Global Warming...New Report...and it ain't happy news

Walter Hinteler
Reply Thu 28 Apr, 2022 03:38 am
‘Zoonotic spillovers’ expected to rise with at least 15,000 instances of viruses leaping between species over next 50 years.

‘Potentially devastating’: Climate crisis may fuel future pandemics
There will be at least 15,000 instances of viruses leaping between species over the next 50 years, with the climate crisis helping fuel a “potentially devastating” spread of disease that will imperil animals and people and risk further pandemics, researchers have warned.

As the planet heats up, many animal species will be forced to move into new areas to find suitable conditions. They will bring their parasites and pathogens with them, causing them to spread between species that haven’t interacted before. This will heighten the risk of what is called ‘zoonotic spillover’, where viruses transfer from animals to people, potentially triggering another pandemic of the magnitude of Covid-19.

“As the world changes, the face of disease will change too,” said Gregory Albery, an expert in disease ecology at Georgetown University and co-author of the paper, published in Nature. “This work provides more incontrovertible evidence that the coming decades will not only be hotter, but sicker.

“We have demonstrated a novel and potentially devastating mechanism for disease emergence that could threaten the health of animals in the future and will likely have ramifications for us, too.”

Albery said that climate change is “shaking ecosystems to their core” and causing interactions between species that are already likely to be spreading viruses. He said that even drastic action to address global heating now won’t be enough to halt the risk of spillover events.

“This is happing, it’s not preventable even in the best case climate change scenarios and we need to put measures in place to build health infrastructure to protect animal and human populations,” he said.

The research paper states that at least 10,000 types of virus capable of infecting humans are circulating “silently” in wild animal populations. Until relatively recently, such crossover infections were unusual but as more habitat has been destroyed for agriculture and urban expansion, more people have come into contact with infected animals.

Climate change is exacerbating this problem by helping circulate disease between species that previously did not encounter each other. The study forecast the geographic range shifts of 3,139 mammal species due to climatic and land use changes until 2070 and found that even under a relatively low level of global heating there will be at least 15,000 cross-species transmission events of one or more viruses during this time.

Bats will account for the majority of this disease spread because of their ability to travel large distances. An infected bat in Wuhan in China is a suspected cause of the start of the Covid pandemic and previous research has estimated there are about 3,200 strains of coronaviruses already moving among bat populations.

The risk of climate-driven disease is not a future one, the new research warns. “Surprisingly, we find that this ecological transition may already be under way, and holding warming under 2C within the century will not reduce future viral sharing,” the paper states.

Much of the disease risk is set to center upon high elevation areas in Africa and Asia, although a lack of monitoring is set make it difficult to track the progress of certain viruses. “There is this monumental and mostly unobserved change happening within ecosystems,” said Colin Carlson, another co-author of the research.

“We aren’t keeping an eye on them and it makes pandemic risk everyone’s problem. Climate change is creating innumerable hotspots for zoonotic risk right in our backyard. We have to build health systems that are ready for that.”

Experts not involved in the research said the study highlighted the urgent need to improve processes designed to prevent future pandemics, as well as to phase out the use of the fossil fuels that are causing the climate crisis.

“The findings underscore that we must, absolutely must, prevent pathogen spillover,” said Aaron Bernstein, interim director of the center for climate, health, and the global environment at Harvard University.

“Vaccines, drugs and tests are essential but without major investments in primary pandemic prevention, namely habitat conservation, strictly regulating wildlife trade, and improved livestock biosecurity, as examples, we will find ourselves in a world where only the rich are able to endure ever more likely infectious disease outbreaks.”

Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance, a nonprofit that works on pandemic prevention, said that while human interference in landscapes has been understood as a disease risk for a while, the new research represents a “critical step forward” in the understanding of how climate change will fuel the spread of viruses.

“What’s even more concerning is that we may already be in this process – something I didn’t expect and a real wake-up call for public health,” he said. “In fact, if you think about the likely impacts of climate change, if pandemic diseases are one of them, we’re talking trillions of dollars of potential impact.

“This hidden cost of climate change is finally illuminated, and the vision this paper shows us is a very ugly future for wildlife and for people.”

Research paper @ Nature:
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-022-04788-w wrote:
Climate change increases cross-species viral transmission risk
0 Replies
Reply Thu 28 Apr, 2022 01:02 pm
From The Lever (email)

The GOP’s New War On Divestment

Republican state and federal lawmakers, their campaign coffers filled with fossil fuel donations, are quietly building a nationwide effort to pass anti-divestment bills that would punish financial institutions that consider the climate crisis in their business deals or try to do something about it by not working with fossil fuel companies.

The effort began last December, when a model bill written by former Texas state Rep. Jason Isaac (R), now director at the Charles Koch-funded think tank Texas Public Policy Foundation, was unveiled at the American Legislative Exchange Council’s major gathering of conservative lawmakers. The model legislation, titled the “Energy Discrimination Elimination Act,” calls for states to identify and divest from financial institutions that boycott or otherwise penalize energy companies for falling short of environmental standards.

Since then, several states have introduced bills based on the model language, with two versions already becoming law. The push has also made its way to the national level. A federal bill proposed last month by the U.S. House’s top recipient of coal industry money would prohibit financial advisers from considering ESG — environmental, social, and corporate governance — factors⁠ when making investment decisions.

Now the fight against ESG considerations is spilling out of the halls of Congress and state legislatures. Last week, Utah’s Republican governor and its entire congressional delegation sent a letter to the credit rating agency S&P Global Ratings opposing the company’s plans to add ESG scores to its global credit ratings for state and local governments.

“S&P’s ESG credit indicators politicize what should be a purely financial decision,” the politicians argued in their letter, according to Bloomberg. The letter was celebrated on Twitter by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and by the State Financial Officers Foundation, a conservative nonprofit whose board of directors and advisory committee include ALEC executives.

The timeline illustrates the shadowy, concerted way the fossil fuel industry and its political lackeys are responding to the growing threat of the divestment movement. In recent years, climate activist organizations have been pushing financial institutions to stop financing fossil fuel companies, given fossil fuels’ role as the leading source of carbon dioxide emissions.

