threegenerationsleft

human activity and the destruction of the planet


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Tracking progress of the climate turning point: Mission2020

Mission2020, a global coalition of several climate analysis organisations, headed by Christiana Figueres, the former UN climate chief who negotiated the Paris accord. Mission 2020 has calculated that if these milestones are achieved by 2020, it will make the longer-term Paris goals possible – because progress now on reducing emissions will make it easier and cheaper to reduce them in the longer term – and wants to spur sufficient progress on climate change to bring that about.  It was set up by the World Resources Institute.

Mission2020 has set milestones, to track whether climate targets are being reached, and tracked progress on each of them.  The milestones are:

  1.  Energy – renewables out-compete fossil fuels as new electricity sources worldwide.
  2. Infrastructure – cities and states are implementing policies and regulations, with the aim to fully decarbonize buildings and infrastructure by 2050;
  3. Transport – zero emission transport is the preferred form of all new mobility in the world’s major cities and transport routes;
  4. Land use – large scale deforestation is replaced with large-scale land restoration and agriculture shifts to earth-friendly practices;
  5. Industry – heavy industry, including iron and steel, cement, chemicals and oil & gas commits to being Paris compliant;
  6. Finance – investment in climate action is beyond USD $1 trillion per year and all financial institutions have a disclosed transition strategy.

Now, it is reporting that insufficient progress has been made in the milestones to comply with the Paris 2015 target of keeping global warming within 1.5°C.

Removing coal from the global energy mix is taking too long, too many forests are still being destroyed, and fossil fuel subsidies are ongoing despite their distorting effect on the market, the study has found. Coal-fired generation is still increasing, with coal-fired power plants continuing to be built in some areas, while existing plants are not being removed from service fast enough. Electric vehicles, meanwhile, comprise 1.4% of overall sales, making a 2020 milestone of 15% of new car sales hard to reach.

There has also been insufficient progress in agriculture to stop harmful practices that increase carbon dioxide production, and heavy industry is not doing enough to use energy more efficiently.

But the analysis has found important steps forward, on renewable energy, curtailing greenhouse gas emissions from shipping, and public sector investment in reducing emissions. These suggest progress in other aspects of tackling climate change is also possible, with greater effort from the public and private sectors.

The Mission2020 website has produced a simple diagram to demonstrate what the targets are (or have been), in order to keep within 1.5°C and to monitor progress with them:

road-to-success

The most important one is 2020, as carbon emissions need to peak (i.e. not get any higher) by then if we are to keep within 1.5°C. If emissions continue to rise after 2020, then it will be too late to keep within 1.5 degrees, as carbon dioxide will have built up in the atmosphere and will take thousands of years to remove.

Further details about the Mission2020 analysis are reported in the Guardian:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jan/22/analysis-warns-lack-progress-2020-global-emissions-target



An earlier blog I wrote on this website is also relevant to view in this context.  It is entitled “Three generations left – or is it only three years?  New report published in Nature.”



 


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ExxonMobil’s alleged role in climate change misinformation to be scrutinised by EU politicians

For a long time ExxonMobil, the world’s biggest international oil company, has been accused of spreading misinformation about climate change and the role that fossil fuels play in this.  It is alleged that they knew about the effects of fossil fuels on the climate as long ago as 1977, before it became a public issue, as reported by Shannon Hall in Scientific American and cited in my book (Chapter 4 and page 76).

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/exxon-knew-about-climate-change-almost-40-years-ago/

According to Hall, the company then spent decades refusing to publicly acknowledge climate change and even promoted climate misinformation.  Hall likened this approach to the lies spread by the tobacco industry regarding the health risks of smoking.  Exxon became a leader in campaigns of confusion and helped create a Global Climate Coalition to question the scientific basis for concern about climate change.  It also lobbied to prevent the USA from signing the Kyoto Protocol in 1998 (to control greenhouse gases), also influencing other countries, such as China and India, not to sign as well.  It has spent $30 million on think tanks that promote climate denial, according to Greenpeace. Hall’s article provides data that suggests that half of the greenhouse gases in our atmosphere have been released since 1988.  If ExxonMobil had been upfront about the issue in those early years, there could have been so much more progress on climate change than there has been.  The company obviously had vested interests in opposing the scientific evidence but they now have a lot to answer for.   Their campaign was so successful that many people still believe today that climate change is not happening, despite all the evidence to the contrary.

