Monday, October 26, 2015

Paris Climate Talks: Now It’s Up to Turnbull to Save the Planet

Climate Talks
by , Renew Economy:

The last official round of negotiations before the Paris climate change talks have broken up in Bonn, with some progress made but a global climate deal still needing fresh impetus from political leaders to put the world on a course to rapidly decarbonise the global economy.

In Bonn, after a week of talks, a 20-page text was expanded to 63 pages, and will need to be cut back. But at least there appears to be agreement on what needs to be resolved. The principal blockages remain around the scale of ambition, and on issues such as finance and the concept of “loss and damage”.

The UN has what it says is a “manageable” text and a good “starting point” for negotiations. The text, say observers, has been expanded as each country or bloc inserts their own “bargaining” chip. They say it is now time for the leaders to step in.

Over the next few weeks a series of meetings will be held to try to resolve some of those issues. A pre-Paris ministerial meeting will take place in the French capital from November 8-10, which will be attended by environment minister Greg Hunt.

The G20 Heads of State will then meet in Turkey a few days later, followed by the Heads of State meeting of the Commonwealth (CHOGM) in Malta just before the Paris summit opens.

And it now seems clear that global leaders , including Turnbull, will be invited to be at Paris for the first few days of the talks in an endeavour to break any lingering political deadlock. Those talks will begin on November 30 and last for two weeks. Hunt and foreign minister Julie Bishop will also be in Paris at various points.

Paris should rival Copenhagen as an “event” and a spectacle. Nearly 50,000 people are expected to converge on the French capital for the talks - known as COP21 (they’ve been doing this for 21 years), and for numerous side events.

Australia’s own official delegation could total nearly 30. Another 60 NGOs and “BinGOs” (business types) will also be on the ground. And the media too. RenewEconomy, the only Australian media to cover the last three COPs, will also be there.

What’s at stake is becoming increasingly apparent. Failure at Paris will mean talks drifting aimlessly, possibly for years. Sealing a deal that locks in 2°C means trillions for the fossil fuel industry, because it will mean a major and rapid shift to clean technologies.

The move by the French hosts for an early intervention from political leaders is in complete contrast to the Copenhagen talks, which ended in disarray and confusion after leaders flying in at the last minute were unable to agree on the finer points of text.

Turnbull last week, in an interview with the Guardian, confirmed he will be attending the Paris talks. It will be a particularly poignant moment for him, because it was in the days leading up to the Copenhagen talks that Turnbull was rolled - as opposition leader - by Tony Abbott, over the very same issue.

Turnbull goes to Paris defending Abbott’s climate change policies – a 2030 emissions target that is described as weak, or modest at best, and a mechanism that no one outside of the Coalition seriously thinks will do the job.

This is a critical point for Australia. Turnbull also goes to Paris saying he wants an outcome that puts the world on a path to 2°C, so any effort to lift ambition will be consistent with that policy.

And Australia’s mechanisms, to date, simply consist of plucking emissions from accounting changes or government handouts. It is not yet setting the motions for a decarbonised economy.

As Erwin Jackson from the The Climate Institute notes: “That is the test for this government, and that is where government is trailing business. Business supports the concept of zero net emissions. It is time for the government to catch up.”

The Coalition’s target is for a 26 per cent reduction on 2005 levels by 2030, which represents a 19 per cent reduction on 2000 levels.

It says it will increase this target to 28 per cent if there is no economic fallout, but its own studies show minimal extra economic costs under a 45 per cent reduction target, and even that is based on inflated costs of renewable energy.

This is the opportunity that Turnbull has to help change the course of history. He can’t do it alone, but if more countries, such as Australia and Canada, take a proactive role, rather than dragging the chains, then an effective climate agreement can be achieved.

Turnbull, of course, insists that he takes climate change seriously. No doubt he will be less evangelistic, and hopefully less naive,  than Kevin Rudd, when the then Labor PM went to Copenhagen convinced he could broker a deal between China and the US, and was mortified when he could barely get a seat at the table.

Much has changed since then. China and the US have been working hard to put on a good show that they are taking climate change seriously. Both have put in tough policies to reduce emissions and force out the dirtiest coal-fired generation.

