Monday, March 31, 2014

NASA Climate Predictions Show Serious Threat To Humanity

NASA Climate Predictions Show Serious Threat To Humanity
Published on Mar 22, 2014
Dahr Jamail says that though some journalists avoid linking weather patterns to climate change, global warming still exi

Psychology and Global Climate Change: Addressing a Multi-faceted Phenomenon and Set of Challenges

Psychology and Global Climate Change: Addressing a Multi-faceted Phenomenon and Set of Challenges

Report of the American Psychological Association Task Force on the Interface Between Psychology and Global Climate Change

The APA Task Force on the Interface Between Psychology and Global Climate Change met in 2008-2009 to examine the role of psychology in understanding and addressing global climate change, including efforts to adapt to and mitigate climate change.

The task force’s report reviews a wide range of research and practice relevant to climate change, including work in environmental and conservation psychology, studies of human responses to natural and technological disasters, efforts to encourage environmentally responsible behavior, and research on the psychosocial impacts of climate change.

Among the topics addressed in the report are:
  • Perceptions of global warming and climate change risks, including people’s tendency to discount the likelihood of future and remote events and the role of culture in how people conceive of and respond to risks.
  • Human behavioral contributions to climate change, such as population growth, energy use, and consumption, and the psychological and contextual drivers of these contributions.
  • Psychosocial and mental health impacts of actual and perceived climate change, including stress, anxiety, apathy, and guilt, and interventions to promote coping, adaptation, and healthy responses to climate change.
  • Social and community impacts of climate change, socioeconomic disparities in climate change impacts, and ethical and social justice implications of climate change.
  • Psychological barriers that limit individual and collective action on climate change.
  • Empirically-based approaches to understanding the nature and determinants of behaviors that affect the environment and the development of interventions to alter such behaviors.
The report identifies questions that call for further research by psychologists. The task force also developed policy recommendations to guide action by individual psychologists, APA, and other organizations. The members of the task force argue that work in the complex arena of climate change cannot be left to one sub-discipline but must draw upon the expertise of researchers and practitioners from multiple areas of psychology.

UK seabirds sound climate warning

A Scottsh kittiwake: Numbers have plunged since 2000, with climate change thought to be reducing their main food source

UK seabirds sound climate warning
Alex Kirby, March 28, 2014

Once-familiar Scottish seabirds are among species whose numbers in the UK are falling sharply, scientists say – and the suspicion is that climate change is to blame.

LONDON, 28 March – Several familiar British birds are now showing drastic declines in numbers as the reality of climate change strikes home even at these temperate latitudes.

Scientists believe climate change is the driving force behind a crash in the numbers of kittiwakes, a seabird species which used to thrive in northern Scotland. The birds are doing so badly that there are fears some colonies could disappear entirely.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is the UK’s largest nature conservation charity. In a report to mark the publication on 31 March by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of its latest findings, the RSPB says that on current trends kittiwakes face extinction from areas that were once core strongholds.

It says that since 2000 kittiwake numbers have declined by 87% on Orkney and Shetland, two island groups north of the Scottish mainland. The islands were once home to thriving cliff colonies of thousands of birds, but today, the RSPB says, many cliffs are virtually empty in the breeding season.

It says research shows that sea temperature changes are affecting the availability of the birds’ preferred prey, small fish called sandeels.
Leadership challenge

Paul Walton, head of habitats and species for RSPB Scotland, says: “Ten years ago Marwick Head on Orkney was a thriving seabird city – but now it looks like a ghost town. Evidence points to rising sea surface temperatures driving huge declines and species shifts in plankton populations. This is the food of sandeels, and the sandeels are food for the birds.”

Two other seabirds are declining sharply. Razorbills are down 57% from a total of 2,228 in 2000 to just 966 in 2013, and guillemots have fallen by 46% during the same period.

The RSPB wants the Scottish Government to designate key seabird feeding sites as marine protected areas. But it says a much bigger challenge is to persuade world leaders to heed the warnings in the IPCC report and do more to tackle climate change.

Other UK wildlife and habitats are also threatened by climate change. Machair is a rare, wildlife-rich coastal grassland, mostly found on Scottish islands, and home to a traditional agricultural system that works in close harmony with nature. Working the machair is a big part of Gaelic culture, supporting corncrakes, ringed plovers, dunlins and great yellow bumblebees.

The machair is singled out in the IPCC report as one of the habitats most threatened by climate change. The IPCC says rising sea-levels, and the increased risk of storms and flooding, will mean the land becomes increasingly eroded.
Compounding the pressure

Another British bird of concern to the RSPB is the Dartford warbler, found on the heathlands of southern England and very sensitive to the cold. The species has been steadily moving northwards, apparently because of climate change. It is declining on the southern edge of its range in Spain, and in the UK conservationists are working hard to create new heathland habitat for the birds to move into.

Dotterels are birds which breed only on the highest mountain tops of Scotland. Their numbers have fallen from 630 breeding males in 1999 to 423 in 2011. Again, the RSPB believes, climate change is the culprit.

Martin Harper, the RSPB’s conservation director, says: “Kittiwakes, dotterels and Dartford warblers are three examples of wildlife being affected on our doorstep, but further afield the picture is stark for a whole range of species.

“Climate change will compound the many existing pressures on wildlife including habitat destruction, the introduction of non-native invasive species, over-exploitation and pollution.

“The overwhelming scientific consensus suggests that unless we take urgent action to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, climate change will commit many species to extinction this century. The silent kittiwake colonies on Orkney should be a warning.” 

Plankton will suffer as oceans warm

Phytoplankton off the coast of SW England: Warmer oceans will leave less available to feed fish
Plankton will suffer as oceans warm
Alex Kirby, September 8, 2013

One effect of the warming of the oceans will be to depress the growth of plankton, with consequences for fish and other species that depend on it.

LONDON, 8 September – Researchers at two UK universities have found that rising temperatures in the world’s oceans will affect the development of the plankton on which most marine life feeds.

The research team, from the universities of East Anglia and Exeter, has demonstrated that the increasing warmth caused by a changing climate will upset the natural cycles of carbon dioxide, nitrogen and phosphorous.

This will affect the plankton, making it scarcer and so causing problems for fish and other species higher up the food chain. There are also likely to be implications for climate change, but just what they will be, the team leader says, is far from clear.

Plankton play an important role in the oceanic carbon cycle by removing half of all CO2 from the atmosphere during photosynthesis – the process during which plants and other organisms convert light, usually from the Sun, into energy.

The carbon then falls deep into the ocean and ends up on the sea bed, where it remains safely isolated from the atmosphere for centuries.

But the novel point about the team’s work, published in Nature Climate Change, is their discovery that water temperature has a direct impact on maintaining the plankton’s delicate ecosystem. This means the effects of oceanic warming will affect plankton and drive “a vicious cycle of climate change”.

Researchers from UEA’s School of Environmental Sciences and the School of Computing Sciences investigated phytoplankton – microscopic plant-like organisms which rely on photosynthesis to reproduce and grow.

The lead researcher, Dr Thomas Mock, says: “Phytoplankton, including micro-algae, is responsible for half of the carbon dioxide that is naturally removed from the atmosphere.

“As well as being vital to climate control, it also creates enough oxygen for every other breath we take, and forms the base of the food chain for fisheries, so it is incredibly important for food security.

“Previous studies have shown that phytoplankton communities respond to global warming by changes in diversity and productivity. But with our study we show that warmer temperatures directly impact the chemical cycles in plankton, which has not been shown before.
Higher nitrogen ratio

“We found that temperature plays a critical role in driving the cycling of chemicals in marine micro-algae. It affects these reactions as much as nutrients and light, which was not known before.”

Team members from Exeter developed computer-generated models to create a global ecosystem model which took into account world ocean temperatures, 1.5 million plankton DNA sequences taken from samples, and biochemical data.

