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human activity and the destruction of the planet


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Australia is burning: is this a portent of what is to come?

As our hearts go out to the people of Australia, as they battle with unprecedented and devastating fires across the country, with lives lost, as well as homes and a billion of their unique marsupial and other wildlife species being burnt to death, I have to ask the question:

Is this one of the first of many such events that we are going to witness over the next decades?  Is this going to be the face of the effects of climate change in the future?  Are we going to witness even more harrowing events and deaths across the world?

AustralianBushfire

koala

Photographs from Australia during the fires in recent weeks

wombat after fire

Animals that survive the fires, like this wombat pictured in New South Wales, will struggle to find food and shelter

How much more dreadful is it going to become globally, as we see multiple fires, floods, hurricanes, monsoons, high temperatures, coastal erosion and mass loss of species? Ecologists are already saying that they fear two rare species (found only on Kangaroo Island, to the south of Australia), may have been wiped out in the recent fires.  These include a small mouse-like marsupial, called a dunnart, and glossy black cockatoos. See:

https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/empowering-the-planet/australia-wildfires-entire-species-may-have-been-wiped-out-by-inferno-conservationists-say/ar-BBYDoQk?ocid=spartandhp

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The endangered marsupial: Kangaroo Island Dunnart

See also: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jan/04/ecologists-warn-silent-death-australia-bushfires-endangered-species-extinction

An article in Nature, by an Australian ecologist Michael Clarke, describes the aftermath of such terrible fires.  He says,

“It is deathly silent when you go into a forest after a fire. Apart from the ‘undertakers’ — the carrion eaters like currawongs, ravens and shrike-thrushes — picking off the dead bodies, there’s nothing much left in the forest. It’s a chilling experience.

For survivors, it’s a perilous existence in the months that follow. Any animal that manages to make it through the fire uninjured faces three major challenges. One is finding shelter from climatic extremes — places they can hide from bad weather, like a hollow tree or a hole in the ground. The second is the risk of starvation. And third, they’ve got to avoid predators like feral cats and foxes. They’re exposed; there’s nowhere to hide in a barren landscape.

Even if an animal makes it to an unburnt patch, the density of organisms trying to eke out a living will be way beyond the area’s carrying capacity. After fires in 2007, one unburnt patch I visited in the Mallee [a region in the far north of Victoria] was literally crawling with birds, all chasing one another, trying to work out who owned the last little bit of turf. It was clearly insufficient to sustain them all.

Animals like koalas that live above ground in small, isolated populations and that have a limited capacity to flee or discover unburnt patches of forest are in all sorts of trouble. During past fires, we’ve seen some really surprising creative behaviours, like lyrebirds and wallabies going down wombat burrows to escape fire. But a large majority of animals are simply incinerated. Even really big, fast-flying birds like falcons and crimson rosellas can succumb to fire.

Some animals are more resilient to fire than others. The best adapted are those that can get underground. Termite colonies happily hum along underneath these all-consuming fires. Burrow-dwelling lizards are similar.”

See: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-00043-2

michaelClarke

Professor Michael Clarke



 

Australia is not alone in facing wildfires. In 2018, a similar thing happened in California.  The 2018 wildfire season was the deadliest and most destructive wildfire season ever recorded in California, with a total of 8,527 fires burning an area of 1,893,913 acres (766,439 ha), the largest area of burned acreage recorded in a fire season, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) and the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), as of December 21. Through to the end of August 2018, Cal Fire alone spent $432 million on operations. As of May 2019, insurance claims related to this fire season had reached $12 billion, most related to the Camp Fire, in Butte County (see Wikipedia). And wildfires happened in Europe too.

In India, from June to September 2019, the country received the highest amount of monsoonal rain in the past 25 years. According to the India Meteorological Department, those rains are not expected to retreat until at least October 10th, which would be the latest withdrawal of the monsoon in the country’s recorded history.

indian monsoon floods

2019 monsoon flooding in India

According to Wikepedia, climate change in China is having major effects on the economy, society and the environment. The energy structure and human activities caused global warming and climate change, and China suffered from negative effects of global warming in agriculture, forestry and water resources.

Beijing-Smog

Photograph taken in Beijing, China, where smog pollution reaches 24 times the WHO recommended safe level and children are kept from attending school as a result.

I have chosen to mention these three countries – Australia, India and China – because they were exempted from the UN Kyoto Protocol agreement, because at that time, they pleaded that they were only just beginning to industrialise and needed to be given a chance to compete with industrialised countries. This chance was given and, now, they have become amongst the highest polluting countries in the world, with China in the lead, despite its intentions to tackle climate change.  Ironic, isn’t it?

