Sunday, 5 April 2015

A Picture is Worth a ...

I was originally going to post a link to the preview of these powerful pictures of human ecological overshoot at the Guardian here. However, I now note that the entire collection from Overdevelopment/Over-population/Overshoot has been made available via open access here (ht Gail). It's a potent visual testament to the ecocidal endgame of the human journey.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Is This How You Feel?

A valuable resource by science communicator Joe Duggan here, collecting together narratives and reflections by scientists and members of the public in response to the question: how do you feel about anthropogenic climate change?

Sunday, 25 January 2015

What can be saved?

There is an interesting post by George Mobus here, one which closely parallels the best case scenario to be outlined in my current book project. I do worry that something like Dilworth's vicious circle principle would repeatedly and tragically re-engage itself in human affairs after a global collapse, even following many cycles of societal collapse in the mid to long-term human future; thus leading to recurrent periods of human ecological overshoot. However, given that such cycles would take place in a world that Clugston characterises as one of "continuously less and less", plus one where the climatological catastrophe of the anthropocene would be unfolding with considerable and painful vigor, it is at least possible that humanity - or at least the genus Homo, as Mobus puts it - would eventually be ground down to a point far closer to dynamic equilibrium than it is now. I'm certainly not optimistic, neither is Mobus, but it is conceivable that something recognizably human might transition out of the current fifty thousand year period of cultural experimentation and ecocidal expansion. Of course, whether it ought to is an entirely different matter.

How to Save the Human Genus

What Can be Saved?

I am on record as saying I doubted that humanity as a global population could be saved from certain destruction. I have also stated that the species, Homo sapiens is probably not salvageable in its current form. However, I have also suggested that the salvation of the genus, Homo is both feasible and desirable. Let me briefly recount.
There is at this point, in my opinion, nothing that can be done to save the vast majority of humans alive today from a catastrophic demise. I am sorry. And below I will summarize my findings. The simple truth, as I see it, is that humanity has set itself on an irreversible course of destruction that is equivalent to the impact on the Ecos that the meteor or comet that crashed into the Yucatan peninsula had on the dinosaurian Ecos 65 million years ago. That is, by our activities we have brought about a geologically recognizable age called the Anthropocene in which we are the agents of the extinction of vast numbers of species, including, possibly, our own. Whenever such die-off events have happened in the past the Ecos shifted its characteristics and dynamics such that the extant species either went extinct or gave rise to new species of the same genus that were better adapted to the new Ecos. I fully expect the same kind of thing to happen in the future.
In any case the populations of critters and plants were decimated or severely reduced in number and that is what I suspect will happen to our populations. Homo sapiens must, of necessity, go extinct simply because the future environment will be extraordinarily hostile to human life. The real question is whether the genus might give rise to a new species that is better fit for the new Ecos before the very last member of the tribe extinguishes.[CONTINUES HERE]

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Look at the sparkly tambourine ... It's all gonna be Okay.

Thanks for this Gail, suddenly everything seems brighter. Watch the sparkly tambourine.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

The 'severe, widespread and irreversible effects' of Global Warming

Reblogged from the Weather Network

Scott Sutherland

Tuesday, November 4, 2014, 1:17 PM - It may not appear so, given its dire warning of "severe, widespread and irreversible" effects from climate change, but the latest IPCC report is really pulling its punches when it comes to delivering its message to the world.
This report, the Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report, is one that the world needs to take notice of, and needs to take seriously

As the wrap-up of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 5th assessment of Earth's climate, it contains the final message and summary of the previous three reports issued over the past year - the Physical Science Basis, Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability and Mitigation of Climate Change
On his Facebook page, Penn State climate scientist Michael E. Mann outlined the key points of the report, and the the difference between this and previous reports:
"The world’s scientists are more confident than ever that climate change is not only real and caused by us, but that it is already taking a toll: on our health, on our economy, on our security, and on the health of our environment. The good news is that it it still possible to solve the problem cheaply. But if we delay acting, it will be far more expensive, and the damages will be far greater."
"The latest report is far more definitive than the past reports in terms of the level of confidence that human activity in the form of fossil fuel burning is not only responsible for some of the warming of the globe, but in fact all of it. The report is far more definitive that climate change isn't some nebulous, far off threat—it is negatively impacting us already, where we live."
The stark warning contained within the Synthesis Report, which it delivers with high confidence, says:
"Without additional mitigation efforts beyond those in place today, and even with adaptation, warming by the end of the 21st century will lead to high to very high risk of severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts globally."
The striking part of this warning is that - regardless of how dire it reads - it reflects only the lowest common denominator of consensus. With hundreds of scientists working with the IPCC assessments and dozens of governments reviewing the reports, the only way the process moves forward is for the final product to satisfy all of them. Thus, as it only contains language that everyone could agree on, the warning has been downplayed to satisfy the most conservative of outlooks and to present the most mild of expected consequences. Therefore, with the predictions of the report at the lower extreme of the scale, the warning - as written - very likely represents but a tap on the chin compared to the 'haymaker punch' that climate change may throw at us.
Where does the warning fall short? According to Mann:
"Personally, I feel that the potential threat of low-probability but potentially catastrophic events gets somewhat short thrift. As much of the potential damages is associated with the possibility of such events, they are critical in any assessment of climate change risk."
"There is an emerging body of evidence in the peer-reviewed literature, for example, that we may have already crossed a tipping point in ice sheet behavior that commits us to more than 10 feet of sea level rise. There is quite a bit of uncertainty about the timescale on which this will unfold, but timescales as short as a century or two cannot confidently be ruled out."
"There is also a body of evidence that is now emerging in the peer-reviewed scientific literature that extreme events like the current California drought might be associated with the response of the Northern Hemisphere jet stream to disappearing Arctic sea ice."
"If so, this would imply that climate change is already taking an even greater toll than the IPCC assessments imply."
What is this leading up to?

