Politicians, Media and Scientists Call for Action on Earth’s Climate Emergency

October 21st, 2018 - by admin

The Climate Mobilization & The Portland Press Herald & The Guardian & The Young Turks & NYMagazine – 2018-10-21 01:22:23


Progressive Politicians and Media
Call for Action on Earth’s Climate Emergency

The Climate Mobilization

(October 18, 2018) — What an intense week it has been! The publication of the IPCC report has prompted some in the media to understand what we have been saying for a long time: that we face an existential climate emergency, and only a WWII-scale climate mobilization can protect humanity and the natural world.

In a nation-wide first, the Portland Press Herald editorial board called for this IPCC report to be our “Pearl Harbor Moment” and called on the country to initiate a WWII-scale mobilization:
This is not a hoax. It is not a theory. It is not a natural cycle of warming and cooling. It is a man-made catastrophe that demands a national effort unlike anything this country has seen since World War II. [See complete article below.]

The Guardian editorial board called climate a “global emergency” and an “existential threat to the human race.” [See complete article below.]

In an incredibly exhilarating video interview with The Young Turks, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez shared her plans of prioritizing the pursuit of emergency climate mobilization in Congress:
[T]his is an existential issue. We need wartime mobilization around climate change, and that level of economic mobilization is gonna be required. And, the same way that we have an urgency, where we mobilize entire economies around existential war crises or threats, I don’t see any larger threat to our existence than climate change, and it’s going to take a really full economic mobilization in order for us to address it . . . .

For me, I think that it deserves all of the resources possible that we have. When we think about what government is useful for, it should be used to improve the lives of everyday people and I really don’t think that there is a price tag on our survival when it comes to global warming and climate change.

Finally, David Wallace Wells said this in NYMagazine:
Other activists often see one precedent, in all of human history, citing the model of how the United States prepared for World War II, and calling for a global mobilization of that kind — all of the world’s rivalrous societies and nationalistic governments and self-interested industries organized around the common pursuit of a stable and comfortable climate as though warming was an existential threat.

It is. And the World War II mobilization metaphor is not hyperbole. To avoid warming of the kind the IPCC now calls catastrophic requires a complete rebuilding of the entire energy infrastructure of the world, a thorough reworking of agricultural practices and diet to entirely eliminate carbon emissions from farming, and a battery of cultural changes to the way those of us in the wealthy West, at least, conduct our lives. [See complete article below.]

ACTION: The media, and the public, are starting to wake up. We have incredible momentum. We need a full-court press in order to wake up America. But will it be fast enough? It can happen only if we, people who understand climate truth, spread the word and build power for mobilization. Post this blog post to your social media. Send this to 5 friends and ask them to get involved!

Join the fight for an emergency climate mobilization to protect humanity.

Our View: UN Climate Report Is Our ‘Pearl Harbor Moment’
The politics of division won’t work
to fight a threat like global warming

The Editorial Board / Portland Press Herald

(October 11, 2018) — The events of the last two years show that Americans know how to choose up sides and fight each other. But if we had to, could we put aside our differences and fight together?

We are about to find out. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we are running out of time. Ninety-one of the world’s leading climate scientists warn that if we don’t cut our emissions in half over the next decade, we will face a global crisis — not in the next century, but in the next 25 years. The time for easy tweaks has passed, and we need to “turn the world’s economy on a dime,” in the words of one of the report’s authors, if we hope to avoid the worst consequences.

This is not a hoax. It is not a theory. It is not a natural cycle of warming and cooling. It is a man-made catastrophe that demands a national effort unlike anything this country has seen since World War II.

As in 1941, what’s required now is leadership. After Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered the bad news to the nation and called on it to rise up in its own defense.

This report should be our Pearl Harbor moment. Unfortunately, President Trump was dismissive when he was asked about it, saying he would have to see “which group drew it,” alleging that there were other equally valuable studies that say we have nothing to worry about. “I can give you reports that are fabulous, and I can give you reports that aren’t so good,” Trump said.

This president thrives on division. He can provoke a reaction from his opponents and rely on a backlash from his supporters. His campaign-style rallies are designed to delight the people in the room and infuriate the ones outside. He keeps his base of supporters on board by making sure he never has to deliver anything to them that they would consider to be bad news.

Those are political tactics that might win an election or dominate a news cycle, but that approach cannot be used to fight an existential threat like climate change.

According to the report’s authors, the speed in which the planet is warming is not reversed by 2040, sea levels will rise, coastal areas will be inundated and worldwide poverty will explode, causing mass starvation and a refugee crisis many times greater than the one that exists today — which is already overwhelming the capacity of the world’s humanitarian organizations.

