Imagination, Not Science, Is The Key To Solving Climate Change

Artists Impressions- Human Perturbation Of Carbon Cycle. © Global Carbon Project I Glynn Gorick

This article has been picked up and widely reported around the web and that’s great as long as it continues to have my name on it with a link to my website.  (And if you like it, please help this work continue) — Stephen

By Stephen Leahy

VANCOUVER, Canada, Feb 20, 2012 (IPS)

Humanity’s failure to halt the deepening planetary emergency of climate change, extinctions of species and overconsumption of resources is a failure of imagination and mistaken beliefs that we act rationally.

The path to a truly sustainable future is through the muddy waters of emotions, values, ethics and most importantly, imagination, said artists and social scientists at the American Academy for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference here in Vancouver, British Columbia.

“We don’t live in the real world but live only in the world we imagine,” said David Maggs, a concert pianist and Phd student at the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability at the University of British Columbia (UBC).

Our perception of reality is filtered by our personal experiences and values. That’s why the “if we only knew better, we’d do better” education and communication paradigm isn’t working, Maggs said. The underlying assumption that a failure to become more sustainable is the result of a lack of information is flawed, he told attendees at what is the world’s largest general science meeting.

“We live in our heads. We live in storyland,” agrees John Robinson of UBC’s Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability.

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“When we talk about sustainability we are talking about the future, how things could be. This is the landscape of imagination,” Robinson told IPS. “If we can’t imagine a better world we won’t get it.”

This imagining will be complex and difficult. Sustainability encompasses far more than just scientific facts – it also incorporates the idea of how we relate to nature and to ourselves, he said.

“We haven’t yet grasped the depth of changes that are coming.” Continue reading

Extreme Weather is the New Normal with Climate Change

Aftermath of an early tornado in Lancaster, Texas. To join thousands of others connecting the dots between climate change and extreme weather, visit ClimateDots.org.

By Stephen Leahy

CAIRNS, Australia, Apr 3, 2012 (Tierramérica)

Extreme weather is fast becoming the new normal. Canada and much of the United States experienced summer temperatures during winter this year, confirming the findings of a new report on extreme weather.

For two weeks this March most of North America baked under extraordinarily warm temperatures that melted all the snow and ice and broke 150-year-old temperature records by large margins.

Last year the U.S. endured 14 separate billion-dollar-plus weather disasters including flooding, hurricanes and tornados.

A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released Mar. 28, provides solid evidence that record-breaking weather events are increasing in number and becoming more extreme. And if current rates of greenhouse gas emissions are maintained, these events will reach dangerous new levels over the coming century.

Since 1950 there have been many more heat waves and record warm temperatures than in previous decades.

This will only increase in future decades, as will heavier rainfall events in tropical regions and the high latitudes, according to the Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX). 

The hottest day that occurs once in 20 years is likely to become a one-in-two year event by the end of the century, except in the high latitudes of the Northern hemisphere, where it is likely to happen once every five years.

The average tropical cyclone maximum wind speed is likely to increase, but the global frequency of tropical cyclones is likely to decrease or remain unchanged.

Continue reading

Indigenous Peoples Can Show the Path to Low-Carbon Living If Their Land Rights Are Recognized

Youba Sokona of Mali is co-chair of the IPCC Working Group III. Photo: Citt Williams, OurWorld2.0

by Stephen Leahy

First published at National Geographic’s NewsWatch

Many indigenous peoples are living examples of societies thriving with sustainable, low-carbon lifestyles. Successfully meeting the global climate change challenge requires that much of the world shift from high carbon-living to low.

This shift is daunting. Current emissions for Australia and the United States average about 20 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person. In the coming decades that needs to fall to two tonnes per person as it is currently in Brazil or the Dominican Republic.

Emissions from most indigenous peoples are even lower and are amongst the lowest in the world.

All options for making the shift from high- to low-carbon living need to be explored and that’s why the United Nations University Traditional Knowledge Initiative (UNU) and  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) invited indigenous peoples to a special three-day workshop in Cairns, Australia last week.

