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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.

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

We Can’t Grow Our Way Out of Poverty

WE CAN’T GROW OUR WAY OUT OF POVERTY

For more than half a century, economists and policymakers have focused fanatically on growth as the only feasible way to end global poverty and improve people’s lives. But in an era of planet-wide ecological breakdown, that comfortable conventional wisdom is crashing to an end. Jason Hickel lays it on the line.


Illustration by Pete Reynolds

Everything is about to change in the field of international development.

In 2018, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) grabbed the world’s attention with its report stating that to avert dangerous climate breakdown we need to cut global emissions in half by 2030 and reach zero by 2050. It would be difficult to overstate how dramatic this trajectory is; the challenge is staggering in its scale.

We know it’s possible to accomplish rapid emissions reductions with co-ordinated government policy action, ratcheting down fossil fuels and rolling out renewable energy infrastructure. But there’s a problem. IPCC scientists have made it clear that it’s not feasible to transition quickly enough to stay within the carbon budget if we continue to grow the global economy at existing rates.

More growth means more energy demand, and more energy demand makes it all the more difficult to create enough renewable capacity to meet it.

Think about it this way. With business-as-usual growth, the global economy is set to roughly triple in size by the middle of the century – that’s three times more extraction, production and consumption than at present, all of which will suck up nearly three times as much energy. It will be unimaginably difficult for us to decarbonize the existing global economy; impossible to do it three times over in the short time we have left.

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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.

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

IEA Sees $90 Crude Ahead Of Oil’s Downfall

IEA Sees $90 Crude Ahead Of Oil’s Downfall

Petchem

Global oil demand will plateau around 2030, according to a major new report, but the decline in demand is way too slow to head off the worsening effects of climate change.

Oil demand begins to flatten out in the 2030s “under pressure from rising fuel efficiency and the electrification of mobility,” The International Energy Agency (IEA) said in its widely-anticipated annual World Energy Outlook.

However, the agency does not see a peak in CO2 emissions through 2040, even in a scenario that incorporates some intended policy targets. The IEA says that an expanding economy and growing global population outweigh efforts to cut emissions. Reducing emissions will require “significantly more ambitious policy.”

“The dissonance between the rising trend for CO2 and the commitment of countries to reach an early peak in emissions was especially striking in the light of the latest scientific findings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,” the IEA said, referring to the rather dire conclusions from the IPCC report in 2018, which found that the world is running out of time to make deep and far-reaching cuts to emissions.

As Reuters reports, some groups criticize the IEA for consistently predicting strong oil demand growth. “The IEA is effectively creating its own reality. They project ever-increasing demand for fossil fuels, which in turn justifies greater investments in supply, making it harder for the energy system to change,” Andrew Logan, senior director of oil and gas at Ceres, told Reuters.

With that said, renewable energy is growing fast and taking a growing slice of all new investment. The IEA sees solar becoming the single largest source of installed electricity capacity by 2040, surpassing coal in the 2030s.

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

Of Warnings and their Ripple Effects

Greta Thunberg appearing before the House Ways and Means Committee on September 18, 2019, based upon a photo by Alden Meyer, Union of Concerned Scientists

Of Warnings and their Ripple Effects

In her testimony to the US Congress, Greta Thunberg did not prepare a statement for submission to the record. Instead, she submitted the most recent scientific report, issued by the IPCC three weeks earlier. She said simply, “I am submitting this report as my testimony because I don’t want you to listen to me, I want you to listen to the scientists, and I want you to unite behind the science. And then I want you to take real action. Thank you.”

Alden Meyer, an elder statesman of environmental advocacy that I have been running into at every climate meeting since Rio in 1992, called it the shortest and most powerful testimony he has heard anyone give in Congress during his decades in Washington.

This week another headline blazed across newspapers and social media sites: World Scientists Warn of Climate Emergency.