As temperatures warm, marine micro-algae appear not to produce as many ribosomes as they do in cooler water (ribosomes join up the building blocks of proteins in cells and are rich in phosphorous).

If their numbers fall this will produce higher ratios of nitrogen compared with phosphorous. The result, says Dr Mock, would be lower plankton productivity, with implications for the marine carbon cycle. He told the Climate News Network: “There will be consequences both for climate change and for marine food webs.

“The oceans may retain less CO2, though other factors, like the stratification of the water layers under the influence of temperature and salinity, may counteract that.

“But warming the oceans and increasing the amount of nitrogen they contain could equally well mean that they can store more CO2 than they do now.

“So there’ll certainly be an effect on climate change, but the ultimate outcome is really difficult to predict. With food webs it’s much easier: we know there will simply be less plankton available for higher species.” 

Exploring the connections between climate change and global security

Exploring the connections between climate change and global securityPBS NewsHour
Streamed live on Mar 30, 2014
A conversation with Professor Georffrey Dabelko, one of the authors of the latest IPCC report on climate change and its impacts.

The rich West is ruining our planet

People stand among debris and ruins of houses destroyed by Super Typhoon Haiyan 

The rich West is ruining our planet
The industrialised economies have created climate change, but the poorest are paying the
price for it. We must do more to help

Rowan Williams, 29 Mar 2014

The storms that have battered parts of the UK this year and left hundreds of people facing the misery
of flooded homes and ruined land have again brought questions about the impact of climate change to
the forefront of the public consciousness. And this week the whole question has been put into still
sharper focus, as the world’s leading climate scientists publish a report on the subject putting our
local problems into a deeply disturbing global context.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world’s leading body of scientists in this
area, will be pointing out that, appalling as the experiences of recent months have been here, we have
in fact got off relatively lightly in comparison with others. It is those living in the typhoon-prone
Philippines or in drought-ravaged Malawi who are being forced not only to deal with the miseries of
flooded homes and prolonged disruption, but to make fundamental changes in their way of life.

We have heard for years the predictions that the uncontrolled burning of fossil fuels and the
consequent pouring of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere will lead to an accelerated warming of the
Earth. What is now happening strongly indicates that these predictions are coming true; our actions
have indeed had consequences, consequences that are deeply threatening for many of the poorest
communities in the world.

The waves that destroyed railway lines in the South West and the record-breaking rainfall that flooded
homes and led to the Severn and the Thames bursting their banks show what we can expect as average
temperatures increase worldwide. Rising sea levels, absorbing glacial melt from polar waters,
exacerbate the severity of tidal storm surges; warmer air containing more moisture will lead to
increasing rainfall. The chaos experienced in Britain came as a shock to many; but for millions around
the world, this is nothing new. And there is a particularly bitter injustice about the fact that those
suffering its worst ravages – such as the pastoralists of northern Kenya or the Quilombolas of Brazil,
descendants of former slaves cultivating territories increasingly desolated by deforestation – have
done least to contribute to it.

Rich, industrialised countries, including our own, have unquestionably contributed most to
atmospheric pollution; the development of profitable heavy industry relied on what we now think of as
"dirty" energy sources, and involved environmental degradation on an unprecedented scale. Both our
present lifestyle in the developed world and the history of how we created such possibilities for
ourselves have to bear the responsibility for pushing the environment in which we live towards crisis.

To say this is not a plea for handwringing over a history that is what it is. But, as Professor James
Hansen, a former NASA climate scientist, has said: "Our parents honestly did not know that their
actions could harm future generations. We, the current generation, can only pretend that we did not
know." The new scientific mapping of what climate chaos is doing leaves us with little choice but to
face the unpalatable fact that, unless our societies and governments step up the urgency of their
response, profound injustice will be done both to the poor of today and to the entire global population
of tomorrow.

What we tend not to hear enough of in the UK is the first-hand experience of those who live with
devastating climatic insecurity. It is sadly easy to treat the scientific evidence as adding up to no more
than alarmist predictions which may or may not be realised. So it is vital that we hear the voices of
those on the front line, for whom this is a present, not a future catastrophe. A report published this
week by Christian Aid, Taken By Storm: Responding to the Impacts of Climate Change, gives us a
chance to listen to these voices directly.

It sets out various examples of how communities are being forced to adapt to a distorted climate. In
Bangladesh, rising sea levels have contributed to the salinisation of inland water and the loss of the
mangrove forests which historically have provided a buffer against increasingly severe storm surges.

In Bolivia, farmers living on the Illimani glacier have been forced into fierce conflicts over scarce
resources as a result of the irregular melting of their previously stable water source; many have had to

There are, of course, some in the current debates around climate change who are doubtful about the
role of human agency both in creating and in responding to climate change, and who argue that we
should direct our efforts solely to adapting to changes that are natural and inevitable, rather than
modifying our behaviour.

This feels all very well in the UK, where we can adapt to some extent with better flood defences and
by banning building on flood plains. And of course adaptation and behaviour modification do not
constitute an either/or. But these options are not so readily available in the most vulnerable
communities around the world. People in these communities would agree that adaptation is crucial to
save lives, livelihoods and investments – and they have some good examples to demonstrate this; but
they are adamant that it won’t be enough on its own.

Current examples of climate change are the result of a global temperature rise of just 0.8C. Doing
nothing about levels of fossil fuel-based pollution sits uncomfortably with the fact that, if
temperatures rise by 2.5-5C above pre-industrial levels – something that many scientists believe to be
possible without modifying present patterns – many adaptation measures will simply be too late.

So the communities on the front line, the communities whose voices Christian Aid is seeking to make
audible, need the world to tackle the root causes and to do so urgently. A good place to start would be
ending the $523 billion (£314 billion) the world spends on fossil fuel subsidies (more than six times
the support given to renewables). But whatever the exact response, these two reports make it clear that
we have to stop subsidizing the degradation of the planet – and that this is not a question to be tackled
the day after tomorrow. The cost is now – as so many in the UK have discovered in recent months.

Dr Rowan Williams is chairman of Christian Aid

The bill for climate change is coming due


The bill for climate change is coming due
Richard Schiffman, March 27, 2014

Americans have just endured one of the coldest winters in memory, so global warming may not be on their radar. But a new U.N. panel report has just refocused the public debate on a problem some scientists call the greatest threat facing the world.

There is trouble ahead for global agriculture, warns the influential Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, if measures are not taken quickly to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The panel, which synthesizes the findings of thousands of peer-reviewed studies every seven years, has issued a report card on the state of the planet [2].

The report card serves as a guide to policymakers and a basis for international deliberations, including the summit on global warming and greenhouse gas emissions scheduled to be held in Paris next year. The report will be officially released on Sunday in Yokohama, Japan, but an advance copy has been leaked.


This IPCC report predicts that by the end of the century, “hundreds of millions of people will be affected by coastal flooding and displaced [4] due to land loss,” the majority living in island nations and in southern Asia.

The report goes on to link food price increases (like the 2010 spike in wheat prices that helped spark the Arab Spring) to climate change-related droughts and floods. It forecasts that prices will continue to rise as grain yields decline by as much as 2 percent [5] per decade for the rest of the century, while demand is projected to rise by 14 percent per decade through 2050.

Food shortages are predicted to be the new normal in vulnerable areas, according to the IPCC. Africa and Asia will be the principal losers. Monsoon rain patterns are already being disrupted [6] on both continents and desertification is spreading in semi-arid regions of western India and China as well as north and east Africa. River basins like the Mekong, the Yangtze, the Ganges and the Brahmaputra will see larger and more frequent floods in the years ahead, followed by permanent drying trend as the Himalayan glaciers gradually melt.

The biggest news from this report, however, may be the anticipated price tag for climate change. Even a relatively modest temperature rise of 2.5 degrees Celsuis (6.25 degrees Fahrenheit), scientists say, would reduce global economic output by more than 2 percent (roughly $1.4 trillion annually).

