This is one of several articles – not from the mainstream media, however – to offer a limited readership some reflections on Earth Day which has been recognised for almost 50 years. This year Earth Day coincides with a period of civil disobedience in which activists are taking to the streets in the hope of mobilising public opinion after decades of inadequate response by ruling elites to rapidly escalating socio-ecological problems afflicting Spaceship Earth.
A second review of Earth Day from the US perspective.
The first Earth Day was celebrated April 22, 1970, when 20 million Americans across the country took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums demanding that our government do something to protect our environment.
Earth Day tweets – compiled by the European Environmental Bureau from a deluge of concern on social media. Contains some remarkable graphics on CO2 emission & short video links, including extracts from Attenborough’s latest summary on climate change.
This article from The Conversation clarifies what the 12 year warning issued by the IPCC actually means because it is widely misundestood.
My biggest concern is with the much-touted line that “the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says we have 12 years” before triggering an irreversible slide into climate chaos. Slogan writers are vague on whether they mean climate chaos will happen after 12 years, or if we have 12 years to avert it. But both are misleading.
As the relevant lead author of the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C, I spent several days last October, literally under a spotlight, explaining to delegates of the world’s governments what we could, and could not, say about how close we are to that level of warming.
Using the World Meteorological Organisation’s definition of global average surface temperature, and the late 19th century to represent its pre-industrial level (yes, all these definitions matter), we just passed 1°C and are warming at more than 0.2°C per decade, which would take us to 1.5°C around 2040.
That said, these are only best estimates. We might already be at 1.2°C, and warming at 0.25°C per decade – well within the range of uncertainty. That would indeed get us to 1.5°C by 2030: 12 years from 2018. But an additional quarter of a degree of warming, more-or-less what has happened since the 1990s, is not going to feel like Armageddon to the vast majority of today’s striking teenagers (the striving taxpayers of 2030). And what will they think then? ….
Climate change is not so much an emergency as a festering injustice. Your ancestors did not end slavery by declaring an emergency and dreaming up artificial boundaries on “tolerable” slave numbers. They called it out for what it was: a spectacularly profitable industry, the basis of much prosperity at the time, founded on a fundamental injustice. It’s time to do the same on climate change.
Creating a zero-emission society in the UK has become a major cause and it will receive further serious promotion next week when the government’s climate change committee publishes its report on how, and when, Britain can achieve this status and play a proper part in the battle against global warming. Another scientist on staying below 1.5C global target by reducing carbon emissions (Observer article 21.01.19)
Slow burn? The long road to a zero-emissions UK Extinction Rebellion protesters want a carbon-free UK by 2025. But can the financial and political hurdles be overcome?
“If the world limits emissions of carbon dioxide to no more than 420 billion tonnes this century, we will have a two in three chance of keeping global warming down to around 1.5C.
“However, if we go above to 580 billion tonnes then our chances will be reduced to 50-50. The problem is that in 2017 alone, a total of 42 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide was emitted in a single year. By that calculation, we clearly do not have a lot of time to waste.”
Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (known as AOC) is a young democratic socialist woman in the US Congress who is promoting the Green New Deal and is raising the alarm about climate change. This article from Common Dreams contains a creative 7 minute video that invites us to see a future in which the current denial and delay on the part of vested interests in the corporate world and government are replaced by a major shift towards preserving the planet for future generations.
It comes at a time when awareness about the urgency of climate change is spreading rapidly. Last night BBC TV aired David Attenborough’s stark warning in his Netflix series “Our Planet” (perhaps an anthropomorphic error of a title?) in the episode ‘Climate: The facts’ and this week Extinction Rebellion civil disobedience is making headlines around the world with demands to have governments declare a climate emergency. Also Greta Thunberg here spoke to EU MEPs this week appealing to them to make climate change and several other existential challenges the main issue in the upcoming EU Parliamentary elections.
Naomi Klein pointed to the hope the video could give to people interested in working to change the planet for the better. “This beautiful film helps us imagine a different version of ourselves, and a future in which we decided to come together in the face of crisis, rather than surrender and fall apart,”
Update on Greta Thunberg
In following Jem Bendell’s website about Deep Adaptation I came across and subscribed to the website above and also this presentation (39 mins.) by Stuart Scott and Alison Green given in November 2018 at an EU Commission Foresight Group conference. Since the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015 and COP24 in December 2018 coverage of the climate crisis has expanded considerably in the mainstream media in large part due to the viral spread of Greta Thunberg’s student strike and the rise of the Extinction Rebellion ‘s civil disobedience that is for the next two weeks operating to disrupt daily transport in London and elsewhere. The Alliance of World Scientists emerged from the 1992 warning by scientists of the gravity of existential threats. 25 years later in 2017 a much larger group of 23000 signatory scientists repeated the warning, as little has been done to address the system change that is needed.
The ‘elephant in the room’ underlying existential threats is a global operating system driven by money (‘a virus of the mind’ or universal meme, according to Scott) and neoclassical ‘growth’ economics which completely ignores the natural world’s ecosystems , ethics and equity.
In his emotional presentation, Scott lists 10 ecological stressors: biodiversity loss; food systems; freshwater scarcity; marine life depletion; ocean pollution; forest destruction; air toxification; soil degradation; overpopulation and climate change. He sees the last of these as the most pressing risk .
For example, the Paris Agreement does not oblige Global North countries to do anything other than report on their own actions. The Agreement also explicitly absolves Global North countries of their liability for climate-related disasters. Unsurprisingly, the result is a world on course for 4℃ warming, and complete civilisational collapse.
This short clip from a talk show has George Monbiot getting to the heart of the issue of why Spaceship Earth is on a crash course as its crew uses GDP growth as its goal for a better future. Although individual consumers can make a tiny difference by not using plastic cotton buds, by going vegetarian and by ceasing to fly, the system that promotes doubling of consumption every 24 years (3% annual growth) has to be radically restrained.
Green growth – a misleading concept (May 2019)
Tim Jackson is Prof of Sustainable Development Studies at the University of Surrey and a passionate advocate of a post-growth economics in which prosperity is not eliminated but is redefined. This short blog introduces his critique of GDP. His lengthy paper here sets out more fully his critical perspective on GDP and its stagnation in the OECD rich countries. It concludes:
The dynamics of the existing growth-based paradigm are driving environmental damage, exacerbating social inequality and contributing to increased political instability. There has never been a more urgent need to question the growth imperative. There has never been a more opportune time to develop the design concepts for a resilient post-growth society.
This BBC “Ideas” video deals with the sense of helplessness that many people feel about the increasing awareness of climate change and other existential threats. It is one of a series of 16 short videos on sustainability themes. The first video is followed by another that answers the questions “Can we transform the world in 12 years?”. The New Deal of F D Roosevelt is cited as a successful social transformation as is the man on the moon space programme and the adaptation that led to the end of WWII and the Icelandic volcanic eruption that disrupted air transport. Humans are innovative and adaptable claims the presenter. Worth a look at the collected set of ideas!
Jeremy Lent in this article argues that the increasingly popular concept of ‘deep adaptation’ (preparing to deal with inevitable socio-ecological collapse) is premature and that there is still time to tell our grandchildren that ‘deep transformation’ to avoid collapse is still possible.
This second article ‘Deep Solidarity’ from Resilience, comments on the Lent article and expresses what many of us struggle with.
Here is a review by Jem Bendell of The Unihabitable Earth: A story of the Future – From the Ecologist Journal, its main criticism is that the capacity of geo-enginieering is overestimeated by David Wallace-Wells