While the effort has been slow going, banks including JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup have pledged to reduce their fossil fuel financing to align with the emission reduction goals of the Paris Agreement. Now, in response, the oil and gas industry is trying to do everything in its power to actively punish financial institutions and advisors for trying to take reasonable steps to address the climate crisis.

“I Eat Coal For Breakfast”
Isaac’s model legislation was likely inspired by an anti-energy company boycott adopted by his home state last June. According to the new Texas law, which took effect last September, the state’s comptroller must create a list of financial companies that have limited their commercial relationships with energy companies over emissions concerns, and state investment funds would divest from those companies. Last month, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar sent letters to 19 finance companies he believes may be boycotting the fossil fuel industry.

The law had six authors, several of whom have received significant fossil fuel funding. State Sen. Drew Springer (R), for example, has raked in more than $220,000 from the oil and gas industry, making it his top career donor industry. The primary sponsor of the bill in the House, Rep. Ken King (R), has received $378,000 from the oil and gas industry. King’s side jobs include being president of oil well parts supplier Black Gold Pump and Supply and vice president of a family oilfield services business, King Well Service.

In the months after the Texas bill became law, its authors received additional donations from energy companies. State Sen. Brian Birdwell (R) received $1,000 from ExxonMobil PAC and $2,500 from Koch Industries PAC in the second half of 2021. During that same period, state Sen. Bob Hall (R) received $2,500 from Centerpoint Energy PAC and $10,000 from Farris Wilks, an oil and gas industry billionaire whose recent investments in the industry include stakes in hydraulic fracking company U.S. Well Services and pressure pumping firm ProFrac.

Meanwhile, it didn’t take long for other fossil fuel-funded lawmakers in other parts of the country to follow in Texas’ footsteps.

That included Democrat-turned-Republican Rupie Phillips, a West Virginia state senator, who is not shy about his support for the coal industry. His Twitter handle is @4WVCoal and his bio says: “I eat coal for breakfast.” Phillips abandoned the Democratic party in 2017, citing President Barack Obama’s advancing of regulations to reduce coal emissions as one of his reasons for his decision.

On January 13, 2022, Phillips introduced SB 262, which closely mirrors sections of the model bill Isaac proposed to ALEC the month before. The bill calls on the West Virginia state treasurer to compile a list of financial companies that limit their commercial relationships with energy companies because they “[engage] in the exploration, production, utilization, transportation, sale, or manufacturing of fossil fuel-based energy and [do] not commit or pledge to meet environmental standards beyond applicable federal and state law,” or because they do business with such companies. Companies included on the list would be disqualified from entering into banking contracts with the state.

On the same day, Phillips also introduced SB 255, which requires state government entities to divest from any publicly traded securities issued by such financial companies, and requires the state to get written confirmation from its contractors that they will not boycott energy companies during the duration of their state contracts.

While SB 255 has yet to move forward in the legislative process, SB 262 became law last month after it passed overwhelmingly. The law will take effect in June.

The mining industry has been Phillips’ top donor industry over the course of his career. Mining company political action committees (PACs) and employees have given Phillips more than $116,000, with his top industry donor being the PAC of Murray Energy, a coal mining company that is now known as American Consolidated Natural Resources.

According to an email obtained through a public records request by the nonprofit research group InfluenceMap and reported by The New Republic, representatives from American Consolidated Natural Resources co-signed a document that was sent to West Virginia lawmakers in February last year, asking them to pass legislation that would punish finance companies for limiting their fossil fuel industry involvement. Murray Energy’s PAC is also a top donor to the West Virginia Republican Senate Committee, according to the West Virginia Secretary of State.

Last November, West Virginia Treasurer Riley Moore (R) led a coalition of financial officers from 15 states that warned in an open letter to the banking industry that they would take collective action against banks that boycott fossil fuels, which they called “woke capitalism.”

After Phillips’ bill passed last month, Moore put out a statement praising the legislation. “This bill is essential to help us push back against the Biden Administration and its extremist allies who are trying to unfairly pressure banks and financial institutions to divest from the fossil fuel industries,” Moore said.

Moore’s top donor sector has been energy and natural resources, according to the National Institute for Money in Politics. His donors have included PACs affiliated with Arch Coal, Murray Energy/American Consolidated Natural Resources, and power company American Electric Power.

Jim Kotcon, conservation chair of the West Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club, said that the backers of the law are ignoring financial shifts that are naturally unfavorable to the coal industry.

“Treasurer Riley and the sponsors of Senate Bill 262 are ignoring the on-going trends of bankruptcies in the fossil fuel industry,” said Kotcon. “They need to refocus on their fiduciary responsibility. Wishing that the coal industry is coming back will not overturn the obvious market forces telling us that few if any coal companies will have a profitable future, and investing state dollars in those is bad business.”

More States Follow Suit
Since Philips introduced his anti-divestment bill, several other conservative lawmakers have followed suit.

In late January, the Indiana House passed a version of the anti-energy company boycott bill authored by state Rep. Ethan Manning (R). According to the National Institute for Money in Politics, the energy and natural resource industry has been Manning’s top donor sector throughout his career, with the PAC of natural gas and electricity provider NiSource topping the list with $6,500.

In February, Oklahoma state Sen. Michael Bergstrom (R) introduced SB 1572, requiring the state to divest from financial institutions that boycott energy companies and prohibiting contracts with such companies. Bergstrom’s largest corporate donor has been fossil fuel-powered utility company NextEra Energy, according to the National Institute for Money in Politics. The pending principal House author of the bill is state Rep. Mark McBride (R), who has received more than $78,000 from oil and gas, his largest donor industry.

A version of the bill has also been introduced in the Louisiana House of Representatives, which would prohibit the state’s retirement systems from investing in companies that have policies against doing business with energy companies.

The bill was proposed by state Rep. Danny McCormick (R), who has similarly taken more money from oil and gas industry interests than from any other industry.

