Climate change, uncertainty & security February 2021-

Written by  //  December 14, 2021  //  Climate Change, Security  //  No comments

UN Conference on climate change COP21 Paris & aftermath
CO2 levels rise to highest point since evolution of humans (13 May 2019)
What’s the difference between global warming and climate change?

Want to fix climate change? This is what it’ll take.
(GZERO) In recent weeks, countries as varied as Canada and the US, Iran, Turkey and Greece have experienced some of the worst heat waves, droughts, and wildfires in decades. Meanwhile, unprecedented torrential rain and floods have hit China and Germany. These climate-related disasters have killed scores of people, left thousands homeless, and cost billions from damaged infrastructure and property.
As Elizabeth Kolbert told us a few months ago, we’re screwed unless we all do something about climate right now.
The IPCC, which represents the world’s top climate scientists and is backed by national governments, published on Monday its first review of climate science since 2013. For the first time, the IPPC now says that climate change is unequivocally caused by humans, and that it’s directly linked to the extreme weather events we’re seeing recently.
First, some bad news. The latest data show that global surface temperatures have risen faster since 1970 than in any other half century in the past two millennia. And the IPCC warns that some of the damage will be permanent: in two decades it’ll be an average 1.5 degrees Celsius hotter than during 1850-1900. We’re getting close to various “tipping points” — when the planet undergoes abrupt changes in response to global warming that can’t be reversed no matter what we do, like polar ice caps or coral reefs vanishing.
Now some (sort of) good news. The IPCC says that maybe, just maybe, it’s not too late to avoid the worst consequences of climate change. For that to happen, though, the world must halve its carbon dioxide emissions by 2030, and for all countries to attain “net zero” emissions — taking as much carbon out of the atmosphere as putting into it — by 2050.
So, what’ll it take to actually get this done?
Between countries, governments will need to work together a lot more closely than they have in a long time to agree on ways for all nations to do their part — and sustain such efforts over time.
Among the top polluters, to meet the IPCC’s 2050 deadline the US and the EU will have to convince China to go “net zero” a decade earlier than Beijing now plans to, and perhaps offer India the cash Delhi has long demanded for poor countries that have polluted far less per capita yet are now being asked to cut emissions by as much as rich industrialized nations. The Chinese and Indians will likely need assurances that Americans and Europeans won’t back out later on (like the US having to rejoin the 2015 Paris climate deal signed by Obama but later cancelled by Trump.)
Climate activists like Uganda’s Vanessa Nakate say nations in Africa — which is barely responsible for causing climate change but will suffer some of its worst effects — will need incentives from wealthy countries to pursue green growth. So will crucial middle-income economies like Brazil (please stop burning the Amazon) or Indonesia.
Within countries, politicians and citizens will need to find on climate the common ground that’s otherwise absent nowadays. That means that French President Emmanuel Macron and the gilet jaunes will have to figure out how to get rid of diesel without unfairly taxing low-wage workers. In the US, some Republicans may have to acknowledge that climate change is real and back a long-term plan that creates green jobs and invests in sustainable infrastructure, although maybe not as much as the Green New Deal.
Importantly, the private sector must be on board. Governments don’t pollute nearly as much as companies, especially those in countries with lax regulations. Businesses must come under intense pressure by both lawmakers and consumers to never put profits over the planet, and that they too must all go “net zero.”
What’s more, they should share all the technology they develop to curb emissions, particularly carbon capture and storage.
Is such cooperation even possible right now? The urgent tone in the IPCC report raises the stakes for COP26, the global climate summit to be held in Glasgow in November. It may be the last opportunity we get in the narrow window we still have to come up with a global consensus on how to save the planet from… ourselves. 9 August 2021

