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Offline John of Wallan

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Re: The Environment Board
« Reply #330 on: November 28, 2020, 06:40:15 PM »
Its getting hot already!



Heatwave pushing electricity supply to breaking point
victoria heatwave blackouts
Late afternoon demand for power will put the grid under pressure, AEMO says. Photo: Getty
Ben Deacon
No weather event affects the power system more than heatwaves, and electricity reserves have been predicted to tighten as temperatures reach extreme levels in Australia’s east over coming days.
In parts of northern New South Wales and south-east Queensland, the Bureau of Meteorology says it is looking like a five or six-day heatwave for millions of people.
It’s never too hot to play fetch, even in a fur coat, for this Sydney pooch, who appreciated the cooling dip. Photo: AAP/Joel Carrett
Overnight, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) said there might not be enough reserve capacity (Lack of Reserve Level 1) in New South Wales this afternoon between 3.30pm and 5.30pm.
Earlier in the week, it also said Queensland would likely be affected on Wednesday.
The Queensland prediction was serious enough to prompt an official Lack of Reserve level 2 (LOR2) forecast, meaning the possible shortfall could be enough to require the AEMO to ask big energy users to use less power.
“LOR2 means we are one contingency away from load shedding,” said Ben Skinner, the general manager of policy at the Australian Energy Council.
But by Thursday, the AEMO had downgraded the forecast risk to LOR1.
“That is mild in terms of reserves, and they’re largely being met at the moment, but we’ll watch that very carefully to manage that over the coming days,” said Michael Gatt, the AMEO’s chief operations officer.
Youtube BOM severe weather update (Nov 27): Exceptional heatwave across eastern Australia.
No single factor affects the power industry more than weather, especially as weather-dependent renewables claim a larger slice of the electricity market.
“The energy networks are looking at the weather days or weeks in advance to understand what that impact is going to be on supply and demand,” Weatherzone energy manager Josh Fisher said.
Weatherzone supplies the big generators and the AEMO with half-hourly weather forecasts 14 days in advance. Over a week ago, Weatherzone notified energy customers that a heatwave was forming.
The biggest impact on electricity demand, by far, is from air conditioners.
In Adelaide and Melbourne, demand could double in a heatwave due to air conditioning, Mr Skinner said.
“At about 7:00pm or 8:00pm on a typical Victorian weekday, the demand would be about 5,000 megawatts; on an absolute extreme stinker of a day, maybe 43 degrees or something, it would be around 9,500 megawatts. That’s huge.
“So more than half of the electricity will be going through an air conditioner, and then if the wind turns around the next day, all of those air conditioners will be off.”
Supply and demand
The job of instantly matching the amount of electricity Australians need with the amount of electricity generators make falls to the AEMO.
“Our role is to be able to forecast demand on the network with a degree of precision,” Mr Gatt said.
It coordinates the dispatching of generators by accepting bids to generate power, and, like any market, when demand is high and supply is tight, prices can go through the roof.
“Base-loaders [like coal plants] will tend to bid at a lower price and the peak loaders [like gas plants] will bid at a higher price,” Mr Skinner said.
Gas-fired plants stand ready to fill the power gap, but the price is steep. Photo: ABC
The first capital to feel the heat this week was Adelaide, which hit 40.6C on Friday — at 7:00pm, the wholesale electricity spot price in South Australia reached $329 per megawatt hour, more than eight times the average price.
“The peaking generators are obviously saying, ‘Well, I’m not getting out of bed until you give me enough money to make it worth my while’,” Mr Skinner said.
South Australia’s normally strong wind resources were only able to provide less than 10 per cent of Friday’s evening peak.
“There’s this unfortunate characteristic in South Australia where on really hot days, the evening peak in electricity demand often occurs with a lull in the wind,” Mr Skinner said.
With little low-cost power available to help keep prices down and interstate electricity imports at their maximum, expensive gas peaking plants set the price.
Black Summer’s record prices
On January 4 this year, Sydney was hit by 42-degree temperatures.
At the same time, bushfires in the Snowy Mountains took out transmission lines connecting New South Wales to Victoria, right when demand was highest.
Electricity spot prices skyrocketed, reaching $14,700 per megawatt hour in NSW late in the day — about 300 times the average wholesale price.
Incredibly, there were no blackouts despite the hit to the network.
“From time to time, you have unusual situations where supply and demand in any one area can be challenging,” Mr Gatt said.
“January 4 was a highly unusual scenario where you’ve got some fairly significant network events with a backdrop of over 100 bushfires throughout the country.”
Despite the AEMO’s best planning and forecasts, not every failure can be predicted.
On December 20 last year, when Melbourne reached 43.5C, a series of wind turbines unexpectedly switched themselves off.
“All of a sudden, over 1,000 megawatts suddenly just tripped out — we went from a system that appeared to be really fat, to having to put out an emergency reserve notice,” Mr Skinner said.
“It got really tight and nearly came to load shedding.”
It turned out the turbines were set to switch off at 40C to protect them from overheating.
“I don’t think even the owners anticipated it,” Mr Skinner said.
Despite this weekend’s heatwave, the La Niña weather pattern may ease pressure on the electricity network this summer, as the climate driver is associated with less intense heatwaves in the south-east of Australia.
But La Niña could also affect renewables, according to Weatherzone’s Josh Fisher.

More renewable energy sources are coming online to solve the shortfall. Photo: Getty
“La Niña typically means that we see more cloud cover, particularly through eastern parts of Australia,” he said.
“During that time you can also see lower wind speeds, so this year could be an interesting year where we see more cloud cover through the eastern states reducing the overall solar generation in periods where we see less wind generation potential across southern Australia.”
In its Summer Readiness Plan released on Friday, the AEMO predicted sufficient energy supply across the peak season, with similar or reduced maximum demand compared to last summer and new renewables added to supply.
In other words, this summer should be better than last.


Offline John of Wallan

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Re: The Environment Board
« Reply #331 on: December 04, 2020, 04:17:03 PM »
Great barrier reef not doing so good.
A podcast this time...


Introductory Text:

Great Barrier Reef in critical condition after three major bleaching events
By Linda Mottram on PM
Download Great Barrier Reef in critical condition after three major bleaching events (2.82 MB)
The condition of the Great Barrier Reef has been declared critical with climate change named as its number one threat, after it suffered its third bleaching event in five years last summer.
The finding in the third World Heritage assessment by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, means the reef's World Heritage values are considered severely threatened and deteriorating from the impact of climate change.
The IUCN has also downgraded the status of other Australian world heritage sites, including the Gondwana forests, areas of which burned in last summer's bushfires.
PM spoke to climate scientist Professor Lesley Hughes, who's a founding councillor at the Climate Council.


Offline John of Wallan

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Re: The Environment Board
« Reply #332 on: December 04, 2020, 04:21:37 PM »
More on the reef:


It's the world's biggest synchronised sex event that's OK to teach your kids about.

Every year just after the full moon in late spring or early summer, the corals of the Great Barrier Reef release trillions of eggs and sperm into the water, usually over the course of about three or four nights.
And this year, that's set to happen this weekend.
While it's a spectacle most of us will never see first hand, the ABC will be streaming it as it happens on Friday and Sunday nights in a series called Reef Live on ABC TV and iView.
Despite the sheer scale of the event, scientists have only known about it since 1981. Before that, it was thought that corals brooded and released their fertilised embryos year round.
But in the past 40 or so years, they've learnt a lot, and we've asked them to catch us up.
So before the big night(s), here are a couple of answers to questions that you, or your kids, might have about nature's greatest showcase of the birds and the bees.
What's the full moon got to do with it?
A full moon with sand banks in the foreground.
Coral polyps are receptive to moonlight and often spawn a few days after a full moon.(ABC Open Contributor _ourbigadventure)
A bunch of things influence the timing of coral spawning on the Great Barrier Reef.
Smaller-scale spawning takes place most months of the year, and that depends on things like location and species.
But there are three key triggers, called "proximate factors", that kick off the mother of all spawning events in late November/early December, according to reef expert Bette Willis from the Centre for Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University.
The first is water temperature. While the waters of the southern reef are much cooler than in the north, spawning is triggered reef-wide by a sharp rise in temperature as the weather warms toward the end of spring.
It's the rise in temperature, not the absolute temperature, that is the trigger.
Because shallow water warms faster than deep water, some of the inshore reefs actually spawned after last month's full moon.
The second trigger is moonlight, according to coral reproduction expert Peter Harrison from Southern Cross University.
As PhD students studying in Townsville in the early 1980s, both Professor Harrison and Emeritus Professor Willis were part of the team that first made the discovery that corals spawn.
"[Spawning] occurs somewhere between four and seven nights after the full moon in the spring and summer," he said.
"Coral tissues are actually sensitive to moonlight and therefore the lunar cycle is entrained by periods of increasing moonlight up to full moon."
Coral spawn and fish at night.
The final trigger for spawning is darkness.(Supplied: Gary Cranitch)
Although increasing moonlight appears to be one of the triggers leading up to the event, actual spawning for most corals begins at night before the moon rises, Professor Harrison said.
"The final trigger is darkness. Some corals spawn right on dusk and others have a timer that starts half an hour to an hour after sunset," he said.
"One of the advantages of spawning at night is that most of the visual predators are asleep.
"It's possible that by spawning in that period just before the moonrise, when there's very little light, they're limiting their exposure to predators."
Another theory for why corals spawn in the period a few days after the full moon is because this is when tidal action is the lowest, according to Professor Willis.
"About three or four days after the full moon is usually the time of the neap tides, [which is] when there's minimal water movement," she said.
Neap tides mean that longshore currents are stronger than cross-shelf tidal currents, so that developing embryos and larvae will be swept out to sea in long coral spawn slicks by the following morning.
This takes them away from the "wall of mouths" — fish and invertebrate predators ready to feast on the lipid-rich spawn and new embryos when the sun rises.
But how can we be sure it'll happen this time?
A close up of brightly coloured coral polyps.
Coral polyps begin developing their eggs and sperm months before spawning.(Supplied: Southern Cross University/Peter Harrison)
Corals begin developing their eggs around nine months before spawning, and sperm around five months in advance.
Speaking from a research vessel on the way to Heron Island, Professor Harrison said as the eggs near maturity, they begin to change colour, with some species starting out pale and turning pink and then red.
"Some of my team have already sampled some of the corals at Heron [Island]," he said.
"If we gently break some of the polyps open under water, you can see these really ripe reds [so] we know there are definitely corals due to spawn."
There are also visual cues on the actual night of the spawning too, according to Professor Willis.
Leading up to the spawning, the eggs and sperm are gathered together in bundles within the polyp.
Depending on the coral species, those bundles may contain 20 or more eggs.
"On the night of spawning you can actually see the bulge of the bundles sitting underneath the mouth of the polyp," she said.
Despite these clues, corals can throw up some surprises too.
Because the lunar month (28 days) is shorter than our calendar months, the date of the full moon is different every year.
If coral spawning fell on the same lunar month each year, it would gradually get earlier and earlier until corals were spawning in winter when conditions are sub-optimal.
So every few years the corals have a correction called a "split spawning", where, as the name suggests, they split their spawning between the earlier and later full moon, before fully shifting to the later full moon the following year.
So the sperm and egg meet, then what?
A branching coral surrounded by fish.
The corals release their gametes in bundles that float to the surface.(Supplied: Southern Cross University/Peter Harrison)
OK, time to step back for some quick coral biology 101.
The living part of a coral is called a polyp.
A polyp is a tiny animal that regularly divides to form a colony as each coral grows. Coral reefs are home to billions (maybe even trillions) of polyps that make up colonies.
Each coral polyp secretes an external calcium carbonate skeleton which supports it in a cup-like structure. As each new polyp adds to the skeleton, the coral colony grows.
Typically, the living coral polyps form only a thin layer of tissue over the bulky skeleton, so most of the mass of a coral colony is not living.
Incidentally, the colour of a coral reef comes from algae (called zooxanthellae) that live within polyps.
As a polyp nears the time of spawning, the eggs and sperm it has been producing over the past several months (many corals are hermaphrodites) are gathered into bundles.
The eggs contain a high lipid content that causes the bundles to float, lifting the sperm with them to the surface, according to Professor Willis.
When the bundles are released from the polyp, they head to the surface where the movement of the water breaks them apart, spreading the eggs and sperm far and wide.
Within 45 minutes of fertilisation — when a coral sperm and egg meet in the water — the first cell division happens.
Cell division continues around every 45 minutes throughout the night, and by the morning there are hundreds of cells in the new embryo.
Over the next few days, the developing embryo becomes cigar-shaped, with tiny hair-like cilia that allow it to very weakly propel itself through the water.
How long it continues to float depends on the species, but it can be as little as a couple of days before the embryo sinks and settles as larvae on a reef, Professor Harrison said.
"The larval period is usually between four to five to seven to eight days after spawning," he said.
"Some precocious larvae can get ready to settle after about three days [but] up to about three to three-and-a-half months is the record for larvae remaining alive and able to settle."
The beauty of such a mass-spawning event is that it helps to ensure genetic mixing between corals of the same species, sometimes over large distances.
This helps to stop inbreeding and enhances genetic diversity, which, in turn, can also help with evolutionary adaptation.
How many new corals will be born?
A school of small fish swimming above coral.
Some fish will get a free meal out of the coral spawn.(Supplied: James Cook University)
Despite literally trillions of eggs and sperm being released into the waters around the Great Barrier Reef, only a tiny proportion of those will go on to form larvae that settle and form new coral.
It could be as few as one in a million, Professor Harrison said.

