Trump Says Climate Change Not a Hoax, Could Be Temporary

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by The Associated Press.

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is backing off his claim that climate change is a hoax but says he doesn’t know if it’s manmade and suggests that the climate will “change back again.”

In an interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes” that aired Sunday night, Trump said he doesn’t want to put the U.S. at a disadvantage in responding to climate change.

“I think something’s happening. Something’s changing and it’ll change back again,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a hoax. I think there’s probably a difference. But I don’t know that it’s manmade. I will say this: I don’t want to give trillions and trillions of dollars. I don’t want to lose millions and millions of jobs.”

Trump called climate change a hoax in November 2012 when he sent a tweet stating, “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” He later said he was joking about the Chinese connection, but in years since has continued to call global warming a hoax.

“I’m not denying climate change,” he said in the interview. “But it could very well go back. You know, we’re talking about over a … millions of years.”

As far as the climate “changing back,” temperature records kept by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show that the world hasn’t had a cooler-than-average year since 1976 or a cooler-than-normal month since the end of 1985.

Trump, who is scheduled on Monday to visit areas of Georgia and Florida damaged by Hurricane Michael, also expressed doubt over scientists’ findings linking the changing climate to more powerful hurricanes.

“They say that we had hurricanes that were far worse than what we just had with Michael,” said Trump, who identified “they” as “people” after being pressed by “60 Minutes” correspondent Leslie Stahl. She asked, “What about the scientists who say it’s worse than ever?” the president replied, “You’d have to show me the scientists because they have a very big political agenda.”

Trump’s comments came just days after a Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a warning that global warming would increase climate-related risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security and economic growth. The report detailed how Earth’s weather, health and ecosystems would be in better shape if the world’s leaders could somehow limit future human-caused warming.

Citing concerns about the pact’s economic impact, Trump said in 2017 that the U.S. will leave the Paris climate accord. The agreement set voluntary greenhouse gas emission targets in an effort to lessen the impact of fossil fuels.

On a different topic, Trump told “60 Minutes” that he’s been surprised by Washington being a tough, deceptive and divisive place, though some accuse the real estate mogul elected president of those same tactics.

“So I always used to say the toughest people are Manhattan real estate guys and blah, blah,” he said. “Now I say they’re babies.”

He said the political people in Washington have changed his thinking.

“This is the most deceptive, vicious world. It is vicious, it’s full of lies, deceit and deception,” he said. “You make a deal with somebody and it’s like making a deal with — that table.”

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Bernie Sanders: Trump Adviser’s Climate Denial is ‘Dangerous’

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Jake Johnson / Common Dreams.

Appearing on ABC‘s “This Week” just moments after President Donald Trump’s chief economic adviser and noted Wall Street stooge Larry Kudlow dismissed a new United Nations climate report showing that the world must cut carbon emissions in half by 2030 to avert global catastrophe, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) denounced the White House for its “dangerous” rejection of climate science and slammed Trump for working hand-in-hand with Big Oil to make “a bad situation worse.”

“The comments a moment ago that Larry Kudlow made are so irresponsible, so dangerous that it’s just hard to believe that a leading government official could make them,” Sanders told host George Stephanopoulos after Kudlow—a fervent climate denier—accused the U.N. of overestimating the severity of the climate crisis.

“What the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said is that we have 12 years—12 years to substantially cut the amount of carbon in our atmosphere or this planet, our country, the rest of the world, is going to suffer irreversible damage,” the Vermont senator continued. “We are in crisis mode and you have an administration that virtually does not even recognize the reality of climate change and their policies, working with the fossil fuel industry, are making a bad situation worse.”

Far from taking even the smallest steps toward mitigating carbon emissions and developing a clean energy system that is necessary to avert planetary catastrophe, Trump has worked relentlessly during his first two years in office to free massive oil and gas companies to unleash dangerous pollutants at home while undermining international efforts to confront the climate crisis.

Asked about the IPCC’s dire assessment of the next several decades if immediate, ambitious, and systemic action is not taken to drastically reduce carbon emissions, Trump appeared to indicate that he has never heard of the IPCC.

“It was given to me and I want to look at who drew it,” Trump told reporters. “You know, which group drew it, because I can give you reports that are fabulous and I can give you reports that aren’t so good.”

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We Can Feed the World and Halve Emissions—But There’s a Catch

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Alex Kirby / Climate News Network.

The hopeful news is that by mid-century a well-fed world may be able to feed everyone alive, while halving the gases causing global warming. There’s just one snag: for most of us it would mean an almost meatless diet.

On 8 October global scientists said the world must make “rapid and far-reaching changes in all aspects of society” to keep global warming from reaching unacceptably dangerous levels.  They included the food we eat as one sector demanding radical change.

Bang on cue, a report by a separate group of scientists says the 10 billion people expected to be living by 2050 could enjoy sustainable food supplies – while emissions of the greenhouse gases that are warming the Earth fall by more than 50%.

But, for this to happen, the rich world would have to pay a high price, while the poorest people still faced malnutrition and hunger.

Less animal protein

The report says Westerners need to make a drastic switch away from meat and dairy products, cutting their consumption of beef by 90% and eating five times more beans and pulses than they do today to stave off hunger. Similar though slightly less radical changes are in prospect for people in other prosperous countries.

The researchers who wrote the report, published in the journal Nature, say it is the first to quantify how food production and consumption affect the planetary boundaries that define a safe operating space for humanity, and beyond which the Earth’s vital systems could become unstable.

