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Dr Gideon Polya
Dr Gideon Polya

Declare Climate State of Emergency - Australian Climate Movement Convergence

Climate Code Red – the Case for a Sustainability EmergencyAustralian Climate Action Groups from Melbourne and wider afield gathered together on Saturday 9 February, 2008 for a Climate Movement Convergence at Melbourne’s Northcote High School. A major event was the launching of an important book published by Friends of the Earth entitled “Climate Code Red – the Case for a Sustainability Emergency†by David Spratt (Carbon Equity) and Philip Sutton (Greenleap Strategic Institute) (this important report can be downloaded here). A key outcome was the decision by some of these groups to form a Coalition for a Climate Emergency Declaration.

The morning sessions of the Convergence were devoted to a series of succinct addresses by a series of very well-informed speakers who variously addressed topics such as the Bali Conference, the Pacific Islands facing inundation, Carbon Equity, Technological Solutions, Opportunities for Business, Forests, Youth activism, Union Solidarity and Green Enterprises, North-South Issues , Social Justice and Equity, Arctic ice loss and Climate Emergency and the urgent need for a Climate State of Emergency Declaration. A repeated theme was indeed the current Climate Emergency and Sustainability Emergency and the need to take effective action to convince society, business and politicians to declare a Climate State of Emergency NOW.

The afternoon sessions began with the launch of “Climate Code Red – the Case for a Sustainability Emergency†by David Spratt (Carbon Equity) and Philip Sutton (Greenleap Strategic Institute) (http://www.climatecodered.net) (I will review this important book in detail on Green Blog shortly but a brief summary is provided below). The Convergence then continued with specific Workshops and Regional Climate Action Group (CAG) get-togethers. A key outcome was the decision by some of these groups to reinforce sentiment from a prior initial meeting by agreeing to form a Coalition for a Climate Emergency Declaration.

The essence of the exhaustively referenced “Climate Code Red†book is that the IPCC 2007 Report was several years out of date when it appeared (their literature for consideration cut-off date was 2005) and that the global situation is far more serious than hitherto surmised. The latest climate research, in particular from NASA’s Dr James Hansen and his colleagues, reveals that we have already reached a “tipping point†in relation to the complete melting of Arctic summer ice (now predicted by some to occur as soon as in a few years’ time). The massive thinning and complete melting of Arctic ice is being driven by “positive feedback†elements (notably the so-called “albedo flip†involved in conversion of light-reflecting white ice to light-absorbing dark sea and consequent further sea and air warming). However this Arctic ice melting is promoting OTHER adverse events with attendant positive feedback effects leading to accelerated warming and ice melting phenomena e.g. the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets are melting much faster than hitherto predicted (due to increased polar temperature and lubrication of glacier movements by melt water) and the tundra is thawing (with release of the greenhouse gases methane [CH4] and carbon dioxide [CO2], increased global warming etc).

The authors of “Climate Code Red†agree with NASA’s Dr James Hansen that the appropriate RESPONSE to this present situation of ACTUAL massive ecosystem damage (and with evident initiation of other likely non-linear global warming related events, notably ice sheet and tundra melting) is no longer the Bali-style “finite CO2 emission reduction targetsâ€) or even “zero emissions†but must be an urgent global policy of “negative CO2 emissionsâ€. This will involve cessation of coal power, and other fossil fuel burning, rapid expansion of renewable energy provision and mechanisms to REDUCE existing atmospheric CO2 from 385 ppm to a “safeâ€, sustainability-consistent 300-350 ppm (e.g. re-forestation, sulphate aerosols and return of carbon to the soil with pyrolytic biomass charring) (see: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/.../).

According to Dr James Hansen, in calling for an immediate cessation of coal power:

“If disintegration of these ice sheets passes their tipping points, dynamical collapse could proceed out of our control. If it melts completely, West Antarctica alone contains enough water to cause about 20 feet (6 meters) of sea-level rise. There are also tipping points in life systems. Today, as global temperature increases at a rate of about 0.2 degrees Celsius (0.36 degrees Fahrenheit) per decade, isotherms (a line of average temperature) are moving poleward at a rate of about 50-60 kilometers (35 miles) per decade. In response, some species are moving.†(see “: http://www.thebulletin.org/columns/james-hansen/20080124.html ).

David Spratt and Philip Sutton crystallized the road ahead as indicated by “Climate Code Red - the Case for a Sustainability Emergency†by 5 key propositions that I have reproduced as headings below and addressed succinctly using my own words and perceptions.

