Climate Change: ‘Abrupt,’ ‘Unpredictable,’ ‘Irreversible’ and ‘Highly Damaging’ | Bill Moyers

By John Light

CoastlineIn a rare move, the world’s largest scientific society released a report nudging the public to wake up to the scientifically sound and increasingly frightening reality of climate change.

“As scientists, it is not our role to tell people what they should do or must believe about the rising threat of climate change,” the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) wrote in the introduction to its new report, “What We Know.” “But we consider it to be our responsibility as professionals to ensure, to the best of our ability, that people understand what we know: human-caused climate change is happening, we face risks of abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes and responding now will lower the risk and cost of taking action.”

“They are very clearly saying that we as the scientific community are completely convinced, based upon the evidence, that climate change is happening and human-caused,” said Dr. Anthony Leiserowitz, the director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication. “The more people understand that the experts have reached this agreement, the more they in turn decide, ‘well, then I think it’s happening, and I think it’s human-caused, and I think it’s a serious problem, and in turn it increases people’s support for policy.”

The report noted that even though 97 percent of experts agree climate change is happening and we humans are causing it, Americans remain under the impression that the question is still unsettled. According to a 2013 report by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, 33 percent of Americans said they believed there was widespread disagreement among scientists and four percent said that “most scientists think global warming is not happening.” Only 42 percent of Americans knew that “most scientists think global warming is happening.”

These numbers suggest that disinformation circulated by the fossil fuel industry, utility companies and their political and media allies has successfully confused the public about the truth of global warming. Spreading the perception that scientists are still undecided is key to their strategy.

Leiserowitz likened it to the campaign waged for decades by tobacco companies. “This in fact was [Big Tobacco’s] primary strategy — to sow doubt,” he said. “They literally wrote, ‘doubt is our product.’ As long as they could give people a false perception that the health community was still undecided about whether smoking caused human health problems, people would continue to smoke. They used that strategy very successfully to delay action on smoking for many years. And it’s been very well-documented that the groups that oppose climate action lifted chapter and verse the exact same strategy right out of the tobacco playbook.”

“That’s the backdrop to this particular statement — that is said very clearly by AAAS — and why it is so important.”

The evidence that human behavior — such as our economies’ reliance on fossil fuels — is causing our climate to change and putting our planet and society at increased risk is overwhelming, the report authors write. “[L]evels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are rising. Temperatures are going up. Springs are arriving earlier. Ice sheets are melting. Sea level is rising. The patterns of rainfall and drought are changing. Heat waves are getting worse as is extreme precipitation. The oceans are acidifying.”

Whether they link it to global warming or not, Americans already detect that something is changing. In 2013, the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication report found that 51 percent said weather in their local area had been worse over the past several years. That observation is in line with research. “These problems are very likely to become worse over the next 10 to 20 years and beyond,” the AAAS authors write. By becoming aware of the science behind global warming now, Americans will be better prepared to make “risk management” choices.

The AAAS says that “What We Know” will have an associated outreach campaign to scientists, economists, community leaders, policymakers and the public through media and meetings.

Source: Bill Moyers


NASA-Backed Study Says Humanity Is Pretty Much Screwed | Gizmodo

By Robert Sorokonitch

HotEarthHope you’ve enjoyed civilized life, folks. Because a new study sponsored by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center says the world’s industrial societies are poised to collapse under the weight of their own unsustainable appetites for resources. There goes the weekend . . . and everything after it for the rest of our lives.

NASA released a statement clarifying its involvement, saying this study “was not solicited, directed or reviewed by NASA. It is an independent study by the university researchers utilizing research tools developed for a separate NASA activity.”

The research article appears in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Ecological Economics, but Dr. Nafeez Ahmed, executive director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development, has a more understandable (but no less harrowing) summary over at The Guardian. Either way, the news isn’t good—as the researchers point out, history doesn’t seem to hold out any favor for advanced societies.

The fall of the Roman Empire, and the equally (if not more) advanced Han, Mauryan, and Gupta Empires, as well as so many advanced Mesopotamian Empires, are all testimony to the fact that advanced, sophisticated, complex, and creative civilizations can be both fragile and impermanent.

