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The ONLY Way that Global Warming MIGHT Be Able to Be Stopped

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There is only one way that might work — all others (as will be documented here) can’t even possibly work:

Outlaw the purchasing of any stock or bond — any investment securities — in fossil-fuel extraction companies, such as ExxonMobil and Peabody Coal: any such company at all.

For an example of what that would do, consider the opening of the article “Wall Street Is Quietly Trading For The Return Of Russia”, at the investment-news site Zero Hedge, on March 5th:

For holders of Russian equities, the past week has been nothing short of a surreal, modern-day version of Dante’s 10th circle of hell, where in the span of just a few days virtually all Russian stocks have seen their value wiped out as a result of a barrage of western sanctions that have disconnected Russian equities from global capital markets and money flows, nowhere more visibly than in the stock of Russian Novatek PJSC, Russia’s second-largest natural gas producer and the world’s seventh-largest publicly traded company by natural gas production volume, which collapsed from $215 on Feb 16, to 65 cents a few days later.

This is what happens when a new law (in that particular case, new economic sanctions against Russia) is instituted making impossible for investors in a particular company to legally sell their stocks and bonds in that company: the investment immediately plunges nearly to zero in market-value. The legal markets are the only markets for stocks and bonds. No ‘black market’ exists for any stock or bond, because 100% of the value of any stock or bond depends upon an investor’s ability to sell it to another investor: there exists no “use”-value for that “piece of paper,” other than the ability of other people to buy it from you. It’s not like buying-and-selling an outlawed narcotic, or a stolen artwork — things that DO have ACTUAL uses other than for them to become resold to another buyer. Investment securities have NO OTHER VALUE than their RESALE-value.

Fossile-fuels companies and the global warming that they’ve produced have been extremely profitable for billionaires, even though many of those people mouth and endorse policies (but only — as will be documented here — failed and failing ones) against global warming.

On March 22nd, OilPrice-dot-com bannered “Big Oil Is No Longer ‘Unbankable’”, and reported that because of the soaring prices for fossil-fuels that are resulting from Russia’s being threatened with sanctions which would punish companies that purchase those fossil-fuels, fossil-fuel-investments are soaring — as a result of the consequently plunging fossil-fuel supplies: “It’s an open secret within energy circles that the eventual death of oil and thermal coal won’t come from environmentalists or even directly from renewable energy, but rather when big banks decide to stop financing it, rendering it ‘unbankable’. And the U.S. oil and gas sector came dangerously close to meeting that fate after Wall Street banks started disavowing oil and gas lending at the height of the ESG (environmental, social, and governance) craze. … But the lure of those juicy oil and gas dollars amid an energy boom has been proving hard for Wall Street banks to resist, leading to many throwing their ESG pledges out of the window.” In other words: Investors are investing upon the basis of profit-expectations; that’s the way an investment-market works. The ONLY way to stop this train will be to place an impassable barrier into its immediate path. That’s precisely what outlawing purchases of stocks and bonds in fossil-fuel extractors would do. So: everybody already knows that this would do what NO currently proposed proposal by (the pretended) ‘environmentalists’ would do: crash the stock-and-bond markets of fossil-fuel extractors. Unfortunately, the ‘environmentalists’ are just another front (the liberal front) of the fossil-fuel extractors — doing their (owners’) business of deceiving liberal voters. (Their conservative front is groups which deny that global warming is happening, or that humans are causing it.)

The public, themselves, are actually strongly opposed to global warming, but they are very confused about the matter, largely because the policies that are advocated (by billionaire-fronts) and that have been tried against global warming, don’t work. Billionaires (and their many employees and other agents) hide from the public the only policy that actually would work. (That, too, will be documented here.) The root-source of global warming is the billionaires who profit from it — NOT actually the public who buy those products.

Indeed, the public’s opposition to global warming is clearly shown in an 8 February 2022 poll published by Politico, headlined “Poll: Citizens globally blast politicians’ lack of action to combat climate change”. It reports that globally, fewer than 20% answer No (including both straight-out “No” and “No, probably not”) to “Should fossil fuel companies be held responsible for the impacts their products have on the environment?” Depending on the individual country, from 61% to 90% answer Yes (including both “Yes definitely” and “Yes probably”) to that question — they strongly do want corporations to be held accountable for their impacts on the environment. (The lowest “Yes” are in both Japan and Germany 65%, and in U.S. 68%; the highest “Yes” is in Russia 90%.) 

