This is an archived newsroll page on A Socialist In Canada, consisting of headlines and weblinks, with occasional news summary and brief analysis, for November and December 2019. For the current, ‘Ecology newsroll’ website page, go here.
Ecology newsroll headlines on A Socialist In Canada, December 2019
On land, Australia’s rising heat is ‘apocalyptic’; in the ocean, it’s even worse, Washington Post, Dec 27, 2019 The ocean surrounding Australia’s southern coast has warmed by 3.6 degrees F (two degrees C), nearly four times the global average. More than 95 per cent of the giant kelp forests, which served as an important marine habitat, have died. Many cold water marine species are moving further south or being pushed to extinction. The Washington Post’s examination of accelerated warming in the waters off Tasmania marks this year’s final installment of its global series ‘2C: Beyond the Limit’, which identified hot spots around the world. The investigation has shown that disastrous impacts from climate change aren’t a problem lurking in the distant future: They are here now.
California’s fires prove the American Dream is flammable, by Kian Goh, The Nation, Dec 23, 2019 If we want to keep cities safe in the face of climate change, we need to seriously question the ideal of private homeownership …Few are discussing one key aspect of California’s crisis: Yes, climate change intensifies the fires, but the ways in which we plan and develop our cities makes the fires even more destructive…
Related: Fire, garbage and homelessness increasingly plague California, New York Times, Dec 29, 2019 …”What’s happening in California right now is a warning shot to the rest of the country,” said Jim Newton, a journalist, historian and lecturer on public policy at the University of California, Los Angeles. “It’s a warning about income inequality and suburban sprawl, and how those intersect with quality of life and climate change.” …
Previously reported: It’s the end of California as we know it, by Farhad Manjoo, columnist, New York Times, Oct 30, 2019 The fires and the blackouts are connected to a larger problem in this state: a failure to live sustainably …The fires and the blackouts aren’t like the earthquakes, a natural threat we’ve all chosen to ignore. They are more like California’s other problems, like housing affordability and homelessness and traffic. These are human-made catastrophes we’ve all chosen to ignore, connected to the larger dysfunction at the heart of our state’s rot: a failure to live sustainably… Our whole way of life is built on a series of myths — the myth of endless space, endless fuel, endless water, endless optimism, endless outward reach and endless free parking…
The world according to the Sustainable Development Index, analysis of the The Sustainable Development Index, a project launched in November 2019 by director Jason Hickel, an advocate of ‘degrowth’ and senior lecturer at Goldsmith’s College, University of London. See a full description of the Sustainable Development Index, published here on A Socialist In Canada website, Dec 29, 2019.
Climate change and political chaos: A deadly mix in Honduras as dengue epidemic hits hard, New York Times, Dec 30, 2019
Declaration by the ‘Deep Green Collective’ of the U.S. Green Party, published in CounterPunch, Dec 27, 2019
[This ‘deep green’ declaration published in the eclectic Counterpunch notes insightfully: “We cannot have infinite growth on a finite planet. Yet ‘development’ in most of the world today is directed towards creating still more economic growth: More stuff for more people. This dynamic has benefited a tiny layer of the population, but for nearly everyone else… the costs have constituted a social and ecological nightmare.” The declaration argues further along the same lines: “Capital, technology, and the state have, for centuries, been an interlocking juggernaut fostering toxic industrialism and modes of production characterized by ecological irresponsibility. Meanwhile, the ideology of “development” has brought us to our current state of alienation from nature. Its growth mania has resulted in generalized hypertrophy (institutions and technologies too large to be controlled democratically) and a sense of cultural malaise.”
[But the statement explicitly rejects the scientific case that the growth dynamic of capitalism is at fault. Instead, it offers this loaded argument: “But the problematic ‘progress and development’ trajectories of our civilization pre-date capitalism and have been evident in every attempt to implement socialism in the modern era.” This argument ‘conveniently’ ignores that socialism has made Cuba the most sustainable country in the world, according to the pathbreaking, newly launched Sustainable Development Index project. It also falsifies the history of the 20th century. The ‘socialism’ descriptor as applied to the the planned economies of the former Soviet Union and peoples republics of China and eastern Europe is inaccurate. The variant of socialism that came to prevail in those countries was authoritarian. It trampled underfoot the pioneering environmental research, advocacy and policy which developed in the early Soviet Union and then was trampled underfoot by the rising ideology of Stalinism. Real socialism was blocked and ultimately defeated by the violence and aggression of world imperialism–two world wars; fascism in Germany and other European countries; the state of permanent militarism and war by the Western imperialist countries following WW2, including the nuclear arms race; the use of economic blockades, and so on.
[The Deep Green manifesto argues to “return power to local communities”. ‘Return’? From when and where? From before the very rise of human civilization and class-divided society? That is naive. Yes, human societal evolution has arrived at the violent and planet-destroying system of capitalism. But capitalism is the unique and specific form which came to has triumph over human society, since the 18th century. Today, it is delivering an unprecedented threat to the world’s peoples. The ‘Deep Greens’ are correct in valorizing local community empowerment in the face of the planetary emergency. But humanity faces a triple threat caused by industrial capitalism and imperialism–rising social inequalities, global warming , and rising imperialist war and militarism. This triple threat requires far deeper and thoroughgoing political empowerment than mere community empowerment. It is naive and reckless to dismiss just how powerful and threatening is the world capitalist economic system (become imperialist since the late 19th century) with its endless expansion imperative and the deadly military machines which keep the expansion imperative in place.]
New ‘IMO 2020’ international regulations to reduce sulphur in fuel burned by ships may deal big blow to tar sands producers in Alberta. Report by Dan Healing, The Canadian Press, Dec 28, 2019
Microplastic pollution is raining down on city dwellers, by Damine Carrington, The Guardian, Dec 27, 2019 Microplastic pollution is raining down on city dwellers, with research revealing that London has the highest levels yet recorded. The health impacts of breathing or consuming the tiny plastic particles are unknown, and experts say urgent research is needed to assess the risks. Only four cities have been assessed to date but all had microplastic pollution in the air. Scientists believe every city will be contaminated, as sources of microplastic such as clothing and packaging are found everywhere… About 335m tonnes of new plastic is produced each year and much leaks into the environment…
Russia’s warm winter has deprived Moscow of snow, caused plants to bloom and roused bears out of hibernation, Washington Post, Dec 24, 2019
Australia’s bushfires have burned four million hectares and left nine people dead. The story so far in each state, The Guardian, Dec 23, 2019 [By comparison, 105,000 hectares of land burned in California in 2019 while the Canadian province of British Columbia set a wildfire record in 2018 with 1.4 million hectares burned. California’s record wildfires in 2018 burned 765,000 hectares, source. The total area burned in a single year by wildfires in the United States has exceeded 3.6 million hectares–an area larger than the country of Belgium–only four times since the middle of the last century. All four times have happened this decade, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA…].