Who’s to blame? You. Me. Everyone walking around outside your window. Even the technology we invented to save us from ourselves is contributing to our decline.

Technological change can raise the efficiency of resource use, but it also tends to raise both per capita resource consumption and the scale of resource extraction, so that, absent policy effects, the increases in consumption often compensate for the increased efficiency of resource use.

Is there a way out? Of course. But you’re probably not gonna like it. Dr. Ahmed sums up the researchers’ suggestions:

The two key solutions are to reduce economic inequality so as to ensure fairer distribution of resources, and to dramatically reduce resource consumption by relying on less intensive renewable resources and reducing population growth.

Which is just as difficult and improbable as it sounds.

Seriously, you should read the whole rundown of what the research says. It’s eye-opening, and a serious call to action—if the crushing bleakness of what we’ve done to ourselves hasn’t already doomed you to abandon all hope. Here, watch a funny video to make you feel better. [The Guardian]

Source: Gizmodo

Alaska & Washington Salmon Tested For Radiation | Simply Info

SalmonA Seattle fish company had some of their fish privately tested in late 2013. With all the US government agencies refusing to test anything and growing consumer anxiety due to the lack of information, Loki Fish company paid for private testing.

This is some of the only North American seafood testing done. While the current findings of these limited samples is somewhat good news, more testing is needed to have a better understanding of the situation across a large geographic area of ocean. These are a “snapshot” of a much larger picture. More testing should be done by more parties and done over time to understand the potential progression of radionuclides in the environment. Artificial isotopes like cesium 137, 134 or strontium 90 should not be ingested, even in small amounts ideally. Even small amounts have the potential to add to health damage that can cause cancer and other health problems over time.

What Loki Fish found in their testing was out of seven samples, five were below the level of detection and two had low levels of cesium. One sample had cesium 134, a marker that confirms at least that contamination came from Fukushima Daiichi due to the short half life. The two with detectable levels were:

  • Alaskan Keta at 1.4Bq/kg for Cesium 137
  • Alaskan Pink at 1.2Bq/kg for Cesium 134

The other five samples that were below the detection level were:

  • Coho – Southeast Alaska
  • Sockeye  – Southeast Alaska
  • King – Southeast Alaska
  • Pink  – Puget Sound
  • Keta  – Puget Sound

Copies of the actual test results can be found here:

Source: Fukuleaks

Hope for a New Era: Solving Our Problems From the Ground Up |

before_after_loess_plateau_02_1995Rio+20 has been and gone, and, in the big scheme of things, has achieved little, or worse. With this post I’d like to take the opportunity to jot down some thoughts, and images, that might help us shake off disappointment, disillusionment and despair, and give us something we can all consider, adjust and rally around. Our ‘leaders’ are taking us ‘down the garden path’, but, unfortunately, in the proverbial, rather than literal, sense. It’s truly time to forge new beginnings, create new economies, and to prioritize natural and social capital with the goal of restoring ecological and social health.

The problem we as a race (particularly Anglo Saxons like myself) have, I think, is that when we think of nature, we tend to compartmentalize it. It’s that ‘reserve’ or ‘park’ that needs to be ‘protected’ from us. We tend to admit that we ourselves are destructive, but the central problem is that since we can’t see ourselves being anything more than destructive, we conclude that if we can just leave enough space ‘out there’ that we don’t touch, then it’ll all somehow balance out. This is a totally ingrained, but little recognised, failure of our modern culture.

before_after_loess_plateau_02_2011Permaculturists look at the world differently – in that humankind are also part of nature. Not only that, and not only that we (as part of nature) deserve to survive, but we can actually be a beneficial organism in the picture also. If this capacity (which is proven) could be true of all humans, then it doesn’t matter where man lives, even if he virtually covers the globe, as he is an asset to the planet, and not a parasite. This of course can only happen if he learns to work with nature, and not battle it at every step, as he mostly does today. Where, for example, an agronomist can take a perfectly good piece of land and turn it into a desert over the course of a few decades, or even just a few years, a permaculturist can take a desert, and transform it back into a perfectly good piece of land, and can design it to be (like a natural forest) almost self-perpetuating whilst producing food.