Though they do strongly want “accountability,” they (as will be documented here) don’t know how it can be imposed in a way that will actually have any realistic possibility of reducing the problem. Furthermore, the controlling owners of the fossil-fuel corporations and governments actually don’t want the public to know what would be successful policies on this matter — the answer to that problem is actually hidden from the public. 

This combination, of ignorance by the public, and the ongoing profitability (to investors) of global warming, explains the failure, thus far, against global warming. It’s a failure that’s due both to billionaires and to their governments (the governments that they control). This is the reason why publics everywhere are disappointed at where the world is — and has been — headed on the global-warming issue. ONLY ineffectual policies against global warming are being put forward by their leaders.

Of course, the world’s approximately 3,000 billionaires control fossil fuel companies (or at least the largest ones). It’s reasonable to assume that virtually all of the top 100 fossil-fuel extraction companies are controlled either directly or indirectly by billionaires. These governments do their bidding — the bidding of the people who finance the careers of the successful politicians.

On 15 February 2022, CNBC headlined “Banks haven’t quit coal. Study says commercial lenders have channeled $1.5 trillion to the industry since 2019”. This is true though coal has been and still is the main driver of climate-change. That new investment in coal wouldn’t have happened if the buyers of those stocks and bonds had thought that they’d be unable to sell them in the future at even higher prices. (Especially if they couldn’t sell them at ANY price.) 

Global warming has been, and is, enormously profitable to the very richest people. The value of those investments must now turn to zero, and only such a law as is being described here can do that. On 22 February 2022, Reuters bannered “Up in flames: Gas flaring soars in Mexico, derailing its climate change pledges as it seeks to boost oil output”. That’s driven really by the billionaires, who control not only the corporations but their own governments, which ‘regulate’ those corporations.

In other words: the world’s few super-rich have profited enormously from the build-up, in the atmosphere, of the global-warming gases that have caused what might now be a runaway global warming. Though global warming is perhaps the biggest threat to the world’s future (maybe even more so than a WW III), it has immensely helped the super-rich become super-rich, and to grow their wealth while the rest of the global population have (in many countries) experienced only the downside of their degraded and increasingly rapidly heating environment.

Those fossil-fuels have thus been an immense engine of global wealth-inequality. Though the super-rich have experienced soaring wealth from their use, the general population has experienced spreading exploitation and misery, from it. If the end-result of this will be the end of our planet’s biosphere (as many scientists predict), then human civilization itself will have perpetrated this most massive of all crimes against not only its own future members (everyone’s children, grandchildren, etc.) but all animals. The stakes here could be that high — a curse upon all future generations.

Because of the poll that Politico published on February 8th, we now know that especially in Russia, but even in U.S. Japan, Germany, and the 9 other surveyed countries (South Africa, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, Australia, China, India, France, and UK), at least two-thirds of the public want fossil fuels companies to be held responsible for the impacts their products have on the environment. They want the owners of those companies to be punished for the world’s biggest-ever crime, of planetcide.

However — for the reasons that will be stated below — there is actually only a single way in which this can be done effectively; i.e., so as to actually stop global warming (if that is still even possible to do): This one way is for the government to outlaw purchases of investments (stocks and bonds) in fossil-fuel extraction companies, as will now be described (and the rest of the present article will be a discrediting of all of the existing proposals — the proposals that the billionaires’ front-organizations have been endorsing — to deal with the global-warming problem: proofs will now be provided that all of them are fakes):

These companies (fossil-fuel extractors) exist in order to discover, extract, refine, and market, fossil fuels, in order for these fuels to be burned — but those activities are killing this planet. There is a way to stop this destruction of the planet from happening, but it is not being applied, and no country is currently even considering it. This way will be explained here. Some background is, however, necessary, in order to understand it:

Buying stock in, and lending money to, these firms doesn’t purchase their products, but it does incentivize all phases of these firms’ operations, including the discovery of yet more fields of oil, gas, and coal, to add yet more to their existing fossil-fuel reserves. Unless these companies’ stock-values are driven down to near zero and no investor will be lending to them, all such operations will continue, and the Earth will therefore surely die from the resulting over-accumulation of global-warming gases.