Taking The Fight To Congress
Attempts to codify anti-divestment rules recently reached the halls of Congress. Last month, Reps. Andy Barr (R-Ky.) and Rick Allen (R-Ga.) proposed a bill that would codify part of a Trump Labor Department rule that required investment advisors to avoid considering environmental factors when advising clients.

“Our bill protects average Americans saving and building wealth through retirement plans,” wrote Barr in a press release. “It also preserves access to capital for energy producers to ensure costs won’t skyrocket further for Americans at the pump during a time when gas prices are at a historic high.”

In a 2020 regulatory comment, the lobbying group Western Energy Alliance wrote, “We have observed how ESG advocacy has negatively affected the industry’s access to capital over the last few years, and greatly appreciate that DOL is addressing the larger issue through this rule. The rule will help ensure that activism regarding pension plans does not morph into a halt to investment in the sector that provides nearly 70% of American energy, a nonsensical outcome given the impact throughout the entire economy.”

The Western Energy Alliance represents companies involved in oil and gas exploration and production in the West. It does not disclose its members, but information maintained by DeSmog suggests the members include companies like BP, Chevron, and Koch Exploration.

Barr has received $628,000 from the coal mining industry during his congressional career, more money than any other current House member, according to OpenSecrets. His top career donor is Alliance Resource Partners, which has provided him with $312,600 in donations from its PAC and employees. Alliance Resource Partners, an energy company that primarily produces coal, was a co-signer of the February 2021 letter calling for new laws to protect the industry against ESG initiatives.

Barr’s colleague Allen, meanwhile, has received more than $90,000 in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry, according to OpenSecrets.

0 Replies
Walter Hinteler
Reply Thu 28 Apr, 2022 10:31 pm
Growing military tensions in the Pacific between China, the US and Australia do not address the most significant security threat to the region – climate change – former leaders of Pacific nations have warned.

In a statement on Friday, the Pacific Elders Voice group, which includes former leaders of the Marshall Islands, Palau, Kiribati and Tuvalu, as well as Dame Meg Taylor, the former secretary general of the Pacific Islands Forum secretariat, said that “the primary security threat to the Pacific is climate change”, rather than geo-strategic tensions.

Climate crisis – not China – is biggest threat to Pacific, say former leaders
0 Replies
Reply Fri 29 Apr, 2022 04:32 am
Neoliberalism and climate change: How the free-market myth has prevented climate action

Activists and scholars increasingly blame neoliberalism for the failure to sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but there is insufficient research that investigates the theoretical link between neoliberalism and climate paralysis. This paper seeks to fill that gap by presenting a coherent account of how neoliberal ideology has constrained policies to address climate change in the United States. As motivation, we first present evidence suggesting more neoliberal countries perform worse in addressing climate change. We then analyze how three tenets of neoliberal ideology—to decentralize democracy, defund public investment, and deregulate the economy—have stymied climate action in the United States. Finally, we discuss the Green New Deal as a decisively anti-neoliberal framework that seeks to wield the power of the federal government to pursue large-scale public investments and binding climate regulations for rapid decarbonization.
0 Replies
Walter Hinteler
Reply Sat 30 Apr, 2022 11:03 am
Climate Change Threatens Another California Forest, This One Underwater
RICHMOND, Calif. — The bull kelp forests off Northern California are sometimes spoken of as the redwoods of the sea. And like the redwoods, these forests are in danger. In less than a decade, these otherworldly undersea landscapes, lush with life, have all but disappeared along 200 miles of coast north of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.

The warming climate has set in motion this disaster and it is unclear whether it can be reversed as greenhouse gas emissions continue to flood the atmosphere. Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions rose by 6 percent globally in 2021, the biggest increase ever, as the world began bouncing back from pandemic. These kelp forests are yet another ocean casualty of fossil-fueled climate disruption, along with habitats ruined by coral bleaching, rising sea levels, warming ocean waters and the pronounced loss of Arctic sea ice.

I have often visited the kelp forests as a recreational diver. Translucent green-brown stalks rise from the ocean floor to the surface, their fronds swaying in the current. Beams of sunlight shoot through the kelp canopy, turning it into cathedral windows illuminating strawberry anemones, abalone, wolf eels and rockfish. Harbor seals swim close for a look before twisting away into the forest. An indifferent leopard shark may glide by. You might become suddenly distracted as a cormorant dives down from the sky in search of a meal.

From its floating canopies to its “holdfast” roots, kelp supports coastal biodiversity and sequesters more carbon than redwood groves, while also protecting the coastline from the full force of storms. California’s thousands of acres of giant and bull kelp forest shelter fin fish, shellfish, seals and sharks, more than 1,000 animal and plant species in all, making it one of the most productive ecosystems on earth.

But their future does not look good. Using satellite imagery, scientists estimate that 95 percent of these bull kelp forests have vanished in less than a decade. The collapse of these kelp forests — despite a few local rebounds in 2020 and 2021 — has hurt the small coastal communities that rely on fishing and tourism dollars and Indigenous traditions of kelp and seaweed harvesting.

In 2014, an ocean heat wave that scientists called “the blob” caused water temperatures to spike along the West Coast, weakening and killing the kelp, which thrives in cold, nutrient-rich currents. Then a disease supercharged by the warmer waters, according to a study published in 2019, devastated sea stars and allowed their prey, purple urchins, to proliferate. These voracious eaters took out almost all the surviving kelp.

The disease, known as sea star wasting syndrome, melts the bodies of what we used to call starfish, including the many-armed sunflower sea star. This sea star had become the principal urchin predator, replacing sea otters, whose numbers plummeted over the last two centuries, victims of the fur trade and the depletion of their habitat. Unfortunately, today’s other top urchin predator, commercial fishermen, target only larger, meatier species of urchin.

Since 2013 the small purple urchins have run amok, replacing the complex near-shore kelp forest habitat with “urchin barrens” — a seabed carpeted with pastel-colored pincushion-like urchins.

