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Climate - Dec 6

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Climate change: you can't ignore it

Anne Karpf, The Guardian
I am not a climate-change denier. On the contrary, ever since I interviewed the environmentalist Mayer Hillman for this newspaper 10 years ago, when he predicted most of what's happening today, I've understood that we're in the throes of something serious. I now recycle everything possible, drive a hybrid car and turn down the heating. Yet somewhere in my marrow I know that this is just a vain attempt to exculpate myself – it wasn't me, guv.

Indeed, when I hear apocalyptic warnings about global warming, after a few moments of fear I tune out. In fact I think I might be something worse than a climate-change sceptic – a climate-change ignorer.

The fuse that trips the whole circuit is a sense of helplessness. Whatever steps I take to counter global warming, however well-intentioned my brief bursts of zeal, they invariably end up feeling like too little, too late. The mismatch between the extremely dangerous state of the earth and my own feeble endeavours seems mockingly large.

In Engaging with Climate Change, a major new book edited by Sally Weintrobe and described by Naomi Klein as "persuasive" and "powerful", 23 different authors, among them psychoanalysts like Weintrobe herself, help explain how we can both know and not know something at the same time. Paul Hoggett, professor of politics at the University of West of England, identifies a repertoire of defensive strategies; I'm ashamed to admit that I've used them all. They include: other people are worse than me/it's all the fault of someone else (blame-shifting); they'll come up with something (technoptimism); make hay while the sun shines (hedonistic fatalism). Then there's the view that the earth is so old and large, it can withstand the depredations of puny humans. I'd add another: climate-change fatigue. It's all too easy to become inured to the warnings – the "yes, yes, I've heard it all before" defence...
(30 November 2012)


2012: Record Arctic Sea Ice Melt, Multiple Extremes and High Temperatures

Press Release, World Meteorological Organization
GENEVA/DOHA, 28 November 2012 (WMO) – The years 2001–2011 were all among the warmest on record, and, according to the World Meteorological Organization, the first ten months indicate that 2012 will most likely be no exception despite the cooling influence of La Niña early in the year.

WMO’s provisional annual statement on the state of the global climate also highlighted the unprecedented melt of the Arctic sea ice and multiple weather and climate extremes which affected many parts of the world. It was released today to inform negotiators at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Doha, Qatar.

January-October 2012 has been the ninth warmest such period since records began in 1850. The global land and ocean surface temperature for the period was about 0.45°C (0.81°F) above the corresponding 1961–1990 average of 14.2°C, according to the statement.

The year began with a weak-to-moderate strength La Niña, which had developed in October 2011. The presence of a La Niña during the start of a year tends to have a cooling influence on global temperatures, and this year was no different. After the end of the La Niña in April 2012, the global land and ocean temperatures rose increasingly above the long-term average with each consecutive month. The six-month average of May–October 2012 was among the four warmest such periods on record.

“Naturally occurring climate variability due to phenomena such as El Niño and La Niña impact on temperatures and precipitation on a seasonal to annual scale. But they do not alter the underlying long-term trend of rising temperatures due to climate change as a result of human activities,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud.

“The extent of Arctic sea ice reached a new record low. The alarming rate of its melt this year highlighted the far-reaching changes taking place on Earth’s oceans and biosphere. Climate change is taking place before our eyes and will continue to do so as a result of the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which have risen constantly and again reached new records,” added Mr Jarraud...
(28 November 2012)


Study: Wealthy Nations’ Fossil Fuel Subsidies 5 Times Greater Than Climate Aid to Countries in Need

Amy Goodman, Democracy Now

A new report by Oil Change International has found wealthy nations are spending five times more money on fossil fuel subsidies than climate aid. In 2011, rich nations spent $58 billion on subsidies and just $11 billion for climate adaptation and mitigation in developing countries. According to the study, the United States spent $13 billion on fossil fuel subsidies in 2011 and just $2.5 billion in climate aid. We’re joined by David Turnbull, campaigns director of Oil Change International.
(4 December 2012)
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No sign of emissions letting up as climate talks begin