To purchase stock in a fossil-fuel extractor, such as ExxonMobil or BP, or to buy their bonds or otherwise lend to them, is to invest in or fund that corporation’s employment of fossil-fuel explorers to discover new sources of oil, gas, or coal, to drill. Those discoveries of new reserves are what drive up the market-value of those firms. However, such newly discovered reserves are excess inventories that must never be burnt if this planet is to avoid becoming uninhabitable. But these firms nonetheless continue to employ people to find additional new places to drill, above and beyond the ones that they already own — which existing inventories are already so enormous as to vastly exceed what can be burnt without destroying the Earth many times over. To buy the stock in such corporations (or else lend to them) is consequently to fund the killing of our planet. It’s to fund an enormous crime, and should be treated as such. The only possible solution to the global-warming problem — if it still can be solved — is to drive down the market-value of those firms. Outlawing new investments in those firms will do this and will simultaneously make impossible the continued employment by them of these explorers for new and unburnable reserves.

The only people who will suffer from outlawing the purchase of stock in, and lending to, fossil-fuel extractors, are individuals who are already invested in those corporations. Since we’ve already got vastly excessive known reserves of fossil fuels, discovering yet more such reserves is nothing else than the biggest imaginable crime against all future-existing people, who can’t defend themselves against these activities. Only our government, today, can possibly protect them, and it will be to blame if it fails to do so. The single most effective way it can do that is to criminalize the purchase of stock in fossil-fuels extractors, and to bar loans to them. Here’s why:

The IMF says that “To limit the increase in global temperature to 2 degrees Celsius — the more conservative of the goals agreed to by governments at the 2015 climate change talks in Paris — more than two-thirds of current known reserves, let alone those yet to be discovered (see Table 1), must remain in the ground (IEA 2012).” Obviously, then, what the oil and gas and coal companies are doing by continuing exploration is utterly idiotic from an economic standpoint — it’s adding yet more to what already are called “unburnable reserves.” Thus, waiting yet longer for a technological breakthrough, such as fossil-fuels corporations have always promised will happen but nobody has ever actually delivered (and such as is exemplified here), is doomed, because if and when such a real breakthrough would occur, we’d already be too late and the uncontrollably spiraling and accelerating mutual feedback-loops would already have made the challenge vastly more difficult to overcome than it is today. We’d simply be racing, then, to catch up with — and to get ahead of — an even faster rise in global temperatures than now exists. Consequently, something sudden, sharp, and decisive, is needed immediately, and it can happen only by a fundamental change becoming instituted in our laws, not in our technology. The solution, if it comes, will come from government, and not even possibly come from industry. For governments to wait, and to hope for a “technological breakthrough,” is simply for our planet to die. It’s to doom this planet. It’s to abandon the government’s  obligation to the future.

On 13 November 2019, the International Energy Agency reported that “the momentum behind clean energy is insufficient to offset the effects of an expanding global economy and growing population,” and “The world urgently needs to put a laser-like focus on bringing down global emissions. This calls for a grand coalition encompassing governments, investors, companies and everyone else who is committed to tackling climate change.” Obviously, we are all heading the world straight to catastrophe. Drastic action is needed, and it must happen now — not in some indefinite future.

In 2020, I reached out to Carbon Tracker, the organization that encourages investors to disinvest from fossil fuels. Their leader, Mark Campanale, declined my request for them to endorse my proposal. He endorsed instead “a new fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty supported by movements calling to leave fossil fuels in the ground.”  When I responded that it’s vastly more difficult, for states (individual governments) to mutually pass, into their respective nation’s laws, a treaty amongst themselves (since it requires unanimity amongst all of them instituting into each one of their legal systems exactly that same law), than it is for any state ON ITS OWN to institute a law (such as I propose), he still wasn’t interested. I asked him why he wasn’t. He said “I’ve chosen a different strategy for my organization.” I answered: “All that I am seeking from you is an ENDORSEMENT. I am not asking you to change your ‘strategy’ (even if you really ought to ADD this new strategy to your existing one).” He replied simply by terminating communication with me and saying, without explanation, “We don’t always agree.”

Here was that “treaty supported by movements calling to leave fossil fuels in the ground”. As you can see there, it was posted in 2012, and as of 8 years later when I checked, it had been signed by 8 individuals, no nations (and not even by any organizations). Mark Campanale wasn’t among these 8, and subsequently no signers have been indicated.

