Category Archives: Great Barrier Reef

Expert IPCC Reviewer Speaks Out

Roger Hallam, co-founder of Extinction Rebellion/XR recently interviewed Peter Carter, M.D., who has the distinguished title – Expert IPCC Reviewer for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The interview was conducted to get to the bottom of what science says about the state of affairs, specifically the health of the planet.

The following is a video link to that brilliant interview, inclusive of a treasure trove of contemporary science events (time: 41:21 November 11, 2020).

Additionally, a synopsis of the interview follows herein, but it does not do justice to the emphasis as expressed by the participants:

Dr. Carter is currently reviewing the 6th Assessment (AR6) of the IPCC. Additionally, he reviewed the IPCC Special 1.5°C Report of 2018 that exposed a new reality about the global climate emergency. As a result, the depth and breadth of a true emergency is gaining recognition throughout the world. The fact that 1.5°C above baseline is now the prescribed upper limit to global warming accomplished more than just turning heads.

Dr. Carter:  “We are in a climate emergency, in an unprecedented Earth emergency… it’s an emergency of our climate, an emergency of our oceans… this is not one of many challenges, this is the challenge for all of humanity.”

The upcoming 26th COP (Conference of the Parties) to be held November 2021 in Glasgow is on the docket for scientists and bureaucrats, as well as big moneyed interests, to knock heads in a formal setting to discuss the state of the planet. If all goes according to plan, like past COPs, powerful economic interests will sabotage what would otherwise be a rather dim forecast of a planet in various stages of collapse, some terminal.

We’ve seen this act (COP) repeat over and over, ever since COP1 in Berlin in 1995, as each successive COP-ending-ceremony finds the Parties congratulating each other, slaps on the back, for one more successful climate conference of 20,000-30,000 able-bodied professionals wiped-out from overconsumption of Beluga caviar and Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, but subsequently carbon emissions increase the following year, and every following year thereafter. What’s to congratulate?

More to the point, the annualized CO2 emissions rate is +60% since COP1, not decreasing, not going down, not once. After 25 years of the same identical pattern, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the take-home-work from all 25 COPs mysteriously turns into the antithesis of the mission statement of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Dr. Carter has a unique front-row seat to science; thus, the following highlights of his interview include a wide range of topics that assuredly demonstrate new all-time climate records, none of them positive, successively, each and every year:

At the outset, Dr. Carter commended XR (Extinction Rebellion) for insisting on a target of “net zero emissions within a matter of years,” not decades. That dovetails nicely with his viewpoint that the climate story should be labeled “the terrible truth,” and something that society must face up to.

Correspondingly, Dr. Carter praised the current Secretary-General of the UN António Guterres (Portuguese) for telling the truth. In his first public statement about climate change, he famously zeroed in on the heart of the issue: “Climate change is an existential threat to the survival of life on Earth, particularly including human kind.”

At this late point in time, there are no easy choices. The challenge ahead is daunting: “Everything is accelerating, everything is at a record high. In a nutshell, everything is getting worse faster.” (Carter)

Global warming has morphed into a quasi-heat machine as global temperature for the first six months of 2020 registered 1.3°C above baseline, a number that has new significance ever since the IPCC Special Report/2018 about the risks of exceeding 1.5°C.

Accordingly, it is generally acknowledged that 2.0°C above baseline is, in Dr. Carter’s words: “Out of the question, a catastrophe!”

Carter: “A world at 1.5°C is a disastrous world, no question.”

Carter: “2.°C is an impossible world.”

The problem arises because global surface heat is accelerating, not decelerating. Atmospheric greenhouse gas concentration, accelerating like never before, is widely acknowledged by scientists throughout the world. New research published only a couple of weeks ago shows atmospheric carbon dioxide now at the highest level in twenty-three million (23,000,000) years.

Carter: “That’s insane! It’s absolutely climate crazy!”

Moreover, there is random CO2 data that goes back as far as 40 million years, bringing to light one more bleak data point, namely: We are increasing CO2 faster than at any time over the past 40 million years that’s 100 to 200 times faster than natural background rates. As such, according to Carter: “It’s gotten so out of whack that we are now looking at survival for our children, not survival of our grandchildren.”

