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human activity and the destruction of the planet


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Predictions: climate refugees to reach 50 million by 2050

From the Huffington Post:

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/climate-refugees-rising-seas_uk_59b7d86fe4b027c149e2564e?

It has been predicted that by 2050, the number of climate refugees could rise to 50 million.

The global sea level rose about eight inches in the last century. The rate in the last twenty years, however, is nearly double that of the last century.

Sea level rise is caused primarily by two factors related to global warming: the added water from melting ice sheets and glaciers and the expansion of sea water as it warms. The current NASA estimation is that by 2100 the sea levels will rise by up to four feet – depending on how quickly land-based glaciers melt.

Small island nations and cities built on water will be affected the most.

50 million people will be displaced from their homes due to sea level rise.  That is 10 times the number of Syrian refugees.

The question is – where will they go?

The full 32-minute video, covering an expedition to Antarctica, can be seen here:

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/end-of-the-earth-watch-huffpost-uks-first-documentary-here_uk_59bbe848e4b0edff971b86eb?

It has been made to look at the issue of climate change from a different perspective, though I find that the style of  presentation and editing, though not meant, tends to trivialise the whole issue.  However, it includes some important footage of Trump and other climate change deniers, as well as interviews and footage from people from a variety of countries across the globe, including the Marshall Islands and India.

November 2017:  A new approach to the issue of climate refugees is being pioneered by New Zealand.  See the full report at:

https://www.pri.org/stories/2017-11-03/new-zealand-considers-climate-migration-visa-pacific-islanders-fight-stay

New Zealand could become the first country in the world to recognize climate change as a valid reason to be granted residency, according to an interview with a government minister on Tuesday.

The nation’s newly elected government is considering creating a new visa category for Pacific Islanders displaced by climate change. If implemented, New Zealand’s proposal would offer up to 100 humanitarian visas per year as an experimental — and unprecedented — trial.

The 1951 Refugee Convention does not cover people displaced across borders due to climate change. Though Fiji had previously committed to providing future climate refuge to Pacific neighbours, the New Zealand proposal marks the first time a developed country has considered addressing the international legal protection gap with a regional visa agreement.

Further discussion of this offer, with especial reference to Kiribati, can be found in the blog entitled The Effects of Sea Level Rise on Island Nations.

woman_kiribatiA woman swimming at high tide near her house in Kiribati 2017

 

 


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More extreme weather events caused by climate change?

The US state of Texas has experienced some terrifying extreme winds and unprecedented flooding as a result of Hurricane Harvey.  Photographs in the US press show homes destroyed, highways flooded and elderly people in an old people’s home sitting up to their waists in flood water.

Climate experts have been saying for a while that tornados, monsoons, tropical cyclones, hurricanes and flooding are becoming more extreme.  Climate change deniers are saying there is no evidence of a link between climate change and severe weather events but that these events are just due to natural variability.  However, I feel that the scientific evidence produced from studying 140 weather events around the world from Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines to the California drought shows a clear link. The result is mounting evidence that human activity is raising the risk of some types of extreme weather, especially those linked to heat.

Carbon Brief has mapped all of these events:

https://www.carbonbrief.org/mapped-how-climate-change-affects-extreme-weather-around-the-world

and their analysis suggests that 63% of all extreme weather events studied were made more likely or more severe by human-caused climate change. Heatwaves account for nearly half of such events (46%), droughts make up 21% and heavy rainfall or floods account for 14%.

A recent article in The Guardian (28th August 2017) by Michael E. Mann, a distinguished professor of atmospheric science at Pennsylvania State University, has discussed whether Hurricane Harvey was caused by climate change. He concluded that climate change has worsened the impact of the Hurricane and other extreme weather events.  See:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/aug/28/climate-change-hurricane-harvey-more-deadly?CMP=share_btn_tw

And where is Trump in all of this?

I wonder whether the current US devastation from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma will change Donald Trump’s mind about the reality of climate change. 

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Probably not, as he only seems to listen to the group of buddies he has gathered around him at the White House, most of whom have a vested interest in continuing to burn fossil fuels.  But will the swamped and bereaved residents of Houston and Florida allow him to continue on this blinkered course?

A recent report from the Union of Concerned Scientists has raised another problem arising from Hurricane Harvey: that more then 650 energy and industrial facilities may have been flooded as a result of the hurricane, with the Gulf Coast being home to many chemical industries as well, thus raising the risk of people living in the Houston area of being exposed to toxic chemicals.

http://blog.ucsusa.org/kristy-dahl/flooded-by-hurricane-harvey-new-map-shows-energy-industrial-and-superfund-sites

Meanwhile, Greenpeace have pointed out that the global media has focused on the disaster in Texas and ignored all the other tragic weather events taking place across the globe.  These include:

Flooding in South Asia:

In India, Nepal and Bangladesh 1200 people have also been recently killed by flooding, with 1.8 million children unable to go to school. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) estimates more than 41 million people have been affected by monsoon rains and severe flooding as of June this year. Whilst the numbers are massive, the stories to come out of this disaster are just as tragic. Several people are reported to have died from falling into open manholes, a two-year-old has lost her life to a wall collapse and many are reported to be missing.

