Tag Archive | "Climate Change"

Climate change, extreme weather, destructive lifestyles

Man-made climate change

Graham Peebles writes:

Throughout the world heat waves, flooding and uncontrollable wildfires have caused widespread havoc, lives have been lost, homes destroyed, livelihoods ruined. 

Unprecedented levels of heat have been recorded in North America, Europe and Asia, as well as the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. According to The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) record cold May temperatures were registered in “northeastern Canada and the northern Atlantic Ocean, off the southern coast of Greenland.” Global temperatures for the first five months of the year were the highest on record for a La Niña year; higher temperatures, “lead to more frequent and long-lasting heat waves causing adverse environmental impacts.”

These extreme weather patterns are the ferocious signs and sights of climate change in 2018, and, because so little is being done to tackle the causes, year on year they become more and more intense. Planet Earth is becoming a world in which the extreme becomes the expected, the disastrous the everyday.

How bad must it get?

The year began with the coldest first week of January on record for numerous cities in eastern America; freezing temperatures and heavy snowfall swept across Europe in March as the “Beast From the East” hit. Britain was severely affected, with up to three feet of snow in some areas and temperatures down to minus 10ºC.

Floods have affected East Africa killing dozens of people, tropical cyclones hit Somalia, Djibouti, Yemen and Oman, dust storms killed hundreds in India, and Pakistan had an intense heat wave with temperatures exceeding 40ºC. Heavy rains and 70 mph winds in Bangladesh caused landslides, deaths and injuries. California had the largest wild fires ever recorded, and down under, Australia is becoming the ‘Land of Drought’ according to the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull.

A heat wave of unprecedented temperatures scorched Europe and Japan, where 40ºC (104ºF) temperatures were recorded, 30 people died and thousands needed medical treatment for heat related conditions. A month earlier Japan had some of the worst floods in its history, more than 200 people lost their lives and almost 2 million people were evacuated; the Caribbean is bracing itself for this year’s hurricane season, while “still recovering from last year’s devastation,” which, the UNFCC say, was “the costliest on record”.

The list of extreme weather events across the word is endless; extremes that are increasingly normal as the impact of man-made climate change become more and more apparent, and yet little is being done to address the primary causes. How bad does it have to become before substantive action is taken to reverse the terrible damage we are doing to the natural world?

The mechanics of climate change

Climate change is being triggered by global warming; Global warming, described by NASA as “the unusually rapid increase in Earth’s average surface temperature…primarily due to the greenhouse gases released as people burn fossil fuels” occurs, “when the atmosphere traps heat radiating from Earth toward space.” This happens when so-called greenhouse gases (Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4) and Nitrous Oxide (N2O), being the three main culprits) clog the lower levels of Earth’s atmosphere. This leads to a range of effects: The planet overall becomes warmer (average ground temperature rises), causing “extreme weather events and other severe natural and societal impacts” to become more frequent; glaciers in the Arctic region melt sending huge quantities of water into the ocean, which raises the sea level, oceans are made warmer and expand, further contributing to rising levels. As the sea level rises land is flooded, cities, towns and villages are threatened, lives lost, homes destroyed, communities ripped apart, people displaced.

Man-made greenhouse gases (GGE) are produced by a range of sectors and activities: Animal agriculture produces the largest amount (18% of the total according to the UN, other sources put the figure much higher), followed by electricity and heat production, transportation and industry – all through burning fossil fuels – oil, coal and gas. GGEs have been increasing since the industrial revolution, leading to a rise in global ground temperatures, which to date has reached about 1ºC above pre-industrial levels. Temperatures continue to increase at around 0.17ºC per decade.

One degree doesn’t sound like much but, as the extreme weather events show,the effect of this modest rise on the climate is huge, the consequences far reaching, potentially catastrophic.

