Category Archives: Climate Change

Loss and damage from climate change: How much should rich countries pay?

“The wealthy countries must begin providing public climate finance at the scale necessary to support not only adaptation but loss and damage as well, and they must do so in accordance with their responsibility and capacity to act.” This is the main message of a technical report titled Can Climate Change-Fuelled Loss and Damage Ever Be Fair?, launched on the eve of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP25) to be held in Madrid from 2 to 13 December.

The US and the EU owe more than half the cost of repairing future damage says the report, authored by Civil Society Review, an independent group that produces figures on what a “fair share” among countries of the global effort to tackle climate change should look like.

“The poorer countries are bearing the overwhelming majority of the human and social costs of climate change. Consider only one tragic incident – the Cyclones Idai and Kenneth – which caused more than $3 billion in economic damages in Mozambique alone, roughly 20 % of its GDP, with lasting implications, nadvot to mention the loss of lives and livelihoods” argues the report. “Given ongoing and deepening climate impacts, to ensure justice and fairness, COP25 must as an urgent matter operationalise loss and damage financing via a facility designed to receive and disburse resources at scale to developing countries.”

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has defined loss and damage to include harms resulting from sudden-onset events (climate disasters, such as cyclones) as well as slow-onset processes (such as sea level rise). Loss and damage can occur in human systems (such as livelihoods) as well as natural systems (such as biodiversity).

Eight weeks after Hurricane Dorian – the most intense tropical cyclone to ever strike the Bahamas – Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Amor Mottley, spoke at the United Nations Secretary General’s Climate Action Summit. She said: “For us, our best practice traditionally was to share the risk before disaster strikes, and just over a decade ago we established the Caribbean Catastrophic Risk Insurance Facility. But, the devastation of Hurricane Dorian marks a new chapter for us. Because, as the international community will find out, the CCRIF will not meet the needs of climate refugees or, indeed, will it be sufficient to meet the needs of rebuilding. No longer can we, therefore, consider this as an appropriate mechanism…There will be a growing crisis of affordability of insurance.”

An April 2019 report from ActionAid revealed the insurance and other market based mechanisms fail to meet human rights criteria for responding to loss and damage associated with climate change. The impact of extreme natural disasters is equivalent to an annual global USD$520 billion loss, and forces approximately 26 million people into poverty each year.

Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, recently warned that the climate crisis is the greatest ever threat to human rights. It threatens the rights to life, health, housing and a clean and safe environment. The UN Human Rights Council has recognised that climate change “poses an immediate and far reaching threat to people and communities around the world and has implications for the full enjoyment of human rights.” In the Paris Agreement, parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) acknowledged that they should – when taking action to address climate change – respect, promote and consider their
respective obligations with regard to human rights. This includes the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and the right to development, as well as gender equality, the empowerment of women and intergenerational equity. Tackling loss and damage will require a human-rights centred approach that promotes justice and equity.

Across and within countries, the highest per capita carbon emissions are attributable to the wealthiest people, this because individual emissions generally parallel disparities of income and wealth. While the world’s richest 10 % cause 50 % of emissions, they also claim 52 % of the world’s wealth. The world’s poorest 50 % contribute approximately 10 % of global emissions and receive about 8 % of global income. Wealth increases adaptive capacity. All this means that those most responsible for climate change are relatively insulated from its impacts.

Between 1850 and 2002, countries in the Global North emitted three times as many
greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as did the countries in the Global South, where approximately 85 % of the global population resides. The average CO2 emissions (metric tons per capita) of citizens in countries most vulnerable to climate change impacts, for example, Mozambique (0.3), Malawi, (0.1), and Zimbabwe (0.9), pale in comparison to the average emissions of a person in the U.S. (15.5), Canada (15.3), Australia (15.8), or UK (6).

In the 1980s, oil companies like Exxon and Shell carried out internal assessments of the carbon dioxide released by fossil fuels, and forecast the planetary consequences of these emissions, including the inundation of entire low-lying countries, the disappearance of specific ecosystems or habitat destruction, destructive floods, the inundation of low-lying farmland, and widespread water stress.

Nevertheless, the same companies and countries have pursued high reliance on GHG emissions, often at the expense of communities where fossil fuels are found (where oil spills, pollution, land grabs, and displacement is widespread) and certainly at the expense of public understanding, even as climate change harms and risks increased. Chevron, Exxon, BP and Shell together are behind more than 10 % of the world’s carbon emissions since 1966. They originated in the Global North and its governments continue to provide them with financial subsidies and tax breaks.