Now, the EU is turning its attention to ExxonMobil’s presence in Europe, especially through the Groningen gas field, a giant natural gas field located in Groningen province in the northeastern part of the Netherlands. Discovered in 1959, it is the largest natural gas field in Europe and the tenth-largest in the world. Other oil and gas fields in the North Sea will also be included in the EU scrutiny.

groningen gas field

Groningen Gas Field

There is an EU hearing on 21st March 2019, in response to a petition organised by Food and Water Watch, asking for a closer look at the information the company “wants to withhold from us now”. The hearing will be jointly held by the petitions committee and MEPs on the environment, public health and food safety committee will quiz a series of speakers on misinformation campaigns on climate change, which could include representatives of the company. Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food and Water Watch Europe, said, “ExxonMobil has misled the public on climate change for over 40 years. Now it’s time to correct the record and hold them accountable… The weak outcome of the climate negotiations in Poland show that we can’t wait – leaders everywhere must take climate denial and climate action seriously.”

Molly Scott Cato, the Green MEP for South West England and Gibraltar, agreed that lobbying of EU institutions by companies that had been linked to climate denial should not be permitted.

She said: “Exxon has a shameful history of funding climate change denial – paying for fake science and dangerous lies that have prevented us from taking timely action on climate change and forcing the world into the current climate crisis.”

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Molly Scott Cato, Green MEP for South West England

In recent years the company has softened its approach to climate change, possibly because it has been targeted by its shareholders to set Carbon targets by the next AGM.

For the full story on this see:

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/dec/17/meps-to-scrutinise-exxonmobil-alleged-role-in-climate-change-misinformation



 


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Met office expects surge in Carbon Dioxide levels in 2019

A report published in The Independent today (25th Jan 2019) states that scientists from the Met Office are predicting a surge this year (2019) in CO2 levels.  This is because of rising emissions due to the world’s continued use of fossil fuels will combine with reduced absorption of greenhouse gas by withering grasslands and forests, due to unprecedented heat.

https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/environment/co2-levels-expected-to-rise-rapidly-in-2019-met-office-scientists-warn/ar-BBSHIZM?ocid=spartandhp#image=2

A further explanation about the prediction is as follows:

CO2 levels will be at a record high once again after emissions reached unprecedented levels last year, dashing hopes the world had finally hit “peak carbon”.

Besides fossil fuels pumping out the harmful gas, natural weather fluctuations will exacerbate the problem as they hamper the ability of carbon sinks to store it.

In 2019 an upward swing in tropical Pacific Ocean temperature will make many regions warmer and drier.

As drought sets in and plants dry out, they will be less capable of sucking CO2 from the atmosphere, and massive deforestation in places like the Amazon is making this problem even worse.

The new predictions were based on monitoring at the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii, which has registered a 30 per cent increase in the concentration of CO2 since 1958.

“Carbon sinks have saved us from what has already happened – the future rise would have been about double if it wasn’t for the sinks. So we are lucky they exist, to be honest,” Professor Richard Betts of the Met Office Hadley Centre told The Independent.

“But the sinks themselves are affected by the climate, and that’s an important thing because it shows that as climate change continues in the future it may affect their strength.”If emissions continue to rise, a major concern is that the carbon sinks currently storing carbon will cease to function, potentially leading to uncontrollable warming and a scenario dubbed “hothouse Earth”.a close up of a map: Forecast CO2 concentrations at the Mauna Loa station for 2019 (orange), along with previous forecast concentrations and the real observed data (Met Office)
© Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited Forecast CO2 concentrations at the Mauna Loa station for 2019 (orange), along with previous forecast concentrations and the real observed data (Met Office)
Last year Mauna Loa observatory recorded concentrations of over 410ppm in April, marking the highest level that had been reached in at least 800,000 years.This year CO2 levels in the atmosphere are likely to hit 411 parts per million (ppm).The Met Office forecast predicts the average increase in CO2 will be around 2.75ppm, the third largest annual rise on record, matched only by two years in which El Nino Pacific warming events took place.

