human activity and the destruction of the planet

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Eco Experts give countries’ survival index for effects of climate change

Quoted from Thomas Tamblin, the Huffington Post 5th July 2017:

In 2014, the University of Notre Dame produced a definitive ranking system that showed how countries around the world would fare if global warming increased at its current rate. The rankings took into account the country’s location, its population density and how financially equipped it was to deal with the rising sea level and increase in temperature.”

Maps from each continent of the world were included, with colour coding according to risk.  According to this ranking, Africa fares the worst, with dark brown showing those countries most at risk through to dark green showing those least at risk.

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I must admit that whilst concerned about these projections, I find myself somewhat bemused about how the Eco Experts weighted their calculations.  It appears to give greater weighting to poorer countries but less weighting to those countries most likely to be affected by sea level rise, such as Netherlands, Denmark, UK, in Europe, New Zealand in Australasia, island states and parts of the USA (Florida in particular).  Maps from National Geographic show this more clearly. For example, the following one for Europe, which shows new coastlines if all the polar ice-caps were to melt.

MI National Geographic map ice melting

Source: National Geographic Creative

It is possible that temperature plays a part in the Eco Experts weightings, as the more temperate countries seem to have a greater chance of survival than those closer to the equator.


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UK Government’s plan to ban new diesel and petrol vehicles by 2040

Whilst this sounds like an overdue move forward in meeting the Paris agreement emissions targets and dealing with severe air pollution, it is actually very disappointing. 2040 is actually 23 years away and we need action now.

Friends of the Earth have responded to the news by focusing on air pollution issues, as follows:

“The government’s plans to clean up our dirty air are simply not good enough.

Its much anticipated Air Quality Plan has now been published. But it doesn’t do enough to tackle toxic air pollution and save lives now.

What’s wrong with the plan?

There’s a big announcement – banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2040 – but this isn’t a plan to end illegal air pollution now, or even anytime soon.

It’s a cynical move designed to grab headlines. Everyone knows what’s needed to give us breathable air:

  • Clean Air Zones areas in which the most polluting vehicles are charged to enter.
  • A diesel scrappage scheme to help drivers switch away from the most polluting vehicles.
  • A levy on the manufacturers who cheated emissions tests to pay for it.

Instead of this the government is passing the buck to local authorities. And as a result people will continue to have their lives cut short because of air pollution.

All in all it’s a cynical move by the government to grab the headlines by announcing changes for 23 years’ time and failing to take serious action now.”

My own perspective on this is to ask the question, “Why has it taken so long for the UK car industry to produce affordable electric and hybrid vehicles?”  We have known about this issue for years now and yet the car manufacturers have continued producing petrol and diesel vehicles, some of them high performance, as if they were safe for the environment.  And my other question is about the infrastructure needed to support the use of electric vehicles. Many British citizens would happily move to electric vehicles if they knew how to easily charge them up – and plan for long journeys.


More access to charging facilities is needed plus quicker charging processes

Yet, car sales continue to rise and, whilst there are more hybrid and electric vehicles being sold in the UK, this is peanuts compared with the greater increases in the sales of petrol and diesel vehicles.  The figures below from 2014, published in chapter 2 (p.46) of my book confirm this.


The actual numbers for the UK in 2014 were:

Petrol fuelled vehicles new registrations             1,184,409               47.8%

Diesel fuelled vehicles new registrations             1,240,287                50.1%

Alternative fuel vehicles new registrations               51,739                  2.1%


Other European countries, such as Norway, are doing far better than this and others are imposing bans on the sale of new petrol vehicles far sooner than the UK is (eg Netherlands by 2025).  Why are we being so slow about it?  Is it that business interests take priority over the environment?


Source: Wikipedia

My other questions is: what about used vehicles?  Are they to be banned from UK roads after 2040 or is it just new vehicles which will be affected?

The measures clearly don’t go far enough.

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The Climate Vulnerable Forum of 48 countries

There are currently 48 countries which are members of the Climate Vulnerable Forum, a body set up in 2009 to include those countries which are especially vulnerable to climate change.

