Thursday, October 31, 2013

Naomi Klein: Why Science Is Telling All of Us to Revolt and Change Our Lives Before We Destroy the Planet

People scream outside the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in

Stockholm to demand immediate political action on the climate on September 27, 2013

In December 2012, a pink-haired complex systems researcher named Brad Werner made his way through the throng of 24,000 earth and space scientists at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union, held annually in San Francisco.

This year’s conference had some big-name participants, from Ed Stone of Nasa’s Voyager project, explaining a new milestone on the path to interstellar space, to the film-maker James Cameron, discussing his adventures in deep-sea submersibles.

But it was Werner’s own session that was attracting much of the buzz. It was titled “Is Earth F**ked?” (full title: “Is Earth F**ked? Dynamical Futility of Global Environmental Management and Possibilities for Sustainability via Direct Action Activism”).

Standing at the front of the conference room, the geophysicist from the University of California, San Diego walked the crowd through the advanced computer model he was using to answer that question. He talked about system boundaries, perturbations, dissipation, attractors, bifurcations and a whole bunch of other stuff largely incomprehensible to those of us uninitiated in complex systems theory. But the bottom line was clear enough: global capitalism has made the depletion of resources so rapid, convenient and barrier-free that “earth-human systems” are becoming dangerously unstable in response. When pressed by a journalist for a clear answer on the “are we f**ked” question, Werner set the jargon aside and replied, “More or less.”

There was one dynamic in the model, however, that offered some hope. Werner termed it “resistance” – movements of “people or groups of people” who “adopt a certain set of dynamics that does not fit within the capitalist culture”. According to the abstract for his presentation, this includes “environmental direct action, resistance taken from outside the dominant culture, as in protests, blockades and sabotage by indigenous peoples, workers, anarchists and other activist groups”.

Serious scientific gatherings don’t usually feature calls for mass political resistance, much less direct action and sabotage. But then again, Werner wasn’t exactly calling for those things. He was merely observing that mass uprisings of people – along the lines of the abolition movement, the civil rights movement or Occupy Wall Street – represent the likeliest source of “friction” to slow down an economic machine that is careening out of control. We know that past social movements have “had tremendous influence on . . . how the dominant culture evolved”, he pointed out. So it stands to reason that, “if we’re thinking about the future of the earth, and the future of our coupling to the environment, we have to include resistance as part of that dynamics”. And that, Werner argued, is not a matter of opinion, but “really a geophysics problem”.

Plenty of scientists have been moved by their research findings to take action in the streets. Physicists, astronomers, medical doctors and biologists have been at the forefront of movements against nuclear weapons, nuclear power, war, chemical contamination and creationism. And in November 2012,Nature published a commentary by the financier and environmental philanthropist Jeremy Grantham urging scientists to join this tradition and “be arrested if necessary”, because climate change “is not only the crisis of your lives – it is also the crisis of our species’ existence”.

Some scientists need no convincing. The godfather of modern climate science, James Hansen, is a formidable activist, having been arrested some half-dozen times for resisting mountain-top removal coal mining and tar sands pipelines (he even left his job at Nasa this year in part to have more time for campaigning). Two years ago, when I was arrested outside the White House at a mass action against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, one of the 166 people in cuffs that day was a glaciologist named Jason Box, a world-renowned expert on Greenland’s melting ice sheet.

“I couldn’t maintain my self-respect if I didn’t go,” Box said at the time, adding that “just voting doesn’t seem to be enough in this case. I need to be a citizen also.”

This is laudable, but what Werner is doing with his modelling is different. He isn’t saying that his research drove him to take action to stop a particular policy; he is saying that his research shows that our entire economic paradigm is a threat to ecological stability. And indeed that challenging this economic paradigm – through mass-movement counter-pressure – is humanity’s best shot at avoiding catastrophe.

That’s heavy stuff. But he’s not alone. Werner is part of a small but increasingly influential group of scientists whose research into the destabilisation of natural systems – particularly the climate system – is leading them to similarly transformative, even revolutionary, conclusions. And for any closet revolutionary who has ever dreamed of overthrowing the present economic order in favour of one a little less likely to cause Italian pensioners to hang themselves in their homes, this work should be of particular interest. Because it makes the ditching of that cruel system in favour of something new (and perhaps, with lots of work, better) no longer a matter of mere ideological preference but rather one of species-wide existential necessity.