“Climate change is the result of our behaviour,” said Youba Sokona, co-chair of the IPCC Working Group III that will report to governments in 2014 on ways carbon emissions can be reduced.

The IPCC is the world authority on climate, assessing the state of knowledge on the issue every five to six years. Traditional knowledge of local and indigenous peoples have been left out until now.

“One of the critical solutions is to change our behavior, to change our production and consumption systems,” said Sokona, a climate expert from the African nation of Mali.

The Climate Change Mitigation with Local Communities and Indigenous peoples workshop offered a number of “examples of local peoples in Siberia, in Australia, northern Canada and in some African countries demonstrating that it is possible to change our behavior,” he said.

Marilyn Wallace, a Kuku Nyungkal Aboriginal woman. Photo: Citt Williams, OneWorld 2.0

“I live in a shack but I love being on my ‘bubu’, my traditional land,” said Marilyn Wallace of the Kuku Nyungka ‘mob’ (tribe) in northern Queensland, Australia.

Wallace has lived in towns but fought for years to “return to country” and live in her tropical forest homeland 60 kilometers from Cooktown.

At the workshop Wallace and every other indigenous delegate focused on land rights. The simple truth is that if they can’t live on and manage their lands with time-tested traditional methods, they can’t be part of the solution to climate change.

For complete article see Nat Geo’s NewsWatch


Wisdom of Elders Better Than Science or the Internet: “They Still Know How to Cook Mammoth”

Petr Kaurgin, a Chukchi reindeer herder from Siberia. Photo: Citt Williams

by Stephen Leahy

First published at National Geographic’s NewsWatch

 “Our elders are the best source of information. Better than science or the internet,” said Petr Kaurgin, a Chukchi reindeer herder from the remote Turvaurgin nomadic tribal community in north-eastern Siberia.

Kaurgin delivered his message to climate scientists from Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and other Indigenous peoples at the closing of the Climate Change Mitigation with Local Communities and Indigenous peoples workshop here in Cairns, Australia.

“We need to listen to the wisdom of the elders. We can use everything in nature. But we must not break or destroy things, ” he said through a translator.

It was -45C when Kaurgin left his home to bring his people’s message to climate experts here in the hot, wet tropical part of Australia. The IPCC is the world authority on the science of climate change. And along with the United Nations University (UNU) organized the workshop to figure out how to incorporate Indigenous peoples’ traditional knowledge.

“When we love the land where we live only then we are happy,” he said.

Kaurgin’s people and other local Siberian communities have been experiencing the impacts of climate change such as melting permafrost for the last 20 years said Tero Mustonen, Head of the Village of Selkie in North Karelia, Finland.

For complete article see Nat Geo’s NewsWatch

The New Beast in the Forest Brings Hope and Threats to Indigenous Peoples

Deforestation for oil palm plantation West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo Karmele Llano SanchezInternational Animal Rescue

by Stephen Leahy

First published at National Geographic’s NewsWatch

“REDD is the new beast in the forest,” said Patrick Anderson of the Forest Peoples Programme in Indonesia here at Climate Change Mitigation with Local Communities and Indigenous peoples workshop in Cairns, Australia.

Deforestation gobbles up an area the size of Greece (13 million hectares) every year. As if that loss wasn’t bad enough, it also produces huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions — a whopping 15 to 20 percent of all global emissions. That’s second only to the burning of fossil fuels.

Sadly, in our economic system, trees are worth far more dead as paper, lumber, furniture, etc., than alive.

In an attempt to reverse this, countries in the United Nations have agreed to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests in a program called REDD: Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation.

This is how it works. Trees take heat-trapping carbon out of the atmosphere as they grow and store it for as long as the trees live. Instead of cutting down trees and selling the wood, the carbon trapped in the living trees can be sold as “carbon credits” on an open market.

A steel, cement, or coal-fired power company in the U.S. or a European country can then buy those credits instead of reducing its carbon emissions. The current price is around $10 per tonne but this fluctuates.

For example, the newly established Carbon Tax in Australia sets the price at $23 per ton in the first year of operations. (One hectare of tropical forest stores between 250-500 tonnes of carbon but varies considerably. An average car emits 1.5 tonne of carbon per year.)