Category Archives: Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG)

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.

No Going Back: It’s All Got to Change

It’s been a weird time, the last six months, and so it continues; perhaps it always was.  It’s certainly been an unjust violent mess in varying degrees of severity, for as long as most can remember. With selfishness, division and pleasure firmly in the driving seat, and the planet beautiful, slowly choking to death under the weight of human greed and stupidity.

After Covid-19 erupted, widespread lockdowns like a blunderbuss were enforced in many countries, and for a brief interlude hush descended on towns and cities across the world. Whole populations from Europe to New Zealand and most points in between were forced to desist from ‘going out’ and socializing, made to curtail their habitual shopping urges and change their work patterns. A strange and uncertain time, aggravating pre-existing anxieties, triggering depression, threatening economic meltdown.

A rare space opened, is still available, creating the opportunity to reflect on how life was and is being lived, individually and collectively; an opportunity to redefine what is important, and for those so inclined, to ponder life after the virus. A feeling of post-pandemic hope circulated among the hopeful. Could, will, ‘things’ change for the good at last?  Would corporate governments emerge with a new attitude towards public services, ‘key workers’ – who had suddenly become heroes – the environment and national health care systems (where they exist, and where they don’t with a recognition that they should), refugees and migrant workers.

Will the many acts of community kindness foster lasting social responsibility, can the pause in consumerism, manufacturing, and travel, ignite a major shift in political and social attitudes, leading to a change in policies and collective behavior rooted in environmental and social responsibility? Many hope for such a long overdue bonanza, but as countries tentatively begin to emerge from the shadow of Covid the political rhetoric and corporate talk is depressingly predictable.

Saddled with huge national debt, the prospect of an economic ‘slump’, or ‘slowdown’ and mass unemployment, anxious politicians lacking vision, and business leaders (understandably) concerned with survival and profit, repeatedly, and desperately talk about getting back to ‘normal’; re-starting the economy – the very economy that has polluted the air, the oceans and the land – and speedy recoveries. It is predictable lunacy; no, no, no, not business as chuffing usual, many cry. This is a chance to think outside the existing foul paradigm, to creatively re-imagine how life could be. If we are to face the most pressing issues of the day, there must be real change.

The term ‘new normal’ is routinely bandied around by politicians, business leaders and commentators these days; it’s often used to describe the changes to working methods – Zoom meetings for example, education bubbles in schools, one-way systems and hand sanitation in shops, face coverings on public transport. Cautionary health care measures, but nothing of substance; nothing that will save the planet, mitigate the ecological vandalism being perpetrated by humanity; create social justice, end violent conflict, racism and starvation; banish malnutrition, reform education, offer justice and support to migrants, and house the homeless in every land – for example.

We do not need a ‘new normal’, referring as it does to the old, decrepit, inadequate, poisoning ‘normal’ that has cast a cloak of misery and insecurity everywhere it is found, and it’s found everywhere.  99.9% of people around the world, and the natural environment require revolutionary change. Fundamental socio-economic change, true and lasting shifts in attitudes and behavior, not simply Covid-19 enforced adjustments encased in the existing structures and values – manipulations of an inadequate socio-economic model, which needs dismantling. As author Phillip Pullman put it: “It’s all got to change. If we come out of this crisis with all the rickety, flyblown, worm-eaten old structures still intact, our descendants will not forgive us. Nor should they. We must burn out the old corruption and establish a better way of living together.” And if you take a walk through a shopping area, an industrial site or office island, it’s clear; the old is dying before our very eyes, not due to the pandemic, but because it is devoid of vitality, totally and utterly. It’s finished, let it go, and let’s turn our attention to re-imagining society and the systems under which we all live; allow the transition into the new to creatively and harmoniously take place.

Save Our Planet (S.O.P.)

