‘Soon it will be unrecognisable’: total climate meltdown cannot be stopped, says expert #HothouseEarth #ClimateCrisis

Blistering heatwaves are just the start. We must accept how bad things are before we can head off global catastrophe, according to a leading UK scientist

Robin McKie

Sat 30 Jul 2022 11.48 EDT

The publication of Bill McGuire’s latest book, Hothouse Earth, could not be more timely. Appearing in the shops this week, it will be perused by sweltering customers who have just endured record high temperatures across the UK and now face the prospect of weeks of drought to add to their discomfort.

And this is just the beginning, insists McGuire, who is emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London. As he makes clear in his uncompromising depiction of the coming climatic catastrophe, we have – for far too long – ignored explicit warnings that rising carbon emissions are dangerously heating the Earth. Now we are going to pay the price for our complacence in the form of storms, floods, droughts and heatwaves that will easily surpass current extremes.

The crucial point, he argues, is that there is now no chance of us avoiding a perilous, all-pervasive climate breakdown. We have passed the point of no return and can expect a future in which lethal heatwaves and temperatures in excess of 50C (120F) are common in the tropics; where summers at temperate latitudes will invariably be baking hot, and where our oceans are destined to become warm and acidic. “A child born in 2020 will face a far more hostile world that its grandparents did,” McGuire insists.

Bill McGuire is emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London and was also an adviser to the UK government.

In this respect, the volcanologist, who was also a member of the UK government’s Natural Hazard Working Group, takes an extreme position. Most other climate experts still maintain we have time left, although not very much, to bring about meaningful reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. A rapid drive to net zero and the halting of global warming is still within our grasp, they say.

Such claims are dismissed by McGuire. “I know a lot of people working in climate science who say one thing in public but a very different thing in private. In confidence, they are all much more scared about the future we face, but they won’t admit that in public. I call this climate appeasement and I believe it only makes things worse. The world needs to know how bad things are going to get before we can hope to start to tackle the crisis.”

McGuire finished writing Hothouse Earth at the end of 2021. He includes many of the record high temperatures that had just afflicted the planet, including extremes that had struck the UK. A few months after he completed his manuscript, and as publication loomed, he found that many of those records had already been broken. “That is the trouble with writing a book about climate breakdown,” says McGuire. “By the time it is published it is already out of date. That is how fast things are moving.”

Among the records broken during the book’s editing was the announcement that a temperature of 40.3C was reached in east England on 19 July, the highest ever recorded in the UK. (The country’s previous hottest temperature, 38.7C, was in Cambridge in 2019.)

In addition, London’s fire service had to tackle blazes across the capital, with one conflagration destroying 16 homes in Wennington, east London. Crews there had to fight to save the local fire station itself. “Who would have thought that a village on the edge of London would be almost wiped out by wildfires in 2022,” says McGuire. “If this country needs a wake-up call then surely that is it.”

Wildfires of unprecedented intensity and ferocity have also swept across Europe, North America and Australia this year, while record rainfall in the midwest led to the devastating flooding in the US’s Yellowstone national park. “And as we head further into 2022, it is already a different world out there,” he adds. “Soon it will be unrecognisable to every one of us.”

These changes underline one of the most startling aspects of climate breakdown: the speed with which global average temperature rises translate into extreme weather.

“Just look at what is happening already to a world which has only heated up by just over one degree,” says McGuire. “It turns out the climate is changing for the worse far quicker than predicted by early climate models. That’s something that was never expected.”

Since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, when humanity began pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, global temperatures have risen by just over 1C. At the Cop26 climate meeting in Glasgow last year, it was agreed that every effort should be made to try to limit that rise to 1.5C, although to achieve such a goal, it was calculated that global carbon emissions will have to be reduced by 45% by 2030.

“In the real world, that is not going to happen,” says McGuire. “Instead, we are on course for close to a 14% rise in emissions by that date – which will almost certainly see us shatter the 1.5C guardrail in less than a decade.”

And we should be in no doubt about the consequences. Anything above 1.5C will see a world plagued by intense summer heat, extreme drought, devastating floods, reduced crop yields, rapidly melting ice sheets and surging sea levels. A rise of 2C and above will seriously threaten the stability of global society, McGuire argues. It should also be noted that according to the most hopeful estimates of emission cut pledges made at Cop26, the world is on course to heat up by between 2.4C and 3C.

From this perspective it is clear we can do little to avoid the coming climate breakdown. Instead we need to adapt to the hothouse world that lies ahead and to start taking action to try to stop a bleak situation deteriorating even further, McGuire says.

Certainly, as it stands, Britain – although relatively well placed to counter the worst effects of the coming climate breakdown – faces major headaches. Heatwaves will become more frequent, get hotter and last longer. Huge numbers of modern, tiny, poorly insulated UK homes will become heat traps, responsible for thousands of deaths every summer by 2050.

“Despite repeated warnings, hundreds of thousands of these inappropriate homes continue to be built every year,” adds McGuire.

As to the reason for the world’s tragically tardy response, McGuire blames a “conspiracy of ignorance, inertia, poor governance, and obfuscation and lies by climate change deniers that has ensured that we have sleepwalked to within less than half a degree of the dangerous 1.5C climate change guardrail. Soon, barring some sort of miracle, we will crash through it.”

The future is forbidding from this perspective, though McGuire stresses that if carbon emissions can be cut substantially in the near future, and if we start to adapt to a much hotter world today, a truly calamitous and unsustainable future can be avoided. The days ahead will be grimmer, but not disastrous. We may not be able to give climate breakdown the slip but we can head off further instalments that would appear as a climate cataclysm bad enough to threaten the very survival of human civilisation.

“This is a call to arms,” he says. “So if you feel the need to glue yourself to a motorway or blockade an oil refinery, do it. Drive an electric car or, even better, use public transport, walk or cycle. Switch to a green energy tariff; eat less meat. Stop flying; lobby your elected representatives at both local and national level; and use your vote wisely to put in power a government that walks the talk on the climate emergency.”

