To my dear companions in Extinction Rebellion.

I want first to put something right with you. An in-joke developed in our Christian Climate Action affinity group about ‘’getting Phil Kingston into prison’’ and when it went public some of you voiced disturbance because in countries across the world, going to prison means torture and possible death. I apologise for my insensitivity. To honour them, I point to Berta Caceres, the brilliant and fearless Honduran environmental activist who was awarded the prestigious Goldman Prize. This is her acceptance speech:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AR1kwx8b0ms

She was assassinated 11 months later by government and corporate hirelings.

My campaigning has gone to new levels in this context where many groups work together with common purpose. I am relieved that at last the utter seriousness and urgency of the developing  Earth catastrophe is being pushed into public consciousness after decades of avoidance by almost all politicians, mainstream media and of course economic and financial powers. Our political ‘representatives’  have let us down. With notable exceptions, they lost their credibility by not  speaking about this.

To say a little about the last 12 days: not in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I, a former probation officer and educator of probation officers and Local Authority social workers – all of whom  work in a context of  respect for the law – would within a week be arrested on three occasions and spend considerable time in police cells. Being given the opportunity to meet so many police as human beings has been a gift. Yes, I know that when the chips are down, they have agreed to  uphold  laws which I regard as fundamentally unjust, such as those which are heavily on the side of corporate and state power. Within that context I want to emphasize their  kindness and respect to me and my colleagues. Whenever I had an opportunity to speak about my concern for my grandchildren, I asked if they had children. I was grateful that so many were willing to speak about their concerns regarding climate breakdown. One of reasonably high rank immediately responded with his concern that there are now only 12 years  within which to halt his children’s  descent into  disaster.

These connections with those who we may often regard as ‘other’ are, I am sure, made more possible by our absolute commitment to nonviolence, including verbal nonviolence, to all persons. Hard as it often is to hold on to my belief  that politicians and and those in business and finance have a humanity exactly like mine, I am determined to do so. I have no illusions about the wrongness of their ideologies and behaviour but I completely refuse to say that they aren’t human.  If someone like me can change over the years by facing the traumas of life, especially childhood ones,  and seeking help for them, I hold hope for all.

I would like to address the rest of this note to other followers of Jesus, though the link in the final paragraph may be surprisingly congruent because it touches our common humanity.

I regard myself as a fortunate man to be alive at the same time as Pope Francis. His arrival has given immense encouragement to those of us in the churches, especially the Catholic Church, who have a vocation to justice, peace and care of the Earth. Prior to this, the experience of many of us was that this vocation was  suppressed more than encouraged. It is essential at this critical time of global suffering that this vocation be fully honoured and supported. His writings and speeches about the relationship between the current global economy on the one hand and on the other the destruction of the Earth and the exclusion of the majority of the world’s population from what should be the Common Good of everyone, have a clarity and reality which has often not been as forthright in many previous papal documents.  See for example his  Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium) especially paras 52 – 75 beginning with ‘No to an Economy of Exclusion’:

http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium.html

…and many parts of ‘Praise Be, Our Common Home’ (Laudato si). My experience is that there is often a focus upon the latter document by agencies like CAFOD and Caritas and minimal references to the economic one in Joy of the Gospel.  Criticising the current economy seems to be avoided as much within the Church as in society generally.  I often regard Pope Francis as a rather lonely man in the Churches of the materially rich countries where his pastoral care and simple living are acclaimed but his economic critique is made invisible by silence. He calls us to extend our focus upon personal sin to fully include structural sin.

An aspect of Pope Francis which I value hugely is his explicit seeking of the guidance of the Holy Spirit  and his request to all of us to do the same. Our Church so often seems dead to me in comparison with the one in the Acts of the Apostles.

I end by asking  if you will read the speech by Pope Francis to the World Gathering of Popular Movements gathered at Santa Cruz in Bolivia in October 2014. I imagine that it will shock many Christians whilst being an affirmation for others.  This is the link:

http://movimientospopulares.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Documents_ingles_web.pdf

 

Rebellion At The Palace Gates

 

Cold Stone and Fierce Love

My heart is breaking. Every fibre of its delicate sentience is being violated by a reality as harsh as holocaust. Its soft tissues are torn to shreds. I can barely breathe though the pain of it.

