FOOTPRINTS #28 – December 2008
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As population grows we must fail to protect our children - John James
Two trends are crashing against one another. Both are well-known. They are that world population is getting larger while food and water is getting less. The cause of the first is out-of-control fertility producing a flood of babies, mainly in Africa, India and South America. The second is rampant consumption that makes the pollution that causes warming that is reducing the earth's capacity to grow more food. Over-populating and over-consuming is a bit like Christmas, we cant stop cramming ourselves, buying more presents and over-spending on our credit cards - all for the sake of the thrill of doing it together.
Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim? - Jim Hansen and 7 colleagues
The only hope for keeping a planet that resembles what we have know for the past 10,000 years, is to halt any new CO2 emissions from coal and to phase-out existing coal emissions promptly. They argue that during the cooling trend that began 50 million years ago, the planet remained nearly ice-free until CO2 fell to 450±100ppm. Barring prompt policy changes, that critical level will be passed, in the opposite direction, within decades. To preserve our planet CO2 must be reduced from its current 385ppm to less than 350ppm.
If the present overshoot of this target is not brief, we will be seeding irreversible catastrophic effects.
This is a serious scientific report and well worth the study.
21st century climate tipping points - Andrew Glikson
UN: greenhouse gases at new record highs
On a planet 4C hotter, all we can prepare for is extinction – Oliver Tickell
Why politicians dare not limit economic growth – New Scientist
The Ehrlich equation, I = PAT, says that the impact (I) of human activity on the planet is the product of population (P), affluence (A) and technology (T).
World population is just under 7 billion and the average income is around $8,000 per person. The T factor is that every $1,000 of goods and services releases 0.5 tonnes of CO2. Total emissions are 7 × 8 × 0.5 = 28 billion tonnes per year.
The IPCC states that 450 ppm is the only safe level of C02. To achieve that we must reduce emissions to less than 5 billion tonnes by 2050.
Since a global population of 9 billion is inevitable by then, that means carbon footprint of less than 0.6 tonnes per person - considerably lower than in India today.
Many think we will achieve this through energy efficiency and green technology without economic growth taking a serious hit. Can we?
It means getting the T factor down to 0.1 tonnes of CO2 per $1,000 - a fivefold improvement in global technology. While that is no walk in the park, it is possible with a robust policy commitment.
However, when we factor in economic growth the idea that technological ingenuity can save us from climate disaster looks a lot more challenging.
First, let us suppose that GDP will grow at 2.5% p/a in developed countries, while the rest of the world tries to catch up. To keep below 450ppm we would have to reduce the carbon content of consumption down to less than 0.03 tonnes/$1,000 - a daunting 11-fold reduction on the current EU average.
Second, let's suppose we are serious about eradicating global poverty, and imagine 9 billion people having a 2.5% growth in income. To achieve this the carbon content must be reduced to 2% of the best now achieved anywhere in the EU.
Continuing growth at 2.5% a year for the following 50 years would more than triple the size of the global economy, and this would mean we would have to completely decarbonise every atom we consume.
No one has any idea if such a radical transformation is possible.
Therefore consuming less is the single biggest thing we can do to save carbon emissions. Yet no one dares mention it because it would threaten economic growth, the very thing that is causing the problem in the first place.
Only drastic action will stop 6C warming - International Energy Agency
GLOBAL temperatures are on course to rise by 6C unless radical changes are adopted in the way the world produces energy. if present trends continued, greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of coal, oil and gas "would be driven up inexorably", putting the world on track for a doubling in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels by the end of the century.
An energy revolution vital – SMH
Transporting food is inherently unsustainable
Melting Arctic Ocean Raises Threat of ‘Methane Time Bomb’
Scientists have long believed that thawing permafrost in Arctic soils could release huge amounts of methane. Now methane begins to bubble up from the bottom of the Arctic Ocean that is warming faster than any place on Earth.
Until 2003, concentrations of methane had remained relatively, But this summer in numerous areas, spread over thousands of square miles, large quantities of methane is rising from the once-frozen seabed floor.
Global methane levels on the rise again - CSIRO
In all previous warming periods there has been a spike in the temperature graph where global heating has risen more than would be justified by the C02 concentrations on their own. This has increased temperatures by many degrees additional to what would have been caused just by carbon emissions. The evidence is that this spike was caused by methane. This is why this current release threatens "the final solution".
Thick cloud of muck holds back global warming – UN
A THREE-kilometre thick cloud pollutants over Asia is darkening cities, killing thousands and damaging crops, but may be holding off the worst effects of global warming by reflecting sunlight away from the earth. It is masking the true nature of global warming and if the brown cloud disperses, global temperatures could rise by up to 2C. The mix of particles is, in some of the most vulnerable areas, exacerbating the most devastating impacts of higher temperatures.
'Jelly balls' may slow global warming – CSIRO
VAST numbers of marine "jelly balls" now appearing off the Australian east coast could be part of the planet's mechanism for combating global warming. Known as salps, their main food is phytoplankton which absorbs C02 and places it on the bottom of the ocean when they die.
Oceans Passing Critical CO2 Threshold – Canada, National Academy of Sciences
A rapid upswing in ocean acidity in recent years is wiping out coastal species like mussels. "We're seeing dramatic changes," from increases in ocean acidity that are more than 10 times faster than any prediction. "It appears that we've crossed a threshold where the ocean can no longer buffer the effects of CO2 in the atmosphere".
Each day, the oceans absorb 30 million tonnes of CO2, gradually and inevitably increasing their acidity.
Southern Ocean close to acid tipping point
Five nations under threat from climate change
"The first line of coconut trees has disappeared" - Kiribati inhabitant
1. The Maldives highest point is only 2.4 metres, the Maldives is one of the lowest-lying nations in the world and risks being submerged by rising sea-levels.
2. Tuvalu is at its highest 5 metres.
3. Kiribati is a group of 32 atolls. Salt-intrusion is killing off the trees that were closest to the water.
4. The Carteret Islands of Papua New Guinea lies just 1.2 metres above the waves.
5. In 1995, 500,000 inhabitants on Bangladesh's Bhola Island were forced to move in when half their island was permanently flooded.
Boston in 2030 (only 20 years away!), destroyed by the rising ocean
Reducing consumption key to a sustainable future – CSIRO
The forecasts of global ecological and economic collapse by 2050 contained in the controversial 1972 book, The Limits to Growth, are still ‘on-track’. This is the first comprehensive test of the predictions of the first comprehensive global models linking the world economy to the environment.
In the past 30 the world has been tracking along the unsustainable trajectory of the book’s business-as-usual scenario. It predicts that if we do not substantially reduce consumption and increase technological progress, the global economy will collapse by 2050. The issues of peak oil, climate change, and food and water security, resonate strongly with the overshoot and collapse displayed in the business-as-usual scenario.
Four reports of the more significant positive news.
Not much compared to the negatives. Only the last one addresses the root of the problem. It is still not enough, but across the world the best so far. The Poznan Conference seems to be avoiding the real urgency of our situation, as is the gutless Australian Government.
Wal-Mart Commits to Powering 360 Sites in Texas With Wind
California officials unveil plans to turn San Francisco into electric car capital – Guardian
Power in the desert: solar towers will harness sunshine of southern Spain
Government pledges to cut carbon emissions by 80% by 2050
My personal site www.johnjames.com.au
Crucible Centre www.cruciblecentre.com
Crisis Coalition www.planetextinction.com
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