This is a newsroll page on A Socialist In Canada, commencing September 2017. It consists of headlines and weblinks, with occasional news summary and brief analysis by A Socialist In Canada [in square brackets]. For months preceding January 2019, go to ‘News pages archives’ on the home page of A Socialist In Canada and use the drop-down menu. See also the feature articles on ecology and global warming that are listed in the website category ‘Environment‘ (listed on the main website page). To find past stories on this and other news pages on this website, use the ‘find’ (word search) function on your web browser. Headlines in red denote items published on the main news page of A Socialist In Canada.
Articles about the politics in Canada of the global warming emergency are listed in the ‘Canada newsroll‘ page of the website.
Ecology newsroll headlines, March 2019
Study shows IPCC is underselling climate change, news release by the University of Adelaide, Mar 19, 2019 A new study has revealed that the language used by the global climate change watchdog, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), is overly conservative – and therefore the threats are much greater than the Panel’s reports suggest. Published in the journal BioScience, the team of scientists from the University of Adelaide, Flinders University, the University of Bristol (UK), and the Spanish National Research Council has analysed the language used in the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (from 2014)…
Degrowth: A theory of radical abundance, essay by Jason Hickel, published in Real World Economics Review, issue #87, March 2019 (Fifteen page essay, find it here. Find the full issue #87 of RWER here.)
Tropical cyclone Idai: The storm that knew no boundaries, by Jennifer Fitchett, The Mail and Guardian (South Africa), Mar 21, 2019 and read: Mozambique and Zimbabwe mourn as Cyclone Idai’s toll rises above 300, by The Associated Press, Mar 20, 2019 … Aid workers were shocked as they arrived in the badly hit Mozambique port city of Beira, estimated to be 90 percent destroyed. Its 500,000 residents are scrambling for food, fuel and medicine. Some neighbourhoods are below sea level…
Related: Assessing the risk of cyclone-induced storm surge and sea level rise in Mozambique [ports of Beira and Maputo], research paper by five authors, published by World Institute for Development Economics Research (United Nations University), April 2013 (20 page report)
The fight to tame a swelling Missouri River with dams that may be outmatched by climate change, by Tyler J. Kelley, New York Times, Mar 21, 2019
Second court case in California finds Monsanto’s glyphosate (‘Roundup’) weed killer caused man’s cancer, by Mihir Zaveri, New York Times, Mar 19, 2019 (and report in Reuters, Mar 19, 2019) …The verdict in the closely watched case is a milestone in the contentious public debate over Roundup, which was Monsanto’s flagship product. Its active ingredient, glyphosate, is the world’s most widely used weedkiller. Roundup was the first glyphosate-based weed killer but is no longer patent-protected and many other versions are now available. Bayer does not provide sales figures for the product… [The Monsanto Company was purchased in 2018 by Bayer AG, a German multinational pharmaceutical mega-company. Wikipedia.]
Related: What’s the world’s most widely used herbicide doing to tiny critters?, by Lindsey Konkel, Environmental Health News, Mar 18, 2019 Glyphosate-based herbicides are not supposed to harm wildlife. But lab studies keep finding otherwise
… Glyphosate is one of the most widely used herbicides in history. Farmers in 2014 sprayed enough of the chemical to cover every acre of cropland in the entire world with nearly a half-pound of the herbicide, according to a 2016 study published in Environmental Sciences Europe.
Long thought to be relatively benign to non-target plants and animals, evidence is growing that glyphosate, the active ingredient of Roundup, may impact the metabolism, growth and reproduction of aquatic creatures and could be altering the essential gut bacteria of animals such as bees. Such impacts could have serious unexpected impacts on the tiny critters that form the base of the animal food chain, say environmental researchers, who warn the ecological impacts are likely to grow as glyphosate levels build up in the environment.
“No herbicide in the history of the world has ever been used this heavily. It’s a completely unprecedented case,” Charles Benbrook, an agricultural economist and author of the 2016 study, told EHN… Global glyphosate use has risen nearly 15-fold since the mid-90s, with an estimated 19 per cent of global use happening in the U.S. alone…
The rapid decline of the natural world is a crisis even bigger than climate change, feature essay by John Vidal, published in Huffington Post, Mar 15, 2019 A three-year UN-backed study from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform On Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services has grim implications for the future of humanity
Nature is in freefall and the planet’s support systems are so stretched that we face widespread species extinctions and mass human migration unless urgent action is taken. That’s the warning hundreds of scientists are preparing to give, and it’s stark.
The last year has seen a slew of brutal and terrifying warnings about the threat climate change poses to life. Far less talked about but just as dangerous, if not more so, is the rapid decline of the natural world. The felling of forests, the over-exploitation of seas and soils, and the pollution of air and water are together driving the living world to the brink, according to a huge three-year, U.N.-backed landmark study to be published in May.
The study from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform On Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), expected to run to over 8,000 pages, is being compiled by more than 500 experts in 50 countries. It is the first such comprehensive study since 2005 and is the greatest attempt yet to assess the state of life on Earth. It will show how tens of thousands of species are at high risk of extinction, how countries are using nature at a rate that far exceeds its ability to renew itself, and how nature’s ability to contribute food and fresh water to a growing human population is being compromised in every region on earth…
Millions of students walk out of school to protest global warming, demand planetary transformation, by Julia Conley, Common Dreams, Mar 15, 2019
* Students globally protest warming, pleading for their future, by Frank Jordans and Seth Borenstein, The Associated Press, Mar 15, 2019
* Tens of thousands of students in 40 cities and towns across New Zealand walk out of school, demonstrate for government action on global warming, by Lee Kenny, Stuff.co.nz, Mar 15 2019
* Tens of thousands of students strike, rally in Sydney, Australia as global day of action on climate threat rolls around the world, report in Sydney Morning Herald, Mar 15, 2019
* 150,000 students strike, protest in Montreal on March 15 days of global action on global warming, report by Morgan Lowrie, Canadian Press, Friday, Mar 15, 2019 …Earlier Friday, students formed human chains around six Montreal high schools, forcing the cancellation of morning classes… And view of three-minute video of the student march in Montreal here.
