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Why Public Health Experts Support These Youth Suing The Us Government Over Climate Change

Lethal Heating - 5 hours 44 min ago
DeSmogDana Drugmand

Leading experts in the medical community, including two former U.S. Surgeons General, recently filed supporting briefs backing a youth climate lawsuit against the federal government because, like the current coronavirus pandemic, the climate crisis poses “unprecedented threats to public health and safety.”

From increased risk of asthma and respiratory illnesses to the spread of vector-borne disease, the unfolding climate crisis comes with significant health hazards, and children are particularly vulnerable, according to these medical experts.

“The medical community agrees that children in the United States will face compounded health harms over the course of their lives if our current trajectory of [greenhouse gas] emissions continues; ‘[w]ithout significant intervention, this new era will come to define the health of an entire generation,’” public health experts stated in their legal brief.

That brief backs a group of 21 youth plaintiffs seeking judicial intervention to order the U.S. government to devise a plan for rapidly turning away from fossil fuels and drawing down greenhouse gas emissions. The lawsuit Juliana v. United States, first filed in 2015, alleges that the federal government’s actions enabling a fossil fuel-based energy system violate the Constitutional rights of young people.

In January a pair of judges on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the case due to concerns about a court ordering the government to take large-scale climate action. The plaintiffs filed a petition earlier this month asking the full Ninth Court to review this decision. Experts in law, children’s and human rights, and public health recently filed amicus or supporting briefs urging the court to revive the case and allow it to proceed to trial.

Two of the 10 briefs filed came from public health experts. One, from former Surgeons General Dr. David Satcher and Dr. Richard Carmona, referred to the climate crisis as an “unprecedented public health threat” and said that courts can and should play a role.

In cases like this, where children’s health and very lives are at stake, their injuries can and should be redressed by the courts,” Satcher and Carmona wrote. They explained that they usually “do not involve themselves in judicial matters, but feel compelled to make an exception in this case.” And as they wrote in an op-ed last year, “our views on this issue transcend political affiliation.” It is an issue, they say, that “represents a profound threat to the public’s well-being.”
Op-ed from two former U.S. surgeons general: Because #climatechange represents a profound threat to the public’s well-being, we support the Juliana 21 climate lawsuit https://t.co/KgcIOqZxSI via @nytimes #WorldEnvironmentDay2019 pic.twitter.com/gvbfJsM7Ik— Climate Nexus (@ClimateNexus) June 5, 2019Another brief, filed on behalf of leading experts in public health and medicine and organizations representing thousands of health professionals, echoed this warning and described some of the health impacts stemming from climate change that disproportionately burden the nation’s youth. Young people in the U.S. born after 1995, the same generation as the Juliana plaintiffs, will suffer more from climate-related health impacts, the health experts say.

“The Juliana Generation faces an increasing burden of heat exposure, extreme weather events, infectious disease, and less nutritious, more expensive food,” they write in their brief. Drought, for example, worsens wildfires, which are linked to poor air quality and respiratory disease.

Air pollution associated with fossil fuel emissions is also a concern. “The production and use of fossil fuels not only emit [greenhouse gas emissions], but also emit other air pollutants that pose hazards to children’s health,” the health experts’ brief explains. Exposure to pollutants like ozone and fine particulate matter could increase children’s risk of developing asthma or other respiratory conditions like bronchitis.

And air pollution likely exacerbates the challenge of fighting respiratory infections like COVID-19. Although there is not yet definitive data on the link between air pollution and COVID-19, scientists studying the SARS coronavirus in 2003 found that infected people living in areas with higher air pollution levels were 84 percent more likely to die than those in less polluted areas. Research shows that communities of color are more likely to live with air pollution.
New | “We have been suffering horribly with health issues here, and struggling for our lives already from the man-made epidemic, I don't have any good feelings of how we are going to fare suffering now from a pandemic.” #CancerAlley #COVID19 https://t.co/T4r4pfF4pl— DeSmogBlog (@DeSmogBlog) March 25, 2020The climate crisis does not necessarily mean there will be more outbreaks of disease like the current coronavirus, but it does increase the risk of certain infectious diseases spread by ticks and mosquitoes or related to fungal or bacterial exposure in soil and water linked to rising temperatures. Ticks carrying Lyme disease are becoming much more prevalent in a warming world, and a mosquito that transmits disease-causing viruses like dengue and Zika is also increasing its range as temperatures rise.

“Between 2004 and 2016, annual reports of vector-borne diseases in the United States more than doubled and the areas reporting diseases expanded,” the health experts’ brief states. The Infectious Diseases Society of America says it “recognizes climate change and its impacts as a public health emergency in the United States and around the world.”

As the U.S. battles its most serious public health crisis in recent memory, medical professionals are telling us not to lose sight of the urgency of addressing climate change and associated health impacts. “Adverse public health impacts can be significantly mitigated if the federal government acts to reduce [greenhouse gas] emissions,” the health experts write. “The window of opportunity for such action, however, is rapidly closing.”

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(AU) Great Barrier Reef’s Latest Bleaching Confirmed By Marine Park Authority

Lethal Heating - 5 hours 47 min ago
The Guardian |

Severity of damage has increased, with areas spared in previous years experiencing moderate or severe bleaching

In-water and aerial observations by the Great Barrier Reef authority have confirmed a third mass coral bleaching event has occurred with previously unaffected areas in the south suffering damage. Photograph: Suzanne Long/Alamy Stock Photo
The government agency responsible for the Great Barrier Reef has confirmed the natural landmark has suffered a third mass coral bleaching episode in five years, describing the damage as “very widespread”.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority said the assessment was based on information from in-water and aerial observations, and built on the best available science and technology to understand current conditions.

Guardian Australia revealed on Wednesday that Prof Terry Hughes, director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University, concluded the reef had experienced severe mass bleaching in the 2019-20 summer based on his findings from a nine-day aerial survey trip.

By Thursday Hughes had assessed more than 800 reefs, covering 344,000 sq km, with another 200 sq km at the southern end to go. He was joined on the trip by an observer from the marine park authority.

In a statement, the authority said the accumulation of heat, particularly through February, had caused bleaching across large areas of the reef. The severity of the damage varied widely, but some southern areas that had been spared during mass bleaching events in 2016 and 2017 had now experienced moderate or severe bleaching.

It noted there was positive news for the tourism industry: reefs they rely on in the northern and central parts, including near Cairns and Port Douglas, experienced only moderate bleaching, and most corals there should recover. Some pockets of the reef remain unaffected by bleaching.
Day 8: Southern nearshore #GreatBarrierReef has widespread, severe #coral bleaching. pic.twitter.com/HspGURBarh— Terry Hughes (@ProfTerryHughes) March 26, 2020 The authority said it would have a better understanding of the extent and severity of the bleaching once surveys finished on Friday, with analysis to continue over coming weeks.

“Once the aerial surveys are complete we will be able to compare this event to those of 2016 and 2017,” the statement said.

It stressed bleached corals would not necessarily die. “On mildly or moderately bleached reefs there is a good chance most bleached corals will recover and survive this event,” it said. “Equally, on severely bleached reefs, there will be higher mortality of corals.”

Global heating caused by escalating atmospheric greenhouse gases is a major threat to the world’s coral reef ecosystems. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found the published evidence suggested a majority of tropical coral reefs would disappear even if heating was limited to 1.5C and would be “at very high risk” at 1.2C. The globe has warmed about 1C since the industrial revolution.

About half the reef’s shallow water corals bleached and died in 2016 and 2017.

The authority reiterated that climate change was the “single greatest challenge” facing the reef. “While the strongest possible global efforts to reduce emissions are essential, it is critically important we continue to deliver the work already being undertaken to enhance the resilience of the reef,” it said.

Environment groups said the mass bleaching underlined the need to move away from fossil fuels.

Australian Marine Conservation Society campaigner Shani Tager said the news was devastating for the reef, the species it supports and the communities that rely on its health. She said reef industries reeling from the impact of coronavirus needed short- and long-term support.

“When the restrictions from this pandemic lift we will need the beautiful places in this world like our reef more than ever to heal, reconnect with each other and the natural world,” she said. “That means we need a healthy reef and climate policies that will give it a fighting chance.”

Kate Smolski, from Greenpeace Australia, said future economic stimulus packages must include measures to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Gavan McFadzean, from the Australian Conservation Foundation, said: “With help, the tourism industry can recover after Covid-19, but only if there is a healthy Great Barrier Reef to visit once this crisis is over.”

Specific observations from the aerial surveys include:
  • Inshore and offshore reefs between Tully and Townsville were severely bleached.
  • Offshore areas in the northern section, including highly valued tourism reefs, were more moderately bleached.
  • Inner and mid-shelf reefs between Townsville and Mackay were mostly severely bleached, though some areas used by the tourism industry were only moderately bleached.
  • Bleaching of reefs in the Swains and Pompey groups, at the marine park’s far southeast, was highly variable, with some severe, some moderate and some with minor or no damage.
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8 Documentaries On Climate Change You Need To Watch Now

Lethal Heating - 5 hours 51 min ago
Vogue - Emily Chan

From fashion documentary The True Cost to Sir David Attenborough’s Netflix series Our Planet — these are the most informative films and TV shows that will up your climate IQ while self-isolating.

Coronavirus is understandably at the forefront of everyone’s minds. But with a crucial UN summit due to take place in Glasgow in October, experts have warned that 2020 is the year the world needs to urgently ramp up its environmental efforts in order to prevent irreversible damage. To up your climate IQ while self-isolating at home, here are eight must-watch documentaries that will help you stay abreast of the action needed to save our planet’s future.

Image credit: Juliette Abitbol and Amélie Pichard1. An Inconvenient Truth (2006)
For many people, it was Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth that first made them aware of the serious consequences of global warming. The former vice president of the US set out the stark facts, before warning of more flooding, droughts, hurricanes and climate refugees caused by rising temperatures — concerns that certainly ring true nearly 15 years later. Since then, Gore has continued to speak out about the climate crisis, with his follow-up documentary An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power (2017) looking at the efforts being made to tackle the issue.

Image credit: The True Cost2. The True Cost (2015)
The 2015 documentary The True Cost will change the way you think about your clothes and crucially, about how they are made. Following the 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse, which killed 1,134 workers, director Andrew Morgan set about investigating both the human and environmental cost of fast fashion in countries such as Bangladesh, India and Cambodia. The filmmaker also speaks to some of fashion’s best-known environmentalists, including Stella McCartney and Livia Firth, who are calling for urgent change within the industry.

Image credit: RiverBlue3. RiverBlue (2016)
Fashion’s water-pollution problem is highlighted in 2016’s RiverBlue documentary, which shows how the chemicals used in manufacturing our garments are having devastating effects on rivers in China, Bangladesh and India — which can no longer be used safely by the local communities living there. One of the most memorable quotes from the documentary comes from Fashion Revolution co-founder, Orsola de Castro: “There is a joke in China: they say you can predict the ‘it’ colour of the season by looking at the colour of the river.”

Image credit: Getty Images4. Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret (2014)
While veganism is undoubtedly on the rise, the link between climate change and the cattle industry has not always been so apparent. Leonardo DiCaprio-produced documentary Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret sees filmmaker Kip Andersen questioning why no one was talking about the issue back in 2014. The film has had a major hand in making people aware of the environmental impact of meat, despite controversy over some of the claims made in the documentary.

Image credit: Getty Images5. Before the Flood (2016)
DiCaprio took his environmental mission a step further in Before the Flood, this time appearing in front of the camera. The actor and UN Messenger of Peace spent two years investigating both the causes and effects of climate change across the world, from deforestation in Indonesia because of the palm oil industry to melting glaciers in Greenland and the Arctic. The film culminates with DiCaprio giving a rallying speech at the UN on Earth Day 2016, telling world leaders: “You are the last best hope of Earth. We ask you to protect it. Or we — and all living things we cherish — are history.”

Image credit: Sophie Lanfear6. Our Planet (2019)
If you need a reminder of why nature needs us to tackle the climate crisis, look no further than Sir David Attenborough’s Our Planet. The eight-part Netflix series looks at how global temperature rises are affecting wildlife around the world, from flamingo chicks in Africa to lowland gorillas in the Congo rainforest. It comes after Attenborough’s Blue Planet II (2017) shocked viewers by showing how ocean plastic and rising sea temperatures are endangering our marine life.

