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

  • By Georgina Rannard
  • BBC Climate & Science

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coastal erosion in Australia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

Doughnut Economics

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

Organising Responses to Climate Change

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

Two hikers trek the mountains of Chile.

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

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

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

Koalas on the endangered list

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

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

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

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

Urgent action needed

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

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

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

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

A resolution for the whole planet

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

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

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

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

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

A victory five decades in the making

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Triple crisis response

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read More

The Doughnut of social and planetary boundaries (2017)

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

Doughnut Economics

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

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

Solidarity

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

No New Coal

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

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

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

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

Blockade Australia

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

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

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

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

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ABC: Climate change, rising insurance costs, food security singled out in CSIRO megatrends report #EcologicalCrisis #EconomicCrisis #ClimateCrisis #auspol

Managed retreat will become necessary for some parts of Australia facing the worst impacts of climate change.(AAP: James Gourley)

ABC Science / 

By environment reporter Nick Kilvert

Insurance is set to get much less affordable in Australia, with the cost of natural disasters forecast to triple over the next 30 years.

The CSIRO’s decadal megatrends report, published today, warns that extreme weather caused by climate change will cost the country more than $39 billion annually by 2050.

The report is intended to identify the key global forces that will shape our lives in the coming decades, with “the view to guide long-term investment, strategic and policy directions,” according to the CSIRO.

Australia’s north is already hardest hit by rising insurance premiums, with home and contents insurance costing about 1.8 times more than in the south, as of 2020.

And on average, almost double the number of households above the Tropic of Capricorn — about 20 per cent — are already foregoing insurance, compared to those in southern Australia, the report states, citing data from the ACCC.

The megatrends report also echoes recent warnings from the Insurance Council that at least $30 billion will need to be spent to protect coastal communities from sea level rise, and on relocating some vulnerable communities.

Globally, as many as 150 million people living in coastal areas could be vulnerable to the impacts of sea level rise by 2050, but that figure could be far more if Antarctica becomes less stable, the report says.

What happens to Antarctica will have a big bearing on sea levels.(Gary Bembridge / Flickr CC BY 2.0)

The report, last released a decade ago, is a synthesis of the CSIRO’s own data and independent data, according to Stefan Hajkowicz, principle scientist in CSIRO’s strategy and foresight team.

“With climate change, some of the things we were talking about as predictions in 2012 have become a reality for many Australians,” Dr Hajkowicz said.

“The floods have been very tough, but the other ones are heatwaves and droughts.

“Heatwaves are actually more deadly [than floods]. We can see what’s happening in Europe now, it’s pretty shocking.”

$2 billion investment needed over 5 years

Insurance Council of Australia chief executive Andrew Hall, who wasn’t involved with the CSIRO report, said insurance prices would continue to rise unless there was significant investment to build resilience and adapt our infrastructure to the threat of climate change.

“Insurance [puts a price on] risk and we’ve been consistently highlighting over the last decade that there have been more and more extreme weather events,” Mr Hall said.

“Those events drive larger losses when they happen.”

There are both short and longer-term strategies to adapting our housing and infrastructure to climate change, and both need to be undertaken simultaneously, Mr Hall said.

1 in 25 homes set to be ‘uninsurable’Australia is going to face an “insurability crisis” in under a decade as climate change forces insurance premiums to “skyrocket”, a report from the Climate Council warns.Read more

The big picture is we need to change development planning to factor in more extreme weather events, he said.

“That needs to happen urgently. Even if land planning is reformed in the near future and quickly, we’ve still got more than a century of poor land planning decisions to go back and fix up.”

But there are also some quick changes that can be made to existing housing and infrastructure that can significantly lower the risk of damage.

“I think people get very focused on the big ticket items like land buybacks,” Mr Hall said.

“But at the household levels and street by street, there are things that can be done to improve resilience now.”

There are things that can be done to make houses more cyclone-resilient.(AAP: Dave Hunt)none

These changes could include stronger roofing for houses in cyclone-affected areas, and lifting houses on stumps in low-lying areas, he said.

“We are making homes more resilient for people living in bushfire-prone areas, and we now need to do the same when it comes to cyclone and flood.”

The Insurance Council has called for an investment of $2 billion, split between federal and state governments, over the next five years to help future-proof vulnerable towns and cities.

That investment would “reduce financial, health and social costs to the Australian government and Australian households by at least $19 billion by 2050”, according to the council’s Building a More Resilient Australia plan.

COVID brought seismic shifts

As well as adapting to climate change, the CSIRO has identified six other megatrends that will define our coming decades.

Broadly they are:

  • health;
  • artificial intelligence and autonomous systems;
  • geopolitical shifts;
  • digital and data economies;
  • resource pressure and biodiversity; and
  • diversity, equity and transparency
A graphic comparing megatrends from 2012 to 2022.
Global megatrends shifted rapidly during COVID lockdowns, including a switch to more reliance on digital technology.(Supplied: CSIRO)none

Dr Hajkowicz said it would help to understand megatrends as similar to ocean ripsthey could carry us along or sweep us away, depending on how we handled them.

“We use the analogy of an ocean rip for a megatrend. The better you’re able to comprehend it and understand where it’s taking you, the better you’re able to respond and survive and thrive,” he said.

“Even the climate change megatrend has an upside and a downside, depending on how you respond.”

Explore a hopeful view of the future in Mt ResilienceCommemorate World Environment Day on June 5 by going on a “virtual field trip” to an Australian town that’s been designed around the impacts of climate change and disaster preparedness.Read more

The COVID-19 pandemic, as well as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and climate-driven extreme weather, mean there has been a seismic shift in global influences compared to a decade ago, which makes the timing of this report especially pertinent, according to Dr Hajkowicz.

COVID has hastened an unprecedented switch to digital technology and remote working, which has brought unexpected climate benefits.

On the other hand, mental health has declined during the same period, according to today’s report.

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Russia’s invasion of Ukraine also threatens to destabilise global supply chains, and there are “big question marks” over how self-sufficient Australia can be if international supply chains break down, Dr Hajkowicz said.

“The big thing we need to look at with food at the moment is the tragic situation with the Ukraine crisis —  high food prices are associated with global conflict and destabilisation.

“The key story in there for Australia is sovereign capability and supply breakdown.

“Can we get all the stuff we need? There are some pretty big question marks above that.”

Alternative proteins to meet growing food challenge

Feeding a growing global population under increasingly variable farming conditions is also identified as a challenge and an opportunity, according to the report.

Grazing of livestock is the leading driver of deforestation globally, and limiting red meat consumption has been identified by the IPCC and others as a way to reduce emissions.

Potential emissions savings from different diets, ranging in meat intake.(Supplied: IPCC)

Although there has been a recent shift toward plant-based and alternative proteins in some developed countries, others are seeing the opposite.

“We’re seeing in countries like Australia an increased consumption of plant-based protein,” Dr Hajkowicz said.

“[But] through Asia-Pacific we’re seeing an increased demand for livestock protein.”

As much as 22 per cent of the world’s protein needs could be met by alternative sources including plant-based meats and insects by 2035, according to the CSIRO report.

In Australia, where alternative proteins are growing in popularity, it’s estimated that plant-based meats could be worth around $3 billion by 2030.

Australia’s food supply is expected to be hit from multiple angles, however, with longer droughts a likely scenario in parts of the country, and some seafood stocks are also forecast to take a hit.

Beautiful one day, uninsurable the next?Our changing climate could soon make it harder to get a mortgage on the Queensland coast. We had three properties assessed, with mixed results.Read more

“Australian oceans are also warming more rapidly than the rest of the world and over 100 marine species are migrating south to cooler waters,” the report states.

“Climate changes are expected to significantly impact Australian fisheries stock over the next two decades.”

Dr Hajkowicz said today’s report was an invitation to try to understand what challenges are coming.

He said in doing so, we might even be able to thrive in changing circumstances.

“This report is a message to build resilience, to stretch the scenarios beyond where we previously thought we have to.

