Daily Archives: January 20, 2016

What If? – The New York Times

 ZURICH — Just get me talking about the world today and I can pretty well ruin any dinner party. I don’t mean to, but I find it hard not to look around and wonder whether the recent turmoil in international markets isn’t just the product of tremors but rather of seismic shifts in the foundational pillars of the global system, with highly unpredictable consequences.

What if a bunch of eras are ending all at once?

What if we’re at the end of the 30-plus-year era of high growth in China, and therefore China’s ability to fuel global growth through its imports, exports and purchases of commodities will be much less frothy and reliable in the future?

“Now that this debt bubble is unwinding, growth in China is going offline,” Michael Pento, president of Pento Portfolio Strategies, wrote on CNBC.com last week. “The renminbi’s falling value, cascading Shanghai equity prices (down 40 percent since June 2014) and plummeting rail freight volumes (down 10.5 percent year over year) all clearly illustrate that China is not growing at the promulgated 7 percent, but rather isn’t growing at all. The problem is that China accounted for 34 percent of global growth, and the nation’s multiplier effect on emerging markets takes that number to over 50 percent.”

…(read more)

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Real-Time Carbon Clock Shows Climate Change ‘Danger Zone’ Is Imminent

Cole Mellino | January 18, 2016 8:38 am
Bloomberg’s Carbon Clock serves as an ominous reminder that carbon levels are rising rapidly. The clock tracks the monthly average levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. The current number is slightly above 400 parts per million (ppm).

Bloomberg’s Carbon Clock tracks the global monthly average of emissions as measured in parts per million.

“Carbon dioxide pollution is the primary reason the Earth is warming,” Bloomberg explained. “The number you see here estimates the level of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere right now, based on monthly averages.”

Scientists estimate pre-industrial CO2 levels hovered around 280 ppm. When scientists first measured CO2 levels in 1959, they were at 316 ppm. The “danger zone,” according to Bloomberg, is 450 ppm, which we may reach in just a few decades. The climate group 350.org proposes rapidly reducing CO2 levels to below 350 ppm this century to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change.

Carbon

dioxide levels remained relatively constant for hundreds of thousands. In recent years, carbon levels have soared to around 400 ppm. The “danger zone” is 450 ppm, which we may reach by 2040, Bloomberg warned.

And don’t be fooled by carbon’s seasonal cycle, Bloomberg cautioned. CO2 levels fall each spring and autumn when vegetation in the Northern Hemisphere absorbs carbon from the air, but the overall trend is still upward.

Even though carbon levels fluctuate seasonally, the overall trend is upward.

The World Meteorological Organization reported in November 2015 that atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations hit yet another new record in 2014, “continuing a relentless rise which is fueling climate change and will make the planet more dangerous and inhospitable for future generations.” At the same time, the UK’s Met Office reported that 2015 marked the first time global mean temperature at the Earth’s surface was set to reach 1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

…(read more).

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Bill McKibben: How to Stop the Fossil Fuel Industry From Wrecking Our World

Bill McKibben, TomDispatch | January 19, 2016 12:34 pm

When I was a kid, I was creepily fascinated by the wrongheaded idea, current in my grade school, that your hair and your fingernails kept growing after you died. The lesson seemed to be that it was hard to kill something off—if it wanted to keep going.

Something similar is happening right now with the fossil fuel industry. Even as the global warming crisis makes it clear that coal, natural gas and oil are yesterday’s energy, the momentum of two centuries of fossil fuel development means new projects keep emerging in a zombie-like fashion.

In fact, the climactic fight at the end of the fossil fuel era is already underway, even if it’s happening almost in secret. That’s because so much of the action isn’t taking place in big, headline-grabbing climate change settings like the recent conference of 195 nations in Paris; it’s taking place in hearing rooms and farmers’ fields across this continent (and other continents, too). Local activists are making desperate stands to stop new fossil fuel projects, while the giant energy companies are making equally desperate attempts to build while they still can. Though such conflicts and protests are mostly too small and local to attract national media attention, the outcome of these thousands of fights will do much to determine whether we emerge from this century with a habitable planet. In fact, far more than any set of paper promises by politicians, they really are the battle for the future.

In May a vast coalition across six continents will engage in mass civil disobedience to “keep it in the ground.” Photo credit: Kris Krüg / Flickr / with overlay

Here’s how Diane Leopold, president of the giant fracking company Dominion Energy, put it at a conference earlier this year: “It may be the most challenging” period in fossil fuel history, she said, because of “an increase in high-intensity opposition” to infrastructure projects that is becoming steadily “louder, better-funded and more sophisticated.” Or, in the words of the head of the American Natural Gas Association, referring to the bitter struggle between activists and the Canadian tar sands industry over the building of the Keystone XL pipeline, “Call it the Keystone-ization of every project that’s out there.”

…(read more).

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Why the Pope’s embrace of science matters

Jun 30, 2015 / Johan Rockström
Pope Francis’ recent Encyclical has been widely praised for supporting the science on climate change. As Johan Rockström, who’s been involved in high level discussions between scientists and the Vatican explains, the story of how the Pope has integrated science and religion represents an important shift.