Responsibility for, and capacity to act on, mitigation, adaptation and loss and damage varies tremendously across nations and among classes. It must also be recognised that the Nationally Determined Contributions (climate action plans or NDCs) that have thus far been proposed by the world’s nations are not even close to being sufficient, putting us on track for approximately 4 °C of warming. They are also altogether out of proportion to national capacity and responsibility, with the developing countries generally proposing to do their fair shares, and developed countries proposed far too little.

Unfortunately, as Kevin Anderson (Professor of Energy and Climate Change at the University of Manchester and a former Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research) has said: “a 4°C future is incompatible with an organized global community, is likely to be beyond ‘adaptation’, is devastating to the majority of ecosystems, and has a high probability of not being stable.”

Equity analysis

The report assess countries’ NDCs against the demands of a 1.5 °C pathway using two ‘fair share’ benchmarks, as in the previous reports of the Civil Society Equity Review coalition. These ‘fair share’ benchmarks are grounded in the principle-based claims that countries should act in accordance with their responsibility for causing the climate problem and their capacity to help solve it. These principles are both well-established within the climate negotiations and built into both the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement.

To be consistent with the UNFCCC’s equity principles – the wealthier countries must urgently and dramatically deepen their own emissions reduction efforts, contribute to mitigation, adaptation and addressing loss and damage initiatives in developing countries; and support additional sustainable actions outside their own borders that enable climate-compatible sustainable development in developing countries.

For example, consider the European Union, whose fair share of the global emission reduction effort in 2030 is roughly about 22 % of the global total, or about 8 Gigatons of CO2 equivalent (GtCO2eq). Since its total emissions are less than 5 GtCO2eq, the EU would have to reduce its emissions by approximately 160 % per cent below 1990 levels by 2030 if it were to meet its fair share entirely through domestic reductions. It is not physically possible to reduce emissions by more than 100 % domestically. So, the only way in which the EU can meet its fair share is by funding mitigation, adaptation and loss and damage efforts in developing countries.

Today’s mitigation commitments are insufficient to prevent unmanageable climate change, and – coming on top of historic emissions – they are setting in motion devastating changes to our climate and natural environment. These impacts are already prevalent, even with our current global average surface temperature rise of about 1°C. Impacts include droughts, firestorms, shifting seasons, sea-level rise, salt-water intrusion, glacial retreat, the spread of vector borne diseases, and devastation from cyclones and other extreme weather events. Some of these impacts can be minimised through adaptation measures designed to increase resilience to inevitable impacts.

These measures include, for example, renewing mangroves to prevent erosion and reduce flooding caused by storms, regulating new construction so that buildings can withstand tomorrow’s severe weather, using scarce water resources efficiently, building flood defences, and setting aside land corridors to help species migrate. It is also crucial with such solutions that forest dwelling and indigenous peoples be given enforceable land rights, for not only are such rights matters of basic justice, they are also pragmatic recognitions of the fact that indigenous peoples have successfully protected key ecosystems.

Tackling underlying social injustices and inequalities – including through technological and financial transfers, as well as though capacity building – would also contribute to increasing resilience. Other climate impacts, however, are unavoidable, unmanageable or unpredictable, leading to a huge degree of loss and damage. Experts estimate the financial damage also will reach at least USD$300-700 billion by 2030, but the loss of locally sustained livelihoods, relationships and connections to ancestral lands are incalculable.

Failure to reduce GHG emissions now – through energy efficiency, waste reduction, renewable energy generation, reduced consumption, sustainable agriculture and transport – will only deepen impacts in the future. Avoidable impacts require urgent adaptation measures. At the same time, unavoidable and unmanageable change impacts – such as loss of homes, livelihoods, crops, heat and water stress, displacement, and infrastructure damage – need adequate responses through well-resourced disaster response plans and social protection policies.

For loss and damage financing, developed countries have a considerable responsibility and capacity to pay for harms that are already occurring. Of course, many harms will be irreparable in financial terms. However, where monetary contributions can help restore the livelihoods or homes of individuals exposed to climate change impacts, they must be paid. Just as the EU’s fair share of the global mitigation effort is approximately 22 % in 2030, it could be held accountable for that same share of the financial support for such incidents of loss and damage in that year.

