Category Archives: Environment

Great Barrier Reef Politics

Australia’s environment has been in precarious hands since European settlement found its lengthy and persistent way to the continent.  It has been mined, mauled, drained, farmed, deforested and despoiled at a rate that was only restrained by the size of its small but rapacious populace.  When environmental matters have made an appearance, they have done so with a veil of political opportunism.  Few typify this more than Labor’s environment minister Senator Graham Richardson’s efforts regarding the Tasmanian forests.  To win over the conservation-minded voter in marginal, city-based seats, it was good to go green – at least for a bit.

The Great Barrier Reef has not been exempt from the political tussles of a troubled environmental conscience.  Its monumental size, and its status as an ecological wonder meant little in the late 1960s, when the appetite for development mattered most.  In 1967, it seemed to be facing imminent destruction, another casualty of a predatory mining industry keen for new conquests.  The state of Queensland had elected a National Party government hungry to exploit the environment’s wares.

As local tour operator Alistair Pike explained to the ABC, “We had a fairly full-on development oriented government… and mate, if they couldn’t drill it, mine it, chop it down or whatever, they really didn’t want to know about it.”  It took characters such as that feted “rat bag” of an activist, rogue of action and Mission Beach artist John Büsst to bring angered but focused attention on threats to bulldoze Ellison Reef.  An impeccably connected person, he had the ear of Australian prime minister and fellow diver Harold Holt.  A cast of characters were duly mobilised: the CSIRO forester Len Webb, and president of the Queensland Wildlife Society Judith Wright became enthusiastic and un-phased recruits.

In the Australian environmental conscience, this gorgeously freakish wonder of ecology has been seen in isolation, its problems a local provenance and interest rather than a global phenomenon of ailing.  As the earth continues is warming push, earthbound, and very terrestrially unimaginative politicians have been attempting to treat the Reef’s woes as separately resolvable from the broader challenges of climate change.

Little wonder, then, that a problem viewed in such limited terms could be duly remedied by donations without tender, lump sum payments without review.  Narrowly viewed problems tend to lead to narrowly devised solutions.  Such was the nature of the Turnbull government’s $444 million “rescue package” to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, one conceived and delivered in a haze.

The issue of who takes the reins and ensures study and conservation was never going to be free of a political push.  While common sense suggests that the task be left to government organisations within the scientific community – CSIRO, the Australian Institute for Marine Science and the Marine Park Authority, other contenders have been stalking the scene.

The Great Barrier Reef Foundation was deemed the chosen one, but questions are circulating as to why that outfit got preferment for such largesse.  For one thing, it seemed an oddly hasty move, given that it entailed an expenditure of almost the entire spending allocation for the 2050 Reef Partnership program.

Then came the organisation’s profile.  Its chief executive Anna Marsden is married to Ben Myers, chief of staff to former Queensland premier Campbell Newman. (Newman can be counted, incidentally, as one of those durable environmental sceptics who prefers the bulldozer to reef hugging conservation.)  One of the four founding businessmen behind the venture is the current chairman of the foundation, and former chairman of Esso Australia and the Commonwealth Bank.  Advocates of barrier reef protection, beware.

That particular non-profit group had a revenue stream of less than $8 million in 2017, a humble outfit with six full time employees.  Nothing suggests that those working for it had a clue that this staggering cash supply was coming their way.  “We didn’t have much time before the announcement to be prepared for it,” came the perplexed, albeit thrilled Marsden.  Easy to understand why Marsden considered this winning the lottery.  Overnight, even given a spread of funding over six years, the Foundation has become one of the largest, if not largest NGO in Australia.  By way of grim contrast, government employees connected with the science fraternity are facing skint measures to fund their projects.

The bungling has led to Josh Frydenberg, the environment and energy minister, asking the secretary of his department to urge the National Audit Office to give the funding arrangement serious consideration “as a priority”.

This piqued the interest of Tony Burke, Labor’s opposition spokesman, who claimed that it “was an extraordinary step for the secretary of the department to be sending a letter like that to the Auditor-General at the exact same time that Josh Frydenberg is standing up in Parliament saying there is no problem here”.

The outstanding feature of the funding spill to the foundation is its conspicuous absence of any reference to climate change.  It is a hermetic form of deliverable rescue sans climate science, an approach that politically factors in the climate change sceptics within the Turnbull government.  By all means try to preserve an Australian wonder; but ditch the climate science.  The conclusion of one unnamed scientist to the Fairfax press about the nature of this arrangement was elementary and crude: “Obviously this is political – it’s to head off Labor making a big issue of the Great Barrier Reef at the next election.” Woe to the reef.

Climate Change, Extreme Weather, Destructive Lifestyles

Throughout the world heat waves, flooding and uncontrollable wildfires have caused widespread havoc, lives have been lost, homes destroyed, livelihoods ruined.

Unprecedented levels of heat have been recorded in North America, Europe and Asia, as well as the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. According to The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) record cold May temperatures were registered in “northeastern Canada and the northern Atlantic Ocean, off the southern coast of Greenland.” Global temperatures for the first five months of the year were the highest on record for a La Niña year; higher temperatures, “lead to more frequent and long-lasting heat waves causing adverse environmental impacts.”

These extreme weather patterns are the ferocious signs and sights of climate change in 2018, and, because so little is being done to tackle the causes, year on year they become more and more intense. Planet Earth is becoming a world in which the extreme becomes the expected, the disastrous the everyday.

How bad must it get?

The year began with the coldest first week of January on record for numerous cities in eastern America; freezing temperatures and heavy snowfall swept across Europe in March as the “Beast From the East” hit. Britain was severely affected, with up to three feet of snow in some areas and temperatures down to minus 10ºC.

Floods have affected East Africa killing dozens of people, tropical cyclones hit Somalia, Djibouti, Yemen and Oman, dust storms killed hundreds in India, and Pakistan had an intense heat wave with temperatures exceeding 40ºC. Heavy rains and 70 mph winds in Bangladesh caused landslides, deaths and injuries. California had the largest wild fires ever recorded, and down under, Australia is becoming the ‘Land of Drought’ according to the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull.

A heat wave of unprecedented temperatures scorched Europe and Japan, where 40ºC (104ºF) temperatures were recorded, 30 people died and thousands needed medical treatment for heat related conditions. A month earlier Japan had some of the worst floods in its history, more than 200 people lost their lives and almost 2 million people were evacuated; the Caribbean is bracing itself for this year’s hurricane season, while “still recovering from last year’s devastation,” which, the UNFCC say, was “the costliest on record”.

The list of extreme weather events across the word is endless; extremes that are increasingly normal as the impact of man-made climate change become more and more apparent, and yet little is being done to address the primary causes. How bad does it have to become before substantive action is taken to reverse the terrible damage we are doing to the natural world?

The mechanics of climate change

Climate change is being triggered by global warming; Global warming, described by NASA as “the unusually rapid increase in Earth’s average surface temperature…primarily due to the greenhouse gases released as people burn fossil fuels” occurs, “when the atmosphere traps heat radiating from Earth toward space.” This happens when so-called greenhouse gases (Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4) and Nitrous Oxide (N2O), being the three main culprits) clog the lower levels of Earth’s atmosphere. This leads to a range of effects: The planet overall becomes warmer (average ground temperature rises), causing “extreme weather events and other severe natural and societal impacts” to become more frequent; glaciers in the Arctic region melt sending huge quantities of water into the ocean, which raises the sea level, oceans are made warmer and expand, further contributing to rising levels. As the sea level rises land is flooded, cities, towns and villages are threatened, lives lost, homes destroyed, communities ripped apart, people displaced.

Man-made greenhouse gases (GGE) are produced by a range of sectors and activities: Animal agriculture produces the largest amount (18% of the total according to the UN, other sources put the figure much higher), followed by electricity and heat production, transportation and industry – all through burning fossil fuels – oil, coal and gas. GGEs have been increasing since the industrial revolution, leading to a rise in global ground temperatures, which to date has reached about 1ºC above pre-industrial levels. Temperatures continue to increase at around 0.17ºC per decade.

One degree doesn’t sound like much but, as the extreme weather events show, the effect of this modest rise on the climate is huge, the consequences far reaching, potentially catastrophic.

In 2015 the Paris Agreement on Climate Change was reached and signed by every country in the world; under President Trump America has since pulled out. Hailed as historic, its central aim is to keep global rises in temperature “well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.” Even if these rather optimistic targets are met, a recent study by an international team of scientists writing in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests, “there is a risk of Earth entering what the scientists call “Hothouse Earth” conditions.” The BBC report that the group believe 2ºC of warming “could turn some of the Earth’s natural forces [forests, oceans and land] – that currently protect us – into our enemies…As the world experiences warming, these carbon sinks could become sources of carbon and make the problems of climate change significantly worse.”

If this occurs they forecast the climate stabilizing at “a global average of 4-5°C higher than pre-industrial temperatures with sea level 10-60 m higher than today.” This would mean that some parts of the Earth would become uninhabitable. In order to avoid this nightmare scenario the authors make clear that “a total re-orientation of human values, equity, behavior and technologies is required. We must all become stewards of the Earth.” This requires a major shift in human attitudes.

Unhealthy destructive lifestyle

Climate Change and the environmental disaster in its various colors is the result of human activity and complacency; we have poisoned the oceans, rivers and streams, cleared 85% of the world’s tropical rainforests, mainly for livestock, and are turning healthy land into desert; we are filling the air we breathe with toxins, creating dead zones in the oceans and causing the eradication of species at an unprecedented rate. Collectively we seem to have no respect or love for the natural environment and whilst some people are acting responsibly, the majority fails to see the connection between lifestyle and disaster and appear content to treat the planet like a giant rubbish tip.

The natural order has been thrown into disarray by the widespread adoption of a selfish, destructive way of life: A particular lifestyle, or collection of related ‘lifestyle choices’, are responsible for the production of man-made greenhouse gases that are triggering the extreme weather patterns we are seeing all around the world.

Hedonism and consumerism sit at the heart of the unhealthy mode of living that is driving the catastrophe and making us ill; mankind’s relentless consumption of stuff, the vast majority of which is not needed, combined with an animal-based diet (common to 97% of the global population), has created a cocktail of chaos within the natural world, bringing about the greatest crisis in the history of mankind. It is a materialistic lifestyle that the global economy, and by extension the corporate state depends on and ceaselessly promotes. This is why, despite the intense urgency of the environmental issue, we hear little on mainstream media and virtually nothing from governments, who are more concerned with economic growth and petty domestic politics than the stability and health of the planet.

The harmony of the natural world has been thrown into chaos by the same approach to life that has separated us one from another, and fuelled internal conflict resulting in a global mental health epidemic. In all areas, where there should be unity and right relationship we see enmity, discord and disease. Restoring the planet to health and creating a world in which human beings can live healthy peaceful lives are inextricably linked. Both require a fundamental change in values, a shift away from divisive modes of living built on competition and greed to inclusive ways in which social/environmental responsibility is cultivated and embraced.

Such ideas are not new and are frequently championed, but the prevailing socio-economic ideology actively works to suppress such principles, and powerfully promotes values of division and selfishness. Despite this widespread conditioning, an unstoppable current of change can be seen sweeping the world; social responsibility is growing apace, and perennial values of goodness – cooperation, tolerance and sharing – are increasingly influencing the minds of men and women everywhere.

To galvanize this global movement a major public education program should be undertaken by governments and schools to increase awareness of climate change and lifestyle and create a sense of urgency and engagement. Change can be slow, but these are extraordinary times, and there is a growing recognition that if we unite all things are possible. If not, if we continue in the selfish, greedy, divisive ways of the past, the weather patterns will become more extreme and unpredictable, the air and waterways will become more toxic, loss of life will increase and the associated environmental ills will deepen. The choice is ours.

