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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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Climate Change Oceans Soaking Up More Heat Than Estimated – Matt McGrath

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The world has seriously underestimated the amount of heat soaked up by our oceans over the past 25 years, researchers say. Their study suggests that the seas have absorbed 60% more than previously thought. They say it means the Earth is more sensitive to fossil fuel emissions than estimated. This could make it much more difficult to keep global warming within safe levels this century. According to the last major assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world’s oceans have taken up over 90% of the excess heat trapped by greenhouse gases…….

Read more: https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-46046067

 

 

 

 

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Climate Change: Five Cheap Ways To Remove CO2 From The Atmosphere – Matt McGrath

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As well as rapidly reducing the carbon dioxide that we humans are pumping into the atmosphere in huge amounts, recent scientific assessments of climate change have all suggested that cutting emissions alone will not be enough to keep global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 or 2 degrees C. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and others have all stated that extracting CO2 from the air will be needed if we are to bend the rising temperature curve before the end of this century……..

Read more: https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-45967215

 

 

 

 

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How A Technology From Iceland Is Fighting Climate Change – Robert Rapier

Iceland is unique among countries in that it obtains nearly all its electricity from renewable energy. Iceland’s glacial rivers contribute about 70% of its electricity via hydropower, and the country’s ~200 volcanoes enable geothermal to make up most of the rest. Today, humans are depleting fossil fuel resources, and in turn pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Each of us only contributes a little, but together we are contributing a lot…..

Read more: https://www.forbes.com/sites/rrapier/2018/10/16/how-a-technology-from-iceland-is-fighting-climate-change/#1c25a85a24bd

 

 

 

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Could the ‘Mangrove Effect’ Save Coasts From Sea Level Rise – Olivia Rosane

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When it comes to climate change and sea level rise, the news has been generally bad for communities on the U.S. Southeast coast. Florida is set to lose more than 10 percent of its homes by 2100, and five southern states have already lost $7.4 billion in home values.But one study conducted by biologists at Villanova University offered some hope for the beleaguered region: warmer temperatures encourage the growth of mangroves, which have more complex roots than other wetland plants and can help build soil and protect coasts from storms like hurricanes……

Read more: https://www.ecowatch.com/sea-level-rise-mangroves-2600494538.html

 

 

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Typhoon Mangkhut Officially Hong Kong’s Most Intense Storm Since Records Began – Tony Cheung

The most intense storm in Hong Kong’s history caused a record storm surge, uprooted some 1,500 trees, and left hundreds of windows smashed all over the city, officials said on Monday. As the long process of recovering from Typhoon Mangkhut began in earnest, Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu called the damage “serious and extensive”, and said the number of calls for help, or reports of injury, was as much as five times higher than when Typhoon Hato battered Hong Kong in August last year……

Read more: https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/health-environment/article/2164523/its-official-typhoon-mangkhut-was-most-intense

 

 

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Stunning Space Photos Show Nightmare Hurricane Florence Swirling Over the Atlantic

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Incredible images captured from the International Space Station show Hurricane Florence barreling toward the U.S. East Coast. European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst tweeted pictures taken 249 miles above the eye of the storm. “Watch out, America! #HurricaneFlorence is so enormous, we could only capture her with a super wide-angle lens from the @Space_Station, 400 km directly above the eye,” he wrote. “Get prepared on the East Coast, this is a no-kidding nightmare coming for you…..

Read more: https://www.yahoo.com/news/m/832257c1-6b8e-307f-ab02-74eec1bbc1fb/ss_stunning-space-photos-show.html

 

 

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A Tale of Two Communities – People & Fish – Recovering from Harvey By Larry McKinney

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One year after Hurricane Harvey hammered the Texas coast, divergent pictures of recovery and resilience have emerged. The coastal marine communities of fish, shrimp and crabs that thrive along our Gulf coast, are dynamic, resilient and on the mend. The coastal human communities are also dynamic but their resilience is being challenged.

The coastal marine community has an important advantage over coastal human communities — millions of years of evolution driven by hurricanes. Hundreds of hurricanes have entered the Gulf of Mexico since we started keeping track of them, and the Coastal Bend has seen its share. The plants, animals and even the physical landscape of the coast are shaped by hurricanes. It’s survival of the fittest, as the animals so fundamental to ecosystem health — the shrimps, crabs and fish such as red drum and spotted seatrout — all have life cycles that respond well to hurricane-induced stress.