Environmental NGOs say that climate finance remains the elephant in the room: developing nations want more clarity and detail on the $100 billion promised annually by developed countries, and on boosting it after 2020.

Richer nations do not want to be locked into details. But at Bonn, 134 developing countries demanded that developed nations commit to scaling up public climate aid in December’s UN deal.

And, of course, there is the so called “pollution gap”. Right now, the pledges from more than 150 countries would place an upper limit of around 2.7°C if those plans were implemented. That is opposed to the agreed target of 2°C, and a major push from vulnerable nations and some scientists for 1.5°C.

That gap will almost certainly not be resolved at Paris, but it is likely that a mechanism that will encourage emitters to ratchet up their climate targets every five years will be agreed.

In the meantime, Bill Shorten has left for a tour of the Pacific Islands accusing Turnbull of selling them short on climate change.  Shorten’s criticism of the Coalition is valid, and Labor shows more ambition with its willingness to push (again) for an emissions trading scheme and a 50 per cent renewable energy target (they could go higher).

But the Pacific Islands will tell them that real action to protect the region will mean no new thermal coal mines, and Labor is emerging as an enthusiastic supporter of all new coal mines, including Carmichael, Shenhua and other extensions.

“The Australian government must help broker an agreement that is not just good for Australia, but will also protect and support poorer nations like our Pacific neighbours,” says Kellie Caught, campaigner with WWF.

“Actions speak louder than words - increasing Australia’s pollution reduction targets, and providing more finance to support poor countries ahead of Paris would send the right signals.”

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Rise, Fall and Return of 1.5°C in the Global Climate Negotiations

(Photo: Stephane de Sukutin/Getty Images)
by Joe Solomon, Common Dreams:

On December 16th 2009, two days before the Copenhagen Accord was issued, when there was still a scant sliver of hope for a legally binding treaty, the Prime Minister of Grenada Tillman Thomas took the microphone and called on world leaders to cement a deal with a 1.5 Celsius target.

Thomas called on all countries to protect low-lying island nations from being "swept away in the king wave of climate change" by keeping "temperature increases to well below 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels."

Thomas was speaking for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), a coalition of 44 island countries drawn from all the oceans of the world. By the time Thomas took the microphone, AOSIS had turned "1.5 to Stay Alive" into a unifying rallying cry for over 100 nations - searing an alliance between the Islands and the African bloc.

Desmond Tutu wrote, "A global goal of about 2 degrees is to condemn Africa to incineration." Two degrees represented, in a word, death. Or, as Bruno Sekoli of Lesotho, the then chair of the Least Developed Countries (LCDs) group, put it: 2 degrees would mean “unmanageable consequences - it will leave millions of people suffering from hunger, diseases, floods and water shortages.”

1.5 was the number that represented survival, hope, and unleashing a kind of global World War II-level mobilization to move beyond fossil fuels (after the attack on Pearl Harbor, it took 10 weeks for the US to completely halt car manufacturing, and begin the rapid switch to making aircraft bombers and heavy tanks for the war effort. Those 10 weeks also included the Christmas holiday season). 

The Fall of 1.5°C

Two days after the Prime Minister of Grenada made his plea to the world, President Obama took an overnight flight into Copenhagen and led the push for the Copenhagen Accord, a non-binding treaty with a 2 degree Celsius target at its masthead.

It’s been nearly 5 years since Copenhagen, and now 2 degrees is the darling target for the UN, developed countries, and even many climate activists. It’s a number that has pushed its way into the cultural mainstream, not unlike how the 350ppm target did in 2009. CNN’s John Sutter wrote this past May that 2 degrees is "the most important number you've never heard of." Sutter even launched a fully dedicated CNN column for how we achieve 2°C - named, simply, "two°."

In the last week, VICE, MTV, & Mashable all published articles mentioning the 2 degrees target, without a whisper of 1.5. Wire reports in the AP and Reuters also regularly leave out 1.5 degrees when defining success in Paris. So: what happened to “1.5 to Stay Alive”?