The table below provides an illustrative quantification of this simple application of fair shares to loss and damage estimates, and how they change if we compute the contribution to global climate change from the start of the industrial revolution in 1850 or from 1950.

Table 1: Countries’ Share of Global Responsibility and Capacity in 2019, the time of Cyclones
Idai and Kenneth, as illustrative application of a fair share approach to Loss and Damage
funding requirements.

Country/                            Fair share (%) 1950                          Fair share (%) 1850
Group of countries         Medium benchmark                       High benchmark
USA                                           30.4 %                                                         40.7 %
European Union                    23.9 %                                                         23.2 %
Japan                                       6.8 %                                                            7.8 %
Rest of OECD                          7.4 %                                                            8.8 %
China                                       10.4 %                                                         7.2 %
India                                        0.5 %                                                           0.04 %
Rest of the World                  20.6 %                                                         12.3 %
Total                                        100 %                                                          100 %

The advantage of setting out responsibility and capacity to act in such numerical terms is to drive equitable and robust action today. Responsible and capable countries must – of course – ensure that those most able to pay towards loss and damage repairs are called upon to do so through domestic legislation that ensures correlated progressive responsibility. However, it should also motivate mitigation action to ensure that harms are not deepened in the future.

In the Equity analysis used here, capacity – a nation’s financial ability to contribute to solving the climate problem – can be captured by a quantitative benchmark defined in a more or less progressive way, making the definition of national capacity dependent on national income distribution. This means a country’s capacity is calculated in a manner that can explicitly account for the income of the wealthy more strongly than that of the poor, and can exclude the incomes of the poorest altogether. Similarly, responsibility – a nation’s contribution to the planetary GHG burden – can be based on cumulative GHG emissions since a range of historical start years, and can consider the emissions arising from luxury consumption more strongly than
emissions from the fulfilment of basic needs, and can altogether exclude the survival emissions of the poorest. Of course, the ‘right’ level of progressivity, like the ‘right’ start year, are matters for deliberation and debate.

The report acknowledges “the difficulties in estimating financial loss and damage and the limited data we currently have”, but it recommends nevertheless “a minimal goal of providing at least USD$300 billion per year by 2030 of financing for loss and damage through the UNFCCC’s Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage (WIM)”. Given that this corresponds to a conservative estimate of damage costs, the report further recommends “the formalization of a global obligation to revise this figure upward as observed and forecast damages increase”.

The new finance facility should provide “public climate financing and new and innovative sources of financing, in addition to budget contributions from rich countries, that can truly generate additional resources (such as air and maritime levies, Climate Damages Tax on oil, gas and coal extraction, a Financial Transaction Tax) at a progressive scale to reach at least USD$300 billion by 2030”. This means aiming for at least USD$150 billion by 2025 and ratcheting up commitments on an annual basis. Ambition targets should be revised based on the level of quantified and quantifiable harms experienced.

Further, developing countries who face climate emergencies should benefit from immediate debt relief – in the form of an interest-free moratorium on debt payments. This would open up resources currently earmarked for debt repayments to immediate emergency relief and reconstruction.

Finally, a financial architecture needs to be set up that ensures funding reaches the
marginalised communities in developing countries, and that such communities have decision making say over reconstruction plans. Funds should reach communities in an efficient and effective manner, taking into account existing institutions as appropriate.

Currently, the Paris Rulebook allows countries to count non-grant instruments as climate finance, including commercial loans, equity, guarantees and insurance. Under these rules, the United States could give a USD$50 million commercial loan to Malawi for a climate mitigation project. This loan would have to be repaid at market interest rates – a net profit for the US – so its grant-equivalence is $0. But under the Paris Rulebook, the US could report the loan’s face value ($50 million) as climate finance. This is not acceptable. COP25 must ensure that the WIM has robust outcomes and sufficient authority to deliver a fair and ambitious outcome for the
poorest and most vulnerable in relation to loss & damage.

 

 

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Climate-heating greenhouse gases hit new high, UN reports

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The greenhouse nitrous oxide is caused by forest fires and heavy fertilizer use. Photograph: Sam Mooy/Getty 

The concentration of climate-heating greenhouse gases has hit a record high, according to a report from the UN’s World Meteorological Organization.

