Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson and Danish geologist Minik Rosing have brought twenty-four blocks of Arctic ice to London.
The work, entitled Ice Watch, has been set up outside of the Tate Modern. The small icebergs were taken from the Nuup Kangerlua fjord in Greenland after becoming separated from the main ice sheet. It has been created to increase awareness of man-made climate breakdown.
More and more icebergs are being produced as the planet warms due to man-made climate change, which in turn contributes to rising sea levels, which poses a threat to wildlife and low-lying coastal human settlements.
The hope is that Ice Watch will help people to conceive of the reality of climate breakdown and global heating. The general public has seen photos and videos of ice breaking from sheets, glaciers receding, animals such as polar bears forced to swim for miles as they have no ice to walk across, and yet in this country we never get the full effect from these pieces of evidence. We rarely have that first-hand experience.
The point of the project is interaction. “Put your hands on the ice, listen to it, smell it, look at it” says Eliasson. “Witness the ecological changes our world is undergoing.”
The Greenland ice sheet took millions of years to form. Now, after a long journey, this ice has entered our human city timescale. What might an ancient block of ice have to say to us? #icewatchlondonpic.twitter.com/T7z4herc0p
The artist is known for large installations employing natural materials such as light, water, and air temperature, which are used to enhance the viewer’s experience.
Increasingly warmer global temperatures causes the Greenland ice sheet to lose around 200-300 billion tonnes of ice each year, which is a number that is expected to increase dramatically in the future.
“I’ve been studying behavioural psychology, and looking into the consequences of experience,” says the Icelandic-Danish artist. “What does it mean to experience something? Does it change you or not change you? It turns out that data alone only promotes a small degree of change. So in order to create the massive behavioural change needed [to tackle climate change] we have to emotionalise that data, make it physically tangible.”
Both Eliasson and Rosing believe that when it comes to making the public more aware of climate breakdown, narratives based on fear or worst-case scenarios are the wrong way to go. “Instead of fear-based narratives, you need a positive narrative to make people change their behaviour,” says Eliasson, “and that’s why I think the culture sector has a strong mandate to take on some leadership here.”
“We have to provide a glimpse of hope,” adds Rosing. “People think the scientists come with the bad news about climate change but actually we come with the good news. We understand what’s happening, we know exactly what needs to be done and we actually have the means to fix it. The only reason we’ve been able to upset the global environment system is because we have enormous power. If we direct that same enormous power to improving the system, we can get it back on track.”
The temporary sculpture of Ice Watch, itself almost an homage to ancient sacred stone circles, allows us to see a fragile and yet powerful reverence that this environment has. As we engage with the ice directly, experience it’s cold, it’s age, it’s melting, we are transported to the areas where this happens unseen.
The artwork coincides with COP24, the meeting of United Nations delegates in Poland to determine how to employ strategies to keep to the climate regulations agreed at the Paris Climate Agreement three years ago.
An unfortunate side effect of this installation is the environmental cost. The estimated energy that it cost to bring one of these blocks to London was equal to one person flying from London to the Arctic and back again.
What this temporary sculpture creates is a sense of time, or, more accurately, the knowledge of a time that is running out. Just as the sculpture is only in London from today to the 20th, giving audiences a small time-frame to experience it, so too is the amount of time we have left to limit the damage to ice sheets and their corresponding environments globally.
Ice Watch will be exhibited from the 11th December to 20th December. Well, they will be there until they melt away.
100 notable figures from around the globe have come together to sign an open letter which calls upon concerned citizens of the globe to rise up and radically organise against current governmental complacency on the ecological and climate emergency we are facing.
The 100 includes Vandana Shiva, Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Chris Packham, Lily Cole, Bill McKibben, Dr Rowan Williams, and Bill Ripple of Scientists Warning amongst others.
The open letter, penned and organised by Dr Alison Green, Dr Richard House, and Dr Rupert Read, who are all representatives of climate advocacy and action group Extinction Rebellion, has been published today simultaneously round the globe, in media including The Guardian (UK), South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), Taipei Times (Taiwan), O Pais (Mozambique), Aftenposten (Norway) and Al Wihda (Chad).
The publication of the letter comes at the same time as the COP24 United Nations climate summit in Katowice, Poland, which is the first to be held since the IPCC report on climate breakdown and the proposed global temperature limitation of 1.5C was published in October.
At COP24, renowned environmentalist Sir David Attenborough declared in his speech, “Right now, we’re facing a man-made disaster of global scale. Our greatest threat in thousands of years: Climate Change. If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations, and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.”
As an organisation, Extinction Rebellion ‘rejects the complacency and denial exhibited by business and political leaders, and insists that the truth about the climate crisis is told.’ It uses non-violent direct action and civil disobedience to bring attention to the apparent ‘criminal activity’ of governments.
The group’s demands are as follows:
The Government must admit the truth about the ecological emergency, reverse all policies inconsistent with addressing climate change, and work alongside the media to communicate with citizens
The Government must enact legally binding policy measures to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025 and to reduce consumption levels
A national Citizen’s Assembly must be created, to oversee the changes, as part of creating a democracy fit for purpose.