Hurricanes are the giant cement mixer: nutrients and sediments are resuspended, mixed up and flushed from inland reaches into bays and estuaries. Freshwater mingles with saltwater and vice versa. The physical environment also changes; some habitats, like oyster reefs and seagrass meadows, can be buried. Deep pockets scattered across otherwise shallow coastal flats fill in, new ones form, and as the hurricane passes, barrier island passes open and close.

Harvey was different from most hurricanes in that it hit the Texas coast twice. It stalled after landfall, hung around Victoria, then went back into the Gulf over San Antonio Bay, where it sucked up more water, heat and power, moved northeast and slammed into Houston, dumping unforeseen amounts of water over the metropolitan and neighboring areas. The result was really two storms: South Texas had to deal with wind, waves and storm surge, especially from the bayside, but northeast Texas had to deal with massive floods.

The combination of winds, storm surge, low salinity, and low dissolved oxygen had devastating effects on coastal habitats up and down the Texas coast. Floods dumped unprecedented freshwater carrying huge quantities of organics into bays, causing extensive hypoxia. Despite the stress, coastal habitats showed signs of recovery by spring 2018, followed by a genuine bloom through summer.

We saw a burst of new life, particularly in South Texas, as the bays filled with huge schools of juvenile fish. Spotted seatrout grew fat and lazy with so much bounty. Over the next several years the marine ecosystem, as well as anglers and seafood lovers, will reap that bounty. The renewal is reminiscent of a forest fire, which is initially devastating, but recovery brings back a boom of new life.

Our coastal communities also respond with immediacy to hurricanes. While we have not been around so long as the fish and shrimp, we have learned how to survive on the edge of the sea. Our abilities to predict a hurricane’s course and energy has increased impressively, and the emergency responses of coastal leaders and communities are nothing short of heroic. The rush to aid by all after Harvey was inspiring, renewing faith in our neighbors both near and far.

However, as Texas communities continue to recover, our human systems for social support, economic recovery and governance of public resources have faltered. This is particularly evident in South Texas, where we lack the capacity of large cities like Houston. Even there, some neighborhoods are failing to recover from this unprecedented natural disaster.

Our political leadership can muster funding, both short term and for the long haul, but when they leave the coast for their various seats of government and bureaucracy takes over, recovery efforts can break down. Judges, mayors, county commissioners and local leaders have their hands full meeting the immediate needs of their citizens. Adding another “job” to a long list simply does not work.

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The sheer complexity of recovery is mind-boggling. There are dozens of federal, state, philanthropic and private programs offering assistance. However, there is no one-stop shop spanning very different recovery issues. Tough issues persist, such as renters who lost housing; individuals struggling with mental health through recovery; communities trying to rebuild schools and bring back families that have moved away; small businesses that need a jumpstart to rebuild local economies on a shrinking tax base; and what to do when critical infrastructure is privately owned and does not qualify for federal assistance.

Acquiring the planning capacity needed to navigate this complexity while making sure communities are building back in a safer, more resilient way adds further burden. Even in a community like Rockport, which has invested in dedicated staff to address these issues, recovery will be hard-fought for years to come. For those communities that could not make such an investment, the road is hard indeed.

To build long-term resilience, we must better understand the complexities of recovery programs and resources; link them with coastal communities through careful planning that addresses future risks; and integrate these efforts with the environment of which we are a part.

Hurricanes are a reality of coastal life, and people are now part of that coastal ecosystem. If we are to live and thrive on our coastal margins we have understand and adapt to that reality and secure the capital needed to plan for our resilient future. We have a lot to learn from the fishes.

 

 

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Science Alone Won’t Save the Earth People Have to Do That – Erle C. Ellis

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This planet is in crisis. The safe limits within which human societies can be sustained, the earth’s “planetary boundaries,” are being exceeded, a path leading inevitably toward collapse. The experts have spoken. Only if humanity heeds the science, reverses course and lives within earth’s natural limits can disaster be avoided.

Or maybe you believe the opposite: that human ingenuity can continue to overcome those limits, that there is no need for environmental concern.

Both miss the point. In the age of humans, the Anthropocene, there is no safety in natural limits. Or in overcoming them. For those reasons, we should put the idea of limits off limits.

The question is not whether two degrees of warming is riskier than 1.5 degrees (of course it is), or whether we are using, as some claim, more than one earth’s worth of resources per year (of course not), or how many extinctions per year are sustainable without a collapse of human societies (why allow any at all?). The real question is how we better negotiate among ourselves, across all our many diverse peoples and cultures, so that we can navigate together toward the better futures we wish for, in our different ways.