To head off the worst consequences, greenhouse gas emissions would have to be reduced by 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, and 100 percent by 2050.

The report also found that the use of coal as an electricity source would have to drop from nearly 40 percent today to between 1 percent and 7 percent by 2050. Renewable energy such as wind and solar, which make up about 20 percent of the electricity mix today, would have to increase to as much as 67 percent. The authors recommend a carbon-pricing scheme much more expansive than any that exists.

None of those changes would be easy to achieve, and not everyone is going to agree.

This is not just an environmental crisis, it’s a test of our ability to govern ourselves. We will soon find out whether this generation can respond to its Pearl Harbor moment.

Climate Change: A Global Emergency
Editorial / The Guardian

LONDON (October 8, 2018) — Climate change is an existential threat to the human race. This may seem an absurd or alarmist statement, since we have been conditioned by unparallelled growth to expect that there are no catastrophes that are insurmountable. Even apocalyptic science fiction deals with bands of survivors who have, by definition, survived. And we always imagine ourselves as among the survivors.

But the threat is real. The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change tells us that there are only a dozen or so years in which to change our economies radically if we are to keep the effects of the warming already under way to manageable proportions.

That would require the countries of the world to live up to the most ambitious of the goals of the Paris climate change agreement, and keep the rise in average global temperatures to 1.5C above preindustrial levels. A rise of even half a degree above that, to 2C, will have effects that are very much worse. Already this seems much more likely. All corals will disappear, as will many insects and plants.

The disappearance of plants, and in particular the deforestation of tropical regions, is doubly dangerous, because it converts carbon sinks (which living trees are, because they absorb carbon dioxide) into producers of carbon. That is only one of the many possible tipping points which may lead to a sudden and violent escalation of the rate of change as malign feedback loops are formed.

All these risks make it quite credible that we will end with a warming of 3C, 4C or even worse — and the consequences will be globally terrible, and everywhere unavoidable. Hundreds of millions of people may die through droughts on land, and flooding at the coasts, through the loss of marine species due to acidification of the oceans, and probably through the disruption of long-term weather patterns around which the world’s agriculture has been shaped.

These victims will not passively await their fates. Among the tipping points that we cannot foresee in any detail is the prospect of historically unprecedented refugee migrations as whole populations who have no choice but to starve or move set out for land where they can live. The political and indeed the military consequences are unlikely to be small.

None of this will only be the product of vast impersonal forces, any more than our present crisis is. There are always political and economic choices that explain our actions. A recent study identified 90 different organisations, ranging from states to private companies, that were between them responsible for nearly two-thirds of carbon emissions since 1864.

They all behaved as rational, profit-seeking actors without any external responsibilities, and so brought us to the brink of catastrophe. This kind of twisted rationality exacerbates the dangerous physical effects of climate change.

The election of Jair Bolsonaro as president of Brazil now seems overwhelmingly likely, and he is committed, like Donald Trump, to withdrawing his country from the Paris accords. His policies in the Amazon basin will greatly accelerate deforestation.

In Australia, the government of Scott Morrison must deal with the reality of climate change in the form of droughts and wildfires, but is at the same time denying any responsibility for the effects of its own actions when they worsen the situation.

This kind of short-term selfishness can’t be overcome only by appeals to unselfishness or to solidarity. Only long-term self-interest can be stronger: perhaps the fear that international anarchy must ultimately lead to international war in an age of nuclear and biological weapons.

It is not the direct effects of climate change alone but their indirect effects on the political and economic structures of the world that make it a genuinely existential threat. As individuals in the rich world, we should all eat less meat and use less fossil-fuel energy. But individual action will never be enough. We must also work to strengthen the kind of political structures that will enable, and if needed compel, the cooperation that is the only alternative to destructive anarchy.

UN Says Climate Genocide Is Coming.
It’s Actually Worse Than That.

David Wallace-Wells / NY Magazine Intelligencer

NEW YORK (October 10, 2018) — Just two years ago, amid global fanfare, the Paris climate accords were signed — initiating what seemed, for a brief moment, like the beginning of a planet-saving movement. But almost immediately, the international goal it established of limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius began to seem, to many of the world’s most vulnerable, dramatically inadequate; the Marshall Islands’ representative gave it a blunter name, calling two degrees of warming “genocide.”

The alarming new report you may have read about this week from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — which examines just how much better 1.5 degrees of warming would be than 2 — echoes the charge. “Amplifies” may be the better term. Hundreds of millions of lives are at stake, the report declares, should the world warm more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, which it will do as soon as 2040, if current trends continue.