* Australian PM defends his global warming-denial policies in the face of sharp criticism by Greta Thunberg. Report by Deutsche Welle, Dec 23, 2019
* Australia’s global warming-denying PM Scott Morrison slips home from holiday in Hawaii as wildfire/heatwave crisis intensifies. Report on ABC, Dec 21, 2019
A Trump ‘policy clarification’ all but ends punishment for bird deaths, New York Times, Dec 23, 2019 … Habitat loss and pesticide exposure already have brought on widespread bird-species declines. The number of adult breeding birds in the United States and Canada has plummeted by 2.9 billion since 1970. Now, said Noah Greenwald, the endangered species director for the Center for Biological Diversity, the Trump administration has engineered “a fundamental shift” in policy that “lets industrial companies, utilities and others completely off the hook.” Even a disaster like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010, which killed or injured about a million birds, would not expose a company to prosecution or fines…
Related: 95 environmental rules being rolled back under Trump, New York Times, Dec 21, 2019
I went undercover as an Amazon delivery driver. Here’s what I learned about the hidden costs of free shipping, by Brendan Kennedy, investigative reporter, Toronto Star, Dec. 19, 2019 The average number of home deliveries in Toronto per day has reached 1.03 million.
Global warming: It’s time to talk about near-term societal collapse, by Aled Jones (Anglia Ruskin University) and Will Steffen (Stockholm University), published in The Conversation, Dec 6, 2019 …The science and the warnings focus on curtailing the emission of heat-absorbing gases into the atmosphere that, left unaddressed, may threaten the viability of contemporary society and worsen a mass extinction event already in motion. But these warnings are not connected with complex human systems such as food, finance and logistics, leaving them to evolve as if climate change didn’t exist…
COP25: Never have so many governments done so little for so many, by Pete Dolack, published on his website Systemic Disorder, Dec 18, 2019
* COP25: What was achieved and where to next?, Climate Home News, Dec 16, 2019
Related: For the vulnerable, UN climate talks are no longer fit for purpose, by Saleemul Huq Climate Home News, Dec 17, 2019
* Food at risk as one third of the plants on the planet face extinction, by Tim Radford, Climate News Network, Dec 17, 2019
Australia smashes heat record for the second day in a row, Common Dreams, Dec 19, 2019 Calls for immediate and ambitious action to tackle the climate emergency piled up Dec 19 in response to preliminary analysis from Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology that Dec 18 smashed the nation’s temperature record by a full 1°C just one day after the previous all-time record. The first record was set Dec 17 when Australia’s national average maximum temperature reached 40.9°C (105.6°F), eliciting alarm from climate and fire safety experts. Dec 18, the average rose to 41.9°C (107.4°F), sparking a fresh wave of warnings and demands for bold efforts to battle the planetary crisis…
* Australian state of New South Wales declares second emergency in two months as fires intensify, Deutsche Welle, Dec 18, 2019
* Australia’s corporate media silent as global warming-denying PM Scott Morrison and family holidayed in Hawaii during the country’s unprecedented heat and wildfire crisis, Independent Australia, Dec 19, 2019 …What is going on here? First, Labor has chosen not to make an issue of it. There are a couple of possible explanations. One is that the boot will be on the other foot some time and MPs have a shared interest in not making trouble about the perks of office. A second is that, like the Government, Labor can’t speak honestly about climate change and therefore can’t say anything useful about the fires… Morrison’s best defence was stated by former fire chief Greg Mullins who declined to criticise his departure, saying that the Federal Government wasn’t doing anything anyway, so the PM might as well go on holiday…
* Australia burning, by Chloe Hooper, London Review of Books Blog, Dec 20, 2019
* Millions to swelter and suffer from wildfire smoke as doctors in Australia warn of ‘public health emergency’, by Matt Woodley, published in News GP (Royal Australian College of General Practitioners), Dec 16, 2019 [Beginning Dec 13, Perth suffered a three-day heat wave of temperature at 40C or higher. That heat wave is now moving eastward across southern Australia and will likely bring record-high temperatures, including to Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney.] * Statement by 22 public health agencies in Australia says wildfire air pollution is a public health emergency, Sydney Morning Herald, Dec 15, 2019
* ‘Sydney is angry’: Protesters march to demand urgent action on climate change, Sydney Morning Herald, Dec 11, 2019
* Thousands rally against inaction amid bushfire and air quality crisis, The Guardian, Dec 11, 2019
Top global scientists call for ‘profound food system transformation’ to combat extreme malnutrition, Common Dreams, Dec 16, 2019 A multi-part World Health Organization report published Dec 16 in the British medical journal The Lancet detailed the need to urgently transform the world’s failing food systems to combat the coexistence of undernourishment and obesity—or the “double burden of malnutrition”. Based on global data from recent decades, the WHO report estimates that more than 150 million children are stunted worldwide while nearly 2.3 billion children and adults—about 30 per cent of the planet’s human population—are overweight…
Major states snub calls for climate action as UN summit wraps up, Reuters, Dec 15, 2019 A handful of major states resisted pressure on Dec 15 to ramp up efforts to combat global warming as a U.N. climate summit ground to a close, angering smaller countries and a growing protest movement that is pushing for emergency action. The COP25 talks in Madrid were viewed as a test of governments’ collective will to heed the advice of science to cut greenhouse gas emissions more rapidly, in order to prevent rising global temperatures from hitting irreversible tipping points. But the conference, in its concluding draft, endorsed only a declaration on the “urgent need” to close the gap between existing emissions pledges and the temperature goals of the landmark 2015 Paris climate agreement – an outcome U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called disappointing…
* How COP 25 turned its back on climate action, Climate Home News, Dec 16, 2019
* COP 25 is denounced as ‘utter failure’ as deal is stripped of ambition and U.S. refuses to accept liability for climate crisis, Common Dreams, Dec 15, 2019
* Climate negotiators reach watered-down deal at COP25, Deutsche Welle, Dec 15, 2019 The climate talks in Madrid stretched into record overtime. Negotiators reached a vague agreement in which key decisions to avert the worst global warming were booted to a future date.