The jumps in the key gases measured in 2018 were all above the average for the last decade, showing action on the climate emergency to date is having no effect in the atmosphere. The WMO said the gap between targets and reality were both “glaring and growing”.

The rise in concentration of greenhouses gases follows inevitably from the continued surge in global emissions, which was described as “brutal news” for 2018. The world’s scientists calculate that emissions must fall by half by 2030 to give a good chance of limiting global heating to 1.5C, beyond which hundreds of millions of people will suffer more heatwaves, droughts, floods

But Petteri Taalas, the WMO secretary-general, said: “There is no sign of a slowdown, let alone a decline, despite all the commitments under the Paris agreement on climate change. We need to increase the level of ambition for the sake of the future welfare of mankind.

“It is worth recalling that the last time the Earth experienced a comparable concentration of carbon dioxide was 3-5m years ago. Back then, the temperature was 2-3C warmer and sea level was 10-20 metres higher than now.”

Three-quarters of the emissions cuts pledged by countries under the Paris agreement of 2015 are “totally inadequate”, according to a comprehensive expert analysis published earlier in November, putting the world on a path to climate disaster. Another report has found that nations are on track to produce more than double the fossil fuels in 2030 than could be burnedwhile keeping heating under 1.5C.

“The [CO2 concentration] number is the closest thing to a real-world Doomsday Clock, and it’s pushing us ever closer to midnight,” said John Sauven, head of Greenpeace UK. “Our ability to preserve civilisation as we know it, avert the mass extinction of species, and leave a healthy planet to our children depend on us urgently stopping the clock.”

The WMO report, published on Monday, found the global average concentration of CO2 reached 407.8 parts per million in 2018, up from 405.5ppm in 2017. It is now 50% higher than in 1750, before the industrial revolution sparked the widespread burning of coal, oil and gas.

Since 1990, the increase in greenhouse gas levels has made the heating effect of the atmosphere 43% stronger. Most of that – four-fifths – is caused by CO2. But the concentrations of methane and nitrous oxide, the two other key greenhouse gases, also surged in 2018 by a higher amount than the annual average over the past decade.

Methane, which is produced by cattle, rice paddies and fossil fuel exploitation, is responsible for 17% of the heating effect. Its concentration is now more than double pre-industrial levels.

Nitrous oxide, which comes from heavy fertiliser use and forest burning, is now 23% higher than in 1750. The observations are made by the Global Atmosphere Watch network, which includes stations in the Arctic, high mountains and tropical islands.

“The record rise in greenhouse gas concentrations is a cruel reminder that for all the real progress in clean technology, we have yet to even stop global emissions increases,” said Nick Mabey, chief executive of think tank E3G. “The climate system cannot be negotiated with. Until we stop new investment in fossil fuels and massively scale up green power the risks from catastrophic climate change will continue to rise.”

When the world’s nations agreed the Paris deal in 2015, they pledged to ramp up their promised emissions cuts by the annual UN climate summit in 2020, which will be hosted by the UK in Glasgow. This year’s summit needs to do vital preparatory work and begins on 2 December in Madrid, Spain. Chile had been due to host but cancelled because of civil unrest.

Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit in the UK, said: “This record level of greenhouse gases should act as a sobering reminder to governments that so far they are collectively reneging on the pledge they made at the Paris summit, of attempting to keep global warming to 1.5C. That window is closing, and Chile, Italy and the UK [must] use all the diplomatic tools they have to put emissions on a trajectory closer to what science recommends and the public want.”

 

 

 

 

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/nov/25/climate-heating-greenhouse-gases-hit-new-high-un-reports

 

Venice hit by another ferocious high tide, flooding city

Screenshot_2019-11-15 Venice hit by another ferocious high tide, flooding city

VENICE (Reuters) – Venice was inundated by exceptionally high water levels on Friday just days after the lagoon city suffered the worst flood in more than 50 years.

The central St. Mark’s Square was submerged and closed to tourists, while shops and hotels were once more invaded by rising waters bringing fresh misery to the fragile city.

Local authorities said the high tide peaked at 154 cm (5.05 ft), slightly below expectations and significantly lower than the 187 cm level reached on Tuesday — the second highest tide ever recorded in Venice.

