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human activity and the destruction of the planet


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Australian ecologists are having their research findings suppressed

The Australian government is accused of covering up the impact of the climate crisis and suppressing the work of scientists yesterday as it seeks to amend the country’s environmental legislation. A report by the Ecological Society of Australia found that scientists are routinely blocked from publishing results of their studies and warn that changes are made to their findings before their work is released. It found that half the government scientists and nearly 40 per cent of those working in industry had been blocked from releasing or discussing their findings. 

For the full story see:

https://conbio.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/conl.12757

the abstract of which is as follows:

Abstract
Suppressing expert knowledge can hide environmentally damaging practices and policies from public scrutiny. We surveyed ecologists and conservation scientists from universities, government, and industry across Australia to understand the prevalence and consequences of suppressing science communication. Government (34%) and industry (30%) respondents reported higher rates of undue interference by employers than did university respondents (5%). Internal communications (29%) and media (28%) were curtailed most, followed by journal articles (11%), and presentations (12%). When university and industry researchers avoided public commentary, this was mainly for fear of media misrepresentation, while government employees were most often constrained by senior management and workplace policy. One third of respondents reported personal suffering related to suppression, including job losses and deteriorating mental health. Substantial reforms are needed, including to codes of practice, and governance of environmental assessments and research, so that scientific advice can be reported
openly, in a timely manner and free from interference.

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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

dunnart2

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:

Click to access 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

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



 


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Australia to abandon clean energy target

Recent reports from the Financial Times and the Washington Post suggest that Australia is following Trump’s US Energy policy by ditching their own clean energy target in exchange for cheaper power.  Conservation groups have condemned the ruling conservative coalition for abandoning the renewable energy target for 2030 that was recommended this year by Australia’s chief scientist to comply with the Paris climate change agreement.

The plan was to generate 42 percent of the country’s power from wind and solar energy, in compliance with climate change commitments. The new ruling will end subsidies paid to wind and solar generators from 2020, in order to help reduce energy costs for consumers. Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg told Parliament that coal and gas would generate 64 to 72 percent of Australia’s electricity by 2030.

This is a sad departure from former commitments by this country to reduce greenhouse gases but it is in line with other government policies to support mining developments which will damage the Great Barrier Reef.

See: https://www.fightforourreef.org.au/

and:

http://www.greenpeace.org › Home › What We Do › Climate
I find it difficult to justify the current stance of the Australian government, who appear to have no concern for the damage their policies will do to both the health of the planet and the iconic Great Barrier Reef.
In chapter 7 of my book on the Economy, I reproduce a graph (Figure 67), which shows how the carbon emissions in Australia reduced significantly during the two year period after they introduced a carbon tax in 2012. In July 2014, the carbon tax act was repealed.  The graph shows the carbon emissions  immediately rising again.  This latest ruling is likely to make the situation even worse.  It is difficult to understand why Australia politicians are failing to see the effects of their recent legislation.  The graph can be seen in the Chapter 7 blog on this website.
A huge mistake was made back in 1997, when the Kyoto Protocol was adopted through the United Nations (UNFCCC).  At that time, three countries, who were in the early stages of industrialising their economies (China, India and Australia) were exempted from complying with the Kyoto Protocol.  These three countries went on to become some of the worst polluters on the planet.  It would seem that China and India are making attempts to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions but Australia is far from acting in a responsible manner in this respect.
Australians per capita are among the world’s worst greenhouse gas polluters because of the country’s heavy reliance on its abundant coal reserves for power. But no new coal-fired generators are being built because of uncertainty over how Australia intends to achieve its greenhouse gas cuts.
Perhaps they can be brought in line with other global economies during COP23.
coral bleaching
Bleached coral skeletons in the Great Barrier Reef near Port Douglas photographed on Feb. 20. 2017 – image from Greenpeace
However, on October 30th 2017 news came through from the Fight for the Reef campaign that, as one of their last acts before calling the election, the Queensland Government had banned dangerous trans-shipping of coal, petroleum and other substances in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.  This means that all coal ships and major vessels will be prohibited from loading in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
And three days later, Queensland Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, announced she will veto the $1 billion taxpayer loan for the Adani coal project!