It’s not only atmospheric greenhouse gases that are gassing like crazy. We are also changing the chemistry of the oceans for the first time since humans first gathered around fire. The world’s leading expert on “ocean heat” has researched how many Hiroshima bombs equal the amount of heat added to the ocean on a daily basis. Which is a major byproduct of global warming. “As of a few years ago, the answer was three (3) Hiroshima bombs per second; now it is five (5) Hiroshima bombs per second… and that’s real” (Carter).

It’s impossible to fully comprehend numbers like that, which may be one of the biggest obstacles to fully understanding the depth and breadth of climate change. But still, 5 Hiroshima bombs per second!  Wow!

Meanwhile, according to Dr. Carter, the root cause of climate change is that countries are not de-carbonizing. It is at the heart of the problem, countries not de-carbonizing, the world not de-carbonizing. Moreover, making matters doubly worse, the rate of de-carbonization has actually slowed over the past few years.

Carter: “So, we’re doing things worse, instead of doing things better.”

The Arctic is a key factor in the planet’s unwieldy climate dilemma. According to Carter:  We are now looking at the Arctic switching from a cooling source to a warming source as the ice melts away, losing its big ice reflector, which in past years reflects 80-90% of solar radiation back into outer space where it belongs, but lo and behold, with the loss of most of the ice, the background is dark, not reflective, it absorbs 80-90% of solar radiation, heating things up double or triple time.

In one of the biggest human feats of all time, The Anthropocene Era (the current geological age of human influence) flexed its muscles enough to almost totally undermine the infrastructure of the planet’s largest solar reflector, Arctic sea ice.  It’s impossible to conceive how quickly multi-year ice, the true infrastructure of the Arctic, melted (almost a Blue Ocean Event, but not yet) in a very short time frame of only a few decades. Nobody knows the specific repercussions, but in general, it’s not viewed favorably and possibly really bad. It’s part of the global warming end game.

NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) publishes an Arctic report card every year. “In 2016 the results were downright shocking but surprisingly not picked up by the media. The report said that Arctic permafrost warming, thawing, and emitting had switched the Arctic from a ‘carbon sink’ to a ‘carbon source.” (Carter)

According to Dr. Carter re the NOAA report: “It is Earth catastrophic news. This is not modeling; it is actual catastrophic news happening in real time. There is no other way to look at it.”

And it’s not just the Arctic that is under siege: “We’ve lost the Great Barrier Reef,” which has been obvious over the past few years due to a heated ocean that is devastating coral reefs. The GBR suffered its third major bleaching in five years. “Nothing like this has ever happened before… to the Great Barrier Reef.” (Carter)

“We have two gems on Earth, (1) the Amazon rainforest and (2) the ocean. In the ocean, the GBR is the largest living organism on the planet, easily viewable from outer space. It is dying.” (Carter)

It hurts and hard to believe that we could lose the largest living organism on the planet. That’s all one needs to know that something is horribly wrong. The Amazon rainforest and the GBR are the planet’s two most significant canaries in the coalmine. They’re both under considerable stress, and dying.

Dr. Carter has tracked Amazon fires for six years via NASA satellite reports. Earlier in the month, he “was shocked to his core,” monitoring more fires in the Amazon rainforest than he’d ever seen, “Way-way-way more fires… Those fires, I look at them every couple of days now, they’re now encroaching and showing up in the entire Amazon. These fires, by the way, are intentional.”

With massive fires blazing around the world, on every continent this year, except Antarctica, Carter recommends the nations of the world come together to apply pressure to stop Amazon fires, “so that the Amazon is left in some kind of state of retrieval and not completely destroyed.”

Moreover, unprecedented endless fires are hitting Siberia hard. These fires will never extinguish. Russia calls them “Zombie Fires” because they subside but keep on burning at a lesser rate in smoldering peat in the winter and return with a vengeance the following spring/summer, emitting vast amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere.