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Some eggs and sperm may not come into contact with their intended other, while many that do successfully fertilise will float into open water and fail to settle on a suitable, hard substrate.
And plenty will be eaten by predators like fish.
"I've seen little reef fish the next morning that could hardly swim because their stomachs were so distended," Professor Harrison said.
Up until recently, the immense scale of the spawning meant that losing the vast majority of potential recruits didn't matter.
But things are changing.
When polyps get stressed, they spit out their symbiotic zooxanthellae — the colourful algae that lives inside. When they do that, they appear to turn white or "bleached".
But they need that algae to help them produce energy.
Last summer the reef was hit by significant coral bleaching. It was the third bleaching event since 2016 and the second worst ever in terms of severity.
Because corals begin developing their gametes so early, those damaged by bleaching last summer may not reproduce as well this year — if at all, Professor Harrison said.
"Depending on how badly stressed they were, sometimes they don't produce strong enough eggs and sperm to reproduce," he said.
"Some of the corals that survived the bleaching events this year may not be able to reproduce [at all]."
Professor Harrison said he hopes in the coming seasons the corals can get a break from bleaching. If not, time might be running out to witness the greatest (sex) show on earth.

Offline John of Wallan

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Re: The Environment Board
« Reply #333 on: December 05, 2020, 07:47:47 PM »
More climate news. Not much of it good.



Polar-ward climate zones shift and consequent tipping points
by Andrew Glikson
The concept of a global climate tipping point/s implies a confluence of climate change processes in several parts of the world where regional climate changes can combine as a runaway shifts to a new climate state. Conversely the shift of climate zones can constitute the underlying factor that triggers extreme weather events which culminate in tipping points. These shifts include the expansion of the tropics, tropical cyclones, mid-latitude storms and weakening of boundaries of the polar vortex, allowing breach of air masses of contrasting temperatures through the jet stream polar boundary, with ensuing snow storms and heatwaves.
Figure 1. Climate tipping points (McSweeney 2020)
The migration of climate zones toward the poles appears to constitute a major factor in triggering tipping points in the Earth system (Figures 1 and 2), including (from north to south):
permafrost loss
expansion of the Boreal forest at the expense of the tundra
disintegration of the Greenland ice sheet
breakdown of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) caused by an increased influx of freshwater into the North Atlantic
Amazon forest dieback
West African monsoon shift
Indian monsoon shift
Coral reef die-off
West Antarctic ice disintegration

Not included in this list are the increased desertification and the extensive fires in parts of the continents, including the Arctic, Siberia, western North America, the Mediterranean, Brazil and Australia.
Figure 2. Monthly anomalies for October 2020 by NOAA (National Centers for Environmental Information)
A conflation of regional climate developments into global climate tipping point/s, namely a shift in state of the Earth climate is likely, although the details of this process are not clear. Alternatively it is the migration of climate zones toward the poles, indicated by climate zone maps, which is triggering regional events.
Figure 3. High anomalies over the Arctic from Nov. 2019 to Oct. 2020 (NASA image)

Here I list some of these likely relationships:
In the Arctic sea ice extent in October 2020 was lower by 36.8% than during 1981-2010 (Figure 2). High anomalies have hit the Artic Ocean and Siberia over the 12-month period from November 2019 to October 2020 (Figure 3). The warming of the Arctic is driven by (1) a decline in albedo due to ice melt and exposure of open water surfaces; (2) the albedo flip generated by formation of thin water surfaces above ice sheets and glaciers, and (3) the penetration of warm air masses through the weakened circum-Arctic jet stream (Figure 4.).
The tropics are expanding at a rate of near-50 km per decade (Jones 2018) and have widened about 0.5° latitude per decade since 1979 (Staten et al. 2018). With warming and desertification effects across North Africa and the Mediterranean Sea this is leading to draughts and fires in southern Europe. The shift of climate zones toward the poles, at a rate approximately 50 to 100 km per decade, as well as sea level rise, is changing the geography of the planet. Once sea level reaches equilibrium temperatures it will attain at least 25 meters above the present, by analogy to Pliocene level (before 2.6 million years ago).

As climate zones shift northward an increase of winter precipitation of up to 35% is recorded in mid to northern Europe during the 21st century, with increases of up to 30% in north-eastern Europe. In 2020 Europe had the warmest October on record and North America the heaviest snow precipitation on record (Figure 2).
In Australia a southward migration of the tropical North Australia climate zone and the high pressure ridge separating it from the southern terrain dominated by the Westerlies and the precipitation-bearing spirals of the Antarctic-sourced vortex southward, with consequent droughts in southern and southwestern parts of the continent.
Figure 4. The Arctic jet stream, summer, 1988, NASA. Extreme melting in
Greenland’s ice sheet is linked to warm air delivered by the wandering jet
stream, a fast-moving belt of westerly winds created by the convergence of
cold air masses descending from the Arctic and rising warm air masses from
the tropics that flow through the lower layers of the atmosphere.
As evident from the above the shift in climate zones constitutes the underlying factor which triggers extreme weather events and tipping points.
Figure 5. Arctic surface-air temperature anomalies for July 2020.
Since the onset of the industrial age, in particular since about 1960-70, global warming accelerated at by one to two orders of magnitude faster than during the last glacial termination (~16000 – 8000 years ago) and much earlier. Mass extinction events in the Earth history have occurred when environmental changes took place at a rate to which species could not adapt. Plants and animals are currently dying off at a rate 100 to 1000 times faster than the mean rate of extinction over geological timescales.
The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC AR5) projects linear warming to 2300 and 2500, which however does not take full account of amplifying feedbacks from a range of sources (Trajectories of the Earth system in the Anthropocene). These include reduced CO2 sequestration in the warming oceans, albedo changes due to melting of ice, enrichment of the atmosphere in water vapor, desiccation and burning vegetation, release of methane from permafrost. Nor do these linear trends take account of the stadial effects of the flow of cold ice melt water into the oceans (Glikson, 2019).
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) global warming has accelerated significantly during 2015-2020. The danger inherent in temperature rise to about 4 degrees Celsius by 2100 is underpinned by the consequences at lower temperature rise of +1 to +2 degrees Celsius, already in evidence. Thus, whereas the mean land-ocean temperature rise between 1880-2020 is +1.16 degrees Celsius, the average rise in continental temperatures during this period has already reached +1.6 degrees Celsius, beyond the upper limit proposed by the Paris Accord. The rise in temperatures is driving a three-fold to six-fold rise in extreme weather events since 1980 (Figure 6.), including severe storms, tropical storms, flooding, droughts and wildfires (NOAA 2018).
Figure 6. The growth in the frequency of extreme weather events in the US during 1980-2018
Large-scale melting of the Greenland and Antarctica ice sheets, discharging cold ice melt water, is already cooling of parts of the oceans. The clash between cold air masses and tropical fronts would increase storminess, in particular along coastal boundaries and islands. Such storminess, along with intensified tropical cyclones, would render island chains increasingly vulnerable.
To date most suggestions for mitigation and adaptation are woefully inadequate to arrest global warming. Reductions in carbon emissions, which are absolutely essential, may no longer be adequate to arrest accelerating greenhouse gas and temperature levels. At the current level of carbon dioxide (>500 parts per million equivalent CO2+methane+nitrous oxide), reinforced by amplifying feedbacks from land and oceans, the remaining option would be to sequester (down-draw) greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
A global imperative.