Leading the pack of these new scientific revolutionaries is one of Britain’s top climate experts, Kevin Anderson, the deputy director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, which has quickly established itself as one of the UK’s premier climate research institutions. Addressing everyone from the Department for International Development to Manchester City Council, Anderson has spent more than a decade patiently translating the implications of the latest climate science to politicians, economists and campaigners. In clear and understandable language, he lays out a rigorous road map for emissions reduction, one that provides a decent shot at keeping global temperature rise below 2° Celsius, a target that most governments have determined would stave off catastrophe.

But in recent years Anderson’s papers and slide shows have become more alarming. Under titles such as “Climate Change: Going Beyond Dangerous . . . Brutal Numbers and Tenuous Hope”, he points out that the chances of staying within anything like safe temperature levels are diminishing fast.

With his colleague Alice Bows, a climate mitigation expert at the Tyndall Centre, Anderson points out that we have lost so much time to political stalling and weak climate policies – all while global consumption (and emissions) ballooned – that we are now facing cuts so drastic that they challenge the fundamental logic of prioritising GDP growth above all else.

Anderson and Bows inform us that the often-cited long-term mitigation target – an 80 per cent emissions cut below 1990 levels by 2050 – has been selected purely for reasons of political expediency and has “no scientific basis”. That’s because climate impacts come not just from what we emit today and tomorrow, but from the cumulative emissions that build up in the atmosphere over time. And they warn that by focusing on targets three and a half decades into the future – rather than on what we can do to cut carbon sharply and immediately – there is a serious risk that we will allow our emissions to continue to soar for years to come, thereby blowing through far too much of our 2° “carbon budget” and putting ourselves in an impossible position later in the century.

Which is why Anderson and Bows argue that, if the governments of developed countries are serious about hitting the agreedupon international target of keeping warming below 2° Celsius, and if reductions are to respect any kind of equity principle (basically that the countries that have been spewing carbon for the better part of two centuries need to cut before the countries where more than a billion people still don’t have electricity), then the reductions need to be a lot deeper, and they need to come a lot sooner.

To have even a 50/50 chance of hitting the 2° target (which, they and many others warn, already involves facing an array of hugely damaging climate impacts), the industrialised countries need to start cutting their greenhouse-gas emissions by something like 10 per cent a year – and they need to start right now. But Anderson and Bows go further, pointing out that this target cannot be met with the array of modest carbon pricing or green-tech solutions usually advocated by big green groups. These measures will certainly help, to be sure, but they are simply not enough: a 10 per cent drop in emissions, year after year, is virtually unprecedented since we started powering our economies with coal. In fact, cuts above 1 per cent per year “have historically been associated only with economic recession or upheaval”, as the economist Nicholas Stern put it in his 2006 report for the British government.

Even after the Soviet Union collapsed, reductions of this duration and depth did not happen (the former Soviet countries experienced average annual reductions of roughly 5 per cent over a period of ten years). They did not happen after Wall Street crashed in 2008 (wealthy countries experienced about a 7 per cent drop between 2008 and 2009, but their CO2 emissions rebounded with gusto in 2010 and emissions in China and India had continued to rise). Only in the immediate aftermath of the great market crash of 1929 did the United States, for instance, see emissions drop for several consecutive years by more than 10 per cent annually, according to historical data from the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Centre. But that was the worst economic crisis of modern times.

If we are to avoid that kind of carnage while meeting our science-based emissions targets, carbon reduction must be managed carefully through what Anderson and Bows describe as “radical and immediate de-growth strategies in the US, EU and other wealthy nations”. Which is fine, except that we happen to have an economic system that fetishises GDP growth above all else, regardless of the human or ecological consequences, and in which the neoliberal political class has utterly abdicated its responsibility to manage anything (since the market is the invisible genius to which everything must be entrusted).

So what Anderson and Bows are really saying is that there is still time to avoid catastrophic warming, but not within the rules of capitalism as they are currently constructed. Which may be the best argument we have ever had for changing those rules.