Hothouse Earth: An Inhabitant’s Guide by Bill McGuire is published by Icon Books, £9.99

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Seeking the pathway to a future that works for all.Ecological Civilization: The Vision

“Humans are Earth’s ultimate choice-making species. Our decisions have defining consequences for the whole of Earth’s community of life.” -David Korten

Grounded in a 21st Century Enlightenment

The Enlightenment of the 18th Century raised our human recognition and understanding of the role of physical mechanism, causality, and order in the universe and became the foundation of what academic philosophers call Modernism. It strengthened the authority of science, challenged traditional religious and political hierarchies, and unleashed dramatic advances in technology, democracy, and individual liberty.

By David Korten

This opened new human possibilities, including technological advances that with time virtually eliminated geographical barriers to human communication and exchange. It supported the spread of democracy and human liberty and medical advances that significantly increased human life expectancy and unleashed a dramatic growth in our human numbers.

Concurrently, in its denial of conscious intelligence and agency, it stripped life of meaning and absolved us individually and collectively of responsibility for the consequences of our human choices. Our new abilities supported a fragmentation and monetization of human relationships and eroded our sense of connection to family, community and living Earth.

We grew the power of our instruments of war and our ability to dominate and exploit one another and nature to support previously unprecedented levels of material extravagance by the few at the expense of the many. During the latter half of the 20th Century, our material consumption exceeded for the first time the limits of Earth’s capacity to sustain us. The institutions of democracy became subverted by global financial markets and corporations for which people and Earth were nothing more than a means to profit.

We lived an illusion of growing prosperity for all in the midst of a reality in which fewer and fewer control and consumer more of a shrinking pie of Earth’ real wealth. The disastrous consequences now threaten to drive a massive dieback, if not the extinction, of the human species.

The rapidly deepening human crisis cannot be resolved with the same mindset and institutions that created it. Hope lies in the new understanding of the now emerging New Enlightenment. Grounded in traditional understanding, the wisdom of the world’s great spiritual traditions, and dramatic breakthroughs in the findings of quantum physics and the biological and ecological sciences, the New Enlightenment recognizes conscious intelligence as the ground of all being.

Our primary sources of knowledge and understanding are converging to affirm that there is far more to what we experience as material reality than material mechanism and chance. Consciousness, intelligence, and agency are integral and pervasive.

Living Earth: A Superorganism

The wonder of organic (carbon-based) life is that every living organism, from the individual cell to living Earth, maintains itself in an internal state of active, adaptive, resilient, creative thermodynamic disequilibrium in seeming violation of the basic principle of entropy. It takes a community of organic life to create and maintain the conditions that carbon-based life requires. Earth itself exemplifies this principle.

What is Gaianism?
Put simply Gaianism is a religious philosophy that grants the living Earth (Gaia) its rightful place at the center. Humans are not the pinnacle of evolution but just a small (and not necessarily essential) part of the living Earth. Gaianism

According to evolutionary biologists the first living organisms appeared on Earth some 3.6 billion years ago. We still have little idea how it happened. We do know, however, that as their numbers, diversity, and complexity increased, they organized themselves into a planetary-scale living system comprised of trillions of trillions of individual choice-making living organisms. Together, they worked with Earth’s geological processes to filter excess carbon and a vast variety of toxins from Earth’s air, waters, and soils and sequester them deep underground—preparing the way for the emergence of more advanced species.

In a continuing process—and with no discernible source of central direction—Earth’s community of life continues to self-organize to renew Earth’s soils, rivers, aquifers, fisheries, forests, and grasslands while maintaining global climatic balance and the composition of Earth’s atmosphere .

Likewise, the human body is best understood as a self-organizing community of tens of trillions of individual, living, choice-making cells that together create and maintain the superorganism that serves as the vehicle of our agency and houses our individual consciousness. Each cell is making constant decisions that simultaneously balance its own needs and those of the larger whole on which it depends and which in turn depends on it. It all happens below the level of individual human awareness.

Science has only the sketchiest idea of how it works beyond a recognition that organic life organizes not as hierarchies of central control, but as holarchies of nested, communities that self-organize from the bottom up. We humans must now learn to do the same.

By the understanding of the New Enlightenment, we humans are living beings born of and nurtured by a living Earth, itself born of and nurtured by a living universe unfolding toward ever greater complexity, beauty, awareness, and possibility. Creation thus reveals its purpose—a quest to know itself and its possibilities through an epic journey of self-discovery thru a process of eternal learning and becoming.

This restores a sense of the purpose and meaning of life that the 18th Century Enlightenment stripped away. And it provides an essential frame for a Great Turning to a New Economy that meets the essential physical needs of all people within the regenerative capacities of a healthy, finite living Earth community of life.

An Epic Challenge and Opportunity

We humans are now a truly global species. Our common future depends on our successful transition to an Ecological Civilization that works in balanced and harmonious relationship with Earth’s living systems to provide every person with a means of living adequate to their health and happiness.  Yet we remain burdened by a 5,000 year cultural and institutional legacy of an Imperial Era that divides us by nationality, religion, class, race, and gender and pits us against one another in a violent competition for wealth and power.

The challenges of the transition are summed up in a paper by Chris Williams, “How will we get to an ecological civilization?” Williams concludes that:

It will not only be a question of constructing a new society, but deconstructing the old one. It is not enough to take over and reassemble the state,…; we will need to reassemble the whole world – every single aspect of humanity’s relationship with each other and the natural world. Just like the state, an infrastructure designed to dominate nature cannot simply be appropriated and used to good ends.

Ultimately, it is vital that fighters for social emancipation, human freedom and ecological sanity recognize that capitalism represents the annihilation of nature and a functioning and diverse biosphere and, thus, human civilization. A system based on cooperation, genuine bottom-up democracy, long-term planning and production for need, not profit,… represents the reconciliation of humanity with nature.