Andrew Glikson
Dr Andrew Glikson
Earth and Paleo-climate scientist
ANU Climate Science Institute
ANU Planetary Science Institute
Canberra, Australia

The Asteroid Impact Connection of Planetary Evolution
The Archaean: Geological and Geochemical Windows into the Early Earth
Climate, Fire and Human Evolution: The Deep Time Dimensions of the Anthropocene
The Plutocene: Blueprints for a Post-Anthropocene Greenhouse Earth
Evolution of the Atmosphere, Fire and the Anthropocene Climate Event Horizon
From Stars to Brains: Milestones in the Planetary Evolution of Life and Intelligence
Asteroids Impacts, Crustal Evolution and Related Mineral Systems with Special Reference to Australia

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Offline John of Wallan

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Re: The Environment Board
« Reply #334 on: December 12, 2020, 05:14:20 PM »
Now the POTUS circus is back on track and roaring towards the next derailment, here is an opinion article to ponder for the dual climate and covid deniers out there:




PoliticsFederalClimate policy
Morrison's pandemic response: exceptional. Shame about climate change
Jacqueline Maley
Columnist and senior journalist
December 12, 2020 — 11.15pm

It seems unfair. We Australians have only had a minute or two to congratulate ourselves on the incredible exceptionalism of our pandemic response. And here we are being internationally shamed for our exceptionalism over our response to another lethal and immediate threat – climate change.
As much as Australia features in international news, which isn’t very much, there are two narratives running parallel at the moment, and they seem to contradict each other.
The first is the way in which our governments, through the national cabinet, border closures, the judicious use of lockdowns, and excellent contact tracing, have led Australia to a place where we are effectively free of community transmission of the virus.
It is remarkable, a testament to our powers of co-operation and our spirit of community, the ability we have as a nation to see beyond our immediate self-interest to achieve a common good.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Parliament on Thursday that Australia’s climate and energy policy would be set "in Australia’s national interest, not to get a speaking slot at some international summit".

Australia’s weak climate action to blame for PM’s snub at global summit
We listened to the scientists and the economists. We put aside ideology. A conservative government instituted policies that didn’t come naturally – rules that impeded personal freedom and the dumping of billions of dollars of taxpayer money into the economy to prop it up as business activity withered on the vine.
Communities were willing to accept lockdowns, for the most part, because of the economic safety nets Scott Morrison’s government laid out for us in the form of JobKeeper and JobSeeker.
And the world noticed.
Buzzfeed last week published an article titled “There was a pandemic? What life is like in countries without COVID”.
“In Australia, they are watching live theatre and sports and seeing bands perform at packed concerts,” it read.
The article singled out New Zealand, Thailand, Taiwan and Australia as countries where, “helped by geographic isolation or governmental response or both,” infections are low to non-existent, and “some people even occasionally forget there’s a pandemic going on”.
In November The Washington Post published a glowing article asserting “Australia provides a real-time road map for democracies to manage the pandemic”.
It singled out our timely international and state border closures, our track-and-trace measures, the national cabinet and, importantly, “a lack of partisan rancour” which increased the effectiveness of the government’s clear communication on the harsh measures taken.
“Political conflict was largely suspended, at least initially, and many Australians saw their politicians working together to avert a health crisis,” the Post stated.
Australians had a “willingness to conform”, reflective of the fact that here, “governments tend to be regarded as the solution to society’s problems rather than the cause".
Health Minister Greg Hunt granted an interview to the paper. “We had a clear strategic plan, which was the combination of containment and capacity building,” he said.
It was heroic stuff, and Morrison has the approval ratings to prove it.
And then there is the other narrative, in which Australia is not the hero but instead the laggard, the recalcitrant, and increasingly, the pariah. We’ve all had a dreadful year, but for Morrison, the misfortune and bad news rolled in earlier than it did for the rest of us.
UN defends excluding Morrison from climate summit, Canberra livid with Johnson over snub
He faced criticism and even condemnation, in some quarters, over his disastrous decision to take a holiday in Hawaii as Australia burned with the most devastating bushfires in our history.
On his return to Australia, he was given short shrift by some members of the crisped, traumatised communities affected by the fires. His reluctance to link the fires to dangerous climate change – in the face of evidence shouting that link – was embarrassing for him, and worrying for those of us who thought the ferocity of the fires might end this country’s brain-dead climate wars.
Time has circled for Morrison and he ends the year with a renewed debate on climate action. Last week The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age reported Morrison would have a speaking spot at a United Nations climate summit this weekend, and intended to use his speech to announce Australia’s decision to drop the use of Kyoto carryover credits in reaching our 2030 emissions-reduction target.
On Friday we learned Morrison had been dropped from the program because his government’s climate policy is not deemed ambitious enough to justify a spot. To put this into context, leaders from 70 countries, including Belize, Afghanistan and Rwanda, are speaking, but Australia does not have a seat at the table.
All the international evidence shows that apart from being a climate challenge, the switch to green energy is the next industrial revolution, yet in Australia we are still stuck in a debate on coal jobs. That debate extends to the Labor opposition.
The most successful countries in the world are all racing towards that future. Business is already moving, as are the state governments in our federation.
Morrison insisted his disinvitation was no big deal.
“Australia's climate and energy policy will be set here in Australia, in Australia's national interest, not to get a speaking slot at some international summit," he told Parliament on Thursday. "The only approval I seek for the policies of my government is the Australian people. That's it.”
These two narratives – Australia’s response to the pandemic, and its response to climate change – seem like they’re at odds. But perhaps they are both the product of a political and public culture of Australian exceptionalism. The belief that we are different. That we are special. That we are lucky.
Diplomatic cost of Australia's climate stance is beginning to show
Our shut-the-borders isolationism on the pandemic is the same thing that leaves us stranded on climate action. The material difference is, with climate change, we cannot ground the planes and seek comfort in parochialism.
The world knows it, but we are the last to grasp this blindingly obvious truth.

Twitter: @JacquelineMaley

Offline John of Wallan

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Re: The Environment Board
« Reply #335 on: December 15, 2020, 03:52:51 PM »
More updates on global temps:



Temperatures keep rising

Temperatures keep rising. Above image uses NASA data that are adjusted to reflect a 1750 baseline, ocean air temperatures and higher polar anomalies, while showing anomalies going back to September 2011, adding a blue trend going back to 1880 and a red trend going back to September 2011.

The map below also shows that in November 2020, especially the Arctic Ocean, again was very hot.

Anomalies in the above NASA image are compared to 1951-1980, while NOAA's default baseline for temperature anomalies is the 20th century average. In the Copernicus image below anomalies are compared to the 1981-2010 average.

Using a different baseline can make a lot of difference. An earlier analysis pointed out that, when using a 1750 baseline and when using ocean air temperatures and higher Arctic anomalies, we did already cross  2°C above pre-industrial in February 2020. 

Above Copernicus image shows temperatures averaged over the twelve-month period from December 2019 to November 2020. The image shows that the shape of the global anomaly over the past twelve months is very similar to the peak reached around 2016. This confirms that global heating is accelerating, because the peak around 2016 was reached under strong El Niño conditions, whereas current temperatures are reached under La Niña conditions. Furthermore, sunspots are currently low. The La Niña and the low sunspots are both suppressing temperatures, as discussed in a recent post.

Future rise?
By how much will temperatures rise over the next few years?

Above image, from the U.N. Emissions Gap Report 2020, shows that growth in greenhouse gas emissions continued in 2019, with emissions reached a total of 59.1 GtCO₂e. The commitments promised at the Paris Agreement in 2015 were not enough to limit the temperature rise to 1.5°C and those commentments were not even met, said António Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General, calling on all nations to declare a state of Climate Emergency until carbon neutrality is reached. Earlier, António Guterres had said: "We are headed for a thundering temperature rise of 3 to 5 degrees Celsius this century."

What could cause a steep temperature rise over the next few years?

A temperature rise of more than 3°C above pre-industrial could occur, and this could actually happen within a few years time. There are a number of reasons why the temperature rise could take place so fast, as described below.

As said, the temperature is currently suppressed by the current La Niña and the currently low sunspots (Hansen et al. give the sunpot cycle an amplitude of some 0.25 W/m²). Such short-term differences show up more in the red trend of the image at the top, which uses a polynomial trend over a short period.

Compensating for the fact that sunspots are currently low and the fact that we're currently a La Niña period can already push the temperature anomaly well over the 2°C threshold that politicians at the Paris Agreement pledged would not be crossed. 

The above NOAA image and the NOAA image below illustrate that we are currently experiencing La Niña conditions.

How long will it take before we'll reach the peak of the next El Niño? NOAA says:
El Niño and La Niña episodes typically last nine to 12 months, but some prolonged events may last for years. While their frequency can be quite irregular, El Niño and La Niña events occur on average every two to seven years. Typically, El Niño occurs more frequently than La Niña.
There are further reasons why the temperature rise could strongly accelerate over the next few years. Loss of cooling aerosols is one such reason. Another reason is the growing frequency and intensity of forest fires, which come with high emissions of methane, of heating aerosols such as black carbon and brown carbon, and of carbon monoxide that causes hydroxyl depletion, thus extending the lifetime of methane and heating aeosols.

Map from earlier post. The vertical axis depicts
latitude, the North Pole is at the top (90° North),
the Equator in the middle (0°) and the South Pole
at the bottom (-90° South). GHCN v4 land-surface
air + ERSST v5 sea-surface water temperature
anomaly. The Arctic anomaly reaches 4.83°C or
8.69°F vs 1951-1980, and 5.57°C vs 1885-1914.
A hotter world will will also hold more water vapor, a potent greenhouse gas.
Furthermore, many tipping points affect the Arctic, e.g. more methane and nitrous oxide emissions can be expected to result from continued decline of what once was permafrost.

The temperature rise is felt the strongest in the Arctic, as illustrated by the zonal mean temperature anomaly map on the right, from an earlier post.

