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Is This The Answer To Global Warming?

Is This The Answer To Global Warming?

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In my previous article – Indisputable Facts On Climate Change – I addressed some of the things we know to be true as it relates to carbon dioxide and global temperatures. Note that I didn’t try to connect any number of potential threads, nor make dire predictions. My article was based on facts, period.

In today’s article, I want to take another step and address the stakes, according to a recent report on global warming. But mostly I will focus on potential methods for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, or for preventing it from entering the atmosphere.

The Stakes Are High

In October 2018, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a Special Report on Global Warming. The report reiterated the urgent need to limit rising global temperatures but admitted that “limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require rapid, far-reaching, and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”

Various agreements, such as the 1992 Kyoto Protocol, have had some success in curbing regional carbon dioxide emissions in developed countries. However, global emissions continued to rise. More recently, the 196 parties attending the 21st yearly Climate Change Conference (COP 21) negotiated the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit the global temperature rise to “well below 2 °Celsius” compared to pre-industrial levels.

This week – three years later – the COP 24 convenes in Poland from December 3rd-14th. Attendees will tout measures aimed at reining in carbon dioxide emissions, but multiple agencies, such as the International Energy Agency’s (IEA), have warned that even if the pledges made as part of the 2015 Paris Accord are enacted into binding laws, it doesn’t go nearly far enough to meet the global temperature target.

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Fight Climate Change in Your Own Garden

Fight Climate Change in Your Own Garden

Your backyard could be the next front in the war against global warming.
victory-garden.jpg

During World War I, Americans were encouraged to do their part in the war effort by planting, fertilizing, harvesting, and storing their own fruits and vegetables. The food would go to allies in Europe, where there was a food crisis. These so-called “victory gardens” declined when WWI ended but resurged during World War II. By 1944, nearly 20 million victory gardens  produced about 8 million tons of food.

Today, the nonprofit Green America is trying to bring back victory gardens as a way to fight climate change.

That’s according to Jillian Semaan, food campaigns director at Green America, who added that the organization wants “to allow people to understand shifting garden practices towards regenerative agriculture and what it means for reversing climate change and sequestering carbon out of the atmosphere and putting it back into the soil.”

The organization is doing that through an educational video and a mapping project. Recently, more than 900 people added their gardens or farms to the Climate Victory Garden map that tracks U.S. agricultural activities that use regenerative practices.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said—and continues to reiterate—that carbon sequestration accounts for a large portion of global agricultural mitigation potential. Globally, agriculture accounts for 11 percent of greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.

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My IPCC take-away: Imagine. Take Action. Repeat.

For those who care about the world and the people and creatures we share it with, the last 6 weeks has offered a barrage of dire news. The new IPCC report called for “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”. We learnt that since the time the Beatles broke up and I was born (I claim no scandalous link between those two events), human activity has caused a 60% decline in mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians.

We’ve seen the German government, whose ‘Energiewende’ we were all celebrating a few years ago, dragging away protesters trying to prevent the clearing of an ancient woodland in order to create an open cast coal mine. Oh, and Brazil just elected a fascist who has vowed to turn much of the Amazon, that vital global carbon store, into farmland, merging the departments of environment and agriculture so as to ensure maximum cheap beef burger output. My own personal WTF moment was the US Department of Justice arguing last week, in their attempt to overturn a court case brought by 21 young people, that “there is no right to ‘a climate system capable of sustaining human life’”.  Er, excuse me? Is anyone actually taking this stuff seriously? Grief and rage feel an entirely appropriate response. As Bill McKibben put it, “we’re running out of options and we’re running out of decades”.

Image: James McKay.

As I work on the book I’m writing about imagination, I find myself intrigued with a thought that doesn’t seem to want to leave my head, namely that the deeper we get into climate change, the harder we seem to be finding it to imagine a way out. It’s an idea that, for me anyway, gets under the skin.

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Why Forests are the Best ‘Technology’ to Fight Climate Change

Why Forests are the Best ‘Technology’ to Fight Climate Change

The warning from the world’s top climate scientists that carbon dioxide (CO2) will need to be removed from the atmosphere to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius is both a due and dire recognition of the great task in front of us. What must not be forgotten, however, is the hope that our forests provide.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has said limiting global warming to 1.5C is not only achievable but also critical, given the previously underestimated accelerating risks for every degree of warming beyond that target.