To achieve this future, we must navigate a successful transition from:

  1. Transnational corporations to national governments as our primary institutions of governance,
  2. Competition to cooperation as our dominant mode of relating, and
  3. Growing GDP to meeting the spiritual and material needs of all within the limits of what living Earth can sustain as the economy’s defining purpose.
The Doughnut of social and planetary boundaries (2017)

Humanity’s 21st century challenge is to meet the needs of all within the means of the planet. In other words, to ensure that no one falls short on life’s essentials (from food and housing to healthcare and political voice), while ensuring that collectively we do not overshoot our pressure on Earth’s life-supporting systems, on which we fundamentally depend – such as a stable climate, fertile soils, and a protective ozone layer. The Doughnut of social and planetary boundaries is a playfully serious approach to framing that challenge, and it acts as a compass for human progress this century.

Doughnut Economics

Base on the deepening understanding of the New Enlightenment, the governing institutions of an Ecological Civilization will support national and bio-regional self-reliance, the free sharing of information and technology, and balanced trade in goods for which one nation has a natural surplus and another is unable reasonably to produce for itself.

An authentic economics for an Ecological Civilization will be grounded in the scientific understanding of how living communities of trillions of individual living organisms self-organize to create and maintains the conditions essential to life’s existence. It will measure economic performance by indicators of the healthy function of individuals, families, communities, local biosystems, and Earth’s global biosphere.

Consistent with these truths, the legal principles of an Ecological Civilization will recognize that:

  1. Individual persons possess both rights and corresponding responsibilities.
  2. Governments must be accountable to the people who form them.
  3. Corporations are created by government to fulfill a public purpose within that government’s jurisdiction and are accountable to that government for fulfilling that purpose.

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“A profound personal meditation on human existence and a tour-de-force weaving together of historic and contemporary thought on the deepest question of all: why are we here?”
Gabor Mate M.D., author, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts
As our civilization careens toward climate breakdown, ecological destruction, and gaping inequality, people are losing their existential moorings. The dominant worldview of disconnection, which tells us we are split between mind and body, separate from each other, and at odds with the natural world, has been invalidated by modern science.
Award-winning author, Jeremy Lent, investigates humanity’s age-old questions – Who am I? Why am I? How should I live? – from a fresh perspective, weaving together findings from modern systems thinking, evolutionary biology, and cognitive neuroscience with insights from Buddhism, Taoism, and Indigenous wisdom.
The result is a breathtaking accomplishment: a rich, coherent worldview based on a deep recognition of connectedness within ourselves, between each other, and with the entire natural world. It offers a compelling foundation for a new philosophical framework that could enable humanity to thrive sustainably on a flourishing Earth.
The Web of Meaning is for everyone looking for deep and coherent answers to the crisis of civilization.

The Web of Meaning

It’s Time to declare #ClimateEmergency !!!

Humanity can’t equivocate any longer. This is a climate emergency | Rebecca Solnit and Terry Tempest Williams

We are declaring a climate emergency. Everyone can, in whatever place on Earth they call home. No one needs to wait for politicians any more – we have been waiting for them for decades. What history shows us is that when people lead, governments follow. Our power resides in what we are witnessing. We cannot deny that Great Salt Lake is vanishing before our eyes into a sun-cracked playa of salt and toxic chemicals. Nor can we deny that Lake Mead is reduced to a puddle. In New Mexico a wildfire that began in early April is still burning in late July. Last August, the eye of Hurricane Ida split in two – there was no calm – only 190mph winds ripping towns in the bayous of Louisiana to shreds; and 7m acres in the American west burned in 2021. The future the scientists warned us about is where we live now.

The climate emergency has been declared over and over by Nature and by human suffering and upheaval in response to its catastrophes. The 2,000 individuals who recently died of heat in Portugal and Spain are not here to bear witness, but many of the residents of Jacobabad in Pakistan, where Amnesty International declared the temperatures “unlivable for humans”, are. The heat-warped rails of the British train system, the buckled roads, cry out that this is unprecedented. The estimated billion sea creatures who died on the Pacific north-west’s coast from last summer’s heatwave announced a climate emergency. The heat-devastated populations of southern Asia, the current grain crop failures in China, India, across Europe and the American midwest, the starving in the Horn of Africa because of climate-caused drought, the bleached and dying coral reefs of Australia, the rivers of meltwater gushing from the Greenland ice sheet, the melting permafrost of Siberia and Alaska: all bear witness that this is a climate emergency. So do we. Yet the anxiety we feel, the grief that is ours, pales in comparison to the ferocity of our resolve.

We can choose to live differently and build wiser and more just ways to produce, consume and travel. Our hope lies in our collective actions. A climate emergency means that it’s time for business as usual to halt, for our priorities to shift and to recognize our responsibility to those on the frontlines of the climate crisis. This emergency, which did not begin suddenly and will not end in our lifetimes, nevertheless needs our urgent response. This means doing all we can to stabilize the health of the planet and speed the transition away from fossil fuels. Now. Between the scientists and engineers, philosophers and poets, Indigenous leaders, climate activists and engaged youth, we know what to do and how to do it. We have a multiplicity of tools, we have a kaleidoscopic vision where each of us can offer up the gifts that are ours, and most importantly, we have the spiritual will to change the course of our destiny on fire.

The future needs us. We need each other. At a time when the majority of Americans want to see serious climate action, too many politicians have failed us and undermined those who are trying. We ourselves must respond for those who will be born next week and next decade and next century, who need a planet alive and flourishing in all its exquisite diversity of land and creatures and humans. We have no right to rob them or the young people staring at a chaotic future now of their birthright. We do not represent them, but we can represent ourselves, as people in solidarity with all life. In that spirit, we join those around the world who have already declared a climate emergency, and we invite everyone to join us.

  • Rebecca Solnit is a Guardian US columnist
  • Terry Tempest Williams is a writer, naturalist, and activist

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Not just weather: #ClimateCrisis will affect our future health risks #auspol #qldpol #FundOurFutureNotGas #CoralNotCoal #EcologicalCrisis

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that the human-induced climate catastrophe is a “grave and mounting threat to our wellbeing”. With a changing planet comes changing threats to our wellbeing. People’s health – and the infrastructure that supports it – will be increasingly affected by adverse weather events and the slow-onset effects of climate change.

As experts from Monash University explain, our future wellbeing is a complex issue. There are questions of new diseases, and old ones making a return, alongside the direct impacts of flood, fire and rising temperatures, disrupted education and supply chains, and the simple fact of living longer. Without serious intervention, the health risks we face in 2030 may be unrecognisable from today’s.