However, in 2020, the very same year when Campanale said this, an organization was formed, “The Fossil-Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative” — and his Carbon Tracker organization did, indeed, become one of its founding signers, along with 350.org and many other innocuous virtue-signaling (otherwise called “liberal” — as opposed to “conservative” or outright evil or overtly pro-fossile-fuels) ‘non-profits’, these liberal ‘non-profits’ being themselves funded by the likes of the Charles Schwab Foundation, David Rockefeller Fund, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Rockefeller Family Fund, and other virtue-signaling fossil-fuels billionaires and their families — anything in order to postpone for as long as possible any meaningful ACTION being taken against the billionaires who have been actually profiting from global warming. For example: neither the 2012 “People’s Sustainability Treaty On Transitioning to a Zero Fossil Fuels World” nor the 2020 “Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty” has any actual TREATY in it. Both are fakes, just like the Paris Climate Agreement is no treaty, and is instead pure fakery. On 21 September 2021, the Guardian headlined “Governments falling woefully short of Paris climate pledges, study finds”. (That failure had been engineered into the treaty; it was intended, a feature of it, not a bug in it.) This can go on forever, because publics everywhere are easy to fool.

Some environmental organizations recommend instead improving labelling laws and informing consumers on how they can cut their energy-usages (such as here), but even if that works, such changes, in consumers’ behaviors, are no more effective against climate-change than would be their using buckets to lower the ocean-level in order to prevent it from overflowing and flooding the land. What’s actually needed is a huge jolt to the system itself, immediately. Only systemic thinking can solve such a problem. Consumers don’t cause the problem; investors and their governments do.

Making such a change — outlawing the purchase of stock in, and prohibiting loans to, fossil-fuel extractors — would impact enormously the stock-prices of all fossil fuels corporations throughout the world, even if it’s done only in this country. It would quickly force all of the fossil-fuel extractors to eliminate their exploration teams and to increase their dividend payouts, just in order to be able to be “the last man standing” when they do all go out of business — which then would occur fairly soon. Also: it would cause non-fossil-energy stock-prices to soar, and this influx of cash into renewable-energy investing would cause their R&D also to soar, which would reduce costs of the energy that clean-energy firms supply. It would transform the world, fairly quickly, and very systematically. And all of this would happen without taxpayers needing to pay tens or hundreds of trillions of dollars, or for governments to sign onto any new treaties. And if additional nations copy that first one, then the crash in market-values of all fossil-fuels corporations will be even faster, and even steeper.

As regards existing bonds and other debt-obligations from fossil-fuels extractors, each such corporation would need to establish its own policies regarding whether or not, and if so then how, to honor those obligations, since there would no longer be a market for them. Ending the market would not be equivalent to ending the obligations. The law would nullify the obligations, but the corporation’s opting to fulfill those obligations wouldn’t be illegal — it would merely be optional. Perhaps most of the firms would opt to place all investors onto a dividends-only system, which would continue until the firm ends or is otherwise no longer producing or marketing fossil fuels.

This would be a taking from individuals who have been investing in what the overwhelming majority of experts on global warming say are investments in a massive crime against future generations. We are now in an emergency situation, which is more than merely a national emergency, a global one, so that such governmental action would be not merely advisable but urgently necessary and 100% in accord with the public welfare, and also in accord with improving distributive justice.

The only way possible in order to avoid getting into the uncontrollable feedback-cycles (feedback-loops) that might set this planet racing toward becoming another Mars is to quickly bring a virtual end to the burning of fossil fuels. That can happen only  if fossil fuels become uneconomic. But common methods proposed for doing that, such as by imposing carbon taxes, would hit consumers directly (by adding a tax to what they buy), and thereby turn them into advocates for the fossil-fuel industries (advocates on the fossil-fuels-companies’ side, favoring elimination of that tax upon their products). In this key respect, such proposals are counterproductive, because they dis-incentivize the public to support opposition to fossil-fuel extraction. Such proposals are politically unacceptable, especially in a democracy, where consumers have powerful political voice at the ballot-box. Any carbon tax would also anger the consuming public against environmentalists. Turning consumers into friends of the fossil-fuels extractors would be bad. What I am proposing is not like that, at all. Investors are a much smaller number of voters than are consumers. Everyone is a consumer, but only a relatively tiny number of people are specifically fossil-fuel investors. To terminate the freedom those investors have to sell their stock, by making it illegal for anyone to buy  that stock, is the most practicable way to prevent global burnout (if it still can be prevented). This needs to be done right now.

How was slavery ended in the United States? It became illegal for anyone to own slaves — and the way that this was done is that it became illegal for anyone to buy a slave. It made slaves unsellable — worthless to own.

Once it is done, those firms will go out of business. (First, these firms will increase their dividend-payouts to their stockholders while they lay off their explorers, but then they’ll cut their other costs, and then they’ll fold. But the objective isn’t that; it is to make their products uneconomic to produce, market, and sell; and this will do that, even before all of those firms have become eliminated.) All of today’s existing economies-of-scale in the fossil-fuels-producing-and-marketing industries will then be gone, and will become replaced by new economies-of-scale that will rise sharply in non-carbon energy, as R&D there will be soaring, while the fossil-fuels producers fade out.