“We have to get out of our comfort zones and ask: how does our infrastructure and our economy continue to work in this challenging scenario?”

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

Bringing Back the Beasts: Global Rewilding Plans Take Shape #EcologicalCrisis

With a growing number of studies demonstrating the importance of large mammals to healthy ecosystems, scientists are proposing concrete plans to reintroduce these animals to the wild. The return of just 20 species to native habitats, they say, could be a boon to biodiversity.

By Janet Marinelli • July 5, 2022

A jaguar guards its prey, a white-lipped peccary, in Goiás, Brazil. Octavio Campos Salles / Alamy Stock Photo

A jaguar guards its prey, a white-lipped peccary, in Goiás, Brazil. Octavio Campos Salles / Alamy Stock Photo

With a growing number of studies demonstrating the importance of large mammals to healthy ecosystems, scientists are proposing concrete plans to reintroduce these animals to the wild. The return of just 20 species to native habitats, they say, could be a boon to biodiversity.

For thousands of years, bison herds thundered freely throughout the Chihuahuan Desert on both sides of what is now the U.S.-Mexico border. In November 2009, after three frantic months of chasing down the required permits, Rurik List and Nélida Barajas watched as 23 bison from Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota arrived by tractor-trailer at the Santa Teresa international cattle crossing in southeastern New Mexico. 

The animals, 20 females and three males, galloped through the dusty stockyards, across the border, and into the state of Chihuahua. A permanent herd of wild bison had been missing from Mexico for more than 150 years. “It’s hard to describe the feeling,” says Barajas. “We were bringing the bison back home.”

Two weeks later, 140 miles southwest of the border crossing, the bison were released from a quarantine corral at El Uno ranch, a 46,000-acre oasis of recovering grasslands in a Chihuahuan Desert landscape severely degraded by the overgrazing of domestic livestock. List, a conservation biologist at Mexico’s National University who had drafted the bison restoration plan for northern Mexico, and Barajas, a Nature Conservancy scientist and the ranch manager at the time, were joined by 700 government officials and local ranchers and farmers and their families to witness the event. When the gates opened, a bull led the herd into an iconic Western tableau of big sky and luminous sweeps of golden desert grasses backed by the rugged peaks of the Sierra Madre Occidental.

Research underscores the importance of large mammals as ecosystem engineers, shaping natural processes and sequestering carbon.

Bison, which can reach six and a half feet at the shoulder and weigh as much as 2,000 pounds, are critical to the continued recovery of the desert grasslands. Unlike cattle, which graze grasses to the root, bison roam while they graze, leaving enough of each plant to enable it to continue to grow. They also wallow, sculpting depressions in the ground where water can accumulate and sustain healthy stands of grass.

In the past two or three decades, research has underscored the importance of large mammals like bison as ecosystem engineers, shaping and maintaining natural processes and sequestering large amounts of carbon. But the world’s large herbivores and predators continue to suffer alarming losses. Researchers estimate that almost two-thirds of the world’s large carnivores are threatened with extinction. Fewer than 6 percent of 730 ecoregions worldwide studied by scientists still have the extensive, intact large-mammal communities that were dominant 500 years ago.

After several decades of research refining the understanding of the importance of large mammals to healthy ecosystems, scientists are now proposing a concrete plan about which herbivores and predators to reintroduce and where, and how this might best be done, given the challenges.

In a paper published earlier this year, a global team of researchers led by the U.N. Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre and the U.S. nonprofit organization RESOLVEproposed a detailed strategy to reverse the global decline of large mammals and the ecoregions they once inhabited. The rewilding of large mammals is an essential but too often omitted component of current restoration efforts, they point out, and “should become a global imperative in the decade ahead.”

T0GFFN Bison or Bufalo within prairie and pasture in protected natural area. Rancho el Uno, a space dedicated to the conservation of this species in Janos, Chihuahua. This fishery was reintroduced by the organization The Nature Conservancy, TNC. Janos Biosphere Reserve   (© Photo: LuisGutierrez / NortePhoto.com Bisonte o Bufalo dentro de pradera y pastizal en area natural protegida. Rancho el Uno, espacio dedicado a la conservacion de esta especie en Janos, Chihuahua. Esta pescie fue reintrodudida por la organizacion The Nature Conservancy, TNC . Reserva de la Biosfera de Janos (© Foto: LuisGutier

According to the study, published in the journal Ecography, reintroducing just 20 large mammals — 13 herbivore and seven predator species — can help biodiversity bounce back around the world and tackle climate change in the process. Among these candidates for rewilding are brown bears, bison, wild horses, jaguars, reindeer, Eurasian beavers, elk, moose, wolverines, tigers, and hippopotamuses.

The researchers also identify 30 priority ecoregions on five continents that meet key criteria: They lack no more than one to three of the large herbivores and predators historically present, provide extensive habitat, and can feasibly be restored in the coming decade. These areas range from the flooded grasslands of South Sudan and the dry puna of the Central Andes to the xeric grasslands and shrublands of the Chihuahuan Desert, where intact communities of large mammals could be restored in the next five to 10 years, the scientists say.

At roughly 200,000 square miles, the Chihuahuan Desert is the largest desert in the Western Hemisphere, sprawling across six Mexican states, the southeastern corner of Arizona, southern New Mexico, and much of western Texas. It is also the most biologically diverse. Historically, the Chihuahuan Desert was one of the few places where grizzly bears, wolves, and jaguars could be found in the same locality.

The past two centuries, however, have not been kind to many of the desert’s 130 wide-ranging mammals. Wild bison were wiped out in Mexico by the second half of the 19th century, and other than some private herds, bison no longer roam widely on the U.S. side of the Chihuahan Desert. The Mexican gray wolf once ranged far and wide across parts of Mexico, Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. But it was extinct in the wild by the late 1970s, slaughtered by an aggressive campaign of hunting, trapping, poisoning, and removing pups from their dens. According to List, the cattle carcasses laced with poison that were used to exterminate wolves also led to the extirpation of the grizzly bear, an opportunistic scavenger. Overhunting and habitat loss brought other large animals such as pronghorn and bighorn sheep to the brink of extinction.

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

Restoring intact communities of large mammals such as these won’t be easy. Throughout history people have feared large animals, particularly predators, justifying politically expedient measures to minimize their numbers — or even eliminate them altogether. Oregon State University researchers Christopher Wolf and William J. Ripple calculate that 64 percent of the world’s remaining large carnivores are at risk of extinction and 80 percent are declining. According to Jens-Christian Svenning, a professor of ecology at Denmark’s Aarhus University and co-author of the Ecography paper, the state of the world’s large herbivore species is almost as dire, with 59 percent of the 74 species of large herbivore species weighing 220 pounds or more threatened with extinction.

The body of scientific literature documenting the importance of top predators and herbivores has revealed how their loss destabilizes and even unravels ecosystems. In the absence of predators, for example, populations of herbivores often explode. In the eastern U.S., deer were once kept in check by wolves and mountain lions. Today, booming deer populations are preventing keystone species such as oaks from reproducing and have literally devoured the understory habitat of hooded warblers and other birds.

The intact communities of herbivores and predators that existed centuries ago are now largely gone.

Research has also demonstrated that healthy animal populations play an important role in sequestering carbon. Yale School of the Environment ecologist Oswald J. Schmitz notes that even if we could completely stop all our emissions, switch to renewables, and stop deforestation, it wouldn’t keep global temperature rise under the tipping point of 1.5 degrees Celsius. “We have to draw out a significant amount of CO2 and store it on the planet to stabilize the temperature,” he says. “Animals can help us get to this goal a lot faster.” Schmitz and colleagues in the Global Rewilding Alliance calculate that rewilding, restoring, and conserving endangered and threatened animals could increase carbon uptake by 1.5 to 3 times or more around the world. 