Image credit: This Changes Everything7. This Changes Everything (2015)
Following her bestselling 2014 book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate, Canadian author and social activist Naomi Klein made a documentary that asks the question: “What if confronting the climate crisis is the best chance we’ll ever get to build a better world?” After visiting frontline communities affected by climate change — including those on the south coast of India and the Athabasca oil sands in Alberta, Canada — Klein highlights the connection between our economic systems and the crisis facing our planet.

Image credit: 20408. 2040 (2019)
Australian filmmaker Damon Gameau sets out a positive vision of the future in 2040, imagining what the world could look like in 20 years’ time if we adopted the technology and thinking already available to lower the carbon present in our atmosphere. This includes having nearly 100 per cent renewable energy, electrifying our transportation systems, moving to regenerative farming and carbon sequestering. Gameau calls it “fact-based dreaming” — something we can surely all get on board with.

Links (further viewing)
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Here’s What The Coronavirus Pandemic Can Teach Us About Tackling Climate Change

Lethal Heating - 28 March, 2020 - 04:10
The Conversation

James Ross/AAP Dr Natasha Chassagne is a University Associate, University of Tasmania.
Dr Chassagne holds an undergraduate with Honours in International Studies from the University of South Australia and a Master's in International Law & International Relations from the University of New South Wales.
She is currently writing a book titled 'Buen Vivir as an Alternative to Sustainable Development: Lessons from Ecuador', to be published by Routledge later this year.  Every aspect of our lives has been affected by the coronavirus. The global economy has slowed, people have retreated to their homes and thousands have died or become seriously ill.

At this frightening stage of the crisis, it’s difficult to focus on anything else. But as the International Agency has said, the effects of coronavirus are likely to be temporary but the other global emergency – climate change – is not.

Stopping the spread of coronavirus is paramount, but climate action must also continue. And we can draw many lessons and opportunities from the current health crisis when tackling planetary warming.
Action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions must not be compromised by the coronavirus pandemic. EPA/MAST IRHAM
A ‘degrowing’ economy

S&P Global Ratings this week said measures to contain COVID-19 have pushed the global economy into recession.

Economic analyst Lauri Myllyvirta estimates the pandemic may have reduced global emissions by 200 megatonnes of carbon dioxide to date, as air travel grinds to a halt, factories close down and energy demand falls.

In the first four weeks of the pandemic, coal consumption in China alone fell by 36%, and oil refining capacity reduced by 34%.

In many ways, what we’re seeing now is a rapid and unplanned version of economic “degrowth” – the transition some academics and activists have for decades said is necessary to address climate change, and leave a habitable planet for future generations.

Degrowth is a proposed slowing of growth in sectors that damage the environment, such as fossil fuel industries, until the economy operates within Earth’s limits. It is a voluntary, planned and equitable transition in developed nations which necessarily involves an increased focus on the environment, human well-being, and capabilities (good health, decent work, education, and a safe and healthy environment).

Such a transformation would be profound, and so far no nation has shown the will to implement it. It would require global economies to “decouple” from carbon to prevent climate-related crises. But the current unintended economic slowdown opens the door to such a transition, which would bring myriad benefits to the climate.

The idea of sustainable degrowth is very different to a recession. It involves scaling back environmentally damaging sectors of the economy, and strengthening others.

Reduced air travel is helping drive global emissions down. James Gourley/AAP

A tale of two emergencies
Climate change has been declared a global emergency, yet to date the world has largely failed to address it. In contrast, the global policy response to the coronavirus emergency has been fast and furious.

There are several reasons for this dramatic difference. Climate change is a relatively slow-moving crisis, whereas coronavirus visibly escalates over days, even hours, increasing our perception of the risks involved. One thing that history teaches us about politics and the human condition in times of peril, we often take a “crisis management” approach to dealing with serious threats.

As others have observed, the slow increase in global temperatures means humans can psychologically adjust as the situation worsens, making the problem seem less urgent and meaning people are less willing to accept drastic policy measures.

The human ability to adapt to climate change can make it seem less urgent. CHAMILA KARUNARATHNE/EPA

Key lessons from coronavirus
The global response to the coronavirus crisis shows that governments can take immediate, radical emergency measures, which go beyond purely economic concerns, to protect the well-being of all.

Specifically, there are practical lessons and opportunities we can take away from the coronavirus emergency as we seek to tackle climate change:

Act early: The coronavirus pandemic shows the crucial importance of early action to prevent catastrophic consequences. Governments in Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore acted quickly to implement quarantine and screening measures, and have seen relatively small numbers of infections. Italy, on the other hand, whose government waited too long to act, is now the epicentre of the virus.

Go slow, go local: Coronavirus has forced an immediate scale-down of how we travel and live. People are forging local connections, shopping locally, working from home and limiting consumption to what they need.

Researchers have identified that fears about personal well-being represent a major barrier to political support for the degrowth movement to date. However with social distancing expected to be in place for months, our scaled-down lives may become the “new normal”. Many people may realise that consumption and personal well-being are not inextricably linked.
Stimulus spending should be directed to clean energy. EPA
New economic thinking is needed. A transition to sustainable degrowth can help. We need to shift global attention from GDP as an indicator of well-being, towards other measures that put people and the environment first, such as New Zealand’s well-being budget, Bhutan’s gross national happiness index, or Ecuador’s social philosophy of buen vivir (good living).

Spend on clean energy: The International Energy Agency (IEA) says clean energy should be “at the heart of stimulus plans to counter the coronavirus crisis”.

The IEA has called on governments to launch sustainable stimulus packages focused on clean energy technologies. It says hydrogen and carbon-capture also need major investment to bring them to scale, which could be helped by the current low interest rates.

Governments could also use coronavirus stimulus packages to reskill workers to service the new “green” economy, and address challenges in healthcare, sanitation, aged care, food security and education.

More people are shopping locally during the pandemic. AAP/STEFAN POSTLES

Looking ahead
As climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe said this month:
What really matters is the same for all of us. It’s the health and safety of our friends, our family, our loved ones, our communities, our cities and our country. That’s what the coronavirus threatens, and that’s exactly what climate change does, too.The coronavirus crisis is devastating, but failing to tackle climate change because of the pandemic only compounds the tragedy. Instead, we must draw on the lessons of coronavirus to address the climate challenge.

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(US) The Analogy Between Covid-19 And Climate Change Is Eerily Precise

Lethal Heating - 28 March, 2020 - 04:07
Wired - Gilad Edelman

First deny the problem, then say the solution is too expensive? The playbook here is all too familiar.

Photograph: SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images 
Gilad Edelman is WIRED's politics writer, based in Washington, D.C. Before that, he was executive editor of the Washington Monthly. He has a degree from Yale Law School. For a brief moment there, it looked as though the coronavirus pandemic might escape the muck of partisanship.

It’s true that President Donald Trump, wary of a recession during a reelection year, had first tried to talk the virus into submission. His counterfactual insistence that the situation was under control did nothing to slow the viral spread through February and early March. It did, however, seem to influence the party faithful, as polls showed Republican voters were taking the pandemic far less seriously than Democrats. In other words, the facts of Covid-19 were already politicized. As I suggested last week, it looked as though this process were unfolding just as it had for climate change—but at 1,000x speed.

Then Trump began to shift his message. Suddenly he seemed to grasp the need for drastic measures (while claiming that he’d never hinted otherwise). The White House started repeating the advice from public health experts: Social distancing would be necessary, maybe through the end of summer. In my last piece, I wondered if this new acceptance of reality might keep an epistemic crisis from developing. Perhaps Americans would coalesce into a common understanding of this public health disaster.

But coronavirus denialism wasn’t in remission; it was only mutating. After a weekend of reported clashes among economic and health officials in the White House, and a spate of skeptical op-eds musing on whether social distancing was really worth its economic cost, Trump laid out a new approach by presidential tweet: “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF.”

By Monday evening, Trump was promising to wrap up social distancing in weeks, not months. “I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter,” he declared on Tuesday, during a virtual town hall on Fox News. Meanwhile, a rising chorus of Trump followers have been suggesting that some folks will simply have to die to save the economy. “Let's get back to living,” Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick of Texas told Fox News host Tucker Carlson. “Those of us who are 70-plus, we'll take care of ourselves. But don't sacrifice the country.” Jerry Falwell Jr.’s Liberty University announced that it’s expecting students and faculty to return from spring break. “Even if we all get sick, I would rather die than kill the country,” said right-wing talk host Glenn Beck. “Because it’s not the economy that’s dying, it’s the country.”

The parallel to climate change, in other words, was even tighter than I realized.

“We went through the stages of climate change denial in the matter of a week,” said Gordon Pennycook, a psychologist at the University of Regina in Saskatchewan, Canada, who studies how misinformation spreads. Naomi Oreskes, a historian of science who has studied the origins of climate disinformation, spelled out the pattern in an email: “First, one denies the problem, then one denies its severity, and then one says it is too difficult or expensive to fix, and/or that the proposed solution threatens our freedom.”

These strategies, Oreskes explained, can exist side by side, depending on the context. The crudest skeptics, like the snowball-wielding senator from Oklahoma, Jim Inhofe, still deny the phenomenon itself: Humans aren’t warming the planet, look how cold it is outside! More sophisticated players, confronting a tidal wave of scientific data, may accept that the Earth is warming, but they argue that the ill effects are overstated and incommensurate with the costs of aggressive action. As a Wall Street Journal op-ed from 2017 put it, the economic damage one might expect from climate change “does not justify policies that cost more than 0.1 percentage point of growth.”

Now we’re faced with the threat of another global catastrophe arising from the clash of nature and modern human activity. As with climate change, the implications of the Covid-19 pandemic are difficult to predict with confidence. As with climate change, the uncertainty interval encompasses utter cataclysm. As with climate change, any serious effort to mitigate or stave off this disaster will require major economic disruptions. And, as with climate change, such efforts to save the world must be put in place before any of the experts’ doomsday warnings could ever be proved true.

So we see the same pattern of skeptical response from Republican elites. Whether it’s driven by self-interest (corporate profits, a president’s hopes of reelection) or by small government ideology, the approach sends a powerful signal to the party’s voters. If you take this problem seriously, you must be one of them, not us.

“The climate change issue has been transformed into a badge of who people think they are,” said Roger Pielke Jr., a political scientist and environmental studies professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder. “So if you’re a good card-carrying Republican in the Midwest, then you’d better be against that climate change stuff. And if you're a West Coast liberal, or you live in Boulder, like me, of course you support fighting climate change.” When scientific questions become political issues, he added, people’s beliefs become statements of identity. “To some extent we see that with the coronavirus.”

This partisan bubble effect is only amplified by the situation on the ground, where the distribution of infections has been anything but politically neutral. The worst-hit areas so far are deep blue cities in deep blue states: Seattle and New York, as well as San Francisco. For that reason, Pielke holds out hope that the coronavirus debate might not devolve completely into partisan identity signaling. “I’m not ready to say this fits our conventional motivated reasoning model of Republicans and Democrats that we’ve seen on other issues,” he said. As the disease spreads and hits its peak in different places, the impact of direct experience could overwhelm the power of identity.

There is some early evidence for this: A daily tracking poll by Civiqs shows a pronounced rise in concern among Republican voters over the past two weeks. On the other hand, the increase doesn’t directly track the spread of Covid-19: Republican voters in Wyoming (29 confirmed cases), for example, express far more concern than those in Wisconsin (more than 400 cases).

There’s a lot riding on the outcome of this looming clash between partisanship and reality. At minimum, the politicization of pandemic makes it even harder to evaluate the costs and benefits of the radical policy prescriptions currently on the table. (This is perhaps even harder than it is with climate change: None of the leading proposals to address global warming involves tanking the national economy and launching millions into unemployment.) Debates in good faith will be impossible if positions harden into partisan commitments, and social distancing won’t work very well if Trump keeps urging Americans to get back out there, and half the country listens.