CO2 is by far the biggest contributor to climate change, and global efforts to prevent environmental disaster largely focus on transitioning away from industries that pump it into the air.

Scientists welcomed the new data collected in Hawaii, describing it as “a call to innovate with rapid and radical responses” to the looming crisis.

“We need to reduce emissions from fossil fuel use, increase soil carbon sequestration to ‘lock-up’ CO2, decelerate deforestation and land conversion, and promote less polluting more sustainable agriculture,” said Professor Nick Ostle from Lancaster University, who was not involved in the Met Office research. “It’s a massive challenge but there are real opportunities to make an impact individually and globally.”

Further examples of the effects of global warming across the world are shown in a picture gallery in the original article.
An article in The Guardian on 25th January 2019 also carries this story but giving further detail and linking the predictions to an expected El Niño event in 2019:


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Democracy or Extinction?

This is the title of a a far-reaching report by Media Lens on 22nd January 2019.

http://medialens.org/index.php?option=com_acymailing&ctrl=archive&task=view&mailid=526&key=cb930d676da384e7d00dda36308dd202&subid=9459-27247f5ad5910317f882bc7ac4e817e1&tmpl=component

Here is an extract:

“What will it take for governments to take real action on climate? When will they declare an emergency and do what needs to be done? How much concerted, peaceful public action will be required to disrupt the current economic and political system that is driving humanity to the brink of extinction?

Meanwhile, climate records continue to tumble. 2018 was the hottest for the world’s oceans since records began in the 1950s, continuing a deeply worrying trend. Moreover, the last five years were the five hottest. The consequences are likely to be catastrophic. The oceans are crucial to the Earth’s climate; they absorb more than 90 per cent of the heating generated by greenhouse gases. Yet another sign of serious climate disruption is revealed with seemingly no impact on the juggernaut of economic ‘growth’ and government decision-making.

John Abraham, one of the authors of the new scientific study on this alarming rise in ocean temperatures, said:

‘We scientists sound like a broken record. Every year we present the science and plead for action. Not nearly enough is being done. We can still tackle climate change, but we must act immediately. We have the means to make a difference, we lack only the will.’

It is, of course, heartening to see scientists finally being this outspoken. But it is not accurate to keep repeating the mantra, as many well-intentioned people do, that ‘we’ lack ‘the will’. Who is the ‘we’ here? Big business, powerful financial interests and corporate lobbies have fought tooth and nail to oppose any substantive action. They have battled hard over decades to obscure, rubbish and downplay the science – with huge sums devoted to disinformation campaigns – and to bend government policy in their favour.

US environmentalist Bill McKibben recently observed of the fossil fuel lobby that:

‘The coalition ha[s] used its power to slow us down precisely at the moment when we needed to speed up. As a result, the particular politics of one country for one half-century will have changed the geological history of the earth.’

One could argue that there is a lack of public will to expose and counter corporate power in collusion with nation states; that there needs to be a grassroots revolution to overturn this destructive system of rampant global capitalism. Perhaps there needs to be a revolution in human consciousness; an increased awareness of what it is to be fully human that respects ourselves, other species and the planet itself. Most likely, all of the above. If so, it is vital to say and do much more than merely say, ‘we lack only the will’.

Take the ad-dependent, establishment-preserving, Corbyn-hating Guardian. It obfuscated along similar lines in an editorial sparked by the record-breaking ocean temperatures. Global warming, the editors said:

‘can still be tackled if we act immediately; this is a test of will, not ability.’

