Tag Archives: IPCC

Rajendra Pachauri: Defended climate science, resigned amid sex scandal

Indian scientist Rajendra Pachauri, who resigned from the world’s foremost body on climate science, oversaw an international effort to highlight the strength of scientists’ conclusions.

By Marianne Lavelle, The Daily Climate
February 24, 2015 

Rajendra Pachauri, who resigned Tuesday from chairmanship of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change amid charges of sexual harassment, presided over the international effort to forge consensus on climate change during eight years in which the science grew stronger, but so did the attacks.

Rajendra Pachauri: Photo © European Union 2014 - European Parliament. Creative Commons

Rajendra Pachauri, who accepted the Nobel Prize on behalf of the IPCC in 2007, resigned prematurely in February, 2015, amid allegations of sexual harassment, saying he was unable to provide the leadership the IPCC needs in “the current circumstances.” Photo © European Union 2014 – European Parliament. Creative Commons

At the high point of the Indian engineer and economist’s tenure, in 2007, he accepted the Nobel Prize on behalf of the monumental effort to bring together the work of more than 2,000 scientists in readable volumes accepted by governments. The low point, before the allegations that face Pachauri now, came in 2010 when the panel was forced to admit it had included in its assessment an unfounded claim that the Himalayas could melt by 2035. 

But perhaps the most difficult issues that the IPCC has faced on Pachauri’s watch have been born of its very mission of delivering “policy-relevant” science, while staying out of politics.

Last year, because of objections by a group of developing nation governments, the IPCC deleted information from a key summary for policymakers that would have made clear the nations’ growing contribution to the global greenhouse gas burden. Although the data still was included in the IPCC’s bulky full report, scientists objecting to the change came forward both in an open letter and in journal articles to question whether the IPCC process needed reform.

Pachauri’s chairmanship began to unravel last week after a 29-year-old female employee at his research institute in Delhi filed allegations of sexual harassment. Pachauri has denied the charges through a spokesman, but said in his resignation letter that “under the current circumstances” he could not provide the strong leadership that the IPCC needs.

Pachauri, who was in his second five-year term as chairman, had earlier announced his plans to step down this coming fall, before the IPCC began its next assessment.

Over the eight years of his tenure, “Patchy,” as he is almost universally known, was a strong voice for action on climate change, even though the United Nations panel’s charge is not to be “policy-prescriptive.” He consistently urged nations to forge a treaty to mitigate fossil fuel emissions.

“If we allow things to continue unchanged and we don’t take action today, it would destabilize human society,” he warned in a 2008 interview with CNN.

David Victor, a professor of international relations at the University of California, San Diego, and an IPCC lead author, said that Pachauri should be credited for his steadiness. The assessment released last year, despite the deletions, benefited from his leadership in forging compromises to maintain some of the difficult language on the obligations of different countries, Victor said.

“He’s been particularly effective at finding ways to defend the scientific part of the organization against governments that want to strip away content from our reports. He can’t defend all of it. It’s structurally set up for governments to meddle huge amounts. And one of the things Pachauri has done very well is navigate his way around that.”

Victor, interviewed shortly before Pachauri’s resignation, added that part of Patchy’s legacy at the IPCC will be his effort to bring his own science of economics into the assessments.

“He’s an economist by training, and while the social sciences are barely represented [in the IPCC reports], economics is now the most heavily represented,” he said. “The attention to economic policy in the design of the assessments has been radically for the good.”

Pachauri became a target for attacks by those who deny climate science and those who oppose an international treaty. They called for his resignation after the Himalayas incident. 

As one of his last official acts as chairman, Pachauri urged that the IPCC venture more boldly into the political realm.

The tone of the battle he has fought through most of his tenure makes it difficult to remember the controversy around Pachauri’s appointment in 2002, with the endorsement of President George W. Bush’s administration. The Natural Resources Defense Council acquired documents under the Freedom of Information Act at the time showing that Exxon Mobil had sent the White House a memo endorsing Pachauri’s selection. (Exxon later said it did not write the memo, but just passed it along.)

In an April 21, 2002 op-ed in The New York Times, former Vice President Al Gore, who would later share the Nobel stage with Pachauri for his advocacy on climate change, raised questions about his appointment.

Pachauri, Gore wrote, “is known for his virulent anti-American statements.” In a speech at Vanderbilt University that month, Gore raised concern over Pachauri’s one-time endorsement of a worldwide boycott of American goods and Pachauri’s opposition to developing countries sharing in the reduction of greenhouse gases.

A number of IPCC scientists reached in recent days said Pachauri’s personal legal woes should not mar the work of the IPCC.

“For me, the IPCC is never about one person,” said Chris Field, founding director of the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology, and another IPCC lead author. “It’s about harnessing the wisdom and dedication of the entire scientific community. 

As one of his last official acts as chairman, Pachauri made some of his own thoughts known, in a “Chairman’s Vision Paper on the Future of the IPCC.” In the document, prepared for the IPCC session that opened in Nairobi today without him, Pachauri urged that the IPCC venture even more boldly into the political realm. 

In addition to the massive summaries of the science delivered every five to seven years, he urged that the IPCC begin to produce annually “a brief and accurate report.” These reports, he suggested, should indicate how well nations’ official plans for addressing climate change measure up in the effort to keep global warming below the goal of 2 degrees Celsius. The IPCC, Pachauri urged, should keep in mind that its audience is not just governments, but the media, civil society, business, and other stakeholders.

“It is important that this is taken into consideration when deciding on the future products of the IPCC, so that the IPCC moves forward with the times and responds to changing expectations,” he wrote.

Climate scientists hold starkly differing views on the wisdom of such a course of action. Victor said he couldn’t imagine that such a process would be workable, given the IPCC’s current structure. There would be “large error bars,” indicating a huge range of possibilities. Victor, an IPCC lead author who authored one of the Science articles about the flaws in the current process, said he has come to feel there are realms of important science that are too politically charged for the IPCC to take on, because of the need for government sign-off.

Carnegie’s Field cautioned against adding tasks to the panel’s mission. “The unique value that the IPCC adds is not about the individual brilliance of the authors; it is the systematic monitoring, review, and consensus of the scientists with approval by countries,” he said. “We want to preserve it and be careful about adding anything else that would erode its core value.”

Pachauri’s final writings as IPCC chairman were filled his typical rhetorical flourishes about matters both large and small. “For me the protection of planet Earth, the survival of all species, and the sustainability of our ecosystems is more than a mission,” he said in his resignation letter. “It is my religion and my dharma. 

And in his vision statement for the future of the IPCC, he urged that panel members guard to reduce their carbon footprints, by curbing the printing out of papers and travel for meetings. Quoting German writer and statesman, Goethe, Pachauri wrote, “Let everyone sweep in front of his own door, and the whole world will be clean.”

Creative Commons

This article is republished from the Daily Climate, published by Environmental Health Sciences. Read the original article here.

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Focus on Climate Change

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change today published the trailer for a the video of its fifth report, to be released at an international climate meeting in Lima next month. Its message: “We either continue on the path that we are on and possibly face catastrophic climate change, or we listen to the voice of science, and act accordingly. That’s really our choice.”

