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human activity and the destruction of the planet


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Hundreds of temperature records beaten over the summer of 2019

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-49753680?intlink_from_url=https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science_and_environment&link_location=live-reporting-story

Story on BBC website by

Almost 400 all-time high temperatures were set in the northern hemisphere over the summer, according to an analysis of temperature records.  The records were broken in 29 countries for the period from 1 May to 30 August 2019.

A third of the all-time high temperatures were in Germany, followed by France and the Netherlands.

France

People cooling off during the heatwave in France

 

The analysis was carried out by the California-based climate institute Berkeley Earth.

Over the summer, there were 1,200 instances of places in the northern hemisphere being the hottest they’d ever been in a given month.  The data included measurements from weather stations in the northern hemisphere that had at least 40 years of observations. Some of this data has not yet been subjected to formal review by weather agencies. These reviews, to check for problems that might have produced false readings, sometimes cause a small fraction of the records to be discounted.

European heatwaves

Heatwaves in Europe in June and July sent temperatures soaring, smashing a number of local and national records.

France set an all-time high-temperature of 46C, while the UK, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands also reported new highs.

This summer was notable for the very large number of all-time temperature records set in Europe, according to Dr Robert Rohde, Lead Scientist at Berkeley Earth.

“Some places in Europe have histories of weather observations going back more than 150 years, and yet still saw new all-time record highs,” he told the BBC.

The extent of the hot spells on the continent is clearly visible when looking at a breakdown of when the most temperature records were broken. In late July, all-time temperature records were set in a number of European countries including the UK.

_109163273_records_by_date_v2-nc

Elsewhere, more than 30 all-time records were broken in the US, according to the Berkeley Earth data. In Japan, where 11 people who died as a result of the summer heatwave, 10 all-time temperature record highs were set.

The summer saw 396 all-time high temperatures in total.

Most all-time temperature records in measuring stations covered by the data were broken in 2010, followed by 2003.

The increasing number of record high temperatures are a part of the long-term trend of global warming, said Dr Rohde.

“As the Earth warms, it has become easier for weather stations to set new all-time records. In the past, we would usually only see about 2% of weather stations recording a new record high in any given year,” he explained.

“But, recently, we sometimes see years, like 2019, with 5% or more of the weather stations recording a new all-time record high.”

Further data and charts can be found on the BBC website cited at the beginning of this article.



This chart of global weather hot spots from Jan-June 2019 was produced by Climate Central:

2019tmps



Europe was not the only place to experience extremely hot weather during the year.  The following came from Vietnam:

vietnam



And another bar chart from NASA showing increasing temperatures over the last century:

temperature-means-yearly-NASA-3


And yet more broken records in 2020

Reports are coming in of more heat waves in 2020 – and high records being broken too.

Death Valley, USA 17th August 2020

Temperatures in America’s Death Valley reached 54.4C – possibly highest ever reliably recorded temperature.  If verified, it will be the hottest temperature officially verified since July 1913, also at Death Valley.

California Death Valley National Park

The extreme temperature was noted by the United States National Weather Service’s automated weather station at Furnace Creek CREDIT: Getty Images Contributor 

Temperatures in California’s Death Valley reached 54.4C (130F) on Sunday, possibly the highest ever reliably recorded on the planet. 

The extreme temperature was noted by the United States National Weather Service’s automated weather station at Furnace Creek, near the border with Nevada, at 3.41pm. 

“This observed high temperature is considered preliminary and not yet official,” a statement from NWS Las Vegas said.

“If verified, this will be the hottest temperature officially verified since July of 1913, also at Death Valley.”

Greenland Ranch hit 56.7C (134F) on 10 July 1913, but some experts question the accuracy of old temperature reports.

The 1913 reading became the planet’s hottest in 2013 after a World Meteorological Organization (WMO) investigation dismissed a 58C (136.4F) temperature thought to have been recorded in Libya in September 1922.

A committee reported the Libya reading was likely incorrect due to human-error, as well as the type of thermometer used. This, along with inconsistencies with other temperatures in the region, meant the temperature was removed. 

The only other WMO-verified temperature higher than those taken at Death Valley are from July 1931 in Tunisia, where a reading of 55C (131F) was recorded. This too has been challenged over its accuracy. 

Sunday’s reading will now be investigated by the National Center for Environmental Information and the WMO. 

If verified, it would be the hottest August day ever recorded in the US, and the third highest temperature ever recorded, after the 1913 and 1931 readings. 

But some extreme weather watchers believe it could end up being verified as the hottest ever reliably recorded on the planet if the historical figures are questioned. 

Bob Henson, a meteorologist, said: “It’s quite possible the Death Valley high set a new global heat record. 

“The extreme nature of the surrounding weather pattern makes such a reading plausible, so the case deserves a solid review.

