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Green Planet

The Danger of Climate Change Evangelism

Prof. Murray Hunter

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We have been conditioned with the belief that human activities are increasing the incidence of CO2 and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which is the prime cause behind global warming and climate change. We are also led to believe that science is predicting that the consequences of this will be catastrophic to the earth and threaten our very existence.

Most of what we read within the mainstream media today, and from the politicians, has the above assumptions subliminally embedded within the various narratives. Government policy towards carbon emissions and renewable energies reflects these beliefs, as hard caste scientific and moral truths.

The public are continually told that the vast majority of the world’s “scientists” are in general agreement about man-made global warming being the cause of climate change, and the potential damage it will do to the earth. However, the reality is that there may actually not be more than a couple of hundred people in the world who really understand the science of climate change, and are experienced and qualified enough to make a valid scientific opinion.

The public are confused more when evangelists from both sides of the debate put their views forward using statistics, information, and arguments that are convincing. Many of these stalwarts on both sides make a professional living through the speakers’ circuits, turning the global warming and climate change debate into an entertainment spectacle. What makes this even more sinister, is the vested interests some of these parties represent.

Climate change models are built upon limited sets of assumptions which make them far too simplistic for the task of making accurate predictions about global warming. There is no generally agreed theory that explains global warming and climate change in existence today.

No model can predict changes in temperature, and layout climate change scenarios with any degree of accuracy. However the earth has warmed up much less than what most global warming models had predicted.

The opinion of Nobel Prize winner James Lovelock, the creator of the GAIA hypothesis, reflects the above. He was quoted as saying…..”The problem is that we don’t know what the climate is doing. We thought we knew 20 years ago. That led to some alarmist books – mine included- because it looked clear-cut, but it hasn’t happened.”

Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring also predicted that all the birds would be killed through the use of DDT during the 1950s and 60s – a prophecy that never happened.

Alarmism clouds scientific judgement and this is very much the case in the global warming and climate change debate.

Global warming and climate change cannot be considered a ‘settled science’, as it is portrayed today. The truths about the matter are still yet to be understood.

First it must be understood that global warming and climate change are not interchangeable terms. Global warming concerns the rise in average temperatures across the globe. Is this really occurring? And, how much is humanity actually responsible for this phenomenon?

These are very interesting scientific questions where there is a diverse range of scientific opinions today. We still require answers to tackle the second part of the equation, climate change.

We know that climate change is occurring on a continuous basis. We also know that climate change also changes habitats. How we tackle climate change, if in sense of the word, we can do nothing but adapt to climate change, depends upon answering questions about global warming.

However, climate change is not just an earthly phenomenon, it is an interplanetary one. Climate change may have more to do with solar energy, than with man-made CO2 emissions. This is only an observation, but if this observation has some validity, then the whole ‘science of climate change’ is about to enter a new paradigm of explanation in the next few years by the scientific community, just as quantum replaced Newtonian physics concepts just on a century ago.

The evolution of science is not being factored into the global warming debate, and this is the biggest mistake being made at the moment by global warming proponents.

If humankind is not influencing global warming through greenhouse gas emissions, then the real issues at hand are completely different. The issue is not about abating global warming, but more about the changing habitats and environment humankind faces in the future.

The destruction of the forests, animal species left to go extinct, the creation and growth of unsustainable cities, water management and the pollution of the earth’s oceans, and the application of non-renewable energies, and not to forget poverty, migration, and population growth, are the real issues that must be engaged by humanity. Humankind must learn how to adapt to a continually changing environment. This means both natural and human induced changes. This is where the real crises exist.

Climate change will destroy some societies on one hand, but nurture others on the other hand.

We have to learn to understand how the earth is a cradle for humankind. And then importantly, how we must exist within this cradle, in a coexisting manner.

