Climate change is upon us folks and it’s only going to get worse. Yes, events like the current U.S. drought, which is being called one of the worst in recent memory, cannot be conclusively linked to climate change but it is entirely consistent with what climate scientists have been predicting as the world warms up. And the more we hear scientists talk about the desperate need to decrease global carbon emissions, the more they seem to go in the exact opposite direction.
Now a new report published Wednesday by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) says that global carbon dioxide emissions rose 3 percent to 34 billion tonnes in 2011, undermining a U.N. goal to limit the rise in global average temperatures to 2C above industrial levels by 2050.
According to the report, nations cannot emit more than 1.5 trillion tonnes of CO2 between 2000 and 2050 to meet the threshold recommended by a U.N. scientific panel. We’ve already pumped roughly 450 billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere since 2000 so we’re already overshooting our limits. And keep in mind that the report, by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and the E.U.’s Joint Research Centre, does not include carbon dioxide emitted by deforestation, forest fires and other land-use related activities.
Global CO2 emissions rise 3 percent in 2011: report.
The international day of action to Connect the Dots between extreme weather and climate change took place on May 5 in locations all around the world, including many events here in Canada. Check out this great video from 350.org, which captures the highlights of some of these events.
As Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.org, said in this article in the Guardian last week, “new data (pdf) released last month by researchers at Yale and George Mason universities show that a lot of Americans are growing far more concerned about climate change, precisely because they are drawing the links between freaky weather, a climate kicked off-kilter by a fossil-fuel guzzling civilization, and their own lives. After a year with a record number of multibillion dollar weather disasters, seven in ten Americans now believe that “global warming is affecting the weather.”
Have we reached a tipping point at which people are finally starting to “connect the dots”? Perhaps but there is still much work ahead.
“A new study from the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research suggests that a transformation of the world’s economies or a limit to economic growth may be needed to curb the rise of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations.”
This comes from a recent article about the fundamental incompatibility of an economic system based on endless growth and the problem of climate change. And therein lies the fundamental paradox of our times. Our modern, industrial, capitalist economy depends upon endless growth to function. We celebrate every uptick in the growth rate and fret when growth is “sluggish”. Yet as this study demonstrates, more growth leads to more greenhouse gas emissions and consequently an accelerated rate of climate change. So we can have one or the other, it seems, but not both. What will it be? More growth or less climate change?
“The researchers found that for each trillion in U.S. dollars that global GDP deviates from the trend, there is an accompanying deviation in CO2 levels of about half a part per million (ppm), reported LiveScience.
Noting that the study “more or less” echoes 1972’s “The Limits to Growth,” author and environmental activist Bill McKibben told HuffPost in an email, “We should change the meaning of ‘business-as-usual’ to focus on building more resilient, localized, community-focused economies, instead of the sprawling ones that for the last few decades have been awarding their bounty to the 1%.”
Climate Change And Sustained Economic Growth Link Observed In New Study.
Check out this story from Reuters. It seems scientists have detected a clear change in salinity of the world’s oceans and have found that the cycle that drives rainfall and evaporation has intensified more than thought because of global warming.
Why is this significant? Current rainfall patterns are expected to intensify as the planet warms, yet this research concludes that the impacts may be worse than previously believed, leading to even more extreme droughts and flooding in vulnerable areas in the years to come. Here’s an excerpt:
Temperature data shows the planet heated up by 0.5 deg C between 1950-2000. But climate models suggest the world is on track to warm by 3 deg C by the end of the century unless the current growth of greenhouse gas emissions is quickly halted.
A warming of that magnitude would mean the water cycle intensifying by up to 24 percent, with wet regions getting wetter and dry regions drier.
Some ocean regions are saltier, meaning less rainfall and others are fresher, meaning high rainfall, making salinity measurements a good way to measure changes in rainfall patterns.
For our January 12 show, Earthgauge Radio took measure of the state of the world’s forests in our look back at the recently-concluded International Year of the Forest. Now new research is showing that forest die-offs are on the increase and this troubling trend is being linked to global warming. Heat and water stress associated with climate change are making forests vulnerable to insect attacks, fires and other problems.