As one of the tipping points gets crossed in the Arctic, multiple feedbacks can start kicking in more strongly, resulting in multiple additional tipping points to subsequently get crossed.
At least ten tipping points affect the Arctic, as described in an earlier post, and it looks like the latent heat tipping point has already been crossed, as illustrated by the image below, from an earlier post, which shows two such tipping points.
[ click on images to enlarge ]
[ from an earlier post ]

Huge temperature rise

When extending the vertical axis of the image at the top, a picture emerges that shows that a temperature rise of more than 13°C above 1750 could happen by 2026. The trend shows that 10°C is crossed in February 2026, while an additional rise of 3°C takes place in the course of 2026. The temperature could rise this much, in part because at 1200 ppm CO₂e the cloud feedback will start to kick in, which in itself can raise temperatures by an additional 8°C.

And the rise wouldn't stop there! Even when adding up the impact of only the existing carbon dioxide and methane levels, and then adding large releases of seafloor methane, this alone could suffice to trigger the cloud feedback, as described in an earlier post.

Of course, there are further warming elements, in addition to carbon dioxide and methane, and they could jointly cause a rise of 10°C by 2026 even in case of smaller releases of seafloor methane, as illustrated by the image below.

Above image illustrates how a temperature rise of more than as 10°C could eventuate as early as February 2026 when taking into account aerosol changes, albedo changes, water vapor, nitrous oxide, etc., as discussed in an earlier analysis.

The joint impact of all warming elements, including the cloud feedback, threatens to cause a total rise of 18°C, as an earlier post warned, adding the image on the right.

How high could the temperature rise? At a 3°C rise, humans will likely go extinct, while most life on Earth will disappear with a 5°C rise, and as the temperature keeps rising, oceans will evaporate and Earth will go the same way as Venus, a 2019 analysis warned.

The situation is dire and calls for immediate, comprehensive and effective action, as described in the Climate Plan.


• Climate Plan

• NOAA Global Climate Report - November 2020

• NASA GISS Surface Temperature Analysis - maps

• What are El Niño and La Niña?

• Multivariate El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Index Version 2 (MEI.v2)

• Copernicus - surface air temperature for Novmber 2020

• NOAA ISIS Solar Cycle Sunspot Number Progression

• Secretary-General's address at Columbia University: "The State of the Planet"

• U.N. Emissions Gap Report 2020

• U.N. Climate Ambitions Summit, December 12, 2020

• U.N. Paris Agreement (2015)

• Why stronger winds over the North Atlantic are so dangerous

• Feedbacks in the Arctic

• September 2015 Sea Surface Warmest On Record

• When will we die?

• A rise of 18°C or 32.4°F by 2026?

• Methane Hydrates Tipping Point threatens to get crossed

• Arctic Hit By Ten Tipping Points

• Crossing the Paris Agreement thresholds

• 2°C crossed

• Most Important Message Ever

• Blue Ocean Event

• Record Arctic Warming

• There is no time to lose

• Temperatures threaten to become unbearable

• Warning of mass extinction of species, including humans, within one decade

• Extinction

Offline John of Wallan

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Re: The Environment Board
« Reply #336 on: December 17, 2020, 12:23:08 AM »
Sustainability.... If what we are doing is unsustainable, then it wont be sustained... Simple really.


Humans Left Sustainability Behind as Hunter-Gatherers
Posted on December 2, 2020 by Gail Tverberg

Many people believe that humans can have a sustainable future by using solar panels and wind turbines. Unfortunately, the only truly sustainable course, in terms of moving in cycles with nature, is interacting with the environment in a manner similar to the approach used by chimpanzees and baboons. Even this approach will eventually lead to new and different species predominating. Over a long period, such as 10 million years, we can expect the vast majority of species currently alive will become extinct, regardless of how well these species fit in with nature’s plan.

The key to the relative success of animals such as chimpanzees and baboons is living within a truly circular economy. Sunlight falling on trees provides the food they need. Waste products of their economy come back to the forest ecosystem as fertilizer.

Pre-humans lost the circular economy when they learned to control fire over one million years ago, when they were still hunter-gatherers. With the controlled use of fire, cooked food became possible, making it easier to chew and digest food. The human body adapted to the use of cooked food by reducing the size of the jaw and digestive tract and increasing the size of the brain. This adaptation made pre-humans truly different from other animals.

With the use of fire, pre-humans had many powers. They spent less time chewing, so they could spend more time making tools. They could burn down entire forests, if they so chose, to provide a better environment for the desired types of wild plants to grow. They could use the heat from fire to move to colder environments than the one to which they were originally adapted, thus allowing a greater total population.

Once pre-humans could outcompete other species, the big problem became diminishing returns. For example, once the largest beasts were killed off, only smaller beasts were available to eat. The amount of effort required to kill these smaller beasts was not proportionately less, however.

In this post, I will explain further the predicament we seem to be in. We have deviated so far from the natural economy that we really cannot go back. At the same time, the limits we are reaching are straining our economic system in many ways. Some type of discontinuity, or collapse, seems to be not very far away.

[1] Even before the appearance of hunter-gatherers, ecosystems around the world exhibited a great deal of cycling from state to state.

Many people are under the illusion that before the meddling of humans, the populations of different types of plants and animals tended to be pretty much constant. This isn’t really the way things work, however, in a finite world. Instead, the populations of many species cycle up and down, depending on particular conditions such as the population of animals that prey on them, the availability of food, the prevalence of disease, and the weather conditions.

Figure 1. Numbers of snowshoe hare (yellow, background) and Canada lynx (black line, foreground) furs sold to the Hudson’s Bay Company. Canada lynxes eat snowshoe hares. Image by Lamiot, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons. Link.
Even forests exhibit surprising variability. Many undergo regular cycles of burning. In fact, some species of trees, such as the giant sequoias in Yosemite, require fire in order to reproduce. These cycles are simply part of the natural order of self-organizing ecosystems in a finite world.

[2] A major feature of ecosystems is “Selection of the Best Adapted.”

Each species tends to give birth to many more offspring than are necessary to live to maturity if the population of that species is to remain level. Each of the individual offspring varies in many random ways from its parents. Ecosystems are able to keep adapting to changing conditions by permitting only the best-adapted offspring to survive. In favorable periods (suitable weather, not much disease, ample food, not too many predators), a large share of the offspring may survive. In less favorable periods, few of the offspring will survive.

When selection of the best adapted is taken into account, a changing climate is of little concern because, regardless of the conditions, some individual offspring will survive. Over time, new and different species are likely to develop that are better adapted to the changing conditions.

[3] The downsides of living within the limits provided by nature are easy to see.

One issue is that every mother can expect to see the majority of her offspring die. In fact, her own life expectancy is uncertain. It depends upon whether there are nearby predators or a disease against which she has no defense. Even a fairly small injury could lead to her death.

Another issue is lack of shelter from the elements. Moving to an area where the weather is too harsh becomes impossible. Our earliest pre-human ancestors seem to have lived near the equator where seasonal temperature differences are small.

Without supplemental heating or cooling, humans living in many places in the world today would have a difficult time following the way of nature because of weather conditions. As we will see in later sections, it was grains that allowed people to settle in areas that were too cold for crops in winter.

In theory, there are alternatives to grain in cold climates. For example, a small share of the population might be able to get most of its calories from eating raw fish, as the Inuit have done. Eating raw fish is not generally an option for people living inland, however. Also, in later sections, we will talk about the difference between the use of root vegetables and grains as the primary source of calories. In some sense, the use of grains provides a stepping stone toward big government, roads, and what we think of as a modern existence, while the use of root vegetables does not. Eating raw fish is similar to eating root vegetables, in that it doesn’t provide a stepping stone toward a modern existence.

[4] Animals make use of some of the same techniques as humans to compete with other species. These techniques are added complexity and added energy supply.

We think of complexity as being equivalent to added technology, but it also includes many related techniques, such as the use of tools, the use of specialization and the use of long-distance travel.

Animals use many types of complexity. Bees build hives and carry out tasks divided among the queen bee, drone bees, and worker bees. Many birds fly to another continent in winter, in order to gain access to an adequate food supply. Chimpanzees use tools, such as waving a stick or throwing a rock to ward off predators. Beavers build dams that provide themselves with an easy source of food in winter.

Some members of the animal kingdom, known as parasites, even leverage their own energy by using the energy of other plants or animals. Such use of the energy of a host is subject to limits; if the parasite uses too much, it risks killing its host.

While animals other than humans may use similar techniques to humans, they don’t go as far as humans. Humans employ a variety of supplemental materials in their tools. Also, no animal other than humans has learned to control fire.

[5] Pre-humans seem to have learned to control fire over 1 million years ago, allowing humans to gain an advantage in killing wild beasts.

Richard Wrangham, in Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human, makes the case that the controlled use of fire allowed the changes in anatomy that differentiate humans from other primates. With the controlled use of fire, humans could cook some of their food, making it easier to chew and digest. As a result, the teeth, jaws and guts of humans could be relatively smaller, and the brain could be larger. The larger brain allowed humans to compete better against other species. Also, cooking food greatly reduced the time spent chewing food, increasing the time available for making crafts and tools of various kinds. The heat of fire allowed pre-humans to move into new areas with colder climates. The heat of fires also allowed pre-humans to ward off some of the impact of ice-ages, which they were able to survive.

James C. Scott, in Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States, explains that being able to burn biomass was sufficient to turn around who was in charge: pre-humans or large animals. In one cave in South Africa, he indicates that a lower layer of remains found in the cave did not show any carbon deposits, and hence were created before pre-humans occupying the cave gained control of fire. In this layer, skeletons of big cats were found, along with scattered gnawed bones of pre-humans.

In a higher layer, carbon deposits were found. In this layer, pre-humans were clearly in charge. Their skeletons were much more intact, and the bones of big cats were scattered about and showed signs of gnawing. Who was in charge had changed! We know that human controlled fires can be used to scare away wild animals, burn down entire forests if desired, and make sharper spears. It shouldn’t be surprising that humans gained the upper hand.

[6] Grains, because of their energy density, portability, and ability to be stored, seem to have played a major role in the development of governments and of cities.

