Don’t be a climate user – an essay on climate science communication #ClimateCrisis #EcologicalCrisis #auspol

A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep.” – Saul Bellow

Jem Bendell, for the Deep Adaptation Quarterly, August 2022. 

As the heatwaves swept across Europe this summer, mainstream Western media gave some more attention to global heating. With 40+ degrees Celsius in the UK, for instance, many people were unnerved. They wanted to know more about what is happening and how bad it might become. This meant climate scientists were featured in the media. Then a curious thing happened. Some of those scientists began to ‘cherry pick’ the science to promote a particular narrative that the danger will cease if specific policies are pursued. They presented their view as following science, and some experts then admonished people who pointed out the scientific limitations of that perspective. Does this mean there is now an ‘establishment story’ on climate change? If so, why, and what does it preclude?

Very Extreme fire danger

Observing a range of the expert commentary in mainstream media, it does seem that there is now an establishment narrative. It goes something like this: the situation is bad but solvable by the authorities if we, the general public, do what we are told while supporting subsidies for unproven technologies and criticising anyone who doesn’t share a faith in technology, enterprise, authority and obedience. This narrative means we should never become so worried as to drop what we are doing to challenge the system and its elites. Over the coming years this narrative is likely to be enforced by establishment spokespersons, media organisations and even Bigtech algorithms suppressing alternative views. That is likely because it mirrors the way elites have always viewed the masses as a danger to themselves. It reflects how they care more about avoiding threats to their privilege than being honest about how much suffering there already is and about to occur. As Dr Stella Nyambura Mbau,explained, writing from Kenya: “The millions of people being uprooted by climate change do not benefit from the ‘stubborn optimism’ of environmental elites. Instead, they will be better served by the stubborn realism of the experts and activists now brave enough to call for urgent degrowth in rich countries and fair adaptation everywhere.”

The topic of whether there is ‘committed warming’ in global climate from past emissions due to the inertia of the Earth’s systems is one recent example of this tendency of some experts towards establishment-friendly interpretations of available science. Because it works at a nerdy level of climate science, in the past year it has sometimes been presented by scientists in ways that fit the new establishment narrative on climate, without any challenge from journalists. Looking more closely at this ‘committed warming’ issue within climatology helps reveal to us how scientific communication may now be politicised, so that public opinion can be manipulated to protect power. In the Deep Adaptation Quarterly (DAQ) we provide insight into a world of ideas and actions freed from the establishment’s attempts to make us follow the story from their ‘cherry-picked’ science, rather than the fuller science that exists on the terrible predicament we face. My editorial for this edition of the DAQ [coming on Friday] is an essay on the dangers of the establishment’s narrative on global heating and what to do about it. To illustrate the problem, I will examine the mainstream presentation of whether there will be inevitable heating of the global climate from existing CO2 emissions.

How much heat is inevitable?

Unfortunately for both humanity and life on earth, some analysis suggests that whatever humanity might do to curb future greenhouse gas emissions, dangerous levels of warming are already certain, baked into the atmosphere by past emissions. How much warming is baked in and how dangerous and how fast impacts will be is uncertain, as is how much our current and future efforts might reduce the risk of catastrophic damage. Let’s briefly look at just some of the evidence for that view.

Probably the world’s most famous climate scientist is Dr. James Hansen, formerly director of the NASA Goddard Institute. I admit I like him just as much for writing a biography of Neil Armstrong – the first man on the moon. But climate science is his day job. He brought climate change to global attention when he testified to the U.S. Senate in 1988 that global warming had been detected and was already impacting weather events. Since then he has approached his research by integrating insights from three key ways we can develop understanding of potential future climates: the reconstruction of past climates from paleontology, current observational data, and computer models of weather and Earth systems. In 2013 he wrote a paper with scientists from different academic fields which concluded that “cumulative emissions of ∼1000 billion tons of carbon (GtC), sometimes associated with 2°C global warming, would in reality spur “slow” feedbacks [that would cause] eventual warming of 3–4°C with disastrous consequences.” Therefore, only steeper and earlier cuts in fossil fuel emissions could protect young people and future generations from self-reinforcing feedbacks in the climate system.

This was a direct challenge to the international climate science and climate policy communities, which focus mostly on “fast” feedbacks, assuming that slow feedbacks like ice sheet disintegration, sea-level rise, and large-scale vegetation dieback will unfold in a mostly linear, orderly fashion over long timescales of centuries to millennia and can therefore be discounted in current carbon budgets. The idea they were challenging is that there is little relevant thermal inertia in the climate system, and therefore effectively no committed or ‘baked in’ warming from past CO₂ emissions. These questions generate lively discussion in climate scientists’ blogs, twitter, and academic papers. With further colleagues and modelling,Hanson confirmed that finding in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics in 2016, concluding that  “the modeling, paleoclimate evidence, and ongoing observations together imply that 2°C global warming above the preindustrial level could be dangerous.”

Hansen and his colleagues are hardly outliers: many scientists now argue that the mainstream climatology has been downplaying the sensitivity of the climate to increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Rather, “Climate change is hitting the planet faster than scientists originally thought,” explain even the scientifically cautious IPCC. If we use the geological records to look back about three million years ago, a time we call the middle-Pliocene warm period, we find CO2 levels at about current levels or lower, with global temperatures 3°C higher than what we currently experience. Because 3 is a small number, writing about 3°C might not seem very concerning. But it means something much more significant. Because it is an average for the whole planet, over sea and water, night and day. Already with only 1.2°C global ambient temperature rise above pre-industrial levels, countries are experiencing both incredible heat extremes and greater volatility of temperatures, winds and precipitation. At current 1.2°C warming, East Africa has already had four rainy seasons fail in succession. So, imagine if global warming impacts generally increased by a factor of nearly three. That is not even including any knock-on effects and tipping points that could be reached, which I will come back to in a moment.

Hyperthreats

It is easy to see why the message from the rocks and ice cores was unappealing to people in the science bureaucracy and climate policy worlds. It meant we could not pretend that reform of capitalism would work. It meant we could not confidently claim that industrial consumer societies could transition to a new way of life. It is these highly human factors which help explain why over the last few decades the policy-making establishment has gone from wondering if manmade climate change would happen, to then wondering if it would be a problem, to then negotiating what levels of climate change could be dangerous. During that time, the interpretations of the paleontological records gave far more challenging data to the policy advisors than computer models of potential climates.

It is worth remembering that in the late 1980s, the series of U.S. Congressional hearings culminating in Dr Hansen’s testimony had already conclusively established in high-level politics that climate mitigation would require decarbonizing and restructuring the energy sectors of the world’s major economies. It was an economic and geopolitical challenge that no mainstream political party was willing to take on. The establishment of the IPCC came well after that and did not make such clear conclusions about the need to transform economies until 2022 – 30 years later. 

With that wider context in mind, the IPCC’s reliance on statisticians with computers saying ‘yes you can’ could be regarded as part of a bureaucratic intention of creating a credible myth of there being breathing space for industrial consumer societies. Two scientists summarised it well. Focusing on global temperature goals like staying below 2°C have been “attractive to politicians because they can allow political purposes [of being seen to act] to be fulfilled without necessarily having any specific actions follow” from their public pronouncements. You know, stuff that would inconvenience their donors, such as banning new investments in fossil fuels, punitively taxing high carbon lifestyles, and heavily regulating the banks. The only flaw in that tactic of disavowing uncomfortable realities was that ever more powerful  climate models started to say, “no you can’t.”

One published study reviewed model data to conclude that there will be a “delayed emergence of a global temperature response after emission mitigation” and achieving net zero emissions immediately would still allow further global heating until 2033. Another paper that reviewed outputs from the latest generation of climate models concluded that at current levels of CO2 we are destined to break through 1.5°C at least. The key story that should have been reaching the global headlines in recent years is that the latest models arepredicting hotter, faster and more destabilising outcomes from greenhouse gases than the older models. That did not happen, as instead, a group of leading scientists including Dr. Gavin Schmidt (Hansen’s successor at the Goddard Institute) suggested dropping the ‘hottest’ models and weighting them by how well they compared relative to other metrics – something the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had already done in its recent report. 

If you prefer simpler models that might have less complex maths to ‘make strange’ during longer-term calculations, then you are in luck. One basic model that focused on melting permafrost controversially reported that it found a self-sustained thawing of permafrost even if all man-made greenhouse gas emissions were stopped in the model in 2020. To stop self-sustained warming in the model, enormous amounts of carbon dioxide had to be extracted from the atmosphere. 

While this last model was quickly criticised as not conforming to the high standards of more complex climate models and not further discussed in the scientific literature, it offers a lesson for further discussions. Even relatively simple models can show that self-reinforcing feedbacks can be triggered, where rising temperatures then melt the permafrost which releases huge amounts of methane, which then drives further global heating, and so on. It also shows how model findings could be dismissed for their mathematics being too simple or too complicated (i.e. the latest generation of models), if their findings are inconvenient to the establishment narrative on global heating.  