In the final analysis, survival of civilization that resembles the current setup means the notorious neoliberal brand of capitalism needs a major work-over. The world community has been fully exposed to the ruthlessness and rapaciousness behind rampant, nearly unchecked, neoliberal capitalism; e.g., it searches out and captures the world’s lowest wages with the world’s weakest regulations to manufacture goods for the richest people… and that’s just for starters.

According to Dr. Carter: We must-must-must change the world’s economic direction as the current system destroys our planet faster and ever faster. It’s the sixth mass extinction, accelerating at an unbelievable pace: “It is, for certain, the most rapid extinction Earth has ever experienced.” (Carter)

Those are fighting words Down Under where they’ve already had a scrape, or a preview, with runaway global warming, circa 2019, as bats dropped dead out of the sky, streets buckled, and fruit on trees cooked from the inside out, too much heat for too long.

“If we continue to emit, there’s no question about what’s going to happen. Earth is going to become an intolerable place to live with intolerable heat waves, but those heat waves will not be just intolerable, they will crush our crops because there’s a definite limit to heat that crops can tolerate, even with irrigation.” (Carter)

The prominent Hot House Earth analysis (Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene, Will Steffen, Johan Rockström, et al) a couple of years ago alarmed people, discussing the danger of cascading climate feedbacks impacting individual components of the climate system.  Nowadays, there’s a rub, a very big rub: “They’re actually happening altogether at the same time.” (Carter)

Roger Hallam: “We’ve established two things so far in this interview: (1) If this (abuse, overuse of the climate) carries on, they’ll be no humans left; humans are going to die and it’ll be the end of the human race. (2) The mechanism for which this happens is the compounding effect of feedbacks triggering, and thereafter triggering more and more feedback loops and more trigger points.”

Accordingly, what’s evolving is a “slow death scenario” with hundreds of millions starving, which is the end game of excessive global warming. Similar climate conditions have occurred in the past, but not nearly as fast, not even close. Nature is much, much slower than the human fast lane as the two ingredients mix like oil and water.

Adequate food and water are the main risks to human survival in a world of collapsing ecosystems. It’s a known fact that excessive global heat causes multiple levels of damage to crops. Regrettably, with the world already at 1.3°C above pre-industrial, another 0.2°C pushes some crop growing regions into flashing red zones.

“We’ll lose food production at 1.5°C.” (Carter)

All over creation, danger is flashing in unison: “All of the accelerating data trends together result in a trend that the biosphere is headed in direction of collapse, meaning the human species will be lost.” (Carter)

Agriculture is one of the worst offenders of the climate system. In all respects, organic agriculture is the best form of agriculture. Modern agriculture is a huge emitter of greenhouse gases and other suspect chemicals. Ironically, changing agricultural practices is another “must do” for survival.

Carter: “We must change our agriculture in order to survive… All of our energy and climate plans of all governments and corporations throughout the world are, not only for more, but continued increasing greenhouse gas emissions… so, we’re headed for a post-agricultural world. We’re changing the climate of the past 10,000 years into a completely different climate which is not an agricultural climate.”

A post-agricultural world is defined as one without enough food to feed all of the people. Shortages hit hard… grocery stores carry empty shelves and on it goes.

In the face of scientific evidence of trouble looming ahead, the only plans society at large has to combat it all lead to “global suicide.” Today’s most prominent economic system has roots in the late 19th century, circa: The Gilded Age, when nobody had heard the word ecosystem.

Hallam: “If you have not got enough food and if you have infectious diseases, then, you’re going to get social breakdown; social breakdown gets you to the security issue of transporting food… in other words, like all these things, they’re are interrelated, and they go exponential, they happen fast, it doesn’t just gradually creep up on societies; once a society passes a certain point, it will cascade downwards with slaughter and death. That’s what we’re looking at.”

Carter: “We’re now facing what people call ‘the unthinkable.’ But, ironically, we cannot afford not to think about it. That’s one of the principal values of XR; it challenges people to sit up and think, pay attention.”

To date, it’s clear that warnings have not worked: “For example, the 2007 IPCC Assessment stressed over and over again, and again, that emissions had to be in decline by 2015 for a 2°C limit. We’re already years and years too late.“ (Carter)  That was 13 years ago.