It’s frightening to think what the pattern of climate denial means for the coronavirus crisis. But it might be even more terrifying to think what the pattern of coronavirus denial means for the climate crisis. If a plea to sacrifice human life for the sake of the economy becomes Republican dogma, this does not bode well for our ability to handle the even greater threat of rising temperatures around the world. After all, the worst effects of global warming are still decades away. Our elderly ruling class, and the elderly voters who elect them, may be dead and gone by the time Miami is underwater. But those same old folks are precisely the ones who are most at risk from Covid-19.

“I think what [all this] illustrates is the depth of the problem we’re facing with climate change,” said Pennycook of the University of Regina. “If we can’t get bipartisan agreement on a global pandemic that’s presently spreading, it’s making me less optimistic that we’ll ever see any change on people’s attitudes toward climate change until it’s too late.”

Categories: External websites

$2tn US Coronavirus Relief Comes Without Climate Stipulations

Lethal Heating - 28 March, 2020 - 04:05
The Guardian

Airlines get $60bn bailout, but Pelosi’s proposal on halving of emissions by 2050 not included

American Airlines aircraft at Ronald Reagan Washington national airport, Arlington, Virginia. The US aviation industry is to receive $60bn in the government’s coronavirus relief package. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA
A $2tn US coronavirus relief package will dole out billions to struggling airlines and offer low-interest loans that fossil fuel companies could compete for – without requiring any action to stem the climate crisis.

The legislation, passed by the Senate late on Wednesday, includes a $60bn bailout for airlines. Nancy Pelosi, the leader of the Democrat-controlled House, had proposed a requirement for airlines to cut their planet-warming emissions in half by 2050, but that provision is not in the bill.

The House is expected to vote on the package on Friday. It also includes nearly $500bn in lending authority that one environment group, Friends of the Earth, called a “corporate slush fund with insufficient guardrails to protect workers, taxpayers and the climate”.

Congressional Republicans have accused Democrats of taking advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic to pursue climate policy. The Senate leader, Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said this week that Democrats were “bargaining as usual” with “counter-offers that demanded things like new emission standards or tax credits for solar panels”. Multiple Republican politicians tweeted accusing Democrats of trying to usher in a Green New Deal with massive climate spending during a crisis.

In the end, the stimulus package focused on direct aid to individuals and the worst-hit industries, while setting climate considerations aside.

Annie Petsonk, international counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund, said that while the situation for airlines and their workers was dire, the industry should have had to commit to slashing emissions as a condition of the aid.

“The provisions we were focused on simply would hold the airlines to what they already said they’re going to do,” Petsonk said. “People do not want to solve one crisis by making another crisis worse.” The 2008 auto industry bailout, in comparison, led to stricter rules for pollution from vehicle tailpipes.

The bill, the third in a series of stimulus packages, offers virtually nothing to climate advocates, but it is not the last word. Scott Segal, a lawyer and lobbyist with the firm Bracewell LLC, which represents energy industry clients, said a fourth stimulus deal was likely to involve “significant discussions of green objectives”.

“Was this a missed opportunity for climate? I think the answer to that is no,” Segal said. “This stimulus package was primarily about getting money into the hands of individual households and workers and in some service sectors that were particularly hurt.”

Kevin Book, the managing director of ClearView Energy Partners, a research firm, said: “Congress is going to be making more deals, and as long as there is a deal to be made, Democrats have made clear what they want.”

Democrats negotiated multiple measures meant to prevent abuse of the $500bn available in lending, including an oversight board, a special inspector general and provisions aimed at limiting Donald Trump’s businesses from benefiting – an issue that has already come under scrutiny.

But climate hawks said those stipulations were not strong enough. “What makes this so frightening is that there are very few binding restrictions on how this money can be used that the secretary of treasury cannot waive,” said Lukas Ross, a senior policy analyst with Friends of the Earth.

“It’s great that [Trump’s son-in-law ] Jared Kushner isn’t going to get a subsidised line of credit. It’s much more worrying in human terms that Chevron, Exxon and every other polluter you can imagine is eligible to be propped up in terms of the stimulus package.”

The bill also does not include specific assistance to the renewable energy industry, although trade associations and lobbyists expect to revisit that possibility as discussions continue about more targeted aid for at-risk sectors of the economy.

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) projects that the US wind industry could lose 35,000 jobs and $35bn in investment. Those losses could lead to lease payment and tax revenue reductions for local and state governments. No tax credit extensions have been granted for the solar and wind industries, meaning they may lose access to credits if they miss deadlines.

“Obviously of primary importance is the public health and keeping the economy moving. We applaud that big effort,” said Tom Kiernan, the chief executive of the AWEA, adding that his group would continue to push for tax provisions to stem industry losses.

The Solar Energy Industries Association said the solar sector could lose half its jobs, meaning “125,000 families who will no longer receive a paycheck”.

Abigail Ross Hopper, its president and CEO, said: “Legislators were really focused on industry-wide protections and assistance, like the unemployment insurance, like the loans for which our companies are eligible, and did not include industry-specific solutions for a couple of particularly hard hit ones.”

In one climate win for Democrats, the bill does not include a discussed $3bn to buy oil to fill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in order to lift global oil prices.

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Coronavirus: 'Nature Is Sending Us A Message’, Says UN Environment Chief

Lethal Heating - 27 March, 2020 - 04:10
The Guardian

Exclusive: Destruction of wildlife and the climate crisis is hurting humanity, with Covid-19 a ‘clear warning shot’, say experts

A tree stands alone in a logged area prepared for plantation near Lapok in Malaysia’s Sarawak State. Photograph: Saeed Khan/AFP/Getty ImagesNature is sending us a message with the coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing climate crisis, according to the UN’s environment chief, Inger Andersen.

Andersen said humanity was placing too many pressures on the natural world with damaging consequences, and warned that failing to take care of the planet meant not taking care of ourselves.

Leading scientists also said the Covid-19 outbreak was a “clear warning shot”, given that far more deadly diseases existed in wildlife, and that today’s civilisation was “playing with fire”.

They said it was almost always human behaviour that caused diseases to spill over into humans.

To prevent further outbreaks, the experts said, both global heating and the destruction of the natural world for farming, mining and housing have to end, as both drive wildlife into contact with people.

They also urged authorities to put an end to live animal markets – which they called an “ideal mixing bowl” for disease – and the illegal global animal trade.

Andersen, executive director of the UN Environment Programme, said the immediate priority was to protect people from the coronavirus and prevent its spread. “But our long-term response must tackle habitat and biodiversity loss,” she added.

“Never before have so many opportunities existed for pathogens to pass from wild and domestic animals to people,” she told the Guardian, explaining that 75% of all emerging infectious diseases come from wildlife.

“Our continued erosion of wild spaces has brought us uncomfortably close to animals and plants that harbour diseases that can jump to humans.”

She also noted other environmental impacts, such as the Australian bushfires, broken heat records and the worst locust invasion in Kenya for 70 years. “At the end of the day, [with] all of these events, nature is sending us a message,” Anderson said.

“There are too many pressures at the same time on our natural systems and something has to give,” she added.

“We are intimately interconnected with nature, whether we like it or not. If we don’t take care of nature, we can’t take care of ourselves. And as we hurtle towards a population of 10 billion people on this planet, we need to go into this future armed with nature as our strongest ally.”

An orangutan seeks refuge from a bulldozer as loggers smash the base of a tree in the Ketapang district, West Borneo. Photograph: International Animal RescueHuman infectious disease outbreaks are rising and in recent years there have been Ebola, bird flu, Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers), Rift Valley fever, sudden acute respiratory syndrome (Sars), West Nile virus and Zika virus all cross from animals to humans.

“The emergence and spread of Covid-19 was not only predictable, it was predicted [in the sense that] there would be another viral emergence from wildlife that would be a public health threat,” said Prof Andrew Cunningham, of the Zoological Society of London.

A 2007 study of the 2002-03 Sars outbreak concluded: “The presence of a large reservoir of Sars-CoV-like viruses in horseshoe bats, together with the culture of eating exotic mammals in southern China, is a timebomb.”

Cunningham said other diseases from wildlife had much higher fatality rates in people, such as 50% for Ebola and 60%-75% for Nipah virus, transmitted from bats in south Asia.

“Although, you might not think it at the moment, we’ve probably got a bit lucky with [Covid-19],” he said. “So I think we should be taking this as a clear warning shot. It’s a throw of the dice.”

Wild animals sold at the Wuhan Huanan seafood market in China, linked to first cases of the coronavirus pandemic. Photograph: Courtesy of SAM小K/Weibo“It’s almost always a human behaviour that causes it and there will be more in the future unless we change,” said Cunningham.

Markets butchering live wild animals from far and wide are the most obvious example, he said. A market in China is believed to have been the source of Covid-19.

“The animals have been transported over large distances and are crammed together into cages.

They are stressed and immunosuppressed and excreting whatever pathogens they have in them,” he said.

“With people in large numbers in the market and in intimate contact with the body fluids of these animals, you have an ideal mixing bowl for [disease] emergence.

"If you wanted a scenario to maximise the chances of [transmission], I couldn’t think of a much better way of doing it.”

China has banned such markets, and Cunningham said this must be permanent.

“However, this needs to be done globally. There are wet markets throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa and a lot of other Asian countries too.”

The ease of travel in the modern world exacerbates the dangers, he said, adding: “These days, you can be in a central African rainforest one day and in central London the next.”

Aaron Bernstein, at the Harvard School of Public Health in the US, said the destruction of natural places drives wildlife to live close to people and that climate change was also forcing animals to move: “That creates an opportunity for pathogens to get into new hosts.”

“We’ve had Sars, Mers, Covid-19, HIV. We need to see what nature is trying to tell us here. We need to recognise that we’re playing with fire,” he said.

“The separation of health and environmental policy is a ​dangerous delusion. Our health entirely depends on the climate and the other organisms we share the planet with.”

The billion-dollar illegal wildlife trade is another part of the problem, said John Scanlon, the former secretary general of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

Thousands of frozen pangolins lie in a pit before being burnt in Indonesia, after a pangolin bust conducted by the police. Photograph: Paul Hilton/WCS“Importing countries should create a new legal obligation, supported by criminal sanctions, for an importer of wildlife to prove that it was legally obtained under the source country’s national laws,” he said.

“If we can blend taking a hard line against transnational organised wildlife criminals, while also opening up new opportunities for local communities, then we will see biodiversity, ecosystems and communities thrive.”

The Covid-19 crisis may provide an opportunity for change, but Cunningham is not convinced it will be taken: “I thought things would have changed after Sars, which was a massive wake up call – the biggest economic impact of any emerging disease to that date,” he said.

“Everybody was up in arms about it. But it went away, because of our control measures. Then there was a huge sigh of relief and it was back to business as usual. We cannot go back to business as usual.”