All the models I have just described included the continued functioning of ecosystems to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. But such an assumption is no longer credible. Using high-resolution satellite datasets, one study in early 2022 found a doubling of carbon emissions from tropical forest loss over the past decade. These trends have not been explicitly factored into recent assessments, including the IPCC’s latest report. The even greater concern is that major forests will flip from being sinks or absorbers of CO2 to sources, due to forest fires and drying soils. One study reported in 2022 on “direct empirical evidence that the Amazon rainforest is losing resilience, risking dieback with profound implications for biodiversity, carbon storage and climate change at a global scale.” One of the authors was Dr Timothy Lenton, who has brought attention to these kinds of feedbacks in the climate system reaching tipping points. Working with other scientists, he has found evidence that 9 of the 15 most crucial tipping points, where feedbacks probably become self-reinforcing, may have already begun. There is the additional risk that such feedbacks unleash a domino-like chain reaction or “tipping cascade” that could push the Earth system towards new ‘hothouse’ climates. That is extremely worrying, especially as this risk exists at current greenhouse gas concentrations and current levels of warming. Another worry is because the complexity of natural systems prevents us from knowing where thresholds lie until they have been crossed. Although some scientists admonish people for implying that 1.5°C or 2°C is a threshold, as every fraction of a degree matters, the critical tipping points that definitely exist in natural systems cannot be known through scientific method until it is too late. That means it would not be scientific to express high confidence that staying below a certain amount of global mean surface temperature rise will avoid any given tipping point from activating. Current research suggests that tipping elements in the Earth system can destabilise each other, for instance by lowering the critical temperature thresholds of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, the Atlantic overturning circulation, and the Amazon rainforest. 

If some of this discussion seems a little abstract, then let us return to what is being observed around the world right now. Data on temperature extremes, floods, droughts, storm damage, wildfires, ice loss, sea-level rise, diseases from the wild, ecosystems collapsing and losses in agriculture, all tell us what is happening. We can even watch wildfires, the behaviour of the jet stream or methane emissions in the Arctic in real time. Studies which warn that reservoirs below and within the Siberian permafrost could be releasing methane are accessible to anyone. Some of the most dramatic changes are being observed at the poles. What is being seen there is far ahead of what the modelling projected a decade ago. For instance, climatologist Dr Xavier Fettweis said that the 2022 summer anomaly of over +5°C warmer in the Arctic “is clearly unexpected with respect to future projections”, even for the most aggressive carbon pollution scenarios that have been modelled by the IPCC. Judged by the needs of society, rather than academia, a bigger problem than the latest climate models ‘running hot’ could be that the models have been years ‘running slow’ on many aspects of the Earth system that matter most to humanity and life on Earth. 

If it feels a bit torturous reading all this, then I understand. Examining some of the dry detail of the global carnage that awaits is not the most obvious choice for how to spend our time when sensing mortality is probably nearer than we thought. I am summarising some of this science because it is being marginalised by the establishment narrative on climate change. Escaping the confines of that narrative, we could dialogue from the perspective that a terrible future awaits, that we need to learn why we failed, consider what is wrong with all our systems, attempt to avert the worst, and do the difficult work of adapting, all the while not knowing if it is going to work. That is a huge challenge to the culture of our modern societies. Will more of us try? Unfortunately, when threatened with the collapse of one’s identity, worldview, and income, some experts might prefer to focus on yet more measurements, discussions and fanciful ideas of salvation. Which brings me to the part of this essay that I wish I did not have to write – about the activities of climate scientists that are unwittingly undermining commitment to action, from both the public and our leaders.

Hope springs digital?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) doesn’t include research in its advice to policy makers unless that research has sufficient consensus within the scientific community. On the issue of whether there is committed warming from existing greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere, its 2014 assessment report said: “Cumulative emissions of CO2 largely determine global mean surface warming by the late 21st century and beyond. Most aspects of climate change will persist for many centuries even if emissions of CO2 are stopped. This represents a substantial multi-century climate change commitment created by past, present and future emissions of CO2.” However, because of the lack of consensus on the amount, the IPCC did not include any ‘committed warming’ in that report’s calculations of either future temperature scenarios or what ‘carbon budgets’ exist for countries to pollute further. 

Some modellers therefore thought that further studies could help clarify if that was a reasonable position for the IPCC to take. They set out to analyse the future global warming that would result if there were immediate net-zero emissions of CO2, something called the Zero Emissions Commitment (ZEC). One study included some of the most advanced climate models in the world. The results of that project were reported in 2020 in the clearly titled paper: Is there warming in the pipeline? A multi-model analysis of the Zero Emissions Commitment from CO2 written by Dr Andrew H. MacDougall and dozens of colleagues (as it was a large international project). Although the scenario of an immediate end to all fossil fuel burning, or even net zero, was not a realistic one, theirs was effectively a study on the future inhabitability of the planet. These are strange times indeed. 

So, what did they find? The research team reported that the “models exhibit a wide variety of behaviours after emissions cease, with some models continuing to warm for decades to millennia and others cooling substantially.” Such diversity of results means either an average or median temperature figure would not necessarily give any confidence that it corresponds to reality. That meant they concluded that there was no reason from climate modelling science for the IPCC to change its approach of not including ‘committed warming’ in its calculations and policy deliberations. However, before anyone gets excited, they reminded us of a key limitation of their study due to how it only focused on CO2, whereas “many non-co2 greenhouse gases, aerosols, and land use changes affect global climate.” Therefore, it was a problem “that many models lack feedbacks related to nutrient limitation and permafrost carbon pools, [so] the strong dependence of [the ZEC50 models examining effects of zero carbon in 2050 ].. on terrestrial carbon uptake is concerning for the robustness of ZEC50 estimates.” Consequently, “to truly explore the question of whether global temperature will continue to increase following complete cessation of greenhouse gas and aerosol emissions, the effect of each anthropogenic forcing agent must be accounted for” [emphasis added]. In other words, they could not support conclusions on the future of life on Earth. But it did allow the IPCC to maintain its position that because there is low confidence from the models on the significance of existing CO2 contributing to future global heating, “the central estimate is taken as zero for assessments of remaining carbon budgets for global warming levels of 1.5C or 2C.” Nevertheless, in the FAQ for their subsequent 6th assessment report in 2021, the IPCC openly admitted that global warming and Arctic sea ice loss will continue in every possible scenario for the coming 20 years: “In summary, it is only after a few decades of reducing CO2 emissions that we would clearly see global temperatures starting to stabilize.” 

At this point I will attempt a summary of the implications of the research I have presented so far. If global CO2 emissions reach ‘net zero’, even if that would mean atmospheric concentrations of CO2 then decrease, that will not definitely stop further global warming and not stop the increasing loss and damage. Instead, due to increasing methane concentrations, degrading carbon sinks, and some likely-triggered tipping points in the Earth system, some warming will continue – perhaps a lot – even if global CO2 emissions reach ‘net zero’ to make atmospheric concentrations of CO2 decrease (which it might not, depending on unpredictable feedbacks). Even a tipping cascade toward ‘hothouse’ climates would still be possible.

Although the ZEC research team stated that their findings were unremarkably “consistent with previous model experiments and simple theory”, in the following sections I will show how some experts presented their research as highly positive news. Therefore, those communications on this topic offer a microcosm of the misrepresentations that can undermine understanding of the situation. It is therefore a case that will interest anyone involved in climate science, activism and policy, as well as people who care about telling the truth about climate change.

Don’t get in the way of a good story?

In 2021, I began to notice some experts using this ZEC study to make the case for renewed hope. In April the industry website Carbon Brief published an Explainer: Will global warming ‘stop’ as soon as net-zero emissions are reached? Their answer was that yes, it almost will. The author, leading climate commentator Zeke Hausfather, wrote that “the best available evidence shows that…  warming is likely to more or less stop once carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions reach zero, meaning humans have the power to choose their climate future.” As you already know from the discussion above, the ZEC research team did not make such a bold claim and even the IPCC stated that is not the case. Dr Hausfather used one additional study from 2010 to support his assertion, while not mentioning all the other research on the committed warming topic that I referred to earlier. When writing the article he was working with a research centre that “promotes technological solutions to environmental and human development challenges” and which is partly funded by a major investor in climate-related businesses, Breakthrough Energy

Despite a mention of the uncertainty around methane effects in that Carbon Brief article, by October the impediments to presenting this as exciting and hopeful climate news were being ignored. One article in Scientific American used the study as a basis to claim “There’s Still Time to Fix Climate—About 11 Years.” One thing I noticed is that these discussions included a lot of data which was immaterial to real world implications. That gave the appearance of scholarliness but was utterly irrelevant. For instance, some climatologists explained how the old computer simulations of climate had failed to incorporate the amount of uptake of CO2 from the biosphere, and therefore over-played the amount of ‘committed warming’ due to existing CO2 levels or future emissions. Yet that past oversight is not necessarily material to our understanding of whether there is committed warming from all greenhouse gases in the real world. Instead, it just shows that past models can be improved and therefore any model should not be the decisive means of analysing the situation with climate change, if we want to prioritise reality over the institutional biases and limitations of climate science.

