Shared from Terra Informa’s report on the IPCC Conference on Cities and Climate Change, held in Edmonton, Canada, in 2017.
“Turning the US into a Jurassic Park run by dinosaur energy”03/29/2017
US President Trump recently signed an executive order to roll back US climate policies. “Donald Trump’s attempt to turn the US into a Jurassic Park run by dinosaur energy will eventually fail,” comments Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK).
“However, it will hamper domestic climate action aiming at reducing emissions for a while,” says Schellnhuber.
“Internationally though, it will most probably close the ranks among the climate protection actors who will see Trump’s intervention as a wake-up call for transformation. Not least, the decree will backfire on the US economy in its quest for global competitiveness.
“Weblink to New York Times coverage of Trump’s decision: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/28/climate/trump-executive-order-climate-change.html?ref=todayspaper
Weblink to a new study on how climate change is linked to extreme weather also in the US: https://www.pik-potsdam.de/news/weather-extremes-humans-likely-influence-giant-airstreams
22nd December 2016 Commercialisation has poisoned all areas of contemporary life, and together with its partner in crime, consumerism, is the principal cause of man-made climate change.
Operating under the suffocating shadow of neo-liberalism, the market forces of commercialisation act blindly and indiscriminately. The presiding deity is money; the goal of endeavour quick profit and limitless growth – no matter what the human or environmental costs may be. And the consequences to both are great, long-term and far-reaching: global climate change, with its numerous effects, and the wholesale destruction of the natural environment being the most significant.
The Earth is our home, “our sister”, as Pope Francis calls it in his ground-breaking Encyclical letter, “On Care For Our Common Home”. But we are poisoning and raping her; polluting the rivers and oceans, destroying the rainforests, coral reefs and natural habitats; the treasures she has given us to care for. It is unchecked human behaviour that is lighting the various fires of destruction. Unless there is a change in the unsustainable, overindulgent way we are living, the
prospects for the planet are bleak.
The interrelated environmental catastrophes are the greatest threat to human and non-human life, and they affect the economic and social crises facing humanity. And they highlight the need for a new imagination to meet the challenges we face.
Our abuse of the Earth, together with what many believe to be a growing threat of nuclear confrontation, has, as Noam Chomsky makes clear, brought about the most serious crisis in human history. It has motivated millions of concerned people throughout the world to unite against government apathy and destructive actions, but is being met with complacency and arrogance by ideologically-driven politicians and the corrupt corporations, who, to a greater or lesser extent, determine policy.
Pope Francis expresses the view of many when he says that, “the Earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth”. He goes on to point out that “we may well be leaving to coming generations debris, desolation and filth”, resulting from the wide-ranging effects of climate change and global warming.
While man-made climate change resulting from the burning of fossil fuels is due to various factors, a lifestyle based on rapacious desire for all things material is the key underlying cause. This is made clear in a University College London (UCL) research paper, which states that, “although population and demographics are considerable factors in carbon emissions and consequent global warming, consumption patterns remain the most significant factor. It adds that consumers, rather than people, cause climate change,” although in the world of big business and among some governments these appear to be synonymous terms…
A world of exacerbated consumption
Consumerism is the life-blood of capitalism. It is an engineered pattern of behaviour that functions and is perpetuated through the constant agitation of desire for pleasure, a transient state that is sold as happiness.
The consumer culture has been manufactured. Human beings are not naturally rapacious but have been coerced into it. Through manipulative advertising and marketing strategies corporations have promoted the false idea that happiness and contentment will be discovered on the next shopping excursion, inside the packaging of the new gadget or video game.
The designers of the consumer game know well that no such peace will be discovered in the material world of make-believe, and so discontent is guaranteed, prompting the next desire-fuelled outing. And so the cycle of inner emptiness, perpetual longing and dependence on transient appeasement through consumption is maintained…
The consequences of this are ever-greater energy demands, oceans of landfill waste, deforestation, contaminated air that kills millions every year, and widespread environmental destruction.