Yesterday I attended Extinction Rebellion’s funeral march in honour of extinct and soon-to-be extinct species. It left me broken.

My heart, my fragile human heart, was not made to contain the grief of these times we are living in. It was not made to hold the extremes of death and rage that it is now living with, each day, each breath, each warm, tender pulse.

Participating in yesterday’s ceremony allowed the devastating reality of the global environmental situation to land in me in a way that it never has been able to before. Walking behind the mock coffin amidst the sombre group of a thousand mourners made the extinctions we were there to honour and those that we are threatened with—including that of our own species—shockingly palpable. The fine armour of denial habitually worn to shield my heart from the horrors we are living through fell away somewhere between Parliament Square and Buckingham Palace.

I’ve been trying to shed this armour all my adult life, loosening it and pulling it off piece by piece, only to feel it re-grow again when my attention turned elsewhere for a while. Yesterday a whole layer of the stuff tore off. Being part of the procession, surrounded by others who have shed or are in the process of shedding their denial, overwhelmed any unconscious attempt to turn away from the reality of our global crisis.

Raw, un-shielded, the enormity of the situation broke in on me, the cold facts printed on banners carried by the mourners pierced me like blades of ice.

“200 species lost each day due to human activities.” I find no way to rationalise this fact, nor to bury it. It screams from beneath the soil, eclipses both sun and moon.

Add up the figures:

200 species lost each day…

1,400 species lost each week… 

6,000 species lost each month… 

72,000 species lost each year…

720,000 species lost each decade… 

…through the ravaging of nature by misguided human ingenuity and blind greed.

At the current rate of extinction we will have wiped out all 8.7 million species on the planet in a little over 100 years, and ourselves with them.And the rate of extinction is currently accelerating.

It is impossible to reconcile these numbers with what passes for everyday normality. Our civilisation is literally destroying life on this planet, in the pursuit of consumer paradise. I stagger in the face of the brutality, institutionalised ignorance and systemic denial that allows this to continue. My heart breaks anew with the acknowledgement of my own complicity, however slight compared to many.

Each single species is the labour of ages, an irreplaceable strand in the web of life, a precious jewel in the sparkling constellation of this miracle Earth. To fully feel the loss of one strand is horrible. To be implicated in the loss of 200 per day is devastating.

How to conceive of the conscience of those whose interests in short-term personal gain blind them entirely to the evil they perpetrate?

How to endure the cold faces of business-as-usual sleepwalkers, completely mindless of the damage their consumer lifestyles are causing, utterly careless of the irreparable destruction their everyday choices are supporting? 

Their hard eyes seem made of virtual reality. Their greed is like titanium claws, or like chainsaws, ripping through living fibre. Their unconsciousness of the insidious evil our lives are embedded in is like fracking fluid flooding the chambers of the heart.

“60% of the Earth’s biodiversity destroyed in the last 50 years by human greed and ignorance,” read another banner. By next year that number will only have increased.

How can this be happening? How can it be that I’m only now fully waking up to this reality?

Tears pour down my cheeks from a pool of grief so vast it looks to me like the night sky, an enveloping darkness.

I thought I was getting used to all this. I thought I was finding an equanimity. After decades of environmental awareness and radical choices to limit my impact and re-connect with the living Earth, I thought that I was in touch with the situation. But yesterday’s funeral procession shattered that equanimity. Walking behind the coffin brought home to me the bitter reality of what is going down in a new and savage way. Today I am reeling with a fathomless grief and incandescent rage that is like an image from the book of revelations.

Extinction Rebellion is an apposite name for the movement rising up to fight against the continued and escalating devastation. The heart ignites in rebellion at the inhumanity of the mass extinction we are causing and which if allowed to continue will sweep us away too. The soul of the Earth which resides in all of us floods us with rebellion at what is clearly unconscionable conduct on the part of those who are overseeing the global destruction as well as those who are participating in it—either knowingly or in ignorance. And so we rise up, with fierce love in our breaking hearts, in the name of life, to rebel against extinction.