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To combat the devastation, divers — initially volunteers and now some paid by the state of California — have used suction tubes or hammers to destroy the urchins by the tens of thousands and have also begun planting new kelp. Newer strategies include collecting and fattening up urchins in tanks for the restaurant and sushi market.

But there’s no indication any of this is seriously helping. Hungry urchins — which can survive for decades in a “zombie” state of near starvation — can revive enough to take out the restored kelp.

Still, collaborative efforts continue among fishermen, scientists, academics and conservationists with help from California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife and other state agencies. At the federal level, Jared Huffman, the chairman of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans and Wildlife, is deeply concerned about the loss of the kelp in his district, which includes five Northern California coastal counties.

“We have to regard this as a wake-up call that conditions like this can hit us suddenly and take away entire ecosystems,” he said. Last year, he introduced the Keeping Ecosystems Living and Productive Act to provide federal research and recovery grants through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In February, the Natural Resources Committee voted to pass the bill on to the full House for a final vote.

All of these efforts are heartening. The bottom line, however, may be more of a downward spiral. Brian Tissot, the recently retired longtime director of Humboldt State Polytechnic University’s marine lab in far Northern California, has warned that nothing may change until the ocean returns to a cooler, nutrient-rich condition, which still periodically occurs. In the long term, though, ocean heat waves will become more frequent as the planet continues to warm. At the same time the kelp has been disappearing, Humboldt County, normally a temperate rainforest, has been experiencing its own devastating wildfires.

“All these things are related to climate change,” Dr. Tissot told me, “and they’re coming together in ways we never thought about, making it very difficult to know what to do other than address climate change.”

Bull kelp is among the fastest-growing plants in the world, expanding up to 10 inches a day and stretching 100 feet and more from the ocean bottom to the surface of the sea. But even it can’t outpace our failure to slow the warming of our planet.

0 Replies
Reply Mon 2 May, 2022 06:10 pm
It was 116 degrees in Portland on June 28 last year. That is not good for signs unless a war is underway.
0 Replies
Walter Hinteler
Reply Tue 3 May, 2022 08:51 am
European agriculture produces millions of tons of CO2 every year. Could encouraging farmers to capture carbon on their land to sell credits to businesses help reduce emissions?

Carbon farming: Climate change solution or greenwashing?
"Now society expects much more from farmers," reflects Belgian dairy farmer Kris Heirbaut. "Not only that we produce food, but that we also help reduce climate change."

Heirbaut owns a farm in the Flemish town of Temse, 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) from the port city of Antwerp. Outside the farm he has a small store selling dairy products, including ice cream, made from milk from his own cows.

Two years ago, concerned with agriculture's damage to the environment, Heirbaut signed up to a "carbon farming" pilot project funded by the European Union that aims to improve agricultural soil health while tackling climate change.

The project, concluded in summer 2021, enabled farmers in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Norway to sell carbon credits for carbon sequestered on their land. The EU gave the farmers scientific advice and administrative support to issue their first credits to local companies.

In December 2021, the EU presented its carbon farming initiative, with the intention to replicate the project across Europe. The EU initiative encourages farmers to make changes such as applying fertilizers rich in carbon, reducing tillage that disturbs the soil and planting trees and crops that can absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Changing farm practices
Soils are vital carbon stores, but industrial farming, rather than absorbing CO2, often releases it into the atmosphere — for example through plowing which, if done repeatedly, can result in the degradation of the soil.

Since signing up to the initiative, Heirbaut has planted a field of narrowleaf plantain — a perennial type of weed with high carbon sequestration potential — as well as crops that can rotate throughout the year. In total, he has about 14 hectares (34 acres) of land covered with grasses, clover, alfalfa, ribwort plantain and chicory, which can sequester CO2 all year long.

"Because we mow four times a year, but do not need tillage machinery to work in the soil, all the carbon that the roots of the plants will bring into the soil will stay there," he explains.

Heirbaut also has a field dedicated to agroforestry, in which trees or shrubs are grown around crops and pasture. These trees sequester carbon, and the shade of the trees allows cows to graze on grass in the summer, another practice that can help farmers absorb CO2.

Improving soil health
The EU hopes that giving farmers a financial incentive will help them increasingly shift more agricultural land from emitting carbon to capturing it. The carbon farming initiative is part of the European Green Deal, the EU's road map to become climate neutral by 2050. An estimated more than 385 million tons of CO2 come from European farming, according to European Environmental Agency data — just over 10% of the bloc's total emissions.

"Carbon content of soil is a good proxy for soil health," says Celia Nyssens of the European Environmental Bureau, a network of environmental NGOs. Europe's intensive farming practices have damaged soils over recent decades. A 2020 European Commission study found that around 60-70% of EU soil is currently degraded, largely due to intensive farming, the use of pesticides or excessive irrigation.

No-till farming, such as that used by Heirbaut, is one way to improve soil health. Other techniques to help soils retain carbon include crop rotation, planting cover crops on fallow land to maintain the nitrogen in the soil and using compost instead of chemical fertilizers. These practices also protect other essential nutrients in the soil that plants need to grow, which in turns reduces the need for agrochemicals.

Carbon scheme criticisms
But carbon-offsetting schemes have long been criticized for allowing companies, individuals and states to simply buy their way to net-zero goals. In a letter to the US Congress last year, over 200 NGOs asked lawmakers to oppose a bill, currently under debate in the House of Representatives, that could see a carbon farming initiative set up in the US.

"Power plants, refineries and other polluters could purchase these carbon credits to offset their emissions, or even increase them, instead of actually reducing and eliminating them," the signatories argued.

Carbon farming has attracted several multinational corporations. Microsoft, for instance, has bought over $4 million (€3.6 million) in carbon credits generated from US farmers piloting carbon farming projects since 2021, to offset the tech giant's emissions.

But the companies using Heirbaut's greener farming practices to offset their pollution aren't multinationals. Earlier this year he sold his first carbon credits to Milcobel, a local dairy processor for roughly €50 per ton of CO2 saved.