But, putting that aside, I want to share something else with you. It’s essentially some logic that I find difficult to put aside, and which keeps me on track in my work and purposes:

  1. If you study soil science (as I have, and I could wish it was compulsory in schools) — and not just from a reductionist chemical standpoint as do the agronomists, but from a biological standpoint, where you’re observing the ‘magic’ of biological/chemical interactions and interdependencies — then you quickly become aware that the larger in scale you go with agriculture, the more compromises you begin to make in regards to working with nature. The more land you endeavor to take care of per person, the more you begin ‘forcing functions’ (trying to get nature to do something it doesn’t want to do — a bit like pushing water uphill). With larger scale, two things happen: 1) the larger in scale, the greater the detachment between the land-steward and his land — observing macro-level synergies and tweaking them becomes increasingly difficult to impossible, and 2) monocultures become a necessity to the automation required, and you end up putting more energy in, and getting less out, and you begin the input treadmill of labour, fertilisers, chemicals, etc., that are the inevitable result of trying to maintain what nature doesn’t normally allow. (This post gives a good easy-to-understand rundown on one example of this).
  2. You know very well that, with present systems, we’re using enormous amounts of fossil fuels to produce ‘food’ (‘food’ being in inverted commas, because it’s increasingly empty of nutrition). And, you know very well that we just don’t have that energy to burn any more. Additionally, because of our globalized system, we’re not eating plants we could, simply because they don’t travel well, so are sidelined by BigAgri (think berries, and all kinds of other plant varieties). The system that promised more diversity in our diet has actually reduced it dramatically. Even of that limited range of produce that is ‘approved’ by the BigAgri globalized model, around 25-50% of the food is wasted (according to the FAO) before it even reaches supermarkets (and lots more is wasted post-purchase as well!).
  3. The use of fossil fuels (pesticides, fertilizers) has not only increased our population manifold, but it’s simultaneously consumed our soil life at an escalating rate.
  4. The last three points all mean humanity is in a highly precarious position (dead soils, peaked oil, burgeoning populations). We’re heading into definite famine territory….
  5. Then add in climate change, which is seriously exacerbating our ability to correct the above problems. Much of this climate change is due to the above — the carbon that should be in our soils is now in our atmosphere, due to ignorance and greed.
  6. Add to the above that most people now live in densely packed cities, so are unable to work the land even if they wanted to, and even if they knew how.
  7. The above all inevitably mean two major things need to happen — a massive re-skilling/re-education movement, combined with a transition of people back to the land, for those who don’t have access to it.
  8. Given that in much of the ‘developed’ world, most of the land is held by large farms and even by a handful of very large multinationals (with farmers often little more than serfs on them — ‘managing’ their farms with a colour-by-numbers approach dictated to them by their corporate feudal lords), the above reskilling and transitioning back to the land is complicated with the very difficult necessity of land redistribution — something that historically almost never occurred without revolution and bloodshed.
  9. Where today we have economic incentives that favor large scale and Big Agri, if we are to work in the political realm then I think we need to target the need to see policies enacted which instead incentivise ‘get smaller or get out’, the very opposite of the policies of the last 50 years. Again, this will only work if people managing these smaller plots are educated in the how of it, otherwise instead of increasing resiliency and decreasing food insecurity, we can just exacerbate the situation.
  10. For urbanites, this is a good transitional option in the interim, where we relegate the lawn to its place as a short-lived entry in our history books:
  11. It’s key to understand the biology behind global warminghow the deforestation and mismanagement of our land started atmospheric CO2 increases long before we even began to mine coal and oil. If people would understand this better, rather than only approaching it from a fossil fuel emissions, reductionist standpoint, then we’d be one step closer to understanding the holistic solutions to climate change (reinstating carbon sinks, by way of food forests, and permaculture agricultural methodology — all of which also, themselves, free us from our addiction to fossil fuels). Read more…