But where is the Guardian’s systemic analysis of root causes of climate chaos and what needs to be done about it? The Polish revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg, who was murdered by right-wing paramilitary forces one hundred years ago this month, warned that global capitalism would lead to environmental destruction. This is not a defect of capitalism, she argued, but an inherent feature of a system that is rooted in brutality, gaping inequality and the unsustainable extraction of natural resources.

In her discussion of Luxemburg’s legacy, Ana Cecilia Dinerstein, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Bath, noted:

‘This is evident in the recent decision of Brazil’s new far-right president, Bolsonaro, to “integrate the Amazon region into the Brazilian economy”. This would expand the authority and reach of powerful agribusiness corporations into the Amazon Rainforest – threatening the rights and livelihoods of indigenous people and the ecosystems their lives are entwined with.’

This destruction of indigenous peoples and ecosystems has been inflicted on the continent since Columbus ‘discovered’ America in1492. Globally, the process intensified during the Industrial Revolution and, in more recent decades, with the rise of destructive ‘neoliberal’ economic policies pursued with ideological fervour by Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and later acolytes. No wonder that Luxemburg saw a stark choice between ‘socialism or barbarism’. Today, the choice is most likely ‘socialism or extinction‘.

To any reader unsettled by the scare word ‘socialism’, simply replace it with ‘democracy’: a genuinely inclusive system where the general population has proper input and control, and does not simply have its wishes overridden by a tiny elite that enriches itself at our, and the planet’s, expense.”


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Record temperatures in Australia this month

A report in The Observer (20.1.19) states that temperatures in the high 40s and edging up to 50°C are making it impossible to do much in sweltering Australia.  So far, the highest record daytime temperature is 49.1°C in Tacoolain South Australia. Most people are staying indoors, as handling tools can burn hands, and letting their dogs outside can lead to blistered feet.  The road surfaces are also melting.

It is hot in the night time too, with record highs every single night of one week in January 2019. Last week, there were reports of millions of river fish dying, due to depletion of oxygen in the water (related to an algal bloom caused by the heat).  The mass fish death has led to criticism about water management.

dead fish

Dead fish along the Murray River

The Guardian published a piece about poor water management on 25th January 2019:

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/jan/25/when-the-river-runs-dry-the-australian-towns-facing-heatwave-and-drought?utm_term=RWRpdG9yaWFsX0dyZWVuTGlnaHQtMTkwMTI1&utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GreenLight&CMP=greenlight_email

Further information can be found in the Australian press:

https://www.news.com.au/technology/environment/roads-melt-as-heatwave-escalates-across-parts-of-australia/news-story/ea23d38d583ccafa24c6a42b9574b06f

australia heatwave



23rd January 2019

And now a terrible story of the mass deaths of wild horses in the centre of Australia.  These are feral horses – Australian’s call them Brumbies – who have gone to a water hole in the extreme heat to drink but found it completely dry.  See the following link for the story:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-01-23/mass-brumby-death-discovered-in-remote-central-australia/10739178

dead brumbies

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-01-23/decomposing-dead-brumbies-1/10739428 Source: Facebook/Ralph Turner

Australia, being in the southern hemisphere, is in the midst of its summer, whilst the northern hemisphere is facing a freezing winter.  A colleague has suggested to me that Australia could be a  kind of climate change testbed or warning. First masses of dead fish and now dead horses.  Is this the face of things to come?

Let us hope that these awful scenes cause a change of mind by the Australian government so that they stop plans for allowing the mining of coal in Queensland.



More fish deaths – 30th January 2019

Locals around the Darling River were confronted with a sea of white, as dead fish carpeted the waters near the southeastern Outback town of Menindee.

Just weeks after up to a million were killed — with scientists pointing to low water and oxygen levels as well as possibly toxic algae — another mass death occurred in the key food growing region.

With temperatures expected to rise and no rain forecast, there remained a “high risk of further fish kills over the coming days and week,” officials said.

While the federal government has blamed the deaths on a severe drought, experts and locals say they stem from the systemic depletion and pollution of the river.