1. “Our goal is a safe-climate future – we have no right to bargain away species or human lives.†Massive species extinctions have already occurred; there is massive ecosystem damage ALREADY; un-ameliorated current 2.5 ppm per year increases in CO2 from the present 385 ppm CO2 threaten even more damage (world coral dies above 450 ppm; the ocean phytoplankton system goes at 500 ppm; sea level rises of 5 meters this century due to Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheet loss); current global warming ALREADY harms billions of people; and projected unaddressed global warming acutely threatens 6-9 billion people this century with over 6 billion predicted to perish this century by Professor Lovelock FRS (see: (see: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/.../ ; http://climateemergency.blogspot.com).

2. “We are facing rapid warming impacts: the danger is immediate, not just in the future.†Temperature increases approaching 2 degrees C above the pre-industrial (an average global temperature not seen for a million years) are ALREADY implicit in the system - a global average 0.8 degrees C above pre-industrial ALREADY, with a further 0.6 degrees C in-built from current CO2 levels and 0.4 degrees C per decade temperature increases possible from continuing “business as usual†CO2 pollution and declining carbon sink efficacy (through de-forestation, phytoplankton decline and storm-impacted loss of net CO2 absorption by the Oceans – this has ALREADY occurred with the Southern Ocean). Major UN relief programs are ALREADY being impacted by global warming effects, notably in Africa.

3.â€For a safe climate future, strong action is required now to stop emissions and to cool the earth.†According to Dr Hansen we have ALREADY passed the “tipping point†for complete melting of Arctic sea ice and the attendant threats of accelerating Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheet melting, carbon sink failure, permafrost loss, phytoplankton and forest loss with non-linear effects and positive feedbacks. The technology and the economic incentives are ALREADY available to replace fossil fuel burning by renewables (essentially ALL renewable energy sources are ALREADY cheaper than the “true cost†of coal–based power which is about 5 times higher than the current “market cost†(see: http://climateemergency.blogspot.com). Cooling the Earth can be further achieved by sulphate aerosols, soil carbon sequestration by adding pyrolytically charred biomass and massive re-forestation.

4. “It is necessary to plan a large-scale transition to a post-carbon economy and society.†There are analogous precedents for rapid, highly profitable, industrial conversion in the WW2 US armaments-geared economic boom, the post-war economic boom, the Asian Tiger economic expansion, the current China and India expansions and the IT revolution of the 1990s. 10,000 times more solar energy hits the Earth than is needed for Man’s current energy needs and the major renewable technologies are ALREADY cheaper than the “true cost†of coal power (see “Renewables: how the numbers stack upâ€: http://www.newmatilda.com/2007/08/08/how-numbers-stack).

5. “We should recognize a climate and sustainability emergency, because we need to move at a pace far beyond business and politics as usual.†Dramtic industrial turn-around has happened before in war-time (driven by the absolute need for victory), it has happened before in relation to New Technologies (driven by desire for profit) and it has happened in Asia (driven by a post-colonial desire for a better life above the starvation level of the colonial era). Aside from the moral obligations for biosphere and species sustainability, there is an extraordinary economic, social and indeed political advantage from Declaration of a Climate State of Emergency.

We have got to this present parlous state because of LYING – through the myth that the Powerful can take what they want with impunity from the water, air, land and biological resources that are the COMMON Property of ALL Humanity. As soon as these climate criminal, climate genocidal barbarians are made to pay the FULL environmental and human cost of what they are doing, the ALREADY AVAILABLE and economically-dictated renewable, sustainable solutions will become imperative. But before that can happen and as dictated by the climate science, we must ACT to Declare a Climate Emergency, a Climate State of Emergency, and we must do it NOW (see: “Climate Sustainability Emergency. Negative CO2 emissions needed now to save Planet": http://mwcnews.net/content/view/20133/42/ ; “Climate Emergency, Sustainability Emergencyâ€).

Dr Gideon Polya published some 130 works in a 4 decade scientific career, most recently a huge pharmacological reference text "Biochemical Targets of Plant Bioactive Compounds" (CRC Press/Taylor & Francis, New York & London, 2003). He has just published “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950†(G.M. Polya, Melbourne, 2007: http://mwcnews.net/content/view/1375/247/ and http://globalbodycount.blogspot.com ).

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A great piece of text, yet again, Gideon. I can't wait for the longer review of the book! But there was something in the text that grabbed my attention:

Cooling the Earth can be further achieved by sulphate aerosols, soil carbon sequestration by adding pyrolytically charred biomass and massive re-forestation.

I know sulphate aerosols has been discussed numerous times by now. But I am still wondering what kind of effect this actually will have. As you probably already know the lifetime of aerosols is quite short. How much sulphate aerosols is needed to have a strong effect, and not just a local effect?

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The reference to sulphate aerosols relates to the "global dimming" effect of sulphur-rich aerosols from fossil fuel combustion and from vulcanism (e.g. Mount Pinatubo) - see: link ). It is estimated that Mount Pinatubo sent 20 million tons of sulphur dioxide (SO2) aloft (see: link ; see also NASA on global dimming: link .

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