“No single solution is enough to avoid crossing planetary boundaries. But when the solutions are implemented together, our research indicates that it may be possible to feed the growing population sustainably,” said Marco Springmann of the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food and the Nuffield Department of Population Health at the University of Oxford, UK, who led the study.

“Many of the solutions we analysed are being implemented in some parts of the world, but it will need strong global co-ordination and rapid upscale to make their effects felt”

“Without concerted action, we found that the environmental impacts of the food system could increase by 50-90% by 2050 as a result of population growth and the rise of diets high in fats, sugars and meat. In that case, all planetary boundaries related to food production would be surpassed, some of them by more than twofold.”

A global shift towards healthy and more plant-based diets, halving food loss and waste (about a third of the food produced is lost before it can reach consumers), and improving farming practices and technologies, is needed to feed 10 billion people sustainably by 2050, the study says. Adopting these options cuts the risk of crossing global environmental limits on climate change.

But there will be other advantages too, the researchers say – reductions in the use of agricultural land and freshwater, and in the pollution of ecosystems through the over-use of fertilisers.

The study, funded by EAT as part of the EAT-Lancet Commission for Food, Planet and Health and by Wellcome’s “Our Planet, Our Health” partnership on Livestock Environment and People, combined detailed environmental accounts with a model of the global food system that tracks the production and consumption of food across the world. With this model, the researchers analysed several options that could keep the food system within environmental limits.

Multiple gains

They found that climate change can be checked enough only if diets change to include more plant-based food and reductions in meat and dairy products. Adopting more of these plant-based “flexitarian” diets globally could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than half and cut fertiliser application and the use of cropland and freshwater by between a tenth and a quarter.

But dietary changes alone will not be enough, the researchers say. They argue that improved agricultural management and technology will be essential too. Increasing yields from existing cropland, balancing fertiliser application and recycling and improving water management could, with other changes, reduce those impacts by around half.

A significant contributor to food insecurity is the deterioration and loss of soil. By one calculation, a third of the world’s arable land has been lost to erosion or pollution over the last 40 years. Restoring lost soil quality helps to increase harvests and slow warming.

The report says the world will have to halve wasted food to keep within environmental limits. If that happened worldwide, it would reduce environmental impacts by up to 16%.

Healthy eating

EAT is a science-based global platform for food system transformation founded by the Stordalen Foundation, Stockholm Resilience Centre and Wellcome.

Fabrice de Clerck, its director of science, said: “Tackling food loss and waste will require measures across the entire food chain, from storage and transport, over food packaging and labelling, to changes in legislation and business behaviour that promote zero-waste supply chains.”

“Many of the solutions we analysed are being implemented in some parts of the world, but it will need strong global co-ordination and rapid upscale to make their effects felt,” said Dr Springmann.

“When it comes to diets, important aspects include school and workplace programmes, economic incentives and labelling, and aligning national dietary guidelines with the current scientific evidence on healthy eating and the environmental impacts of our diet.”

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As Sea Levels Rise, Do We Invest in Underwater Walls or Retreat Inland?

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Tim Radford / Climate News Network.

Two climate scientists believe they have a long-term solution to dangerous sea level rise by targeting the most vulnerable glaciers, especially those that could trigger a massive collapse of the ice sheets behind them.

A submarine wall big enough and wide enough could halt the flow of increasingly warm ocean water below the front of each glacier. The combination of warmer air temperatures and warmer waters that accompany human-triggered climate change is dangerous: it could for instance accelerate the already alarming retreat of the Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica, which alone shores up enough ice to raise global sea levels by up to 3 metres.

The scientists don’t propose an immediate start. But they do want to explore ways of halting sea level rise driven by global warming that could soon be costing the world $50 trillion a year in economic losses, that could submerge small island states and turn 1 million people a year into climate migrants.

“We are not advocating that glacial geoengineering be attempted any time soon”, they warn in the journal The Cryosphere.

Their simplest option – a series of pillars to shore up a targeted glacier and keep it “grounded” – would require engineering comparable in scale to the excavation of the Suez canal, would be undertaken in the world’s harshest environment, and would have just a one in three chance of success.

“In the long run we need plans to deal with the committed climate changes that are already in the pipeline, one of which may be an ice sheet collapse”

The researchers – John Moore, of Beijing Normal University in China, who also holds a post at the University of Lapland in Finland, and Michael Wolovick, of Princeton University in the US – have made this case before: they and others argued in March in Nature for what they call “managed collapse.”

In the latest study, they look at the challenge in greater detail. And they warn that even if targeted geoengineering of individual glaciers worked, it would only do so if humans stopped tipping ever more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere to fuel yet more global warming.

Nor do they argue that a submarine curtain wall to halt warming water across the front of the Thwaites glacier – up to 100 kms wide – is currently feasible. “But in the long run we need plans to deal with the committed climate changes that are already in the pipeline, one of which may be an ice sheet collapse.”

And one of these is the Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica: another is the Jakobshaven Isbrae in Greenland. Both could be cases of what the scientists call marine ice sheet instability: as a glacier retreats from its grounding line, the ice lifts off the bedrock and begins to float.

If the bedrock slopes down towards the centre of the ice sheet, and warmer ocean currents wash beneath it, then the ice starts to stretch and thin, and retreat further. At some point, it would become much easier for thawing ice to flow into the sea, and start what could become a runaway collapse. Engineers could devise a way of slowing or halting the process.