13-14 December
Postcards From a World on Fire
We’ve Failed Our Planet. This Is an SOS.
By Kathleen Kingsbury, Opinion Editor
So many of the conversations about global warming focus on the direst consequences, projected far into the future: images of fires and floods on an increasingly uninhabitable planet if the governments of the world — and especially those of the United States, China and the other leading greenhouse gas emitters — fail to curb their use of fossil fuels. But the truth is that we are already living in a world that is being transformed by climate change. Every single country on Earth is feeling its effects — today.
The New York Times Publishes ‘Postcards From A World On Fire’ As Natural Disaster Deaths Decline By 90 Percent
(The Federalist) The New York Times’ “Postcards” project aims to terrify an audience susceptible to hysterical predictions of a world coming to an end through climate self-destruction. The project comes despite rapid development made possible by cheap, reliable energy from fossil fuels that have transformed a dangerous planet into a manageable one, opening the door to adaptation and environmental stewardship.
“Anyone who portrays today’s world as ‘devastated’ or ‘ruined’ by fossil-fueled climate change is ignorant, anti-human, or both,” Alex Epstein, founder of the Center for Industrial Progress and author of “Moral Case for Fossil Fuels,” told The Federalist. “With the New York Times’ ‘Postcards From a World on Fire,’ it’s almost certainly both.”
The Times published 193 stories, one from each country, to offer a glimpse into the experiences with a changing planet from each corner of the globe. The visuals are striking to the ignorant eye, soaked in the images of fires, floods, death, and destruction.
Yet Copenhagen Consensus President Bjorn Lomborg outlined in the Wall Street Journal last month exactly how the world faces far less danger today than ever before.
Rising From the Antarctic, a Climate Alarm
Wilder winds are altering currents. The sea is releasing carbon dioxide. Ice is melting from below.
By HENRY FOUNTAIN and JEREMY WHITE
(NYT) …the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, by far the largest current in the world… is the world’s climate engine, and it has kept the world from warming even more by drawing deep water from the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans, much of which has been submerged for hundreds of years, and pulling it to the surface. There, it exchanges heat and carbon dioxide with the atmosphere before being dispatched again on its eternal round trip.
[Scientists] have discovered that global warming is affecting the Antarctic current in complex ways, and these shifts could complicate the ability to fight climate change in the future

Climate Change: Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide
Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas: a gas that absorbs and radiates heat. Warmed by sunlight, Earth’s land and ocean surfaces continuously radiate thermal infrared energy (heat). Unlike oxygen or nitrogen (which make up most of our atmosphere), greenhouse gases absorb that heat and release it gradually over time, like bricks in a fireplace after the fire goes out. Without this natural greenhouse effect, Earth’s average annual temperature would be below freezing instead of close to 60°F. But increases in greenhouse gases have tipped the Earth’s energy budget out of balance, trapping additional heat and raising Earth’s average temperature.
Carbon dioxide is the most important of Earth’s long-lived greenhouse gases. It absorbs less heat per molecule than the greenhouse gases methane or nitrous oxide, but it’s more abundant and it stays in the atmosphere much longer. Increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide are responsible for about two-thirds of the total energy imbalance that is causing Earth’s temperature to rise.
Carbon dioxide concentrations are rising mostly because of the fossil fuels that people are burning for energy. Fossil fuels like coal and oil contain carbon that plants pulled out of the atmosphere through photosynthesis over the span of many millions of years; we are returning that carbon to the atmosphere in just a few hundred years,  according to State of the Climate in 2019 from NOAA and the American Meteorological Society (14 August 2020)