* At COP 25 summit, 31 countries say ‘carbon credit’ scheme by Australia and Brazil will put 1.5C out of reach, Climate Home News, Dec 14, 2019
* Summarising the lack of climate emergency at #COP25: Interview with Peter Carter, 23-minute interview conducted at COP25 summit meeting in Madrid, Dec 10, 2019 (Read the introduction to the interview here. Dr. Peter Carter is Director of the Climate Emergency Institute, an IPCC expert reviewer and co-author in 2018 of Unprecedented Crime: Climate Science Denial and Game Changers for Survival.)
* 500,000 march in Madrid at ‘COP 25’ conference demanding climate action; Greta Thunberg joins them, warning that the climate movement has ‘achieved nothing’ until emissions begin to fall, Common Dreams, Dec 6, 2019
* Transcript of Greta Thunberg’s address to the United Nations Climate Conference (COP25) in Madrid on Dec 6, 2019
* Since Paris agreement in 2015, global financial firms have sunk $745 billion into new coal plants, DeSmog Blog, Dec 10, 2019
* Oil and gas companies approve $50 billion of major projects that undermine climate targets and risk shareholder returns, press release by Carbon Tracker, Sep 5, 2019 …This first study to identify individual projects that are inconsistent with the 2015 Paris Agreement on global warming finds that no major oil company is investing to support the agreement’s goals of keeping global warming “well below” 2°C and to “pursue efforts” to limit it to a maximum of 1.5°C… Since the start of 2018, all major oil and gas companies have approved project that are not consistent with the Paris goals. Carbon Tracker highlights $50 billion of investment in 18 major projects that are not even consistent with a 1.7-1.8°C pathway (IEA’s Sustainable Development Scenario). They include Shell’s $13 billion liquefied natural gas project in Canada… Read the full report here.
How the fossil fuel industry is attempting to buy the global youth climate movement, by Alleen Brown, The Intercept, Dec 13, 2019
Germany taps its geothermal potential, by Paul Hockenos, Yale Environment 360, Dec 3, 2019 Geothermal accounts for just 0.3 percent of the European Union’s primary energy production; worldwide, the exploitation of geothermal energy is even lower. The modest European figures, though, don’t count non-EU heavyweights Iceland and Turkey, the latter a breakout prodigy that more than doubled its capacity between 2016 and 2018 to a record-breaking 1,347 megawatts…
Amazon sees alarming rise in deforestation, Deutsche Welle, Dec 14, 2019
Earth’s most important rivers are in the sky, and they’re drying up, by Fred Pearce, New Scientist, print issue of Nov 2, 2019 (read the article here in pdf format: Rivers in the sky) The vast airborne waterways that keep our planet hydrated are fed by rainforests like the Amazon. If the world’s rainforests disappear, the consequences may be worse than climate change.
In speech to world leaders at COP25 conference in Madrid, Greta Thunberg slams the conference deliberations, says governments’ response to global warming crisis is ‘clever accounting and creative public relations’, speech by Greta Thunberg to COP25 on Dec 11, 2019, broadcast on Democracy Now! (11-minute speech)
The Arctic may have crossed key threshold, emitting billions of tons of carbon into the air, in a long-dreaded climate feedback, by Andrew Freedman, Washington Post, Dec 11, 2019
The Arctic is undergoing a profound, rapid and unmitigated shift into a new climate state, one that is greener, features far less ice and emits greenhouse gas emissions from melting permafrost, according to a major new federal assessment of the region released Dec 10. The consequences of these climate shifts will be felt far outside the Arctic in the form of altered weather patterns, increased greenhouse gas emissions and rising sea levels from the melting Greenland ice sheet and mountain glaciers.
The findings are contained in the ‘2019 Arctic Report Card’, a major assessment by the U.S. government of climate change trends and impacts throughout the region. The study paints an ominous picture of a region lurching to an entirely new and unfamiliar environment.
Warming temperatures allow microbes within the soil to convert permafrost carbon into the greenhouse gases — carbon dioxide and methane — which can be released into the air and accelerate warming. Ted Schuur, a researcher at Northern Arizona University and author of the permafrost chapter, said the report “takes on a new stand on the issue” based on other published work, including a study in Nature Climate Change in November 2019…
Exposing a hidden global warming threat: Methane ‘super emitters’, interactive feature in New York Times, Dec 12, 2019 Jonah M. Kessel, a New York Times visual journalist, and Hiroko Tabuchi, a Times climate reporter, went to West Texas oilfields with a camera that can photograph methane. …The reporters drove to the sites armed with infrared video gear that revealed methane billowing from tanks, seeping from pipes and wafting from bright flares that are designed to burn off the gas, but sometimes fail to do so completely…
Air travel on the rise despite climate threat, Deutsche Welle, Dec 11, 2019
20 million people are now being displaced annually by global warming, according to report by Oxfam International, interview with Nafkote Dabi, climate policy lead of Oxfam International, broadcast on The Real News Network, Dec 9, 2019
There is one million times more microplastic in our oceans than we realize, by George Dvorsky, Gizmodo (Univision Communications), Dec 3, 2019 The amount of microplastic in our ocean—that is, pieces of plastic measuring smaller than 5 millimeters—is a million times greater than previously estimated, according to new research published in the science journal Limnology and Oceanography Letters…
Naomi Klein on the case for a ‘Green New Deal’, interview with Naomi Klein, broadcast on ‘The Laura Flanders Show’, Nov 27, 2019 (and re-broadcast on The Real News Network, Dec 9, 2019 [In the interview, author Naomi Klein vaunts the ‘Green New Deal’ that was unanimously approved in August 2019 by the Seattle City Council. “That’s a model we must look at,” Klein says.]
