Footprints

FOOTPRINTS

 Newsletter #10 - May 2007 for the Crisis Coalition at 
www.planetextinction.com

IT MUST BE NOW
WE DONT HAVE TIME TO BICKER

In this issue:-

. Climate Change and national security
. We are not alone!
. Chaotic weather
. First tipping point
. The failure of government.
Footprints

Comparison of US and Australian ecological footprints with African. Every Australian puts 26.5 tons of CO2-e into the atmosphere every year, every American puts 23.6 tons and most Africans a lot less than 1 ton each.

FOOTPRINTS Newsletter #10 - For earlier ones see the archive.

The Crisis Coalition aims to raise awareness and to galvanise action.
The latest information is assembled in this report:

Proof of Climate Change

In this fully referenced summary of the state of the planet we show that dangerous levels of global warming at 2 degrees celsius cannot now be avoided. The life-style changes needed internationally to avoid this are so wide-reaching that immediate and effective and action is unlikely.

The report contains references to all the major sources we have used
for the information in these newsletters and on our site.
CLICK HERE.

We have presented a similar report Climate Change and National Security to both state and Federal governments. Our recommendation is that we have to now prepare for the inevitable by involving every citizen and every stakeholder so everybody will understand how they will each be affected at 2°C and what they can do individually. What does 2°C mean?

When everybody faces their personal truth, this will build a grass-roots movement that will overwhelm political and industrial opposition.

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
Franklin Roosevelt

Kindly send this newsletter to your friends and encourage them to read the material on our site and join our mailing list.

We are not alone!

Paul Hawken's research reveals there are more than three hundred thousand environmental organizations strung around the globe. Such scale and scope is unprecedented among popular social movements.

By conventional definition, this is not a movement. Movements have leaders and ideologies. You join movements, study tracts, and identify yourself with the group. Movements have followers, but this one doesn’t work that way. It is dispersed, disorganised and fiercely independent. There is no manifesto or doctrine, no authority to check with. We are just one in this giant cauldron.

As of this moment we have no name. Just as the degradation of our planet has no precedent, neither has the popular response. It has no centre, no leader.

Being in the midst of it, it feels like an organic, collective reaction to the greatest threat humanity has ever faced. How it functions is mysterious. It has purpose but no program, possibly because everybody feels the pain and is seeking answers without really knowing which way to go. The barriers against us are massive, and there is an underground swell of resentment against the older organisations like the Greens because .... well, just because!

Ours is the largest social movement in history. No one knows its scope. 92% of Australians (and less than 50% Americans) support its general message. Globally, tens of millions are passionate to confront despair and incalculable odds to restore some semblance of grace, justice, and beauty to this world.

Now that we are so many, under so many banners, it will soon be time to come together under one flag that will force government to look after the world we love rather than looking after the profits and comforts of a few.

One man's death is a tragedy, the death of a million a statistic
Joseph Stalin

Looks like the first tipping point has arrived

There has been a surge in CO2 levels in four of the past five years. The amount is greater than it would have been from human emissions on their own. A team at Bristol University has reported in the Geophysical Research Letters that trees, plants and soils are not absorbing as much CO2 as in the past.

Vegetation usually absorbs about half our emissions. It is now losing its ability to do so. Our Earth is no longer a sink. All that we have been warning about the futility of carbon exchange schemes is now coming true.

Worse, the report states “We find that the remarkable feature of the 2002-03 anomaly seems to be that climate fluctuations occurring across all latitudes acted together to create an unusually strong out-gassing of CO2 of the terrestrial biosphere.”

In other words, trees and plants are now becoming a source of CO2. We are now in the most dangerous zone of feedback, the tipping points that, once triggered, cannot be stopped.

And the band is still playing on the Titanic!

Chaotic weather is with us NOW

This year Europe had no winter and Americans froze. Australians are in the midst of one of the hottest autumns and we look like repeating the European situation. In a mountain area where frosts arrive usually by first of April, we have not yet had one and today the temperature is 10 degrees above normal.

The Murray-Darling basin in south-eastern Australia usually provides 40% of our agricultural produce. Water in these two rivers is now so low there will soon be only enough for drinking. The drought has been getting dryer for six years, and is the worst on record. Both state and federal governments are threatening to impose draconian regulations over local authorities to prevent the closure of water-consuming industries.

In addition, the government warned that unless there is significant rainfall in the next six weeks, irrigation for agriculture will be banned. Our mainstay crops (e.g. rice, cotton and wine grapes) will fail, citrus, stone fruit and almond trees will wither, and livestock will die.

Australia is normally a food exporting nation, feeding some 100 million people around the world. This ban on irrigation along with the devastation of the wheat crop, is likely to make us more reliant on imported food.

The IPCC warns there will be a fifth more droughts within a couple of decades, and warned that the river flow will get even worse in future.

For those of you in the US, here is a map of the heat rise in various states that has occurred mainly over the last 30 years. This is not a good trend, especially in the mountains that are the source of major rivers, and the grain-producing areas of the central states. This trend began in 1976 just when the emissions rate per annum began to increase.