Huge impact

The scientists argue that even a rise of 0.6m to 1.2 metres by 2100 could cause up to $50 trillion in economic damage, and the resultant flooding could force up to 200 million to 500 million people out of their homes at least for a few days or weeks: around a million or so every year would never go back.

Climate scientists have been arguing about geoengineering solutions – the so-called technofix – to climate change for more than a decade. Global answers, such as blocking sunlight with stratospheric soot and sulphate aerosols, or whitening the polar ice to make it more reflective, remain contentious.

But the Cryosphere proposals are much more limited, and the immediate dangers of sea level rise are not contested. Ice sheet collapse in Antarctica, for instance, could raise sea levels by more than 3 metres and even by as much as 19 metres over the next two or three centuries.

The researchers’ calculations suggest that in theory an engineering solution that blocked even 50% of the warm water getting under a glacier could offer a 70% chance of delaying or stopping ice sheet collapse.

Left behind

Countries already spend on coastal protection: their solution would require international co-operation at the highest political level, and intensive scientific research.

“Managing sea level rise at the source has the advantage of benefiting the entire world, while a strategy that relies only on local coastal protection is more of an every-nation-for-itself approach that may leave many poor countries behind,” they write.

“Perhaps, after careful consideration, we may conclude that glacial geoengineering is unworkable and the right answer is to invest heavily in coastal protection and retreat inland where that is not practical or economical.

“However, we owe it to the 400 million people who live within 5m of sea level to at least consider the alternatives.”

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Trump Is Lying About Hurricane Michael

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan.

Draw a straight, 2,400-mile line from the tar sands oil extraction fields in northern Alberta, Canada, to the Florida Panhandle, just ravaged by Hurricane Michael, and the halfway point will fall in Clearwater County, Minnesota, the source of the Mississippi River. Although many miles apart, these places are inexorably linked – by climate change. Fossil fuel extraction from the Alberta tar sands drives global warming, which in turn increases the destructive power and frequency of storms like Hurricane Michael. And rural Clearwater County served as the site of another phenomenon linked to human-induced climate change: resistance. Three courageous citizens engaged in nonviolent direct action broke into a fenced enclosure owned by Enbridge, one of the world’s largest oil pipeline operators, and turned the valves, shutting down the flow of tar sands oil.

On Oct. 11, 2016, less than a month before the momentous U.S. election that delivered the presidency to climate change denier Donald Trump, these three activists approached a valve station in Leonard, Minnesota. Emily Johnston and Annette Klapstein, wearing hard hats and bright fluorescent vests, used chain cutters to open the gate and to unlock the hand-operated valves. The third person called Enbridge to let the company know that the pipelines were about to be shut down so they could take immediate action to avoid pressure buildup in the pipeline.

“For the sake of climate justice, to ensure a future for human civilization, we must immediately halt the extraction and burning of Canadian tar sands,” Benjamin Joldersma said into the phone. “For safety, I am calling to inform you that when I hang up this phone, we are closing the valves. Please shut down these two pipelines now, for safety and for our future.”

There were three other similar actions that day, in Montana, North Dakota and Washington state, all organized, along with the Minnesota protest, by the group Climate Direct Action. The goal of the four coordinated actions was to shut down all tar sands oil delivery from Canada into the United States, and it succeeded, according to the organizers. Tar sands oil is the world’s dirtiest petroleum; it is energy- and water-intensive to extract, and the sprawling, open-pit mining operations form a gray-black, toxic wasteland in the midst of Alberta’s vast boreal forests.

This multistate nonviolent civil disobedience had another motive, as well: to attempt to present a “defense of necessity” — that is, the defendants would acknowledge that they broke a law, but they did so out of necessity to prevent a far greater harm from occurring. “Valve turner” Annette Klapstein is a retired attorney for the Puyallup Tribe and member of the Raging Grannies. Speaking on the “Democracy Now!” news hour, she explained the theory behind the necessity defense:

“The example that’s usually used is there’s a burning building and there’s a child in it. You break in and save the child but are charged with burglary, and you come out and say, ‘Well, yes, technically I did commit burglary because I had to break in. But I did it to save a child’s life.’ And we have a planet that’s on fire. And all of our children are going to burn if we don’t do something about it.”

Their trial commenced two years later, almost to the day, at the Clearwater County Courthouse in Bagley, Minnesota. In a major surprise, the judge accepted a defense motion to acquit the defendants. They were declared not guilty before the trial even got going.

Emily Johnston, co-founder of 350Seattle.org, was glad to avoid prison, but disappointed that they couldn’t put climate change on trial. Among the experts who were slated to testify on behalf of the defendants was climate scientist James Hansen, former head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

Hansen testified before Congress about the threat of global warming in 1988. He supports civil disobedience to confront the fossil fuel industry, and has been arrested five times himself. “We see already the beginnings of more extreme events, stronger storms, greater droughts, increasing fires. But these are just a small beginning of what’s in store for our children and grandchildren,” he said on “Democracy Now!,” seated next to Johnston and Klapstein.

The day before they were acquitted, just before Hurricane Michael slammed into the Florida Panhandle, the United Nations released a ground-breaking report from the Nobel Peace Prize-winning IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). The nearly 100 scientists who wrote it, concluded in no uncertain terms that we have about twelve years to radically reduce our carbon emissions, or we’ll be locked into a trajectory that will be devastating to humanity and all life on Earth.

