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Leaked report of the IPCC reveals that the growth model of capitalism is unsustainable

| Satellite image showing smoke from Siberian forest fires reaching the North Pole August 3 2021 | MR OnlineSatellite image showing smoke from Siberian forest fires reaching the North Pole (August 3, 2021). Image credit: Felton DavisFlickr.

Leaked report of the IPCC reveals that the growth model of capitalism is unsustainable

The second draft of the IPCC Group III report, focused on mitigation strategies, states that we must move away from the current capitalist model to avoid surpassing planetary boundaries and climate and ecological catastrophe). It also confirms our previous reports, covered by CTXT and The Guardian, that “greenhouse gas emissions must peak in the next four years”. The new leak acknowledges that there is little or no room for further economic growth.

The undersigned scientists and journalists have analyzed a new part of the Sixth Assessment Report, which has been leaked to us by the same sources as last time—Scientist Rebellion and Extinction Rebellion Spain. In this leak the usual more timid positions can be found, but also prominent statements that would have been unthinkable not long ago.

To contextualize, let’s just remember: In 1990, the First IPCC Report stated that, “the observed increase [in temperature] could be largely due to natural variability”, and although subsequent reports put this position to rest, this Sixth Report eliminates any possibility of doubt, and leaves no room for the climate denial arguments which have been historically and amply financed by those who had the most to benefit from maintaining this narrative: the fossil fuel lobbies.

The leaked report mentions that indefinite growth must be renounced. Since radical transition is required, the key question is how can a shift away from models of perpetual growth be understood as a benefit and not merely relinquishment? …

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The IPCC Report: Key Findings and Radical Implications

The IPCC Report: Key Findings and Radical Implications

Beyond the headlines: what climate science now shows about Earth’s future. Can we act in time?

The UN-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released its latest comprehensive report on the state of the earth’s climate. The much-anticipated report dominated the headlines for a few days in early August, then quickly disappeared amidst the latest news from Afghanistan, the fourth wave of Covid-19 infections in the US, and all the latest political rumblings. The report is vast and comprehensive in its scope, and is worthy of more focused attention outside of specialist scientific circles than it has received thus far.

The report affirms much of what we already knew about the state of the global climate, but does so with considerably more clarity and precision than earlier reports. It removes several elements of uncertainty from the climate picture, including some that have wrongly served to reassure powerful interests and the wider public that things may not be as bad as we thought. The IPCC’s latest conclusions reinforce and significantly strengthen all the most urgent warnings that have emerged from the past 30 to 40 years of climate science. It deserves to be understood much more fully than most media outlets have let on, both for what it says, and also what it doesn’t say about the future of the climate and its prospects for the integrity of all life on earth.

Click image to download report. (PDF, 248MB)

First some background. Since 1990, the IPCC has released a series of comprehensive assessments of the state of the earth’s climate, typically every 5–6 years. The reports have hundreds of authors, run for many hundreds of pages (this one has over 3000), and represent the international scientific consensus that has emerged from the period since the prior report…

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How the Economy Has to Radically Transform to End Fossil Fuels in 20 Years

How the Economy Has to Radically Transform to End Fossil Fuels in 20 Years

Coming disruptions will eventually lay waste to conventional jobs in incumbent fossil fuel, combustion engine, and livestock farming industries.
GettyImages-1052523172
IMAGE: MARCEL KUSCH/PICTURE ALLIANCE VIA GETTY IMAGES

To avoid the worst of climate change’s disastrous effects, humanity needs to slash carbon emissions and remove carbon from the atmosphere at a pace and scale often said to be eye-wateringly difficult, expensive, and even unlikely given the continued failure of political will. That’s the implication of the IPCC’s report, published this week, which concludes that a 1.5 degrees Celsius rise in global average temperatures is now inevitable in 20 years.

The IPCC’s “best-case” scenario concludes that if we act fast, we might be able to gradually reduce temperatures back down to 1.4C by 2100. Yet this would keep us in the 1.5C climate danger zone for decades, which could risk triggering tipping points that could lead to irreversible and even more dangerous shifts in the climate system. Against this background, the Biden administration’s infrastructure bill has offered a watered down set of policies that simply won’t contribute to the scale of change required.