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How Changes Brought On By Coronavirus Could Help Tackle Climate Change

Lethal Heating - 27 March, 2020 - 04:07
The Conversation

David Sasaki/Flickr  is Research Director, Center for International Climate and Environment Research, Oslo  Stock markets around the world had some of their worst performance in decades this past week, well surpassing that of the global financial crisis in 2008. Restrictions in the free movement of people is disrupting economic activity across the world as measures to control the coronavirus roll out.
There is a strong link between economic activity and global carbon dioxide emissions, due to the dominance of fossil fuel sources of energy. This coupling suggests we might be in for an unexpected surprise due to the coronavirus pandemic: a slowdown of carbon dioxide emissions due to reduced energy consumption.
Based on new projections for economic growth in 2020, we suggest the impact of the coronavirus might significantly curb global emissions.
The effect is likely to be less pronounced than during the global financial crisis (GFC). And emissions declines in response to past economic crises suggest a rapid recovery of emissions when the pandemic is over.
But prudent spending of economic stimulus measures, and a permanent adoption of new work behaviours, could influence how emissions evolve in future.
Global fossil CO2 emissions (vertical axis) have grown together with economic activity (horizontal axis) over extended periods of time. Glen Peters/CICEROThe world in crisis
In just a few short months, millions of people have been put into quarantine and regions locked down to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Around the world events are being cancelled and travel plans dropped. A growing number of universities, schools and workplaces have closed and some workers are choosing to work from home if they can.
Even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has cancelled a critically important meeting and will instead hold it virtually.
The International Energy Agency had already predicted oil use would drop in 2020, and this was before an oil price war emerged between Saudi Arabia and Russia.
The unprecedented coronavirus lockdown in China led to an estimated 25% reduction in energy use and emissions over a two-week period compared to previous years (mostly due to a drop in electricity use, industrial production and transport). This is enough to shave one percentage point growth off China’s emissions in 2020. Reductions are also being observed in Italy, and are likely to spread across Europe as lockdowns become more widespread.
The emission-intensive airline industry, covering 2.6% of global carbon dioxide emissions (both national and international), is in freefall. It may take months, if not years, for people to return to air travel given that coronavirus may linger for several seasons.
Given these economic upheavals, it is becoming increasingly likely that global carbon dioxide emissions will drop in 2020.
Global air travel is down significantly as a result of the pandemic. Andy Rain/EPACoronavirus is not the GFC
Leading authorities have revised down economic forecasts as a result of the pandemic, but so far forecasts still indicate the global economy will grow in 2020. For example, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) downgraded estimates of global growth in 2020 from 3% (made in November 2019) to 2.4% (made in March 2020). The International Monetary Fund has indicated similar declines, with an update due next month.Assuming the carbon efficiency of the global economy improves in line with the 10-year average of 2.5% per year, the OECD’s post-coronavirus growth projection implies carbon dioxide emissions may decline 0.3% in 2020 (including a leap year adjustment).But the GFC experience indicates that the carbon efficiency of the global economy may improve much more slowly during a crisis. If this happens in 2020 because of the coronavirus, carbon dioxide emissions still could grow.
A decomposition of CO2 emissions growth into economic growth (orange) and carbon efficiency improvements (green) to estimate future emissions based on OECD economic growth projections. Glen Peters/CICEROUnder the worst-case OECD forecast the global economy in 2020 could grow as little as 1.5%. All else equal, we calculate this would lead to a 1.2% decline in carbon dioxide emissions in 2020.
This drop is comparable to the GFC, which in 2009 led to a 0.1% drop in global GDP and a 1.2% drop in emissions. So far, neither the OECD or International Monetary Fund have suggested coronavirus will take global GDP into the red.

The emissions rebound
The GFC prompted big, swift stimulus packages from governments around the world, leading to a 5.1% rebound in global emissions in 2010, well above the long-term average.
Previous financial shocks, such as the collapse of the former Soviet Union or the 1970s and 1980s oil crises, also had periods with lower or negative growth, but growth soon returned. At best, a financial crisis delays emissions growth a few years. Structural changes may happen, such as the shift to nuclear energy after the oil crises, but evidence suggests emissions continue to grow.
Global fossil CO2 emissions (in Gigatons or billions of tonnes of CO2) and carbon intensity of world Gross Domestic Product (grams of CO2 per $US, 2000), with the most  important financial crises. Global Carbon ProjectThe economic legacy of the coronavirus might also be very different to the GFC. It looks more like a slow burner, with a drop in productivity over an extended period rather than widespread job losses in the short term.

Looking to the future
The coronavirus pandemic will not turn around the long-term upward trend in global emissions. But governments around the world are announcing economic stimulus measures, and they way they’re spent may affect how emissions evolve in future.There is an opportunity to invest the stimulus money in structural changes leading to reduced emissions after economic growth returns, such as further development of clean technologies.
Fewer people are expected to use public transport during the coronavirus outbreak. Steven Saphore/AAPAlso, the coronavirus has forced new working-from-home habits that limit commuting, and a broader adoption of online meetings to reduce the need for long-haul business flights. This raises the prospect of long-term emissions reductions should these new work behaviours persist beyond the current global emergency.
The coronavirus is, of course, an international crisis, and a personal tragedy for those who have lost, and will lose, loved ones. But with good planning, 2020 could be the year that global emissions peak (though the same was said after the GFC).
That said, past economic shocks might not be a great analogue for the coronavirus pandemic, which is unprecedented in modern human history and has a long way to go.

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5 Lessons From Coronavirus That Will Help Us Tackle Climate Change

Lethal Heating - 27 March, 2020 - 04:00
TIMEChristiana Figueres

An empty road is seen during a nationwide curfew in response to the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in Mumbai, India on March 22, 2020. Himanshu Bhatt—NurPhoto/Getty Images

Christiana FigueresChristiana Figueres was executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change from 2010 to 2016.
She is the co-founder of
Global Optimism, co-host of the podcast “Outrage & Optimism” and is the co-author of the recently published book, “The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis.” Could the devastating impact of the new coronavirus pandemic destroy the momentum that the climate movement has built up over the last year? Some say so, fearing that the economic fallout will push climate down the list of priorities for governments, and that travel restrictions will force a delay to the U.N. climate conference.

That can’t happen. What brought us to this point of unprecedented interest in taking climate action is climate change itself. We have witnessed huge, record-breaking fires and floods, from California to Siberia, all in the space of one year. Sadly those negative impacts will continue, both in frequency and intensity. If we thought we could forget about it, I’m sad to say, nature will remind us.

In fact, I believe the last few weeks, as terrible as they have been for so many people, have taught us crucial lessons that we needed to learn in order to enter a new era of radical, collaborative action to cut emissions and slow climate change. Like everyone else, I can’t believe we’ve learned these five lessons in a matter of days.

Global challenges have no national borders. Some people used to think that they would be immune to global crises like climate change unfolding “on the other side of the world.” I think that bubble has burst. No one is geographically immune to the coronavirus and the same is true for climate change.

As a society, we’re only as safe as our most vulnerable people. During the COVID-19 outbreak, the elderly and those with health conditions are more vulnerable to the coronavirus and the poor are more vulnerable to its economic impact. That makes us all more vulnerable too. That lesson has taken us into a space of solidarity that we’ve never seen before. We are taking care of each other both out of altruism and because we want to make sure that we’re safe. That’s exactly the thinking we need to deal with climate change.

Global challenges require systemic changes — changes that can only be activated by government or companies. But they also require individual behavioral changes. We need both. We have seen over the past few weeks that governments can take radical action and we can change our behaviour quite quickly.

Prevention is better than cure. It’s cheaper and safer to prevent people from catching and spreading the virus than to attempt to treat huge numbers of cases at once. That’s always been the case in the health sector. And in climate change it is much better to prevent runaway temperature rises than to figure out how to deal with the enormous consequences.

All our response measures need to be based on science. There are a lot of myths around coronavirus, just as there are a lot of myths around climate change. But the countries and individuals basing their responses on what the health professionals are saying are doing better. Likewise on climate change we must take action in line with what the science tells us, rather than following myths or misinformation.

Of course, there are also key differences with COVID-19 that make responding to climate change a more positive experience. The coronavirus needs to be addressed through personal isolation, while the climate needs to be tackled through coming together and collaborating. Social distancing measures have caused economic paralysis, while our response to climate change should actually strengthen and improve the economy.

Governments and financial leaders are already considering recovery packages for an economy so badly hit by the virus. Surprisingly, these decisions will be the most important decision on climate change. If investments to kick start the paralyzed economy are directed into high carbon assets and industries, we will lock out our current potential to bend the curve of emissions this decade. On the other hand, with interest rates at an all time low, political and financial leaders now have an unprecedented historical opportunity to accelerate the energy transition putting us onto a safe path toward a 50% reduction of emissions by 2030.

I hope that the shock of this pandemic will jolt people out of their desire to ignore global issues like climate change. I hope our growing sense of urgency, of solidarity, of stubborn optimism and empowerment to take action, can be one thing that rises out of this terrible situation. Because while we will, eventually, return to normal after this pandemic, the climate that we know as normal is never coming back.

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New 3d View Of Methane Tracks Sources And Movement Around The Globe

Lethal Heating - 26 March, 2020 - 04:07
NASA - Ellen Gray

Credit: NASA's Scientific Visualization StudioNASA’s new 3-dimensional portrait of methane concentrations shows the world’s second largest contributor to greenhouse warming, the diversity of sources on the ground, and the behavior of the gas as it moves through the atmosphere. Combining multiple data sets from emissions inventories, including fossil fuel, agricultural, biomass burning and biofuels, and simulations of wetland sources into a high-resolution computer model, researchers now have an additional tool for understanding this complex gas and its role in Earth’s carbon cycle, atmospheric composition, and climate system.

Since the Industrial Revolution, methane concentrations in the atmosphere have more than doubled. After carbon dioxide, methane is the second most influential greenhouse gas, responsible for 20 to 30% of Earth’s rising temperatures to date.

“There’s an urgency in understanding where the sources are coming from so that we can be better prepared to mitigate methane emissions where there are opportunities to do so,” said research scientist Ben Poulter at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Credit: NASA/Scientific Visualization Studio. This video can be downloaded at NASAs Scientific Visualization Studio.

A single molecule of methane is more efficient at trapping heat than a molecule of carbon dioxide, but because the lifetime of methane in the atmosphere is shorter and carbon dioxide concentrations are much higher, carbon dioxide still remains the main contributor to climate change. Methane also has many more sources than carbon dioxide, these include the energy and agricultural sectors, as well as natural sources from various types of wetlands and water bodies.

“Methane is a gas that’s produced under anaerobic conditions, so that means when there’s no oxygen available, you’ll likely find methane being produced,” said Poulter. In addition to fossil fuel activities, primarily from the coal, oil and gas sectors, sources of methane also include the ocean, flooded soils in vegetated wetlands along rivers and lakes, agriculture, such as rice cultivation, and the stomachs of ruminant livestock, including cattle.

“It is estimated that up to 60% of the current methane flux from land to the atmosphere is the result of human activities,” said Abhishek Chatterjee, a carbon cycle scientist with Universities Space Research Association based at Goddard. “Similar to carbon dioxide, human activity over long time periods is increasing atmospheric methane concentrations faster than the removal from natural ‘sinks’ can offset it. As human populations continue to grow, changes in energy use, agriculture and rice cultivation, livestock raising will influence methane emissions. However, it’s difficult to predict future trends due to both lack of measurements and incomplete understanding of the carbon-climate feedbacks.”

Researchers are using computer models to try to build a more complete picture of methane, said research meteorologist Lesley Ott with the Global Modeling and Assimilation Office at Goddard. “We have pieces that tell us about the emissions, we have pieces that tell us something about the atmospheric concentrations, and the models are basically the missing piece tying all that together and helping us understand where the methane is coming from and where it’s going.”

To create a global picture of methane, Ott, Chatterjee, Poulter and their colleagues used methane data from emissions inventories reported by countries, NASA field campaigns, like the Arctic Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE) and observations from the Japanese Space Agency’s Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite (GOSAT Ibuki) and the Tropospheric Monitoring Instrument aboard the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-5P satellite. They combined the data sets with a computer model that estimates methane emissions based on known processes for certain land-cover types, such as wetlands. The model also simulates the atmospheric chemistry that breaks down methane and removes it from the air. Then they used a weather model to see how methane traveled and behaved over time while in the atmosphere.

The data visualization of their results shows methane’s ethereal movements and illuminates its complexities both in space over various landscapes and with the seasons. Once methane emissions are lofted up into the atmosphere, high-altitude winds can transport it far beyond their sources.

When they first saw the data visualized, several locations stood out.

Credit: NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio In South America, the Amazon River basin and its adjacent wetlands flood seasonally, creating an oxygen-deprived environment that is a significant source of methane. Globally, about 60% of methane emissions come from the tropics, so it’s important to understand the various human and natural sources, said Poulter.

Credit: NASA's Scientific Visualization StudioOver Europe, the methane signal is not as strong as over the Amazon. European methane sources are influenced by the human population and the exploration and transport of oil, gas and coal from the energy sector.

Credit: NASA's Scientific Visualization StudioIn India, rice cultivation and livestock are the two driving sources of methane. “Agriculture is responsible for about 20% of global methane emissions and includes enteric fermentation, which is the processing of food in the guts of cattle, mainly, but also includes how we manage the waste products that come from livestock and other agricultural activities,” said Poulter.

Credit: NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio China’s economic expansion and large population drive the high demand for oil, gas and coal exploration for industry as well as agriculture production, which are its underlying sources of methane.

