Newsletter #33 - March 2009 for the
Crisis Coalition at

What is a Footprint?

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

Compare this edition of FOOTPRINTS with any of those I wrote 2 years ago, to see the difference in our situation and our prospects for the future. I recommend careful reading of Dmitry Orlov's The Five Stages of Collapse. Like the work of Jarred Diamond, Orlov comes from his experiences in Russia during the collapse of a single state in the 90s to an understanding of what is at stake now for the whole world. It may be read in full here

Catastrophic” 5-7°C warming by 2100 on current emissions path - Hadley Centre
The head of climate change predictions at the Hadley Centre, writes that "In a worst-case scenario, where no action is taken to check the rise in Greenhouse gas emissions, temperatures would most likely rise by more than 5°C by the end of the century." The consequences of 5°C warming are all but unimaginable — mass extinction, devastating ocean acidification, brutal summer-long heat waves, rapidly rising sea levels, widespread desertification. But they are rarely studied or articulated by scientists who can’t imagine humanity would be so stupid as to let this happen.

Restoring soil carbon can reverse global warming, desertification and biodiversity loss -
Restoring the ability of soil to store carbon by promoting native grasses and vegetation can help reverse global warming. We are restoring the soil's ability to store carbon. The result of conventional agricultural practices such as artificial fertilizing, ploughing, stubble burning, bare fallows, etc is to run down the organic matter in the soil. Yet it is the organic matter that is the source of stored soil carbon. The main advantages of restoring soil's ability to store carbon are that it is immediate, massive and involves capturing excess CO2 from atmospheric circulation.

Assessing dangerous climate change through an update of the IPCC ‘‘reasons for concern’’.
This contains a diagram comparing 2001 with updated climate data. The colours in each column represent progressively increasing levels of damage and risk.

Slowing down as an early warning signal for abrupt climate change.
Analysis of eight historic abrupt climate changes notes that just before each major tipping point there has been a short reversal or slowing of temperature increase. Each abrupt climate shift is pre-announced by a short slowing down. It seems this is a "universal property of systems approaching a tipping point". As our systems have been in slight reverse since 2002 we may be in the midst of such a relatively stable state before the imminent upwards shift.

Scientists find bigger than expected polar ice melt
Icecaps around the North and South Poles are melting faster and in a more widespread manner than expected, raising sea levels and fuelling climate change. The International Polar Year (IPY) survey found that warming in the Antarctic is "much more widespread than was thought," while Arctic sea ice is diminishing and the melting of Greenland's ice cover is accelerating.
Rising sea levels and changes in ocean temperatures triggered by the melting ice also heralded shifts in ocean circulation, that'll have a dramatic impact on the global climate system. Shifts in temperature patterns deep underwater indicate that the continent's land ice sheet is melting faster than reckoned and in ways not previously suspected. It now appears that both the Greenland and the Antarctic ice sheets are losing mass and thus raising sea level, and that the rate of ice loss from Greenland is growing.

Murray towns 'are living hand to mouth'
HUNDREDS of thousands of fruit trees have been pulled out, rice production has plunged by 93 per cent and vineyards lie abandoned as the "irrigation drought" continues unabated in Australia's southern food bowl. Farmers and the regional towns that rely on them in the giant Murray-Darling Basin are suffering from a cruel, unprecedented combination of low rainfall and severe cuts in water allocations as the reservoirs dry up, leading to a population exodus in the worst-hit areas, including the southern Riverina. This is where 40% of our food comes from – or used to. Where now?

Bushfires release huge carbon load
VICTORIA'S bushfires have released almost as much C02 as Australia's industrial emission for an entire year. Mark Adams, from the University of Sydney, said the emissions from bushfires were far beyond what could be contained through carbon capture. He estimated the 2003 and 2006-07 bushfires could have put 70-105 million tonnes of C02 into the atmosphere. "That is far, far more than we're ever going to be able to sequester from planting trees or promoting carbon capture," he said.
The current fires have burned hundreds of thousands of hectares in areas with total carbon content of 200 tons per hectare or more, all of which is now lost.
The global problem is worse: Huge fires in Indonesia in 1997 released up to 6 billion tons of CO2, covering Southeast Asia in thick haze and causing a spike in global levels of the gas. Up to 40% of global annual emissions come from burning forests and peat. In the past, native forest carbon had been in rough equilibrium with fires over millions of years, with very small accretion of carbon over very long periods of time. But if you add rapid climate change and much greater fire frequency, the equilibrium carbon content of the native forests, instead of going up, is going to go down.,25197,25047322-11949,00.html
and Andrew Glikson in

Climate Tipping Point Near, Warn UN and World Bank
The planet is quickly approaching the tipping point for abrupt climate changes, perhaps within a few years, according to the UN Environmental Programme's newly released 2009 Year Book and a separate World Bank report. The UN agency warns that urgent action is needed to avoid catastrophic climate events such as major food and water shortages, shifts in weather patterns, and destabilization of "major ice sheets that could introduce unanticipated rates of sea level rise within the 21st century." While earlier estimates forecast up to half a meter rise in sea level in the coming century, updated calculations suggest that the rise may be as high as two meters.

Greenhouse gas pollution threatens Southern Ocean food chain
RISING concentrations of acid in the Southern Ocean caused by greenhouse gases are damaging the ability of some sea creatures to form shells, posing a serious threat to marine life, a study by Australian scientists has found. Modern creatures had shell weights 30 to 35 per cent lower than their pre-industrial forebears. This has implications for a wide range of sea life whose shells or skeletons could be damaged or deformed by rising acid levels, including krill, the main food source for whales.

Less rain every year, and only one cow left in the paddock - Debra Jopson
"I'M FARMING dust," said Howlong farmer Paul Hickey, at 39 the youngest in his district, with an agricultural science degree, a masters of business administration and a set of rainfall statistics that scares him about his own future and Australia's. The spring rains have failed to eventuate at his 526-hectare property, Morebringer, 25 kilometres west of Albury, and nearly every year his rain gauge has shown the decline has been 40 per cent over 10 years -  as a significant indicator of climate change.

Revenge of the rainforest – Independent
The Amazon has long been the lungs of the world. But now comes dramatic evidence that we cannot rely on it in the fight against climate change. Four years ago, a sudden and intense drought in the Amazonian dry season created the sort of conditions that give climate scientists nightmares. Instead of being a net absorber of about two billion tons of carbon dioxide, the forest became a net producer of the greenhouse gas, to the tune of about three billion tons. This exceeded the annual man-made emissions of Europe and Japan combined. What happened in the dry season of 2005 was a stark reminder of how quickly the factors affecting global warming can change.

John James
For the Crisis Coalition Inc, at

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