Sierra Leone:

Two weeks ago a mudslide hit Sierra Leone, killing at least 499 people.

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Niger floods force thousands from their homes:

Serious flooding has led the authorities in Niger to order thousands of people to leave their homes in the capital Niamey. While many are sheltering in schools, others have nowhere to go. Already the torrential rains are reported to have killed at least 44 people in Niamey and other parts of the West African country since June, and has caused the destruction of hundreds of houses.

Storm Lidia

Tropical Storm Lidia hit the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula with heavy rain and high winds on Thursday evening. While not projected to reach hurricane strength, authorities in the state of Baja California Sur suspended classes and flights until conditions were deemed safe.

Hurricane Irma:

This powerful hurricane rapidly intensified in the open Atlantic, posing a major threat to the Caribbean and potentially the United States. Initially labelled a tropical storm, Irma strengthened into a large Category 5 hurricane in a process known as “rapid intensification”.  This has caused extreme damage to many of the Caribbean islands, leaving thousands homeless.  Full news of the devastation is yet to emerge.

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Mark Lynas of CNN has written, “this is what climate change looks like”. See:

http://edition.cnn.com/2017/08/31/opinions/climate-change-harvey-lynas-opinion/index.html?utm_source=Weekly+climate+roundup&utm_campaign=7733095a5f-Climate+Roundup+16_06_2017&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_81339309ed-7733095a5f-141770409

He goes on to say:

“It is not politically opportunistic to raise this issue now. Instead we have a moral duty not to accept the attempted conspiracy of silence imposed by powerful political and business interests opposed to any reduction in the use of fossil fuels. We owe this to the people of Texas as much to those of Bangladesh and India, and Niger — which was also struck by disastrous flooding this week.

Climate disasters demonstrate our collective humanity and interdependence. We have to help each other out — in the short term by saving lives and in the longer term by cutting greenhouse gases and enhancing resilience, especially in developing countries.”

 


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BBC Website gives updates on the Paris Agreement and the Climate Vulnerable Forum

This extract is taken from:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-39861589

According to the BBC, Chinese President, Xi Jinping has vowed to protect the Paris Agreement, which aims to curb climate change and fossil fuel emissions.

In contrast, US President, Donald Trump, is still deciding whether to withdraw from the Accord, one of the issues he promised to do during his election campaign.  According to the BBC climate experts worry that such a move from Trump would throw the agreeent into chaos.  A White House meeting to discuss the topic on Tuesday of this week, was postponed amid reports of divisions among senior Trump advisors.

Under former President, Barack Obama, the US and China issued several joint statements on climate change, even announcing together that they would sign the Paris Agreement.

The two countries are the world’s biggest polluters.

Almost 200 countries have backed the agreement, which aims to keep temperature increases below 1.5 degreesC.

 

A further update on other progress has appeared on the BBC’s website on Science and Environment:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-39954423

It provides details of further meetings of the CVF (Climate Vulnerable Forum) and is copied below:

“The world’s poorest nations say the Paris climate agreement is their “lifeline” and must be strengthened.

The Climate Vulnerable Forum, (CVF) representing 48 countries, said the deal was crucial to their survival.

In a swipe at President Trump’s oft-used phrase, they said that “no country would be great again” without swift action.

Thousands of delegates are meeting in Bonn to develop the rule book for the Paris deal.

Around one billion people live in countries that are part of the CVF.

The group firmly supports the idea, enshrined in the Paris agreement, that countries would do all in their power to keep temperatures from increasing more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

“Keeping to 1.5 degrees is quite simply a matter of survival,” said Debasu Bayleyegn Eyasu from Ethiopia, which holds the presidency of the CVF.

“For all of us, the Paris agreement is our lifeline.”

Other speakers highlighted the fact that there is widespread dissatisfaction with the current US position on climate change.

President Trump is expected to decide on future US participation in the Paris accord after the G7 summit in Italy next week.

Picking up on Mr Trump’s “make America great again,” election battle-cry, Emmanuel Guzman from the Philippines said: “Without increased climate action, no country will be great again.”

350px-Map_of_Philippines

“The measure of greatness is how you are able to increase and enhance your climate action.”

Mr Guzman said he was calling on all world leaders to increase their ambition and not just Mr Trump.

“I would not like to point a finger at someone, but it is a call for action by all big or small.

“If we don’t achieve the goals of the Paris agreement there are irreversible damages and consequences.”

“It’s a grim scenario – that’s really unacceptable to us.”

The group highlighted some of the important differences between keeping temperature rises under 2 degrees or under 1.5.

The Greenland ice sheet would enter irreversible long-term decline, with significant impacts on sea levels at 1.6 degrees one delegate said.

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Warming beyond 1.5 would also “appreciably increase the prevalence of extreme storms that have already been capable of large-scale loss of life and cutting a year’s GDP in half for some of our members.”