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Trading Systems, Deficits and the Concept of Growth

CHAPTER 4

International trade has become so much a part of our lives that there is a tendency to take it for granted, as a normal and essential part of modern society and that of the countries of the world with which we trade.  Politicians particularly focus on it, as it is seen as a means of balancing the economy; they particularly encourage the export of British goods and turn a blind eye to all the stuff that we import.

The industrial revolution and its continuum and the development of trading systems

Historically though, trading systems as we know them today were first developed alongside the Industrial Revolution. And again, the UK was a forerunner in developing these new trading systems, as they sold the goods produced in their factories to other countries across the world, particularly to members of the British Empire, such as through the East India Company in India.  This change from the local exchange of goods to the export of goods across continents and the world has had such a great impact that its influence now affects, and influences, the whole world’s economy. The nations of the world have become so inter-connected through trade that, if one country goes through economic difficulties, then all the others are affected by it too. Because of the strong link between trading and the industrial revolution and its continuum, I have to consider it, and its effects, as one of the major interconnections that has led us globally to the situation in which the future of our planet is at risk.  Indeed, I believe that free trade is at the centre of it all.

The Industrial Revolution ended more than a century ago but the effects of it, the trading systems that were developed alongside it and the IR Continuum, still have a  growing global impact.

The effect of the IR Continuum on global trading systems has seen the rise of multi-national companies (mostly of American origin), not only trading with other countries but also setting up business abroad, in order to cut costs, employ cheaper labour and to avoid national tax tariffs.  It is not unusual now to see MacDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Monsanto and other multi-national outlets in most capitals of the world.  This is sad because the setting up of food and clothing outlets selling goods that promote the American way of life has the effect of damaging indigenous cultures and their traditions.

We also see locally produced goods transported across oceans and continents in order to trade with partner countries many thousands of miles away.  In the UK, for example, we import apples from New Zealand and Chile, fruit from South Africa, fish from Japan and Argentina, clothing and digital goods from the Far East, vehicles from Europe and so on.  The invention of the refrigerator has played its part in preventing perishable goods from decomposing whilst in transit.

Image result for McDonalds in Japan

Fig. 34  A multi-national outlet for the USA in Japan (from: blog.getchee.com)

Changes in trading patterns across the world since the industrial revolution can also be contentious.  For example, when I lived in Australia during the early 60s, the UK was considering whether it would join the European Common Market (now the EU).  This was very unpopular with Australians, as they had a special trading relationship with the UK, as part of the British Commonwealth.  However, Britain did join the EU and so Australia had to develop other markets, closer to home, and were able to survive this change.  But the resentment it caused in some Australians towards the EU, and the British, is still present today, as seen by the anti-EU stories constantly being peddled to the UK population, through the Australian-owned media magnates.

There has been a big change in Britain’s trading patterns as, during the 1940s-50s, about 40% of our trade was with Commonwealth countries but this is now down to 10%, as the EU has become our major market.

Large Companies and Climate Change Denial

The largest company in the world, ExxonMobil, produces oil and gas and a recent article by Shannon Hall, in Scientific American32 reports that this company was aware of climate change as early as 1977, before it became a public issue.  The company then spent decades refusing to publicly acknowledge climate change and even promoted climate misinformation.  Hall likens 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. And there are now rumours that Shell is under investigation for doing a similar thing.

It has recently been reported that one of the major American charitable foundations (Rockefeller Family Fund) has announced that it will cease to invest its funds in fossil fuels and, in doing so, made the following statement: “We would be remiss if we failed to focus on what we believe to be the morally reprehensible conduct on the part of ExxonMobil”.33

Table 3 shows that there are three energy companies amongst the 10 largest companies in the world and the top British company, BP, is the 17th largest in the world.  Energy companies obviously have much to lose once the issue of carbon emissions is properly dealt with by global agreements to reduce them.  ExxonMobil would have better spent their $30 million researching into new forms of renewable energy; it is currently worth more than $300 billion.

