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climate change

Apollo-Earth: A Wake Up Call In Our Race against Time

By Rupert Read and Deepak Rughani - The Ecologist, March 9, 2017

Why a project to find common meaning in our common struggle to prevent climate-catastrophe deserves the name 'Apollo-Earth'

There is a mission brewing and building, a mission that needs all hands that are ready: To bring the 'un-named movement' - the 'for-life' story of our time - to a tipping point.

This needs to happen faster than the rate at which our planet is approaching fatal climatic tipping points (fatal, that is, to us - always remember that it isn't strictly speaking 'the planet' that needs saving, only the animals, including ourselves, who live on it). The climate nemesis we face is now quite predictable: it is a 'white' swan event: But it could still be forestalled, with determination. If that forestalling is to be successfully accomplished, if together we are to choose to save ourselves and our descendants, then we need to see a radical shift in humanity's collective response to the rapidly growing threat of breakdown of our environmental life-support systems.

This will only happen if the forces of negativity, idiocy and oppression are outweighed by the force for rebellion, for sanity and for good in the epic struggle which will define our century.

Red state rural America is acting on climate change; without calling it climate change

By Rebecca J. Romsdahl - The Conversation, February 21, 2017

President Donald Trump has the environmental community understandably concerned. He and members of his Cabinet have questioned the established science of climate change, and his choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency, former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, has sued the EPA many times and regularly sided with the fossil fuel industry.

Even if the Trump administration withdraws from all international climate negotiations and reduces the EPA to bare bones, the effects of climate change are happening and will continue to build.

In response to real threats and public demand, cities across the United States and around the world are taking action to address climate change. We might think this is happening only in large, coastal cities that are threatened by sea-level rise or hurricanes, like Amsterdam or New York.

Research shows, however, that even in the fly-over red states of the U.S. Great Plains, local leaders in small- to medium-size communities are already grappling with the issue. Although their actions are not always couched in terms of addressing climate change, their strategies can provide insights into how to make progress on climate policy under a Trump administration.

Brace for impact: it’s time to build the fight for climate adaptation

By Daniel Macmillen Voskoboynik - New Internationalist, February 22, 2017

The fight to tackle climate change has two core branches: mitigation (curbing excessive greenhouse gas emissions) and adaptation (addressing the effects of climate change that are already unfolding). But although both areas are needed, the public tends to focus on the former in discussions on climate change.

The pressing priority is always to pull down emissions. Climate change is portrayed a future threat and our responsibility to act is framed in reference to our children and grandchildren. If environmental ruin is already here, it is deemed marginal compared to the tempests amassing on the horizon.

But this uneven focus on the future understates the gravity of present impacts. Today, climate change accounts for 87 per cent of disasters worldwide. Some of the worst droughts in decades are continuing to unravel across southeastern Africa and Latin America. Cyclonic storms, floods, wildfires, and landslides are bearing on the world’s most vulnerable populations.

The sudden violence of disasters is paralleled by the brutality of gradual change. Coastlines are being shaved and eroded by rising tides. The encroachment of sea water is increasing the salinity of littoral lands, leaving them withered and infertile. Rain patterns are shifting, shattering the millions who rely on the sky for sustenance. Every second, one person is forced to flee their home due to extreme climactic conditions.

This context of daily displacement and desolation means that the fight to tackle climate change today is fundamentally a fight to determine the fatality of the future. Yet adaptation, the crucial tool in that fight, has been side-lined and neglected.

Will science go rogue against Donald Trump?

By John Steele - Socialist Worker, February 6, 2017

IN THE age of Trump, the person writing those words has much to teach us about the impending scientific struggles of our own time.

So spoke Salviati on day two of his debate with Sagredo and Simplicio in a hypothetical discussion imagined by the great scientist and astronomer Galileo Galilei, for his book Dialogue on the Two Chief World Systems, published in 1632.

In the Dialogue, Galileo puts forward his heretical view that the Earth and other planets revolve around the sun in opposition to the Catholic Church-sanctioned Ptolemaic system in which everything in the universe revolves around the Earth.

Galileo hoped that by adopting a conversational style for his argument, it would allow him to continue his argument about the true nature of the universe and evade the attentions of the Inquisition, which enforced Church doctrine with the force of bans, imprisonment and execution.

However, Galileo's friend, Pope Urban VIII, who had personally authorized Galileo to write the Dialogue, didn't allow sentimentality to obstruct power. Galileo was convicted of heresy and spent the rest of his days under house arrest--the Dialogue was banned by the Inquisition, along with any other book Galileo had written or might write.

Typically portrayed as the quintessential clash between religion and science, Galileo's conflict with the Papacy was, in fact, just as rooted in material considerations of political power as it was with ideas about the nature of the solar system and our place within it.

Amid parallels to today's conflict between Donald Trump and the scientific community over funding, research, unimpeded freedom of speech and the kind of international collaboration required for effective scientific endeavor, neither situation exists solely in the realm of ideas.

Trump's "America First" puts the planet last

By Michael Ware - Socialist Worker, February 9, 2017

DONALD TRUMP'S executive orders for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. and for building a border wall provoked the most visible and immediate responses of the early days of his presidency.