According to Carter: The world community needs to sink their teeth into the science and wake up. The world needs to take a hard look because what’s happening is equivalent to “the crime of all time, undercutting all society… Our perverse form of economics is destroying the planet, disrupting all the oceans, poisoning the oceans, entire oceans with acidification, with heating, which disturbs and breaks down all the healthy ocean currents and… it is the definition of evil.” (Carter)

There are solutions: “The most effective, definitively effective, immediately effective, readily doable action that everybody in the world can do is Go Vegan. In theory, we can all do that. If we do that, emissions drop immediately.” (Carter)

Hallam: “Enormous changes in our personal lifestyle are now necessary. Let’s not beat around the bush, they’re necessary. It’s necessary for people to massively reduce their travel; it’s necessary for people to review their lifestyles, their jobs, and their careers. Because we’re facing a massive indescribable suffering of billions of people if we don’t… it seems unavoidable. I cannot avoid that conclusion.”

Hallam: Extinction Rebellion is at the forefront of a fundamental new message, which is: “If a government does not change, we shall… go into a rebellion via civil disobedience against the government in order to fundamentally reduce carbon emissions… It’s not actually that complicated, is it?”

At the end of the day, Dr. Carter suggests a glimmer of hope, the potential for a “Golden Age.” Acknowledging humanity has accomplished a lot that is good, which we must not forget, he suggests we need to build upon it and break away from that which is destructive.

But, time is short.

The post Expert IPCC Reviewer Speaks Out first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Boundless Dying Trees

Global warming is ravaging forests throughout the world.

New studies show drought and heat waves will cause massive die-offs, killing most trees alive today. 1

According to Bill Anderegg, a forest researcher at the University of Utah:

Global warming has pushed many of the world’s forests to a knife edge… in the West, you can’t drive on a mountain highway without seeing how global warming affects forests.2

Similar to corals and reefs, trees are slow growing and long-lived but cannot easily move to escape newly emerging rapid heat. Regrettably, both systems have inflexible damage thresholds. Corals experienced a tipping point from 2014-16 of record-breaking ocean heat as reefs around the world bleached and died in unprecedented numbers.

The Great Barrier Reef suffered its worst coral bleaching on record in February of 2020 from the most extreme ocean temperatures since records began in 1900. That’s global warming at work, overtime. Not only that but consider the egregious fact that the world’s largest living organism has been hit by three devastating bleachings in only five years. This year, for the first time in recorded history, severe bleaching, which kills coral outright, hit all three major regions of the famous reef. Scientists were awestruck.

Similar to no predictions of coral-bleaching disasters (what a big surprise!) nobody is predicting a similar disaster for forests, but it’s already underway right under everybody’s nose. It’s here now!

Giant Sequoias, the Grand Daddy of the world’s trees, are “dying from the top down.” This has never been documented before.  According to Christy Brigham, chief of resource management for parks: “We’ve never observed this before.”3

The loss of Giant Sequoias is but one example of a worrisome worldwide trend that’s nerve-wracking.

Trees in forests are dying at increasingly high rates – especially the bigger, older trees.2

According to Nate McDowell, an earth scientist at the US Energy Department’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the lead author of a major worldwide study:

We’re seeing it almost everywhere we look. 4

The numbers are staggering. From 1900 to 2015 the world lost more than a third of its old-growth forests. Ever since, the numbers are accelerating enough for calls of extra-alarm.

The causes are mostly anthropogenic, meaning logging and land-clearing, plus the biggest impact of fossil fuel emissions that bring forth rising global temperatures significantly magnifying the rate of dying, as droughts extend longer and harsher, resulting in extremely brittle tinder, leading to massive wildfires. The upshot is a world on fire like never before. Dead trees burn easily.

According to Henrik Hartmann of Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemisty, in central Europe:

You don’t have to look for dead trees… They’re everywhere.”2

For example, in northern Europe one week of extreme heat resulted in hundreds of thousands of beech trees dropping leaves. The trees could not handle the heat.

In the US Southwest emerging mega drought conditions have already weakened and killed hundreds of millions of trees, including Rocky Mountain lodgepole and piñon pines, as well as aspens.