On the 31st October we roared our declaration of rebellion outside parliament. Last Saturday we took rebellion to London’s bridges and blocked them for a day. Earlier this week we took rebellion to the streets of London and disrupted some of the normality that is destroying our Earth. And yesterday we processed rebelliously from Parliament Square to Buckingham Palace, stopping outside Downing Street on the way to let our tears fall on the road and our songs echo off the government buildings of Whitehall.

There was something deeply mythical about it. I felt a bit like I was in the Iliad: through the streets the procession moved, calling for climate justice in the name of life; our way was lined with police officers and surrounded by the cold stone monumental architecture of establishment power; one could almost sense the divine forces at play overhead which these two colliding factions were representing here on Earth! Although the police gave no obstruction and we left the monumental architecture behind at the entrance to Pall Mall, the invisible friction grew more intense the closer we got to Buckingham Palace.

There was a third element also, which it took me a while to notice but with which there was actually a more intense collision than the with other. This was the more insidious form of inertia represented by the onlookers who read the banners we carried and the pamphlets we distributed but remained unmoved. Some simply laughed and took photos, enjoying the spectacle of the procession before carrying on with their day; others grumpily pushed through the crowds, resenting the delay, intent on their own business. I felt that the disengaged eyes of these passers-by held more resistance in them than the establishment powers flanking the procession, and the invisible force they represented to be far older and deeper than any of the bright warring gods or even the Earth itself.

So many worlds, so many realities, conflicting and inexorable.

When we arrived at the fountain in front of the palace the air was almost crackling with the friction of subtle forces. It looked almost hopeless, our little bundle of rebellion, in the face of so much cold stone and inertia. But there was a power in it that was far greater than the sum of its parts: the power of life and love rising up to shake the foundations of a destructive and ailing system. However small our number, the grief and rage we expressed there before the seat of the nation’s sovereign power was great and marked a historic moment.

There before the palace gates we laid down the coffin. There before the empty windows of the palace we let more tears fall, welling up from our love of the Earth and despair at the failure of those who are titled our leaders to even acknowledge the emergency. There we called upon the Queen to act in response to the existential crisis we face as a nation and a commonwealth. And there we declared that her failure to do so renders the social contract null and void and our rebellion justified in law and conscience. I wonder if she heard us. I wonder if she cares.

I wonder too what powers are preventing her and her noble officers, the British aristocracy, from acting in accordance with the law of the land and the dictates of conscience to respond appropriately to the emergency we, as a nation, are in.

But I know this: whatever these powers are, wherever they operate from, however much destruction they succeed in wreaking upon the Earth or any other part of this sacred creation, their power will one day fail. For they are not love, and only love prevails.

I know this also: however much my heart breaks, however much grief pours through me in the face of what is being lost here every single day and what will continue to be lost in the days, weeks, months and years to come, love will remain, and that love will cause me to rebel against the criminally destructive status quo that is jeopardising our future and that of all beings on Earth.

Why I’m Rebelling against Extinction (wait, should that really need explaining..?)

originally posted by Shaun Chamberlin on November 18th, 2018 on darkoptimism.org

Shaun Chamberlin - Dark Optimism - Extinction Rebellion - Blackfriars bridge

I got arrested for the first time in my life this week. And I’m proud of it.

As long-time followers of this blog know, over the past 13 years I’ve tried everything I know to get our society to change its omnicidal course. I’ve written books, co-founded organisations, taught courses, worked in my community, lobbied governments, given talks, participated in grassroots discussion and action…

I’ve failed. We’ve all failed. As a global society we are accelerating towards oblivion, and taking everyone else with us.

And last week, someone said something that stuck with me. That if everyone around you is carrying on like everything’s fine, then no matter how much one reads or understands intellectually about a situation, it’s so difficult not to go along with that. Equally, if you’re somewhere and everyone else starts screaming and running for the exit, then you probably start running for the exit, even if you have no idea what’s going on.

Maybe there’s seemed to be a disconnect between the message we’ve been bringing – that this society is knowingly causing the harshest catastrophe in history – and the actions we’ve been taking?

Maybe if the wider public see that hundreds feel the need to go to jail over this, they might start to seriously ask why? With these stakes, it’s worth a shot.

https://player.vimeo.com/video/301399993?app_id=122963

That film was shot yesterday on Blackfriars Bridge, one of five bridges surrounding Parliament that we occupied as part of the Extinction Rebellion. The sheer mass of thousands of people meant that the police couldn’t possibly arrest everyone, so the bridges were ours for all the family fun you can see.