It has also suggested that the amount of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) that will be needed can be limited by significant and rapid cuts in emissions, but also reduced energy and land demand to a few hundred gigatonnes without relying on Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS).

This means forests and land use can and must play a key role in efforts to achieve 1.5 degrees, but governments and industry too often overlook why improved forest protection, as well as forest restoration, are crucial alternative solutions to risky CDR technologies such as BECCS.

While greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and the destruction of forests and peatlands contribute heavily to climate change, the growth and restoration of forests can contribute significantly to reducing the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Recent research suggests that forest protection and restoration, together with other “natural climate solutions”, can provide over one-third of the climate mitigation needed between now and 2030.

The IPCC has estimated that between 100 and 1,000 gigatonnes of CO2 will need to be removed from the atmosphere to meet the Paris goals. It has been broadly agreed that the most important natural “carbon sinks” are the world’s forests. To limit climate change, we must urgently adopt an holistic approach to forest and peatland protection.

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Why Permaculture Puts Food First

Why Permaculture Puts Food First

Had we heeded Malthus’s warning and kept the human population to less than one billion, we would not now be facing a torrid future.
There are seven popular food crops in this picture
 When I teach permaculture, and now having done more than 50 full design courses, I try to de-emphasize gardening. I do that because I know that most other Permaculture teachers do precisely the opposite; they begin with drawing a chicken and then make mandala gardens and herb spirals.
I don’t usually do that because to me Permaculture is much more. It is a regenerative design science. It teaches you to think ecosystemically: no waste; cyclical; nourishing body and soul; steady state. It applies to every aspect of your life, and of civilization; from how we brush our teeth to how we build our cities and exchange value for value.
But Permaculture is also about looking ahead, over the fence, up to the sky, into the forest, and observing the grander patterns. Anyone who takes that kind of moment these days will be bound to notice phenological signs and portents, the uptick in unusual weather events, a spreading refugee crisis, and some really nasty resource wars appealing to our ethnic tribalism.

“The switch from growth to decline in oil production will thus almost certainly create economic and political tension.”

 — Colin Campbell and Jean Laherrére, Scientific American (1998)
These times have been long predicted, from Malthus’ and Arhennius’ calculations of population and carbon dioxide, to Limits to Growth, The Population Bomb, and now decades of reports from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. All of those, and more, are known knowns.

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The Climate Crisis is Back in the News

The Climate Crisis is Back in the News

Photo Source Peter Prokosch | CC BY 2.0

The prospect of drastic climate change is back in the news. But, for all too many people it is just that, a news item. It is like other eye-grabbing stories: a bit scary, but also happening somewhere else and at some other time. Of course, if you happen to be at that other place or approximate to that time (the latest examples would be the Florida Panhandle in mid-October and Mexico’s southwestern coast in late October), things get more immediate, more real. But otherwise it is theory. Examine your own sense of urgency as you read on.

Back in 2015, when most of the world’s nations were debating a treaty on climate change in Paris, this time-and-place factor played a part in the negotiations. Specifically, it played into defining how to best read the “doomsday thermometer.” According to climatologists, a relatively small upward shift in the world’s average temperature—caused largely by a steady increase in the atmospheric greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2)—over the next few decades could play havoc with civilization worldwide. But, how much of a shift?

Industrialized societies whose standard of living would take a politically rattling hit from any sizable cut in CO2 wanted to set the target for allowable temperature rise at 2 degrees Celsius or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. They thought that sufficient to their time and place. However, this was considered a starkly insufficient goal by those who live in the Maldives, Seychelles, Micronesia, Bangladesh, Marshall Islands, and other such countries. It would also of course be bad news for any number of other low-lying coastal areas (think lower Manhattan).

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Collapsing Rainforest Ecosystems

Collapsing Rainforest Ecosystems

Photo Source A.Davey | CC BY 2.0

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences recently issued a report on the status of arthropods in rainforests (Bradford C. Lister and Andres Garcia, Climate-Driven Declines in Arthropod Abundance Restructure a Rainforest Food Web, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2018 https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1722477115).

The report’s shocking analysis discovered a collapsing food web in tropical rainforests. Oh please! Can ecological news get any worse than this?

Biologists Brad Lister and Andres Garcia of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México returned to Puerto Rico’s Luquillo Rainforest after 40 years, and what they found blew them away. The abundance of insects, and arthropods in general, declined by as much as 60-fold and average temps had risen by 2°C over the past four decades. According to the scientists, global warming is impacting the rainforest with distinctive gusto.

