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Articles by Category for ‘Climate Change’

The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defense on the immediate future of global demography

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Excerpt: Demography

See: Here (PDF)

The global population is likely to grow to between 8.3 and 10.4 billion by 2045, largely because of increasing life-expectancy, declining levels of child mortality and continuing high birth rates in many developing countries. Growth is not likely to be evenly distributed and will probably be slower in developed countries. Some, including Japan and a number of European countries, are likely to experience a decline in population.

In developing countries, rapid population increase and urbanisation will probably challenge stability. Age and gender imbalances may exacerbate existing political and social tensions while a growing youth population, especially in the Middle East, Central Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, could provide a reservoir of disaffected young people.

Conversely, if harnessed, they could provide a boost to their economies. Migration is likely to increase, with people moving within, and outside, their country of origin to seek work or to escape the effects of climate change.

Two Realities

Friday, July 25th, 2014

Two Realities

See: http://www.resilience.org/stories/2014-07-22/two-realities

Our contemporary world is host to two coexisting but fundamentally different-and, in at least one crucial respect, contradictory-realities. One of these might be termed Political Reality, though it extends far beyond formal politics and pervades conventional economic thinking. It is the bounded universe of what is acceptable in public economic-social-political discourse. The other is Physical Reality: i.e., what exists in terms of energy and materials, and what is possible given the laws of thermodynamics.

For decades these two realities have developed along separate lines. They overlap from time to time: politicians and economists use data tied to measureable physical parameters, while physical scientists often frame their research and findings in socially meaningful ways. But in intent and effect, they diverge to an ever-greater extent.

The issue at which they differ to the point of outright contradiction is economic growth. And climate change forces the question.

See: http://www.resilience.org/stories/2014-07-22/two-realities

Is the Anthropocene a world of hope or a world of hurt?

Friday, July 11th, 2014

Is the Anthropocene a world of hope or a world of hurt?

See: http://grist.org/climate-energy/is-the-anthropocene-a-world-of-hope-or-a-world-of-hurt/

Is it possible that a world swarming with humanity, warmed by our fumes, and depleted by our carelessness could in any way be good?

Last year, some 30 people, including the ethicist Clive Hamilton and the journalist Andrew Revkin, attended a seminar in Washington, D.C., on the Anthropocene - a term denoting a new geologic epoch, dominated by human influence. Hamilton noticed that some of the participants seemed optimistic, even excited, about the advent of the Anthropocene. “I was astonished and irritated that some people who were scientifically literate were imposing this barrier of wishful thinking between the science and future outcomes for humanity,” he said.

Hamilton had just written a book, Requiem for a Species, arguing that people squirm away from the bleak reality of climate change.

Months later, Revkin sent this video of a talk he’d given to the people who had attended that seminar. It was entitled Seeking a Good Anthropocene, and Hamilton – seeing this idea that he objected so strongly reprised – decided to write a rebuttal (actually two).

This debate has been brewing for years, and each side tends to caricature the other’s position. Suggest there’s a reason for hope and you are called a delusional techno-utopian; if you say there’s an imperative for humility, you are framed as an anti-technological doomer.

See: http://grist.org/climate-energy/is-the-anthropocene-a-world-of-hope-or-a-world-of-hurt/

Call climate change what it is: violence

Monday, July 7th, 2014

Call climate change what it is: violence

Social unrest and famine, superstorms and droughts. Places, species and human beings – none will be spared. Welcome to Occupy Earth

See: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/07/climate-change-violence-occupy-earth

If you’re poor, the only way you’re likely to injure someone is the old traditional way: artisanal violence, we could call it – by hands, by knife, by club, or maybe modern hands-on violence, by gun or by car.

But if you’re tremendously wealthy, you can practice industrial-scale violence without any manual labor on your own part. You can, say, build a sweatshop factory that will collapse in Bangladesh and kill more people than any hands-on mass murderer ever did, or you can calculate risk and benefit about putting poisons or unsafe machines into the world, as manufacturers do every day. If you’re the leader of a country, you can declare war and kill by the hundreds of thousands or millions. And the nuclear superpowers – the US and Russia – still hold the option of destroying quite a lot of life on Earth.

So do the carbon barons.