But when, at the hour we decided, we collectively moved on, many ordinary folk stayed behind and refused to leave in order to be arrested. If all we have left to amplify the message with is our liberty, then we offer it up.

And paradoxically – as I say at the end of the clip – in doing so we have discovered a new freedom. That following our conscience and refusing to be bound by laws that insist on inflicting death and misery is an act of liberty.

Hundreds of thousands are dying of climate change each year now. Most of the wild nature that existed fifty years ago is gone. What’s a little time in jail, by comparison?

—As I sat in my cell, I felt peace. I knew that I was doing all I could for our collective future, and am proud to have that recorded against my name for the rest of my life.

Perhaps, as ever, Wendell Berry said it best,
“Protest that endures, I think, is moved by a hope far more modest than that of public success, namely, the hope of preserving qualities in one’s own heart and spirit that would be destroyed by acquiescence.”

Maybe we can’t stop what’s unfolding, but it would diminish us not to try. And yesterday was the first event I’ve attended that felt as though it might be a historic turning point.

Equally, it might not. That’s up to us.

One child held a placard saying “When I grow up, I want to be alive”.

Yep. See you there next tomorrow.

(and there are plenty of crucial non-arrestable roles too)

 

The Bad, The Worse, And The Downright Criminal

By Bill McGuire

 

Forget the Good, the Bad and the Ugly- it’s the Bad, the Worse and the Criminal, we need to bring down.

I guess we’ve known it all along, but when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions it seems – as far as industrialised nations are concerned at least – that there just aren’t any good guys. Now it’s been confirmed by a new study just published in Nature Communications1, which forecasts what the end-century global average temperature rise would be, based upon the current emissions policies of individual nations. Heading the cast of scoundrels is a clutch of the usual suspects; China, Russia, Canada and Saudi Arabia – along with a bunch of smaller nations – whose policies, if matched globally, would see end-century temperatures climb to more than 5°C above those of pre-industrial times.

Not far behind is another gang of countries, including the United States and Australia, whose national climate targets, if matched worldwide, would see temperatures up 4°C or more by 2100. Before we cast stones, however, we in the UK don’t have much to crow about either. If the rest of the world followed our example, temperatures would still be 2.9°C higher by the century’s end – easily high enough to bring about catastrophic, all-pervasive climate breakdown2. And that’s with most of our manufacturing emissions outsourced to China and elsewhere.

The authors of the study make plain their hope that national emissions pledges, made as part of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, will be tightened in coming years so that the global average temperature rise may still be kept below 1.5°C. The way things are going, however, it would be fair to say that such a target remains pie-in-the-sky. For a start, there is no binding enforcement mechanism to ensure that pledges are kept. More importantly, they are simply not enough. Even if all signatories stuck to their emissions targets, the global average temperature rise would still be 3°C by 2100. If self-reinforcing feedback effects start to kick in seriously – as is highly likely – this could be a calamitous 4°C or even 5°C.

When set in the context of last week’s World Energy Outlook report, which predicts that global carbon emissions will still be heading skywards in 2040, the overall picture looks dire. Fiddling while Rome burns doesn’t even begin to describe the snail’s pace changes that are taking place across the energy and emissions reduction landscapes. We have to act big and act now. Rapid transitions that can change minds and change policies, virtually overnight, have happened before. Following Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941, the US economy was re-jigged in just six months from its peacetime ambitions to a full-on wartime footing. If it happened then, it can happen now. We are, after all, in a war situation. A war that will end either with anthropogenic climate breakdown brought to heel or with our world and our society shattered. The focus of our government, and those of all nations, has to change NOW. Forget Brexit; forget GDP; forget growth for growth’s sake. The mindset has to be turned around so that success is measured by how much and by how quickly we slash greenhouse gas emissions – pure and simple. Net zero emissions by 2025 is the goal.

It’s a huge call, but history teaches that if we want it badly enough, it can be done.

Let’s go for it.

 

Sources:

1du Pont, Y. R. & Meinshausen, M 2018 Warming assessment of the bottom-up Paris Agreement emissions pledges. Nature Communications  9. Article number 4810.

