human activity and the destruction of the planet

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20 Countries Most At Risk From Sea Level Rise


Climate Central just completed a novel analysis of worldwide exposure to sea level rise and coastal flooding. They found that 147 to 216 million people live on land that will be below sea level or regular flood levels by the end of the century, assuming emissions of heat-trapping gases continue on their current trend.  Only countries with a total population of over 1 million were included in the analysis.  This means that most island nations do not appear in their tables, which are copied below:


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Electric Cars and their need for cobalt

An article in the Financial Times by David Pillings last week identified a growing problem associated with the mining of cobalt in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

With the increase in the production of electric cars, in an effort to reduce carbon emissions from vehicles, there is an increasing demand for cobalt, used in their batteries. The greatest availability for cobalt appears to be in the Congo, a country riven with conflict, corruption and extreme poverty.  Whilst an increased demand for cobalt ought to help the country in tackling poverty, this is apparently not happening. Some of the wealth has apparently disappeared and the rest has gone into the pockets of the foreign mining companies.

The Congo is rich in many minerals: gold, diamonds, tin, coltan, copper and cobalt.  Local Congolese may have the benefit of working in these mines but they are paid very little and the work is dangerous.  Many of them are children.

And it is not only electric car batteries that need cobalt.  All kinds of other gadgets make use of it: cell phones, tablets, laptops and other portable electronic gadgets However, very few people know that cobalt, the element needed to produce these batteries, is the product of underpaid adults and children working in sub-human conditions in the mines of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The DRC is the source of about half of the world’s production of cobalt.


child workers in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Quite clearly, if electric cars are to be the vehicles of the future, urgent investigations into the practice of corporate mining companies need to be made.


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Oxford Research Group’s July Briefing: Climate Change, Migration and Security by Paul Rogers

The full briefing can be found through the following link:

This article examines the reasons behind migration from Africa and the Middle East to Europe and concludes that it is not so much due to conflict and war in the countries of origin but more due to the combined effects of climate change and economic marginalisation.

The economic factors associated with migration are described clearly by Rogers, as follows:

The first is the awareness among some millions of relatively marginalised peoples that their life chances may both be dismal and unlikely to improve. For many hundreds of thousands of people one such response is to seek to migrate to wealthier regions where work may be available. Typically in such circumstances, extended families or even wider communities may share resources to enable a fit young man to attempt the journey, hoping to succeed, find work and then send money back home and perhaps even enable relatives to join him. The journey may be fraught with danger but the rewards are sufficient when measured against the levels of desperation.

Such migratory pressures may be difficult to explain generically, given that many countries across sub-Saharan Africa are experiencing modest degrees of economic growth, but there is abundant evidence that this economic success is not shared equitably. At the same time, improving literacy and communications make marginalised communities all too aware of their predicaments. Given that there appears to be little prospect of moving towards more equitable economies, the expectation must be that migratory pressures will be maintained.”

Migrants drawning in the Mediteranean April 2015

An overloaded small boat sinking in the Mediterranean Sea

Climate change is discussed in a section on environmental factors, as follows:

In relation to climate change, two elements concerning migration are particularly relevant. One is that in many parts of the world the process is accelerating and the second is that its effects are geographically asymmetric. The rate of change in the near Arctic is currently exceeding the prediction of the most reliable computer simulations but there is also growing evidence that this is also happening in many regions across the tropics and sub-tropics. In these regions the main effects are increases in temperature and decreases in rainfall, the latter because of a trend for rainfall to be distributed away from land masses and towards the oceans and the polar region. The primary impact of this is on the ecological carrying capacity of tropical and sub-tropical agricultural systems, with the capacity to produce food much diminished.

Perhaps most important of all, this is a phenomenon that is already apparent in many parts of the Global South – it is not something for the future but is happening now. Moreover, it is directly affecting the displacement of people. Last month the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) published its Global Trends report ahead of World Refugee Day on 20 June. According to the report, a record high of 65.6 million people were forcibly displaced from their homes in 2016. The UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) last month predicted that:

“By 2025, 1.8 billion people will experience absolute water scarcity, and two thirds of the world will be living under water-stressed conditions.”

That means that nearly one-quarter of the world’s population could be living on less than 500m³ of total available fresh water per year. That is Currently, World Bank data lists at least 27 countries surviving under such conditions. While a few of them, like Israel, Singapore, Malta and the Gulf States, have the wealth to invest in desalination, storage, imports or draining aquifers of millennia of deposited water, this will not be the experience of most. Indeed, even most such high-tech schemes may only last for decades, as long as the aquifers or oil wealth available.

Notably, the list of countries already experiencing absolute water scarcity includes all of the Arabian peninsula, North Africa (except Morocco) and the Levant (except Lebanon) and large parts of Central and Southwest Asia and the Horn of Africa. Some of the most critically affected countries included Yemen, Sudan, Somalia and Syria. It may be no coincidence that these countries are some of the world’s most conflict-affected, nor that they have produced some of the largest volumes of refugees in recent years.”

The article concludes that this is a situation to be faced now, rather than in the future and a list of four action areas are provided:

  • A much more rapid transition to ultra-low carbon economies across the industrialised world in order to mitigate the causes of climate change.
  • Assistance to the countries across the Global South that are most affected by climate change to mitigate the effects, not least in changes in agricultural practice.
  • Assistance to the same countries to develop low-carbon economies such that they may further develop and industrialise without amplifying climate change.
  • Investment in water storage and carbon-neutral desalination technologies to mitigate the impact of fresh water shortages, especially in the Global South.

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Dozens of craters opening up in Siberia: scientists link this to climate change

Reports from several sources are providing information about craters forming in the frozen north of Siberia over the last three years, some of them associated with the sound of explosions, which light up the sky.  The most likely cause of this is global warming, which is melting the ice and releasing the melting methyl hydrate, which has previously been trapped underground.

Satellite images suggest a link with pingos which form when ice is trapped between layers of earth.  See:

Whatever the cause, it is a reason for great concern, for the release of methane into the atmosphere is going to significantly speed up global warming.

The following photograph was released by the Siberian Times:

inside b1 people

Once the craters have formed it would appear that they grow in size and fill up with water.

There have been several reports on the phenomenon, with photographs, as follows:

Daily Mail ; Business Insider; National Geographic; Live Science; Siberian Times; Science Alert;;  CNBC; Huffington Post etc


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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.

climatechange1 (1)

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.