In a troubling new article from the Environmental News Network, we learn that in addition to the current threats facing global forests, there is now a movement afoot to increase the use of wood as a biofuel, thus increasing the pressure on vulnerable and critical ecosystems around the world. Here is an excerpt from the article:
As reported in an October 2011 New York Times article, millions of acres of forests in the northern and central Rockies are dying. In Colorado, at least 15 percent of that state’s aspen forests are suffering due to a lack of water. The U.S. is not the only country where forests are succumbing to the effects of a warming climate, trees are also being impacted by climate change all around the globe.
Despite the wealth of data supporting global warming and the crucial importance of forests to planetary health, world industry leaders in wood materials gathered in Seattle on April 11-13 to discuss the role of woody biomass for production of biofuels. According to a UBC study, wood-based biofuels could be a competitive industry by 2020. While biofuels offer questionable benefits to the planet, wood based biofuels are even more suspect.
Sustainability news: Forests and the Health of the Planet.
You’ve got to see this video.
Connect the Dots:
May 5, 2012 is Climate Impacts Day. Protest, educate, document and volunteer along with thousands of people around the world to support the communities on the front lines of the climate crisis. Organize your own event or join one here.
Clocking in at only two minutes, the video above – produced by a 350.org volunteer – is a concise and potent reminder of why people everywhere are joining the international day of action to Connect the Dots on 5/5/12.
Scientists at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research have concluded that the incidence of extreme and unprecedented weather around the world over the past decade has not been accidental. For extreme rainfall and heat waves the link with human-caused global warming is clear, the scientists show in a new analysis of scientific evidence in the journal Nature Climate Change.
Check out this article to find out more about their research. Here’s an excerpt from the article:
In 2011 alone, the US was hit by 14 extreme weather events which caused damages exceeding one billion dollars each — in several states the months of January to October were the wettest ever recorded. Japan also registered record rainfalls, while the Yangtze river basin in China suffered a record drought.
Similar record-breaking events occurred also in previous years. In 2010, Western Russia experienced the hottest summer in centuries, while in Pakistan and Australia record-breaking amounts of rain fell. 2003 saw Europe´s hottest summer in at least half a millennium. And in 2002, the weather station of Zinnwald-Georgenfeld measured more rain in one day than ever before recorded anywhere in Germany — what followed was the worst flooding of the Elbe river for centuries.
“The question is whether these weather extremes are coincidental or a result of climate change,” says Dim Coumou, lead author of the article. “Global warming can generally not be proven to cause individual extreme events — but in the sum of events the link to climate change becomes clear.” The recent high incidence of weather records is no longer normal, he says.
Yes, I know this is not exactly “news” as it is a story from last November. Still, it bears repeating in light of this recent article by Noam Chomsky in Al Jazeera. Chomsky points out, correctly, that although the most vocal critics of the UN Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) tend to be from the climate change denier camp, they are not the only ones who take issue with some of the IPCC’s findings. There are also many climate scientists who think the IPCC warming projections are far too conservative and that global carbon emissions (and hence temperatures) are rising much faster than predicted. But amidst all the din of climate denial in the media, you simply never hear about these astonishing critiques. Here is an excerpt from the article:
The International Energy Agency reported that, with rapidly increasing carbon emissions from fossil fuel use, the limit of safety will be reached by 2017 if the world continues on its present course. “The door is closing,” the IEA chief economist said, and very soon it “will be closed forever”.
Shortly before the US Department of Energy reported the most recent carbon dioxide emissions figures, which “jumped by the biggest amount on record” to a level higher than the worst-case scenario anticipated by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). That came as no surprise to many scientists, including the MIT programme on climate change, which for years has warned that the IPCC predictions are too conservative.
Such critics of the IPCC predictions receive virtually no public attention, unlike the fringe of denialists who are supported by the corporate sector, along with huge propaganda campaigns that have driven Americans off the international spectrum in dismissal of the threats. Business support also translates directly to political power. Denialism is part of the catechism that must be intoned by Republican candidates in the farcical election campaign now in progress, and in Congress they are powerful enough to abort even efforts to inquire into the effects of global warming, let alone do anything serious about it.