See: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/07/climate-change-violence-occupy-earth

The Disaster We’ve Wrought on the World’s Oceans May Be Irrevocable

Monday, July 7th, 2014

The Disaster We’ve Wrought on the World’s Oceans May Be Irrevocable 

See: http://www.newsweek.com/2014/07/11/disaster-weve-wrought-worlds-oceans-may-be-irrevocable-256962.html

In the great halls of La Boqueria, Barcelona’s central market, tourists, foodies and cooks gather every day to marvel at the fresh food, like pilgrims at the site of a miracle. The chief shrines are the fish counters, where thousands of sea creatures making up dozens of species gleam pink and gray on mounds of ice. But to many ocean scientists this is not a display of the ocean’s bounty but a museum-by the end of this century, many of these animals may be history due to man’s reckless abuse of the planet. As we keep dumping greenhouse gases into the air, the oceans keep sucking them up, making the waters deadly to their inhabitants.

On the Boqueria’s fish stands I count 10 types of bivalves-creatures like clams, oysters and mussels that use calcium carbonate to make their endlessly varied shells. In as little as 20 years they will be very different and, in some parts of the world, entirely gone.

See: http://www.newsweek.com/2014/07/11/disaster-weve-wrought-worlds-oceans-may-be-irrevocable-256962.html

Food Security: The Challenge of A Growing Population

Monday, July 7th, 2014

Food Security: The Challenge of A Growing Population

See: http://www.thefinancialexpress-bd.com/2014/06/29/42052

Can Bangladesh sustain the gains achieved in food security and make further progress towards sustainable food security?

The main challenge in the way of progress towards food security emanates from continuing growth of population. The progress in reducing population growth, from 3.0 per cent per year at independence to about 1.2 per cent now, is laudable. But there are indications that the progress made in fertility reduction has slowed down in recent years. In Chittagong and Sylhet divisions, the total fertility rate is still higher than three, while the national average is 2.3, and it is less than two in Khulna Division. Strong traditional norms, and socio-cultural conditions in the Chittagong and Sylhet Divisions contribute to low acceptance of family planning that will not be easy to overcome.

The population is still increasing by 1.8 million every year. Rice production has to increase by 0.4 million tons every year to meet the need for staple food for the growing population. The increase in domestic production at that rate would be difficult due to several supply-side factors. The arable land has been shrinking by 0.6 per cent every year due to demand from housing and industries, and infrastructure, as well as loss of land from river erosion. With global warming and climate change, another one-sixth of the land may be submerged with brackish water over the next 40 years due to rising sea levels with adverse impact on soil salinity.

See: http://www.thefinancialexpress-bd.com/2014/06/29/42052

A Darker View of the Age of Us – the Anthropocene

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

A Darker View of the Age of Us – the Anthropocene 

See: http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/06/18/a-darker-view-of-the-age-of-us-the-anthropocene/

I alerted a batch of scholars and scientists focused on climate change and sustainable development to my taped talk on “Paths to a ‘Good’ Anthropocene” at the annual meeting of the Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences.

Clive Hamilton, a professor of public ethics at Australia’s Charles Sturt University and the author of “Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth About Climate Change,” reacted bluntly. Read on for his reply to the group, which he also posted on his blog, followed by an initial reply from me. I’m going to edit a version of the video that includes my slides and will weigh in at greater length when that’s ready.

Here’s Hamilton’s critique, which doesn’t deal with the core argument of my talk (the need for a shift in goals from numerical outcomes to societal qualities) and instead focuses on my use of the word “good” in relation to an era he clearly sees as awful.

***********************************************************

Dear Andy

Thanks for sending the link to your talk on “Charting Paths to a ‘Good’ Anthropocene”. Since you ask for responses let me express my view bluntly. In short, I think those who argue for the “good Anthropocene” are unscientific and live in a fantasy world of their own construction.

If we listen to what Earth system scientists, including climate scientists, are telling us, the warming of the Earth due to human causes is a slowly unfolding catastrophe. We already have 2.4°C of warming locked in and, even under the most optimistic mitigation scenarios, it will be very hard to avoid 4°C by the end of this century. According to those best placed to make projections, a world 4°C warmer would be a very different kind of planet, one unsympathetic to most forms of life, including human life. Apart from climatic change, other manifestations of human impact in the Anthropocene, from interference in the nitrogen cycle to plastics in the oceans, only add to the grim outlook.

See: http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/06/18/a-darker-view-of-the-age-of-us-the-anthropocene/

7 Billion and Counting: That Is A Lot of People

Monday, June 16th, 2014

7 Billion and Counting: That Is A Lot of People

See: http://www.ecori.org/beyond-the-region/2014/6/3/7-billion-and-counting-thats-a-lot-of-people.html

Since the start of the Industrial Revolution some 250 years ago, the widespread use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides that began about a century and a half later and the atomic half-life of the past seven decades, humans have developed and doused land and dammed and diverted water. These practices have left a wound that continues to fester as the human population swells.