President Trump says the government is doing all it can for the victims of Hurricane Michael. Once again, he is lying. By denying climate change, he is assuring many more increasingly devastating storms and countless victims to come.

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Even If We Limit Global Warming, Fire and Drought Will Remain Threats

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Tim Radford / Climate News Network.

The most limited rise in global temperatures, never mind higher ones, is going to exact a price through fire and drought. Even assuming the world keeps to its Paris promise to contain average planetary temperature increases to “well below 2°C” by 2100, drought conditions in China will intensify ten or 20-fold, according to new research.

And even if this warming, driven by ever increasing emissions of greenhouse gases from burning coal, oil and gas, is held to the implicit ambition of no more than 1.5°C above the average for most of human history, the area charred by wildfires each summer in Europe could increase by 40%, according to a separate study.

If the temperatures continue to rise to as much as 3°C by the century’s end, the area covered by charred foliage and smoking tree trunks could rise by 100%.

The temperature targets are important because 195 nations agreed in 2015 at a UN conference in Paris to limit greenhouse gas emissions and hold planetary average temperatures to if possible 1.5°C and certainly no more than 2°C.

3°C in prospect

In the last century or so, increasing ratios of carbon dioxide in the planet’s atmosphere have lifted average temperatures by about 1°C already, and although almost all nations have announced plans to switch to solar and wind power for future energy sources, and to restore the forests that absorb carbon, the world still seems on course for a rise to 3°C by the end of the century.

Politicians and climate sceptics argue that action to contain global warming will be expensive. But over and over again, climate science research continues to demonstrate that inaction could be even more expensive.

China is now the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Scientists from China, Poland and Germany report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that they used computer simulations and a range of climate change forecasts to model what could happen to rainfall and vegetation in China over the next 80 years, and then tried to calculate the effect on China’s developing economy.

Between 1949 and 2017, drought affected crops over an area of more than 2 million square kilometres – this is one sixth of the country’s arable land. And between 1984 and 2017, direct economic losses reached more than $7bn a year, at 2015 prices.

“Limiting global warming to 1.5°C can strongly reduce the increase of burned area”

If the temperature stabilises at a 1.5°C increase, losses compared to the period 1986-2005 will increase tenfold. Compared to the immediate past of 2006-2015, the study estimates that losses will still rise threefold. And should the temperature go beyond 1.5°C to 2°C, average drought loss could double again.

Studies such as these simply match what has happened in the past with what could happen in the future – always provided that things continue as they seem to be proceeding now. The studies can deliver only very broad-brush outlines of the shapes of things to come.

Higher average temperatures will mean ever more pronounced extremes of drought and rainfall, and a study earlier this year warned that, in China alone, catastrophic flooding as a consequence of climate change could cost the country $380bn over the next 20 years.

Europe, too, the same study argued, would suffer significant losses as a consequence of climate change. Another such study in 2017 estimated that climate change – and the attendant hazards of flood, drought, wildfire and heatwaves – could threaten 350 million Europeans every year.

Consistent pattern

Forest and scrub fires char on average about 4,500 square kilometres of Mediterranean Europe every year: in 2017, there were damaging blazes in France, Italy, Portugal and Spain, with human casualties and extensive ecological and economic losses.

Now new research led by Spanish scientists and reported in the journal Nature Communications uses computer simulations and available data to take a look at the fires next time, as the temperatures rise.

The authors warn that even though there are large uncertainties in such projections, there is also a consistent pattern: the higher the temperatures, the more sustained the droughts, and the larger the areas that will be incinerated.

They do offer a palliative solution, though. “Limiting global warming to 1.5°C can strongly reduce the increase of burned area,” they say.

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CNN Perpetuates Common Climate Change Myth

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Naomi LaChance.

CNN drew the ire of environmentalists Tuesday by focusing its discussion of climate change on what individuals can do without addressing the influence of corporations’ greenhouse gas emissions.

Solutions such as vegetarianism, public transit and smart home appliances ultimately pale in comparison to the harm caused by fossil fuels. The cable news outlet borrowed its suggestions from a report that published Monday from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which found the planet is at risk of extreme drought, wildfires, floods and food shortages by 2030. The panel listed a number of ways in which individuals could reduce their carbon footprint. But solving our climate crisis isn’t quite so simple.

It may feel helpful, even soothing, to think small cultural changes could make a huge difference. A study published last year found that since 1988, 100 companies are responsible for more than 70 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The highest-emitting corporations included ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and Chevron. Collectively, these four companies are responsible for 6.49 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The U.N. report suggests reducing the amount of meat you eat. A vegetarian diet does create a reduced carbon footprint, but on the other hand, fruits and vegetables are more likely to be wasted. Although the livestock industry is responsible for a large portion of greenhouse gas emissions, even vegan foods, such as rice, can have a large carbon footprint.

The report also recommends making homes more environmentally friendly. As I’ve written before, changes such as solar panels and smart-home thermometers can have a positive impact, but they are also prohibitively expensive for many people. Meanwhile, low-income communities are experiencing the consequences of climate change every day through pollution in the air and water, and are more vulnerable to extreme weather events.

Individual action appears to be tethered to an imagined reality. Take, for example, the growing movement to address ocean pollution by banning plastic straws.