The cost of climate change [4] includes higher food prices, increased healthcare spending, natural disasters like hurricanes, droughts and floods, the depletion of surface and groundwater and land loss due to the inundation of coastal areas from sea-level rise.

The first installment of the three- [7]part IPCC document [7], released in September, projected — rather conservatively, according to many experts — a possible 4 degrees Celsius (10 degrees Farhrenheit) rise in global temperatures (temperatures have already risen by about 0.8 degrees Celsius [2 degrees Fahrenheit]) and up to a three-foot rise in sea levels by the end of the century. Yet even these arguably lowball numbers attracted the fire of climate skeptics[8], who pointed to lower-than-expected global temperature increases over the past decade as evidence that global warming has “stalled.”

Today’s assessment will likely also spark controversy from both those who think it goes too far [9], and others who believe that it does not go far enough. The latter was the focus of a study earlier this month. A coalition of environmental groups argued that projections of the economic cost, like this IPCC report, routinely leave out many of the harder-to-quantify damages [10] that are brought on by political unrest and the destruction of ecosystems.

These reports also fail to take into account what would happen if certain tipping points are crossed, which could potentially send the earth’s climate system into a tailspin [10].


For example, if the permafrost thaws, as it has already begun to do in parts of the Arctic, and releases vast amounts of trapped methane gas, a greenhouse gas 20 times as potent as CO2 [12], the resulting temperature rise might soar off the current charts.

This uncertainty over methane gas underscores the difficulties that scientists face in devising reliable projections. This is particularly true when it comes to predicting regional climate shifts. Computer models sometimes arrive at strikingly different conclusions about how local weather patterns will change — hardly surprising given that the climate system is an immensely complex and interactive system.

In some cases, the best guide for what will happen is what is already taking place. On a recent trip to East Africa, I asked farmers how things have changed for them. They consistently told the same story: less predictable seasonal rains, maize crops withering and wells and rivers drying up. They are increasingly apprehensive about the future, as I report in Foreign Policy.

Not every place will be negatively affected, though. In the northern United States, including the upper Midwest, growing seasons are getting longer. Over the past century, they have increased by almost three weeks in North Dakota, where farmer John Nowatzki, whose family has grown cold-tolerant grains like wheat and barley for more than a hundred years, now plants warm-season crops [13] like corn and soybeans.

In the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, the sun-dependent wine business has been booming. Peach orchards are spreading north into lands that used to be too cold to grow the fruit.

On the other side of the continent, by contrast, California’s almonds, cherries and apricots are not getting enough critical winter-chill time for the trees to properly flower and fruit. Southern California is suffering from an historic drought. Parts of Texas are becoming too dry to cultivate and reverting to rangeland for grazing cattle.

As a rough rule of thumb, climate change will be a boon in some temperate areas, where production is more limited by cold than by heat. Warmer regions are another story, however.

“You can’t grow crops in a blast furnace [13],” said Bruce McCarl, a professor of agricultural economics at Texas A&M University and co-author of the current IPCC report. A blast furnace is precisely what large parts of the U.S. Southwest have become in recent summers, as successive droughts and record-breaking heat waves have scorched the region.

Though the IPPC report acknowledges the winners and losers, it insists that the damage from climate change will far outweigh the benefits. Yet McCarl, in an email interview, manages to be guardedly optimistic. “Climate change is inevitable,” he said, “and agriculture must adapt by changing planting dates, varieties, harvest dates, crop mix, livestock mix among other means.”

McCarl says that adaptation will be difficult in many parts of the globe. Like Mali, for example, where temperatures are increasing and precipitation is decreasing. He argues in his study on the West African nation that more must be done to develop heat-resistant grain varieties and more money must be spent on outreach programs that train farmers for the rigors of climate change.

The challenge for Mali and the world is to find new ways to grow the food that we need on a rapidly transforming planet. “The heat is on,” said U.N. Secretary-General [14] Ban Ki-moon when he launched the first installment of the IPCC report in September. “Now we must act [15].”

The question remains whether the world will act in time.

PHOTO (TOP): A stream of water trickles on the bottom of the Almaden Reservoir near San Jose, California, January 21, 2014. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

PHOTO (INSERT 1): A parched field that has yet to be planted is seen at a farm near Cantua Creek, California, February 14, 2014. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

PHOTO (INSERT 3): Trees emerge from the flooded Missouri River as seen from the Council Bluffs, Iowa, side of the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, June 21, 2011. Downtown Omaha, Nebraska, is in the background. REUTERS/Lane Hickenbottom

[1] Image:

[2] a report card on the state of the planet:

[3] Image:

[4] affected by coastal flooding and displaced:

[5] grain yields decline by as much as 2 percent:

[6] already being disrupted:

[7] first installment of the three-:

[8] attracted the fire of climate skeptics:

[9] who think it goes too far:

[10] routinely leave out many of the harder-to-quantify damages:

[11] Image:

[12] greenhouse gas 20 times as potent as CO2:

[13] plants warm-season crops:

[14] Secretary-General:

[15] Now we must act:

Climate change and human survival

Climate change and human survival
26 March 2014,

The IPCC report shows the need for “radical and transformative change”

Next week the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will publish its report on the impacts of global warming. Building on its recent update of the physical science of global warming,1 the IPCC’s new report should leave the world in no doubt about the scale and immediacy of the threat to human survival, health, and wellbeing.

The IPCC has already concluded that it is “virtually certain that human influence has warmed the global climate system” and that it is “extremely likely that more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951 to 2010” is anthropogenic.1 Its new report outlines the future threats of further global warming: increased scarcity of food and fresh water; extreme weather events; rise in sea level; loss of biodiversity; areas becoming uninhabitable; and mass human migration, conflict and violence. Leaked drafts talk of hundreds of millions displaced in a little over 80 years. This month, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) added its voice: “the well being of people of all nations [is] at risk.”2 Such comments reaffirm the conclusions of theLancet/UCL Commission: that climate change is “the greatest threat to human health of the 21st century.”3

The changes seen so far—massive arctic ice loss and extreme weather events, for example—have resulted from an estimated average temperature rise of 0.89°C since 1901. Further changes will depend on how much we continue to heat the planet. The release of just another 275 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide would probably commit us to a temperature rise of at least 2°C—an amount that could be emitted in less than eight years.4

“Business as usual” will increase carbon dioxide concentrations from the current level of 400 parts per million (ppm), which is a 40% increase from 280 ppm 150 years ago, to 936 ppm by 2100, with a 50:50 chance that this will deliver global mean temperature rises of more than 4°C. It is now widely understood that such a rise is “incompatible with an organised global community.”5

The IPCC warns of “tipping points” in the earth’s system, which, if crossed, could lead to a catastrophic collapse of interlinked human and natural systems. The AAAS concludes that there is now a “real chance of abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes with highly damaging impacts on people around the globe.”2

And this week a report from the World Meteorological Office (WMO) confirmed that extreme weather events are accelerating. WMO secretary general Michel Jarraud said, “There is no standstill in global warming . . . The laws of physics are non-negotiable.”6

This is an emergency. Immediate and transformative action is needed at every level: individual, local, and national; personal, political, and financial. Countries must set aside differences and work together as a global community for the common good, and in a way that is equitable and sensitive to particular challenges of the poorest countries and most vulnerable communities.

What we all do matters, not least in how it influences others. Those who profess to care for the health of people perhaps have the greatest responsibility to act. And there are signs of action being taken. Within the health system, organisations and health facilities are reducing their carbon footprint. Barts Health NHS Trust has, for example, reduced its energy bill by 43% since 2009. The president of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, himself a public health physician, has called for divestment from fossil fuels and investment in green energy.7 We should all respond.