“There are nagging questions about the validity of even hotter reports from Death Valley in 1913 and Tunisia in 1931. 

“What we can say with high confidence is that, if confirmed, this is the highest temperature observed on Earth in almost a century.”


Siberia

From Richard Bruce, Future First:

Looks like Global Warming has finally triggered that methane release from the frozen Tundra, which is now on fire.
Remember this videos of the jelly-like wobble of defrosting Tundra soil because of the methane being released?
More methane bubbling from the warming oceans too. Could have worse implications than the virus…..
Nuclear power stations use thousands of tonnes of sea water for cooling, warming the oceans even faster.
Has the Earth finally reached the predicted tipping point?

https://www.counterpunch.org/2020/08/12/freakish-arctic-fires-alarmingly-intensify/

NASA satellite images of fires in eastern Siberia depict an inferno of monstrous proportions, nothing in modern history compares. And, as of July, it’s intensifying. Should people be concerned? Answer: Yes, and double yes.

According to Mark Parrington, a senior scientist at the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts: “What has been surprising is the rapid increase in the scale and intensity of the fires through July, largely driven by a large cluster of active fires in the northern Sakha Republic.” (Source: Kasha Patel, NASA/NOAA Satellites Observe Surprisingly Rapid Increase in Scale and Intensity of Fires in Siberia, SciTechDaily, August 9, 2020)

The problem: “Abnormally warm temperatures have spawned an intense fire season in the eastern Siberian this summer,” Ibid.

Is this global warming on steroids?

For further color on “the problem”: As of June 23rd, a SciTechDaily headline read: “Meteorologists Shocked as Heat and Fire Scorches Siberia.” At last count, meteorologists are hard-core scientists with vast exposure to disaster scenarios, not easily “shocked.”

As it happens, the very region of the planet that’s famous for the coldest temps of all time is now recording Miami-type summer temps like 100°F. Due to this unheard-of, unprecedented state of affairs, should this real-time, happening now, catastrophic scenario be included in U.S. presidential NSA briefings? No, the president doesn’t read. Then, should NSA verbalize the catastrophe to the president? Y0u’ve gotta be kidding and risk being fired!

All of above is a powerful unconditional signal, especially for the Paris ’15 commitment group, excluding the USA, that global warming is rampaging, running amuck. Maybe the Paris ’15 assemble needs to reassemble for an emergency ad hoc meeting to take a tally of how well individual nation/states are handling their voluntary commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions because the planet’s scorecard is looking like a big fat F.

And while at it, maybe check in with Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service and NASA on recent CO2 and CH4 spewing into the atmosphere. Brace yourself. We now have direct evidence of how important it is to cut fossil fuel emissions to zero, as soon as yesterday.

Here’s more about this mind-blowing threat to the well-being of the world:

(1) Arctic fires in Russia in June and July alone released “more CO2 than any complete fire season” since records have been kept and more CO2 than all of Scandinavia, happening in only two months time. That’s beyond shocking, and it represents country-wide-scale CO2 emissions emitted by nature itself now competing head-on with every aspect of Paris ’15.

(2) The fires are double trouble as one half of the fires are on peatlands, which, once started, can burn almost forever if the heat is intense enough (which it is) emitting both CO2 and CH4 in unheralded competition with the dictates of Paris ’15.

“Peat fires can burn longer than forest fires and release vast amounts of carbon into the atmosphere.” (Source: Kasha Patel, NASA/NOAA Satellites Observe Surprisingly Rapid Increase in Scale and Intensity of Fires in Siberia, SciTechDaily, August 9, 2020)

“The destruction of peat by fire is troubling for so many reasons,’ said Dorothy Peteet of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. ‘As the fires burn off the top layers of peat, the permafrost depth may deepen, further oxidizing the underlying peat,” Ibid.

Oh by the way, only recently it was reported that the amount of carbon stored in northern peatlands is double previous estimates. (Source: Jonathan Nichols, et al, Holocene Ecohydrological Variability on the East Coast of Kamchtka, Frontiers in Earth Science, May 15, 2019)

It goes without saying that raging firestorms in a heat-induced global warming environment that releases more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than several countries combined darkens the epithet “Black Swan” almost beyond recognition.

But, is it really a Black Swan? Well, no, it is not a Black Swan because human-generated (anthropogenic) carbon emissions, like exhaust from fossil-fueled SUV engines, have been on a tear, especially since the turn of the new century (doubling on a per annum basis) blanketing the atmosphere (holding in heat), thus causing extraordinary readings of heat in the upper latitudes. So, yes, more fires were expected, no Black Swan.

But, the intensity of the fires hands down, no doubt about it, easily meets that criterion. Therefore, yes, it is a Black Swan, as the intensity is so overwhelmingly powerful that nobody could have possibly expected it to happen this way, and therein lies the risk to the “great hope” of cutting greenhouse gas emissions to minimize global temperatures to 2°C above baseline, or all hell breaks loose.