Table 3: Largest 25 companies in the world (from google images and http://bespokeinvest.typepad.com/bespoke/2009/04/largest-companies-in-the-world.html)

25biggest

Carbon Majors – the companies who emit the most greenhouse gases

90 carbon majors have been identified as being the major emitters of the greenhouse gases that are primary drivers of climate change.  Since 1751, they have produced 65% of the world’s total industrial carbon dioxide emissions according to a study by Richard Heede of the Climate Accountability Institute34.  The 90 majors include 50 private companies, 31 state-owned companies and 9 nations. Twenty-one are based in the US, 17 in Europe (five in the UK), six in Canada, two in Russia and one each in Australia, Japan, Mexico and South Africa. Of the state-owned companies, Saudi Aramco has the highest emissions, followed by Gazprom (Russia), National Iranian Oil Company, Pemex (Mexico) and British Coal. The top 10 carbon majors are:

Chevron USA, ExxonMobil USA, Saudi Aramco Saudi Arabia, British Petroleum (BP) UK, Gazprom Russian Federation, Royal Dutch Shell, National Iranian Oil Company Iran, Pemex Mexico, British Coal Corporation UK and ConocoPhilips USA  For full details of these companies, and where they rank, are given by Greenpeace35.

Last September Greenpeace Philippines were so concerned about the devastation caused in their country by a major typhoon, that they filed a human rights complaint to the Commission of Human Rights, against the 50 largest multi-national private companies36.

The Volkswagen deception

ExxonMobil has not been the only large corporation to deceive the public on the issue of carbon emissions.  Just recently, it has come to light that the large German car-manufacturing company, Volkswagen, has tried to avoid green regulations and tests by fitting its cars with devices to cheat the emissions tests carried out on vehicles. The scandal has resulted in Volkswagen shares falling by 40%.  This deception is akin to the deception propagated by ExxonMobil, described earlier, where large and successful companies have used their trading links to make money for themselves at the expense of the health of the planet.  One wonders how many more companies will come to light which are carrying out similar deceptions for selfish reasons.

Earlier this year, a new independent organisation was set up in London (InfluenceMap.org), to map, analyse and score the extent to which corporations are influencing climate change policy. An article in ExaroNews37 published in 2015, reported that research from InfluenceMap has demonstrated that car manufacturers (especially those in Germany) have been lobbying strongly against climate-change policy, especially those who have made little progress in complying with future standards for emissions of CO2 in the EU and US.  The InfluenceMap article ranks car makers according to their compliance with the 2020 standard on emissions, with Nissan coming top, followed by Honda, Renault and Peugeot.  According to the report, the world’s 12 biggest car manufacturers would be facing fines of $35.7 billion if the 2020 rules on emissions were to be applied now, with Volkswagen paying more than any of them, at $9.5 billion. Car manufacturer Mercedez-Benz has admitted that meeting the 2020 emission standards poses a technological strain (also reported in ExaroNews).  One wonders why none of them have acted sooner to develop greener cars, as some of the Japanese manufacturers have done.

Trade and Competition 1

The problem is that trading evokes a competitive spirit, even in the largest and most affluent companies, and the temptation to cheat can be persuasive.  As well as the deceptions already mentioned, there has been the development of parallel economies, in which companies try to evade taxes and tariffs by investing their profits in offshore accounts.  There are many people throughout the world who try to avoid national taxes by setting up their own parallel economies.  They contribute to an underground economy or “black market”, which is a market consisting of all commerce on which applicable taxes and/or regulations of trade are being avoided.  It includes many multi-national businesses, as well as those involved in the growing and selling of illegal drugs.

Because trading has become an endemic part of the global economy, embargos on goods are often used as powerful political weapons to bring other countries “into line”.  Examples of this are the embargos on South African goods during the apartheid era and that currently being imposed on Russia because of its occupation of the Crimean region of the Ukraine.

The competition for markets associated with trade has far-reaching effects across the globe.  Politicians talk about it as being a vital part of the economy and in so doing, they encourage this competitive spirit.  Its linkages into the economy and how trade-associated competition is making global warming and climate change worse, will be discussed later in this chapter and in chapter 7.

The whole trading scenario reaches into many aspects of life and plays just as important a role in the development of climate change, as the industrial revolution has done.

OIL

Oil has also come to dominate global trading systems, with prices being hiked by the oil-producing countries, with non-oil-producing countries being held to ransom.  Most governments fear that having no access to oil will impair their ability to manufacture and to trade, and thus impact on their national economies. The fear of losing access to oil has had a huge impact on national decision-making and the willingness to go to war to wipe out regimes who have large oil resources and who are not friendly to the western world.  All of these fears, and the actions associated with them, are futile really because, if we are to save the planet, we need to stop using oil and other fossil fuels, by leaving them in the ground, and to replace them with renewable forms of energy.  Perhaps ExxonMobil and BP and other oil producing companies still need to learn this.