According to Lister: “It was just a collapse in the insect community. A really dramatic change… The insect populations in the Luquillo forest are crashing.” (Source: Climate-Driven Crash in a Rainforest Food Web, Every Day Matters, Oct. 22, 2018).

It doesn’t get much worse than “crashing” of ecosystem support systems, i.e., insects and arthropods in general, which are in the phylum Euarthropoda, inclusive of insects, arachnids, myriapods, and crustaceans. This equates to a loss of basic structures of biosphere life forces.

The research team believes they are already seeing today what the recent IPCC report predicted for climate change in 2040. In their words: “It’s a harbinger of a global unraveling of natural systems.”

“The central question addressed by our research is why simultaneous, long-term declines in arthropods, lizards, frogs, and birds have occurred over the past four decades in the relatively undisturbed rainforests of northeastern Puerto Rico.

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World wakes up to scale of climate challenge, so what should a Labor government do?

World wakes up to scale of climate challenge, so what should a Labor government do?

Quite suddenly, in the wake of the recent IPCC report, it’s become commonplace to talk about a global climate emergency. Al Gore told PBS on 12 October: “We have a global emergency. You use a phrase like that and some people immediately say, ‘okay calm down, it can’t be that bad.’ But it it is.”

On 9 October, a stunning editorial was published in the UK. “The Guardian view on climate change: a global emergency” opened with the sentence: “Climate change is an existential risk to the human race.”

Image Source: Climate Code Red.

A year ago, that would have been extraordinary, but no longer. (An existential risk is one that poses permanent large negative consequences to humanity which can never be undone, or an adverse outcome that would either annihilate intelligent life or permanently and drastically curtail its potential).

n many ways, the recent IPCC report on 1.5°C was too conservative, overestimating the length time till we hit 
1.5°C, and failing to account for crucial feedbacks in the climate system.

Yet the report’s evidence was that 2°C of warming would be catastrophic in so many ways, including for sea-level rise, for coral systems, and for food and water security of hundreds of millions of people, if not more.

The current Paris commitments are a path to 3.4°C of warming, and closer to 5°C when the full range of feedbacks are included.

But even an understatement of the evidence leads to radical conclusions. In response to the report’s release, there was a certain shock and awe, for example by Jeff Goodell in Rolling Stone (“What’s Another Way to Say ‘We’re F-cked’?”) and David Wallace-Wells in New York Magazine (“UN Says Climate Genocide Is Coming. It’s Actually Worse Than That”).

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Eco Crises: Doom & Gloom, Truth & Consequences

Eco Crises: Doom & Gloom, Truth & Consequences

Photo Source Sakeeb Sabakka | CC BY 2.0

…We can’t save the world by playing by the rules because the rules have to change. Everything needs to change and it has to start today….To all the politicians that pretend to take the climate question seriously, to all of you who know but choose to look the other way every day because you seem more frightened of the changes that can prevent the catastrophic climate change than the catastrophic climate change itself… Please treat the crisis as the crisis it is and give us a future.

Greta Thunberg, 15 year-old climate activist speaking at the Helsinki climate demonstration, October 20, 2018 

When I entered my interdisciplinary environmental graduate program, I already had years of work experience behind me as well as a lifetime of informal environmental education. I recognized the grim ecological picture. Some of my professors, however, were quick to admonish, “We can’t be gloom and doom.” Their other refrain was, “We can’t go back.” They offered no evidence for those two prescriptions with regard to the climate and ecological crises, yet their commands were common among environmental scholars. More than a decade later, we face far more dismal prospects for the future of humanity, but we are still loath to truly address them.

Doom and Gloom

In 1972, the Club of Rome, a consortium of scientists, economists, politicians, diplomats, and industrialists, produced a lengthy scientific report entitled Limits to Growth. Their work predicted a collapse of the human population due to our unchecked economic growth and resource depletion. While their estimates were condemned as alarmist and overreaching, independent researchers have updated the report for the 50th anniversary of the club’s inception, and have largely found that the conclusions from the original still hold.

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Time Out for Nukes!

Time Out for Nukes!