Related: What would a city-level Green New Deal look like? Seattle is about to find out, by Kristoffer Tigue, Inside Climate News, Aug 15, 2019 …Seattle city leaders launched Seattle on the path to a Green New Deal this week, passing a resolution that starts laying out an ambitious plan for how the city can cut its greenhouse gas emissions in ways that protect the climate and improve the lives of its residents. It’s a nonbinding resolution. Like the national Green New Deal manifesto that’s being promoted by Democrats in Congress, presidential hopefuls and the young activists in the Sunrise Movement, the Seattle city resolution is still mostly aspirational…
[Residents of Vancouver, Canada will find that Seattle’s climate ‘aspirations’ sounds a lot like the ‘Green Vancouver’ public relations exercise by their own municipal leaders. The mayor and city of Vancouver skillfully use the carefully crafted ‘Green Vancouver’ image to ignore or gloss over the rampant expansion taking place in the region of Vancouver–more roads and bridges for cars to feed ongoing urban sprawl, expansion of the region’s Alberta tar sands export terminal and coal export terminal, expansion of the Port of Vancouver… and the list goes on. Nowhere is heard or discussed the imperative of degrowth/drawdown/retrenchment.]
The German car industry’s costly bet on electric cars could backfire as cities fight cars of any description, by Eric Reguly, columnist, Globe and Mail, Dec 7, 2019 Read the article here in pdf format: The German car industry and electric vehicles
Related: Automakers worldwide shed 80,000 jobs as electric shift upends industry, Bloomberg News, Dec 3, 2019
Oceans losing oxygen at unprecedented rate, experts warn, The Guardian, Dec 6, 2019 Sharks, tuna, marlin and other large fish are at risk from spread of ‘dead zones’, say scientists
Thawing permafrost has turned the Arctic into a carbon emitter, by Adam Vaughan, New Scientist (weekly magazine published in UK), Oct 21, 2019 Read the article and the ‘related’ article here in pdf format: Thawing permafrost has turned the Arctic into a carbon emitter
Related: Huge Arctic fires have now emitted a record-breaking amount of CO2, by Adam Vaughan, New Scientist, July 25, 2019
500,000 march in Madrid at ‘COP 25’ conference demanding climate action; Greta Thunberg joins them, warning that the climate movement has ‘achieved nothing’ until emissions begin to fall, Common Dreams, Dec 6, 2019
Related: Activists cheer for ‘Greta!’, urge climate action at mass march in Madrid, Associated Press, Dec 6, 2019
Don’t pursue economic growth at expense of environment, says latest, five-year overview by the European Environment Agency, The Guardian, Dec 4, 2019 …The report, known as ‘European Environment – State and Outlook’, is a comprehensive study produced every five years and details the health or otherwise of all natural systems across EU member states and others including Norway, Switzerland and Turkey. The 2020 edition was brought forward to inform the incoming European Commission [executive branch of the European Union] as it discusses a promised ‘green new deal’ and for delegates attending COP25, the 25th annual UN conference on climate change currently taking place in Madrid. There has been little improvement since the last report in 2015, despite promises, policies and targets…
* Green groups at COP 25 conference in Madrid warn against market-driven solutions to climate emergency, Common Dreams, Dec 2, 2019
* Controversial ‘carbon market’ proposals for curbing greenhouse gas emissions take center stage at COP 25 conference, Deutsche Welle, Dec 2, 2019
* Carbon offset programs are failing as climate solutions, interview with Lisa Song and Nikita Naik, broadcast on The Real News Network, Dec 2, 2019 (Sixteen-minute interview, Lisa Song reports on the environment, energy and climate change for ProPublica; Nikita Naik works as a senior researcher for Food and Water Watch.)
Five wildfires merge north of Sydney, Australia as conditions forecast to worsen, The Guardian, Dec 6, 2019 …Six people have died and more than 680 homes have been lost to bushfires in New South Wales… The largest fire is a conglomeration of five blazes which have joined up north of Sydney and have burned over 335,000 hectares.
* Factcheck: Are this year’s wildfires in Australia unprecedented?, The Guardian, Dec 5, 2019 [To date in 2019, some two million hectares of land in Australia have burned. That’s much less than the record fire year of 1974, but the causes and conditions in those two years are quite different. By comparison, 765,00 hectares of land burned in California in the record wildfires of 2018 while the Canadian province of British Columbia set a record in 2018 with 1.4 million hectares burned.].
* Docks halt, electrical workers stop work as Sydney’s pollution worsens, Sydney Morning Herald, Dec 6, 2019
Kansas City becomes first major American city with fare-free public transit, 435 Mag, Dec 5, 2019 [Daily bus and streetcar ridership in Kansas City (metro population 2.1 million) is, respectively, 60,000 and 5,700. By comparison, daily bus and above-ground light rail ridership in Vancouver, Canada (metro population 2.5 million) is, respectively, 730,000 and 525,000.]
