Climate Emergency

    Fast forwarding to oblivion.

    Humanity’s survival is still within our grasp – just. But only if we take these radical steps | The Guardian

    In 2008, the late American climate scientist Wally Broecker warned of the global repercussions of polar ice loss. Today, his predictions echo louder than ever as Greenland ice haemorrhages at an alarming rate, threatening rapid sea-level rise. Over the past 15 years, the Arctic Circle region has been heating up at four times the global average; it’s now more than 3C above levels in the 1980s. In 2023, we witnessed a staggering loss of Antarctic Sea ice.

    During a typical day my attention turns over various aspects of humans and the climate crisis. At least once a day, some days it might be half a day, the thoughts come and go along with a generally persistent climate anxiety. Often times the thoughts are replays of variations of questions about why humans are failing to act to preserve their future. Today as I walked my dog Cosmo I considered the different approaches we could be taking.

    Some of us who haven’t given up on climate action often advocate a mix of approaches. I firmly believe that we are in an emergency that requires every kind of action possible. The most commonly discussed: Individual lifestyle changes, protests, calling/writing lawmakers to pressure for systemic change.

    It seems to me that in the US at least those most likely to express concern are on the liberal side politically. Let’s just say it’s roughly 50% of the country that will claim to be concerned on some level that climate change is a real problem. I don’t know what the breakdown is in terms of those that consider it an emergency that requires serious effort, right now.

    My casual observation based on family members that I interact with is that 80% acknowledge it is a real problem. But for the most part that 80% live lives which in no way express a change reflective of the problem. What I observe on Mastodon is similar but my lens is just posts of a tiny subsection of various communities and it’s just glimpses via posts.

    That said, just stepping back and offering an admittedly too-vague, too-limited, too-anecdotal observation of the big picture based on all possible observations that one person might have this is what I see.

    • The US political process is largely corrupted by corporate lobbies and has been for decades. It’s also just broken in a variety of ways. The result is that legislation for encouraging good behaviors and regulating bad behaviors has only happened at a minimal level and is still not nearly enough. It’s not even close to what is needed and there are few signs that what is needed will not happen. Far too little, far too late.
    • American citizens generally seem aware of the above problem with the political and law making process.
    • American citizens generally do not act in large numbers to lobby government for changes. Lobby here might include making phone calls, emailing, visiting law makers in local offices.
    • American citizens generally do not protest or otherwise engage in large public demonstrations. The few actions that do happen are usually the efforts of a very small percentage of the population. I’d guess that less than 1% of the US population has ever attended a climate related protest.
    • I’d guess that only a small percentage make much of an effort at lifestyle change, no way to measure this. Based on my observations of family members, well, it’s bleak. It’s fair to say that with only one exception my extended family have made zero effort in terms of life style changes.

    As I cast around looking for any evidence to be hopeful that my fellow citizens are taking any action or willing to begin taking actions I see no evidence that it will happen. The media has certainly increased it’s coverage of the increasing frequency of intense, climate induced disasters. In fact, the headlines are almost impossible to ignore now. But that increase in coverage has had no measurable impact on the behaviors of those I see around me.

    I get the sense that there is this collective delusion, a coping mechanism that is not quite working. A daily denial that allows for people to get up and function in a pretend normal. And yet, sometimes it feels like we are in a collective panic, a kind of slow motion stampede that goes nowhere as there is no obvious exit.

    We see the converging crises, we see the fraying edges and the coming apart. We’re in the long emergency that will have no end.

    I just had one of my favorite meals. Relatively climate friendly, simple, healthy, easy, quick to make, low cost, vegetarian/vegan:

    • Baked potato using microwave
    • Microwave 1/2 cup of refried beans with taco seasonings and enchilada sauce or salsa mixed in to make it into a kind of thick sauce
    • Pour the refried beans over the potato and mash it up a bit
    • Optional: cheese, browned/fried or raw onions, bell peppers, or other veggies

    Due to intense heat and drought in Mexico howler monkeys are falling dead from trees - ABC News

    “They were falling out of the trees like apples,” Pozo said. “They were in a state of severe dehydration, and they died within a matter of minutes.”