Well, for starters, 141 countries signed onto the Copenhagen Accord - adding their weight to the 2 degrees target. Getting that many countries to agree to something is rare, and creates its own kind of momentum. That momentum was further strengthened at the Cancun talks in 2010, and the Durban talks in 2011, while a review of the science of 1.5 degrees was consistently punted to some later date.

Strategy of 2°C

Two and a half years after Copenhagen, 2 degrees picked up further steam with Bill McKibben’s 2012 Rolling Stone article, "Global Warming's Terrifying New Math."

In the piece, McKibben lays out the flaws of the 2 degrees target. McKibben writes that “2 degrees is far too lenient a target” and amplifies then-NASA’s chief climate scientist James Hansen who said: "two degrees of warming is actually a prescription for long-term disaster." McKibben goes on to point out the consequences of 2 degrees: Island nations would “flat-out disappear,” and African nations would completely dry up.

Despite those intense warnings, however, McKibben ends with a kind of reluctant support of the number, writing, "it's fair to say that it's [2 degrees] the only thing about climate change the world has settled on … the official position of planet Earth at the moment is that we can't raise the temperature more than two degrees Celsius - it's become the bottomest of bottom lines. Two degrees."

Inspired by that Rolling Stone article, 2 degrees would go on to form the bedrock goal for the fossil fuel divestment movement that has since swept the world.’s launch website for divestment exclaimed, "It’s simple math: we can emit 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide and stay below 2°C of warming - anything more than that risks catastrophe for life on earth."

In April of this year, Naomi Klein told French news site BastaMag that 2 degrees is "a target that is already a very dangerous one for many communities. But it provides us with a global carbon budget."

The strategic purpose of shouldering the 2 degrees target seems rather clear: since world leaders already agree on 2 degrees - and since those leaders have historically been inclined to set the Earth on a course of varying degrees of hellish intensity far beyond 2 degrees, it’s a chance to hold their feet to the fire. You might say: You can leverage consensus far better than you can leverage a lofty hope.

UN Doubles Down on 2 Degrees; UN Scientists Cry Out

By now, 150 countries have submitted their pledges for the Paris climate talks, with the European Union saying it would only back a deal with 2 degrees cemented as its goal. UN climate leadership is also gung-ho for 2 degrees even as the UN climate chief Christiana Figueres is worried pledges so far won’t cut it, and will lead to a 3 degrees world.

Whenever a country submits their pledges for Paris, the UNFCCC (the UN climate body) issues a stock press announcement to celebrate and uses it as a chance to highlight the 2 degree goal.

Curiously, when countries submit pledges calling for the more audacious 1.5 target, the response is much different. The UN’s press announcement regarding Belize, for example, counters the country’s ambition by saying the Paris agreement will "empower all countries to act to prevent average global temperatures rising above 2 degrees Celsius."

More curious still, this past June the UN’s very own special expert investigation, tasked with examining the difference between a 1.5ºC and 2ºC limit, concluded that 2 degrees is "inadequate" as a safe limit and that 2 degrees could "hardly be seen as a 'guardrail' protecting us fully from dangerous anthropogenic interference." Two degrees would threaten "the very existence of some atoll nations" whereas 1.5 degrees may keep sea level rise to below 1 meter, perhaps preventing the outright drowning of  countries like Tuvalu and the Maldives.

Dr. Petra Tschakert, a member of the UN’s 1.5 vs. 2 investigative team (and a co-author of the UN’s latest climate report) points out that "the 2°C target will carry more extreme weather events such as floods, droughts, and heat waves" - calling all of those "utterly unacceptable risks … for poor and marginalized communities."

The UN working group in charge of reviewing their experts' findings on the disparities between 1.5 and 2 degrees is set to make a final call in the midst of the Paris negotiations.

Island Nations Hold Their Ground

Island Nations, while not quite as unified as they were in 2009, aren’t done fighting for the target they believe is a necessity to their survival. The Marshall Islands Foreign Minister told the World Post in September: “We want to keep everything under 2 degrees - under 1.5 degrees, if possible …”.