But a new report by technology forecasting think-tank RethinkX finds that the scope for change could be far larger and faster than either the IPCC or powerful governments like the United States realise: because the most powerful fossil fuel-based industries in the world—oil, gas, and coal; livestock farming; and combustion engines—are going to become obsolete purely due to extant economic factors well within the next 20 years. According to RethinkX, they are being increasingly disrupted by a cluster of clean technologies in the energy, transport and food sectors, which are rapidly becoming cheaper, more efficient, and as a result, more ubiquitous.

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Grappling with growth

Synergies and tensions between degrowth and people’s movements

We live in an age of converging crises. Only days ago the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a damning report on the state of the environmental crisis. At the same time, while a few countries are recuperating from the pandemic, an on-going third wave of Covid wreaks havoc across the Global South. In both crises, the economic imperative overrides other concerns and appears to render necessary changes illusory. Even among staunch proponents of our current economic system, calls for reform grow louder.1 The health and environmental crises are illustrative of broader tendencies: environmental disasters, rising global inequality, political polarization, a strengthening of right-wing extremism, anti-immigrant policies, and accompanying human misery.

In light of this, movements are mobilizing. Beyond reform, they argue that systemic changes are needed. Their struggles take a holistic view, emphasizing how the individual crises are entangled and driven by underlying structural factors. A question moving increasingly to the center of attention is growth itself as a driver of social inequality and unsustainability. Critics of growth argue that reckoning with environmental devastation and social inequality is directly tied to leaving behind the growth-paradigm. Among the frameworks and movements criticizing growth, degrowth is especially prevalent.

Degrowth argues that environmental sustainability and social justice necessitate transitioning beyond growth-reliance. In order to address social and environmental issues, we have to transition towards societies that are not just smaller in size but also operate according to a different logic – a logic that is not determined by the market sphere.2

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The problem with climate change politics

The problem with climate change politics

Climate change bears all the hallmarks of a state-sponsored crisis, useful to shift attention from other political failures. But the absence of financial accountability which characterises government actions also introduces behavioural errors.

The absence of a profit motive in any state action exposes the relationship between governments and their electors to psychological factors. We all know that governments use propaganda and other tools to manage crowd psychology and influence their electorates. What is less understood is that governments themselves are misled by a crowd psychology in its own ranks which contributes to policy failure.

This article does not question the climate change debate itself. Instead, it examines the debate in the context of the psychology driving it. The release of government-sponsored propaganda on climate change in the form of a unanimous IPCC report predicting the end of the world as we know it is the latest example of a political and bureaucratic phenomenon, making the timing of this article apposite.
Introduction

Western economies have moved on from free markets to the point where they hardly exist in the true meaning of the phrase. Yet the state continually claims that it is free markets that fail, not government.

The reason governments fail in economic terms is that economic calculation is never part of their brief, and nor can it be. By economic calculation, we mean taking positive actions aimed at a profitable outcome. To survive and prosper, businesses and individuals must do this all the time — the only exception being when they can rely on the state to underwrite their failures, which is why established businesses encourage statist regulation to place hurdles in the way of upstart competitors. And why at an individual level there is a ready demand for state welfare.
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This is the most sobering report card yet on climate change and Earth’s future. Here’s what you need to know

This is the most sobering report card yet on climate change and Earth’s future. Here’s what you need to know

Earth has warmed 1.09℃ since pre-industrial times and many changes such as sea-level rise and glacier melt are now virtually irreversible, according to the most sobering report yet by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The report also found escape from human-caused climate change is no longer possible. Climate change is now affecting every continent, region and ocean on Earth, and every facet of the weather.

The long-awaited report is the sixth assessment of its kind since the panel was formed in 1988. It will give world leaders the most timely, accurate information about climate change ahead of a crucial international summit in Glasgow, Scotland in November.

The IPCC is the peak climate science body of the United Nations and the World Meteorological Organization. It is the global authority on the state of Earth’s climate and how human activities affect it. We are authors of the latest IPCC report and have drawn from the work of thousands of scientists from around the world to produce this new assessment.

Sadly, there is hardly any good news in the 3,900 pages of text released today. But there is still time to avert the worst damage, if humanity chooses to.

melting glacier
Escape from human-caused climate change is no longer possible. John McConnico/AP

It’s unequivocal: humans are warming the planet

For the first time, the IPCC states unequivocally — leaving absolutely no room for doubt – humans are responsible for the observed warming of the atmosphere, lands and oceans.

The IPCC finds Earth’s global surface temperature warmed 1.09℃ between 1850-1900 and the last decade. This is 0.29℃ warmer than in the previous IPCC report in 2013. (It should be noted that 0.1℃ of the increase is due to data improvements.)