With 122 nations having voted last summer to adopt a treaty for the complete prohibition of nuclear weapons, just as the world has banned chemical and biological weapons,  its seems that the world is locked in a new Cold War time-warp, totally inappropriate to the times.  We were warned last week from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, that prior calculations about the risk of catastrophic climate change were off, and that without a full scale immediate mobilization humanity will face disastrous rising sea levels, temperature changes, and resource shortages.

Now is an opportunity to take a time-out on nuclear gamesmanship, new threats, trillions of wasted dollars and IQ point on weapons systems that Presidents Reagan and Gorbachev acknowledged, back in 1987 at the end of the Cold War, could never be used, warning that “A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”   Now in 2018, more than 30 years later, when 69 nations have signed the treaty to ban the bomb and 19 of the 50 nations required to ratify the treaty for it to enter into force have put it through their legislatures, the US and Russia are in an unholy struggle to keep the nuclear arms race going with the US accusing Russia of violating the Intermediate Nuclear Force treaty which eliminated a whole class of  land-based conventional and nuclear missiles in Europe, and Russia planning new weapons systems in response to a whole stream of US bad faith actions, the most egregious of which was President Bush walking out of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty negotiated with the Soviet Union to ratchet down the nuclear arms race.

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UN Climate Change Report: A Choice between “Mad Max and Hunger Games”

UN Climate Change Report: A Choice between “Mad Max and Hunger Games”

Humanity, we’re essentially told, is doomed lest people concede their freedom to the experts, lawmakers, and bureaucrats who can save us.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) this week released a special report detailing all the ways climate change is predicted to wreak havoc on humans.

The report is about 800 pages long, so I’ll offer a summary to save you some time:

  • Global temperatures today are 1.0°C above pre-industrial temperatures.
  • We’re seeing an increase in extreme weather and other negative consequences as a result of the increase, including receding sea ice in the Arctic and rising global sea levels.
  • A 1.5°C increase will be (much) worse than a 1.0 increase; 2°C would be much worse than that.
  • We’re currently on track to exceed 3°C.
  • Only broad and drastic changes in the world economy can prevent global calamity.

The report’s glum findings were announced at a press conference by a United Nations panel in Incheon, South Korea. Panelists tried to sound optimistic, but there was no sugar-coating the report’s key finding.

“If you would like to stabilize global warming to 1.5°C, the key message is that net CO2 emissions at the global scale must reach zero by 2050,” said panelist Valerie Masson-Delmotte, a French climate scientist and research director at the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission. “That’s the most important finding of the report.”

Barring these substantial reductions, we’re told, millions will die. Literally.

The report made it clear that fossils fuel—oil, gas, and coal—which the world heavily depends on, must be phased out to achieve this goal: especially coal.

“Coal will have to be reduced very, very substantially by the middle of the century,” said Jim Skea, a Scottish academic and IPCC panelist. “Coal has the highest carbon content of all the fossil fuels.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The New IPCC Report Offers Climate Solutions That Depend on Magic

THE NEW IPCC REPORT OFFERS CLIMATE SOLUTIONS THAT DEPEND ON MAGIC

To solve the crisis, we’d have to slow growth. And no one wants to admit that.
Ice floes in Iceland

(Photo: Roxanne Desgagnés/Unsplash)

Over the past couple of decades, climate scientists have warned government leaders that global warming could pose an extinction-level threat to humanity. In response, policymakers have asked climate scientists for recommendations to stave off catastrophic global warming, just as long as these recommended policies wouldn’t curtail economic growth. Climate scientists, in turn, have come up with a series of proposals that are the equivalent of magic: They deliver desired results, but only if you believe in miracles. For the most part, everyone involved in this magic show has the right intentions. The problem is that we’re betting our entire future on fairy dust.

A case in point is the just-released Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C, drafted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change at the request of the United Nations. The purpose of the report is to explore the differences between a 2 degrees Celsius maximum target for global warming and a 1.5 degree target, and to identify ways to achieve that lower target. The reason for working to limit warming below the more ambitious threshold is that a number of low-lying nations (on whose approval the Paris Agreement depended) will literally be underwater if temperatures rise beyond that limit. As solutions, the report discusses ways to capture and sequester carbon dioxide, or ways of pulling CO2 out of the air. The report also suggests that we can continue to grow gross domestic product (GDP) while decreasing energy use.

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Climate catastrophe: The median is NOT the message

Climate catastrophe: The median is NOT the message

Anyone who has followed the climate change issue in the last 30 years knows that official forecasts provided by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are quickly upended by developments and have often been obsolete before they were issued.