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-018-07223-9

CHECK HOW BADLY YOUR COUNTRY IS DOING: http://paris-equity-check.org/warming-check

Can psychology help understand and combat ecological catastrophe?

By Derek Boswell

The issue of climate change has been gaining traction with each passing moment. Seemingly so, anyways: News articles and government reports portray a grim future where natural resources are scarce and natural disasters are all too abundant (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC], 2018). Countless documentary films suggest no different (Guggenheim & Gore, 2006). To some, this comes with an added dose of irony: Capitalism – the very system which can be owed to their box-office success, is the supposed driving force behind global pollution. To others, the ingenuity of free-market capitalism will provide the answer to our environmental ills. Not only is there infighting among climate change’s adherents, there is also a battle over the seriousness, legitimacy, and relevance of this issue. Indeed, some concerned citizens have made meaningful changes in their own lives, but this amounts to only a fraction of what climate change reports call for (IPCC, 2018). Nevertheless popular sentiment suggests that climate change poses an existential threat to the Earth, so what’s with all the talk, and not all the action?

This article will take a look at one study in particular, which aims to mitigate ecological harm through unlikely means; psychology. In “Redefining Climate Change Inaction as Temporal Intergroup Bias: Temporally Adapted Interventions for Reducing Prejudice May Help Elicit Environmental Protection” (2017), researchers Rose Meleady and Richard Crisp shed light on the psychological barriers yielding this disparity between action, inaction and disbelief in climate change.

As is often the case when giving science away to the public; methods, findings, implications and applications are often muddled through a misunderstanding of scientific vocabulary. To some, “temporal intergroup bias” may at first glance appear incomprehensible jargon. Simply put, this describes the perceptions one makes of ingroup and outgroup peers, and the favoritism bias inherent towards the former. In this case, groups are defined temporally; as living and future generations (Medleady & Crisps, 2017). It is this former generation’s prejudice for the latter that lies at the center of Meleady and Crisps’s hypothesis (2017).

Now, one might ask; how could prejudice possibly mediate climate change engagement!? Prejudice is so often conceived as racial bias or perhaps gender bias, but it can just as easily be generational – and it mustn’t necessarily be explicit bias either. Meleady and Crisp aptly cited a phrase from Barrack Obama’s final presidential address as an example of this: It would “betray future generations” to not act boldly on climate change (2017). Likewise, they paraphrase Pope Francis in stating “the destruction of the natural world for our own benefit as a sin against God and future generations” (Medleady & Crisps, 2017).

Minimal Groups Paradigm suggests that the formation of groups may be founded upon any uniting factor, however arbitrary it may seem (Medleady & Crisps, 2017). By seeing our current generation as a separate entity from future ones, Meleady and Crisp hypothesize that, due to a favourable ingroup bias, we see climate change as a presumably distant threat and an irrelevant concern for our generation (2017): In this context, ingroup members – the present generation – are making sacrifices for the benefit of a future generation (e.g. reducing fuel consumption, plastic waste, industrial farming). This comes with little perceived intrinsic reward for ourselves, with no chance of reprisal from the temporally distant outgroup; the future generation. When we choose to support ingroup members, or feel less compassion for outgroup members who experience harm, this in effect, is prejudice. Most importantly, this highlights how psychology does indeed play a role in prejudice – not merely politics and physical traits (Medleady & Crisps, 2017).

These temporal intergroup boundaries are arbitrary. As Meleady and Crisp believe; they are likely a product of our desire to socially categorize our peers – predicated upon a psychological urge to find patterns where they apparently exist, rather than a logical, political goal (2017). It’s in this distinction that the beauty of Meleady and Crisp’s research lies: Rather than attempting to outright extinguish this supposed psychological desire – a futile endeavor – the scientists intend to flip that desire on its head: By redefining the parameters of ingroup and outgroup membership (2017).

In a small 2017 pilot study designed to test the efficacy of this approach, Meleady and Crisp had 140 participants randomly divided into control and experimental groups. The experimental group was tasked with identify five similarities between present and future generations. The control group had a similar task, albeit with irrelevant categories (e.g. cats and dogs). Participants then rated how similar they felt to future generations, with the experimental condition reporting statistically significant scores, compared to the non-significant scores of their control group counterparts. In other words, Meleady and Crisp found the result they were hoping for; by consciously breaking down these arbitrary intergroup barriers, we do indeed have the ability to identify with, and accept, those outside of our traditional groups (Medleady & Crisps, 2017).

