n January this year, I visited friends in Miami. One of the most urgent topics of conversation was about what they saw as the greatest problem faced by the city – rising water levels, and a long-standing reluctance on the part of government and business to take the necessary steps to control the extensive damage. From inundated homes, shops and roads, to fresh water pollution and sewage being forced upwards, the impacts are widespread. In a Christian Aid report (pdf) published last week, Miami ranked ninth in a list of cities most at risk from future coastal flooding as a result of sea level rises. Supported by data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, projections for the year 2017 suggest that Kolkata and Mumbai, both in India, are most exposed to coastal flooding. Bar Miami, the top ten cities are all in Asia. Facebook Twitter Pinterest A woman walks through a flooded street in Miami Beach, Florida. Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images As global water levels rise, as parts of Florida experience the heaviest rain since records began, as the flooding and salination of farmland in Bangladesh increases, the risk to coastal cities can be seen for what it is – a sign of the apparently inexorable effects of a high-carbon economy on a fragile environment. It is not a demand for economic stagnation, nor a matter of having some sort of anti-business agenda But what is also clear from the Christian Aid research is how ecological disaster intensifies inequality. In prosperous nations it is the poorest who are most at risk from environmental changes such as those Miami faces because they have the least means to cope with or move away from the problem. In developing countries, coastal cities and their surrounding regions have even less in the way of defence. Business as usual – that familiar and illusory process – will simply deepen the gulf separating the economically secure from the insecure, at least in the short term. In the long run, to paraphrase Keynes, we are all insecure. There are measures that can be, and are being, taken with the help of NGOs and other civil society groups to limit the damage. During last year’s flooding in Myanmar and Bangladesh, for example, Oxfam distributed water, hygiene kits and cash grants, and worked with other international NGOs to coordinate the humanitarian response. But the underlying question is becoming more and more pressing: what is it about our prevailing global model of economic growth that apparently blinds us to the cost of the high-carbon system? A process of so-called growth that inexorably increases the distance between rich and poor in one way or another ought to look nonsensical to us. Philippines investigates Shell and Exxon over climate change Read more Economic activity is still so often defined in terms of an unending upward spiral of consumption in a materially limited environment. Are we looking hard enough at the contradictions here? Are we asking what kind of economies are sustainable? The launch this week of the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity, headed by Professor Tim Jackson who wrote the groundbreaking 2011 report Prosperity Without Growth, looks to galvanise a more urgent discussion of these issues.
Jan 22, 2016, Charles Mandel
A new report tears into the Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline extension application, saying the company’s environmental assessments show a lack of scientific rigour and unsubstantiated assumptions surrounding the fate, behaviour and toxicity of diluted bitumen.
“Their conclusions are fraught with an unacceptable degree of uncertainty, are not supported by the scientific literature, and often not supported by their own information,” asserts the executive summary of the report from the British Columbia-based Raincoast Conservation Foundation.
Titled Our Threatened Coast: Nature and Shared Benefits in the Salish Sea, the report shows an oil spill of diluted bitumen would have devastating consequences for the region’s wildlife and coastal tourism.
The report contends a large oil spill near Turn Point at the northern end of Haro Strait – which separates Vancouver Island and the B.C. Gulf Islands from Washington State’s San Juan Islands – has a 95 per cent chance of reaching killer whales if they are anywhere near the area at the time.
A 60 per cent chance exists of oil contamination on the surface within a 3,800 kilometre centred on Haro Strait after a spill at Turn Point. The report notes that Haro Strait is one of the most routinely traveled areas in the Salish Sea for resident killer whales.
The report cited a City of Vancouver estimate that the economic impact of a large oil spill in the city’s Burrard Inlet could exceed $2-billion.
Ali Hounsell, a spokesperson with Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Expansion Project, told National Observer: “Trans Mountain has been diligent in assessing risks posed by oil tankers in a comprehensive manner and developed and proposed a number of risk control measures to mitigate such risks.”
The report defines the Salish Sea as one of the world’s largest coastal seas, spanning from the western entrance of the Juan de Fuca Strait to the top of Georgia Strait and bottom of Puget Sound.
The name reflects and honours the Coast Salish, the areas’s first human inhabitants.
“We really need to look at the real value of this place,” said Ross Dixon, a program manager at Raincoast and a co-author of the report with Raincoast biologist Misty MacDuffee.
“Everyone is making decisions on Kinder Morgan and all these other proposals, the shipping of fossil fuels through the region, and we don’t really understand the true value of this place.”
The report notes that those obligations form the basis for the nation’s Sacred Trust Initiative, which is sanctioned by the Tsleil-Waututh chief and council and specifically developed to stop the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline project.
Carleen Thomas of the Scared Trust Initiative told National Observer: “Our ancestors have taken care of this home place for us for millennia and so it is our sacred obligation to continue that work.
“It is the heart of our people. It’s the heart of our traditional territory. It means everything to us.”