Nearly all coral reefs would die out, wildfires and heat waves would sweep across the planet annually, and the interplay between drought and flooding and temperature would mean that the world’s food supply would become dramatically less secure.

Avoiding that scale of suffering, the report says, requires such a thorough transformation of the world’s economy, agriculture, and culture that “there is no documented historical precedent.” The New York Times declared that the report showed a “strong risk” of climate crisis in the coming decades; in Grist, Eric Holthaus wrote that “civilization is at stake.”

If you are alarmed by those sentences, you should be — they are horrifying. But it is, actually, worse than that — considerably worse. That is because the new report’s worst-case scenario is, actually, a best case. In fact, it is a beyond-best-case scenario. What has been called a genocidal level of warming is already our inevitable future. The question is how much worse than that it will get.

Barring the arrival of dramatic new carbon-sucking technologies, which are so far from scalability at present that they are best described as fantasies of industrial absolution, it will not be possible to keep warming below two degrees Celsius — the level the new report describes as a climate catastrophe. As a planet, we are coursing along a trajectory that brings us north of four degrees by the end of the century.

The IPCC is right that two degrees marks a world of climate catastrophe. Four degrees is twice as bad as that. And that is where we are headed, at present — a climate hell twice as hellish as the one the IPCC says, rightly, we must avoid at all costs. But the real meaning of the report is not “climate change is much worse than you think,” because anyone who knows the state of the research will find nothing surprising in it. The real meaning is, “you now have permission to freak out.”

As recently as a year ago, when I published a magazine cover story exploring worst-case scenarios for climate change, alarmism of this kind was considered anathema to many scientists, who believed that storytelling that focused on the scary possibilities was just as damaging to public engagement as denial.

There have been a few scary developments in climate research over the past year — more methane from Arctic lakes and permafrost than expected, which could accelerate warming; an unprecedented heat wave, arctic wildfires, and hurricanes rolling through both of the world’s major oceans this past summer.

But by and large the consensus is the same: We are on track for four degrees of warming — more than twice as much as most scientists believe is possible to endure without inflicting climate suffering on hundreds of millions or threatening at least parts of the social and political infrastructure we call, grandly, “civilization.”

The only thing that changed, this week, is that the scientists, finally, have hit the panic button.

Because the numbers are so small, we tend to trivialize the differences between one degree and two, two degrees and four. Human experience and memory offers no good analogy for how we should think about those thresholds, but with degrees of warming, as with world wars or recurrences of cancer, you don’t want to see even one.

At two degrees, the melting of ice sheets will pass a tipping point of collapse, flooding dozens of the world’s major cities this century. At that amount of warming, it is estimated, global GDP, per capita, will be cut by 13 percent. Four hundred million more people will suffer from water scarcity, and even in the northern latitudes heat waves will kill thousands each summer.

It will be worse in the planet’s equatorial band. In India, where many cities now numbering in the many millions would become unliveably hot, there would be 32 times as many extreme heat waves, each lasting five times as long and exposing, in total, 93 times more people. This is two degrees — practically speaking, our absolute best-case climate scenario.

At three degrees, southern Europe will be in permanent drought. The average drought in Central America would last 19 months and in the Caribbean 21 months. In northern Africa, the figure is 60 months — five years. The areas burned each year by wildfires would double in the Mediterranean and sextuple in the United States.

Beyond the sea-level rise, which will already be swallowing cities from Miami Beach to Jakarta, damages just from river flooding will grow 30-fold in Bangladesh, 20-fold in India, and as much as 60-fold in the UK. This is three degrees — better than we’d do if all the nations of the world honored their Paris commitments, which none of them are. Practically speaking, barring those dramatic tech deus ex machinas, this seems to me about as positive a realistic outcome as it is rational to expect.

At four degrees, there would be eight million cases of dengue fever each year in Latin America alone. Global grain yields could fall by as much as 50 percent, producing annual or close-to-annual food crises. The global economy would be more than 30 percent smaller than it would be without climate change, and we would see at least half again as much conflict and warfare as we do today. Possibly more.

Our current trajectory, remember, takes us higher still, and while there are many reasons to think we will bend that curve soon — the plummeting cost of renewable energy, the growing global consensus about phasing out coal — it is worth remembering that, whatever you may have heard about the green revolution and the price of solar, at present, global carbon emissions are still growing.

None of the above is news — most of that data is drawn from this single, conventional-wisdom fact sheet. In fact, nothing in the IPCC report is news, either; not to the scientific community or to climate activists or even to anyone who’s been a close reader of new research about warming over the last few years.