Such action not only limits the threats of climate change, but could offer a health dividend, including potentially large financial savings for health systems. More active forms of transport and the consumption of less red meat will cut death and illness from cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, and cancer. Less air pollution will cut the global burden of asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cancer, and heart disease.3 The IPCC has incorporated this new understanding into its latest report on impacts, and we can expect to see this message flowing into the World Health Organization’s plans for action, to be discussed at its climate conference in August.

So what can health professionals do? Firstly, we should push our own organisations (universities, hospitals, primary care providers, medical societies, drug and device companies) to divest from fossil fuel industries completely and as quickly as possible, reinvest in renewable energy sources, and move to “renewable” energy suppliers. Secondly, we should each use whatever influence we have to change the minds and behaviour of others who are in positions of influence.

Thirdly, we need to build an alliance of medical and other health professionals to speak clearly to the public, the media, governments, and intergovernmental bodies to provide a strong and unified message—that climate change is real and is the result of human activity; that it is already affecting people around the world and is the greatest current threat to human health and survival; and that there are many positive and practical things we can do systematically and at scale to avert its worst effects.8

If we are to avoid catastrophic climate change and bequeath a sustainable planet worth living on, we must push, as individuals and as a profession, for a transformed, sustainable, and fair world.

1. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Working Group I contribution to the IPCC fifth assessment report climate change 2013: the physical science basis summary for policymakers. 2013.

2. American Association for the Advancement of Science. What we know: the reality, risks, and response to climate change. 2014.

3. UCL Institute for Global Health. UCL-Lancet Commission on managing the health effects of climate change. 2014.

4. Meinshausen M, Meinshausen N, Hare W, Raper SCB, Frieler K, Knutti R, et al. Greenhouse-gas emission targets for limiting global warming to 2°C. Nature2009;458:1158-62.
CrossRefMedlineWeb of Science

5. Anderson K, Bows A. Beyond “dangerous” climate change: emission scenarios for a new world. Phil Trans R Soc A2011;369:20-44.

6. World Meteorological Office. WMO annual climate statement highlights extreme events. 2014.

7. The World Bank. World Bank group president Jim Yong Kim remarks at Davos press conference. 2014.

8. The Global Climate and Health Alliance.


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Meeting climate targets may require reducing meat, dairy consumption

Meeting climate targets may require reducing meat, dairy consumption

March 30, 2014 Chalmers University of Technology

Greenhouse gas emissions from food production may threaten the UN climate target of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, according to research at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden.

On Monday 31 March the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) presents their report on the impacts of climate change.

Carbon dioxide emissions from the energy and transportation sectors currently account for the largest share of climate pollution. However, a study from Chalmers now shows that eliminating these emissions would not guarantee staying below the UN limit. Emissions from agriculture threaten to keep increasing as global meat and dairy consumption increases. If agricultural emissions are not addressed, nitrous oxide from fields and methane from livestock may double by 2070. This alone would make meeting the climate target essentially impossible.

"We have shown that reducing meat and dairy consumption is key to bringing agricultural climate pollution down to safe levels," says Fredrik Hedenus, one of the study authors. "Broad dietary change can take a long time. We should already be thinking about how we can make our food more climate friendly."

By 2070, there will be many more of us on this planet. Diets high in meat, milk, cheese, and other food associated with high emissions are expected to become more common. Because agricultural emissions are difficult and expensive to reduce via changes in production methods or technology, these growing numbers of people, eating more meat and dairy, entail increasing amounts of climate pollution from the food sector.

"These emissions can be reduced with efficiency gains in meat and dairy production, as well as with the aid of new technology," says co-author Stefan Wirsenius. "But the potential reductions from these measures are fairly limited and will probably not suffice to keep us within the climate limit, if meat and dairy consumption continue to grow."

Beef and lamb account for the largest agricultural emissions, relative to the energy they provide. By 2050, estimates indicate that beef and lamb will account for half of all agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, while only contributing 3 percent of human calorie intake. Cheese and other dairy products will account for about one quarter of total agricultural climate pollution.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Chalmers University of Technology.Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Climate change could make humans extinct, warns health expert

Warming "threat": The rate of change has never been as fast as it is today. 

Climate change could make humans extinct, warns health expert
March 31, 2014

The Earth is warming so rapidly that unless humans can arrest the trend, we risk becoming ''extinct'' as a species, a leading Australian health academic has warned.

Helen Berry, associate dean in the faculty of health at the University of Canberra, said while the Earth has been warmer and colder at different points in the planet's history, the rate of change has never been as fast as it is today.

''What is remarkable, and alarming, is the speed of the change since the 1970s, when we started burning a lot of fossil fuels in a massive way,'' she said. ''We can't possibly evolve to match this rate [of warming] and, unless we get control of it, it will mean our extinction eventually.''

Professor Berry is one of three leading academics who have contributed to the health chapter of a Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report due on Monday. She and co-authors Tony McMichael, of the Australian National University, and Colin Butler, of the University of Canberra, have outlined the health risks of rapid global warming in a companion piece for The Conversation, also published on Monday. The three warn that the adverse effects on population health and social stability have been ''missing from the discussion'' on climate change.

''Human-driven climate change poses a great threat, unprecedented in type and scale, to wellbeing, health and perhaps even to human survival,'' they write.

They predict that the greatest challenges will come from undernutrition and impaired child development from reduced food yields; hospitalisations and deaths due to intense heatwaves, fires and other weather-related disasters; and the spread of infectious diseases.

They warn the ''largest impacts'' will be on poorer and vulnerable populations, winding back recent hard-won gains of social development programs.

Projecting to an average global warming of 4 degrees by 2100, they say ''people won't be able to cope, let alone work productively, in the hottest parts of the year''.

They say that action on climate change would produce ''extremely large health benefits'', which would greatly outweigh the costs of curbing emission growth.

A leaked draft of the IPCC report notes that a warming climate would lead to fewer cold weather-related deaths but the benefits would be ''greatly'' outweighed by the impacts of more frequent heat extremes. Under a high emissions scenario, some land regions will experience temperatures four to seven degrees higher than pre-industrial times, the report said.

While some adaptive measures are possible, limits to humans' ability to regulate heat will affect health and potentially cut global productivity in the warmest months by 40 per cent by 2100.

Body temperatures rising above 38 degrees impair physical and cognitive functions, while risks of organ damage, loss of consciousness and death increase sharply above 40.6 degrees, the draft report said.

Farm crops and livestock will also struggle with thermal and water stress. Staple crops such as corn, rice, wheat and soybeans are assumed to face a temperature limit of 40-45 degrees, with temperature thresholds for key sowing stages near or below 35 degrees, the report said.

Borrowed Time on Disappearing Land

Bangladesh, with its low elevation and severe tropical storms, is among the countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, though it has contributed little to the emissions that are driving it. 
Borrowed Time on Disappearing Land
Facing Rising Seas, Bangladesh Confronts the Consequences of Climate Change


DAKOPE, Bangladesh — When a powerful storm destroyed her riverside home in 2009, Jahanara Khatun lost more than the modest roof over her head. In the aftermath, her husband died and she became so destitute that she sold her son and daughter into bonded servitude. And she may lose yet more.

Ms. Khatun now lives in a bamboo shack that sits below sea level about 50 yards from a sagging berm. She spends her days collecting cow dung for fuel and struggling to grow vegetables in soil poisoned by salt water. Climate scientists predict that this area will be inundated as sea levels rise and storm surges increase, and a cyclone or another disaster could easily wipe away her rebuilt life. But Ms. Khatun is trying to hold out at least for a while — one of millions living on borrowed time in this vast landscape of river islands, bamboo huts, heartbreaking choices and impossible hopes.

Like many of her neighbors, Nasrin Khatun, unrelated to Jahanara Khatun, navigates daily life in a disappearing landscape.

As the world’s top scientists meet in Yokohama, Japan, this week, at the top of the agenda is the prediction that global sea levels could rise as much as three feet by 2100. Higher seas and warmer weather will cause profound changes.

