Footprints

FOOTPRINTS

Newsletter #32 - March 2009 for the
Crisis Coalition at
www.planetextinction.com


What is a Footprint?
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.

For earlier Footprints visit the the archive.

The Crisis Coalition aims to raise awareness and to galvanise action.
For the latest information read this fully referenced report.

Dear Friends

Catastrophic Fall in 2009 Global Food Production
This must be read by all – For immediate consideration
"Few seem to realise that the present IPCC models predict almost unanimously that by 2040 the average summer in Europe will be as hot as the summer of 2003 when over 30,000 died from heat. By then we may cool ourselves with air conditioning and learn to live in a climate no worse than that of Baghdad now. But without extensive irrigation the plants will die and both farming and natural ecosystems will be replaced by scrub and desert. What will there be to eat? The same dire changes will affect the rest of the world and I can envisage Americans migrating into Canada and the Chinese into Siberia but there may be little food for any of them." --Dr James Lovelock's lecture to the Royal Society, 29 Oct. '07
http://informationclearinghouse.info/article21955.htm

How to survive the coming century
ALLIGATORS basking off the English coast; a vast Brazilian desert; the mythical lost cities of Saigon, New Orleans, Venice and Mumbai; and 90% of humanity vanished. Welcome to the world warmed by 4C.
Clearly this is a vision of the future that no one wants, but it might happen. Fearing that the best efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions may fail, or that planetary climate feedback mechanisms will accelerate warming, some scientists and economists are considering not only what this world of the future might be like, but how it could sustain human population.
They argue that surviving in the kinds of numbers that exist today, or even more, will be possible, but only if we use our uniquely human ingenuity to cooperate as a species to radically reorganise our world.
The good news is that the survival of humankind itself is not at stake: the species could continue if only a couple of hundred individuals remained. But maintaining the current global population of nearly 7 billion, or more, is going to require serious planning.
http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20126971.700-how-to-survive-the-coming-century.html

Wetter and wilder: the signs of warming everywhere
The fast and unpredictable shifts in weather are not threats for the future, but happening right now. The frequency of heatwaves and heavy precipitation is increasing; cyclones are becoming more frequent and intense; more areas are being affected by droughts; and flooding is now more serious. Increasingly unpredictable weather now affects hundreds of millions of farmers, resulting in food and water shortages, more illnesses and water-borne diseases, malnutrition, soil erosion, and disruption to water supplies. Such changes confound the received wisdom of how to live on the land.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/dec/10/poznan-brazil-climate-change-environment

Nine Meals from Anarchy – Andrew Simms
What we face is a global food chain in crisis due to multiple stresses including imminent, potentially irreversible global warming. In April this year, 37 countries faced a food crisis due to a mix of climate-related, conflict and economic problems. From Haiti to Egypt, India and Burkina Faso there was rioting in the streets. Stocks of rice, on which half the world depends, were at their lowest level since the 1970s. Around the same time, U.S. wheat stocks were forecast to drop to their lowest levels since 1948. The fabric of the food chain is wearing thin.
http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate-uk/2008/12/11/nine-meals-from-anarchy/
and
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/jan/09/food-climate-change
and
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1024833/Nine-meals-anarchy--Britain-facing-real-food-crisis.html

When population growth and resource availability collide - Lester R. Brown
As land and water become scarce, competition for these vital resources intensifies within societies, particularly between the wealthy and those who are poor and dispossessed. The shrinkage of life-supporting resources per person that comes with population growth is threatening to drop the living standards of millions of people below the survival level, leading to potentially unmanageable social tensions.
Access to land is a prime source of social tension. Expanding world population has cut the grainland per person in half, from 0.23 hectares in 1950 to 0.10 hectares in 2007. One tenth of a hectare is half of a building lot in an affluent U.S. suburb. This ongoing shrinkage of grainland per person makes it difficult for the world’s farmers to feed the 70 million people added to world population each year. The shrinkage in cropland per person not only threatens livelihoods; in largely subsistence societies, it threatens survival itself. Tensions within communities begin to build as landholdings shrink below that needed for survival.
http://www.earthpolicy.org/Books/Seg/PB3ch06_ss5.htm

Defence warns of climate conflict
RISING sea levels could lead to failed states across the Pacific and require extra naval deployments to deal with increases in illegal migration and fishing, a Defence Force analysis says. Environmental stress has increased the risk of conflicts over resources and food and may demand greater involvement by the military in stabilisation, reconstruction and disaster relief. It warns there is a risk of a serious global conflict over the Arctic as melting icecaps allow easier access to undersea oil and gas deposits. In Australia's northern waters, climate change is expected to change the location of South-East Asian fishing grounds, causing an increase in illegal fishing.
http://www.smh.com.au/news/environment/global-warming/defence-warns-of-climate-conflict/2009/01/06/1231004021036.html

Antarctic glaciers slipping swiftly seaward
Antarctic glaciers are melting faster across a much wider area than previously thought, scientists said Wednesday — a development that could lead to an unprecedented rise in sea levels.
A report by thousands of scientists for the 2007-2008 International Polar Year concluded that the western part of the continent is warming up, not just the Antarctic Peninsula. Previously most of the warming was thought to occur on the narrow stretch pointing toward South America. But satellite data and automated weather stations indicate otherwise. "The warming we see in the peninsula also extends all the way down to what is called west Antarctica," Summerhayes told The Associated Press. "That's unusual and unexpected."
http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20126971.700-how-to-survive-the-coming-century.html