From 2003 to 2010, Carly Vynne, director of the biodiversity and climate team at RESOLVE and lead author of the Ecography paper, studied maned wolves, pumas, jaguars, tapirs, giant anteaters, and giant armadillos in what she calls “one of those special places in the world,” the Brazilian Cerrado. “This was a place that really got me thinking about what it takes to keep the full assemblages of species in place,” she says. She and her colleagues decided to update a previous paper on the world’s remaining communities of large mammals to add a critical missing dimension to current efforts to strengthen global biodiversity targets. As they got into it, she says, they decided to not only update the paper but make it more forward-looking by focusing on “where we might be able to feasibly restore large mammal assemblages.”

Eurasian Lynx

Vynne and her coauthors point out that most of the earth’s land surface still has some large mammals, but the intact communities of herbivores and predators that existed centuries ago are now gone. Areas with more than three missing species, they conclude, are likely to be degraded, or the threat of hunting may be severe. To accelerate reintroduction planning, they identify those 20 key species with the greatest potential to quickly increase the amount of land globally with intact large mammal communities. Nine of the priority herbivores and predators are globally threatened, and nearly all are species of conservation concern at national or regional levels, so reintroducing them would not only stabilize and restore the integrity of ecosystems but help save them from extinction. 

Rewilding actions with the greatest potential impact, according to the scientists, include reintroducing the European bison, Eurasian beaver, reindeer, wolf, and lynx in Europe. Returning wild horses and wolves to the Himalayas, they calculate, could increase the intact large mammal coverage in that region by 89 percent. In Africa, rewilding the hippopotamus, cheetah, common tsessebe antelope, African wild dog, and lion could expand coverage by 108 percent. Reintroduction or other measures to improve conservation of brown and American black bears, American bison and wolverine could more than double the area in North America with intact large mammal communities. And in South America, reintroduction of jaguar, pacarana, pampas deer, marsh deer, and white-lipped peccary would expand the presence of healthy large mammal assemblages over hundreds of thousands of square kilometers.

Their proposed strategy, they believe, can boost the percentage of land globally with intact communities of large mammals from 15 to 23 percent. How high should this percentage be to stabilize ecosystems and wildlife populations around the world? “Personally” says conservation biologist Reed Noss, an early advocate for rewilding and a coauthor of the paper, “I think that the 50 percent of the Earth that many people now agree should be protected should also be rewilded with large animals.”

Successful rewilding efforts typically have involved a concerted effort to promote coexistence between people and wildlife.

The story of a wolf called Mr. Goodbar is emblematic of the potential stumbling blocks that lie ahead. The young Mexican gray wolf — a critically imperiled, relatively small, reddish-brown subspecies of the more familiar gray wolf — was born in a Kansas zoo. In 2020 he was released into the wild in Arizona as part of a captive breeding and reintroduction program for the species. Last year he left his pack in eastern Arizona, presumably in search of his own territory and a mate. He was observed pacing back and forth along a stretch of the 30-foot border wall in New Mexico for nearly five days before giving up and returning north.

In January, the lanky two-year-old was spotted again, this time dragging a rear leg badly fractured by a gunshot wound. The veterinarian at the Albuquerque BioPark who amputated Mr. Goodbar’s leg said he had probably been struggling with the injury for a few weeks before being rescued by biologists. When the wound healed, he was returned to the wild, where scientists say his odds of surviving are good.

Mr. Goodbar has been more fortunate than many of his kind. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service data show that 105 of the 185 Mexican gray wolves that died between 1998 (when the reintroduction program began) and 2019 were killed illegally.

Hunting pressure is just one of the impediments that have prevented rewilding from being incorporated into conservation planning. In the words of Noss, a retired professor at the University of Central Florida who is now president of the Florida Institute for Conservation Science, “Mainstream conservationists thought rewilding of large carnivores and herbivores was impractical and politically suicidal, since most people fear these animals and ranchers and other politically powerful large landowners particularly hate them (with some important exceptions).” He and the other researchers stress that such challenges need to be addressed before reintroduction programs commence.

Mexican gray wolves have been reintroduced to Arizona and New Mexico over the last two decades. Jim Clark / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Successful rewilding efforts typically have involved a concerted effort to promote coexistence between people and wildlife. From the beginning of her time at El Uno, for example, Nélida Barajas envisioned the ranch as not just a living laboratory for researchers, but also an educational center where neighboring ranchers could learn about new, sustainable grazing practices. She set out to show that “we were not crazy biologists from cities against livestock” but scientists and land managers “who seek solutions for all.” Today, the El Uno bison are a seed herd providing animals for other areas of the desert. 

Meanwhile, more than two decades after they were first returned to Arizona and New Mexico, the prospects for the Mexican gray wolf have finally begun to brighten. At the end of last year, about 196 Mexican gray wolves ranged across the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area straddling the Arizona-New Mexico border. Mexico’s National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP) recently released two wolf pairs in the state of Chihuahua, bringing the country’s wild wolf population to 45. This is thanks in part to measures to ease, if not eliminate, the acrimony over the predator’s comeback. For example, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has been installing electric fences, and range riders monitor wolves with radio collars to keep wolf packs and cattle apart. Just as important, ranchers are compensated for the loss of their livestock.

Five years ago, Carrie Trudeau of the El Paso Zoo, which has contributed wolf pups to the reintroduction effort, was high up in Arizona’s Gila Mountains repairing fences designed to reduce wolf-cattle encounters. After an exhausting day of pounding in posts and stringing barbed wire, she and her coworkers were gathered around a campfire, listening to one of their guides tell a story. Suddenly, he stopped. “And then we could hear the wolves howling,” Trudeau recalls. “It was haunting, kind of made you shudder all the way through.” This, she says, was their reward for a long day of backbreaking work. “I know it is anthropomorphizing, but it was like the wolves were saying thank you.”

Janet Marinelli is an award-winning independent journalist who was director of scientific and popular publications at Brooklyn Botanic Garden for 16 years. She has written and edited several books on imperiled species and the efforts to save them. She also covers ecological approaches to creating resilient landscapes and communities. Her articles have appeared in a variety of publications, from The New York Times and Audubon to Landscape Architecture and Kewmagazine. MOREABOUT JANET MARINELLI →

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Sustainable Development Goals

Chris Hedges: The Dawn of the Apocalypse #EcologicalCrisis #ClimateCrisis #EconomicCrisis #auspol #DoughnutEconomics

By Chris Hedges / Original to ScheerPost

The past week has seen record-breaking heat waves across Europe. Wildfires have ripped through Spain, Portugal and France. London’s fire brigade experienced its busiest day since World War II. The U.K. saw its hottest day on record of 104.54 Fahrenheit. In China, more than a dozen cities issued the “highest possible heat warning” this weekend with over 900 million people in China enduring a scorching heat wave along with severe flooding and landslides across large swathes of southern China. Dozens of people have died. Millions of Chinese have been displaced. Economic losses run into the billions of yuan. Droughts, which have destroyed crops, killed livestock and forced many to flee their homes, are creating a potential famine in the Horn of Africa. More than 100 million people in the United States are under heat alerts in more than two dozen states from temperatures in the mid-to-upper 90s and low 100s. Wildfires have destroyed thousands of acres in California. More than 73 percent of New Mexico is suffering from an “extreme” or “severe” drought. Thousands of people had to flee from a fast-moving brush fire near Yosemite National Park on Saturday and 2,000 homes and businesses lost power.

It is not as if we were not warned. It is not as if we lacked scientific evidence. It is not as if we could not see the steady ecological degeneration and species extinction. And yet, we did not act. The result will be mass death with victims dwarfing the murderous rampages of fascism, Stalinism and Mao Zedong’s China combined. The desperate response is to burn more coal, especially with the soaring cost of natural gas and oil, and extend the life of nuclear power plants to sustain the economy and produce cool air. It is a self-defeating response. Joe Biden has approved more new oil drilling permits than Donald Trump. Once the power outages begin, as in India, the heat waves will exact a grim toll. 

“Half of humanity is in the danger zone, from floods, droughts, extreme storms and wildfires,” U.N Secretary General António Guterres told ministers from 40 countries meeting to discuss the climate crisis on July 18. “No nation is immune. Yet we continue to feed our fossil fuel addiction.”