Consumerism is a Western way of life, another toxic export – together with fast food, obesity and diabetes – that is now finding its way into the cities of some developing countries. It is not the billions living in poverty in the towns and villages of sub-Saharan Africa, or rural India and China, who are indulging in the voracious consumption that is crippling the planet. The poorest 50 per cent of the world’s population is, according to Oxfam, responsible for a mere 10 per cent of “total lifestyle consumption emissions”. The cult of consumerism is predominantly the pastime of the spoilt and bored – with access to easy credit – in the developed nations of the world. Europe and America, for example, with a mere 12 per cent of global population, account for over 60 per cent of worldwide consumption…
Unrestrained consumption and perpetual growth are essential to the success and profitability of the neo-liberal project, which without such consumerism would collapse. And so insatiable desire for material possessions is virtually insisted upon by governments obsessed with economic growth, and businesses that depend on sales. This itch, which is constantly excited by persuasive advertising, a culture of comparison and narrow definitions of the self, feeds an urge to continually consume…
The extreme capitalist system that is demanding such behaviour is inseparable from wealth and income inequality, climate change, displacement of people and environmental degradation. All of these are interconnected and increasingly recognised to be so…
All forms of life are mistreated in such a world because nothing has any inherent value; everything has fallen prey to the curse of commercialisation and is seen as a commodity, including human beings. Rivers, valleys, forests and mountains all are commodified. They are bought up by large companies who see such natural treasures in terms of an end product, a source of profit when sold in the shopping centres and homogenous high streets of our towns and cities.
In the rush to drain the Earth of all goodness, huge numbers of indigenous people are displaced, the land ruined and beauty lost. Where the corporate hand of mankind is found, all too often one witnesses exploitation, destruction and waste…
Impelled by a restless appetite to conquer everyone and own everything, “capitalism,” as Naomi Klein rightly states, “is at war with life on earth”. And if triumph is to be judged in terms of destruction and degradation, at the moment it is winning.
Heating up the planet
Climate change brought about by greenhouse gases and the resulting warming of the planet dates from the industrial revolution at the end of the 19th Century. According to analysis by the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), “the average global temperature on Earth has increased by about 0.8 degrees Celsius (1.4 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times”. Two thirds of this increase took place since 1975, and it’s intensifying. Nine out 10 of the hottest years on record occurred since 2000 and, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), this sharp increase is “due to the observed increase in anthropogenic [man-made] greenhouse gas concentrations”.
As Naomi Klein puts it, climate change “has less to do with carbon [and other polluting emissions] than with capitalism”. An extreme form of capitalism that only prospers when certain negative aspects of human behavior are elicited: selfish, materialistic tendencies, which the ideological disciples, who benefit from this divisive way of living and believe in its dogma are committed to encouraging. Honing in on Ms Klein’s statement further, we can say, as Pope Francis, UCL and others have concluded, that the most significant cause of man-made climate change is the food and drink of capitalism – consumerism.
The logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness
Worldwide, awareness of climate change varies from region to region. In a Gallop poll of 128 countries taken in 2008, it was found that overall 61 per cent of the global population were aware of global warming, of which only 11 per cent felt they “knew a great deal about it”. Europe was the region where awareness was highest, 88 per cent being aware, with 70 per cent knowing “something about it”. This figure drops in the Americas (North and South) to 64 per cent and plummets to 45 per cent in Asia, 37 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa and 42 per cent in North Africa and the Middle East.
Even where some acceptance of climate change exists, people are often reluctant to change their lifestyle and make the required sacrifices – for example, stick with their existing mobile phone, buy less stuff, reduce the use of electricity/gas, give up that diesel car or use public transport.
Awareness of climate change is a beginning, but understanding of the underlying causes and effects is needed to change behaviour, as well as a major shift away from selfishness and greed. Such tendencies create separation – from oneself, from others and from the natural environment – desensitize us and lead to complacency. These ingrained patterns of behaviour are strangling the purity out of the Earth and stifling the humanity in us…
Knitted firmly into the heart of this culture and the crises facing humanity is neo-liberalism – an unjust system that needs to be laid to rest and replaced by one that flows from the recognition that humanity is a family and that all human beings have the same needs and the same rights to live secure, dignified lives…
Moving away from the present unjust economic model would create the possibility of purification taking place: purification first and foremost of us, of the way we think and act…
Purification of our internal lives, in which we break the addiction to material goods, cease to look externally for happiness and reduce our levels of consumption, will lead to purification of the natural environment.
A massive education programme is needed to bring about such a shift in thinking and behaviour, one that inspires a shift in consciousness away from the idea of the individual as the centre of all activity, determinedly competing with everyone else, to recognition of one’s place within the whole and the responsibility that goes with that…
Otherwise, the model of consumerism will continue to advance, and with it the further contamination of the Earth, the destruction of ecosystems and the heightened threat to human life.
The choice is ours.
© Scoop Media
It’s not normal, and it’s happening again. For the second year in a row in late December and for the second time in as many months, temperatures in the high Arctic will be freakishly high compared to normal. Computer models project that on Thursday, three days before Christmas, the temperature near the North Pole will be an astronomical 40-50 degrees warmer-than-normal and approaching 32 degrees, the melting point.
