spikes - marked with the well-deserving WTF - which have been recorded eight times in the past 22 years.
  22. While here in Northern Italy there are 18º and a lot of rain, storms and a Autumn climate California is a little bit hotter. Here's a news for the people who believe climate change doesn't exist: California’s three-year drought just went from bad to dreadful. In the course of the last week, the crimson expanse of “exceptional drought” grew to engulf the northern part of the state. The following chart , showing the drought's progession since 2011, speaks for itself: All of California is in "severe drought" (shown in orange), and 82 percent is rated “extreme drought” (in red). The agency’s highest drought rating — “exceptional drought” (crimson) -- now covers 58 percent of the state, up from 36 percent a week ago. California is becoming Sahara. Cheer up, beautiful people, it’s not the worst drought California has ever seen: in 1977, the state’s water storage was at 41 percent of the historical average but conditions are still getting worse. California is famous for its agriculture sector, especially wine grapes which are located most in the Cental Valley, the heart of agriculture, that now is in a terrible crisis. To face this drought Governor Jerry Brown has called for a statewide voluntary reduction of water use by 20 percent, and residents now face fines of as much as $500 a day for wasting water. They should have think to that earlier but it's the nature of humans, thinking that prevention is useless and not effective. Let's here what NASA said about the drought (spoiler alert: they made a joke): “California is supposed to be the Golden State. Make that golden brown” sad but true “According to the US Dept. of Agriculture and NOAA, dry conditions have become extreme across more than 62% of California’s land area—and there is little relief in sight”. California produces 20% of U.S. GDP and this drought is effecting the economy of the state and the people, because of the situation thousands of farmers are losing their jobs. On January 18th 2014 Govern Jerry Brown declared the state of emergency and it was a winter month. Now it's Summer and with a further increase of temperatures the situation's getting worse. Any solutions? Not really, this problem is effecting California for decades but this time is the worst because of climate change. The best solution should have been prevention, too late for that. Preventing any waste of water, low the levels of CO2. Everybody keep saying that, let's hope this time things will change. References from Bloomberg.com and Nasa.gov Photo from BusinessInsider.com
  23. Have you ever met a denier of climate change? Lucky you because if you are a strong environmentalist (like me) it's hard to discuss with the deniers. So, here’s a list of essential advices for persuading one or more people about the great benefits of green energy/politics/economics. 1. Don’t appear like a crazy prophet of an environmental apocalypse. It doesn’t inspire a lot of trust and a lot of people get tired about the usual environmental polemics. 2. Always expose objective and tangible data supporting your theory. The good thing is that there are a lot of positive data regarding green topics. 3. Always predict any possible antithesis to improve your thesis. 4. Don’t be boring. The worst thing after the refuse is the indifference. 5. Believe in what you say. You have to be convinced about the things you say otherwise it’s totally useless. 6. Don’t invent data to support your thesis and always verify the reliability of the data that you have to expose. Of course, if you're at a dinner with some friends don't show graphs about the levels of CO2 and the melting of Northern Pole. And what about you? Have you ever had an argue with someone about environment? Write it in the comments. P.S. For every climate change denier, I'm happy to hear your experiences but prepare for hard discussions A little reminder of the things we have to protect.