‘The Amazon is completely lawless’: The Amazon rainforest after Bolsonaro’s first year, New York Times, Nov 4, 2019 Deforestation in the world’s largest rainforest, an important buffer against climate change, has soared under President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil. Brazil’s space agency reports that in one year, more than 3,700 square miles of the Amazon has been razed — a swath of jungle nearly the size of Lebanon torn from the world’s largest rainforest. It is the highest loss in Brazilian rainforest in a decade and stark evidence of just how badly the Amazon, an important buffer against global warming, has fared in Brazil’s first year under President Jair Bolsonaro…
After hottest decade since records began, WMO warns world may face 5°C rise by century’s end, Common Dreams, Dec 3, 2019 As the decade comes to a close, the world’s top climate scientists warned on Dec 3 that policymakers’ continued failure to curb the warming of the planet could lead to a global temperature increase of 5° Celsius by the end of the century and put the world “nowhere near on track” to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis. 2019 is expected to be the second or third warmest year ever recorded, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), while the past five-year and ten-year periods are “almost certain to be the highest on record.”…
Earth nears irreversible tipping points, by Tim Radford, Climate News Network, Nov 28, 2019 On the eve of a global climate summit in Madrid [the 25th annual ‘Conference of the Parties’ (COP 25) ], seven distinguished climate scientists have issued an urgent warning of approaching planetary tipping points: within a few years, they say, humankind could enter a state of potentially catastrophic climate change on a new “hothouse” Earth. They warn in a commentary in the journal Nature that dramatic changes to planetary stability may already be happening in nine vulnerable ecosystems…
World Health Organization reports 142,000 died from measles in 2018; in 2019, the number of reported cases is three times higher than 2018, The Guardian, Dec 5, 2019 The worldwide surge in deadly measles outbreaks is showing no sign of abating, with nearly ten million cases and 142,000 deaths last year, according to new estimates, and three times more cases reported so far this year than at the same stage in 2018… WHO says 95 per cent coverage is necessary to prevent outbreaks, but globally, 86 per cent of children get the first dose and fewer than 70 per cent the second dose…
Death toll from measles epidemic in Samoa rises to 60 following sharp drop in vaccinations in recent years, Radio New Zealand, Dec 4, 2019 …The prime minister of Samoa has threatened police will jail people who discourage vaccinations and promise healing by alternative methods…
* Pacific island country of Samoa, population 200,000, undertakes compulsory, country-wide vaccinations for measles, Deutsche Welle, Dec 4, 2019
* Anti-vaccination advocates double down as measles epidemic kills 50 Samoan children, by Doug Hendrie, published by the news outlet of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Dec 2, 2019 Public health experts have cautioned that the problem is wider than just anti-vaccination advocacy, with a sluggish government response a key reason for the spread
Measles ‘out of control’ in Samoa with 14 reported deaths and a health system under strain, by Doug Hendrie, published by the news outlet of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Nov 18, 2019 The crisis in Samoa, population 200,000, has shed light on plunging vaccination rates which last year dipped as low as 30 per cent for MMR vaccines for infants, from 90% only six years earlier. The epidemic is one of many gripping Australia’s neighbours in the Pacific, with American Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand and Fiji also seeing recent outbreaks. This year has seen significant measles outbreaks more widely, with the Philippines in the grip of a major outbreak that has resulted in hundreds of deaths while Madagascar has reported more than 1000 deaths.
Ottawa urged to place ringed seals, a bellwether species of the Arctic, on ‘at risk’ list, by Ivan Semeniuk, science reporter, Globe and Mail, Dec 2, 2019
Related: Arctic ringed seals are threatened species, U.S. appeal court rules, Associated Press, Feb 15, 2018 A seal that depends on Arctic sea ice for reproduction will receive threatened species protection, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled. A three-judge panel overturned a lower court decision and ruled that the National Marine Fisheries Service acted properly in listing ringed seals as a threatened species because of projected loss of sea ice due to climate warming. The decision reverses a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Beistline of Anchorage who in March 2016 said the agency’s decision was speculative…
Why clean energy isn’t enough to tackle climate change, Axios, Dec 1, 2019 …Leading Democrats are pushing aggressive goals that aim to get off fossil fuels, but they don’t offer many details on how they plan to achieve that. (See: Green New Deal and a House Democratic bill introduced late last month, both which lack substantive policy details.)… By its own definition, the plan [Green New Deal] is meant to be purely symbolic. Yet it features specific, extremely ambitious goals while leaving out the hard stuff, like actual policy designs, how to pay for it and how to keep energy costs in check…
The downside of solar energy, Scientific American, Dec 1, 2019 …Total e-waste—including computers, televisions, and mobile phones—is around 45 million metric tons annually. By comparison, photovoltaic waste will be twice that figure by the year 2050… While supplying only about one per cent of global electricity, photovoltaics already relies on 40 per cent of the global tellurium supply, 15 per cent of the silver supply, a large portion of semiconductor quality quartz supply, and smaller but important segments of the indium, zinc, tin, and gallium supplies… In the U.S., there is no federal e-waste regulation to motivate photovoltaic waste collection and recycling…
The fox is picked to watch over the henhouse: Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England (and the Bank of Canada, 2008-13) is named UN special envoy for climate action and finance, CTV News, Dec 1, 2019
Ecology newsroll headlines on A Socialist In Canada, November 2019
Youth activists lead global #ClimateStrike and protests ahead of COP 25 to take plce in Madrid Dec 2-11, Common Dreams, Nov 29, 2019 and read: report in The Guardian, Nov 29, 2019 ‘We have watched a string of United Nations climate conferences unfold. Countless negotiations have produced much-hyped but ultimately empty commitments from the world’s governments—the same governments that allow fossil fuel companies to drill for ever-more oil and gas and burn away our futures for their profit.’–Statement by Greta Thunberg (Sweden), Luisa Neubauer (Germany) and Angela Valenzuela (Chile)
Thousands of climate protesters storm German coal mines, demanding faster coal phaseout and other, bolder action by governments, Common Dreams, Nov 30, 2019
Germany is closing all its nuclear power plants. Now it must find a place to bury the deadly waste for one million years, CNN, Nov 30, 2019 Seven nuclear power stations still in operation today are due to close by 2022.