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The inspectors added that the latest bout of kills were likely linked to “critically low levels of dissolved oxygen” caused by a sharp drop in temperatures after an extended period of hot weather.

 



January 31st 2019: Flying Foxes falling out of trees in Australia

Australia is in the midst of an unrelenting, record-smashing heat wave that has left temperature maps so red the country looks like it’s on fire.

The country has hit highs exceeding 120°F (49°C) during the day. And New South Wales set a new record for all of Australia last week when nighttime temperatures never fell below 96.6°F (35.9°C).

The temperatures have been so brutal in South Australia, in fact, that heat-stressed bats are literally falling out of trees.

Australia’s fruit-eating bats cannot regulate their body temperature when the thermometer hits 104°F (40°C). Nursing females are vulnerable because they already have raised body temperatures. Young pups are the most vulnerable.


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2018 Lancet Report on Health and Climate Change

This is a second report, published in the Lancet; the first, published in 2015, was summarised in Chapter 1 (page 26) of my book.

This new report concentrates on predicting how climate extremes may impact on human health; for example, heat waves, changes in water (brackish) due to sea level rise, causing increases in disease-bearing insects, such as mosquitos, drought, reduced crop yields, causing malnutrition, a waning workforce. as outdoor workers cannot work for long hours in hot and humid conditions.  A great concern is about the effects of heat waves on the elderly (65 years+) and whether there will be a ‘systemic failure’ of hospitals in coping with adverse weather conditions.

The full report may be found at:

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(18)32594-7/fulltext

and an excellent summary from Carbon Brief at:

https://www.carbonbrief.org/the-lancet-extreme-heat-threatens-systemic-failure-of-hospitals

The following image gives a summary of the issues and is adapted from a diagram issued by the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council:

http://www.yvsc.org/changing-climate-impacts-human-health/

health and climate change

A youtube video summarising the Lancet report is at:


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Extinction Rebellion (XR) movement has exponential rise in membership numbers

It’s just a few weeks now since the XR movement was first launched and conducted various acts of civil disobedience in order to raise awareness of the urgency for action against climate change.  These early acts have been documented in an earlier blog on this site and included sit-ins on five of London’s bridges, where 85 people were arrested, as well as demonstrations at the BBC for their failure to tell the truth about the climate emergency that faces us.  This latter included a demonstration outside Birmingham’s Mailbox, where the BBC has its offices.

xr wm oustide bbc mailbox birmnigham

Demonstration outside the Birmingham Mailbox on December 21st 2018

The XR movement (Rising Up) is rapidly gaining momentum, both globally and nationally.  The Birmingham group has already grown four-fold, with most of their new members coming from young people; similar groups are being set up in most of Britain’s cities and many towns.  Further information, as it becomes available, will be posted on this page.

The core group (London) has also set up various websites and produced material and training for those who wish to demonstrate to the government about climate change.

https://actionnetwork.org/forms/join-the-rebellion-2?source=direct_link&link_id=0&can_id=cbfc4ad2d7f25390594eeff6b70ea192&email_referrer=&email_subject=welcome-to-the-rebellion&link_id=0&can_id=ae8fb89f0e3f1a9dcfdb9ae6492433d2&email_referrer=email_466545&email_subject=welcome-to-the-rebellion

Most information can be found by searching the above website, or

https://rebellion.earth/

or through linking with other groups via Facebook. For Birmingham group see:

https://www.facebook.com/extinctionrebellionbirmingham/

The British XR movement has a mission statement and three demands for government, as follows:


Fight For Life

We are facing an unprecedented global emergency. The government has failed to protect us. To survive, it’s going to take everything we’ve got.

OUR DEMANDS:

  1. The Government must tell the truth about the climate and wider ecological emergency, reverse inconsistent policies and work alongside the media to communicate with citizens.
  2. The Government must enact legally binding policy measures to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025 and to reduce consumption levels.
  3. A national Citizen’s Assembly to oversee the changes, as part of creating a democracy fit for purpose.