The most common health conditions will evolve

Dr Yuming Guo, professor of global environmental health in Monash’s School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, explains the potential physiological impact of climate change. “Climate change increases the temperature, which is directly related to the emissions and body function – for example, causing increased blood pressure and decreased lung function, and affecting metabolic and renal function,” he says.

These health issues can snowball. Professor Arthur Christopoulos, Monash’s dean of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, says: “You apply that to the next generation and you’ve got a real issue. Because on top of that, climate change is going to influence every aspect of this conversation. You’re affecting water quality and sources, food security, shelter and where you can access food. It’s a combination of factors.”

In Australia, the greatest health burden is currently cardiovascular disease – a condition known to be exacerbated by extreme heat and air pollution. But, Christopoulos says, other conditions are hot on its tail. “Because of air quality issues, respiratory diseases are going to go up. Because of the longevity aspect, age-related neurological diseases will increase – dementia is now the third-leading cause of disease burden. These global health burdens are not new, but they are going to get worse.”

The next generation will require more complex care

Alongside physiological issues exacerbated by climate, the incidence of psychiatric disease will continue to rise, especially in the next generation, Christopoulos says. “Depression and anxiety we’re going to be seeing a lot more,” he says. “Partly, they were already on the rise. But Covid, the world’s reaction to it, and isolationism are all factors.”

Professor Sophia Zoungas, head of Monash’s School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, says climate change presents a two-fold challenge: responding to acute health crises, such as communicable disease outbreaks after floods, while continuing to effectively manage pre-existing chronic conditions.

Natural disasters arising from climate change, such as fires and floods, present immediate logistical challenges to people with chronic disease, as they struggle to access vital medications and care. We also need to consider the spiralling impacts of extreme physical and mental stress caused by these events on underlying chronic conditions.”

says professor Sophia Zoungasnone

“The Covid pandemic has seen an increase in public health and healthcare expenditure. While that’s understandable, with climate change potentially driving more frequent disasters, we need to build such responses into our future plans. We need to ensure equitable access to healthcare, especially given the system is already under stress.”

Healthcare will need to change to deal with unprecedented demand

Increases in health concerns will inevitably require more healthcare. But while there will be direct concerns, such as a rise in diseases, they are not the only factor. Guo says weather events, climate-related sociopolitical unrest and increasing poverty will also have indirect impacts, such as supply and resourcing issues, including of medical practitioners themselves.

The healthcare workforce is only projected to grow. But there is no workforce training without education and without access to education. There’s been chronic underinvestment. We need a greater push to develop the next-generation workforce for dealing with the healthcare needs of our society.”

says professor Arthur Christopoulos, Monash’s dean of pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciencesnone

According to Zoungas, sufficiently addressing those needs might mean investing in a whole new model. “Codesigning healthcare with the community will help us build a system with processes and goals that actually mean something important to patients,” she says. “We also need to improve the way we talk about health and share evidence with the public. We need super communicators who understand the science and can frame it in a way that makes sense to communities.”

Monash’s experts say we can learn from the past as we move forward. Technology, digitised healthcare and new modelling can all help us build a more sustainable healthcare system to face these unprecedented challenges.

“We are learning a new language in healthcare,” Zoungas says. “The pandemic has taught us how agile and proactive the medical sector can be. Clinical guidelines are being updated faster using living evidence models, telehealth has revolutionised routine healthcare, ethics approvals for research are being fast-tracked. It feels like an opportunity to move forward with a renewed can-do attitude and try to apply these learnings system-wide.”

We need change now more than ever. Join us to change it

Living in a clean, healthy and sustainable environment is a universal right

A crucial new tool for #ClimateAction #SDG13 UN resolution: Living in a clean healthy and sustainable environment is a universal right. #StopEcocide

We just got a crucial new tool for climate action, let’s get to work!

It’s official! The UN General Assembly, the main policy-making organ of the United Nations, has adopted a resolution recognizing that living in a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment is a universal human right.

So, what does this mean for climate action?

Human rights experts say that the resolution will change the very nature of international human right law, empowering ordinary people to demand that governments and businesses protect the environment and uphold a range of related human rights, instead of just “nagging” them about doing a better job taking care of the home that we all share.

In 2010, the Assembly – comprised of 193 countries, making it the UN’s most representative body – recognized the human right to water and sanitation and acknowledged that clean drinking water and sanitation “are essential to the realization of all human rights”.

Since then, many governments have responded by changing their constitutions, their highest and most robust laws, and have worked to improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

“We are simply talking about the very life support system of this planet.”
Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Germany’s former chief climate scientist (2009)

“Burning all fossil fuels would create a very different planet than the one that humanity knows. The palaeoclimate record and ongoing climate change make it clear that the climate system would be pushed beyond tipping points, setting in motion irreversible changes, including ice sheet disintegration with a continually adjusting shoreline, extermination of a substantial fraction of species on the planet, and increasingly devastating regional climate extremes” and “this equates 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs per day 365 days per year” . James Hansen et al. 2012 and James Hansen 2012. Planetwide Ecocide

Ensuring a healthy environment means tackling the “triple planetary crisis” UN Secretary-General António Guterres has warned us about many times: climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss.

The resolution is expected to be a catalyst for action to address these challenges by reducing carbon emissions, improving air quality, and restoring our fragile planetary ecosystems, among other solutions.

It also represents a key victory in the decades-long battle for environmental justice that has been waged by environmentalists and human rights defenders, following last year’s landmark decision by the UN Human Rights Council to recognize that a safe, clean, healthy, and sustainable environment is just as important as other fundamental rights, including those set out in the Universal Declaration.

Of course, we give you all the details about this milestone for humanity and our planet in our featured story below.

In today’s newsletter, we also recap an issue we know is on all your minds: the record-breaking heatwaves that have baked huge swaths of the northern hemisphere in the past weeks. We also spotlight the importance of animal health to reduce carbon emissions, and how mangroves are critical for climate action.