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What the IPCC report should have told us

What the IPCC report should have told us

The problem with the recent IPCC report is that it is still talking about ‘average’ changes over the earth, discussing what might happen decades from now as a result of increased rate of change. Even if the message is labeled “code red” or urgent, it is still understating what is already happening. We continue to flog a dead horse; the ‘dead horse’ being the fact that scientists are still trying to convince people that climate change is happening and our situation is getting worse.  People should already accept that this is true.  It isn’t the average changes that will happen over the rest of this century that are threatening us.  The earth’s climate has already destabilized to the point where abrupt, extreme weather events are already happening. It isn’t my poor diet that will kill me, it’s the heart attack.

It isn’t the average temperature changes or rainfall events that threaten us, it is the abrupt changes, the extremes in weather events that will destroy our homes and communities. The IPCC report is full of graphical evidence that humans have changed earth’s surface, oceans, and atmosphere in ways that will bring about more warming, higher average temperatures, and greater precipitation in some regions and less in others. But this means little to people who have already lost everything to a storm, flood or wildfire. Perhaps the report was meant for policy makers, those who may actually be able to do something…if only we can convince them to do so.

In the face of such dire consequences what is the US government doing to address the threat of climate change? Yesterday we heard news of the first ‘bipartisan’ piece of legislation to pass the Senate in well over a decade…

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The last climate warning: heat waves and the IPCC leak

NEARLY 50 CELSIUS DEGREES ON THE WEST COAST OF CANADA

Records everywhere, and at the same time, a leak to the press, a preview, of a part of the major report on the climate crisis. It doesn’t sound like a coincidence

In Lytton, Canada, 49.6º was recorded at the end of June, during a historic heat wave that has caused a fire in the area, wiping the population off the map. Other records were also broken during those days in a multitude of cities as diverse as Seattle, Moscow or Benni Abbes in Tunisia.

Climate change is no longer denied by anyone. Or at least no one who thinks of anything other than his or her own benefit and those who let themselves be manipulated by the first ones.

 

According to a recent Yale University study, more than 90% of people surveyed around the globe assume that climate change is a real and very serious problem.Unfortunately, there is still some doubt about two crucial issues:

The first issue is that a third of society or more do not believe that it is human activities that are primarily responsible for climate chaos in most countries.  In Indonesia, the most serious case, this percentage would be over 80%. Truly incredible for the current knowledge, which does not admit any doubt in this regard. Natural phenomena not only have nothing to do with it, they are actually helping us.

Just as there were fires before humans even existed, there are fires now, both natural and human-induced. Of course there have been many previous climate changes casued by the interaction of orbital cycles or Milankovitch cycles with the carbon cycle…

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The Criminology of Global Warming

The Criminology of Global Warming

Pulp mill, Longview, Washington. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Some – like Exxon since 1957 – have been aware that the world is facing global warming that has all the signs to render earth uninhabitable. At least with United Nations’ IPPC and NASA reporting on global warming, others have realised that we also face an unprecedented threat. Potentially, all of this is an issue of criminology. Somewhat similar to biology and psychology, criminology is the science of crime and criminal behaviour. Global warming can be seen from an environmental, geological, atmospheric, capitalist, etc. perspective, but it can also be seen as an issue of criminology.

Like lawyers and judges, etc., criminologists also prefer tide and often somewhat legalistic definitions to work with. For them, global warming is simply defined as the rising of the earth’s temperature. At the same time, climate change is seen as the inter-related effects of rising temperatures on our environment and on human beings.

Criminology comes into play when global warming is caused by harmful behaviour that contributes to the problem. It also comes in when human, state or corporate actions prevent responses to global warming. At the centre of criminology is the idea that a corporation or someone can commit a wrong. In a second step, criminology stresses that these wrongs demand a response.

One might simply argue that a crime is what the law defines as a crime. The l’idée fixe of malum prohibitum is, for example, that something is not so much a crime because it is inherently wrong, but because the laws of a state prohibit it. This idea lets some off the hook – for example, those who perpetrated the Holocaust. Nazi Germany certainly did not have a law that states, if you kill communists, trade unionists, democrats, homosexuals, Gipsies, and Jews, you will be punished. Instead, the opposite was the case. Auschwitz fulfilled every single regulation down to the German building code.