Hothouse Earth

An interesting new study:1 lays out the pathway for Earth entering a Hothouse Climate State.

Our planet is still in danger of becoming a ‘Hothouse’ Earth despite our current efforts to manage global warming.

Counter-intuitively, that sounds like a breath of fresh air, meaning, get the bad news out of the way ahead of time so people can brace for it, no surprises. Assuming the Hothouse Planet happens, certain areas would be uninhabitable as global temps crank up to 4C-to-5C beyond pre-industrial. The planet would be gnarled and unattractive, a nasty place to live, no more Goldilocks climate. And, all kinds of warfare would breakout as mobs vie for tillable land.

The article’s general thesis is that, as of today, the planet retains its Goldilocks “not too hot, not too cold” swagger because of a series of natural mechanisms that “maintain a balance,” for example, carbon sinks, like the ocean or like the Amazon Rain Forest keep the balance in place. In fact, the study identifies ten tipping elements that maintain a balance for the planet, any one of which, once out of whack, would cascade into all the others, bringing on the onset of a hothouse planet.

Assuming the world exceeds the 2C pre-industrial marker set by the Paris Agreement, the study envisions a dangerous out of control spiral downwards, as planetary mechanisms crash in domino fashion, resulting in a planetary climate hothouse. Maybe that’s what happened to Venus (865F, CO2 950,000 ppm) millennia ago.

According to the PNAS article, hothouse prevention is reducing carbon emissions ASAP with countries working together towards a common goal, including decarbonization, enhancement of carbon sinks, blah-blah-blah. Stop right there! The U.S. is already out of the “deal” and furthermore it’s a pipe dream to assume countries will come together globally to save the planet. Since the dawn of civilization, tribes, then empires, then nation/states have been fighting like cats and dogs locked together in a crowded teeny-weeny room.

Here’s the issue as outlined by the study: It only takes one of the mechanisms to break down and topple all of the others. Ipso facto, that presents a problem today. The “tipping elements,” of which there are ten, include: (1) thawing permafrost (2) loss of coral reefs (3) loss of Arctic summer sea ice. Those three mechanisms alone, according to some pretty smart scientists, are already goners, or very, very close to goners.

What if the “tipping elements” mentioned in the study have already “tipped” or tip way ahead of plan? Then what happens, as the world grinds away towards reduction of carbon emissions whilst on the pathway to 2C? After all, scientific models have been pretty shabby now for decades, missing nasty climate events by a country mile. Time and again, the science is behind the climatic events, not ahead, not by a long shot.

Therefore, the Planet Hothouse study poses an interesting supposition: What if climate scientists have been way too optimistic, too sanguine, too upbeat and not scaring people nearly enough?

In point of fact, there’s a strong rationale for questioning the validity of climate models. For example, frequently scientists say how “surprised” they are at “how much faster things are happening than models predicted.” This happens way too often to find comfort in science models.

After several years of repeatedly hearing apologetic scientists claim the climate system is not following their models, meaning, bad stuff is happening much faster than models predicted, it becomes increasingly obvious that climate change could be closer to an out of control beast than anybody realizes. After all, the track record is all about “surprised scientists.”

The “science is late to the party” phenomena is not necessarily the fault of scientists as climate change (crisis) is on an unprecedented pathway, not following any playbooks. Come to find out, there’s no script, only models.

For example, when questioned about collapsing ice in West Antarctica, Adrian Jenkins, glaciologist, British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge said: “It was just beyond our concept that a glacier would melt that fast.”

Really! “Beyond our concept that a glacier would melt that fast!”

Helen Amanda Fricker, glaciologist, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and her team found that from 1994 to 2012, the amount of ice disappearing from all Antarctic ice shelves, not just the ones in the Amundsen Sea, increased 12-fold, from six cubic miles to 74 cubic miles per year. That was six years ago; it’s only gotten worse. Increased 12-fold… you’ve gotta be kidding…. that’s like comparing the performance of the Wright brothers to the Apollo moon landing!

“I think it’s time for us scientists to stop being so cautious about communicating the risks.” (Helen Amanda Fricker) Oh, finally, reality hits home!

The “Mass Balance of the Antarctic Ice Sheet from 1992 to 2017,”2 shows the rate of ice loss from West Antarctica increasing from 53B to 159B tonnes per year. Nobody came close to predicting that in 1992, in 2002, or in 2012. No models said that would happen at that rate.

In fact, similar to the stock market, West Antarctic ice loss is in a bull market that just won’t quit, exceeding all expectations, blowing away all predictions.  Not only, but two recent studies found Antarctic melt, similar to the stock market, at a “record-breaking rate.” Therefore, warning that sea level rises could have catastrophic consequences for cities. Duh!

Consider: Antarctic ice loss has accelerated threefold in the last five years; that’s a faster rate than the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which increased from 15,000 to 25,000 over the past five years or a powerhouse 67% in a raging bull market. Still, stocks look like wimps compared to Antarctica’s 5xs faster rate of ice loss. Curiously, and maybe not so coincidentally, the faster stock markets rise, the faster ice melts.

Greenland’s surface melt doubled from 1992-2011. According to Isabella Velicogna, University of California:

Nobody expected the ice sheet to lose so much mass so quickly… Things are happening a lot faster than we expected.

“Happening a lot faster than we expected” has become the motto of climate science. “Nobody expected it to lose mass so quickly.” These expressions, or rather exasperation retorts, are indicative of a climate crisis that is rapidly galloping ahead of the science.

Maybe the Hothouse Earth study in PNAS is on-track but too late to the party.

Which begs the million-dollar question: What if 2C hits much sooner than the models expect?

Then what?

The answer is straightforward: The world turns into a hellhole much faster than the models predicted.

  1. “Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene,” Will Steffen, Johan Rockström et al, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), August 6, 2018.
  2. Nature, 219-222 (2018).

Peter Wadhams, Professor Emeritus, Ocean Physics

Scripps Institution of Oceanography (est. 1903) La Jolla, CA is the perfect location for meeting a world famous climate scientist. It is one of the most beautifully sculpted campuses on the face of the planet, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, an inviting scenario for serious surfers, but it also beckons top-notch scientists from around the world.

Every view from the architecturally rich campus opens to an endless panorama of gorgeous, blue-ocean waters and luscious, white surf for as far as the eye can see. However, that outward serenity belies a collapsing climate system that’s out of public view, one of the great illusions of all time.

At Scripps I was privileged to meet the esteemed climate scientist Peter Wadhams (professor emeritus Cambridge) recipient of several prestigious science awards, and his lovely, brilliantly energetic and accomplished wife, Maria Pia Casarini (Council 2017-2018 — Polar Educators International).

My mission was to drill down into what’s happening with the climate crisis.

I got the answers I was looking for.

Not only an interview but also additional answers are readily available to the general public via the paperback edition of Professor Wadham’s A Farewell to Ice (Penguin, UK; Oxford University Press, USA) a superb tome widely praised as a consummate must-read for a thorough understanding of our increasingly dangerous climate crisis.

Still, at the end of the day, the colossal question overhanging all of society vis a vis the climate juggernaut remains: Will society be able to look into the eyes of their children’s children without wincing?

My first question: What is the single most serious threat to the planet?

Without hesitation, Dr. Wadhams explained:

A sudden and huge pulse of methane out of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf originating from its extraordinarily shallow waters <50 meters, or a similar burst out of the Laptev Sea, where 53% of the seawater rests on continental shelf averaging depth of <50 meters.

Those extraordinarily shallow waters expose vulnerability to global warming over miles upon miles of methane concentration, hydrates as well as free gas, believed to be the world’s largest. The vulnerability relates to methane in sediments capped by layers of permafrost left over from the last Ice Age.

The dilemma is: The permafrost cap is rapidly thawing as a result of anomalous retreat of summer sea ice.

My follow up question: What will be the impact of a 50Gt pulse?

Answer: “It would wipe out civilization within 5 years.”

End of Interview….

Seriously, though, drilling down deeper yet, it became apparent that methane embedded in frozen deposits in shallow waters north of Siberia is the most underrated and overlooked risk by the scientific community, which prompts many, many hard questions.

For starters, how is it possible that so few climate scientists and/or developed nations don’t care or follow the inordinate risks of a deathly methane breakout in the Arctic?

After all, Dr. Natalia Shakhova, head scientist for the Russian/American research team – University of Alaska/Fairbanks calculated:

  1. The Arctic coastal seas contain 800Gt of methane in sediments, which is prevented from venting to surface by underwater permafrost, which is rapidly thawing because of sea ice loss.
  2. Conservatively, the topmost 6%-8%, or approximately 50Gt, is vulnerable to sudden venting within a few years as the protective layer of permafrost thaws, resulting in a rapid increase of 0.6C in planetary temperature.

After considering the implications of her findings, Dr. Shakhova throttled back her own original larger estimate of a potential methane (CH4) pulse down to 50Gt even though reality may be much larger. As it happens, her discovery that a pulse could occur “out of the blue” has received the cold-shoulder by mainstream science.

According to Dr. Wadhams, more in situ work is desperately needed to determine the stability of the sediments; meaning, whether the threat is less than thought, or if additional thaw will give rise to a pulse far greater than 8% of the 800Gt, which would amount to terminal disaster for the planet.

“Wiping out civilization!”… Really?

Yes, there are only 5Gt of CH4 in the atmosphere today; a 50Gt burp would be enormously disruptive; moreover, molecule per molecule the immediate impact of CH4 is well over 20xs, depending upon timing up to 100xs, more powerful at inducing global warming than CO2.  Which would have an immediate positive impact on global temperatures, cranking up by +0.60C within only two to three years on top of the +0.80C increase post-industrialization from over 200 years ago, or in comparative numbers, a 75% extra temperature boost within a handful of years with potency at least 20xs more powerful at influencing global warming than CO2, which took 200+ years to accomplish.

Bottom line: It would be “a powerful bombshell.”

Upon release into the atmosphere, methane bursts prompting excessive heat would damage ecosystems all across the planet and burn off agriculture across latitudes above and below the equator over indeterminate but widespread distances. Grain crop failures would fall like dominoes.

In point of fact, the world is 100% dependent upon grains, whether for grain-based foodstuff or meat consumption.

All of which brings to mind the summer of 2018 planetary heat wave, setting new standards for global warming. Just imagine the impact of a relatively speedy 75% increase from 0.8C up to 1.4C within the geological equivalent of a snap of the fingers.

Along those lines, contemplate the following headline in The Guardian, July 20, 2018:  “Crop Failure and Bankruptcy Threaten Farmers as Drought Grips Europe.”  In view of that, consider the ramifications of a 75% increase in temps.

But beware, notwithstanding that risk of a massive methane burp, another global warming danger haunts the planet and goes deeper than the aforementioned risk of a sudden methane pulse, which incidentally, may or may not happen. Nobody knows for sure. That bigger climate monster overshadows all else: A significant, but obscure, climate sensitivity analysis shows that an “unrealized warming” or latency effect exists within the climate system, which implies the following: If all CO2 emissions stopped cold-turkey today, global temps would still rise by up to 5C over the upcoming decades.

Interestingly, even though mainstream science supports the concept of “unrealized warming,” it is not emphasized and of more significance, the magnitude, for example +5C, is a subject of intense debate. It is not part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) analysis, which only looks at immediate, fast climate response to CO2 increasing and thereby calls for a lid of 2C global warming by 2100, which Dr. Wadhams claims is impossible to achieve under the current IPCC edict.