“We have a choice,” he added. “Collective action or collective suicide.”

Revolution or Apocalypse?

The Anthropocene Age – the age of humans, which has caused extinctions of plant and animal species and the pollution of the soil, air and oceans – is accelerating. Sea levels are rising three times faster than predicted. The arctic ice is vanishing at rates that were unforeseen. Even if we stop carbon emissions today – we have already reached 419 parts per million – carbon dioxide concentrations will continue to climb to as high as 550 ppm because of heat trapped in the oceans. Global temperatures, even in the most optimistic of scenarios, will rise for at least another century. This assumes we confront this crisis. The earth is becoming inhospitable to most life.

Tanya Plibersek

The average global temperature has risen by about 1.1 Celsius (1.9 degrees Fahrenheit) since 1880. We are approaching a tipping point of 2 degrees Celsius when the biosphere will become so degraded nothing can save us.

The ruling class for decades denied the reality of the climate crisis or acknowledged the crisis and did nothing. We sleepwalked into catastrophe. Record heat wavesMonster droughtsShifts in rainfall patterns. Declining crop yields. The melting of the polar ice caps and glaciers resulting in sea level riseFloodingWildfiresPandemics. The breakdown of supply chainsMass migrationsExpanding deserts. The acidification of the oceans that extinguishes sea life, the food source for billions of people. Feedback loops will see one environmental catastrophe worsen another environmental catastrophe. The breakdown will be nonlinear. These are the harbingers of the future. 

Social coercion and the rule of law will disintegrate. This is taking place in many parts of the global south. A ruthless security and surveillance apparatus, along with heavily militarized police, will turn industrial nations into climate fortresses to keep out refugees and prevent uprisings by an increasingly desperate public. The ruling oligarchs will retreat to protected compounds where they will have access to services and amenities, including food, water and medical care, denied to the rest of us. 

Voting, lobbying, petitioning, donating to environmental lobby groups, divestment campaigns and protesting to force the global ruling class to address the climate catastrophe proved no more effective than scrofula victims’ superstitious appeals to Henry VIII to cure them with a royal touch. In 1900 the burning of fossil fuel – mostly coal – produced about 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide a year. That number had risen threefold by 1950. Today the level is 20 times higher than the 1900 figure. During the last 60 years the increase in CO2 was an estimated 100 times faster than what the earth experienced during the transition from the last ice age.

The last time the earth’s temperature rose 4 degrees Celsius, the polar ice caps did not exist and the seas were hundreds of feet above their current levels. 

You can watch my two-part interview with Roger Hallam, the co-founder of the resistance group Extinction Rebellion, on the climate emergency here and here.

There are three mathematical models for the future: a massive die-off of perhaps 70 percent of the human population and then an uneasy stabilization; extinction of humans and most other species; an immediate and radical reconfiguration of human society to protect the biosphere. This third scenario is dependent on an immediate halt to the production and consumption of fossil fuels, converting to a plant-based diet to end the animal agriculture industry – almost as large a contributor to greenhouse gasses as the fossil fuel industry – greening the deserts and restoring rainforests. 

We knew for decades what harnessing a hundred million years of sunlight stored in the form of coal and petroleum would do to the climateAs early as the 1930s British engineer Guy Stewart Callendar suggested that increased CO2 was warming the planet. In the late 1970s into the 1980s, scientists at companies such as Exxon and Shell determined that the burning of fossil fuels was contributing to rising global temperature. 

“[T]here is concern among some scientific groups that once the effects are measurable, they might not be reversible and little could be done to correct the situation in the short term,” a 1982 internal briefing for Exxon’s management noted.

NASA’s Dr. James Hansen told the U.S. Senate in 1988 that the buildup of CO2 and other gasses were behind the rise in heat. 

But by 1989 Exxon, Shell and other fossil fuel corporations decided the risks to their profits from major curbs in fossil fuel extraction and consumption was unacceptable. They invested in heavy lobbying and funding of faux research and propaganda campaigns to discredit the science on the climate emergency.

Christian Parenti in his book Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence quotes from “The Age of Consequences: The Foreign Policy and National Security Implications of Global Climate Change,” a 2007 report produced by the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Center for a New American Security. R. James Woolsey, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, writes in the report’s final section:

In a world that sees two meter sea level rise, with continued flooding ahead, it will take extraordinary effort for the United States, or indeed any country, to look beyond its own salvation. All of the ways in which human beings have dealt with natural disasters in the past…could come together in one conflagration: rage at government’s inability to deal with the abrupt and unpredictable crises; religious fervor, perhaps even a dramatic rise in millennial end-of-day cults; hostility and violence towards migrants and minority groups, at a time of demographic change and increased global migration; intra-and interstate conflict over resources, particularly food and fresh water. Altruism and generosity would likely be blunted.

The profits from fossil fuels, and the lifestyle the burning of fossil fuels afforded to the privileged on the planet, overroad a rational response. The failure is homicidal.

Clive Hamilton in his Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth About Climate Change describes a dark relief that comes from accepting that “catastrophic climate change is virtually certain.”

“But accepting intellectually is not the same as accepting emotionally the possibility that the world as we know it is headed for a horrible end,” Hamilton writes. “It’s the same with our own deaths; we all ‘accept’ that we will die, but it is only when death is imminent that we confront the true meaning of our mortality.”

Environmental campaigners, from The Sierra Club to 350.org, woefully misread the global ruling class, believing they could be pressured or convinced to carry out the seismic reconfigurations to halt the descent into a climate hell. These environmental organizations believed in empowering people through hope, even if the hope was based on a lie. They were unable or unwilling to speak the truth. These climate “Pollyannas,” as Hamilton calls them, “adopt the same tactic as doom-mongers, but in reverse. Instead of taking a very small risk of disaster and exaggerating it, they take a very high risk of disaster and minimize it.”

Humans have inhabited cities and states for 6,000 years, “a mere 0.2 percent of the two and a half million years since our first ancestor sharpened a stone,” the anthropologist Ronald Wright notes in A Short History of Progress. The myriad of civilizations built over these 6,000 years have all decayed and collapsed, most through a thoughtless depletion of the natural resources that sustained them. 

The latest iteration of global civilization was dominated by Europeans, who used industrial warfare and genocide to control much of the planet. Europeans and Euro-Americans launched a 500-year-long global rampage of conquering, plundering, looting, exploiting and polluting the earth – as well as killing the indigenous communities, the caretakers of the environment for thousands of years – that stood in the way. The mania for ceaseless economic expansion and exploitation, accelerated by the Industrial Revolution two and a half centuries ago, has become a curse, a death sentence. 

Anthropologists, including Joseph Tainter in The Collapse of Complex Societies, Charles L. Redman in Human Impact on Ancient Environments and Ronald Wright in A Short History of Progress, have laid out the familiar patterns that lead to systems breakdown. Civilizations, as Tainter writes, are “fragile, impermanent things.” Collapse, he writes, “is a recurrent feature of human societies.”

This time the whole planet will go down. There will, with this final collapse, be no new lands left to exploit, no new peoples to subjugate or new civilizations to replace the old. We will have used up the world’s resources, leaving the planet as desolate as the final days of a denuded Easter Island.

Collapse comes throughout human history to complex societies not long after they reach their period of greatest magnificence and prosperity. 

“One of the most pathetic aspects of human history is that every civilization expresses itself most pretentiously, compounds its partial and universal values most convincingly, and claims immortality for its finite existence at the very moment when the decay which leads to death has already begun,” the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr writes in Beyond Tragedy: Essays on the Christian Interpretation of Tragedy.

The very things that cause societies to prosper in the short run, especially new ways to exploit the environment such as the invention of irrigation or use of fossil fuels, lead to disaster in the long run. This is what Wright calls the “progress trap.” 

“We have set in motion an industrial machine of such complexity and such dependence on expansion,” Wright notes, “that we do not know how to make do with less or move to a steady state in terms of our demands on nature.”

The U.S. military, intent on dominating the globe, is the single largest institutional emitter of greenhouse gasses, according to a report from Brown University. This is the same military that has designated global warming a “threat multiplier” and “an accelerant of instability or conflict.”