A roundtable of Pacific Islands passed the Suva Declaration in September as a way to inject 1.5 back into the negotiations. The President of Fiji then took the microphone at the United Nations to plea for limiting “global average temperature increase to less than 1.5 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels” - mentioning that Fiji has “plans to move some 45 villages to higher ground, and we have already started.”

Last week, an alliance of Caribbean Islands partnered with a renowned poet in Saint Lucia to launch a "1.5 to Stay Alive campaign," calling on Island artists to lend their voice. And AOSIS has publicly stayed firm. Their latest post from late September states: “AOSIS has long contended that ‘well below 1.5 degrees Celsius’ is the right global goal to be aiming for, which is evident in the latest science, the UN’s own scientific review, and the extent of the extreme weather we are witnessing on every continent.”

This past May, Phillipines climate minister, Mary Ann Lucille L. Sering, asked, "How can we possibly subscribe to more than double current warming given what less than 1°C has entailed?" Just this past weekend, Typhoon Koppu came bearing down on the Philippines - sending over twenty thousand people fleeing from floods and mudslides, and killing at least twelve. 

Will 1.5 Find New Life in Paris?

Will Paris see a return of the battle for 1.5 or will all the momentum go towards sealing the deal on 2 degrees? In a sense, the answer is multiple choice.

The latest Paris draft deal - released October 20th - leaves three options, holding global temperature [below 2°C], [below 2 or 1.5°C] or [below 1.5°C], each option literally tucked into brackets for future clarification (the final choice was literally just added in Bonn - 1.5°C as a standalone target choice was not in the draft earlier this month).

With most of the negotiating cards from delegates, scientists, and UN leadership already on the table - the main wild cards left to be seen will likely be played by civil society.

The "largest [acts of] climate civil disobedience" are on the calendar for December, and a global movement to "reclaim our power" is already showing its force around the globe. It may be fair to say the Paris summit will be ringed by the most colorful, massive protests and highly orchestrated shows of dissatisfaction of any of its kind in the past 20 years.

If Island Nations can forge their call with those voices coming from the streets, then perhaps 1.5°C - and the fate of the planet’s most vulnerable - may yet stand a fighting chance after all.

Joe Solomon is a co-founder of, and is the former social media coordinator for and Energy Action Coalition. Joe is the co-editor of "The Most Amazing Online Organizing Guide Ever." He currently lives in West Virginia.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Case for Fossil Fuel Divestment

Divestment is an important symbolic act for universities.
Divestment is an important symbolic act for universities
by Arran Gare, Swinburne University, The Fifth Estate:

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report of 2014, unless the world changes course immediately and dramatically, the fundamental systems that support human civilisation are at risk.

We can expect and are already beginning to see adverse effects on health and life, increasing regional conflicts, eroding social structures, general destabilisation and rising levels of violence.

A leaked report by Shell Oil Company observed that societies are not responding effectively to avert this impending crisis, and as a company it is planning for the consequences. It is well known that fossil fuel companies and their owners have played a major role in influencing government policies decisions, particularly in US and Australia, in preventing the required action being taken.

As a consequence of their political success, it is likely that hundreds of millions, and even billions of people will die, and the Earth in future will support only a fraction of the human population that it otherwise would. Under these circumstances, it is incumbent upon public institutions, and particularly universities, to do what they can to influence events. One way they can act is to divest their investments in fossil fuel companies.

It is important to do this for a number of reasons. Effective action to prevent climate destabilisation and a runaway greenhouse effect will involve moving to non-fossil fuel energy sources, which will radically decrease the profitability and value of companies involved in exploiting fossil fuels. If effective action is blocked, there could be significant financial gains to those who have invested in these companies.

It is important that public institutions are set up by an act of parliament that obliges them to serve the public good. They should not gain financially from having vested interests in the success of grossly immoral behaviour. Furthermore, they should avoid conditions where they could be corrupted further by having vested interests in outcomes contrary to the interests of humanity.

Divestment is also an important symbolic act. Symbolic acts function to anchor the ethical beliefs and behaviour of people, societies and civilisations. Their importance is often underestimated by calculating people who only think in terms of immediate practical outcomes, but there is ample evidence from the history of societies and civilisations that success is based on such symbolic acts, and when short-term calculation of effects of actions comes to dominate decision making, then societies and civilisation decay. That is, they become decadent.