“The fixation is weird,” writes David M. Perry in Pacific Standard, adding that it shames disabled people for whom plastic straws are a huge help:

<blockquote>There’s nothing wrong with pushing people to be more environmentally conscious. But individual action is not going to save our oceans. Our industrial systems continue to flood waste facilities with plastics, big and small. From there, plastics flow into rivers and streams and are carried into the sea. We need to look at the systems that generate these plastics, and hold producers financially responsible for safe disposal. Let’s put our efforts where the money is, rather than shaming disabled consumers who just want an accessible drink of water.</blockquote>

The reality is that fossil fuels are destroying our planet, and no amount of solar panels and lifestyle changes will save it if major culprits aren’t held accountable.

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UN Report on Climate Change Carries Life-or-Death Warning

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by SETH BORENSTEIN / The Associated Press.

Preventing an extra single degree of heat could make a life-or-death difference in the next few decades for multitudes of people and ecosystems on this fast-warming planet, an international panel of scientists reported Sunday. But they provide little hope the world will rise to the challenge.

The Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its gloomy report at a meeting in Incheon, South Korea.

In the 728-page document, the U.N. organization detailed how Earth’s weather, health and ecosystems would be in better shape if the world’s leaders could somehow limit future human-caused warming to just 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit (a half degree Celsius) from now, instead of the globally agreed-upon goal of 1.8 degrees F (1 degree C). Among other things:

— Half as many people would suffer from lack of water.

— There would be fewer deaths and illnesses from heat, smog and infectious diseases.

— Seas would rise nearly 4 inches (0.1 meters) less.

— Half as many animals with back bones and plants would lose the majority of their habitats.

— There would be substantially fewer heat waves, downpours and droughts.

— The West Antarctic ice sheet might not kick into irreversible melting.

— And it just may be enough to save most of the world’s coral reefs from dying.

“For some people this is a life-or-death situation without a doubt,” said Cornell University climate scientist Natalie Mahowald, a lead author on the report.

Limiting warming to 0.9 degrees from now means the world can keep “a semblance” of the ecosystems we have. Adding another 0.9 degrees on top of that — the looser global goal — essentially means a different and more challenging Earth for people and species, said another of the report’s lead authors, Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, director of the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland, Australia.

But meeting the more ambitious goal of slightly less warming would require immediate, draconian cuts in emissions of heat-trapping gases and dramatic changes in the energy field. While the U.N. panel says technically that’s possible, it saw little chance of the needed adjustments happening.

In 2010, international negotiators adopted a goal of limiting warming to 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) since pre-industrial times. It’s called the 2-degree goal. In 2015, when the nations of the world agreed to the historic Paris climate agreement, they set dual goals: 2 degrees C and a more demanding target of 1.5 degrees C from pre-industrial times. The 1.5 was at the urging of vulnerable countries that called 2 degrees a death sentence.

The world has already warmed 1 degree C since pre-industrial times, so the talk is really about the difference of another half-degree C or 0.9 degrees F from now.

“There is no definitive way to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 above pre-industrial levels,” the U.N.-requested report said. More than 90 scientists wrote the report, which is based on more than 6,000 peer reviews.

“Global warming is likely to reach 1.5 degrees C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate,” the report states.

Deep in the report, scientists say less than 2 percent of 529 of their calculated possible future scenarios kept warming below the 1.5 goal without the temperature going above that and somehow coming back down in the future.

The pledges nations made in the Paris agreement in 2015 are “clearly insufficient to limit warming to 1.5 in any way,” one of the study’s lead authors, Joerj Roeglj of the Imperial College in London, said.

“I just don’t see the possibility of doing the one and a half” and even 2 degrees looks unlikely, said Appalachian State University environmental scientist Gregg Marland, who isn’t part of the U.N. panel but has tracked global emissions for decades for the U.S. Energy Department. He likened the report to an academic exercise wondering what would happen if a frog had wings.

Yet report authors said they remain optimistic.

Limiting warming to the lower goal is “not impossible but will require unprecedented changes,” U.N. panel chief Hoesung Lee said in a news conference in which scientists repeatedly declined to spell out just how feasible that goal is. They said it is up to governments to decide whether those unprecedented changes are acted upon.

“We have a monumental task in front of us, but it is not impossible,” Mahowald said earlier. “This is our chance to decide what the world is going to look like.”

To limit warming to the lower temperature goal, the world needs “rapid and far-reaching” changes in energy systems, land use, city and industrial design, transportation and building use, the report said. Annual carbon dioxide pollution levels that are still rising now would have to drop by about half by 2030 and then be near zero by 2050. Emissions of other greenhouse gases, such as methane, also will have to drop. Switching away rapidly from fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas to do this could be more expensive than the less ambitious goal, but it would clean the air of other pollutants. And that would have the side benefit of avoiding more than 100 million premature deaths through this century, the report said.

“Climate-related risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security and economic growth are projected to increase with global warming” the report said, adding that the world’s poor are more likely to get hit hardest.

Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer said extreme weather, especially heat waves, will be deadlier if the lower goal is passed.

Meeting the tougher-to-reach goal “could result in around 420 million fewer people being frequently exposed to extreme heat waves, and about 65 million fewer people being exposed to exceptional heat waves,” the report said. The deadly heat waves that hit India and Pakistan in 2015 will become practically yearly events if the world reaches the hotter of the two goals, the report said.

Coral and other ecosystems are also at risk. The report said warmer water coral reefs “will largely disappear.”

The outcome will determine whether “my grandchildren would get to see beautiful coral reefs,” Princeton’s Oppenheimer said.