Credit: NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio The Arctic and high-latitude regions are responsible for about 20% of global methane emissions. “What happens in the Arctic, doesn’t always stay in the Arctic,” Ott said. “There’s a massive amount of carbon that’s stored in the northern high latitudes. One of the things scientists are really concerned about is whether or not, as the soils warm, more of that carbon could be released to the atmosphere. Right now, what you’re seeing in this visualization is not very strong pulses of methane, but we’re watching that very closely because we know that’s a place that is changing rapidly and that could change dramatically over time.”

“One of the challenges with understanding the global methane budget has been to reconcile the atmospheric perspective on where we think methane is being produced versus the bottom-up perspective, or how we use country-level reporting or land surface models to estimate methane emissions,” said Poulter. “The visualization that we have here can help us understand this top-down and bottom-up discrepancy and help us also reduce the uncertainties in our understanding of the global methane budget by giving us visual cues and a qualitative understanding of how methane moves around the atmosphere and where it’s produced.”

The model data of methane sources and transport will also help in the planning of both future field and satellite missions. Currently, NASA has a planned satellite called GeoCarb that will launch around 2023 to provide geostationary space-based observations of methane in the atmosphere over much of the western hemisphere.

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(US) Editorial: Climate Change Is Just As Real As Covid-19. Now’s The Last, Best Chance For Our Government To Treat It That Way

Lethal Heating - 26 March, 2020 - 04:05
Los Angeles Times - LA Times Editorial Board

A resident walks past shadows cast by trees during a sunny day in Beijing on March 3. China’s far-reaching efforts to control the spread of the new coronavirus have resulted in a steep drop in carbon emissions and other pollutants. (Ng Han Guan / Associated Press)There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic is the crisis of the moment, and a terribly serious one at that, threatening not only human lives but also the global economy.

But it’s not the only crisis the world is facing, and we ought not, while confronting the immediate menace, disregard the other immense threat looming over us: global warming. Rather, somewhat counterintuitively, we should use the current pandemic to learn some lessons and glean some insights about the other perils we will soon be facing.

We’re not suggesting that climate change contributed to the coronavirus outbreak; there seems to be no direct link, although experts say a warming world could accelerate pandemics of insect-borne diseases (the coronavirus is spread person to person). But the global response to this pandemic does show that the world can come together to confront a shared threat. That could bode well for addressing climate change — if we treat it as seriously.

The pandemic is putting a chokehold on economic activity in hard-hit regions of the world — China, Europe and here in the U.S. When factories and businesses are closed, workers and customers stay home (here in California and in New York, by order of the governors). With few people traveling long distances, airlines slash flights. Sure, people and businesses continue to use energy, but not at the levels they did just a month ago. And that reduction in energy use in turn reduces fossil fuel consumption and emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Little of this will be long-lasting. Once the epidemic subsides, economic activity will resume and so, presumably, will emissions.

But the crisis offers opportunities for change, and we ought to be mindful of them as the pandemic and the economic crisis play out. Businesses are learning how much of their workforce can do their jobs remotely, which offers guidance for how they might operate in the future with a lighter carbon footprint. Consumers are undergoing a forced experiment in changed patterns of shopping and consumption.

Congress and President Trump also are negotiating a series of bailouts and other support packages to help people and businesses survive. They should take this opportunity to press for changes in how some of these industries operate.

The airline industry, for instance, should be asked to do more to reduce its carbon emissions, which have soared in recent years and will continue to rise as air travel itself is projected to increase. A September paper from the International Council on Clean Transportation used industry data to conclude that commercial air operations account for 2.4% of global carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels, and that industry emissions in 2018 were 32% higher than five years before.

One available emissions-reducing alternative is the use of so-called sustainable aviation fuels, including biofuels, but they are more expensive than conventional jet fuel. And airline companies can be pressured to adopt aggressive plans to replace older, higher-polluting planes. That would be in line with the demand for increased fuel efficiency commitments that the Obama administration attached to its bailout package for the auto industry.

Of course, extracting climate-friendly concessions will vary by the industry seeking bailout help, so we won’t get too prescriptive here. The main imperative for the government is to keep climate policy in mind as it devises a plan to rescue the economy.

But wait, you think. This is the Trump administration, which at best shrugs at the science and ignores global warming. True enough, but Congress also is involved, and it can place climate considerations on the table
Here’s a good place to start: The government should not be bailing out the oil and gas industry at a time when we should be focusing on expanding production of renewable energy and the infrastructure to store and deliver it.

In recent days, early coronavirus scoffersincluding the president — have come around to the reality that this pandemic is a deadly threat and have finally begun taking strong steps to address it.

Yet global warming is a larger and longer-lasting threat to humankind. We have about a decade, according to the experts, to make significant reductions in carbon emissions to avoid the worst ramifications of climate change. The world already is seeing the effects in longer and more severe droughts in some places, record flooding in others, stronger and more intense tropical storms and regional temperature rises that are making parts of the word nearly uninhabitable.

The science confirms all this, as it has confirmed the spread and dangers from the novel coronavirus. So maybe accepting the reality of COVID-19 will lead the administration to recognize the reality of climate change and work with Congress to begin addressing it in meaningful ways.

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Water Is An Under-Used Weapon In Climate Change Fight, UN Says

Lethal Heating - 26 March, 2020 - 04:03
ReutersMegan Rowling

Residents of the village of Shangshak in India's northeast Manipurcarry state carry water home on Saturday after finding four springs dry. | AP 
BARCELONA - Using water more efficiently in everything from daily life to agriculture and industry would help reduce planet-warming emissions and curb climate change - a potential benefit that has yet to be widely recognised, the United Nations said on Sunday.

In a report issued on World Water Day, U.N. agencies said global warming would “affect the availability, quality and quantity of water for basic human needs”, threatening the right to water and sanitation for “potentially billions of people”.

But as well as using limited supplies more wisely and fairly, policymakers and businesses should also seek to manage water resources better to economise on the electricity and fuel needed to pump, clean and deliver water, the report said.

“If you save water, you’re saving energy and reducing the greenhouse gases to produce that energy to bring the water,” said Richard Connor, the report’s editor.

Using less energy cuts down further on the water needed to produce electricity, creating a virtuous circle, he said.

Even more water can be saved by switching to less-thirsty clean power sources like wind instead of fossil fuels, he added.

Water use has increased six-fold over the past century and is rising by about 1% a year, said the United Nations World Water Development Report 2020.

It outlined ways water could be used and recycled more effectively to limit emissions, alongside looking after nature.

Restoring and protecting wetlands, for example, is of “critical importance” because they store twice as much carbon as forests, while also preventing floods, purifying water and providing a habitat for animals and birds, the report said.

Conservation agriculture - a green farming approach that causes minimal disturbance to the soil - also helps reduce carbon emissions and the huge amounts of water needed for crop irrigation in intensive farming systems.

Treating more wastewater would also make a big difference, said the report, noting 80%-90% of wastewater is discharged to the environment without any form of treatment.

Untreated wastewater is a major source of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, while wastewater treatment accounts for an estimated 3%-7% of all emissions, due to the energy and biochemicals required for the process.

The best solution, the report said, is to invest in modern techniques that extract methane from organic matter in wastewater and use this biogas to generate the energy needed to treat the water - a method already used in some water-scarce countries like Jordan, Mexico, Peru and Thailand.

As a result, public utilities there have reduced carbon emissions by thousands of tonnes, while making financial savings and providing a higher-quality service, it added.

Policy ‘Disconnect’
One of the main barriers to these types of approaches is a lack of cooperation between government officials working on climate change and those tasked with managing water.

“The disconnect remains abundantly clear at the policy level,” said Connor.

For example, the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change does not mention water, the U.N. report noted.

The national climate action plans submitted by countries under that pact generally acknowledge the importance of water, but few have so far presented and costed specific projects, it added.

“When it comes time to move from talk to action - be it finance or otherwise - the talk falls on deaf ears and water gets put aside and ... left behind,” said Connor.

More concrete efforts to adapt to rising water stress and cut emissions from water use will require joint planning between climate change and water specialists, as well as greater investment to put them into practice, the report said.

Water management, water supply and sanitation services are under-funded, it added - but by tackling global warming as well as water challenges, projects could aim to capture a larger share of climate finance.

In 2016, only 2.6% of $455 billion invested in climate change measures was allocated to water management, it noted.

That may be starting to change. In the past four years, the Green Climate Fund, for example, has approved two projects in Sri Lanka to upgrade village irrigation systems, protect water catchments, and promote climate-smart farming practices.

"Water does not need to be a problem – it can be part of the solution," said Audrey Azoulay, director-general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

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(AU) Call To Integrate Post-Virus Rebuild With Land And Climate Repair

Lethal Heating - 25 March, 2020 - 04:10

COVID-19 stimulus and budget initiatives should align with investment and policies working on land, climate and economic repair, the Carbon Market Institute says.
In welcoming the Climate Change Authority's latest policy toolkit report, CMI's chief executive officer John Connor said the government should plan now to integrate both the recovery from COVID-19, and the huge public stimulus, with the recovery from Australia's black summer bushfire season.
"Aligning the three tasks of land, climate and economic repair will give clear long-term signals to investors, business and farmers who are managing risks and seizing the opportunities in the transition to net-zero emissions economy. These signals can help ensure the long-term safety and prosperity of Australia," he said.
"It is imperative that we use the public funds that are available now well, but plan for when public taxpayer funding will need to be reduced," added Mr Connor.
This can be done by evolving policies such as the Government's safeguard mechanism so that its carbon reduction regulations or 'baselines' for emissions intensive industries align, at least, with national carbon reduction targets.
Farmers have been winners from the Government's Emission Reduction Fund with $100 million being invested in land sector projects.
"The ERF is throwing lifelines and new revenue streams to farmers who have been struggling with drought, but these policies need more to be put on more sustainable footing, and be less dependent on public taxpayer funds," said Mr Connor.
Next week will see the tenth ERF auction after the last auction priced carbon reductions at $14.15 a tonne.
"The Government's commitment to add almost $2 billion to the ERF over the next 15 years is welcome but we should be planning to transition to policies - such as stronger Safeguard Mechanism baselines - that make business the drivers of this market, not the taxpayer," said Mr Connor. This week's report by the Climate Change Authority "Prospering in a Low Emission World: A Policy Toolkit for Australia" also recommends declining baselines and measures to maximise the potential of the land sector in carbon reduction.
CMI believes we can and must reform with smart policy that manages emissions intensive companies' trade exposure and supports affected workers and communities.
CMI's January 2020 bushfire recovery workshop report noted that recognising climate change as a factor in the unprecedented bush fire weather conditions meant that emissions reduction is hazard reduction. It called for an integration of land and climate repair tasks, now we need to also integrate economic repair with these tasks.
"Finally, it is worth noting that the South Korean Government, so successful in containing COVID-19's impacts, is announcing policies for net-zero emissions for 2050 and boosting its carbon pricing mechanism, setting the course for a clean and more resilient post-COVID-19 economy, Australia should do the same," said Mr Connor.

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(UK) Climate Change Is Still With Us

Lethal Heating - 25 March, 2020 - 04:07
Financial Times

The fundamentals of energy use have not changed, even if the focus of attention has
A visualisation of Tidal Lagoon Power’s tidal energy project in Swansea Bay, Wales © PA 
 is chair of the Policy Institute at King’s College London Climate concerns were top of the agenda just a few weeks ago. Governments were making commitments to transform the ways in which energy is used. Companies from Microsoft to BP were expressing their intention to decarbonise.

None of the fundamentals have changed: emissions will fall a little this year in line with energy consumption but the shift is not permanent. After the coronavirus pandemic ends, a carbon-rich reality will return. The world in 2021 will still rely on hydrocarbons for close to 80 per cent of its energy needs, the chances of extreme weather conditions have not changed and the risk of floods has not receded.

The level of attention being given to the issue has, however, fallen sharply. Preparations for the COP26 meeting planned to be held in Glasgow in November have been minimal and the event could be postponed. Media coverage has moved on to more immediate problems, and companies are focused on responding to dramatic short-term falls in activity and income and on survival.

Recapturing attention will not be easy but it will be necessary. Two practical approaches would match the mood of the moment and help restore lost momentum.

