April, 2018

Much of my news comes from The Daily Climate, whose wonderful subscription service clues me in to what's going on each day. Another great source of stories (and commentaries) comes from my friend Jim Poyser, at Apocadocs. They stopped collecting news at the election of U.S. President Forty-Five, which was a frickin' party pooper of a day, I'll tell ya.

2018

April, 2018

4/26/2018

  • 'We're doomed': Mayer Hillman on the climate reality no one else will dare mention:
    • “We’re doomed,” says Mayer Hillman with such a beaming smile that it takes a moment for the words to sink in. “The outcome is death, and it’s the end of most life on the planet because we’re so dependent on the burning of fossil fuels. There are no means of reversing the process which is melting the polar ice caps. And very few appear to be prepared to say so.”
    • From Malthus to the Millennium Bug, apocalyptic thinking has a poor track record. But when it issues from Hillman, it may be worth paying attention. Over nearly 60 years, his research has used factual data to challenge policymakers’ conventional wisdom. In 1972, he criticised out-of-town shopping centres more than 20 years before the government changed planning rules to stop their spread. In 1980, he recommended halting the closure of branch line railways – only now are some closed lines reopening. In 1984, he proposed energy ratings for houses – finally adopted as government policy in 2007. And, more than 40 years ago, he presciently challenged society’s pursuit of economic growth.
    • Our society’s failure to comprehend the true cost of cars has informed Hillman’s view on the difficulty of combatting climate change. But he insists that I must not present his thinking on climate change as “an opinion”. The data is clear; the climate is warming exponentially.
    • Although Hillman has not flown for more than 20 years as part of a personal commitment to reducing carbon emissions, he is now scornful of individual action which he describes as “as good as futile”. By the same logic, says Hillman, national action is also irrelevant “because Britain’s contribution is minute. Even if the government were to go to zero carbon it would make almost no difference.”
    • Instead, says Hillman, the world’s population must globally move to zero emissions across agriculture, air travel, shipping, heating homes – every aspect of our economy – and reduce our human population too. Can it be done without a collapse of civilisation? “I don’t think so,” says Hillman. “Can you see everyone in a democracy volunteering to give up flying? Can you see the majority of the population becoming vegan? Can you see the majority agreeing to restrict the size of their families?”
    • Hillman accuses all kinds of leaders – from religious leaders to scientists to politicians – of failing to honestly discuss what we must do to move to zero-carbon emissions. “I don’t think they can because society isn’t organised to enable them to do so. Political parties’ focus is on jobs and GDP, depending on the burning of fossil fuels.”
    • Without hope, goes the truism, we will give up. And yet optimism about the future is wishful thinking, says Hillman. He believes that accepting that our civilisation is doomed could make humanity rather like an individual who recognises he is terminally ill. Such people rarely go on a disastrous binge; instead, they do all they can to prolong their lives.
    • Can civilisation prolong its life until the end of this century? “It depends on what we are prepared to do.” He fears it will be a long time before we take proportionate action to stop climatic calamity. “Standing in the way is capitalism. Can you imagine the global airline industry being dismantled when hundreds of new runways are being built right now all over the world? It’s almost as if we’re deliberately attempting to defy nature. We’re doing the reverse of what we should be doing, with everybody’s silent acquiescence, and nobody’s batting an eyelid.”
    • A chain reaction: For 30 years Mayer Hillman has been busily turning conventional political thinking on its head. From road safety to renewable energy, he has come up with solutions that are hard to dismiss. Which is probably why you've never heard of him

4/24/2018

  • Pessimism on the Food Front: Is it likely humanity will satisfactorily feed 11 billion people around the end of this century? A quick response would be “Of course not—after 60 years of assurances that the food problem would be solved, we’re not feeding 7.5 billion today”.
    • What would make us more optimistic that massive starvation can be avoided? First and foremost would be bringing the issues of climate change and the many dimensions of the food security situation, especially the inequity of food distribution and food wastage to the top of the policy agenda everywhere. Also important would be global efforts to redesign soil and water management practices to help agriculture to deal with climate change already entrained, steps to reduce meat consumption, public education on these, and other food-related issues, including hormone-mimicking toxins. Above all, a most hopeful sign would be more nations providing more access to modern contraception and backup abortion and truly equal rights for women. Those steps could move the world toward population reduction, the sine qua non of sustainability, and without which none of the other environmental goals are likely to be reached.
  • What happened to winter? Vanishing ice convulses Alaskans' way of life: But the past winter, following a string of warm years, points to a pace of change not before experienced by this community. The winter was the warmest on record in the Arctic, with sea ice extent hitting record lows in January and February, ending up at the second-smallest seasonal peak in the 39-year satellite record in March. The smallest was in 2017. The Bering Sea, which separates Alaska and Russia, lost a third of its winter ice in just eight February days.
  • Only 60 Years of Farming Left If Soil Degradation Continues: Generating three centimeters of top soil takes 1,000 years, and if current rates of degradation continue all of the world's top soil could be gone within 60 years, a senior UN official said
  • Mass starvation is humanity’s fate if we keep flogging the land to death: The Earth cannot accommodate our need and greed for food. We must change our diet before it’s too late

4/8/2018

4/5/2018

  • Shell Knew Fossil Fuels Created Climate Change Risks Back in 1980s, Internal Documents Show: "With the very long time scales involved, it would be tempting for society to wait until then before doing anything," company researchers wrote in a 1988 report based on studies completed in 1986. "The potential implications for the world are, however, so large that policy options need to be considered much earlier. And the energy industry needs to consider how it should play its part."
    • Otherwise, a team of Shell experts said, "it could be too late to take effective countermeasures to reduce the effects or even to stabilize the situation."
  • Pakistan’s 114 degrees is just one of many all-time March records toppled in Asia: Likely March records set on March 29-31
    • Pakistan — 113.9 degrees (old record 113 degrees in 2010)
    • Iraq — 110.8 degrees (old record 108.3 degrees in 2010)
    • Qatar — 104 degrees (old record 102.2 degrees in 1998)
    • Turkmenistan — 104.4 degrees (old record 102.4 degrees in 2010)
    • Uzbekistan — 99 degrees (old record 97.5 degrees in 2000)
    • Tajikistan — 95.5 degrees (old record 92 degrees in 1971)
  • Climate change threatens rare British orchid that tricks bees into mating: Researchers find that warmer temperatures are upsetting the seasonal relationship between the early spider orchid and pollinating bees
  • Ecological footprint: How 'gray energy' is totally underestimated: Although we can't see it, gray energy is key to measuring our ecological footprint. Researchers in Europe are arguing that we need to better tally gray energy in order to present a more complete picture of energy use.

4/3/2018

What went on: 2017

What went on: 2016

What went on: 2015

What went on: 2014

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