* Hypocrites in Canadian government send supportive words to student climate protesters. Here is the message sent via Twitter by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on March 15: “To the young Canadians who marched today, we hear you. Climate change is real & we’re taking action to put a price on pollution, phase out coal & keep our oceans & communities clean, so you can have a better future. We know there’s more to do & you inspire us.” By contrast, Trudeau told an oil industry conference in Texas in March 2017: “No country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground [the Alberta tar sands reserves] and just leave them there.” He received a standing ovation from the oil barons attending the conference. His government went on in 2018 to purchase the ‘Trans Mountain’ tar sands bitumen pipeline connecting Alberta to the port of Vancouver at a cost of $4.5 billion. The purpose of the purchase is in order to improve the chances of a proposed expansion of the line. The oil industry itself had doubts the line could be built due to citizen opposition.
Humanity is ‘at a crossroads’ as damage to planet poses growing risk to health, UN environment agency warns, press release published by UN News, Mar 13, 2019 Human activity is damaging the planet so badly, exacerbated by climate change, that it will increasingly put our health at risk, warns a major report from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), released on March 13 at the UN Environment Assembly, currently taking place in Nairobi. (Download Global Environment Outlook 6 here. A 28-page summary is here.)
Related: Three to five degree C rise now ‘locked-in’ for the Arctic report UN Environment at world gathering in Nairobi, news release by United Nations Environment Assembly, Mar 13, 2019 Even if the world were to cut emissions in line with the Paris Agreement, winter temperatures in the Arctic would rise 3-5°C by 2050 and 5-9°C by 2080, devastating the region and unleashing sea level rises worldwide, finds a new report by UN Environment.
Is the New Green Deal’s ‘green growth’ malignant?, interview with Don Fitz and Stan Cox, broadcast on ‘Interchange’ program on WFHB community radio (Indiana), Mar 12, 2019 [Don Fitz and Stan Cox are editors of the website Green Social Thought. (Oddly, a recent posting to the website is an interview with a Venezuelan leftist advocating the overthrow of President Nicholas Maduro.) ]
* That green growth at the heart of the Green New Deal? It’s malignant, by Stan Cox, published in CounterPunch, Jan 17, 2019
* How green is the ‘green new deal?, by Don Fitz, published in Climate and Capitalism, July 15, 2014 (You can download the article in PDF format, here: How green is the Green New Deal.) ‘The idea of a ‘green new deal’ originated in Europe in the early 2000s as a way to expand production and expand capitalism. It states that economic issues must be understood as a compilation of techno-fixes.’
As high-tide flooding worsens, more pollution is washing to the sea, by Jim Morrison, Yale Environment 360, Mar 14, 2019 As sea levels rise, high-tide flooding is becoming a growing problem in many parts of the globe, including cities on the U.S. East Coast. Now, new research shows that as these waters recede, they carry toxic pollutants and excess nutrients into rivers, bays, and oceans.
Expansion of U.S. and Canadian oil production is pushing planet’s climate goals out of reach, International Energy Agency director Fatih Birol tells Ottawa audience, by Carl Meyer, The National Observer, Mar 8, 2019 (read the article in pdf format here: Fossil fuel expansion in U.S. and Canada )
Directors of Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund recommend that the government divest entirely from fossil fuels, citing likely permament price decline of crude oil, by Jon Queally, Common Dreams, Mar 8, 2019
* The Alberta oil sands has lost its lustre for investors, by Tim Kiladze, business columnist, The Globe and Mail, Mar 7, 2019 (Read the article here in pdf format: Alberta’s tar sands has lost its lustre for investors)
* Stranded assets in Alberta’s tar sands: Open letter by Robyn Allan to Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and Alberta Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney, published in The National Observer, Mar 5, 2019 (Read the letter in pdf format here: Stranded assets in Alberta.)
Climate breakdown is coming. The UK needs a greener new deal, by Jason Hickel, published in The Guardian, Mar 5, 2019 Global economic growth is outstripping our green efforts. A cap must be put on consumption before it cripples us
[Jason Hickel is a leading advocate of ‘degrowth’ to tackle the global warming emergency. But in this commentary, he advocates a disappointing and deceptive course of pressuring the existing political and economic order to ‘legislate’ an end to all the plunder and excess causing global warming in the first place. That is, the plutocrats are to legislate an end to their own dominance. He also reduces the problem of grotesque capitalist excess to “growing energy demand”.
[To end ecological destruction, the dead end of capitalist expansionism must end. A new political order is needed for that–representing the interests of the vast majority of society and charting a path of social and ecological justice. At best, the existing order will be dragged kicking and screaming along such a path.]
There’s nothing radical about the Green New Deal, by Kristine Mattis, Counterpunch, Mar 4, 2019
…The low-carbon, more equitable future sought by the Green New Deal resolution is undeniably a good one; however, its foundation based on our current paradigm of prosperity – i.e., more energy, more production, more industry, more technology, more consumption – renders it insufficient to effect the radical changes we need for a sustainable future.