In addition, I noticed how the conversation was treated seriously by so many commentators in the wider environmental sector, despite how it could be regarded as a peak of self-obsession from the scientific community. Because humanity is not going to reach net-zero overnight. Nevertheless, by February 2022 the ‘no committed warming’ story was becoming official policy advice. The well-known and dedicated climate scientist Professor Michael Mann presented this argument to the US government (via a House Committee). His testimony included that “surface warming is likely to stabilize rather quickly, i.e. within a few years, once net carbon emissions reach zero.” When mentioning his testimony, I am sensitive to how difficult it can be for a scientist acting in good faith to provide an accurate and comprehensive summary of complex science to either the public and government. In addition, there are personal, institutional and cultural pressures to downplay the idea that humanity is not in control of our situation if we now wake up and try to change. As someone who went through the process of deciding to accept how bad our situation is, and then to communicate it to others, I know what a heavy emotional burden is involved. Yet if we choose to be in the business of science communication then that is a burden we must accept. It also means we must consider how to question experts if they are telling a story about the science which is preferable to specific commercial and political interests. 

Some experts have argued the ‘committed warming’ issue is not one to spend time arguing about. I have hopefully explained its significance in revealing the problematic way some experts are approaching the topic of science communication. But it is even more important than that, at the level of social discourse, in at least two ways. First, that there is likely to be more warming even if the whole planet reaches net zero means that everyone needs to do more to prepare practically and emotionally for a future of greater disruption. It means both transformative adaptation and deep adaptation should be central topics for whole societies, not just environmental policy. Second, the existence of committed warming reminds us that there is a significant historical injustice arising from past emissions. We must not pretend that historical emissions from richer nations are less responsible for the terrible effects of climate change in poorer parts of the world. What people decide to do about ‘climate justice’ with such an awareness is another matter, but we should never downplay the harm caused from past emissions.

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

Don’t get in the way of a good business?

The bitter truth on the situation sometimes slips through, with articles by climate scientistsProfessor Bill McGuire, Professor Will Steffen and Dr. Wolfgang Knorr. Each of these men has explained that the climate will further disrupt societies whatever we do. However, most scientists keep quiet on the issue of inevitable warming and inevitable impacts. Some scientists even lambast colleagues for what they call ‘defeatism’ or ‘doomism’ and argue that we need to stay positive about the possibilities for averting catastrophic change. Such criticisms arise from incorrect assumptions on what psychology, politics and philosophy tells us about the radicalisation that can occur from ‘catastrophic imaginaries’, and how optimism can be the enemy of action.

The idea there might be no committed warming from existing CO2 emissions is particularly attractive to a range of business interests and their friends within the establishment. Some professionals do not want the public to believe anything that might undermine state subsidies for nuclear power and CO2-removal machines. To question the future viability of highly complex industrial consumer societies immediately puts further doubt on these technologies. Recognising the likelihood of ‘committed warming’ adds to such questioning.

The trillion-dollar nuclear industry seeks to benefit from climate concern but might be undermined by an anticipation of disruptive changes to weather, sea levels, and societies. Wider anticipation of the latter scenario would mean less government support and a higher cost of capital. Although the role of some forms of nuclear power is recognised by many people who anticipate societal disruption, the industry has a natural affinity with anti-doomism. The trillion-dollar renewable energy sector also benefits from climate concern. However, it does not benefit from a questioning of the inadequacy of rare earth metals to realise full electrification, the damage caused to do so, and the heating spike caused by the end of the masking effect from burning fossil fuels.

The new industry of carbon capture is also attracting multi-billion dollar investments in recent years. Looking at the energetics and economics of the Direct Air Capture (DAC) machines which suck CO2 out of the atmosphere, reveals they are not a sensible part of the necessary response to the climate crisis. That was the finding of the research team after “Assessing the feasibility of carbon dioxide mitigation options in terms of energy usage” in the top journal Nature Energy. As this message was not being heard, Peter Dynes of the MEER Reflection project attempted a simple summary. He explained that over two years the Climeworks current DAC plant will capture the equivalent CO2 of pop star Taylor Swift’s annual emissions. He said their bigger plant that is taking 18 months to build, will capture 4 years’ worth of her emissions annually. Although technologically savvy humans like to think they are not superstitious, the DAC machines may be acting like ‘lucky charms’ that are clasped by people faced with threats to their identity and worldview. Though they are far more expensive and energy-intensive than, say, a bead necklace.

The author of the Carbon Brief article that I described above is now the research lead for Stripe, a technology company that invests in CO2 removal start-ups. There are now multi-billion-dollar commercial interests in DAC machines, where the business model might involve promoting the story that they will be effective, so that they obtain subsidies from governments. To help garner that support, the venture capitalists are finding friends in foundations and universities who help to promote DAC machines as an important part of ‘climate restoration’, or ‘climate repair’.

Bill McGuire

Not using climate concern for personal benefit

In private, climate scientists tell a different story to the one most of them tell in public. According to a survey by the journal Nature, 88 of 92 IPCC-author climate scientists believedwe will not keep warming below 1.5 degrees to avoid widespread catastrophic damage. Despite this, every mainstream media journalist who gets in touch with me quotes the one or two climatologists who say we can still stay below 1.5 degrees.

Evidence from social psychology suggests there may be deeper psychological factors involved in the way some climate experts limit what they say in public. History and sociology show us that, whether conscious or not, members of the establishment tend to fear the public becoming ‘unruly’ and rejecting their status and authority. That is partly the result of the indoctrination into an attitude of hierarchical managerialism that we all receive through education, media and organisational cultures. It is the attitude that managers, officials and experts are the ones to be trusted with public issues, and the general public is ‘othered’ as people needing to be controlled or guided for their own benefit.

The public reticence and private openness of some scientists may have significant societal repercussions. It means that behind closed doors the scientists are sharing their personal views. Which means some authorities have been hearing a different version of events. That may be why we read of military strategists already preparing for some of the worst-case scenarios. It might also be why we learn through leaks that some of the top banks in the world are doing the same. I hold a different view. I want civil society to be fully informed of the latest science and engaged in urgent dialogue about what to do about the terrible predicament humanity faces.

That there are patterns of communication, or discourses, that reflect and protect establishment and specific commercial interests is sociology 101. So please do not be dissuaded if someone brands this analysis in this essay as ‘conspiracy’ thinking. In doing so they would be disregarding hundreds of years of sociological critique of the nature, reproduction, and power of ideology in society. I am not interested in imagining some mythical cabal that controls everything, so that I could angrily blame ‘them’ while descending into apathy. Instead, I am keenly aware of how capitalist dynamics shape ideologies, including through the way science is interpreted and communicated. On this matter, let’s remember what Dr Nyambaru Mbau in Kenya said about this issue – privilege in the West may be leading some scientists to grasp at straws of hope in ways that help maintain their lifestyles, worldviews, and identities for as long as possible. That’s got to stop.

I now realise it is time to stop avoiding arguments within the environmental sector. It is time for more scientists to break ranks. It would be a self-involved irrelevance to complain about disrespecting climatologists. Instead, all professionals should be held accountable by society. Just because someone works in medicine does not mean they are primarily concerned with everyone’s health. Just because someone works on social issues does not mean they are primarily concerned with social justice. Just because someone works on climate does not mean they are primarily concerned with climate change. Just because someone works on change does not mean they do not distract us from more significant approaches to change.

Without any rancour or judgement, it is nevertheless time to get more personal. By that, I mean it is time to admit that those of us working on environmental issues risk becoming ‘climate users’ rather than climate defenders. Climate-users are professionals who leverage climate concern for their own wealth, status, influence, and self-esteem. Many climate users start their careers with a passionate commitment to the cause but then become part of the establishment. At that point, anyone relating to climate change in ways that challenge the systems sustaining the climate-users’ privilege are particularly aggravating to them. Therefore, some climate users even try to ‘cancel’ people they label ‘doomers’ by making false accusations and character slurs, both in private and in public. Irrational and personal attacks against ‘doomers’ may therefore be a sign that someone subconsciously perceives a threat to the psychological ‘drug’ of wealth, status, influence, and self-esteem that they gain from working on the climate crisis.

‘Climate use’ is something that those of us who work on these topics need to be wary of falling into. Because ‘climate users’ may impede us all in addressing climate change as effectively as we can. When we were in the era of climate concern, the climate users warped the policy focus onto carbon ‘cap and trade’ schemes, renewables, and corporate sustainability initiatives, rather than means for equitable systemic change. Many climate users flew around the world feeling heroic. Some became millionaires. I speak of this addiction with confidence because I was connected to that world for years, within the field of corporate sustainability. I also see evidence of this approach regularly on my LinkedIn feed – especially during conferences on climate change. 

In this new era of climate chaos, some climate users are now warping the focus onto wasteful carbon capture machines, mega infrastructure projects, and schemes for authoritarian power. They will likely maintain the establishment narrative on climate despite unfolding reality. In which case some scientists will reframe whatever happens in the real world as not undermining that narrative. For instance, they will downplay the relevance of a Blue Ocean Event in the Arctic happening decades ahead of mainstream predictions; perhaps by saying that is an invented term. They will claim breaking through 1.5C degrees warming will be just a momentary phenomenon if we use more precious energy for stupid carbon removal machines. They will imply that the enemy of carbon drawdown through forest conservation is the poor people who live in or near the forests – despite their low ecological footprints. They will blame ecological disasters from the mining needed to electrify high income countries as the fault of ‘bad management’ in ‘badly regulated’ countries. And in the most extreme and illogical irony, they will blame us climate realists as the cause of future climate chaos events, because they will say we undermined hope. Because addiction precludes reality. So climate users will be forever creative in justifying and feeding their habit.