Meleady and Crisp took this a step further with two subsequent 2017 experimental studies. Both were conducted to determine if changing intergroup attitudes can also garner pro-environmental behaviours. The first study asked 80 participants to think about present and future generations (like in the first study) or sports (an irrelevant issue). Participants were then asked if they would purchase a more environmentally sustainable version of common products such as jeans, milk, and electronic devices. The second study had a similar design to the first, albeit with a key difference: Participants were asked if they would perform more environmentally conscious behaviours that transcended mere buying habits (Medleady & Crisps, 2017).

In both studies, the results met the researchers’ predictions: Not only can arbitrary intergroup barriers be broken down by demonstrating group similarity; this newfound similarity has the potential to foster better environmental stewardship behaviours too (Medleady & Crisps, 2017). This is all fine and well to say that a simple change in attitudes can be a great boon for establishing environmental concern, but is that really realistic? How could this research possibly generate tangible results in the real world, outside the laboratory? Surely, it wouldn’t be wise to make every ill-informed person on earth write down what they like about the next generation. Rather, I would contend that a far more reasonable, albeit somewhat sneaky application is at hand.

Our ideas about the world are not informed in a vacuum. What we read and how we feel about it is more important than ever. In what has been described as a post-truth era, the veritable weight of cold hard facts pales in comparison to emotional appeals (McIntyre, 2018). Each time a news article is written, a scientific report articulated, or dialogue with friends and family orated, it provides us with a valuable opportunity: If it can prompt us to consider personal relevance and why we should care for our fellow man or woman – no matter when they’ll inherit this planet – then perhaps we can find ourselves in a more ecologically-sensitive world. All the knowledge gained through scientific research can only be rendered useful if it is communicated well (McIntyre, 2018).

Communication is the sieve in the floodgate that strains words from actions: If done through dry and jargon-heavy means, our communication of this climate change problem only speaks to those who already know it’s a problem, while potentially alienating others. If done in a psychologically-sensitive way, the same statistics and findings can be transformed from informative to inspirational; helping one find congruence between their knowledge and feelings of the issue. That can ignite meaningful action, before it’s too late.

I would hope a more holistic method for communicating climate change findings is imparted before those findings become self-evident. In many ways, climate change is already here: A report from World Wildlife Foundation – which compiled data from dozens of climate scientists – suggests that humanity has killed over 60% of wild animals (World Wildlife Foundation, 2018). Likewise, a raise in global temperature of only a few more degrees would almost assuredly be catastrophic (IPCC, 2018). We are living in a dire situation, lying on the precipice of an ecological point-of-no-return. As such, it’s imperative we use every tool in our arsenal – including psychology – to combat this.

 

References

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (2018). Summary For Policymakers. Retrieved from http://report.ipcc.ch/sr15/pdf/sr15_spm_final.pdf

Guggenheim, D. (Director), & Gore, A. (Screenwriter). (2006). An Inconvenient Truth [Video file]. France: Paramount Pictures. Retrieved November 1, 2018.

Meleady, R., & Crisp, R. J. (2017). Redefining climate change inaction as temporal intergroup bias: Temporally adapted interventions for reducing prejudice may help elicit environmental protection. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 53, 206-212. doi:10.1016/j.jenvp.2017.08.005

McIntyre, L. (2018). Post-truth. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.

World Wildlife Foundation. (2018). Living Planet Report 2018: Aiming Higher. Retrieved from http://pure.iiasa.ac.at/id/eprint/15549/1/%255bEMBARGO%2030%20OCT%255d%20LPR2018_Full%20Report_12.10.2018.pdf

 

 

 

Climate Scientists: Extinction Rebellion Needs You!

By Bill McGuire

OK. Let’s not beat about the bush. While our world has been going to hell in a handcart, many of you studying and recording its demise have had nothing to say on the subject and have remained deep in the shadows, when what has been needed is for you to hog the limelight. The cod justification you have used is always the same; muttered excuses about the need for objectivity; about how you shouldn’t become involved in politics; about how you are merely faithful recorders of facts; a silo mentality that shields you from having to make difficult decisions or engage with others outside your comfort zones.