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False Solutions to Climate Change: Real Solutions

False Solutions to Climate Change: Real Solutions

Editorial Note: This is Part 6 of Mary Wildfire’s series on false solutions to climate change. You can read Part 1 on Electricity here, Part 2 on Transportation here, Part 3 on Agriculture here, Part 4 on Buildings here. and Part 5 on Geoengineering here.

It’s become increasingly clear that climate change is not only real but beginning to bite. Now that much of the population is finally feeling the urgency—and during a time when COVID19  has much of our frenetic commerce on hold, giving us a space for thinking and discussion–what can we do to protect the only planet we’ve got? Unfortunately a good many of the solutions on offer seem designed to quiet the increasing concern, the impetus to do something, without challenging the status quo.

Can we get real solutions and still maintain economic growth, population growth, and the growth of inequality? Are we entitled to an ever-rising standard of living? I believe the answer is no; we need some profound transformations if we are to leave our grandchildren a planet that resembles the one we grew up on, rather than a dystopian Hell world.  This is the basic theme of the controversial Michael Moore produced film Planet of the Humans. I see that film as seriously flawed, but agree with its basic message—that it’s time for humanity to grow up and accept limits, get over what I call human exceptionalism, or androtheism—the notion that man is God.

A veritable cornucopia of false solutions is being pushed these days, not only by corporations and think tanks but by the UN’s IPCC, the international body responsible for research and action on climate.  We could have made a gentle transition if we had begun when we first became aware of this problem decades ago, but for various reasons we did not.

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Microbes a key factor in climate change

Microbes a key factor in climate change

Preface. The IPCC, like economists, assumes our economy and burning of fossil fuels will grow exponentially until 2100 and beyond, with no limits to growth. But conventional oil peaked and has stayed on a plateau since 2005, so clearly peak global oil production is in sight. As is peak soil, aquifer depletion, biodiversity destruction, and deforestation to name just a few existential threats besides climate change.

The lack of attention to microbes in the IPCC model further weakens their predictions about the trajectory of climate change. As this article notes, diatoms are our friends, they “perform 25–45% of total primary production in the oceans, owing to their prevalence in open-ocean regions when total phytoplankton biomass is maximal. Diatoms have relatively high sinking speeds compared with other phytoplankton groups, and they account for ~40% of particulate carbon export to depth”.

Diatoms didn’t appear until 40 million years ago, and sequester so much carbon that they caused the poles to form ice caps. So certainly scientists should study whether their numbers are decreasing or increasing. But also the IPCC needs to include diatoms and other microbes in their models. It’s a big deal that they haven’t, since microorganisms support the existence of all higher life forms.

* * *

University of New South Wales. 2019. Leaving microbes out of climate change conversation has major consequences, experts warn. Science Daily.

Original article: Cavicchioli, R., et al. 2019. Scientists’ warning to humanity: microorganisms and climate change. Nature Reviews Microbiology.

More than 30 microbiologists from 9 countries have issued a warning to humanity — they are calling for the world to stop ignoring an ‘unseen majority’ in Earth’s biodiversity and ecosystem when addressing climate change.

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AFOLU’s warning

AFOLU’s warning 

A second sobering report from  the IPCC again provides solid scientific evidence that the climate crisis cannot be resolved if we continue along our present path. While previous assessments have focused on transportation and industry, the most recent report shows that if the way we misuse and degrade our land does not dramatically improve, there is little chance of keeping global heating within bounds, and the future climate will bring widespread global disruption and spell disaster for millions of world’s most vulnerable people.    

Human use has radically altered more than 70% of the ice-free land surface of the planet. Population growth and increases of per capita consumption of food, feed, fibre, timber and energy have caused unprecedented rates of land and freshwater use. Agriculture now accounts for about 70% of freshwater use. Soils are being decimated. Erosion from traditional forms of agriculture  is more than 100 times higher than rate at which soil is being formed. This degradation not only is destroying habitats, ecosystems and biodiversity, it is exacerbating the forces that are driving the climate crisis. Regenerative agriculture is now a global imperative.

What’s called AFOLU, meaning Agriculture, Forestry, and Other Land Use, is both a source and sink of the greenhouse gases that are driving global heating and intensifying the climate crisis. 

At present, for carbon dioxide, the global sink is larger than the source. Land sequesters more than twice as much of this gas than is emitted. 

Land is a net sink of carbon dioxide

But for methane and nitrogen dioxide, two other major greenhouse gases, the AFOLU sector is a serious global problem: it accounts for over 40% of global emission of methane and over 80% of emissions of nitrogen dioxide.  