But it was still enough to leave 70% of the city under water, fraying the nerves of locals who faced yet another large-scale clean-up operation.

“We have been in this emergency for days and we just can’t put up with any more,” said Venetian resident Nava Naccara.

The Italian government declared a state of emergency for Venice on Thursday, allocating 20 million euros ($22 million) to address the immediate damage. Mayor Luigi Brugnaro predicted on Friday the costs would be vastly higher.

“Venice was destroyed the other day. We are talking about damage totaling a billion euros,” Brugnaro said in a video posted on Twitter. “This is a state of emergency, but we are managing it.”

Sirens wailed across Venice from the early morning hours, warning of the impending high tide, and the crypt beneath St. Mark’s Basilica was swiftly inundated.

After Friday’s high waters, forecasters predicted tides of up to 110-120 cm during the weekend. In normal conditions, tides of 80-90cm are generally seen as high but manageable.

The mayor has blamed climate change for the ever-increasing flood waters that the city has had to deal with in recent years, with the mean sea level estimated to be more than 20 cm higher than it was a century ago, and set to raise much further.

Groups of volunteers and students arrived in the city center to help businesses mop up, while schools remained closed, as they have been most of the week.

At the city’s internationally renowned bookshop Acqua Alta — the Italian for high water — staff were trying to dry out thousands of water-damaged books and prints, usually kept in boats, bath tubs and plastic bins.

“The only thing we were able to do was to raise the books as much as possible but unfortunately even that wasn’t enough … about half of the bookshop was completely flooded,” said Oriana, who works in the store.

A flood barrier designed to protect Venice from high tides is not expected to start working until the end of 2021, with the project plagued by the sort of problems that have come to characterize major Italian infrastructure programs — corruption, cost overruns and prolonged delays.

 

 

 

 

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-italy-weather-venice/venice-hit-by-another-ferocious-high-tide-flooding-city-idUSKBN1XP0T5

Climate change activists target London’s financial district

London
Extinction Rebellion members stage a protest calling for action on climate change, outside the Bank of England, London, UK, on October 14, 2019. HANDOUT/Vladimir Morozov/AKX Media

LONDON, (Reuters) – Climate change activists targeted London’s financial district on Monday blocking Bank junction, vowing a day of disruption for major institutions which they said were financing an environmental catastrophe.

Extinction Rebellion protesters blocked the streets around Bank in the heart of the City of London.

“The City of London is a preeminent nexus of power in the global system that is killing our world,” said Carolina Rosa, spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion.

The activists will target major financial institutions which they say are financing fossil fuel exploration and infrastructure. A mock trial of the financial sector will take place at shortly after midday.

The group, which promotes a rebellion against the political, economic and social structure of the modern world to avert the worst devastation outlined by scientists studying climate, is engaged in two weeks of civil disobedience in London.

Police said there had been more than 1,300 arrests since the protests began.

“There are currently protesters blocking roads around Bank Junction,” the City of London Police said on Twitter, which has previously warned of disruptive demonstrations on Monday.

Extinction Rebellion wants non-violent civil disobedience to force governments to cut carbon emissions and avert a climate crisis it says will bring starvation and social collapse.

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney has said the financial sector must transform its management of climate risk, warning that global warming would prompt reassessments of the value of every single financial asset.

Carney has been a leading voice among regulators in warning of the risks climate change poses to the stability of the global financial system. He has led various international initiatives to improve supervision and disclosure.

“Climate disclosure must become comprehensive, climate risk management must be transformed, and sustainable investing must go mainstream,” he told a United Nations climate summit last month. (Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Michael Holden)

 

 

 

 
http://news.trust.org/item/20191014060405-ya6az/

In the shadow of strict protest laws, young Russians build a climate movement

Screenshot_2019-10-01 In the shadow of strict protest laws, young Russians build a climate movement(1)
Activists attend an environmental demonstration, part of the Global Climate Strike, in Saint Petersburg, Russia September 20, 2019. REUTERS/Anton Vaganov

MOSCOW, (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – At 15 years old, Margarita Naumenko is one of the youngest participants in Russia’s Fridays for Future climate protest movement.

Each week, she stands in downtown Moscow with other young activists chanting, brandishing posters and demanding the government take action on worsening climate change threats.

Her parents support her decision to protest, Naumenko said, but they are less convinced about the urgency of slowing the climate change.