The powerlessness many will feel in the face of ecological and economic chaos will unleash further collective delusions, such as fundamentalist beliefs in a god or gods who will come back to earth and save us. The Christian right provides a haven for this magical thinking. Crisis cults spread rapidly among Native American societies in the later part of the 19th century as the buffalo herds and the remaining tribes faced extermination. The Ghost Dance held out the hope that all the horrors of white civilization — the railroads, the murderous cavalry units, the timber merchants, the mine speculators, the hated tribal agencies, the barbed wire, the machine guns, even the white man himself — would disappear. Our psychological hard wiring is no different.

The greatest existential crisis of our time is to at once be willing to accept the bleakness before us and resist. The global ruling class has forfeited its legitimacy and credibility. It must be replaced. This will require sustained mass civil disobedience, such as those mounted by Extinction Rebellion, to drive the global rulers from power. Once the rulers see us as a real threat they will become vicious, even barbaric, in their efforts to cling to their positions of privilege and power. We may not succeed in halting the death march, but let those who come after us, especially our children, say we tried.

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. He is the host of show The Chris Hedges Report.

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The Doughnut of social and planetary boundaries (2017)

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

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

If you want to look deeper into the Doughnut, and Doughnut Economics, join us at Doughnut Economics Action Lab where we dive into much more detail on what it means for transforming our economies.

Doughnut Economics

Paper Straws Are Not Enough. Only “System Change” Can Halt Climate Crisis, Says George Monbiot #EcologicalCrisis #DoughnutEconomics #auspol

A massive heat wave has scorched much of Europe this week, with the U.K. shattering its record for highest temperature ever recorded Tuesday. We’re joined by author and environmental activist George Monbiot, whose latest column for The Guardian is headlined “This heatwave has eviscerated the idea that small changes can tackle extreme weather.” Monbiot criticizes what he calls “micro-consumerist bollocks” — an approach that presents “micro-solutions” to the “macro-problem” of climate change. “The only thing that delivers quickly and effectively is system change,” says Monbiot, who also breaks down how new technology can eliminate the West’s reliance on animal agriculture, which is one of the leading causes of the climate crisis. He also discusses the role of industrial animal agriculture in the climate crisis, which is often overshadowed by a focus on fossil fuels.

Massive Fires in the United Kingdom

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.

We go now to Britain, which shattered its record for highest temperature ever recorded Tuesday, with the London Fire Brigade declaring a major incident in response to a huge surge in fires across the capital. This comes amidst a heat wave scorching much of Europe and more fires in France. Britain’s national weather forecaster said this week the high temperatures are now a fact of life amidst concerns the country is not prepared for the heat.

For more, we go to George Monbiot, author, environmental activist, Guardiancolumnist, where his latest piece is headlined “This heatwave has eviscerated the idea that small changes can tackle extreme weather.” His 2021 article“Capitalism is killing the planet — it’s time to stop buying into our own destruction” has just won the Orwell Prize for Journalism.

George Monbiot, welcome back to Democracy Now! Well, why don’t you first describe what it’s like in Britain right now, why this is so unusual, and what are the remedies?

Extreme Fire Danger UK

GEORGE MONBIOT: So, by comparison to what many other parts of the world have been suffering, particularly India this year and large parts of sub-Saharan Africa, you might not think it’s very much, two days of 40-degree — 40 degrees centigrade — heat. But for Britain, which is famous for its mild, not to say, rather, gray and chilly and rainy climate, it was a massive shock stepping outside and feeling like you’re walking into a fan oven because of the hot wind blowing off the streets into your face. It just felt all wrong. It felt like something has gone very badly awry here in this famously chilly and mild climate. And it bust all the records. We saw the sort of wildfires, which are totally unfamiliar in the parts of the U.K. where they happened.

And it looks like a glimpse of a future that’s rushing towards us all too quickly. These are the sort of weather events that climate scientists were saying, well, you know, we might see this with 2 degrees, possibly 3 degrees, of heating. Well, here we are at 1.2 degrees centigrade of global heating, and it has already come.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: I would just say, George, that, you know, I lived in London not very long ago, in Cambridge and in London, and I remember that we didn’t even have fans, much less air conditioning. So it’s really staggering, this heat wave. I want to ask about how people are responding, what steps are being taken to avert this climate crisis. In the piece we just cited, on capitalism, for which you won the Orwell Prize, you offer a scathing critique of the way we’re dealing with the crisis, focusing on what you term, quote, “micro-consumerist bollocks.” Could you explain?

Revolution or Apocalypse?

GEORGE MONBIOT: Sure. So, what we’re saying to people, as environmentalists, is, look, we’re facing the greatest existential crisis that humanity has ever faced. We’re facing the potential collapse of our life support systems, a domino effect as one Earth system pulls down the others until basically the habitable space on the planet collapses into a completely different equilibrium state for which we did not evolve. So this is like the biggest of all existential crises which humanity has ever faced, and we’re seeing now. In response, we want you not to use so many plastic bags, and to replace your cotton buds which have got plastic shafts with ones with paper shafts, and stop using plastic straws.

I mean, it sounds ridiculous when I say it like this, but this is genuinely what a large portion of the environmental movement has been doing, and calling for the most micro possible solutions to the most macro possible problem. And what happens when you do that is, you know, far from making it easier to make change, and far from telling people, “Look, there’s something easy you can do, so you can buy into this; it’s a very low threshold for getting engaged,” they just turn people off altogether, because, number one, people say, “Well, they can’t be serious. Obviously, it can’t be that much of a problem if the solutions are so tiny. So this isn’t something I need to worry about.” And those who have got a bit more knowledge of it, well, they must feel like they’re being taken for idiots. Like, you know, how can that solve anything? How is that going to fix the issue?

But, unfortunately, this micro-consumerist bollocks is the dominant narrative within the media, but also within a lot of environment organizations. And when you approach those organizations and say, “Look, this isn’t going to cut it. You know, these small incremental changes you’re calling for” — even sort of slightly bigger ones than the ones I’ve mentioned — “you know, they’re in no way commensurate with the scale of the crisis we face.” And they say, “Well, we can’t get too far ahead of the membership. And we don’t want to frighten people, and we don’t want to provoke a fight with the government. And, you know, we’ve got to reach people where they are.” And frankly, their theory of change is just wrong. Incremental change can never develop the transformation which is required in situations like this — in fact, probably in any situation. It just does not deliver.

The only thing that delivers quickly and effectively is system change. And while we have been messing about with these ridiculous micro-solutions, the radical right has instituted a global insurgency and has achieved system change. It’s tearing down democracy. It’s tearing down equality before the law. It’s tearing down basic rights, human rights, tearing down regulations, tearing down tax, ripping down everything and changing the system to suit billionaires, to suit oligarchs, to suit predatory corporations. While we’ve been saying, “Oh, yes, we’re a bit — you know, we’re not — a bit worried about asking for too much,” they’ve said, “We’re going to have the lot.” And they’re succeeding. So, what they’ve proved is that you can do system change — unfortunately, you know, proved it in all the most horrible ways. And our timidity, our failure to demand that system change has been a big part of the reason why we are stuck where we are and why there’s been almost no effective measures to address this greatest of all crises.

And, you know, some of us know exactly what we want. You know, we want what I call “private sufficiency, public luxury,” where we have our own domain, our own small domain at home, where we’ve got our own home and we’ve got the necessities that we need in that home, but if we want luxury, we should pursue it in the public domain, because there’s just simply not enough physical or ecological space for everyone to pursue private luxury. You know, if everyone has a private jet and a supercar, that’s the planet gone, in hours. You know, we’d just burn through everything if that were the case. If everyone in London had their own swimming pool and their own tennis court and their own art collection, London would have to be as big as England in order to accommodate that. England would be the size of Europe. Where would everyone else live? It’s just impossible.