For months Covid-19 has stolen the headlines and dominated mainstream media programs, but within a burgeoning list of interconnected crises, of which the current pandemic is one, it is the complex environmental emergency that screams out as the single greatest issue facing humanity. And if humanity is to rise to this greatest of challenges, wholesale change is needed. Under lockdown the environment appeared to be given a respite, the air somewhat cleaner, rivers lighter, but, perhaps surprisingly, greenhouse gas emissions have been barely affected. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) expects this year’s annual emissions to be reduced by just 6-8%. This, they make clear, will have no measurable impact on carbon concentrations, or climate warming. In fact, 2020 is on track to be hottest year on record, on the back of subsequent hot years. According to the UK Met Office, a 10% drop is needed “to have a noticeable effect on the rising CO2 concentrations, but even then concentrations would still be rising.”

The principle cause of the environmental catastrophe is consumerism, insatiable ignorant human consumption of stuff, most of it unnecessary, and, crucially, animal-based food produce, and if we are to Save Our Planet (S.O.P.) and provide a viable world in which our children and grandchildren can live and grow, radical changes in our modes of living are needed, alternative values encouraged. Changes that move humanity in a new direction completely, that negate totally the urge, tempting or inevitable as it may appear to many to be, to resurrect the terminally sick economy and pursue the Growth Genie. Rooted in endless consumption, greed and competition such obsessive behavior has, in addition to strengthening nationalism and division, pushed the planet into critical care and, if we continue to be hypnotized by the pursuit of transient pleasures, will lead, if we are not already there, to irreparable climatic disorder and chronic ecological disease – and soon.

Returning to ‘normal’ means re-igniting the consumer-based economy, encouraging consumerism and affirming negative, habitual patterns of behavior. That’s what the politicians and the corporate voices are concerned about, and, while they may include the words ‘green’ or ‘alternative’, ‘renewable’, or ‘eco’, in their rousing duplicitous rhetoric, their principle goal is not salvaging the environment, changing behavior and encouraging simplicity of living; it is generating profit, perpetuating ‘growth’. And the way that’s achieved is by populations consuming, irresponsibly and in excess. An economic system based and reliant upon limitless consumption, in all its facets, including animal agriculture, is completely incompatible with the health of the planet, and the well-being of people.

Instead of excess, simplicity and sufficiency need to be the goals; responsible consumerism, in which goods and services are bought based on need, and choices/decisions are determined by the impact on the natural world. This requires personal effort and worldwide education. National public education programs, run by governments in collaboration with environmental groups, are needed to make people aware of the impact of their behavior on the environment, including animal agriculture; cutting out all animal food produce is the single most significant step individuals can take to help reduce their impact on the environment.

Changes in behavior are essential, but governments, long-term political policies and corporations have the biggest impact; while the rhetoric from some in office may be resonant, it is difficult to see any politicians within the current crop who have the breadth of vision and the will to enact the radical measures needed if the environmental emergency is to be overcome. All are married to the existing structures and appear to believe in the pervasive socio-economic ideology. Intense public pressure then, like the actions undertaken by Extinction Rebellion, Greenpeace, the Schools Strike for Climate and others, is crucial and must be applied, consistently and forcefully if, and it is a loud and deeply troubling if, the needed actions to Save Our Planet and heal our societies – for the two are inextricably linked – are to take place within the time frame required.

The post No Going Back: It’s All Got to Change first appeared on Dissident Voice.

In Denial: Australia, Human Rights and Climate Change

When the complaint was lodged in May 2019, there was a sense of the audacious about it.  Eight Torres Strait Islanders had taken the trouble to petition the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Committee, citing climate change and Australian violations as their main concern.  Australia, they claimed, had violated their fundamental rights under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Representing a group of islands between the tip of the Australian mainland at Cape York and Papua New Guinea, the complainants allege that Australia’s inadequate steps on combating climate change had violated Article 27 (the right to culture); Article 17 (the right to be free from arbitrary interference with privacy, family and home) and Article 6 (the right to life).  Australia had also failed to boost the islands’ coastal defences and implement “resilience measures”.  But most troubling of all, Canberra had failed to adopt a sufficient greenhouse gas mitigation strategy.