The forests of Gabon are on the front line of fighting climate change, Bloomberg News, Nov 29, 2019
Related: Wildlife-loving Gabon environment minister seeks to stamp out illegal logging, Reuters, Nov 14, 2019
By contrast, the forests in the dominant imperialist countries of the world have long ago been decimated by forest industry clearcutting and oil, gas and mining industries. The carnage continues. To cite one example:
* Caribou in Canada: Feature series published in The Narwhal
* U.S. lists caribou in British Columbia as endangered while province approves logging in critical habitat, The Narwhal, Oct 4, 2019
* Resource extraction [pillaging] and ‘recreation’ industries threatens the iconic caribou species in Canada, CTV News, Sep 18, 2018
UN report warns only rapid and transformational action can stave off climate disaster, Common Dreams, Nov 26, 2019 An alarming report by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) released on November 26 says global temperatures are on track to rise as much as 3.9°C by the end of the cntury, meaning only drastic and unprecedented emissions reductions can stave off the most devastating consequences of the climate crisis… UNEP’s ‘Emissions Gap Report’ comes one day after the UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reported that levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached a record high in 2018…
* Record greenhouse gas concentrations prompt calls for drastic action by UN agencies, The Enery Mix (Canada), Nov 27, 2019
* We have 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe, warns UN, by Jonathan Watts, global environment editor, The Guardian, Oct 8, 2019
* In bleak report, UN says drastic action is only way to avoid worst effects of climate change, Washington Post, Nov 26, 2019 …The report is viewed as the benchmark of the world’s progress in meeting its climate goals. It underscores how the pledges that nations made in Paris in 2015 are woefully inadequate to achieving the goals of the accord. To hold warming to “well below” two degrees Celsius, the authors found that countries would need to triple the ambition of their current promises. To hit the more ambitious target of no more than 1.5 degrees of warming, they found, nations would need to ramp up their pledges fivefold. “Every year of delay beyond 2020 brings a need for faster cuts, which become increasingly expensive, unlikely and impractical,” the report states. “Delays will also quickly put the 1.5C goal out of reach.” A Washington Post analysis this year found that roughly 20 per cent of the world has already warmed to troubling levels…
Greenhouse gases accelerated to new peak in 2018, reports World Meteorological Organization, Common Dreams, Nov 25, 2019 and read: report by Reuters, Nov 25, 2019 …Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere hit a new record in 2018, exceeding the average yearly increase of the last decade and reinforcing increasingly damaging weather patterns, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Nov 24… The UN agency’s ‘Greenhouse Gas Bulletin’ is one of a series of studies to be published ahead of a UN climate change summit being held in Madrid next week, and is expected to guide discussions there. It measures the atmospheric concentration of the gases responsible for global warming, rather than emissions…
60,000 people ordered to flee a third explosion rocks burning Texas chemical plant, RT, Nov 28, 2019 …Communities affected by the mandatory evacuation order include Port Neches, Nederland, Groves, Beauxart Gardens, Central Gardens as well as portions of Port Arthur…
Related: One week after Trump rolled back safety measures, chemical plant explosion rocks Texas town, Common Dreams, Nov 27, 2019 …The disaster at the TPC Group-owned facility roughly 94 miles west of Houston took place a week after the Trump administration rolled back safety rules meant to protect workers and people who live near chemical plants..
China’s renewed coal boom, by Robert Hunziker, CounterPunch, Nov 27, 2019
‘Bags for life’ making plastic problem worse, say campaigners in Britain, The Guardian, Nov 28, 2019 …In 2018, supermarkets in Britain put an estimated 903,000 tonnes of plastic packaging onto the market, an increase of 17,000 tonnes on the 2017 footprint. The surge is fuelled in part by a huge rise in the sale of “bags for life” by 26% to 1.5bn, or 54 bags per household…
Action needed now as microplastics accumulate in Great Lakes, reports McMaster U researcher, Canadian Press, Nov 27, 2019
Global warming is supercharging the Indian Ocean’s climate system, The Guardian, Nov 19, 2019
* India’s ominous future: Too little water or far too much, interactive feature in New York Times, Nov 25, 2019 Decades of short-sighted government policies are leaving millions defenseless in the age of climate disruptions – especially the country’s poor.
* Dozens killed in Kenya landslide after torrential rains, news agencies report on Al Jazzeera, Nov 23, 2019 [The death toll from landslides in northwest Kenya caused by heavy rains has risen to 60.] …Floods hit East Africa regularly, but scientists say they have recently been exacerbated by a powerful climate phenomenon in the Indian Ocean stronger than any seen in years. The extreme weather is blamed on the Indian Ocean Dipole – a climate system defined by the difference in sea surface temperature between western and eastern areas of the ocean…
A mineral-intensive ‘green energy’ transition: Deforestation and injustice in the Global South, Bulletin #246 of the World Rainforest Movement, October/November 2019 (The full issue of Bulletin #246 is here.) Excerpt from the introduction: …To make it appealing for consumers and corporate funders, the ‘clean energy’ promise, is based on simply replacing fossil fuel-based energy with renewable energy. The dirty secret of this transition, though, is the exponential expansion of mining in the Global South that would be needed to satisfy the massive demand for ‘green’ energy. Copper, cobalt, nickel and lithium, for example, are needed for electric vehicles, energy storage and cabling. The World Bank predicts a growth of more than 900% in global demand of lithium between 2017 and 2050 while the demand for cobalt is anticipated to increase nearly six-fold over the same period…
Unraveling the claims for and against green growth, by Tim Jackson (University of Surrey, UK) and Peter A. Victor (York U, Toronto), published in Science Direct, Nov 22, 2019
No, koalas bears in Australia aren’t ‘functionally extinct’—yet, by Natasha Daly, National Geographic, Nov 25, 2019 Australia is in the midst of a catastrophic and unprecedented early fire season. As dozens of bushfires rage up the country’s eastern coast, from Sydney to Byron Bay, incinerating houses, forest, and even marshland, one of Australia’s most iconic animals, the koala bear, has taken center stage in headlines…
Extraordinarily warm autumn is a big problem in Canadian Arctic, by Bob Weber, Canadian Press, Nov 24, 2019
How climate change is killing Japan’s salmon trade one melted ice cap at a time, by Simon Denyer and Chris Mooney, The Independent, Nov 22, 2019 [This article originally appeared in The Washington Post, Nov 12, 2019 under the title ‘The climate chain reaction that threatens the heart of the Pacific’.]