It’s easy to criticise with hindsight but I believe the UNFCCC should have had the confidence to stand firm over the Kyoto Protocol.  Because of this, many countries (including the USA – another high polluter) did not ratify it.

I came across an interesting graph a few months ago, which shows that carbon emissions have continued to climb, despite UN efforts and agreements: Rio, Kyoto and Paris and beyond.  The dates of these initiatives is marked on an ever-upwardly climbing graph of global carbon emissions.

cemissionsgraph

As I’ve watched the events of this summer unfolding, I’ve found myself wondering whether the Earth system has now breached a tipping point, an irreversible shift in the stability of the planetary system.

There may now be so much heat trapped in the system that we may have already triggered a domino effect that could unleash a cascade of abrupt changes that will continue to play out in the years and decades to come.

Rapid climate change has the potential to reconfigure life on the planet as we know it.

 

However, I believe that global warming and climate change will have multiple effects across the world; some of it will be related to food scarcity but the other effects will be more random: fires, floods, hurricanes, heat stroke, coastal erosion and the loss of islands, as well as land in low-lying countries. And, of course, the disappearance of many iconic species of wildlife. And, as a Biologist and an animal lover, I feel enormous grief over this devastating loss – and I know that I am not the only one.

Unless huge co-operative efforts are made to limit the burning of fossil fuels, the future looks bleak for all of us, including some of the wonderful and unique species with whom we share this planet. If we are seeing these effects with just 1 degree of global warming, what will it be like at 1.5 degrees, 2 degrees or even higher?  Three degrees and above are predicted if carbon emissions do not start to fall in the very near future.



 


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Message from the Future

This post was written on Facebook by an Australian man, who grew up in Queensland in the 70s and 80s and now has a young family of his own.



Great-Barrier-Reef

I lived in Australia for three years during the early 60s and have returned for short visits in 1994 and 2010.  On both occasions I found the country to be hotter and drier.  This last month my brother, who has lived in NSW most of his life, had his home threatened by bush fires for the very first time.



 


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More than 50 leading Australian restaurants have pledged to no longer serve unsustainable seafood

In an Australian first, chefs from more than 50 leading restaurants across Australia have pledged to no longer serve unsustainable seafood as part of the Australian Marine Conservation Society’s (AMCS) new GoodFish Project. All the restaurants have agreed not to source or serve seafood that is red-listed as “Say No” in Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide.

BenShewry

Ben Shewry, world renowned Australian chef and owner of the 20th best restaurant in the world, Attica, has come on board as GoodFish Ambassador. Ben has been a long time supporter of AMCS having first started using Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide some 10 years ago to guide his work.

“As chefs we have a moral responsibility, we need to understand the ingredients that we are cooking with, and no more so than what comes from the oceans.

In my position as a chef, I have a big influence on what people eat and what other people cook because our restaurant is well known. If I don’t have what I would call a clean menu – if I don’t have best practice, the most sustainable menu I can have in terms of shellfish and seafood – then I am contributing to the problem.” – Ben Shewry

Introducing Ben Shewry - Ambassador of Good Fish Project

As a chef myself, my aim through the GoodFish Project is to bring together the strong voices of the food industry to protect our oceans. Chefs and restaurants are highly influential in what people choose to eat these days. We care deeply about the sustainability of the ingredients we use. By changing the way we work with seafood, using Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide as a tool, we can speak directly to Australians about the health of the oceans.

This is just the beginning. Later this year we will be launching an all new GoodFish website, making it easy for you to find sustainable seafood restaurants in your area. You can help by encouraging your local restaurant to join the project, and by using Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide to make better choices every day. Together, our actions can take sustainable seafood into the mainstream, creating sustainable fisheries around Australia and protecting the oceans around us.

By working together, we can change the way that Australians think about seafood and improve the health of the oceans.

Image result for Australia fish



 


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224 UK academics support school climate strike

224 academics have written a letter to The Guardian in support of the children’s proposed non-attendance at school on Friday 15th February 2015.  This is in response to a growing movement across the world by teenagers and children to draw attention of their governments to the need for emergency actions against climate change.  Greta Thunberg from Sweden was the first to take such action (see an earlier blog).

Here is the letter in its entirety (of which I am one of the signatories):

“School climate strike children’s brave stand has our support

We are inspired that our children, spurred on by the noble actions of Greta Thunberg and other striking students, are making their voices heard, say 224 academics.

We, the undersigned academics, stand in solidarity with the children going on school climate strike on 15 February, and with all those taking a stand for the future of the planet.

Nelson Mandela once said: “Our children are our greatest treasure. They are our future. Those who abuse them tear at the fabric of our society and weaken our nation.” Human planetary abuse is, in a very real sense, child neglect.