Climate scientists have concluded that widespread burning of fossil fuels is releasing heat-trapping gases that are warming the planet. While this will produce a host of effects, the most worrisome may be the melting of much of the earth’s ice, which is likely to raise sea levels and flood coastal regions.

Such a rise will be uneven because of gravitational effects and human intervention, so predicting its outcome in any one place is difficult. But island nations like the Maldives, Kiribati and Fiji may lose much of their land area, and millions of Bangladeshis will be displaced.

“There are a lot of places in the world at risk from rising sea levels, but Bangladesh is at the top of everybody’s list,” said Rafael Reuveny, a professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University at Bloomington. “And the world is not ready to cope with the problems.”

The effects of climate change have led to a growing sense of outrage in developing nations, many of which have contributed little to the pollution that is linked to rising temperatures and sea levels but will suffer the most from the consequences.Photo

A woman stood where her house was before Cyclone Aila destroyed it in 2009. Scientists expect rising sea levels to submerge 17 percent of Bangladesh's land and displace 18 million people in the next 40 years. 

At a climate conference in Warsaw in November, there was an emotional outpouring from countries that face existential threats, among them Bangladesh, which produces just 0.3 percent of the emissions driving climate change. Some leaders have demanded that rich countries compensate poor countries for polluting the atmosphere. A few have even said that developed countries should open their borders to climate migrants.

“It’s a matter of global justice,” said Atiq Rahman, executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Advanced Studies and the nation’s leading climate scientist. “These migrants should have the right to move to the countries from which all these greenhouse gases are coming. Millions should be able to go to the United States.”

River deltas around the globe are particularly vulnerable to the effects of rising seas, and wealthier cities like London, Venice and New Orleans also face uncertain futures. But it is the poorest countries with the biggest populations that will be hit hardest, and none more so than Bangladesh, one of the most densely populated nations in the world. In this delta, made up of 230 major rivers and streams, 160 million people live in a place one-fifth the size of France and as flat as chapati, the bread served at almost every meal.

A Perilous Position

Though Bangladesh has contributed little to industrial air pollution, other kinds of environmental degradation have left it especially vulnerable.

Bangladesh relies almost entirely on groundwater for drinking supplies because the rivers are so polluted. The resultant pumping causes the land to settle. So as sea levels are rising, Bangladesh’s cities are sinking, increasing the risks of flooding. Poorly constructed sea walls compound the problem.

The country’s climate scientists and politicians have come to agree that by 2050, rising sea levels will inundate some 17 percent of the land and displace about 18 million people, Dr. Rahman said.

Bangladeshis have already started to move away from the lowest-lying villages in the river deltas of the Bay of Bengal, scientists in Bangladesh say. People move for many reasons, and urbanization is increasing across South Asia, but rising tides are a big factor. Dr. Rahman’s research group has made a rough estimate from small surveys that as many as 1.5 million of the five million slum inhabitants in Dhaka, the capital, moved from villages near the Bay of Bengal.

The slums that greet them in Dhaka are also built on low-lying land, making them almost as vulnerable to being inundated as the land villagers left behind.

Ms. Khatun and her neighbors have lived through deadly cyclones — a synonym here for hurricane — and have seen the salty rivers chew through villages and poison fields. Rising seas are increasingly intruding into rivers, turning fresh water brackish. Even routine flooding then leaves behind salt deposits that can render land barren.

Clockwise from above: Workers repaired levees damaged by Cyclone Aila in 2009; the brick factory in Dhaka, the capital, where Ms. Khatun's young son works; erosion on Sandwip, an island along the southeastern coast of Bangladesh. Kadir van Lohuizen for The New York Times

Making matters worse, much of what the Bangladeshi government is doing to stave off the coming deluge — raising levees, dredging canals, pumping water — deepens the threat of inundation in the long term, said John Pethick, a former professor of coastal science at Newcastle University in England who has spent much of his retirement studying Bangladesh’s predicament. Rich nations are not the only ones to blame, he said.

In an analysis of decades of tidal records published in October, Dr. Pethick found that high tides in Bangladesh were rising 10 times faster than the global average. He predicted that seas in Bangladesh could rise as much as 13 feet by 2100, four times the global average. In an area where land is often a thin brown line between sky and river — nearly a quarter of Bangladesh is less than seven feet above sea level — such an increase would have dire consequences, Dr. Pethick said.

“The reaction among Bangladeshi government officials has been to tell me that I must be wrong,” he said. “That’s completely understandable, but it also means they have no hope of preparing themselves.”

Dr. Rahman said that he did not disagree with Mr. Pethick’s findings, but that no estimate was definitive. Other scientists have predicted more modest rises. For example, Robert E. Kopp, an associate director of the Rutgers Energy Institute at Rutgers University, said that data from nearby Kolkata, India, suggested that seas in the region could rise five to six feet by 2100.

“There is no doubt that preparations within Bangladesh have been utterly inadequate, but any such preparations are bound to fail because the problem is far too big for any single government,” said Tariq A. Karim, Bangladesh’s ambassador to India. “We need a regional and, better yet, a global solution. And if we don’t get one soon, the Bangladeshi people will soon become the world’s problem, because we will not be able to keep them.”

Mr. Karim estimated that as many as 50 million Bangladeshis would flee the country by 2050 if sea levels rose as expected.

Disappearing Land

Losing Everything

Already, signs of erosion are everywhere in the Ganges Delta — the world’s largest delta, which empties much of the water coming from the Himalayas. There are brick foundations torn in half, palm trees growing out of rivers and rangy cattle grazing on island pastures the size of putting greens. Fields are dusted white with salt.

Even without climate change, Bangladesh is among the most vulnerable places in the world to bad weather: The V-shaped Bay of Bengal funnels cyclones straight into the country’s fan-shaped coastline.

Some scientists believe that rising temperatures will lead to more extreme weather worldwide, including stronger and more frequent cyclones in the Bay of Bengal. And rising seas will make any storm more dangerous because flooding will become more likely.

Bangladesh has done much to protect its population by creating an early-warning system and building at least 2,500 concrete storm shelters. The result has been a vast reduction in storm-related deaths. While Cyclone Bhola in 1970 killed as many as 550,000 people, Cyclone Aila in 2009 killed 300. The deadliest part of the storm was the nearly 10-foot wall of water that roared through villages in the middle of the afternoon.

The poverty of people like Ms. Khatun makes them particularly vulnerable to storms. When Aila hit, Ms. Khatun was home with her husband, parents and four children. A nearby berm collapsed, and their mud and bamboo hut washed away in minutes. Unable to save her belongings, Ms. Khatun put her youngest child on her back and, with her husband, fought through surging waters to a high road. Her parents were swept away.

“After about a kilometer, I managed to grab a tree,” said Abddus Satter, Ms. Khatun’s father. “And I was able to help my wife grab on as well. We stayed on that tree for hours.”

The couple eventually shifted to the roof of a nearby hut. The family reunited on the road the next day after the children spent a harrowing night avoiding snakes that had sought higher ground, too. They drank rainwater until rescuers arrived a day or two later with bottled water, food and other supplies.

The ordeal took a severe toll on Ms. Khatun’s husband, whose health soon deteriorated. To pay for his treatment and the cost of rebuilding their hut, the family borrowed money from a loan shark. In return, Ms. Khatun and her three older children, then 10, 12 and 15, promised to work for seven months in a nearby brickmaking factory. She later sold her 11- and 13-year-old children to the owner of another brick factory, this one in Dhaka, for $450 to pay more debts. Her husband died four years after the storm.

In an interview, one of her sons, Mamun Sardar, now 14, said he worked from dawn to dusk carrying newly made bricks to the factory oven.

He said he missed his mother, “but she lives far away.”

At a brickmaking factory in Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital, Mamun Sardar works long hours to pay his family’s debts.