In 2009, the following countries adopted its first declaration: Bangladesh, Barbados, Bhutan, Ghana, Kenya, Kiribati, Maldives, Nepal, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Vietnam. Two years later, the following countries adopted its second declaration: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Kiribati, Madagascar, Maldives, Nepal, Philippines, Rwanda, Saint Lucia, Tanzania, Timor-Leste, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, and Vietnam.

At the Third High Level Meeting of the CVF held during the United Nation’s COP21 conference, the membership of the Forum expanded to 43, to include the following 23 new members: Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominican Republic, Fiji, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Malawi, Marshall Islands, Mongolia, Morocco, Niger, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Senegal, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tunisia and Yemen.

At the Marrakesh COP22 meeting, the following countries were added: The Gambia, Columbia, Lebanon, Palestine and Samoa.

The Forum first met in 2009 at Male, Maldives and has since met in Kiribati, Bangladesh,  Costa Rica, Philippines and Ethiopia, each of these countries assuming the Chair of the Forum for a period of one year each.

The Climate Vulnerable Forum has been a progressive voice throughout the UN COP negotiations and was instrumental in getting the crucial 1.5oC limit included in the Paris Agreement.


The 48 developing country members demonstrated much needed ambition and leadership at COP22 (Marrakesh). They agreed to making their energy production 100% renewable “as rapidly as possible”, and by between 2030 and 2050 at the latest. This commitment is set out in the CVF’s leadership vision statement for 2016-2018, called the The Marrakech Vision’, the outcome document of the CVF High Level Meeting held on Friday 18 November 2016. The vulnerable countries also outlined a number of other ambitious commitments:

  • To lead processes and to help trigger increased commitments from all countries for urgent progress towards the 1.5°C limit set out in the Paris Agreement
  • To commit to update their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) as early as possible before 2020
  • To prepare mid-century, long-term low GHG development strategies as early as possible before 2020

Mattlan Zackhras, Minister in Assistance to the President of the Marshall Islands, represented the Marshall Islands at the preparatory CVF meeting in Addis Ababa on 24-25th October 2016, which helped come up with the draft documents for the CVF announcements at COP22. The Marshall Islands was confirmed in the CVF Marrakesh meetings as the future Chair of the CVF, to take over in August 2018 after the term of office of the current Ethiopian Chair expires. Speaking at the CVF’s High Level Meeting, Minister Zackhras emphasised that we have to “make sure that global emissions peak in the next few years and we turn the corner to a cleaner and safer 1.5 world.”


Further details of the work of the forum and the decisions made by them can be found at:

See also an earlier blog on the effects of rising seas on island nations.

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Earth’s Next Major Mass Extinction has already started

The title of my book is based on the fact that scientists have predicted that there will be a sixth mass extinction of species on the earth in less than three generations time.  Now, at last, this theme is being picked up by the mass media.

The Huffington Post reports on similar scientific studies, as follows:

Human overpopulation and over-consumption by the wealthiest in society are driving factors behind the destruction of species on planet Earth, which is having a negative impact on ecosystems, according to researchers.

The grim warning, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, states that the hidden rate of species population decreases mean “Earth’s sixth mass extinction episode has proceeded further than most assume”.

The report, involving scientists at both Stanford and Mexico City universities, found the current rate of vertebrate extinction during the last century was two species a year – this was compared with two species every 100 years over the last two million years. They warned the estimates were likely to be “conservative”, with “several” species of mammal now endangered despite being at “relatively safe” levels at the turn of the millennium.

The report said: “As much as 50% of the number of animal individuals that once shared Earth with us are already gone, as are billions of populations.

“We emphasise that the sixth mass extinction is already here and the window for effective action is very short, probably two or three decades at most. “All signs point to ever more powerful assaults on biodiversity in the next two decades, painting a dismal picture of the future of life, including human life.”

Scientists said the loss of animals from the planet would “promote cascading catastrophic effects on ecosystems”, including plants and other wildlife.  The report added: “The resulting biological annihilation obviously will also have serious ecological, economic, and social consequences. Humanity will eventually pay a very high price for the decimation of the only assemblage of life that we know of in the universe.”