    Pozo attributes the deaths to a “synergy” of factors, including high heat, drought, forest fires and logging that deprives the monkeys of water, shade and the fruit they eat…

    The World Is Ignoring the Other Deadly Kind of Carbon | WIRED

    Once again, vast expanses of Canadian wilderness are on fire, threatening towns and forcing thousands to flee. It appears to be a breakout of “zombie fires”: wildfires from last year that never actually went out completely but carried on smoldering underground, reigniting ground vegetation again this year. They’ve been pouring smoke—once again—into northern cities in the United States.

    ZNet reports on the extreme heat wave covering some of the most densely populated regions of the world.. Wide areas of south and Southeast Asia, from Pakistan to the Philippines, have experienced prolonged extreme heat affecting everything from human health to the economy and education.

    Many pupils in India, Bangladesh, and Philippines have been told to stay at home for days due to a severe health risk from extreme heat, while the heatwaves are becoming a major issue in India’s election. Bangladesh even closed all primary schools for weeks while the temperature reached 43.8°C on April 30.

    Microsoft’s Emissions Spike 29% as AI Gobbles Up Resources | PCMag

    What good is AI if you don’t have a planet to use it on?

    Microsoft released its 2024 Sustainability Report on Wednesday, and it’s mostly bad news. Last year, Microsoft’s emissions went up 29%, and it used 23% more water, primarily due to “new technologies, including generative AI.”

    …It’s now full steam ahead on selling the Copilot AI assistant add-on for Microsoft 365 products while building a new AI model that consumes tons of electricity during the training phase alone.

    The Guardian sent a survey to 843 of the world’s top climate scientists, these were lead authors and review editors of the IPCC reports since 2018. 380 replied. They don’t sleep at night and they are scared.

    Hundreds of climate experts expect global temperatures to rise to at least 2.5C (4.5F) above preindustrial levels by 2100…

    Reading the responses, he could feel this “overwhelming feeling of frustration and despair and unhappiness at being ignored for so many years, and the difficulty they’re having of living with this information”.

    Middle class Americans don’t care much about the future inhabitability of the planet but they love their homes and possessions, this may get their attention. Yes, the climate emergency is coming for you too.

    The New York Times on the collapse of the US home insurance system:

    Across the United States, more frequent extreme weather is starting to cause the home insurance market to buckle, even for those who have paid their premiums dutifully year after year.

    Christopher Flavelle, a climate reporter, discusses a Times investigation into one of the most consequential effects of the changes.

    Canada continues to burn

    Canada wildfire: Thousands evacuate in British Columbia, winds push smoke into Alberta | AP News

    The blaze, which started Friday, almost doubled in size the following day, reaching about 17 square kilometers (4,200 acres). BC Wildfire Service maps showed the fire burning just a few kilometers (miles) west of Fort Nelson’s city limits.

    In 2023, Canada witnessed a record number of wildfires that also caused choking smoke in parts of the U.S. and forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate across British Columbia.

    World’s top climate scientists expect global heating to blast past 1.5C target | The Guardian

    Hundreds of the world’s leading climate scientists expect global temperatures to rise to at least 2.5C (4.5F) above preindustrial levels this century, blasting past internationally agreed targets and causing catastrophic consequences for humanity and the planet, an exclusive Guardian survey has revealed.

    Almost 80% of the respondents, all from the authoritative Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), foresee at least 2.5C of global heating, while almost half anticipate at least 3C (5.4F). Only 6% thought the internationally agreed 1.5C (2.7F) limit would be met.

    Many of the scientists envisage a “semi-dystopian” future, with famines, conflicts and mass migration, driven by heatwaves, wildfires, floods and storms of an intensity and frequency far beyond those that have already struck.

    Numerous experts said they had been left feeling hopeless, infuriated and scared by the failure of governments to act despite the clear scientific evidence provided.

    “I think we are headed for major societal disruption within the next five years,” said Gretta Pecl, at the University of Tasmania. “ Authorities will be overwhelmed by extreme event after extreme event, food production will be disrupted. I could not feel greater despair over the future.”

    Not surprising. We continue to move in the wrong direction.

    Record-breaking increase in CO2 levels in world’s atmosphere | The Guardian

    The largest ever recorded leap in the amount of carbon dioxide laden in the world’s atmosphere has just occurred, according to researchers who monitor the relentless accumulation of the primary gas that is heating the planet.

    The global average concentration of carbon dioxide in March this year was 4.7 parts per million (or ppm) higher than it it was in March last year, which is a record-breaking increase in CO2 levels over a 12-month period.