 

Here are related stories on F&O:

How does the IPCC know climate change is happening? In Expert Witness, by Mark Maslin, November 4, 2014

 Climate change challenges the very way we organise our society. It needs to be seen within the context of the other great challenges of the 21st century: global poverty, population growth, environmental degradation, and global security. To meet these challenges we must change some of the basic rules of our society to allow us to adopt a much more global and long-term approach and in doing so develop a solution that can benefit everyone.

Verbatim: Climate change to cause food shortages, mass extinctions, flooding, Verbatim excerpts with summary by Deborah Jones, November 2, 2014

Climate change caused by humans will result in food shortages, mass extinctions and flooding, warns the world body of climate experts in its most comprehensive report yet, signed in Bonn on November 2, 2014. It says the science is now 95 per cent conclusive, that today’s climate change is unprecedented, and warns that the world must act, together and immediately, on adaptation and mitigation. It says some changes are already inevitable and the risk of not acting is extreme: “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.”

Also read: F&O ‘s Natural Security columnist Chris Wood; Tzeporah Berman in The Pointy End, on finding hope in environmental activism and on The Ugly Oil Sands Debate;  “expert witnesses” Brad Allenby On Geoengineering: a case for sophisticated thinking and Bradley J. Cardinale on Biodiversity in the Anthropocene; and An Argument for Carbon Divestment, by Desmond Tutu.

A selection of the wide range of reactions to the fifth IPCC report elsewhere on the Internet: 

In Hong Kong spiritual and religious leaders held an interfaith forum on November 3, reported the South China Morning Post. They are part of the international Our Voices movement launched this spring. The organization urges people to sign a petition asking world leaders to act on climate change, which it calls a moral issue as “a humanitarian and development emergency, and it’s already affecting many vulnerable communities … According to rigoruosly verified IPCC reports, it’s going to get unimaginably worse.”

 In Copenhagen, debate began over the future of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “After a six-year scientific marathon that involved about 4,000 authors, contributors and reviewers and 30,000 climate studies, the U.N.’s expert panel on climate change has published its latest assessment on global warming. Now many wonder what’s next,” reported the Associated Press (via Washington Post) in Future of UN climate body debated. 

Stewart Wallis, executive director of the New Economics Foundation, called for a new approach in attempts to overhaul the economic system.  “We and many other civil society organisations have been much better at saying what is wrong with the current system than providing a positive new story about how we can flourish while living within planetary ecological limits,” he wrote in An economic system that supports people and planet is still possible, in the British Guardian.

An editorial in The National newspaper in the United Arab Emirates stopped barely short of climate denial in reacting to the IPCC report. In an editorial headlined Climate needs a careful response, it advocated full speed ahead but, with a nod to climate change, by alternative energy means: “The answer to the climate-change dilemma lies in a measured approach. We need to make practical changes such as those underway in the UAE, which is introducing nuclear and solar power and other sustainable technologies, but we must also do much more research. The need to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels is acknowledged, but so too is the reality that only they can service immediate global energy needs. And one interpretation of eliminating greenhouse emissions altogether would mean eliminating all animal life, including humans.”

In Canada a group of independent policy analysts, economists, business people and former politicians today launched an organization called Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission. It says it aims to “to align Canada’s economic and environmental aspirations. We believe this is both possible and critical for our country’s continuing prosperity.” The commission’s first report, identifying a set of policy targets that are extremely contentious in a country that is one of the world’s biggest oil and gas producers, and which famously pulled out of the Kyoto Accord:  

  • Road-congestion pricing
  • Municipal user fees.
  • Carbon pricing.
  • Subsidy reform.
  • Air-pollution pricing.
  • Water pollution pricing.
  • Water use pricing.
  • Catastrophic risk pricing.

In the United States, where today’s mid-term elections will determine control of the Senate, Republican Senator Jim Inhofe called the IPCC ” a front for the environmental left” in a statement responding to its fifth report. Inhofe, senior member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, has said he will lead the committee if the Republicans control the American Senate after today. An excerpt of his statement:

“The idea that our advanced industrialized economy would ever have zero carbon emissions is beyond extreme and further proof that the IPCC is nothing more than a front for the environmental left. It comes as no surprise that the IPCC is again advocating for the implementation of extreme climate change regulations that will cripple the global economy and send energy prices skyrocketing. The United States is in the midst of an energy renaissance that has the potential to bring about American energy independence, which would strengthen our national security and energy reliability for generations into the future. At a time of economic instability and increased threats to American interests, the IPCC’s report is little more than high hopes from the environmental left.”

U.S. Republican Senator Jim Inhofe in March, 2014. Photo By Glenn Fawcett, U.S. Department of Defence, public domain

U.S. Republican Senator Jim Inhofe in March, 2014. Photo By Glenn Fawcett, U.S. Department of Defence, public domain

Climate denial is a common and popular position in the United States where, for example, Fox News last week gave one of America’s most prominent deniers a “warm welcome,” reported Media Matters:

“The October 28 edition of Fox News’ The Kelly File featured John Coleman, co-founder of The Weather Channel, allowing him to promote his belief that “man-made global climate change is a myth.” During the segment, Coleman falsely claimed that the scientific consensus that human activities drive climate change is based on “bad, bad science” and repeated the falsehoods that an increase in Arctic ice disproves global warming and that polar bears are doing just fine. He also blamed Al Gore for making it difficult for a climate skeptic to “get on TV….

“For years, Coleman has been connected to the Heartland Institute, which has been funded by fossil-fuel interests, and its promotion of climate change denial. Coleman was featured at a Heartland Institute climate conference in July of this year.

 

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IPCC report sounds loudest alarm yet on climate change impacts

Climate change caused by humans will result in food shortages, mass extinctions and flooding, warns the world body of climate experts, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in its most comprehensive report yet.

The report, signed in Bonn today, says the science is now 95 per cent conclusive, that today’s climate change is unprecedented, and warns that the world must act, together and immediately, on adaptation and mitigation. It says some changes are already inevitable and the risk of not acting is extreme: “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.”

F&O provides a brief  introduction and summary, and verbatim excerpts from the IPCC’s latest, sobering, report and warning. … read (free*): Verbatim: Climate change to cause food shortages, mass extinctions, flooding.

 

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is sustained entirely by readers: we do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes.  Subscribe for free to Frontlines by entering your address in the form on the right (we won’t share your address), or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

 

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Verbatim: Climate change to cause food shortages, mass extinctions, flooding

U.S. Geological Survey Follow Shriveled and Cracked  When USGS mapped the glaciers in Icy Bay, Alaska in the 1950s, the glacier in this image was flat and hundreds of meters thick. Bedrock is emerging as Guyot retreats very rapidly. Taken in Jan 2010. Credit: Shad O'Neel, USGS.

ICY BAY, Alaska, 2010 — Alaska glaciers like Guyot, above, have changed dramatically since the U.S. Geological Survey set out to map them in the 1950s. At the time, said the survey, the glacier above was flat and hundreds of meters thick. This recent photo reveals bedrock. Photo by Shad O’Neel, USGS, Public Domain

 

WHAT:

Climate change caused by humans will result in food shortages, mass extinctions and flooding, warns the world body of climate experts in its most comprehensive report yet, signed in Bonn on November 2, 2014. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says the science is now 95 per cent conclusive, that today’s climate change is unprecedented, and warns that the world must act, together and immediately, on adaptation and mitigation. It says some changes are already inevitable and the risk of not acting is extreme.