As it happens, the massive numbers of tree deaths are newly unique to the entire world. African cedars and acacias are dying. The majestic Amazon rainforest is struggling under severe drought conditions exaggerated and super-charged by tens of thousands of human-generated fires undercutting the entire ecosystem. Junipers are rapidly declining in the Middle East. In Spain and Greece oak trees are shriveling because of intense global warming. In Siberia massive wildfires have erupted within a virtual tinderbox of excessive heat conditions. Ancient African Baobab trees, some thriving for 2,000 years, have all begun decline or outright dying as their ecosystems suffer from global warming.

The integrity of trees is compromised by excessive heat, which not only kills them outright, but also makes them more vulnerable to tree-burrowing insects, especially as normalized winter temperatures crank up way too high too soon during the season.

Meanwhile, climate denial charlatans theorize that rising levels of CO2 feeds enhanced growth for trees and flora as a positive. They’re dead wrong. It’s one more dishonest position taken by right-wing politicians.

Rising levels of CO2 blanket the atmosphere, thus trapping more heat, as the planet gets ever-hotter, causing the atmosphere to suck excessive levels of moisture thereby causing trees to shed leaves and/or close pores to hold in as much moisture as possible, thus curtailing CO2 uptake. It’s a vicious cycle that reverses the carbon uptake cycle that is key to maintaining all life on the planet.

Even more odious, along the way, trees die outright. There is no silver lining to increasing levels of fossil fuel CO2 emissions. It’s bad, it’s dangerous, and it’s a killer. “Stop fossil fuel CO2 emissions or die” should be the motto of responsible political campaigns. But, that’s a pipe dream without enough funding to support it.

Forest ecologist Diana Six (University of Montana) has always been skeptical of claims of projected beneficial effects of excessive levels of CO2 triggering photosynthesis in plants:

I was always amazed by the early predictions for enhanced growth of forests, especially in the West. Many of the models only included warmer temperatures or higher CO2 effects. The projections were made mainly by economists who assumed that only temperatures and CO2 affect tree growth… No one seemed to consider water. With warmer temperatures and a longer growing season comes greater demand for water and we are getting less, not more, in most cases. That should have been a big red flag.2

In the final analysis:

Forests are our last, best natural defense against global warming. Without the world’s trees at peak physical condition, the rest of us don’t stand a chance. 5

The message behind the boundless death march is simple: Stop fossil fuel emissions!

  1. “We Need to Hear These Poor Trees Scream: Unchecked Global Warming Means Big Trouble for Forests”, Inside Climate News, April 25, 2020.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Craig Welch, “The Grand Old Trees of the World are Dying, Leaving Forests Younger and Shorter”, National Geographic, May 28, 2020.
  4. Nate G. McDowell, et al, “Pervasive Shifts in Forest Dynamics in a Changing World”, Science, Vol. 268, Issue 6494, 29 May 2020.
  5. Eric Holthaus, “Up in Smoke”, Grist, March 8, 2018.

The post Boundless Dying Trees first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Abrupt Ecosystem Collapse

A new study in Nature (April 2020) casts a disturbing light on the prospects of abrupt ecosystem collapse. The report analyzes the probabilities of collapsing ecosystems en masse, and not simply the loss of individual species.1

The paper states that a high percentage of species will be exposed to harmful climate conditions at about the same time, potentially leading to sudden and catastrophic die-offs of biodiversity. If high greenhouse gas emissions remain in place, abrupt events are forecast to begin before 2030 in tropical oceans and spread to tropical forests and temperate regions over time.

Without doubt, no nation is prepared for the consequences of collapsing ecosystems nor are they doing anything to avert it. Yet, it is all about the quintessence of life on the planet.

There is a high probability that fossil fuel emissions will not be curtailed enough in enough time to prevent abrupt ecosystem collapse(s). Sufficient mitigation efforts to slowdown carbon emissions are not happening, not even close.