The essence of such symbolic actions is that they are not based on such calculation. It is possible that by divesting from fossil fuel companies, the university will avoid losses caused by governments finally responding to the threat of climate destabilisation, or as a successful public relations exercise that could elevates the status of Swinburne and thereby its profit making capacity. However, these should not be the basis of decision-making or even be considered, as to do so would weaken the symbolic significance of acting ethically.

All such considerations should be put aside. We are at a crisis point in the history of humanity and civilisation. There is only one right way to act, to divest from all shareholdings in fossil fuel companies.

Arran Gare is associate professor in environmental philosophy at Swinburne University.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Rich Nations Failing to Meet Climate Obligations at Expense of Poor: Report

Rich countries which benefited from burning fossil fuels for centuries are not doing enough to prevent irreversible climate change. (Photo: Billy Wilson/flickr/cc)
Still burning fossil fuels (Photo: Billy Wilson/flickr/cc)
by Nadia Prupis, staff writer, Common Dreams:

The U.S. and other wealthy nations are not pulling their weight in the climate change fight and may be setting the world on an even more devastating climate track, a new report published Monday reveals.

Globally, governments' pledges to limit greenhouse gas emissions are not adequate to stave off an average surface temperature warming of 2°C, the agreed threshold to prevent irreparable global warming and extreme weather events, according to the report (pdf), Fair Shares: A Civil Society Equity Review of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), crafted by 18 civil society groups.

The groups, which include Friends of the Earth International and Oxfam, analyzed the pledges put forth ahead of time in early negotiations in Bonn, Germany this week by about 150 United Nations (UN) member states taking part in this year's COP21 climate talks in Paris and determined that the "ambition of all major developed countries falls well short of their fair shares."

While there is no official method of determining a nation's climate obligations, the civil society groups weighed the pledges against individual countries' economic wealth and historical contribution to global warming.

Because the U.S. and the European Union (EU) can afford to switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy, and because they have benefited financially from burning coal, oil, and natural gas for centuries, their pledges amount to roughly a fifth of what they owe on climate action, the coalition said. Japan has pledged a tenth, according to the same metrics.

Meanwhile, emerging nations were found to "exceed or broadly meet" their obligations. Kenya, China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, and the Marshall Islands are among the developing economies which are going beyond the call of duty.

"Emission cut pledges made by rich countries so far are less than half of what we need to avoid runaway climate change," said Susann Scherbarth, climate justice and energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe. "The draft Paris agreement on the negotiating table this week shows that many seem ready to accept irreversible and devastating consequences for people and the planet."

The talks in Bonn, which will continue until Friday, are the last chance for nations to finalize their climate pledges before COP21 talks commence on November 30. The civil society groups' full report will be published next month.

Brandon Wu of ActionAid added, "Across the board, rich countries are failing to bring the two most important ingredients to the negotiating table - emission cuts and money."

The coalition found more than the so-called "action gap." According to Friends of the Earth Scotland (FOES), wealthy nations may even be purposefully shirking their duties and shifting climate obligations onto their developing neighbors.

FOES head of campaigns Mary Church said, "What we are seeing as the Bonn talks open is rich countries setting the stage for a great climate getaway in which they shift the burden of responsibility for tackling the climate crisis onto the shoulders of the poor."

"If the deal that world leaders sign in Paris looks anything like the Bonn negotiating text, then world leaders will have wholly failed to respond to the urgency of climate science, let alone climate justice," Church said.

"Wealthy countries understand the need to tackle the climate crisis, but are stubbornly unwilling to respond to it in a fair and equitable way," Church continued. "As they stand, combined pledges put us on track for 3ºC warming which means devastating impacts for billions of the world's poorest people. Not only are developed countries delaying urgent action to curb climate emissions at home, they are also failing to provide necessary support and finance to developing countries to adapt to the impacts of climate crisis that are already being felt."