But his moves to restart construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines and the new administration's censorship of government workers and federally funded scientists regarding climate change were a shot across the bow of the environmental movement.

Upon taking office, Twittler and his henchmen directed federal agencies to cease public communication that wasn't vetted by the new administration, effectively putting a gag order on any talk about climate change or scientific research that contradicts the administration's taste for "alternative facts."

The Badlands National Park Twitter account defied the ban, issuing unspeakable truths like "The Pre-Industrial concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 280 parts per million (ppm). As of December 2016, 404.93ppm." The account has since been reigned in and the tweets deleted.

This week, the new administration scored a victory when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, bowing to an order from Trump, reversed its denial of an easement needed to complete a section of the Dakota Access Pipeline running under the Missouri River. The Army Corps not only abandoned plans to wait for an environment impact study, but rushed through approval so drilling could start in 24 hours--making it harder for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to take action in court.

Trump and Climate Catastrophe

By John Bellamy Foster - Monthly Review, February 2017

This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bullshit has got to stop. Our planet is freezing, record low temps, and our GW scientists are stuck in ice.

Donald Trump, January 2, 20141

Agriculture is part of the climate change solution

By Lois Ross - Rabble.Ca, January 24, 2017

Small farmers face pretty much the same issues no matter what part of the world they happen to till -- access to land, seed, financing and more.

I learned that lesson while rolling through the hills of northern Nicaragua, acting as an interpreter for a brigade of Canadian farmers hoping to transfer their skills to support local farmers. At that time mechanization for many small farmers in Nicaragua seemed to be the main impediment. But thinking back to the exchanges I translated, the lack of tractors, chemicals and artificial fertilizers presented challenges but also possibilities to explore.

How do you grow food in a world where resources are limited? For small farmers in developing regions, resources have always been limited. These Canadian and Nicaraguan farmers wanted to learn from each other, and the challenges each group faced related to producing food, farming methods, and taking care of the soil and their communities. The question was how best to do this in a global system based on profit and not on stewardship. At the end of the brigade's stay, it would be fair to say that the Canadians learned as much if not more than their Nicaraguan counterparts. Both realized that the problems facing agriculture were much larger than farmers themselves. Still, they persevered.

These progressive farmers knew that agriculture could be part of the solution -- for community, health, food security and much more.

Agriculture and climate change

Despite the attempts of certain farm groups, for many years agricultural practices in so-called developed nations have been environmentally destructive. We have been told that the industrial model of agriculture is necessary to ensure production and food security. It's an old story, one that has created a false reality. And the North has promoted that false reality. Aid programs targetting developing nations have long tried to transfer the industrialized model to smaller, poorer countries. Industrial agriculture has been supported as the only model that is successful. The costs have been huge.

The time has come to look at how agriculture might actually be a huge part of climate change mitigation.

Agriculture can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but it is going to mean putting stewardship and food production ahead of profit and expansion. It is possible.

In the '70s and '80s we were told that organic farming was impossible, that crops would be lost to weeds, that a farmer would go bankrupt, that people would end up starving -- that organic farming was just not possible. Now huge corporations are trying to sell us organic food produced on the other side of the planet. Parts of the organic model have been conveniently skipped -- the part about local production for social, economic and environmental reasons. Essentially the agroecological principles of organic farming are removed when it becomes based on imported food and corporate farming. These are the same practices that increase greenhouse gas emissions as opposed to reducing them.

These days terms like carbon sequestration, biodynamic agriculture, Demeter farming, holistic management, regenerative agriculture, perennial polyculture, and permaculture are entering the ag lexicon -- phrases that are all related to practices consistent with agroecology that link agriculture and climate change.

Hopelessly devoted to fossil fuels

By Amy Leather - Socialist Review, January 2017

World leaders are failing on climate change. Theresa May’s Tory government has given the go ahead to a new nuclear reactor at Hinkley Point, backed the expansion of Heathrow airport and overturned the local decision in Lancashire to stop fracking. Meanwhile climate change denier Donald Trump is heading to the White House.

The last decade has seen a massive expansion of so-called “dirty energies” such as fracking, deep water drilling, and tar sand extraction. The pledges to reduce carbon emissions in the Paris Agreement, signed by 196 countries in December 2015, are only voluntary. Even if signatories kept to them we would still be on track for global warming far higher than is sustainable.

The scale of the crisis is widely recognized. Climate scientists and environmentalists such as Ian Angus have shown that we have entered a new geological era — the Anthropocene — in which the dominant influence on the environment is human activity. Unless urgent action is taken we face catastrophic climate change. The solution to global warming is quite simple — we need to stop burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas which release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and instead make a rapid switch to renewables.

So why won’t our rulers act? We need to look beyond the individual politicians. There are, of course, the climate change deniers, who must be challenged and stopped, but much of the ruling class does accept that climate change is a reality. The problem is they are guardians of a system with fossil fuels at its heart. Tackling the climate crisis would mean tackling the vested interests of the fossil fuel corporations — some of the most profitable companies in the world. To understand why capitalism and fossil fuels are so intertwined we need to go back to the time of the industrial revolution in Britain.