As many of us and other fellow academics have indicated previously in this newspaper (Letters, 27 October 2018), the scientific evidence of climate change is clear. For example, the summer of 2018 has been confirmed by the Meteorological Office as the hottest on record for England. The heatwave adversely affected crops across Europe, with wheat and potato harvests reduced by one quarter, which in turn impacted upon food prices. Australia is similarly experiencing “hottest on record” weather events. As citizens across the globe will know and testify, many comparably disturbing examples could be given. We cannot nurture our children without Nature.

It is with these tragic and desperate events in mind that we offer our full support to the students – some of whom may well aspire to be the academics of the future – who bravely plan to strike on 15 February to demand that the UK government takes climate action. They have every right to be angry about the future that we shall bequeath to them, if proportionate and urgent action is not taken. We are inspired that our children, spurred on by the noble actions of Greta Thunberg and many other striking students all around the world, are making their voices heard.

Alison Green
, PhD (Psychology), National Director (UK) ScientistsWarning.org
Sir Tim Smit Co-Founder, Eden Project & Exec Chair Eden Project International

Professor Kevin Anderson, Joint chair of Energy and Climate Change at Manchester and Uppsala Universities
Professor Tony Watts OBE
Molly Scott Cato MEP, Professor of Green Economics, University of Roehampton
Chris Rapley CBE, Professor of Climate Science, UCL
Professor T. R. Birkhead, FRS Department of Animal & Plant Sciences,
University of Sheffield
Professor Joy Carter Vice-Chancellor, University of Winchester
Professor Danny Dorling, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford (UK)
Professor Diane Reay, University of Cambridge
Professor Guy Claxton, King’s College London
Professor Rosalind Gill, UK
Professor Jem Bendell, PhD, University of Cumbria
Professor Marilyn Strathern, DBE Cambridge University
Dr Anne Alexander, University of Cambridge
Dr Miklós Antal, Research Fellow, University of Leeds
Francisco Ascui (PhD, MBA, MSc), Centre for Business and Climate Change, University of Edinburgh
Dr Hugues Azérad, Fellow and College Lecturer,Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages, University of Cambridge
Dr Keith Baker, co-founder, Energy Poverty Research initiative, Scotland
Stephen J. Ball, distinguished service Professor of Sociology of Education, University College London
Dr Meg-John Barker, Psychology in Social Sciences, The Open University
Rocio Perez Barrales, School of Biological Sciences, University of Portsmouth
Emeritus Professor Michael Bassey
Professor Margaret Bates
, University of Northampton
Manu Bazzano, Lecturer, University of Roehampton
Professor David Beerling, Dept. Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield
Peter Belton, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, University of East Anglia
Dr Teresa Belton visiting fellow, School of Education and Lifelong Learning, University of East Anglia
Dr Nicholas Beuret, University of Essex
Dr Simon Boxley, Centre for Climate Change Education & Communication, University of Winchester
Dr Gail Bradbrook, co-founder of Extinction Rebellion
Beth Breeze, Director, Centre for Philanthropy, University of Kent
Delny Britton Ph.D. (env. Sci.), Stroud, Gloucestershire
Dr Onel Brooks, Senior Lecturer in Psychotherapy, Counselling and Counselling Psychology
Annemarieke de Bruin, Researcher, Stockholm Environment Institute, Department of Environment and Geography, University of York
Erik Buitenhuis Ph.D., Ocean Biogeochemist
Dr Catherine Burke, Reader in History of Education and Childhood, University of Cambridge
Professor Erica Burman, Manchester Institute of Education, University of Manchester
Dr Jonathan Busch, Research & Teaching Fellow, Sustainability Research Institute, University of Leeds
Dr Rose Capdevila, School of Psychology, The Open University
Dr Stuart Capstick, Research Fellow, Cardiff University
Professor Andrew Challinor, Faculty of Environment, University of Leeds
Professor Alec Charles, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, UoW
Paul Chatterton, Professor of Urban Futures,School of Geography, University of Leeds
Christopher Clarke, Emeritus Professor of Applied Mathematics, University of Southampton
Isabel Clarke, consultant Clinical Psychologist, Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust
Professor Linda Clarke, Centre for the Study of the Production of the Built Environment (ProBE), Westminster Business School, University of Westminster
Richard Clarke, Visiting Scholar, University of Westminster
Dr Christopher D. Coath, University of Bristol
Frank Coffield, Emeritus Professor of Education, UCL Institute of Education, London University
Dr Philip Connell, University of Cambridge
Andrew Cooper, Professor of Social Work, Tavistock Centre and UEL
Dr Mick Cooper, Counselling Psychologist
Dr Alice Courvoisier, Ph.D.(Mathematics), lecturer, York University
Nick Cowern, Emeritus Professor, Newcastle University
Ed Craig, Executive Director Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation, University of Edinburgh
Gareth Dale, Politics/History, Brunel University
Professor Colin Davis University of Bristol
Dr Lucy Delap, Reader in Modern British and Gender History, Murray Edwards College, Cambridge
Dr Peter Dwyer, UCU Branch Executive, Ruskin College, Oxford
Dr Alison Dyke, Stockholm Environment Institute, Department of Environment and Geography, University of York
Richard Eke Ph.D., Associate Lecturer in Education
Professor Barbara Evans CEng MCIWEM, Co-Director, Centre for Global Development, University of Leeds
Dr Nick Evans, Junior Research Fellow, Clare College, University of Cambridge
Dr Keri Facer, Professor of Educational and Social Futures, University of Bristol
Dr Andrew L. Fanning, Marie Curie Research Fellow, Sustainability Research Institute, University of Leeds
Suman Fernando, Honorary Professor in the Faculty of Social Sciences & Humanities, London Metropolitan University; retired Consultant Psychiatrist
Michael Fielding Emeritus Professor of Education, UCL Institute of Education, London
Dr Keith Flett, London Socialist Historians Group, University of London
Alistair Ford, Research Associate (Cities and Climate Change), Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research