Read on to understand how the Ukraine war is hampering climate action, and to find out the answers to these two questions: What does food have to do with climate change? And, why did the UN chief just say the world is currently choosing “collective suicide”?

UN Featured Story

Climate change: UK sea level rise speeding up – Met Office #ClimateCrisis #EcologicalCrisis demand #ClimateAction #SDG13

  • By Georgina Rannard
  • BBC Climate & Science

Coastal erosion has caused part of this road to fall away in Yorkshire

Sea levels are rising much faster than a century ago, reveals the Met Office’s annual look at the UK’s climate and weather.

The State of the Climate report also says that higher temperatures are the new normal for Britain.

Conservationists warn that spring is coming earlier and that plant and animal life is not evolving quickly enough to adapt to climate change.

The report highlights again the ways climate change is affecting the UK.

The UK is warming slightly faster than the average pace of global temperature increase, it also explained.

The Met Office assessed climate and weather events for 2021 including extreme events like Storm Arwen that caused destructive flooding. 

Sea levels have risen by around 16.5cm (6.5 ins) since 1900, but the Met Office says the rate of rise is increasing. They are now rising by 3-5.2mm a year, which is more than double the rate of increase in the early part of last century.

This is exposing more parts of the coast to powerful storm surges and winds, damaging the environment and homes. Around 500,000 homes are at risk from flooding, scientists say.

Extreme sea levels during Storm Arwen last November were only avoided because it hit during a lower than usual tide, explains Dr Svetlana Jevrejeva from the National Oceanographic Centre.

While the coastline always changes, climate change and sea level rise are exaggerating those changes, she told BBC News.

Coastal erosion in Australia

“The scale, rate and impact will change and it will change dramatically quite soon,” she explains.

The report also says that while the UK climate in 2021 was “unremarkable” by modern standards, it would have been exceptional 30 years ago. That is because climate change is altering the planet, making hotter temperatures the norm.

Our planet has warmed by 1.1C since the industrial revolution about 200 years ago. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says this is caused by greenhouse gases from human activities. In the next 20 years, global temperature is expected to reach or exceed 1.5C of warming.

Had last year’s temperatures occurred in 1992, it would have been one of the UK’s warmest years on record, it highlights.

“Although 1C of warming might not sound like much, it has led to maximum temperatures like the 32.2C we saw in 2021 becoming routine rather than the exception. This is particularly stark when considering the record-breaking heat the UK experienced just last week,” says Mike Kendon, from the Met Office National Climate Information Centre.

The changing climate is also bringing spring earlier, impacting plants and animals, as well as farmers. 

Species that come into leaf early in the year were even earlier last year, but unusually cold temperatures in April caused delays to late-blooming species, the Met Office says.

And September and October were warmer than average, which delayed autumn and meant that trees lost their leaves later than used to be normal, explained Professor Tim Sparks of the Woodland Trust.

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The Doughnut of social and planetary boundaries (2017)

Humanity’s 21st century challenge is to meet the needs of all within the means of the planet. In other words, to ensure that no one falls short on life’s essentials (from food and housing to healthcare and political voice), while ensuring that collectively we do not overshoot our pressure on Earth’s life-supporting systems, on which we fundamentally depend – such as a stable climate, fertile soils, and a protective ozone layer. The Doughnut of social and planetary boundaries is a playfully serious approach to framing that challenge, and it acts as a compass for human progress this century.

The environmental ceiling consists of nine planetary boundaries, as set out by Rockstrom et al, beyond which lie unacceptable environmental degradation and potential tipping points in Earth systems. The twelve dimensions of the social foundation are derived from internationally agreed minimum social standards, as identified by the world’s governments in the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015. Between social and planetary boundaries lies an environmentally safe and socially just space in which humanity can thrive.

Doughnut Economics

Sustainable Development Goals
Climate change is the most important issue now facing humanity. As global temperatures increase, floods, fires and storms are becoming both more intense and frequent. People are suffering. And yet, emissions continue to rise. This book unpacks the activities of the key actors which have organised past and present climate responses – specifically, corporations, governments, and civil society organisations. Analysing three elements of climate change – mitigation, adaptation and suffering – the authors show how exponential growth of the capitalist system has allowed the fossil fuel industry to maintain its dominance. However, this hegemonic position is now coming under threat as new and innovative social movements have emerged, including the fossil fuel divestment movement, Fridays for Future, Extinction Rebellion and others. In exposing the inadequacies of current climate policies and pointing to the possibilities of new social and economic systems, this book highlights how the worst impacts of climate change can be avoided.

Organising Responses to Climate Change

UN General Assembly declares access to clean and healthy environment a universal human right #EcologicalCrisis #ClimateCrisis #auspol #AirPollution

Two hikers trek the mountains of Chile.

The resolution, based on a similar text adopted last year by the Human Rights Council, calls upon States, international organisations, and business enterprises to scale up efforts to ensure a healthy environment for all. 

The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, welcomed the ‘historic’ decision and said the landmark development demonstrates that Member States can come together in the collective fight against the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.

“The resolution will help reduce environmental injustices, close protection gaps and empower people, especially those that are in vulnerable situations, including environmental human rights defenders, children, youth, women and indigenous peoples”, he said in a statement released by his Spokesperson’s Office.

Koalas on the endangered list

He added that the decision will also help States accelerate the implementation of their environmental and human rights obligations and commitments.

“The international community has given universal recognition to this right and brought us closer to making it a reality for all”, he said.

Guterres underscored that however, the adoption of the resolution ‘is only the beginning’ and urged nations to make this newly recognised right ‘a reality for everyone, everywhere’.

Young climate activists take part in demonstrations at the COP26 Climate Conference in Glasgow, Scotland.

Urgent action needed

In a statement, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet also hailed the Assembly’s decision and echoed the Secretary-General’s call for urgent action to implement it.

“Today is a historic moment, but simply affirming our right to a healthy environment is not enough. The General Assembly resolution is very clear: States must implement their international commitments and scale up their efforts to realize it. We will all suffer much worse effects from environmental crises, if we do not work together to collectively avert them now,” she said.