1/09/2016 – Science cannot expect positive climate action from President-elect Donald Trump, says Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. “The world has now to move forward without the US on the road towards climate-risk mitigation and clean-technology innovation,” he states.
“President-elect Donald Trump’s stance on global warming is well known,” says Schellnhuber, who is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States. “Ironically, he contributed to the popularity of our recent ‘Turn down the heat’-report series for the World Bank by attacking it on Twitter. Yet apart from this, science cannot expect any positive climate action from him. The world has now to move forward without the US on the road towards climate-risk mitigation and clean-technology innovation. The US de-elected expertise and will likely show a blockade mentality now, so Europe and Asia have to pioneer and save the world.”
“Formally leaving the Paris Agreement would take longer than one Presidential term, yet of course the US could simply refuse reducing national emissions which would mean a de facto exit out of international climate policy,” Schellnhuber adds. “Now the US are one of the world’s biggest economies, and even just four years of unbridled emissions staying in the atmosphere for many hundreds of years would make a substantial difference. The climate system doesn’t forget, and it doesn’t forgive. The US is prone to potentially devastating climate change impacts. Hurricanes hit US coastal cities, the California drought affected farmers, and a state like Florida is particularly exposed to sea-level rise. Sadly, in the long run nature itself might show the US citizens that climate change as a matter of fact is not a hoax. But it might be too late.”
– Banks and insurers can play a crucial part in stabilizing the climate, while at the same time safeguarding their clients’ assets. Leading representatives of finance and climate research will discuss the best strategies for a turnaround in investing this Thursday in Berlin. The event is hosted by the Swiss global bank UBS, the French multinational insurance firm AXA, CDP, the European innovation initiative Climate-KIC, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK).
Divestment – the diversion of capital from fossil fuel industries to green innovation and sustainable businesses – is a new approach to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, which could turn out to be a global “game changer”.
Already today, investments of billions of Euros are being redirected. Pioneered by students of wealthy US universities, divestment has reached financial big shots like Allianz by now: the financial services company announced its intention to divest from its assets in coal mining. The foundation of the legendary US oil dynasty Rockefeller plans to divest their funds from the fossil fuel industry as well.
“The risks of climate change affect everyone and everything. When the finance sector now divests billions from the fossil business, this does not only reflect a moral responsibility but also makes good business sense,” says PIK director Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, co-initiator of the conference. “While weather extremes increase already, many of the biggest climate impacts, like the consequences of sea-level rise, will become perceptible only after it would be too late to act. Therefore it is important for the finance sector to recognize the warnings of science and to ramp up sustainable investments as soon as possible. The Paris Agreement substantiates that the nations of the world aim at reaching zero emissions by 2050. This means we are now in year one of the Great Transformation. Whoever still invests in coal and oil will not only damage the environment, but eventually also lose a lot of money.”
“Recognize the possible economic and social impacts of climate change”
„As a global bank it is of major importance to recognize the possible economic and social impacts of climate change, in order to better prepare us and our clients,” says Axel Weber, Chairman of the Board of Directors of UBS Group AG. “The financial sector is working hard to lay the foundations for filling gaps in financing climate action and to support nations in delivering on their corresponding commitments. We aim for a sensible long-term allocation of capital that is congruent with a low-carbon economy.”
Christian Thimann, Global Head of Strategy, Sustainability, and Public Affairs at AXA Group and Vice-Chair of the FSB Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosure, says: “Finance has an important role in addressing climate change, because it steers long-term investment. Investors need to understand how companies address climate change in their strategies, which goes well beyond the current carbon footprint. Under the mandate of the G20 and the Financial Stability Board, the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosure seeks to develop consistent voluntary disclosures by companies and enhance investor understanding of climate-related business risks and opportunities. Such disclosures and better investor understanding will foster implementation of the COP21 agreement.”
„Divestment is one of the most potent signals of investor discontent”
Susan Dreyer, CDP Country Director Germany, Austria, Switzerland adds: „Divestment is one of the most potent signals of investor discontent and can be a valuable method to manage portfolio risk, given climate risks are becoming more urgent every day. Having built a platform for transparent and comparable climate strategies, into which 5600 companies worldwide are voluntary reporting today, CDP knows of the impact investor engagement can unfold. Shareholder resolutions or setting joint reduction targets are good examples. And yet, the clear signal from both civil society and investors that fossil based business models do not have a future in the decarbonized world of 2050, is helpful and needed.”
Arthur Nelson, 20 September 2016
Controversial Trade in Services Agreement (Tisa) could make it harder for governments to favour clean energy over fossil fuels as part of efforts to keep temperature rises to 1.5C
A far-reaching global trade deal being negotiated in secret could threaten the goals of the Paris climate deal by making it harder for governments to favour clean energy over fossil fuels, a leak of the latest negotiating text shows.