In a 2012 essay that appeared in the influential scientific journal Nature Climate Change, Anderson and Bows laid down something of a gauntlet, accusing many of their fellow scientists of failing to come clean about the kind of changes that climate change demands of humanity. On this it is worth quoting the pair at length:

. . . in developing emission scenarios scientists repeatedly and severely underplay the implications of their analyses. When it comes to avoiding a 2°C rise, “impossible” is translated into “difficult but doable”, whereas “urgent and radical” emerge as “challenging” – all to appease the god of economics (or, more precisely, finance). For example, to avoid exceeding the maximum rate of emission reduction dictated by economists, “impossibly” early peaks in emissions are assumed, together with naive notions about “big” engineering and the deployment rates of low-carbon infrastructure. More disturbingly, as emissions budgets dwindle, so geoengineering is increasingly proposed to ensure that the diktat of economists remains unquestioned.

In other words, in order to appear reasonable within neoliberal economic circles, scientists have been dramatically soft-peddling the implications of their research. By August 2013, Anderson was willing to be even more blunt, writing that the boat had sailed on gradual change. “Perhaps at the time of the 1992 Earth Summit, or even at the turn of the millennium, 2°C levels of mitigation could have been achieved through significant evolutionary changes within the political and economic hegemony. But climate change is a cumulative issue! Now, in 2013, we in high-emitting (post-)industrial nations face a very different prospect. Our ongoing and collective carbon profligacy has squandered any opportunity for the ‘evolutionary change’ afforded by our earlier (and larger) 2°C carbon budget. Today, after two decades of bluff and lies, the remaining 2°C budget demands revolutionary change to the political and economic hegemony” (his emphasis).

We probably shouldn’t be surprised that some climate scientists are a little spooked by the radical implications of even their own research. Most of them were just quietly doing their work measuring ice cores, running global climate models and studying ocean acidification, only to discover, as the Australian climate expert and author Clive Hamilton puts it, that they “were unwittingly destabilising the political and social order”.

But there are many people who are well aware of the revolutionary nature of climate science. It’s why some of the governments that decided to chuck their climate commitments in favour of digging up more carbon have had to find ever more thuggish ways to silence and intimidate their nations’ scientists. In Britain, this strategy is becoming more overt, with Ian Boyd, the chief scientific adviser at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, writing recently that scientists should avoid “suggesting that policies are either right or wrong” and should express their views “by working with embedded advisers (such as myself), and by being the voice of reason, rather than dissent, in the public arena”.

If you want to know where this leads, check out what’s happening in Canada, where I live. The Conservative government of Stephen Harper has done such an effective job of gagging scientists and shutting down critical research projects that, in July 2012, a couple thousand scientists and supporters held a mock-funeral on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, mourning “the death of evidence”. Their placards said, “No Science, No Evidence, No Truth”.

But the truth is getting out anyway. The fact that the business-as-usual pursuit of profits and growth is destabilising life on earth is no longer something we need to read about in scientific journals. The early signs are unfolding before our eyes. And increasing numbers of us are responding accordingly: blockading fracking activity in Balcombe; interfering with Arctic drilling preparations in Russian waters (at tremendous personal cost); taking tar sands operators to court for violating indigenous sovereignty; and countless other acts of resistance large and small. In Brad Werner’s computer model, this is the “friction” needed to slow down the forces of destabilisation; the great climate campaigner Bill McKibben calls it the “antibodies” rising up to fight the planet’s “spiking fever”. More


The Coming Carbon Asset Bubble

After the credit crisis and Great Recession, it seemed ridiculous to have thought that investing in subprime mortgages was a good idea. As with most market "bubbles," the risk of giving 7.5 million mortgages to people who couldn't possibly pay them off was somehow invisible to many investors at the time.

One reason such bubbles form is the tendency by many investors to confuse "risk" with "uncertainty." As the economist Frank Knight established, there is a subtle but crucial distinction between the two: Uncertainty is what good investors usually fear the most, because it cannot be measured or priced as risk can be. But when investors mislabel risk as uncertainty, they become vulnerable to the assumption that since it cannot be measured, they might as well ignore it.

That is exactly what is happening with the subprime carbon asset bubble: It is still growing because most market participants are mistakenly treating carbon risk as an uncertainty, and are thus failing to incorporate it in investment analyses. By overlooking a known material-risk factor, investors are exposing their portfolios to an externality that should be integrated into the capital allocation process.

Here is the relevance of carbon to investing: There is consensus within the scientific community that increasing the global temperature by more than 2°C will likely cause devastating and irreversible damage to the planet. Reliable measurements make it clear that we will easily cross this threshold in the near term at our current rate of CO2 emissions. So in an effort to avoid it, the International Energy Agency has calculated a global "Carbon Budget" that accommodates the burning of merely one-third of existing fossil fuel reserves by 2050. Put differently, at least two-thirds of fossil fuel reserves will not be monetized if we are to stay below 2°C of warming—creating "stranded carbon assets."