You know, this whole idea that we can all become millionaires is impossible for two reasons. One, some people are super rich because other people are super poor, and that extreme wealth depends on exploitation. But secondly, there’s just not enough planetary space to permit that. But there is enough space for everyone to have public luxury — public swimming pools and public tennis courts and a public health service and public transport. And that creates space for people rather than taking it away. And because we’re sharing those resources, the impact per capita is much, much smaller. So, that’s one part of it.

Doughnut Economics

We need doughnut economics, Kate Raworth’s approach, where we say, you know, we live within planetary boundaries but above the welfare boundary, so that everyone has a good life without rupturing Earth systems. We need Jeremy Lent’s approach towards an ecological civilization. And we need participatory democracy, building on the ideas of Murray Bookchin and the practice of places like Porto Alegre in Brazil and Reykjavík in Iceland and Taiwan, where there’s great examples of how we can take back our politics and run them ourselves. So, some of us are very clear about the system change we want to see, but very few of us are actually prepared to call for that system change. And that has been our great failing.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, George, I’d like to ask you about your recent book, Regenesis: Feeding the World Without Devouring the Planet, the link between the climate crisis and hunger. We were just speaking to Vanessa Nakate, the Ugandan climate justice activist, who was telling us about what the effects of the drought have been in the Horn of Africa and elsewhere. So, if you could talk about the argument you make in the book, and in particular why you think animal agriculture is particularly ruinous?

REGENESIS

GEORGE MONBIOT: Yes. Well, first of all, many thanks to Vanessa for all her brilliant activism. She is so inspiring and such a wonderful person. And thank you for having her on your program.

So, you know, it’s become clear to me that, looking at it from the global perspective, as a whole, it is now as important to stop animal agriculture as it is to leave fossil fuels in the ground. And, you know, I’m not saying that people in Somalia should stop keeping animals. That’s clearly their only lifeline. But for the great majority of us, and for people in the United States, for people in the U.K., where I am, you know, we’ve just got to stop eating animals, because that is the primary environmental driver of destruction. So, agriculture, as a whole, is the major cause of habitat loss, the major cause of wildlife loss, the major cause of extinction, the major cause of land use, the major cause of freshwater use, of soil degradation, one of the major causes of climate breakdown, of water pollution, of air pollution. And, you know, it’s — and by far away the biggest chunk of that is from animal agriculture. It’s up there with the fossil fuel industry as the driver of mass destruction.

Plant-based diets are much more benign, but you can go a lot further than that. And now we have these new technologies, including precision fermentation, which is basically producing your protein-rich foods, not from the flesh and the secretions of animals, but from single-celled organisms, from microbes. And you brew them. It’s just a sophisticated form of brewing, really. Now, there are many, many good things about this, because it greatly reduces the environmental impact of producing your protein-rich foods. But, importantly, it can be done anywhere. You don’t need to have fertile land. You don’t need to have water. You don’t need to have the other elements to be able to produce food from farming. So it can be done in the Horn of Africa. It can be done across the Sahel. It can be done in the Middle East and across North Africa, producing protein-rich and fat-rich foods. You have basically a microbial flour, which can then be turned into virtually anything.

And this, I think, could be the only chance now for companies to — sorry, for countries to break their dependency on these multinational companies which are controlling global trade, where you have four corporations now controlling 90% of the global grain trade, which leaves those countries incredibly vulnerable. They’re at the end of a long and highly fragile food chain. The global food system itself has lost its resilience. It’s beginning to look very much like the financial system in the approach to 2008. And if it breaks, it will be those poor nations which get hit first and worst, as always.

And we’re talking about the absolute cutting off, potentially, of food imports for some of those nations. A lot of that food passes through chokepoints. One of those chokepoints is more or less completely closed now, which is the Turkish Straits, due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Last year, we saw another of those chokepoints, the Suez Canal, close because that ship got wedged across it. Had those two things coincided, the food chain would simply have snapped, and about a quarter of the world’s people would have been without food almost instantly, because one of the things which this global food system has done is to switch from stocks to flows. So, basically, our global food reserves are floating at sea in container ships. And if those can’t pass, then the shelves empty almost instantly.

So, what precision fermentation gives you is this opportunity to break that formula. And I can’t see any other easy ways forward for countries where the land just can’t support people, they’re dependent on imports, they’re dependent on buying food from hard currency markets with soft currencies, and they’re extremely vulnerable to famine and food insecurity.

Read More Democracy Now

Why an end to economic growth is inevitable #auspol #EcologicalCrisis

Fifty years after the Limits to Growth report was published, the concept of post-growth remains largely taboo.

BY

In 1972, the seminal Limits to Growth report was published. Written by a group of young researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the book made clear for the first time that the earth’s resources were finite. Continuing to push for ever more economic growth would ultimately be to the detriment of planetary and human health. Fifty years on, the world’s addiction to growth has led to ever greater use of fossil fuels, land and minerals, provoking climate change, the sixth mass extinction of species and social inequality. Community responses during the height of the Covid pandemic led some to hail a shift to a more caring, sharing society fashioned around local economies, but in the face of a tsunami of crises, governments are back to cheering global economic “growth” as the panacea to all ills.

Limits to Growth 30 Year Update

Dennis Meadows, one of the authors of Limits to Growth, had recently celebrated his 80th birthday when I spoke to him via video link earlier this month. Our discussion would be his last media interview, he said. After 50 years, it was time to stop repeating “the same old thing”. Since the 1970s, Meadows, who co-wrote Limits to Growth as a 29-year-old student with his wife Donella, and fellow academics Jørgen Randers and William Behrens, has been arguing for an end to the political fixation with economic growth, which is environmentally destructive and often does more social harm than good. Despite his interventions, most politicians continue to pursue and proclaim economic growth as a paramount priority.   

Locked into short-term electoral cycles, “politicians are fundamentally dependent on the promise of growth,” says Meadows, since weaning societies off growth “calls for actions that look negative in the short-term to produce longer-term benefits”. Such logic is the “antithesis” of modern politics. Back in 1972, “many economists believed we were crazy and stupid”, not least because of the long-term time horizon we used in our research, says Meadows. The Limits of Growth was based on computer simulations, which showed that without substantial changes in resource consumption, “a rather sudden and uncontrollable decline in both population and industrial capacity” would be the likely outcome by 2100. The book’s thinking was so “preposterously” outside the paradigm of mainstream economists, who saw growth – generally fuelled by free markets, low taxes and access to unlimited energy and resources – as the recipe for success. “They thought they were dealing with lunatics, and they rejected it.” 

Politicians also doubtless continue to cling onto growth policies as they have delivered successes. Before Covid hit, since 1990 more than 1.2 billion people around the world had risen out of extreme poverty as economies in China and elsewhere have grown, with just over 9 per cent of the world surviving on less than $1.90 a day, compared to nearly 36 per cent in 1990.

Evolution has also influenced our preference for short-term thinking, Meadows believes. “Imagine there are two people and a hungry animal is running at them,” he says. “One sits down and says now is the time to contemplate the future of civilisation; the other one says it’s time to run. It’s the second one who passes on their genes. We’re genetically not capable of fashioning a 60- or a 100-year vision and sustaining it.” From daily stock market reports to monthly consumer price indexes, our society is geared to focus on the short term. 

Revolution or Apocalypse?

“When we wrote Limits to Growth, I was relatively naive,” admits Meadows. “I suppose I had the idea we would send out these results, people would read them, the scales would fall from their eyes, their behaviour would change and everything would be fine.” Unsurprisingly, he is more cynical today. Rather than “proactive change,” he forecasts “reactive change”: growth will eventually stop simply because it is no longer possible.  

Meadows doubts the current crises – the rising cost of living, high energy bills and the war in Ukraine – will make much difference to how politicians think. “Change requires a long-term perspective. Crisis engenders panic, which shortens time horizons, which causes even worse decision making, which intensifies the crisis,” he observes. “Civilisations rise and fall. The Phoenicians probably thought that they were God’s gift, but they like the Carthaginians, the Aztecs, the Incas and the British Empire all disappeared. Our civilisation will go the same way,” says Meadows. A thousand years from now, our species won’t have been eliminated from Earth, he believes. “But this energy intensive, high material consumption, high mobility civilisation will be gone,” simply because it isn’t possible to sustain itself.  