The controversial Trade in Services Agreement (Tisa) aims to liberalise trade between the EU and 22 countries across the global services sector, which employs tens of millions in Europe alone.
But a new EU text seen by the Guardian would oblige signatories to work towards “energy neutrality” between renewable energy and fossil fuel power, although amendments proposed by the EU would exempt nuclear power from this rule.
The document, marked “limited distribution – for Tisa participants only”, would also force member states to legislate against “anti-competitive conduct” and “market distortions” in energy-related services. This is viewed by campaigners as code for state support for clean power sectors, such as wind and solar.
A right to regulate is explicitly mentioned in the paper, but governments would first have to prove the necessity for regulations that legally constrain multinationals.
The same clause was used in the World Trade Organisation’s Gatt and Gats treaties which entered into force in 1995, and led to 44 complaints by multinationals via their governments. Of these, 43 were upheld.
Susan Cohen Jehoram, a spokeswoman for Greenpeace, told the Guardian: “We fear the same thing will happen with Tisa but on a much larger scale, when legislation is proposed to keep temperature rises to 1.5C [above pre-industrial levels, as agreed at the Paris climate summit].
“If we want to reach that target, governments will need a toolbox of measures that can give incentives to cleaner energy. Tisa, like the proposed TTIP and Ceta trade agreements, would increase the power of multinationals to prevent governments taking desperately needed measures to decrease CO2 levels.”
The Paris climate agreement called for “making finance flows consistent with a pathway to low greenhouse gas emissions” but the deregulatory thrust of the negotiating text, which was obtained by Greenpeace Netherlands, seems to run counter to this.
Its energy annex says that the trade rules will apply to all legislative measures covering power generation services, “whether the energy source is renewable or non-renewable”.
It also contains a “standstill” clause freezing in perpetuity the high watermark of liberalisation in certain sectors, and a “ratchet” clause to stop countries reintroducing trade barriers that had been previously removed. Both mechanisms have been proposed by Australia.
Under their tenets, any government elected on a ticket of reversing the liberalisation of services contained in the treaty would thus be unable to do so, campaigners claim.
The UK’s shadow international trade and energy spokesman, Barry Gardiner, Labour MP, told the Guardian: “Whilst every effort should be made to promote business and trade, this must not be at the expense of the protection and enhancement of workers’ rights, environmental safeguards and the wider interests of the British people.”
While Brexit could prevent the UK from being bound by the planned trade treaty, any agreement allowing access to the EU’s single market would probably oblige it to follow the new rules.
Opposition to the proposed text from Theresa May’s government is thought unlikely. David Davis, the minister for Brexit, recently described the similar Ceta trade agreement with Canada as his preferred model for a trade arrangement with the EU.
Gardiner said: “The British people have voted to come out of the European Union to preserve the principle of parliamentary sovereignty, it cannot be right then that secret trade deals are currently being conducted entirely outside the scrutiny of national parliaments and law-makers.”
“The structure of such deals are like a lobster pot – once you have gone through and given power to the commercial interest it is no longer possible to recapture democratic control. What we do hear, through leaks and rumours, are terms which clearly prevent the ongoing capacity of governments to govern in the public interest.”
Before coming into effect though, any finalised Tisa text will most likely need to be approved by all EU member states – which currently includes the UK – and will also require approval from the European parliament.
Earlier this year, MEPs voted to back the deal, on the proviso that public services were excluded and that the deal legally secured the right to regulate at European, national and local authority level.
Parliament’s rapporteur, the former EU justice commisioner, Viviane Reding, has previously said that the assembly will “never consent” to any trade pact that diminished the EU’s right to regulate on climate, health and social laws.
Reding refused to comment on the leak but informed sources said that neither she nor the European parliament would consent to provisions which prevented public authorities from supporting renewables.
Reding, a conservative politician from Luxembourg, has also called on the Luxembourg government to demand an end to negotiations on the EU-US free trade deal known as TTIP, over the use of controversial secret investor courts, and threats to the environment and food safety.
Unlike TTIP, Tisa deals with the less tangible trade services sector that nonetheless constitutes more than half of the global economy, and could impact on an estimated 1.8 billion people.
As well as energy, any Tisa deal will apply to financial services, e-commerce, information and communications technology services, international maritime transport services, computer related services, postal and courier services, and government procurement of services.
A report by the UN conference on trade and development later this week is expected to say that mega-trade deals such as TTIP and Tisa are becoming increasingly politicised, and failing to provide a solution to the slowdown in global growth.