Dr Katy Fox-Hodess, University of Sheffield
Professor Lynn Froggett FAcSS
Dr Christophe Gagne, Senior Language Teaching Officer in French, MML, University of Cambridge
Charlie J. Gardner, PhD Lecturer, Conservation Biology
Dr Simon Gibbs university Reader in Educational Psychology
Ian Gibson Professor and former MP and chair, Select Committee on Science and Technology
Simona Giordano, University of Manchester
Dr Sara González, Associate Professor, School of Geography, University of Leeds
Harvey Goldstein, Professor of Social Statistics, University of Bristol
Professor Dave Goulson FRES,, School of Life Sciences, University of Sussex
Dr Dina Glouberman Skyros Institute
Dr Mia Gray, Dept of Geography, University of Cambridge
Sarah Greenfield Clark, MSc (Sustainability), Partnerships Co-ordinator for Extinction
Rebellion
Stephen Hall, University Academic Fellow, Sustainable Cities
Dr Catherine Happer, Lecturer in Sociology
Lukas Hardt, Postgraduate Research Student, School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds
Prof. Julie Harris, School of Psychology and Neuroscience, University of St. Andrews
Rachael Harris PhD, University of Cambridge
Stephan Harrison, Climate Scientist, Exeter University UK
Dr Stephen Harwood, University of Edinburgh Business School
Dr Karsten Haustein, Postdoctoral Researcher, Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford
Peter Hawkins Ph.D. Professor of Leadership Henley Business School, University of Reading
Dr Clare Heaviside, NERC Independent Research Fellow, University of Oxford
Dr Jason Hickel, Goldsmiths, University of London
Chris Hines MBE, Hon.D.Sc
Dr Stuart Hodkinson
, Associate Professor, School of Geography, University of Leeds
Dr Dan Hodson, Research Scientist, Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, UK
Paul Hoggett, Emeritus Professor of Social Policy, UWE
Owen Holland, Department of English, UCL
Dr Wendy Hollway, Emeritus Professor of Psychology, Open University
Dr Reza Hossain, MBBS, MRCGP, DCH, DRCOG, DFFP, General Practitioner & Population Matters
Richard House, PhD (Env sci) Chartered psychologist, Stroud
Michael Hrebeniak, Wolfson College, University of Cambridge
David Humphreys, Professor of Environmental Policy, Open University
Peter Humphreys Chair, Centre for Personalised Education, visiting lecturer, School of Education, Birmingham City University
Dr Victoria Hurth Faculty of Business, University of Plymouth
Professor Lisa Isherwood, FRSA, Director of the Institute for Theological Partnerships, Professor of Feminist Liberation Theologies, University of Winchester
Chris Jarrold, Professor of Cognitive Development, School of Psychological Science, University of Bristol
Simon Jobson, Professor of Sport & Exercise Physiology, University of Winchester
Professor Aled Jones, PhD MA BA FHEA HonFIA Director of Global Sustainability Institute, Anglia Ruskin University
Steven Jones, PhD (Education), Senior Lecturer, University of Manchester
Professor Stephen Joseph, University of Nottingham
Remi Joseph-Salisbury, Presidential Fellow in Ethnicity and Inequalities, The University of Manchester
Dr Alexandre Kabla, Reader, Engineering Department, University of Cambridge
Dr. J. Kasmire, University of Manchester
Philomena Keane, Educational Psychologist, Keane Minds
Dr Ben Kenward, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Oxford Brookes University
Dr Eleanor Kirk, Research Associate, University of Glasgow
Professor Peter Kornicki FBA, University of Cambridge
Dr Tonya Lander, Department of Plant Sciences, University of Oxford
Mary Laven, Professor of Early Modern History, University of Cambridge
Jane Liddell-King, Cambridge
Peter Lipman, Fellow, Cabot Institute, University of Bristol
Del Loewenthal, Emeritus Professor of Psychotherapy and Counselling, University of Roehampton
Gerhard Lohmann-Bond, Chair/Coordinator East Midlands Green Party
Ed Lord RMN, Ph.D. fellow, Swansea University
Rachel Lunnon Ph.D. (mathematical logic), computer programmer, Bristol
Robert Macfarlane, Reader at Cambridge University
Professor Neil Marriott Deputy Vice Chancellor
Professor Pru Marriott, Dean of Business, Law and Sport, Director of the Winchester Business School
Andrew Marsham, DPhil, Middle Eastern Studies, Cambridge
Dr John Marsham, PhD (Meteorology)
John Mateer, Senior Lecturer in Film and Television Production, Department of Theatre, Film and Television, University of York
Giulio Mattioli, (PhD) Visiting Research Fellow, Sustainability Research Institute, School of Earth & Environment, University of Leeds
Dr Emma Mawdsley, Geography Department, Cambridge University
Dr Debbie Maxwell Lecturer in Interactive Media, Department of Theatre, Film and Television, University of York
Susannah Mayhew, Professor of Health Policy, Systems and Reproductive Health
Marjorie Mayo, Emeritus Professor, Goldsmiths, University of London.
Dr Duncan McCollin, Senior Lecturer in Ecology, University of Northampton
Bill McGuire, Professor Emeritus of Geophysical & Climate Hazards, University College London
Ciarán McInerney, PhD., Research Fellow, University of Leeds
Professor Alastair McIntosh University of Glasgow & Centre for Human Ecology
James Mckay, project leader: ‘The Art of a Sustainable Future’, University of Leeds
Dr Jean McKendree, Stockholm Environment Institute, University of York
Laura McMahon, University of Cambridge
Dr Kate McMillan Department of Culture, Media & Creative Industries, King’s College London
Dr Alessandra Mezzadri Senior Lecturer in Development Studies, Department of Development Studies, SOAS, London
Dr Lucie Middlemiss, Sustainability Research Institute, University of Leeds
Professor Martin Milton, Regents University London
Dr Iris Möller, 