Artificial fertilizer and the commercialization of industrial nitrogen changed the world significantly, according to author Alan Weisman, who was a panelist at The Nature Conservancy’s first forum in its 2014 Future of Nature Boston Speaker Series. “Forty percent of us wouldn’t be here without it,” he said.

The global population is closing in on 7.2 billion – a mere 15 years ago it was at 6 billion. Earth’s human population is expected to exceed 9 billion by 2050. While global population growth must be part of the conversation about sustaining the planet, it is seldom discussed. The issue is largely ignored at our own peril.

Some 40 years ago, human population was at the forefront of many discussions, because it was seen then as a barrier to economic growth, said Andrew Foster, director of thePopulation Studies and Training Center at Brown University. Today, environmental concerns associated with population growth don’t have the same place on the global agenda, he said.

Roger-Mark De Souza, director of population, environmental security and resilience at the Washington, D.C.-based Wilson Center, said there is another reason the population conversation has been muted.

“Politically it’s a third-rail issue in D.C,” he said. “Touch it and you’re dead. It’s the easy way out to avoid a needed conversation.”

See: http://www.ecori.org/beyond-the-region/2014/6/3/7-billion-and-counting-thats-a-lot-of-people.html

Ehrlich & Tobias Exclusive: The Biological Bottom Line

Monday, June 16th, 2014

“Why Impact Investors Must Come To Terms With the Biological Bottom Line”

 © By Paul R. Ehrlich and M. C. Tobias

When Nicholas Stern released the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change (October 30, 2006) for the British government, it was already clear that global warming, resultant weather anomalies and the overall consequences of unheeded business-as-usual greenhouse gas emission syndromes represented a huge challenge for portfolio management that had unambiguously put governments on notice. Despite continuing havoc amongst the participating nations to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, it had become clear that they should prepare for accelerating depletion of every major life-support system, and the corresponding societal chaos and economic loss which would result from escalating global temperatures and their impacts on climatic patterns and thus on biodiversity. Climate disruption presented new, but sobering opportunities; epiphanies regarding the true capacity of taxation to collectively cap the shadow now cast upon every financial market worldwide (*1) and on the future of civilization itself. (*2)

More recently, in her essay for the e-journal, Greenmoney.com, “Building a Sustainable Global Economy,” Mindy Lubber, President of CERES, wrote, “This should alarm every investor looking for long-term value creation, because climate regulatory risks alone could cost investment funds $8 trillion by 2030, according to the international consultancy Mercer.” (*3)

While the SEC and several European investor groups have now awakened to the extent of mandating environmental audits at some level of stringency, requiring a degree of transparency that should shed light on the risks to investors of new weather patterns generated by new concentrations of GHGs (greenhouse gases).  Meanwhile, biodiversity itself remains enmeshed in a seemingly impossible double-bind: there is simply no way as yet to accurately reflect true economic value of an individual, let along an entire species, or mosaic of interacting populations. All we know is that society is completely dependent on the mosaic of other organisms for its very existence.

In our book Hope on Earth: A Conversation (University of Chicago Press, May, 2014) we engaged in a discussion hinging upon the various ethical and pragmatic components of the one versus the many and of the future prospects of humanity. And we do it in a context not just of climate disruption, the loss of biodiversity, toxification of Earth, threats to health, poverty, racism, sexism, inequity and other factors the blight the human future.  Do human responses to individual plights reflect in any way an approach to realistic valuations of those individuals to this generation and future generations? Is the proclivity for heavily discounting the future and turning a blind-eye to likely ecological catastrophe built-in to a narcissism that would subject future generations to every manner of havoc as long as people are able to consume to their heart’s content now.  Is it in any way ethical for those of us in rich nations to disregard the consequences to others today, to say nothing of our own descendants?

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Why Pope Francis Is Wrong About My Child-Free Life

Monday, June 9th, 2014

Why Pope Francis Is Wrong About My Child-Free Life

The pope may pooh-pooh the decision to remain childless, but the world needs more people who choose pets over kids.

See: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/06/06/pope-francis-is-wrong-about-my-child-free-life.html

Pope Francis came into office on a wave of hope that finally the world would have a progressive pope instead of the string of throwbacks with retrograde ideas who had come before. He’s since then been busy dashing those hopes, one speech at a time, demonstrating that he has zero intention of actually bothering to learn about people’s real lives and needs before telling them how to live their lives. Now he’s moved on to picking on childless couples, with a little extra shade thrown at pet ownership. Oh goody, just in time for Adopt-A-Cat Month.

See: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/06/06/pope-francis-is-wrong-about-my-child-free-life.html