World headed for irreversible climate change in five years, IEA warns | Environment | The Guardian.
Earthgauge radio podcast February 9, 2012: Canada’s National Parks and Tzeporah Berman of Greenpeace International
On Earthgauge radio this week, we take a look at the state of Canada’s National Parks and we speak with the well-known and influential Canadian environmentalist Tzeporah Berman.
In our first interview on today’s podcast, I speak with the award-winning author and environmental educator Jeff Gailus. He wrote an article in the current issue of Alternatives Journal called ‘All Sizzle No Stake’, in which he reflects on the current state of Canada’s national parks in the wake of Parks Canada’s 100th anniversary last year. There was a lot of self-congratulatory back slapping at the Agency to mark the 100th anniversary milestone but Jeff makes the case that our national parks are in fact not in great shape and there are important reasons why all Canadians should be concerned about how our parks are being managed. Parks Canada’s 100th birthday may have been celebrated in Canada’s uncritical media, but that doesn’t mean our national parks are in good shape.
Also on the program today we have an extended 2-part interview with the well-known and influential Canadian environmental activist Tzeporah Berman who at various times been called everything from an ‘eco-terrorist’ to an ‘enemy of the state’. She is currently the co-director of Greenpeace International‘s Climate and Energy Program but she has a long history in Canada’s environmental movement dating back almost 20 years to her involvement as a key organizer in the unprecedented logging protests in British Columbia’s Clayoquot Sound on Vancouver Island in the early 90s. For her role she faced nearly one thousand criminal charges and up to six years in prison. She later co-founded ForestEthics and took on the lingerie company Victoria Secret to pressure them to stop using paper made from old-growth forests. She is also the author of a recent memoir called This Crazy Time: Living Our Environmental Challenge. In our interview we talk about her book, which reflects on her many years as an activist. Despite being criticized heavily and even vilified by both industry and government, as well as some other environmentalists, she makes no apologies for her strategies over the years, saying some conservation agreements would not have been possible without negotiation and engagement. She explains why she feels it is not enough for the environmental movement simply to oppose, we also need to propose solutions when protests and activism have captured the attention of media and government leaders.
We also have our usual segment with Kathy of Ecology Ottawa who updates us on local environmental events and campaigns. I’ve listed a few of the upcoming events below and you can click here to see a complete list with full details.
Contact us at . Please do get in touch if you have story ideas, a comment on something you’ve heard or want to get involved or contribute to the show. You can also download our podcasts on iTunes. Just type “earthgauge” into the search bar and you’ll find us.
Right click here to download today’s podcast.
Upcoming local environmental events
City Council Meeting – Environmental Advisory Committee
When: February 9, 6:30 to 8:30 pm
Where: City Hall, Andrew S. Haydon Hall
Organizer: Joël Monfils, 613-580-2424 ext 26837, Joë[email protected]
Green Drinks Ottawa
Green Drinks is an open invitation to anyone interested/working/studying all things environmental. Come and join the group for interesting and inspiring conversation. Green Drinks is an informal, self-organizing network that meets every second Thursday of the month. For more information, contact: [email protected].
When: February 9, 5:30 to 7:30 pm
Where: Fox and Feather Pub & Grill, 283 Elgin street
February 11, 2012
Family Snowshoeing Adventures
The Rideau Valley Conservation Authority (RVCA) is offering snowshoe clinics; fun half-day sessions for families to learn snowshoeing techniques. Clinics include a scenic, informative nature hike through the conservation area’s trails with one of the RVCA’s outdoor interpreters. The cost, including snowshoe rental, is $15 per adult and $10 per child, or $40 for a family package (five person family maximum). Two sessions will take place on February 11th, one from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m, and the next from 1:30 to 3:00 p.m., at Foley Mountain Clinics in Westport. Please contact Rebecca Whitman at 613-273-3255 or [email protected] to register or for more information.
Climate Change Conference 2012
In December, Canada announced it would withdraw from the Kyoto Accord – an international emission treaty to fight global climate change. What are the repercussions of Canada leaving the Kyoto Accord? Where do we go from here? Learn about what happened at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Durban this year from those who were there. Join in to discuss The Good, The Bad and The Ugly about climate change in Canada.