Scott, in Against the Grain, also points out that early economies that were able to grow grains were the economies that were able to place taxes on those grains, and with those taxes, were able to fund governments offering more services. Grains are a storable form of energy for humans. They are portable and energy dense, as well. It was grains that allowed people to settle in areas that were too cold for growing crops in winter. The year-to-year variability in production made storage of reserves important. Governments could provide this function, and other functions, such as roads.

If we analyze the situation, it is apparent that the existence of grain crops provided a subsidy to the rest of the economy. Farmers and their slaves could grow far more grain than they themselves required for calories, leaving much grain for trading with others. This surplus could be used to feed the population of cities, such as Rome. It was no longer necessary for everyone to be hunter-gatherers or subsistence farmers. There could be new occupations such as merchants, teachers, carpenters, and sailors. Many more goods and services in total could be produced, and the population of cities could grow.

Cities, themselves, provide benefits, because they allow economies of scale, and they allow people with different skills to mix. Geoffrey West, in his book Scale, notes that larger cities produce disproportionately more patents. Thus, technology is advanced with the growth of cities.

It might be noted that root crops, even though they could provide most of the same food energy benefits for humans as grain crops, did not help economies grow in the same ways that grain crops did. This, likely, was part of the reason that they were not taxed: They produced no excess benefit to give back to the government.

Root vegetables are not as helpful as grains. They are less energy dense than grains, making them heavier and bulkier for transport. They do not store as well as grains. In early days, root crops could be about as efficiently grown by individual families as by farmers specializing in such crops, making it hard to leverage the labor that went into growing root crops. In fact, there was less real need for government with root crops: There was no way to store supplies of root crops in case of poor harvest, and there was little need for roads to transport the crops.

[7] The added energy benefits of grain crops created a situation where the grain was “worth” far more to customers, and to the economy as a whole, than what would be indicated by their cost of production.

There is a belief among economists, and among much of the population, that the selling price of a commodity will be determined by its cost of production. In fact, the example given in Section [6] indicates that back in the early days of grain production, grain’s selling price could be far greater than its direct cost of production, with the difference going into taxes that would benefit the government and the economy as a whole.

In fact, there was a second way that the usage of grain was helpful to governments. The efficiency of grain production, transport, and storage reduced the need for farmers. Former farmers could offer services not previously available to citizens, often in cities. Income from the new jobs could also be taxed, to give governments another stream of income.

[8] The use of coal and oil also produced situations where the value of energy products to the economy was far higher than their direct cost of production, allowing these products to be heavily taxed.

Tony Wrigley, in his book Energy and the English Industrial Revolution, indicates that with the use of coal, farming became a much more productive endeavor. The crop yield from cereal crops, net of the amount fed to draft animals, nearly tripled between 1600 and 1800, which was the period when coal production ramped up in England. Coal allowed the use of far more metal tools, which were vastly superior to tools made from wood. In addition, roads to mines were greatly improved. Prior to this time, few roads were paved in England. These improved roads helped the economy as a whole.

Oil is known today for the high taxes it pays to governments. The governments of oil exporting countries are very dependent upon tax revenue relating to oil. When the selling price of oil is low, this results in a crisis period for oil exporting countries because they have no other way of collecting adequate tax revenue to support the programs for their people. For a short time, they can borrow money, but when this alternative fails, governments are likely to be overturned by their unhappy citizens.

[9] The economy tends to move further and further away from the natural order (described in Sections [1], [2], and [3]) as more energy consumption is added.

Even though the natural order would be sustainable, it doesn’t represent a situation that most people today would like to live in. In fact, most humans today could not live on completely uncooked food, even if they wanted to. While a few people today eat “raw food” diets, they often use a food processor or blender to reduce the amount of chewing and digesting of raw foods to a manageable level. Even then, their weights tend to stay low.

If energy products are available at an affordable price, humans find many ways to use them, to stay away from the natural order. Some examples include the following:

To provide transportation, other than walking.
To pipe clean water to homes.
To make growing and storage of food easy.
To allow homes to be heated and cooled.
To allow medicines and vaccines.
To allow most children to live to maturity.
[10] Because energy consumption is important in all aspects of the economy, the economy seems to reach many kinds of limits simultaneously.

There are many limits that the world economy seems to reach simultaneously. The underlying problem in all of these areas seems to be diminishing returns. In theory, these issues could all be worked around, using increasing energy consumption or increasing complexity:

Too little fresh water for an increasing population.
The need to keep increasing food production, with the same amount of arable land.
Increased difficulty with insect pests, such as locusts.
Increased difficulty in dealing with viruses and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Overfished oceans so that farmed fish are required in addition.
Ores of metals of ever-lower grade, requiring more processing and leading to more waste.
More expensive techniques required for the extraction of fossil fuels.
Many unprofitable businesses; much debt likely to default.
Too few jobs that pay well enough to support a family
Governments unable to collect enough taxes
Energy and complexity work together to leverage human labor, in a way that the economy can make more goods and services in total. Unfortunately, we cannot use complexity to make energy. Technology (which is a form of complexity) can convert energy to useful work and, through efficiency gains, increase the percentage of energy that is available for useful work, but it cannot make energy. If we add more technology, more robots, and more international trade, we likely will need more energy, not less.

The net impact of all of these issues is that to maintain our economy, we really need an ever-increasing quantity of energy. In fact, energy consumption likely needs to grow more rapidly than population simply to keep the system from collapse.

Wind and solar certainly cannot meet today’s energy needs. Together, wind and solar amount to about 3.3% of the world’s energy supply, based on BP estimates for 2019. Furthermore, wind and intermittent solar certainly cannot be sold at a price high above their cost of production, the way grain, coal and oil have been sold historically. In fact, wind and solar invariably need the huge subsidy of being allowed to “go first.” They actually are reliant on a profitable fossil fuel system to subsidize them, or they fall completely “flat.”

[11] The problem, as the economy reaches limits, is too few goods and services being produced to satisfy all parts of the economy simultaneously. The parts of the economy that especially tend to get shortchanged are (a) governments, (b) energy producers, and (c) workers without special skills who are selling their labor as a form of “energy.”

When economies are doing well, the price of energy products tends to be high. These high prices allow very high taxes on energy products. They also allow significant funds for reinvestment for the energy companies themselves. Indirectly, these high prices allow a significant share of the goods and services made by the economy to be transferred to these sectors of the economy.

In addition, energy products allow non-farm workers in many areas of the economy to produce their goods and services more efficiently, thereby helping push up the wages of common laborers.

As economies reach limits, there is, in some sense, a need for more energy in many sectors of the economy. The catch is that the “wages” and “profits” needed to purchase this energy aren’t really available to provide the demand needed to keep energy prices up. As a result, energy prices and production tend to fall. Government-imposed limitations, intended to stop the spread of COVID-19, may also keep energy demand down.

Governments often fail, or they get into major conflicts with other governments, when there are resource shortages of the kinds we are currently encountering. Today is in many ways like the period of the Great Depression, which preceded World War II.

[12] Perhaps warm, wet countries will be somewhat more successful than cold countries and those without water, in the years ahead.

I showed a chart in my most recent post, Energy Is the Economy, that illustrates the wide range of energy consumption around the world.

Figure 2. Energy consumption per capita in 2019 for a few sample countries based on data from BP’s 2020 Statistical Review of World Energy. Energy consumption includes fossil fuel energy, nuclear energy and renewable energy of many types. It omits energy products not traded through markets, such as locally gathered wood and animal dung. This omission tends to somewhat understate the energy consumption for countries such as India and those located in Middle Africa.
If fossil fuel energy falls, I expect that the parts of the world with cold temperatures will experience particular difficulty because they tend to use disproportionately large amounts of energy (Figure 2). Their citizens cannot get along very well without heat for their homes. Winter becomes very dark, if supplemental lighting is not available. Walking long distances in the cold becomes a problem as well.

The warmer countries have a better chance because they do not require as complex economies as cold countries. They can feed at least part of their population with root crops. Walking is a reasonable transportation option, and there is no problem with months on end of darkness if supplemental lighting is not available. For these reasons, warm countries would seem to have a better chance of passing through the difficult times ahead while sustaining a reasonable-sized population.

Offline John of Wallan

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Re: The Environment Board
« Reply #337 on: December 22, 2020, 10:49:58 PM »
Climate update. Never good...


An Orwellian climate while Rome burns
 by Andrew Glikson

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. - Albert Einstein.

As the world is trying to hopefully recover from the tragic effects of COVID-19, it is reminded there is no vaccine for the existential threat for its life support systems posed by global warming, nor for the looming threats of future wars and nuclear wars fueled by warmongers and $trillion preparations by military-industrial complexes.

Between 1740 and 1897 some 230 wars and revolutions in Europe suggested war remained deeply ingrained in the human psyche and civilization. The question is whether the currently approaching catastrophes can be averted.

No one wishes to believe in the projections made in the recent book ‘The Uninhabitable Earth’, except that these projections, made by David Wallace-Wells, are disturbingly consistent with the current shift in state of the climate toward +4 degrees and even +6 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, as indicated by the current trends (Figure 1) and conveyed by leading climate scientists and the International Panel for Climate Change (IPCC).

Figure 1.. Global mean temperature estimates for land areas (NASA).

Facing the unthinkable consequences of global warming is pushing climate scientists into a quandary. In private conversations, many scientists express far greater concern at the trend of global warming than they do in public. However, faced with social and psychological barriers, as well as threats of losing positions and jobs, in business, public service and academia, a majority keeps silent, displaying lesser courage than school children.

According to James Hansen (2012), NASA’s former chief climate scientist: “You can’t burn all of these fossil fuels without creating a different planet”. According to Joachim Schellnhuber (2015), Germany’s chief climate scientist: ‘We’re simply talking about the very life support system of this planet’, and ‘If we don’t solve the climate crisis, we can forget about the rest’.

Referring to a phenomenon he termed “scientific reticence”, James Hansen (2007) states: “I suggest that a “scientific reticence” (namely a reluctance to convey worrying news) is inhibiting the communication of a threat of a potentially large sea level rise”.

According to Bajaj (2019): “when it comes to climate change, the need for excessive caution and absolute certainty of the results is manifesting as silence from the mainstream science on the worst yet probable consequences and the worst-case scenarios that are looking increasingly likely”. A paradox emerges where scientists who experience scientific reticence are still accused of being alarmists.