A stranded asset is one that loses economic value well ahead of its anticipated useful life. Stranded carbon assets include fossil fuels, as well as those assets which, given their dependence on fossil fuels, are also CO2-emissions intensive. Not all carbon-intensive assets are created equal, and it is reasonable to assume that in carbon-constrained scenarios the projects with the highest break-even costs and emissions profile (e.g., tar sands and coal) will be stranded first.

Many investors cite what we believe is a misinformed view that carbon assets will not be vulnerable to stranding until a meaningful carbon price is enforced by a global accord. While a global price on carbon certainly would be important, we believe that investors are mistaken to assume that is the only path to stranding carbon assets. We believe that any such strategy is unwise and increasingly reckless—because of three broad risks:

First is regulation that could strand assets in several ways: direct regulation on carbon led by authorities at the local, national, regional, or global level; indirect regulation through increased pollution controls, constraints on water usage, or policies targeting health concerns; and mandates on renewable energy adoption and efficiency standards. Even the threat of impending regulation creates uncertainty for long-lived carbon-intensive assets.

Second, stranding may occur as a result of market forces. Renewable technologies are already economically competitive with fossil fuels in a number of countries without subsidies. This cost competitiveness, combined with the ability to secure stable long-term prices for power, and an increase in distributed electricity models, could continue to shift capital allocation way from fossil fuels.

Third, sociopolitical pressures (e.g., fossil-fuel divestment campaigns, environmental advocacy, grass-roots protests and changing public opinion) could create an environment in which carbon-intensive businesses could lose their "license to operate," thereby stranding assets.

Delaying action to mitigate climate change will not delay climate change itself. As such, investors can strand fossil-fuel energy assets today, or absorb the cost of inaction by causing a much larger stranding across industries and asset classes in the future. The case to incorporate carbon risk into both equity and debt valuations now is one of short- and long-term prudent risk management. There are four principal ways investors can do this:

First, identify carbon asset risks across portfolios. At a minimum, investors should determine the extent to which carbon risk is embedded in current and future investments. This can be achieved by, for example, considering the key drivers of a company's current and future asset base in the context of carbon risks and developing tools that quantify risks for valuations. Note that passive, index tracking funds should also identify their exposure to carbon risks since they too are vulnerable to stranding as fossil fuel-dependent assets make up roughly 10%-30% of most major exchanges.

Second, engage corporate boards and executives on plans to mitigate and disclose carbon risks. Investors should ask questions like: Do companies have a shadow price on carbon (if not, why not?) and how does it impact their cash position? What is the amount of carbon they plan to burn and how does it relate to their long-term strategic plan? Investors should pressure executive teams to divert cash flow away from capital expenditures on developing fossil fuels and toward more productive uses in the context of a transition to a low carbon economy.

Third, diversify investments into opportunities positioned to succeed in a low-carbon economy. Investors should tilt portfolios away from assets with embedded carbon risks and toward assets with low or no carbon emissions. Investors have the opportunity to capitalize on emerging solutions such as: energy generation (e.g., solar, wind, geothermal); buildings (e.g., insulating materials, lighting, metering); and transport (e.g., engines, electric vehicles, fleet logistics). This hedging strategy will buffer the impact an extreme carbon risk event might have on a portfolio while potentially capturing the upside of the transition away from fossil fuel assets.

Fourth, divest fossil fuel assets. This is certainly the surest way to reduce carbon risk, though we fully recognize that divesting can be complicated and may be difficult for many asset owners. Such a transition could be phased in over several years, and there are gradations; early and easy progress can be made by at least divesting from the most emissions-intensive forms of energy—especially since they are likely to face stranding well ahead of less carbon-intensive fossil fuels.

In the words of President John F. Kennedy, "There are risks and costs to a program of action. But they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction." The transition to a low carbon future will revolutionize the global economy and present significant opportunities for superior investment returns. However, investors must also acknowledge that carbon risk is real and growing. Inaction is no longer prudent. More


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Record hot year causes fire emergency in Australia

A state of emergency has been declared in Australia's most populous state and officials are saying that the 63 fires burning in New South Wales (NSW) present the worst fire danger seen in 45 years.