Federico_Veronesi_2009-01-28 Masai Mara_4728

Big cats are very much endangered

The report was based on analysis of 27,600 mammals, reptiles and amphibians, and cited double-digit decreases in the populations of species such as African lion, which has seen a 43% drop since 1993.

Researchers did not state how long it predicted the human race to survive, but said there was scope to “address the decay of biodiversity.”

This same issue is dealt with in Chapter 1 of  “Three Generations Left: Human Activity and the Destruction of the Planet” (see home page).

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Three generations left? Or is it only three years? New evidence from climate experts in Nature magazine

Christiana Figueres, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Gail Whiteman, Johan Rockstrom, Anthony Hobley and Stefan Rahmstorff – all experts in climate change issues – have written an article in Nature magazine (28th June 2017) to warn that we have only three years to safeguard our climate. Figueres, a former UN climate chief and executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, under whom the Paris agreement was signed, and her colleagues, who also include prominent figures from the UNFCCC, set out a six-point plan for turning the tide by 2020.



Christiana Figueres is second from the left in the front row.  Photograph taken after the signing of the Paris agreement in December 2015 (COP21)

After rising for decades, global emissions of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels have levelled in the past three years – a sign that investment in climate mitigations are starting to pay off.  But there is still a long way to go to decarbonize the world economy.

For example, globally, the mean rate of sea level rise increased by 50% in the last two decades. In 2017, temperatures have already reached their highest levels in history in some areas, from California to Vietnam. And the past three years were the hottest on record.  And, two days ago, the highest ever recorded temperature (54˚C) was recorded in the city of Ahvaz, Iran, a city of 1.1 million people.
Due to increases in global temperatures, driven by human activity, ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are already losing mass at an increasing rate. Summer sea ice is disappearing in the Arctic and coral reefs are dying from heat stress — entire ecosystems are starting to collapse. The social impacts of climate change from intensified heatwaves, droughts and sea-level rise are inexorable and affect the poorest and weakest first. An American study recently published in Science and reported in the Financial Times, shows that poorer parts of the US stand to suffer damages of up to 20 per cent of their income if global warming continues unabated and that they will suffer disproportionately more than richer areas. 


The writers of the Nature article believe that the year 2020 is crucially important because if emissions continue to rise, or even stay level, the temperature goals set in Paris in 2015 will become unattainable and they set out the reasons for this.

The six-point plan includes milestones to be achieved in Energy (to 30% renewables worldwide); Infrastructure (decarbonising buildings); Transport (moving to 15% electric vehicles, fuel efficiences for heavy-duty vehicles and a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by the airline industry); Land (reducing deforestation and a shift to reforestation, sustainable agricultural practices and healthy, well-managed soils); Industry (a goal of halving carbon emissions by 2050, especially in carbon-intensive industries, such as iron and steel, cement, chemicals, oil and gas); Finance (to rethink financial investments, the issuing of more green bonds to finance climate-mitigation efforts).

The authors have launched Mission 2020, a collaborative campaign to raise ambition and action across key sectors, so that the carbon emissions will start to go down.  See:

A 29-page report ‘2020: The Climate Turning Point’ can be accessed on the mission2020 website.  It gives the evidential basis for their conclusions that 2020 will be the point of no return, unless carbon emissions have started to drop by then. They suggest actions to bring down the emissions.  These are far-reaching and require a total commitment globally.


A report on this in the Guardian includes quotes from some of the authors:

Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, commented: “The maths is brutally clear: while the world can’t be healed within the next few years, it may be fatally wounded by negligence [before] 2020.”

Johan Rockström of the Stockholm Resilience Centre said: “We have been blessed by a remarkably resilient planet over the past 100 years, able to absorb most of our climate abuse. Now we have reached the end of this era, and need to bend the global curve of emissions immediately, to avoid unmanageable outcomes for our modern world.”

The authors hope that their 6-point plan will be adopted at the G20 summit in Hamburg on 7-8th July.