Charles Darwin’s message was not about survival of the fittest, but one of co-existence. Darwin’s hinted the solution in the concluding paragraph of his The Origin of Species where he said…”It is interesting, a tangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborate forms, so different from each other, and dependent upon each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us.”

Carbon emission controls and other political solutions will not solve any of our real problems.

We don’t really understand the science of climate change, and can’t even say for certain whether the world is going through a period of global warming, due to the multitude of factors and influences involved.

Over the last decade or so, the influence of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) on global temperatures is just coming to light. The PDO is a cycle of different sea circulation patterns that changes over a 30 year period. A number of scientists believe that this PDO phenomenon is vital to our understanding of global warming and climate change, although we are still in our early years of understanding how the phenomenon really works. According to Dr Roy Spencer, the PDO phenomenon can be used to explain Artic ice melting over the last 30 years. The PDO phenomenon can also explain why Antarctic ice is actually increasing.

Some scientists are even claiming the world is heading into another ice age right at this moment.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) only exists within the earth’s atmosphere in trace amounts, at around 380ppm. It is an important nutrient for flora, a building block for all life on earth. CO2 being an invisible gas will not hold onto and trap heat within the earth’s atmosphere. Water vapour is the most important greenhouse gas, which primarily evaporates from the oceans and is responsible for both reflecting and trapping heat within the atmosphere.

Carbon dioxide is not a poisonous gas, and higher concentrations are actually beneficial to plant life on this planet.

The global warming issue is full of opinions, as we don’t know the facts today.

We also live in the fallacy that humankind has the power to fix any global warming problem. This is in the light of the success the world had in limiting chlorofluorocarbons in refrigerants and aerosols, in eliminating the hole in the ozone layer back in the 1980s. This belief that we as humans can control the environment is arrogance in the extreme.

The proponents of global warming would have the world belief that it controls its own destiny in terms of being able to control the environment. Is this living in true reality?

When we connect morality with truth, inquisitions, purges, and clampdowns on the unbelievers usually occur. This is where the global warming evangelists can take us, back to the ‘dark ages’ of science and understanding, to where the earth was once flat.

Perhaps the last words of this article should be left to the Canadian limnologist David Schindler, who said “To a patient scientist, the unfolding greenhouse mystery is far more exciting than the plot of the best mystery novel. But it is slow reading, with new clues sometimes not appearing for several years. Impatience increases when one realizes that it is not the fate of some fictional character, but of our planet and species, which hangs in the balance as the great carbon mystery unfolds at a seemingly glacial pace.”

Innovator and entrepreneur. Notable author, thinker and prof. Hat Yai University, Thailand Contact: murrayhunter58(at)gmail.com

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Green Planet

Reducing Carbon Emissions, Let Soil and Trees Do the Dirty Work

MD Staff

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By now, most of us are familiar with the role forests play in absorbing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that are accelerating climate change around the world. But forests are just one part of a broader landscape that often includes water resources and farming that can also play an important role in climate change mitigation.

Climate-smart approaches to reducing emissions from forestry, agriculture and energy, among other sectors, have the greatest potential to improve sustainable livelihoods while limiting the impacts of climate change. The challenge, however, is how to systematically measure emission reductions across a landscape, in order to unlock results-based payments. And how can this be done in a straightforward way?

That’s where the BioCarbon Fund’s Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes (ISFL) comes in. In addition to the country programs it supports, the Initiative has pioneered a way to report and account for emission reductions across a diverse landscape. ISFL’s Emission Reductions Program Requirements show countries what they must have in place to receive payments from the ISFL for emission reductions generated by a range of sustainable activities across a landscape. The requirements are part of the BioCarbon Fund’s broader support to countries rewarding them for smarter land use planning, policies and practices.

In recent years, tropical forest countries have significantly improved their reporting and accounting methods for measuring emission reductions in the forestry sector, but many countries find it difficult to accurately report emissions data in other sectors. To respond to this challenge, ISFL built into its requirements a phased approach to emission reductions accounting. This approach allows a country to begin accounting, and receiving payments, for emission reductions from a limited set of land use categories that meet ISFL requirements. Countries can then add data from other sectors into their ISFL accounting, and receive payments for emission reductions from these sectors, as they become available.