Light pollution is key ‘bringer of insect apocalypse’, by Damien Carrington, environment editor, The Guardian, Nov 22, 2019 Light pollution is a significant but overlooked driver of the rapid decline of insect populations, according to the most comprehensive review of the scientific evidence to date. Insect population collapses have been reported in Germany and Puerto Rico. The first global scientific review, published in February 2019, said widespread declines threatened to cause a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems.” Now the latest review, published in the journal Biological Conservation, says, “Insects around the world are rapidly declining. Their absence would have devastating consequences for life on this planet.” …
The world is burning all year long. Are there enough planes to douse the flames?, New York Times, Nov 21, 2019 As climate change pushes California’s fire season into Australia’s, an intricate system of resource sharing struggles with the load
Planned fossil fuel output to greatly exceed Paris climate pledges, Deutsche Welle, Nov 20, 2019
China coal-fired power capacity still rising, bucking global trend, Reuters, Nov 19, 2019 and read: related news report in The Guardian, Nov 20, 2019 China has raised its coal-fired power capacity by 42.9 gigawatts (GW), or about 4.5%, in the 18 months to June, connecting new projects to the grid at a time when capacity in the rest of the world shrank, according to a study published by Global Energy Monitor on November 20. China also has another 121.3 GW of coal-fired power plants under construction…
Mapped: The world’s coal power plants, map feature on Carbon Brief, March 25, 2019
New front opens in Australian bushfires, in state of South Australia, Reuters, Nov 21, 2019
The sustainable development index: Measuring the ecological efficiency of human development in the Anthropocene, academic paper by Jason Hickel, published in Ecological Economics, print issue dated January 2020 …This paper seeks to advance the longstanding quest to modify Human Development Index for ecological impact. The attempts that have been made thus far all suffer from notable weaknesses that render them ultimately unsuitable… The Sustainable Development Index (SDI) reveals that no nations are yet sustainably developed (with world-leading performance on social indicators and safe levels of ecological impact), and therefore none yet stand as an obvious champion for others to follow. This will begin to change, however, as middle and high-income countries implement ecological policy in order to reduce their emissions and material footprints… [The top-ten performers according to the Sustainable Development Index (SDI) are, in order, Cuba, Costa Rica, Sri Lanka, Albania, Panama, Algeria, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Peru. The nations that dominate the Human Development Index (HDI) fall toward the bottom of the SDI range, dragged down by their high ecological impact. The top-ten HDI countries are Norway, Switzerland, Australia, Germany, Sweden, Ireland, Singapore, Iceland, Netherlands and Denmark.]
Nitrogen fertilisers are incredibly efficient, but they make climate change a lot worse, report by multiple researchers, published in The Conversation, Nov 18, 2019
Deforestation of Brazilian Amazon hits highest level in a decade, Common Dreams, Nov 19, 2019 … According to the figures from the Brazilian Space Research Institute (INPE), in the 12-month period ending July 30, 2019, deforestation claimed 3,769 square miles (9,762 square kilometers), the highest rate of deforestation since 2008 and a nearly 30 per cent increase from the previous 12-month period…
Cuba’s urban farming shows way to avoid hunger, by Paul Brown, Climate News Network, Nov 12, 2019 …By the year 2008, food gardens made up eight per cent of the land in Havana and 3.4 per cent of all urban land in Cuba, despite their small scale. They produced 90 per cent of all the fruit and vegetables consumed. As a result, the calorie intake of the average Cuban quickly rose to match that of Europeans, relying on a diet composed mainly of rice, beans, potatoes and other vegetables – a low-fat diet making obesity rare. Because of the climate, though, wheat does not grow well in Cuba, and the island still has to import large quantities of grain for bread. Meat is in short supply and also has to be mainly imported…
The great lithium problem of climate change mitigation, by Kate Aronoff, The New Republic, Nov 16, 2019 The crisis in Bolivia has an urgent message for environmental policy in the United States … Meanwhile, demand for lithium is set to explode. Building a green energy grid, expanding renewables and electrifying everything from cars to cooktops requires more lithium and other so-called technology metals that are central to clean energy. The Institute for Sustainable Futures, for instance, projects that a world run fully on renewables by 2050 would demand 280 per cent of the planet’s lithium reserves—those which are economically viable to extract—and 85 per cent of the planet’s total lithium resources…
1.8 million pieces of garbage litter the bottom of the Bay of Fundy, says study, CBC News, Nov 15, 2019 A new study estimates almost two million pieces of junk lie on the seafloor of the Bay of Fundy between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Most of it is plastic and fishing gear, and the true scale is likely more. The study, Benthic Marine Debris in the Bay of Fundy, said seafloor debris in the Bay of Fundy is “numerous and widespread”… Researchers examined the sea floor at 281 locations throughout the Bay of Fundy over a three-year period, estimating an average of 137 items of debris per square kilometre. The makeup of the debris was: plastics, 51 per cent; abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear, 28 per cent; cable, metals and tires, 21 per cent…
Report by conservationists in UK warns of ‘unnoticed apocalypse’ of insects, report in Common Dreams, Nov 13, 2019
More deaths, fewer joint replacements, huge costs: The superbug crisis is already here, report warns, by Sharon Kirkey, columnist, National Post, Nov 12, 2019 …A new report is raising the stark possibility of Canada returning to an almost pre-antibiotic era — the prospect of a future where antibiotics against common infections no longer work. “There have been few health crises on this scale in Canadian history,” warns the Council of Canadian Academies expert panel report, ‘When Antibiotics Fail’… and read: Drug resistance likely to kill 400,000 Canadians by 2050, report predicts, by Laura Kane, Canadian Press, Nov 12, 2019 Problem already costs the national health-care system $1.4B per year
Report: When Antibiotics Fail: Report of The Expert Panel on the Potential Socio-Economic Impacts of Antimicrobial Resistance in Canada, issued on Nov 12, 2019 (268-page report) [The report understates the effects of the use of anti-microbial medications on animals raised for slaughter and consumption, even though the report acknowledges “the [agricultural] industry accounted for about 78% of antimicrobial use in Canada in 2016…”]
Canadian study links air pollution nanoparticles to brain cancer frequency for first time, by Damian Carrington, The Guardian, Nov 13, 2019
Sydney braces as Australia prepares for ‘catastrophic’ bushfires, Al Jazeera, Nov 12, 2019 Sydney is covered by haze with authorities warning hot, windy weather could lead to fires in bushland parched by drought
* Wildfire emergencies across Australia. Report in The Guardian, Nov 11, 2019
* Australian fire officials say the worst is yet to come, report in New York Times, Nov 11, 2019 …The areas where fires were raging as of Tuesday morning, north of Sydney near Port Macquarie and the Queensland border, have been suffering from a lengthy drought. Scientists note that moisture levels of live trees and shrubs around Sydney are also at record lows — even lower than the levels during the Black Christmas fires of 2001, which destroyed more than 500 buildings on the edge of Sydney and burned for three weeks… Despite several months of mass protests drawing attention to the Australian public’s concerns about climate change, the country’s deputy prime minister has dismissed questions about its role in the fires. In an interview with ABC Radio National, Michael McCormack, said it “galls” him when people raise climate change in relation to bush fires. He said global warming was a concern of “raving inner-city lunatics.”…
Bernie Sanders joined by Naomi Klein and Sunrise Movement at Climate Crisis Summit in Iowa, Common Dreams, Nov 9, 2019 (includes weblink to YouTube broadcast, three hours long, of Climate Crisis Summit in Iowa on Nov 9, 2019)
October 2019 was hottest in Earth’s recorded history, say scientists, The Independent, Nov 6, 2019 Temperatures in Europe were 1.1C higher than 30-year average, EU data shows
Over 11,000 scientists from around the world declare climate emergency, warn of ‘untold human suffering‘, Common Dreams, Nov 5, 2019
Related: Reports in Sydney Morning Herald, Nov 5, 2019 and in Smithsonian Magazine, Nov 5, 2019
Sea levels set to keep rising for centuries even if emissions targets met, report in The Guardian, Nov 6, 2019 …”Even with the Paris pledges there will be a large amount of sea level rise,” said Peter Clark, an Oregon State University climate scientist and co-author of the study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences…
Related: Attributing long-term sea-level rise to Paris Agreement emission pledges, study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, Nov 4, 2019
Trump regime begins formal process to leave 2015 climate change accord, National Public Radio, Nov 4, 2019 [The 2015 ‘Paris Agreement’ on global warming has proven to be a ruse by the leading capitalist governments of the world and the corporations they represent. Greenhouse gas emmissions continue to rise sharply and there is no plan not will to reverse course. But that’s not why the Trump regime is leaving the agreement. It is doing precisely on behalf of world’s large captialist interests. Their death-cult, belief system values greed and the capitalist growth imperative over the survival of humanity and the Earth’s ecosystem as we know it.]