 WHO: 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the world body for assessing the science related to climate change.  It was set up in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly, to provide policymakers with regular assessments of the scientific basis of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for adaptation and mitigation.

The IPCC assesses the thousands of scientific papers published each year to inform policymakers about what we know and don’t know about the risks related to climate change. The IPCC identifies where there is agreement in the scientific community, where there are differences of opinion, and where further research is needed.

WHERE: 

Globally, including in the IPCC’s 195 member countries.

WHEN:

The IPCC’s 5th report was released November 2, 2014; global climate change meetings are scheduled for December and next year.  

WHY:

Climate change respects no physical or human-made borders. The report’s key message is that climate change “exposes people, societies, economic sectors and ecosystems to risk …. high risk can result not only from high probability outcomes, but also from low probability outcomes with very severe consequences.” An imperfect ability to predict outcomes should not prevent them from being considered.

The IPCC’s fifth report on climate change draws, it says, on a “larger knowledge base of scientific, technical, and socio-economic literature” than any previous report since it was formed in 1988. It concludes that climate change risks are so certain and grave, states Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, that “to not act collaboratively and in a timely manner would fly in the face of both reason and responsibility.”

She called growing awareness of the crisis the good news: “governments everywhere have been increasingly internalizing and acting upon the IPCC’s findings as have cities, investors, companies and citizens ranging from environmental groups to faith-based organizations.”

All agencies and the scientific community “recognize that knowledge gaps remain and that further research is needed,” said a press statement from UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner. “But the empirical evidence is not only sufficient to judge the risks of inaction; it is also compelling in terms of the many co-benefits of acting now to maintain a reasonable chance of limiting global warming to below 2°C.”

The UNEP release calls climate change “not only a challenge and a cost, but is also an opportunity to move towards a more inclusive green economy in which measures deliver both immediate benefits in terms of reducing emissions and multiple benefits in improvements in public health, energy efficiency, food security and the ability to invest in mitigation measures while adapting to climate impacts and building long-term resilience.”

Barriers to “green” outcomes include a lack of adequate, large-scale financial incentives, said the UNEP statement. The good news, it added, is “significant public and private investments are beginning to flow into energy efficiency; up to US$365 billion in 2012, with US$254 billion entering the renewable energy sector in the same year. 

The IPCC report is broken into four topic areas:

  1. Observed evidence for a changing climate, the impacts caused by this change and the human contributions to it.
  2. Projections of future climate change, projected impacts and risks.
  3. Adaptation and mitigation as complementary strategies for reducing and managing the risks
  4. Individual adaptation and mitigation options and policy approaches, with other societal objectives.

The report is dense, and includes figures and a stream of qualifications, including the level of confidence it has in each statement. It’s the product of a diverse and international committee, and so reading with a salt shaker in hand is recommended: it will have been subjected to influences from economic coercion to bullhorn diplomacy. But it’s also highly readable and, especially considering the many and diverse voices behind it, it is a shocking, and sobering, warning to humanity.

— Deborah Jones

 

VERBATIM: CLIMATE CHANGE 2014 SYNTHESIS REPORT, excerpts:

Human influence on the climate system is clear, and recent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history. Recent climate changes have had widespread impacts on human and natural systems.

Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, and sea level has risen.

Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850.

Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have increased since the pre-industrial era driven largely by economic and population growth . From 2000 to 2010 emissions were the highest in history. Historical emissions have driven atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, to levels that are unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years, leading to an uptake of energy by the climate system.

The evidence for human influence on the climate system has grown since (the IPCC’s fourth report). Human influence has been detected in warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, in changes in the global water cycle, in reductions in snow and ice, and in global mean sea-level rise; and it is extremely likely to have been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. In recent decades, changes in climate have caused impacts on natural and human systems on all continents and across the oceans. Impacts are due to observed climate change, irrespective of its cause, indicating the sensitivity of natural and human systems to changing climate.

In recent decades, changes in climate have caused impacts on natural and human systems on all continents and across the oceans. Impacts are due to observed climate change, irrespective of its cause, indicating the sensitivity of natural and human systems to changing climate.

Changes in many extreme weather and climate events have been observed since about 1950. Some of these changes have been linked to human influences, including a decrease in cold temperature extremes, an increase in warm temperature extremes, an increase in extreme high sea levels and an increase in the number of heavy precipitation events in a number of regions.

Surface temperature is projected to rise over the 21st century under all assessed emission scenarios. It is very likely that heat waves will occur more often and last longer, and that extreme precipitation events will become more intense and frequent in many regions. The ocean will continue to warm and acidify, and global mean sea level to rise.

Climate change will amplify existing risks and create new risks for natural and human systems. Risks are unevenly distributed and are generally greater for disadvantaged people and communities in countries at all levels of development. Increasing magnitudes of warming increase the likelihood of severe, pervasive, and irreversible impacts for people, species and ecosystems. Continued high emissions would lead to mostly negative impacts for biodiversity, ecosystem services, and economic development and amplify risks for livelihoods and for food and human security.

Until mid-century, projected climate change will impact human health mainly by exacerbating health problems that already exist (very high confidence). Throughout the 21st century, climate change is expected to lead to increases in ill-health in many regions and especially in developing countries with low income, as compared to a baseline without climate change (high confidence). Health impacts include greater likelihood of injury and death due to more intense heat waves and fires, increased risks from foodborne and waterborne diseases, and loss of work capacity and reduced labour productivity in vulnerable populations (high confidence). Risks of undernutrition in poor regions will increase (high confidence). Risks from vector-borne diseases are projected to generally increase with warming, due to the extension of the infection area and season, despite reductions in some areas that become too hot for disease vectors (medium confidence). Globally, the magnitude and severity of negative impacts will increasingly outweigh positive impacts (high confidence). By 2100 for RCP8.5, the combination of high temperature and humidity in some areas for parts of the year is expected to compromise common human activities, including growing food and working outdoors

In urban areas, climate change is projected to increase risks for people, assets, economies and ecosystems, including risks from heat stress, storms and extreme precipitation, inland and coastal flooding, landslides, air pollution, drought, water scarcity, sea-level rise and storm surges (very high confidence).

Rural areas are expected to experience major impacts on water availability and supply, food security, infrastructure, and agricultural incomes, including shifts in the production areas of food and non-food crops around the world (high confidence). These impacts will disproportionately affect the welfare of the poor in rural areas, such as female-headed households and those with limited access to land, modern agricultural inputs, infrastructure, and education.

Aggregate economic losses accelerate with increasing temperature (limited evidence, high agreement) but global economic impacts from climate change are currently difficult to estimate. With recognized limitations, the existing incomplete estimates of global annual economic losses for warming of ~2.5 °C above pre-industrial levels are 0.2% to 2.0% of income (medium evidence, medium agreement). Changes in population, age structure, income, technology, relative prices, lifestyle, regulation, and governance are projected to have relatively larger impacts than climate change, for most economic sectors (medium evidence, high agreement). More severe and/or frequent weather hazards are projected to increase disaster- related losses and loss variability, posing challenges for affordable insurance, particularly in developing countries. International dimensions such as trade and relations among states are also important for understanding the risks of climate change at regional scales.

From a poverty perspective, climate change impacts are projected to slow down economic growth, make poverty reduction more difficult, further erode food security, and prolong existing poverty traps and create new ones, the latter particularly in urban areas and emerging hotspots of hunger (medium confidence). Climate change impacts are expected to exacerbate poverty in most developing countries and create new poverty pockets in countries with increasing inequality, in both developed and developing countries.