These ISFL requirements are a significant new tool not only for countries, but also for the broader climate change community, as they will help test approaches to comprehensive landscape emissions reporting and accounting that could be expected of future emission reductions programs. It is hoped they will form the basis for countries to pilot innovative approaches to emissions accounting at the landscape level, and foster programs that change the trajectory of land use across jurisdictions over the long term. More than 100 countries included forests and land use in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), which spell out how they commit to reducing their emissions.

World Bank

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Green Planet

Building a Climate-Resilient South Asia

MD Staff

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Ms. Aisha Khan, Executive Director for Civil Society Coalition for Climate Change (CSCCC) and CEO of Mountain and Glacier Organization (MGPO) in Pakistan, Mr. Anand Patwardhan, Professor of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, USA, Ms. Idah Pswarayi-Riddihough, Country Director for Sri Lanka and the Maldives in the South Asia Region, World Bank Group

Last summer’s monsoon hit South Asia particularly hard and left nearly 1,400 people dead and displaced millions of others.

In the last sixty years, such weather extremes have become more common in the subcontinent and, without urgent action to limit carbon emissions, their impact on communities will likely get worse.

In addition to these extremes, average weather patterns are also changing with each year turning out to be warmer than the previous year and monsoon rainfall patterns are getting more and more erratic.

Eight hundred million South Asians to be exact – or half the region’s population—are at risk to see their standards of living and incomes decline as rising temperatures and more erratic rainfalls will cut down crop yields, make water more scare, and push more people away from their homes to seek safer places.

This worst-case scenario and relevant adaptation strategies underpin the upcoming report South Asia’s Hotspots, whose main findings were presented yesterday at a panel on building climate change resilience in South Asia at the World Bank Spring Meetings.

Its main author, World Bank Lead Economist Muthukumara Mani detailed how specific geographic areas across South Asia or “hotspots” which –until now—were relatively immune to climate change threats could be badly affected by 2050.

Most hotspots, Mani remarked, are located inland, already poor, have fewer roads and are isolated from main economic centers. And with many residents subsisting on farming, higher incidences of droughts or floods combined with extreme heat could further drive down their fragile wellbeing and force more people into poverty.

And while other manifestations of climate change such as sea level rise or natural disasters and their impact on economies have been well documented, less is known of the long-term effects of higher temperatures and unpredictable rainfalls on local communities.

It’s urgent to develop this understanding as most countries in South Asia have already passed their optimal temperature tipping points, beyond which standards of living and consumption are only expected to drop irreversibly.

To build resilience, the report recommends that South Asian countries better prioritize their financial resources where they’re most needed and target the most vulnerable individuals and families.

Mani noted that diversifying jobs beyond agriculture, investing in education and skills, and improving access to electricity can ease the expected decline in living standards caused by long-term climate impacts. Such actions, he argued, must be tailored to address the specific climate impacts and local conditions found in South Asia’s hotspots.

In the end, the cost of inaction—that is, if carbon emissions continue unabated—could be huge as countries with severe hotspots, Mani concluded, would see income in these areas drop by 14.4 percent in Bangladesh, 9.8 percent in India, and 10 percent in Sri Lanka by 2050.

Following the presentation, government, civil society, and academia elaborated on concrete climate actions and adaptation strategies to build a more resilient South Asia.

The panel included Ms. Mahmuda Begum, additional Secretary in World Bank Wing at Economic Relations Division at the Bangladesh’s Ministry of Finance, Ms. Aisha Khan, Executive Director for Civil Society Coalition for Climate Change (CSCCC) and CEO of Mountain and Glacier Organization (MGPO) in Pakistan, Mr. Anand Patwardhan,  Professor of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, USA, and Ms. Jaime Madrigano associate policy researcher at the RAND Corporation, USA. Ms. Idah Pswarayi-Riddihough, Country Director for Sri Lanka and the Maldives in the South Asia Region, World Bank Group moderated the discussion.

