Focus Greenland – Wildfires, record ‘melts’ and boggy permafrost

By Kate Goldstone

*    http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/greenland-population/

**  https://theconversation.com/greenland-how-rapid-climate-change-on-worlds-largest-island-will-affect- us-all-82675

*** https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenland_ice_sheet

“In some places climate change is an undeniable fact of everyday life. One of these places is Greenland.” – Visit Greenland.  (link to https://visitgreenland.com/about-greenland/the-guide-to-climate-change-in-greenland/)

Greenland is the world’s biggest island. It’s a Danish territory that enjoys limited self-government and has its own parliament. In 2018 just 56,000 people lived there*, not a lot. So does it really matter if climate change melts the ice that smothers this extraordinarily wild, remote place? As it turns out, a fast-melting Greenland will have a dramatic effect on the rest of the world. Here’s a quick look at the potential damage caused by global warming in Greenland.

Climate change – Greenland in context**

Greenland’s vast ice sheet covers 80% of the island, acting like an enormous mirror reflecting the sun’s heat back out into space. The resulting ‘Albedo effect’ cools the earth’s surface. When there’s no snow, there’s no Albedo effect and the surface of the earth warms faster.

Greenland’s position on the globe, in the North Atlantic, matters as well, since the meltwater affects the normal circulation of the ocean currents. And it matters even more when you consider most of the island’s ice is more than a kilometre deep. That’s an awful lot of water. As Wikipedia says***, if the entire 2,850,000 cubic kilometres of Greenland’s ice were to melt, global sea levels would rise 7.2m (24 feet), leaving many of the world’s greatest coastal cities, including London and New York, underwater.

Greenland is particularly vulnerable to climate change. In fact temperatures in the Arctic are rising at twice the rate of the global average, and not a month seems to go by without some weather record or another being broken. One of the most recent was a proper shocker, a highly unusual and very large wildfire whose cause has been laid at the feet of global warming. The drier the land gets, the more runaway wildfires we’ll see in Greenland.

It looks like some frightening climate-led trends are emerging in Greenland. Take the fourteen years between 2002 and 2016, when Greenland lost around 269 gigatonnes of ice every year, one gigatonne being a billion tonnes. In 2012 they saw an exceptionally severe melting season, with 97% of ice surfaces melting at one time or another through the year. When the snow actually melted on top of the 3km high summit of the island, scientists were astonished.

The big warm-up carries on. April 2016 delivered abnormally high temperatures and the island’s earliest ever ‘melt’, a day when more than 10% of the ice sheet’s entire surface turned to water. While early melts like this aren’t catastrophic, they do reveal how very quickly and dramatically the ice sheet responds to temperature hikes.

Iceland’s permafrost is thawing at its top level, leaving more and more of the island boggy, damp, and perfect for disease-carrying mosquitoes.  The underlying permafrost reaches as deep as 100m and while it’s permanently frozen right now, there’s no reason to believe it’ll stay that way. The molten ‘active’ layer of permafrost is currently growing by around one and a half centimetres a year, a trend that’ll continue unless we start to reverse climate change.

Experts predict Arctic air temperatures will rise by anything from two degrees Centigrade and seven and a half Centigrade by the end of the century, revealing more than 1,500 billion tonnes of organic matter that has remained frozen solid for many thousands of years… until now. Melting it means the CO2 and methane it contains will be released into the atmosphere to cause yet more global warming.

Glaciers tell us a lot. Following their movement is a reliable way to spot climate change in action.  The magnificent Ilulissat Glacier, in West Greenland, is the world’s fastest moving glacier and Greenland’s biggest contributor to worldwide sea level rise.  May 2008 saw it ‘calve’ the biggest chunk of ice ever recorded on film, an event lasting more than an hour that left a vast three-mile-wide scar. Early 2019 saw even worse news emerge, with a study showing that the biggest ice losses between 2003 and 2013 happening in the south west of the island, hinting that ice is melting directly into the sea, via rivers, avoiding becoming part of the glacier altogether.   

Last but never least, polar bears. Since 1979 the sea ice around Greenland has decreased by just under seven and a half percent, which is already badly affecting polar bears. Scientists predict a 30% drop in polar bear numbers over the next few decades, leaving us with fewer than 9,000 of these precious creatures left on earth.

We’ll leave the last word to the Visit Greenland website: “The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the global average, and is experiencing some of the most intense effects of climate change, with southwest Greenland seeing the most rapid warming (about 3°C during the past 7 years). In July 2013, the temperature at Maniitsoq airport, just beneath the Arctic Circle in west Greenland, was recorded at 25.9°C. This is the highest temperature ever recorded in Greenland.”

Greenland might be home to fewer than 60,000 people. But the effects of climate change on the island will have an impact on us all, wherever on our lovely blue planet we happen to live. Politicians have failed miserably. Now it’s down to us to bring global warming to an end.

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Climate Refugees – How does it Feel to Flee Your Home Country?

