Helen of Marlowe's Blog

Environmental News on Back to the Future Day

Posted in "North Carolina" by helenofmarlowe on October 21, 2015

Happy Back to the Future Day

Looks like the movie’s predictions missed at one thing – the announcement today that the month of September was the hottest on record.

Other enviornmental notes:

New research from a major national lab projects that the rate of climate change, which has risen sharply in recent decades, will soar by the 2020s. This worrisome projection — which has implications for extreme weather, sea level rise, and permafrost melt — is consistent with several recent studies.

Climate change could be killing off turtles. Temperature during egg incubation determines the gender of the hatchling. This temperature dependency is extremely sensitive, so tiny changes to the average temperature can cause a large gender skew. Skewed sex ratios are already being observed widely across turtle hatching grounds and this could cause the eventual collapse of the species.


Rain Forest destruction

The heart of Amazonia is its vast rivers and forests, home to thousands of plants and animals. Their delicate ecosystem has evolved over millions of years—and it’s increasingly threatened by deforestation and other human activity. As the forest diminishes, so does its ability to serve as a massive carbon warehouse for the world. Roads—164,000 miles of them, three-fourths of them illegal—crisscross the Brazilian Amazon. Ninety-five percent of all deforestation is within 3.4 miles of a road or 0.6 miles of a navigable river. (National Geographic)


The amount of methane in the Arctic hydrates alone is estimated as 400 times more than the global atmospheric CH4 burden. The question is timescale of the methane liberation: gradual, abrupt, or something in between. … There is, therefore, more than enough cause for appropriate concern and continued monitoring of what appears to be an ongoing destabilization of Arctic carbon stores — large enough to represent a variety of hazards both terrestrial and atmospheric.  http://meltfactor.org/is-the-greenhouse-gas-dragon-awakening/   They don’t mention the methane contribution of animal agriculture.

(Bloomberg) — The world’s oldest mummies are at risk of disappearing because of man-made climate change, according to a group of Harvard University scientists.

Eating less meat essential to curb climate change, says report

Global livestock industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions than transport but fear of a consumer backlash is preventing action, says Chatham House report … The recent landmark report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that dietary change can “substantially lower” emissions but there is no UN plan to achieve that.

Past calls to cut meat eating by high-profile figures, from the chief of the UN’s climate science panel to the economist Lord Stern, have been both rare and controversial. Other scientists have proposed a meat tax to curb consumption, but the report concludes that keeping meat eating to levels recommended by health authorities would not only lower emissions but also reduce heart disease and cancer.

Meat Consumption and Climate Change

by Tom Levitt – December 8, 2014

Government indifference is matched by widespread public ignorance about the climate impact of high levels of meat-eating

As negotiators in the Peruvian capital of Lima engage in the latest round of multinational talks aimed at finding ways of reducing global greenhouse gas emissions, one issue will be conspicuous in its absence — animal farming. …

To be successful, argues sustainability analyst Alejandro Litovsky, founder of the Earth Security Group, both consumers and the meat industry need an alternative scenario for protein consumption, industry and jobs, which renders meat obsolete. (Earth Island Journal)

And, from Forbes of all places:

Eating Less Meat Is World’s Best Chance For Timely Climate Change, Say Experts

A widely cited 2006 report estimated that 18% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions were attributable to cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats, camels, pigs and poultry. However, analysis performed by Goodland, with co-writer Jeff Anhang, an environmental specialist at the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation, found that figure to now more accurately be 51%.


Stern Warns Humanity Is at Climate Crossroads, Radical Action Needed in Paris

The lead author of the 2006 Stern Review on the economics of climate change says that although there will be an agreement at the UN climate conference in Paris, COP21, in December, it’s what happens afterwards that is crucial.

Professor Nicholas Stern warns: “Whatever way we look at it, the action we need to take is immense.”