This is because an evaluation of the probability of a risk needs to be related to the magnitude of the risk. For example, the inspection of the engines of a Jumbo Jet carrying 300 passengers need to be even more rigorous than that of a commuter van, or evaluation of the risk posed by a potential failure of a nuclear reactor even more critical than that of a conventional power plant, as is the absolute safety of a particle accelerator.

By analogy with the dictum “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it” projections of future climate trajectories need to take account of studies of the past behaviour of the atmosphere-ocean system. The pace of current global warming exceeds those of the last 2.6 million years by an order of magnitude, with calamitous consequences for biological systems.

As indicated by the basic laws of physics, the principles of climate science and empirical observations in nature, under an increase of greenhouse gas concentrations by about 50 percent , global warming is inevitable. While modeled future climate change trajectories may vary, depending whether observations are based on recent measurements, paleoclimate data or models, the consequences of such an increase are inevitably catastrophic. Whereas IPCC models portray linear warming trends to 2300, other models take account of the flow of ice melt water from Greenland and Antarctica into the oceans and thereby irregular warming (Glikson, 2019).

Given the warnings issued by leading climate scientists and the IPCC, while nations keep investing their dwindling $trillions in its military-industrial complexes in preparations for future war/s, our world is losing its last chance to save its planetary life support systems.

Andrew Glikson

Dr Andrew Glikson
Earth and Paleo-climate scientist
ANU Climate Science Institute
ANU Planetary Science Institute
Canberra, Australia

The Asteroid Impact Connection of Planetary Evolution
The Archaean: Geological and Geochemical Windows into the Early Earth
Climate, Fire and Human Evolution: The Deep Time Dimensions of the Anthropocene
The Plutocene: Blueprints for a Post-Anthropocene Greenhouse Earth
Evolution of the Atmosphere, Fire and the Anthropocene Climate Event Horizon
From Stars to Brains: Milestones in the Planetary Evolution of Life and Intelligence
Asteroids Impacts, Crustal Evolution and Related Mineral Systems with Special Reference to Australia

Posted by Sam Carana at 6:32 PM
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Labels: Andrew Glikson, scientific reticence

Offline John of Wallan

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Dead Alien Civilizations
« Reply #338 on: December 25, 2020, 12:40:30 PM »
Hope one and have happy and well holiday season. Merry Christmas to the Christians amoungst you all.

Was not sure where to post this....



Dead Alien Civilizations
Joshua Espinoza
Dec 23, 2020

A newly published study suggests the Milky Way galaxy could contain alien civilizations, though there's a strong possibility most of them are already dead.

Researchers from the California Institute of Technology, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Santiago High School used an expanded version of the famous Drake Equation, which determined the odds of extraterrestrial intelligence existing in our galaxy. The study looked at various factors that could presumably lead to a habitable environment, and determined intelligent life may have emerged in our galaxy about 8 billions years after it was formed. Some of these civilizations could have been 13,000 light-years from the galactic center, about 12,000 light-years closer than Earth, where humans are believed to have emerged 13.5 billion years after the Milky Way was formed.

The study, which has yet to be peer reviewed, also considered factors that may have ended these civilizations, such as exposure to radiation, a halt in evolution, and the tendency for intelligent life to self-annihilate, whether it be through climate change, technological advancements, or war. This suggests that any alien civilizations that are still alive are most likely young, as self-annihilation would presumably occur after a long period.

"While no evidence explicitly suggests that intelligent life will eventually annihilate themselves, we cannot a priori preclude the possibility of self-annihilation," the study read. "As early as 1961, Hoerner (1961) suggests that the progress of science and technology will inevitably lead to complete destruction 11 and biological degeneration, similar to the proposal by Sagan and Shklovskii (1966). This is further supported by many previous studies arguing that self-annihilation of humans is highly possible via various scenarios (e.g., Nick, 2002; Webb, 2011), including but not limited to war, climate change (Billings, 2018), and the development of biotechnology (Sotos, 2019)."

Offline John of Wallan

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Re: The Environment Board
« Reply #339 on: January 06, 2021, 08:02:52 PM »
A mate is sprouting me some flowering gums .
I also have some Wallemi pine seeds to sprout from dads specimen.
Once I get some seedlings I plan to start guerilla gardening around the town and plant trees on vacant space. Will also start givng some away to people who will look after them...
Just about filled up my 2 acres.
A tree a week until I die.


Offline John of Wallan

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Re: The Environment Board
« Reply #340 on: January 16, 2021, 10:20:14 PM »
Doom and gloom article...



Worried about Earth’s future? Well, the outlook is worse than even scientists can grasp
January 13, 2021 4.00pm AEDT
Corey J. A. Bradshaw
Matthew Flinders Professor of Global Ecology and Models Theme Leader for the ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage, Flinders University

Daniel T. Blumstein
Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, University of California, Los Angeles

Paul Ehrlich
President, Center for Conservation Biology, Bing Professor of Population Studies, Stanford University

Disclosure statement
Corey J. A. Bradshaw receives funding from the Australian Research Council. The Rockefeller Foundation provided funding for elements of this research via a Bellagio Writer's Fellowship to CJAB and PRE.

Daniel T. Blumstein receives funding from the US National Science Foundation and the Australian Research Council.

Paul Ehrlich does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Flinders University

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Anyone with even a passing interest in the global environment knows all is not well. But just how bad is the situation? Our new paper shows the outlook for life on Earth is more dire than is generally understood.

The research published today reviews more than 150 studies to produce a stark summary of the state of the natural world. We outline the likely future trends in biodiversity decline, mass extinction, climate disruption and planetary toxification. We clarify the gravity of the human predicament and provide a timely snapshot of the crises that must be addressed now.

The problems, all tied to human consumption and population growth, will almost certainly worsen over coming decades. The damage will be felt for centuries and threatens the survival of all species, including our own.

Our paper was authored by 17 leading scientists, including those from Flinders University, Stanford University and the University of California, Los Angeles. Our message might not be popular, and indeed is frightening. But scientists must be candid and accurate if humanity is to understand the enormity of the challenges we face.

Get the latest on climate change, from scientists on the frontline.
Girl in breathing mask attached ot plant in container
Humanity must come to terms with the future we and future generations face. Shutterstock
Getting to grips with the problem
First, we reviewed the extent to which experts grasp the scale of the threats to the biosphere and its lifeforms, including humanity. Alarmingly, the research shows future environmental conditions will be far more dangerous than experts currently believe.

This is largely because academics tend to specialise in one discipline, which means they’re in many cases unfamiliar with the complex system in which planetary-scale problems — and their potential solutions — exist.

What’s more, positive change can be impeded by governments rejecting or ignoring scientific advice, and ignorance of human behaviour by both technical experts and policymakers.

More broadly, the human optimism bias – thinking bad things are more likely to befall others than yourself – means many people underestimate the environmental crisis.

Numbers don’t lie
Our research also reviewed the current state of the global environment. While the problems are too numerous to cover in full here, they include:

a halving of vegetation biomass since the agricultural revolution around 11,000 years ago. Overall, humans have altered almost two-thirds of Earth’s land surface

about 1,300 documented species extinctions over the past 500 years, with many more unrecorded. More broadly, population sizes of animal species have declined by more than two-thirds over the last 50 years, suggesting more extinctions are imminent

Read more: What is a 'mass extinction' and are we in one now?

about one million plant and animal species globally threatened with extinction. The combined mass of wild mammals today is less than one-quarter the mass before humans started colonising the planet. Insects are also disappearing rapidly in many regions

85% of the global wetland area lost in 300 years, and more than 65% of the oceans compromised to some extent by humans

a halving of live coral cover on reefs in less than 200 years and a decrease in seagrass extent by 10% per decade over the last century. About 40% of kelp forests have declined in abundance, and the number of large predatory fishes is fewer than 30% of that a century ago.

State of the Earth's environment
Major environmental-change categories expressed as a percentage relative to intact baseline. Red indicates percentage of category damaged, lost or otherwise affected; blue indicates percentage intact, remaining or unaffected. Frontiers in Conservation Science
A bad situation only getting worse
The human population has reached 7.8 billion – double what it was in 1970 – and is set to reach about 10 billion by 2050. More people equals more food insecurity, soil degradation, plastic pollution and biodiversity loss.

High population densities make pandemics more likely. They also drive overcrowding, unemployment, housing shortages and deteriorating infrastructure, and can spark conflicts leading to insurrections, terrorism, and war.

Read more: Climate explained: why we need to focus on increased consumption as much as population growth

Essentially, humans have created an ecological Ponzi scheme. Consumption, as a percentage of Earth’s capacity to regenerate itself, has grown from 73% in 1960 to more than 170% today.

High-consuming countries like Australia, Canada and the US use multiple units of fossil-fuel energy to produce one energy unit of food. Energy consumption will therefore increase in the near future, especially as the global middle class grows.

Then there’s climate change. Humanity has already exceeded global warming of 1°C this century, and will almost assuredly exceed 1.5 °C between 2030 and 2052. Even if all nations party to the Paris Agreement ratify their commitments, warming would still reach between 2.6°C and 3.1°C by 2100.

people walking on a crowded street
The human population is set to reach 10 billion by 2050. Shutterstock
The danger of political impotence
Our paper found global policymaking falls far short of addressing these existential threats. Securing Earth’s future requires prudent, long-term decisions. However this is impeded by short-term interests, and an economic system that concentrates wealth among a few individuals.

Right-wing populist leaders with anti-environment agendas are on the rise, and in many countries, environmental protest groups have been labelled “terrorists”. Environmentalism has become weaponised as a political ideology, rather than properly viewed as a universal mode of self-preservation.

Financed disinformation campaigns, such as those against climate action and forest protection, protect short-term profits and claim meaningful environmental action is too costly – while ignoring the broader cost of not acting. By and large, it appears unlikely business investments will shift at sufficient scale to avoid environmental catastrophe.

Changing course
Fundamental change is required to avoid this ghastly future. Specifically, we and many others suggest:

abolishing the goal of perpetual economic growth

revealing the true cost of products and activities by forcing those who damage the environment to pay for its restoration, such as through carbon pricing

rapidly eliminating fossil fuels

regulating markets by curtailing monopolisation and limiting undue corporate influence on policy

reigning in corporate lobbying of political representatives

educating and empowering women across the globe, including giving them control over family planning.