Too late? Why scientists say we should expect the worst
Dr Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at Manchester reported that carbon emissions since 2000 have risen much faster than anyone thought possible, driven mainly by the coal-fuelled economic boom in the developing world.
This is far above the bleak scenarios considered by last year's report from the IPCC. The battle against dangerous climate change had been lost, and the world needed to prepare for things to get very, very bad. He has argued that it was "improbable" that levels could now be restricted to 650ppm.
So much extra pollution is being pumped out that most of the climate targets debated by politicians and campaigners are fanciful at best, and "dangerously misguided" at worst. The implications left them terrified.
The CO2 level is currently over 390ppm, up from 280ppm at the time of the industrial revolution, and it rises by more than 2ppm each year. The government's official position is that the world should aim to cap this rise at 450ppm.
At 650ppm, the world would face a catastrophic 4C average rise. And even that bleak future, Anderson said, could only be achieved if rich countries adopted "draconian emission reductions within a decade". Only an unprecedented "planned economic recession" might be enough.
If we are to have any chance of keeping global temperature increases below a 2C tipping point, greenhouse gas emissions will have to fall by 90% by 2030. On current trends, they will rise by 50% by 2030. Such an outcome would lead to unprecedented reversals in human development in our lifetime followed in short order by ecological catastrophe for future generations. Economies can recover from a financial crisis. But there is no recovery from global warming.
Many scientists, politicians and campaigners privately admit that 2C is a lost cause.
Bob Watson, chief scientist at the Environment Department and a former head of the IPCC, warned "We must alert everybody that at the moment we're at the very top end of the worst case [emissions] scenario. I think we should be striving for 450ppm but I think we should be prepared that 550ppm is a more likely outcome." Hitting the 450ppm target, he said, would be "unbelievably difficult".
Ross Garnaut reported to the Australian government that the 450ppm goal is so ambitious that it could wreck attempts to agree a new global deal on global warming at Copenhagen next year.
It says developed nations including Britain, the US and Australia, would have to slash carbon dioxide emissions by 5% each year over the next decade to hit the 450ppm target. Britain's Climate Change Act 2008, the most ambitious legislation of its kind in the world, calls for reductions of about 3% each year to 2050.
"The awful arithmetic means that exclusively focusing on a 450ppm outcome, at this moment, could end up providing another reason for not reaching an international agreement to reduce emissions. In the meantime, the cost of excessive focus on an unlikely goal could consign to history any opportunity to lock in an agreement for stabilising at 550ppm - a more modest, but still difficult, international outcome. An effective agreement around 550ppm would be vastly superior to continuation of business as usual."
Every line drawn in the sand has been exceeded. To now draw a line at 550 means that 650 would become the norm. At 650 there will be little ice left and sea levels will rise.
The escalating scale of human emissions could not have come at a worst time, as scientists have discovered that the Earth's forests and oceans could be losing their ability to soak up carbon pollution. Most climate projections assume that about half of all carbon emissions are reabsorbed in these natural sinks.
Computer models predict that this effect will weaken as the world warms, and a string of recent studies suggests this is happening already.
The Southern Ocean's ability to absorb carbon dioxide has weakened by about 15% a decade since 1981, and soils could also be giving up their carbon stores.
Earlier this year, Jim Hansen, senior climate scientist with NASA, published a paper that said the world's carbon targets needed to be urgently revised because of the risk of feedbacks in the climate system. He used reconstructions of the Earth's past climate to show that a target of 350ppm, significantly below where we are today, is needed to "preserve a planet similar to that on which civilisation developed and to which life on Earth is adapted".
At Defra, Watson said: "Even without the new information there was enough to make most policy makers think that urgent action was absolutely essential. The new information only strengthens that and pushes it even harder. It was already very urgent to start with. It's now become very, very urgent."
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/dec/09/poznan-copenhagen-global-warming-targets-climate-change

Point of no return for the Arctic Climate
A new study published in the Geophysical Research Letters posits that a dramatic change in atmospheric circulation patterns since the beginning of the decade, with centres of high pressure in winter shifting toward the north-east. The new pattern of sudden climate change is characterized by "poleward atmospheric and oceanic heat transport," the authors write in the study, a transport which drives temperature increases in the Arctic.
Behind the complex language on which the study is based is a frightening possibility: climate change in the Arctic could already have reached the point of no return. Climate researchers have long been warning of such "tipping points," and that crossing them could mean irreversible developments for eco-systems and humanity. In the case of the Arctic, that could mean a complete disappearance of ice in the region during the summer months. Such an eventuality would then further magnify global warming, due to the fact that bright white ice reflects sunlight back into the atmosphere whereas dark coloured land and ocean absorbs heat.
The waters around the North Pole are heavily influenced by the currents coursing through the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Those currents are driven by conflicting pressure systems in each ocean: in the Pacific, the low pressure zone located near the Aleutian Islands extending west from Alaska is doing battle with a subtropical high pressure zone further south; in the Atlantic the currents are determined by the Azores High and the Icelandic Low.
Since the beginning of the decade a bipolar pattern has developed in which a high pressure system over Canada and a low pressure system over Siberia force Artic winds to blow north-south, meaning that warmer air from the south has no problem making its way into the Arctic region.
http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,594461,00.html

John James
For the Crisis Coalition Inc, at www.planetextinction.com

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