By Kate Goldstone

There’s a lot of cruel nonsense talked about refugees. Some people think refugees only leave their home countries because of greed, because they’re simply economic migrants, because they want to tap into another country’s social security system or take other people’s jobs. But when you put yourself in their shoes, life as a refugee looks very different.

Maybe you escaped from war or rape, murder, starvation, dictatorship, terrorism, or violence. Maybe you’re making a life-or-death journey to give your children a better life. And just maybe you’ve had to flee your home country because of climate change. It’s happening.

OK, so climate change refugees are, so far, quite rare. But as the climate steadily warms and already-hot regions around the equator become too hot to support human life, we’re likely to see climate change refugees from all over the planet relocating to survive. How much sympathy will you feel for them? How welcome will you make them? It all depends how deeply you can imagine yourself in their shoes, how much you can empathise.

How it feels to leave your home country

You might not realise it until you leave, but everything about the place you were born and brought up is dear and familiar. Away from home you slowly realise that everything – absolutely every aspect – of the place you’ve moved to is baffling and strange. Not just the language, not just the way things are done. The food in the shops is puzzling and unfamiliar. The currency, the laws, the rules and regulations, the people, the clothing, the road signs, the cars, the sense of humour, nothing really makes sense any more. Even the air, the smells, the light, the way the evenings fall and the days begin, are different. You don’t even feel like you belong in your own skin any more.

You say the wrong things, in the wrong way, to the wrong people. You keep getting cultural stuff wrong, missing the mark, never feeling quite at home, or quite comfortable, or like you belong. You have no friends, no family, no support network. And, often, there’s nobody to help from a human perspective, from an emotional view point. Just cold-faced officials herding you through the system like cattle.

How would you feel if climate change forced you to leave your home, the things you love, everything you recognise and feel safe with? Can you imagine how distressing, terrifying and unsettling it’d feel? Would you be able to sleep at night? Would you wake every morning with feelings of sadness, of despair, of desperate loss?

Do you think it’s fair to lump your fellow humans into one big, unhappy, suffering category, simply anonymous members of a ‘refugee crisis’? This is how refugees are often treated whatever their origin, age, race or gender. Even though many governments and politicians are hell-bent on dehumanising them, refugees are exactly like you and me.

How many climate change refugees can we expect to see?

What’s the climate change-led refugee crisis looking like so far? Take Bangladesh. Most of Bangladesh lies just above sea level. The rainy season sees as much as a fifth of the entire nation flooded, and it’s only going to get worse as sea levels rise. According to National Geographic,Interviews with dozens of migrant families, scientists, urban planners, human rights advocates, and government officials across Bangladesh reveal that while the country is keenly aware of its vulnerability to climate change, not enough has been done to match the pace and scale of the resultant displacement and urbanization, toppling any prospect of a humane life for one of the world’s largest populations of climate migrants.

As Refugees International says, “In 2018, a UN scientific panel released a major report warning that – absent immediate and ambitious action – climate change will have severe and irreversible impacts. This is especially true for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. Among the report’s key findings are that higher temperatures, more extreme weather, rising sea levels, and other effects of climate change will contribute to human displacement, migration, and conflict worldwide.

At the same time the United Nations Refugee Agency says, “The Earth’s climate is changing at a rate that has exceeded most scientific forecasts. Some families and communities have already started to suffer from disasters and the consequences of climate change, forced to leave their homes in search of a new beginning. For UNHCR, the consequences of climate change are enormous. Scarce natural resources such as drinking water are likely to become even more limited. Many crops and some livestock are unlikely to survive in certain locations if conditions become too hot and dry, or too cold and wet. Food security, already a concern, will become even more challenging.”

The World Economic Forum also expresses concern, saying, “A new study in Science finds that as crops fail in agricultural regions of the world, more people will seek asylum in Europe in the coming decades. If the current warming trends were to continue, the research predicts that by 2100 Europe will receive around 660,000 extra applicants each year.

Whatever the number of displaced people turns out to be, whichever regions of the world they escape from and flee to, there are eventually going to be millions of us leaving climate change-affected countries to find safer, better lives. You might be one of them. If you’re flooded out of your home, it’s impossible to grow food on your land any more, or climate change related violence is threatening your family, you might have to leave.

Would you expect compassion from your new country?

If it happens to you, you’ll expect your new country to treat you with kindness and respect. You’ll want the people to be welcoming, and the officials to help you settle down quickly. You’ll expect the right facilities and support at every stage. And you’ll be even more distressed, lost, and frightened if it didn’t happen.

A refugee isn’t a problem or an issue to solve. A refugee is a fellow human being in need. Far too many governments around the world already dehumanise refugees, painting them as a big problem, people we should be suspicious of, people we should protect ourselves against. And that’s not human. It’s a disgrace.

 

 

Focus SIDS – Island nations threatened by climate breakdown

Farewell post from Kate Goldstone -thanks for all your help, Kate!