For scientists there is a bit of “wishful thinking” that the report will spur governments and people to act quickly and strongly, one of the panel’s leaders, German biologist Hans-Otto Portner, said. “If action is not taken it will take the planet into an unprecedented climate future.”

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A Mother’s Thoughts at the Verge of Global Annihilation

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Frida Berrigan / TomDispatch.

“I don’t want to live in a world without cheetahs, Mom.”

Seamus loves cheetahs and what’s not to love — unless you are a Thomson’s gazelle? Cheetahs are the fastest mammals on the planet, formidable predators, sleek, saucy looking, and they even have spots.

My six-year-old boy can’t imagine a future without his favorite animal, but we live in the small city of New London, Connecticut. Unlike coyotes, cheetahs are, to say the least, rare here. The nearest zoo is more than an hour away. I’m not sure where his love for cheetahs came from, since he doesn’t watch much television, not even nature shows. Still, here we are, my six-year-old boy and me talking about those cheetahs and the end of nature on a Sunday morning.

His observation actually turned out to be remarkably on point when it comes to our current situation, globally and environmentally. He made it during a week in which nature was hitting back hard. If cheetahs are indeed endangered, so were surprising numbers of human beings that week as killer storms struck from the Philippines to North Carolina. With rage and rain, an increasingly overheated, climate-changed Mother Nature briefly reclaimed some of her territory, which we had defiled, dividing it up into endlessly buildable lots all the way to the high-tide line, pocking it with hog farms, studding it with nuclear power plants. Hurricane Florence and Super TyphoonMangkhut flooded the works, making the whole sodden mess hers again, at least for a time, and sending a signal about what humans and cheetahs are up against in the decades to come.

Unlike Seamus, I haven’t given cheetahs much thought. Still, after he expressed his worries about that cat and his life, I did a little research. Cheetahs, you won’t be surprised to learn, live throughout Africa (northern, eastern, and southern), as well as — and this was news to me — in India and Iran. There are only seven or eight thousand cheetahsleft on Earth. Once upon a time (and not so long ago) there must have been 100,000. They are speedy and range widely over their habitats. They want to move. They are also killed as pests by farmers, taken as trophies by big-game hunters, and regularly hit by cars careening down the growing number of roads crisscrossing their territories.

Headed Toward Oblivion

I’ve never seen a cheetah in real life. Neither has my son. And, if truth be told, I’m no cheetah champion either. I don’t even particularly like tabby cats. Still, I found that, in the wake of our conversation, I didn’t want to live in a world without them either.

In 2012, when Seamus was born, 196 species of mammals were already “critically endangered,” the animals closest to extinction. Today 199 are in this most endangered category and 37 more species than when he was born are “endangered,” the next level down, according to the “Red Lists” maintained by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. We don’t see this dramatic decline of species variety in our little corner of the world. It’s all squirrels and raccoons here and they seem to be winning always, but what scientists are calling “the sixth extinction” is as real as the possum now going through my recycling bin.

From cheetahs and other endangered big mammals, it’s only a short hop to what environmental reporter Elizabeth Kolbert says are “a third of all fresh-water mollusks, a third of sharks and rays,[…] a fifth of all reptiles, and a sixth of all birds” that are “headed toward oblivion.” And it’s but another short hop to other forms of obliteration and climate collapse, including the rapid decline of coral reefs, the growth of ocean dead zones, the retreat of sub-Arctic boreal forests, the “new-normal” of a raging fire season, the cracking and melting of what was once the strongest ice in the Arctic…

I could, of course, go on, but the mind shudders. Or thought of another way, the mind shutters. It forms a protective shell against what it can’t truly take in — or, at least, what it can’t comprehend without radical change.

Seamus and I could head deeper into the world of the potentially vanishing cheetah. I could find a cheetah sanctuary in southern Africa and encourage him to use his piggy bank coins to “adopt” one of those cats. But I haven’t gone there yet. I haven’t told him why cheetahs are teetering on the edge of oblivion. We haven’t started talking about why people kill such animals for sport or how increasingly few truly wild corners of this planet are left for “wild animals.”

Still, I must admit that, after our conversation, I started to wonder why I hadn’t taken his cheetah angst and turned it into the sort of teachable moment that parents are supposed to love when it comes to all that’s wrong in the world. Could my mind have been shuddering and shuttering at the same time? Might I have feared sinking into an abiding helplessness in the face of catastrophic climate change and passing that on to my son?

I mean… what in the world can I — or Seamus — really do about the fate of the cheetah? About the fate of the whole miraculous wild world? What in the world could I really teach my child to do?

I don’t want you to think that our family does nothing. My husband and I do what we can and frame it for our kids in the context of ecological responsibility. We live below the poverty line in intentional simplicity. We grow vegetables and conserve water. We eat a largely vegetarian diet, compost, and brew our own beer. We have solar panels and we shower only when necessary. We live in a dense urban area and can both walk to work. We don’t fly a lot and drive only when necessary. None of these are exactly radical sacrifices, but they are not nothing either.

Still, they aren’t faintly enough to save the cheetahs… or ourselves, for that matter.

Two Minutes to Midnight

Remembering my own fears as a six year-old, my son’s seem decontextualized and vague. And thank God for that. As a child, I lived in concentrated, daily, physical dread of nuclear war.

When I was six years old, in 1980, the Cold War was still a hot worry and, for reasons I’ll explain, I already lived in terror of becoming extinct.