8 December
The climate conundrum
Dennis J. Snower
(Brookings) The COP26 summit is now over and the question remains, where do we go from here?
Although progress has been made—a “big step forward” said U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and perhaps even “a historic achievement” touted COP26 President Alok Sharma—we can now see, with stark clarity, the long road that lies ahead in restoring the safety of our planet.
The fundamental challenge is not the failure of particular nations or institutions or businesses or civil organizations, but rather the interaction between our economic, political, and social systems, which generates environmental outcomes that are incompatible with the 1.5 degrees Celsius target. Economic prosperity and political success have become decoupled from social and environmental prosperity.
10 November
Serious about climate change? Get serious about peat.
Moor, bog, fen, mire, flush, swamp, slough. Peatlands have gotten a bum rap. They’re inhospitable, useless. Too wet to plow, too dry to fish, the old farmers say.
These waterlogged, acidic, low-nutrient ecosystems are the most carbon-dense lands on Earth. You want to safely store carbon for a thousand years? Nothing beats peat. It’s nature’s vault.
From the boreal north to the tropical south, from Scotland’s grouse moors to the vast tracts recently discovered in the Congo Basin, the Earth’s peatlands store twice as much carbon as all the planet’s forests combined — though they cover only a tenth of the landmass.

26 October
Climate change is a risk to national security, the Pentagon says
In a report last week, the Pentagon found that “increasing temperatures; changing precipitation patterns; and more frequent, intense, and unpredictable extreme weather conditions caused by climate change are exacerbating existing risks” for the U.S.
For example, recent extreme weather has cost billions in damages to U.S. military installations, including Tyndall Air Force Base and Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. Also, the military has bases on Guam and the Marshall Islands that are vulnerable to rising seas. And China may be able to take advantage of U.S. susceptibility, the Pentagon says.

25 October
How to make fragile global supply chains stronger and more sustainable
(The Conversation) Global supply chains also account for large contributions to greenhouse gas emissions and have an impact on air, land and water biodiversity and geological resources. A typical company’s supply chain is responsible for 80 per cent of its greenhouse emissions and more than 90 per cent of its contribution to air pollution generated in the production and distribution of a consumer product.
One billion metric tonnes of emissions could be saved if key suppliers to 125 of the world’s biggest purchasers increased their renewable energy input by 20 per cent.

21 October
The Amazon’s Little Tipping Points
The Amazon tipping point would mark a final shift in the rainforest’s ability to sustain itself.
(Reuters special report) Some scientists fear we are nearing a point of no return in the Amazon rainforest, which exerts power over the carbon cycle like no other terrestrial ecosystem on Earth. Evidence is mounting that in certain areas, localized iterations of irreversible damage may already be happening. Reuters has tracked three decades-long observations of the region to give a real-world view of degradation once only predicted by computer simulations.
Covering an area roughly the size of the contiguous United States and accounting for more than half of the world’s rainforest, the Amazon exerts power over the carbon cycle like no other terrestrial ecosystem on Earth. The tree loss from an extremely dry year in 2005, for example, released an additional quantity of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere equivalent to the annual emissions of Europe and Japan combined, according to a 2009 study published in Science magazine.
As more and more of the forest is cut down, researchers say the loss of canopy risks hitting a limit – a tipping point – after which the forest and local climate will have changed so radically as to trigger the death of the Amazon as rainforest. In its place would grow a shorter, drier forest or savannah.
The consequences for biodiversity and climate change would be devastating, extinguishing thousands of species and releasing such a colossal quantity of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that it would sabotage attempts to limit global climate change.

16 August
In a First, U.S. Declares Shortage on Colorado River, Forcing Water Cuts
Arizona farmers will take the initial brunt, but wider reductions loom as climate change continues to affect flows into the river.
(NYT) With climate change and long-term drought continuing to take a toll on the Colorado River, the federal government on Monday for the first time declared a water shortage at Lake Mead, one of the river’s main reservoirs.
The declaration triggers cuts in water supply that, for now, mostly will affect Arizona farmers. Beginning next year they will be cut off from much of the water they have relied on for decades. Much smaller reductions are mandated for Nevada and for Mexico across the southern border.
But larger cuts, affecting far more of the 40 million people in the West who rely on the river for at least part of their water supply, are likely in coming years as a warming climate continues to reduce how much water flows into the Colorado from rain and melting snow.