Image result for oil well

Fig. 35  An oil well

Further details about the movement of oil around the world (in terms of imports and exports) are shown on the Carbon Brief website38, which appears to show that exports of oil were still increasing in 2014, compared with 2004.

At present, oil-producing countries have the upper hand but I do not see this as lasting, as there is a move to using non-carbon-emitting forms of energy, such as solar panels and wind, tidal and water-based energy.  This could completely change the whole dynamic of global trading.  If they seize the opportunity, some African countries in Saharan and sub-Saharan regions, could move from being poverty-bound regions, to replacing the oil-producing countries in the pecking order, by becoming leaders in producing and supplying cleaner forms of energy, such as solar power.  Chile has already made a start by building a “farm” of solar panels in a desert area; this already supplies enough energy for one of their largest cities.

Image result for solar power farms in Chile

Fig. 36 Solar power farm in Chile 

 The trend towards renewable forms of energy has put some of the multi-national energy companies into a panic, as they search frenetically for oil and/or gas in more and more remote places, such as the Arctic.

There is a saddening history of how oil has damaged the environment and some animal and bird species, through oil slicks and spillages, yet the competitive urge to find new places to drill for oil and other gases continues unabated.  The following three photographs show some of the consequences of oil spillage.

Image result for oil spills and sea birds

Fig. 37  

Image result for oil spills

Fig. 38

Image result for oil spills

Fig.39

Another area of concern is the new practice of fracking where licences have already been obtained to carry out this practice, which releases natural gas from under the ground in areas very close people’s homes.  Further information and an interactive map of the areas of the UK and Ireland affected by this can be found at the website:
http://frack-off.org.uk/extreme-energy-fullscreen/.

News stories from Canada and America suggest that fracking there is linked to significant earthquakes

News stories from Canada and America suggest that fracking there is linked to significant earthquakes.

 Market Economies

The major change in trading systems across the world, since before the industrial revolution, has impacted substantially on the way of life and the economies of most nations of the world, so that whole economies are now based on trading patterns, potential markets and import/export ratios.  Indeed, the description of a market economy is considered by some to be a progressive form of government.  It is based on the concept of demand and supply, where governments encourage those companies in their trade who are meeting an overseas demand for their goods.  The income they receive from overseas is seen to help the balance of payments and to bring about economic growth.

What a market economy fails to do is to analyse, and meet the needs of, its own people, especially those who are in poverty, with no goods to sell. The excuse for failing to help those in most poverty is that there will be a trickle-down effect; in reality this rarely happens.

What does happen is that the rich get richer at the expense of the poor.

Market economies are based on the encouragement of free trade, which is thought by 93% of economists to be a good thing (Ian Fletcher (2010)39 but, as argued by Fletcher, it has led to a situation where some developed nations have huge trade gaps, or deficits, Britain being one of them. This has occurred mainly because some of the developing nations pay much lower wages to their industrial workers and can therefore produce and sell their goods at more competitive prices than those of the developed nations. In 2014 the trade deficit of the U.S.A. was $508,324 billion.  Fletcher makes a case for rethinking and reforming current trade policies, by debunking some of the cherished assumptions held by mainstream economists. In the UK, the trade deficit for manufactured goods is higher than that of most other European countries but, in the past, politicians have worked to reduce the deficit by implementing austerity measures, rather than by rethinking our trade policies altogether, introducing localisation policies and making the reduction of carbon emissions a priority.

The UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) provides data which shows that the balance of trade in goods in the UK has shown a deficit in all but six years since 1900.  They recorded net surpluses in the years 1980 to 1982, largely as a result of growth in exports of North Sea oil. Since then, however, the trade in goods account has remained in deficit (see Figure 40).

fig40

Fig.40

The trade deficit in the UK – from the Office of National Statistics

Figure 41 shows that Britain’s trade in services is doing much better than its trade in goods.

fig41

Fig.41 – From the Office of National Statistics

The trade deficit also impacts on crops and foodstuffs produced by our farmers.  In 2002, Dr Caroline Lucas, a Green MEP, wrote a report40 entitled “Stopping the Great Food Swap: Relocalising Europe’s Food Supply”. It was based on background research and support provided by Andy Jones and Vicki Hird of Sustain and from Colin Hines, author of “Localisation: a Global Manifesto, published in 200041.