In that very year, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the hands of its famed Doomsday Clock from nine to seven minutes to nuclear midnight, chiding the Soviet Union and the United States for acting like “‘nucleo-holics, drunks who continue to insist that the drink being consumed is positively ‘the last one,’ but who can always find a good excuse for ‘just one more round.’”

In the spring of 1979, my family and I had driven from our home in Baltimore to the mountains of West Virginia to stay with friends after the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania suffered a critical meltdown. We lived less than a two-hour drive from that ill-fated plant, which went critical on March 28th — just days before my fifth birthday. We stayed with our friends for two weeks. I have a vague memory that their similarly aged daughter and I had the same flowered corduroy overalls and bonded over how painful wearing our hair in pigtails could be.

But mostly I was afraid. So afraid. Nuclear disaster seemed both real and imminent to me then — and no wonder I felt that way. My parents, Phil Berrigan and Liz McAlister, were well-known antinuclear activists, as well as members of a radical Christian community of people committed to nonviolent resistance to war and nuclear culture. In those days, it seemed to me that all they did was focus on nuclear weapons and nuclear power, while experimenting with different ways to get other people to acknowledge the terrible danger we were all in. Their daily focus was on rising up against those who were making the bad decisions that left this planet prone to a nuclear Armageddon instead of ensuring a future for all of us.

At six, I already had a front row seat at their experiments. Or, more accurately, there were no seats. Like everyone else, I stood. Over and over and over again, I watched as my parents and their friends and fellow travelers in the peace movement of that time made dramatic, noisy, provocative messes all over Washington, D.C., and beyond. They dug graves on the parade ground at the Pentagon. They made giant cardboard warheads painted with the American and Soviet flags and set them afire in front of the building that housed the Pentagon’s nuclear division.

Men dressed as specters screamed, moaned, and laughed maniacally, while other friends dusted themselves with ashes and writhed on the ground in front of the White House. Women cut off their hair and burned it in a bowl on the steps of the Pentagon’s river entrance (from which I can still conjure up the cloying, sick smell of nuclear death that wafted over us that morning). I can remember my father — more than once — pulling a bottle of blood from his coat pocket and hurling it as high as he could at the pillars of the Pentagon, so that it would drip dramatically down the white marble.

My parents and their friends made such messes at least 100 times in attempting to remind a distracted public that nuclear war could be imminent and that it was both unwinnable and close to inevitable unless the two superpowers made the decision to disarm. I certainly wasn’t their target audience, but I doubt anyone saw what they did more often than me. Most people — even Pentagon employees — caught such mini-spectacles just once or twice a year. I saw it repeatedly and nearly 40 years later, I’m still freaking out about it.

After all, today the danger isn’t the mutual assured destruction tango of the massive superpowers. There are nine nuclear weapons states with an estimated 14,500 nuclear weapons and quarrels aplenty between some of them. Just imagine that in a “limited” nuclear war between India and Pakistan up to 20 million people could die from the blasts, fire, and radiation, while a nuclear winter could be triggered in which, it is believed, up to a billion people might starve to death. And keep in mind that the technology has been democratized to a point where some analysts fear that a “dirty bomb” detonated by some non-state actor might be more likely than an Israeli or Pakistani nuclear strike or, for that matter, a post-Cold War faceoff between the Russians or the Chinese and ourselves.

Keep in mind as well that we’re no longer at seven minutes to nuclear midnight. We’re now at two minutes, according to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and the clock is still ticking. As the president and CEO of that publication put it at the beginning of this year: “In 2017, world leaders failed to respond effectively to the looming threats of nuclear war and climate change, making the world security situation more dangerous than it was a year ago — and as dangerous as it has been since World War II.”

Hope, Not Fear

Some people find the prospect of Trump’s small hands on the nuclear button particularly unsettling, but the capacity to destroy the world and the notion that a nuclear war might in any sense be winnable made Washington a “crazytown” long before he hit the Oval Office. The United States may not have detonated a nuclear warhead as an act of war since August 1945, but it’s spent an incredible fortune endlessly developing its nuclear arsenal and continues to do so. The 30-year “modernization” of that arsenal alone (started under the president who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his urge to abolish them) is expected to cost some $1.7 trillion dollars. And the U.S. has already been spending about $20 billion a year to maintain the U.S. nuclear advantage and that is set to increase under President Trump.

As the dangers and the dollars rise, nuclear weapons aren’t even a concern or a preoccupation around here, much less a worry. They represent little but minor background noise in this country. Catastrophic climate change is so much more likely to claim front-page real estate these days with the epic storms, fires, and floods that occur ever more often. But the big question is: What do we do about it (especially in the age of Donald Trump)? How do we conquer our fears with action? And what kind of action will that be?

Those are hard questions to answer. My parents answered them one way and even though their answers terrified me, I appreciate that they tried — and that, at 78, my mother is still trying. (She is in jail now, awaiting trial for trespass and property destruction at the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in Georgia.)

Save the cheetahs almost seems simple by comparison!

The human polluting of the planet with the emissions from the burning of fossil fuels represents a slower-paced Armageddon than the red-button pushing “we begin bombing in five minutes” of thermonuclear warfare. But they are both too big for any one of us to hold alone: me or you or my six-year-old son. Today, at 44, facing a world in which there are now two forms of potential humanly induced global annihilation — the fast and slow ones — I don’t simply want to dump them on Seamus.