The first is to accept the urgent need for international co-ordination of policy in key areas. That is evident in the coronavirus crisis in terms of both the medical issues and the economic implications. Similar co-ordination is needed for the climate agenda. The International Energy Agency, in the absence of any other serious body equipped to do the job, should be asked to propose how such co-ordination can be put in place.

The process matters but so does the substance. The second thing to do is to shift the focus from the setting of goals for 2050 to what can be done over the next decade — 2050 is beyond the horizon of any government, while 2030 is within measurable sight. Countries can take different actions depending on their circumstances but all can move towards a common objective. A cut of 25 per cent in emissions by 2030 will not satisfy campaigners but it has the virtue of being within reach.

The aggregation of certain steps using proven technology can make a material difference in the short term. These include:
  • efficiency gains encouraged through incentives and regulation to close the wide gaps between performance at national and sector levels;
  • the development of infrastructure from strengthened grids to charging systems capable of dealing with growing numbers of electric vehicles;
  • the deployment of smart systems to maximise energy use; and 
  • greater use of storage technology that is advancing beyond vehicle batteries and already playing a role in managing volatility at grid level.
Of course, a 25 per cent reduction is not enough and we should also use the next few years to prepare for the bigger steps needed later. That is about testing at scale prospects that are already within sight, for example hydrogen, which could transform the heating sector and potentially many other forms of energy consumption such as in ships’ engines.

Work needs to be done on carbon capture and storage to identify ways in which costs can be reduced and how carbon can be used rather than simply stored. Tidal and wave power must be made more economic and new financing mechanisms found that match their potential to produce power over many decades. Small modular nuclear reactors should be built and tested. Fusion power is a possibility but needs years of further research.

Some of these may not prove to be viable but all need exploring. At the same time the door must be opened to other technologies that can reduce the emissions from the production, processing and use of energy.

Few of these ideas can be deployed at scale until the 2030s but the work should be accelerated once the coronavirus crisis subsides. The effort should be public and private, local and international and should not be delayed by waiting for the most reluctant to sign up.

It is time to move on from proclamations of extinction and vague promises to do something by 2050. Over the coming weeks we should turn our idle, if well washed, hands to producing a practical, pragmatic plan to reduce emissions over the next decade.

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Everyone, Everywhere: The Global Challenge Of Climate Change

Lethal Heating - 25 March, 2020 - 04:03
NatureMaria Ivanova

Christiana Figueres (second from left) and other global leaders celebrate adoption of the 2015 Paris climate agreement. Credit: Arnaud Bouissou/COP21/Anadolu Agency/Getty 
Climate change demands action: humanity must shift from persistent destruction to intentional regeneration. So, how best to make that happen? Two new books give very different answers. In one, the solution lies exclusively with nation states and their protection of security and self-interest. The other expects a global-scale spirit of shared endeavour to harness the collective power of governments, corporations and individuals.

The collaborative approach is set out insightfully in The Future We Choose. Its authors — Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac — had crucial roles in the Paris climate agreement of December 2015. Hailed both as a monumental achievement and as woefully inadequate, the agreement saw 197 parties commit to keeping the global average temperature rise to less than 2 °C above pre-industrial levels. Figueres is recognized as the person most responsible for that achievement: as executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, she was at the heart of the process for six years, from the aftermath of the breakdown of negotiations in Copenhagen in 2009 to the success in Paris. Rivett-Carnac worked with Figueres at the UN and ran political strategy for the agreement.

Visions of the future
The book is an immersive journey through two very different visions of the year 2050. In one, the world has no fresh air and two billion people live with temperatures exceeding 60 °C for days on end. On the alternative, thriving, green planet, renewable energy powers smart grids and 50% of the land is covered in forest. Although such a stark choice could be criticized as simplistic, it brings into sharp relief the risk that humanity runs.

“Systemic change is a deeply personal endeavor,” the authors write. The most effective way to get anyone to act — from the person on the street to the diplomat in the negotiation room — is, they argue, to shift mindsets towards a deep acknowledgement of humanity’s dependence on nature.

Figueres and Rivett-Carnac are in a prime position to unpick exactly how to do that. Their behind-the-scenes stories are captivating, including the little-known details of the 2014 climate negotiations in which China and the United States moved away from competition towards shared wins, or Figueres’s decision to keep the 2015 conference running after UN security services found a bomb in the underground station serving the conference centre. I yearned for more, however, on what it took to change the mood and get commitment that no one thought possible. What was the exact chain of events leading up to the strike of the green gavel at 7.25 p.m. on 12 December 2015?

One of the duo’s major achievements was to bring civil society and business into the historically intergovernmental affair. Rivett-Carnac, for example, designed and led the Groundswell Initiative — a largely covert organization that mobilized support for the ambitious agreement from a wide range of stakeholders. Nation states are not the single or even most important driver in solving the climate crisis; it is, as the authors put it, an “everyone-everywhere mission”.
Bolivian soldiers combat forest fires in 2019. Credit: Aizar Raldes/AFP via GettyNational self-interest
By contrast, Climate Change and the Nation State argues for reframing the struggle in nationalist terms. Some 55% of all emissions come from four countries — China, the United States, India and Russia. What would compel these states to drastically change their behaviour and reduce emissions? For author Anatol Lieven, the answer lies in self-interest.

A British journalist with significant expertise in Pakistan and Russia, and an academic post in international relations, Lieven weaves his first-hand knowledge and experience into a compelling narrative. The branch of international-relations theory called realism, which assumes that states act to maximize their power, has rarely considered environmental concerns. Lieven calls on his realist colleagues to “wake up” to climate change as a paramount security threat. The heatwaves across Europe in 2003 and in Russia in 2010, he points out, respectively claimed more lives than France lost in its eight-year war in Algeria and Russia lost in a ten-year conflict with Afghanistan.

The mass movement of people, Lieven argues, will be “the most dangerous indirect effect … on Russia and the West”. The confluence of climate change, migration and automation will be the perfect storm, rivalling the devastation of nuclear war. Displacement of large numbers of people will put strain on states’ ability to provide for their populations. When this comes on top of massive unemployment resulting from increased automation, the nation state will not be able to respond. That will lead to a world much like Figueres and Rivett-Carnac’s potential dystopia.

Urgent action
Lieven makes a strong case for urgent action, especially by powerful states. He sees the armed forces, as experts on national security, as the logical first responders — not just for crowd control, but for large-scale infrastructure changes such as building flood defences. He advocates military support of the US Green New Deal, for example.

But Lieven is wrong to disregard global governance. Climate change is the quintessential worldwide problem. No one state, no matter how powerful its economy or military, can resolve it alone. Despite the primacy of the nation state in international affairs, global agreements and institutions are indispensable in ensuring that commitments are fulfilled, action is supported and agreements revised — think of the role of the World Health Organization in the coronavirus pandemic. This underscores that human and planetary health are inextricably bound, that global action is imperative, and that effective international or supranational organizations are crucial.

Lieven is convincing when he writes: “If there was ever an issue that demands prudence in judgment and courage in action, it is climate change.” But the judgement and action have to be global. Figueres and Rivett-Carnac might come across as overly optimistic in their conviction that a sense of global responsibility, for fellow humans and other species alike, will prove sufficient to spur the necessary action. But their short and simple book grabs you by the heart and makes you want to join the great adventure against overwhelming odds.

Categories: External websites

Greenland's Melting Ice Raised Global Sea Level By 2.2mm In Two Months

Lethal Heating - 24 March, 2020 - 04:10
The Guardian

Analysis of satellite data reveals astounding loss of 600bn tons of ice last summer as Arctic experienced hottest year on record
The loss of land-based glaciers in Greenland leads directly to sea level rise, ultimately increasing the risk of flooding to millions of people. Photograph: Ian Joughin/IMBIELast year’s summer was so warm that it helped trigger the loss of 600bn tons of ice from Greenland – enough to raise global sea levels by 2.2mm in just two months, new research has found.
The analysis of satellite data has revealed the astounding loss of ice in just a few months of abnormally high temperatures around the northern pole. Last year was the hottest on record for the Arctic, with the annual minimum extent of sea ice in the region its second-lowest on record.Unlike the retreat of sea ice, the loss of land-based glaciers directly causes the seas to rise, imperiling coastal cities and towns around the world. Scientists have calculated that Greenland’s enormous ice sheet lost an average of 268bn tons of ice between 2002 and 2019 – less than half of what was shed last summer. By contrast, Los Angeles county, which has more than 10 million residents, consumes 1bn tons of water a year.“We knew this past summer had been particularly warm in Greenland, melting every corner of the ice sheet, but the numbers are enormous,” said Isabella Velicogna, a professor of Earth system science at University of California Irvine and lead author of the new study, which drew upon measurements taken by Nasa’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (Grace) satellite mission and its upgraded successor, Grace Follow-On.
Glaciers are melting away around the world due to global heating caused by the human-induced climate crisis. Ice is reflective of sunlight so as it retreats the dark surfaces underneath absorb yet more heat, causing a further acceleration in melting.
Ice is being lost from Greenland seven times faster than it was in the 1990s, scientists revealed last year, pushing up previous estimates of global sea level rise and putting 400 million people at risk of flooding every year by the end of the century.
More recent research has found that Antarctica, the largest ice sheet on Earth, is also losing mass at a galloping rate, although the latest University of California and Nasa works reveals a nuanced picture.
“In Antarctica, the mass loss in the west proceeds unabated, which is very bad news for sea level rise,” Velicogna said. “But we also observe a mass gain in the Atlantic sector of east Antarctica caused by an increase in snowfall, which helps mitigate the enormous increase in mass loss that we’ve seen in the last two decades in other parts of the continent.”
The research has further illustrated the existential dangers posed by runaway global heating, even as the world’s attention is gripped by the coronavirus crisis. Crucial climate talks are set to be held later this year in Glasgow, although the wave of cancellations triggered by the virus has threatened to undermine this diplomatic effort.
“The technical brilliance involved in weighing the ice sheets using satellites in space is just amazing,” said Richard Alley, a glaciologist at Penn State University who was not involved in the study.
“It is easy for us to be distracted by fluctuations, so the highly reliable long data sets from Grace and other sensors are important in clarifying what is really going on, showing us both the big signal and the wiggles that help us understand the processes that contribute to the big signal.”

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Locust Swarms, Some 3 Times The Size of New York City, Are Eating Their Way Across Two Continents

Lethal Heating - 24 March, 2020 - 04:08
InsideClimate News - Bob Berwyn

Climate change is worsening the largest plague of the crop-killing insects in 50 years, threatening famine in Africa, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent. 
Millions of locusts swarm in Tsiroanomandidy, Madagascar. Credit: Rijasolo/AFP via Getty Images

As giant swarms of locusts spread across East Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and the Middle East, devouring crops that feed millions of people, some scientists say global warming is contributing to proliferation of the destructive insects.
The largest locust swarms in more than 50 years have left subsistence farmers helpless to protect their fields and will spread misery throughout the region, said Robert Cheke, a biologist with the University of Greenwich Natural Resources Institute, who has helped lead international efforts to control insect pests in Africa.
"I'm concerned about the scale of devastation and the effect on human livelihoods," Cheke said, adding that he also worried about "the impending famines."
"Despite the coronavirus pandemic, the region needs money and equipment to deploy insect control teams in the affected regions," he said.
New swarms are currently forming from Kenya to Iran, according to the the United Nations locust watch website. Addressing the outbreak requires urgent, additional funding and technical help from developed countries, Cheke said, because the tiny size and budget of the United Nation's Food and Agricultural Organization team responsible for locust monitoring and control is already overwhelmed.
Changes in plant growth caused by higher carbon dioxide levels, as well as heat waves and tropical cyclones with intense rains, can lead to more prolific and unpredictable locust swarming, making it harder to prevent future outbreaks.
The desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria) needs moist soil to breed. When rains are especially heavy, populations of the usually solitary insects can explode. In Kenya, one of the biggest swarms detected last year was three times the size of New York City, according to a March 12 article in the journal Nature. Swarms a fraction of that size can hold between 4 billion and 8 billion locusts.
At times, the locusts in East Africa have swarmed so thick that they have prevented planes from taking off and their dead bodies have piled up high enough to stop trains on their tracks.