That is what the IPCC does: It does not introduce new findings or even new perspectives, but rather corrals the messy mass of existing, pedigreed scientific research into consensus assessments designed to deliver to the policymakers of the world an absolutely unquestionable account of the state of knowledge.

Almost since the panel was convened, in 1988, it has been criticized for being too cautious in its assessment of the problem — a large body of temperamentally cautious scientists zeroing on those predictions they can all agree on (and which, they may have hoped, policymakers might find workable). The panel’s Wikipedia page has separate subsections for “Outdatedness of reports” and “Conservative nature of IPCC reports.”

Which is why it is so remarkable that the tone of this report is so alarmist — it’s not that the news about climate has changed, but that the scientific community is finally discarding caution in describing the implications of its own finding.

They have also, thankfully, offered a practical suggestion, proposing the imposition of a carbon tax many, many times higher than those currently in use or being considered — they propose raising the cost of a ton of carbon possibly as high $5,000 by 2030, a price they suggest may have to grow to $27,000 per ton by 2100.

Today, the average price of carbon across 42 major economies is just $8 per ton. The new Nobel laureate in economics, William Nordhaus, made his name by almost inventing the economic study of climate change, and his preferred carbon tax is $40 per ton — which would probably land us at about 3.5 degrees of warming. He considers that grotesque level “optimal.”

But a carbon tax is only a spark to action, not action itself. And the action needed is at a scale and a speed almost unimaginable to most of us. The IPCC report called it unprecedented. Other activists often see one precedent, in all of human history, citing the model of how the United States prepared for World War II, and calling for a global mobilization of that kind — all of the world’s rivalrous societies and nationalistic governments and self-interested industries organized around the common pursuit of a stable and comfortable climate as though warming was an existential threat.

It is. And the World War II mobilization metaphor is not hyperbole. To avoid warming of the kind the IPCC now calls catastrophic requires a complete rebuilding of the entire energy infrastructure of the world, a thorough reworking of agricultural practices and diet to entirely eliminate carbon emissions from farming, and a battery of cultural changes to the way those of us in the wealthy West, at least, conduct our lives.

And we need to do all of that in two, or possibly three, decades. As a comparison, simply the last phase of the recent three-stop extension of New York City’s Second Avenue subway line took 12 years. All told, from the first groundbreaking, the project took 45 years.

That is not to say it’s over or we’re doomed. Stalling warming below four degrees is better than surpassing it, keeping temperatures below three is better still, and the closer we get to two degrees the more miraculous. That is because climate change isn’t binary, and doesn’t just kick in, full force, at any particular temperature level; it’s a function that gets worse over time as long as we produce greenhouse gases.

How long we continue to is, really, up to us, which is to say it will be determined in the province of politics, which is to say public panic like that produced by the IPCC report can be a very productive form of policy pressure.

There are also those far-fetched alternatives I mentioned — carbon capture and solar geoengineering — but each is far from workable at the moment and, even in theory, come with really scary drawbacks. But even if the technology becomes dramatically cheaper and more efficient over the next few years, you would need to build them out across the globe, as well — whole plantations sucking carbon almost everywhere on the planet. It will take quite a long time to build those, in other words, even if they worked, and we simply don’t have that many years left to act.

A few weeks ago, as the IPCC report loomed, I had lunch with a prominent climate scientist who’d been involved in earlier reports and has done considerable work on local preparedness as well. I asked if he thought New York would eventually build a sea wall or surge barrier to protect the city from sea-level rise and flooding.

Yes, he said, Manhattan will be protected, at any cost. But major infrastructure projects like these take decades — typically about 30 years. Even if we began building today, he said, the barrier would not be finished in time to save Howard Beach and other parts of southern Queens and Brooklyn.

Soon enough, he said, you’ll see the city adjust accordingly — halting new infrastructure projects there, eventually pulling back from even quotidian maintenance like sewer repairs and generally signaling to current residents that they will not be able to leave behind their homes, when they die, to their children. And of course a sea wall to protect New York only encloses the narrows of New York Harbor, leaving all of Long Island exposed.

This is just the threat from sea level, and just one (very rich) metropolitan area. The world is much bigger than that, but so is climate change. It is also very fast, with more than half the carbon humanity has ever emitted into the atmosphere having come in just the last 25 years, since Al Gore published his first book on climate change.

Monday’s IPCC may seem like a dramatic departure, and it is. But there is going to be much more like it coming. So long as we continue to squander what little time we have, the news will only get worse from here.

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