This bigger climate monster or doomsday forecast can only be averted by full-scale deployment of carbon removal from the atmosphere. But first something about the derivation of this ultra gloomy forecast, or the dark side of climate science.

It comes from David Wasdell, director, The Apollo-Gaia Project, who sought to answer the profound question: “By how much does the Earth System amplify the effects of anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases?”

That is a “climate sensitivity” issue:  (a) “If the planetary system is very sensitive then we are in deep trouble or (b) If it is not very sensitive at all then there really isn’t a problem.” After ten years of research, the answer was found to be (a).

Wasdell’s study of climate sensitivity indicates that global warming will heat up way beyond anything suggested by the IPCC even if CO2 emissions came to a halt today. In other words, we’re cooked!

The only way out of the jam is via geoengineering as well as removal of CO2 from the atmosphere.

Dr. Wadhams agrees with Wasdell’s work and conclusion, and, in fact, has undertaken consideration of a new book about carbon removal, which he insists must be done:

The CO2 levels in the atmosphere are already so high that when their warming potential is realized in a few decades, the resulting temperature rise will be catastrophic.1

Wadhams:

We have destroyed our planet’s life support system by mindless development and misuse of technology… Development of technology, first for geoengineering, then for carbon removal, is now necessary to save us. It is the most serious and important activity in which the human race can now be involved, and it must begin immediately. (p. 193)

Still, geoengineering is mostly a black and white issue amongst the scientific/engineering communities with a sizeable group opposed to tinkering with or creating a Frankenstein climate or something even worse, as unintended consequences often times derive from the best of intentions.

Additionally, there is presently no assurance that any geoengineering model will work to scale, or carbon removal, which would likely need to be nearly as large as the originator of CO2 in the first instance or the fossil fuel industry in toto, an enormous infrastructure that took decades to build.

Thus, with overwhelming odds working against any easy pathways to a semblance of “Mother Earth back to normal,” what can concerned individuals do to help overcome tough odds, which unfortunately lean in favor of mainstream thought, which ignores the above-mentioned serious aspects of an increasingly wacky climate?

As for Dr. Wadhams, aside from speeches around the world, Korea and Japan on the docket, and thought-provoking books/articles, he’s an enthusiastic member of ScientistsWarning.org and encourages the public to join its ranks now.

As of December 2017, over 20,000 scientists in 184 nations signed a 2nd Scientists Warning to Humanity.

ScientistsWarning.org is an ideal outlet for people that want to get seriously involved on a direct personal basis in helping the worldwide effort to combat global warming and debasement of the biosphere.

Sign Up, it’s free; it’s easy; it’s fast; it’s genuine and consequential. Become a “citizen of the world” and you’ll experience a special feeling of camaraderie and you’ll smile much more frequently:

It’s especially important to generate as much public support as possible for this most important effort directed by Stuart Scott of ClimateMatters.TV fame to show cohesion via strength in numbers.

Numbers are meaningful. The planet is counting on you!

Postscript:

Frozen sediments, which have lain undisturbed since the last Ice Age, are now releasing plumes of methane – a very potent greenhouse gas – into the atmosphere.”

There is no question that a very large number of people have to move; you cannot live where the water comes over you. I have not heard one suggestion on how we are going to move one hundred million (100,000,000) people out of low-lying areas and what countries would be willing to accept them.

— Walter Munk, professor emeritus of geophysics, Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego and recipient of the nation’s highest award for lifetime achievement in scientific research, the President’s National Medal of Science. The New York Times labeled Dr. Munk “the Einstein of the Oceans.”

  1. A Farewell To Ice p.192.

India: The State of Independence

India celebrates its independence from Britain on 15 August. However, the system of British colonial dominance has been replaced by a new hegemony based on the systemic rule of transnational capital, enforced by global institutions like the World Bank and WTO. At the same time, global agribusiness corporations are stepping into the boots of the former East India Company.

The long-term goal of US capitalism has been to restructure indigenous agriculture across the world and tie it to an international system of trade underpinned by export-oriented mono-cropping, commodity production for the global market and debtThe result has been food surplus and food deficit areas, of which the latter have become dependent on agricultural imports and strings-attached aid.

Whether through IMF-World Bank structural adjustment programmes, as occurred in Africa, trade agreements like NAFTA and its impact on Mexico or, more generally, deregulated global trade rules, the outcome has been similar: the displacement of traditional, indigenous agriculture by a corporatized model centred on transnational agribusiness and the undermining of both regional and world food security. The global food regime is in effect increasingly beholden to unregulated global markets, financial speculators and global monopolies.

India, of course, has not been immune to this. It is on course to be subjugated by US state-corporate interests  and is heading towards environmental catastrophe much faster than many might think. As I outlined in this previous piece, the IMF and World Bank wants India to shift hundreds of millions out of agriculture and has been directed to dismantle its state-owned seed supply system, reduce subsidies and run down public agriculture institutions.

The plan for India involves the mass displacement of people to restructure agriculture for the benefit of western agricapital. This involves shifting at least 400 million from the countryside into cities. A 2016 UN report said that by 2030, Delhi’s population will be 37 million.

One of the report’s principal authors, Felix Creutzig, says:

The emerging mega-cities will rely increasingly on industrial-scale agricultural and supermarket chains, crowding out local food chains.

The drive is to entrench industrial agriculture, commercialise the countryside and to replace small-scale farming, the backbone of food production in India. It could mean hundreds of millions of former rural dwellers without any work (India is heading for ‘jobless growth’). Given the trajectory the country seems to be on, it does not take much to imagine a countryside with vast swathes of chemically-drenched monocrop fields containing genetically modified plants or soils rapidly degrading to become a mere repository for a chemical cocktail of proprietary biocides.

The plan is to displace the existing system of livelihood-sustaining smallholder agriculture with one dominated from seed to plate by transnational agribusiness and retail concerns. To facilitate this, independent cultivators are being bankrupted, land is to be amalgamated to facilitate large-scale industrial cultivation and those farmers that are left will be absorbed into corporate supply chains and squeezed as they work on contracts, the terms of which will be dictated by large agribusiness and chain retailers.

Some like to call this adopting a market-based approach: a system in the ‘market-driven’ US that receives a taxpayer farm bill subsidy of around $100 million annually.

The WTO and the US-India Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture are facilitating the process. To push the plan along, there is a strategy to make agriculture financially non-viable for India’s small farms. The result is that hundreds of thousands of farmers in India have taken their lives since 1997 and many more are experiencing economic distress or have left farming as a result of debt, a shift to cash crops and economic liberalisation.

The number of cultivators in India declined from 166 million to 146 million between 2004 and 2011. Some 6,700 left farming each day. Between 2015 and 2022 the number of cultivators is likely to decrease to around 127 million.

For all the discussion in India about loan waivers for farmers and raising their income levels, this does not address the core of the problem affecting agriculture: the running down of the sector for decades, spiralling input costs, lack of government assistance and the impacts of cheap, subsidised imports which depress farmers’ incomes.

Take the cultivation of pulses, for instance. According to a report in the Indian Express (September 2017), pulses production increased by 40% during the previous 12 months (a year of record production). At the same time, however, imports also rose resulting in black gram selling at 4,000 rupees per quintal (much less than during the previous 12 months). This has effectively driven down prices thereby reducing farmers’ already meagre incomes. We have already witnessed a running down of the indigenous edible oils sector thanks to Indonesian palm oil imports on the back of World Bank pressure to reduce tariffs (India was virtually self-sufficient in edible oils in the 1990s but now faces increasing import costs).

On the one hand, there is talk of India becoming food secure and self-sufficient; on the other, there is pressure from the richer nations for the Indian government to further reduce support given to farmers and open up to imports and ‘free’ trade. But this is based on hypocrisy.

Writing on the ‘Down to Earth’ website in late 2017, Sachin Kumar Jain states some 3.2 million people were engaged in agriculture in the US in 2015. The US govt provided them each with a subsidy of $7,860 on average. Japan provides a subsidy of $14,136 and New Zealand $2,623 to its farmers. In 2015, a British farmer earned $2,800 and $37,000 was added through subsidies. The Indian government provides on average a subsidy of $873 to farmers. However, between 2012 and 2014, India reduced the subsidy on agriculture by $3 billion.

According to policy analyst Devinder Sharma, subsidies provided to US wheat and rice farmers are more than the market worth of these two crops. He also notes that, per day, each cow in Europe receives subsidy worth more than an Indian farmer’s daily income.

How can the Indian farmer compete with an influx of artificially cheap imports? The simple answer is that s/he cannot and is not meant to.

In the book The Invention of Capitalism, Michael Perelmen lays bare the iron fist which whipped the English peasantry into a workforce willing to accept factory wage labour. A series of laws and measures served to force peasants off the land and deprive them of their productive means. In India, we are currently witnessing a headlong rush to facilitate (foreign) capital and turn farmers into a reserve army of cheap industrial/service sector labour. By moving people into cities, it seems India wants to emulate China: a US colonial outpost for manufacturing that has boosted corporate profits at the expense of US jobs. In India, migrants – stripped of their livelihoods in the countryside – are to become the new ‘serfs’ of the informal services and construction sectors or to be trained for low-level industrial jobs.

Even here, however, India might have missed the boat as it is not creating anything like the number of jobs required and the effects of automation and artificial intelligence are eradicating the need for human labour across many sectors.

India’s high GDP growth has been fuelled on the back of debt, environmental degradation, cheap food and the subsequent impoverishment of farmers. The gap between their income and the rest of the population, including public sector workers, has widened enormously to the point where rural India consumes less calories per head than it did 40 years ago.

Amartya Sen and former World Bank Chief Economist Kaushik Basu have argued that the bulk of India’s aggregate growth occurred through a disproportionate rise in the incomes at the upper end of the income ladder. Furthermore, Global Finance Integrity has shown that the outflow of illicit funds into foreign bank accounts has accelerated since opening up the economy to neoliberalism in the early nineties. ‘High net worth individuals’ (i.e. the very rich) are the biggest culprits here.

While corporations receive massive handouts and interest-free loans, they have failed to spur job creation; yet any proposed financial injections (or loan waivers) for agriculture (which would pale into insignificance compared to corporate subsidies/written off loans) are depicted as a drain on the economy.

Making India ‘business friendly’

PM Modi is on record as saying that India is now one of the most business-friendly countries in the world. The code for being ‘business friendly’ translates into a willingness by the government to facilitate much of the above, while reducing taxes and tariffs and allowing the acquisition of public assets via privatisation as well as instituting policy frameworks that work to the advantage of foreign corporations.

When the World Bank rates countries on their level of ‘ease of doing business’, it means national states facilitating policies that force working people to take part in a race to the bottom based on free market fundamentalism. The more ‘compliant’ national governments make their populations and regulations, the more ‘business friendly’ a country is.

The World Bank’s ‘Enabling the Business of Agriculture’ entails opening up markets to Western agribusiness and their fertilisers, pesticides, weedicides and patented seeds with farmers working to supply transnational corporations’ global supply chains. Rather than working towards food security based on food sovereignty and eradicating corruption, building storage facilities and dealing with inept bureaucracies and deficiencies in food logistics, the mantra is to let ‘the market’ intervene: a euphemism for letting powerful corporations take control; the very transnational corporations that receive massive taxpayer subsidies, manipulate markets, write trade agreements and institute a regime of intellectual property rights thereby indicating that the ‘free’ market only exists in the warped delusions of those who churn out clichés about letting the market decide.