Fortunately, any experts who want to ‘kick the habit’ of using climate concern for their own wealth, status, influence, and self-esteem can find support from a range of professional guides listed by the Deep Adaptation Forum. They offer counsel for people to find and maintain ways of engaging positively without needing the drug of deference to elite interests.

The need for more scientists to rebel, and effectively

We must move beyond the ridiculous situation where it falls to striking students to bring attention to an existential crisis for humanity. Or where it falls to me, a sociologist, with only a distant past in climate science, to join the dots on the bad news in my 2018 Deep Adaptation paper and accidentally radicalise people to join Extinction Rebellion. We need more scientists to break ranks. After scientists Dr Wolfgang Knorr and Dr Peter Kalmus approached me after the release of the Deep Adaptation paper, I put them in touch with the campaign groups Extinction Rebellion and Scientists Rebellion respectively, and they have each made great contributions, trailblazing for others in their profession. Many more need to follow, and to more effectively challenge the establishment narrative on climate which I identified at the start of this essay.

It could help if more scientists admit where they have gone wrong in the past by criticising or isolating experts who were public about anticipating climate chaos. I recall when, in 2009 the group Dark Mountain was launched by environmentalists who said that it is too late to prevent catastrophic change from environmental change, including climate, I quietly sided with the people who criticised them, such as the British journalist George Monbiot. It was emotionally easier to agree with his accusations that they had given up and might undermine change – so I did not even look further into the science nor into any assumptions about psychology that George may have been making. I had to go through my own period of emotional turmoil and reconstitute my sense of self before being able to recognise my resistance to reality was about me, not about reality. Now that I have studied some psychology, I realise that it is helpful to speak out on this issue, and not project onto others the ideas and behaviours that arise from our own fears of experiencing difficult emotions. If any of us feel upset because of other people with different perspectives to us, who are simply going about their lives without direct infringement of us, then it is not their fault we feel bad. Shooting the messenger in myriad ways is almost an instinctive human behaviour. But as the reality floods in, shooting the messengers on climate breakdown will require the rhetorical equivalent of the world’s nuclear arsenal. Instead, it’s time to make peace.

Apart from more scientists rebelling individually, there is the need for collective action to shift the narrative more broadly. That must involve challenging any commercial or establishment influences on climate communication and policy deliberations. Perhaps one practical step would be for groups of activist scientists such as Scientists for XR and Scientist Rebellion to promote more transparency about the financial interests of the individuals, organisations and publications that influence climate discourse. Large sums of money from industries with a direct interest in shaping professional and public understanding of climate change are now circulating amongst a variety of organisations. Therefore all publications that report on climate should clearly declare whether they receive any money from a source that is either directly or indirectly funded by investors in climate-related businesses and energy companies. Likewise, individual authors should declare whether they are paid or whether their employers are funded by such companies or organisations that they fund. Then we could be sceptical of any publication which does not make such declarations or require them of their authors. If we don’t attempt such shifts, then the handful of rebel scientists will remain a handful with little impact on official narratives on climate change issues. In addition, we risk the science of climatology losing trust and respect within both politics and society, due to it advancing narratives that align with specific powerful interests. (To make a start, I can declare that I believe I do not receive any funds from a climate-related business, either directly or indirectly. I am also unaware of any commercial interests that might benefit from the analysis in this essay).

Rebellious scientists could also push for a deeper epistemological shift in their profession. Currently the protocols for how to interpret data were developed prior to the existence of an emergency situation, as were the institutional norms. During emergencies, there is a need for ‘post-normal science’ where real time observational data and interdisciplinary approaches are used to inform rapid policy decisions. To help with that shift, more climate scientists could admit the failure of existing approaches to properly predict the impacts of our now-changing climate. Or the failure to sufficiently enable understanding of risk amongst the public and policy makers. With Dr Rupert Read, I discuss this issue in some detail in our book’s opening chapter: “What Climate Science Can and Cannot Tell Us About Our Predicament.” We are not unusual in our critique and recommendations, as others also argue that “climate science needs to take risk assessment much more seriously.” Clearly the challenge is institutional, and so while rebellious scientists are commendable, without a strategy for institutional change they will not be able to shift conversations beyond establishment-friendly narratives. 

The wider ideological trap of sustainability

The climatologists who communicate an establishment-friendly interpretation of the science are not unusual within the environmental sector. Whether it is wilful ignorance or their chosen communication strategy to pacify the rest of us, it is something I witness in the wider field of people working on environment and development. Individually, chatting with former colleagues, they admit how the world is backsliding on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) because of systemic reasons, and that the future looks really bad. But then they ‘trot out’ the same stories of sustainable development for their employer, funders, colleagues and audiences as they have done for years. As they are paid to make a difference on social and environmental issues, maintaining this self-serving parallel reality should not go unchallenged. Therefore, along with 100 scholars, I signed a public letter calling on the international community to ditch the – now unhelpful – ideology of sustainable development. I explained why in a blog for my former colleagues in the UN, where I call for a greater focus on disaster risk reduction. Fellow signatory to the public letter, Dr Stella Nyambaru Mbau also invites the scientists and international civil servants to consider the effects of their privilege: “As I witness millions of people newly displaced and in need of humanitarian aid due to the current impacts of climate change, I wonder who has the luxury of staying positive? I have discovered that I am not alone in thinking that more scientists need to stop pretending that the future will turn out fine.”

My main reason for sharing all this critique of climate science communication is not simply for more scientists and sustainability professionals to be honest about how bad the global situation is becoming. Rather, it is to invite more awareness of how our internal drives and aversions shape the way each of us perceive reality, and the way we then communicate and act on that reality. That is important because those same inner processes will shape how we respond to whatever the reality that we come to recognise. If we remain addicted to wealth, status, influence and self-esteem, we are likely to promote problematic responses to societal breakdown. That is why I explained how there will be more support for environmental authoritarianism from the emotionally avoidant, and how to address that, in my paper in apsychology and psychotherapy journal. Many of the people engaged in the Deep Adaptation movement are taking a different approach. We recognise the seriousness of the predicament and seek to engage as positive pessimists while upholding universal values as times get tough. The latest issue of the Deep Adaptation Quarterly gives you a window on what that can involve, around the world [it is released on 5th August].

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Destination Safe Earth Plan E

Chances of climate catastrophe are ignored, scientists say #ClimateCrisis #EcologicalCrisis #auspol demand #ClimateAction #SDG13

Experts are ignoring the worst possible climate change catastrophic scenarios, including collapse of society or the potential extinction of humans, however unlikely, a group of top scientists claim.

By SETH BORENSTEIN

Eleven scientists from around the world are calling on the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s authoritative climate science organization, to do a special science report on “catastrophic climate change” to “bring into focus how much is at stake in a worst-case scenario.” In their perspective piece in Monday’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences they raise the idea of human extinction and worldwide societal collapse in the third sentence, calling it “a dangerously underexplored topic.”

The scientists said they aren’t saying that worst is going to happen. They say the trouble is no one knows how likely or unlikely a “climate endgame” is and the world needs those calculations to battle global warming.

“I think it’s highly unlikely you are going to see anything close to even extinction over the next century simply because humans are incredibly resilient,” said study lead author Luke Kemp at the Center for the Study of Existential Risk at the University of Cambridge in England. “Even if we have a 1% chance of having a global catastrophe, going extinct over the coming century, that 1%, that is way too high.”

Catastrophic climate scenarios “appear likely enough to warrant attention” and can lead to prevention and warning systems, Kemp said.

Good risk analyses consider both what’s most likely and what’s the worst that could happen, study authors said. But because of push back from non-scientists who reject climate change, mainstream climate science has concentrated on looking at what’s most likely and also disproportionately on low-temperature warming scenarios that come close to international goals, said co-author Tim Lenton, director of the Global Systems Institute at the University of Exeter in England.

There is, Lenton said, “not enough emphasis on how things, the risks, the big risks, could go plausibly badly wrong.”

It’s like an airplane, Lenton said. It’s overwhelmingly likely that it will land safely, but it’s only because so much attention was made to calculate the worst case scenario and then figure out how to avoid a crash. It only works if you research what could go badly wrong and that isn’t being done enough with climate change, he said.

“The stakes may be higher than we thought,” said University of Michigan environment dean Jonathan Overpeck, who wasn’t part of the study. He worries that the world “may stumble” upon climate risks it doesn’t know about. 

When global science organizations look at climate change they tend to just look at what happens in the world: extreme weather, higher temperatures, melting ice sheets, rising seas and plant and animal extinctions. But they aren’t factoring enough how these reverberate in human societies and interact with existing problems — like war, hunger and disease — study authors said.

