Although the primary environmental focus of Badlands Journal was momentarily diverted by the West installing a neo-Nazi government in Ukraine and the US Supreme Court shredding the last best defense the mortally wounded US democracy had against the plutocratic oligarchy created by monopoly special interests, we noticed the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published an extremely grim report on climate change a week ago.
We also noticed an opinion piece by 350.org leader Bill McKibben against Exxon Mobil, complaining against the "arrogance" of the company. We appreciate McKibben very much for his tremendous organizational efforts in gettting 350.org up and running and active, but we would just like to suggest that there is something much worse than arrogance wrong with Exxon Mobil. --blj
The Independent (UK)
IPCC report paints bleak picture of war, famine and pestilence: ‘Climate change is happening and no one in the world is immune’
From food shortages to loss of species, the latest IPCC report paints a bleak picture for the planet
STEVE CONNOR Author Biography Monday 31 March 2014
The negative effects of climate change are already beginning to be felt in every part of the world and yet countries are ill-prepared for the potentially immense impacts on food security, water supplies and human health, a major report has concluded.
In the most comprehensive study yet into the effects of rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that global warming could undermine economic growth and increase poverty.
Scientists identified Britain as one of the countries most at risk from some of the more immediate negative effects of climate change, with the UK and northern Europe warned to expect increased coastal and inland flooding, heatwaves and droughts.
The IPCC found that these unwanted impacts have already extended beyond any potential benefits of rising temperatures and that they will worsen if global-average temperatures continue to rise by the expected lower limit of 2C by 2100 - and will become potentially catastrophic if temperatures rise higher than 4C.
In pictures: Changing climate around the world
In a blunt and often pessimistic assessment of climate-change impacts - the fifth assessment since 1990 - the IPCC scientists give a stark warning about what the world should expect if global temperatures continue to rise as predicted without mitigation or adaptation.
"In recent decades, changes in climate have caused impacts on natural and human systems on all continents and across the oceans," says the report Climate Change 2014 Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, formally released early this morning by the IPCC after a final editorial meeting in Yokohama, Japan.
"Throughout the 21st century, climate-change impacts are projected to slow down economic growth, make poverty more difficult, further erode food security, and prolong existing and create new poverty traps, the latter particularly in urban areas and emerging hot spots of hunger," the report states.
Scientists in Britain said it is the clearest warning yet of what could happen if the world continues to prevaricate over cuts in emissions. "Climate change is happening, there are big risks for everyone and no place in the world is immune from them," said Professor Neil Adger of Exeter University, one of the many lead authors of the report.
Nearly 2,000 experts from around the world contributed to the report, written by 436 authors and edited by 309 lead authors and review editors of the IPCC's working group II. It was by far the most detailed investigation to date of the global impacts of climate change - extending from oceans to mountains and from the poles to the equator.
Christopher Field, of the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology in California and co-chair of working group II, said that the observed impacts of climate change are already widespread and that "we're not talking about hypothetical events".
The much-touted benefits of climate change - such as the ability to grow some crops such as vineyards at higher northerly latitudes - dwindle into insignificance compared to the enormous challenges produced by the much bigger downsides of a warmer and more stressed world, the report suggests.
"It is true that we can't find many benefits of climate change and I believe it's because there aren't many benefits, even though we tried really hard to find them," Dr Field said. "There are a few places where there are a few benefits of warming but there are many other places where there are widespread negative impacts," he said.
The evidence for climate change can be found in natural systems, such as polar ice and coral reefs The evidence for climate change can be found in natural systems, such as polar ice and coral reefs
The evidence for climate-change impacts is the strongest and most comprehensive for natural systems, such as melting mountain glaciers and polar ice, and the earlier and earlier signs of spring. However, impacts on human systems, such as a rise in certain tropical diseases, can also be attributed to climate change.
"We live in an era of man-made climate change. In many cases, we are not prepared for the climate-related risks that we already face," said Vicente Barros, co-chair of the IPCC working group II.
The climate-related impacts studied by the IPCC included:
Crop yields have increased in general over recent decades but the rate of improvement would have been even faster had it not been for climate change. The signature of rising temperatures and heat stress are already showing on yield of wheat and maize, the report says.
"All aspects of food security are potentially affected by climate change, including food access, utilisation and price stability," it says.
As global temperature rise, then so does the fraction of the human population that are affected by either water scarcity or river flooding. "Climate change over the 21st century is projected to reduce renewable surface water and groundwater resources significantly in most dry subtropical regions," the IPCC says.
Loss of species
The risk of plant and animal extinctions increases under all climate change scenarios, but they get worse with higher temperatures. Loss of trees and forest dieback will be a particular problem in a warmer world, the report says.
"A large fraction of both terrestrial and freshwater species face increased extinction risk under projected climate change during and beyond the 21st century, especially as climate change interacts with other stressors such as habitat modification, over-exploitation, pollution and invasive species," it says.
Coral reefs and shelled marine creatures, especially the smaller animals at the base of the marine food chain, are at special risk of rising carbon dioxide concentrations, which are causing the oceans to become more acidic and less alkaline. This in turn will affect human populations that rely on sea fish as a food source.