Foreign direct investment is said to be good for jobs and good for business. But just how many get created is another matter – as is the amount of jobs destroyed in the first place to pave the way for the entry of foreign corporations. For example, Cargill sets up a food or seed processing plant that employs a few hundred people; but what about the agricultural jobs that were deliberately eradicated in the first place to import seeds or the village-level processors who were cynically put out of business via bogus health and safety measures so that Cargill could gain a financially lucrative foothold?

The process resembles what Michel Chossudovsky notes in his 1997 book about the ‘structural adjustment’ of African countries. In The Globalization of Poverty, he says that economies are:

opened up through the concurrent displacement of a pre-existing productive system. Small and medium-sized enterprises are pushed into bankruptcy or obliged to produce for a global distributor, state enterprises are privatised or closed down, independent agricultural producers are impoverished. (p.16)

The opening up of India to foreign capital is supported by rhetoric about increasing agricultural productivity, creating jobs and boosting GDP growth. But India is already self-sufficient in key staples and even where productivity is among the best in the world (as in Punjab) farmers still face massive financial distress. Clearly, productivity is not the problem: even with bumper harvests, the agrarian crisis persists.

India is looking to US corporations to ‘develop’ its food, retail and agriculture sectors. What could this mean for India? We only have to look at the business model that keeps these companies in profit in the US: an industrialised system that relies on massive taxpayer subsidies and has destroyed many small-scale farmers’ livelihoods.

The fact that US agriculture now employs a tiny fraction of the population serves as a stark reminder for what is in store for Indian farmers. Agribusiness companies’ taxpayer-subsidised business models are based on overproduction and dumping on the world market to depress prices and rob farmers elsewhere of the ability to cover the costs of production. They rake in huge returns, while depressed farmer incomes and massive profits for food retailers is the norm.

The long-term plan is for an overwhelmingly urbanised India with a fraction of the population left in farming working on contracts for large suppliers and Walmart-type supermarkets that offer a largely monoculture diet of highly processed, denutrified, genetically altered food based on crops soaked with chemicals and grown in increasingly degraded soils according to an unsustainable model of agriculture that is less climate/drought resistant, less diverse and unable to achieve food security.

Various high-level reports have concluded that policies need to support more resilient, diverse, sustainable (smallholder) agroecological methods of farming and develop decentralised, locally-based food economies. There is also a need to protect indigenous agriculture from rigged global trade and trade deals. However, the trend continues to move in the opposite direction towards industrial-scale agriculture and centralised chains for the benefit of Monsanto, Cargill, Bayer and other transnational players.

Devinder Sharma has highlighted where Indian policy makers’ priorities lie when he says that agriculture has been systematically killed over the last few decades. Some 60% of the population live in rural areas and are involved in agriculture but less than 2% of the annual budget goes to agriculture. Sharma says that when you are not investing in agriculture, you are not wanting it to perform.

It is worth considering that the loans provided to just five large corporations in India are equal to the entire farm debt. Where have those loans gone? Have they increased ‘value’ in the economy. No, loans to corporate houses left the banks without liquidity.

‘Demonetisation’ was in part a bail-out for the banks and the corporates, which farmers and other ordinary folk paid the price for. It was a symptom of a country whose GDP growth was based on a debt-inflated economy. While farmers commit suicide and are heavily indebted, a handful of billionaires get access to cheap money with no pressure to pay it back and with little ‘added value’ for society as a whole.

Corporate-industrial India has failed to deliver in terms of boosting exports or creating jobs, despite the hand outs and tax exemptions given to it. The number of jobs created in India between 2005 and 2010 was 2.7 million (the years of high GDP growth). According to International Business Times, 15 million enter the workforce every year. And data released by the Labour Bureau shows that in 2015, jobless ‘growth’ had finally arrived in India.

So where are the jobs going to come from to cater for hundreds of millions of agricultural workers who are to be displaced from the land or those whose livelihoods will be destroyed as transnational corporations move in and seek to capitalise small-scale village-level industries that currently employ tens of millions?

Development used to be about breaking with colonial exploitation and radically redefining power structures. Now we have dogma masquerading as economic theory that compels developing countries to adopt neoliberal policies. The notion of ‘development’ has become hijacked by rich corporations and the concept of poverty depoliticised and separated from structurally embedded power relations, not least US-driven globalisation policies resulting in the deregulation of international capital that ensures giant transnational conglomerates are able to ride roughshod over national sovereignty.

Across the world we are seeing treaties and agreements over breeders’ rights and intellectual property being enacted to prevent peasant farmers from freely improving, sharing or replanting their traditional seeds. Large corporations with their proprietary seeds and synthetic chemical inputs are trying to eradicate traditional systems of seed exchange. They have effectively hijacked seeds, pirated germ plasm that farmers developed over millennia and have ‘rented’ the seeds back to farmers

Corporate-dominated agriculture is not only an attack on the integrity of ‘the commons’ (soil, water, land, food, forests, diets and health) but is also an attack on the integrity of international institutions, governments and officials which have too often been corrupted by powerful transnational entities.

Whereas some want to bring about a fairer, more equitable system of production and distribution to improve people’s quality of lives (particularly pertinent in India with its unimaginable inequalities, which have spiralled since India adopted neoliberal policies), US capitalism regards ‘development’ as a geopolitical tool.

As economics professor Michael Hudson said during a 2014 interview (published on prosper.org under the title ‘Think Tank Times’):

American foreign policy has almost always been based on agricultural exports, not on industrial exports as people might think. It’s by agriculture and control of the food supply that American diplomacy has been able to control most of the Third World. The World Bank’s geopolitical lending strategy has been to turn countries into food deficit areas by convincing them to grow cash crops – plantation export crops – not to feed themselves with their own food crops.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) could further accelerate the corporatisation of Indian agriculture. A trade deal now being negotiated by 16 countries across Asia-Pacific, the RCEP would cover half the world’s population, including 420 million small family farms that produce 80% of the region’s food.

RCEP is expected to create powerful rights and lucrative business opportunities for food and agriculture corporations under the guise of boosting trade and investment. It could allow foreign corporations to buy up land, thereby driving up land prices, fuelling speculation and pushing small farmers out. If RCEP is adopted, it could intensify the great land grab that has been taking place in India. It could also lead to further corporate control over seeds.

Capitalism and environmental catastrophe joined at the hip

In India, an industrialised chemical-intensive model of agriculture is being facilitated. This model brings with it the numerous now well-documented externalised social, environmental and health costs. We need look no further than the current situation in South India and the drying up of the Cauvery river in places to see the impact that this model has contributed to: an ecological crisis fuelled by environmental devastation due to mining, deforestation and unsustainable agriculture based on big dams, water-intensive crops and Green Revolution ideology imported from the West.

But we have known for a long time now that India faces major environmental problems, many of which are rooted in agriculture. For example, in an open letter written to officials in 2006, the late campaigner and farmer Bhaskar Save noted that India, next to South America, receives the highest rainfall in the world. Where thick vegetation covers the ground, and the soil is alive and porous, at least half of this rain is soaked and stored in the soil and sub-soil strata. A good amount then percolates deeper to recharge aquifers, or ‘groundwater tables’. Save argued that the living soil and its underlying aquifers thus serve as gigantic, ready-made reservoirs gifted free by nature.

Half a century ago, most parts of India had enough fresh water all year round, long after the rains had stopped and gone. But clear the forests, and the capacity of the earth to soak the rain, drops drastically. Streams and wells run dry.

Save went on to note that while the recharge of groundwater has greatly reduced, its extraction has been mounting. India is presently mining over 20 times more groundwater each day than it did in 1950. Much of this is mindless wastage by a minority. But most of India’s people – living on hand-drawn or hand-pumped water in villages and practising only rain-fed farming – continue to use the same amount of ground water per person, as they did generations ago.

According to Save, more than 80% of India’s water consumption is for irrigation, with the largest share hogged by chemically cultivated cash crops. Maharashtra, for example, has the maximum number of big and medium dams in the country. But sugarcane alone, grown on barely 3-4% of its cultivable land, guzzles about 70% of its irrigation waters.

One acre of chemically grown sugarcane requires as much water as would suffice 25 acres of jowar, bajra or maize. The sugar factories too consume huge quantities. From cultivation to processing, each kilo of refined sugar needs two to three tonnes of water. This could be used to grow, by the traditional, organic way, about 150 to 200 kg of nutritious jowar or bajra (native millets).

While rice is suitable for rain-fed farming, its extensive multiple cropping with irrigation in winter and summer as well is similarly hogging water resources and depleting aquifers. As with sugarcane, it is also irreversibly ruining the land through salinization.

Save argued that soil salinization is the greatest scourge of irrigation-intensive agriculture, as a progressively thicker crust of salts is formed on the land. Many million hectares of cropland have been ruined by it. The most serious problems are caused where water-guzzling crops like sugarcane or basmati rice are grown round the year, abandoning the traditional mixed-cropping and rotation systems of the past, which required minimal or no watering.

Unfortunately, policy makers continue to look towards the likes of Monsanto-Bayer for ‘solutions’. Such companies merely seek to break farmers’ environmental learning ‘pathways’ based on centuries of indigenous knowledge, learning and practices with the aim of getting farmers hooked on chemical treadmills for corporate profit (see Glenn Stone and Andrew Flach’s paper on path-breaking and technology treadmills in Indian cotton agriculture).

Wrong-headed policies in agriculture have already resulted in drought, expensive dam-building projects, population displacement and degraded soils. The rivers are drying, farmers are dying and the cities are creaking as a result of the unbridled push towards urbanisation.

In terms of maintaining and creating jobs, managing water resources, regenerating soils and cultivating climate resilient crops, agroecology as a solution is there for all to see. Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka are now making a concerted effort to roll out and scale up zero budget agroecological agriculture.

Solutions to India’s agrarian crisis (and indeed the world’s) are available, not least the scaling up of agroecological approaches which could be the lynchpin of rural development. However, successive administrations have bowed to and continue to acquiesce to the grip of global capitalism and have demonstrated their allegiance to corporate power. The danger is that without changing the capitalist relations of production, agroecology would simply be co-opted by corporations and incorporated into their global production and distribution chains.

In the meantime, India faces huge problems in terms of securing access to water. As Bhaskar Save noted, the shift to Green Revolution thinking and practices has placed enormous strain on water resources. From glacial melt in the Himalayas that will contribute to the drying up of important rivers to the effects of temperature rises across the Indo Gangetic plain, which will adversely impact wheat productivity, India has more than its fair share of problems. But despite this, high-level policy makers are pushing for a certain model of ‘development’ that will only exacerbate the problems.

This model is being driven by some of the world’s largest corporate players: a model that by its very nature leads to environment catastrophe:

… our economic system demands ever-increasing levels of extraction, production and consumption. Our politicians tell us that we need to keep the global economy growing at more than 3% each year – the minimum necessary for large firms to make aggregate profits. That means every 20 years we need to double the size of the global economy – double the cars, double the fishing, double the mining, double the McFlurries and double the iPads. And then double them again over the next 20 years from their already doubled state.

— Jason Hickel

While politicians and bureaucrats in Delhi might be facilitating this economic model and all it entails for agriculture, it is ultimately stamped with the logo ‘made in Washington’. Surrendering the nation’s food sovereignty and the incorporation of India into US financial and geopolitical structures is the current state of independence.

Final thoughts

Neoliberalism and the drive for urbanisation in India have been underpinned by unconstitutional land takeovers and the trampling of democratic rights. For supporters of cronyism and manipulated markets, which to all extents and purposes is what economic ‘neoliberalism’ across the world has entailed (see thisthis and this), there have been untold opportunities for well-placed individuals to make an under-the-table fast buck from various infrastructure projects and privatisation sell-offs.