Plane E Hyperthreat

“If we don’t look at the intersecting risks, we’ll be painfully surprised,” said University of Washington public health and climate professor Kristie Ebi, a co-author who like Lenton has been part of United Nations global climate assessments. 

It was a mistake health professionals made before COVID-19 when assessing possible pandemics, Ebi said. They talked about disease spread, but not lockdowns, supply chain problems and spiraling economies.

Study authors said they worry about societal collapse — war, famine, economic crises — linked to climate change more than the physical changes to Earth itself.

Outside climate scientists and risk experts were both welcoming and wary of focusing on the worst of the worst, even as many reject climate doom talk.

“I do not believe civilization as we know it will make it out of this century,” University of Victoria climate scientist Andrew Weaver, a former British Columbia legislator for the Green Party, said in an email. “Resilient humans will survive, but our societies that have urbanized and are supported by rural agriculture will not.”

Climate scientist Zeke Hausfather of the tech company Stripe and Berkeley Earth has criticized climate scientists in the past for using future scenarios of greatly increasing carbon pollution when the world is no longer on those paths to more rapid warming. Yet, he said it does make sense to look at catastrophic scenarios “as long as we are careful not to conflate the worst case with the most likely outcome.”

Talking about extinction of humans is not “a very effective communications device,” said Brown University climate scientist Kim Cobb. “People tend to immediately say, well, that’s just, you know, arm waving or doomsday mongering.”

What’s happening short of extinction is bad enough, she said.

Co-author Tim Lenton said researching worst case scenarios could find nothing to worry about: “Maybe it’s that you can thoroughly rule out a number of these bad scenarios. Well, that’s actually really well worth spending your time doing that. Then we should all cheer up a bit.”

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International politics is discussed so often in terms only of great power rivalry #ClimateCrisis #EcologicalCrisis #SDGs #SDG13 demand #ClimateAction

By Tim Summers

Western countries are not the only actors, other countries can focus their resources and diplomatic priorities on addressing the real global challenges

We are facing a growing number of global crises. War in Ukraine is taking place against the backdrop of wider tensions between the so-called great powers. Climate crisis is worsening, while economic challenges are manifest in energy prices and possible disruptions to food supplies, inflation and growing precarity for many of the world’s poorer people. And, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic is still with us, while the possibility of other transnational pandemics remains.

Domestic politics and posturing so often seem to shape the responses to these problems, while in some countries prolonged political theater is diverting attention from the real challenges confronting the societies.

Meanwhile, the dominant lens through which international politics is discussed is one of great power rivalry. This is the trope of the “return of geopolitics”, as UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss put it in a recent speech. This perspective is not the best way of tackling the global challenges of the 2020s.

The Hyperthreat of Climate Change

Plan E

In Europe, it is clear that the Russia-Ukraine conflict has had a huge impact on how global affairs are perceived, and will shape European thinking about its external environment for years to come.

Meanwhile, despite what is happening in Europe, the United States continues to argue that China is the greatest threat to international order, as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated in a recent speech on the US government’s China policy. Some in Europe go along with this view, particularly in the United Kingdom, where what the US wants is increasingly cited as a consideration by those seeking to influence UK policy toward China.

These positions get in the way of what is needed to bring the Ukraine conflict to an end. This requires influence to be applied on both sides. The communiques from the G7 and NATO summits showed how difficult it is going to be to find a way forward to bring the fighting to an end.

NATO and G7 views on China are driven by politics and based on a simplistic analysis of Chinese capability and misreadings of Chinese intentions and the nature of China today. But perhaps more importantly from a global perspective, they represent a fallacious interpretation of the strategic challenges at a global level.

To be fair to the G7, there are plenty of references to climate challenges in its communique. But they are edged out by rhetoric reflecting the return of geopolitics. There is little to support greater real global cooperation on climate actions beyond existing mechanisms. One brief and rather reluctant sentence states that “it is necessary to cooperate with China on shared global challenges, in particular addressing climate change and biodiversity loss and other relevant multilateral issues”, but this is hidden in the midst of hectoring criticisms.

Is there a way of getting back on track?

First, the framing of global challenges needs to be different. Competition and conflict are part of our world, so are poverty, underdevelopment, food insecurity, migration, climate and environmental challenges. The solutions to all of these problems are related, but they will require different global approaches to security and development.

The data is striking. Extreme poverty rose from 8.4 percent in 2019 to 9.5 percent in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic impoverished around 120 million people globally in 2020. Global undernourishment rose from 8.3 percent to 9.9 percent in 2020, and 23.1 percent in the least developed countries. In 2021, an additional 40 million people (compared to 2020) were in food crises, with the total reaching 193 million.

Resources should be allocated accordingly. Pumping more money into military capability may be appealing to some politicians and their supporters, but it reflects the wrong priorities.

Second, there needs to be a shift in mindset around cooperation. It is not enough to refer to cooperation as necessary on issues where interests align. A real effort to work together requires a different approach, larger groups of key actors (here the G20 is much more appropriate than the G7), and a willingness to respond to others’ concerns and make concessions in the wider interest. This can be difficult politically, especially for democracies, but without it, genuine cooperation will falter and global problems will not be addressed adequately.

Emerging powers have an important role to play in this. Indonesia’s bold use of the G20 chair to try to address the Russia-Ukraine crisis in a way different from the West is a good example.

Is any of this possible? Politically, it looks very difficult in the West at the moment. But others can set the agenda, build cooperation and partnerships, and focus their resources and their diplomatic priorities proactively to address the full range of global challenges. It is clear that the rest of the world does not want to get caught up in great power competition, but to focus on more immediate challenges at home and abroad. As the distribution of power shifts over time, there is space for this agenda to move toward the center of the stage.

Criticising misguided policies has its place, but the best way of winning hearts and minds is action, not words. That is what the world needs as we face the global challenges of the 2020s.

The author is an assistant professor at the Centre for China Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and an associate fellow with the Asia-Pacific Programme at Chatham House.

TIM SUMMERS 

Tim Summers is an Assistant Professor at the Centre for China Studies, The Chinese University of Hong Kong and an Associate Fellow on the Asia-Pacific Programme at Chatham House. He was a British diplomat in Hong Kong from 1997 to 2001.

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American west faces water and power shortages due to climate crisis: UN environment agency #ClimateCrisis #EcologicalCrisis demand #ClimateAction #SDG13 #Aridification not #Drought

Lake Mead and Lake Powell are currently at their lowest levels ever and are at risk of reaching “dead pool status”, meaning that the water in the dams would be so low it could no longer flow downstream and power hydroelectric power stations.

‘A new very dry normal’ 

“The conditions in the American west, which we’re seeing around the Colorado River basin, have been so dry for more than 20 years that we’re no longer speaking of a drought,” saidLis Mullin Bernhardt, an ecosystems expert at UNEP. “We refer to it as ‘aridification’ – a new very dry normal.”  

Lake Mead, located in Nevada and Arizona, was created in the 1930s by the construction of the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River. It is the largest artificial body of water in the US.

Lake Powell, located in Utah and Arizona, is the second largest and was created in the 1960s with the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam. 

The reservoirs provide water and electricity to tens of millions of people in the states of Nevada, Arizona, California, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico, and in Mexico, as well as irrigation water for agriculture.

Climate impacts increasing  

Experts warn that as the crisis deepens, water cuts will need to be introduced, but may not be enough

“While regulating and managing water supply and demand are essential in both the short and long term, climate change is at the heart of this issue,” said Maria Morgado, UNEP’s Ecosystems Officer in North America. “In the long term we need to address the root causes of climate change as well as water demands.” 

Over the past two decades, most major disasters – 90 per cent – were caused by floods, droughts, and other water-related events, according to the UN agency.  

With more frequent droughts, people in affected areas will increasingly depend on groundwater. 

Meanwhile, increases in water demand – due to growing populations, for example – have compounded climate change impacts such as reduction in precipitation as well as temperature rises, which lead to increased evaporation of surface water and, ultimately, decreasing soil moisture. 

“We are talking about a 20-year period of drought-like conditions with an ever-increasing demand on water,” said Ms. Bernhardt. “These conditions are alarming, and particularly in the Lake Powell and Lake Mead region, it is the perfect storm.”

A wider issue 

What’s happening in the American west is part of a wider trend affecting hundreds of millions of people across the world who are impacted by climate change, UNEP said, as drought and desertification are quickly becoming the new normal everywhere – from the US to Europe and Africa. 

Since 1970, weather, climate and water hazards have accounted for 50 per cent of all disasters, and impact 55 million people every year. Furthermore, some 2.3 billion people globally face water stress annually.  

This information is included in a compendium titled Drought in Numbers, published in May by the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), which works to reverse land degradation.   

Drought is among several factors that impact land degradation. Between 20 to 40 per cent of the world’s land is classified as degraded, affecting half the global population and impacting croplands, drylands, wetlands, forests and grasslands. 

UNEP is among the lead agencies for the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, aimed at countering climate change and halting biodiversity.

The Decade runs through 2030, which is also the same timeline for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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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.