Ms. Bachelet explained that environmental action based on human rights obligations provides vital guardrails for economic policies and business models.

“It emphasizes the underpinning of legal obligations to act, rather than simply of discretionary policy. It is also more effective, legitimate and sustainable,” she added.

A resolution for the whole planet

The text, originally presented by Costa Rica, the Maldives, Morocco, Slovenia and Switzerland last June, and now co-sponsored by over 100 countries, notes that the right to a healthy environment is related to existing international law and affirms that its promotion requires the full implementation of multilateral environmental agreements.

It also recognises that the impact of climate change, the unsustainable management and use of natural resources, the pollution of air, land and water, the unsound management of chemicals and waste, and the resulting loss in biodiversity interfere with the enjoyment of this right – and that environmental damage has negative implications, both direct and indirect, for the effective enjoyment of all human rights.

According to the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, Mr. David Boyd, the Assembly’s decision will change the very nature of international human rights law.

“Governments have made promises to clean up the environment and address the climate emergency for decades but having a right to a healthy environment changes people’s perspective from ‘begging’ to demanding governments to act”, he recently told UN News.

The Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon in Iceland is formed naturally from melted glacial water and is perpetually growing while big blocks of ice crumble from a shrinking glacier.

A victory five decades in the making

In 1972, the United Nations Conference on the Environment in Stockholm, which ended with its own historic declaration, was the first one to place environmental issues at the forefront of international concerns and marked the start of a dialogue between industrialized and developing countries on the link between economic growth, the pollution of the air, water and the ocean, and the well-being of people around the world.

UN Member States back then, declared that people have a fundamental right to “an environment of a quality that permits a life of dignity and well-being,” calling for concrete action and the recognition of this right.

Last October, after decades of work by nations at the front lines of climate change, such as the Maldives archipelago, as well as more than 1,000 civil society organisations, the Human Rights Council finally recognised this right and called for the UN General Assembly to do the same.

“From a foothold in the 1972 Stockholm Declaration, the right has been integrated into constitutions, national laws and regional agreements. Today’s decision elevates the right to where it belongs: universal recognition”, UN Environment chief, Inger Andersen, explained in a statement published this Thursday.

The recognition of the right to a healthy environment by these UN bodies, although not legally binding— meaning countries don’t have a legal obligation to comply— is expected to be a catalyst for action and to empower ordinary people to hold their governments accountable.

“So, the recognition of this right is a victory we should celebrate. My thanks to Member States and to the thousands of civil society organizations and indigenous peoples’ groups, and tens of thousands of young people who advocated relentlessly for this right. But now we must build on this victory and implement the right”, Ms. Andersen added.

Restoring natural habitats can help to address climate and biodiversity crises.

Triple crisis response

As mentioned by the UN Secretary-General, the newly recognised right will be crucial to tackling the triple planetary crisis.

This refers to the three main interlinked environmental threats that humanity currently faces: climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss – all mentioned in the text of the resolution.

Each of these issues has its own causes and effects and they need to be resolved if we are to have a viable future on Earth.

The consequences of climate change are becoming increasingly apparent, through increased intensity and severity of droughts, water scarcity, wildfires, rising sea levels, flooding, melting polar ice, catastrophic storms and declining biodiversity.

Meanwhile, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution is the largest cause of disease and premature death in the world, with more than seven million people dying prematurely each year due to pollution.

Finally, the decline or disappearance of biological diversity – which includes animals, plants and ecosystems – impacts food supplies, access to clean water and life as we know it.

* States who abstained: China, Russian Federation, Belarus, Cambodia, Iran, Syria, Kyrgyzstan and Ethiopia.

Read More

The Doughnut of social and planetary boundaries (2017)

Humanity’s 21st century challenge is to meet the needs of all within the means of the planet. In other words, to ensure that no one falls short on life’s essentials (from food and housing to healthcare and political voice), while ensuring that collectively we do not overshoot our pressure on Earth’s life-supporting systems, on which we fundamentally depend – such as a stable climate, fertile soils, and a protective ozone layer. The Doughnut of social and planetary boundaries is a playfully serious approach to framing that challenge, and it acts as a compass for human progress this century.

Doughnut Economics

Climate disinformation leaves lasting mark as world heats #ClimateEmergency demand #ClimateAction #SDG13

In 1998, as nations around the world agreed to cut carbon emissions through the Kyoto Protocol, America’s fossil fuel companies plotted their response, including an aggressive strategy to inject doubt into the public debate.

By DAVID KLEPPER

“Victory,” according to the American Petroleum Institute’s memo, “will be achieved when average citizens ‘understand’ (recognize) uncertainties in climate science… Unless ‘climate change’ becomes a non-issue… there may be no moment when we can declare victory.”

Temperature and emissions

The memo, later leaked to The New York Times that year, went on to outline how fossil fuel companies could manipulate journalists and the broader public by muddying the evidence, by playing up “both sides” of the debate and by portraying those seeking to reduce emissions as “out of touch with reality.”

Nearly 25 years later, the reality of a changing climate is now clear to most Americans, as heatwaves and wildfires, rising sea levels and extreme storms become more common.

Drought

Last week, President Joe Biden announced moves intended to expand offshore wind, though he stopped short of declaring a national climate emergency. A Supreme Court ruling last month limited the federal government’s ability to regulate carbon emissions from power plants, meaning it will be up to a divided Congress to pass any meaningful limits on emissions.

Even as surveys show the public generally has become more concerned about climate change, a sizeable number of Americans have become even more distrustful of the scientific consensus.

Climate change is the most important issue now facing humanity. As global temperatures increase, floods, fires and storms are becoming both more intense and frequent. People are suffering. And yet, emissions continue to rise. This book unpacks the activities of the key actors which have organised past and present climate responses – specifically, corporations, governments, and civil society organisations. Analysing three elements of climate change – mitigation, adaptation and suffering – the authors show how exponential growth of the capitalist system has allowed the fossil fuel industry to maintain its dominance. However, this hegemonic position is now coming under threat as new and innovative social movements have emerged, including the fossil fuel divestment movement, Fridays for Future, Extinction Rebellion and others. In exposing the inadequacies of current climate policies and pointing to the possibilities of new social and economic systems, this book highlights how the worst impacts of climate change can be avoided.