Economic losses due to climate change are difficult to assess and many past estimates have not taken into account the catastrophic changes that could result from the climate passing a "tipping point". Losses, however, are more likely than not to be greater, rather than smaller, than an estimated range of between 0.2 and 2 per cent of global income loss due to a temperature rise of about 2C.
Climate change can indirectly increase the risk of violent conflicts, such as civil wars, by amplifying the well-documented "drivers" such as poverty and economic shocks. Climate change will also increase the risk of unplanned displacement of people and a change in migration patterns, the report says.
Scientists said that the messages about the threat posed by climate change in the 21st century have never been clearer but there is still time to mitigate the worst effects by cutting greenhouse gas emissions with sustainable energy sources as well as to adapt to the expected changes with technological improvements.
Professor Corinne Le Quere, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia, said that the study is not "just another report" but the scientific consensus reached by hundreds of scientists.
"The human influence on climate change is clear. The atmosphere and oceans are warming, the snow cover is shrinking, the Arctic sea ice is melting, sea levels are rising, the oceans are acidifying, some extreme weather events are on the rise, ecosystems and natural habitats will be upset.
Climate change threatens food security and world economies," Professor Le Quere said.
Meat and cheese may have to be off the menu if there is to be any hope of hitting climate change targets.
A separate study says cutting greenhouse gas emissions from energy use and transport will not be enough on its own to hold down the global temperature rise.
The research indicates it will also be necessary to slash emissions from agriculture - meaning curbing meat and dairy consumption. Without such action, nitrous oxide emissions from fields and methane from livestock may double by 2070, making it impossible to meet the UN target.
The lead scientist, Dr Fredrik Hedenus of Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, said: "We have shown that reducing meat and dairy consumption is key to bringing agricultural climate pollution down to safe levels."
The Guardian (UK)
Exxon Mobil's response to climate change is consummate arrogance
As scientists laid bare the impacts of climate change, the oil and gas giant said climate policies are highly unlikely to stop it digging up fossil fuels. So what are we going to do about it? Bill McKibben
Monday saw the release of the latest climate report from the planet’s scientists. Predictions of famine, flood, and so on – mostly what we already knew, in even more striking language.
But Monday also saw the release of another document somewhat less expected, and probably at least as important in the ongoing battle over the future of the atmosphere and hence all of us who live in its narrow envelope.
Here’s the backstory. For 18 months now some of us have been campaigning for colleges, churches, cities and the like to sell their shares in fossil fuel companies, on the grounds that their business plans call for burning far more carbon than scientists believe the planet can safely handle. It’s become the fastest growing divestment movement in history — but some have tried to reach out to the industry and reach a middle ground instead, hoping to reform them instead of simply trying to break their power.
Profound thanks are due, then, to those shareholder activists who urged “constructive engagement” with the oil, gas and coal barons.
Because those organisations, groups like As You Sow, CERES, and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, managed in very short order to get Exxon Mobil, the leader of the fossil fuel industry, to show its cards. In fact, in a truly historic moment, Exxon Mobil turned over the whole deck — and to its credit it showed it has nothing up its sleeve, no tricky rhetoric or sleight of hand. Just endless amounts of oil and gas.
On Monday the company issued two reports, in formal response to a shareholder resolution that demanded they disclose their carbon risk and talk about how they planned to deal with the fact that they and other oil giants have many times more carbon in their collective reserves than scientists say we can safely burn.
The company said that government restrictions that would force it to keep its reserves in the ground were “highly unlikely,” and that they would not only dig them all up and burn them, but would continue to search for more gas and oil — a search that currently consumes about $100 million of its investors’ money every single day. “Based on this analysis, we are confident that none of our hydrocarbon reserves are now or will become ‘stranded,’” they said.
This is an honest reply. It is as honest as the report that emerged the same day from the world’s climate scientists, which demonstrated that if Exxon Mobil and its ilk keep their promise to dig up their reserves and burn them, then the planet will no longer function effectively.
Some of us, cynically, thought all along that this would be Exxon’s posture. The company, after all, poured millions into denying climate science when that was still possible. That’s why we’ve been calling for divestment.
We’ve never thought that there was a small flaw in their business plan that could be altered by negotiation; we’ve always thought their business plan was to keep pouring carbon into the atmosphere. And indeed Exxon’s statements are easy to translate: “We plan on overheating the planet, we think we have the political muscle to keep doing it, and we dare you to stop it.” And they’re right — unless we build a big and powerful movement, they’ll continue to dominate our political life and keep change from ever taking place.
So now, with that information clearly on the table, it’s time for college boards and foundation heads, church denominations and city mayors to act and act firmly. By divesting — by announcing that they are breaking ties with these companies — they will begin the process of politically bankrupting them. Of taking away the social license that allows them to act with such consummate arrogance, on the very day that the planet’s scientists laid bare the impact of climate change on everything from crop yields to civil wars.
It’s never fun to see one’s cynicism confirmed. But Monday was a day for reality, on the scientific front but also the political, economic, and corporate.
The only open question left is what we’re going to do about it.