You know who you are.

In truth, the reason you have never liked to stick your head above the parapet is for fear of being shot at by your peers. As a fellow scientist I understand that – I really do. There is nothing worse than being ridiculed within your own community. It can, I know, mean loss of prestige, a squeeze on funding, and a closing down of opportunities for advancement. I understand, therefore, why you continue to play down anything that might draw attention; why you lie low; tow the party line. I know, too, what you really think and feel about climate change, because I have talked to many of you in private, and the response – without exception – has been that the true situation is far worse than you are prepared to admit in public. So, behind the facade, I know that you are torn between speaking out and holding back;  that you are as desperate as anyone for the measures to be taken that the science demands; most of all, that you fear for your children’s future in the world of climate chaos they will be forced to inhabit.

So, what to do.

Maybe the just-published IEA (International Energy Agency) World Energy Review 2018 will help to crystallise your thoughts and feelings and help convince you of the path you need to choose now. The report paints a picture of the future energy landscape that will send shivers of horror down the spines of all who give a damn about our world and all life upon it. The forecasts are – without exception – dire. By 2040, an extra 1.7 billion people are predicted to drive up energy demand by a quarter, most of it met from high carbon sources. The proportion of renewables in the energy mix is expected to have crept up to 40 percent, but coal is still forecast to be king of power generation, followed by gas. Instead of heading down fast, emissions in 2040 will be even higher than they are now, says the review, at a staggering 36 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide. To put this in perspective, just last month the IPCC, hardly celebrated – as you well know (you might even have been an author or contributor) – for its doom-mongering, warned that in order to avoid catastrophic, all-pervasive, climate breakdown, emissions need to be slashed by 45 percent within just 12 years, and reach net zero by mid-century. But even this will not be enough.

I don’t need to tell you that the chasm between what’s needed, and what the IEA forecasts will happen, flags the extraordinary scale of the uphill battle we face. If we are not to bequeath to our descendants a desiccated, lifeless hothouse, then we need your help and your support.

Now.

Today.

The time to worry about what your colleagues think of you is long gone. Prestige will mean nothing in the world to come; academic advancement won’t alter the fate of your children and grandchildren one iota. So, speak out, tell it like it is. Force those who need to know to listen. Welcome any flack and hurl it back ten-fold. Come down off the fence and choose the path to rebellion.

Bill McGuire is Professor Emeritus of Geophysical & Climate Hazards at UCL and author of Waking the Giant: How a Changing Climate Triggers Earthquakes, Tsunamis and Volcanic Eruptions. He was a contributor to the IPCC 2012 report on Climate Change & Extreme Events and Disasters.

The truth behind Antarctica’s fast-melting ice

By Kate Goldstone

Resources:

 

Introduction

Antarctica, which has long been thought to be relatively safe from vast ice melts, has proved us wrong. It’s actually in just as much trouble as the Arctic.

Plenty of people believed the ice on Antarctica wouldn’t melt as fast as the Arctic. Then, in April 2017, scientists claimed Antarctica’s ice might actually be melting a lot faster than anyone predicted. It matters because Antarctica is home to 90% of the world’s ice. If it keeps melting this quickly, and the continent’s massive ice sheets go, we’re looking at profound worldwide effects including mass flooding.

What’s going on, and is the trend continuing? Here’s what you need to know.

 

How Arctic and Antarctic sea ice differ

Because the Arctic and Antarctics’ geography is different, so is their ice. The Arctic ocean is partly enclosed, mostly surrounded by land. Its ice is less mobile and floes tend to clump together into thick ridges. Ridge ice has a longer life cycle and stays frozen for longer. The region is home to 5.8 million square miles of sea ice in winter, reducing to roughly 2.7 million square miles by the end of the summer.

The Antarctic is totally different. Made up of land surrounded by ocean, the sea ice there moves freely and drifts faster. There are fewer ice ridges as a result, and the lack of a land boundary to the north means the ice naturally floats northwards into warmer waters before melting. Winter sees about 6.9 million square miles of Antarctic ocean covered in sea ice, but by the end of the summer there are only around 1.1 million square miles of it left.