…What is pie in the sky about the GND is imagining that high-tech innovation and increasing economic development based upon increasing industrialization will save us. In recent interviews, Bernie Sanders repeatedly stated that we have 12 years to transform to a sustainable energy system. But energy is one small part of the issue. In reality, we have likely less than 12 years to transform to a sustainable world-wide societal system. To reduce our environmental problems and remedies to carbon emissions is to focus on a symptom not the disease. Climate change may be the most glaring symptom right now, but there are many others. We don’t need just sustainable energy. We need sustainability…
Smoked out, book review by McKenzie Funk, published in London Review of Books, print issue of Feb 7, 2019 (Vol 41, #3)
* Firestorm: How Wildfire Will Shape Our Future, by Edward Struzik, Oct 2017
* Extreme Cities: The Peril and Promise of Urban Life in the Age of Climate Change, by Ashley Dawson, Oct 2017
* Seeds on Ice: Svalbard and the Global Seed Vault, by Cary Fowler, Sept 2016
* Storming the Wall: Climate Change, Migration and Homeland Security, by Todd Miller, Sept 2017
If emissions aren’t curbed, clouds may disappear and cause ‘staggering’ temperature rises, by Dahr Jamail, published in the ‘Planet or Profit’ feature in Truthout.org, Feb 26, 2019 A study just published in the journal Nature Geoscience shows that if we continue with business-as-usual fossil fuel emissions, the atmosphere will hold 1,200 parts per million CO2 in about a century from now, which will cause stratocumulus clouds to disappear. Their absence could leave the Earth to warm by a staggering 8 degrees Celsius…
(Dahr Jamail is the lead writer in Truthout.org‘s ‘Planet or Profit’ feature. He is currently touring and speaking about his new book The End Of Ice. His speaking schedule is here. The schedule includes: Denver (March 4), Santa Fe (March 13), Seattle (March 26), Vancouver BC (April 4) and Brooklyn (April 22). You can view a 28-minute interview with him by Chris Hedges broadcast on February 24 here.)
Youth climate movement to world leaders: ‘We will change fate of humanity, whether you like it or not’, by Jake Johnson, Common Dreams, Friday, March 1, 2019 Youth climate leaders from across the globe penned an open letter on Friday condemning the inaction of world leaders in the face of planetary catastrophe and vowing to “make change happen by ourselves.” The letter is published ahead of a March 15 day of action spanning every continent… The school strikes continued on March 1, as Common Dreams reported, with thousands of students marching in Germany, Ireland, and elsewhere…
Food security at risk as web of life unravels, by Tim Radford, Climate News Network, Mar 1, 2019 The biggest agricultural authority in the world has warned that the web of life is coming apart as the loss of biodiversity increases. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations says the wholesale destruction and degradation of natural ecosystems puts human food security at risk, and adds a warning that the same loss could also seriously affect human health and livelihoods…
The plastics industry targets Appalachia, by James Bruggers, Inside Climate News, Feb 25, 2019 With the natural gas fracking boom, plastics production is spreading in the Ohio River Valley. But at what cost to health and climate?
Ecology newsroll headlines, February 2019
We need to live differently, commentary by Simon Pirani, published in ROAR Magazine, Feb 28, 2019
[The title of this new commentary by UK author Simon Pirani does not do justice to the commentary because it understates the challenge facing humanity in the face of the global warming emergency. Pirani is the author of the 2018 book Burning Up: A Global History of Fossil Fuel Consumption and he views the global warming crisis as a systemic problem somehow rooted in the capitalist mode of production. But his book does fall short in describing how the expansion dynamic of capitalism is the root cause of the emergency. The book avoids the stark truth that capitalist expansionism must be countered by a planned, ‘degrowth’ alternative that will end all the waste, excess and never-ending expansion characteristic of capitalism. This new commentary in ROAR Magazine similarly which melts into abstraction with concluding sentences such as this one: “We can envisage forms of social organization that replace corporate and state control of the economy, advance collective and community control, and, crucially, in which employed labor — a central plank of profit-centered capitalism — is superseded by more meaningful types of human activity…”
Humanity will, indeed, ‘live differently’ in a future, socialist society (if we manage to avoid extinction under capitalism). To get from capitalism to socialism in today’s conditions of rising militarism and rising social inequities is the most complex and difficult path ever undertaken by humanity. Here are two paragraphs from an August 2018 essay by Roger Annis on this subject of societal transition. The essay is titled ‘Socialism in the 21st century‘:
…An article by UK ecology writer Simon Pirani on his Pluto Press blog appearing in Sept 2018 argues that “unsustainable fossil fuel use” by capitalist society is the fundamental ill facing contemporary society. The article concludes with this hefty abstraction: “Today, the consequences of unsustainable fossil fuel use – above all, its role in global warming – are known to us all. There are no simple formulae for the transition away from fossil fuel. Answers must be sought outside the discourse around the international climate negotiations. These answers must take account of the way that technological systems are embedded in social and economic systems, and point to ways to transform all of them.”
Pirani’s views in favour of switching from fossil fuels to ‘alternative energies’ as the means to salvage the planet from the global warming emergency are elaborated in his 2018 book Burning Up: A Global History of Fossil Fuel Consumption (Pluto Press). My argument against citing fossil fuel use as the principal evil of the global warming emergency caused by capitalist expansionism is contained in this May 15, 2018 essay: Andreas Malm’s ‘Fossil Capital’ unearths the origin of capitalism’s attachment to fossil fuels but finishes with the shallow outlook of ecosocialism…
Concrete is tipping us into climate catastrophe, by John Vidal, published in the anti-Russia Guardian newspaper, Feb 25, 2019 (First in a series of ‘concrete week’ articles in the anti-Russia Guardian. Here is the series introduction.)
…Nearly six per cent of all UK greenhouse gas emissions, and up to eight per cent of the world’s, are now sourced from cement production. So great is the cement industry’s carbon footprint that unless it is transformed and made to adopt cleaner practices, the industry could, on its own, jeopardise the whole 2015 Paris agreement which aims to hold worldwide temperatures to a 2C increase.