In 2015 the Paris Agreement on Climate Change was reached and signed up to by every country in the world; under President Trump America has since pulled out. Hailed as historic, its central aim is to keep global rises in temperature “well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.” Even if these rather optimistic targets are met, a recent study by an international team of scientists writing in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests, “there is a risk of Earth entering what the scientists call “Hothouse Earth” conditions.” The BBC report that the group believe 2ºC of warming “could turn some of the Earth’s natural forces [forests, oceans and land] – that currently protect us – into our enemies…As the world experiences warming, these carbon sinks could become sources of carbon and make the problems of climate change significantly worse.”

If this occurs they forecast the climate stabilizing at “a global average of 4-5°C higher than pre-industrial temperatures with sea level 10-60 m higher than today.” This would mean that some parts of the Earth would become uninhabitable. In order to avoid this nightmare scenario the authors make clear that “a total re-orientation of human values, equity, behavior and technologies is required. We must all become stewards of the Earth.” This requires a major shift in human attitudes.

Unhealthy destructive lifestyle

Climate Change and the environmental disaster in its various colors is the result of human activity and complacency; we have poisoned the oceans, rivers and streams, cleared 85% of the world’s tropical rainforests, mainly for livestock, and are turning healthy land into desert; we are filling the air we breathe with toxins, creating dead zones in the oceans and causing the eradication of species at an unprecedented rate. Collectively we seem to have no respect or love for the natural environment and whilst some people are acting responsibly, the majority fails to see the connection between lifestyle and disaster and appear content to treat the planet like a giant rubbish tip.

The natural order has been thrown into disarray by the widespread adoption of a selfish, destructive way of life: A particular lifestyle, or collection of related ‘lifestyle choices’ are responsible for the production of man-made greenhouse gases that are triggering the extreme weather patterns we are seeing all around the world. 

Hedonism and consumerism sit at the heart of the unhealthy mode of living that is driving the catastrophe and making us ill; mankind’s relentless consumption of stuff, the vast majority of which is not needed, combined with an animal-based diet (common to 97% of the global population), has created a cocktail of chaos within the natural world, bringing about the greatest crisis in the history of mankind. It is a materialistic lifestyle that the global economy, and by extension the corporate state depends on and ceaselessly promotes. This is why, despite the intense urgency of the environmental issue, we hear little on mainstream media and virtually nothing from governments, who are more concerned with economic growth and petty domestic politics than the stability and health of the planet.

The harmony of the natural world has been thrown into chaos by the same approach to life that has separated us one from another, and fuelled internal conflict resulting in a global mental health epidemic. In all areas, where there should be unity and right relationship we see enmity, discord and disease. Restoring the planet to health and creating a world in which human beings can live healthy peaceful lives are inextricably linked. Both require a fundamental change in values, a shift away from divisive modes of living built on competition and greed to inclusive ways in which social/environmental responsibility is cultivated and embraced.

Such ideas are not new and are frequently championed, but the prevailing socio-economic ideology actively works to suppress such principles, and powerfully promotes values of division and selfishness. Despite this widespread conditioning, an unstoppable current of change can be seen sweeping the world; social responsibility is growing apace, and perennial values of goodness – cooperation, tolerance and sharing – are increasingly influencing the minds of men and women everywhere. 

To galvanize this global movement a major public education program should be undertaken by governments and schools to increase awareness of climate change and lifestyle and create a sense of urgency and engagement. Change can be slow, but these are extraordinary times, and there is a growing recognition that if we unite all things are possible. If not, if we continue in the selfish, greedy, divisive ways of the past, the weather patterns will become more extreme and unpredictable, the air and waterways will become more toxic, loss of life will increase and the associated environmental ills will deepen. The choice is ours.

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Climate Change Could Prompt Tens of Thousands of Suicides in the US and Mexico by 2050


“A main hypothesis is that hotter temperatures have a direct effect on human emotion and impulsivity.”

Climate Change

Steam from the Jeffrey Energy Center coal-fired power plant is silhouetted against the setting sun near St. Marys, Kan.


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Movement at Marrakech: Climate Change in the Shadow of Denial. “The Trump Electoral View”


While it was all but obscured in the course of the US presidential excitement, negotiators at the climate change conference in Marrakech were busy attempting to hammer out the means to implement the Paris Climate Agreement.