Climate change is projected to increase displacement of people (medium evidence, high agreement). Displacement risk increases when populations that lack the resources for planned migration experience higher exposure to extreme weather events, such as floods and droughts. Expanding opportunities for mobility can reduce vulnerability for such populations. 

Climate change can indirectly increase risks of violent conflict by amplifying well-documented drivers of these conflicts, such as poverty and economic shocks.

Many aspects of climate change and its impacts will continue for centuries, even if anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are stopped. The risks of abrupt or irreversible changes increase as the magnitude of the warming increases.

 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 (high confidence). Mitigation involves some level of co-benefits and of risks due to adverse side-effects, but these risks do not involve the same possibility of severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts as risks from climate change, increasing the benefits from near-term mitigation efforts. 

Mitigation and adaptation are complementary approaches for reducing risks of climate change impacts. They interact with one another and reduce risks over different timescales (high confidence). Benefits from adaptation can already be realized in addressing current risks, and can be realized in the future for addressing emerging risks. Adaptation has the potential to reduce climate change impacts over the next few decades, while mitigation has relatively little influence on climate outcomes over this timescale. Near- term and longer-term mitigation and adaptation, as well as development pathways, will determine the risks of climate change beyond mid-century. The potential for adaptation differs across sectors and will be limited by institutional and capacity constraints, increasing the long-term benefits of mitigation (high confidence). The level of mitigation will influence the rate and magnitude of climate change, and greater rates and magnitude of climate change increase the likelihood of exceeding adaptation limits (high confidence).

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 (high confidence).

Climate change poses an increasing threat to equitable and sustainable development (high confidence). Some climate-related impacts on development are already being observed. Climate change is a threat multiplier. It exacerbates other threats to social and natural systems, placing additional burdens particularly on the poor and constraining possible development paths for all. Development along current global pathways can contribute to climate risk and vulnerability, further eroding the basis for sustainable development.

Many adaptation and mitigation options can help address climate change, but no single option is sufficient by itself. Effective implementation depends on policies and cooperation at all scales, and can be enhanced through integrated responses that link mitigation and adaptation with other societal objectives.

Adaptation and mitigation responses are underpinned by common enabling factors. These include effective institutions and governance, innovation and investments in environmentally sound technologies and infrastructure, sustainable livelihoods, and behavioural and lifestyle choices.

In many countries, the private sector plays central roles in the processes that lead to emissions as well as to mitigation and adaptation. Within appropriate enabling environments, the private sector, along with the public sector, can play an important role in financing mitigation and adaptation (medium evidence, high agreement). The share of total mitigation finance from the private sector, acknowledging data limitations, is estimated to be on average between two-thirds and three-fourths on the global level (2010-2012) (limited evidence, medium agreement). In many countries, public finance interventions by governments and international development banks encourage climate investments by the private sector and provide finance where private sector investment is limited. The quality of a country’s enabling environment includes the effectiveness of its institutions, regulations and guidelines regarding the private sector, security of property rights, credibility of policies and other factors that have a substantial impact on whether private firms invest in new technologies and infrastructures. Dedicated policy instruments and financial arrangements, for example, credit insurance, feed-in tariffs, concessional finance or rebates provide an incentive for mitigation investment by improving the return adjusted for the risk for private actors. Public- private risk reduction initiatives (such as in the context of insurance systems) and economic diversification are examples of adaptation action enabling and relying on private sector participation.”

 

References:

IPCC home site: http://www.ipcc.ch

CLIMATE CHANGE 2014 SYNTHESIS REPORT: http://ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/syr/SYR_AR5_LONGERREPORT.pdf

Approval of the Synthesis of Assessment Report 5 of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and Statement by Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, November 2, 2014: http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/ar5/CF%20IPCC%20AR5%20synthesis%20statement.pdf

Adoption of Latest IPCC Climate Science Sets World for Crucial Lima Talks, Underlines Urgent Need for Bold Political Agreement: press statement from UNEP, http://www.unep.org/newscentre/Default.aspx?DocumentID=2803&ArticleID=11034&l=en#sthash.n7uHkVDK.icbfLlGn.dpuf

 

 

Facts and Opinions is a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is sustained entirely by readers: we do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes.  Why? We appreciate, and will continue with, your interest and support:  for $2.95 (the price of a cheap brew) you can subscribe to F&O for a month. If that breaks your budget, a one-day pass is $1. A subscription is required for most F&O original work. Subscribe for free to Frontlines by entering your address in the form on the right (we won’t share your address), or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

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Desmond Tutu on climate change, Keystone, and divestment

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Desmond Tutu

Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu has launched a campaign to persuade people to divest themselves of holdings in the fossil fuel industry and, specifically, to stop construction of the Keystone pipeline from Canada’s oil sands through the United States to the Gulf of Mexico.

“Twenty-five years ago people could be excused for not knowing much, or doing much, about climate change,” he writes in an essay published here, in F&O’s Loose Leaf salon. “It was an “environmental issue” of intense interest to environmentalists and leftists and conspiracy theorists, but not much use to us. Today, we have no excuse. None. Knowledge of climate change is no longer limited to the scientific community and environmental activist fringes. No more can it be dismissed as science fiction; we are already feeling the effects.”

Tutu’s campaign was launched prior to the release of the next big report, on Sunday in Berlin, by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This report, the third in a series, will recommend ways to mitigate climate change – and is expected to warn the world is running out of time to do so. Earlier IPCC reports were issued last fall from Sweden on the science of climate change, and on March 31 from Japan on the existing worldwide impact of climate change. Sunday’s release, of which Reuters reported seeing a leaked draft early this week, “outlines ways to cut emissions and boost low-carbon energy, which includes renewables such as wind, hydro- and solar power, nuclear power and “clean” fossil fuels, whose carbon emissions are captured and buried,” said Reuters.

But the IPCC can only assess scientific findings and issue reports — it will be up to the public and the world’s governments to respond. And that is where Tutu comes in. An excerpt of his commentary:

This week, scientists and public representatives gathered in Berlin are weighing up radical options for  curbing carbon emissions contained in the third report of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The bottom line, a draft of the report warns, is that we have 15 years to take the necessary steps to affordably reduce emissions to attain the targeted 2°C over pre-industrial times. The horse may not have already bolted, but it’s well on its way through the stable door.

Who can stop it? Well, we can, you and I. And it is not just that we can stop it, we have a responsibility to do so. We have a responsibility to persuade the powerful and the wealthy to stop the juggernaut of earthly destruction. It is a responsibility that begins with God commanding the first human inhabitants of the Garden of Eden, “to till it and keep it.” To “keep” it; not to abuse it, not to destroy it.

This is why, no matter where you live, the fact that the United States is even debating whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline is so appalling ….

Desmond Tutu’s essay, An Argument for Carbon Divestment, is here, published on F&O with permission.

 

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Climate change: the Pointy End of Hope

Tzeporah Berman

Tzeporah Berman

The effects of human-caused climate change are already evident on all continents and waters, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in its latest report March 31. The report is, undeniably, grim: agriculture, human health, water and land-based ecosystems, water supplies, and some livelihoods are already affected. There is much we don’t know, it said. Surprises are in store, it warned. Some analysts forecast wars, famine and massive destruction.