Impossible Hopes

Discussions about the effects of climate change in the Ganges Delta often become community events. In the village of Choto Jaliakhali, where Ms. Khatun lives, dozens of people said they could see that the river was rising. Several said they had been impoverished by erosion, which has cost many villagers their land.

Muhammad Moktar Ali said he could not think about the next storm because all he had in the world was his hut and village. “We don’t know how to support ourselves if we lost this,” he said, gesturing to his gathered neighbors. “It is God who will help us survive.”

Surveys show that residents of the delta do not want to migrate, Dr. Rahman said. Moving to slums in already-crowded cities is their least preferred option.

But cities have become the center of Bangladesh’s textile industry, which is now the source of 80 percent of the country’s exports, 45 percent of its industrial employment and 15 percent of its gross domestic product.

In the weeks after the storm, the women of Dakope found firewood by wading into the raging river and pushing their toes into the muddy bottom. They walked hours to buy drinking water. After rebuilding the village’s berm and their own hut, Shirin Aktar and her husband, Bablu Gazi, managed to get just enough of a harvest to survive from their land, which has become increasingly infertile from salt water. Some plots that once sustained three harvests can now support just one; others are entirely barren.

After two hungry years, the couple gave up on farming and moved to the Chittagong, Bangladesh’s second-largest city, leaving their two children behind with Mr. Gazi’s mother.

Mr. Gazi found work immediately as a day laborer, mostly digging foundations. Ms. Aktar searched for a job as a seamstress, but headaches and other slum-induced health problems have so incapacitated her that the couple is desperate to return to Dakope.

“I don’t want to stay here for too long,” Mr. Gazi said. “If we can save some money, then we’ll go back. I’ll work on a piece of land and try to make it fertile again.”

But the chances of finding fertile land in his home village, where the salty rivers have eaten away acre upon acre, are almost zero.

Dozens of people gathered in the narrow mud alley outside Mr. Gazi’s room as he spoke. Some told similar stories of storms, loss and hope, and many nodded as Mr. Gazi spoke of his dreams of returning to his doomed village.

“All of us came here because of erosions and cyclones,” said Noakhali, a hollow-eyed 30-year-old with a single name who was wearing the traditional skirt of the delta. “Not one of us actually wants to live here.”

Produced by Catherine Spangler, David Furst, Hannah Fairfield, Jacqueline Myint, Jeremy White and Shreeya Sinha.

Climate Change began with Civilization

Climate Change began with Civilization
Published on Mar 25, 2014
Climate scientist Steve Vavrus discusses the evidence that climate change began with the advent of agriculture - a theory known as Ruddiman's Hypothesis.

Game Over for the Climate

Game Over for the Climate
JAMES HANSEN, May 9, 2012

GLOBAL warming isn’t a prediction. It is happening. That is why I was so troubled to read a recent interview with President Obama in Rolling Stone in which he said that Canada would exploit the oil in its vast tar sands reserves “regardless of what we do.”

If Canada proceeds, and we do nothing, it will be game over for the climate.

Canada’s tar sands, deposits of sand saturated with bitumen, contain twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in our entire history. If we were to fully exploit this new oil source, and continue to burn our conventional oil, gas and coal supplies, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere eventually would reach levels higher than in the Pliocene era, more than 2.5 million years ago, when sea level was at least 50 feet higher than it is now. That level of heat-trapping gases would assure that the disintegration of the ice sheets would accelerate out of control. Sea levels would rise and destroy coastal cities. Global temperatures would become intolerable. Twenty to 50 percent of the planet’s species would be driven to extinction. Civilization would be at risk.

That is the long-term outlook. But near-term, things will be bad enough. Over the next several decades, the Western United States and the semi-arid region from North Dakota to Texas will develop semi-permanent drought, with rain, when it does come, occurring in extreme events with heavy flooding. Economic losses would be incalculable. More and more of the Midwest would be a dust bowl. California’s Central Valley could no longer be irrigated. Food prices would rise to unprecedented levels.

If this sounds apocalyptic, it is. This is why we need to reduce emissions dramatically. President Obama has the power not only to deny tar sands oil additional access to Gulf Coast refining, which Canada desires in part for export markets, but also to encourage economic incentives to leave tar sands and other dirty fuels in the ground.

The global warming signal is now louder than the noise of random weather, as I predicted would happen by now in the journal Science in 1981. Extremely hot summers have increased noticeably. We can say with high confidence that the recent heat waves in Texas and Russia, and the one in Europe in 2003, which killed tens of thousands, were not natural events — they were caused by human-induced climate change.

We have known since the 1800s that carbon dioxide traps heat in the atmosphere. The right amount keeps the climate conducive to human life. But add too much, as we are doing now, and temperatures will inevitably rise too high. This is not the result of natural variability, as some argue. The earth is currently in the part of its long-term orbit cycle where temperatures would normally be cooling. But they are rising — and it’s because we are forcing them higher with fossil fuel emissions.

The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen from 280 parts per million to 393 p.p.m. over the last 150 years. The tar sands contain enough carbon — 240 gigatons — to add 120 p.p.m. Tar shale, a close cousin of tar sands found mainly in the United States, contains at least an additional 300 gigatons of carbon. If we turn to these dirtiest of fuels, instead of finding ways to phase out our addiction to fossil fuels, there is no hope of keeping carbon concentrations below 500 p.p.m. — a level that would, as earth’s history shows, leave our children a climate system that is out of their control.

We need to start reducing emissions significantly, not create new ways to increase them. We should impose a gradually rising carbon fee, collected from fossil fuel companies, then distribute 100 percent of the collections to all Americans on a per-capita basis every month. The government would not get a penny. This market-based approach would stimulate innovation, jobs and economic growth, avoid enlarging government or having it pick winners or losers. Most Americans, except the heaviest energy users, would get more back than they paid in increased prices. Not only that, the reduction in oil use resulting from the carbon price would be nearly six times as great as the oil supply from the proposed pipeline from Canada, rendering the pipeline superfluous, according to economic models driven by a slowly rising carbon price.

But instead of placing a rising fee on carbon emissions to make fossil fuels pay their true costs, leveling the energy playing field, the world’s governments are forcing the public to subsidize fossil fuels with hundreds of billions of dollars per year. This encourages a frantic stampede to extract every fossil fuel through mountaintop removal, longwall mining, hydraulic fracturing, tar sands and tar shale extraction, and deep ocean and Arctic drilling.

President Obama speaks of a “planet in peril,” but he does not provide the leadership needed to change the world’s course. Our leaders must speak candidly to the public — which yearns for open, honest discussion — explaining that our continued technological leadership and economic well-being demand a reasoned change of our energy course. History has shown that the American public can rise to the challenge, but leadership is essential.

The science of the situation is clear — it’s time for the politics to follow. This is a plan that can unify conservatives and liberals, environmentalists and business. Every major national science academy in the world has reported that global warming is real, caused mostly by humans, and requires urgent action. The cost of acting goes far higher the longer we wait — we can’t wait any longer to avoid the worst and be judged immoral by coming generations.

Welcome to the Rest of Our Lives

Welcome to the Rest of Our Lives
Published on Jul 9, 2012
Peter Sinclair, who runs the blog Climate Denial Crock of the Week, just put together another fantastic film, this one a compilation of the recent extreme weather events around the U.S. The film’s title, taken from a quote by Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, is a scarily accurate and simple description of our new reality: “Welcome to the rest of our lives.”

Extreme Weather

Denial of ecological damage could lead to civilizational collapse

Denial of ecological damage could lead to civilizational collapse.
Kenneth Worthy, March 25, 2014, The Green Mind

At a conference last week, a colleague and I were having a late-night chat over drinks when the topic of the major changes expected from global climate change came up. I offered that wealthy people will probably do fine while the masses will be severely impacted by disease, displacement, or widespread starvation. My friend, a climate-change expert, differed. The systemic changes in our mid-term futures—perhaps in the next several decades—will likely be so severe, he said, that entire economic systems may begin to fail, leaving the wealthy to die or live under much-compromised conditions, along with others. Only major changes to the way our economy works now—the burning of fossil fuels, more equitable and modest distribution of resources, less flying—will ward off such a dismal future.