If it becomes illegal to purchase those investments, then the market-value of them will depend ONLY upon the company’s future dividends. The higher those would be, the sooner the company will end. Unlike with black-market goods such as illegal narcotics, all investment-markets need to be legal in order for a company to be able to attract new investors. Those companies will be doomed and quickly die-off — or else STOP exploring for yet-more fossil fuels, and would go entirely into non-fossil-fuels endeavors. All fossil-fuels exploration will end. All fossil-fuels-promotion will end.

This is the only realistically possible way to avoid a possible global burnout. (Current scientific analyses of the vaporization of all of this planet’s water have been predicated solely upon an increase in solar intensity, but heat-trapping gases could enormously expedite the process, and humans would never get to experience an oceanless Earth, because agriculture would become impossible well before all water is gasified.)

Shell CEO Says Governments, Not Firms, Are Failing on Climate Change

On 14 October 2019, Reuters headlined “Exclusive: No choice but to invest in oil, Shell CEO says” and reported:

Ben van Beurden expressed concern that some investors could ditch Shell, acknowledging that shares in the company were trading at a discount partly due to “societal risk”.

“I am afraid of that, to be honest,” he said.

“But I don’t think they will flee for the justified concern of stranded assets … (It is) the continued pressure on our sector, in some cases to the point of demonisation, that scares asset managers.”

“It is not at a scale that the alarm bells are ringing, but it is an unhealthy trend.”

Van Beurden put the onus for achieving a transformation to low-carbon economies on governments.

He didn’t suggest any specific policies which governments should take, but he did say “that not enough progress had been made to reach the Paris climate goal of limiting global warming to ‘well below’ 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century.” Furthermore:

Delaying implementation of the right climate policies could result in “knee-jerk” political responses that might be very disruptive to society, he said. “Let the air out of the balloon as soon as you can before the balloon actually bursts,” van Beurden said.

He is, in a sense, trapped, as the head of one of the world’s largest fossil-fuel extractors. He doesn’t want to be “demonised,” but he is professionally answering to — and obligated to serve — investors who are still profiting from destroying the world. Though he acknowledges that consumers cannot initiate the necessary policy-change, and that investors aren’t yet; and though he doesn’t want government to do anything which “might be very disruptive to society,” he does want governments to “Let the air out of the balloon as soon as you can before the balloon actually bursts,” and he’s therefore contemplating — and is even advising — that governments must do the job now, and not wait around any longer to take the necessary decisive action. 

Here’s what that type of governmental action would be (and unlike the Paris Climate Agreement, it doesn’t require an international consensus — which doesn’t actually exist among the nations). (That international agreement is likewise just a fake.)

The “Bridge Fuels” Concept Is a Deceit

The concept of “bridge fuels,” such as methane as being a substitute for petroleum, is a propaganda device by the fossil-fuels industry and its agents, in order to slow the decline of those industries. For example, on 16 November 2019, Oil Price Dot Com headlined “Why Banning Fossil Fuel Investment Is A Huge Mistake”, and Cyril Widdershoven, a long-time writer for and consultant to fossil-fuel corporations, argued against an effort by the European Investment Bank to “put more pressure on all parties to phase out gas, oil and coal projects.” Widdershoven’s argument is that “experts seem to agree that the best way to target lower CO2 emissions in the EU is to substitute oil and coal power generation in Eastern Europe with natural gas.” He says, “Even in the most optimistic projections, renewable energy options, such as wind or solar, are not going to be able to counter the need for power generation capacity. If the EIB blocks a soft energy transition via natural gas, the Paris Agreement will almost certainly fail.” 

The unstated “experts” that Widdershoven cited are, like himself, hirees of the fossil-fuels industries. Furthermore, this go-slow approach is already recognized by the IMF and IEA to be doomed to fail at avoiding global burnout.

Furthermore — and this is perhaps the most important fact of all — government-support has largely been responsible for the success of fossil-fuel corporations (especially now for natural gas), and, if fully replaced by government-support going instead to non-fossil-fuel corporations, there will be a skyrocketing increase in R&D in those non-fossil-fuel technologies, which skyrocketing R&D, there, is desperately needed, if any realistic hope is to exist, at all, of avoiding global burn-out. 

