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Picture perfect office - © Dr. Michael White

Tongareva Atoll: Living at the forefront of climate change

Picture perfect office – © Dr. Michael WhiteKia 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!

Arnold Schwarzenegger's post on Instagramm

Ban photos of trophy hunters posing with their dead pray on LinkedIn

Arnold Schwarzenegger's post on Instagramm

LinkedIn should not tolerate sharing photos of people posing with killed animals.

  • LinkedIn is not the venue for trophy hunters’ self marketing
  • Posing with an animal killed just for the fun of it is highly inhumane, moraly unacceptable
  • Publicity on social media is an additional motivating factor for those who like to kill
  • Trophy hunters frequently target endangered or even critically endangered species, their acts are often illegal

Do you agree that LinkedIn should not tolerate sharing photos of people posing with killed animals?

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The prequel of this post can be found on LinkedIn.

Ecosystem scale translocation at the Stockton Mine (New Zealand) - © Stéphane Boyer

As humans destroy, might they also create?

Ecosystem scale translocation at the Stockton Mine (New Zealand) - © Stéphane Boyer

It seems like ‘closing the stable door after the horse has bolted’ but I wonder. Might it work? It’s very clear that most people have no interest in changing their daily life styles and business practices, so things are not going to improve any time soon. This article explains one possibility and some foreseeable concerns. Its clear strength is that transplantation is to an area where all of the dollars have already been extracted.

Moving ecosystems

Overloaded truck - Main Khursheed

Overpopulation versus Conspiracy

Overloaded truck - Main Khursheed, http://chromesquirrels.com/Calculations about global human consumptionHere I took GDP per capita figures to infer per capita consumption and ecological footprint.One could argue that comparing living standards on the basis of GDP might not be the best measure as it does not capture differences among countries in their cost of living, therefore GDP per capita on Purchasing Power Parity would be a more appropriate measure for comparing countries.Although this is true, my primary objective is to use these figures to infer consumption and footprint levels impacting the Earth rather than making a precise comparison of living standards among different countries.The definition of ‘GDP per capita’ by the World Bank:”GDP per capita is gross domestic product divided by midyear population.GDP is the sum of gross value added by all resident producers in the economy plus any product taxes and minus any subsidies not included in the value of the products.It is calculated without making deductions for depreciation of fabricated assets or for depletion and degradation of natural resources.”Data sets used:http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.PCAP.CD – GDP per capitahttp://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.PCAP.PP.CD – GDP per capita PPP (Purchasing Power Parity)http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.CD – Total GDP on market valuehttp://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.POP.TOTL – PopulationData preparation and processing:Countries listed in the data sets having no GDP per capita figure have been removed.Aggregated items like ‘Arab World’, ‘Low Income’, ‘South Asia’, etc.have also been removed.

The remaining set of 183 countries has been sorted in ascending order based on ‘GDP per capita – 2014’.The world average GDP per capita for 2014 according to the World Bank’s own calculation, also included in the initial data set, was 10,721 USD with a total of 7,261 billion people.Calculations:In the cleaned list of data sorted by countries’ ‘GDP per capita’, the closest value to the world average is Gabon‘s at 10,772 USD (preceded by Turkey at 10,515 USD, followed by Malaysia at 11,307 USD).Calculating the sum of the countries’ total GDP in 2014 as an indicator of their consumption (proportionate to footprint) results in the following figures:- Countries with above world average GDP per capita: 54,651 billion USD with a population of 1,596 billion people- Countries with below world average GDP per capita: 21,783 billion USD with a total population of 5,487 billion people.Here a clear sign of inequality can be seen, given that roughly 22% of the world population claims 2.5 times more GDP than the remaining 78% of the world population.Let’s now calculate the total GDP if everybody with a current ‘below world average GDP per capita’ had exactly as much as Gabon, so that an invisible hand suddenly raised living standards in these countries:- 5,487 billion people * 10,772 USD (GDP per capita in Gabon) = 59,106 billion USDSo the footprint of these countries would grow 3 times the size of their 2014 footprint.If the countries with current ‘above average GDP per capita’ levels lived on the level of Gabon:- 1,596 billion people * 10,772 USD (GDP per capita in Gabon) = 17,192 billion USDThe difference between the wealthier countries’ current footprint and their hypothetically lower ‘Gabon’s average’ footprint is 37,459 billion USD.If we were to distribute this 37,459 billion USD among everybody so that each person had the same GDP per capita at the end, the result obviously would be the world average – very close to Gabon’s GDP per capita.Would it be good enough?It appears it wouldn’t, because at the same time we can observe that – as we speak – people from countries like Syria, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, etc.are not migrating to Gabon.They stop over in Turkey and in Greece only as long as absolutely necessary.They then move on to Germany, the UK, or France, where the average GDP per capita – in contrast with Gabon’s 10,772 USD – is 4 to 5 times higher (France: 42,733 USD, UK: 46,332 USD, Germany: 47,822 USD)It is necessary to underline the importance of the AVERAGE GDP per capita figures used.So we are not talking about people like a bank CEO.We are talking about GDP per capita of an average person who most probably works 8-9 hours a day, 5 days a week, commutes 1-3 hours to their working place and lives in an average-sized apartment.Conclusion:If we distributed all the GDP of the wealthier top 22% among everybody, including those below the average GDP per capita level 78%, then- we would have 7,261 people living on the average Gabon citizen’s level- we would still consume 1.5 of planet Earth’s capacity, hence the Earth would be overpopulated by 50% even in this case- we would effectively lose the required capital for large scale investments financing research, building eco-friendly power plants, etc.If we expect the whole population of this planet to live on the level of Germany, then we could/should have a GDP amounting to 347,221 billion USD, which is 4.5 times higher than the current global GDP, using 4.5 * 1.5 = 6.75 of planet Earth’s capacity.To put it plainly, and in a somewhat oversimplified context: If two people own some chickens, and one day they decide to eat all the eggs they can find plus one chicken as well (consuming more than their carrying capacity), and they continue this exercise every time they collect eggs, sooner or later there will be no chickens and no eggs, regardless of how they share the eggs and the meat of the chicken between each other.This post is written as a reply to a comment stating: “Human overpopulation being an excuse to hidden conspiracies against more vulnerable groups.”This statement is worth another post which I will share later.Here I only would like to highlight the following:According to WWF’s Living Planet Report 2014 the global human footprint exceeded the Earth’s carrying capacity by 50%.(I think it is a very conservative approach, again another post later.)Based on that and on the figures presented above, we can clearly see that sharing global GDP equally among the human population could bring everybody an average Gabon citizen’s living standard, which appears to be much lower than the living standard sought by ‘more vulnerable groups’, i.e.those who live below the world average.Raising living standards above the world average requires additional resources, namely ecosystem resources.Our planet has to be enlarged, stretched.But it doesn’t work.Living standards currently can be increased mostly by making more damage to the planet, while populations are constantly and exponentially rising especially in vulnerable countries.So it is quite clear that the current trajectory of global ‘development’ is completely unsustainable.Of course it cannot be excluded that one day technologies and people’s ethical norms will be developed enough to secure reasonable living standards for many billions of people.Following current global trends, however, by the time this advanced level of technology and ethical norms arrive, all untouched regions will be destroyed and the majority of currently living species will be extinct, at least in the wild.

World Bank combined Per Capita GDP  and Population data extract 2016.03.14

World Bank combined Per Capita GDP and Population data extract 2016.03.14 (from the author)

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