Doughnut Economics

Climate change: More studies needed on possibility of human extinction #ClimateCrisis #EcologicalCrisis #auspol

Catastrophic climate change outcomes, including human extinction, are not being taken seriously enough by scientists, a new study says.

Providing a post-COP26 perspective on the climate emergency, Hothouse Earth: An Inhabitant’s Guide acknowledges that it is now practically impossible to keep this side of the 1.5°C dangerous climate-change guardrail. The upshot is that we can no longer dodge the arrival of a disastrous, all-pervasive climate breakdown that will come as a hammer blow to global society and economy. Bill McGuire, Professor of Geophysical and Climate Hazards, explains the science behind the climate crisis, painting a blunt but authentic picture of the sort of world our children will grow old in, and our grandchildren grow up in, a world that we catch only glimpses of in today’s blistering heatwaves, calamitous wildfires, and ruinous floods and droughts. Bleak though it is, the picture is one we must all face up to, if only to spur genuine action—even at this late stage—to stop a harrowing future from becoming a truly cataclysmic one. Hothouse Earth

The authors say that the consequences of more extreme warming – still on the cards if no action is taken – are “dangerously underexplored”. 

They argue that the world needs to start preparing for the possibility of what they term the “climate endgame”.

They want UN scientists to investigate the risk of catastrophic change.

According to this new analysis, the closest attempts to directly understand or address how climate change could lead to global catastrophe have come from popular science books such as The Uninhabitable Earth and not from mainstream science research.

In recent years climate scientists have more often studied the impacts of warming of around 1.5C or 2C above the temperatures seen in 1850, before the onset of global industrialisation. 

These studies show that keeping temperatures close to these levels this century will place heavy burdens on global economies, but they do not envisage the end of humanity. 

Researchers have focussed on these lower temperature scenarios for good reasons. 

The Paris climate agreement saw almost every nation on Earth sign up to a deal that aims to keep the rise in global temperatures “well below” 2C this century, and make efforts to keep it under 1.5C.

People flee from flood waters in Pakistan

So it’s natural that governments would want their scientists to show exactly what this type of change would mean. 

But this new paper says that not enough attention has been given to more extreme outcomes of climate change.

“I think it’s sane risk management to think about the plausible worst-case scenarios and we do it when it comes to every other situation, we should definitely do when it comes to the fate of the planet and species,” said lead author Dr Luke Kemp from the University of Cambridge.

The researchers found that estimates of the impacts of a temperature rise of 3C are under-represented compared to their likelihood. 

Using climate models, the report shows that in this type of scenario, by 2070 around 2 billion people living in some of the most politically fragile areas of the world would be enduring annual average temperatures of 29C. 

“Average annual temperatures of 29C currently affect around 30 million people in the Sahara and Gulf Coast,” said co-author Chi Xu of Nanjing University.

“By 2070, these temperatures and the social and political consequences will directly affect two nuclear powers, and seven maximum containment laboratories housing the most dangerous pathogens. There is serious potential for disastrous knock-on effects,” he said.

The future impacts of extreme climate change have not been fully explored

The report says that it is not just high temperatures that are the problem, it’s the compound and knock-on effects such as food or financial crises, conflicts or disease outbreaks that have the potential for disaster. 

There should also be more focus on identifying potential tipping points, where increasing warmth triggers another natural event that drives temperatures up even more – such as methane emissions from melting permafrost or forests that start emitting carbon rather than soaking it up.

To properly assess all these risks, the authors are calling on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to carry out a special report on catastrophic climate change. 

The researchers said that seriously studying the consequences of worst-case scenarios was vital, even though it might scare people.

They said that carrying out this research would allow scientists to consider emergency options such as climate engineering which might involve pumping coolants into the atmosphere. Researchers would be able to carry out a risk analysis for these drastic interventions compared to the worst effects of climate change. Focussing on the worst-case scenarios could also help inform the public – and might actually make the outcomes less likely. 

“Understanding these plausible but grim scenarios is something that could galvanise both political and civil opinion,” said Dr Kemp.

“We saw this when it came to the identification of the idea of a nuclear winter that helped compel a lot of the public efforts as well as the disarmament movement throughout the 1970s and ’80s.”

“And I hope if we can find similar concrete and clear mechanisms when it comes to thinking about climate change, that it also has a similar effect.”

The plea for serious study of more extreme scenarios will chime with many younger climate activists, who say they are often not addressed for fear of frightening people into inaction.

“It is vital that we have research into all areas of climate change, including the scary reality of catastrophic events,” said Laura Young, a 25-year-old climate activist. “This is because without the full truth, and all of the potential impacts, we won’t make the informed choices we need, and we won’t be driving climate action with enough pressure.

“For years climate change has been hidden, misinformed, and avoided and this has to stop now. Especially for the younger generations who are going to be left to deal with the consequences of years of pushing the Earth to its limits.” 

The study has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 

BBC News Climate and Science reporter Ella Hambly contributed to this report.

Alumna Dr Elizabeth Boulton addresses the ‘hyperthreat’ of climate change #ClimateCrisis #EcologicalCrisis

“I am here, in good will, to challenge thinking and pioneer new thought.” 

UNSW Canberra alumna Dr Elizabeth Boulton has always enjoyed a challenge and continues to confront the security issues of today.

Graduating with an Honours degree in Literature in 1994, and a Master of Business Management in 2001, Dr Boulton relished both the physical and intellectual challenges of her time at UNSW Canberra.

“It was a privilege to receive military training, I have found it so applicable to other work environments and problems. The older I get, the more I see how much wisdom is in some of those fundamental teachings, such as the principles of leadership,” she said.

Having completed her PhD at the Australian National University on the topic ‘Climate and Environmental Change: Time to reframe threat?’, and disillusioned with past approaches to security strategies, Dr Boulton is now leading the way with a plan to fight the primary threat to our planet, referred to as the ‘hyperthreat’.

McGuire, an emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, says that this is only the beginning. We have — for far too long — disregarded unequivocal warnings that rising carbon emissions are gravely warming the Earth, as he makes clear in his harsh description of the impending climate catastrophe. Now, that we have become complacent, we will pay for it with storms, floods, droughts, and heatwaves that will easily transcend the extremes of the past.He contends that the most important issue is that there is no longer any way for us to prevent a dangerous, all-pervasive climatic breakdown. A future where deadly heatwaves and temperatures above 50ºC (120ºF) are common in the tropics, where summers at temperate latitudes will always be scorching hot, and where our oceans are doomed to become heated and acidic is what we may expect now that we have crossed the point of no return. According to McGuire, “A child born in 2020 will face a far more hostile world than its grandparents did.”

HotHouse Earth

“I can’t believe we face the destruction of planetary life and yet there is no effective plan in place,” Dr Boulton said. 

Shocked that there was no security plan addressing the growing threat of climate and environmental change, Dr Boulton published An Introduction to Plan E, in partnership with the US Marine Corps University.

“Plan E is a climate-eco centred security strategy where ‘E’ stands for Earth, Emergency, Everyone, Everything and Everywhere.

“It is Phase one – the planning and preparatory period – of a longer six-phase mission, which will unfold over 80 years. It is a concept of operations, a grand strategy for how humanity can contain the hyperthreat of climate and environmental change,” Dr Boulton said. 

“What’s unique about Plan E is that it positions climate and environmental change – the hyperthreat – as the main threat, not a threat multiplier.” 

Dr Boulton believes the current threat posture is incoherent and that the security sector needs to think deeply about fundamental justification when approaching critical threat to the Earth. 

“What will we – the security sector – do as the hyperthreat vanguard arrives, and starts its preliminary attacks? Simply adopt a passive, reactive stance and help clean up the mess? Or will the security pivot and help humanity fight the most complex threat it has even known?” Dr Boulton questioned.  

“It is an uncomfortable intellectual journey to embark upon, but I think we owe it to the public to explore all options.” 

Dr Boulton will join the Conflict and Society Research Group in an upcoming seminar to delve further into the insights and ideas within Plan E. 

The webinar will take place on Wednesday, 3 August. Registrations are now open.

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The first study to assess the economic impacts that individual countries have had on other countries — through their contributions to global warming — confirms that culpability for warming rests primarily with a handful of major emitters and that this warming has resulted in their enrichment at the expense of the poorest people in the world. #ClimateCrisis

The first study to assess the economic impacts that individual countries have had on other countries — through their contributions to global warming — confirms that culpability for warming rests primarily with a handful of major emitters and that this warming has resulted in their enrichment at the expense of the poorest people in the world. The study may provide a boost for efforts to get wealthy nations to cough up for loss and damage they’re largely responsible for.

‘I hope this provides evidence that it is politics, not science, that is preventing meaningful changes on climate mitigation and loss and damage. What is clear is that the people who have benefited from greenhouse gas warming have damaged the economies of the poorest people in the world, while they were enriched by those same activities.”

So said Justin Mankin, Assistant Professor of Geography at Dartmouth College and senior researcher on the study team, in reflecting on what messages vulnerable nations could take from the study he worked on, titled: National attribution of historical climate damages.

The study, which involved an integrated end-to-end attribution analysis, established — among other things — that there exists a sound scientific basis for climate liability claims between individual countries. Put simply, the study confirms that the amount of economic damage one country has done to another by virtue of its greenhouse gas emissions is quantifiable and calculable.