A coal plant
The true cost of environmental damage should be borne by those responsible. Shutterstock
Don’t look away
Many organisations and individuals are devoted to achieving these aims. However their messages have not sufficiently penetrated the policy, economic, political and academic realms to make much difference.

Failing to acknowledge the magnitude of problems facing humanity is not just naïve, it’s dangerous. And science has a big role to play here.

Scientists must not sugarcoat the overwhelming challenges ahead. Instead, they should tell it like it is. Anything else is at best misleading, and at worst potentially lethal for the human enterprise.

Offline John of Wallan

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Re: The Environment Board
« Reply #341 on: January 22, 2021, 06:15:50 PM »
Coal seam gas is contentious in Oz.
Some good vidos floating around of rivers bubblig and on fire.



The peril of high atmospheric methane levels
by Andrew Glikson

It is hard to think of a more Orwellian expression than that describing the increase in toxic atmospheric methane gas as “gas-led recovery.”

Several of the large mass extinctions of species in the geological past are attributed to an increase in atmospheric methane (CH₄), raising the temperature of the atmosphere and depriving the oceans from oxygen. Nowadays a serious danger to the atmosphere and for the life support systems ensues from the accelerated release of methane from melting Arctic permafrost, leaks from ocean sediments and from bogs, triggered by global warming. As if this was not dangerous enough, now methane is extracted as coal-seam-gas (CSG) by fracking (hydraulic fracturing) of coal and oil shale in the US, Canada, Australia and elsewhere.

Methane-bearing formations, located about 300m-1000m underground, are fracked using a mixture of water, sand, chemicals and explosives injected into the rock at high pressure, triggering significant amounts of methane leaks into the overlying formations and escaping into the atmosphere (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Schematic illustration of coal-seam-gas fracking (R. Morrison, by permission).

CSG is made primarily of about 95-97% methane, which possesses a radiative greenhouse potential close to X80 times that of carbon dioxide (CO₂). The radiative greenhouse effect of 1 kg methane is equivalent to releasing 84 kg of CO₂ and decreases to 20 and 34 times stronger than CO₂ over a 100-year period.

Global methane deposits (Figure 2) and Australian methane-bearing basins (Figure 3) are proliferating. Fugitive emissions from CSG are already enhancing the concentration of atmospheric methane above drill sites and range from 1 to 9 percent during the total life cycle emissions. The venting of methane from underground coal mines in the Hunter region of New South Wales has led to an atmospheric level in the region of 3,000 parts per billion, with methane levels of 2,000 ppb (parts per billion) extending to some 50 km away from the mines. Peak readings in excess of 3000 ppb represent an amalgamation of plumes from 17 sources. The median concentration within this section was 1820 ppb, with a peak reading of 2110 ppb. Compare this with mean methane values at Mouna Loa, Hawaii, of 1884 ppb.

Figure 2. Global gas hydrate potential regions.

Fugitive methane emissions from natural, urban, agricultural, and energy-production landscapes of eastern Australia. The chemical signature of methane released from fracking is found in the atmosphere points to shale gas operations as the source.

Figure 3. Australian basins, oil and gas resources.

The accumulation of many hundreds of billions tons of unoxidized methane-rich organic matter in Arctic permafrost, methane hydrates in shallow Arctic lakes and seas, bogs, and as emanated from cattle and sheep, has already enhanced global methane growth over the last 40 years at rates up to 14 ppb/year (Figure 4).

Figure 4. Growth of atmospheric methane, Mouna Loa, Hawaii,
between 1980-2020 and 2017-2020. NOAA.

The current methane level of 1884 ppb, ~2.5 times the <800 ppb level in 1840AD, indicating a mean growth rate of ~7 ppb/year (Figure 4), is attributable to in part to animal husbandry, permafrost melting, release from marine hydrates and bogs, and in part emissions from shale gas and fracking. as in the United States and Canada.

High levels of methane reduce the amount of oxygen breathed from the air, with health consequences. The toxicity of methane is corroborated in a 2018 study in Pennsylvania showing children born within a mile or two of a gas well were likely to be smaller and less healthy. New York State, Maryland, and Vermont have banned fracking, as have France and Germany.

According to Hansen (2018) reserves of unconventional gas exceed 10,000 GtC (billion tons carbon). Given the scale of methane hydrate deposits around the world (Figure 5), sufficient deposits exist to perpetrate a global mass extinction of species on a geological scale.¹

Figure 5. Estimates of methane held in hydrates worldwide. Estimates of the Methane Held in Hydrates Worldwide. Early estimates for marine hydrates (encompassed by the green region), made before hydrate had been recovered in the marine environment, are high because they assume gas hydrates exist in essentially all the world’s oceanic sediments. Subsequent estimates are lower, but remain widely scattered (encompassed by the blue region) because of continued uncertainty in the non-uniform, heterogeneous distribution of organic carbon from which the methane in hydrate is generated, as well as uncertainties in the efficiency with which that methane is produced and then captured in gas hydrate. Nonetheless, marine hydrates are expected to contain one to two orders of magnitude more methane than exists in natural gas reserves worldwide (brown square) (U.S. Energy Information Administration 2010). Continental hydrate mass estimates (encompassed by the pink region) tend to be about 1 per cent of the marine estimates.

¹ For 2.12 billion ton of carbon (GtC) raising atmospheric CO₂ by 1ppm, and assuming about 50% of CO₂ remaining in the atmosphere, future drilling and fracking could in principle raise atmospheric CO₂ level to about or more than 2000 ppm.

Andrew Glikson

Dr Andrew Glikson
Earth and Paleo-climate scientist
ANU Climate Science Institute
ANU Planetary Science Institute
Canberra, Australia

The Asteroid Impact Connection of Planetary Evolution
The Archaean: Geological and Geochemical Windows into the Early Earth
Climate, Fire and Human Evolution: The Deep Time Dimensions of the Anthropocene
The Plutocene: Blueprints for a Post-Anthropocene Greenhouse Earth
Evolution of the Atmosphere, Fire and the Anthropocene Climate Event Horizon
From Stars to Brains: Milestones in the Planetary Evolution of Life and Intelligence
Asteroids Impacts, Crustal Evolution and Related Mineral Systems with Special Reference to Australia

Offline John of Wallan

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Re: The Environment Board
« Reply #342 on: January 22, 2021, 06:18:20 PM »
Video of river on fire:


Offline John of Wallan

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Re: The Environment Board: What Carbon Budget?
« Reply #343 on: January 28, 2021, 11:11:36 PM »
And the politicians fiddle while Rome, and the rest of the world, burn.



What Carbon Budget?

Orbital changes are responsible for the Milankovitch cycles that make Earth move in and out of periods of glaciation, or Ice Ages. In line with these cycles, July insolation has slowly decreased over the last 12,000 years. While insolation was at a peak some 12,000 years ago, temperatures rose only slowly at first, as the ice receded that was formed during the most recent Ice Age.

Some previous temperature reconstructions did suggest that a peak on temperature was reached around 6,000 to 7,000 years ago, followed by a decrease in temperature that continued until the industrial age. However, Samantha Bova and colleagues found that most of the records used in such reconstructions represented seasonal temperatures rather than annual ones.

They developed a method of evaluating individual records for seasonal bias and after adjusting for this, they found that the mean annual sea surface temperature has been rising steadily for the past 12,000 years, due to retreating ice sheets during the period from 12,000 to 6,500 years ago and, more recently, due to the increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

Paris Agreement

The Paris Agreement calls for a global average temperature well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, with efforts taken to ensure that the temperature doesn't exceed 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

So, what are pre-industrial levels? The 'pre-' in pre-industrial means before, suggesting that pre-industrial levels refers to levels as they were in times before the Industrial Revolution started.

While emission of greenhouse gases did rise strongly since the start of the Industrial Revolution, the rise in emission of greenhouse gases by people had already started some 7,000 years ago with the rise in modern agriculture and associated deforestation. As this new study shows, the temperature has risen steadily since.

A recent post confirms earlier warnings that the temperature may already have risen by more than 2°C, and it looks even more that way when moving the baseline back 7,000 years. Moreover, this recent post again warns that the temperature rise is accelerating as tipping points are getting crossed, feedbacks are growing stronger and further heating elements are kicking, all interacting in non-linear ways to speed up the temperature rise.

So, where are those efforts that politicians pledged they would be taking?

What Carbon Budget?

Instead of making a genuine effort, most politicians and mainstream media keep telling people that there was a carbon budget to be divided among polluters, as if people should happily continue to consume the polluting products that are pushed by advertisers, for decades to come.

In reality, however, there is no carbon budget, there is no pollution budget. Instead, there is just a huge pollution debt to be paid and every minute of delay causes exponential growth of this debt and of the prospect of rapid human extinction and ultimately extinction of all life on Earth.


The situation is dire and calls for immediate, comprehensive and effective action as described in the Climate Plan.


• Seasonal origin of the thermal maxima at the Holocene and the last interglacial - by Samantha Bova et al.

• Palaeoclimate puzzle explained by seasonal variation

• Important Climate Change Mystery Solved by Scientists

• Milankovitch (Orbital) Cycles and Their Role in Earth's Climate - by Alan Buis (NASA news, 2020)

• Milankovitch cycles - Wikipedia

• Insolation changes

• Paris Agreement

• 2020: Hottest Year On Record

• Climate Plan

Offline knarf

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In the spirit of nature, everything is connected
« Reply #344 on: January 30, 2021, 06:51:39 AM »
To bring the natural system into balance, a new economy that is sustainable and respects the limits of natural resources and the functions of ecosystems is fundamental. This requires a shift in how we value, use and dispose of resources, creating a circular system, as in nature.

Chantal van Ham

Earth’s ecosystems have evolved for millions of years, resulting in diverse and complex biological communities living in balance with their environment. Since the 16th century, human activity has impacted nature in practically every part of the world, wild plants and animals are at risk of extinction, deforestation and land degradation are causing water scarcity and erosion, and climate change leads to acidification of oceans.

In countries like Bangladesh and India, for example, the clearing of forests causes deadly floods during the monsoon season. To bring the natural system into balance, a new economy that is sustainable and respects the limits of natural resources and the functions of ecosystems is fundamental. This requires a shift in how we value, use and dispose of resources, creating a circular system, as in nature.