Global Warming's Many Impacts on Insects
The changing climate has spurred other insect invasions. Warmer winters, for example, are magnifying an ongoing bark beetle outbreak in western North America. Until the 1980s, periodic cold snaps kept the beetles in check. But since then, the tree-killing bugs have swarmed—not as fast as desert locusts, but just as destructively. Since 2000, they've killed trees across about 150,000 square miles in Canada and the western U.S., an area nearly the size of California. In recent years, historic bark beetle outbreaks have also devastated European forests.
Other research shows that seasonal shifts caused by global warming are disrupting cycles of insect reproduction and plant pollination, including a recently documented decline of bumblebees, threatening food production in some areas.
Global warming is also affecting the feeding and breeding patterns of North America's grasshoppers, species that behave similarly to locusts. In the 1930s, swarms of grasshoppers destroyed crops in the Midwest, even eating wooden farm tools and clothes that were drying outside. States like Colorado used flamethrowers and explosives to battle the insects.
It's hard to predict how grasshoppers will respond to today's changing climate, said University of Oklahoma biologist Ellen Welti, who studies the relationship between insects and plants.
But, she said, "Warmer winters, with less egg mortality and changes in precipitation patterns that affect the amount and quality of plant food, could lead to outbreaks of particular grasshopper species or other herbivorous insects."
Locust outbreaks could be driven by changes in plant nutrients caused by extreme weather, Welti said, like more frequent soggy tropical storms, which make plants grow faster but dilute elements like nitrogen. "Locusts have a weird physiology—they like low nitrogen plants," she said of connections she explored in a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
But the current locust outbreaks, Welti said, are occurring against the backdrop of an alarming global decline in overall insect abundance, which is also, to some degree, connected to climate change and will have far-reaching ecosystem impacts.

Extreme Weather, Failed Governance Favor Swarms
Warm weather and heavy rains at the end of 2019 set up a perfect storm of breeding conditions for the destructive bugs. The outbreak followed an unusually active West Indian Ocean cyclone season with several of the storms bringing extreme rainfall to parts of East Africa.
Studies in the last few years have showed that global warming is boosting the rainfall from tropical storms. Other recent research shows that human-driven warming may be intensifying a regional Indian Ocean pattern of warming and cooling that could exacerbate extremes like tropical storms, heavy rains and heat waves—all factors that can affect locust populations.
More moisture is a double-edged sword for the Horn of Africa, said Maarten van Aalst, director of the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, which addresses the human impacts of climate change.
"We need rain for agricultural productivity, but it is then also conducive to locust breeding," van Aalst said. "It's a classical case of rising risks partly due to rising uncertainties. But we can manage some of this uncertainty. In this case we have had good predictions of elevated risks, and it is concerning that it still takes us so long to respond."
Martin Huseman, head of the entomology department at the University of Hamburg Center for Natural Sciences, said, "In general I think it's partly climate change. We get more extreme weather conditions. The cyclones we had there in the region could lead to enhanced swarming."
Locusts swarm out to find more food when they reach extremely dense populations during the nymph stage of their development. Aided by wind, the insects can travel more than 90 miles per day. Scientists warn they could spread across hundreds of thousands more square miles from Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia to Sudan, and across the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea into Iran, Pakistan and India. Such a spread would threaten the food supplies of 20 million people.
Those food shortages will mainly be felt later in the year, so there is still time to act by bolstering regional food supplies, van Aalst said. But travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic will challenge locust control projects, as well as relief efforts. According to the UN's locust watch program, the countries facing the biggest risk are Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Iran, Pakistan and Sudan.
Cheke said poor monitoring, conflict and a breakdown of governance in key locust breeding areas enabled the recent outbreak to grow unchecked, and threatens the progress made in controlling locusts during the last half century.
"It all started with substantial rainfall in May and October 2018 allowing good desert locust breeding in the Empty Quarter of the Arabian Peninsula to continue until March 2019, where it was not noticed and thus left uncontrolled," he said.

Swarms Could Expand Their Range and Emerge More Frequently
Huseman said that, in the global warming era, other parts of the world may also need to prepare for unexpected insect invasions as part of larger scale shifts in the distribution of animals. In northern Germany, for example, scientists recently spotted Asian wasps for the first time. A 2013 study found that crop-damaging insects are moving poleward at about 4 miles per year.
In addition to the ongoing plague of locusts around the Horn of Africa, there have been recent outbreaks of varying intensity in places like Sardinia, in the Mediterranean Sea, and Las Vegas.
David Inouye, a University of Maryland biologist who studies the effects of global warming on plants and animals, said conditions favoring outbreaks are becoming more common.
"I think that there is the potential for locust swarms to become more frequent, and potentially more widely distributed, as the environmental factors like rain and warm temperatures that favor their outbreaks continue to become more prevalent," he said. Some insects have a strict biological clock, but locusts respond strongly to environmental factors like precipitation and temperature.
Arianne Cease, a researcher at Arizona State University's School of Sustainability, said there are other factors related to climate that could promote locust swarms. Livestock grazing, rising carbon dioxide levels and extreme rainfall all lower nitrogen levels in plants—exactly the conditions that locusts thrive on.
"However," she said, "a direct link between atmospheric CO2, plant nutrients and swarming grasshoppers or locusts has yet to be tested, to my knowledge."
Cheke said it's unlikely, but possible, that locusts could swarm into new regions.
"With climate change it is possible that increasing aridity or changes in rainfall patterns could lead to locusts expanding their usual geographical range," he said. "For instance, in October 1988 desert locusts crossed the Atlantic but the habitat on the other side was unsuitable. Similarly, there are cases of desert locusts reaching the U.K. and Italy."
He believes several important questions remain to be answered, including whether locusts' speed of development from egg to maturity—which is temperature dependent—has increased in line with global warming.
"What I think is worth considering is whether climate change has led to habitat changes," he said. "Or changes ... regarding rainfall that might facilitate the success and spread of a locust plague once it has started. Or if climate change, through its effects on weather changes, could lead to changes in the locusts' usual migration routes."
In Africa, some of those questions have already been answered. Colin Everard, formerly with the Royal Aeronautical Society (U.K.), worked on locust control in Africa for 40 years. The increase in regional tropical cyclone activity during the last few years is certainly a factor, he said, as such storms are known to cause locust plagues.
"If this trend continues, for sure there will be more desert locust outbreaks in the Horn of Africa," he said. "There will be hunger and starvation in northeastern Kenya, the area which borders Somalia. Apart from humans, livestock will also starve to death due to the destruction of grazing."

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Paul R. Ehrlich: A Pandemic, Planetary Reckoning, And A Path Forward

Lethal Heating - 24 March, 2020 - 04:07
The Daily Climate

The COVID-19 pandemic is bringing environmental destruction and the deterioration of social and cultural systems into sharp focus. But we can learn from this.
COVID-19 Mobile Testing Center in New Rochelle, NY. (Credit: The National Guard) Paul Ehrlich is the Bing Professor of Population Studies, Emeritus and President of the Center for Conservation Biology at Stanford. In addition to great concern over the COVID-19 pandemic, I'm also disappointed.
For more than half a century, scientists have been expressing concern over the deterioration of what I like to call the "epidemiological environment." That environment consists of the constellation of circumstances that influence patterns of disease and factors related to health.
It includes such things as population sizes and densities, diets, speed and type of transportation systems, toxics, climate disruption, frequency of human-animal contacts, availability of medical isolation facilities, stockpiles of medicines, vaccines, and medical equipment.
The epidemiological environment also includes cultural norms: levels of education, equity in societies, competence of leadership. Few aspects of the human predicament do not impinge on our epidemiological environment.
My own interest in one part of that environment, transmissible diseases, started as a grad student working on the evolution of DDT resistance in fruit flies. The results of that research had obvious implications for the evolution of antibiotic resistance, a key element in the epidemiological environment.
It clearly influenced my wife Anne and my scenarios in our 1968 book, The Population Bomb and a section on the epidemiological environment in The Population Explosion, the 1990 sequel book. We were responding not just to our own fears, but the fears of colleagues much more knowledgeable in areas like virology and epidemiology.
Of course, the utter failure of global society to deal appropriately with high probability threats to civilization warned of by the scientific community is hardly limited to pandemics.
Climate disruption is the best recognized of contemporary health threats, but the decay of biodiversity, and "updating" the American nuclear triad as part of the Russian-United States' "mutually assured imbecility" are among the most critical.
Those, at least, are not obvious to the average citizen or decision-maker, but what about others such as increased flows of plastics and toxics (especially synthetic hormone mimicking compounds) into the global environment?
Everyone knows about volumes of plastics in waste streams and oceans and has personal experience with the thermal paper receipts coated with bisphenol-A (BPA), yet little to no remedies have been undertaken.
Indeed, why are there so few effective responses to the epidemics and the maladies of industrial civilization?

Bolster basic medical care
Credit: New York National GuardIt is convenient for progressives to blame the COVID-19 disaster in the United States on the spectacular incompetence and corruption of the current Republican national leadership. Yes, it has turned away from science, and worked hard to speed the demise of civilization.
One of the Republicans' many steps in that direction was to destroy the global health security and biodefense directorate that the Obama Administration created to help prepare for emergent diseases. Americans are now likely paying with their lives for Trump's move there.
But the basic problem dates much further back and is bipartisan. After all both parties have been supportive and remain supportive of the growthmania that has been the basic driver of environmental destruction.
Rather than dwell on the past, however, let's look at what the U.S. should be doing about the epidemiological environment starting right now. The U.S. has long stood alone in failing to supply all its citizens with health care, an error COVID-19 has highlighted. Changing that, however it is done, should be top priority.
Besides the obvious ethics and justice reasons, people without basic medical care exacerbate public health problems, especially pandemics, in ways that threaten even senators and presidents.
A comprehensive national health program should also remove incentives for infected people to go to work sick and for keeping businesses and other entities that provide essential services functioning.
Plans and equipment should be put in place to greatly increase the capacity of the medical system to deal with large surges of victims of epidemics.
Programs are needed to keep both the plans and essential supplies up to date. A provision for quickly establishing unified leadership in disasters is essential.

Climate change and biodiversity 
U.S. security in a globalized world demands leadership in dealing with all aspects of the world's epidemiological environment.
In addition to rejoining the Paris agreement, America should demand greatly increased ambition in replacing fossil fuels in energy systems so it will have a better chance of ameliorating the building climatic catastrophe and reduce the likely huge refugee flows that will transform the entire global epidemiological environment.
The U.S. should aid China to reduce that nation's huge pig-duck-pond-wildlife market, which is a lethal virus manufacturing machine. Putting pigs and ducks together with ponds is bad in itself, but adding wildlife markets to the mix makes it worse – and it's an important factor in the global epidemiological environment.
America and China could lead a civilization-wide program to halt the destruction of biodiversity – another factor which negatively impacts that environment.
What I'm basically saying is that the U.S. should fix the epidemiological environment by taking the obvious steps to solve the human predicament – to avoid the collapse of civilization now entrained.

Teaching planetary literacy
(Credit: JR P)This seems wildly optimistic in a world that has not even recognized its problems of overpopulation and overconsumption or the impacts on health and well-being of socio-cultural regression: rising xenophobia, racism, religious prejudice, sexism, and, especially, economic inequity.
What explains this?
There are the causes usually noted, such as the power of money, not just in politics but in global culture as a whole. But a major element is widespread ignorance, partly due to broken educational systems – allowing, for example, mobs of innumerate economists, politicians, and decision-makers in general to believe in perpetual growth in population and consumption.
The widespread inability of "educated" people to think is frequently underlined by statements on how "we don't have a population problem, just a problem of too much consumption."
Can't they grasp the not-so-difficult idea that a billion people are likely to consume more than a hundred? Case in point on the ignorant "educated": Donald Trump got a B.S. in economics from the Wharton School of my alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania.
To overwhelm this vast ignorance demands resuscitation of our higher education system. Universities and colleges remain stalled in a 19th century Aristotelian state. They have given up any goal except turning out people who will be financially successful in a deteriorating culture -- oiling parts of the engine with never a thought for where the train is heading.
And that "education" clearly doesn't even give its products a grasp of such concepts as exponential growth, as the response of Trump and many others to the COVID-19 epidemic have shown.
Educational systems have given up any pretense of supplying leadership to society or informing people about what is coming down the track. Faculty members discuss "sustainability" in major universities that will not even divest from fossil fuel stocks.
Can the absence of a draft alone explain the difference between the ferment in universities during the Vietnam War and the quiet today with the situation a million times worse?
Once again, population size and growth are major factors in this human dilemma – maybe Homo sapiens shouldn't have tried to organize itself into groups exceeding the Dunbar number, which anthropologist Robin Dunbar showed was about 150 people, the size of hunter-gatherer groups. He also showed that's roughly the size of groups in which human beings are comfortable today.