While some of the biggest cement companies have reduced the carbon intensity of their products by investing in more fuel-efficient kilns, most improvements gained have been overshadowed by the massive increase in global cement and concrete production. Population increases, the urban explosion in Asia and Africa, the need to build dams, roads and houses, as well as increases in personal wealth have stoked demand. Annual cement production has quadrupled from nearly one billion to over 4 billion tonnes a year in 30 years…
France’s ‘Yellow vest’ protesters go green as Europeans demand climate action, by Deutsche Welle, Feb 28, 2019 French yellow vests and green activists are coming together in a spirit of revolt ahead of EU elections this spring
Environmentalists flock to the Democratic Party’s ‘Green New Deal’ The ‘ecosocialist’ website System Change Not Climate Change has published six short essays in which leading activists of the coalition argue why environmentalists should join in supporting the ‘Green New Deal’ being advocated by leading figures in the U.S. Democratic Party. The environmental credentials of that pro-fossil fuel party, in office or not, are not worthy of serious consideration. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party has joined without hesitation the U.S. drive to overthrow the government of Venezuela and it continues to show itself as equal to the Donald Trump regime in pursuing a new cold war and renewing a nuclear arms race. Elsewhere on the Democratic Party front, leftists such as writer Paul Street are enthused about the candidacy of Bernie Sanders for the 2020 presidential nomination and are urging people to join up. Is it any wonder that the political left and the radical environmental movement in the United States are marginal political forces?]
The climate emergency: Interview with author Dahr Jamail, author of the newly published ‘The End Of Ice’, interview with Dahr Jamail, broadcast on the RT program ‘On Contact’, with host Chris Hedges, Feb 24, 2019 (28-minute video interview)
Introduction by Chris Hedges: The glaciers in Alaska alone are losing an estimated 75 billion tons of ice every year. The oceans, which absorb over 90 percent of the excess heat trapped by greenhouses gases in the atmosphere, are warming and acidifying, melting the polar ice caps and resulting in rising sea-levels and oxygen-starved ocean dead zones. We await a 50-gigaton burp, or “pulse,” of methane from thawing Arctic permafrost beneath the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, which will release the equivalent of around two-thirds of the total carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere since the beginning of the industrial era. Some 150 to 200 species of plants, insects, birds and mammals are becoming extinct every 24 hours – one thousand times the “natural” or “background” rate. This pace of extinction is greater than anything the world has experienced since the disappearance of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Chris Hedges speaks to journalist and author, Dahr Jamail, about his new book ‘The End of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption,’ which looks at the climate emergency.
(For more information on Dahr Jamail’s new book The End Of Ice and for information on Dahr Jamail’s speaking events, see the publisher’s website page for the book. Dahr Jamail will speak in Vancouver BC on Thursday, April 4, 2019, 6 pm to 8pm, hosted by SFU Institute For The Humanities.)
Related: The End of Ice: Author Dahr Jamail on climate disruption, from the melting Himalayas to insect extinction, interview with Dah Jamail, broadcast on Democracy Now!, Feb 12, 2019 (25-minute interview, with transcript)
‘Shame on Trudeau’: Anger stirred as Canada’s National Energy Board approves Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline, by Julia Conley, Common Dreams, Feb 21, 2019
100% renewable energy needs lots of storage. This year’s winter cold showed how much, by Dan Gearino, Inside Climate News, Feb 20, 2019 [Human society powered entirely by renewable energies will require huge energy storage capacity in order to cope with surging energy demands during extreme winter cold and summer heat. Building and operating such capacity is impossible to achieve in any short-to-medium term. In any event, this would be a waste of time and resources. What is required is a massive reduction in energy usage period, as argued by ‘degrowth’ advocates. If human civilization is to mitigate the worst of what global warming is bringing, then hyper-capitalism and its absurd energy requirements must end. Unfortunately, most radical environmentalists, including ‘ecosocialists’, are unable or unwilling to contemplate the societal imperative for degrowth. That’s why environmentalism remains a fringe political movement, having little or no impact on the capitalist juggernaut in spite of all the scientific evidence that human civilization must rapidly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in order to avoid worst-case scenarios of global temperature rises far higher than the 1.5 Celsius rise which ‘green capitalism’ tricksters claim to be attainable under capitalism.]
Tens of thousands of students across Britain stage strike against global warming threat, by Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams, Friday, Feb 15, 2019
Tens of thousands of students from more than 60 communities across the United Kingdom skipped class on Friday to join the global youth-led #schoolstrike4climate, calling on world leaders to take bolder steps to eradicate fossil fuels and combat the climate crisis.
Speaking to Sky News in London’s Parliament Square on Friday, 12-year-old Theo said he is striking “because there are people in that building over there, going in week in and week out, and completely declining the fact that our world is dying out.” He thinks UK legislators are failing to take necessary steps to address the crisis because they are “completely obsessed…with money” and “are completely disregarding…the world.” …
Related: Sixteen-year old Greta Thunberg cheers ‘beginning of great changes’ as climate strike goes global, by Andrea Germanos, Common Dreams, Feb 15, 2019 The world may be edging toward “environmental breakdown”—but 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg sees signs for hope. Pointing to global walkouts planned for March 15, Thunberg—whose “school strikes for climate” helped galvanized similar actions worldwide—said, “I think what we are seeing is the beginning of great changes and that is very hopeful.” …
In blow to Trump’s coal-promotion [death wish], U.S.-owned utility to close two coal plants, report by Timothy Gardner, in Reuters, Feb 14, 2019
The Tennessee Valley Authority voted on February 14 to close two aging coal-fired power plants, including one supplied by a company led by a major supporter of President Donald Trump, who had urged the U.S.-owned utility to keep it open. “This decision is not about coal, it is about economics,” said President and Chief Executive Bill Johnson, who is retiring from the TVA. “It’s about keeping rates as low as feasible.”