Energy, Tar Sands Reporting Project, Tsleil-Waututh Nation, kinder morgan pipeline, National Energy Board, Salish Sea, Raincoast Conservation Foundation, News
The 1972 book Limits to Growth, which predicted our civilisation would probably collapse some time this century, has been criticised as doomsday fantasy since it was published. Back in 2002, self-styled environmental expert Bjorn Lomborg consigned it to the “dustbin of history”.It doesn’t belong there. Research from the University of Melbourne has found the book’s forecasts are accurate, 40 years on. If we continue to track in line with the book’s scenario, expect the early stages of global collapse to start appearing soon.Limits to Growth was commissioned by a think tank called the Club of Rome. Researchers working out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, including husband-and-wife team Donella and Dennis Meadows, built a computer model to track the world’s economy and environment. Called World3, this computer model was cutting edge. The task was very ambitious. The team tracked industrialisation, population, food, use of resources, and pollution. They modelled data up to 1970, then developed a range of scenarios out to 2100, depending on whether humanity took serious action on environmental and resource issues. If that didn’t happen, the model predicted “overshoot and collapse” – in the economy, environment and population – before 2070. This was called the “business-as-usual” scenario.The book’s central point, much criticised since, is that “the earth is finite” and the quest for unlimited growth in population, material goods etc would eventually lead to a crash.The stories you need to read, in one handy email Read moreSo were they right? We decided to check in with those scenarios after 40 years. Dr Graham Turner gathered data from the UN (its department of economic and social affairs, Unesco, the food and agriculture organisation, and the UN statistics yearbook). He also checked in with the US national oceanic and atmospheric administration, the BP statistical review, and elsewhere. That data was plotted alongside the Limits to Growth scenarios.The results show that the world is tracking pretty closely to the Limits to Growth “business-as-usual” scenario. The data doesn’t match up with other scenarios.
Read the rest…
Episode 2 The Meaning of Climate Change 1st December, 2015 (Part 1) Indigenous Oil . Combining anecdotal experience of indigenous groups on the front line of Canada’s environmental conflict with academic research. Produced and directed by Will Hood.
This episode explores the role of story in our on-going relationship with energy, ecology and economics.
This episode features: Chief Billy Joe Laboucan Massimo Chief of the Lubicon Cree Band, Little Buffalo, Alberta, Canada; David Attenborough Broadcaster, UK; Ernie Gambler Indigenous Musician from Calling Lake, Alberta, Canada; Isabel Altamirano-Jimenez Indigenous Scholar at the University of Alberta, Canada; J.B. Williams, Tsawout First Nation Flood Story Narration (with music from Elder May Sam); Makere Stewart-Harawira Indigenous Scholar at the University of Alberta, Canada; Peter Newell Professor of International Relations at the University of Sussex
Episode Extras: Oil On Lubicon Land: A Photo Essay
Musician and naturalist Bernie Krause has spent 40 years recording over 15,000 species in many of the world’s pristine habitats. Photograph: Courtesy of Hachette Book Group John Vidal, environment editor Monday 3 September 2012 08.00 BST Last modified on Wednesday 21 May 2014 08.11 BST Share on Pinterest Share on LinkedIn Share on Google+ Shares 28k Comments 86 Save for later “The birds are silent in the woods. Just wait: Soon enough You will be quiet too” – Robert Hass When musician and naturalist Bernie Krause drops his microphones into the pristine coral reef waters of Fiji, he picks up a raucous mix of sighs, beats, glissandos, cries, groans, tones, grunts, beats and clicks. The water pulsates with the sound of creatures vying for acoustic bandwidth. He hears crustaceans, parrot fish, anemones, wrasses, sharks, shrimps, puffers and surgeonfish. Some gnash their teeth, others use their bladders or tails to make sound. Sea anemones grunt and belch. Every creature on the reef makes its own sound. But half a mile away, where the same reef is badly damaged, he can only pick up the sound of waves and a few snapping shrimp. It is, he says, the desolate sound of extinction. Krause, whose electronic music with Paul Beaver was used on classic films like Rosemary’s Baby and Apocalypse Now, and who worked regularly with Bob Dylan, George Harrison and The Byrds, has spent 40 years recording over 15,000 species, collecting 4,500 hours of sound from many of the world’s pristine habitats. But such is the rate of species extinction and the deterioration of pristine habitat that he estimates half these recordings are now archives, impossible to repeat because the habitats no longer exist or because they have been so compromised by human noise. His tapes are possibly the only record of the original diversity of life in these places. Advertisement “A great silence is spreading over the natural world even as the sound of man is becoming deafening,” he writes in a new book, The Great Animal Orchestra. “Little by little the vast orchestra of life, the chorus of the natural world, is in the process of being quietened. There has been a massive decrease in the density and diversity of key vocal creatures, both large and small. The sense of desolation extends beyond mere silence. “If you listen to a damaged soundscape … the community [of life] has been altered, and organisms have been destroyed, lost their habitat or been left to re-establish their places in the spectrum. As a result, some voices are gone entirely, while others aggressively compete to establish a new place in the increasingly disjointed chorus.” Hawaii, he says, is the extinction capital of the world. “In a couple of centuries since the islands were populated by Europeans, half the 140 bird species have disappeared. In Madagascar, 15 species of lemur, an elephant bird, a pygmy hippo and an estimated half of all the animals have gone extinct.” Even partially dis