As a summary from Client Earth documents, legal representatives for the islanders “allege that the catastrophic nature of the predicted future impacts of climate change on the Torres Strait Islands, including the total submergence of ancestral homelands, is a sufficiently severe impact as to constitute a violation of the rights to culture, family and life.”

Sixth-generation Warraber man Kabay Tamu, one of the authors behind the complaint, saw a disturbing aspect of colonialism redux, a nightmare in the making.  “If climate change means we’re forced away and become climate change refugees in our country, I fear this will be colonisation all over again.  Because when you are colonised, you’re taken away from your land and you’re forced to stop using your language and stop practising your culture and traditions.”  Such reasoning is hard to fault.

Various calls are directed against Canberra, including greater funding for coastal defences against rising sea levels after consultation while also addressing Australia’s share of greenhouse gas emissions.  A reduction of at least 65% below 2005 levels by 2030 is demanded; and a promise to achieve net zero levels by 2050.  Thermal coal for both domestic and export markets is also to be phased out.

To date, the Australian government remains distinctly blasé about its commitments to reduce emissions in what is already a modest target: 26-28% by 2030.  Indeed, Australia has proven itself to be an enthusiastic saboteur of international efforts to decarbonise the global economy.  When the Islanders extended a personal invitation to Prime Minister Scott Morrison last September to visit the islands and see the relevant claims of damage, it was not taken up. A promise of $25 million was made instead, ostensibly to beef up emergency coastal defences.

The petitioners have ample evidence to draw upon.  A 2014 report from the Climate Council, self-advertised as “an independent crowd-funded organisation providing quality information on climate change to the Australian public” does not mince its words.  Australia, a continent marked by coastal cities, had the sort of infrastructure that had been designed in a vacuum of harmonious stability, “designed and built for a stable climate and known ranges of variability.”  Rising sea levels had dashed that vision.  The report makes specific reference to the vulnerability of the Torres Strait Island communities, located “on extremely low-lying areas” that “already experience flooding during high tides.”  Sea level data gathered by satellite from a location in Torres Strait between 1993-2010 notes a rise of 6 mm per annum – “more than twice the global average”. (The authors are careful to qualify this “single, relatively short dataset” and possible influences.)

The response from the Australian government is much in keeping with the earth digging vigilantes that make up the fossil-fuel lobby.  Do not speculate about what will happen; worry about the pressing immediacy of the now.  To that end, the Morrison government argues that the complaint should be dismissed.  As it concerns “future risks”, human rights impacts supposedly felt now cannot be proved.  They remain in the realm of the hypothetical.

The second ground for rejection, argue Australia’s lawyers, centres on the issue of greenhouse gas contributions.  As Australia is neither the main or only contributor to global warming, it cannot be held responsible for the effects of climate change on its citizens.

There is, to be sure, much on the climate change litigation plate, piling up with various actions seeking to compel a change in policy.  But no Australian case has yet made the link between human rights violations and climate change policies in the way done in the Dutch case of Urgenda Foundation v. Netherlands.  The Dutch Supreme Court accepted the argument that inadequate action in addressing climate change by the government posed a “risk of irreversible changes to the worldwide ecosystems and liveability our planet”; with that also came a “serious risk that the current generation of citizens will be confronted with loss of life and/or a disruption to family life… that the State has a duty to protect against.”  The European Convention of Human Rights proved to be the lynch pin in the case in stressing that the State’s obligation “to protect the life and the right to private and family life of its residents”.

The Federal Court lawsuit launched by university student Katta O’Donnell last July on sovereign bonds has less to do with human rights than a green commercial sensibility: when investors lend money to the government, they are entitled to be appraised of climate change risks.  A failure to disclose such risks, her lawyers argue, amount to misrepresentation and deception.