Lecturer in Coastal Processes, Cambridge Coastal Research Unit (CCRU) / Biogeography & Biogeomorphology Research Group, University of Cambridge
Dr Gerry Mooney, Open University in Scotland
Professor Sian Moore Director, Work and Employment Research Unit (WERU) and Public Services International Research Unit (PSIRU), Greenwich Business School, London
Emeritus Professor Peter Moss, UCL Institute of Education
Richard Murphy, Professor of Practice in International Political Economy, City, University of London
Dr David Nally, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge
Calum Neill, Associate Professor of Psychoanalysis & Cultural Theory, Edinburgh Napier University
Peter Newell, Professor of International Relations, Department of International Relations, School of Global Studies, University of Sussex
Dr Robbie Nicol, Senior Lecturer in Outdoor Environmental Education, University of Edinburgh
Dany Nobus, Professor of Psychoanalytic Psychology, Brunel University London
Eva Novotny, PhD
Jeff Ollerton
, Professor of Biodiversity, University of Northampton
Dr Susie Orbach, The Balint Consultancy
Professor Jayne Osgood, Middlesex University, mother, feminist, activist
Stephanie Palmer, Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge
Douglas Parker, Professor of Meteorology, University of Leeds
Ian Parker, Emeritus Professor of Management, University of Leicester
Carole Parkes, Professor of Sustainable Business, University of Winchester
Christine Parkinson Ph.D. (Behavioural Science), retired biologist and author (climate change), Birmingham
Dr Volker Patent, CPsychol, Open University
Dr Ian Patterson, Life Fellow, Queens’ College, Cambridge
David Peters Professor Emeritus, Westminster Centre for Resilience, College of Liberal Arts and Science, University of Westminster
Dr Mary Phillips reader in organisation studies, University of Bristol
Professor Ann Phoenix
Professor Jenny Pickerill,
 University of Sheffield
Adela Pickles, Communications Director for Rainforest Trust UK
Professor Jonatan Pinkse, University of Manchester
Professor Wouter Poortinga, Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University
Dr Gillian Proctor, Programme Leader in MA Psychotherapy and Counselling, University of Leeds
Professor Sarah A. Radcliffe, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge
Joe Ravetz, Co-Director, CURE, University of Manchester
Dr Rupert Read, Reader in Philosophy, University of East Anglia, UK
Dr Peter Reason, Emeritus Professor, University of Bath
Dr Helen Richardson, Professor of Gender and Organisation, Sheffield Business School, Sheffield Hallam University
Annette Rimmer, University of Manchester
Rosemary Rizq, Professor of Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, University of Roehampton, London
Pip Roddis, School of Geography, University of Leeds
Paul Routledge, Professor of Contentious Politics and Social Change, School of Geography, University of Leeds
Andrew Samuels, Professor of Analytical Psychology, University of Essex; Former Chair, UK Council for Psychotherapy
Kate Sapin, Manchester Institute of Education, The University of Manchester
Simon Schaffer, Professor of History of Science, University of Cambridge
Dr Jason Scott-Warren, Faculty of English, University of Cambridge
Lynne Segal, Anniversary Professor of Psychosocial Studies, Birkbeck, University of London
Professor Farzana Shain, Keele University
Dr Jo Shuttleworth, Lecturer in Counselling Psychology, University of Manchester
Prem Sikka, Professor of Accounting and Finance, University of Sheffield
Andrew Simms, Research Associate, University of Sussex & Coordinator, the Rapid Transition Alliance
David Sims, Emeritus Professor of Organisational Behaviour, City, University of London
Helen Spandler, Professor of Mental Health Studies, University of Central Lancashire
Nick Srnicek, Lecturer in Digital Economy, Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London
Lauren Stabler, PhD (Sustainability) Researcher at Global Sustainability Institute
Dr Guy Standing, FAcSS Professorial Research Associate, SOAS University of London
Professor Julia K. Steinberger, University of Leeds
Arran Stibbe, Professor of Ecological Linguistics, University of Gloucestershire
Peter Strachan, Professor of Energy Policy, The Robert Gordon University
Simon Szreter, Professor of History and Public Policy, University of Cambridge, and a fellow of St John’s College, Cambridge
Harriet Thew, School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds
Brian Thorne, Emeritus Professor of Counselling, University of East Anglia
Professor Fred Toates, UK
Steve Tombs, Prof of Criminology, The Open University
Dr Corrado Topi, Ecological Economist, Stockholm Environment Institute, Department of Environment and Geography, University of York
Martin Upchurch, Professor of International Employment Relations, Middlesex University Business School, Hendon
Simon van der Borgh, Senior Lecturer in film & television production & screenwriter, University of York
Andreas Vossler, Phd (Psychology)
Lianne Waterston, B.Ed, 2041 Climateforce Ambassador, Climate Reality Leader
Professor Andrew Watterson, Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport, University of Stirling
Dr David Whitebread retired senior member, Homerton College, Cambridge
Ian Willis, Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge
Dr Rebecca Willis, Independent Researcher
Dr Ruth Wood, Senior Lecturer in Environment and Climate Change, University of Manchester
Michael J Wright, Emeritus Professor in Cognitive Neuroscience, Brunel University, London
Mike Yule, Associate Lecturer, Department of Education, University of Chichester
Dr Andrew Zurcher, Faculty of English, University of Cambridge”