He hopes to collaborate with other small businesses in the Flanders region. "The advantages of buying carbon credits locally is that you can visit the farmers — people can sit and have a drink with us, visit the fields," he says. Although the pilot project has finished, Heirbaut intends to continue with carbon farming.

Farmers can physically sequester up to around 3.6 metric tons of carbon per hectare each year, according to a study commissioned by Dutch bank Rabo Bank. But to do this, they must make significant investments in changing their farming practices — as well as hiring independent experts to undertake expensive soil analyses to evaluate its health.

Getting creative on the farm
Heirbaut says it's a cumbersome process that could put some farmers off the scheme. Some critics fear it could make the benefits of carbon farming inaccessible to smaller operations, and in fact favor larger industrial agriculture operations.

Carbon offsets generated from biofuel or reforestation projects have contributed to land grabbing — massive acquisitions of land usually from major corporations — across the world. Nyssens of the European Environmental Bureau believes that a poorly designed EU carbon farming system risks falling into the same trap. "If we create a system where there is even more value from having land, because you can also sell credits from carbon sequestration, you will worsen those problems," she says.

But on his small dairy farm, Heirbaut says carbon farming gives him the opportunity to improve the health of his land, while making a little extra income. And it isn't his only eco-friendly venture. In addition to carbon farming, he's also building a lab to create new food products based on microalgae — protein-rich cells increasingly used as a substitute to meat.

"In the past decades farmers have specialized in one thing, and now we know if this one thing goes wrong it can be a big problem," Heirbaut says, as he welcomes guests to his store and treats them to its latest release: an ice cream made of hazelnut and his homegrown microalgae.

0 Replies
Walter Hinteler
Reply Thu 5 May, 2022 08:37 am
Tory-linked group that campaigns against net zero climate action ‘funded by US oil interests’
A Tory-linked lobby group campaigning against net zero climate action has received hundreds of thousands of pounds from an oil-rich foundation with large investments in energy firms, it has been revealed.

The Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) – which has close links to Tory MP Steve Baker – refuses to disclose its donors in the UK and says it does not take money from fossil fuel interests.

But US tax documents identified by investigative journalists at the OpenDemocracy website show the lobbyists, who also use the brand "Net Zero Watch", have a donor with $30 million (£24.2 million) shares in 22 companies working across coal, oil and gas.

It has also received half a million dollars through a fund linked to the controversial oil billionaire Koch brothers.

The group's US arm, the American Friends of the GWPF, received more than $1.3m from US donors, with at least $864,884 (£679,000) forwarded to the British group over the last four years.

Of the £1.45m in charitable donations received by the UK-based group since 2017 at least 45 per cent has come from the US - raising questions about the influence of the American right in Westminster.

The donations include $620,259 from the Donors Trust, a secretive organisation that has given hundreds of millions of pounds to more than 100 groups working to cast doubt on the scientific consensus on climate change.

That group has received millions from the Koch brothers, who inherited their father’s oil empire. The GWPF claims the Donors Trust is “middleman, matching donors to those seeking funding” and that it was “able to vet [donors with which it was matched] in line with our funding policy”.

The UK anti-climate action lobby group also received $210,525 in 2018 and 2020 from the Sarah Scaife Foundation – an organisation set up by the billionaire libertarian heir to an oil and banking dynasty.

Greenpeace UK characterises the Global Warming Policy Foundation as an organisation which has “spent the last twenty years campaigning to preserve our addiction to fossil fuels”.

Conservative MP Steve Baker is a trustee of the foundation, as is Labour MP Graham Stringer also sits on its board and has questioned the scientific consensus on the climate emergency.

Through Mr Baker the group has links 20 Tory MPs and peers, who form the backbench Net Zero Scrutiny Group, which campaigns against net zero plans. Mr Baker and another Tory MP Craig Mackinlay are regularly quoted in press releases from Net Zero Watch – often repeating its talking points.

Labour's shadow secretary Ed Miliband said: “US right-wing groups with links to big oil are desperate to stop action against the climate crisis. Now they are trying to extend their reach into UK political debate."

Labour said the revelations showed US right-wing groups with links to big oil were "desperate to stop action against the climate crisis" and influence UK debate.
0 Replies
Walter Hinteler
Reply Sat 7 May, 2022 10:15 am
Arizona state water authorities are expecting a further decline in the amount of water received from the Colorado River in August.
The growing shoreline of Lake Powell is visible with low water levels not seen since the lake was filled in the 1960s.
Photograph: Caitlin Ochs/Reuters

Arizona braces for additional water cuts amid megadrought
Arizona water authorities are bracing for additional cuts to the quantity of water supplied by the Colorado River, prompting calls for more aggressive conservation measures to prevent further reductions. Officials in Arizona state predict that these cuts could come as soon as August, the Phoenix NBC Affiliate 12 News reported Friday.

These expected cuts stem from the effects of a decades-long megadrought, which has been greatly exacerbated by the climate crisis. Moreover, the Colorado River, which provides water to almost 40 million people, has been imperiled due to decades of overuse. The river’s reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, have seen worsening declines in their water levels.

Arizona is typically granted 2.8m acre-feet of water from the Colorado River. The US Bureau of Reclamation, which manages water and hydropower in the south-west, declared its first water shortage in 2021; federal mandates and state-based efforts resulted in Arizona leaving 500,000 acre-feet “behind Hoover Dam” this year, according to AZCentral.com.

The Bureau of Reclamation makes mandates based on water levels in Lake Mead, which are determined by upstream disbursements from Lake Powell. The water level in Lake Powell has approached the minimum required to produce hydropower that provides electricity for several million residents, AZCentral.com said.

Arizona’s department of water resources, and Central Arizona Project (CAP), have insisted that the state must take further measures to save water. Tom Buschatzke, the water department’s director, said that if the reclamation bureau predicts further cuts in 2023, “there should be serious consideration by water providers to start going down that path”.