The arguments of the Torres Strait Islanders is far more on the theme of Urgenda Foundation.  “States like Australia,” claims Sophie Marjanac, lawyer acting for the complainants, “have legal duties to protect the human rights of their citizens.”  To date, these duties remain spectral, at least to the Canberra set mired in denial and complicity.

Freakish Arctic Fires Alarmingly Intensify

NASA satellite images of fires in eastern Siberia depict an inferno of monstrous proportions, nothing in modern history compares. And, as of July, it’s intensifying. Should people be concerned? Answer: Yes, and double yes.

According to Mark Parrington, a senior scientist at the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts:

What has been surprising is the rapid increase in the scale and intensity of the fires through July, largely driven by a large cluster of active fires in the northern Sakha Republic.1

The problem:

Abnormally warm temperatures have spawned an intense fire season in the eastern Siberian this summer. 2

Is this global warming on steroids?

For further color on “the problem”: As of June 23rd, a SciTechDaily headline read: “Meteorologists Shocked as Heat and Fire Scorches Siberia.” At last count, meteorologists are hard-core scientists with vast exposure to disaster scenarios, not easily “shocked.”

As it happens, the very region of the planet that’s famous for the coldest temps of all time is now recording Miami-type summer temps like 100°F. Due to this unheard-of, unprecedented state of affairs, should this real-time, happening now, catastrophic scenario be included in U.S. presidential NSA briefings? No, the president doesn’t read. Then, should NSA verbalize the catastrophe to the president? Y0u’ve gotta be kidding and risk being fired!

All of above is a powerful unconditional signal, especially for the Paris ’15 commitment group, excluding the USA, that global warming is rampaging, running amuck. Maybe the Paris ’15 assemble needs to reassemble for an emergency ad hoc meeting to take a tally of how well individual nation states are handling their voluntary commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions because the planet’s scorecard is looking like a big fat F.

And while at it, maybe check in with Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service and NASA on recent CO2 and CH4 spewing into the atmosphere. Brace yourself. We now have direct evidence of how important it is to cut fossil fuel emissions to zero, as soon as yesterday.

Here’s more about this mind-blowing threat to the well-being of the world:

(1) Arctic fires in Russia in June and July alone released “more CO2 than any complete fire season” since records have been kept and more CO2 than all of Scandinavia, happening in only two months time. That’s beyond shocking, and it represents country-wide-scale CO2 emissions emitted by nature itself now competing head-on with every aspect of Paris ’15.

(2) The fires are double trouble as one half of the fires are on peatlands, which, once started, can burn almost forever if the heat is intense enough (which it is) emitting both CO2 and CH4 in unheralded competition with the dictates of Paris ’15.

Peat fires can burn longer than forest fires and release vast amounts of carbon into the atmosphere.1

“The destruction of peat by fire is troubling for so many reasons,” said Dorothy Peteet of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. “As the fires burn off the top layers of peat, the permafrost depth may deepen, further oxidizing the underlying peat.”2

Oh by the way, only recently it was reported that the amount of carbon stored in northern peatlands is double previous estimates.3

It goes without saying that raging firestorms in a heat-induced global warming environment that releases more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than several countries combined darkens the epithet “Black Swan” almost beyond recognition.

But, is it really a Black Swan? Well, no, it is not a Black Swan because human-generated (anthropogenic) carbon emissions, like exhaust from fossil-fueled SUV engines, have been on a tear, especially since the turn of the new century (doubling on a per annum basis) blanketing the atmosphere (holding in heat), thus causing extraordinary readings of heat in the upper latitudes. So, yes, more fires were expected, no Black Swan.

But, the intensity of the fires hands down, no doubt about it, easily meets that criterion. Therefore, yes, it is a Black Swan, as the intensity is so overwhelmingly powerful that nobody could have possibly expected it to happen this way, and therein lies the risk to the “great hope” of cutting greenhouse gas emissions to minimize global temperatures to 2°C above baseline, or all hell breaks loose.