[See also: Esther Duflo: “Climate change is a problem from hell politically”]

The UK economist Kate Raworth, the author of the best-selling 2017 book Doughnut Economics is among the intellectual progeny of the Limits of Growth. She works with policy makers at local, national and supranational levels to show what a new, post-growth economic paradigm could look like. Raworth’s Doughnut Economics explains her concept of creating an economy in which there is a “social foundation of well-being that no-one should fall below” and an “ecological ceiling of planetary pressure that we should not go beyond”. This is the doughnut. The jam is the “safe and just space for all” that lies between the foundation and the ceiling.

Doughnut Economics

“Growth is a wonderful healthy phase of life,” Raworth says. “We love to see our kids and our gardens grow.” Her 13-year-old twins are now taller than she is and seeing them grow has been “wonderful”. But if they keep growing, “they will no longer fit at the table or belong in our household”. Likewise, “if a friend went to a doctor’s and said she had a growth, we’d all go very quiet.” The quest for endless economic growth is causing similar harm to the health of the planet, Raworth explains. Instead of wishing for her children to grow forever, Raworth hopes they will “thrive in their activities, their learning, their relationships”. Economies should follow the same pattern of maturity, she believes.   

For Raworth a thriving economy is regenerative. “We have inherited linear degenerative economies that transform materials into stuff we use and throw away.” Degraded natural environments and vast amounts of waste are accepted as part of industry. Waste doesn’t exist in a world living in the doughnut. Instead, everything is “treasure” to be reused, repurposed or recycled, says Raworth. 

She has none of Meadows’s cynicism; she fizzes with optimism and describes the daunting task of overhauling the global economy as an “incredibly exciting opportunity”. Her enthusiasm is in part fuelled by the fact doughnut economics are being discussed and trialled by companies and cities from Barcelona to Brussels in Europe, to Ipoh in Malaysia and El Monte in Chile.

The Doughnut of social and planetary boundaries (2017)

In addition to global warming and the environmental destruction caused by mineral extraction, urbanisation, plastic waste and the manufacture and transportation of a never-ending supply of goods, inequality between the rich and poor is also growing. Research by Oxfam, the NGO for which Raworth used to work, shows that since 1995, the top 1 per cent have taken nearly 20 times more of the global wealth than the bottom 50 per cent of humanity. Everything needs to be reimagined to create more equal opportunities, says Raworth. This includes “pre-distributing sources of wealth creation” such as health and education so each individual has the same opportunities and potential to become a “capable, productive member of society”; ending the use of housing as a “speculative asset” and instead making decent, affordable housing as a human right; and ensuring that company profits are used to benefit everyone not just CEOs and shareholders. 

Part of the reason why growth is not being questioned is because “we have a collective action problem,” believes Raworth. Companies are under pressure to deliver quarterly growth, while politicians fear being “booted out of the G20 family photo” if their country’s growth flags, she says. It’s primarily small countries like Scotland or New Zealand, which are under less pressure to “stay at the top of the big boys’ table”, that are pursuing some form of well-being economics. Raworth also notes that both countries are headed by women. 

Kate Raworth

Tim Jackson, the author of Prosperity without Growth (2009), a seminal work in the burgeoning “post-growth” movement, is another inheritor of the Limits to Growth tradition. He believes that political reactions to today’s crises are wrong-headed. “Leaping, under the influence of crisis and chaos, to instant solutions is rabbits-in-the-headlights thinking that works against long-term thinking and sensible answers”. He insists now is a critical time for him, Raworth and others to clarify an alternative vision to the growth and business-as-usual agenda. 

In 2016, Jackson helped set up an all-party parliamentary group on limits to growth in the UK. The aim wasn’t to get the government to “denounce or even question growth, but to set up a safe space where parliamentarians could think differently”. To dematerialise and decarbonise at the scale and speed required to avoid dangerous levels of climate change and to adapt to the global warming that already exists, we are likely to be all required to think differently. Having a mature and open discussion about growth would be a good first step to working out how our economies can and should function in the 21st century. 

[See also: Esther Duflo: “Climate change is a problem from hell politically”]

Read More New Statesman

Prosperity Without Growth

Tim Jackson’s ground-breaking book Prosperity without Growth stands as an eloquent summary of the key ideas and core vision of his research and policy work over three decades. It was first published as a report to the UK government in 2009 and rapidly became a landmark in the sustainability debate, translated into 17 foreign languages. Tim’s piercing challenge to conventional economics openly questioned the most highly prized goal of politicians and economists alike: the continued pursuit of exponential economic growth. Its findings provoked controversy, inspired debate and led to a new wave of research building on its arguments and conclusions.

This substantially revised and re-written edition updates those arguments and considerably expands upon them. Jackson demonstrates that building a ‘post-growth’ economy is a precise, definable and meaningful task. Starting from clear first principles, he sets out the dimensions of that task: the nature of enterprise; the quality of our working lives; the structure of investment; and the role of the money supply. He shows how the economy of tomorrow may be transformed in ways that protect employment, facilitate social investment, reduce inequality and deliver both ecological and financial stability.

Twelve years after it was first published, Prosperity without Growth is no longer a radical narrative whispered by a marginal fringe, but an essential vision of social progress in a post-crisis world. Fulfilling that vision is simply the most urgent task of our times.

Prosperity Without Growth

Destruction of nature as threatening as climate crisis, EU deputy warns #EcologicalCrisis #auspol #StopEcocide

European Commission’s Frans Timmermans says biodiversity situation is ‘really very, very scary’

Jennifer Rankin and Fiona Harvey in Brussels

The human-made crisis engulfing the natural world is “just as threatening, perhaps even more so” than the climate crisis, one of the EU’s most senior officials has warned.

State of the environment report

Speaking to the Guardian, Frans Timmermans, the vice-president of the European Commission, said he hoped “we can heighten the sense of urgency” about the destruction of the natural environment, where the situation is “really very, very scary”.

“We are killing species at an unprecedented rate. And killing those species will make our survival less likely. If we can get that concept into people’s minds more broadly I am sure politicians will have to react to people’s outcry: ‘Well, fix this before you kill us.’”

He cited the threat of losing 1 million species, a figure that comes from a landmark report by the UN’s leading biodiversity body in 2019. In the most comprehensive report of its kind, scientists urged action to protect supplies of food, clean water, pollination and the stable climate that humanity depends on.

But as negotiators gear up for the UN biodiversity summit (Cop15) in Montreal this December, campaigners say efforts to protect the natural world are in crisis because of lack of engagement from governments.

Timmermans, who oversees EU policy on nature protection, said the summit organiser, China, was “fully behind an ambitious agenda in Montreal”. The summit is to be held near the UN biodiversity headquarters in Quebec rather than the original venue in Kunming, because of concerns over China’s zero-Covid policy.

The Dutch politician, who also spoke out about the risk of “conflict and strife” over high energy prices, said more public awareness was needed about the stakes of biodiversity loss “if we don’t change our ways”.

“The public has a really strong sense of the climate crisis and that’s driving politics, certainly in the EU, but probably globally as well. It’s so manifest, the climate crisis, that it’s inevitable that it will need to be addressed by political leaders. The biodiversity crisis is not that manifest to many of our citizens.

“This is just as threatening to our survival as the climate crisis, perhaps even more so.”

He said crises always “focus the mind” but public information campaigns were another way to raise awareness. He cited the example of the broadcasting veteran David Attenborough, whose Blue Planet 2 series shocked audiencesaround the world with images of albatrosses unwittingly feeding their chicks plastic. “Would we be where we are with our plastics legislation – where we went very far in the EU – without David Attenborough?” Timmermans said. “I don’t think we would.”

The EU has banned single-use plastic cutlery, straws, cotton buds and stirrers. Campaigners have described this as a good first step but cautioned that the impact depends on the actions of national governments.