But the report also held out hope: there are opportunities to take action — challenging opportunities.  Canadian environmental activist Tzeporah Berman is an expert on facing such challenges, with experience gleaned from years on the front lines as co-director of Greenpeace International’s Global Climate and Energy Program, Executive Director and Co-founder of PowerUp Canada and Co-founder and Campaign Director of ForestEthics. An excerpt of her essay, The Pointy End:

The most heartbreaking question I get, and I get it all the time––at the end of my speeches, or from people calling in when I’m being interviewed on the radio––is “Do we have a chance?”

Sometimes people ask in other ways.

“Can we really do something about global warming?”

“Do you really think it’s possible to move away from fossil fuels?”

And, “Is it too late?”

I always give the answer many people don’t believe, but I still do. Yes, I think we do have a chance. We can win this fight. But there’s a catch: only if we live every moment intentionally. Only if we organize.

 The Pointy End, an essay by Tzeporah Berman, is republished in F&O’s Expert Witness section with permission, from her book, This Crazy Time: Living Our Environmental Challenge.

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In the far north, the future is here

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Lance Lesack, a Simon Fraser University geographer, solved the climate mystery in the Mackenzie River delta.

The biggest world news has concerned the release of the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, warning that climate change is already experienced worldwide. But what instead drew the attention of Natural Security columnist Chris Wood was a research paper that has received little attention.

It’s focused on the Mackenzie River delta in the Canadian Arctic, a “vast, lake-studded river delta that is the northern nursery for millions of migratory birds and the primary source of biological nutrients to the Beaufort Sea.”

Notes Wood:  forecasters have warned of catastrophe should the Mackenzie warm, as has been predicted, by 5-6oC by the end of the century.

But what staggering new research shows is, it already has reached such temperatures.

Log in to read Wood’s column: The End of the Century is Now, in Northern Canada. (Subscription or day pass required*)

Chris Wood’s Natural Security page is here.

 

*Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O serves and is entirely funded by readers who buy a subscription or a $1 site day pass. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from non-journalism foundations or causes.

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The Pointy End

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Tzeporah Berman speaks at protest of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline proposal in Alberta and British Columbia. Photo Deborah Jones © 2013

The effects of human-caused climate change are already evident on all continents and waters, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in its latest report, released March 31. The report is, undeniably, grim: agriculture, human health, water and land-based ecosystems, water supplies, and some livelihoods are already affected. There is much we don’t know, it said. Surprises are in store, it warned. Some analysts forecast wars, famine and massive destruction.

But the report also held out hope: there are opportunities, it said, to take action — albeit challenging ones. The following essay is by Canadian environmental activist Tzeporah Berman, an expert on finding hope after years on the front lines as co-director of Greenpeace International’s Global Climate and Energy Program, Executive Director and Co-founder of PowerUp Canada and Co-founder and Campaign Director of ForestEthics.

By TZEPORAH BERMAN
Excerpt from This Crazy Time
Published on F&O April 8, 2014

“To be truly radical is to make hope possible rather than despair convincing” — Raymond Williams

The most heartbreaking question I get, and I get it all the time––at the end of my speeches, or from people calling in when I’m being interviewed on the radio––is “Do we have a chance?”

Sometimes people ask in other ways.

“Can we really do something about global warming?”

“Do you really think it’s possible to move away from fossil fuels?”

And, “Is it too late?”

I always give the answer many people don’t believe, but I still do. Yes, I think we do have a chance. We can win this fight. But there’s a catch: only if we live every moment intentionally. Only if we organize.

We have to engage our friends and family, our synagogues, churches and schools. We have to acknowledge that we have the capacity and the right to demand that our politicians act, and we have to find a way to get to work. That’s going to require widespread action and citizens’ engagement. Together we can have a bigger impact than apart. But together for what? What are we actually doing? What are we calling for at any particular moment?