24 July
This disastrous summer is yet another portent of what humanity faces in coming decades if the world does not take dramatic steps to protect ecosystems and curb use of fossil fuels, scientists say
(WaPo) Massive floods deluged Central Europe, Nigeria, Uganda and India in recent days, killing hundreds. June’s scorching temperatures, followed by a fast-moving wildfire, erased a Canadian town. More than a million people are close to starvation amid Madagascar’s worst drought in decades. In Siberia, tens of thousands of square miles of forest are ablaze, potentially unleashing carbon stored in the frozen ground below.

22 July
The Economist highlights from the latest issue: The ground under the German town of Erftstadt is torn apart like tissue paper by flood waters; Lytton in British Columbia is burned from the map just a day after setting a freakishly high temperature record; cars float like dead fish through the streets-turned-canals in the Chinese city of Zhengzhou. All the world feels at risk, and most of it is. Six years ago, in Paris, the countries of the world committed themselves to avoiding the worst of climate change by eliminating net greenhouse-gas emissions quickly enough to hold the temperature rise below 2°C. Their progress towards that end remains woefully inadequate. But even if their efforts increased dramatically enough to meet the 2°C goal, it would not stop forests from burning today; prairies would still dry out tomorrow, rivers break their banks and mountain glaciers disappear. And even if everyone manages to honour their pledges, there is still a risk that temperatures could eventually rise by 3°C above pre-industrial levels. Our cover this week explores what that means for the climate and for climate policy.

19 July
Using archeology to better understand climate change
(Université de Montréal via Eureka!) Throughout history, people of different cultures and stages of evolution have found ways to adapt, with varying success, to the gradual warming of the environment they live in. But can the past inform the future, now that climate change is happening faster than ever before?
Yes, say an international team of anthropologists, geographers and earth scientists in Canada, the U.S. and France led by Université de Montréal anthropologist Ariane Burke.
In a paper published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Professor Burke and her colleagues make a case for a new and evolving discipline called “the archeology of climate change.”
It’s an interdisciplinary science that uses data from archeological digs and the palaeoclimate record to study how humans interacted with their environment during past climate-change events such as the warming that followed the last ice age, more than 10,000 years ago.
What the scientists hope to identify are the tipping points in climate history that prompted people to reorganize their societies to survive, showing how cultural diversity, a source of human resilience in the past, is just as important today as a bulwark against global warming.

8 July
The Guardian view on the heat dome: burning through the models
Politicians must respond to the latest warnings that climate science has underestimated risks
(Editorial) Temperatures were broiling from Utah to California as another “heat dome” led Western states to set up cooling centers and issue motel vouchers. The blistering weekend heat, one of the highest temperatures ever recorded on Earth, matched a similar level from August 2020. Those readings could set records if verified, as an earlier record of 134 degrees in 1913 has been disputed by scientists.
Last week’s shockingly high temperatures in the northwestern US and Canada were – and are – very frightening. Heat and the fires it caused killed hundreds of people, and are estimated to have killed a billion sea creatures. Daily temperature records were smashed by more than 5C (9F) in some places. In Lytton, British Columbia, the heat reached 49.6C (121F). The wildfires that consumed the town produced their own thunderstorms, alongside thousands of lightning strikes.
An initial study shows human activity made this heat dome – in which a ridge of high pressure acts as a lid preventing warm air from escaping – at least 150 times more likely. The World Weather Attribution Group of scientists, who use computer climate models to assess global heating trends and extreme weather, have warned that last week exceeded even their worst-case scenarios. While it has long been recognised that the climate system has thresholds or tipping points beyond which humans stand to lose control of what happens, scientists did not hide their alarm that an usually cool part of the Pacific northwest had been turned into a furnace. One climatologist said the prospect opened up by the heat dome “blows my mind”.
The disturbing signs of climate disruption are not limited to north America. Pakistan and Siberia have also had record-breaking high temperatures within the last few weeks, as have Moscow, Helsinki and Estonia. In Madagascar, the worst drought in 40 years has left a million people facing food shortages. The climate author David Wallace-Wells suggested that current conditions should be regarded as heralding a “permanent emergency”. With policymakers struggling to absorb the very serious implications for human societies of current models, it is frankly difficult to take in the suggestion that these models may underestimate the threat. The prospect of the jet stream becoming locked, and weather systems such as tropical storms ceasing to move in the way to which we are accustomed, carries nightmarish possibilities. More hot weather is on its way to California, with the bulk of the wildfire season ahead.
If there is anything positive to be taken from this new information, and reports of the suffering and destruction caused by the heat, it can only be that it intensifies the pressure on policymakers to act. On Wednesday, the Switzerland-based Financial Stability Board issued a warning in advance of a G20 meeting in Venice this weekend. It urged finance ministers and central banks to take more notice of “far-reaching” climate impacts.
Death Valley Hits 130 Degrees as Heat Wave Sweeps the West
(NYT) Temperatures were broiling from Utah to California as another “heat dome” led Western states to set up cooling centers and issue motel vouchers.