At the last major conference of negotiators in Marrakech last November, members of the CVF committed themselves to moving towards 100% renewable energy as soon as possible.

“Costa Rica produces 100% renewable energy most of the year,” said William Calvo, the country’s adjunct chief negotiator.

“But we won’t stop there: we are tackling now the transport sector and hope to even export renewable power more widely in the region.”

kaart CR-PAWP

The idea that other countries are capable of picking up the slack if the Americans pull out of Paris gained support this week with the release of an analysis showing that India and China are likely to overshoot existing targets to cut carbon.

President Trump’s actions to revitalise the coal industry in the US and to de-regulate oil and gas are unlikely to rapidly increase emissions before 2030 says the study from the Climate Action Tracker.

Between 2013 and 2016 China’s coal use declined each year and a continued slow decline is expected. India says that planned coal-fired power plants may not be needed if recently announced green policies are effective.

“You have to have the U.S. on board ultimately to meet the goals set by the Paris Agreement,” Bill Hare from Climate Analytics told news agencies.

“But if there’s a hiatus for four years it doesn’t mean it’s the end of the game”.

 


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Recent Events and how they affect climate change

I finished writing the book that is featured on this website in May 2016 and the EU referendum had not yet occurred.  Since then, there have been some momentous political events, many of which will have an effect on climate change.  Quite clearly, at the time of writing the last pages of the book, there was huge media attention on the referendum, most of which was attempting to influence people on the way they voted.  Much of what was written in the papers was lies.  At the time, I felt that all of this media attention was a distraction from the big issues facing the world and society as a whole.  In the book, I wrote that, in the light of the major issue of climate change, whether we stayed in or went out of Europe was neither here nor there.  It was not the biggest issue that required media attention.  Climate change was.

And yet, the media clamour over the whole issue has continued, distracting attention more and more away from the urgent issue of doing something about climate change.  It took a few months to get the book published and into print and I was able to write an addendum, which started to address these issues.  I now wish to build on them.

Firstly, there has been something of a panic in certain quarters about how leaving the EU will affect Britain’s economy.  This is mainly because favourable trading arrangements with EU countries may well be lost, leading to a reduction in the sales of British goods overseas and subsequent effects on the balance of payments. As a result, the new Prime Minister has been dashing hither and thither across the world, trying to establish new trading links with non-EU countries. Establishing trading links further afield will have an adverse effect on climate change because of the longer journeys that will need to be made to take British goods to these far-flung countries, leading to the burning of more fossil fuels on the way. What is now needed is a new radical approach, in which our thinking about the economy is completely rethought and overhauled.  I started to write about this in chapters 4 and 7 of my book but there are others, with much greater knowledge of economics than me, who have taken this further and who are writing about a new way forward.  One of these writers in Colin Hines in his book “Progressive Protectionism”.

Secondly, there has been a new president in the United States of America, Donald Trump. A man who is both ultra-racist and a misogynist.  A man with a big business background who has been a climate change denier for years.  He is placing in his team, other men from the big corporations, who also deny the existence of climate change, one of them being the former CEO of ExxonMobil, the largest corporation in the world, whose anti-climate actions are described in chapter 4 of my book. ExxonMobil leaders knew about fossil fuels and global warming as long ago as the 70’s yet, instead of spearheading research into finding new sources of renewable energy, they put their money into setting up a body which would publish false information about the effects of fossil fuels on global warming and climate change. They are the ones who are responsible for the danger that our planet is in at the moment – all of them climate-change-deniers.  It is also likely that Trump will revoke all of the progressive pro-climate measures that were introduced by the former President, Barack Obama.  Donald Trump also supports the concept of protectionism but in a regressive way, rather than a progressive way. In chapter 4 of my book, I indicate some of the ways in which each country can trade in order to protect both the environment and local economies.

Thirdly, there seems to be a global swing towards supporting populist extreme-right politicians and in discrediting “experts” opinions on a number of issues, including climate change.  I have posted a Media Lens article on this website, which gives more details on this.  As a scientist myself, it is important to me to have well-researched evidence to look at, when taking decisions about the stance I will take on particular decisions.  It would appear that the populist hoards have no such respect for expert opinion, especially if it does not support their own emotion-led and biased opinions on a number of issues, including climate change.

Fourthly, in chapter 6 of my book, I discuss the carbon footprint of war, including nuclear war.  In recent weeks there has been media reporting on a “failed” practice test of a British Trident warhead, which veered off course and had to be destroyed.  Fortunately, it contained no nuclear material but the incident has stimulated a discussion among scientists, who are part of the body, Scientists for Global Responsibility.  It would appear that this was not the first time a firing had gone wrong – there have been several before it – and it would appear that the whole system is outdated and dangerous.  And yet, Theresa May’s government have just approved a further renewal of the Trident missile, at a cost of billions of pounds. And only this week, there has been a report from Japan, that the Fukushima nuclear power station, which was destroyed in 2011 by a tsunami, is still emitting radioactivity that is way above the safe level for humans.  All of the evidence of the danger of nuclear weapons and the use of nuclear power is being ignored by politicians.

These are worrying times.