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

'Capitalism is Mother Earth's Cancer': World People's Summit Issues 12 Demands

"Caring for Mother Earth is a moral issue," UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon (left) told the World People's Conference on Saturday. "We must change how we use Mother Earth's resources, and live in a manner that is sustainable." Here, he is pictured with Bolivian President Evo Morales. (Photo: Reuters)
Ban ki-Moon and Evo Morales(Photo: Reuters)
by Deirdre Fulton, staff writer, Common Dreams:

Decrying capitalism as a "threat to life," an estimated 7,000 environmentalists, farmers, and Indigenous activists from 40 countries convened in the Bolivian town of Tiquipaya for this weekend's World People's Conference on Climate Change, aiming to elevate the demands of social movements and developing countries in the lead-up to upcoming United Nations-led climate talks.

"Capitalism is Mother Earth's cancer," Bolivian President Evo Morales told the crowd, which also heard over the course of the three-day conference from United Nations Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon as well as other Latin American leaders.

The people's summit, which concluded Monday afternoon, produced a 12-point declaration (Spanish) that will be presented during the COP21 climate negotiations taking place November 30-December 11 in Paris, France, during which 200 countries will attempt to cement an agreement to curb global warming.

The COP21 agenda has been criticized for its sidestepping of issues like the role of capitalism in climate change and for the robust involvement of multinational corporations in the talks. According to a translation, the Declaración de Tiquipaya calls for, among other things:
  • the creation of an international tribunal with "a binding legal capacity to prevent, prosecute and punish states that pollute and cause climate change by action or omission";
  • compensation from wealthy countries to developing nations for "climate, social, and ecological debt accumulated over time";
  • reclamation of the global commons; and
  • wholesale rejection of global capitalist and colonialist systems.
"We demand that the Paris Agreement does address the structural causes of capitalism," the declaration reads. "It does not have to be an agreement that reinforces the capitalist model, through more market mechanisms, allowing volunteer commitments, encouraging the private sector and strengthening patriarchy and neo-colonialism."

In advance of the Bolivia summit, the World People's Conference website elaborated further:
The world is being buffeted by multiple global crisis that manifests itself in a climate, financial, food, energy, institutional, cultural, ethical and spiritual crisis. These are the manifestations of unbridled consumerism and a model of society where the human being claims to be superior to Mother Earth ... it is a system characterized by the domination of the economy by gigantic transnational corporations whose targets are the accumulation of power and benefits, and for which the market values are more important than the lives of human beings and Mother Earth.
Though the establishment of an independent climate tribunal emerged as a central goal of the Bolivian summit, Reuters noted on Monday that the idea "is a non-starter with almost every other country going to the Paris talks."

Even the European Union, which as recently as December argued for a strong, legally binding deal, "is increasingly talking about a' pledge and review' system," Reuters wrote, "under which national commitments would be re-assessed every five years against a goal of halving world emissions by 2050."

As for Bolivia, teleSUR reports: "The South American nation has taken it upon itself to advocate for climate change issues on behalf of other developing nations," with environmental activist Moira Zuazo telling the publication that "70 percent of the Bolivian people say that development is less important than Mother Earth and we are listening to them."

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Top Indicators our Climate Change is Permanent

Can Positive Shrinkage Change the World, boomer warrior
Credit: World-Map-Face-Blue-Eyes-Images
by Rolly Montpellier, BoomerWarrior: 

As a Climate Reality Leader, I like to feature blog pieces from the multiple resources of the Climate Reality Project (Rolly Montpellier ~ BoomerWarrior Managing Editor).

How do we know our climate is changing permanently, rather than just going through a normal period of flux?

Let’s look at major changes scientists have seen in our climate system to help set the record straight.

Few global trends have been as controversial as climate change and the Earth’s warming. The Earth has gone through many shifts in cooling and warming driven by natural factors like the sun’s energy or variations in its orbit, but the trend scientists have seen over the past 50 years is unmistakable.

Let’s take a closer look: globally, average surface temperatures increased 1.1 - 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit (0.6 - 0.9 degrees Celsius) between 1906 and 2005. However, it’s the rate of temperature change that’s especially troubling to scientists; temperatures have risen nearly twice as fast in the last 50 years alone.