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_Island_Developing_States

https://www.activesustainability.com/climate-change/countries-risk-disappearing-climate-change/#5

You think you’ve got it bad living on the mainland, or inland, or in a country within a continent. But plenty of small island nations, known as SIDS or Small Island Developing States, are a whole lot more vulnerable to our fast-warming climate than most.

There are several reasons for this unusual level of vulnerability. According to Wikipedia (1), SIDS ‘tend to share similar sustainable development challenges, including small but growing populations, limited resources, remoteness, susceptibility to natural disasters, vulnerability to external shocks, excessive dependence on international trade, and fragile environments.’ And all that means a growing number of them are set to disappear completely as sea levels inexorably rise.

How would you feel if your homeland was about to disappear?

Imagine you’ve been born and bred in a small island state, nurtured by it all your life. Because you know the place so intimately it is deeply familiar. Because you eat local foods and drink local water the land is quite literally in your bones, in your teeth, and you feel a soul-deep love for your homeland. But your island is sinking beneath the waves, you’re powerless to change the inevitable, and you and your family are in a state of horrified, shocked mourning. There goes your culture, your history, your ancestors, everything familiar.

Can you imagine how dreadful that feels? Can you picture how frustrating it must be when nobody can really help? There’s nothing that any of you, the residents of your magical archipelago, can do to stop the waters rising. Would you blame the wealthy, greedy people, the people far away who warmed the earth in the first place? Probably.

Global warming and rising sea levels are threatening many SIDS, by their very nature first in the firing line, barely above sea level with little or no high ground. Most have fragile economies sustained by tourism and international trade. Many have under-developed infrastructures. And the people quite literally have nowhere else to go as the waters flow steadily higher. Here are just a few of the world’s many SIDS that are currently at risk of vanishing for good. (2)

The Republic of Maldives – Due to disappear under the waves

The Republic of Maldives covers an area of just under 300 square kilometres and lies to the south of India. Once colonised by the Portuguese, Dutch and British, now it’s an independent republic. Sea level rises are placing the nation, its people and economy at terrible risk, the islands being some of the lowest-lying on earth. At a maximum height above sea level of 2.3 metres, many of the 1200 tiny islands and atolls that make up this magical place are already going under.

The Solomon Islands – Under serous threat from the seas

Independent from Britain since 1978, the people of the Solomon Islands, in the Indian Ocean, have been warning us for several years that sea level rises will destroy their world, but the world hasn’t listened. Climate change is set to destroy this tiny yet precious place over the next couple of decades, sinking a total of just under 1000 islands across two unique archipelagos.

The Republic of Kiribati – First to see the sunrise… but not for much longer

The remote Republic of Kiribati covers an epic three million square kilometres of the Pacific Ocean to the north east of Australia, the place where the New Year is celebrated first of all, before it reaches the rest of the world. Independent from Britain since 1979 it’s at special risk of sea level rise, being just 3m above sea level. The waters are currently rising by more than a centimetre a year, not a lot by some standards but four times faster than the global average. This means lovely Kiribati will probably completely disappear before too long, losing 33 precious coral atolls and one island forever.

Vanuatu and Tuvalu

The UN pinpoints the Republic of Vanuatu as the world’s most vulnerable island nation to every type of natural disaster. The nation covers just over 12,000 square kilometres and has been a new, independent state since 1980, now completely separate from Britain and France. Sea level rise here is already a problem, but the place is also especially vulnerable to increasing numbers of cyclones of increasing strengths. Take cyclone Pam, which trashed all but 10% of the buildings in the capital. 83 stunning volcanic islands make up the nation, and they are all at risk from sea level rise.

Tuvalu is another island nation already suffering more than average from the ravages of global warming. Tuvalu is the world’s least polluting country, but at the same time has an incredibly low average height above sea level. Independent from Britain since 1978 and close to Vanuatu, it was also severely damaged by cyclone Pam and is set to disappear thanks to global warming. That means four Pacific coral reefs, five atolls and three islands are set to vanish from the face of the Earth before long.

Is there any good news for SIDS?

We’re at crisis point, and no wonder so many SIDS are so keen to move towards low-carbon, climate resilient economies, as set out in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) implementation plan for climate change-resilient development.

On the other hand unless the rest of the world dramatically and quickly reduces its reliance on fossil fuels and slows climate change island nations, no matter how renewable their energy, will remain powerless to prevent the waves rising. In the same way that no man – or woman – is an island, island nations depend on the rest of the world for their survival and we can’t separate our fates.

While places like the Caribbean can go ahead and create renewable energy until they’re blue in the face, because the rest of the world is fiddling while Rome burns, they’re stuffed. And that’s everyone’s responsibility.

As always, the solution rides on the political will of the leaders of wealthier, more influential, larger countries and the larger economic groups they fall into, ‘organisations’ like Europe and OPEC.

Join the rebellion!

Join Extinction Rebellion! Using non-violent direct action and mass civil disobedience, we are pressuring governments to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2025. Will you join us, in love and peace, to save the human race, give our children a future, and protect our fellow creatures?