Timmermans expressed guarded optimism that biodiversity would soon be ascribed as much importance as the climate crisis. “I hope we can get to that stage pretty soon. We are not there yet, but [when] these things move it’s not incremental, it’s exponential.”

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.

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

If you want to look deeper into the Doughnut, and Doughnut Economics, join us at Doughnut Economics Action Lab where we dive into much more detail on what it means for transforming our economies.

Doughnut Economics

More than 100 million in the US face excessive warning or heat advisories as a dangerous heat wave continues #ClimateCrisis #auspol demand #ClimateAction #SDG13

(CNN) — Heat alerts cover more than 20 states today and Wednesday across the Southern Plains and parts of the Northeast, and temperatures will soar above the century mark for 60 million people over the next week. All while a similar heat wave is bringing all-time record temperatures to Western Europe.

“Dangerous heat will continue to impact a large portion of the US this week, with now more than 100 million people under excessive heat warnings or heat advisories,” the Weather Prediction Center said.

It means one-third of the US population is under heat advisories and excessive heat warnings, and more than 80% of the US population (around 265 million Americans) will see a high above 90 degrees over the next seven days.

The highest temperatures, pushing well into the triple digits, will be once again centered over the southern Plains.

More than two dozen record highs are possible today and tomorrow for the Southern US, including Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico, and the East Coast is about to get into the mix as well.

The entire state of Oklahoma hit 103 degrees today, according to Oklahoma Mesonet, a joint weather updating system with Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma.

“This is the first time in our network’s history (dating back to the mid 1990s) to have 120 sites hit that mark on the same day. Before today we had 2 days with all sites hitting 100F or higher (7/9/11 and 7/10/11),” a tweet from the project read. 

A number of record highs have been set across Texas and Oklahoma today as the region bakes in extremely high temperatures. Abilene, Texas, and Oklahoma City both broke records set in 1936 — with both reaching 110 degrees, according to CNN meteorologist Mike Saenz.

Additionally, Wichita Falls, San Angelo and the Midland International Air & Space Port in Texas all broke records set in 2018, Saenz said.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas set another unofficial record Tuesday for demand, a spokeswoman told CNN.

Another record is expected on Wednesday. 

Parts of the Northeast will also have temperatures nearing daily records Wednesday and Thursday.

“Heat advisories are also now in effect for Wednesday for portions of the Northeast, including the I-95 corridor from Philadelphia to Boston, where heat index values are forecast to reach near 100 degrees,” the Weather Prediction Center said.

Exceptional Drought

Intense heat disrupts Texas prisons and outdoor events

After a record-breaking heat day Monday, the southern Plains are being met with dangerous heat once again.

Dallas inched toward its daily record of 110 degrees yesterday but topped out at 109, making it the hottest day of the year so far.

Even first responders are falling victim to the scorching temperatures. A firefighter in Robertson County, Texas, suffered heat exhaustion on Tuesday — when temperatures rose to about 112 degrees — while battling a wildfire that was started by a resident burning trash, according to the Robertson County Emergency Management Facebook page.

The 15-acre fire destroyed one structure before volunteer fire departments stopped its spread, the post read. 

And some Texas prison facilities housing inmates do not have working air conditioning, the state Department of Criminal Justice said Tuesday.

“There are 100 TDCJ units, 31 have full AC, 55 have partial AC, and 14 have no AC. We take numerous precautions to lessen the effects of hot temperatures for those incarcerated within our facilities,” agency spokesperson Amanda Hernandez told CNN in an email. 

The agency says some inmates have fallen ill from heat-related injuries and needed medical care. 

“In 2022, there have been seven inmates who required medical care beyond first aid for heat related injuries and none were fatal,” Hernandez said, adding the agency has measures in place to keep inmates safe. 

“The department uses an array of measures to keep inmates safe. Everyone has access to ice and water. Fans are strategically placed in facilities to move the air. Inmates have access to a fan and they can access air conditioned respite areas when needed,” Hernandez said. 

Excessive heat warnings and heat advisories are in effect through Wednesday for North and Central Texas.

“The air temperatures will climb to 105 to 110 degrees in the warning area, with heat index values over 105 degrees in the advisory area,” the National Weather Service in Fort Worth said.

Southern and Midwest states are feeling the burn, too

As hot temperatures, low humidity, and wind speeds pick up, a critical fire danger threat is also in effect for northern Texas and central Oklahoma.

Oklahoma City could see highs nearing 110 degrees today, which would break their daily record of 109 set back in 1936.

“The last time we had a substantial stretch of heat was in 2011, when we had 63 days greater than or equal to 100 degrees,” Vivek Mahale, a Norman National Weather Service meteorologist, said.

Mahale expects the above-average heat to continue into at least Sunday, with every day reaching the triple-digit mark. The Oklahoma City Will Rogers World Airport has seen nine days above 100 degrees this month.

He advised the best thing you can do to prepare is to check on vulnerable populations as temperatures will be five to seven degrees above normal.

“We really want to emphasize you want to check on your friends, family, and neighbors during the heatwave, especially susceptible populations such as the elderly,” Mahale said.

About 8,800 customers in western Arkansas — where temperatures were forecast to reach 106 degrees Fahrenheit — were without power around noon Tuesday after a windstorm damaged the local electric system.

While the windstorm broke more than 40 electric poles, Paris Mayor Daniel Rogers told CNN, “the problem here is the heat.” 

Paris High School opened for people “who need a cool place to be after last night’s storms,” according to a Facebook post, a resource the mayor urged residents to take advantage of. 

“Don’t try to brave out the heat,” the mayor said. “Heat-related illness is a serious matter.”

In Louisiana, a funeral will be held Thursday for a Natchitoches Police Department officer who died Saturday evening from “an unexpected heat related medical event while working in the downtown district,” the police department announced on Facebook Tuesday. Natchitoches is about 76 miles southeast of Shreveport. 

“Please continue to keep his family and all that had the privilege of knowing Officer Brian Olliff in your thoughts and prayers,” the post read. 

Farther north, Michigan’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration encouraged employers to be aware of heat hazards and help prevent heat illness.

“Whether you’re working indoors or outdoors, hot and humid conditions can pose serious risks to workers’ health, but heat-related illnesses are preventable,” Michigan’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration Director Bart Pickelman said in a news release

Employers, it said, should have detailed procedures in place for monitoring the heat index, provisioning water and caring for a sick employee, it said.

New York, Boston and Philadelphia brace for sweltering week ahead

Heat advisories are in effect Wednesday for the Northeast, including New York City, Boston, and Philadelphia.

“Oppressive heat and humidity returns this week,” the Boston National Weather Service tweeted.

Heat index values — the temperature it feels like when heat is combined with humidity — could top 100 degrees in some areas, generating dangerous conditions for Mid-Atlantic and New England residents.

The heat and humidity won’t just hug the coast. Upstate New York could also see temperatures well above average.

Albany, New York, is soaring above its average of 84 degrees for this time of year, and the city could near its record of 97 degrees tomorrow with the stifling heat. 

To make matters worse, humidity combined with heat will make some areas feel 5-10 degrees hotter.

“This is going to be little bit (warmer) than just the typical hot and humid weather that we get in July,” Mike Evans, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Albany, New York, told CNN.

Evans said dew points could push 70 degrees tomorrow, which is when humidity becomes “very noticeable.”

Portions of Massachusetts will reach record levels as soon as Wednesday, as temperatures reach the upper 90s, and will continue through the rest of the week in the Northeast.

“This is going to be the hottest day we’ve had so far, this summer. We really haven’t had too hot of a summer here, at least in the Northeast,” Evans said.

The US isn’t likely to see much relief over the next week. The Climate Prediction Center forecasts above average temperatures will likely last well into next week for most of the lower 48.

View on CNN

The Doughnut of social and planetary boundaries (2017)

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

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

If you want to look deeper into the Doughnut, and Doughnut Economics, join us at Doughnut Economics Action Lab where we dive into much more detail on what it means for transforming our economies.

Doughnut Economics