Moreover, billionaires have also hijacked the environmental movement and made suckers of its believers. For example, Elon Musk has become a centi-billionaire by peddling the idea of switching from fossil fuels to electricity. But the popular concept of ‘switching from fossil fuels to electricity’ as a supposed ‘energy source’ is fake because electricity isn’t an energy-source but only a way of delivering energy that is produced elsewhere, by fossil fuels, nuclear, or others. It’s a fraud, as a ‘solution’.

So, to each reader of this, I ask: If this is not what you propose, then what do you propose? People need to start talking about this — but NOT with the same underlying false assumptions that the billionaires have been promulgating.

P.S.: In January 2021, I had sent this to, and never received any answer from any of the:

Dear EU Climate Commissioners:

Re: 

He [Timmermans] said right wing countries like Canada, the USA and Brazil were preventing the EU from reiterating the Paris Agreement requirements in the COP conclusions.

I said:

What is needed is a method which (unlike international agreement on carbon-trading credits) won’t require agreement among nations, which are too corrupt to take the necessary collective action to avert catastrophe. Here’s the solution which could be implemented by, say, the EU, or even just Germany, or just India, or just China, alone, if not by any of the far-right countries (such as U.S. and Brazil), which action, taken by any one of them, would create the necessary cascading-effect that could transform the world and perhaps save the future (and please do follow closely the argument here, and click onto any link where you might have any questions, because this is a truly new idea, and every part of it is fully documented here):” and then came a presentation much like what you have just read above. None of them responded.

So: if the public, in any country, have any ability to produce progress on this matter, then the only way it will be able to happen is by replacing leaders such as now exist, and installing instead leaders who will do the right thing, for the future of the biosphere on this planet. None of the current leaders is. Tragically, that is the current fact.

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse’s next book (soon to be published) will be AMERICA’S EMPIRE OF EVIL: Hitler’s Posthumous Victory, and Why the Social Sciences Need to Change. It’s about how America took over the world after World War II in order to enslave it to U.S.-and-allied billionaires. Their cartels extract the world’s wealth by control of not only their ‘news’ media but the social ‘sciences’ — duping the public.

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Climate Change and its Effects on Europe

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If one thinks Putin has become a headache, then the future of Europe under the forecast climate change regime is pneumonia. 

According to this scenario, ice melt from Greenland and the Arctic will raise sea levels around FloridaAside from greater and wider coastal flooding, this change will inhibit the regular Gulf Stream Drift that makes its way across the Atlantic warming northern Europe and ensuring the English climate is even milder.  Part of it of course is due to Britain being an island and so enjoying the moderating effects of the sea — again more so because of the Gulf Stream. 

This relatively even weather in England has undergone change.  More frequent 90F and higher days in summer, once relatively rare, is one symptom — the UK just recorded its highest ever temperature of 104.54F.  There have also been heavy rains and flooding notably in December 2020 when a wide belt across the south suffered catastrophic inundation of historic proportions. 

Scientists and the UN confirm an increase in the frequency of natural disasters.  This includes forest fires, hurricanes or typhoons, excessive rains and floods. 

July 14 might be celebrated as Bastille Day and a national holiday in France but in neighboring Belgium it now commemorates the devastating floods in 2021.  Heavy rains and the Meuse river overflowing its banks turned streets into canals in the eastern city of Liege. The floods extended to the Netherlands and western Germany, caused by a low pressure system that stalled for two days over the region.  Rain falling on soil already soaked by spring rains and overflowing rivers (the Meuse in Belgium and Netherlands, the Rhine and the Ruhr in Germany) devastated the area.  At least 243 people lost their lives and property damage was estimated at $12 billion. 

If last year was one of floods, this year it’s drought and dry heat and forest fires — temperatures hitting 117 F in Portugal and an estimated 75,000 acres lost to forest fires; also dry as tinder Italy where the river Po, the country’s longest river, has been reduced to a trickle.

England has been subject to a similar pattern, suffering some of the worst flooding in its history last year and now reeling from forest fires. “I’ve fought wildfires for decades.  None of it prepared me for the infernos this week,” screams a Guardian (July 22, 2022) headline quoting a firefighter.  London fire fighters have just had the busiest day since the Second World War.

When will governments understand that the earth is changing, that natural disasters piling one on top of the other, and that forest fires in Europe, in Australia, in the US and elsewhere plus floods and typhoons etc., are not coincidences? 

One hopes it is soon, and we humans learn to moderate damaging behaviors.