Organising Responses to Climate Change

“The tragedy of this is that all over social media, you can see tens of millions of Americans who think scientists are lying, even about things that have been proven for decades,” said Naomi Oreskes, a historian of science at Harvard University who has written about the history of climate change disinformation. “They’ve been persuaded by decades of disinformation. The denial is really, really deep.”

And persistent. Just last month, even with record heat in London, raging wildfires in Alaska and historic flooding in Australia, the Science and Environmental Policy Project, a pro-fossil fuel think tank, said all the scientists had it wrong.

“There is no climate crisis,” the group wrote in its newsletter. 

Years before COVID-19 set off a wave of misinformation, or former President Donald Trump’s lies about the 2020 election helped spur an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, fossil fuel companies spent big in an effort to undermine support for emissions reductions.

Merchants of Doubt has been praised―and attacked―around the world, for reasons easy to understand. This book tells, with “brutal clarity” (Huffington Post), the disquieting story of how a loose-knit group of high-level scientists and scientific advisers, with deep connections in politics and industry, ran effective campaigns to mislead the public and deny well-established scientific knowledge over four decades. The same individuals who claim the science of global warming is “not settled” have also denied the truth about studies linking smoking to lung cancer, coal smoke to acid rain, and CFCs to the ozone hole. “Doubt is our product,” wrote one tobacco executive. These “experts” supplied it. Merchants of Doubt rolls back the rug on this dark corner of American science. Now with a new Foreword by former Vice President Al Gore, and with a new Postscript by the authors.

Merchants of Doubt

Now, even as those same companies promote investments in renewable energy, the legacy of all that climate disinformation remains.

It’s also contributed to a broader skepticism of scientists, scientific institutions and the media that report on them, a distrust reflected by doubts about vaccines or pandemic-era public health measures like masks and quarantines.

“It was the opening of a Pandora’s Box of disinformation that has proven hard to control,” said Dave Anderson of the Energy and Policy Institute, an organization that has criticized oil and coal companies for withholding what they knew about the risks of climate change.

The heat waves, extreme wild fires, and flooding
around the world confirmed beyond doubt that climate
disruption is now a full-blown emergency.

We have entered Churchill’s “period of consequences”, yet
governments have simply watched the disasters magnify,
while rushing ahead with new pipelines and annual trillions in
fossil fuel subsidies.

Governments simply cannot say they did not know. The
events we are seeing today have been consistently forecast
ever since the First Assessment by the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change, which was signed by all
governments back in 1990, which The Lancet has described
as the best research project ever designed.

Unprecedented Crime first lays out the culpability of
governmental, political and religious bodies, corporations,
and the media through their failure to report or act on the
climate emergency. No emergency response has even been
contemplated by wealthy high-emitting national governments.
Extreme weather reporting never even hints at the need to
address climate change.

It then reports how independently of governments, scores of
proven zero-carbon game changers have been coming online
all over the world. These exciting technologies, described in
the book, are now able to power both household electricity
and energy-dense heavy industry.

We already have the technical solutions to the CO2 problem.
With these solutions we can act in time to reduce greenhouse
gas emissions to near-zero within 20 years.

These willful crimes against life itself by negligent
governments, oblivious media and an insouciant civil society
are crimes that everyday citizens can nonetheless readily
grasp – and then take to the streets and to the courts to
protest on behalf of their children and grand-children.

This thoroughly researched and highly-documented book will
show them how.

An Unprecedented Crime

Starting in the 1980s and 1990s, as public awareness of climate change grew, fossil fuel companies poured millions of dollars into public relations campaigns denouncing the accumulating evidence supporting the idea of climate change. They funded supposedly independent think tanks that cherrypicked the science and promoted fringe views designed to make it look like there were two legitimate sides to the dispute. 

Since then, the approach has softened as the impact of climate change has become more apparent. Now, fossil fuel companies are more likely to play up their supposedly pro-environmental record, touting renewables like solar and wind or initiatives designed to improve energy efficiency or offset carbon emissions.

Aggressive approaches to address climate change are now dismissed not on scientific grounds but on economic ones. Fossil fuel companies talk about lost jobs or higher energy prices — without mentioning the cost of doing nothing, said Ben Franta, an attorney, author and Stanford University researcher who tracks fossil fuel disinformation. 

“We are living within an extended multi-decade campaign executed by the fossil fuel industry,” Franta said. “The debate (over climate change) was manufactured by the fossil fuel industry in the 1990s, and we are living with that history right now.”

The impact of that history is reflected in public opinion surveys that show a growing gap between Republicans and other Americans when it comes to views on climate change.

While the percentage of overall Americans who say they’re concerned about climate change has risen, Republicans are increasingly skeptical. Last year, Gallup found that 32% of self-identified Republicans said they accepted the scientific consensus that pollution from humans is driving climate change, down from 52% in 2003.

By comparison, the percentage of self-identified Democrats that say they accept that human activities are leading to climate change increased from 68 to 88 over the same time period.

Fossil fuel companies deny any intent to mislead the American public and point to investments in renewable energy as evidence that they take climate change seriously.

ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods told members of Congress last fall that his company “has long acknowledged the reality and risks of climate change, and it has devoted significant resources to addressing those risks.” ExxonMobil’s public claims about climate change, he said, “are and have always been truthful, fact-based … and consistent” with mainstream science.

Asked about its role in spreading climate misinformation, a spokesman for the Southern Company pointed to recent expansions in renewable energy and initiatives meant to offset carbon emissions. 

The 1998 “victory memo” laying out the industry’s strategy was created by the American Petroleum Institute. In a statement emailed to The Associated Press, API spokesperson Christina Noel said the oil industry is working to reduce emissions while also ensuring access to reliable, affordable energy.

“That’s exactly what our industry has been focused on for decades,” Noel said. “Any suggestion to the contrary is false.”

The 1998 memo is one of several documents cited by climate activists and some Democratic lawmakers who say they could be used to hold them legally responsible for misleading ratepayers, investors or the general public.