Kate Goldstone BA Hons
Freelance Copywriter

www.helpinthecity.com
katien@helpinthecity.com
07976 737243
Twitter: @KatieGoldstone1

Inspiring your audience – How to ‘Sell’ Climate Change Action

By Kate Goldstone

 

The battle against runaway climate change is one that every one of us faces. Our children face it too. But across the world climate campaigners are struggling – and often failing – to capture the public imagination, to persuade their audiences to act, to get things moving. As an ex-marketer I think it’s important to explore why it’s sometimes such a challenge to wake our audiences up, and how we can work more effectively to bring millions more protestors into the fold.

The history of climate change

The history of the scientific discovery of climate change (1) kicked off in the early 1800s, when the natural greenhouse effect was first pinpointed. By the 1960s the warming effect of CO2 was clearer, but some scientists began wondering whether human generated atmospheric aerosols might have a cooling effect on the planet.

The ’70s saw the warming powers of CO2 confirmed, and by 1990 both computer modelling and simple observations confirmed greenhouse gases were deeply involved in climate change. Worse still, human-caused emissions were bringing about noticeable global warming. Now we understand a lot more about the causal relations between our CO2 habits and climate change, and there’s no doubt that the human race is at fault. It’s definitively a human thing.

What’s been done so far?

Five decades on from those first indications, it can feel like not a lot has changed. People are still burning fossil fuels, driving everywhere, still flying like there’s no tomorrow, even though our tomorrows are going to be seriously limited if we carry on. Governments are still sitting on their hands, entire nations are sticking their fingers in their ears and pretending everything’s OK. Wildfires are raging, coastlines are flooding, extreme weather is on the up… but nothing much seems to be happening, or at least nothing on the grand scale we need at this point.

Why so little real climate change action?

From an individual perspective, is there anything more scary that the planet you live on, the place that keeps you alive, turning against you? The thing about climate change is, it’s massive. It’s everywhere. It affects every human, plant and animal on the planet, of every kind, in multiple ways, very few of them positive.

Climate change means bad weather. Really bad, unpredictable weather. It means the wholesale destruction of property and crops. It means water wars and mass migrations. It means widespread economic difficulties and it might even destroy whole societies, entire nations. Countries on the Equator will probably become uninhabitable through the heat and lack of rain. People will starve. Because vast swathes of land will no longer be suitable for them, countless precious members of the animal kingdom will die off and become extinct.

From a government perspective, climate change is a really tricky fix. Because governments are only in power for a short time, their viewpoint is a short-term one. They’re not comfortable bringing in unpopular climate change measures that restrict their constituents, cost them money or make their lives less pleasant, and that – as we know – is fatal. It means most of them are doing absolutely nothing, or very little, to mitigate climate change. And it leaves the public, you and I, with very little wriggle room.

If, like me, you’ve stopped flying altogether, barely ever use a car, have fitted energy-efficient light bulbs and other kit to your home and gone veggie or vegan, there’s not a lot else you can do. It’s incredibly frustrating watching governments fiddle while Rome burns. But no wonder it’s so hard to get most people off their backsides and into protest mode, when the problem feels so big, so hard to surmount, so horrifying to even contemplate. It’s very discouraging seeing our leaders doing bugger-all about it, and it’s saddening to see so relatively few ordinary people putting their neck on the block as well.

The remarkable power of optimism

According to an article in New Scientist magazine (2) decades of environmental doom-mongering have fallen on deaf ears. It says that a ‘new environmental campaign with a message of hope’ is what we need, a fresh way to campaign called ‘Earth Optimism’.

Fans of Earth Optimism say the successes we’ve experienced in protecting individual species like the scimitar oryx and Togo slippery frog, the overall decline in Amazon rainforest destruction, and our brilliant work on renewable energies are worthy of celebration. They all reveal the power we have at our fingertips as individuals.

Yes, the movement is accused of naivety, of wearing rose-tinted specs. But at the same time they’re not claiming that everything’s lovely. Rather, they believe we can’t expect people to rise to a challenge like this without inspirational examples of success.

Do environmental campaigners come across as too doom-mongering? Do we come across as ‘guilt-tripping party poopers’ as the article suggests? If you’re in need of a boost, you can follow Earth Optimism’s Tweets here (https://twitter.com/earthoptimism?lang=e)

Taking a marketing perspective

You could say we need to create the marketing campaign to end all marketing campaigns. And marketing is usually about optimism. A positive marketing message is always more powerful and influential than a negative one, which is why we tend to get so frustrated with party political promotion, which focuses a lot harder on negative information about competing parties than positive messages about their own policies.

The more we moan and weep and tear our hair out, the more we’re putting people off. The more dreadful facts and terrifying revelations we put out there, the more we drive people to bury their heads in the sand and keep them there. Do we in fact need fresh, new messages and an Obama-esque ‘yes, we can’ mindset? Do we need to shift the narrative to inspire people? What do you think?

Can we do it? Yes, we can!