On a planet of nearly eight billion people with billions more on the way, natural limits simply don’t mean much. Nor are there solutions in limits. The harshest reality of the Anthropocene is that every human action or nonaction generates a labyrinth of consequences, both social and environmental, local and global, some surprising, some predictable, that affect different people very differently.

The problem is, what works for me will very likely not work for you. So by focusing on environmental limits instead of on the social strategies that enable better environmental and social outcomes, we fail to engage the only force of nature that can help us: human aspirations for a better future.

There is no way to avoid the environmental consequences of industrial societies operating at planetary scale. We’ve covered and transformed the planet with the agriculture, settlements and infrastructure that sustain us. In doing so, we’ve also increasingly impoverished this planet of wild species and wild spaces, and the carbon emissions that power modern lives are causing the earth to warm faster than at any time since the fall of the dinosaurs.

We need to adjust our expectations. The new normal is not about staying within earth’s natural limits. We passed those long ago. It’s about winners and losers, and about navigating trade-offs and surprises. The human age will be no Eden or dystopia, but an everlasting struggle among different people seeking different futures. Who, for instance, will suffer from a hotter and less biodiverse planet, who will benefit and who will pay to avoid it entirely? And why haven’t we, the people, acted to solve the greatest environmental challenges of our time — global climate change, habitat loss and widespread extinctions?

One thing is for sure. A better future won’t be realized through unquestioning faith in the safety of scientifically defined environmental limits or in unlimited technological capacities to avoid environmental consequences. When there is no single optimal solution, no amount of rational debate, or even computational intelligence, can find one. Science does not, cannot and should not have all the answers — not for earth’s limits, nor for human futures. A future governed solely by rationality and scientific evidence offers no safe space in these times.

The problem is not us; it is that there is no “us.” Just as one future will never be best for all people, no single way of thinking, believing or acting will ever be enough to forge our better futures together on this one planet. Decisions informed by scientific evidence will, of course, create better outcomes for people and the planet. But no amount of scientific evidence, enlightened rational thought or innovative technology can resolve entirely the social and environmental trade-offs necessary to meet the aspirations of a wonderfully diverse humanity — at least not without creating even greater problems in the future.

For this reason and others, putting expert scientific narratives at the center of decision making, like “nonnegotiable environmental limits,” rather than focusing on opportunities for collective betterment, has led only to increasing divisions over which experts to trust. If we are to continue improving the human world, while retaining the nature we love, it will be necessary to get beyond polemics and expertise, scientific or otherwise. In the end, it is people, and their institutions — not science — that will decide the future.

No one wants a hotter, more polluted and less biodiverse planet, though most people want the modern lifestyles made possible by cheap energy, abundant food and industrial productivity. Even now there are no technological limits to supplying these lifestyles to eight billion, or even to 11 billion, people, with far less harm than we’re currently causing to the one planet all of us must live on. To do so is merely costly. Extremely costly, because rebuilding energy systems to make them carbon neutral, ensuring that land, water and other resources are used sustainably, adapting to climate change and cleaning up pollution don’t come cheap. But there is one hard limit. No better future will be possible if those most able to bear the costs — those who’ve benefited the most, the wealthy and the vested interests of this world — don’t step up to pay for it.

The greatest challenge of our time is not how to live within the limits of the natural world, or how to overcome such limits. It isn’t about optimizing our planet to better serve humanity or the rest of nature. To engage productively with the world we are creating, we must focus on strategies for working more effectively together across all of our diverse and unequal social worlds. If we truly intend to make this work, we need to leave behind treasured but outmoded beliefs in a stable balance of nature, unlimited human ingenuity and nonnegotiable environmental limits defined only by experts.

The Anthropocene is not the end of our world. It’s just the beginning. Collectively, we have the potential to create a much better planet than the one we are creating now. So let’s start talking about the better future we want, and less about the future we don’t. It’s about articulating values, and about sharing, fairly, the only planet we have with one another and the rest of life on earth. The planet we make will reflect the people we are.

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Climate Change Has Increased USA’s Wildfires — Antinuclear

Factcheck: How global warming has increased US wildfires , Carbon Brief , 9 Aug 18 In the midst of record or near-record heatwaves across the northern hemisphere this summer, deadly wildfires have swept through many regions, such as the western US, Europe and Siberia. This has focused a great deal of public attention on the role that climate change plays in wildfires. Recently, some commentators have tried to dismiss […]

via Climate change has increased USA’s wildfires — Antinuclear

 

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