4 June
Fact Checking Patrick Moore, Climate Skeptic
The ex-Greenpeacer claims his new book is science-based. It’s gaining traction. But when contacted, researchers he cites said he got their work wrong.
(The Tyee) Moore, who doubts the fact human activity and carbon dioxide emissions are the main causes of global warming, said the scientists’ responses were just a “CYA” or cover-your-ass exercise. “The last thing they want is to be associated with climate skepticism. If you’re associated with climate skepticism, you’re all of a sudden a denier. And you’re all of a sudden out of research money.”
But this story is about more than just a conflict between mainstream experts and those who doubt them, a narrative that defines modern politics as we lurch between environmental and health disasters that threaten to overwhelm us. It’s about more than how those doubters continue to find purchase in the mainstream media and supporters on the political right.
Instead, it’s about how they can appropriate mainstream and sometimes out-of-date science to support their arguments, while trying to discredit findings, conclusions and scientists that counter them. And when such appropriation goes unchecked, as it often does, the resulting credibility they gain with their followers remains unchallenged.

19 April, Updated 12 May
The Science of Climate Change Explained: Facts, Evidence and Proof
Definitive answers to the big questions.
(NYT) The science of climate change is more solid and widely agreed upon than you might think. But the scope of the topic, as well as rampant disinformation, can make it hard to separate fact from fiction. Here, we’ve done our best to present you with not only the most accurate scientific information, but also an explanation of how we know it.

29 April
Watching a coral reef die as climate change devastates one of the most pristine tropical island areas on Earth
(The Conversation) The Chagos Archipelago is one of the most remote, seemingly idyllic places on Earth. Coconut-covered sandy beaches with incredible bird life rim tropical islands in the Indian Ocean, hundreds of miles from any continent. Just below the waves, coral reefs stretch for miles along an underwater mountain chain.
It’s a paradise. At least it was before the heat wave.
In 2015, a marine heat wave struck, harming coral reefs worldwide. … As the water temperature rose, the corals began to bleach. To the untrained eye, the scene would have looked fantastic. When the water heats up, corals become stressed and they expel the tiny algae called dinoflagellates that live in their tissue. Bleaching isn’t as simple as going from a living coral to a bleached white one, though. After they expel the algae, the corals turn fluorescent pinks and blues and yellows as they produce chemicals to protect themselves from the Sun’s harmful rays. The entire reef was turning psychedelic colors.
We were witnessing the death of a reef.
The devastation of the Chagos Reef wasn’t happening in isolation. In 2015, the ocean heat from a strong El Niño event triggered the mass bleaching in the Chagos reefs and around the world. It was the third global bleaching on record, following events in 1998 and 2010.
Bleaching doesn’t just affect the corals – entire reef systems and the fish that feed, spawn and live among the coral branches suffer. One study of reefs around Papua New Guinea in the southwest Pacific found that about 75% of the reef fish species declined after the 1998 bleaching, and many of those species declined by more than half.