Get serious! It’s already breaking loose!

  1. Kasha Patel, “NASA/NOAA Satellites Observe Surprisingly Rapid Increase in Scale and Intensity of Fires in Siberia”, SciTechDaily, August 9, 2020.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Jonathan Nichols, et al, “Holocene Ecohydrological Variability on the East Coast of Kamchtka”, Frontiers in Earth Science, May 15, 2019.

Moore’s Planet of the Humans: More Misanthropic than Malthus

In reverential tones with ominous background music, director of Planet of the Humans Jeff Gibbs intones about “the most terrifying realization I ever had.” Gibbs instructs us, “Every expert I talked to wanted to bring my attention to the same underlying problem.” It is “not the elephant but the herd of elephants in the room,” Prof. Nina Jablonski warns. “The underlying problem,” the movie earnestly preaches is that “there are too many human beings.”

Planet of the Humans is produced and promoted by Michael Moore and is free online. The underlying message of the movie, critiquing the green energy movement, is about the existential threat of human overpopulation. “Without seeing a major die-off in population, there is no turning back,” is anthropologist Steven Churchill’s gloomy prognostication.

This truly draconian deduction makes the “zero population growth” (ZPG) folks look like baby boom boosters. Seminal overpopulation theorist Thomas Malthus, who opposed the English Poor Laws because they relieved human suffering, would be by comparison a humanitarian. (Spoiler alert: the movie does not prescribe any particular means of achieving the die-off.)

Prof. Churchill presents a cautionary tale in the movie: “Species hit the population wall and then they crash. It is a common story in biology. If it happens to us, it is the natural order of things.” As a professional conservation biologist, I can attest that not a single one of the 1,540 species on the US Endangered Species list got there because their populations indiscreetly boomed and then crashed. The cautionary tale is really a fictional tale, not a common story and not the natural order of things.

Paradox of Our Times

An uncritically favorable review of the movie by a self-described “pal” of the director comments, “The bottom line is that there are too many Clever Apes, consuming too much; too rapidly. And ALL efforts on addressing the climate costs are reduced to illusions/delusions designed to keep our over-sized human footprint.”

So, are we humans using too much, too fast as the movie warns? The answer is apparently not everybody. Some 24,600 of us die every day from starvation in a world where there are food surpluses and more than enough food to feed everyone. Likewise, 3,000 children die every day from preventable malaria. And 10,000 fellow human beings die every day because they are denied publicly funded healthcare.

To put these numbers into context, the peak world daily death toll for the coronavirus pandemic was 10,520 on April 26. The current world daily death toll, as of this writing, is 5,728. That is, the magnitude of preventable starvation is over four times the current death rate for COVID-19.

An anti-viral vaccine is not yet available to protect from COVID-19, but a square meal is all that is needed to cure the malady of starvation. And there is no impediment from international property rights in sharing bread.

These dreadful statistics on existing world hunger are, in relative terms, the good news. The UN World Food Program most recently reports that the coronavirus crisis could double the number of people suffering acute hunger. “COVID-19 is potentially catastrophic for millions who are already hanging by a thread,” said Dr. Arif Husain, chief economist at the World Food Program. “It is a hammer blow for millions more who can only eat if they earn a wage. Lockdowns and global economic recession have already decimated their nest eggs. It only takes one more shock – like COVID-19 – to push them over the edge.”

Especially hard hit are the countries in the crosshairs of US imperialism, including a third of humanity subject to unilateral coercive measures by the US – so called, sanctions. For example, the UN World Food Program reports, “the needs in Syria have never been greater”; likewise for Yemen. These people are suffering from imperialism not, as the movie contends, from overpopulation.