Michael Le Page and Michael Slezak, New Scientist
...So there is little prospect of global emissions peaking around 2020 - which is what is needed to stop the world warming more than 2 °C. Limiting warming to 2 °C is still possible, but after decades of inaction, it would now take an unprecedented global effort to achieve it. "If this is not forthcoming, 2 °C is beyond our grasp and even 4 °C begins to look challenging," says Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in Norwich, UK. Each year you don't do anything, the challenge grows greater, he adds.

Some countries have pledged to cut their emissions, but even if all existing pledges were kept - which seems unlikely - there is still a one in five chance that the world could warm by over 4 °C, a report commissioned by the World Bank warned last month. If we carry on as we are, temperatures could rise more than 4 °C well before 2100, and more than 8 °C before 2150...

At the moment, however, we are pumping such amounts of carbon into the atmosphere that even massive releases of carbon from natural sources will not make much of a difference. Estimates suggest they will only lead to a small amount of extra warming. Instead, the real threat is more subtle - it's that the longer we delay cuts, the less difference they will make, because by the time our emissions start to fall, the land and oceans won't be able to take in any more carbon and will begin releasing it...
(5 December 2012)


Forbidden Planet

George Monbiot, Monbiot.com
Humankind’s greatest crisis coincides with the rise of an ideology that makes it impossible to address. By the late 1980s, when it became clear that manmade climate change endangered the living planet and its people, the world was in the grip of an extreme political doctrine, whose tenets forbid the kind of intervention required to arrest it.

Neoliberalism, also known as market fundamentalism or laissez-faire economics, purports to liberate the market from political interference. The state, it asserts, should do little but defend the realm, protect private property and remove barriers to business. In practice it looks nothing like this. What neoliberal theorists call shrinking the state looks more like shrinking democracy: reducing the means by which citizens can restrain the power of the elite. What they call “the market” looks more like the interests of corporations and the ultra-rich(1). Neoliberalism appears to be little more than a justification for plutocracy...

As we saw in 2007 and 2008 (when neoliberal governments were forced to abandon their principles to bail out the banks), there could scarcely be a worse set of circumstances for addressing a crisis of any kind. Until it has no choice, the self-hating state will not intervene, however acute the crisis or grave the consequences. Neoliberalism protects the interests of the elite against all comers...

Preventing climate breakdown – the four, five or six degrees of warming now predicted for this century by green extremists like, er, the World Bank, the International Energy Agency and PriceWaterhouseCoopers(4,5,6) – means confronting the oil, gas and coal industry. It means forcing that industry to abandon the four-fifths or more of fossil fuel reserves that we cannot afford to burn(7). It means cancelling the prospecting and development of new reserves – what’s the point if we can’t use current stocks? – and reversing the expansion of any infrastructure (such as airports) that cannot be run without them.

But the self-hating state cannot act. Captured by interests that democracy is supposed to restrain, it can only sit on the road, ears pricked and whiskers twitching, as the truck thunders towards it. Confrontation is forbidden, action is a mortal sin. You may, perhaps, disperse some money for new energy; you may not legislate against the old...
(3 December 2012)


Arctic lost record snow and ice last year as data shows changing climate

Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian
The Arctic lost more snow and sea ice between October 2011 and August 2012 than any year other on record, a premier US science agency reported on Wednesday, delivering the fullest picture to date of a region in the throes of rapid, system-wide change.

The Arctic lost record snow cover and sea ice last year – even though air temperatures were not unusually high.

By the end of August, several weeks before the end of the summer melt season, Arctic sea ice had retreated to its smallest extent since satellite records began in 1979.

In Greenland, virtually the entire ice sheet – 97% – sustained some degree of thawing during a period of a few days in July, including on some of the highest peaks.
(5 December 2012)

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