Rethinking resources 
Where could all the money come from to make the changes to preserve civilization? That's one of the challenges for the economists who today are operating in a perpetual-growth fairyland.
Much depends on the course of events and whether the debt pyramid collapses. One obvious step, however, is repurposing the military. When Anne and I were working with them on nuclear winter issues, we were greatly impressed by the intelligence and ethics of some of the field-grade officers with whom we were involved.
The military is already way ahead of the present civilian government in addressing existential threats like climate disruption. Various military units have already been deployed to deal with emergencies ranging from pandemics to hurricanes, and there is no reason why they cannot be used to help in tasks ranging from building medical isolation facilities to small-scale affordable housing for the homeless.
Allocation of resources is part of the epidemiological environment. The gigantic amounts of money wasted on such nearly useless toys as nuclear weapons, aircraft carriers, main battle tanks, and air superiority jet fighters could be redirected toward rebuilding infrastructure such as sewage systems, modernized electric grids and water-handling networks, and on and on.
The same can be said for the other funds and activities used for decades to support (often clandestinely) U.S. state terrorism that has cumulatively killed millions since the second World War.
Is all this impractical, pie-in-the-sky, never-happen stuff? Sure.
But nothing is more impractical than civilization trying to continue business as usual as it circles the drain.
The current pandemic disaster may end up damping down consumerism and improving the environment – there are reports of the lethal smog usually blanketing some Chinese cities clearing during pandemic lockdowns.
Maybe there's some chance that people are learning lessons.
We can always hope.

Categories: External websites

If We’re Bailing Out Corporations, They Should Bail Out The Planet

Lethal Heating - 23 March, 2020 - 04:07
New Yorker

Congress has an opportunity to make any coronavirus-related industry bailout depend on promises to meet the targets set in the Paris climate accord. Photograph by Brendan Smialowski / AFP / Getty Bill McKibben is a founder of the grassroots climate campaign 350.org and a contributing writer to The New Yorker. One of the best chances to make some positive use of the coronavirus pandemic may be passing swiftly. As the economy craters, big corporations are in need of government assistance, and, on Capitol Hill, the sound of half a trillion dollars in relief money is bringing out the lobbyists. On Thursday afternoon, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, described the scene as a “trough” and mentioned a quote from a lobbyist in The Hill: “Everybody’s asking for something and those that aren’t asking for something only aren’t because they don’t know how.” Whitehouse added, “I fear that enviros don’t know how to ask, because, so far in this scrum, we haven’t heard much from them.”

The corporations will get assistance, but the Democrats have enough legislative power to insure that it comes with at least a few strings attached. If they attach those strings with even a modicum of care, they will have used this emergency to help solve the looming climate crisis in ways that were unimaginable just a few days ago. For busy legislators looking for a principle to enforce in handing out relief to corporations, here’s a shorthand: any bailout depends on your industry promising to meet the targets set in the Paris climate accords, and demonstrating in the next few months what that plan looks like.

Consider, say, the airline industry. It obviously is in need of relief, even if the biggest airlines spent ninety-six per cent of their proceeds over the past decade buying back stock, instead of, say, preparing for the future. On behalf of the flight attendants and pilots and mechanics the airlines employ, they should get it. But everyone who has to live on a rapidly heating planet should get something back in return. And since, at current rates of growth, by 2050, air travel threatens to eat up a quarter of the entire carbon the world can still emit and meet the climate targets set in Paris, that something should be a wholesale change in direction.

On Friday, some environmental groups proposed that “Congress must cap total lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions from the U.S. airline fleets at 2020 levels, and overall emissions must fall at least 20% per decade thereafter.” (The Trump Administration has so far sidestepped Clean Air Act calls to regulate aircraft emissions.) And the airlines should act not by pledging to plant trees but by burning less jet fuel—by making flight routes more logical, and designing more efficient planes. Or take the banks: if they want a bailout, they should pledge an end to funding for expansionary fossil-fuel projects.

They don’t seem willing to rein themselves in—on Wednesday the Rainforest Action Network released an updated version of its “Banking on Climate Change” report, which shows that the four biggest U.S. banks continue to lead the way in funding global warming, with JPMorgan Chase reportedly having handed over more than a quarter of a trillion dollars to the fossil-fuel industry since the end of the Paris talks. Or take the fossil-fuel industry itself. It’s been dropping in value for a decade, as renewable energy takes most of the growth in demand, but the coronavirus crisis has hammered the price of oil. Trump promised to fill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve “right up to the top,” but the drillers will doubtless want more.

Yet, as Michael Brune, the head of the Sierra Club, told me, on Thursday, “the fossil-fuel industry is already heavily subsidized by the federal government, and they should not get yet another giveaway in any form, whether it’s low-interest loans, royalty relief, new tax subsidies, or filling the reserve.” More assistance should come only if these companies pledge to stop exploring for new oil, since climate scientists have made it clear that we can’t burn what we already have in our reserves.None of this is ideal.

In an ideal world, we’d use this moment to quickly enact a Green New Deal, employing all the suddenly unemployed Americans in building out our renewable-energy system and laying the high-speed rail tracks that would help curtail the need for short-haul aviation. But, for now, here’s a list of “5 Principles for Just COVID-19 Relief and Stimulus” that dozens of environmental groups have signed on to (350.org, which I helped found, is a signatory), which offers a guide for thinking about the “choices being made right now will shape our society for years, if not decades to come.”

These sorts of conditions are not without precedent: after the 2008 financial crisis, President Barack Obama used the government bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler to force them, and by extension the rest of the automobile industry, to accept stringent new fuel-economy standards, which may have been the single biggest blow he struck against climate change during his tenure in office. (Needless to say, the Trump Administration has been hard at work wrecking this achievement.)

The principle is clear: taking money from society means that you owe society something. Trump and the Senate Republicans aren’t likely to enforce that principle, but, since the Democrats control the House, they will have a big say in the outcome. The question that climate-minded voters will ask for years to come is: Did you strike a useful bargain when you had the leverage?

Our goal can’t be simply a return to the status-quo ante, because that old normal was driving a climate crisis that will eventually prove every bit as destructive as a pandemic. With just a little courage from Democratic legislators, we could actually be building a world that is safer on every front.

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Here Are The Top Ways The World Could Take On Climate Change In 2020

Lethal Heating - 23 March, 2020 - 04:00

GristThe climate think tank Project Drawdown first took on the question “what’s really the best way to stop climate change” in 2017 — and came up with a hundred answers, from cutting food waste to implementing alternative refrigerants. Now, Project Drawdown has updated its original list to incorporate the latest findings.The name references the day when humanity switches from emitting carbon dioxide to storing it and begins drawing down the carbon we’ve dumped into the atmosphere. The team compiled its recommendations, which were first published as a bestselling coffee table book, based on rigorous scientific analysis of the costs and carbon savings of every solution available at scale today.Jonathan Foley, an environmental scientist and the executive director of Project Drawdown, chatted with us about the changes — and explained why we don’t need technological breakthroughs or political miracles to bring the world to net-zero carbon emissions. Our interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.Q. To start off, can you tell me a little bit about what stayed the same? A. The top-line message remains the same essentially, which is that with solutions that exist now — not ones that are in the lab, not ones that are just science fiction or wishful thinking — but with solutions that actually exist today, we can stabilize our climate at 1.5 degrees or 2 degrees C. It wouldn’t be easy. It requires a lot of political will, a lot of leadership, and a lot of mobilization. But it’s all stuff that exists right now. That’s pretty amazing.The other thing that stayed the same was the message that we have to do a lot of different things to get there. There are no silver bullets when it comes to climate change. We may have silver buckshot, but that’s about it.Q. And what have been the most substantial changes to the recommendations from the original Project Drawdown?A. The numbers are actually pretty different, especially on the cost. Things got cheaper and with better returns on investments compared to the original analysis. And a lot of that is because things have gotten cheaper in renewables in the last few years. So I think we’re seeing a stronger economic case for climate solutions every year.A lot of people remember the rankings of solutions from the first book, and we did provide new rankings in this one. We presented two sets of rankings — one for a scenario that gets us 2 degrees C and one for a scenario that could get us to 1.5 degrees C.I think the message is that we still have to do all of these solutions. It doesn’t matter to me much that a solution was ranked No. 3 and that it’s now No. 6. The same kinds of things still appear near the top: The food system, like food waste and diets, is up there are pretty high, and things like refrigerants, which people kind of forget about — these potent greenhouse gases called hydrofluorocarbons. And of course, sprinkled throughout all the rankings are items that address the fossil fuel problem from many different angles. Whether it’s energy efficiency or renewable electricity or different ways of transportation, fossil fuels are found everywhere on that list from top to bottom.Q. Even though the Project Drawdown guide is backed by a lot of rigorous science, it isn’t meant for scientists or policymakers — it’s for regular people. How do you accurately and succinctly explain issues that often have a lot of complex science behind them to the general public?A. Usually when somebody does a study, the first thing they do is write it up for a scientific journal or a white paper, where it’s written basically in almost incomprehensible language, for maybe a hundred people in the world who could read it. Then later they’ll say, “OK, now we’re going to make the more public version of this.”We’re flipping the model. People find it inspiring that there are solutions to climate change, and that when you do the math, they seem to work. So we systematically go through all the different solutions, and use the same technique to look at them — we’re comparing an apple to an apple to an apple when we compare our forestry solutions to a nuclear energy solution to a different type of car, and that’s what had never been done before. I think universities are very good at what they do, and we need the real in-depth experts on every single one of those solutions. But we’re not a university. None of us are working on getting tenure.Q. It seems extremely likely that in November, we’re either going to have either a President Trump, a President Biden, or a President Sanders for the next four years. Which of the Drawdown solutions are you the most hopeful about regardless of the election outcome, and which ones do you think require more political willpower to make happen?A. We have to remember that this is a 30-year effort we’re talking about. One four-year term can make a big difference, but it’s not game over, regardless of who wins in November. The world will not be fried if Trump gets reelected. It just won’t help much. And the world will not be saved if Bernie wins with the Green New Deal. So I don’t really think it’s wise to clip all our hopes on one election outcome — or all our fears.There are so many levers of power to pull: at the local level, states, banks, Wall Street, businesses, our own behavior and communities. This is an international problem, from our neighborhoods to the international markets.What we need now is time. Saying, “That’s who’s going to save us: the U.S. House of Representatives, or the U.S. federal government, or the United Nations,” is how we managed to waste the last three decades. I think we need to start leading elsewhere and hope that Washington and the U.N. will follow.Q. Coronavirus is something that’s changing a lot of personal behaviors right now. Do you think there’s a potential for a ripple effect after the pandemic crisis is resolved that might shift around things on the list for dealing with the climate crisis?A. Recessions suck for everybody. No one in the environmental community should be celebrating this virus — this is a tragedy and there’s no other way to say it. But it does, at least in the short run, mean a drop in emissions. And hopefully, there’ll be some lasting lessons from this. Hey, there are other ways to do things besides flying all the time and driving all the time. Working from home and telecommuting might be really viable options now, so let’s learn how to do those really well. That might help reduce some of the emissions long term after this crisis if people stick to those habits a bit more.People also learn how to be more resilient as a society to these kinds of shocks. Whether it’s a virus next time, or a big storm, or a hurricane, or fires, people are going to be a little bit better on the resiliency side of the equation. If there is any silver lining about this incredibly dark cloud, that might be it.Links
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