“I tried talking to them and changing their opinion,” she said. “But that is not easy.”

Led largely by young people, Russia’s nascent climate protest movement has taken on the challenge of changing minds in a country where, not long ago, both the public and politicians were sceptical about the need to act quickly on climate change.

The protests may be having some effect. Earlier this month, Russia announced it would join the 2015 Paris Agreement to fight climate change – one of the last countries in the world to do so.

The country is the world’s fourth largest emitter of greenhouse gases and was the biggest emitter not to have agreed to the landmark global climate deal.

Before the announcement, activists in Moscow held about 50 individual protests, after previously having been denied a permit to demonstrate as part of a large-scale global climate strike last week.

On Friday, as young climate campaigners again marched around the globe, about 85 protesters in Moscow held up red and white fabric to spell out the words “Act Now” in front of Russia’s main government building.

Naumenko joined the movement five months ago, inspired after attending a lecture on improving sustainability in the education system and after seeing Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old figurehead of the youth climate movement, speak on television.

“I thought, ‘Why don’t I take any action?,'” Naumenko told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “We have just one planet. If we do not care about it, who else will?”

GROWING PROTESTS

Since the first mass eco-protest in Moscow’s Sokolniki Park in March – a day students around the world walked out of their classes to call for action on climate change – other Russian cities such as St. Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod and Irkutsk, have joined the climate campaign.

For Arshak Makichyan, it was the March protest in Moscow that sparked his involvement in climate activism.

Since then, the 25-year-old violinist has become one of the faces of Russia’s youth protest movement, demonstrating every week, often on his own.

He also acts as one of the coordinators of the movement, and part of his job is to apply for official permission to protest, which can be a time-consuming and frustrating process, he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

New rules adopted after mass protests in Moscow that followed President Vladimir Putin’s 2012 election made it a criminal offence to stage some forms of non-violent protests without a permit.

Single-person protests, on the other hand, do not require a permit, Makichyan explained. But they do have restrictions – for example, in Moscow, protesters must not stand closer than 50 metres (160 feet) from each other.

Makichyan said that, so far, Russia’s climate activists have succeeded in getting permits for two large-scale environmental protests.

And the crowds at protests have been getting bigger over the past few months, he added. These days, an organised climate demonstration in Moscow attracts between 20 and 40 participants.

The number may be small compared to the thousands who come out for protests in other cities around the globe, but it is a big increase from when Russia’s activists first started, Makichyan said.

“The numbers have been growing,” he said. “Ten weeks ago, I was very often protesting on my own. Now every week we get more participants and new cities join in.”

Russia’s government has a history of cracking down on protests that it has declared illegal.

In a case in July that triggered global condemnation, police in Moscow detained more than 1,000 people for taking part in a protest calling for opposition members to be allowed to run in a local election.

Makichyan, who took part in that protest and was detained for three hours, said so far there have been no arrests during any of the climate protests.

 

 

 

 

http://news.trust.org//item/20190927111020-yhl2b/

Extreme sea level events ‘will hit once a year by 2050’

Glacier
A child walks through floodwaters near a pier in California. The climate crisis can expose millions to flooding. Photograph: Ana Venegas/AP

The Guardian: 25 September 2019 – Extreme sea level events that used to occur once a century will strike every year on many coasts by 2050, no matter whether climate heating emissions are curbed or not, according to a landmark report by the world’s scientists.

The stark assessment of the climate crisis in the world’s oceans and ice caps concludes that many serious impacts are already inevitable, from more intense storms to melting permafrost and dwindling marine life.

But far worse impacts will hit without urgent action to cut fossil fuel emissions, including eventual sea level rise of more than 4 metres in the worst case, an outcome that would redraw the map of the world and harm billions of people.

The report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and approved by its 193 member nations, says that “all people on Earth depend directly or indirectly on the ocean” and ice caps and glaciers to regulate the climate and provide water and oxygen. But it finds unprecedented and dangerous changes being driven by global heating.

Sea level rise is accelerating as losses from Greenland and Antarctica increase, and the ocean is getting hotter, more acidic and less oxygenated. All these trends will continue to the end of the century, the IPCC report said.

Half the world’s megacities, and almost 2 billion people, live on coasts. Even if heating is restricted to just 2C, scientists expect the impact of sea level rise to cause several trillion dollars of damage a year, and result in many millions of migrants.