The richest 10 percent creates 49% of CO2 emissions

Read in Daily Maverick: “Pioneering study attributes $6-trillion in global warming-related economic losses to USA, China and others

“Greenhouse gas warming has been an international wealth transfer from the poor to the wealthy, and we can now perform that accounting, which is a powerful and extendable framework. As such, I hope the most-affected countries feel empowered to advance loss and damage claims because, given our analysis, physics is on their side,” Mankin told Our Burning Planet.

Charity Migwi, regional campaigner at 350Africa.org, explained what is meant by “loss and damage”. 

“Within the context of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), ‘Loss and Damage’ refers to the destruction brought upon lives, livelihoods, biodiversity and infrastructure as a result of the impacts of human-induced climate change.

“These may range from the sudden onset of events such as cyclones and heatwaves to gradual changes like sea level rise encroaching on coastal lines and drowning low-lying islands to desertification that turns once productive farmlands into dust.

“It is usually used to refer to impacts of climate change that a community cannot adapt to, or in cases where options to adapt exist, the community does not have the resources to access those options.

African nations ‘most vulnerable’

“While African nations contribute the least to the climate crisis, they are the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. They, therefore, bear the brunt of the destruction and economic and non-economic losses from the impacts of climate change.” 

“Through the UN climate talks, developing nations have been pushing for developed nations, which are the leading polluters and contributors to the climate crisis, to not only be held liable but also compensate developing and vulnerable nations for these losses,” Migwi said.

Our Burning Planet previously reported that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Climate Change 2021: the Physical Science Basisreport said of Africa as a region that, among other impacts, the rate of surface temperature increase has generally been more rapid on the continent than the global average, “with human-induced climate change being the dominant driver” and that “the frequency and intensity of heavy precipitation events are projected to increase almost everywhere in Africa with additional global warming”.

The World Weather Attribution initiative, a collaboration between climate scientists from around the world, has previously confirmed that climate change increased rainfall associated with tropical cyclones hitting highly vulnerable communities in Madagascar, Mozambique and Malawi.

More recently, the initiative concluded that climate change exacerbated the rainfall which caused devastating flooding in KwaZulu-Natal earlier this year.

Asked about the potential implications of having a scientific basis for climate liability claims, Migwi said “the science to support climate liability claims has the potential to create a shift from a focus on climate negotiations, appeals for climate finance support and voluntary pledges, to litigation and legal enforcement of loss and damage payments.

“The nations that contribute the least to climate change while being most affected by it, would likely have a basis to justify seeking legal redress and enforceable financial commitments toward loss and damage.”

Migwi said “the results of this study give developing nations evidence to support linking the actions of developed nations to the devastation and losses caused by climate impacts in these vulnerable nations by mapping out culpable emitters.

“This evidence could provide much-needed backing to support the push for compensation for loss and damage during the UN climate negotiations (UNFCCC COP). If they are not able to deny their role in the devastation of developing nations by climate impacts, the world’s biggest polluters could be forced to compensate for loss and damage in the interest of climate justice.

US and EU resistance

“Developing nations have been seeking to establish liability and compensation for loss and damage at UN climate negotiations, but this has been met by resistance from the United States and the European Union, who are historically the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases.

“The current provision for loss and damage within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change is in the form of the Warsaw International Mechanism which was established at COP19 in 2013. The mechanism, however, places no liability or obligation on the top polluters in the developed world to compensate the developing nations for losses resulting from climate change,” said Migwi.

Migwi said that “the information [from the study] can have a significant role in building momentum for a facility to compensate for loss and damage at COP27. African nations are among nations that have long pushed for climate justice in the form of financial compensation for loss and damage at COPs.

“As COP27 is being held in Africa, this information could offer up an opportunity for the continent to renew calls for decisive climate action that delivers justice to African nations that continue to be ravaged by the climate impacts due to the actions of top emitters.”

SA a ‘unique case’

But what of South Africa, a developing country in its own right, but also the leading polluter on the continent and the 13th-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world?

To this point, Mankin said South Africa was a unique case.

“I think South Africa’s role as both a claimant and emitter is interesting, given its geographic placement. And the set of countries it aligns with (those damaged, or those who have caused damage) will be incredibly important for any wider mobilisation for mitigation,” he said.

Glen Tyler-Davies, South Africa Team Lead at 350Africa.org, elaborated on Mankin’s point, saying that “as one of the continent’s most polluting economies and countries, South Africa and South African companies should be paying close attention to this study. Unlike other African countries who have done relatively little to contribute to climate change, South Africa’s coal-intensive economy is a major culprit.

‘Renewable-only response’

“As South Africans, we should be joining civil society’s call for action on climate change, and particularly a renewable-only response to the country’s energy and climate crises.

“We cannot let departments like the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy continue to block progress towards a just transition, and development finance institutions like the Development Bank of Southern Africa continue to finance regressive, expensive fossil fuels. 

“Fossil fuels are already a more expensive way to generate electricity than renewables. If we will be held to account for their pollution in future, it only adds weight to the argument that is already heavily stacked in favour of renewables. Solar and wind power are cleaner, more affordable and quicker to build than fossil fuels.”

Though the study may bolster attempts to secure a formal mechanism for financial compensation for loss and damage, Tyler-Davies also offered words of caution.

“The scientific evidence to support climate liability claims may strengthen the case for compensation for loss and damage to the vulnerable countries. This should however not be a licence for those found culpable of causing this devastation to persist in their polluting practices, provided they can offer relevant compensation.

“Ultimately, the world needs to move with speed towards a just energy transition away from fossil fuels, which are the primary driver of climate change, and avoid a vicious cycle of pollute and pay.”

Backing from UN

UN Secretary-General António Guterres, in video remarks to the Petersberg Climate Dialogue, threw his weight behind the calls for compensation for loss and damage. 

“Loss and damage has languished on the sidelines for too long. It is eroding the trust we need to tackle the climate emergency together. I have seen first-hand the impact of sea level rise, crippling drought and devastating floods. 

“Loss and damage is happening now,” said Guterres.

“We need a concrete global response that addresses the needs of the world’s most vulnerable people, communities and nations. The first step is to create a space within the multilateral climate process to address this issue — including on finance for loss and damage.

“This has to be the decade of decisive climate action. That means trust, multilateralism and collaboration. We have a choice. Collective action or collective suicide.” DM/OBP

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

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries – developed and developing – in a global partnership. They recognize that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests.

Journey to 2030 #IntegralEcology #EcologicalCrisis #ClimateCrisis #auspol #CrimesAgainstNature

Journey to 2030 is about community and individual action, and how it can, will and must change the world. We need a healthy society not just a healthy environment. I want to explore how tackling the environmental crisis has to create and be solved by an entire societal revolution of care, and this is something I find incredibly exciting.

By John Paul de QuayJul 31st, 2022

‘Integral ecology’, a key principle of the work, is the reality that everything is connected. Networks such as environment, ecosystems and society are themselves interconnected, so that, for example, a flourishing or dysfunctional human society will contribute to a flourishing or dysfunctional biological environment, and vice versa.

A polemic about global warming and the environmental crisis, which argues that ordinary people have consistently opposed the destruction of nature and so provide an untapped constituency for climate action.
Crimes Against Nature uses fresh material to offer a very different take on the most important issue of our times. It takes the familiar narrative about global warming — the one in which we are all to blame — and inverts it, to show how, again and again, pollution and ecological devastation have been imposed on the population without our consent and (often) against our will. From histories of destruction, it distils stories of hope, highlighting the repeated yearning for a more sustainable world.
In the era of climate strikes, viral outbreaks, and Extinction Rebellion, Crimes Against Nature moves from ancient Australia to the ‘corpse economy’ of Georgian Britain to the ‘Kitchen Debate’ of the Cold War, to present an unexpected and optimistic environmental history — one that identifies ordinary people not as a collective problem but as a powerful force for change. Crimes Against Nature

Stopping climate change is about monumentally more than reducing carbon. It is about a complete reimagining of the way we see and interact with the world. Because of the way our society operates we end up with isolated individuals unable to escape patterns of unethical consumerism. So, issues like modern slavery, climate change, biodiversity loss, and a lack of concern for working conditions, even loneliness and mental health are all symptoms of a wider crisis and are all interconnected. So too do we in some way personally contribute to them because of the way our society operates.

But what if our communities could help rebuild society? What effect would this have on people and our planet? How could our Church communities and institutions facilitate new norms and infrastructures that lead to behaviour consistent with our faith and a society that more closely resembles the Kingdom of God?

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 ecological conversion needed to bring about lasting change is also a community conversion.” (Laudato Si’) ‘Ecological conversion’, the key principle behind The ECG, is a commitment, inspired by faith, to change our lives so as to help heal the threefold rupture caused by sin, with God, with other human beings, and with the natural world. Communities are places of encounter, where we share beliefs, dreams, values, resources and shared interest in the places we inhabit, where we are not alone in our actions. They are places of a wealth of cultures, experience, skills and knowledge, where relationships are forged with civil society, business and government. Around these community actions, relationships develop or are recovered and a new social fabric emerges; thus, a community can break out of the indifference induced by consumerism.