According to the Organisation for Co-operation and Economic Development, the doubling of income inequality has made India one of the worst performers in the category of emerging economies.

Unsurprisingly, therefore, struggles (violent and non-violent) are taking place in India. The Naxalites/Maoists are referred to by the dominant class as left-wing extremists who are exploiting the situation of the poor. But how easy it is to ignore the true nature of the poor’s exploitation and too often lump all protesters together and create an ‘enemy within’. How easy it is to ignore the state-corporate extremism across the world that results in the central state abdicating its redistributive responsibilities by submitting to the tenets of Wall Street-backed ‘structural adjustment’ pro-privatisation policies, free capital flows and largely unaccountable corporations.

Powerful (mining) corporations are shaping the ‘development’ agenda in India and have signed secretive Memorandums of Understanding with the government. The full backing of the state is on hand to forcibly evict peoples from their land in order to hand it over to mineral-hungry industries to fuel a wholly unsustainable model of development. Around the world, this oil-dependent, urban-centric, high-energy model of endless consumption is stripping the environment bare and negatively impacting the climate and ecology.

In addition to displacing people to facilitate the needs of resource extraction industries, unconstitutional land grabs for Special Economic Zones, nuclear plants and other projects have additionally forced many others from the land.

Farmers (and others) represent a ‘problem’: a problem while on the land and a problem to be somehow dealt with once displaced. But food producers, the genuine wealth creators of a nation, only became a problem when western agribusiness was given the green light to take power away from farmers and uproot traditional agriculture in India and recast it in its own corporate-controlled image.

This is a country where the majority sanctifies certain animals, places, rivers and mountains. It’s also a country run by Wall Street sanctioned politicians who convince people to accept or be oblivious to the destruction of the same.

Many are working strenuously to challenge the selling of the heart and soul of India. Yet how easy will it be for them to be swept aside by officialdom which seeks to cast them as ‘subversive’. How easy it will be for the corrosive impacts of a rapacious capitalism to take hold and for hugely powerful corporations to colonise almost every area of social, cultural and economic life and encourage greed, selfishness, apathy, irretrievable materialism and acquisitive individualism.

The corporations behind it all achieve hegemony by altering mindsets via advertising, clever PR or by sponsoring (hijacking) major events, by funding research in public institutes and thus slanting findings and the knowledge paradigm in their favour or by securing key positions in international trade negotiations in an attempt to structurally readjust retail, food production and agriculture. They do it by many methods and means.

Before you realise it, culture, politics and the economy have become colonised by powerful private interests and the world is cast in their image. The prevailing economic system soon becomes cloaked with an aura of matter of factuality, an air of naturalness, which is never to be viewed for the controlling hegemonic culture or power play that it really is.

Seeds, mountains, water, forests and biodiversity are being sold off. The farmers and tribals are being sold out. And the more that gets sold off, the more who get sold out, the greater the amount of cash that changes hands and the easier it is for the misinformed to swallow the lie of Wall Street’s bogus notion of ‘growth’ – GDP.

If anyone perceives the type of ‘development’ being sold to the masses is actually possible in the first instance, they should note that ‘developing’ nations account for more than 80% of world population but consume only about a third of the world’s energy. US citizens constitute 5% of the world’s population but consume 24% of the world’s energy. On average, one American consumes as much energy as two Japanese, six Mexicans, 13 Chinese, 31 Indians, 128 Bangladeshis, 307 Tanzanians and 370 Ethiopians.

Consider that the Earth is 4.6 billion years old and if you scale this to 46 years then humans have been here for just four hours. The Industrial Revolution began just one minute ago, and in that time, 50% of the Earth’s forests have been destroyed.

We are using up oil, water and other resources much faster than they can ever be regenerated. We have also poisoned the rivers, destroyed natural habitats, driven species to extinction and altered the chemical composition of the atmosphere – among many other things.

Levels of consumption were unsustainable long before India and other countries began striving to emulate a bogus notion of ‘development’. The West continues to live way beyond its (environmental) limits.

This wasteful, high-energy model is tied to what ultimately constitutes the plundering of peoples and the planet by powerful transnational corporations. And, as we see all around us, from Libya and Syria to Afghanistan and Iraq, the outcome is endless conflicts over fewer and fewer resources.

The type of ‘progress and development’ and consumerism being sold makes beneficiaries of it blind to the misery and plight of the hundreds of millions who are deprived of their lands and livelihoods. In Congo, rich corporations profit from war and conflict. And in India, tens of thousands of militias (including in 2005, Salwa Judum) were put into tribal areas to forcibly displace 300,000 people and place 50,000 in camps. In the process, rapes and human rights abuses have been common.

If what is set out above tells us anything, it is that India and other regions of the world are suffering from internal haemorrhaging. They are being bled dry from both within and without:

There are sectors of the global population trying to impede the global catastrophe. There are other sectors trying to accelerate it. Take a look at whom they are. Those who are trying to impede it are the ones we call backward, indigenous populations – the First Nations in Canada, the aboriginals in Australia, the tribal people in India. Who is accelerating it? The most privileged, so-called advanced, educated populations of the world.

— Noam Chomsky.

Underpinning the arrogance of such a mindset is what Vandana Shiva calls a view of the world which encourages humans to regard man as conqueror and owner of the Earth. This has led to the technological hubris of geo-engineering, genetic engineering and nuclear energy. Shiva argues that it has led to the ethical outrage of owning life forms through patents, water through privatization, the air through carbon trading. It is leading to appropriation of the biodiversity that serves the poor.

And therein lies the true enemy of genuine development: a system that facilitates such plunder, which is presided over by well-funded and influential foreign foundations and powerful financial-corporate entities and their handmaidens in the IMF, World Bank and WTO.

If we look at the various western powers, to whom many of India’s top politicians look to for inspiration, their paths to economic prosperity occurred on the back of colonialism and imperialist intent. Do India’s politicians think this mindset has disappeared? The same mentality now lurks behind the neoliberal globalisation agenda hidden behind terms and policies like ‘foreign direct investment’, ‘ease of doing business’, making India ‘business friendly’ or ‘enabling the business of agriculture’.

Is India willing to see Monsanto-Bayer, Cargill and other transnational corporations deciding on what is to be eaten and how it is to be produced and processed. A corporate takeover spearheaded by companies whose character is clear for all to see:

The Indo-US Knowledge Initiative in Agriculture with agribusinesses like Monsanto, WalMart, Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill and ITC in its Board made efforts to turn the direction of agricultural research and policy in such a manner as to cater their demands for profit maximisation. Companies like Monsanto during the Vietnam War produced tonnes and tonnes of ‘Agent Orange’ unmindful of its consequences for Vietnamese people as it raked in super profits and that character remains.

— Communist Party of India (Marxist)

Behind the World Bank/corporate-inspired rhetoric that is driving the overhaul of Indian agriculture is a brand of corporate imperialism which is turning out to be no less brutal for Indian farmers than early industrial capitalism was in England for its peasantry. The East India company might have gone, but today the bidding of elite interests (private capital) is being carried out by compliant politicians, the World Bank, the WTO and lop-sided, egregious back-room trade deals.

The End of the Line: A Climate in Crisis

The world of academia is starting to pick up on the concept that humanity is unknowingly cruising on a train ride to doomsday, a surefire encounter with collapse of society based upon climate crises brought on by exponential climate change. The depth of the problem: It’s inevitable and inescapable.

Nonetheless, people do not want to discuss and/or read about an impending disruption to society, especially on the scale of a collapse. Still, some academics consider it responsible and in fact necessary to communicate the issue on a pre-collapse basis in order for people to learn to support each other and to explore the radical implications well ahead of time.

Hence, the premise for Professor Jem Bendell’s brilliant seminal work, “Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy“, July 27th, 2018.”

Accordingly, at the opening of the essay:

It is time we consider the implications of it being too late to avert a global environmental catastrophe in the lifetimes of people alive today.

Seemingly, Professor Bendell is going out on a limb by calling for ecosystem catastrophes followed by social collapse within current lifetimes. Few, if any, academicians dare make such a prediction, and the few that do risk loss of jobs, grant funding, and renunciation by colleagues.

Kevin Anderson, deputy director of the prestigious Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in a live interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! at Paris 15 admitted that climate scientists low-ball their findings, often times to protect grant funding.

Anderson:

Yet so far we simply have not been prepared to accept the revolutionary implications of our own findings, and even when we do we are reluctant to voice such thoughts openly… many are ultimately choosing to censor their own research.

Therein scientists unwittingly do the handiwork, in part, for fossil fuel companies and for America’s entrenched global warming denial brand of politics, led by President Trump and the entire Republican Party. They do not believe in human-caused global warming.

Bendell carefully reviewed the scientific literature as well as accessing research institutions to get to the bottom of the current status of climate change. What he discovered is basic to his conviction that society is headed for a train wreck of enormous proportions; thus diametrically opposite America’s stated position on global warming.

After focusing on data, especially since 2014, it became crystal clear that the climate is undergoing a sea change like never before because of its non-linear credentials. To quote Bendell:

Non-linear changes are central importance to understanding climate change based on linear projections and that the changes no longer correlate with the rate of anthropogenic carbon emissions. In other words – ‘runaway climate change’.

Bendell’s research uncovered the chilling fact that several non-mainstream climate scientists of stature believe climate change is no longer simply change in the abstract. Rather, it is an ongoing crisis with real time dimensions and substance that is unavoidably dangerous for society. And, of utmost concern, it’s possible, but not proven, that the dye is cast.

Bendell’s Deep Adaptation is a wake up call for those who dismiss the dark side of the climate crisis. On the lighter side, it is only too evident that mainstream science is too slow and too conservative.

For example, Bendell references Peter Wadhams, one of the most eminent climate scientists in the world, when discussing the impact of an ice-free Arctic, which, according to Wadhams, will likely double the warming caused by CO2 from human activity. Whereas, “In itself, that renders the calculations of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) redundant, along with the targets and proposals of the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change).”

In other words, the leading authority on Arctic ice disagrees with the conclusions reached by the IPCC and UNFCCC, which serve as guideposts for nation-states to avoid the worst impact of the climate crisis.

Similarly, Bendell finds serious discrepancies in IPCC projections for sea level rise because of its commitment to linear change whereas non-linear is the course of action, especially based upon data over the most recent decade. The difference between linear versus non-linear is monumental and crucial to understanding the risks associated with the timing of climate crisis evolving into collapse of society.

A myth uncovered by Bendell is the 2C benchmark established at Paris 15, a temperature not to be exceeded or all hell breaks lose. Major problem: Many ecosystems will collapse and irreversible risks will be created along the way to 2C. In point of fact, it’s a contrived number resulting from competing at-odds interests of industry, governments, and scientists. Not surprisingly, it’s suspect!

In fact, some climate scientists say the temperature guardrail should be 1.5C. But then again, some say we’ve already blown thru that level even though the prevailing opinion is that as of today we’re at 0.8C above pre-industrial CO2. Whichever, no matter, the laundry list of impaired ecosystems is already a long one, indeed, Antarctica, the Arctic, Greenland, Patagonia, Andes glaciers, the Amazon, Tibetan glaciers, Siberian and Alaskan permafrost, the ocean, etc.

There is something unique about those “impaired or damaged ecosystems” located where nobody lives; nobody sees it happening, nobody knows, other than the occasional team of scientists on expedition. That is why it is so bloody difficult for people to grasp the challenge of the climate crisis. They do not see it happening!