Years ago in a strategy meeting, Chris (Chris Hatch, my husband and fellow campaigner) referred to our campaign’s end goal and the need to focus and direct our efforts as “the pointy end.” The term has always resonated with me because social organizing and campaigns should act like a funnel, and they need to funnel into something at every particular moment; if they don’t, you’ve got a whole lot of good intentions and not much of anything else. Finding a clear focus for your work, a clear goal to set your sights on, that’s “the pointy end” of the work. Without it we are all bark and no bite. I expect I may be jumping into hot water again, but I would offer that the incredible organizing and protests around the World Trade Organization in 1999 (the infamous Battle in Seattle) or the G20 protests in 2010 in Toronto are a good example of initiatives with no pointy end. Thousands of concerned people were in the streets, but I have heard from more than one confused politician and political pundit trying to understand what the protesters wanted.

~~~

Often when we talk about global warming and climate change, people’s default reaction is guilt. And that makes sense because ultimately it is our lifestyle and our dependence on fossil fuels that has created the problem. So people automatically think, Oh my God, I’ve got to change my light bulbs, I’ve got to walk to work, I’ve got to save for a hybrid. It’s my fault, it’s all my fault.

What we see in social movement theory and psychological studies is that if a problem is so big that it cannot be easily understood, or the risks are overwhelming, people will make some changes to their lifestyle but try to forget about the actual problem. You’re walking to work once a week, you’re using your canvas bags for groceries, but the problem is getting worse. So eventually you get off your soapbox and go back to a “normal” life.

There are a million things you can do and, yes, you should do all you can to change your lifestyle. Yes, if you can afford it, you should drive a Prius––though it would be a lot better if you could cycle, take public transit or at least drive the car you already have until it’s no longer fuel-efficient because building that shiny new Prius produces a whole lot of carbon. Yes, we should change our light bulbs. Yes, we should walk to work. All those energy-saving lifestyle tips are true.

But here’s the thing: the majority of North America’s as well as the globe’s emissions come from heavy industry. So while we can and should change a lot of key aspects of our lifestyles, changing our individual actions alone is not enough to correct the course we’re on.

“I have come to realize that we do not have environmental problems, we have human problems. Human problems that create environmental disasters.”

One of the major fallacies of our age is that we are besieged with “environmental problems” that are overwhelming and unstoppable. The nature of the term denies human agency and distances us from individual and collective responsibility. It separates environmental issues from social issues in our minds, language and policy formation. I have come to realize that we do not have environmental problems, we have human problems. Human problems that create environmental disasters.

I have listened to foresters and corporate officials refer to “slope failures” and discuss technologies and restoration to overcome massive soil erosion. I have heard various Canadian environment ministers refer to “grave environmental problems” as if the environment itself were to blame. But the soil is not eroding on its own; it is washing down the slopes and into the salmon streams because humans have removed the trees and vegetation on the mountainsides. That is not a slope failure, it is a human failure. Yes, solving global warming is going to require some changes, but those changes are possible. If the problem resulted from some bad human decisions, it stands to reason that some good ones can solve it. We need to remember that a problem without a solution is a tragedy. A problem with a solution that is not being implemented is not a tragedy, it’s a scandal.

Once we realize the magnitude of the problems, we must cope with the stages of despair and denial––an emotional and intellectual trajectory. Stage one after my climate reckoning was that if it’s one or the other, I’m going to choose a normal life because it’s too soul wrecking to worry about what I’m doing or should be doing all the time. Then I went through my potato chips and Battlestar Galactica phase, when I tuned out the world, popped in DVDs and played Lego with my kids.

After that I tried to figure out my place in the problem, what I could do, how I could reach people, how I could find a community to have these discussions with. I found friends who were going through the same thing I was––and they were all relieved that they weren’t crazy either, but freaked out that they weren’t doing enough. Together we found some things to do that felt meaningful and, even better, we were all regularly inspired by stories of other organizations and groups around the world who were moving the dial too. Change is happening. In our homes, our schools, our workplaces and our legislatures.

In writing about this journey, I find myself flashing back to a speech I gave at a rally on the steps of the provincial British Columbia Legislature. I was asked to “inspire the crowd,” and right before I spoke I realized I had nothing left to say. I had spent the summer being horrified and depressed by the extent of clear-cutting logging I had witnessed and our seeming inability to even slow it down.

Closing my eyes to over a thousand people on the legislature lawn, I grabbed the microphone and gave it everything I had––lamenting the loss of these majestic thousand-year-old trees and decrying the tragedy of our ancient forests being destroyed to make phone books and toilet paper. I spoke from the heart and talked about how, at twenty-five years old, I was afraid to have children because I didn’t want to bring them into a world where this kind of devastation was not only possible but predictable and acceptable. I talked about all the amazing people I had met that summer and how together I hoped we could make a difference. I opened my eyes and looked out at a sea of people whose fear, anger and caring were palpable. I ended my speech by saying, “I don’t know what the future holds, but I know who holds it.”

The roar of the crowd was deafening, and when I stepped off the stage I was shaking. Standing by the steps was an elderly couple, clearly moved. They stepped forward and told me they had known my mom and dad well and that my parents would have been very proud. That day I realized that beyond the pain, fear and anger was a place that sparkled with purpose, pride and honour. 

Over the next decade I would remember that moment over and over again. I would remember how I could channel despair and anger into action and how good it feels to know you’re part of a powerful community and contributing to something that will have an impact beyond your own lifetime.

In Bali and Copenhagen, Canada, the United States and Amsterdam, I have been reminded that despair is a powerful place from which to step forward. There are times when it feels too big, too overwhelming, and I feel too small and insignificant. But every day I look at my children and know that I need to find ways to contribute to raising awareness and finding solutions. I need to continue to find my voice and allow myself to feel the pain of despair to motivate a new strong commitment and voices for change.

Choosing to combat climate change is like deciding to exercise––we need to figure out how it becomes part of our daily practice. If I commit to exercise every day, whether practicing yoga or taking a walk, it becomes part of my life; if I don’t, finding the time for it becomes impossible. If we are serious about making real change in the world, we have to treat our time like that; we have to be intentional about how we intervene. For a while I was telling myself I just had to write one letter a day––and on the days I didn’t have time I would go to an environmental group’s website and click where they wanted me to click. It was an incredibly satisfying feeling, and it was important to contribute. If we all started to make that commitment, to carve out a couple of hours a week to meet with a group of concerned people or an organization, or, better yet, created a daily habit of volunteering or engaging in the issues that became second nature like checking our Facebook page or a necessity like packing our kids’ lunchboxes, imagine what a different world we’d have.

More important, you need to join an environmental group––especially a local one where you can take part in actions meaningful to your community––and engage with your elected decision makers. Send your support cheque to that group. Write those letters, make those phone calls. It takes only thirty seconds to click “send” every time one of the environmental groups working on vital issues initiates an e-campaign.

There’s always a decision to be made about your own activities, about what you buy or don’t buy, about whether you fly for pleasure or for work or stop flying altogether. Ultimately environmentalism is about trying to figure out how we can each have the least possible impact. It’s critical that we all do everything we can to eat locally and organically, to consume less, to use less energy.

I know we can’t all work on these issues all day, every day. We have busy lives, bills to pay and our own individual fires to put out. But each of us can dedicate some of our ingenuity, some of our resources, some of our time. And we have to. Because today we’re all responsible not only for what we do but for what we don’t do.

“I feel like I’m going crazy. I had to stop reading about it.”

Half the people I talk to after my climate speeches say, “I feel like I’m going crazy. I had to stop reading about it.”

I’ve met people who’ve stopped working on environmental issues because of climate change. I asked one friend why he’d walked away from a local climate campaign he had been working on and he said, “Because my soul hurts too much.” There are going to be climate-reckoning self-help groups in a couple of years. I’ve already heard of a counsellor in Canada who works with couples in crisis because one of them is more worried about the climate than the other.

When I had my climate reckoning, I delved into the writings of experts like Monbiot, and I was the friend you didn’t want at your dinner party. I remember New Year’s Eve 2008 when someone asked me about the work I was doing. I started discussing the dramatic impacts of climate change that we are already seeing in vulnerable countries, my fear about the unsustainable path we’re on. Before I knew it, the party had gone silent, and the two people beside me had tears running down their faces and I thought, Oh crap, I’m the bummer girl. I’m the channel you change because you’re too tired, so you flip to a rerun of Friends.