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The Greater Frequency of Natural Disasters and our Response

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Photo: NASA

While no one can ascribe specific natural catastrophic events to global warming, their frequency appears to have increased.  So it is that forest fire seasons have lengthened, and more fires occur more often and of greater intensity.

The current disaster in the news is in the Iberian peninsula and across to southwest France.  Almost uncontrollable wildfires have devastated thousands of acres, and one observer pilot flying too close has been killed reports the BBC.  The fires in La Teste-de-Buch and south of Bordeaux have destroyed 25,000 acres.

In Portugal, 75,000 acres have been devastated by fires this year.  One cause is the dry heat and soaring temperatures, drying out the countryside.  They have hit 47C (117F) in Portugal and above 40C (104F) in Spain.  Residents have been evacuated from the danger areas and a pet rescue operation is ongoing.

Planes are dropping fire retardant chemicals, and helicopters collect sea water from the coast then return to douse the flames.  The high temperatures, the drought and their consequences have not spared neighboring countries.

In Italy, the country’s longest river, the Po, has diminished to a trickle in places and the tinder-dried countryside in its valley is under a state of emergency.

Along other parts of the Mediterranean, the conditions are similar.  In Greece, there are fires southeast of Athens about 30 miles away in Feriza; also on the northern coast in the island of Crete where seven villages near Rethymno have been evacuated. 

The opposite side of the Mediterranean has not been spared.  Fires swept through several provinces in Morocco and one village in the Ksar el-Kebir area was destroyed. 

According to James Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis, the earth should respond naturally to ameliorate global warming.  Unfortunately, human interventions like cutting down forests have damaged its ability to do so.  Is runaway global warming then our future?

The answer has to lie with the same humans, being the only species with the knowledge and faculty to respond to the challenges.  The means are available, from CO2 capture to altering our own behavior.

Work on additives (like oil and fats) for cow feed have helped reduce emissions by 18 percent in Australia where almost 70 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from ruminants.  Even more promising has been the addition of seaweed which when mixed in small quantities (3 percent) to the diet have reduced their emissions by 80 percent.

In the meantime, we have to change our ways:  Growing our own vegetables — delicious and easy as they grow themselves with minimum care … and have you tried ripe tomatoes fresh from a vine?  Even easier to buy now as plants are sold at food supermarkets.

Eating less meat, walking or cycling instead of driving for short trips and so on.  It is easy and just a matter of habit.  In the end, it is up to us as to the kind of earth we want to leave behind for our children and grandchildren. 

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Interviewing Fabio Domenico Vescovi – Agronomist and Earth Observation Specialist

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Fabio Domenico Vescovi is an Agronomist & Earth Observation Specialist. He is currently Senior Data Scientist & Technical Lead at Cropin. Fabio develops applications of satellite technologies in tropical countries for the insurance sector (drought and floods). He studies crop biophysical parameters to inform an index-based insurance system and develops AI algorithms based on DataCube and Machine Learning. Fabio has had an international career spanning Germany (Bonn University), Italy (OHB) and UK (Airbus). He has also been deeply involved in various African countries, working with different stakeholders to enable easier data-based access to micro-credit and micro-insurance for farmers. Fabio has a PhD in remote sensing applications in agriculture.

You are using satellite data to track droughts and floods to grow crops more efficiently. Which other companies are doing this globally? 

At Cropin we use satellite data along with other types of data such as weather data, soil information, agro-climatic conditions, seed genetics, global crop sowing and harvesting patterns, agronomics etc. to create AI models that bring predictive intelligence to agriculture and make it more efficient, productive, and sustainable.

There are a host of organisations in this sector offering services which target this challenging area. We believe that the challenges faced by this sector are many and complex and not one player can solve them all and thus a thriving global agritech ecosystem is a great enabler to truly accelerate progress of the agriculture ecosystem. The industry itself is at an evolving phase and technology adoption in the global agriculture arena is still a long way to go. Arable land across the planet is estimated to be 1.4 billion hectares and in terms of being able to digitize and impact the planet’s agri-value chain, the agritech sector is still miles away, but we sure are headed in the right direction.

Why are you passionate about the agriculture sector? What has inspired you to be a part of this field? 

My family and ancestors were all Italian farmers and despite growing up in an urban environment I always had a passion for environmental sciences, agriculture and the socio-cultural connections between our environment, our people and myself.

Tech-enabled services for farmers can be unaffordable for many farmers in a country like India. Do you think India can implement them at a mass scale? 