In fact, most alarmingly, Bendell found a climate science expert that believes existing CO2 in the atmosphere “should already produce global ambient temperature rises over 5C and so there is not a carbon budget – It has already been overspent.” This one projection seems beyond the pale vis a vis Bendell’s most ambitious research results.

One can only hope that climate scientists that foresee the dark side of climate change prove to be overly pessimistic much as it is clear that mainstream science underestimates the downside risks. Over and over again, projections from yesteryear are crushed by altered ecosystems today; for example, Alaska’s permafrost for the first time is emitting massive amounts of carbon in competition with human-induced CO2. Whereas, the IPCC projections do not allow for Alaskan permafrost carbon emissions, especially when Alaskan permafrost emits as much carbon in two years as all U.S. commercial CO2 per annum. That’s outlandishly bad news.

Bendell’s dissertation delves into potential reductions of atmospheric carbon by natural and assisted biological processes as “a flickering ray of hope in our dark situation. However, the uncertainty about their impact needs to be contrasted with the uncertain yet significant impact of increasing methane release in the atmosphere.”

The methane behemoth, he soon discovered, is a very contentious issue within the scientific community; i.e., factions that believe methane emissions are no problem for the foreseeable future versus factions that believe the East Siberian Arctic Sea could release gigantic surges of methane on a moment’s notice, especially in lieu of its shallow waters, <50-metre depth.

In fact, the most recent scientific data on methane belies the mainstream viewpoint, which claims:

… it is highly unlikely we will see near-term massive release of methane from the Arctic Ocean….

Rather,:

… report of subsea permafrost destabilization in the East Siberian Arctic sea shelf, the latest unprecedented temperatures in the Arctic, and the data in non-linear rises in high-atmosphere methane levels, combine to make it feel like we are about to play Russian Roulette with the entire human race, with already two bullets in the chamber.

Interestingly, Bendell provides a script of the likely outcomes, as if speaking to readers in a personal manner, to wit:

With the power down, soon you wouldn’t have water coming out of your tap. You will depend upon you neighbors for food and some warmth. You will become malnourished. You won’t know whether to stay or go. You will fear being violently killed before starving to death.

Maybe unintentional, but maybe not, by addressing the reader on a personal basis with worst-case scenarios of everyday life, Bendell essentially takes the reader’s mindset into a real world setting of catastrophic societal collapse. He chose those words in an attempt to cut through the mistaken sense that the topic is purely theoretical. Mission accomplished.

The Deep Adaptation Agenda is discussed in detail starting on page 18 of Bendell’s dissertation, which is readily available here.

As for his conclusion:

Disruptive impacts from climate change are now inevitable. Geoengineering is likely to be ineffective or counter-productive. Therefore, the mainstream climate policy community now recognizes the need to work much more on adaptation to the effects of climate change… societies will experience disruptions to their basic functioning within less than ten years due to climate stress. Such disruptions include increased levels of malnutrition, starvation, disease, civil conflict and war – and will not avoid affluent nations.

In short, the impending breakout of a full-blown climate crisis in full living color will be all-inclusive, leaving nobody behind.

Does Humanity Deserve to Be Extinct?

Composite by Daniel Arrhakis

Time is up! All humans, men and women, are guilty as charged! Guilty of abusing other species and the natural world we depend on; guilty, either by greed or ignorance, of abusing other species that sustain our own and driving them to expedient extinction. Wild life, big and small, is briskly moving towards a vanishing point. From the seas to the land and the skies, the global species disappearing act has reached a catastrophic and probably unstoppable momentum. Mammals are dying, fish are dying, birds and insects are dying. Imagine a world as quiet as Nevada’s Death Valley in the summer. A world without trees, insects, and birds, where the heat can reach an unbearable 45 degree Celsius. Imagine a silent world of death.

“Progress would be wondcrful if only it would stop”, Robert Musil (Asian Development Bank archive)

The Austrian author, Robert Musil, wrote, almost prophetically, in his grand philosophical novel opus, The Man Without Quality, started in 1921, but published incomplete posthumously in 1943, that “mathematics is the source of a wicked intellect that, while making man the Lord of the Earth, also makes him slave of the machine.” Musil was referring to his book’s main character, the rather cynical Ulrich. Musil’s own cynicism and melancholia had originated from the trauma and darkness of World War I. This gave him an acute sense, just like George Orwell a decade later, of the human propensity for barbaric behavior and collective madness. Musil and Orwell were not cynical and pessimist prophets of doom, but, in fact, extreme realists ahead of their times. Circa 2018, only delusional fools can be upbeat and optimistic about humanity’s future. We can blame ourselves for building the ontological capitalist monstrosity of a world that strictly obeys the criterion of quantity, not quality. A construct where “have” always triumphs over “being,” which is by definition the essence of life.

(Asian Development Bank archive)

Anthropocentrism is humanity’s collective narcissism

Life in all its forms and diversity, not in a restrictive anthropocentric or traditional religious sense, should be sacred and celebrated as such. As a cycle, it is also ephemeral, and always a delicate and immensely intricate balancing act. As such a harmony, and one could say almost a communion with the natural world, has always been a primordial element to species survival. Our Homo sapiens ancestors, when they appeared on planet Earth around 200,000 years ago, in current-day Ethiopia during the middle of the Paleolithic era, had an unquestionably minimal impact on their ecosystem and likely a great deal of respect for nature. Considering that Earth itself was formed 4.5 billion years ago, according to radiometric data, our Homo sapiens ancestors were humble newcomers. As such, it is likely that these fragile communities had absolutely no sense of ownership of their host planet like most current humans do.

United Nations Photo archive

“Save the Planet” or “Our Planet,” they say. This is something that is paradoxically in the common narrative of people with ecologist pretension. This language itself is an expression of anthropocentrism, and should be defined as humanity’s collective narcissism. Four and a half billion years versus 200,000 years! Our Planet: what an arrogant claim! Save the Planet: what an incredible delusion. As if, first of all, we could. Merely saving ourselves from extinction, as a species, has become a tall order. Planet Earth will be fine, especially without us, and it will eventually heal itself in due time from human abuse and sprout other life forms. The life cycle will go on with or without us.

The World Bank Photo Collection

Capitalism’s cult of permanent growth is humanity’s death wish

There is a wise saying from the French author and medical doctor Francois Rabelais: “Nature n’endure mutations soudaines sans grande violence” (nature cannot sustain abrupt changes without violence). We have crossed many lines and reached an impasse. Since the start of the industrial revolution in Great Britain in the late 18th century, the Homo economicus was born: a relentless human obsessed with technological progress, with a voracious appetite for resources and limitless consumption. The Homo economicus became quickly, and almost universally, a worshiper of the capitalist cult of permanent growth. Of course, this cult of growth always requires more consumers and laborers to produce and devour goods and services that are usually harmful to humanity as a whole. Ultimately, in what situationist Guy Debord described in his 1967 The Society of the Spectacle, commodities and the logic of profit ended up ruling both consumers and workers instead of being ruled by them.

(Asian Development Bank archive)

Therefore, like a cancer out of control and in complete disregard to the most basic rationality, the Homo economicus has kept multiplying to quench its bloodthirsty capitalist God with human offerings. In May 2018, the human population reached the unbearable level of 7.6 billion. As a reference, in 1850 the world population was 1.2 billion. It is puzzling that anyone in their right mind could argue that such a growth is sustainable considering that space on earth and resources are by essence finite. The people in leadership, either in business or government, who had or still have the means to address some of the cataclysmic problems on mankind’s horizon should be held accountable for what amounts to crimes against humanity by negligence, stupidity, and inaction.

The World Bank Photo Collection

A need for unpopular global measures

The problem, in this global society of the spectacle, where things have become deified as ultimate proofs of success, is that the public servants of the Res Publica, who are supposed to be working for the common good, have been at large replaced by the Karaoke singers of the universal church of capitalism. They are all interchangeable puppets of the same rarefied corporate masters. The few politicians who appear to some extent to be in charge of their own countries, and for this reason are called strongmen or authoritarians by the West, are also devoted to capitalism’s myth of the benefit of permanent growth. Some have the political means and will, but they just lack a vision that encompasses the great systemic risk we face as a species. They are trapped in their own bubble of power for the sake of power and cannot see out of it. They are trapped in paradigm paralysis. Meanwhile, outside of the various bubbles of the rich and powerful, our world is at a breaking point.

Photo by Billy Wilson

If there is a time where a global political will would be useful to impose unpopular measures, it is now. Measures such as large tax increases on couples with several children; tax cuts for people who have decided not to procreate; substantial tax increases on vehicles using gas and diesel, followed shortly by an outright ban on such vehicles and a massive expansion of public transportation; massive reforestation projects; worldwide ban on new oil exploration; prohibitive taxes on oil; a moratorium for all countries to bring, from $1.7 trillion to zero within two years, the sum spent annually worldwide on their military and invest all the resources in climate research, especially the reduction and then elimination of excess CO2 from the atmosphere; and a drastic mandatory taxation of the super-rich of 90 percent of their income. Imagine for a minute what a global group of the best scientists could do, united in solving climate change problems and financed by the kind of funding that could quickly reach $2 trillion a year. Imagine having the resources at our disposal to deal with the upcoming 1 billion climate change refugees either from flooded coastal areas or new desert areas resulting from droughts. To talk about climatic changes so as to seem politically correct is just as criminal as being a climate change denier. Enough talk: the survival of our species requires immediate drastic actions.

UN Women Asia & The Pacific archive

“World On Fire”: Climate Breakdown

What will it take for society to make the deep-rooted changes required to prevent the terrifying and awesome threat of climate breakdown? This summer’s extreme weather events are simply a prelude to a rising tide of chaos that will be punctuated by cataclysmic individual events – floods, heatwaves, superstorms – of increasing severity and frequency. How long before people demand radical action from governments? Or, and this is what is really needed, how long until citizens remove corporate-captured governments from power and introduce genuine democracy?

Consider just some examples of this summer’s extreme weather. In Japan, ferocious heat killed more than 80 people and flooding killed more than 200. In Greece, 80 people died in terrible wildfires. In Canada, a heatwave killed more than 70. In many places around the world, including northern Europe, central America, Russia and parts of the US, extreme drought has put harvests at risk. Across the globe, 118 all-time records were broken or tied. In the United Arab Emirates, a record temperature in excess of 51C was recorded, Montreal broke 36C, the Baltic Sea reached 25C and the Swedish polar circle saw temperatures in excess of 32C. The Russian Arctic experienced ‘anomalously high temperatures’ more than 20C warmer than usual. And on and on.

To his credit, BBC News North America correspondent James Cook gave a sense of the scale of the climate disasters that were unfolding, with the reported death toll in Greece still rising:

‘Climate change. It’s here. It’s catastrophic.

This month alone:

— “50 dead” in Greece wildfires

— Arctic Circle ablaze

— Japan heatwave, flooding and landslides kill hundreds

— Record temperatures in Algeria, Morocco, Oman

— Drought squeezes US lemons’

Under the heading, ‘The world on fire’, Assaad Razzouk, a commentator on climate and clean energy, also tweeted a disturbing set of numbers:

‘New July 2018 temperature records

UAE: 51.4°C

Africa + Algeria: 51.3°C

Tunisia: 49.2°C

LA: 48.9°C

Baku: 42.7°C

Yerevan : 42.4°C

Japan: 41.1°C

Kabul: 40.5°C

Tbilisi: 40.5°C

Montreal: 36.6°C

Lapland: 33.4°C

Swedish polar circle: 32.5°C

Baltic Sea: 25°C’

Scientists report that the ‘signal of climate change is unambiguous’ in these extreme phenomena. In Europe, climate change driven by humans has made such events more than twice as likely to occur, and possibly as much as five times more likely.