Reading this newest installment in ecologist William Ripple’s series was a mixed experience for me. On the one hand, I was delighted that he and Chris Wolf at Oregon State, Tom Newsome at the University of Sydney, Phoebe Barnard at Conservation Biology Institute and the University of Capetown, and Bill Moomaw at Tufts were able to enlist 11,258 co-signatories from 153 countries for their paper published in BioScience on November 5th.

The first such warning, organized by Alden Meyer and the Union of Concerned Scientists in 1992, had 1,575 prominent scientists, including the majority of living Nobel laureates, co-sign. The second, by Ripple, Wolf, et al in BioScience in 2017, had 15,364 signatories from 184 countries, which begs the question: Why fewer this year?

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

Strike for the Environment, Strike for Social Justice, Strike!

Strike for the Environment, Strike for Social Justice, Strike!

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

A very large chasm exists between those in power, including most of the 2020 presidential candidates, and environmentalists and scientists intent on acting now to resolve growing environmental crises. To reiterate what is known, the United Nations, through its IPCC and the IPBES committees, has provided comprehensive evidence that little time remains to avert catastrophic global warming. And the world is already in the midst of the sixth mass extinction.

Given that oligarchs, corporate executives and politicians are at least in theory physical beings as dependent on a livable world as the rest of us, it is incompatible views of the world that are illustrated by this indifference. Some people care more about wealth and power than they do about the environment, the planet and the rest of us. Lest this be confused with the human condition, the power to destroy the world has only existed for about seven decades.

The conclusion of the UN committees, considered conservative by many environmentalists, is that the opportunity to make incremental changes to industrial practices has passed. There is no way to achieve necessary goals without quickly and radically reorganizing Western political economy. And the alternative isn’t to continue on the current path. Doing nothing will alter the world in ways that will put hundreds of millions of people’s lives and livelihoods at risk.

Graph: the IPCC estimated that the world has twelve years from one year ago to cut carbon emissions in half or adverse consequences will rise at an increasing (exponential) rate. Many environmental scientists view this window as too conservative. They argue that adverse consequences are already assured by carbon releases to date. The American political class remains unbowed. Climate science believers in congress have joined deniers to assure that no environmental legislation of consequence will be passed. Source: c2es.org.

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Neoliberalism and Environmental Calamity

Neoliberalism and Environmental Calamity

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

Current conditions represent a political emergency of sorts, meaning that ways of solving environmental and social problems will either be worked out or circumstances, led by the environment, will assume a life of their own. Given that these conditions are the result of historical processes that were decades and centuries in the making, understanding how we got here is crucial to resolving them.

The relevant ‘we’ here is being redefined through the relation of late-stage capitalism to the world. Climate change and species loss are shifting boundaries, shrinking the universe of arable land, breathable air and drinkable water. Fortress America, previously a conflation of place with one’s status in the imperial order, is largely the source of this vengeful gravity. Political geography is about to get interesting.

In this regard, the IPCC just won’t quit issuing proclamations. Joining climate change and mass extinction is dead and dying land. It seems that you can’t just denude a few hundred million acres of arable land, destroying the ecosystems to which it belongs, without consequences. What mystical clairvoyance could have imagined such an outcome? And more to the point, what can be done about it?

With updates on the breadth and depth of environmental calamity coming fast and furious, still missing is the political path to salvation. The only certainty— as offered by the authors of said calamity, is that we, the little people who add up to 90% or thereabouts of the demos, want— nay demand, calamity. The proof: we still eat, live indoors, wear clothing and find our way to and from work.

However, this is but mere paraphrase. The direct proof is that we consume. And we do so through the social mechanisms— stores, the internet, etc., that have been provided. From this slim foundation the certainty is built that we ‘demanded’ state corporatism, a/k/a neoliberalism, a/k/a rule from above. Markets are the transfer mechanism through which the purchase of a bag of rice becomes support for industrial agriculture.

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The Vancouver Sun’s Op-ed Denying a Climate Crisis a Symbol of Wider Journalistic Malpractice

The Vancouver Sun’s Op-ed Denying a Climate Crisis a Symbol of Wider Journalistic Malpractice

A journalist’s role is to seek truth, especially in the face of an emergency. But the media is not doing its job.