If you doubt we can do it, think plastic. You have more influence than you think. Just look at what we’ve done about plastic pollution in the short time between David Attenborough’s epic Blue Planet series, which highlighted the issue, and now. All over the world ordinary people are using less plastic, handing back plastic packaging to the supermarkets it came from, changing their shopping habits, turning up en-masse to clean the world’s beaches and rescue plastic-stricken sea creatures.

Give us a cause and we’ll follow it. Give us a job and we’ll do it. But when we’re left to stew in our own juices as our politicians prevaricate, we’re completely disempowered. Maybe we need to break the task into bite-sized chunks. After all, none of us can save an entire planet’s climate on our own.

Can you think of a way to translate an enormous, unwieldy problem into something people can get their teeth into, get behind, get sorted? Can you think of an optimistic way to express an issue that we need people to focus on? How would you sell climate change action?

Sources:

(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_climate_change_science

(2) https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg23631473-200-reasons-to-be-cheerful/

Focus Australia – Serious climate issues down under

By Kate Goldstone

For generations, people from all over the world have made their way to Australia on holiday to enjoy its wonderful warm, sunny weather and extraordinary natural environments. Plenty of families moved there permanently, seduced by the climate. Now New South Wales, the country’s most heavily populated state, is officially experiencing total drought, and Australia’s legendary hot dry weather is fast becoming more or a problem than a pleasure (1).

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology defines drought as “rainfall over a three-month period being in the lowest decile of what has been recorded for that region in the past ” (2). The current very dry winter down under is intensifying the ‘worst drought in living memory’ in some areas of eastern Australia, with New South Wales, the provider of a quarter of the country’s agriculture, now 100% in drought. 23% of New South Wales is in a state of ‘intense drought’ and the rest is either in drought or drought-affected. And in the news’ grim wake there’s a growing litany of horror in the form of failing crops, dying livestock, and severe water shortages.

Some farmers are being forced to pay as much as a hundred dollars for a truck of hay to keep their beasts alive. Some are selling off their animals in despair. Others are digging in to wait for the rain… if it ever comes. In the Australian countryside farming suicide rates have always been higher than average. Now they’re around 40% higher than urban suicide rates, according to the national mental health charity Sane Australia (3).

The blame lies at the feet of climate change

Of course Australia’s weather is naturally varied year-on-year, and is affected by multiple complicated factors. Like much of the world’s weather it’s a chaotic system, and hard to predict. But all the same, a growing number of scientists are laying the blame at the feet of climate change. The Australian government itself admits the risk of severe drought could be more likely thanks to human-created global warming. As the Prime Minister PM Turnbull acknowledged, he doesn’t know many people in New South Wales who don’t think the climate is getting drier and rainfall becoming more volatile.

Government relief payments do nothing to fix the underlying issue

The Australian government is already paying out annual relief of as much as A$16,000 to affected farmers. The Prime Minister has just promised extra payments of up to A$12,000, in a move that has been criticised for being too little, too late. In a nation where drought isn’t a stranger at the best of times, it’s clear those in power are worried. But like most governments, they’re not doing anywhere near enough on the people’s behalf to mitigate climate change. Emergency relief doesn’t contribute to the fight against global warming, it merely papers over the cracks.

Australia is at more risk of runaway climate change than most

Worse still, The Guardian (4) reports that climate change could affect Australia more than any other continent. A science agency and Bureau of Meteorology report says they expect temperatures to rise as much as 5.1C in Australia by the year 2090. Scientists have long predicted that a 4C rise would be catastrophic, and that makes a hike of more than 5C downright terrifying. Unless action is taken to dramatically slash greenhouse gas emissions right now, officials say there’s a ‘very high confidence’ that temperatures will continue to rise steeply across Australia throughout the 21st century. Let things slide any further and the Australian government’s lack of real action could see the worst case 5C scenario become a reality.

How high temperatures affect humans

High temperatures affect more than agriculture, of course. If you’ve ever suffered through an exceptionally hot summer’s day you’ll know how nasty and uncomfortable it can be. The human body has an internal temperature of around 37C, and it dislikes being any hotter. Prolonged exposure to heat and humidity can easily kill you. If it doesn’t you’ll suffer muscle cramps because you’re dried out, short of vital electrolytes, and salt-deprived. If you’re not used to high temperatures you can suffer heat edema, where your hands and ankles swell up like balloons when your poor blood vessels dilate in an effort to radiate heat away. If you see little prickly red spots on your skin, it’s a heat rash caused by blocked sweat pores. If you stop sweating altogether, it’s time to worry – you’re on the road to potentially fatal heat stroke. When you heat up to more than 40C and lose consciousness, you’re in real trouble.

Extreme heat also results in dizziness, nausea, fainting, hallucinations, and something called heat syncope, where you get a temporary drop in the blood flow to your brain because you’ve lost so much fluid. Vomiting, diarrhoea and palpitations also reveal your body is not at all happy. No wonder, in summer 2003, an estimated 70,000 people died in the great European heatwave, which saw temperatures soaring to record levels for weeks on end.