Andreas Malm, in his book Fossil Capital, outlines how in the early 1800s an energy transition took place in Britain. The first machines of the industrial revolution, the spinning and weaving machines of the cotton industry, were driven by water. In 1800 there were at least 1,000 water mills concentrated in Lancashire and Scotland. Even as late as the 1820s most mills in Manchester were still water-powered. Just ten years later steam generated by burning coal had overtaken water.

Crossing the Carbon Rubicon

By Andrew Simms - Red Pepper, January 6, 2017

What’s in a number? Quite a lot when the last time it prevailed in the sky above our heads was in the Pliocene period, between three and five million years ago, long before modern humans evolved. Last year, 2015, was the first since then that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the principal driver of man-made global warming, stayed above 400 parts per million (ppm). The higher it goes, the worse things get, and it is already a long way past the level considered necessary to stabilise our climate, 350ppm, the number taken for that reason by global climate campaign 350.org.

Nobody knows exactly where the line in the atmosphere lies beyond which the process of warming feeds off itself, inexorably moving beyond our ability to control climatic instability. It’s a game of chance and probability, and we are already playing climate roulette, in which current warming makes life difficult, and in some cases impossible, for many of the world’s most vulnerable people.

It does this in a range of ways, from the sheer impact of increasingly extreme weather events to effects on the price of food, forced displacement and movement of climate-borne diseases. A world of incipient warming is the enemy of everyone, but especially people with the least power, fewest assets, weakest support structures and inability to move. It is the enemy of every social ambition. Unless tackled, it spells out a great reversal of human progress. It is the one problem which, unless solved, unravels every other cause.

Our use of fossil fuel energy is the principal driver, if not the only one. The loss of natural habitats such as tropical and primary forests is another. A global climate agreement, the Paris Accord, has now entered into force. It has many flaws but includes a commitment to prevent warming of more than two degrees above pre-industrial levels, and an ambition to hold it to just 1.5 degrees. But add up all the current national commitments, and depending on whose modelling you look at, we’re either missing the two-degrees target by a little, or a lot. In either case only a small, or very small, fraction of the fossil fuels still left in the ground can be burned, even as major oil companies explore for new reserves.

Some argue that to dwell on this unambiguously dire situation leads only to paralysis. But unless we do take in the enormity of our predicament, it is unlikely that we will come up with responses that are remotely equal to the scale or immediacy of action required. As Thomas Hardy wrote, ‘If a way to the better there be, it exacts a full look at the worst.’

And that action, straightforwardly, is the rapid transition of energy-intensive societies. It requires the illumination of more convivial, low-consumption economies that will allow everyone to lead good lives while operating within planetary boundaries.

Trump, Putin and the Pipelines to Nowhere

By Alex Steffin - Medium, December 15, 2016

You can’t understand what Trump’s doing to America without understanding the “Carbon Bubble”

If you’re an American, you’re likely misinformed about the most dire crisis in our world.

American journalists, pundits and media executives have largely convinced themselves that climate change is not a serious political issue, because they think the polls tell them that. A majority of American voters regularly tell pollsters they don’t think climate change is a critically important election issue, so therefore the media decides it must not be an important political issue at all.

Unfortunately, that conventional wisdom blinds us to both to the actual bedrock reality of this era, and to — as I see it — the defining aim of the in-coming Trump administration: delaying climate action.

Trump has surrounded himself with more oil industry and oil industry connected people than any president in history (even George W. Bush). You can’t understand what’s going on with Trump unless you understand the oil industry… and you can’t understand the oil industry without understanding climate change.

Understanding Climate Change

In case you’re just joining us here on Earth, we’re making the planet hotter. The science is incontrovertible that by burning fossil fuels, we’re changing the planet’s climate. Because the consequences worsen dramatically as we emit more climate pollution and the planet gets hotter, every nation on Earth agreed last year in Paris to hold that temperature rise to two degrees Celsius (2ºC).

This means we must limit the total amount of CO2 and other greenhouse pollution we put into the sky: we have to meet a “carbon budget.” To meet that budget, we have to radically cut greenhouse gas emissions — burning way less oil, coal and gas — in the next two decades, and set the global economy on a steep path to zero emissions.

Again, the American media has failed to convey the magnitude of the costs of unchecked global warming. Those costs are profound already, today, as the Arctic heatwave, Syrian civil war, bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef, worsening storms, droughts, wildfires and freak weather events all show. Those costs will only grow, and they will grow more dire, more quickly as the planet heats.

At the same time, the innovations we need to create zero-carbon prosperity are already here. From plummeting costs for solar, wind, electric vehicles and green buildings to better approaches to urban planning, agriculture and forestry, we already have the tools we need to start building a much more prosperous world, producing hosts of new companies and millions of jobs. Indeed, a giant building boom is what successful climate action looks like.

Because we have no real choice but to act — and, in fact, climate action will make most people not only safer, but better off — big changes are coming, far sooner than most Americans understand.

But some people totally understand: the ones who stand to lose money from these changes.

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