By the 2040s, heatwaves even worse than this summer’s will likely occur every other year, if not more often. This will lead to a tripling of annual heat-related deaths in the UK to 7,000. MPs say that the country is ‘woefully unprepared’ for such deadly heatwaves, with ‘the government ignoring warnings from its official climate change adviser.’

Andrew King and Ben Henley noted in an article on The Conversation website:

The world has so far had around 1℃ of global warming above pre-industrial levels, but at the global warming limits proposed in the Paris climate agreement, hot summers like that of 2003 in central Europe would be a common occurrence.

At 2℃ of global warming, the higher of the two Paris targets, 2003-like hot summers would very likely happen in most years.

Similarly, we know that heat exposure and heat-induced deaths in Europe will increase with global warming, even if we can limit this warming to the levels agreed in Paris.

Climate scientists have ample evidence that human-driven global warming is already ‘making heat waves longer, hotter and more frequent’. Corinne Le Quéré, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia, describes the evidence as ‘really compelling’.

Michael Mann, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, says that:

The impacts of climate change are no longer subtle. We are seeing them play out in real time and what is happening this summer is a perfect example of that.

He added:

We are seeing our predictions come true. As a scientist that is reassuring, but as a citizen of planet Earth, it is very distressing to see that as it means we have not taken the necessary action.

‘The Climate Change Monkeys are in Full Voice’
How have the media been responding to the ‘very distressing’ reality that humanity has not taken the ‘necessary action’ to avoid climate breakdown? Some of the usual fringe voices lurking beyond the realms of rationality, yet still enjoying high-profile media platforms, issued standard denunciations of reality.

For instance, in a Mail piece about ‘hysterical doom merchants’, Quentin Letts gave the UK Met Office a piece of his mind:

The Met Office, once a level-headed analyst of barographs and incoming weather fronts, issued bubonic plague-style warnings that we should not step outside in this heat and should not open our windows.

The commentator sighed:

Whatever happened to Keep Calm and Carry On?

In the Sun, Rod Liddle scoffed that ‘the authorities’ have declared that ‘nice summers are a crisis’, adding:

those tiresome drongos at the Met Office put out an amber alert when the temperature rose this week.

“Don’t go out! Stay in your homes! Or you will die — DIE, I tell you.”

Oh, with the greatest respect — f*** off!

Liddle bemoaned that:

the climate change monkeys are in full voice.

In short:

The Met Office can stick advice where sun doesn’t shine — let us enjoy the heat while it lasts.

In slightly less intemperate language, but still rejecting the huge weight of scientific evidence, longtime climate ‘sceptic’ Christopher Booker declared:

Yes it’s scorching, but claims that the heatwave is down to climate change are just hot air: June was even hotter when Victoria was on the throne.

He went on:

‘this kind of summer heat is far from unprecedented. In fact, as people have begun to observe, the nearest parallel to what has been happening this year was the celebrated “drought summer” of 1976.’

In fact, the comparison to 1976 is deeply misleading, as a viral tweet from Simon Lee, a meteorology PhD student at the University of Reading, brilliantly made clear:

The big difference between the heatwaves of 1976 and 2018. June 1976: the UK was one of the warmest places relative to normal across the globe, with most areas cooler than average. June 2018: the UK was just another warm blob in a mostly warmer than normal world. #GlobalHeatwave.

So much for Booker’s science-denying diatribe and the other media extremists still trying to dodge climate reality and promote climate fiction. As Carbon Brief editor Leo Rickman pointed out:

As temperatures in the UK near record levels, MPs warn today that heatwave deaths could triple by 2050. So what do the editors of the Daily Mail and the Sun do? Order their writers to aggressively attack climate scientists…

Staring in “Open Mouthed Disbelief” at the News

But what was the media response in more ‘respectable’ quarters, particularly the BBC? Media Lens does not have the huge resources required to monitor all BBC News coverage across television, radio and the internet. But observations suggested strongly that, although the link with climate wasn’t entirely ignored, the bulk of the broadcaster’s coverage of global weather extremes gave it short shrift.

Citing Simon Lee’s comparison of the 1976 and 2018 heatwaves, Emma Pinchbeck, an executive in the renewable energy industry, tweeted the BBC:

More reasons that climate change should be getting a mention in your drought coverage .@BBCr4today @BBCBreakfast (sorry if this repeated exasperation is getting… exasperating… but honestly I start every day in open-mouthed disbelief at the news)

For some time during the day on July 24, BBC News website actually had three of its top six stories about weather extremes, but with no substantive discussion of the link to human-driven climate instability.

Even mild exceptions to the rule stood out, such as when BBC science correspondent David Shukman spoke briefly about the role of global warming:

We can never say that a particular weather event like this heatwave is just because of global warming. What you can say, that the science allows you to say, is that the world is warming, that makes certain things more likely.

While welcome, this was the most conservative expression of scientific caution – typical of the BBC. Compare with the kind of urgent and impassioned comment seen above from Michael Mann: that ‘it is very distressing to see’ this summer’s weather extremes ‘as it means we have not taken the necessary action’.

Also in a low-key, cautious vein there was a pre-filmed Newsnight segment, ‘Heatwave 2018 explained’, on July 24 featuring climate scientist Joanna Haigh of Imperial College, London. She told BBC reporter David Grossman:

The sort of temperatures that are occurring now would’ve been a 1 in 1,000 occurrence in the 1950s & now they’re about a 1 in 10 occurrence.

This was a rather dry statistic; but perhaps it served as a preamble to the requisite urgency that was still to be addressed? The opportunity came in a follow-up, live studio interview conducted by Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis with two more climate experts: Stephen Belcher, the chief scientist at the Met Office, and Chris Hope, a climate change policy researcher at Cambridge University. But, once again, they made rather careful statements that did not stray far into territory in which urgent and radical action would be made crystal-clear.

Scientific rigour is, of course, necessary. But, given the stakes of what is involved, academics now need to speak out forcibly and repeatedly against ‘business-as-usual’ and for sane alternatives. Kevin Anderson, a Manchester-based professor of energy and climate change, is a much-needed outspoken example. He tweeted recently:

How far will we go to justify our lies – Heathrow expansion, shale gas & more roads are all good for the climate. Fortunately the uproar from our vibrant & ethically robust academic community will soon draw attention to such aberrant nonsense – or will it be a compliant whimper?

All too often it is indeed just a compliant whimper. Consider, by contrast, the warning from leading climate scientist James Hansen:

There’s a misconception that we’ve begun to address the climate problem. The misapprehension is based on the Paris climate summit where all the government leaders clapped each other on the back as if some great progress has been made, but you look at the science and it doesn’t compute. We are not doing what is needed.’

In an interview, Hansen was even more blunt, describing the Paris climate summit as ‘a fraud’:

It’s just bullshit for them [government leaders] to say: “We’ll have a 2C warming target and then try to do a little better every five years.” It’s just worthless words. There is no action, just promises. As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will be continued to be burned.

More climate scientists need to speak out in this way. The time for remote detachment from the urgent need for societal and political action, out of a misplaced fear of being perceived as a biased activist academic, is long gone. Being fully human, and expressing valid criticism of government policy and priorities, does not negate one’s capacity to be a rigorous researcher.

At least this particular edition of Newsnight showed that one thing had improved in BBC climate discussion, however. Ten years ago, as Leo Hickman observed, one of the two interviewees would likely have been an extremist climate ‘sceptic’ like Nigel Lawson to maintain the BBC’s notion of ‘balance’.

However, Newsnight shot itself in the foot when it later gave a misleading account via Twitter of what the Met Office’s Stephen Belcher had actually said in the discussion. Newsnight tweeted the first part of his essential message:

The heatwave that we’ve got is probably part of natural cycles in the weather.

This made it sound as though human-driven global warming probably plays no part in current weather extremes. But his full remark was actually:

The heatwave that we’ve got is probably part of natural cycles in the weather but it’s superimposed on this background of global warming, and that’s what’s elevating our temperatures.

In other words, anthropogenic climate change is behind the heatwave. Newsnight later corrected its ludicrous error.

What about press coverage? Using the ProQuest newspaper database, we found the following search results on July 31 for UK newspaper articles since June 22 (i.e. around the date the heatwave began):

‘heatwave’: a total of 3101 results
‘heatwave’ + ‘climate change’: 255 results. 8% of the total
‘heatwave’ + ‘global warming’: 95 results. 3%
‘heatwave’ + ’emissions’: 89 results. <3%

While this set of results is not intended to be an exhaustive study of UK media coverage, it strongly suggests that the link between summer extremes and global warming has been hugely underplayed.

James Murray, editor of the BusinessGreen website, summed it up well:

Maybe it’s the shirt-soaking, mind-melting, temper-fraying heat, but I’ve had it. I’ve had it with articles and radio discussions about heat waves and hosepipe bans that don’t mention climate change. I’ve had it with features explaining record-breaking heat across the hemisphere, which mention climate change but then major on how ‘it’s not just down to climate change’. And I’ve had it with the near complete silence from our political leaders and mainstream media opinion formers on links between extreme heat and climate that a six year old could understand.

There were hints that, after a month-long heatwave, parts of the corporate media were grappling towards some semblance of climate truth. A Mirror editorial proclaimed:

We must prepare for the consequences of climate change. Or, better still, tackle it.

The question of how to tackle it was left unexplored.

A Financial Times editorial said:

Unprecedented heat cannot be ignored. […] the need for action by policymakers, businesses and private individuals becomes more urgent.

What kind of action?

[Action] must combine “adaptation” to make society more resilient to the inevitable future impact of climate change with “mitigation” measures that cut carbon emissions…One of the most important issues is how and where we build homes…

That was about as far as it went. As you would expect from the house journal of capitalism, there was no demand for a radical restructuring of the economy; no call for an equitable redistribution of power and wealth.

Along similar lines, a Guardian editorial called for ‘decarbonisation of the electricity supply, heating and transport’. Such a move has cross-party support ‘but commitment by politicians is inconsistent’. The assertion that political ‘commitment’ has been ‘inconsistent’ flies in the face of reality: the massive state subsidies and structural support for fossil fuel industries, the endless drive for economic ‘growth’, and a ‘democracy’ run for the benefit of corporate and financial elites.

For the Murdoch-owned Times, the emphasis of any concern on climate was highlighted by its laughable assertion that:

corporate America […] has embraced environmentalism because it is, after all, simply a call to use resources more efficiently. The best hope for green growth in the emerging world is therefore more globalisation rather than less.

Yet more globalisation which has, in fact, led to systemic and worsening global inequality, social injustice and environmental collapse?

The editorial continued:

Technological ingenuity rather than arbitrarily reduced consumption or changes in behaviour are [sic] the best hope.

Arguing against reduced consumption or changes in behaviour, even as wildfires rage, ice sheets melt, and rising seas threaten to engulf coastal cities? Could anything be more insane? Simply put, the masters must remain in charge of the world, while the rest of us bear the costs.

A ‘Doubly Terrifying Phenomenon’

In a recent talk, Noam Chomsky emphasised that the worst case projections of global warming seem increasingly likely. Last December, a scientific paper published in Nature, found that global temperatures could rise by nearly 5C by 2100. To put this in stark perspective, Professor John Schellnhuber, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, observes that ‘the difference between two degrees and four degrees’ of warming ‘is human civilisation.’ In other words, we are talking about the end of human life as we know it; perhaps even human extinction.

