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It’s a Moment of Reckoning For How We Use the Planet to Halt Climate Change, Warns U.N. Report  

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Aerial view of the Transamazonica Road (BR-230) near Medicilandia, Para State, Brazil on March 13, 2019. – According to the NGO Imazon, deforestation in the Amazonia increased in a 54% in January, 2019 -the first month of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s term- compared to the same month of 2018. MAURO PIMENTEL—AFP/Getty Images

The human relationship with the land we live on has evolved over the hundreds of thousands of years humans have roamed the planet, but no period has seen as dramatic change as the last century when humans used land in new ways to extract wealth and build a modern economy.

Now, a landmark new U.N. report warns, humans face a moment of reckoning on how we use the planet’s land: human practices like deforestation threaten to undermine the role nature has played soaking up carbon dioxide emissions for more than a century. At the same time, climate change could threaten our ability to use the land, risking food security and vulnerable communities at risk of extreme weather.

“As we’ve continued to pour more and more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the Earth’s system has responded and it’s continued to absorb more and more,” says Louis Verchot, a lead study author and scientist at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture. But “this additional gift from nature is limited. It’s not going to continue forever.”

Today, emissions from land use — think of practices like agriculture and logging — cause nearly a quarter of human induced greenhouse emissions, according to the report, authored by scientists on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the U.N. climate science body.

Still, land elsewhere on the planet has balanced the effects of those emissions. In recent years, forests, wetlands and other land systems have soaked up 11.2 gigatonnes more carbon dioxide than they have emitted on an annual basis. That’s a greater quantity of carbon dioxide than released by the world’s coal-fired power plants in a given year. But a slew of human practices including deforestation, soil degradation and the destruction of land-based ecosystems threaten to halt that trend, potentially driving land to release more carbon dioxide than it absorbs.

Climate advocates billed the report as a wakeup call. Much of the attention around addressing climate change has focused on shifting the global energy system, but to keep warming at bay will require nature-based solutions that consider how humans use land, climate scientists say.

The report — at more than 1,300 pages in length — lays out a number of opportunties to use land to reverse the trend. And many of the solutions are already at hand, if governments have the wherewithal to implement them. “We don’t have to wait for some sort of new technological innovation,” says study author Pamela McElwee, an associate professor of human ecology at Rutgers University. “But what some of these solutions do require is attention, financial support, enabling environments.”

Significantly reducing deforestation while increasing the rates of restoring forests ranks among the most urgent solutions in order to retain any hope of keeping temperatures from rising to catastrophic levels by the end of the century. Reducing deforestation alone can stop annual emissions equivalent to twice those of India’s, scientists found.

The report also highlights how emissions from agriculture contribute significantly to climate change, and the opportunity to address it by rethinking diets. As global demand for food has grown, food producers have converted forests into agricultural land, leading to a release of carbon dioxide stored in trees. At the same time, more than a quarter of food goes to waste, according to the report.

With those trends in mind, scientists say a shift away from eating meat toward plant-based diets could yield big dividends in the fight against climate change. Reduced meat consumption means lower emissions from livestock and the fertilizer needed to sustain them but also provides an opportunity to reforest land that farmers would have otherwise used for grazing. Rethinking the human diet across the globe could drive emissions reductions of up to 8 gigatonnes annually, according to the report, greater than an entire year of emissions in the U.S.

But, while these changes are technically feasible, there are a number of barriers to adoption. To achieve the greatest emissions reductions by shifting diets would require most of the world to go vegan, for instance, requiring a fight against entrenched agricultural interests and cultural preferences.

And despite year’s of research underscoring the threat of deforestation the practice has worsened in some of the most critical areas. In recent years, deforestation has accelerated in the Amazon rain forest in both Brazil and Colombia, with a recent report from Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research showing that the practice had increased 40% in the previous two months compared with the same period the year prior.

The new IPCC report comes less than a year after the body’s 2018 report on the dire effects of 1.5°C of warming, which warned that climate change will bring catastrophic levels at even that level of warming. In its wake, students walked out of school across the globe, some governments committed to reducing their emissions and activists in the U.S rallied for a Green New Deal, all citing the report’s impact.

Much like last year’s, the new IPCC report highlights a number of shocking risks. The surface temperature on land has already warmed more than 1.5°C since the beginning of the industrial era, and continued warming threatens to cause a slew of extreme weather events while threatening food security and other essentials required for human life. Whether this report can inspire a similar wave of action remains to be seen.