BC wildfire
‘By publishing op-eds such as this, their newspaper isn’t serving the truth. It is polluting the public square by propagating what the best science tells us are untruths about the most pressing problem of our age.’ Photo BC Wildfire Service.

So I was disappointed when that misery coincided with the Vancouver Sun’s publication of an op-ed column by University of Guelph economics professor Ross McKitrick claiming we only have a “vague inkling” that we “might” be in a climate emergency a “decade from now.”

That comment may surprise some readers of the Sun, which has a storied past and was the most-read newspaper in Western Canada according to the most recent report from News Media Canada. After all, many of them have already experienced that emergency as a result of the climate change-fuelled wildfires which devastated British Columbia in 2017 and 2018, cloaking the Lower Mainland in smoke. It may also surprise readers who have seen this summer’s satellite images of the Arctic on fire.

And it would almost certainly surprise the scientists who authored three major peer-reviewed studies on climate change that were published a day after McKitrick’s column. Commenting on those studies for the CBC, climatologist Gavin Schmidt said they underline the fact the global heating we are seeing is “unusual in a multi-centennial context” and that we are to blame for it.

In fact, we have much more than a “vague inkling” that there is a climate emergency given the voluminous scientific research and observable evidence supporting that conclusion. 

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

Climate Change Mitigation: Is it a Good Idea to Sweep the Carbon Under the Carpet?

Climate Change Mitigation: Is it a Good Idea to Sweep the Carbon Under the Carpet?

Above: our paper recently published in Nature Energy. Our conclusion is that, in terms of energy returns, renewable energy in the form of solar or wind is much better than carbon capture and storage for mitigating of climate change. Sweeping the carbon underground is not a good idea. 

We have a little problem: for more than thirty years, the climate scientists of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have been telling us that if we don’t stop emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere — mainly CO2 — we are in dire trouble. And we have done very little, nearly nothing. As predicted, we ARE in dire trouble.

There is some element showing that things may change: the polls indicate that more and more people are starting to understand the mess we are in and the action of the young Swedish activist Greta Thunberg is making waves in the memesphere. We may be awakening from a 30 years slumber to discover that we have to hurry up and do something. But what?

Not that we lack plans: every IPCC report released includes plans on what we could or should do to avoid the worse. We have to follow a steep trajectory of de-carbonization while, at the same time, maintaining a vital minimum supply of energy to society. But how to do that?

The most common idea floated in these discussions is to use Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS). It is straightforward: instead of releasing into the atmosphere the CO2 emitted by a power plant, you pump it underground, sequestering it in a porous reservoir, maybe one that, earlier on, had contained gas or petroleum.

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Shell Sued in the Netherlands for Insufficient Action On Climate Change

Shell Sued in the Netherlands for Insufficient Action On Climate Change

Plaintiffs allege Shell’s current business model threatens human rights because the oil giant is knowingly undermining the world’s chances to keep warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius. Photo Credit: Paul Ellis/Getty Images  

Seven environmental and human rights organizations in the Netherlands have filed suit against Royal Dutch Shell for failing to align its business model with the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

The suit, which is the first to directly challenge an oil company’s business model, was filed Friday in The Hague by Friends of the Earth Netherlands/ MilieudefensieGreenpeace Netherlands, five other organizations and more than 17,000 Dutch citizens.

The plaintiffs are not seeking financial compensation, but are asking Shell to adjust its business model in order to keep global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius, as recommended by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). They allege that by following a business model that it knows will not reach these goals, Shell is violating a Dutch law prohibiting “unlawful endangerment” and is violating human rights by taking insufficient action against climate change.

“If successful, the uniqueness of the case would be that Shell – as one of the largest multinational corporations in the world – would be legally obligated to change its business operations,” said Milieudefensie attorney Roger Cox, who also represented plaintiffs in the landmark Urgenda suit.