GretaThunberg2

Greta Thunberg speaking at COP24



 


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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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The effects of heat waves on human survivability

An article in the New Scientist (No.3161) by John Pickrell, entitled “Too hot to handle”, discusses the increasing trend of heatwaves throughout the world, as a result of climate change.

heatwave

Pickrell starts by discussing Australia, which had a heatwave in January 2017, with the hottest ever recorded temperatures in Sydney and Brisbane (Sydney had over 47 degrees). Large parts of the country had temperatures over 40 degrees C for weeks on end, as well as bush fires.  Many of the unique species of wildlife common to Australia had to be rescued from fires and heat, many of them suffering from heat exhaustion, burns, dehydration and stress.

koala

kangaroo

 

Temperatures of 50 degrees C are predicted by 2040 for Australia.

Pickrell then goes on to cite papers, which give statistics about fatalities during heatwaves, one from The Lancet which covered research by 26 institutions (including the World Health Organization).

The 2003 heatwave in France killed 70,000 people – but it would appear that the level of humidity is the crucial factor, as high levels of water in the atmosphere can reduce the body’s ability to cool down through sweating.  To sweat effectively, you must maintain your blood volume, so dehydration can cause heat stress, followed by heat stroke, multiple organ failure and possible death.  The elderly and children are at greater risk of heat stroke, as well as those on medication or with heart disease.