Seventeen of the fires are uncontained, and two, in Springwood and Lithgow, are classed as emergency situations. Three boys, age 11, 14, and 15, are being questioned by police on suspicion of lighting fires.

With temperatures remaining above 30°C and with wind gusts of up to 100 kilometres an hour, conditions favour the fires, and this weather is expected to continue. Firefighters fear a 300 kilometre fire front might join with a separate 60 kilometre fire (see map of current fires).

Ahead of the worsening weather, the NSW Rural Fire Service was conducting last-ditch back-burning operations – lighting small controlled fires in the path of large blazes so that no flammable material remains in the area, and the fire front cannot advance. These efforts were planned to strengthen containment lines at State Mine near Lithgow. Rural Fire Service commissioner, Shane Fitzsimmons, said the operations were risky but considered.

"If it comes off, and works, it's a wonderful firefighting effort," he told a press briefing. "But there is every likelihood investing in a strategy like that, that it will breach, that it will fail – and then you've got a fire that will cross over everything you've just tried to implement."

Primed for ignition

The worst property losses were caused by separate fires closer to Sydney in Springwood and Winmalee. More than 200 houses have been destroyed and at least one person has died so far.

The state of emergency gives authorities the power to force residents to evacuate and the right to demolish buildings that pose a danger, but so far these measures have not been used.

Climate models predict the worst fire weather will be increasingly common in NSW, but the ferocity of the current fires was not caused by particularly bad fire weather, says climate scientist Andy Pitman from the University of New South Wales in Sydney. Instead, it was the result of a very warm winter – the second warmest on record in NSW and part of Australia's warmest 12 months on record– which was probably caused by climate change, according to Pitman.

"Vegetation that would commonly basically shut down in winter continued to transpire," says Pitman. By continuing to give off water, the vegetation dried out the soil so that in spring, the plants had little access to water and became dry. That primed the landscape for fire: "Really hot days combined with strong winds plus ignition equals a major problem," says Pitman. More


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Extreme weather can be the 'most important cause of poverty'

New research suggests that extreme weather events will keep people poor in many parts of the world.

The authors argue that where disasters like drought are prevalent, they can be the most important cause of poverty.

They say that up to 325 million people will be living in countries highly exposed to natural hazards by 2030.

If aid is not used to reduce these risks, the progress made in fighting poverty could disappear.

The report has been compiled by the Overseas Development Institute.

It examines the relationship between disasters and poverty over the next 20 years, using population projections, climate models and estimations of how governments can cope with extreme events.

The report suggests that up to a third of a billion people could be living in the 49 countries most exposed to the full range of natural hazards and climate extremes in 2030.

In sub-Saharan Africa 118 million people in poverty will face extreme events.

Drought means poverty

The big weather issues that will face most poor people are drought, extreme rainfall and flooding.

An analysis of the data from rural Ethiopia and Andhra Pradesh in India suggests that where there is a strong risk of drought, then drought is also the single most important factor in keeping people poor, outstripping ill health or dowry payments.

"We've often heard that ill health is the biggest cause for impoverishment," said Dr Tom Mitchell, the ODI's head of climate change.

"But in the data, in drought prone areas, the biggest cause is the drought - in areas exposed to these hazards, they are the key causes of impoverishment."

Developed countries haven't recognised the role that these extreme weather events have in keeping people poor, he says.

The big problem is that, at present, money tends to flow in response to disasters, not to prevent them.

Dr Mitchell says the recent Cyclone Phailin in India is a good example.

"The very fact that it killed so few people means that the chances of raising big finance for recovery efforts are going to be pretty slim. It has not got the big numbers attached to it," he said.

"I think there's a direct link between the ability to raise finance and the number of people killed. It's a perverse incentive."

Part of the problem is that donor countries are not prioritising aid at the countries that need it most, in terms of disaster risk reduction.

"We've tended to provide much more financial support to a set of middle income countries, who can manage it better like the Philippines, Mexico and Indonesia who made really great strides in protecting their populations," said Dr Mitchell.

"What we've not done is focus on the poorest countries, the ones most exposed to issues like drought, for example, sub Saharan Africa, we've almost missed it off."

The authors of the report argue that the way that vulnerable countries spend their money needs reforming too. Too often the money is spent on the capital city or on infrastructure and not on the poorest people. More



Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Science team identifies tipping point in climate change: 2047

If you’ve been wondering when global warming will show up on your doorstep, Camilo Mora has an answer for you.