“Most of the water use is outside the home,” Ted Cooke, CAP Deputy director, reportedly said to 12 News. “It’s in the yard, it’s pools, it’s plants, it’s lawns.” While Arizona water providers have never required residential water reductions, some city governments did curtail their own usage amid a severe dry period in 2004.

Buschatzke said that if water from the Rocky Mountain snowpack does not boost the reservoirs in 2023, a more serious shortage could impact Arizona cities’ water supplies. “Look at all of those factors and it’s probably time to start doing something at the homeowner level or the business level,” Buschatzke told AZCentral. “I can’t dictate that, but I might urge those folks to consider doing that.”

Officials said that Arizona homeowners are not likely to see “dry taps” anytime soon, as there have been initiatives to store unused Colorado River water in underground aquifers. However, it’s possible that cities will consider tapping these reserves for outdoor purposes, which could start depleting them – without any clear path to replenishing the water, AZCentral.com reported.

In addition to Arizona, potential water cuts next year could also impact Nevada and Mexico and, eventually, California. “The gravity of the immediate situation is serious,” Buschatzke, told The Los Angeles Times. “We expect further significant actions to reduce water use will be required.”
0 Replies
Reply Mon 9 May, 2022 04:01 am
How a quirk of the brain prevents us from caring about climate change

A very human way of thinking is limiting our ability to stop the climate apocalypse. Some of us can overcome it

On April 6th, Dr. Peter Kalmus, NASA climate scientist and author, walked up to the JP Morgan Chase bank building in Los Angeles, pulled a pair of handcuffs out of a cloth bag and chained himself to the front door. With tears in his eyes, he spoke about the climate crisis to a group of supporters.

"We've been trying to warn you guys for so many decades that we're heading towards a f**king catastrophe," he says in a video from the protest which has since gone viral on Twitter. "And we end up being ignored. The scientists of the world are being ignored. And it's got to stop. We're going to lose everything."

Like me, Kalmus is a scientist – passionate about uncovering the nature of reality. A reality being threated by rapidly rising global temperatures. Unlike me, Kalmus is actually doing something about it. He is a member of Scientist Rebellion – a group of academics and scientists fighting to draw attention to "the reality and severity of the climate and ecological emergency by engaging in non-violent civil disobedience."

Watching Kalmus give his impassioned speech on the steps of the bank, I am both humbled and envious. I wonder why it is that I don't seem to care about the climate crisis as much as he does. The best explanation from my perspective as a cognitive scientist involves a fundamental flaw in my human psychology: the inability to care all that much about what happens in the distant future. But I wondered how Peter Kalmus might explain the public's apparent lack of enthusiasm when it comes to fighting the good fight. So I wrote him to ask.

"I think climate denial in the media plays a huge role here," he wrote back to me. "Bits and pieces of the emergency are reported (and they are scary) but they are not related to the future and how they will impact civilization, i.e., potential collapse of civilization is never mentioned."

There are solid numbers to back up this claim. "Less than a quarter of the public hear about climate change in the media at least once a month," wrote Mark Hertsgaard, editor of Columbia Journalism Review, and one of the co-founders of Covering Climate Now, a media collaboration fighting to get more news coverage of the climate crisis. And when these stories are reported, they rarely talk about the existential threat posed by the climate crisis, but instead present hopeful (and often delusional) solutions.

"The effectively irreversible nature of most climate impacts is never mentioned either," wrote Kalmus. "Instead, usually tech 'solutions' are highlighted, or a sense that we still have 'budget' for some heating milestone (e.g., 2°C) which is implied to be 'safe.' So there is no urgency in the news media."

The thing is, I do understand the urgency. And yet, I do almost nothing about it. I spend most of my days reading books, watching Netflix, and planning supper. Like almost everyone on this planet, I am not acting like there is a climate emergency.

The thing is, I do understand the urgency. I have read the findings presented in the third volume of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report published on April 4th. It was a document full of unequivocally dire warnings, and the catalyst for Kalmus' protest. It warns that we are on course for a rise in global temperature well beyond the 1.5 °C goal set by the Paris Agreement (and possibly headed up toward 3°C) by the end of the century with no functional plan in place to stop it from happening. Just to be clear, that could render most of the planet uninhabitable for our species. I know this. And yet, I do almost nothing about it. I spend most of my days reading books, watching Netflix, and planning supper. Like almost everyone on this planet, I am not acting like there is a climate emergency.

It's possible that I, like many others, am behaving in a way common to someone processing the threat of impending cultural trauma. This is a term to refer to a horrendous event that irrevocably changes a society's identity or destroys the social order. A common response to an impending threat of this magnitude is to fight to maintain the status quo. In doing so, a kind of social inertia crops up where people do everything they can to keep living their lives the way they always have, despite the looming implosion of society. Perhaps I, like so many others, am fully aware of the horrific outcomes of climate change, but my mind generates a kind of trauma-avoiding denial that shields me from reality. It helps me tune out the IPCC report and tune in to "Bridgerton" instead.

There is, however, and even older psychological response than denial that could explain why I, like so many others, am not chaining myself to banks in the face of the impending extinction of humanity.

Edward Wasserman is a psychologist studying animal behavior and author of the book "As If By Design" who offered an elegantly simple explanation as to why humans are so bad at dealing with climate change. It boils down to the way all animals — including humans — have been designed by evolution to deal with common everyday problems like finding food, safety, or sex.

The problem is that humans, like all animals, evolved to solve problems in the here and now. This means that our emotions — the primary driver of behavior — are designed to force us to act based on the potential for an immediate reward.

"Being the first to spot a ripe berry or a deadly predator might give an organism only a short-lived interval of time in which to engage in adaptive action," Wasserman wrote in his blog for Psychology Today. "This reality prompts organisms to act impulsively. However, such impulsivity is obviously at odds with appreciating and contending with the slowly rising warning signs for climate change."

The problem is that humans, like all animals, evolved to solve problems in the here and now. This means that our emotions — the primary driver of behavior — are designed to force us to act based on the potential for an immediate reward.