Get serious! It’s already breaking loose!



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An obsession with GDP and economic growth is acting to worsen climate change

An obsession with GDP and economic growth is acting to worsen climate change.

A number of progressive economists have been pointing out the facts relating to this statement for the last few years.  Yet, political leaders across the world still seem to be deaf to their words and obsessed with a need to find ways to fuel economic growth through a market economy and promoting austerity, and then praise themselves for doing it, even though their austerity measures affect the poorest in society and damage the environment.  It is part of an adherence to a competitive world, in which one’s own country must come out on top.  This blinkered approach encourages the manufacturing industry, much of which uses fossil fuels, and trading across the globe, in order to balance the difference between imports and exports – what is termed ” a balanced economy”.  I deal with the issue in Chapter 7 of my book, which can be found elsewhere on this website.

fioramonti

In the UK, this approach was perhaps pioneered by Margaret Thatcher and her crony in the US, Ronald Reagan.  But it was later picked up with enthusiasm by Tony Blair and developed further, until it became an obsession with economists.  According to George Monbiot, they are using the wrong mathematics and this approach is both outdated and harmful to the environment. See:

George Monbiot (2015) Guardian 24th November 2015.  “Consume more, conserve more: Sorry but we just can’t do both.”

A number of progressive economists have been saying a similar thing for a number of years.  Perhaps the late Richard Douthwaite was the first to say this in his book “The Growth Illusion” (1999) but there have been others too:  Molly Scott Cato MEP (“Green Economics”), Kate Raworth (Doughnut Economics and also “Old economics is based on false ‘laws of physics’ – new economics can save us” Guardian 6th April 2017), Ian Fletcher (“Free Trade Doesn’t Work”), Paul Krugman  (“How did economists get it so wrong?” in the New York Times), Pat Conaty and the New Economics Foundation among others (full details of each in my references section on this website).

The current UK Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell MP, also wrote a booklet about this in June 2007, whilst a member of Tony Blair’s “market economy party”.  It is entitled “Another World is Possible” and shows amazing foresight about the consequences of market economy politics, which we are living with now. He was courageous to write this, at a time when Blair was pursuing another path.

AWIP

“Another World is Possible”  (2007) is published by the Labour representation Committee, PO Box 2378, London E5 9QU.  ISBN 978-0-9555771-0-9.

This excellent booklet includes a section entitled “A Planet Plundered for Profit” in which McDonnell states that “we cannot tackle climate change unless we address the system which has caused it…….the wasteful consumption of the wealthier nations has brought environmental impacts, which…. disproportionately affect the poorest countries….The UK has a wealth of natural resources that lend themselves to renewable energy production which, once set up, are low cost to run and cause no pollution… a programme of investment in renewable would not only create thousands of jobs in engineering and manufacturing sectors that have declined in recent years….”

According to Kate Raworth in her Guardian article, “Things are not going well in the world’s richest economies. Most OECD countries are facing their highest levels of income inequality in 30 years, while generating ecological footprints of a size that would require four, five or six planet Earths if every country were to follow suit. These economies have, in essence, become divisive and degenerative by default. Mainstream economic theory long promised that the solution starts with growth – but why does that theory seem so ill-equipped to deal with the social and ecological fallout of its own prescriptions?”

In May 2017, Lorenzo Fioramonti*, Professor of Political Economy, University of Pretoria, wrote an article for The Conversation, republished in Quartz. He opens: “GDP as a measure of growth fails to account for damages caused to the environment by industrial activity”. In his new book “Wellbeing Economy: Success in a World Without Growth” he points out that the “growth first” rule has dominated the world since the early 20th century. No other ideology has ever been so powerful: the obsession with growth even cut through both capitalist and socialist societies”.  He asks the question, “What exactly is growth” and further expounds the idea that it is not a silver bullet to success.  Further details of this concept in his book are summarised in:

https://britain2020.wordpress.com/2017/07/04/fioramonti-growth-is-dying-as-the-silver-bullet-for-success-this-may-be-good-thing/

Kate Raworth has also circulated her latest blog, which contains a video, which tries to explain the issue in easily understandable terms, using puppets.  She hopes that this will be used in secondary schools and in teaching economics undergraduates that the GDP/growth model does not work:

Economic Man vs. Humanity: a puppet rap battle

by Kate Raworth

An economist, a songwriter, and a puppet-maker walked into a recording studio. What do you think came out?. . . An economics puppet rap battle, of course.

One of the most dangerous stories at the heart of 20th century economics is the depiction of humanity as rational economic man. In my book Doughnut Economics I decided he needed a portrait so I drew him, standing alone, with money in his hand, ego in his heart, a calculator in his head and nature at his feet. He hates work, he loves luxury and he knows the price of everything.