Urgenda was the first case in which a court ordered a government to reduce its emissions and the first time a court ruled that not taking sufficient action on climate change is a human rights violation.

Plaintiffs allege Shell’s current business model threatens human rights because the oil giant is knowingly undermining the world’s chances to keep warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius. They maintain that rather than guarantee emission reductions, Shell’s current plan would contribute to a much larger global temperature increase.

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

What Will You Say to Your Grandchildren?

What Will You Say to Your Grandchildren?

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

Facing oncoming climate disaster, some argue for “Deep Adaptation”—that we must prepare for inevitable collapse. However, this orientation is dangerously flawed. It threatens to become a self-fulfilling prophecy by diluting the efforts toward positive change. What we really need right now is Deep Transformation. There is still time to act: we must acknowledge this moral imperative.

Every now and then, history has a way of forcing ordinary people to face up to a moral encounter with destiny that they never expected. Back in the 1930s, as Adolf Hitler rose to power, those who turned away when they saw Jews getting beaten in the streets never expected that decades later, their grandchildren would turn toward them with repugnance and say “Why did you do nothing when there was still a chance to stop the horror?”

Now, nearly a century on, here we are again. The fate of future generations is at stake, and each of us needs to be prepared, one day, to face posterity—in whatever form that might take—and answer the question: “What did you do when you knew our future was on the line?”

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock the past few months, or get your daily updates exclusively from Fox News, you’ll know that our world is facing a dire climate emergency that’s rapidly reeling out of control. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has issued a warning to humanity that we have just twelve years to turn things around before we pass the point of no return. Governments continue to waffle and ignore the blaring sirens. The pledges they’ve made under the 2015 Paris agreement will lead to 3 degrees of warming, which would threaten the foundations of our civilization.

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

As the World Burns: Hurtling Towards an Unlivable Planet

As the World Burns: Hurtling Towards an Unlivable Planet

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

The media and political establishments are diddling while the planet burns.

Are we really supposed to take their games seriously as humanity veers ever more dangerously off the environmental cliff?

In 2008, James Hansen, then head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and seven other leading climate scientists reported that we would see “practically irreversible ice sheet and species loss” if the planet’s average temperature rose above 1°Celsius (C) thanks to carbon dioxide’s (CO2) presence in the atmosphere reaching 450 parts per million (ppm).

CO2 was at 385 ppm when this report came out.  It was “already in the dangerous zone,” Hansen and his team reported. They warned that deadly, self-reinforcing “feedbacks” could be triggered at this level.  The dire prospects presaged included “ice sheet disintegration, vegetation migration, and GHG [greenhouse gas] release from soils, tundra, or ocean sediments.” 

The only way to be assured of a livable climate, Hansen and his colleagues warned, would be to cut CO2 to at least 350 ppm.

Here we are eleven years later, well past Hansen’s 1°C red line. We’ve gotten there at 410 ppm, the highest level of CO2 saturation in 800,000 years. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s latest climate report reflects the consensus opinion of the world’s leading climate scientists.  It tells us that we are headed to 1.5°C in a dozen years.  Failure to dramatically slash Greenhouse Gassing between now and 2030 is certain to set off catastrophic developments for hundreds of millions of people, the IPCC warns.

The IPCC finds that we are headed at our current pace for 3-4°C by the end of century. That will mean a planet that is mostly unlivable.

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

Only 12 Years Left to Readjust for the 1.5 Degree Climate Change Option – says IPCC Report. Current Commentary.

Only 12 Years Left to Readjust for the 1.5 Degree Climate Change Option – says IPCC Report. Current Commentary.