I came across another wordpress website, which gives a useful chart showing temperature against relative humidity and which combinations are lethal:

See: https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2017/06/24/heatwaves/

and below for the table (with acknowledgments):

nclimate_heatwaves

The black crosses in the chart above show temperature and relative humidity during events that were lethal. The blue line shows the likely boundary between lethal and non-lethal events, and the red line is a 95% probability threshold.


According to The Lancet, global warming has reduced the workforce in India by 418,000.


An interesting map of the world is given in the New Scientist article to show the probability of deadly heatwaves for three global warming scenarios: 1.5 degrees C; 2 degrees C and 4 degrees C.  This can be seen by clicking on the link below:

heatwaves data

It shows that, even with an increase in global temperature of 2 degrees, many parts of the world will become uninhabitable, through rising temperatures: North West Africa, much of the Middle East, parts of Central and South America, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh and much of Australia.  At four degrees the situation is dire throughout much of the tropical world.

The New Scientist article concludes with a list of advice on how to keep cool.


 Another academic article on a similar subject has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA by Sherwood and Huber in 2010 (Vol 107, (21), 9552-5) entitled “An adaptability limit to climate change due to heat stress.”  This article has been summarised in the Science & Technology section of the The Observer (10th Sept. 2017).  This article gives a chart showing which species die at particular degrees of warming above pre-industrial levels.  Amphibians will be the first to go (at 0.6 degrees+), followed by penguins, due to loss of food sources, as the krill populations dwindle. At 1.6 degrees+, the wooded tundra is lost, along with its inhabitants, moose, lynx and brown bears, followed by large African mammals, such as elephants, then rain forest dwellers (orangutans, jaguars, sloths) at 2.6 degrees+.  At a warming of 4 degrees, 70% of species would be extinct, coral reefs dead and deserts would expand across the world. The fate of humankind would be dominated by mass migration, on a scale even larger than we see today, with water resources extremely limited, as we would have to abandon most of the Earth or live underground.  The authors predict that, by 2050, temperatures will be in a range that nobody has experienced before.

It is interesting to note that the Australian town of Coober Pedy, a major site for opal mining, has already built an underground town, including hotels, for those times in the year when it is already too hot to live above ground.


2nd August 2018

Since this post was first written, time has now moved on into 2018 with heatwaves across much of the northern hemisphere (see other posts on this site for details).  Even climate sceptics are now beginning to accept that climate change is with us, with the extremes of weather which accompany it.

A piece this week in The Guardian by David Carrington deals with the issue of human survivability during heat waves.  I quote a short passage from him, in which he summarises scientific work on the issue:

The new analysis assesses the impact of climate change on the deadly combination of heat and humidity, which is measured as the “wet bulb” temperature (WBT). Once the WBT reaches 35C, the air is so hot and humid that the human body cannot cool itself by sweating and even fit people sitting in the shade die within six hours.

A WBT above 31C is classed by the US National Weather Service as “extreme danger”, with its warning stating: “If you don’t take precautions immediately, you may become seriously ill or even die.”

He then goes on to discuss which parts of the world are most at risk of high WBT temperatures.  This would appear to be the north China plain, with a population of 400 million people, most of them farmers.  The scientists who produced the data have predicted that by 2070 to 2100, this area of the world will become uninhabitable.  Other areas at risk are the Middle East, around the Gulf (particularly Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha and the coastal cities of Iran) and parts of South Asia (around the Indus and Ganges valleys).

For the full Guardian article, see:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jul/31/chinas-most-populous-area-could-be-uninhabitable-by-end-of-century?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=Green+Light+2016&utm_term=282539&subid=2617869&CMP=EMCENVEML1631



July 2019

The UK has experienced another heatwave period this summer, with record temperatures being reached in a number of countries.  It was particularly humid in the UK, with weather forecasters predicting the humidity above 50%, a level which can prove fatal with temperatures above 25ºC, according to the graph shown above.

So its worth looking again at the relationship between WBT (wet bulb temperature) and death due to heat stress.  The following can be found in Wikipedia:

“Living organisms can survive only within a certain temperature range. When the ambient temperature is excessive, humans and many animals cool themselves below ambient by evaporative cooling (sweat in humans and horses, saliva and water in dogs and other mammals); this helps to prevent potentially fatal hyperthermia due to heat stress. The effectiveness of evaporative cooling depends upon humidity; wet-bulb temperature, or more complex calculated quantities such as Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT) which also takes account of solar radiation, give a useful indication of the degree of heat stress, and are used by several agencies as the basis for heat stress prevention guidelines.

