In this issue of Need to Know: Science & Insight I look at some of the underlying causes of extinctions, what can be done, and how you and I can help. And, believe it or not, it starts with a breakfast with a cassowary, a really big en and dangerous endangered species.
I’m about to launch an email newsletter called “Need to Know: Science and Insight”. I’ve been fortunate to interview some of the smartest and wisest people around the world in my 25 years as an award-winning science and environmental journalist. Every week I hope share some of that collective knowledge with you by writing about one or two things we all need to know about when it comes to climate impacts, energy transitions, the decline of nature’s support systems and so on. These are vitally important topics that mainstream media have cut back their coverage of this year.
And, unlike traditional journalism there’ll also be a personal story, some ideas you can use and maybe a bit of wisdom to consider — all in a 10 to 12 minute read.
The original headline of the article said we had 5 years but now it’s less than 2 years to stop building any new stuff that uses fossil fuels. Here’s lightly updated repost.
By Stephen Leahy
[Authors note: One of the most difficult and important articles I’ve written in 20 years of environmental journalism. Originally published Sept 6 2014 @Vice Motherboard]
Here’s the frightening implication of a landmark study on CO2 emissions:
By 2018, no new cars, homes, schools, factories, or electrical power plants should be built anywhere in the world, ever again, unless they’re either replacements for old ones or carbon neutral. Otherwise greenhouse gas emissions will push global warming past 2˚C of temperature rise worldwide, threatening the survival of many people currently living on the planet.
Every climate expert will tell you we’re on a tight carbon budget as it is—that only so many tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) can be pumped into the atmosphere before the global climate will overheat. We’ve already warmed temperatures 0.85˚C from pre-industrial levels, and the number rises every year. While no one thinks 2˚ C is safe, per…
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Re-engineering our societies to prosper on green alternatives is only option
By Stephen Leahy
UXBRIDGE, Canada, Jan 4 2013 (IPS)
Around the world, 2012 was the year of extreme weather, when we unequivocally learned that the fossil fuel energy that powers our societies is destroying them. Accepting this reality is the biggest challenge of the brand new year.
Re-engineering our societies and lifestyles to prosper on green alternatives is the penultimate challenge of this decade.There is no more important task for all of us to engage in because climate change affects everything from food to water availability.
A number of scientific analyses have demonstrated we already have the technology to re-engineer our society to thrive on green alternative energy. The newest of these was published Wednesday in the prestigious journal Nature. It plainly states that politics is the real barrier, not technology nor cost. (It is far cheaper to act than not.)
Keeping global warming to less than two degrees C is mainly dependent on “when countries will begin to take serious action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions”, according to the study “Probabilistic cost estimates for climate change mitigation”.
Climate change has already pushed global temperatures up 0.8 degrees C, with significant consequences. No climate scientist thinks two degrees C will be “safe”. Many countries, especially least-developed countries and small island states, want the global target to be less than 1.5C of heating. Even then large portions of the Arctic and Antarctic will continue to melt raising sea levels, albeit at a slower rate.
Delay in making the shift to non-fossil fuel energy sources will be very costly. Waiting until 2020 to curb global emissions will cost twice as much compared with peaking emissions by 2015, the Nature analysis shows.
Serious action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions means 65 percent of current coal power plants will have to be shut down in the next decade or two, a previous Nature study reported by IPS shows.
“….nature is sick, which threatens the survival of the human species”
“Conservation of nature is the first order strategy for climate change and carbon capture sequestration”
The only way forward is that “we must learn to live a simple life that is spiritually based”
By Stephen Leahy
MÉRIDA, Mexico, Nov 12 (IPS)
Lawrence Amos travelled from the Arctic at the top of the world to the tropical middle to recite in a soft voice the ongoing destruction of his home by climate change.
The ice is rougher and not as thick, and melts in May instead of June. There is less snow, more coastal erosion, and permafrost is melting, threatening to swallow homes, said Amos, an Inuit who lives in Sachs Harbour in Canada’s High Arctic, one of the remotest communities on the planet.
Amos was speaking here on Memorial Day at the 9th World Wilderness Congress from Nov. 6-13, where many other indigenous peoples, scientists and conservationists from more than 50 countries documented the escalating impacts of climate change on the land and in the oceans.
Like the roll call of the names of those fallen at Memorial or Remembrance Day ceremonies, Amos’ list of impacts experienced by the people of the western Arctic was tragically long.
Insects, birds and fish never seen before are now appearing in the region. “Grizzly bears are mating with polar bears… Our traditional knowledge about the land is becoming worthless,” he told IPS.
“Mother Nature does not use language. We must be aware of the signs, the changes in species, the melting of glaciers to inform us that nature is sick, which threatens the survival of the human species,” said Bittu Sahgal, founder of Sanctuary Asia, India’s leading environmental conservation magazine and book publisher.
“Nature will not talk to us, it will give us consequences,” he told more than 1,500 participants at the WILD9 congress, a partnership between the WILD Foundation, an international, non-governmental non-profit based in the United States, and Unidos para la Conservación, a conservation organisation in Mexico. Continue reading
By Stephen Leahy
“We’re going to see huge changes in the Arctic ecosystem“
QUEBEC CITY, Canada, Dec 13 2008 (IPS)
In just a few summers from now, the Arctic Ocean will lose its protective cover of ice for the first time in a million years, according to some experts attending the International Arctic Change conference here.
A summer ice-free Arctic wasn’t due for another 50 to 70 years under the worst-case climate change scenarios examined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
“Things are happening much faster in the Arctic. I think it will be summer ice-free by 2015,” said David Barber, an Arctic climatologist at the University of Manitoba.
Such a “dramatic and serious loss of sea ice will affect everyone on the planet,” Barber told IPS. Continue reading
Feb 27 (IPS) – Free, authoritative and online: 1.8 million species.
That is the ultimate goal of the Encyclopedia of Life project, which put its first 30,000 species on the Internet this week. This ambitious global project will provide the details of every known species — habitat, range, lifecycle, pictures and more — and archive everything online so anyone can access this important information about life on Earth.
From sharks to mushrooms to bacteria, the Encyclopedia of Life will provide scientifically verified information that will satisfy both a grade school child’s curiosity or enable a university researcher — or amateur naturalist — to make a scientific breakthrough, says James Edward, new executive director of the Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) project headquartered in Washington at the Smithsonian Institution. Continue reading