The 870-megawatt Bull Run coal plant in Tennessee will close by December 2023 and the 971-MW Paradise 3 plant in Kentucky will be shut by December 2020. Both are about 50 years old. Johnson told Reuters in December that TVA will keep cutting carbon emissions in future years after replacing much of its coal-fired fleet with plants run on natural gas, nuclear and renewables…
‘We have entered the age of environmental breakdown’: Report by UK-based think tank details world on edge of runaway collapse, by Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams, Feb 12, 2019
Warning that the world is on a path toward “environmental breakdown” that will likely trigger “runaway collapse” of social and economic systems in the vein of the 2008 global financial crisis, a new report out on February 12 calls for major shifts in understanding the scale and pace of environmental change, the implications of it, and the need for a transformational response.
The report—titled This Is a Crisis: Facing Up to the Age of Environmental Breakdown (pdf)—from the UK-based progressive think tank Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), declares that “mainstream political and policy debates have failed to recognize that human impacts on the environment have reached a critical stage, potentially eroding the conditions upon which socioeconomic stability is possible.”
“Human-induced environmental change is occurring at an unprecedented scale and pace and the window of opportunity to avoid catastrophic outcomes in societies around the world is rapidly closing,” the report advises. “These outcomes include economic instability, large-scale involuntary migration, conflict, famine and the potential collapse of social, and economic systems. The historical disregard of environmental considerations in most areas of policy has been a catastrophic mistake.” …
Scientists warn crashing insect populations put planet’s ecosystems and survival of humankind at risk, by Jon Queally, Common Dreams, Feb 11, 2019
The first global scientific review of its kind reaches an ominous conclusion about the state of nature, warning that unless humanity drastically and urgently changes its behavior the world’s insects could be extinct within a century. Presented in exclusive reporting by the Guardian‘s environment editor Damian Carrington, the findings of the new analysis, published in the journal Biological Conservation, found that industrial agricultural techniques—”particularly the heavy use of pesticides”—as well as climate change and urbanization are the key drivers behind the extinction-level decline of insect populations that could herald a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems” if not addressed.
“If insect species losses cannot be halted, this will have catastrophic consequences for both the planet’s ecosystems and for the survival of mankind,” report co-author Francisco Sánchez-Bayo, at the University of Sydney, Australia, told the Guardian. Sánchez-Bayo wrote the scholarly analysis with Kris Wyckhuys at the China Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Beijing…
Driving my Tesla in Toronto one winter night took a little strategy and a lot of shivering in the dark, by Greg Sorbara, Toronto Star, Feb. 8, 2019 [Liberal environmentalists tout electric vehicles as a significant part of the solution to global warming. Governments in Canada, at least, are directing lavish subsidies to those with the money to buy the expensive vehicles. The vehicles’ proponents conveniently overlook the enormous resources required to manufacture the vehicles and their batteries and to build and maintain the roads, bridges, overpasses and tunnels which the vehicles require. Proponents also ignore the enormous damage caused by ongoing, automobile-based urban sprawl, a terrible legacy of the automobile and the 20th century. Now comes a new twist: as former minister of the government of Ontario Greg Sorbora reports in this Toronto Star commentary, the performance range of his “beloved” electric vehicle (in his case a Tesla Model S) is considerably reduced during cold winter weather. The batteries do not perform as well and there is increasing demand on them caused by the need to heat the vehicles, defrost their windows and operate headlights for longer hours.]
A red screaming alarm bell’ to banish fossil fuels: NASA confirms last five years hottest on record, by Julia Conley, Common Dreams, Feb 6, 2018 ‘We’re no longer talking about a situation where global warming is something in the future. It’s here. It’s now.’
Related: The ten hottest global years on record, by Climate Central, Feb 6, 2019 At long last, the U.S. government is open and the year-end climate reports from NOAA and NASA are out. As expected, 2018 was the fourth-hottest year on record globally, and another near-record year for U.S. weather and climate disasters. All of the years on record that were hotter or more disaster-filled came in the past decade…
The U.S. Democratic Party’s ‘Green New Deal’ flunks the limits lesson, by Henry Robertson, published in Green Social Thought, Jan 31, 2019
* With major party backing, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey unveil Green New Deal outlining ‘WWII scale transformation‘, by Jake Johnson, staff writer, Common Dreams, Feb 7, 2018
* Indigenous Environmental Network in U.S. responds to Democratic Party leaders’ ‘Green New Deal’, published by Indigenous Environmental Network, February 2019
* Renewable energy is not a shortcut to reversing global warming, by Pete Dolack, published in CounterPunch, May 8, 2015 (This article also appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of Green Social Thought magazine.)
Growing nuclear waste legacy defies disposal, by Paul Brown, Climate News Network, Feb 7, 2019 Supporters say more nuclear power will combat climate change, but the industry is still failing to tackle its nuclear waste legacy.
Related: Nuclear waste in disused German mine leaves a bitter legacy, Deutsche Welle, Feb 8, 2019
In era of drought, Phoenix prepares for a future without Colorado River water, by Jim Robbins, published by Yale Environment 360, Feb 7, 2019 Once criticized for being a profligate user of water, fast-growing Phoenix has taken some major steps — including banking water in underground reservoirs, slashing per-capita use, and recycling wastewater — in anticipation of the day when the flow from the Colorado River ends. This is the fourth in a series of articles on the decline of the waters in the Colorado River. Find the three previous articles at the above weblink.
The hidden environmental toll of mining the world’s sand, by Fred Pearce, published by Yale Environment 360, Feb 5, 2019 By far the largest mining endeavor globally is digging up sand, mainly for the concrete that goes into buildings. But this little-noticed and largely unregulated activity has serious costs — damaging rivers, wreaking havoc on coastal ecosystems, and even wiping away entire islands.