The city of Orange in western NSW has become one of our first climate canaries. The town water supply has shrink to less then 50% with the drought. The nearby Cadia Valley gold and copper mine is threatening to shut down unless it can start taking a large amount of that water. There is no easy choice as the mine contributes significantly to local prosperity.

A local Councillor said "It's either the community or the economy. Either way we're facing a disaster. We either shut down the cash cow or we run out of water." .... Ask yourselves: will your city be next?

Only our concerted action to compel our leaders
to look after us, the people, rather than the profits
and unrealistic consumerist lifestyle of a few, will stop the
relentless rush to over-heat our beautiful planet .....

The Failure of Government

The last six months has show us all a grim picture of international disorder, with the conflicts in Lebanon and Gaza; the continued slaughter in Iraq; the deteriorating situations in Afghanistan and - yet again - in Darfur; the recurrence of major violence in Sri Lanka; continuing anxiety about Iran’s nuclear intentions; a new outbreak of tension in the Korean peninsula with Pyongyang’s missile tests; no sign of any meaningful commitment to an effective international climate change regime; the ever-widening cracks in the nuclear non-proliferation treaty regime; no willingness to act against the hugely destructive small arms trade; minimal progress on the devastating global narcotics trade - and one has about as bleak a picture as it’s possible to paint.

On the positive side, there has been a dramatic decrease in the number of serious conflicts and mass killings (around 80% in each case), and an even more striking decrease in the number of battle deaths and an visible increase in the number of conflicts peacefully resolved. Mainly due to the huge increase in the level of international preventive diplomacy, diplomatic peacemaking, peacekeeping and peacebuilding operations, for the most part authorised by and mounted by the United Nations.[a] (See references on the right.)

It is possible for the world to act against climate change as they have against conflict. Yet the current record of governments is pretty abysmal and their promises and statements full of untruths.

For example, 2°C is widely recognised as the uppermost safe limit to warming by the EU[b] and the UN.[c] It is widely understood from computer modelling that when greenhouse gases reach 550 ppm CO2-e, there is a 82% likelihood that global warming will exceed 2°C. Only if concentrations are stabilised at 400 ppm or below is there any likelihood of holding it below 2°C.[d]

How has this impacted on the UK government that is one of the most committed to reducing emissions? They set a target of “550 parts per million”. But this is 550 ppm of CO2 alone. When you include the other greenhouse gases, this translates into 630 to 660 ppm CO2-e. This commits the UK to a very dangerous level of climate change.

The reference to "550 ppm CO2" is a cover-up, for the UK government has been aware that this is an untenable figure for at least four years. In 2003 the environment department found that “with an atmospheric CO2 stabilisation of 550 ppm, temperatures are expected to rise by between 2°C and 5°C”.[e] In March last year it admitted that “a limit closer to 450 ppm or even lower, might be more appropriate to meet a 2°C stabilisation limit”.[f]

In spite of these warnings the target has not changed in four years. The EU is also aware it is using the wrong figures, and in 2005 found that “to have a reasonable chance to limit global warming to no more than 2°C, stabilisation well below 550 ppm CO2-e may be needed.”[g]

In summary, governments are not heeding the advice of the scientists who have been given the job of determining the truth.

EVERYTHING IS TELLING US THAT WE MUST ACT IMMEDIATELY
WE CANNOT DELAY - NOT EVEN A DAY.

IT IS MOST DEFNITELY UP TO US!

This is what you can do personally.

Kindly send this newsletter to your friends and encourage them to read the material on our site and join our mailing list.

We can transform our life on this planet and maintain
our lifestyles

We can do both

- BUT ONLY IF WE START NOW -

What is a Footprint?

Definitions:
CO2 is carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas after water vapour.
CO2-e is the equivalent in CO2 of all greenhouse gasses.
Bts is billion tonnes metric.
ppm counts molecules per million.
IPCC is the UN International Panel on Climate Change.


Global food loss and rising population:
Over the past 20 years rising temperatures have caused a loss in the production of wheat, rice, corn and barley of some 40 Mts/a, equivalent to about over $6 billion.

Although these numbers are not large compared to the world-wide production of cereal crops, the Environmental Research Letters warned that this shows how climate change was already having an impact on the global production of staple foods. We need to realise that this is happening now, and not in the future.

These crops supply more than 40% of global crop-foods and 70% of animal feed. The study revealed there is a simple relationship between crop yields and temperature: Yields fall between 3 and 5% for every 0.5C increase in average global temperatures.

This downward trend should be set against that of increasing population. The world now has 6.6 billion and is set to rise to more than 9 billion within 40 years. Hunger and related causes are already causing 25,000 deaths a day around the world.

In the future the starvation rate must increase as the gap widens between rising population and declining food production.

The recent IPCC report (that is conservative) states that crop productivity in India and S-E Asia is likely to fall markedly just as population grows. The report warns that measures must be taken now to prepare for altered monsoons, dryer rivers, salinated acquivers and increase in pests.