Lucas’s report provides some astonishing data:

  • The UK imports 61,400 tonnes of poultry meat from the Netherlands and, in the same year, exports 33,100 tonnes of poultry meat to the Netherlands;
  • The UK imports 240,000 tonnes of pork and 125,000 tonnes of lamb while exporting 195,000 tonnes of pork and 102,000 tonnes of lamb;
  • In the UK in 1997, 125 million litres of milk was imported and 270 million litres exported;
  • In 1996, the UK imported 434,000 tonnes of apples, 202,000 tonnes of which came from outside the EU. Over 60% of UK apple orchards have been lost since 1970.

Thus, we are importing more agricultural goods than we actually export, and importing goods which we produce ourselves, yet our own farmers struggle to make an income. I have also come across figures which show that 46% of the food we eat is imported.

The report stated that trade-related transportation is one of the fastest-growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions and is therefore significant in terms of climate change.

 In 2011, Rianne ten Veen, of GreenCreation, updated the Lucas report, providing more recent data, with three case studies on meat, milk and fruit, for the Counting the Costs series of reports42.

 The EU Common Agricultural Policy has been accused of creating a situation in which damage is caused to the environment and to rural livelihoods, by encouraging larger, more intensive farms at the expense of smaller, more sustainable ones and leading to the inhumane treatment of farm animals.  There is evidence that the transport of livestock and meat across Europe has led to diseases such as Foot and Mouth Disease and BSE being passed from one country to another. The system has led to an absurd situation, which rewards a few, very wealthy farmers, the supermarkets and multinational food companies at the expense of small and medium-scale farmers. It makes no economic sense.

Further data is available in the report, which concludes that this destructive globalisation needs to be replaced with a localisation that protects and rebuilds local economies across the world.

The organisation, Local Futures, has recently released a 16-page action paper, entitled Climate Change or System Change?43 which argues that globalisation (the deregulation of trade and finance through an ongoing series of “free trade” treaties) is the driving force behind climate change.  The document makes the case for an international move towards localisation and provides a list of the pro’s and con’s for both systems, showing that the advantages of localisation far outweigh the advantages of globalisation.  It provides evidence to demonstrate that globalisation:

  • Promotes unnecessary transport;
  • Promotes rampant consumerism;
  • Is making the food system a major climate-changer;
  • Replaces human labour with energy-intensive technologies;
  • Promotes energy-intensive urbanisation.

A recent book by Colin Tudge44 proposes a complete rethink of our approaches to farming, through “enlightened agriculture”, without wrecking the rest of the world.

Economic Growth

Economic growth is defined as an increase in the capacity of an economy to produce goods and services, compared from one period of time to another.  It is the long-term expansion of the productive potential of an economy.  The problem with this is that this type of growth (as with so-called progress) is dependent upon relying on producing more and more manufactured goods and finding overseas markets to sell them.  It all feeds into the IR Continuum, thus adding to further carbon emissions.

Growth is seen as a good thing by economists and politicians but, as with “progress”, it can’t be good if it is adding to carbon emissions and the destruction of the planet.  At present, success in national economies is measured using an index called the GDP (gross domestic product).  At the time of writing the growth in the GDP in the UK was 0.5% and, in the USA it was 1.5%.

In his book, “The Growth Illusion: how economic growth has enriched the few, impoverished the many, and endangered the planet” (1999), Richard Douthwaite5,45 sets out how a capitalist system can be redirected to fulfil society’s hopes by restructuring economies to be based on local rather than global imperatives.  Some of his ideas will be looked at further in a later chapter.

Social Businesses

The Nobel laureate, Muhamad Yunus has promoted the concept of social businesses, which are businesses with social objectives (Creating a world without poverty: by Muhammad Yunus, 2007)46. He believes that we need to recognize the real human being and his or her multi­faceted desires. In order to do that, we need a new type of business that pursues goals other than making personal profit – a business that is totally dedicated to solving social and environmental problems.  He gives three examples of social businesses:

  • One that manufactures and sells high-quality, nutritious food products at very low prices to a targeted market of poor and underfed children;
  • A social business that develops renewable-energy systems and sells them at reasonable prices to rural communities that otherwise can’t afford access to energy;
  • A social business that recycles garbage, sewage, and other waste products that would otherwise generate pollution in poor or politically powerless neighborhoods.