The long and confusing shadow cast over the negotiations was considerable. Donald Trump has made no bones about climate change as a plot conjured up by other interests, specifically Chinese ones. “The concept of global warming,” he tweeted in 2012, as is his wont, “was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.”

During the election, Trump became the spokesperson for dirty industries, fossil fuels and lost dreams, lauding the virtues of coal and mocking strategies and policies directed to alternative energy. The latter, or so he positioned himself, was the stance of the chatting class do-gooders. Embracing coal, oil and gas was a means of embracing the disenfranchised, a true fit of muscled nostalgia.

This Trump electoral view (governing may be more complicated) is cosmically different from the stance taken by the Obama administration, which has made it a point to come to some agreement with China to harmonise ambitious climate change policies and the push towards decarbonisation.

To that end, the negotiations were taking place as theatre rather than substance, a grand contingency. US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke of “the overwhelming majority of the citizens of the United States, who know climate change is happening and who are determined to keep our commitments that were made in Paris”.

While the front displayed by member states in attendance was one of comity and the firm common ground, the background note was shrill: tribalism and populism hovering with menace, environmental agencies fearing a slash in their funding.

As Gernot Wagner and David Keith note in Foreign Affairs (Nov 21), “Global warming is a near-perfect example of the tragedy of the commons, as it is a problem that no individual action, no single country can resolve on its own.” Trump, pulling the plug on the effort, might well propel the stage towards greater fractiousness and self-interest.

The other facet of this is to assume that any damage will be minimised by technological efforts and factors that are not within the control of the White House. The private sector, for instance, has been moving in the direction of alternative energy for years.

There are also logistical issues, the paperwork nightmare about withdrawal. The length of time it will take to disentangle the US from the machinery of the climate change framework would take up to four years.[1] A better option there would simply be non-enforcement and foot dragging.

Should the United States withdraw, others will step in. China has already indicated its enthusiasm in taking over should the US step back. This is bound to prove bruising for American pride, and it is a point the advisors will be wise to keep in mind.

As for the conference itself, there was continued emphasis on the problem of squaring the gap between National Determined Contributions (NDCs), otherwise known as the government’s climate commitments, and the overall aim of keeping the global temperature rise significantly below 2 degrees centigrade.

One way of doing so has been advanced by Markku Markula, President of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR). “The EU,” suggested Markula, “must take the lead and incorporate cities’ and regions’ carbon emission achievements in time for the next NDC revision period that starts in 2018” (EU Committee of the Regions, Nov 21).[2]

Initiatives such as the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Change and the 2050 Pathways Platform, both designed to mesh the cooperative mechanism between all levels of government, were also launched. This is not merely a case of State intervention, but that of the city and the region. Across cities and regions in the United States, “green” initiatives are also being undertaken. Not all hands of endeavour, destructive or otherwise, stem from the White House.

Given the nature of his unruly mind, there is nothing to suggest that Trump would not relent on the issue of climate change limits, provided he sees business running through it. The word to repeat here is competitiveness, even if that aspect retains a distinct hollowness to it. What comes into the boardroom of that particular reality show is bound to vary.

As a case in point, the president-elect, ever unpredictable, now claims there is “some connectivity” between human agency and climate change. As for the 2015 Paris climate accord? “I’m looking at it very closely. I have an open mind to it.”[3]

Not that the mind is so open, if the appointments to the transition team is anything to go by. Mryon Ebell, senior fellow at the Competitive Research Institute, has the Environmental Protection Agency in his sights. On the surface, the appointment resembles, in its comic dimensions, the appointment by President George W. Bush of John R. Bolton to the post of UN Ambassador.

The recipe for administrative chaos is being followed, and the point of concern will be specific to such matters as the Clean Air Act or a reduction of funding for such bodies as the National Science Foundation. While Trump is not an ideologue, some of his appointees are.

For the moment, much of what took place in Morocco may well be a dead letter once the president-elect storms his way onto the international stage. The greatest concern will the anti-climate change zeal from those ideologues clinging in eager anticipation to Trump’s coattails.


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