Noting that Pakistan’s soaring population coupled with shrinking arable lands present a challenge to the country’s environment sustainability and food security, Aisha Khan emphasized that building climate resilience should go hand in hand with better –that is, more open and inclusive—governance. Involving civil society, including women-run organizations, will bring greater accountability to climate change policies that will later impact the entire population. And that sense of co-ownership and shared responsibility, Khan added, is critical to civil society.

Such collaborations are key to building strategic climate resilience and, to be successful in the long term, should extend to partnership between countries. Water presents such an opportunity. “We in South Asia are the third pole…with the densest glaciers outside polar regions in the world,” she said. “Water being a common problem for all of us, we need to do more work together.”

When it was his turn to speak, Anand Patwardhan noted that the conversation about climate resilience would have to go beyond risks and be reframed around opportunities to further advance the development agenda. In India, large national programs such as Smart Cities or Swachh Bharat projects are two examples of how climate action can help achieve greater development outcomes. In South Asia, Patwardhan later remarked, a lot of infrastructure still needs to be put into place. There lies an opportunity to invest in natural infrastructure [that benefits both the economy and the environment] and ecosystem adaptation to advance resilience across the region.

World Bank

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Green Planet

New Satellite Animations of Earth Show How Quickly Humans Are Changing the Planet

MD Staff

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A new website that combines dramatic images from space with expert analysis of how humans are changing the planet will launch on World Earth Day (22 April).

EarthTime ties together diverse data layers to show the patterns and connections behind some of the major social and political trends of the past two decades – and how they are inscribed into fast-changing landscapes.

The platform has already been used in public outreach in schools and museums, and to inform world leaders at World Economic Forum events of major environmental and geoeconomic shifts, from air pollution to inequality. It uses images captured by NASA satellites since 1984.

The vision, and long-term goal, is to better inform everyone – including individuals, business heads and policy-makers – about the lives we lead, the decisions we make and the impact we have on the planet.

Nine expert analyses on global challenges will be launched on World Earth Day (22 April): deforestation, city growth, coral bleaching, fires at night, glaciers, renewables, sea-level rise, surface-water gain and loss and urban fragility. Other layers will be added in the months and years ahead. You can see them at www.earthtime.org.

EarthTime was developed by CREATE Lab (the Community Robotics, Education and Technology Empowerment Lab) at Carnegie Mellon University, in partnership with the World Economic Forum. It draws on the Forum’s network of experts to give analyses and to tell stories. Users will soon be able to create their own stories.

EarthTime uses more than 300 free, open-source, geospatial datasets – an unprecedented number for visualizations of this kind. Expert opinions make sense of the data and the connections between them allowing a layering of narratives (e.g., how did rise in the global demand for meat trigger deforestation, a major contributor to climate change?). These stories are combined with images from space captured by NASA satellites between 1984 and 2016.

Current datasets come from the World Bank, the UNHCR, NASA, Berkeley Earth, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Climate Central, S&P Global, Kudelski, the International Renewable Energy Agency and WWF, to name a few. New data providers are being added constantly.

“EarthTime tries to build the common ground that we believe is essential to the discourse that we all must have as stewards of our planet and our joint future,” said Illah Nourbakhsh, Professor of Robotics, Carnegie Mellon University, and Director, CREATE Lab.

“The Earth is changing dramatically. No single discipline can make sense of all that is now happening and no citizen is free from the consequences of what we all do next. We all must be involved in understanding Earth’s changes and how we can work together to bring about our desired sustainable future into reality.”

Nourbakhsh also serves as a Global Future Council member at the World Economic Forum. His research focuses on human-robot collaboration.

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