“It’s time for these companies to answer for the harm they have caused,” said Rep. Ro Khanna, D-California.

Republicans, however, have said Democrats want to focus on climate misinformation to distract from failed environmental policies that are driving up gas and energy costs.

Read More

We’re occupying schools across the world to protest climate inaction | Youth activists involved in End Fossil: Occupy! | The Guardian #ClimateEmergency

School and university students all over the world are planning to take school strikes one step further and occupy our campuses to demand the end of the fossil economy. Taking a lesson from student activists in the 1960s, the climate justice movement’s youth will shut down business as usual. Not because we don’t like learning, but because what we’ve learned already makes it clear that, without a dramatic break from this system, we cannot ensure a livable planet for our presents and futures.

Solidarity

Why occupy? Because we’ve marched. We’ve launched petitions. We’ve written open letters. We’ve had meetings with governments, boards and commissions. We’ve struck. We’ve filled squares, streets and avenues with thousands and, all together, millions of people in continents across this Earth. We’ve screamed with all our lungs. Some of us have even participated in blockades, sit-ins and die-ins. And just as it seemed the seed for deep and radical social transformation was taking root in the midst of the massive 2019 climate mobilizations, Covid-19 came, and our momentum drastically decreased. What didn’t decrease, however, was the greenhouse gas emissions, the exploitation of the global south and the unimaginable profits hoarded by the fossil fuel industry.

No New Coal

It’s no secret that our enemy, the fossil fuel industry, rules the world. And it is far from falling; in fact, it is stronger than ever. Proof is a recent investigation by the Guardian that revealed to the world that the fossil fuel empire has 195 “carbon bomb” projects that threaten our hope for a global warming of up to 1.5C, the safe barrier. That’s right: despite our politicians’ and institutions’ indeed hilarious show at Cop26 in 2021, the biggest oil companies are on track to spend $103m on planetary destruction projects every day for the rest of the decade.

What’s more, the climate crisis is not a fair crisis. The latest IPCC reports show that the ones who are most affected by climate change are often the ones who have done the least in causing it in the first place. As young people born right at the edge of the biggest catastrophe in human history, it is our historic responsibility to rise up to stop it.

So, what do we do? Since giving in to defeatism will never be an option for us, we must now organize at a massive scale. We need to create a new peak of mobilization, even bigger than 2019. If we were waiting for a sign, this is it. With temperatures climbing faster and faster, we have never been so certain that mobilizing bigger than ever is not only possible, but existentially necessary.

We cannot repeat previous mistakes. We need to be more disruptive than ever, as that’s our only chance for survival. The youth’s innovation and creativity, combined with a fierce appetite for disruption and liberation, can change the world. As a global generation of students, we need to disrupt business as usual, and start with the spaces where we have the power to mobilize and organize – our schools and universities. Sometimes they are directly implicated in the destruction business, as is the case of the many universities that invest in the fossil fuel industry, such as Oxford, Stanford, Princeton, Yale, McGill, Northwestern, MIT, etc. In other cases, they are indirectly linked to it. They train us for a world that has no future, a world of fossil capitalism. They want us to sit in school and learn as if everything was fine. But the world we are learning for – the world that created the climate crisis – has no future. The big question of our generation, “How do we create a world without climate catastrophe?”, will not be answered by sitting in school.

Blockade Australia

The bottom line is: we can’t keep pretending everything is all right, studying as if the planet wasn’t on fire. As other students did before us – from the students of May of ’68 in France to the Arab spring, from the Chilean Penguin Revolution and Primavera Secundarista in Brazil to Occupy Wall Street, we will stop our business-as-usual lives to show our governments and society that we need to change everything, now. From Lisbon to California, from Peru to Germany and from Madrid to Ivory Coast, we call on young people to get together and organize an international revolutionary generation that can change the system.

Between September and December 2022, we will occupy hundreds of schools and universities worldwide to end the fossil economy at the international level under the callout to action “End Fossil: Occupy!”. We invite anyone and everyone to join us and organize occupations in their school or universities, as long as they follow our three principles: youth-led occupation, climate justice framework, and occupy until we win. We will revive the youth movement, create new alliances, radicalize, engage the whole of society to support and occupy, and envision the world we want – where life and not profit is at the center – through this sparking international action moment. We will rise up in justice and liberation to crush the fossil fuel industry. We shall have no doubt: the youth are a revolutionary subject. We will turn the tide, change history, and smash the fossil economy.

We are here. We are radical. We are ready to occupy.

  • This open letter was written by youth activists involved in End Fossil: Occupy! and signed by organizers and groups around the world

Read More

Organising Responses to Climate ChangeThe Politics of Mitigation, Adaptation and Suffering #ClimateCrisis

Organising Responses to Climate Change

Climate change is the most important issue now facing humanity.

As global temperatures increase, floods, fires and storms are becoming both more intense and frequent.

People are suffering. And yet, emissions continue to rise.

This book unpacks the activities of the key actors which have organised past and present climate responses – specifically, corporations, governments, and civil society organisations. Analysing three elements of climate change – mitigation, adaptation and suffering – the authors show how exponential growth of the capitalist system has allowed the fossil fuel industry to maintain its dominance.

However, this hegemonic position is now coming under threat as new and innovative social movements have emerged, including the fossil fuel divestment movement, Fridays for Future, Extinction Rebellion and others.

In exposing the inadequacies of current climate policies and pointing to the possibilities of new social and economic systems, this book highlights how the worst impacts of climate change can be avoided.

Extinction Rebellion Protest
Temperature and emissions continue to rise
The Doughnut of social and planetary boundaries (2017)

Humanity’s 21st century challenge is to meet the needs of all within the means of the planet.

In other words, to ensure that no one falls short on life’s essentials (from food and housing to healthcare and political voice), while ensuring that collectively we do not overshoot our pressure on Earth’s life-supporting systems, on which we fundamentally depend – such as a stable climate, fertile soils, and a protective ozone layer.

The Doughnut of social and planetary boundaries is a playfully serious approach to framing that challenge, and it acts as a compass for human progress this century.

Doughnut Economics