Category Archives: Climate change

Sustainable Development Goals

I’m not sure how many people know of SDGs, but for many years I’ve held that sustainable and development were opposites. Invariably development meant damaging or destroying a habitat and impacting any species that lived there. The root cause was usually money; which we cannot eat!

So what changed? In September (2015) 193 countries signed up to the United Nations Agenda 2030. This consists of 17 Goals (and numerous associated objectives). It’s an all-or-nothing approach. You cannot pick and choose ~ signing up means everything. You’ll see on the photo that these SDGs cover many of the problems that the Biodiversity Alliance is concerned about. Of utmost importance is Goal 14, as it’s the first time that life in the oceans has been considered. You’ll see too that climate action is included as Goal 13. The carbon intensive economies, especially USA & Australia, wanted this left out (see next paragraphs).

Looking at the long drawn-out process of doing anything about global climate change shows the challenges that we face. The greedy, and most polluting, nations do not want to change their behaviour, because they lose competitive advantage … but care nothing about impacts. These international treaties have two components: the one that everybody signs with such loud fanfares; and another implementing agreement. For climate change after the Rio Summit the Kyoto Protocol was the thing that mattered, yet it went nowhere; in fact George Bush jnr withdrew USA from the Protocol altogether.

In December 2015 the UN Climate Change treaty was signed in Paris; 197 countries agreed that climate change is actually a problem!!! What made Paris remarkable was that the delegates had a set of goals that their countries would offer to achieve. Cook Islands for instance pledged to cut greehouse gas emissions 81% by 2030. Some others were less helpful and said we’ll think about doing something by 2050! In April 2016 the Paris Agreement was ratified by 14 Pacific Island nations; Cook Islands didn’t. For the treaty to come into force it must be ratified by a number of countries, and the threshold should also exceed 55% of polluting emissions. In other words we need the big polluters ~USA & China~ onboard. [Although China recently overtook USA as the biggest overall polluter, we should not forget that China has 1.5 billion people and USA only 320 million. USA emits twice as much CO2 per capita than China does, and is also responsible for the bulk of historical carbon-based pollution].

Since April 2015 every month has set a new global temperature record. Climate change is real, serious and has already happened. Some media will say that the 12-month El Nino we’ve just experienced (12th May 2015 to around 20th May 2016) was the cause, but actually this only contributed about 20% ~ the bulk was the increased background temperatures. The only place left on the planet with atmospheric CO2 concentrations less that 400 ppm (parts per million) is the Arctic Region: northern hemisphere exceeded it in 2014; Antarctica & Mauna Loa in Hawai’i have just crossed the threshold. The Arctic will breach 400 ppm in about two years time; that’s the new normal.

The situation has become so serious that Ban Ki Moon (UN Secretary General) will call a special meeting in September 2016 asking that all Signatories to the Paris Accord attend and ratify it then and there: bringing it into force this year. We have no more time left. We MUST change!

So coming full circle to the SDGs. You’ll remember that these are to be completed by 2030. Imagine that! Poverty, hunger, inequality, climate change, sustainable resource use, universal secondary education etc all eradicated in 14 years! Curiously, the Country Leaders have to make an annual report at the UN explaining their progress or lack of it. The Country Leaders not their minions. I wonder if they’ll do it?

Picture perfect office - © Dr. Michael White

Tongareva Atoll: Living at the forefront of climate change

Picture perfect office - © Dr. Michael White

Kia Orana Everyone! Firstly, my apologies for being offline for a while. I’ve been extremely busy researching the rapid impacts of ocean warming on my atoll (9 South; 158 West). These include coral bleaching and death of our giant clams (Tridacna maxima). Also many of our trees have suffered badly and have either collapsed or are very sick.

I’d like to thank my friends and research colleagues: Papa Ru Taime & John Beasley. Meitaki Poria.

I’ll try and use this post as a form of blog and will deal with each aspect over the coming weeks. In particular I am now seeing secondary impacts, such as algal growth on the bleached corals ~ so in time this may cause a shift in fish populations or marine invertebrates. So this is truly the living, shifting face of climate change. Welcome to our new world!

Dead small giant clam (Tridacna maxima)

Dead small giant clam (Tridacna maxima)

Some coral species are badly impacted, others are more resilient

Yellow & white - upload

Deeper corals suffered more than many surface ones, probably because deeper species have a narrower thermal range

DJI_0025_Picture perfect office - Copy

A beautiful picture of ‘my office’ ~ but the story is different when we look closely underwater. Climate change is real!

 

Fictitious petrol receipt - illustration: Janos Borbely

CO2 Accounting and Other Wicked Tricks

Fictitious petrol receipt - illustration: Janos Borbely

Motto 1: There’s no news like bad news.
[Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), Elliot Carver]

As COP21 in Paris is approaching, bad news started to appear. Bad?! – Horrific!

The window of opportunity for human beings to set the trajectory of the global surface mean temperature increase to a less devastating course is closing rapidly. And by unfathomable will of destiny in these days terrorist attacks at the very same place of COP21 led to banning of public marches, including those which had been prepared since months by some many civil activists and conservation organizations.

Reading the comments on these publications it is impossible not to recognize how divided, confused, and bitter the commenters are. Perhaps the only one common denominator among them is the waiting for the miracle. The miracle that one or another party on COP21 will be able to pull a rabbit out of a hat, and our planet together with us will be saved from the devastating effects of Climate Change. But it won’t happen.

Motto 2: The key to a great story is not who, or what, or when…but why.
[Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), Elliot Carver]

Why it won’t happen?

Like in a Greek drama, the causes are many and they can amplify each others’ effect.