 

Clear warnings in 2017

April 2017 saw the first reports of Antarctica’s ice melting faster than previously predicted, thanks to the discovery of a network of lakes and streams under the continent’s ice shelves which created a destabilising influence on the ice above. The study was published in the journal Nature and revealed the process is taking place in areas where scientists didn’t think there was any liquid water. As global temperatures keep rising, the speed of the damage can only increase. The team examined satellite images dating as far back as 1973 as well as aerial images snapped by military aircraft way back in the 1940s. And the results were a shocker – some of the streams flowed for 75 miles, and some of the lakes were several miles across.

A few months later in November 2017 a study examined the east Antarctic Totten ice shelf, finding it unexpectedly vulnerable to warming waters. And still governments failed to react, never mind act. March 2018 saw scientists announce more of the Totten Ice Shelf was floating than they’d predicted. Multiple different types of supporting evidence proved the point. Now it looks a lot like a certainty. If Larsen C and Totten melt, the world’s sea levels will rise as much as 5 metres. Totten could easily contribute a 3m sea level rise all on its own.

 

Another equally clear warning in 2018

In August 2018, more headline news surfaced about Antarctica’s ice. It appeared a couple of enormous glaciers to the east of the region had lost ice mass disturbingly quickly in the years since the millennium. The results hinted that forecasts for sea level rise this century will have to be revised upwards, but nobody knows exactly how much. While it’s obvious the ice in Antarctica is melting frighteningly quickly, the complex dependencies and inter-dependencies that make it happen aren’t at all clear.

So far most molten Antarctic ice has come from the west of the continent. The Antarctic Peninsula is under particular threat, reaching out into the ocean and exposed to warmer waters, and the Larsen C ice sheet, which famously cracked in 2017, is also to the west. East Antarctica has long been thought to be more stable, cut off from the planet’s weather systems by powerful spinning gales that stop the warmth getting anywhere near. On the other hand it’s so remote that scientists have spent decades guestimating what might happen instead of actually measuring. But they keep getting it wrong. In 2015 one piece of research hinted the region was putting on extra ice, not losing it, but closer examination revealed it was simply not true.

Even if Totten disappears, we probably won’t see a 5m rise by 2100. There’s such a lot we don’t know about the behaviour of Antarctic ice and the many factors a big melt depends on. It apparently takes hundreds of gigatonnes of ice to raise sea levels by just one millimetre, and Totten isn’t anywhere near that level… yet. But it might speed up, and we have no idea how fast the melting could ultimately become once we pass a tipping point, also unknown.

There are more unknowns around the effect of the geology underneath the continent, the shape of the bedrock itself. And the channels running from underneath the Totten link it to the ocean give warmer water the access it needs to potentially kick off a runaway melt.

Only one thing is clear. The original consensus was far too cautious. Now we know for sure Antarctica is losing ice mass hand over fist. It has been losing ice for years. And nobody knows where the tipping point is.

 

The effects of runaway sea level rises

The cities under the most threat from rising sea levels also happen to be amongst the biggest on the planet, the most financially, socially and culturally important. Alexandria in Africa, The Hague in Europe, Miami in North America and Rio de janiero in South America are all at risk, home to a total of 10 million people, almost all of whom would be displaced. Ten million migrants from just four cities… that’s hard to deal with. And it’s only the tip of the iceberg, if you’ll forgive the pun. On every continent, in every sea-facing country, we’d have to build vast amounts of new housing stock for migrants.

Cities don’t operate in isolation, either. Every drowned city means drowned transport networks, communications networks, power, utilities and food networks, all left under water permanently. Wildlife will suffer just as badly, forced out of natural habitats. It actually doesn’t bear thinking about… but it’s happening all the same. As UN environment chief Erik Solheim said before last year’s Bon conference, “[We] still find ourselves in a situation where we are not doing nearly enough to save hundreds of millions of people from a miserable future.”

 

What are governments doing about Antarctic ice loss?

Antarctic ice melt is driven by climate change. Governments are not doing enough about climate change. All over the world those in power are still prevaricating, delaying, discussing and disagreeing while Rome burns. It’s our job to force them to act. Will you join us?