It may be owned by one or more individuals, either as a sole proprietorship or a partnership, or by one or more investors, who pool their money to fund the social business and hire professional managers to run it.

A social business might be defined as a non-loss, non-dividend business. Rather than being passed on to investors, the surplus gener­ated by the social business is reinvested in the business. Ultimately, it is passed on to the target group of beneficiaries in such forms as lower prices, better service, and greater accessibility. Not only does the investor get his money back, he still remains an owner of the company and decides its future course of action.

It is not known whether a social business feeds into the IR continuum as much as traditional businesses do but, because there are social and/or environmental objectives, one suspects that the carbon footprint will be much reduced because those who run the business are not there to make profit for themselves but to improve society.  The Fair Trade movement also has social objectives.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development

oecd

The OECD is a forum where the governments of 34 democracies with market economies work with each other, as well as with more than 70 non-member economies to promote economic growth, prosperity, and sustainable development.

In recent years there has been an OECD move to start measuring economies according to their green growth.  In June 2009, ministers from these 34 countries with market economies signed a Green Growth Declaration47, declaring that they will: “Strengthen their efforts to pursue green growth strategies as part of their responses to the crisis and beyond, acknowledging that green and growth can go hand-in-hand.” They endorsed a mandate for the OECD to develop a Green Growth Strategy, bringing together economic, environmental, social, technological, and development aspects into a comprehensive framework. The Strategy was published in 2011 and formed part of the OECD contributions to the Rio+20 Conference in June 2012.

The strategy identified the following as being the most polluting industries with the greatest CO2 emissions:

  • Air transport;
  • Water transport;
  • Electricity, gas and water;
  • Coke, refined petrol and nuclear fuel;
  • Land transport;
  • Basic metals;
  • Non-metallic mineral products.

The document outlines ways to achieve international co-operation on the strategy and ways to monitor green progress.  It is a significant document47.

I would support the introduction of a new measure – a green GDP – which assesses only productivity associated with products which do not add to the total global emissions of CO2 and other pollutants.  Thus countries’ outputs could be compared using both metrics:

  • The normal GDP
  • The green GDP

The OECD suggestion of monitoring the green GDP would give incentives to nations to lower their carbon emissions and to focus on developing products which run on clean energy or which can be manufactured with minimal emissions.

 Another form of trading of the last few decades is in world currencies and commodities.  National currencies vary from day-to-day, according to the world economic situation, and some people speculate in buying and selling currencies, like a kind of international casino.  It is a form of risk that titillates the human need for excitement and intellectual entertainment, as does speculation on stock markets and commodities. But it can also help an individual to make money at the expense of some countries with fragile economies.

National Self-Sufficiency

So, what the industrial revolution and its continuum has done, is to set into place trading systems, and a merchant culture, that it will be difficult to reverse.  The most stable system would be for each nation to provide for itself – to become self-sufficient, only buying from overseas those products which cannot be sourced at home – but we are a long way from that ever becoming a reality. It is said that the UK at the moment can only produce goods that meet 60% of its needs.  Is self-sufficiency a realistic target to aspire to?  Could it be reached within the three generations that we have left?

fig42

Fig.42

A local farmer’s market (From clipart)

Britain’s Responsibility

As with the Industrial Revolution, Britain is again responsible for setting into play an international trading system that now runs out of control, feeding the IR continuum, and contributing to increasing levels of carbon emissions.  Britain started it off but, because it is a small country with limited resources, it has long been left behind by the larger countries with vast resources of mineral and fossil-fuel wealth.  Britain tries to keep pace with the larger, resource-rich countries but is really fighting a losing battle.  It would be much better placed in leading the world in finding ways of becoming self-sufficient, supporting its own farmers and reducing carbon emissions.  And by modifying its economy to support those in most need and in developing green products.

Recently in the news has been the collapse of the UK Steel industry, due to cheap imports from China.  Rather than trying to shore up outdated plants, which use fossil fuels to make steel, Britain would be better off using governmental investment to lead the world in developing a carbon-free steel.

Trading and Competition 2

I mentioned earlier in this chapter the competitive spirit that trade engenders.  I admit that Britain started trading in this way in the nineteenth century, by making use of its empire links, because it wanted to get a competitive edge over other nations.  Other countries, who have followed suit and come to dominate trading systems, have also done so for competitive reasons.  Indeed, it is almost impossible to separate the concept of a market economy from the concept of competition and rivalry.  But, unless, the nations of the whole world stop competing with their neighbours and reinforcing the IR Continuum, then we will no longer be here to compete against each other.