Governments (most of them) follow the rules dictated by the financial world (financial world: nickname of Game Changers). The financial world is set to grow. If tomorrow stock markets learned that global consumption fell by 6.6% each year during the next 15 years period, there would be a global financial collapse. It must not happen! Let’s rather bravely face with the Climate Change!

Governments are elected to bring prosperity and growth for each of us. That is why they don’t even want to hear about reducing consumption. Geoengineering is much more easy approach. It is true, that it takes a while to invent all those new technologies which possibly could bring us some expected outcome. By the time these experiments will be successfully or unsuccessfully completed, members of the recent governments will spend their retirement in their small bungalow by writing their memoirs.

The said truth is that in order to avoid worst case scenario and keep the global mean temperature increase below 2 Celsius (with acceptable probability), our global society must decrease GHG emission by 6.6% on average every year to reduce it to (nearly) zero within the next 15 years. Due to the fact, that whatever we consume (beef, chicken, bottled water, etc) costs energy to produce and to transport, and wast majority of energy production is still based on fossil fuel, the only way to reach the goal is to reduce consumption.

What is the first step and the secret to reduce something effectively? The secret is to measure it. Our CO2 emission must be measured through measuring our consumption. It is not a rocket science. There are huge number of various tools available already providing ways for offsetting CO2 emission. Airlines, NGOs offer online tools to calculate our CO2 emission when we fly, drive, travel by train, or purchase a T-shirt.

T-Shirt CO2 Emission Labeling from Switcher

T-Shirt CO2 Emission Labeling from Switcher

But, it is not enough to measure only, it needs to be added to our individual CO2 account to make it visible – every day. This is really a bad news. Just like how bad is it for a smoker to see the effect of smoking on the box. Measuring and accounting or CO2 emission is not a guarantee for lowering our consumption. It is just an indispensable step towards to goal.

Without making individual contribution to the global CO2 emission visible, there will be no success. Governments are just to busy with securing our well-being to invent such ideas. However, they can be pushed to help us to make the infrastructure available for everybody to measure and account individual CO2 emission. The know how and the technology is available to make it happen, it is the question of will only.

Are you ready to support CO2 Accounting?

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There are some who rightly point to the fact that by eating (much) less meat, especially beef and pork, it is also possible to save huge amount of CO2 emission and sewage production.

By pushing our government to make CO2 accounting infrastructure available everywhere and by eating much less meat we can individually contribute to GHG emission reduction targets.

If you like the idea of CO2 accounting, please vote on the poll above and share this content with everybody in your network. If you don’t like the idea of CO2 accounting, please propose another way with which we can monitor and lower our consumption effectively.

Participants in the social media selfie campaign entitled This Is My #EarthStatement. © The Earth Statement

Planetary Transformation

Participants in the social media selfie campaign entitled This Is My #EarthStatement. © The Earth Statement

This is an interesting article, and we’d seen some of the ‘tipping points’ earlier this year. It clicks nicely with our recent discussion about The BA and the next step of our  journey. Certainly it has some good ideas. There are links in the story to other sites of interest. Mike 🙂 Transformation

Gallery of Earth

A nice collection of images. A couple lack clear data on historical context (Lake Chad was known to vary in size: from 4000 square-miles, to 8000 ; and even to 20,000 square-miles) but you get the picture. The glacier is interesting (my old Prof had visted Franz Josef glacier after 20 years and he was shocked at how much had gone). Many of us will be familiar with the Colorado River situation that it now longer reaches the sea.

Independent gallery

Leigh Phillips and the 'eco-austerity'

Eco-Austerity: The Greens and The Left vs Digging and Values

Recently The Guardian presented the readers with real gem from Red Pepper science writer and journalist WordPress: Leigh Phillips titled “The Guardien: Why eco-austerity won’t save us from climate change“.

In this writing Mr. Phillips, lumping wide variety of eco-friendly and conservationist movements together with political ideologies on the left, arrives to the conclusion that talking about unnecessary and resource wasting consumption (over-consumption) is not only inappropriate, as the wast majority of people living in the so called ‘developed’ countries consume much less than they need, but also harmful for the prosperous future of humanity. He confidently states that “The truth is that we can stop climate change and deliver expanding wealth for all.”

What seem to be missing from his train of thoughts are only the appropriate reasoning and any scientific evidence supporting his discovery. The apparent contradiction between living in a finite system and delivering expanding wealth for ever growing population is something which does not even worth to think about.

The term ‘eco-austerity’ in his writing is intended to serve as a stigma on everything and everybody, which and who do not support and in favour of growth- and profit-centric view of the world. In his interpretation the secret to saving the world from climate change is “above all, large amounts of cheap capital”. Because “An entrepreneurial, risk-taking, mission-oriented public sector got us into space, and it’ll be the same sort of public sector that saves the planet.” The globally recognizable Tragedy of the Commons seemingly does not concern Mr. Phillips.

There is another humble, nearly undiscoverable writing titled Cultural values of digging from Farida Vis and her team from 2014 January is also about the subject eco-austerity, referring to it from completely different aspects. It highlights the fact how important it is to use scarce resources wisely and how it can create cultural values. This study is much less propagandist and more thoughtful to find long lasting values.

Excellent news at last

At last here is a story that suggests many new projects planned for gas extraction and distribution may not be required IF we try and limit global CO2 emissions to a 2 degree Celsius rise. There are many hints in the media that Paris 2015 will be our last opportunity to agree drastic action to alter our polluting behaviour. Keep in mind this is only 6 months away now. Will anything happen or not?

Carbon Tracker