1. Introduction.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has recently published a report1 (abbreviated as SR15) which concludes that humankind has a mere twelve years left, during which time sufficient and dramatic carbon-emission mitigation strategies must be inaugurated to avoid the “global average temperature” from rising above the 1.5 oC limit which the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement2,3 aimed for, while pledging to keep it “well below 2 oC above pre-industrial levels”. The Agreement was endorsed by 195 countries2, although the United States later conspicuously withdrew from it3. Contained within the Decision of the 21st Conference of Parties, of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to adopt the Paris Agreement, was an invitation4 to the IPCC to deliver a Special Report, in 2018, which ascertained the changes that would be caused by a 1.5 oC elevation in global average temperature, and what measures might be introduced in order to hold global warming in check such that this level is not exceeded. In 2016, the IPCC Panel accepted the invitation, adding that these issues would also be considered “in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty” 4. The final report1, which was released on October 9th 2018, emphasised that reducing the degree of warming by half a degree, from 2 oC to 1.5 oC, would significantly ameliorate some of the worst effects of climate change, in particular reducing the number of people likely to be affected by water shortages by 50%, but the most significant influence would be on the Natural World: for example, it is expected that practically all (>99%) coral reefs (Fig. 1) would be lost by a 2 oC increase, whereas at 1.5 oC, this would be ameliorated to a decline of within 70–90 %.

[Fig. 1]

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Green New Deal Flunks the Limits Lesson

Green New Deal Flunks the Limits Lesson

The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman claims to have invented the idea of the Green New Deal in 2007.[1]He’s back to enlighten us about what it should mean now.

Friedman deserves credit as one of the few mainstream pundits who takes climate breakdown seriously. But mainstream methods created the problem, they won’t solve it.

For Friedman the Green New Deal is all about innovation. “Clean energy is a problem of scale” that requires “a massive, urgent response.” To accommodate a billion new people by 2030, “clean power, clean cars, clean manufacturing, clean water and energy efficiency have to be the next great global industries.”

But massive is not the cure for massiveness. Clean is a relative term. Energy efficiency is wonderful, right and indispensable, but it only makes massiveness a little less massive; the energy and money saved by efficiency tend to get used somewhere else.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change gives humanity till 2030 to get our act together and curb the rise in average global temperature. Meanwhile greenhouse gas emissions are rising, not falling, both in the US and worldwide. The climate is telling us something we don’t want to hear: If you burn mass quantities of coal and oil and methane gas, the waste gases will heat the atmosphere and there will be consequences. This is one of the Limits your finite home planet imposes on you.

Everyone who’s serious about climate change agrees that we have to stop burning fossil fuels, but those fuels made possible a productive system that thinks the economy can grow forever — that there are, as the advertisers like to say, No Limits. Friedman’s “next great global industries” sound like part and parcel of the growth economy because they are, but they’re supposed to be different because they’re “clean.”

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

Climacide: Survival Rebranding

Climacide: Survival Rebranding

A 15-year old Swedish girl bitch slapped the world’s representatives at the recent climate conference in Poland. She stood before them and called them frauds and fakers, while they sat in limp silence. She said they’d had their chances to do something effective about the climate crisis, and they had failed. It was time for them to get out of the way and leave the solution to the next generation, whose future was at stake.

The delegates applauded lamely and resumed their assignment of crafting an intricate  rule book for implementing the earlier Paris climate accords, which were admittedly voluntary, unenforceable and insufficient to the magnitude of the crisis. The American contingent in Poland even staged an event glorifying the burning of more coal—but “clean” coal with some carbon capture to make such operations benign.

This scene repeats a familiar pattern now reduced to a ritual. Professed experts and interests gather to assess what has been done. They concede their efforts have been earnest but inadequate. Some among them, plus intruders, pitch a fit about how little has been accomplished. All pledge to do better—and then go home and continue doing much the same as before.

These rituals apparently have the endurance to continue while the seas rise into the conference halls, the forests burn down around them and the people are rioting in the surrounding streets.

The world began formally addressing the issue this way with the creation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 1988—IPCC. At that time global warming was becoming a common name for the looming disaster. But this wasn’t scientifically sound because the evidence showed an increase in hot and cold spikes, rains and droughts, storms and calms around a gradually rising average global temperature in pace with atmospheric carbon dioxide increases from human activities. And global warming sounded too hellishly fire and brimstone apocalyptic.

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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