Five science teams racing climate change as the ecosystems they study disappear, by Bob Berwyn, Inside Climate News, Feb 6, 2019 From mountain glaciers to coastal seabeds, five research projects to watch as scientists race to understand global warming.
New study warns of loss of up to two-thirds of Himalaya’s glaciers by 2100, Agence France presse, Feb 3, 2019 An alarming new report has revealed that not even radical climate change can save one third of the Himalayan glaciers, endangering up to two billion people. …The glaciers feed 10 of the world’s most important river systems, including the Ganges, Indus, Yellow, Mekong and Irrawaddy, and directly or indirectly supply billions of people with food, energy, clean air and income. Impacts on people from their melting will range from worsened air pollution to more extreme weather, while lower pre-monsoon river flows will throw urban water systems and food and energy production off-kilter, the study warned.
Referencing: The Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment: Mountains, Climate Change, Sustainability and People, by multiple authors, published for the Hindu Kush Himalayan Monitoring and Assessment Programme, February 2019, 697 pages, ISBN 978-3-319-92287-4, access the book here in pdf format here
‘Unprecedented’ rainfall flooding in northeastern Australia following weeks of unrelenting heat across the entire country, by Livia Albeck-Ripka, New York Times, Feb 3, 2019
Food shocks increase as world warms, by Tim Radford, Climate News Network, Feb 1, 2019
More than ever, the world’s ways of keeping hunger at bay are taking a pounding as food shocks become more frequent. Potatoes are being baked in heat waves. Corn is being parched by drought. Fruit is being bitten by frost. And a long-term study suggests that for the world’s farmers and graziers, fishing crews and fish farmers, things will get worse as the world warms. Australian and US scientists report in the journal Nature Sustainability that they examined the incidence of what they call “food shocks” across 134 nations over a period of 53 years.
They found that some regions and some kinds of farming have suffered worse than others; that food production is vulnerable to volatile climate and weather changes; and that the dangers are increasing with time…
Beyond drought: Western U.S. states rebalance their Colorado River use as global warming dries the region, by Bob Berwyn, Inside Climate News, Feb 1, 2019 As major reservoirs shrink with the changing climate, seven states seek a sustainable future for the critical regional water source.
* On the water-starved Colorado River, drought is the new normal, by Jim Robbins, Yale Environment 360, Jan 22, 2019 With the Southwest locked in a 19-year drought and climate change making the region increasingly drier, water managers and users along the Colorado River are facing a troubling question: Are we in a new, more arid era when there will never be enough water? Second in a series; part one is here: The U.S. West’s great river hits its limits: Will the Colorado River run dry?, by Jim Robbins, Yale Environment 360, Jan 14, 2018 [The Colorado River is the seventh longest river in the United States, though unlike other, large U.S. rivers, the volume of discharge at its mouth is near zero.]
Ecology newsroll headlines, January 2019
U.S. Midwest freezes, Australia burns: This is the age of weather extremes, by Somini Sengupta, international environment reporter, New York Times, Jan. 29, 2019
In Chicago, officials are warning about the risk of almost instant frostbite on what could be the city’s coldest day ever. Warming centers have opened around the Midwest, while schools and universities have closed throughout the region as rare polar winds streamed down from the Arctic. At the same time, on the other side of the planet, wildfires are raging in Australia’s record-breaking heat. Soaring air-conditioner use has overloaded electrical grids and caused widespread power failures. The authorities have slowed and canceled trams to save power. Labor leaders have called for laws that would require businesses to close when temperatures reached hazardous levels: nearly 116 degrees Fahrenheit, or 47 Celsius, as was the case last week in Adelaide, the capital of South Australia.
This is weather in the age of extremes. It comes on top of multiple extremes, all kinds, in all kinds of places. “When something happens — whether it’s a cold snap, a wildfire, a hurricane, any of those things — we need to think beyond what we have seen in the past and assume there’s a high probability that it will be worse than anything we’ve ever seen,” said Crystal A. Kolden, an associate professor at the University of Idaho, who specializes in wildfires and who is currently working in Tasmania during one of the state’s worst fire seasons.
Consider these recent examples: Heat records were toppled from Norway to Algeria last year. In Australia, a drought has gone on so long that a child in kindergarten will hardly have seen rain in her lifetime. California saw its most ruinous wildfires ever in 2018, triggering a bankruptcy filing this week by the state’s largest utility, Pacific Gas and Electric…
The global syndemic of obesity, undernutrition, and climate change: The Lancet Commission report, published by The Lancet medical journal, Jan 27, 2019 [Definition of ‘syndemic’: A set of linked health problems involving two or more afflictions, interacting synergistically and contributing to excess burden of disease in a population.]
Related: Big Food blamed for ills far beyond flab in sweeping report, by Corinne Gretler and Naomi Kresge, Bloomberg News, Jan 27, 2019
Tens of thousands march in Belgium and France demanding government action to slow global warming, report in Common Dreams Jan 27, 2019
At least 80,000 people marched in a cold rain in Brussels on Sunday, January 27 in another massive protest demanding that the European Union take urgent and far-reaching action to address the world’s climate crisis. Sunday’s march was the fourth climate march in the past three weeks—each one significantly bigger than the last—as students across Belgium and other European countries have skipped their high school and college classes in order to shame those in power who refuse to move urgently…
In France, organisers said more than 80,000 people demonstrated in French towns and cities on Sunday. An online petition they set up on the issue — at laffairedusiecle.net — has already gathered more than 2.1 million signatures and organizers want to hit three million. “Onions, not concrete”, “Less consumption, more butterflies” were among the messages on placards at a demonstration in central Paris…
Related: Teenagers emerge as a force in climate protests across Europe, by Milan Schreuer, Elian Peltier and Christopher F. Schuetze, New York Times, Jan 31, 2019 Thousands of students skipped school on January 31 and swamped the center of Brussels to demand better protection of the world’s climate.