The latest report from the IPCC is the first, however, to abandon the measured tone of its previous ones and foretell what it considers a climate catastrophe for human civilization unless the world makes an abrupt U-turn and begins dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions almost immediately.

And yet, even this forecast is probably too conservative in its pronouncements. That’s according to Michael Mann, a climate researcher whose famous “hockey stick” graph has been central to understanding the rise in global temperatures and has been replicated again and again using other measures of historical worldwide temperatures.

What is little understood by the public is that humans have been underestimating the pace and impact of climate change since Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius first suggested in 1896 that the globe was warming due to emissions of carbon dioxide.

Which brings me to a broader point: The public tends to hear most often about the median values or middle-of-the road scenarios in any forecast, sometimes called the reference case. (Very little emphasis is put on the range of possibilities. For example, the IPCC in 2000 forecast that global average temperature could be 1.4 to 5.8 degrees Centigrade higher than the 1990 level by 2100.)

Today, we find ourselves fretting that going beyond a 1.5-degree increase from pre-industrial times will spell catastrophe involving global agriculture, severe weather, sea-level rise, and disease epidemics. Previously, 2 degrees was thought to be the threshold for severe irretrievable consequences resulting from climate change.

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Climate Crisis is Upon Us

Climate Crisis is Upon Us

One of the more useful allusions hidden in plain sight in the recent IPCC / UN report on climate crisis is the distinction between the pre-industrial and industrial ages that defines the era of climate crisis. Industrial capitalism, a/k/a capitalism, is the cause of climate crisis. Plenty of pseudo-scientific rubbish about human caused and Anthropocene can be found in the report’s text. But industry— the integration of science and technology in capitalist production, is identified as the cause. No longer are goat herders in Turkmenistan as responsible as the executives of Exxon-Mobil for the unfolding debacle.

The report is striking in its urgency. Feedback loops and tipping points contradict any straight-line assurances of an orderly and knowable path forward. Behind pages of stark calculations can be found Gaia, the unknowable relations of Mother Earth that make a mockery of scientific certainty beyond the understanding that the environment of the planet is being destroyed and needs to be fixed. Missing is any semblance of a political program to move resolution forward. But also missing is the usual subtext of technocrats meeting in swank hotels to eat four-star meals, swap resumes and network. The stakes are now apparently too high.

Identification of the industrial age— capitalism, as the cause of climate crisis brings with it a host of related revelations. Capitalist wealth becomes a crude measure of its reciprocal in environmental devastation. The relation of wealth to political power makes timely and / or peaceful resolution improbable. Capitalist accumulation will hereafter be a measure of informed socio-pathology. The writing is on the wall. The American political ‘choice’ between the wealthy or their technocratic servants is a formula for environmental annihilation. The system crisis is a metaphor for the political crisis that makes resolution so intractable.

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‘Vast Blind Spot’: IPCC Accused of Ignoring ‘Decades Long’ Fossil Fuel Misinformation Campaign on Climate

‘Vast Blind Spot’: IPCC Accused of Ignoring ‘Decades Long’ Fossil Fuel Misinformation Campaign on Climate

Charles Koch

The United Nations (UN) climate science panel is being accused of ignoring research into fossil fuel-funded misinformation campaigns that have been key to holding back action on global warming.

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — an assessment of more than 6,000 research papers — found global warming caused largely by fossil fuel burning would have severe impacts even if limited to 1.5°C (2.7°F).

Described by the IPCC as “one of the most important climate change reports ever published,” the report is designed to inform policy makers and the public around the world.

But several researchers are angry the report did not take account of academic research into the “decades-long misinformation campaign” funded and promoted by fossil fuel interests and so-called “free market” conservative think tanks that has been a major brake on progress.

Several researchers say the lack of consideration of academic research into misinformation campaigns was a vital but missed opportunity to educate the public and policy makers. The groups that have colluded with the fossil fuel industry have been credited with pushing President Donald Trump to pledge to pull the U.S. from the UN‘s Paris Agreement.

A Vast Blind Spot

This is an important barrier to climate action, but it is never addressed,” said Professor Robert Brulle of Drexel University, who has published research on the funding and influence of climate science denial efforts.

A large existing literature on this was ignored by the IPCC,” he added.

The IPCC special report showed that keeping global warming to 1.5°C would require a rapid phase-out of fossil fuel use between now and the middle of the century.

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