Humans are unique in that, sometime in the past 250 thousand years, we evolved the ability to think about the distant future. We can contemplate what our lives might be like months or even years down the road — something that no other animal species can do (as far as we know). But this recently evolved cognitive skill functions separately from the ancient emotional system that generates everyday animal behavior.

If you, for example, decide to invest in a retirement savings scheme, it's because you appealed to a complex intellectual calculation concerning what your life might be like decades in the future. There is nothing immediately satisfying about saving money right now. Retirement schemes are not impulsive acts that generate dopamine rushes, like drinking a daquiri, solving Wordle, or eating a chocolate chip cookie. Far-future planning is a purely intellectual exercise.

I use the term prognostic myopia to denote this disconnect between the human ability to think about the distant future and our inability to actually feel strongly about that future. Prognostic means one's ability to predict the future; myopia means nearsightedness. It's prognostic myopia that explains the inertia that individuals, societies, and governments have when it comes to solving climate change. The IPCC report was clear that fossil fuel extraction needed to cease as soon as possible, lest we set ourselves on a course for extinction. And yet, on April 11th, less than a week after the IPCC report, the Canadian government approved the Bay du Nord offshore oil project, which will extract 300 million barrels of oil off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. On April 15th, the Biden administration announced that The Bureau of Land Management will resume and thus increase oil and gas leasing on public lands (breaking a campaign promise). In both cases, this is exactly the thing the IPCC report said we have to stop doing immediately if we want to prevent human extinction. This is prognostic myopia in action. It feels more important to address the threat of rising oil prices or the stability of the economy in the here and now even if it hastens our extinction in a few decades. It's both unforgivable and completely understandable within the context of human psychology.

Kalmus, however, is different. He is reacting to future threats as if they are a present danger, seemingly sidestepping the problem of prognostic myopia. His emotional reaction is raw, unyielding, and driving him to act. This is both exceptional as far as the human conditions goes, and admirable. If we heed his warnings and act with the urgency outlined in the IPCC report, there is hope that our species will avoid extinction.

To admit that humans are governed by impulsivity and cowed into nonchalance in the face of cultural trauma by prognostic myopia is not an excuse for inaction. We might not all feel the same way about the future as Peter Kalmus, but we can concede that we should be listening to him. "People should be joining together, putting in significant effort, and taking risks to wake up society," he wrote me. "Civil disobedience is the most effective thing I've found so far for pushing back against the cultural wall of inaction and despair."

It's more than likely that I, like most people, will never feel the emotional connection to the problem of climate change that Kalmus does. But knowing that there is a psychological explanation for our lack of emotional investment, we can instead appeal to our intellect to guide our actions. We can decide to listen to those scientists literally yelling at us to do something. Perhaps it's time that we let those who can feel the future guide us into it.

0 Replies
Walter Hinteler
Reply Mon 9 May, 2022 10:44 pm
Weather experts expect a new record heat year by 2026 and a further increase in the average temperature in the period up to then. The probability of this is 93 per cent in each case, according to a report published on Tuesday by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) in Geneva.

The risk of global warming reaching the critical 1.5 degree mark in at least one of the next five years has also increased and is put by scientists at almost 50 per cent. Globally, the hottest year so far was 2016, when the average global temperature was about 1.2 degrees above pre-industrial levels (1850-1900). The Paris Climate Agreement of 2015 sets a target of limiting the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees compared to the pre-industrial era, if possible.

WMO Global Annual to Decadal Climate Update
Walter Hinteler
Reply Mon 16 May, 2022 12:09 am
@Walter Hinteler,
Sea sponges off New Zealand’s southern coastline have been found bleached bone-white for the first time, following extreme ocean temperatures.
The high temperatures due to climate change are blamed for turning sea sponges white in more than a dozen sites on southern coastline

Bleached sea sponges found in New Zealand waters for first time
0 Replies
Walter Hinteler
Reply Mon 16 May, 2022 11:32 am
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, emissions in the EU dropped sharply as lockdowns brought industries to a standstill and as people worked from home. Those environmental gains have now been erased, new data shows.

Climate change: EU emissions surpass pre-pandemic levels
0 Replies
Walter Hinteler
Reply Thu 19 May, 2022 05:31 am
For two months, people in India and Pakistan have been suffering from an unprecedented heat wave with temperatures exceeding 40 degrees. More than one billion people are affected. In dozens of places, the temperature climbed to more than 45 degrees Celsius; in New Delhi, the record temperature of 49 degrees was reached last Sunday. Such high temperatures have never been recorded at this time of year since weather records began 122 years ago.

From the perspective of climate researchers, the increasing heat waves in South Asia are a catastrophe in the making.

Climate change making heatwaves more intense

The heatwave in North India and Pakistan in April-May 2022.
0 Replies
Walter Hinteler
Reply Thu 19 May, 2022 05:35 am
Poor seed harvests have led to empty shelves at supermarkets in France and global shortages: French mustard producers said seed production in 2021 was down 50% after poor harvests, which they said had been brought on by the changing climate in France’s Burgundy region and Canada – the second largest mustard seed producer in the world. The Guardian

0 Replies
Reply Thu 19 May, 2022 07:31 am
Climate: The time for incrementalism is over.

A climate study was published in the online journal Nature earlier this month, which was reported in the mainstream press with positive headlines such as “2 degrees still possible”. The study states that the combined revised targets - not policies - of all the signatories to the Paris Agreement means that we have a 50% chance of keeping warming below 2°C versus pre-industrial times. I’m not a betting person, but given what is at stake, those sound like terrible odds. Furthermore, as I‘ll outline below, the evidence suggests that we will activate a ‘global tipping point’ before we reach 2°C of warming, a point of no return in which the natural world will contribute to warming in such a way that it will no longer matter what we do, the Earth will be 3°C warmer than pre-industrial times before the end of this century, and several degrees warmer again after that. Scientists state that this is an existential risk to humanity. These new and improved targets, which are not yet supported by policies, are still too little and still too late.