“The future for low-lying coastal communities looks extremely bleak,” said Prof Jonathan Bamber at Bristol University in the UK, who is not one of the report’s authors. “But the consequences will be felt by all of us. There is plenty to be concerned about for the future of humanity and social order from the headlines in this report.”

The new IPCC projections of likely sea level rise by 2100 are higher than those it made in 2014, due to unexpectedly fast melting in Antarctica. Without cuts in carbon emissions, the ocean is expected to rise between 61cm and 110cm, about 10cm more than the earlier estimate. A 10cm rise means an additional 10 million people exposed to flooding, research shows.

The IPCC considers the likely range of sea level rise but not the worst-case scenario. Recent expert analysis led by Bamber concluded that up to 238cm of sea level rise remains possible by 2100, drowning many megacities around the world. “This cannot be ruled out,” said Zita Sebesvari at the United Nations University, a lead author of the IPCC report.

Even if huge cuts in emissions begin immediately, between 29cm and 59cm of sea level rise is already inevitable because the ice caps and glaciers melt slowly. Sea level will rise for centuries without action, Sebesvari warned. “The dramatic thing about sea level rise is if we accept 1 metre happening by 2100, we accept we will get about 4 metres by 2300. That is simply not an option we can risk.”

Extreme sea level impacts will be felt in many places very soon and well before 2050, Sebesvari said. The IPCC report states: “Extreme sea level events that [occur] once per century in the recent past are projected to occur at least once per year at many locations by 2050 in all scenarios.”

The heating oceans are causing more intense tropical storms to batter coasts, the IPCC report found, with stronger winds and greater deluges of rain. For example, Hurricane Harvey’s unprecedented deluge, which caused catastrophic flooding, was made three times more likely by climate change.

Ocean heating also harms kelp forests and other important ecosystems, with the marine heatwaves that sear through them like underwater wildfires having doubled in frequency in the last 40 years. They are projected to increase by at least 20 times by 2100, the IPCC reported.

Extreme El Niño events, which see heatwaves in some regions and floods in others, are projected to occur twice as often this century whether emissions are cut or not, the report said. Coral reefs, vital nurseries for marine life, will suffer major losses and local extinctions. Across the ocean, heat, acidification and lower oxygen is set to cut fisheries by a quarter and all marine life by 15% if emissions are not slashed.

The IPCC report also records the large reduction in Arctic ice. This loss exacerbates global heating, because the exposed darker ocean absorbs more heat from the sun than highly reflective ice. On Monday, scientists announced that the Arctic sea ice in 2019 shrank to its second lowest extent in the 41-year satellite record.

The world’s high mountain glaciers, upon which almost 2 billion people rely for water, are also melting fast, the IPCC found, while landslides are expected to increase. A third of the great Himalayan range is already doomed, with two-thirds projected to vanish if emissions are not cut.

One of the most worrying alarms sounded by the IPCC report is about melting tundra and increasing wildfires in northern latitudes: “Widespread permafrost thaw is projected for this century and beyond.” A quarter is already near certain to melt, it said, and 70% or more would go if emissions are not curbed. In the latter case, hundreds of billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide and methane could be released, supercharging the climate emergency.

“That risks taking us beyond the point where climate change could be easily constrained,” said Richard Black, at the UK’s Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit. “Nevertheless, the IPCC’s 2018 report concluded that governments can shrink emissions quickly enough to keep global warming to 1.5C if they choose. None can claim to be unaware of both the dangers of untrammelled climate change nor the feasibility of preventing it.”

Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris and chair of the C40 Cities climate coalition, said the IPCC report was shocking. “Around 1.9 billion people and over half of the world’s megacities are all in grave danger if we don’t act immediately. Several cities, home to hundreds of thousands of people, are already disappearing underwater. This is what the climate crisis looks like now.”

Taehyun Park, of Greenpeace East Asia, said: “The science is both chilling and compelling. The impacts on our oceans are on a much larger scale and happening way faster than predicted. It will require unprecedented political action to prevent the most severe consequences to our planet.”

As well as cutting fossil fuel emissions, preparing for the inevitable impacts is also vital, said Sebesvari, especially in poorer nations that lack the funds to build sea walls, move settlements or restore protective coastal marshes.