Now here’s the most fascinating (and unnerving) thing I discovered while researching the history and influence of this character. The more that economics students learn about him – from Year 1 to Year 2 to Year 3 of their studies – the more they say they value traits such as self-interest and competition over traits such as altruism and collaboration.

The implication? Who we tell ourselves we are shapes who we become.

Over the past year I have been contacted by many economics teachers around the world – especially those in secondary schools – who want to encourage their students to critique this text-book model and offer them a far more nuanced understanding of human behaviour.

So that got me thinking…

I teamed up with the brilliant puppet designer Emma Powell and the ingenious musician Simon Panrucker and, with funding from the Network for Social Change (big thanks, folks!), we created this video – Economic Man vs Humanity: a puppet rap battle.

We’d love to see it in use in classrooms, conferences, reading groups, community groups, and shared widely on social media, on web platforms, on teaching resource sites.

If you are a teacher, please do use it to start a debate in your classroom (the video ends with a question for that very reason). Download the complete lyrics of the rap, and if your students want to dive further into the back story and future possibilities of Rational Economic Man, then I recommend Chapter 3 of Doughnut Economics, which was the basis for the whole project.

If you are a student, please do share the video with your fellow future economists, get your teacher involved, and help kick off a much-needed discussion.

And if you host a web discussion, a new economics resource site, a community network, or a teachers’ forum, you are very welcome to feature the film on your site – we’d love to hear what you do with it.

So sit back and enjoy the Puppet Rap Battle – sing along, pass it on, and let’s say farewell to Rational Economic Man. Today’s students know that it’s time to create a better portrait of who we are for 21st century economics.”

Kate Raworth | 5 September 2018 at 10:14 | URL: https://wp.me/p3sUHn-Bb

 

And yet, despite all of these highly knowledgeable progressive economists writing at length about it, the old way of seeking “growth, growth and more growth” still persists. The present conservative government in the UK has used this maxim extensively over the last 10 years, and even used it as a hammer to batter the opposition with – that they are weak on the economy – a deceitful myth that a gullible public unwittingly believed, when voting at the ballot box – until June 2017, that is.  And the present Chancellor constantly brings statistical data to parliament, in an attempt to show that their economic austerity policies are working.  What he does not say is that they are contributing to climate change, as well as making many marginalised people much worse off.  Indeed, they seem to have abandoned any pretence of working towards attaining the targets set by the Paris Agreement in 2015.  George Monbiot has slated their 25-year environment plan, as “A Grand Plan to do Nothing”. See: http://www.monbiot.com

This last year, we have seen some of the extreme consequences of climate change:

  • excessive heatwaves this summer;
  • a prolonged unusual freeze-up last winter;
  • last year having the most violent and numerous hurricanes;
  • island nations losing some of their territory due to sea level rise;
  • the last few years, global temperatures being the hottest ever on record.

Some of these issues have been described in more detail in other recent blogs on this website.

Just recently, I have read an article by Alan Cottey, a member of Scientists for Global Responsibility: “Environment change, economy change and reducing conflict at source”, just published in AI & Society, where he sets out alternatives.  Here is an extract from the Abstract:

At a time when fossil fuel burning, nationalism, ethnic and religious intolerance, and other retrograde steps are being promoted, the prospects for world peace and environmental systems stability may appear dim. Exactly because of this is it the more important to continue to examine the sources of conflict. A major obstacle to general progress is the currently dominant economic practice and theory, which is here called the economy-as-usual, or economics-as-usual, as appropriate. A special obstacle to constructive change is the language in which economic matters are usually discussed. This language is narrow, conservative, technical and often obscure. The rapid changes in the environment (physical and living) are largely kept in a separate compartment. If, however, the partition is removed, economics-as-usual, with its dependence on growth and its widening inequality, is seen to be unsustainable. Radical economic change, for better or worse, is to be expected. Such change is here called economy change. The change could be for the better if it involved an expansion of the concept of economics itself, along the lines of oikonomia, a modern revival of a classical Greek term for management or household. In such an expanded view, not everything of economic value can be measured. It is argued that economics-as-usual is the source of much strife. Some features are indicated of a less conflictual economy—more just, cooperative and peaceful. These features include a dignified life available to all people as of right, the word ‘wealth’ being reconnected with weal, well and well-being, and ‘work’ being understood as including all useful activity.”

The whole article can be found at:

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00146-018-0816-x


I think that many of us have stood on the sidelines of this issue for long enough now.  It is time for the progressive economists I have named above, and those cited in Cottey’s article, to come together, in formulating together a new economic theory, with a clear structure, that takes care of the environment, does not increase the gap between rich and poor, and which reduces conflict and competition between nations.  They have written separately for too long.  Now, we are looking for a new partnership, a new structure – a really new economics, based on compassion and equality, not austerity, which will also work towards reducing the damaging effects of climate change.