Obscured by overpopulation ideology, which monomaniacally focuses on over-consumption, the movie fails to recognize the existence of monumental under-consumption for the majority of the world’s population. The paradox of our times is that we live in an era, for the first time in human history, when the technical means to end poverty are in place. The means of production have advanced so that human needs can be met. At the same time, the relations of production are such that these needs are not met. Gross over-consumption and acute under-consumption are two sides of the same coin.

Left out of the “every expert” interviewed in Planet of the Humans are authorities such as Eric Holt-Gimenez, former director of the Institute for Food and Development Policy. His research indicates, “We already grow enough food for 10 billion people – and still can’t end hunger. Hunger is caused by poverty and inequality, not scarcity.” The world’s population is currently 7.8 billion. The 10 billion people that Holt-Gimenez refers to is what the UN Population Division projects as the leveling out number, which is projected to occur by the end of this century.

Clearly more than simple human demographics are at play with the paradox of starvation amidst plenty, especially considering Holt-Gimenez’s finding: “For the past two decades, the rate of global food production has increased faster than the rate of global population growth.” That story is omitted by the misanthropic Planet of the Humans.

Too Many People?

When in the movie Richard Heinberg, author of The End of Growth, says “There are too many human beings, using too much, too fast,” he is right about some people. We have too many super-rich, though you wouldn’t know that from watching the movie.

The wealthiest 1% of the population own over half of all household wealth in the world. From a global warming point of view, the richest 10% are responsible for almost half of total lifestyle consumption emissions. Meanwhile, the poorest 50% are responsible for only about 10% of the total lifestyle consumption emissions.

A similarly inequitable pattern, ignored by the movie, is evident when comparing the wealthy developed countries to the rest of the world. Per capita carbon dioxide emissions in the more developed countries are around three times higher than the world average. The developed countries are the ones most responsible and least at risk from global warming. The poorest nations contribute less than 1% of total world greenhouse gas emissions.

While the US unjustly calls upon the poor nations of the world to assume a level of responsibility for combatting global warming, which would impede their development, the rich nations of the world have been both the beneficiaries and the cause of today’s excessive greenhouse gas production.

The United States stands out in terms of global warming in three respects: greatest historical contributor of greenhouse gasses, among the highest per capita greenhouse gas producers of the more populous countries, and the highest oil producer.

The rich nations, with the US as most prominent, have a “climate debt” to pay off, because it is their military and their industry which has disproportionately caused global warming. For all the angst and indignation expressed in Planet of the Humans about the environment, not a murmur is heard about climate justice.

Climate Science and Overpopulation Ideology

The climate movement, so roundly criticized in the movie, is based on science, while the overpopulation ideology espoused in the movie is not. The climate movement can scientifically demonstrate, when human-caused global warming began. But the overpopulation ideologues cannot say what date overpopulation began. As Karl Marx demonstrated in his critique of Thomas Malthus 200 years ago, the overpopulation ideologues theorize the planet was always overpopulated.

The climate scientists can demonstrate a relationship between concentrations of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere and global warming. The overpopulation ideologues cannot demonstrate a scientific relationship between population and resource consumption because they ignore the issues of concentration of wealth and unequal distribution.

The climate scientists can quantify a level of greenhouse gasses which is desirable to prevent catastrophic global warming. In fact, the leading US climate movement group, 350.org, takes its name from that scientific finding. In contrast, the overpopulation ideologues can give no optimal number of humans other than the prejudicial declaration “there’s too many of them.” And by “them,” they implicitly mean people that are not like them and their friends.

Time to Fix the Population Fixation

Planet of the Humans savages the green energy movement for its collusion with capitalists, yet the movie fails to make the next logical step of indicting the capitalist system’s inherent imperative for endless growth while generating inequalities. Instead, movie director Jeff Gibbs blames overpopulation, concluding: “We must accept that our human presence is already far beyond sustainability.”

Fortunately, there is a growing understanding that his is not the right “fix.” According to a commendable recent issue of the Sierra Club magazine, it is “time to fix the population fixation.”