Regrettably the International Energy Agency (IEA) projects future usage of fossil fuels that look an awful lot like “the reverse” of rapid emission mitigation with plans afoot by the U.S., Russia, Saudi Arabia, and other major producers to increase fossil fuel production by 120% by 2030, and China and India have elaborate, surprisingly huge, plans to increase usage of coal. All of which portends big-big-big trouble down the pike. Of course, it’s a crushing blow to the Paris ‘15 climate accord. (“Dangerous Levels of Warming Locked in by Planned Jump in fossil Fuels Output”, National Geographic, November 20, 2019; and BBC News d/d November 20, 2019: “Climate Change: China Coal Surge Threatens Paris Targets” and IEA.)

Problematically, CO2 emissions, the primary catalyst for global warming, are on a 62-year semi-parabolic uptrend (Keeling Curve) year by year higher, never lower. The recent Mauna Loa Observatory (est. 1958) monthly average for CO2 emissions for March 2020 registered 414.50 ppm versus 411.97 ppm in March 2019.

For perspective, in 1963 it was 322.28 ppm. In 2000 it was 368.74 ppm. Notice: It took 37 years from 1963 to 2000 to increase by 45 ppm. Since 2000, it’s only taken 20 years to increase by that same amount, 45 ppm. Meaning, turbo-charged greenhouse gas emissions are compressing the timeline to ever-higher levels. Bad news.

More to the point, worldwide carbon emissions were 36.8 billion tons in 2019. By way of an historical context, when nature traversed its own course 55 million years ago similar levels of emissions, in the aggregate, cranked temperatures up by 5C, but it took centuries and centuries to achieve.  That level of temperature today would take civilization down to its knees.

Back in the day, 55 million years ago, the annualized rate of carbon emissions by nature on its own accord was 1.1 billion tons per year but spread out over a few thousand years. Today world economies emit more than 36 billion tons per year. That’s as much carbon in 1 year as 30 years of emissions generated by nature on its own 55 million years ago, when sea levels rose by 50 feet. Hmm.

More to the point, today’s rapid growth 30xs faster does not allow time for ecosystems to adapt, especially when compared to the drawn-out affair of a few thousand years 55 million years ago. Of significance, back then ecosystems had enough time to adjust to a hotter planet.

Nowadays ecosystems have no chance of adjusting because of hyper-speed emissions thirty times faster than the paleoclimate record of 55 million years ago. In turn, that prompts some level of contemplation about the bitter truth that the planet was not designed for 7 billion people in the first instance, but that’s a much longer story.

In fact, clarifying the point even further, the Human Footprint consumes 1.75 Earths. Therefore, and because the biosphere is overused and overly abused, at its margins the planet is ultra-sensitized to the repercussions of human activity. In turn, this gives rise to collapsing ecosystems that are crucial for life support throughout the planet. Oops! Without viable ecosystems, life ends.

Meantime, the initial stages, or early warning signals, of abrupt ecosystem collapse are already happening in real time. A prime example is the Great Barrier Reef suffering its worst coral bleaching on record because of too much planetary heat. February of 2020 saw the most extreme ocean temperatures at the Great Barrier Reef since records began in 1900.

Thus, the world’s largest living organism has experienced three devastating bleachings in only five years. Metaphorically, that’s kinda like a glittering red neon rapidly blinking light extending across the sky above the entire 2,300-kilometre (1400-mile) Great Barrier Reef flashing the words: Help! Save the planet!

Consider this, for the first time in recorded history severe bleaching, which kills coral outright caused by excessive levels of heat, hit all three major regions of the Great Barrier Reef, the northern, central, and southern portions. That’s unprecedented and should scare the daylights out of anybody and everybody. It’s a startling example of anthropogenic-generated global heat at work at the margins of the planet and likely marks the beginning of ecosystems collapsing en masse.

“A survey of 1,036 reefs in the Great Barrier Reef over the last two weeks of March revealed the most widespread bleaching event on record.” Theresa Machemer, “The Great Barrier Reef Is now Facing Most Widespread Bleaching Event Yet”, Smithsonian Magazine, April 9, 2020)

There is no stronger signal of serious trouble for the planet than 3 consecutive massive bleachings of the Great Barrier Reef within only 5 years, as ocean temperatures hit all-time recorded highs. That’s a no-brainer.