Fire-induced storms: A new danger from the rise in wildfires, by Ed Struzik, Yale Environment 360, Jan 24, 2019 Scientists are tracking an increase in a little-known phenomenon in which intense wildfires can spawn their own thunderstorms, known as pyroCbs. Lightning from these storms can spark additional blazes far away and send plumes of smoke and aerosols into the stratosphere.
On the water-starved Colorado River, drought is the new normal, by Jim Robbins, Yale Environment 360, Jan 22, 2019 With the Southwest locked in a 19-year drought and climate change making the region increasingly drier, water managers and users along the Colorado River are facing a troubling question: Are we in a new, more arid era when there will never be enough water? Second in a series.
Part one is here: The U.S. West’s great river hits its limits: Will the Colorado River run dry?, by Jim Robbins, Yale Environment 360, Jan 14, 2018 [The Colorado River is the seventh longest river in the United States, though unlike other, large U.S. rivers, the volume of discharge at its mouth is near zero.].
Bees face yet another lethal threat in dicamba, a drift-prone pesticide, by Liza Gross, published by Reveal (Center for Investigative Reporting), Jan 23, 2019 …In October, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency extended its approval of the weed killer for use on genetically modified soybeans and cotton, mostly in the South and Midwest, for two more years. At the time, the EPA said: “We expect there will be no adverse impacts to bees or other pollinators.” But scientists warned the EPA years ago that dicamba would drift off fields and kill weeds that are vital to honeybees. The consequences of the EPA’s decisions now are rippling through the food system…
Inequality and the ecological transition, by Jason Hickel (UK degrowth scholar), published on his website, Jan 14, 2019
…This brings me to the next point, about degrowth. It is increasingly apparent that Branko Milanovic has read very little in the field of post-growth or ecological economics. There are literally hundreds of peer reviewed articles and books that explore exactly the questions he’s asking here – including this new economic model that investigates policies for a degrowth scenario in, of all places, France – and yet it seems Branko can’t be bothered to engage with them. Instead, he continues to misrepresent our scholarship. Literally no one has ever argued that we should just cut everyone’s income in half. That is a ridiculous assertion. Repeating this straw man over and over won’t somehow magically make it true.
Post-growth policy begins with the very principle that – as the Yellow Vests [protest movement in France]themselves have pointed out – should inform all ecological policy: greater equality. Indeed, the post-growth movement has long argued that equality can be a substitute for growth. By sharing what we already have more fairly, we won’t need to plunder the Earth for more.
The objective of degrowth is to scale down aggregate resource use, energy demand and emissions, focusing on rich, high-consuming nations, and to do this while improving people’s well-being. How do we make this happen? Here are five first steps…
Insurance claims from California wildfires bankrupt PG&E, one of the largest U.S. utilities, Forbes Magazine, Jan 21, 2019 [Facing $30 billion in claims that its equipment caused many of California’s wildfires, the utility will reorganize under Chapter 11. It will need to sell off billions in assets in order to survive.]
Related: Can bankrupt PG&E maintain wildfire prevention this summer? Can it afford not to?, Sacramento Bee, Jan 19, 2019
To take down fossil fuels, we must first abandon capitalism, interview with Dahr Jamail, published in Truthout.org, Jan 15, 2019 (Dahr Jamail is an author and staff writer at Truthout.org. His website is here.)
Just published by Dahr Jamail: The End Of Ice: Bearing Witness And Finding Meaning In The Path Of Climate Disruption, published by The New Press. Here is a five-page promotional kit by the publisher: The End Of Ice, by Dahr Jamail, Jan 2019
* A planet in crisis: The heat is on us, by Dahr Jamail, Truthout.org, Jan 15, 2019
* The world will end in fire, book review by David Swanson, published in Truthout.org, Jan 15, 2019
* Interview with Dahr Jamail, broadcast on CBS News, Jan 17, 2019 (five-minute interview)
That green growth at the heart of the Green New Deal? It’s malignant, by Stan Cox, published on Green Social Thought, Jan 13, 2019 … Any effective strategy to drive emissions down to zero cannot also expect to spur aggregate growth; it would in fact curtail and even reverse the growth of GDP. Fortunately—well-tended conventional wisdom notwithstanding—degrowth in America would not necessarily bring on a Great-Depression-style social catastrophe. The British scholar Jason Hickel writes that, to the contrary, “ecology-busting levels of income and consumption characteristic of rich nations are not necessary in order to maintain their strong social outcomes. We can say this because there are a number of countries that are able to achieve equally strong social outcomes with vastly less income and consumption.” …
Climate change is happening, but how fast? This is what we really know, by Michael Le Page, published in New Scientist (weekly), print issue of Dec 15, 2018 Text and original weblink here in pdf format: How fast global warming. From past temperature change to future sea level rise, climate science is full of conflicting numbers. Here is our guide to the ones you can and can’t trust.
Ocean temperatures rising faster than thought in ‘delayed response’ to global warming, Reuters, Jan 11, 2019
* Oceans are warming even faster than previously thought, reports new study, press release by University of California-Berkeley, published in EurekAlert! (American Association for the Advancement of Science) Jan 10, 2019 The new analysis, published on January 11 by Science Magazine, shows that trends in ocean heat content match those predicted by leading climate change models, and that overall ocean warming is accelerating. Lijing Cheng of the Chinese Academy of Sciences is the lead author on the paper.