“Plant trait diversity may enable the Amazon forests, the world’s greatest and maybe most fascinating tropical ecosystem, to adjust to some level of climate change – certain trees dominant today could decrease and their place will be taken by others which are better suited for the new climate conditions in the future,” says Boris Sakschewski from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), lead-author of the study to be published in Nature Climate Change. Tree survival for instance depends on what the scientists call ‘leaf economics’: their different size, thickness, longevity or density defines how well the plant can deal with higher temperatures and water scarcity. “Biodiversity shows not to be a nice-to-have but indeed a must-have,” says Sakschewski. “We find it could be functional for the long-term survival of Earth’s large reservoirs of biomass, such as the forests of the Amazon region.”
However, this depends on the level of stress. Only in a scenario of moderate climate change, high biodiversity can, after a sharp decline of biomass, contribute to substantial recovery in vast areas across the Amazon region after a few hundred years. Here, more than 80 percent of the Amazon area would show substantial regrowth, according to the study. In contrast, in a business-as-usual scenario of greenhouse-gas emissions leading to massive climate change, less than 20 percent of the area would show this positive effect.
A significant step forward in Earth system modelling
Never before have these dynamics been integrated in a biogeochemical vegetation simulation of climate effects, so this is a significant step forward in Earth system modelling. “To explain how plant trait diversity contributes to the resilience of rainforest we first investigated an experimental site in Ecuador and then extended the simulations to the Amazon basin,” says team leader Kirsten Thonicke from PIK. “We’ve been working on this for years. While it is well-known that biodiversity is relevant for ecosystem productivity and biomass storage, up to now it could not be shown in a large-scale quantitative way. We’re glad to advance previous research by closing this important gap.”
“This is good news for the Amazon forest – still, it doesn’t mean that climate change would not harm this unique ecosystem substantially, quite the contrary,” says Wolfgang Lucht, co-chair of PIK’s research domain Earth System Analysis. While high biodiversity enables the forest to eventually regain much of its biomass, there is a huge disruption in the transition and the species composition would be different afterwards even under moderate global warming. “Despite the encouraging findings on biodiversity’s functional value, the Amazon rainforest unfortunately remains one of the critical hotspots on the planet that demand very rapid decreases in CO2 emissions.”
“What concerns me most is that we didn’t anticipate these temperature jumps,” David Carlson, director of the World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) climate research program, told Thompson Reuters Foundation late Monday. “We predicted moderate warmth for 2016, but nothing like the temperature rises we’ve seen.” “Massive temperature hikes, but also extreme events like floodings, have become the new normal,” Carlson added. “The ice melt rates recorded in the first half of 2016, for example—we don’t usually see those until later in the year.”
Indeed, extreme weather events are currently wreaking havoc around the world. In Southern California, firefighters are battling one of the “most extreme” fires the region has ever seen. The so-called sand fire had consumed 38,346 acres as of Wednesday morning and forced the evacuations of 10,000 homes, and one person has died.
TORONTO – Only about one-third of the world’s 1,000 largest companies provide effective disclosure of the risks they face due to climate change, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said Friday.
Lack of full disclosure, Carney said, makes it difficult for investors, creditors and regulators to assess who is on top of the increasingly critical issue.
“What is your strategy for managing climate-related risk?” he said. “Longer-term strategies are going to be much more important for evaluation.”
At the same time, he said, the transition to an environmentally sustainable future in the coming decades provides an annual opportunity worth trillions of dollars for companies and financiers.
One example he cited is the development of a green bond market in China that current estimates suggest will be worth US$500 billion a year. It’s a market Beijing is keen to open up, he said.
Carney’s comments came during a session with Environment Minister Catherine McKenna at a business breakfast forum. The former Bank of Canada governor noted that the number of extreme climate events has risen threefold in the last few decades while the cost of claims paid out as a result has risen fivefold.
Still, he said, part of the issue facing regulators relates to the different views on the seriousness of the threat posed by global warming and the ways governments are addressing the problem.
“We want to be neutral, create the information set out there, so that all of those views can be expressed in a market that is an efficient market,” he said.
In response to a request from G20 leaders, Carney said a private-sector task force that includes those who have to provide disclosure and those who use that disclosure is trying to come up with the information needed to allow consistent and effective comparisons among companies about their emissions and the risks they face.
The panel is expected to produce its final report at the beginning of next year.
The reality companies must face and must deal with is that governments around the world are serious about implementing various schemes aimed at lowering emissions believed to be at the root of global warming, Carney said. “Climate policy is real,” he said. “Emissions have to be capped.”