Urban planning would benefit tremendously if it recognised the connection between cities and their natural surroundings. Most of us do not realise that what we use is directly related to the natural balance on the planet. Almost all consumer goods contain minerals and metals: a mobile phone can contain 50 different materials, but no country is self-sufficient in these materials and all too often this global trade comes with an environmental and social cost. A growing use of synthetic fertilizer to increase food production now sustains about half of the world’s population but also causes pollution of air, water, and soils, and fossil fuels provide energy to many but only at the cost of rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations and global warming (WWF Living Planet Report, 2016).

Earth Overshoot Day, a concept developed by the Global Footprint Network, calculates when the people on Earth have consumed the globe’s renewable resources for the year. This day falls earlier and earlier every year. In 2017 it was on the 2nd of August, whereas 15 years earlier, it was on the 19th of September. This shows the incredible speed at which we are using natural resources, such as air, water, fish stocks and food crops, minerals and other valuable materials extracted from the earth. The natural capital of the planet is limited, and a better understanding of the connections between people and nature can help to restore the balance.

The circle of life

Ecosystems consist of living organisms interacting with the non-living elements in their environment, such as soil, atmosphere, water, and heat and sunlight, in ways that are essential for their survival. We all know that trees produce the oxygen we breathe, but most of us do not know that our oceans are at least as important for producing healthy air. Another example is that over 500 plant species rely on bats to pollinate their flowers, including species of mango, banana, and cocoa. Like birds, some bats play a critical role in spreading the seeds of trees and other plants and also help to reduce the number of mosquitos (Bat Conservation Trust).

Alexander Von Humboldt, the 18th-century scientist and explorer, world famous in his time, was the first to explain the fundamental functions of the forest for the ecosystem and climate, claiming that the world is a single interconnected organism. This is the concept of nature as we know it today. According to Von Humboldt, everything, to the smallest creature, has its role and together makes the whole, in which humankind is just one small part (Andrea Wulf, 2015).

What if we would celebrate nature, the way we celebrate Christmas around the world? Planting trees and visiting seeds markets and natural history museums, gazing at the stars, exploring nature areas near and far from our home, bringing light to rivers, oceans and mountains, and celebrating natural diversity, instead of buying presents that end up in full cupboards and drawers, shipping the most exotic food around the world and extracting valuable resources from the earth.

    As Stephanie Pincetl, explained in her essay ”Inhabiting a Post-Urban Twenty-First Century”: earth resources are treated as inputs, not assets with which humans are not engaged and responsible for, thus ensuring on-going existence of both the resource and human well-being. Currently, the environment is an abstraction, not a living, reacting, and creating life force with which we are in a co-productive relationship.

Contrary to what Milton Friedman (1962) believed, ecological values are not finding their place in the market, which explains why they are vastly underrated and exploited. Even more, the economic system is failing to value our natural and social capital. Sixteen percent of the US Forest Service budget used to be for fire suppression, now it is 50 percent. Instead of proactively managing the forests to reduce the risk of fire, the Forest Service has to use funds meant for other purposes, such as restoration to control blazes. Another example is that there is no bailing out of home owners who are facing a growing number of climate-related flooding events. Eighty percent of the home owners in Houston, who were affected by Hurricane Harvey, had no insurance.

If we look at food production, healthy soil is critical, not only for water and food crops, but also to clean and store water, support biodiversity, and regulation of climate. If we think of the web of life, soil perfectly demonstrates the interconnectedness of nature. Organic matter in soil, such as decomposing plant and animal residues, stores more carbon than do plants and the atmosphere combined (Stanford Earth School). It is hard to imagine that a single teaspoon of healthy soil can contain more organisms (e.g., bacteria and fungi) than there are people on the planet (United States Department of Agriculture), a foundation of life (Oregon State University). Better soil management can solve a lot of today’s challenges, even though there is hardly any attention given to it in landscape management and agriculture.

There is a lot of potential in getting a better understanding of these regenerative natural processes to learn how to design a more sustainable society and future-proof business models. There are a variety of ways to stimulate this learning, ranging from early childhood experience of nature, integrated natural resource management, bringing nature to schoolyards and in education programmes and the use of one of the most powerful engines of change of this century: social media.

Can nature make the headlines?

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List has assessed around 85,000 species of which almost 25,000 face extinction. According to the WWF Living Planet Report 2016, loss and degradation of habitat and climate change are the main threats for the loss of species. As the rate of extinction is going at a faster speed than ever before, understanding the reasons for the decline of animal and plant species is essential to protect them and the future of human life.

On 26 September 2016, the last Rabbs’ fringe-limbed treefrog died in the Atlanta Botanical Garden. His name was Toughie. The species lived in Panama before it became extinct in the wild as a result of habitat destruction and the amphibian disease, chytrid fungus. The Guardian wrote an interesting article last year that highlighted how the extinction of a frog species gets little attention in the media. If this single frog species is looked at in the context of declining amphibian populations and the mass extinction crisis described by researchers in 2015 in a paper lead by Mark Williams from the University of Leicester, called “The Anthropocene biosphere” many more species could become the last of their kind due to human actions. If frogs do not make headlines, one could wonder about other species, for example lions admired by all, shown in children’s books and movies, and show-stoppers in the zoo. However, what most people do not know is that in the wild, the lion population declined by approximately 43 percent between 1993 and 2014 (IUCN Red List).

As humans and nature are inextricably coupled, and people depend on the plants, animals and microorganisms that supply important ecosystem services, it is really important to find ways to reach the minds and hearts of all people and to create a better understanding of nature and what loss of biodiversity means.

It is clear that science alone will not do the trick. What is promising though is the revelation of processes that influence policy through internet and social media. It has a power that is stronger than ever, bringing out into the open what remained hidden for a long time and facilitating analysis of data, interactions and flows of information in a mind-boggling way.

The WWF Living Planet Report 2016 presents an example of an integrated landscape approach to help reconcile competing objectives of economic development and environmental sustainability. Lake Naivasha is Kenya’s second largest freshwater body which supports a large horticulture industry, representing about 70 percent of Kenya’s cut-flower exports as well as a fishing industry, a growing tourism and holiday homes sector, and dairy and beef industries. The lake is home to a growing human population and is recognized for its rich biodiversity. A severe drought in 2009 was a wake-up call to develop an integrated approach to natural resource management. Formerly antagonistic stakeholders came together to develop a common vision for the Lake Naivasha basin, and this process was supported by political commitment. This lead to an action plan that included a payment for environmental services scheme in which stakeholders in the lower reaches of the catchments offer small incentive payments to upstream smallholders for carrying out good land-use practices.

Another inspiring example is that Paris is transforming school playgrounds into green public spaces as part of the cities’ resilience strategy. The first step consists of taking out the concrete and the asphalt, using more sustainable materials, greenery, and water in the schoolyards and using them as an educational programme for children about climate change. The second step is to open 600,000 square metres of schoolyards to the public.

In May 2015, WWF-Hong Kong launched a project to discover biodiversity in Hong Kong wetlands. With the help of many experts and volunteer citizen scientists, the number of plant and animal species recorded in this area rose to over 2,050. This project has helped raise awareness of biodiversity among the public in one of the world’s most urbanized areas and biodiversity hotspots and helps with the future management of the area. The project was funded by HSBC, who have been funding WWF’s wetland conservation work since 1999, in the belief that economic development should be underpinned by the health of the world’s ecosystem and resources.

An example that demonstrates how nature can become part of the life of urban citizens is the Island Bay Marine Education Centre in Wellington, New Zealand. The city is located on a peninsula and has a marine reserve along its beach, 6 kilometres from the city centre. The reserve brings nature into close proximity of citizens and many, including the mayor, speak passionately about the connections with nature and protecting the sea and marine environment (Beatley, 2014).

How can each and every one of us help shift the balance?

In a time when we often see that scientific disciplines become more specialized, the lessons from Alexander Von Humboldt to understanding nature in a holistic way are as relevant today as they were back in the 19th century.

Restoring the natural cycle and ecological functions of soil, water and nutrients are key, as well as new ways to measure development beyond GDP, capturing the value of nature. How does this link to the world’s cities?

    To make a transition toward an economic model that is in balance with nature requires solid knowledge and understanding of the linkages between environmental wellbeing and quality of urban life, economic development, climate change, as well as continuous monitoring of biodiversity and ecosystems and their services at all levels, within and around cities.

The extensive green spaces found in many cities are often part of an integrated network that links them to forests and other natural ecosystems far outside the city. To ensure this interconnectivity at the governance level, local authorities have a lot to win when they pursue the protection and management of natural resources and landscape planning, creating multiple benefits for citizens.

The City Parks Alliance in the U.S. is a wonderful nationwide initiative that shows there is a growing interest among city leaders to invest in creating space for nature in urban areas for health, economic reasons and the environment.

For urban planners and decision makers it is essential to work across disciplines and city departments to find common ground to integrate nature-based solutions in urban planning, design and development. This starts by creating a better understanding of the natural assets.

Wooden logsInteresting examples, such as a Corporate Natural Capital Account, developed by The London Borough of Barnet, provide evidence to quantify the economic, social and environmental benefits of its green infrastructure assets. This account shows the enormous value of parks and open spaces for the wellbeing of the residents. The total value of these benefits is estimated at more than £1 billion over the next 25 years, with the costs of maintaining them estimated at £72 million.

Ecosystem services need to be taken into account in planning and development processes. Creating ways for urban citizens to understand their connections with the natural surroundings, such as education centers, trails, spaces for recreation, school projects, maps of parks and biodiversity, increases their appreciation and willingness to become stewards of nature in and around their cities.

Solutions that combine ecology and economy, and innovative business models that create value based on the potential of circular systems, inspired by nature, are key for restoring the balance. This includes the restoration of damaged ecosystems and ecosystem services, halting the loss of priority habitats and significantly expanding the global protected areas network.

The most important mission of current and future generations is to make the shift that disentangles economic development from environmental degradation, to create a future that is in harmony with nature. Cities are excellent places to create this change, as they are full of innovative ideas, business opportunities, and creative minds. We need to become stewards of the planet, and as most of the examples above show, when we are able to bring back the motivation and imagination to protect and restore the wondrous connectivity of our natural world a lot of opportunities arise.
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)


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