All this happens to humans… and to our fellow creatures, who also suffer and die when temperatures exceed the usual maximum. Australia’s precious Great Barrier Reef, for example, is dying fast, being bleached to death thanks to rising sea temperatures. And once it goes, that’s that – it’s gone. Half a million years of growth, and we destroy it within a few decades. It’s shameful.

No continent is an island

The thing is, no continent is an island. Climate change is global. No one country is protected from it, no one country can make it go away. If Australia doesn’t act fast enough on climate change, the USA will ultimately suffer. If the USA doesn’t act fast enough Europe will suffer. If the EU doesn’t act now, China will suffer. And so on. We’re all interconnected, as are our economies. When one part of a global economy nosedives, so does the rest.

Australia might just be facing a perfect storm. When you blend dire predictions with government inaction and a climate that might already be changing off the scale, the future doesn’t look rosy.

It’s time to force the world’s governments to act on our behalves, to try to secure a decent future for our children. Will you go to jail for the cause, the greatest challenge mankind has had to face since we made our way out of Africa? Can you support the cause in any other way? If so, we’d love to hear from you.

Together we can make great things happen.

 

Sources:

(1) https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-australia-45107504

(2) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drought_in_Australia

(3) https://www.sane.org/

(4) https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jan/26/climate-change-will-hit-australia-harder-than-rest-of-world-study-shows

(5) https://www.theweathernetwork.com/news/articles/five-awful-ways-extreme-heat-affects-the-human-body/51464

Focus Canada – What will the Canadian climate look like in 2030?

By Kate Goldstone

There’s a lot of talk about saving ‘the planet’ but planet earth will survive whatever we do to its climate. While the planet itself doesn’t need saving, we are fighting tooth and nail to save the human race and our fellow creatures, whether they happen to be furry, scaled, many-legged or feathered.

In Canada, like many other nations, anthropogenic climate change still isn’t being addressed seriously enough by the government, despite liberal leader Justin Trudeau’s impressive claims. So what’s going on in Canada right now as regards climate change? What effect is it having on the country, and do we still have time to stop the carnage in its tracks?

Canada’s problem? It’s ‘business as usual’

According to an article by CBC News (1) a ‘business as usual’ attitude can only mean disaster for Canada. At the same time the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report (2) has highlighted how warming is accelerating faster than ever. It gives us a 12 year deadline to call a halt to the human race’s continuing excesses, and it affects you whatever country you happen to live in.

So far this year Montreal alone has seen 70 human deaths from excess heat, with stifling temperatures regularly exceeding thirty degrees and high humidity that made it feel more like forty degrees. British Colombia encountered the worst wildfires since records began. Flooding brought Toronto to a standstill. And while some areas of the planet have ‘only’ warmed by one degree recently, some areas of Canada have seen dramatic temperature increases of four and a half degrees or more over the past seventy years, including the Northwestern Territories’ Mackenzie region.

It gets worse. As Canada’s senior climate expert David Phillips confirmed, some areas of the country have warmed twice as much as average in half the time. And unusually harsh climate events, which used to happen rarely, are set to become a lot more frequent as well as less predictable.

In general Canada’s summers have warmed by one degree, and its winters by almost one and a half. Some coastal communities in Canada are already battling with sea level rise, along with the associated land erosion and flooding. And eastern Canada is also suffering. Once thought to be less vulnerable to climate change, the past decade has seen dramatic change there, too.

The impact on human life

David Phillips and his team have run ‘business as usual’ computer models to predict Canada’s future climate. And it’s looking pretty grim. Toronto, for example, could experience more than 50 days of temperatures over 30C in the next 30 years, and that also means a 50-60% greater risk of the horrific freezing rain events that already cause such havoc. 2013’s ice storm, for example, cost the nation an eye-watering 106 million Canadian dollars.

While increasing temperatures deliver a longer growing season for farmers, a warmer climate means the land and vegetation dries out and there’s more likelihood of wildfires and widespread smoke pollution. Plus, of course, even more CO2 emissions. But flooding is the biggie for Canada. Flood damage already costs the country more money than any other kind of extreme weather.

The Weather Network website(3) provides more insight. The Arctic’s Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut are all heating up faster than the rest of Canada, not far short of twice the rate. Ice melt is a growing issue, contributing to rapid sea level rise. The albedo – the proportion of light or radiation reflected by the surface of the ice – plus fast-thawing permafrost, are already causing issues around food security and housing. Public health and people’s overall wealth are set to be hit particularly hard in the north of the country. Inuit and First Nations people, who tend to interact more intimately with the environment, will probably suffer most as shorelines erode, permafrost melts, and roads and buildings are destroyed.

Places like New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador are seeing more storms than ever. There are more floods thanks to extreme rainfall and the coastline, where most people live, is the worst affected. Fast-melting Arctic ice is having an impact, with The Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut predicted to be amongst the worst hit by rapid Arctic warming. In a nutshell, things are looking about as bad as they could get.