* Ocean warming is accelerating, press release by the Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Jan 11, 2019
* World’s oceans are warming faster, studies show, fueling storms and sea rise, by Nicholas Kusnetz, Inside Climate News, Jan 10, 2019 A new study published in Science Magazine on January 10 strengthens the consensus that the warming of the world’s oceans is accelerating…
Human flourishing doesn’t require endless GDP growth, by Jason Hickel, published on his website, Dec 23, 2017
Climate change is happening, but how fast? This is what we really know, by Michael Le Page, published in New Scientist (weekly), print issue of Dec 15, 2018 From past temperature change to future sea level rise, climate science is full of conflicting numbers. Here’s our guide to the ones you can and can’t trust.
Climate Action Tracker report: World governments amble towards three degrees of global 3°C of global warming, published by Climate Analytics (Germany), Dec 11, 2018 Katowice, Poland–If all governments achieve their largely insufficient climate targets, the world will see 3.0˚C of warming by 2100, twice the 1.5˚C limit they agreed in Paris three years ago, according to the Climate Action Tracker’s annual update, delivered today at the climate talks in Katowice, Poland…
Australian industry among worst in developed world for using energy efficiently, by Climate Analytics (Germany), Dec 19, 2018 Australia is one of the few countries that is making no real progress on improving energy efficiency in manufacturing and industry, according to new analysis by Climate Analytics.
After three years of decline, carbon emissions rose sharply in the U.S. in 2018, CNN, Jan 8, 2018
After three years of decline, climate change causing carbon dioxide emissions rose sharply in the U.S. last year according to new research. Carbon emissions increased by 3.4 per cent in 2018 marking the second largest annual gain in more than two decades, according to preliminary power generation data analyzed by the Rhodium Group, an independent economic policy research provider…
In November 2018, the U.S. government released its fourth National Climate Assessment outlining the dire environmental and economic impacts of climate change, stating that thousands of Americans could die and gross domestic product could take a ten per cent hit by century’s end…
In December, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed relaxing regulations for newly-built coal-fueled power plants, which, combined with another proposal to replace the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, would overhaul the way coal-fired plants are built and regulated [report here, report on reducing water contamination by coal-burning electricity plants here, report on reducing coal plant mercury contamination regulations here] …
From the New York Times‘ report on Jan 8, 2018: … Even a steep drop in coal use last year wasn’t enough to offset rising emissions in other parts of the economy. Some of that increase was weather-related: A relatively cold winter led to a spike in the use of oil and gas for heating in areas like New England. But just as important, as the United States economy grew at a strong pace last year, emissions from factories, planes and trucks soared. And there are few policies in place to clean those sectors up. “The big takeaway for me is that we haven’t yet successfully decoupled U.S. emissions growth from economic growth,” said Trevor Houser, a climate and energy analyst at the Rhodium Group…
Silencing the science of global warming in Donald Trump’s USA, one-hour podcast by Elizabeth Shogren, co- produced and broadcast by ‘Reveal’ (Center for Investigative Reporting) and PRX, Jan 5, 2019 President Donald Trump’s administration has downplayed the science of climate change and sought to silence scientists working for the federal government. In this broadcast, Reveal’s Elizabeth Shogren details the pressures one researcher and scientist at the University of Colorado Boulder faced as she worked on a project for the National Park Service. See related readings at the broadcast weblink.
* Post-growth or radical degrowth?, part two of interview by Riccardo Mastini with degrowth advocates Tim Jackson and Giorgos Kallis, published on Resilience.org, Jan 3, 2019
* Human flourishing doesn’t require endless GDP growth, by Jason Hickel, published on his website, Dec 23, 2017
* Jason Hickel response to Dean Baker of CEPR on degrowth, by Jason Hickel, re-published on Resilience.org, Dec 17, 2018
Recognizing the quiet extinction of invertebrates, research paper by Nico Eisenhauer, published by Nature International Journal of Science, Jan 3, 2019
How Trump’s U.S.-Mexico wall would alter our biological identity forever, by Jennifer Miller, Scientific American, Jan 2, 2019 … Earlier this year, my colleagues at Defenders of Wildlife and I led more than 2,500 scientists from around the world in declaring consensus over the impending consequences of the border wall on North America’s biodiversity in a synthesis study published in BioScience. In an exceptional moment of unity, we scientists agree with the irrefutable evidence that the border wall is a rampant ecological disaster. This is notable because consensus is rare among scientists. When scientific consensus does exist—as with climate change—it’s a wake-up call that business as usual is likely to result in catastrophe…
Fracking’s secret problem: Oil wells are not producing as much as forecast, by Bradley Olson, Rebecca Elliott and Christopher Matthews, Wall Street Journal, Jan 2, 2019 Data analysis reveals thousands of oil and gas fracking locations are yielding less than their owners projected to investors [This is a subscriber-only article. Access here; several excerpts here below:]
- Thousands of shale wells drilled in the last five years are pumping less oil and gas than their owners forecast to investors, raising questions about the strength and profitability of the fracking boom that turned the U.S. into an oil superpower.
- Two-thirds of production forecasts made by 29 of the biggest producers in the Texas and North Dakota oil basins between 2014 and 2017 were wildly off the mark, some by more than 50 per cent.
- Financial and energy analysts have long warned that the fracking companies consistently inflate their forecasts of production and profitability to suck in capital, and gullible capital has rushed in. Shale companies have attracted huge amounts of capital from Wall Street over the past decade. So far, investors have largely lost money. Since 2008, an index of U.S. oil-and-gas companies has fallen 43 per cent while the S&P 500 index has more than doubled in that time, including dividends.
How China’s overseas ‘Belt and Road’ initiative threatens global climate progress, by Isabel Hilton, published by Yale Environment 360, Jan 3, 2019 China’s Belt and Road Initiative is a colossal infrastructure plan that could transform the economies of nations around the world. But with its focus on coal-fired power plants, the effort could obliterate any chance of reducing emissions and tip the world into catastrophic climate change.
China’s cities face sobering cooling costs, by Tim Radford, Inside Climate News, Jan 2, 2019