“Action is needed now to secure the coast for our children and coming generations,” she said. The pressure now being exerted by the global school strikes for climate was important, she said. “I have very strong motivation. I have two kids and we are really being tested by our kids on our actions.”


https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/sep/25/extreme-sea-level-events-will-hit-once-a-year-by-2050

 

 

We scientists must rise up to prevent the climate crisis. Words aren’t enough

ScientistExtinction Rebellion protesters on Waterloo Bridge, London, April 2019. ‘This is what we have been waiting for, yet strangely the reaction within the scientific community has been muted.’ Photograph: Niklas Halle’n/AFP/Getty Images

As scientists, we tend to operate under an unspoken assumption – that our job is to provide the world with factual information, and if we do so our leaders will use it to make wise decisions. But what if that assumption is wrong? For decades, conservation scientists like us have been telling the world that species and ecosystems are disappearing, and that their loss will have devastating impacts on humanity. Meanwhile, climate scientists have been warning that the continued burning of fossil fuels and destruction of natural carbon sinks, such as forests and peatlands, will lead to catastrophic planetary heating.

We have collectively written tens of thousands of peer-reviewed papers, and shared our findings with policymakers and the public. And, on the face of it, we seem to have done a pretty good job: after all, we all know about the environmental and climate crises, don’t we?

But while we’re now well informed, we haven’t actually changed course. Biodiversity loss proceeds apace, to the extent that a million species face extinction in the coming decades, and we continue to pump carbon into the atmosphere at ever faster rates. We have emitted more greenhouse gases since 1990, in full awareness of its impacts, than we ever did in ignorance. It seems that knowledge alone cannot trigger the radical global changes we so urgently need.

It was this realisation that incited us both to embrace activism, and to take to the streets and engage in non-violent civil disobedience as members of Extinction Rebellion. The refusal to obey certain laws has a long and glorious history: from the suffragettes to Rosa Parks and Gandhi, many of the 20th century’s greatest heroes engaged in non-violent civil disobedience to win their rights.

Today, civil disobedience is again on the rise. And it is working. The protests that shut down four sites in London in April raised the climate crisis rapidly up the political agenda, and into the public consciousness. The environment is now the third most pressing issue for British voters, above the economy, crime and immigration: the UK parliament and half the country’s local councils have declared a climate emergency, and a zero-carbon target has been enshrined into law. We don’t know what policy change will follow, but it is an encouraging start.

Alongside this are the Greta Thunberg-inspired school strikes and our sister movements worldwide. This is what we have been waiting for. And yet, the reaction within the scientific community has been strangely muted. In conversation, our conservationist colleagues (and we imagine climate scientists, too) have long bemoaned the fact that environmental issues remain so marginal in the public consciousness. “If only conservation was mainstream,” we lament, “and if only people would take action to fight for our world.” Well, now they are, yet few of us seem to have joined them.

Young people have embraced the movement, and grandparents, too. So have doctors and lawyers, farmers and unemployed people. But not many scientists, which is odd given we probably know more about the severity of the problems we face than anybody. Perhaps it’s related to an unspoken assumption that if our job is to provide information, then adopting a position will weaken our authority. In fact, research shows it doesn’t.

Alternatively, scientists may be reluctant to rise up because there are “proper” channels for influencing policy: you can vote, you can write letters and sign petitions, and if things get really desperate you can walk from A to B on a sanctioned march. The trouble is, these avenues aren’t working, and lobbyists for fossil-fuel industries have far greater access to political decision-makers. In 2018, for example, oil and gas lobbyists alone spent more than $125m (£100m) lobbying politicians in just one country, the United States.

Worse, these lobbyists and the corporations they work for have invested heavily in an anti-science agenda, all with the aim of convincing the world that we can carry on as normal. They are endangering our very survival in pursuit of profit, and undermining the faith in truth, rationality and the scientific method that – surely – will be critical to surviving these crises. This is why we have taken a break from our usual areas of research to publish an article in the prestigious journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, urging our fellow scientists to rise up and embrace rebellion.

As scientists we have spent years telling policymakers that we must change course, but they haven’t taken action. They may be starting to now, but only because people have engaged in open rebellion, making it clear that we will no longer accept inaction. Surely scientists have a moral duty to join the masses, and rebel for life.

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/sep/06/scientists-climate-crisis-activism-extinction-rebellion