Best and worst case scenarios

Canada has made efforts to improve things. It has signed the Paris Agreement promising to stop global temperatures shooting up more than two degrees this century, although it’s increasingly likely we’ll miss the target. But at the same time they’ve agreed a new oil pipeline, which sadly reveals how money and short term thinking still come first with the Canadian government despite the hopes raised by Trudeau.

Canada says it will lower its 2005 carbon emissions by 30% by the year 2030. But in 2016 projections revealed the plan was extremely unlikely to succeed, with CO2 emissions targets likely to fail. If things don’t change the year 2030 – just 12 years away – will see Canada’s coastal communities having to move inland, a move that’ll cost the government a fortune. Poor food security will lead to high food prices and more imports. The weather will become increasingly extreme and unpredictable. And if anyone decides to extract the vast reserves of oil and gas that lie beneath the Beaufort Sea, global warming will only accelerate faster.

Imagine the cost if Nova Scotia, as predicted, becomes an island? Imagine the impact on fishing in Canadian waters if the climate warms enough to drive fish away to cooler waters? After all, if the seas warm four degrees, cold water fish will either move away or die out altogether. The usual one in a hundred year storms could happen once every 25 years by 2050. Atlantic Canada’s balsam fir and spruce trees, which dislike warm weather, will die off, and it’ll take decades or even hundreds of years for warm weather alternatives to replace them.

Can we stop it?

As a concerned individual human being, you’ve done everything you can to mitigate climate change. You’ve replaced your lightbulbs with energy-efficient ones. You’ve cut down on car use, or even sold your car in favour of public transport. You haven’t flown for a very long time. You buy less, consume less, warm your home a few degrees less in winter. You insulate, you make do and mend, you recycle and re-purpose. You’ve fitted solar panels, a wind turbine, a water wheel. It’s all good stuff. Actually it’s great stuff. But it still isn’t enough.

Unless the world’s governments act now, and act decisively, Canada will suffer more as time passes. As will the rest of the world’s people, and our fellow creatures. Are you willing to protest peacefully and even go to prison to give our children a future worth having? If so, join us. If not, maybe you can help in some other way? We’d love to hear from you.

 

Sources:

(1) https://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/climate-change-canada-1.4878263

(2) https://www.ipcc.ch/news_and_events/pr_181008_P48_spm.shtml

(3) https://www.theweathernetwork.com/news/articles//canada-climate-change-water-earth-fire-air-2030-global-warming-sea-level-rise/104395

The wanton destruction of Germany’s ancient Hambach Forest

By Kate Goldstone

Brazil’s leader, Bolsonaro, is waging war on the Amazon, large areas of it are already dying thanks to global warming (1), unable to handle the drought. 170,00 acres of Peru’s rainforests have been trashed over the last five years alone (2). The Congo Basin rainforest could disappear altogether by the year 2100 (3). And still, the remaining precious fragments of Germany’s stunning Hambach Forest are under threat from coal mining.

Hambach Forest lies between Cologne and Aachen. It is remarkably bio-diverse, existing as home to more than 140 important species. It’s also the final remnant of a woodland ecosystem that has graced this part of the Rhine River plain since the end of the last Ice Age around 12,000 years ago.

If it sounds magical, it is. But only 10% of the original forest remains, and this precious fragment has been under threat from brown coal mining – thanks to RWE AG’s Hambach surface mine – for many years. No wonder there’s a constant stream of protests and occupations.

While most of us already know that rainforests and cloud forests are the lungs of the world, essential to our survival, fewer people understand that every type of ancient woodland, from temperate deciduous forests to mangroves, needle leaf woods to freshwater swamp forests, is vital for mitigating climate change. Newer growth isn’t anywhere near as effective, which means Hambach is critical to our future.

All this is happening in a country that has long enjoyed a powerful Green movement and boasts decent environmental credentials. So why is the German government sitting on its hands? What’s going on?

Why has there been no Environmental Assessment study of the Hambach?

The incredibly rare Bechstein’s bat is just one of the threatened creatures living in the Hambach, an animal strictly protected by annexes 2 and 4 of the European Habitats Directive. But despite its uniqueness there has never been an Environmental Impact Assessment study on the forest. Germany’s Administrative Court in Cologne vetoed a study in 2017 because permission for mining operations was given to RWE AG way back in the 1970s, decades before Environmental Impact Assessment studies even existed.

A critical disconnect puts profit above our future.

The Hambach surface mine is Germany’s biggest open pit mine, a whopping 33 square miles. RWE AG has always argued that the coal lying under the remainder of the Hambach Forest is vital to meet Germany’s energy needs. However, we all know burning fossil fuels is madness and it has to stop right now.

Sadly there’s the usual baffling disconnect between profit, commerce, power and the future of every living creature on the planet. If RWE AG is allowed to mine the rest of the forest, it’ll mean total destruction. The coal is ripped out of the earth by massive excavators, which mangle the landscape and leave it unrecognisable. Even if they replace the trees with new ones after they’ve mined the heck out of the land, new growth is nowhere near as valuable as the old growth where climate change mitigation is concerned.