According to the Haryana Agricultural University, wheat productivity in the state has declined about 4% between 2001 and 2004, while top temperature during Feb March has risen by about 3°C in the past 7 years. This one state supplies 13% of India's wheat.

Conversion in the right place! Rupert Murdoch has announced his worldwide media empire intends to cut its greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2010. The company produces 640,000 tons of CO2/a. He sees that the risks "pose clear, catastrophic threats. We may not agree on the extent, but we certainly can't afford the risk of inaction."

The company will install energy efficient light bulbs, buy energy from renewable sources and get hybrid cars. The emissions it cannot avoid will be offset in projects such as wind power in India.

This will affect his newspapers: "We want to inspire people to change". If his readers reduce their personal emissions by just 1% this would equal all California's emissions for almost two months.

Climate-driven conflicts are happening now: The Darfur crisis is a struggle between nomadic and pastoral communities for water and grazing that are becoming scarce from drought. Many have lost the cattle that are both their food and their capital, and these independent people are being forced into the camps.

In Ghana Fulani herdsmen are arming themselves against farmers over water resources as climate change pushes the Sahara Desert southwards.

The Middle East, with 5% of the world's population but only 1% of its water, will be badly affected as rain drops further, especially Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq. Tension in this region will reduce our oil supplies.

We are fortunate that none of the islands that have already sunk had standing armies.

It is worth reading the latest Christian Aid research stating that a billion or more refugees will be dependent on food and supplies from the rest of us within a few decades. They will be in every country, as we are all being affected by the degradation of agriculture from climate change.

They list the countries where there are now 155 million people forced out of their homes. Where will they go? Will your country invite them in or keep them out?

Prescience, 1875: In that year this was reported in the Pastoral Times, "Not withstanding that labour is dear and scarce, squatters in the Riverina [Murray-Darling area in se NSW] are trying to improve their properties by ringbarking. Mr Brown of 'Tuppal' is about to ringbark 17,000 acres; it is to be hoped that in this wholesale destruction of our forests the climate will not be made dryer by diminishing the rainfall".

English coast is falling into the North Sea: 17 metre strips of East Anglia are tumbling away at an accelerating rate. Though government may call it "managed retreat", the farmers who live here are not only more canaries, but without land will be climate refugees.

Managed retreat means that many scientists and politicians have decided that it is no longer viable to defend the land. Under this policy farms, nature preserves and villages will be surrendered to the sea. But who should compensate them for the land they have lost?

What is hard in England becomes catastrophic elsewhere: Indonesia predicts that 2,000 of the country’s islands could be swallowed by the seas in 30 years and little can be done to defend them.

Is this a realistic demographic cost of global warming?
Total 2007 greenhouse emissions = 46 Bts CO2-e/a (Stern). Total 2007 world population = 6.6 billion people (estimate). Average 2007 per capita emissions = 7 tonnes CO2-e/a. The range is 26.5 tonnes for each Australian to less than 1 tonne in the poorer countries. If half the world produced Australia’s per capita emissions the total would be 82 Bts CO2-e/a.

This level of emission is truly unsustainable, yet it is where everyone is heading.

Many propose we reduce emissions to 60% of 1990 levels by 2050 to stabilise the climate. Emissions were then at 38 Bts CO2-e/a (Stern). This proposal would bring a reduction to 15 Bts CO2-e/a. But as the world population is forecast to be 9 billion by then, this computes to an average emissions target of 1.7 tonnes CO2-e/a per person.

For Australia this would mean a fifteen-fold reduction - that would be impossible without a revolution, though a six- or seven- fold reduction may be politically and socially feasible if people realise the situation.
 
An alternative question might be: how many people could the world sustain at our lifestyle: Taking our emissions (26.5 tonnes pp/pa) divided into this global emissions target of
38 Bts = 1.4 billion people. It is equally impossible to think that nine billion people would willingly allow 5 in every 6 to die.

Since both scenarios for higher world living standards and higher population have impossible outcomes, and as there are few credible or ethical compromises, we should conclude that the most likely outcomes will be disastrous.

References to adjacent article: [a] Gareth Evans, "A rule-based international order", Crisis Group Sept 2006.
[b] Council of the European Union, 11th March 2005. Information note 7242/05. [c]Rijsberman and Swart (Eds), Targets and indicators of climate change, 1990, Stockholm Environment Institute.
[d] Meinshausen, “What Does a 2°C Target Mean for GH Gas Concentrations?” in Hans Schellnhuber, Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change, 2006, Camb.
[d] IPCC, Mitigation of Climate Change. Unpublished draft report, 2007, version 3.0, Table SPM 1.
and Stern, The Economics of Climate Change, October 2006, HM Treasury, Part 3, p194.
[e] DEFRA, The Scientific Case for Setting a Long-Term Emission Reduction Target, 2003
[f] HM Government, Climate Change: The UK Programme 2006,
[g] Council of the E U, ibid.

 

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