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With the world on the line, scientists outline the paths to survival

With the world on the line, scientists outline the paths to survival

This week, scientists and representatives from every country on Earth are gathering in South Korea to put the finishing touches on a report that, if followed, would change the course of history.

The report is a roadmap for possible ways to keep climate change to 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels. Anything beyond that amount of warming, and the planet starts to really go haywire. So the International Panel on Climate Change — a U.N.-sponsored, Nobel Peace Prize-winning assemblage of scientists — wants to show how we can avoid that. To be clear, hitting that goal would require a radical rethink in almost every aspect of society. But the report finds that not meeting the goal would upend life as we know it, too.

“This will be one of the most important meetings in the IPCC’s history,” said Hoesung Lee, the group’s chair, in his opening address on Monday.

The report will be released on October 8. From leaked drafts, we know the basics of scientists’ findings: World greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2020 — just 15 months from now. The scientists also show the difference in impacts between 1.5 and 2 degrees would not be minor — it could be make-or-break for the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, for example, which would flood every coastal city on Earth should it collapse.

“The decisions we make now about whether we let 1.5 or 2 degrees or more happen will change the world enormously,” said Heleen de Coninck, a Dutch climate scientist and one of the report’s lead authors, in an interview with the BBC. “The lives of people will never be the same again either way, but we can influence which future we end up with.”

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Analysis: Why scientists think 100% of global warming is due to humans

The extent of the human contribution to modern global warming is a hotly debated topic in political circles, particularly in the US.

During a recent congressional hearing, Rick Perry, the US energy secretary, remarked that “to stand up and say that 100% of global warming is because of human activity, I think on its face, is just indefensible”.

However, the science on the human contribution to modern warming is quite clear. Humans emissions and activities have caused around 100% of the warming observed since 1950, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) fifth assessment report.

Here Carbon Brief examines how each of the major factors affecting the Earth’s climate would influence temperatures in isolation – and how their combined effects almost perfectly predict long-term changes in the global temperature.

Carbon Brief’s analysis finds that:

  • Since 1850, almost all the long-term warming can be explained by greenhouse gas emissions and other human activities.
  • If greenhouse gas emissions alone were warming the planet, we would expect to see about a third more warming than has actually occurred. They are offset by cooling from human-produced atmospheric aerosols.
  • Aerosols are projected to decline significantly by 2100, bringing total warming from all factors closer to warming from greenhouse gases alone.
  • Natural variability in the Earth’s climate is unlikely to play a major role in long-term warming.

Animation by Rosamund Pearce for Carbon Brief. Images via Alamy Stock Photo.

How much warming is caused by humans?

In its 2013 fifth assessment report, the IPCC stated in its summary for policymakers that it is “extremely likely that more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature” from 1951 to 2010 was caused by human activity. By “extremely likely”, it meant that there was between a 95% and 100% probability that more than half of modern warming was due to humans.

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Macro and Climate Economics: It’s Time to Talk About the ‘Elephant in the Room’

MACRO AND CLIMATE ECONOMICS: IT’S TIME TO TALK ABOUT THE “ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM”

Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series by the author. Up next: “The most important and misleading assumption in the world.

If we want to maximize our ability to achieve future energy, climate, and economic goals, we must start to use improved economic modeling concepts.  There is a very real tradeoff of the rate at which we address climate change and the amount of economic growth we experience during the transition to a low-carbon economy.

If we ignore this tradeoff, as do most of the economic models, then we risk politicians and citizens revolting against the energy transition midway through.

On September 3, 2016, President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping each joined the Paris Climate Change Agreement to support U.S. and Chinese efforts to greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) limits for their respective country. This is an important signal to the world that the presidents of the two largest economies and GHG emitters are cooperating on a truly global environmental matter, and it provides two leaps toward obtaining enough global commitments to set the Paris Agreement in motion.

The economic outcomes from models used to inform policymakers like Presidents Obama and Xi, however, are so fundamentally flawed that they are delusional.

The projections for climate and economy interactions during a transition to low-carbon economy are performed using Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs) that link earth systems models to human activities via economic models. Several of these IAMs inform the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and the IPCC reports in turn inform policy makers.

The earth systems part of the IAMs project changes to climate from increased concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, land use changes, and other biophysical factors.  The economic part of the IAMs characterizes human responses to the climate and the changes in energy technologies that are needed to limit global GHG emissions.

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Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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