Why old forest is better at mitigating climate change than new growth.

According to research reported by the journal Global Change Biology, (4) biodiversity in forests changes irreparably as the climate changes. Trees vulnerable to dry conditions, the water-lovers, usually die off first. These findings alone ‘highlight the need for strict measures to protect existing intact rainforests’, says Dr Kyle Dexter, co-author of the study from the University of Edinburgh.

An article on the Oxford Student website (5) concurs, saying that:

“Tropical forests are not just a random combination of organisms, but a complex ecological web of interactions between species. As written in ‘On the Origin of Species’ (1859): ‘When we look at the plants and bushes clothing an entangled bank, we are tempted to attribute their proportional numbers and kinds to what we call chance. But how false a view this is!’.

I think this complexity is best shown by the forest’s sensitivities. The Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project shows that when the forests become fragmented, the entire ecological community changes. For example, in a one-hectare fragment after 2 years of isolation, the number of bird species declined by 60%. The high complexity means changes in the population sizes and community compositions can trigger a chain reaction, with synergistic effects, that ripples through the forest, impacting many other species.”

Wikipedia also reveals the importance of old growth in forests (6).

“Old-growth forests … store large amounts of carbon above and below the ground (either as humus, or in wet soils as peat). They collectively represent a very significant store of carbon. Destruction of these forests releases this carbon as greenhouse gases, and may increase the risk of global climate change.”

When Wikipedia says, “Research suggests older forests that have trees of many ages, multiple layers, and little disturbance have the highest capacities for carbon storage ”, they’re referring to research carried out by Jennifer C. McGarve, Jonathan R. Thompson, Howard E. Epstein and Herman H. Shugart Jr. in 2015, (7) which proved old growth naturally sequesters a lot more CO2 than new, for all sorts of reasons including the larger-diameter trunks of old trees, and the presence of lots of dead wood, leaf litter and other organic material left to rot down naturally. Their research adds to a growing pile of scientific proof that old‐growth forests have greater CO2 storage potential than anyone previously realised, supporting the findings made by other scientists including the IPCC in 2006, Luyssaert et al. In 2008, Lichstein et al. In 2009, Keith et al in 2009, Keeton et al in 2011, and Burrascano et al in 2013. And they’re just a few members of a long list of scientists who have come to much the same conclusion.

The fact that these studies even exist reveals how wrong Germany’s failure to save the remains of the Hambach Forest really is. RWE can re-forest all they like, but it’ll potentially be hundreds of years before the new growth performs the same essential carbon storage role as old growth. Destroying forests then simply planting new trees is not good enough, and it’s highly disingenuous of governments and commerce to claim otherwise.

Is there any good news?

While the German government seems to be paralysed, doing nothing to help, there is some good news. A non-profit tech startup in Berlin (8) has offered to buy the remaining 200 hectares the forest to save it from RWE’s coal surface mining activities. They’re called Ecosia and the search engine they’ve created donates the majority of its advertising revenue to conservation initiatives (8). They’ve already funded 40 million new trees, planted right across the world, and they’ve offered RWE €1m to save the last remaining corner of the 12,000-year-old Hambach Forest for the future.

As Ecosia said, “Last year for the first time, Germany produced more renewable energy than brown coal energy, and this is the direction we need to keep working towards. There is a momentum here that we do not want to see lost and we invite other companies and organisations to join us in our offer for the Hambach forest.”

Will RWE agree? So far, no. Their lack of action proves that RWE and the German government don’t think climate change is worth taking seriously. It’s all talk, very little action. Once again, short term gain matters more than the future of our children – and theirs, too.

Action feels good – Join Extinction Rebellion

In a world where as much as 80% of the world’s forest loss is down to agribusiness, even though research proves better forest stewardship plus natural climate solutions might deliver over 33% of the climate mitigation needed by the year 2030 (9), we can’t even afford to let another square metre of the remaining Hambach Forest go.

It’s time for peaceful non-violent direct action, to force our governments to change their policies, even if we must go to jail for it. If the future matters to you, join us. You can also support the good people who are on-site, risking their lives every day to prevent more destruction at Hambach.

Resources:

(1) https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/amazon-rainforest-climate-change-death-global-warming-drought-a8622626.html

(2) https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/11/181108130525.htm

(3) https://www.ecowatch.com/congo-basin-rainforest-deforestation-2618692110.html

(4) https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/gcb.14413

(5) https://www.oxfordstudent.com/2018/10/16/the-importance-of-tropical-forests-why-we-should-conserve-them-and-how-they-affect-the-rest-of-the-world/

(6) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old-growth_forest#cite_note-25

(7) https://esajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1890/14-1154.1

(8) https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/oct/09/berlin-startup-offers-1m-to-save-ancient-hambach-forest-from-coal-mining

(9) https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/nov/12/eu-states-call-for-tough-action-on-deforestation-to-meet-2020-un-goal-amsterdam-declaration