20 April
Biden readies ambitious pitch to make the U.S. the global climate leader
The two-day Climate Leaders Summit represents the return of the U.S. to the climate diplomacy it abandoned under President Donald Trump, and Biden is eager to demonstrate his resolve by laying out an aggressive set of targets that will move the country closer to the goals set by the European Union — and try to set the pace for nations like China and India to follow.The two-day Climate Leaders Summit represents the return of the U.S. to the climate diplomacy it abandoned under President Donald Trump, and Biden is eager to demonstrate his resolve by laying out an aggressive set of targets that will move the country closer to the goals set by the European Union — and try to set the pace for nations like China and India to follow.
Joe Biden to host Earth Day climate Summit; how to watch it online, who is attending
Biden Will Pledge to Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions Nearly in Half
The president will commit the United States to deep cuts in emissions at an Earth Day summit meeting that starts on Thursday, according to people familiar with the plan.
Carney, Kerry launch global finance plan to boost climate action
(Reuters) Launching the plan on the eve of U.S. President Joe Biden’s Head of State Climate Summit alongside Carney and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Kerry – the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate – said the world’s biggest financial firms recognised energy transition was a “vast” commercial opportunity.
EU reaches major climate deal ahead of Biden climate summit
The European Union has reached a tentative climate deal to put the 27-nation bloc on a path to being “climate neutral” by 2050, with member states and parliament agreeing on binding targets for carbon emissions on the eve of a virtual summit hosted by U.S. President Joe Biden.

9 February
Weatherwatch: latest sea level rise forecast alarms scientists
Warming of oceans due to greenhouse gas absorption may accelerate rise to beyond 1 metre by 2100
The Guardian) …ice is disappearing ever more rapidly from glaciers and the poles but another major factor, the warming of the oceans, also appears to have been underestimated. With most of the heat generated in the atmosphere by excess greenhouse gases being absorbed by the sea, warm water expansion is a major contributor to sea level rise. New European research demonstrates that this rise is expected to accelerate.

4 February
What climate change will mean for US security and geopolitics
John R. Allen and Bruce Jones
(Brookings) On January 27, newly-installed Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin broke new ground for the Department of Defense. He declared that under his leadership, the department would treat climate change as a national security priority. “There is little about what the Department does to defend the American people that is not affected by climate change,” Austin argued. “It is a national security issue, and we must treat it as such.” It’s a very welcome step.
In a piece soon to be published in the American Defense Policy journal, we lay out a number of direct effects that a rapidly changing climate can have on security and conflict, as well as on the wider dynamics of American leadership of the international order.
The most immediate effect of climate change will be on internal conflict. Careful modeling suggests that changing climate patterns could drive an up to 50% increase in conflict in sub-Saharan Africa alone. This would result in several hundred thousand additional battle deaths, and the displacement of millions. And the patterns of war tell us that the effects of this will not be limited to the individual countries affected, but will spread both within Africa and beyond by the vectors of transnational terrorism and by mass migration.
Perhaps the most systematic, though not the most immediate, security consequences from a warming climate will come from sea-level rise. This will have several major effects. We are likely to see substantial migration from low-level island states, whose populations may migrate to coastal areas in Southeast Asia, with destabilizing effects.
Sea-level rise is very likely to directly affect the physical survival of several small island states. This is a security risk in its own right for those countries, but could also have wider implications. … And beyond the simple rise of sea levels, as the seas continue to warm, the resulting cyclones and hurricanes will be fed more energy from the warmer surfaces, making them more destructive in an absolute sense but also more destructive because these storms will drive surges of higher sea levels farther and farther inland — creating greater human misery, destruction, and economic stress. These intersecting climate effects will be devastating, with obvious security implications.

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