A perfect storm of shortages and crises may be brewing.[i] That’s the unvarnished news from someone who studies these things every day.

A recent news report underlined this dire possibility.[ii] A new study carried out with support from both NASA and the US National Science Foundation concludes that global industrial civilization could collapse in just decades from now, driven mainly by unsustainable resource use and growing inequalities of wealth. It wouldn’t be the first time that an “advanced, sophisticated, complex, and creative” civilization collapsed. Civilizations usually go through cyclic trends. The study examines several factors that can determine the risk of collapse: population, climate, water, agriculture, and energy.

Creating an Unstable Society: Resource Pressures & Economic Inequality

When resources are stretched too thin and society simultaneously stratifies into wealthy Elites who control much of the economy and a lower class of Commoners, history shows that the time is ripe for massive failures of the systems society depends on. The elite are in control, but they’re increasingly cut off from reality and the life conditions of the lower classes: resources and the people who work to create products from them. They become inured to reports of problems (such as global climate change or biodiversity loss) and believe that government and industry will make the adjustments necessary for them to maintain their lifestyles.

That lack of action that results when people are cut off from nature and the consequences of their actions lies at the root of the global environmental crisis, as I explain in my book Invisible Nature: Healing the Destructive Divide between People and the Environment.[iii]

Excessive strain on resources and extreme social inequality have driven the collapses of complex, advanced societies throughout history: the Roman, Han, Mauryan, and Gupta Empires, and the cities of Mesopotamia. Today, we’re reaching the limits of many of Earth’s “ecological services” including clean water, forests, and fisheries. And we’re living in a situation of increasing economic disparities, particularly in America, as explained so cogently in the recent film, Inequality for All.

According to this report and similar ones, we may be able to avert disaster or mitigate it, but doing so will take a concerted effort in societies across the globe.

Facing the Bad News

Unfortunately, most of us will face such news with denial. We’ll go on with our lives and pretend that everything will be OK. We relatively wealthy people can ignore the signals from below that the planet is nearing crisis.

There is of course some uncertainty because nobody can predict the future perfectly. But even if society doesn’t truly collapse, at the very least we’re in for some serious problems due to global climate change. Some of them are already happening, with severe droughts affecting the US heartland and severe storms already battering our coasts—Hurricane Katrina flooding New Orleans and Hurricane Sandy hitting New York and New Jersey—and expected to just get worse if we don’t act.

One big problem with denial is that in the meantime, the problems only get worse and harder to deal with. If we had begun to respond in earnest to global climate change a decade or two ago, the transition would have been easier and the effects of our changes more impactful. It’s like saving for retirement: money you put in during your twenties gains more compound interest over time (and builds more value) than money you set aside later in your career. As the years go by and we do little about climate change, more carbon goes into the atmosphere and we push the planet further toward the brink; we’ll have to make greater changes more quickly to stave off the worst consequences. Slowing the train is easier if you start further away from the broken bridge.

There are also compelling moral reasons to push past our denial and act now and every day. Just ask yourself: do we have the right to bequeath a damaged, hobbled planet to future generations? Their lives will be poorer and more difficult due to our lack of action today. Less fresh, clean water will be available. Agriculture will produce less in drought-stricken zones.

There’s also a huge potential psychological payoff to accepting the facts and changing our lives in response: feelings of empowerment. Rather than passively accepting doom or trying not to think about it, we can actively work to make the world better for ourselves and our descendants. Acting communally—in neighborhoods, villages, towns, companies, and non-profit groups—is even more energizing. Research shows that people are more willing to invest their time and energy in a cause when they see others doing so, too.

Doing It, Now

Not all the change is hard. There are several things you can do starting today to help ward off disaster: fly less, drive less, buy less stuff you don’t need, and eat less meat. These are the biggest burdens most of us place on the environment. Former Vice President Al Gore has a lot of other suggestions about helping solve global climate change.

As I wrote in a previous post, our knowledge that we’re hurting the planet and future generations with our daily lives could also be taking its toll on our mental health, just as Stanley Milgram’s obedience experiment subjects experienced all sorts of ill consequences of the damage they were inflicting: seizures, uncontrolled laughing, and copious sweating. Responding substantially to our climate change and fighting for more just and equitable economic policy might just make you happier and give you greater life satisfaction. Doing what I can about environmental problems and being open to new ideas for changing my lifestyle choices has made it easier for me to confront the grave news I hear every day about the worsening condition of our abused planet.

Many people feel despair in response to the news that we may be bringing about our own civilization’s demise. But as I wrote here, we can choose to turn despair and anguish into action if we realize that feelings of pain for our world are natural and healthy and that pain is only morbid if we deny it. Unblocking our feelings about environmental degradation can clear the mind and help us to become whole again—even as we face (and work on healing) our contaminated, heating world. Acknowledging that our current lifestyles are part of the problem has the unexpected side benefit of letting us feel more connected with the planet and its people, and it highlights our individual potential for contributing to a healthier, more sustainable world.

[i] John Beddington (Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK government). “FOOD, ENERGY, WATER AND THE CLIMATE: A PERFECT STORM OF GLOBAL EVENTS?”

[ii] Nafeez Ahmed, “Nasa-funded study: industrial civilisation headed for 'irreversible collapse'?,” The UK Guardian, March 14, 2014.

[iii] Kenneth Worthy, Invisible Nature: Healing the Destructive Divide between People and the Environment (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 2013).

Food and Water Wars

Food and Water Wars
by Robert Hunziker and Jack Hunziker / March 29th, 2014

The “warming of the Arctic” could become one of the greatest catastrophes in human history, even exceeding the notoriety of Adolf Hitler and Genghis Khan. Likely, it will impact more people than the combined effect of those brutal leaders. In fact, global warming may eventually be categorized as the greatest threat of all time, even greater than the Black Death’s 75-to-200 million dead, circa 1350.

The integrity of Arctic sea ice is essential to prevent the risks of (1) methane outbreak and/or (2) fierce, damaging weather throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Regrettably, the Arctic “sea ice area” registered a seasonal record low on March 10, 2014 at 12.95 million square kilometers. Whereas, ‘maximum ice growth’ is usually expected in March, not all-time seasonal lows immediately preceding the onset of summer.1

Extreme weather events, as a consequence of the warming Arctic, will likely wreak havoc over the entire Northern Hemisphere, causing severe droughts, freezing cold spells, and widespread flooding (some early evidence of this is already at hand.)

These combinations of extreme weather events have the potential to rival the damage of the great mythical floods. Already, Eastern Europe had a taste of extreme climate change in 2013 when a once-in-500-year flood hit hard, wiping out vast swaths of cropland.

In the future, when shortages of food and water become more commonplace because of extreme climactic change, it is probable that desperate groups of roughnecks will battle for food and water, similar to the dystopia depicted in Mad Max (Warner Bros. 1979) the story of a breakdown of society where bandit tribes battle over the last remaining droplets of petroleum.

Over time, climate change is setting the stage for worldwide wars over food & water.