The apocalypse has a new date: 2048.That’s when the world’s oceans will be empty of fish, predicts an international team of ecologists and economists. The cause: the disappearance of species due to overfishing, pollution, habitat loss, and climate change.The study by Boris Worm, PhD, of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, — with colleagues in the U.K., U.S., Sweden, and Panama — was an effort to understand what this loss of ocean species might mean to the world.The researchers analyzed several different kinds of data. Even to these ecology-minded scientists, the results were an unpleasant surprise.”I was shocked and disturbed by how consistent these trends are — beyond anything we suspected,” Worm says in a news release.”This isn’t predicted to happen. This is happening now,” study researcher Nicola Beaumont, PhD, of the Plymouth Marine Laboratory, U.K., says in a news release.”If biodiversity continues to decline, the marine environment will not be able to sustain our way of life. Indeed, it may not be able to sustain our lives at all,” Beaumont adds.Already, 29% of edible fish and seafood species have declined by 90% — a drop that means the collapse of these fisheries.But the issue isn’t just having seafood on our plates. Ocean species filter toxins from the water. They protect shorelines. And they reduce the risks of algae blooms such as the red tide.”A large and increasing proportion of our population lives close to the coast; thus the loss of services such as flood control and waste detoxification can have disastrous consequences,” Worm and colleagues say.The researchers analyzed data from 32 experiments on different marine environments.They then analyzed the 1,000-year history of 12 coastal regions around the world, including San Francisco and Chesapeake bays in the U.S., and the Adriatic, Baltic, and North seas in Europe.Next, they analyzed fishery data from 64 large marine ecosystems.And finally, they looked at the recovery of 48 protected ocean areas.Their bottom line: Everything that lives in the ocean is important. The diversity of ocean life is the key to its survival. The areas of the ocean with the most different kinds of life are the healthiest.But the loss of species isn’t gradual. It’s happening fast — and getting faster, the researchers say.Worm and colleagues call for sustainable fisheries management, pollution control, habitat maintenance, and the creation of more ocean reserves.This, they say, isn’t a cost; it’s an investment that will pay off in lower insurance costs, a sustainable fish industry, fewer natural disasters, human health, and more.”It’s not too late. We can turn this around,” Worm says. “But less than 1% of the global ocean is effectively protected right now.”Worm and colleagues report their findings in the Nov. 3 issue of Science.
SETH BORENSTEIN, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS 11.24.2015.
UN weather agency says 2015 already the hottest year on record, smashing the record set last year. Temperatures have reached their highest point since records began in 1880.
Breaking away from the utopian assumption that the international community will agree on a single emissions allocation scheme, this study assesses approaches to setting country-level mitigation targets in line with the 2[thinsp][deg]C goal.
The gloves come off We are two scientists who are sufficient furious at the state of our global environment and society to forget about political correctness. We are willing, even eager, to attempt to recruit you into the growing mass of people who are determined to divert society from its “business as usual” path toward disaster manifested already by morbid coral reefs, climate disruption, extinctions, tree die-offs, industrial toxification, loss of pollinators, and declining fish stocks. We are disgusted with the way politicians and the press ignore the realities that civilisation is sliding toward irreversible environmental damage, and that universities are not providing any leadership to change our course because of chronic underfunding, a reticence to embrace true inter-disciplinarity to solve society’s complex problems, and a lack of environmental training across all disciplines. We are tired of the erosion of public education in both nations, especially in science, technology and sustainable agriculture, overlooked or encouraged by politicians who would never be elected by a public that had a basic understanding of environmental science.
Climate scientists overwhelmingly say that we will face unprecedented warming in the coming decades. Those same scientists, just like you or I, struggle with the emotions that are evoked by these facts and dire projections. My children—who are now 12 and 16—may live in a world warmer than at any time in the previous 3 million years, and may face challenges that we are only just beginning to contemplate, and in many ways may be deprived of the rich, diverse world we grew up in. How do we relate to – and live – with this sad knowledge?
Across different populations, psychological researchers have documented a long list of mental health consequences of climate change: trauma, shock, stress, anxiety, depression, complicated grief, strains on social relationships, substance abuse, sense of hopelessness, fatalism, resignation, loss of autonomy and sense of control, as well as a loss of personal and occupational identity.
This more-than-personal sadness is what I call the “Great Grief”—a feeling that rises in us as if from the Earth itself. Perhaps bears and dolphins, clear-cut forests, fouled rivers, and the acidifying, plastic-laden oceans bear grief inside them, too, just as we do. Every piece of climate news increasingly comes with a sense of dread: is it too late to turn around? The notion that our individual grief and emotional loss can actually be a reaction to the decline of our air, water, and ecology rarely appears in conversation or the media. It may crop up as fears about what kind of world our sons or daughters will face. But where do we bring it? Some bring it privately to a therapist. It is as if this topic is not supposed to be publicly discussed.