It’s true: you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube. Our world has changed permanently, and for many of us the way that we look at the world has changed forever. However, when I think of giving up, I remind myself that we have done this before. The Montreal Protocol worked. Today the holes in the ozone layer are smaller, and in some places they’ve even healed. I remind myself how much has changed for the positive in just the past couple of years and that we have the technology for economically viable solutions at hand.

“The global project to fight climate change is doable … It’s not such a big ask as people are making out.”

New Scientist ran the numbers on what it’s going to cost consumers to have a clean energy transition and projected that radical cuts to the UK’s emissions would cause barely noticeable increases in the price of food, drink and most other goods by 2050. Electricity and gasoline costs would rise significantly, but with the right policies in place, the modellers believe this increase need not lead to big changes in lifestyle. “These results show that the global project to fight climate change is doable,” said Alex Bowen, a climate policy expert at the London School of Economics. “It’s not such a big ask as people are making out.”

Though the results spoke directly to UK consumers, previous research came to similar conclusions for Americans. One study found that if Americans were to cut their emissions by 50 percent by 2050, prices of most consumer goods would increase by less than 5 percent as a result. These findings were consistent with analyses by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change in Washington, DC. “Even cutting emissions by eighty percent over four decades has a very small effect on consumers in most areas,” says Manik Roy of the Pew Center.

How do we convince our governments that they have the social licence––that we will support them if they make these changes? We need to start with a vision.

A well-known pollster told me that travel agents don’t talk about the cost or the flight to Hawaii; they talk about the beach. And one of the most inspiring speakers I know, Van Jones, is fond of saying, “There is a reason Martin Luther King never said, ‘I have a kvetch, or I have a problem.’ Because the problem rarely inspires action and commitment––it’s the dream.”

And that’s why we need to talk about the dream.

Shock and horror rarely seed engagement. They seed helplessness in our souls. We need to stop talking about global warming and deforestation without talking about responsibility, engagement and identifying what we can do to create the world we want.

One of the most important pieces of theory behind my work has been Bill Moyer’s “Movement Map,” in which he outlines the stages of social movements. Moyer says that in order to move issues, goals need to be framed in terms of widely held values. When you speak to values, you go from having an issue that someone cares about to having a movement that a lot of people care about. It struck me when I started working on climate issues that the climate movement has been exclusive, complex and based on science and policy that speaks to policy wonks, not civilians. I’ve spent my adult life working on environmental issues, and it took me six months of intensive research to even begin to figure out what I was for. That’s why I made it my goal to talk about these issues in a way that everybody can understand, and from that understanding, act.

Regardless of where you live, your government’s inaction in the face of workable alternatives is a scandal, and we have to show that most governments are out of touch with widely held values of clean air, clean water and livable cities––that they are out of touch with our values.

We have solutions at hand. In 2009, for the first time in human history, the combined new investment in renewables, wind, solar and water power was greater than the combined investment in dirty fuels––oil and gas and nuclear combined.

I dream of a world where we all have access to clean water, clean air and healthy food

I dream of a world where we all have access to clean water, clean air and healthy food––a world where the rich countries that have been spewing pollution into the atmosphere for decades take responsibility and help the emerging economies leapfrog over the dirty-fossil-fuel era and develop renewable energy systems. I don’t dream of us all going “back to the land” and living in cabins without running water and electricity. And I know we can’t all live in places like Cortes Island. I dream of a high-tech world with sleek urban design, smart electricity grids, rooftop and community gardens, bike lanes and high-speed trains. I dream of a world where governments regulate and control pollution, never use taxpayers’ money to subsidize dirty fossil fuels, and come together internationally to sign an emergency agreement for a fair, ambitious and binding treaty to protect what’s left of our intact forests and stop climate change.

We need to create a collective vision that gives us all hope and inspires us to action. We need a process that creates a conversation. These are issues that need to be brought out of the domain of the experts, that cannot be addressed behind closed doors by stakeholder representatives. These are issues that will not be dealt with by one party, one government, one environmental group or any one person. We can no longer afford partisan squabbles that result in no climate legislation being passed. We cannot afford to wait and hope that any one government will do the right thing, because no one will have the courage to make the changes necessary without knowing we are all on the same page.

The changes required will not always be easy, or necessarily popular at the polls. People do not appreciate paying more for energy, do not like having their views altered or challenged, or seeing natural areas opened to clean energy production. It is our job to communicate the imperative. That’s why we need far-reaching goals that everyone can understand and embrace. We need to stimulate tax breaks for renewables, we need access to low-cost capital renewables and low-carbon industry, and we need hard limits on pollution––and that means putting a price on carbon that polluters will actually notice. We need stronger regulations on buildings and vehicles. We have the technology to produce cars that don’t pollute, so why aren’t we producing them? Why don’t we just outlaw the cars that do pollute?

Japan has an inspiring law that I think all countries should look at adopting, which translates as “the top runner law.” The Japanese government looks at everything from dishwashers to ovens to tractors, and every three years it outlaws the bottom energy performers in each area. The result is truly dynamic competition and an industry and marketplace racing to be more efficient. That’s why some of the most efficient appliances are from Japan.

Yes, we need entrepreneurship. Yes, we need financing. Yes, we need individual actions. But it’s that law that’s changing appliances around the world. Laws make a difference. We all need to become politically active and show our governments that the future of the planet means enough to us that it’s the issue that must matter at the polls. I met with a Canadian government official recently who told me that while it’s true Canadians care, they don’t care enough for climate policies to matter as an election issue. So the Harper government figures they are doing enough. That has to change, and not just in Canada.

American voters are frequently moved to the polls en masse by a single “wedge” issue, an issue some voters feel strongly enough about not only to get them to vote but to determine their vote. Once the environment becomes that crucial an issue, we’ll see politicians of all stripes racing to turn green.

Vote for climate leadership. We’re not going to see change until politicians believe they have the money and votes to make changes

If there really is only one thing that you’re going to do after reading this, vote for climate leadership. Because ultimately we’re not going to see change until politicians believe they have the money and votes to make the difficult changes that need to be made. It just makes sense to vote for the person who’s going to save your ass.

And it’s all within our grasp.

The United Kingdom has committed to ensuring that all new homes must produce zero carbon by 2016. China has stronger vehicle-efficiency regulations than Canada. The United States is putting one million plug-in hybrids on the road by 2015. The Pew Center on Global Climate Change has laid out three scenarios for the United States to achieve up to a 65 percent reduction in transportation-related GHG emissions by 2050; however, the US government would have to stand up to the automobile lobby on fuel standards––another reason laws and lawmakers matter. Israel (population 7 million) has committed to an all-electric-car infrastructure. By the end of 2011 they plan to have electric cars in mass production and half a million charging stations.

Over one hundred countries, cities and other jurisdictions have joined the United Nations Climate Neutral Network and are implementing zero-carbon plans. Countries as varied as Norway, New Zealand and Costa Rica have committed to becoming carbon neutral. Sweden has promised to build an “oil-free society” and has already reduced oil for residential and commercial heating by 70 percent over the past thirty years.

It’s clear that those of us who want to move away from a petrol state will have to prove to decision makers that we can create an economy that can and will fuel our needs with low-carbon energy, using sources that create jobs. We have to prove to our governments that this objective represents more than a niche market, and if we’re going to do that, we have to figure out how to do it right, and stand up quickly.

Some of the people with whom I work most closely, with whom I’ve had the biggest breakthroughs, have been people who work with logging companies, who want to do the right thing. Right now, some of the people whom I think are most concerned about global warming in Canada work with energy companies. So yes, we need to call out bad decisions and name names in order to draw attention to a particular problem or intransigent decision maker, but through it all leave room for industry leaders to get creative and give bureaucrats the benefit of the doubt. We can’t be so quick to stick a label on someone and limit his actions and our relationships.

That said, collaboration and relationship building work once everyone agrees there is a problem to solve. They work once it is clear that business as usual is not an option. Great shifts in history have always required citizen engagement and mobilization. That doesn’t mean everyone needs to get out in the streets with a placard––though I hope some of you will––but it does mean you need to find a place that feels right for you and engage. It means there isn’t a one-size-fits-all strategy or tactic, and in most cases the strongest campaigns are, like nature, diverse. It takes a lot of strands to make a strong web.