In this talk for Scientist Rebellion Australia, climate scientist, Professor Will Steffen highlights the individual tipping points that are likely to be triggered before the year 2050, including:

• The Arctic: Steffen advises that there is “no time left”, we have lost the frozen Arctic.
• West Antarctic sea ice: we could lose this “within ten years”, and if so, sea levels will eventually rise three metres because of it.
• Amazon Rainforest: the current projection is that we have “five to ten years” before the rainforest tips into a new state, that of a savannah.
• Greenland ice sheet: we could lose this in “20 to 25 years”, and if so, sea levels will eventually rise seven metres because of it.

If these ecological points tip, Professor Steffen believes a global cascade “is very likely”, leading to what he terms a “hothouse Earth”: an Earth that is virtually uninhabitable for humans.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC’s) 2021 Sixth Assessment Report is consistent with Steffen’s analysis, stating that catastrophic events – collapse of major ice sheets, rapid temperature increases – “cannot be ruled out and are part of risk assessment”. In the talk above, Steffen reminds us that “the current rates of CO2 and temperature change are almost unprecedented in the entire 4.5-billion-year geological past”, that 3°C of warming is “catastrophic” and it will mean that we “are likely to see the collapse of the globalised society that we live in today”. Finally, he makes it clear that “as the science improves, tipping elements appear to be vulnerable at lower temperatures”: the more we learn, the closer the threat appears to be. He is clear that we are in a climate emergency and have been for some time.

Figure 1: Global temperature change over the last 2000 years, showing range of IPCC projections to year 2100. Professor Will Steffen describes this as “extraordinary” and says it will probably surpass the temperature changes that were a result of the meteor striking Earth, causing the dinosaurs to go extinct around 65 million years ago.

The word ‘emergency’ is defined as “a serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action”. Sadly, the world’s response to the climate emergency is akin to setting a date in the future to put out a house fire or calling for an ambulance to the scene of a car accident and telling them to arrive by the end of the month. Wholly inadequate and incompatible with avoiding the worst outcomes. Limits such as 1.5 or 2°C and ‘net-zero by 2050’ are not equal to the scale of the threat: there is a very real risk a global tipping cascade could be triggered before both 2°C of warming and the year 2050. As environmental journalist George Monbiot states: “[if] Earth systems tip as a result of global heating, there will be little difference between taking inadequate action and taking no action at all”. Don’t be mistaken, this is not a call to do nothing at all, but a call to implement policies that are actually going to prevent warming, not make us feel good about ‘trying’ all the while not doing nearly enough.

We need to decarbonise with urgency, which will require war-like mobilisation starting now and completed as quickly as possible - quite the opposite to the ‘carbon budgets’ and ‘targets set in the future for someone else to achieve’ that we are currently being placated with. We have already squandered three decades to not only inaction, but actively making the situation worse by increasing our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which are now 60% higher than they were in 1990. Gone is our chance to decarbonise slowly. We have only one option now: to rapidly reduce our GHG emissions whilst ensuring that the needs of all are met in the process.

In many ways it is a race against tipping points. Can we reach a global social tipping point and the subsequent meaningful action that such a movement would unleash in time to avoid activating a global ecological tipping point? Can we get enough people to actively care before it’s too late? We will know when we have triggered the social tipping point because we will begin to see genuine climate action, as outlined in this article by economic anthropologist, Professor Jason Hickel. Genuine climate action in wealthy nations starts by nationalising the energy industry - removing the profit motive that has derailed climate action for many decades - and ensuring energy goes where it is needed most as we wind down fossil fuels until they are virtually eliminated by the mid-2030s. Until governments do this they are simply continuing to give us lip service, as they have done for the last three decades.

The social tipping point is a challenge, I can attest to that. Getting people to care about the world we leave to our children – indeed the world we, ourselves, will experience in just a couple of decades - is much harder than it should be. Many people don’t change their minds based on very-clear-and-very-well-established-facts. There are all sorts of reasons why people prefer to pretend that climate change is not real, or that we are doing enough, or it is for someone else to worry about while they go on with their everyday business. Furthermore, gaining momentum for a social movement is difficult because of decades long corporate campaigns to seed denial, deflect attention and delay action. In many countries climate change has been politicised due to corporate lobbying, rendering it a taboo topic, when what we really need to be doing is speaking about it as much as we can, to whoever we can. When we talk about climate change we may not always change hearts and minds, but we may plant seeds that will be watered as the momentum grows.

It is much later, and much more urgent than you think. We are in a climate emergency and the time for incrementalism has long passed. According to the IPCC:

The scientific evidence is unequivocal: climate change is a threat to human wellbeing and the health of the planet. Any further delay in concerted global action will miss a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future.

It is impossible to overstate how much we need everyone’s voice right now. This is the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced and it is happening in our lifetimes. Collectively, how we spend our time on this magnificent planet is of monumental consequence. I promise you: you’ll never regret doing all you can to help stop climate change, but there may well come a time that you wish you’d done more.

0 Replies
Walter Hinteler
Reply Fri 20 May, 2022 09:23 am
Data shows people finding it harder to sleep, especially women and older people, with serious health impacts

Global heating is cutting sleep across the world, study finds
Rising temperatures driven by the climate crisis are cutting the sleep of people across the world, the largest study to date has found.

Good sleep is critical to health and wellbeing. But global heating is increasing night-time temperatures, even faster than in the day, making it harder to sleep. The analysis revealed that the average global citizen is already losing 44 hours of sleep a year, leading to 11 nights with less than seven hours’ sleep, a standard benchmark of sufficient sleep.

Lost sleep will increase further as the planet continues to heat but it affects some groups much more than others. The sleep loss per degree of warming is about a quarter higher for women than men, twice as high for those over 65 years old and three times higher for those in less affluent nations. The researchers used data from sleep-tracking wristbands used by 47,000 people over 7 million nights and across 68 countries.
... ... ...
Reply Fri 20 May, 2022 08:23 pm
@Walter Hinteler,
They need to get a fan. I use mine most of the year. Can't stand feeling hot unless there's a pool I can chill out in.
0 Replies

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