Dam good questions about the Green New Deal, by Don Fitz, published on Green Social Thought, Nov 1, 2019 ‘Green New Deal’ proposals from the Democratic Party such as those of Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ignore both nuclear power and hydroelectric dams. Yet dams have ominous implications for the world’s rivers and rising greenhouse gas emissions.
Related: Hundreds of proposed new dams could mean trouble for our climate, by Warren Cornwall, Science Magazine, Sep 28, 2016
Previously reported: Deliberate drownings of Brazil’s rainforests are worsening climate change, by Daniel Grossman, New Scientist (weekly magazine published in UK), print issue of Sept 21, 2019 (This article was produced in partnership with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.) It isn’t just Bolsonaro and the fires. Hydroelectric dams in the Amazon are submerging millions of trees, transforming huge carbon sinks into sources of planet-warming gases. Read the article here in pdf format: Greenhouse gases from hydroelectric dams in tropical zones
… Hydroelectric power is widely considered a good way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while satisfying our ever-increasing demand for power. The most recent study produced for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on this topic, released in 2012, reported that, taking into account construction and operation, hydroelectric power produces only half a per cent to three per cent of the warming of fossil-fuel power plants that burn coal, oil or natural gas. That is true for some dams, such as those built in relatively cool, dry places with relatively little vegetation that rots and turns into greenhouse gases. But the IPCC report ignored dams built in lowland tropical forests, where luxuriant jungle produces an unusually large amount of emissions… The reservoir at the Balbina dam is releasing 39,000 tonnes of methane every year. This more than doubles the amount attributable to the dam compared with previous estimates. The research shows that if you include methane and CO2, Balbina is nearly 10 times as bad for the environment as a coal-fired power station producing the same amount of electricity…
Indian capital Delhi gasps under choking smog, by Glenda Kwek, Phys.org, Nov 3, 2019 …Concentrations of fine particles (2.5 microns or less in diameter) in the air hit the highest level of this season, India’s state-run System of Air Quality Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) said. The air quality index for PM2.5 hit 810 early in the day, well beyond the “hazardous” zone, according to the US embassy in Delhi, which independently monitors pollution levels. The recommended World Health Organisation safe daily maximum is a reading of 25…
* Key facts behind Indian capital’s toxic smog, Phys.org, Nov 4, 2019 …On the morning of November 4, the concentration of PM2.5—fine particles of less than 2.5 microns that can enter the bloodstream and penetrate the lungs and heart—was at 613, nearly 25 times the safe limit set by the World Health Organisation, according to the U.S. embassy in Delhi. One day earlier, it approached 1,000… The Indian capital is one of 14 Indian cities listed in the World Health Organization’s top 15 most polluted cities globally. ..
* Air pollution in global megacities linked to children’s cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s and death, by Amedeo D’angiulli, The Conversation, Sep 26, 2019 …In megacities around the world, including Mexico City, Jakarta, New Delhi, Beijing, Los Angeles, Paris and London, humans are polluting air at a rate that Earth can no longer sustain… [The Conversation is a website of news and analysis featuring academic writers. It began in Australia in 2011 and now has chapters in other countries. It voices a pro-imperialist viewpoint on world politics.]
On fire this time, feature essay by John Bellamy Foster, in the November 2019 issue of Monthly Review, Nov 1, 2019
[In this essay, Marxian academic and writer John Bellamy Foster endorses the ‘green Keynesianism‘ of Senator Bernie Sanders. He writes, “Sanders’ 34-page Green New Deal plan goes still further” than that of Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. Senator Sanders is seeking the 2020 presidential nomination of the U.S. Democratic Party.
[Foster is at his best in this essay when describing the origin of the planetary, capitalist ‘Armaggedon’ that is well advanced. He writes: “…In the Anthropocene, the planetary ecological emergency overlaps with the overaccumulation of capital and an intensified imperialist expropriation, creating an epochal economic and ecological crisis. It is the overaccumulation of capital that accelerates the global ecological crisis by propelling capital to find new ways to stimulate consumption to keep the profits flowing. The result is a state of planetary Armageddon, threatening not just socioeconomic stability, but the survival of human civilization and the human species itself…” But his prescription for ‘what to do’ is more vacuous than ever. He makes zero reference to the imperiative of degrowth and all-but endorses the presidential candidacy of the green new dealer and imperialist ideologue Senator Sanders.
Study published in journal Science confirms fears that insect pesticides used in rice paddies kills fish and other aquatic species, report in Common Dreams, Nov 1, 2019
Are belching cows really driving climate change? by Alan Broughton, Green Left Weekly, Oct 31, 2019