The problem is not the fertility of women but over-consumption and the outsized contribution of the wealthiest few, found in the wealthiest nations, to the climate catastrophe. Birth rates go down when human needs are met and women are afforded reproductive freedom. Planet of the Humans director Gibbs is right that there are some things truly “terrifying” going on (e.g., nuclear annihilation), but it is not due to that most human act of procreation.

Canada should Treat Climate Change With Same Urgency as COVID-19

While governments’ responses to the Covid-19 pandemic proves significant resources can be marshalled quickly in a crisis, there is little evidence official Canada sees global warming as a comparable emergency.

Even though Justin Trudeau’s Liberals say they take climate change seriously, Canadian greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are actually increasing. According to the inventory report the government filed with the United Nations last week, Canada’s emissions grew to more than 729 million tonnes of carbon dioxide and its equivalents in 2018. This represents a 15 million tonne increase over 2017.

Incredibly, the editors at the Globe and Mail decided this information deserved a 75-word brief in the bottom corner of page 15. While Canada’s paper of record buried the story, it deserved front-page attention. The situation is dire. Temperatures are increasing steadily and so too the frequency/intensity of “natural” disasters. In 2019 there were 15 natural disasters linked to climate change that caused more than a billion dollars in damage. Seven of them destroyed more than $10 billion. Hundreds of thousands have already died as a result of anthropocentric climate disturbances and the numbers will grow exponentially.

At the 2015 Paris climate negotiation the Trudeau government committed Canada to reducing GHG emissions 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 (a major step backwards from Canada’s commitment under the Kyoto Protocol and 2009 Copenhagen Accord). But, this target is unlikely to be achieved. In December Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, said Canada was expected to emit 603 million tonnes of GHG in 2030, far above the 511 million tonnes agreed to in Paris (to meet the recommendations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Canada would need to reduce its GHG emissions to 381 million tonnes by 2030).

A November Nature Communications study seeking to reconcile the 2015 Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global temperature increases to 1.5-to-2 C concluded that if the rest of the world flouted its commitments in a similar way to Canada temperatures would increase between 3 C and 4 C by the end of the century. A Climate Transparency report card release that month found that Canada’s plan to meet its GHG targets was among the worst (along with Australia and South Korea) in the G20. The November study found that the emissions intensity of Canada’s buildings, transportation and agriculture were all above the G20 average and that Canadians produced nearly three times more GHG per capita than the G20 average.

Expansion of the tar sands guarantees that Canada will flout its international commitments to reduce GHG emissions. According to the Parkland Institute, “bitumen production grew 376% from 2000 through 2018” and is projected to grow by another 1.41 million barrels per day by 2040. To expand extraction of heavy carbon emitting Alberta oil, the Liberals are spending $9 billion on the Trans Mountain pipeline and related infrastructure. Last week the government announced $1.7 billion to clean up orphan wells in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan. While energy workers should be offered work cleaning up environmental devastation, the initiative is, in effect, a subsidy to a historically profitable industry that should be covering the costs.

This was not the first time the Liberals broke their pre-election promise to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies. Ottawa continues to offer billions of dollars (as much as $46 billion, according to one IMF working paper) a year in assistance to oil, gas and other fossil fuel firms. While Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s 2015 mandate letter from the PM said he should “work with the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to fulfil our G20 commitment and phase out subsidies for the fossil fuel industry over the medium-term”, there was no mention of this objective in either Morneau’s or Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson’s 2019 mandate letters.

Despite claiming to take the climate crisis seriously, the Trudeau government has failed to put the country on track to meet even dangerously insufficient targets for reducing GHG emissions. This is largely because of the oil industry’s power. The profits from oil and natural gas flow to their producers and distributers, as well as the banks that finance them, and other investors whose portfolios include these stocks. These are the people who, under the current economic system, mostly determine government policy.