The implications are downright scary. The fact that collapse is already underway in real time today should be enough evidence to bring world leadership together to take advantage of “coronavirus-forced downtime” to reorganize the world economy around planet-friendly eco economics and drop, like a hot potato, the neoliberal brand of capitalism of the past 40 years.

But still, getting real, what can be done?

Only a worldwide Marshall Plan can save civilization, as it is currently constituted, but maybe not. Some say it’s too late. Still, there’s no competent leadership, with vision, in the world to take charge. After all, high-end capitalism forged a new brand of leadership, as it depends upon iron-fisted tyrannical leadership to survive its obvious foibles, and there are many!

However, even in a world of perfect leadership, or even imperfect leadership but smart and informed, and based upon real science, a sober-minded (studious and logical) leader would toss out neoliberalism in favor of eco economics in a NY minute as a rescue-line to the planet.

Meanwhile, according to the above-referenced Trisos ecosystem study, co-author Dr. Alex Pigot from UCL stated:

“Keeping global warming below 2°C effectively ‘flattens the curve’ of how this risk to biodiversity will accumulate over the century, providing more time for species and ecosystems to adapt to the changing climate.”2

Since studying climate change/global warming for over a decade, it’s readily apparent that it is careening down a path of doomsday-type events. Its trajectory is clearly up, up, and away. Accordingly, horrific problems could ensue, unexpectedly; for example, abrupt loss of adequate food resources due to mid/lower latitude agriculture collapse under the stress of too much global heat.

Ecosystem collapse is already evident. The Fertile Crescent (Middle East) where Western Civilization started, is rapidly disappearing as a breadbasket because of: (1) severe droughts and (2) stupid human mismanagement of natural resources. Portions of eastern and southern Mediterranean landmass are drying up faster than anywhere else on the planet. Hence, eco migrants commit to arduous pathways to Europe, in time morphing into a retro Mad Max world.

A planet that transitions from a healthy source of natural resources to a bruised limp shell of its former self is potentially much more deadly than coronavirus, which is merely one more example of an abrupt happenstance (Black Swan) that nobody expected, as it happened all of a sudden, out of the blue.

Abrupt ecosystem collapse is similar to coronavirus in some aspects but dreadfully different and much more sinister in many others.

Postscript:

The main finding that surprised us was how much biodiversity is at risk in the first half of this century. The risk doesn’t accumulate gradually, but can go from low risk to high risk within a decade. This abruptness of risk was really a shocking finding for us.

— Dr Christopher Trisos, senior researcher at the African Climate & Development Initiative at the University of Cape Town (UCT).

  1. Trisos, C.H. et al, “The Projected Timing of Abrupt Ecological Disruption From Climate Change”, Nature, April 8, 2020.
  2. “Climate Change Could Abruptly Alter Biodiversity”, University of Cape Town News, April 8, 2020.

Journey into Obsolescence: The Adani Carmichael Project

The Carmichael mine being pursued in the Galilee Basin in Central Queensland is a dinosaur before its creation.  On paper, it is hefty – to be some five times the size of Sydney harbour, the largest in Australia and one of the largest on the planet.  Six open cut and five underground mines covering some 30 kilometres are proposed, a gargantuan epic.  The coal itself would be transported through the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and World Heritage Area, and would feature a rail line subsidised by the money of Australian taxpayers.

Even before the initial steps are taken, its realisation is doomed to obsolescent indulgence and environmental wearing.  It has been endorsed by a bribed political class best represented by Liberal senator Matt Canavan, who sees Adani through tinted glasses as a “little Aussie batter”; it is run by an unelected plutocratic one.  This venture has seen Australian politicians, protoplasmic and spineless, do deals with a company run by a billionaire in a way that sneers at democracy and mocks the common citizenry.

The Adani group, run by its persistent Chairman Gautam Adani, has worked out what political figures want to hear and how far it can go, even in the face of mounting opposition.  His closeness to the halls of power has been noted: influential be he who has the ear of the Indian Prime Minister, Nahendra Modi.