This assessment, with its more definitive statements about where the observed warming is coming from, the strong warning about what's to come (even as downplayed as it is), and the recommendations for what we need to do moving forward, is a very important document for governments to carry with them when they step into the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris next November.
The hope is that, with the United States and China making much stronger commitments to action on climate change as of late, there could be a significant agreement coming out of this conference. However, in order for that to happen, the nations in attendance will need to come together in seeing this as a global problem - one that we're all in together, regardless of who is causing it, and one that we all will have specific roles to play in solving it.

If this means that richer countries will need to step up and carry a heavier burden of the action, while the poorer nations of the world catch up, then that is what should happen. The end result is the focus here - a world where we don't have to worry about rising sea levels and increasingly extreme weather events, where the availability of food and clean water does not become a daily concern, and where decreased security and increased risk of conflict and war is not on the horizon.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

The Apocalypsi Library at the End of the World

For all of you doomsters, collapseniks and apocalypticists out there, Gail Zawicki has just opened an incredible online resource covering pretty much every aspect of the unfolding ecological crisis, crisis of civilization and anthropocene mass extinction event.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Wit's End and the Paucity of Hope

I've been following Gail Zawacki's blog, Wit's End, for a couple of years now and it has very usefully introduced me to another of the quiet killers of the unfolding ecological catastrophe: tropospheric ozone pollution (check out her science links if you are interested in the peer reviewed research materials). Below is the introduction to her latest post: A Fine Frenzy - The Universal Dance of Delusion ... and the Paucity of Hope. Nice to see her work getting wider distribution too (e.g. at Desdemona Despair and Op Ed News).
"To the philosopher, the physician, the meteorologist and the chemist, there is perhaps no subject more attractive than that of ozone." ~ C.B Fox, 1873

There is a man who lives on the other side of my village (it is said) who one day, setting out for errands, inadvertently ran over his child as he backed out of the driveway. Ever since I heard this tragic tale, I have thought I can imagine the moment that, thunderstruck with horror and frozen in disbelief, he gazed upon that little mangled body.  I think I know the ferocious dread that overcame him when first he realized that the car of which he was so proudly enamored - that quintessential symbol of success, the pinnacle of modern technology and shiny avatar of individual freedom - was the very same mighty instrument of folly that had literally crushed the one thing most important to him - his progeny, his future.

I suffer his tumultuous and inconsolable grief because that is how I greet every new day since abruptly I came to understand that the splendid, intricate, exquisitely entwined tapestry of life is unraveling. This realization rushed into my consciousness like a dark sinister flood by an odd circumstance.  In the summer of 2008 I suddenly noticed an irrefutable signal - that trees, the essential foundation of so much biodiversity, are dying prematurely.  It was a hot, dry August, and everywhere the leaves were drooping, limp and lifeless.  My curiosity piqued, the more I looked, the more I found indisputable, incontrovertible symptoms of irreversible decay.  It was only the beginning recognition of an ominous trend.  Now, the mute indicators of deterioration are common - swathes of bare branches protrude above the canopy.

Possessing just a rudimentary knowledge of the timescales involved in evolution was enough for me to realize the formidable outcome that must result as trees die off, when myriad crashes reverberate throughout the biosphere.  Eventually, a total collapse of the ecosystem will be inevitable. Initially I speculated that the reason trees manifest terminal afflictions could only be attributed to the changing climate - surely the sole influence extensive enough to instigate such a colossal catastrophe.  And yet, the climactic mechanisms - precipitation and temperature - did not consistently correlate with the empirical evidence I found, which was puzzling.  It turns out, as incredible as it may seem, that the primary reason all species of trees - old and young, coniferous and deciduous - are in precipitous decline is their exposure to pollution.  [MORE HERE]