What other ways has our climate system changed in the last century? How do we really know our climate is changing permanently, rather than just going through a normal period of flux? Between opinions from climate deniers and misinformation campaigns from the fossil fuel industry, it can be a challenge to get the unobstructed facts.

So to help set the record straight, we’re going to focus on major changes scientists have seen in our climate system. Each indicator described below has been extensively studied over the past several decades, and was captured from many different data sets and technologies.

Air Temperatures over Land are Increasing

Top Indicators Our Climate Change is Permanent, boomer warrior

It’s clear that weather stations on land show average air temperatures are rising, and as a result, the frequency and severity of droughts and heat waves are increasing. Intense droughts can lead to destructive wildfires, failed crops, and low water supplies, many of which are deeply affecting southern areas of the United States and other parts of the world.

Air Temperatures over Oceans are Increasing

Roughly 70% of the world is covered by oceans, so you can understand how hotter air over them could make a vast difference in the climate system. Oceans evaporate more water as the air right near the surface gets warmer. The result? More floods, more hurricanes, and more extreme precipitation events.

Arctic Sea Ice is Decreasing

Top Indicators Our Climate Change is Permanent, boomer warrior

Satellite images from space show that the area covered by sea ice in the Arctic is shrinking, and it’s continued a downward trend for the past 30 years. The Arctic ice cap grows each winter when there’s less sunlight, and shrinks each summer when days are longer, reaching its lowest point of the year in September.

Some research suggests that the Arctic could lose almost all of its summer ice cover by 2100, but others believe that it could melt completely much sooner than that - in just a few decades.

Glaciers are Melting and Snow is Decreasing

Top Indicators Our Climate Change is Permanent, boomer warrior

The disappearance of glaciers is one of the clearest signs of climate change. People who rely on melting glacier water are facing shortages, and in many regions, the situation is only getting worse.

In a world unaffected by climate change, glacier mass stays balanced, meaning the ice that evaporates in the summer is fully replaced by snowfall in the winter. However, when more ice melts than is replaced, the glacier loses mass. And the people who depend on melting ice for water to support their farming and living needs are deeply affected.

Satellites show areas covered by snow in the Northern Hemisphere are becoming smaller. Snow is important as it helps control how much of the sun’s energy Earth absorbs. Light-colored snow and ice reflect this energy back into space, helping keep the planet cool.

However, as the snow and ice melts, it’s replaced by dark land and ocean, both of which absorb energy. The amount of snow and ice loss in the last 30 years is higher than many scientists predicted, which means the Earth is absorbing more solar energy than had been projected.

Sea Levels are Rising

Top Indicators Our Climate Change is Permanent, boomer warrior

Sea levels have been rising for the past century. And the pace is only increasing in recent years as glaciers melt faster and water temperatures increase, causing oceans to expand. You can imagine how this would affect the almost 40% of the US population that lives in a highly populated coastal area. Let’s not forget that eight of the 10 largest cities in the world are near a coast.

Consider how many millions of people are at risk as sea levels rise, storms intensify, and more extreme flooding occurs. Additionally, marine life is threatened as salt water intrudes into fresh water aquifers, many of which support human communities and natural ecosystems.

Ocean Heat Content and Sea Surface Temperature are Increasing

The ocean stores and releases heat over long periods of time. This is a natural and important part of stabilizing the climate system. Natural climate patterns (think, El Niño) occur regularly because of warmer ocean waters and influence areas like regional climates and marine life.

But it’s when short-term, natural climate patterns like El Niño occur at the same time as oceans are becoming warmer and warmer that we know that larger changes are happening. The increased heat content leads to higher sea levels, melting glaciers, and stress to marine ecosystems.

Measuring instruments also show that water temperatures at the ocean’s surface are going up. To some extent, this is a normal pattern: the ocean surface warms as it absorbs sunlight. The ocean then releases some of its heat into the atmosphere, creating wind and rain clouds.

However, as the ocean’s surface temperature continues to increase over time, more and more heat is released into the atmosphere. This additional heat can lead to stronger and more frequent storms like tropical cyclones and hurricanes.