By Justin Worland

Source: It’s a Moment of Reckoning For How We Use the Planet to Halt Climate Change, Warns U.N. Report  

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To combat climate change, Massachusetts needs to break these habits — and soon | Editorial | The Boston Globe | BostonGlobe.com

In Quebec, clean power that Massachusetts could be using goes to waste, whooshing over dams while environmentalists battle against plans for the power lines needed to connect to the Commonwealth.In Plymouth, the state is letting its biggest single source of carbon-free electricity vanish — to cheers…..

 

Source: Scoop.it

Empathy Will Help The World Change Course on Climate Change – Eco Business

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Small actions can have a big impact and individuals must believe in their ability to make a difference in the fight against climate change, said experts at the launch of Eco-Business’ film and photography exhibition this week.

“The government cannot tackle climate change alone. We need industry, households and individuals to play active roles. This is why we designated 2018 as the Year of Climate Action—to raise awareness on climate change, and to spur collective action,” said Masagos Zulkifli, Singapore’s Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, who was attending the official opening.

Bringing about a better understanding of climate change and spurring the public to take action is exactly what the exhibition Changing Course aims to do. The exhibition features photos and a short documentary about Antarctica created and curated by Eco-Business managing director Jessica Cheam and Scottish documentarian Fraser Morton.

They are a visual record of the duo’s experiences as part of the ClimateForce: Antarctica 2018 expedition in March, which was led by British environmentalist Sir Robert Swan. Part of Eco-Business’ year-long Changing Course campaign, the exhibition seeks to help the public understand the relationship between Antarctica and Asia.

Earth’s only uninhabited continent holds 90 per cent of the world’s freshwater, but is heating up faster than anywhere else due to climate change. Melting glaciers could flood coastal cities such as Jakarta and Shanghai by the end of the century if global warming is not stopped.

Photos and documentary From Asia to Antarctia are on display at the Green Pavilion in the Singapore Botanic Gardens until 12 July, with satellite exhibitions at the Marina Barrage and OCBC bank branches.

Empathy and social change

The launch also celebrated United Nations World Environment Day, held on 5 June every year, with plenary dialogue ‘From apathy to action: How to shape the climate conversation’.

Speakers emphasised the need for empathy to combat indifference towards climate change, and the possibility for a single person to make an impact.

Olam Group’s global head of corporate finance, Srinivasan Ventika Padmanabhan told the audience that empathy resides in every human being as does the capacity to take action. “We can create and make a change as long as we believe that we need to make a change,” he said.

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Michael Maniates, professor of social science and founding head of studies of Environmental Studies, Yale-NUS College, highlighted the power of just a small number of people getting together to think strategically, question the status quo and move social systems.

“Many students believe that nothing can happen until you have 60, 70, 80 per cent of people buying in to an idea. And that is a real prescription for cynicism and despair, because you never get that [realistically],” he said.

The now-widespread ban of sharks fin in Singapore was driven by the local diving community and is an example of how consumers can make a change, said Isabelle Louis, deputy regional director of the United Nations Environment Programme, Regional Office Asia Pacific.

She shared: “Singaporean divers spoke up and said to the supermarkets, ‘We want you to remove canned tuna that contains shark fin!’ and that made a great impact. The power of small can actually be big.”

Changing course for 2018

Riding on the momentum generated from the launch of the Changing Course exhibition, real estate developer City Developments Limited (CDL) that sponsored Cheam’s participation in the 2041 expedition announced the next edition of the  CDL E-Generation Challenge 2018. The winner of this year’s competition will travel to Raja Ampat in Indoesia with Dr Sylvia Earle, legendary deep-sea diver, marine biologist, oceanographer, explorer, educator, author and founder of Mission Blue.

Eco-Business also unveiled a partnership with US-based adventure travel company The Explorer’s Passage on the ClimateForce 2019 expedition to the Arctic in June 2019. Eco-Business will be joining the expedition to film the sequel to From Asia to Antarctica, and help to select and support candidates in Asia who want to join the expedition.

“We are still in the midst of planning the Arctic expedition, and we hope to interest those who have a passion for climate issues to apply for this excellent opportunity to examine and learn about the situation there, and why what’s happening in the North and South Poles is important for Asia,” said Eco-Business’ Cheam.

The Singapore-based sustainability media organisation will also continue raising awareness about climate change through the Changing Course campaign. “Eco-Business will be organising further climate action activities for the rest of the year with our various partners, including talks and events around our focus topics—renewable energy, zero waste, sustainable lifestyles and youth,” she said.

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