How divisive the Carmichael project is between Australia’s morally flexible politicians and a growing body of disaffected citizenry can be gathered from the open letter to the Adani Group from some 90 notable Australians that was submitted in the first part of last year.  The list was impressively eclectic: authors such as Richard Flanagan and Tim Winton; investment banker Mark Burrows; and former Australian test cricket captains Ian and Greg Chappell.  (“The thought,” Ian Chappell ruefully, “that this could affect the relationship, hopefully that’ll get through.”)

The text of the note was simple enough.  “We are writing to respectfully ask you to abandon the Adani Group’s proposal in Queensland’s Galilee Basin… Pollution from burning coal was the single biggest driver of global warming, threatening life in Australia, India and all over the world.”

That same year, the British medical journal The Lancet deemed the Adani mine project a “public health disaster” though Australian authorities remain indifferent to recommendations that independent health assessments be conducted on the impact of the mine.

In very tangible ways, air pollution arising from the burning of coal is a global killer.  Australia’s menacing own contribution to this casualty list comes in at around three thousand a year; in India, the list, according to a 2013 study by the Mumbai-based Conservation Action Trust, is an eye-popping 115,000. “I didn’t expect the mortality figures per year,” remarked Debi Goenka, executive trustee of the Conservation Action Trust, “to be so high.”

The trends in energy generation and resources are against fossil fuels, and even the banks have heeded this, refusing to supply a credit line to the company.  But Adani knows a gullible audience when he sees one.  Like a sadhu aware of a westerner’s amenability to mysticism, the chairman and his worthies say the right things, and encourage the appropriate response from the ruling classes they are wooing.  The company feeds them the fodder and rose water they wish to hear, and massages them into appreciative stances. The campaign by the Indian company has been so comprehensive as to include decision makers from every level of government that might be connected with the mine.

Adani, not to be deterred by delays of some six years, has suggested that it will pursue a different model, though this remains vague.  Extravagance is being reined in, supposedly trimmed and slimmed: targets will be cut by three-quarters, and the company has now promised to finance the project itself.  “We will now,” claimed Adani Mining CEO Lucas Dow this week, “be developing a smaller open-cut mine comparable to many other Queensland coal mines and will ramp up production over time.”

Nothing this company says should ever be taken at face value.  Exaggeration and myth making is central to its platform.  Slyly, the company’s Australian operation is also given a deceptive wrapping; a visit to the company’s website will see information on Adani’s efforts to “become the leading supplier of renewable energy in Australia.”

Dow has become a missionary of sorts, repeatedly telling Queenslanders that the project can only mean jobs, and more jobs.  Astrological projections more in league with tarot card reading are used.  Last November, Dow, in a media statement, was brimming with optimism over those “indirect jobs” that would be created in Rockhampton, Townsville, Mackay and the Isaac region.  “Economic modelling, such as that used by the Queensland Resources Council in its annual resources industry economic impact report, show that each direct job in the industry in Queensland supports another four and a half jobs in related industries and businesses, therefore we can expect to see more than 7,000 jobs created by the initial ramp up of the Carmichael project.”

Not merely does the Carmichael mine smack of a crude obsolescence before the first lumps of coal are mined; it is bound to take a wrecking ball to any emissions reduction strategy Australia might intend pursuing.  (Matters are already half-hearted as they are in Canberra, poisoned by a fractious energy lobby and ill-gotten gains stakeholders.)  Professor Andrew Stock of the Climate Council has explained that once coal begins being burned, Australia’s “total emissions” are set to double, nothing less than an act of “environmental vandalism”.  Work on the mine will also contribute to such despoliation: the clearing of 20,200 hectares of land will add to the climate chance quotient; the Great Artesian Basin’s groundwater system will also be affected.

Another graphic projection is also being suggested.  For the duration of its projected 60 year lifespan, as epidemiologist Fiona Stanley reminds us, Adani’s venture will produce as much carbon as all of Australia’s current coal fired power stations combined.  All this, even as the Indian state promises to phase out thermal coal imports, rendering the Adani coal project a white, if vandalising, elephant.  The only difference now is that the elephant proposed is somewhat smaller in scale and size.

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.