It’s true that the last decades have brought us closer to the nuclear brink even as the world slowly warms toward another kind of annihilation entirely, but for so many, fear doesn’t activate. It doesn’t lead to meaningful change. In fact, it’s just as likely to shutter us all in.

So I don’t want my son’s fears to be my starting point — or his. I want to start with his love, his hope. Save the cheetahs!

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U.N. Panel Warns on Climate Change: It’s Life or Death

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by SETH BORENSTEIN / The Associated Press.

WASHINGTON — Preventing an extra single degree of heat could make a life-or-death difference in the next few decades for multitudes of people and ecosystems on this fast-warming planet, an international panel of scientists reported Sunday. But they provide little hope the world will rise to the challenge.

The Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its gloomy report at a meeting in Incheon, South Korea.

In the 728-page document, the U.N. organization detailed how Earth’s weather, health and ecosystems would be in better shape if the world’s leaders could somehow limit future human-caused warming to just 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit (a half degree Celsius) from now, instead of the globally agreed-upon goal of 1.8 degrees F (1 degree C). Among other things:

— Half as many people would suffer from lack of water.

— There would be fewer deaths and illnesses from heat, smog and infectious diseases.

— Seas would rise nearly 4 inches (0.1 meters) less.

— Half as many animals with back bones and plants would lose the majority of their habitats.

— There would be substantially fewer heat waves, downpours and droughts.

— The West Antarctic ice sheet might not kick into irreversible melting.

— And it just may be enough to save most of the world’s coral reefs from dying.

“For some people this is a life-or-death situation without a doubt,” said Cornell University climate scientist Natalie Mahowald, a lead author on the report.

Limiting warming to 0.9 degrees from now means the world can keep “a semblance” of the ecosystems we have. Adding another 0.9 degrees on top of that — the looser global goal — essentially means a different and more challenging Earth for people and species, said another of the report’s lead authors, Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, director of the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland, Australia.

But meeting the more ambitious goal of slightly less warming would require immediate, draconian cuts in emissions of heat-trapping gases and dramatic changes in the energy field. While the U.N. panel says technically that’s possible, it saw little chance of the needed adjustments happening.

In 2010, international negotiators adopted a goal of limiting warming to 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) since pre-industrial times. It’s called the 2-degree goal. In 2015, when the nations of the world agreed to the historic Paris climate agreement, they set dual goals: 2 degrees C and a more demanding target of 1.5 degrees C from pre-industrial times. The 1.5 was at the urging of vulnerable countries that called 2 degrees a death sentence.

The world has already warmed 1 degree C since pre-industrial times, so the talk is really about the difference of another half-degree C or 0.9 degrees F from now.

“There is no definitive way to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 above pre-industrial levels,” the U.N.-requested report said. More than 90 scientists wrote the report, which is based on more than 6,000 peer reviews.

“Global warming is likely to reach 1.5 degrees C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate,” the report states.

Deep in the report, scientists say less than 2 percent of 529 of their calculated possible future scenarios kept warming below the 1.5 goal without the temperature going above that and somehow coming back down in the future.

The pledges nations made in the Paris agreement in 2015 are “clearly insufficient to limit warming to 1.5 in any way,” one of the study’s lead authors, Joerj Roeglj of the Imperial College in London, said.

“I just don’t see the possibility of doing the one and a half” and even 2 degrees looks unlikely, said Appalachian State University environmental scientist Gregg Marland, who isn’t part of the U.N. panel but has tracked global emissions for decades for the U.S. Energy Department. He likened the report to an academic exercise wondering what would happen if a frog had wings.

Yet report authors said they remain optimistic.

Limiting warming to the lower goal is “not impossible but will require unprecedented changes,” U.N. panel chief Hoesung Lee said in a news conference in which scientists repeatedly declined to spell out just how feasible that goal is. They said it is up to governments to decide whether those unprecedented changes are acted upon.

“We have a monumental task in front of us, but it is not impossible,” Mahowald said earlier. “This is our chance to decide what the world is going to look like.”

To limit warming to the lower temperature goal, the world needs “rapid and far-reaching” changes in energy systems, land use, city and industrial design, transportation and building use, the report said. Annual carbon dioxide pollution levels that are still rising now would have to drop by about half by 2030 and then be near zero by 2050. Emissions of other greenhouse gases, such as methane, also will have to drop. Switching away rapidly from fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas to do this could be more expensive than the less ambitious goal, but it would clean the air of other pollutants. And that would have the side benefit of avoiding more than 100 million premature deaths through this century, the report said.

“Climate-related risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security and economic growth are projected to increase with global warming” the report said, adding that the world’s poor are more likely to get hit hardest.

Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer said extreme weather, especially heat waves, will be deadlier if the lower goal is passed.

Meeting the tougher-to-reach goal “could result in around 420 million fewer people being frequently exposed to extreme heat waves, and about 65 million fewer people being exposed to exceptional heat waves,” the report said. The deadly heat waves that hit India and Pakistan in 2015 will become practically yearly events if the world reaches the hotter of the two goals, the report said.

Coral and other ecosystems are also at risk. The report said warmer water coral reefs “will largely disappear.”

The outcome will determine whether “my grandchildren would get to see beautiful coral reefs,” Princeton’s Oppenheimer said.

For scientists there is a bit of “wishful thinking” that the report will spur governments and people to act quickly and strongly, one of the panel’s leaders, German biologist Hans-Otto Portner, said. “If action is not taken it will take the planet into an unprecedented climate future.”

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The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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