  24. The warning, issued in a new report by the EU Commission’s Joint Research Center, provides the most compelling evidence for climate action in the European Union. The study (pdf) offers a comprehensive view of the impacts of unrestrained climate change on agriculture, rivers, coasts, tourism, energy, forests, transport infrastructure and human health in Europe. The authors of the study say their estimates are conservative – as in, they underestimate the negative effects from climate change. The study is based on current population and economic growth levels which is used to make predictions 60 years into the future. But things change, and Europe will look completely different in terms of population levels and economic growth and development just 60 years from now. This means that the consequences of inaction could be much higher. Some impacts such as damages to biodiversity or ecosystem losses cannot be monetised and have therefore been left out from the study's calculations of welfare loss. Abrupt climate change or the consequences of passing climate tipping points (such as the Arctic sea-ice melting) are also not integrated in the analysis. Despite this, the study paints a grim enough picture. Over 8,000 square kilometres of forest could burn down if Europe fails to take adequately action against climate change. There will also be extensive damage from floods, which could exceed costs of €10bn every year by 2080. At the same time, coastal damage from rising sea levels will treble and amount to losses of €42 billion. Drought affected areas is expected to increase by sevenfold, and as a result the losses in the agriculture sector is expected to reach around €18 billion. Premature death from heat stress or other climate-related impacts will soar to 200 000 people annually. All in all, the European Union will lose €190 billion annually in economic losses from unrestrained climate change, which is estimated at a net loss of 1.8% of Europe's total GDP. Southern and south central Europe would be the worst-hit regions and bear 70% of the burden. If Europe adheres to the current international target of 2 degrees Celsius there will still be consequences, the study notes. But they won’t be as severe. The total bill would be reduced by at least €60 billion, save 23 000 lives from premature deaths, and improve the overall quality of life for Europeans by reducing air pollution. “No action is clearly the most expensive solution of all,” said Connie Hedegaard, EU Commissioner for Climate Action, in response to the new study. “Why pay for the damages when we can invest in reducing our climate impacts and becoming a competitive low-carbon economy?” “Taking action and taking a decision on the 2030 climate and energy framework in October, will bring us just there and make Europe ready for the fight against climate change,” Hedegaard said. Unfortunately there are EU member states, such as Poland and other eastern states, which are willing to oppose new and tougher climate goals for Europe. So despite this study, and other economic and climate analysis, Europe remains divided on which approach to choose – climate action or business-as-usual.
  25. President Obama gave a de facto follow-up to his previous climate change speech on June 14, during his commencement address at the University of California-Irvine. In a bold and positive move, he called out climate change deniers, emphasized the urgency of the matter, and called on students to push the issue beyond the current partisan divide in Washington, D.C. He criticized the negative remarks made by Republicans in Congress, such as those of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., who claimed that the effects of climate change, if any, were "unknowable;" and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who diverted questions on global warming and simply said he was not a scientist. "One doesn't need to be a scientist," Obama pointed out, "to act on scientific issues while in public office." The President said that when Americans were set on a course for the moon, "nobody ignored the science. I don't remember anyone saying that the moon wasn't there or that it was made of cheese. Today's Congress, though, is full of folks who stubbornly and automatically reject the scientific evidence about climate change. They will tell you it's a hoax, or a fad. There are some who also duck the question. They say, 'Hey, look, I'm not a scientist.' And I'll translate that for you: what that really means is, 'I know that climate change is happening, but if I admit it, I'll be run out of town by a radical fringe that thinks climate change is a liberal plot, so I'm not going to admit it.'" Vox writer Ezra Klein said the speech was a diverse one in that it "was about more than just the Republican Party. It was an impassioned case for why climate action is necessary. And it was, politically, a speech that showed Obama is done trying to convince Republicans to work with him on climate change and has moved on to trying to convince the public - and in particular, the next generation of American voters." Obama is indeed clearly trying to work with young environmentalists, as evident by his remarks: "People are [too busy] thinking about politics instead of thinking about what's good for the next generation. The reason I'm telling you this is because I want to light a fire under you. As the generation getting shortchanged by inaction on this issue, I want all of you to understand you cannot accept that this is the way it has to be. You're going to have to push those in power to do what this American moment demands. You've got to educate your classmates, colleagues, family members, and fellow citizens, and tell them what's at stake. You've got to push back against the misinformation and speak out for facts." Ben Adler, Grist.org writer, pointed out that Obama's act of reaching out to the new generation is a smart move. He said, "Republicans will never embrace climate action just because most people passively support it, or because environmentalists ardently do, but young people could entice them. The millennial generation is growing in electoral strength, leaning heavily Democratic but showing signs of disappointment with the Democrats. If young voters really did show elected officials that support for climate change is a prerequisite for their votes, Republicans might eventually take notice." "I'm not a scientist either," said the President. "But we've got some really good ones at NASA. I do know that the overwhelming majority of scientists who work on climate change, including some who once disputed the data, have since put that debate to rest." It's time, he concluded, "to invest in what helps and divest in what harms. We have to realize that climate change is no longer a distant threat. It has moved firmly into the present." This article was originally published in People's World by Blake Deppe.