Dr. Mora, an associate professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, leads a team that has tackled the challenging question of when the climate will shift entirely beyond what could be considered natural.

Their result: The turning point arrives in 2047 as a worldwide average if fossil fuel consumption continues unabated; as late as 2069 if carbon emissions are curbed. Broken down by city the numbers are a bit more revealing. In Montreal, for example, the new normal will arrive a year sooner. For Toronto it’s 2049 and for Vancouver not until 2056. But the real spotlight of Dr. Mora’s study is what happens in the tropics, where profound changes could be entrenched within little more than a decade.

“By looking at timing we’ve come up with an entirely new set of implications on climate change,” Dr. Mora said.

Dr. Mora is not a climate scientist but an expert in dealing with huge amounts of data to pull out hidden information – a skill he honed over six years at Dalhousie University in Halifax, working with the likes of the late Ransom Myers. It was Dr. Myers’ number crunching skills that turned the plight of the world’s fish stock into headline news in 2003.

Ten years later, Dr. Mora is following in his mentor’s footsteps with a study that seems certain to grab attention.

“I want to let the numbers do the talking,” he said.

Climate scientists have long expressed high confidence that the planet is warming as a result of the heat trapping action of greenhouse gasses. The latest assessment from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change puts that confidence at 95 per cent. Where scientists have been less confident is on the timing of the change. Different models show the global temperatures rising at different rates and the hundreds of scientists behind the IPCC assessment can’t say which model will turn out to be the best predictor of what actually happens over the course of this century.

Starting with an idea that came out of a course he was teaching last spring, Dr. Mora decided to address the gap with some nuts and bolts analysis.

His team combined data from all 39 currently available global climate models and went back nearly 150 years to see what the range of normal climate variability was over that time period.

“We looked at the minimum and maximum values that occurred in that 150-year window and that’s how we set our bounds of recent historical variability,” said Ryan Longman, a doctoral student who worked on the analysis, published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

Then the team tracked the combined predictions of the models forward at different points on the globe to watch how soon the predictions drifted completely out of their normal range. Once the coldest year at any given location was consistently warmer than the hottest year prior to 2005 the team considered the climate to have changed completely. The dates when this happens are different for different locations and they depend on the emissions scenario.

“I think this analysis is valuable and sheds new light on impacts,” said Jane Lubchenco, the former administrator of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in an e-mail.

Dr. Lubchenco, who was not involved in the study, stepped down earlier this year to return to academic research at Oregon State University. She said “no one has gone to the immense effort they did to really look critically at the data from so many places and over the entire period of time for which records are reliable.”

The key result of the finding, Dr. Mora said, is that tropical locations will leave the range of normal climate variability much sooner because they typically experience a narrow range of temperature and precipitation levels. That’s a worry Dr. Mora said, because species there are not well adapted to living outside those ranges. Similarly, cities and nations found along Earth’s equator are among the poorest and least equipped to deal with the health and environmental burden of climate change.

“Today when people talk about climate change the images that come to mind are melting ice and polar bears,” Dr. Mora said. “People might infer from this that the tropics will be less affected.”

Instead, he said, the new analysis showed that species and ecosystems in the tropics would soon be experiencing “unprecedented climate stress.” The trend also goes for marine ecosystems where the study shows that ocean acidification has already departed from the normal range with a disastrous outlook for coral reefs.

Ken Caldeira, an expert in global ecology at the Carnegie Institution in Stanford added that while the timing and global breakdown from Dr. Mora’s analysis represent solid science, what matters more is the response.

“Whether an ecosystem goes a decade or two earlier or later doesn’t really matter that much,” Dr. Caldeira said. “We must stop using the atmosphere as a waste dump for our greenhouse-gas pollution. Everything else is nuance.” More


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Lester Brown on Global Depletion themes

Lester recently spoke to Chris Martenson of Peak Prosperity. In this podcast Chris and Lester discuss the global depletion themes that concern Lester most greatly, including population growth, water usage, limits to food production, and climate changes. In many of these areas, the picture painted by the data is alarming. Our future choices are quickly being limited to WHEN these constraints will limit our way of life, not IF. Take a listen!