A sustained wet-bulb temperature exceeding 35 °C (95 °F) is likely to be fatal even to fit and healthy people, unclothed in the shade next to a fan; at this temperature our bodies switch from shedding heat to the environment, to gaining heat from it. Thus 35 °C (95 °F) is the threshold beyond which the body is no longer able to adequately cool itself. A study by NOAA from 2013 concluded that heat stress will reduce labour capacity considerably under current emissions scenarios.

A 2010 study concluded that under a worst-case scenario for global warming with temperatures 12 °C (22 °F) higher than 2007, the wet-bulb temperature limit for humans could be exceeded around much of the world in future centuries. A 2015 study concluded that parts of the globe could become uninhabitable. An example of the threshold at which the human body is no longer able to cool itself and begins to overheat is a humidity level of 50% and a high heat of 46 °C (115 °F), as this would indicate a wet-bulb temperature of 35 °C (95 °F).”



 


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Children making speeches about climate change

Children and young people can often speak in challenging ways.  I would like to offer five.  The first is a 7-year-old Australian girl, Gillian, who is concerned about damage to the Great Barrier Reef:

 

Secondly, a young Fijian boy, Timoci Naulusala, who spoke at the COP23 meeting in Bonn, in November 2017:

 

Thirdly, a 13-year old Canadian girl, Severn Cullis-Suzuki, who addressed the United Nations Rio Summit in 1992:

In October 2014, in Copenhagen, Denmark, a group of children from Ghana, Belgium, Nigeria, Sweden, India, Zambia and Denmark, also raised issues associated with climate change:

The United Nations has a special Joint Framework initiative for youth.  Further details can be found at:

http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/documents/youth/fact-sheets/youth-climatechange.pdf



Since this was posted, another young girl has hit the headlines, a 15-year old Swedish girl who stopped going to school, so that she could protest outside the Swedish parliament.  Her story can be found on another, more recent, blog and is also copied below with acknowledgements to democracynow.org:

You Are Stealing Our Future: Greta Thunberg, 15, Condemns the World’s Inaction on Climate Change

STORY DECEMBER 13, 2018

Fifteen-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg addressed the U.N. plenary last night in Katowice, Poland, condemning global inaction in the face of catastrophic climate change.

GRETA THUNBERG: My name is Greta Thunberg. I am 15 years old, and I’m from Sweden. I speak on behalf of Climate Justice Now!

Many people say that Sweden is just a small country, and it doesn’t matter what we do. But I’ve learned that you are never too small to make a difference. And if a few children can get headlines all over the world just by not going to school, then imagine what we could all do together if we really wanted to.

But to do that, we have to speak clearly, no matter how uncomfortable that may be. You only speak of green eternal economic growth because you are too scared of being unpopular. You only talk about moving forward with the same bad ideas that got us into this mess, even when the only sensible thing to do is pull the emergency brake. You are not mature enough to tell it like it is. Even that burden you leave to us children.

But I don’t care about being popular. I care about climate justice and the living planet. Our civilization is being sacrificed for the opportunity of a very small number of people to continue making enormous amounts of money. Our biosphere is being sacrificed so that rich people in countries like mine can live in luxury. It is the sufferings of the many which pay for the luxuries of the few.

The year 2078, I will celebrate my 75th birthday. If I have children, maybe they will spend that day with me. Maybe they will ask me about you. Maybe they will ask why you didn’t do anything while there still was time to act. You say you love your children above all else, and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes.

Until you start focusing on what needs to be done, rather than what is politically possible, there is no hope. We cannot solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis. We need to keep the fossil fuels in the ground, and we need to focus on equity. And if solutions within the system are so impossible to find, then maybe we should change the system itself.

We have not come here to beg world leaders to care. You have ignored us in the past, and you will ignore us again. We have run out of excuses, and we are running out of time. We have come here to let you know that change is coming, whether you like it or not. The real power belongs to the people. Thank you.



Here is Greta Thunberg’s speech to the Climate Action Summit 2019 in the USA:



And here, a 22-year old college student from Uganda, Hilda Flavia Nakabuye,who talks about how climate change is already affecting her parents’ livelihood:

 

https://time.com/5698417/hilda-nakabuye-uganda-climate/?link_id=46&can_id=ae8fb89f0e3f1a9dcfdb9ae6492433d2&source=email-newsletter-30-a-roadblock-on-memory-lane&email_referrer=email_648843&email_subject=newsletter-30-a-roadblock-on-memory-lane

img_20190301_092720

The speech above was to the C40 Mayors summit in Copenhagen, October 2019.