We are very aware that farmers will face challenges to afford high-end digital and predictive intelligence solutions which brings a meaningful difference to their lives. This is the reason Cropin works via a B2B and B2G business model. We work with large food processing companies, food retailers, seed and agri-input manufacturers, agri-lenders and insurers, governments and development agencies who in turn work with huge numbers of farmers and large areas of farmlands. So, the cost of the technology is borne by our customers and the benefits of higher efficiency, improved yields, lower inputs costs and better sustainable operations benefit all the stakeholders including the farmer. Another important benefit of our B2B and B2G approach is that it also helps us create impact at scale in global agriculture vis-à-vis working directly with individual farmers.  

What is Carbon farming? Which countries is it being implemented in? 

Carbon farming is a new term but an old practice. I think that people practiced Carbon farming since the time agriculture was invented. One of the simplest examples of Carbon farming is the circulation of organic matter in the form of manure from the stall to the soil. In turn the soil provides food to the animals in the stall. There were many similar Carbon cycles and sub-cycles across people and cultures, where organic matter was recirculated and eventually regenerated.

Nowadays this circularity in Carbon has been slowly destroyed by a mixture of industrial and commercial processes, which though very productive, are not sustainable for the environment.  Just to give you a negative example, Europe is a strong importer of soya, sunflower, and cereals from Brazil, which is now clearing their forests and depleting their soil organic matter to farm these products. However, there is no process in place to return that Carbon from Europe to Brazil to the soil from where it was taken. Only money is returning. We were able to put in place a system which is perfect economically but unsustainable ecologically. Like in a bank, what the soil gives us is a loan, not a donation.

How can AI be used for sustainable agriculture? 

Digitization and AI can be leveraged at scale to increase efficiency, productivity, and sustainability in farming. To leverage AI for farming, Cropin undertakes the complex process of ‘agri asset computation’ which brings together satellite imagery, historical and forecasted weather data, soil information, agro-climatic conditions, seed genetics, global crop sowing and harvesting patterns, agronomics, and other farming insights all under one umbrella to build knowledge graphs for hundreds of crops and crop varieties across the globe. This data is then used to build AI models for any farm plot, region, country, or crop in the shortest possible time. This provides insights and recommendations on various aspects of farming operations – from selecting the right crops and seeds, the right time for sowing and harvesting, the optimal use of water resources and adoption of the right farming practices etc. All this enables much more sustainable farming.

At Cropin, we have already computed 0.2 billion acres of farmland in 12 countries, and we have an ambitious target to compute and build predictive intelligence “on-tap” for 1/3rd of the planet’s cultivable lands by 2025. By doing this, we are helping solve planet scale challenges such as food security, environmental sustainability and better livelihoods for farmers.

How can farmers be empowered globally? 

Farmers are supposed to be the most empowered category in the world, they should dominate even kings, like for example in the American and French revolutions. But the world has become oblivious to this. People forget about farming and the role of farmers, especially the small holder ones. Nowadays if you ask a European child: “Where does this milk come from?”, the answer you may get is: “Well, from the fridge!”. So, milk is perceived as an industrial product and this is ironically not wrong, because the number of industrial processes occurring on every drop of milk from milking to drinking is overwhelming. So, behind a common farm or diary product, we do not see a natural environment anymore but rather a complex system of industrial procedures.

Farmers can be taken onboard of the political arena only if they speak the language of marketing, behave like industrial entrepreneurs, have the knowledge of engineers, act like politicians and talk like salesmen! How can we figure out the farmers role in a complex society which forgotten the importance of farming?

Even in climate change, the only ones empowered to make a significant change on millions of hectares are the small holder farmers. They can play a key role in agro-forestry and Carbon sequestration, much more than any other industrial process. But they are not aware of the processes and of their potentials, and neither is society. We need an educational process involving both agricultural and industrial sectors to raise awareness on their potential.

Finally, a personal question – Is doing a PhD and life as a researcher fulfilling? 

It is, but I must accept that the academic context of a PhD and the lifestyle of a researcher moving across various countries to attend congresses are so different than the cultural context and environmental conditions of a farm. I can’t simply mix the lifestyle of a farmer and that of a researcher. Anyway, whenever I try to do so or I spend some few days in a family-run farm in an African context (e.g. currently I am writing from a small holder farm in Mwingi, a rural area in central Kenya, not even completely electrified) then I get the best results of my research and I grow in the knowledge of how the farming world really is, when we speak about farming, even Carbon faming. My lovely farmers and I dream to raise our common voice and bring awareness on the real role which farming and research can play together: my PhD is not a barrier, it is the way to open my mind to their culture and learn more.

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