Global co-operation is what is needed at the moment, not competition; Britain needs to join forces with its neighbours to save the planet.

In a recent TEDx speech,”Why We Need to rethink Capitalism”, Paul Tudor Jones II48, formerly from big business himself, talked about a profit-led emphasis (to the exclusion of all else) that has led to a situation in which the concept of humanity has been removed from the corporate world.  He said that profit margins, at 12.5%, are currently at a 40-year high and that higher profit margins exacerbate income inequality, with the US having the greatest levels of inequality in the world. He demonstrated a strong link between income inequality and a series of social health metrics. He described a new way of corporate behaviour (The Just Index), in which the public are given a voice.

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)

TTIP is a series of trade negotiations being carried out mostly in secret between the US and the EU.  It is a bi-lateral trade agreement and is about reducing the regulatory barriers to trade for big business and includes things like: food safety law, environmental legislation, banking regulations and the sovereign powers of individual nations.  The Independent49 lists six reasons why we should oppose TTIP:

The British NHS, as a public institution, is at risk, as one of the aims is to open up Europe’s public health, education and water services to US companies, which could mean the privatisation of the NHS;

  • Food and Environmental Safety: the TTIP’s agenda is to seek to bring European standards on food and the environment, closer to those of the US. But US regulations are much more lenient, with 70% of processed food sold in US supermarket containing ingredients that have been genetically modified. The US also has very lax laws about the use of pesticides and the feeding of growth hormone to cattle;
  • Banking Regulations: it is feared that TTIP will remove current restrictions on banks imposed after the 2009 financial crisis;
  • Privacy: after a huge public backlash, the European parliament did not agree to an anti-counterfeiting trade agreement (ACTA), which would have allowed internet service providers to monitor people’s on-line activities. It is possible that TTIP may bring this back.
  • Jobs: the EU has admitted that TTIP may bring in unemployment, as US has weaker labour standards and trades union rights.
  • Democracy; this is the greatest threat that would be brought in with TTIP, as it will allow companies to sue governments, if those governments’ policies cause a loss of profits.

It would appear that TTIP will allow the big US corporations, already responsible for huge emissions of CO2, to be given a free reign to wreak havoc in Europe as well.

 The Merchant Culture

In the End Piece to my first book and the introduction to this book, I stated that the world had been taken over by merchants – people who trade in all kinds of goods for their own benefit – and how this was destroying the world.  I still hold this opinion, 22 years after first making the observation.  The world is still controlled by merchants, as well as the greed and acquisitiveness that often accompanies this merchant culture. Unless this is addressed, many of the measures described in this chapter and elsewhere in this book, will make no difference to the domino effect this merchant culture is having on the stability and sustainability of the planet.

A Downturn in Global Trading Systems?

A recent joint publication from the Centre for Economic Policy and Research and The Robert Schuman Centre for Research Studies50 suggests that there is currently a global trade slow down.  The document contains 20 properly scrutinised research papers, which all come to the conclusion that there is a downturn in global trading patterns. Various conclusions are drawn from this; for example, a rise in protectionism, another impending collapse of global markets etc.  Economists are obviously worried about this, as they think it will impede economic growth.  However, it may herald a worldwide trend in consumers realising there is a climate change crisis and subsequently reducing their consumption of imported goods, deciding not to adhere any more to a throw-away culture.

According to the World Bank, a brief review of the evidence suggests that both cyclical and structural factors have been important in explaining the recent slowdown in global trade51. With high-income countries accounting for some 65 percent of global imports, the lingering weakness of their economies five years into the recovery suggests that weak demand is still impacting the recovery in global trade. But they feel that weak demand is not the only reason as trade had become much less responsive to income growth, even prior to the crisis. There is some evidence to suggest that part of the explanation may lie in shifts in the structure of value chains, in particular between China and the United States, with a higher proportion of the value of final goods being added domestically—that is, with less border crossing for intermediate goods. In addition, the post-crisis composition of demand has shifted from capital equipment to less import-intensive spending, such as consumption and government services.

I personally do not think that the downturn in global trade is a disaster; indeed, it may herald a new way forward, which has a glimmer of hope of saving the planet.

This whole issue is discussed further in chapters 5 and 7.