If governments delay taking decisive measures to halt greenhouse gas emissions, he is convinced that a tipping point on climate will be reached. “In Paris, we need recognition of what we need to do—and how radical that change will be.” http://ecowatch.com/2015/10/21/nicholas-stern-climate-change/

With more than 10,000 traffic crashes reported every year, Chennai has one of the highest rates of road deaths in India. In June 2012, the city government launched the Chennai Street Design Project to address this problem. This project aims to reclaim the city’s streets for pedestrians and cyclists by prioritizing modes of transport other than private automobiles. The policy requires at least 60 percent of the city’s transport budget be allocated to constructing and maintaining infrastructure for nonmotorized transit. This includes widening sidewalks, building safe bicycle infrastructure, better managing intersections, and even implementing street furniture. By 2018, the city aims to have built safe and continuous footpaths on at least 80 percent of all streets, increase the share of walking and cycling trips to over 40%, and, most significantly, eliminate pedestrian and cyclist deaths.

From http://ecowatch.com/2015/10/19/solutions-sustainable-planet/2/

And finally, Bill McKibben is angry …

Climate activist Bill McKibben has already written editorials about recent revelations that ExxonMobil had deep knowledge of climate change as far back as the 1970s. He had taken to social media to spread the word. But last week, he felt that wasn’t enough and decided to protest and get himself arrested at an ExxonMobil station in Burlington, Vt.

That’s how angry McKibben was that the energy giant had known for four decades that burning fossil fuels was changing the earth’s climate—and then chose to ignore it and fund efforts to deny it.

The findings were reported in two separate investigations by InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times into how much Exxon knew about climate change and when.

The stories “change the accepted narrative of the fight I’ve spent almost my whole adult life engaged in,” McKibben, co-founder of the environmental organization 350.org, told InsideClimate News the day after his arrest. “Had Exxon been forthright in the late 80s or early 90s, they could have short-circuited the faux debate we’ve been engaged in all these decades. They were the ones that had the unique credibility to do it.”

Holding a sign that read “This pump temporarily closed because ExxonMobil lied about (#Exxonknew) climate,” McKibben was arrested by Burlington police for trespassing. He was released later in the day.

The green leader said he hoped his action would inspire people—including his approximately 165,000 Twitter followers—to read the two investigations. Whether it will also encourage others to undertake similar civil disobedience remains to be seen.

“I started my life as a newspaperman and it never occurred to me I’d be getting arrested to get people to read someone else’s story, but the level of clutter in our information world is so great that sometimes it takes novel measures to break through,” he said.

McKibben has written editorials about the stories in The New Yorker and The Guardian.

Besides McKibben’s arrest, the stories have led to a growing cry for the justice department to investigate whether ExxonMobil and other fossil fuel companies intentionally misled the American public on climate change—similar to the probe into the tobacco industry in the 1990s. Two California congressmen called for a federal investigation on Friday.

An online petition by the political advocacy group ClimateHawks Vote to “prosecute Exxon for deliberate climate denial” has garnered nearly 2,000 signatures.



10 Responses

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  1. Robert A. Vella said, on October 21, 2015 at 10:41 pm

    This dire situation is further worsened by a rather unpleasant combination of circumstances which is receiving scant attention from the media, government, and the scientific community. Global food production has leveled-off and will peak around 2030 (IPCC study); thereafter, it generally falls towards 2100 due to climatic impacts. Meanwhile, world population is on a curve to reach over 11 billion by the end of the century (UN projection). These two opposite-trending factors suggest that a significant change in growth and total population are likely to occur sometime this century (a.k.a. “depopulation”).

    Recently, I analyzed this data and plotted it on a graph. Using the most probable global food production scenario, I concluded that the Earth’s biosphere will be able to support a maximum human population of 7 billion in the year 2100 (current world population is 7.3 billion). Assuming some level of depopulation, and adding the factors of sea level rise, fresh water shortages, mass migrations, etc., it is hardly difficult to imagine a world much more socially/politically unstable than today. Wars, for example, might dramatically escalate.