Origin of Food and Water Wars

Research conducted by Jennifer Francis, PhD, Rutgers University – Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, shows that Arctic sea ice loss, with its consequent warming, impacts upper-level atmospheric circulation, radically distorting jet streams above 30,000 feet, which adversely affects weather patterns throughout the Northern Hemisphere.2

“Gradual warming of the globe may not be noticed by most, but everyone – either directly or indirectly – will be affected to some degree by changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events as green-house gases continue to accumulate in the atmosphere.”2

Scientists are already cognizant of how badly a warming Arctic impacts subsistence, for example, according to the Arctic Methane Emergency Group: “The weather extremes … are causing real problems for farmers… World food production can be expected to decline, with mass starvation inevitable. The price of food will rise inexorably, producing global unrest and making food security even more of an issue.”3

“The nexus between climate change, human migration, and instability constitutes … a transcendent challenge. The conjunction of these undercurrents was most recently visible during the Arab Spring, where food availability, increasing food prices, drought, and poor access to water, as well as urbanization and international migration contributed to the pressures that underpinned the political upheaval.”4

As for example, Syria suffered from devastating droughts in the decade leading up to its rebellion as the country’s total water resources cut in half between 2002 and 2008. As a result, the drier winters hit Syria, which, at the time, was the top wheat-growing region of the eastern Mediterranean, thereby, exacerbating its crisis.

In 2009 the UN and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies reported that more than 800,000 Syrians lost their entire means of livelihood because of drought.5

In the recent past, ferocious weather conditions have struck all across the planet, for example: a once every 500-year flood in Eastern Europe, a once in 50-year drought in the U.S. Midwest, the worst drought in 200 years in China, affecting more people than the entire population of North America; the worst flooding in Pakistan in 100 years (a continuous deluge lasting for over a month); the most costly flash flood damage in Canada’s modern history; Syria’s drought has been classified as the worst in the history of the Fertile Crescent while Brazil is experiencing it’s worst drought in decades, the list goes on, and on, and on.
Merciless weather is lashing out with torrential storms and embedded droughts like never before. No other period of time in modern history comes close.

The reason behind the weather dilemma has everything to do with global warming in the Arctic, which is warming 2-3 times faster than elsewhere on the planet. In turn, the Arctic, which serves as the thermostat for the entire Northern Hemisphere, is disrupting the jet streams, which, as a result, influences weather patterns throughout the hemisphere, causing droughts and torrential storms to become “embedded or stalled” for long duration, e.g., Colorado’s torrential downpour and massive flooding in 2013, which was as fierce as superabundant coastal tropical storms but not at all like mid-latitude, middle America storms.

History Repeats

Once food and water shortages become widespread as a result of a more extreme and unpredictable climate behavior, it is highly probable that people all across the planet will become so disgusted and distraught that they’ll be looking for blood.

In that regard, history shows that, during such times, desperation overrides prudence. Therefore, hiding behind security gates and armed troops won’t make a difference, similar to the late 18th century French Revolution when masses of citizens used pitchforks, stones, and sticks to overwhelm the king’s formidable armed forces. At the time, France was one of the mightiest forces in the world, but like toy soldiers, its army fell at the hands of its own citizens.

In the end, civilizations cannot, and have not, survived the forces of desperation born of starvation.
In the case of Paris, two years of poor grain harvests because of bad weather conditions set the stage for revolution. On June 21, 1791 the king, queen, and their attendants fled their Paris residences, whisked away in carriages, as masses of enraged, starving protestors swarmed the city streets.

The forewarnings had been there years beforehand. On August 20, 1986 Finance Minister Calonne informed King Louis XVI that the royal finances were insolvent (because of costly foreign wars- like the U.S. today) Hard times hit (also similar to U.S. today) Six months later the First Assembly of Notables met, resisting imposition of taxes and fiscal reforms (similar to the U.S. right wing today) It was nearly three years later April 27th, 1789 when the Reveillon Riot in Paris, caused by low wages (like U.S. wages today, Wal-Mart, McDonalds) and food shortages (not in U.S. yet), led to 25 deaths by troops.

Thereafter, the public’s anger grew to a fever pitch. On July the 14th rioters stormed the most notorious jail for political prisoners in all of France, the Bastille. By July 17th the “Great Fear” had begun to taken command of the streets as the peasantry revolted against their socio-economic system.

One of their prime targets was Queen Marie Antoinette, the Dauphin of the world’s most powerful monarchy, whose last spoken words were delivered to Henri Sanson, her executioner, as she accidentally stepped on his foot upon climbing the steps of the scaffold: “Monsieur, I ask your pardon. I did not do it on purpose,” before losing her head in front of tens of thousands of cheering Parisians, screaming “Vive la Nation!”

Flash forward in time into the future, and imagine the backlash in the country if food shortages hit America because of the failure of the government to set policies to convert fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. As such, the US could have led the entire world to conversion to renewable sources of energy. As things stand, it is a “missed opportunity.”

In stark contrast to America’s reluctance, Scotland’s energy sources are already 40% renewables and will be 100% by 2020.

Food and Civil Disturbances

According to a landmark study, “Food insecurity is both cause and a consequence of political violence.” Henk-Jan Brinkman and Cullen S. Hendrix, Food Insecurity and Conflict, The World Development Report 2011.
The link between high grain prices and riots is well established. For example, according to The Economist magazine (December 2007), when high grain prices sparked riots in 48 countries, the magazine’s food- price index was at its highest point since originating in 1845.

As for a more current situation, the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011 brought political and economic issues to the forefront, but behind the scenes, climate stress played a big role.

According to Marco Lagif of the New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI) in Technology Review, MIT, August 2011, the single factor that triggers riots around the world is the price of food. The evidence comes from data gathered by the United Nations that plots the price of food against time, the so-called Food Price Index of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN.

On December 13, 2011, four days before Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in Tunisia, sparking the Arab Spring riots, NECSI contacted the U.S. government, warning that global food prices were about to cross the tipping point when almost anything can trigger riots.

Accordingly, the NECSI study was presented, by invitation, at the World Economic Forum in Davos and was featured as one of the top ten discoveries in science in 2011 by Wired magazine.

“Definitely, it is one of the causes of the Arab Spring,” says Shenggen Fan, director-general of the International Food Policy Research Institute. As well, it is increasingly clear that the climate models that predicted the countries surrounding the Mediterranean would start to dry out are correct.6

As for Syria, it is a prime example of the drama of changing climatic conditions and the consequences. The country’s farmlands north and east of the Euphrates River constitute the breadbasket of the Middle East. Unfortunately, up to 60 percent of Syria’s land experienced one of the worst droughts on record from 2006-11.
In Syria’s northeast and the south, nearly 75 percent suffered total crop failure. Herders in the northeast lost 85 percent of their livestock. According to the UN, 800,000 Syrians had their livelihoods totally wiped out, moving to the cities to find work or to refugee camps, similar to what happened in Paris in the late 18th century.

Furthermore, the drought pushed three million Syrians into extreme poverty. According to Abeer Etefa of the World Food Program, “Food inflation in Syria remains the main issue for citizens,” eerily similar to what occurred in France in the late 18th century just prior to it’s revolution.

The French Revolution Redux, in America?

As countries like the United States hastily continue their pursuit of policies dedicated to ‘energy independence’ by fracking, using extreme pressure to force toxic chemicals underground to suck up every last remnant of oil and gas, the warming of the Arctic is elevated, and the jet streams become more distorted, resulting in extremely harsh, deadly and unpredictable weather systems, pummeling the entire Northern Hemisphere.

Eventually, the outcome leads to shortages of food, and like a flashback of 18th century France, people starve or fight.

NSIDC, National Snow and Ice Data Center, Boulder, CO. []
Jennifer A. Francis and Stephen J. Vavrus, Evidence Linking Arctic Amplification to Extreme Weather in Mid-Latitudes, Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 39, L06801, 17 March 2012. [] []
Source: Arctic Methane Emergency Group. []
Michael Werz and Max Hofman, Climate Change, Migration, and Conflict, The Arab Spring and Climate Change, Climate and Security Correlations Series, Feb. 2013. []
Robert F. Worth, Earth is Parched Where Syrian Farms Thrived, New York Times, Oct. 13, 2010. []
“Human-Caused Climate Change Already a Major Factor in more Frequent Mediterranean Droughts,” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, October 27, 2011. []