A few years ago I was at Bioneers and met Diane Wilson, the woman who scaled the Dow Chemical building with a banner in her backpack and used a Kryptonite bicycle lock to chain her throat around poles so she couldn’t be dragged off by security guards or police. On a whim she changed the face of negotiations with a behemoth chemical company. Diane reminded me of two things: how important it is to be bold, and how important civil disobedience and protest have been to every successful campaign I know of. She reminded me how easily we can become lost in engagement and negotiations and how the controversy, the willingness to put our freedom, and in some cases our lives, on the line can move the debate forward and increase our power by leaps and bounds.

Yes, we have to negotiate in the boardrooms and be prepared to use our power as consumers through boycotts, but we still need people who are willing to risk their freedom and their lives on the blockades. I know if we look back in ten years and admit that we didn’t have the courage to stand with a placard in front of city hall, Parliament or the White House at a time when so many people and in fact our planet was threatened, we’ll regret it.

It’s not enough to sit back and let someone else decide the fate of our children’s future.

It’s not enough to sit back and let someone else decide the fate of our children’s future. You wouldn’t let someone else decide where your kids go to school, and you shouldn’t let someone else decide what kind of air they’re going to breathe. The world is changing. And it will change by default or design to a post-carbon economy. If we allow it to change by default, there will be far more casualties.

When I started this work, I thought I had all the answers. Now I know that no one does. The best we can do is really listen––to others and to ourselves. Then we need to make choices and act, guided by what we have learned, our capacity and resources, and our principles. There is no road map for social change and no single way to engage in these issues. In the end it is about creativity, commitment, courage and a little bit of luck or magic.

Global warming is real, its agents invisible, its schedule unaligned with daily human time frames. In a sense, we are all still sleepwalking through denial, unable to grapple with the enormity of the problem and the scale of changes needed. I am sympathetic to the difficulties of building a new generation of environmentalism, of coming to terms with the compromises we need to make and the speed that it needs to happen. But the laws of physics have no such sympathy. Either we make the change or we are on the sidelines while half the world’s species and far too many of our fellow humans are sentenced to oblivion.

After attending the UN negotiations in Bali, I spent a week with my ninety-two-year-old grandmother, not long before she died. One day we were sitting in the hospital and I told her about my despair. She said, “I don’t want to hear any more about how hard it is, how big it is, and that you don’t know if it can work. When your mother was growing up, when I was having my seven children, we didn’t have a phone, we had a party line. We didn’t have a car. No one had their own car. We had just gotten electricity. We didn’t have computers. We didn’t have cellphones. No one had even thought of them yet––let alone this raspberry you’re always holding,” she said, looking at my ever-present BlackBerry.

“I never would have thought that in my lifetime I would be sitting here talking to my granddaughter about what the world was like, and it would be an entirely different world. The way we communicate is different. The way we move about the world is different. By the time I was an adult and having children, I had never met anyone who had been on a plane. You need to hold on to the fact that the world can entirely change in your lifetime.”

So when I do this work every day, I’m holding on to the notion that one day I’m going to be sitting with my grandchildren telling them about this crazy time not too long ago when we were destroying some of the last of the world’s old-growth forests to make catalogues and toilet paper, this crazy time in our history when we clawed at the earth to get at the last of the oil, a simply crazy time in our history when we used to fill our cars with gas. And they will barely believe me, because the world will be such a different place.

Copyright Tzeporah Berman 2013

Republished on F&O with permission from This Crazy Time: Living Our Environmental Challenge, by Tzeporah Berman, published by Knopf Canada.

Tzeporah Berman

Tzeporah Berman

Tzeporah Berman has been designing and winning environmental campaigns in Canada and internationally for 20 years.  She currently works as a strategic advisor for dozens of environmental organizations, First Nations and philanthropic advisors on clean energy, oilsands and pipelines.  She is the former co-director of Greenpeace International’s Global Climate and Energy Program,  Executive Director and Co-founder of PowerUp Canada and Co-founder and Campaign Director of ForestEthics. 


Tzeporah was appointed by the Premier of British Columbia to the Green Energy Task Force in 2009 to design recommendations for the development of renewable energy in the region. Tzeporah was one of the experts in Leonardo Di Caprio’s environmental documentary 11th Hour, was one of six Canadian nominees for the Schwab Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award, has been profiled as one of 50 Visionaries Changing the World in Utne Reader and as “Canada’s Queen of Green” in the cover story for Readers Digest.  She was honored by inclusion into the British Columbia Royal Museum permanent exhibit of one of 150 people who have changed the face of British Columbia.  Corporate Knights named Tzeporah one of the Top Women in Sustainability (Canada) in 2013. Also in 2013 she was nominated for Climate Woman of the Year by Responding to Climate Change.


Tzeporah is known for her work as the coordinator of one of the largest civil disobedience in Canada’s history, the logging blockades in Clayoquot Sound during which she was arrested and charged with 857 counts of criminal aiding and abetting.  Tzeporah was one of the creators and lead negotiators of the Great Bear Rainforest campaign as well as the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement. Her work has contributed to the protection of over 40 million hectares of old growth forests.  More recently Tzeporah helped to design Greenpeace International’s Arctic campaign, the Volkswagen campaign in Europe and the Clean Our Cloud campaign that led to Apple and Facebook becoming international leaders in using renewable energy for their data centers. Tzeporah was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of British Columbia and has been named a fellow of the Broadbent Institute. Her first book, This Crazy Time: Living Our Environmental Challenge was published by Knopf Canada.

Further reading and viewing:
Tzeporah Berman’s web site: http://www.tzeporahberman.com/index.html
FactsandOpinions brief on the latest IPCC report.
The March 31, 2014 IPCC press release is here: http://ipcc.ch/pdf/ar5/pr_wg2/140330_pr_wgII_spm_en.pdf
A draft copy of the report summary is here: http://ipcc-wg2.gov/AR5/images/uploads/IPCC_WG2AR5_SPM_Approved.pdf
Tzeporah Berman page on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tzeporah_Berman

 

 

Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O serves, and is funded by, readers. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes. Our original work in Dispatches, Think and Photo-Essays is available for a $1 site day pass or at a modest subscription price. Use the SUBSCRIBE  form on our  Frontlines blog to receive notices of new work and briefs.

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Food, water, health, livelihoods already hit by climate change: IPCC

The effects of human-caused climate change are already evident on all continents and waters, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said today in a massive report, in the panel’s most plain language yet.

GLACIER BAY NATIONAL PARK, Alaska. Photo by Deborah Jones © 2009

Alaskan glacier. Deborah Jones © 2009

Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability warned of “pervasive risks” depending on the amount of future climate change — but said opportunities still exist for “effective responses,” albeit challenging ones.

Climate change has already hit agriculture, human health, water and land-based ecosystems, water supplies, and some people’s livelihoods, said the IPCC. It said the effects are evident everywhere on earth “from the tropics to the poles, from small islands to large continents, and from the wealthiest countries to the poorest.”

The world is ill-prepared for climate risks, warned the massive report, prepared and reviewed by nearly 2500 experts from 70 countries. It identified risks to people, industries, and ecosystems, from a lack of preparedness and exposure to climate-related hazards. It also said unpredictable surprises are in store for the world.

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Dr Rajendra Pachauri, Chairman of the IPCC, Photo credit: IPCC

And the report placed the blame for climate change firmly on humans. “We live in an era of man-made climate change,” said Vicente Barros, Co-Chair of the group that produced the report, in a statement.

Adaptation to date focuses on reacting to past events rather than preparing for a different future, said group co-chair, Chris Field — but suggested the experience gained provides a starting point for more ambitious adaptations.

Field said opportunities exist to adapt economically and socially, if the challenges are understood. “Tackling them creatively can make climate-change adaptation an important way to help build a more vibrant world.”

The IPCC was set up in 1988 to assess the science related to climate change by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme. The report was released March 31 by a working group meeting in Yokohama, Japan.

— Deborah Jones

Further reading:
F&O columnist Chris Wood on climate change effects in Canada’s North, The End of the Century is Now (subscription)
F&O’s Expert Witness series republishes Tzeporah Berman’s book excerpt, The Pointy End, on finding hope in the climate campaign (public access)
The March 31, 2014 IPCC press release is here: http://ipcc.ch/pdf/ar5/pr_wg2/140330_pr_wgII_spm_en.pdf
A draft copy of the report summary is here: http://ipcc-wg2.gov/AR5/images/uploads/IPCC_WG2AR5_SPM_Approved.pdf
The video below, provided by the IPCC, is of the news conference announcing the report.

 Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O serves, and is funded by, readers. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes. Our original work in Dispatches, Think and Photo-Essays is available for a $1 site day pass or at a modest subscription price. Use the SUBSCRIBE  form, right, to receive our free Frontlines blog and notices of new work.

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