When: February 15, from 7:00 to 9:00 pm
Where: University of Ottawa – Alumni Theatre, Jock Turcot Building
Weekly Environmental Choir Rehearsal
Just Voices is Ottawa’s only environmental and social-justice themed choir. They have been singing at events around the capital since 2003. They welcome new members at any time, and prior musical experience is not necessary. For more information, visit http://www.justvoices.ca.
When: February 15th and 22nd, 7:00 to 9:00 pm
Where: The Bronson Centre, 211 Bronson Ave
City Council Meeting – Environment Committee
When: January 31, 9:30 to 11:30 am
Where: City Hall, Andrew S. Haydon Hall, 110 Laurier Avenue West
Organizer: Carole Legault, 613-580-2424 x28934
February 22, 2012
Exploring Your New Farm Dream Workshop
Offered by Just Food and FarmStart, this four-part series of workshops is a course for people who are thinking about starting a commercial farm business (as in, farming with the intent to make a profit rather than as a hobby or a pastime). Developed by the New England Small Farm Institute, the course helps aspiring farmers learn what it would take to start and manage their own farm dream and decide whether this is the right path for them. The first session will be held on February 22nd, from 6:00 to 9:00 pm. For more information and to register, visit http://www.farmstart.ca/explorer/
What climate change campaigners can learn from hockey
News that hockey enforcer Derek Boogaard’s brain showed signs of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain condition related to Alzheimer’s, has been met mostly with a collective shrug from members of that sport’s fraternity.
Surveys done by the NHL Players’ Association show the majority of NHL players want to keep fighting in hockey. As New Jersey Devils tough-guy David Clarkson said: “I wouldn’t be in the league if I didn’t play that type of style.”
Yet the risks are becoming increasingly clear. Boogaard’s was the fourth NHLer whose brain was examined by the Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy. All four showed signs of CTE. Autopsies on former fighters’ brains, including Bob Probert who died in 2010 from a heart attack and old-timer Reggie Fleming, showed severe brain damage.
How then do we reconcile what science is telling us about the link between repeated head trauma and CTE with the fact that, almost to a man, the NHL’s fighters say their jobs are worth the risk? Understanding this proclivity to accept serious, perhaps fatal, risks could shed some light on another issue currently being debated in Durban, South Africa under the auspices of the United Nations climate change summit (COP 17).
Climate science has evolved considerably over the last 20 years to the point that we are now virtually certain that humans, through the emissions of greenhouse gases, are causing climate change. We also know that the impacts of climate change are likely to be very serious if nothing is done to reign in global emissions dramatically. Even the International Energy Agency, hardly an environmental advocacy group, recently warned that the “door is closing” to avert catastrophic climate change.
Yet despite years of repeated, urgent warnings from the scientific community, global emissions are up 49% since 1990 and it seems increasingly likely that there will be no new deal coming out of Durban to replace the expiring Kyoto Protocol. In Canada, our total emissions are now more than 34 per cent above our Kyoto targets.
For the most part, the public and the media recognize and acknowledge the risks of continuing to pour greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, yet we have thus far been unwilling to accept or support any substantive economic measures that might impact us personally. As with fighting in hockey, we know climate change might cause serious problems, even death for some, but as the current system is our meal ticket, it’s worth the price.
Clearly, an appeal to leaders to “do the right thing” has not been successful. In both cases, we have individuals such as Gary Bettman and Stephen Harper, who either question the validity of the science or refuse to take commensurate action in the face of mounting evidence.
So what can climate change campaigners learn from hockey? Emphasizing extreme future risks may not be nearly as effective as appealing for solutions that do not appear to pose a personal economic threat. In the case of hockey, this could be a continuing role for tough guys absent injurious blows to the head. For climate change, it may mean building an urgent case for a thriving, clean energy economy with better jobs, healthier communities and less pollution.
Like Derek Boogaard, who reportedly loved what fighting brought him but did not like fighting itself, we don’t love fossil fuels. We love what they do for us and we won’t be persuaded to give them up easily no matter the risk – unless of course there is a compelling alternative.
What do you think?