    The US is propping up gas while the world moves to renewable energy - The Verge

    “The decline of power sector emissions is now inevitable. 2023 was likely the pivot point – a major turning point in the history of energy. But the pace … depends on how fast the renewables revolution continues.”

    It’s a transition that could be happening much faster if not for the US, which is already the world’s biggest gas producer, using record amounts of gas last year. Without the US, Ember finds, electricity generation from gas would have fallen globally in 2023.

    The wealthy 10% of the over-developed nations are wondering where they’ll fly to for their next vacation.

    Brazil battles nature as ‘largest ever’ floods submerge whole cities - YouTube

    At least 83 people are dead after days of heavy rain in southern Brazil and more than a hundred are missing.

    Another 122 thousand people have been displaced by floods, which have destroyed roads and bridges in several cities, triggered landslides and caused a dam to partially collapse.

    Vox has an excellent story on annual global food waste. The climate specific stats are eye watering. 8 to 10% of carbon emissions are related to food waste and if it were a country, it would be 3rd in emissions, behind only the US and China.

    Such waste takes a significant toll on the environment. The process of producing food — the raising of animals, the land and water use, and the subsequent pollution that goes with it — is horribly intensive on the planet. Food waste squanders those efforts, and then makes it worse: as it rots in landfills, it creates methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.

    Mass die-offs and constant crisis will define the brutality of our future as we attempt and fail to adapt to a completely destabilized climate.

    Mass fish die-off in Vietnam as heat wave roasts Southeast Asia

    Hundreds of thousands of fish have died in a reservoir in southern Vietnam’s Dong Nai province, with locals and media reports suggesting a brutal heat wave and the lake’s management are to blame.

    Like much of Southeast Asia—where schools have recently been forced to close early and electricity usage has surged—southern and central Vietnam have been scorched by devastating heat.

    And yet cities in the Southwest are still growing. The delusional thinking about the future is off the charts.

    Megadrought forces end to sugarcane farming in parched Texas borderland | The Guardian

    In February, the cooperative announced that it would close its 50-year-old sugarcane processing mill, the last remaining in the state, by the end of this spring. It didn’t even make it to the end of the season, with most workers employed until 29 April. Ongoing megadrought meant there wasn’t enough water to irrigate co-op members’ 34,000 acres of sugarcane, and that effectively puts an end to sugarcane farming in the south Texas borderlands.

    …Increasingly dry farms find themselves vying with other farms, cities, industries and mining operations for dwindling resources. In 2022, drought decimated Texas cotton and forced California growers to idle half their rice fields. Water disputes are also on the rise as decreased flows in the Colorado River and other vital waterways pit state against state, states against native nations and farmers against municipalities.

    And it will get much, much worse. We are in the earliest days food systems disruption.

    Rest assured, we’ll continue to do nothing to solve the problem.

    Worst wine harvest in 62 years blamed on ‘extreme’ weather and climate change | Euronews

    The International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) says the drink hit its lowest level since 1962. This intergovernmental organisation has 50 member states, representing 75 per cent of the world’s vineyard area.

    Experts blame “extreme environmental conditions” including droughts and fires that have been driving the downward trend in production.

    I first watched Koyaanisqatsi sometime around 1990 and I was left speechless. I cried while I watched it and after.

    Without words it tells the story of modern industrial human societies, particularly those of the Global North. A story of alienation, cruelty and destruction that was well underway at the time it was filmed and which we’ve seen continue at increased pace in the 40 years since. And, in 2024, it would seem that it is a story we will not deviate from.

    Five translations of the Hopi word koyaanisqatsi:

    “crazy life"“life in turmoil"“life out of balance"“life disintegrating"“a state of life that calls for another way of living”

    In the years since I’ve watched it again several times as a kind of ongoing acknowledgement meditation. We are racing into oblivion.

    According to the director:

    “These films have never been about the effect of technology, of industry on people. It’s been that everyone: politics, education, things of the financial structure, the nation state structure, language, the culture, religion, all of that exists within the host of technology. So it’s not the effect of, it’s that everything exists within [technology]. It’s not that we use technology, we live technology. Technology has become as ubiquitous as the air we breathe …”

    The trailer.

    ‘Children won’t be able to survive’: inter-American court to hear from climate victims | The Guardian

    The inquiry was instigated by Colombia and Chile, which together asked the court to set out what legal responsibilities states have to tackle climate change and to stop it breaching people’s human rights.

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