    • helenofmarlowe said, on October 23, 2015 at 9:51 am

      Robert, yes, global food production is a worry that we will have to deal with, and I fear that
      it will lead the corporate food producers to argue for turning more rainforest into grazing land for cattle. It’s generally understood that the planet could feed the world’s population now on a plant-based diet, but
      eating more meat is seen as “progress”.
      When you say “Assuming some level of depopulation…” I assume you mean normal levelling off (as
      in Germany) and more people have fewer children, but I’m puzzled by the idea that we are on a curve to reach more than 11 billion and yet also predicting depopulation. Your comment led me to some googling, and I find conspiracy theories abound – such as liberals pushing vaccines because they
      “are keen on depopulation, and vaccines are silent killers.” This attributed to Rand Paul, but I
      don’t know how reliable that source is, as it seems such a bizarre thing to say. No question the next generation will have to deal politically and socially with difficulties of unstable planet and unstable nations.
      Thank you for broadening the dimensions of my perspective.

      • Robert A. Vella said, on October 23, 2015 at 3:59 pm

        The studies I cited come directly from the IPCC (food production) and the UN (population). Since they were conducted independently, their conflicting projections are what prompted me to compare them in my analysis.

        The potential transition from meat-based to plant-based diets was included in the IPCC study which considered it as a practical necessity.

        There is no conspiracy implied here. I’m not suggesting depopulation as a human-imposed solution to overpopulation. Rather, I am suggesting that because global food production will begin to decline around 2030 (due to climatic impacts and other factors), and that population growth is trending in the opposite direction, there will likely come a time within this century when the world’s human population will begin to decrease due to an inadequate food supply.

        I realize this is scary stuff and that’s why educated people are not addressing it, but it is a logical conclusion based on current projections. Do the analysis yourself and make up your own mind. I can assure you that government analysts around the world already have.

        • helenofmarlowe said, on October 24, 2015 at 11:28 am

          “There is no conspiracy implied here. I’m not suggesting depopulation as a human-imposed solution to overpopulation. ”

          Oh, I didn’t mean to imply that — I only meant I was unfamiliar with the idea of a projected downturn in population numbers, so i googled, and, as usual, found the gamut. What you say makes entirely good (but unhappy) sense. I’ve read (in) the IPCC food security report, and I continue to be amazed that we (humans, governments) are allowing the window of opportunity to shrink and close. If there is anything more important, I don’t know what it is.

  2. Jim Wheeler said, on October 27, 2015 at 10:38 am

    Two recent items in the news support your points, Helen. One, it is projected that by the end of the century the summer climate will be so hot in the Persian Gulf region that human anatomy (perspiration) will be unable to support life outdoors. Two, the W.H.O. finds that eating processed meat (hot dogs, bacon) is a proven carcinogen, increasing the likelihood of cancer by 18%. It’s like watching a train wreck in slow motion.

    Maybe Malthus was right.

    • helenofmarlowe said, on October 27, 2015 at 6:03 pm

      Hi Jim, I hadn’t heard of your first point, but as for eating meat, especially processed meat, I wonder what took W.H.O so long. The meat industry is much like the oil industry in protecting their bottom line by denying the science on that. The first item you mention is really scary! Not that I expect to be here, but it’s distressing. I went looking for more on that, and found a discussion on another wordpress blog, robertscribbler. I don’t know him but his blog is well done. http://robertscribbler.com/2015/07/31/killing-heat-it-felt-like-165-degrees-in-iran-today/ He says “even when sitting still and out of direct sunlight over the course of about 1-3 hours. Basically, it’s the physical limits of human heat endurance.”

      • Jim Wheeler said, on October 28, 2015 at 10:11 am

        The Robert Scribbler link is a good one, Helen.

        Back in my youth when I visited my mother’s family on the farm I recall that there was only one cool place to escape summer heat – the storage cellar. It was half underground and covered with thick soil and concrete. I was thinking that going deep might be a refuge in the future tropics, but then that cool layer might be overwhelmed by the temperature rise. I wonder.

        • helenofmarlowe said, on October 28, 2015 at 9:19 pm

          Like the Hobbits? Or, like these maybe? http://www.offthegridnews.com/grid-threats/the-surprising-facts-about-earth-sheltered-living/ I looked at a site with lots of earthen homes, some quite artistic and beautiful, but the url was too large to paste here. I just googled earthen homes. That may well be one of the best options as surface temperatures warm. Not natural caves, but similar temperature range, I would think. And on the way to this site, I learned that 30 million Chinese now live in caves. (Since climate-change denier Ted Cruz is younger than I am, he will have to live in a cave longer than I will. 🙂

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