Monday, October 7, 2013

24 Hours of Reality: The Cost of Carbon

Updates from The Climate Reality Project - 24 Hours of Reality: The Cost of Carbon

This year’s theme, The Cost of Carbon, explores the reality that we are all paying the price for carbon pollution today: tax dollars diverted for cleaning up damage from super storms; families displaced by flooding and wildfires; lives and livelihoods lost as terrain and weather patterns alter underfoot; food and water scarcity that leads to geopolitical instability. The list goes on and on and the costs go well beyond money. And yet few are reporting on the connection between carbon pollution and its devastating consequences – until now.

During the show, we will travel the world exploring six continents— Africa, Asia, North America, South America, Australia, and Europe — identifying the specific costs we are already paying for carbon pollution. Six hosts, one from each continent, will guide the segments. Along with former Vice President Al Gore and the President and CEO of Climate Reality Maggie L. Fox, our hosts and guests will be a variety of international celebrities, scientists, economists, business leaders, and other experts who will help us explore the diverse impacts that climate change is having around the world and the associated costs.

Continue to tune in for more updates about 24 Hours of Reality and be sure to spread the word about the event and invite your networks to RSVP.


Friday, October 4, 2013

A Fierce Green Fire - Trailer

Spanning 50 years of grassroots and global activism, this Sundance documentary brings to light the vital stories of the environmental movement where people fought -- and succeeded -- against enormous odds. From halting dams in the Grand Canyon to fighting toxic waste at Love Canal; from Greenpeace to Chico Mendes; from climate change to the promise of transforming our civilization, A Fierce Green Fire is "nothing less than the history of environmentalism itself." (Los Angeles Times)

From the Academy Award-nominated director of "Berkeley in the Sixties", and narrated by Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, Ashley Judd, Van Jones and Isabel Allende.

Native Tribes' Traditional Knowledge Can Help US Adapt to Climate Change

That's the conclusion of more than 50 researchers at Dartmouth and elsewhere in a special issue of the journal Climatic Change. It is the first time a peer-reviewed journal has focused exclusively on climate change's impacts on U.S. tribes and how they are responding to the changing environments. Dartmouth also will host an Indigenous Peoples Climate Change Working Group meeting Nov. 4- 5.

The special issue, which includes 13 articles, concludes that tribes' traditional ecological knowledge can play a key role in developing scientific solutions to adapt to the impacts. "The partnerships between tribal peoples and their non-tribal research allies give us a model for responsible and respectful international collaboration," the authors say.

Dartmouth assistant professors Nicholas Reo and Angela Parker, whose article is titled "Re-thinking colonialism to prepare for the impacts of rapid environmental change," said New England settlers created a cascade of environmental and human changes that spread across North America, including human diseases, invasive species, deforestation and overharvest.

The researchers identified social and ecological tipping points and feedback loops that amplify and mitigate environmental change. For example, prior to the arrival of Europeans, old growth deciduous forests were rich with animal and plant resources and covered more than 80 percent of New England. Native peoples helped to sustain this bountiful biodiversity for centuries through their land practices.

"But when indigenous communities were decimated by disease and eventually alienated from their known environments, land tenure innovations based on deep, local ecological knowledge, disappeared," the researchers say. "Colonists, and their extractive systems aimed at key animal and plant species, became the new shapers of cultural landscapes. Rapid ecological degradation subsequently ensued, and New Englanders created a difficult project of stewarding a far less resilient landscape without help from indigenous land managers who would have known best how to enact ecological restoration measures."

Today's tribal members who work with natural resources, such as fisherman, farmers and land managers, can play key roles in devising local and regional strategies to adapt to climate change, the researchers say. More


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Lester Brown - IPCC Report Should Serve as 'Wake-Up Call'

Lester Brown, Earth Policy Institute & Dr. Brenda Ekwurzel, Union of Concerned Scientists, join Thom Hartmann. Lester Brown, Earth Policy Institute & Dr. Brenda Ekwurzel, Union of Concerned Scientists join Thom Hartmann. The warming of the climate is unequivocal. That's one of the major findings of a new report put out by the United Nation's International Panel on Climate Change. The report - released every six years - is the most comprehensive report on climate change and global warming. This year's report - worked on by over 800 authors from dozens of countries - won't be released in full until Monday - but the summary for policymakers was released earlier today - and it highlights the report's key findings. Among them - man-made climate change is near certain - and climate change is already effecting extreme and severe weather events across the globe.