As Chomsky said:

The prospects [of climate breakdown] are extremely serious. In fact, they’re really awesome…

He pointed to the sheer madness of the US government, ‘the most powerful institution in human history’, relentlessly pursuing a fossil-fuel economy:

our federal government, for which we [i.e. US citizens] are responsible, is dramatically leading a race to destruction while we sit and watch. That’s pretty astounding. That ought to be the screaming headline in every day’s newspaper. It ought to be the main topic you study in every class. [There’s] never been anything like it.

Chomsky added:

And it is astounding, as is the lack of attention: another doubly terrifying phenomenon. We should be asking, among other things, what this tells us about our society and about our culture, what we are immersed in. And remember, all of this is imminent. We’re approaching this rapidly – this century.

An urgent debate about the fundamental steps that need to be taken to stand a chance of averting climate breakdown, as well as promoting justice and equality, is almost entirely missing from corporate media coverage. Typically, you will search in vain for in-depth, critical and sustained ‘mainstream’ news coverage of:

• The massive corporate lobbying of governments and the huge fossil-fuel subsidies made to climate-breaking industry
• The role played by the fossil-fuel economy in driving expansionist, imperialistic Western foreign policy in the Middle East and around the globe
• The huge efforts of corporate advertisers to promote unsustainable levels of consumption on a finite planet
• The resultant vast destruction of ecosystems and species, leading to the sixth mass extinction in geological history

BBC News, in particular, has failed to hold to account the governments, corporations and institutions that are burning the planet. Like the rest of the corporate media, the BBC, paid for by the public and supposedly run in the public interest, is complicit in bringing human civilisation to the brink of disaster. As we note in our forthcoming new book, ‘Propaganda Blitz‘, published next month:

In not giving climate change the very prominent coverage it deserves, the BBC is obstructing the public debate that is vital to prevent climate catastrophe. In effect, the BBC is firmly on the side of the state and corporate forces that have been fighting a decades-long, heavily-funded campaign to prevent the radical measures needed to avoid climate chaos.

However, climate scientist Michael Mann says it is not too late to make the carbon cuts required:

It is not going off a cliff, it is like walking out into a minefield. So the argument it is too late to do something would be like saying: “I’m just going to keep walking”. That would be absurd – you reverse course and get off that minefield as quick as you can. It is really a question of how bad it is going to get.

Canada’s Military recruits Indigenous Youth

Is the Canadian military a friend and ally of First Nations or an exploiter and repressor?

The military’s immense resources and cultural clout certainly enables it to attract indigenous youth to become soldiers. But First Nations have more reason than most to be wary of the Canadian Forces (CF).

A recent Ipolitics story titled “This is where I need to be’: Indigenous military summer programs ‘fantastic’ for young recruits” detailed the CF’s recruitment of Indigenous youth. The article quoted 19-year old Private Brandon Julian saying, “I love Canada … I want to serve this country.”

The story described the Bold Eagle, Raven and Black Bear leadership and training programs for 18-25-year-olds from reserves. Partnering with the Saskatchewan Indian Veteran’s Association and Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, the CF launched Bold Eagle three decades ago. It’s a three or four day “culture camp” conducted by First Nations elders “followed by a military recruit training course.”

Receiving input from its Defence Aboriginal Advisory Group, the CF operates various programs focused on Indigenous youth. CF recruiters participate in National Aboriginal Day events and oversee the Aboriginal Entry Plan, a three-week training. In 1971 the CF introduced the Northern Native Entry Program and the military funded Cadet Corps has long worked with band councils and schools on reserves.

The CF has organized international Indigenous exchanges. In 2015 the military sent twelve members of the Northern Canadian Indigenous Sovereignty Patrol and Surveillance Unit to Australia for a series of trainings and events with the largely aboriginal NORFORCE. Canadian Defence Advisor to Australia Colonel Acton Kilby, Canadian Aboriginal Veterans Association President Richard Blackwolf and former Indigenous NHL player Reggie Leach were part of the delegation.

A number of monuments, usually supported by Veteran Affairs, honour First Nations veterans. In Batoche, Saskatchewan, the Métis Veterans Memorial Monument is dedicated to those who “served alongside other Canadian servicemen and servicewomen in the South African War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and in each of the efforts since then to defend our country and contribute to international peace and security.” For its part, the National Aboriginal Veterans Monument in Ottawa says it was “raised in sacred and everlasting honour of the contributions of all Aboriginal Canadians in war and peacekeeping operations.” Apparently, it’s the only official monument in Ottawa commemorating Indigenous peoples or history.

A growing number of landmarks bear the names of Indigenous soldiers. The third Canadian Ranger patrol group headquarters, a monument at CFB Borden and a Parry Sound statue are dedicated to top World War I indigenous sniper Francis Pegahmagabow. World War II and Korea veteran Tommy Prince has a statue, school, street, drill hall, CF base, two educational scholarships and a cadet corps named in his honour.

The CF, government commissions and Indigenous veterans’ associations, often backed by Veteran Affairs, have also produced much laudatory literature on aboriginal veterans. A dozen books and theses, as well as hundreds of articles, detailing First Nations’ contribution to Canadian/British wars mostly echo the military’s perspective of those conflicts.

But, a critical look at the historical record suggests Canadian militarism has, in fact, been a primary tool of the colonial project to steal Indigenous land and enforce settler control. The CF grew out of the British force that conquered large swaths of this land. The ‘father’ of Canada’s army, Lieutenant-Colonel William D. Otter led a force that attacked Cree and Assiniboine warriors in 1885 near Battleford, Saskatchewan, in the Battle of Cut Knife. Without orders to do so, Otter asked permission to “punish [Cree leader] Poundmaker.” As such, the Montreal Daily Star coined the term “Otterism” as a “synonym for merciless repression.”

During the past century the military has expropriated a great deal of Indigenous land for its bases. The most infamous example is Stoney Point, near Sarnia, Ontario, which after a half century of military occupation led to the Ipperwash Crisis in which the Ontario Provincial Police killed Ojibway protester Dudley George.

From low-flying jets in Labrador to DEW Line waste, First Nations have borne a disproportionate share of the military’s ecological footprint. Brian Lloyd, a former British Army bomb-disposal expert who cleaned up Canadian sites, told the New York Times: “In Canada, the military acted like a giant, using Indian land like stepping stones across the country. You find an Indian nation, and you find range contamination.”

Despite claiming not to spy on Canadians, the CF continues to monitor Indigenous dissent. Between 2010 and mid-2011 the CF’s National Counter-Intelligence Unit produced at least eight reports concerning indigenous organizations. In Policing Indigenous Movements Andrew Crosby and Jeffrey Monaghan document their surveillance of 2012-13 Idle No More protests and the CF’s National Counter-Intelligence Unit also monitored the 2013 Mi’kmaq-led anti-fracking camp in Elsipogtog, New Brunswick.

Does it make sense for Indigenous youth to participate in the repression of their communities?

The CF’s glorification of First Nations military participation should not confuse people about the Canadian Forces’ role in enforcing the imperial order here and abroad.

Canada’s Military recruits Indigenous Youth

Is the Canadian military a friend and ally of First Nations or an exploiter and repressor?

The military’s immense resources and cultural clout certainly enables it to attract indigenous youth to become soldiers. But First Nations have more reason than most to be wary of the Canadian Forces (CF).

A recent Ipolitics story titled “This is where I need to be’: Indigenous military summer programs ‘fantastic’ for young recruits” detailed the CF’s recruitment of Indigenous youth. The article quoted 19-year old Private Brandon Julian saying, “I love Canada … I want to serve this country.”

The story described the Bold Eagle, Raven and Black Bear leadership and training programs for 18-25-year-olds from reserves. Partnering with the Saskatchewan Indian Veteran’s Association and Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, the CF launched Bold Eagle three decades ago. It’s a three or four day “culture camp” conducted by First Nations elders “followed by a military recruit training course.”

Receiving input from its Defence Aboriginal Advisory Group, the CF operates various programs focused on Indigenous youth. CF recruiters participate in National Aboriginal Day events and oversee the Aboriginal Entry Plan, a three-week training. In 1971 the CF introduced the Northern Native Entry Program and the military funded Cadet Corps has long worked with band councils and schools on reserves.

The CF has organized international Indigenous exchanges. In 2015 the military sent twelve members of the Northern Canadian Indigenous Sovereignty Patrol and Surveillance Unit to Australia for a series of trainings and events with the largely aboriginal NORFORCE. Canadian Defence Advisor to Australia Colonel Acton Kilby, Canadian Aboriginal Veterans Association President Richard Blackwolf and former Indigenous NHL player Reggie Leach were part of the delegation.

A number of monuments, usually supported by Veteran Affairs, honour First Nations veterans. In Batoche, Saskatchewan, the Métis Veterans Memorial Monument is dedicated to those who “served alongside other Canadian servicemen and servicewomen in the South African War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and in each of the efforts since then to defend our country and contribute to international peace and security.” For its part, the National Aboriginal Veterans Monument in Ottawa says it was “raised in sacred and everlasting honour of the contributions of all Aboriginal Canadians in war and peacekeeping operations.” Apparently, it’s the only official monument in Ottawa commemorating Indigenous peoples or history.

A growing number of landmarks bear the names of Indigenous soldiers. The third Canadian Ranger patrol group headquarters, a monument at CFB Borden and a Parry Sound statue are dedicated to top World War I indigenous sniper Francis Pegahmagabow. World War II and Korea veteran Tommy Prince has a statue, school, street, drill hall, CF base, two educational scholarships and a cadet corps named in his honour.

The CF, government commissions and Indigenous veterans’ associations, often backed by Veteran Affairs, have also produced much laudatory literature on aboriginal veterans. A dozen books and theses, as well as hundreds of articles, detailing First Nations’ contribution to Canadian/British wars mostly echo the military’s perspective of those conflicts.

But, a critical look at the historical record suggests Canadian militarism has, in fact, been a primary tool of the colonial project to steal Indigenous land and enforce settler control. The CF grew out of the British force that conquered large swaths of this land. The ‘father’ of Canada’s army, Lieutenant-Colonel William D. Otter led a force that attacked Cree and Assiniboine warriors in 1885 near Battleford, Saskatchewan, in the Battle of Cut Knife. Without orders to do so, Otter asked permission to “punish [Cree leader] Poundmaker.” As such, the Montreal Daily Star coined the term “Otterism” as a “synonym for merciless repression.”

During the past century the military has expropriated a great deal of Indigenous land for its bases. The most infamous example is Stoney Point, near Sarnia, Ontario, which after a half century of military occupation led to the Ipperwash Crisis in which the Ontario Provincial Police killed Ojibway protester Dudley George.

From low-flying jets in Labrador to DEW Line waste, First Nations have borne a disproportionate share of the military’s ecological footprint. Brian Lloyd, a former British Army bomb-disposal expert who cleaned up Canadian sites, told the New York Times: “In Canada, the military acted like a giant, using Indian land like stepping stones across the country. You find an Indian nation, and you find range contamination.”

Despite claiming not to spy on Canadians, the CF continues to monitor Indigenous dissent. Between 2010 and mid-2011 the CF’s National Counter-Intelligence Unit produced at least eight reports concerning indigenous organizations. In Policing Indigenous Movements Andrew Crosby and Jeffrey Monaghan document their surveillance of 2012-13 Idle No More protests and the CF’s National Counter-Intelligence Unit also monitored the 2013 Mi’kmaq-led anti-fracking camp in Elsipogtog, New Brunswick.

Does it make sense for Indigenous youth to participate in the repression of their communities?

The CF’s glorification of First Nations military participation should not confuse people about the Canadian Forces’ role in enforcing the imperial order here and abroad.