What if civil society was formed of organised coalitions that, with shared values of concern for the poor and the planet at their core, keep consistency as business, technology and governments change?

Sustainable Development Goals

To quote Rob Hopkins of the transition town movement: “If we wait for governments, it will be too late. If we act as individuals, it will be too little. But if we act as communities, it might just be enough, and it might just be in time.”

Pack: Building a Caring Community

The ‘Building a Caring Community’ activity pack leads us to reflect on community mission through the lens of integral ecology, knowing that ‘everything is connected’. The pack inspires and enables us to include concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace in an integrated community response.

This ready-made resource can be used by parishes, schools, religious and other communities to use in a way that best suits them. By encouraging dialogue, communities are able to engage with the Laudato Si’ goals. The pack links to the national Journey to 2030 project, allowing communities to be part of a long-term communal journey of reimaging our society.

Resource pack at: https://journeyto2030.org/poster-activity/

Let Us Dream project

The second activity launched at the NJPN Conference was ‘Let Us Dream’. It recognises the need for us to be able to collectively imagine the future we want and share this dream with others. Recognising where we want to go is the first step of any journey. Given the critical need for societal transformation in tackling our ecological and social crises, bringing hope in action, the key question is: “What would you like your community to look like by the year 2030?

Armed with pens and paper, groups made up of activists, civil servants, horticulturalists, religious, accountants, mothers, discussed and designed what they would like to see in their own communities and how this could be achieved through building relationships, infrastructures to reframe and create new habits, influence policy and business.

‘Let Us Dream’ is an open invitation. Please run this activity and share your dreams with others via our website. https://journeyto2030.org/let-us-dream/

Read More

Extinction Rebellion Protest
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

Pope tells young people that eating meat is part of a ‘self-destructive trend’ | Euronews #IntegralEcology #EcologicalCrisis #ClimateCrisis #SDGs demand #ClimateAction #SDG13 #auspol #qldpol #StopEcocide

The Pope has urged that we “break this self-destructive trend” of consumerism.

A polemic about global warming and the environmental crisis, which argues that ordinary people have consistently opposed the destruction of nature and so provide an untapped constituency for climate action.

Crimes Against Nature uses fresh material to offer a very different take on the most important issue of our times. It takes the familiar narrative about global warming — the one in which we are all to blame — and inverts it, to show how, again and again, pollution and ecological devastation have been imposed on the population without our consent and (often) against our will. From histories of destruction, it distils stories of hope, highlighting the repeated yearning for a more sustainable world.

In the era of climate strikes, viral outbreaks, and Extinction Rebellion, Crimes Against Nature moves from ancient Australia to the ‘corpse economy’ of Georgian Britain to the ‘Kitchen Debate’ of the Cold War, to present an unexpected and optimistic environmental history — one that identifies ordinary people not as a collective problem but as a powerful force for change.

‘Sparrow tells these stories with the lucidity and animation of a true crime podcast. He dissects the reactionary nature of placing mankind in opposition to nature: it not only erases millennia of Indigenous peoples’ relative harmony with the natural world, but seeks to preserve nature for the select few destroying it for everyone else. He is fearless too in his criticism of progressives who write off their fellow citizens as uncaring and complicit in global warming. That corporations invested in such sophisticated public relations campaigns shows they “understand something about ordinary peoples that escapes many environmentalists”: that ordinary people are not “innately greedy or selfish” … Amid the doom and gloom of so much contemporary environmentalism, this is worthy of applause.’

Crimes Against Nature

The Pope is clearly worried about climate change

Pope Francis has asked young people to eat less meat in a bid to take better care of the environment.

In a to participants at the EU Youth Conference in Prague earlier this month, the Pope urged that we “break this self-destructive trend” of consumerism and prioritise sustainability.

“It is urgent to reduce consumption not only of fossil fuels but also of many superfluous things; and also, in certain areas of the world, , this can also help save the environment,” he wrote.

The latest green pledge follows the Pope’s publication of ‘Laudato si’ in 2015, his second encyclical (letter) which laments environmental degradation and global warming, and calls all people of the world to take “swift and unified global action.”

He lays the foundations for what he calls “integral ecology” in the encyclical. This earned him the title of Person of the Year by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) the same year.

In October 2021, Pope Francis and religious leaders called for action on climate change at the UN COP26 conference. Although the 84-year-old could not attend the conference, he made his dedication to tackling the climate crisis clear.

Then in November, he made another speech telling us all to protect the environment as “everything around us seems to be collapsing”. The Vatican’s St. Peter’s Basilica was filled to the brim with hundreds of young people who came to listen.

— Read on www.euronews.com/green/2022/07/12/pope-tells-young-people-eating-meat-is-part-of-a-self-destructive-trend

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

Extinction is Forever

Integral Ecology #JourneyTo2030 #EcologicalCrisis #ClimateCrisis #SDGs

Journey to 2030 is about community and individual action, and how it can, will and must change the world. We need a healthy society not just a healthy environment. I want to explore how tackling the environmental crisis has to create and be solved by an entire societal revolution of care, and this is something I find incredibly exciting.

‘Integral ecology’, a key principle of the work, is the reality that everything is connected. Networks such as environment, ecosystems and society are themselves interconnected, so that, for example, a flourishing or dysfunctional human society will contribute to a flourishing or dysfunctional biological environment, and vice versa.

Stopping climate change is about monumentally more than reducing carbon. It is about a complete reimagining of the way we see and interact with the world. Because of the way our society operates we end up with isolated individuals unable to escape patterns of unethical consumerism. So, issues like modern slavery, climate change, biodiversity loss, and a lack of concern for working conditions, even loneliness and mental health are all symptoms of a wider crisis and are all interconnected. So too do we in some way personally contribute to them because of the way our society operates.

But what if our communities could help rebuild society? What effect would this have on people and our planet? How could our Church communities and institutions facilitate new norms and infrastructures that lead to behaviour consistent with our faith and a society that more closely resembles the Kingdom of God?

Sustainable Development Goals

“The ecological conversion needed to bring about lasting change is also a community conversion.” (Laudato Si’) ‘Ecological conversion’, the key principle behind The ECG, is a commitment, inspired by faith, to change our lives so as to help heal the threefold rupture caused by sin, with God, with other human beings, and with the natural world. Communities are places of encounter, where we share beliefs, dreams, values, resources and shared interest in the places we inhabit, where we are not alone in our actions. They are places of a wealth of cultures, experience, skills and knowledge, where relationships are forged with civil society, business and government. Around these community actions, relationships develop or are recovered and a new social fabric emerges; thus, a community can break out of the indifference induced by consumerism.

A polemic about global warming and the environmental crisis, which argues that ordinary people have consistently opposed the destruction of nature and so provide an untapped constituency for climate action.
Crimes Against Nature uses fresh material to offer a very different take on the most important issue of our times. It takes the familiar narrative about global warming — the one in which we are all to blame — and inverts it, to show how, again and again, pollution and ecological devastation have been imposed on the population without our consent and (often) against our will. From histories of destruction, it distils stories of hope, highlighting the repeated yearning for a more sustainable world.
In the era of climate strikes, viral outbreaks, and Extinction Rebellion, Crimes Against Nature moves from ancient Australia to the ‘corpse economy’ of Georgian Britain to the ‘Kitchen Debate’ of the Cold War, to present an unexpected and optimistic environmental history — one that identifies ordinary people not as a collective problem but as a powerful force for change.

Crimes Against Nature

What if civil society was formed of organised coalitions that, with shared values of concern for the poor and the planet at their core, keep consistency as business, technology and governments change?

To quote Rob Hopkins of the transition town movement: “If we wait for governments, it will be too late. If we act as individuals, it will be too little. But if we act as communities, it might just be enough, and it might just be in time.”

Pack: Building a Caring Community

The ‘Building a Caring Community’ activity pack leads us to reflect on community mission through the lens of integral ecology, knowing that ‘everything is connected’. The pack inspires and enables us to include concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace in an integrated community response.

This ready-made resource can be used by parishes, schools, religious and other communities to use in a way that best suits them. By encouraging dialogue, communities are able to engage with the Laudato Si’ goals. The pack links to the national Journey to 2030 project, allowing communities to be part of a long-term communal journey of reimaging our society.

Resource pack at: https://journeyto2030.org/poster-activity/

Let Us Dream project

The second activity launched at the NJPN Conference was ‘Let Us Dream’. It recognises the need for us to be able to collectively imagine the future we want and share this dream with others. Recognising where we want to go is the first step of any journey. Given the critical need for societal transformation in tackling our ecological and social crises, bringing hope in action, the key question is: “What would you like your community to look like by the year 2030?

Armed with pens and paper, groups made up of activists, civil servants, horticulturalists, religious, accountants, mothers, discussed and designed what they would like to see in their own communities and how this could be achieved through building relationships, infrastructures to reframe and create new habits, influence policy and business.

‘Let Us Dream’ is an open invitation. Please run this activity and share your dreams with others via our website. https://journeyto2030.org/let-us-dream/

Read More