Earth’s Lower Atmosphere Temperature in Increasing

The lowest layer of the atmosphere, called the troposphere, is the layer we’re most familiar with - it’s where we live and where our weather occurs. Satellite measurements show that this lowest layer of the atmosphere is warming as greenhouse gases build up and trap heat that radiates from the Earth’s surface.

Scientists tell us that human activity, particularly the burning of fossil fuels, caused this increase in atmospheric temperatures. In fact, carbon dioxide levels have increased about 40% since the Industrial Revolution began in 1750. And unless we put a stop to this trend as soon as possible, these levels - and temperatures - likely will increase even more.

Time to Take Action

It’s difficult to argue against what’s happening once you’ve seen these ten climate change indicators. That’s why it’s up to each and everyone one of us to do our part and help spread truthful information about climate change to our networks of friends, peers, and family.

Rolly Montpellier is the Founder and Managing Editor of BoomerWarrior.Org. He’s a Climate Reality leader, a Blogger and a Climate Activist. He’s a member of Climate Reality Canada, Citizens’ Climate Lobby (Ottawa) and 350.Org (Ottawa), the Ethical Team (as an influencer)  and Global Population Speakout.

Rolly has been published widely in both print and online publications. You can follow him on FacebookTwitter and Linkedin.

Friday, October 2, 2015

World Heritage Sites Increasingly Threatened by Extraction Mania

Mesoamerican Reef (Photo: Thomas Wiborg/flickr/cc)
Nearly one-third of the planet's natural World Heritage Sites are under threat from oil, gas, and mining exploration, a new report by the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) published Thursday has found.

According to its new report - Safeguarding Outstanding Natural Value: The Role of Institutional Investors in Protecting Natural World Heritage Sites from Extractive Activity (pdf) - the WWF says an increasing number of sites designated natural treasures, including Australia's Great Barrier Reef, the Grand Canyon in the U.S., and the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania, are at risk from mineral and fossil fuel extraction.

Nearly 31% of all the natural sites are already threatened by extractive activity, whether through commercial mining or oil and gas operations or through deals between companies and host governments that are poised to bring such activity to the sites in the near future.

And when narrowing the lens, the numbers become bigger - like in Africa, where 61% of vulnerable sites are subject to some form of extractive activity.

That's a problem not just for environmental conservationists, but also for communities on the frontlines of the climate change fight. As WWF explains, extractive operations "can cause significant and permanent environmental damage both directly to landscape or water sources, and indirectly, by catalysing wide scale social and economic changes - especially in developing countries."

"We are going to the ends of the Earth in pursuit of more resources - resources, including minerals, oil and gas, that are becoming more difficult and more expensive to extract," said WWF-UK’s chief executive David Nussbaum. "Some of the world's most treasured places are threatened by destructive industrial activities that imperil the very values for which they have been granted the highest level of international recognition: outstanding natural value."

Among the sites included in the report is the Mesoamerican Reef, the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere, which spreads throughout the Caribbean Sea to reach the coasts of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras.

But active oil wells in Mexico and awarded extraction contracts in Mexico and Belize threaten the reef's abundant biodiversity. And because reefs are particularly sensitive ecosystems, says WWF, extractive operations have the potential to cause "widespread environmental damage."
"We are going to the ends of the Earth in pursuit of more resources - resources, including minerals, oil and gas, that are becoming more difficult and more expensive to extract" - David Nussbaum, WWF .

Moreover, World Heritage Sites are often home to a number of endangered species, such as mountain gorillas, African elephants, snow leopards, whales, and marine turtles.

The WWF report, crafted with input from Aviva Investors and Investec Asset Management, argues that financial institutions have an important role to play in prioritizing conservation over profit. To that end, its authors urge investors to cut ties with extractive companies that threaten the world's most wondrous natural areas.

"Some places are too valuable to risk," wrote Tim Badman, director of the IUCN's World Heritage program. The report "highlights the heightened business risks for both sectors of a failure to respect the world’s most important protected areas."

Furthermore, WWF also encouraged global governments to create "no-go" areas within certain heritage sites, which would "balance economic development with environmental goals."

"Protecting these iconic places is not only important in terms of their environmental worth; it is crucial for the livelihoods and future of the people who depend on them," Nussbaum said.