On June 18, Pope Francis issued the encyclical Laudato Si: On care for our common home. The letter has been widely praised for supporting the science on climate change. But it goes much further than many expected in documenting the phenomenal changes that our planet is undergoing, beyond climate. And the story of how the Pope has integrated science and religion (not always the easiest of companions, let’s face it) indicates, to me at least, a profound shift in world view.

The Pontifical Academy of Sciences has been bringing together climate scientists, economists and scholars pretty much since Francis’ papacy began in March 2013. My colleagues, professors Paul Crutzen, Veerabhadran Ramanathan and John Schellnhuber, have been part of a new level of dialogue between Earth system scientists and the Vatican. In April of this year, I attended a one-day scientific workshop on the moral dimensions of climate change and sustainable humanity.

At that workshop, which included economist Jeffrey Sachs and Sir Partha Dasgupta of Cambridge University, Cardinal Peter Turkson reminded us that “we are traversing some of the planet’s most fundamental natural boundaries.”

Turkson was using language referring to research on planetary boundaries led by my group, the Stockholm Resilience Centre, and carried out together with leading global sustainability scientists across the world. First published in 2009 (and updated in a paper for Science in January), our work was initiated by growing alarm at the scale of human influence on Earth. Indeed, humans, predominantly in wealthy nations that consume the most, are now the prime drivers of change in the Earth system. We are altering the carbon, water and nitrogen cycles; we are changing the chemistry of the ocean. Only last week, researchers announced further evidence that we are in the midst of a sixth mass extinction of life on Earth.

…(read more).

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What Should New York’s Climate Museum Look Like? – The New Yorker

One recent morning on the Upper East Side, a troupe of two-year-olds, strapped into their strollers, sat around the grand entrance to the newly renovated Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. Their nannies chatted in many languages—Spanish, Urdu, English. “This is my first time coming here,” one woman said. “Art class,” she added, nodding at her charge. At ten o’clock, just as the museum’s doors were opening, a lawyer named Miranda Massie arrived. The Cooper Hewitt is the seventh Manhattan museum that she has visited this year. She’s looking for ideas for her own museum—a museum devoted to climate change. Massie is thinking big, and thinking long-term, as in centuries. The occupants of the strollers that she followed through the old Carnegie Mansion’s doors are her target audience, starting in a few years, and if they’re lucky they’ll still be visiting her museum in 2100, when the sea level around New York will likely be four feet higher than it is today.

Massie conceived of the project in 2012, a few weeks after Hurricane Sandy. “It was a question of, What’s missing?” she said. There were climate-policy organizations and academic centers, like Columbia University’s Earth Institute, but nothing that she knew of for the broader public. “If we have a museum for skyscrapers, mathematics, Himalayan art, food and drink, the First Amendment, then we absolutely should have a museum of climate in the United States,” she said. Massie Googled “climate museum,” assuming that such an institution already existed or was in the works. Not in this country. There is a small one in Hong Kong—the Jockey Club Museum of Climate Change—which Massie is visiting next week. And there’s the Klimahaus, in Bremerhaven, Germany—“Be amazed, sweat, and freeze”—which features a climatic tour down the eighth meridian. (“I don’t understand a climate museum that neglects climate change, or fails to foreground it,” Massie said. “It’s the preëminent science, development, tech, health, finance, and social question for our species.”)

…(read more).
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There Will Be More Plastic Than Fish in the Ocean by 2050

Cole Mellino | January 20, 2016 10:11 am
There will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050, warned the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in a report published Tuesday. The report, The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the Future of Plastics, was produced by the foundation and the World Economic Forum with analytical support from McKinsey & Company.

There will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050, according to a new report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Photo credit: Plastic Pollution

Every year “at least 8 million tons of plastics leak into the ocean—which is equivalent to dumping the contents of one garbage truck into the ocean every minute,” the report finds. “If no action is taken, this is expected to increase to two per minute by 2030 and four per minute by 2050.

“In a business-as-usual scenario, the ocean is expected to contain one ton of plastic for every three tons of fish by 2025, and by 2050, more plastics than fish (by weight).”

Plastic production has increased 20-fold since 1964, reaching 311 million tons in 2014, the report says. It is expected to double again in the next 20 years and almost quadruple by 2050. New plastics will consume 20 percent of all oil production within 35 years, up from an estimated 5 percent today.

Plastic production has increased dramatically in the last 50 years. Photo credit: Ellen MacArthur Foundation

The vast majority of plastics is not effectively recycled, either, according to the report. Only 5 percent is properly recycled, while 40 percent is sent to a landfill and a third ends up in the environment, including in the world’s oceans. Much of the rest is burned, which generates energy, The Guardian noted, but also causes “more fossil fuels to be consumed in order to make new plastic bags, cups, tubs and consumer devices demanded by the economy.”

The report provides a first-ever “vision of a global economy in which plastics never become waste, and outlines concrete steps towards achieving the systemic shift needed,” the Ellen MacArthur Foundation said.

…(read more).

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The Climate Museum

Creating a hub for climate science, art and dialogue:a beacon for solutions.

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