“We feel we have really struck a chord with this letter. People understand that there is nothing wrong with telling the truth,” commented Dr Alison Green, PVC Academic at Arden University.
“It has been heartening to have the support of so many high-profile people, and amazing that some of the biggest names were also the quickest to respond. Even people who felt unable to sign the letter commented that they supported the action.”
Fellow letter organiser and chartered psychologist Dr Richard House added, “I co-organised the famous press letter on ‘toxic childhood’ that went viral overnight in September 2006, and tellingly, the level of concern shared by our signatories to this letter surpasses even that. The ignoring or sidelining of this issue by corporations and governments is simply no longer an option.”
Read the full letter below.
Climate Emergency: An Open Letter to Concerned Global Citizens
This open letter appears today in major newspapers across the world.
In our complex, interdependent global ecosystem, life is dying, with species extinction accelerating. The climate crisis is worsening much faster than previously predicted. Every single day 200 species are becoming extinct. This desperate situation can’t continue.
Political leaders worldwide are failing to address the environmental crisis. If global corporate capitalism continues to drive the international economy, global catastrophe is inevitable.
Complacency and inaction in Britain, the USA, Australia, Brazil, across Africa and Asia… – all illustrate diverse manifestations of political paralysis, abdicating humankind’s grave responsibility for planetary stewardship.
International political organizations and national governments must foreground the climate-emergency issue immediately, urgently drawing up comprehensive policies to address it. Conventionally privileged nations must voluntarily fund comprehensive environment-protection policies in impoverished nations, to compensate the latter for foregoing unsustainable economic growth, and paying recompense for the planet-plundering imperialism of materially privileged nations.
With extreme weather already hitting food production, we demand that governments act now to avoid any risk of hunger, with emergency investment in agro-ecological extreme-weather-resistant food production. We also call for an urgent summit on saving the Arctic icecap, to slow weather disruption of our harvests.
We further call on concerned global citizens to rise up and organise against current complacency in their particular contexts, including indigenous people’s rights advocacy, decolonization and reparatory justice – so joining the global movement that’s now rebelling against extinction (e.g. “Extinction Rebellion” in the UK).
We must collectively do whatever’s necessary non-violently, to persuade politicians and business leaders to relinquish their complacency and denial. Their “business as usual” is no longer an option. Global citizens will no longer put up with this failure of our planetary duty.
Every one of us, especially in the materially privileged world, must commit to accepting the need to live more lightly, consume far less, and to not only uphold human rights but also our stewardship responsibilities to the planet.
Travel. Everyone’s dream. Seeing parts of the planet you never dreamed of seeing. And yet, with each year roughly 1.2 billion people seeking distant shores, we have to fundamentally rethink the way in which travel is undertaken.
Whether it’s cities, beaches, mountains, or seas that take your fancy, we’ve come up with a few eco-friendly ideas to take into consideration when planning your next sojourn abroad.
Not every destination will champion environmentally-friendly practices. Some will, but may be on the other side of the world from where you reside. Yet there are destinations, that if chosen wisely, demonstrate good-decision making and a commitment to the living planet.
Before setting your sights on a destination, do your research. Selecting destinations that prioritise sustainability, environmental advocacy, using environmentally-friendly business practices, and are actually investing in their own natural heritage is forward thinking. There are countries, like Namibia and Bhutan, that contain within their constitutional doctrines, environmental protection policy. Other countries place their environments in similar high regard and act accordingly,such as Ecuador’s decision to place 97 percent of the Galapagos’s landmass under the watchful gaze of its national park service.
“Selecting a destination that achieves a balance of protecting natural and cultural resources, providing for sustainable livelihoods, and creating a high-quality traveler experience is challenging.” Says the WWF’s Vice President of Travel and Conservation Jim Sano. But all is not hopeless. There are services you can use that help to inform about which destinations are sustainable. A quick Ecosia search provides a whole host of information, with sites such as Ecotourism, Sustainable Tourism, and Green Destinations providing a wealth of advice. Particularly helpful is Green Destinations, who have compiled a list of sustainable destinations against the Global Sustainable Tourism Council’s Destination Criteria – “A recognised set of criteria to assess a destination’s management policies and practices. Two hundred destinations have been selected to date.” You’re definitely spoilt for choice.
The 2017 Atmosfair Airline Index is a useful tool when comparing flights for energy efficiency, and last named TUI Airways as the most efficient in both medium and long haul flights, due to its efficient aircraft and passenger to flight ratio. The higher the amount of passengers per flights, the less amount of flights that need to be taken. What you may lose in legroom, you make up for in efficiency. You can also look into airlines that try to offset their carbon production, by investing in projects that try and actively reduce or store carbon in our atmosphere. This is probably the closest direct way of carbon neutral flying. For example, you can look into airlines that work with the International Air Transport Association, using their carbon offset and environmental assessment programs. Another good idea is, regardless of the distance of the flight, look into non-stop trips. Takeoffs and landings are the periods that create the most carbon emissions during a flight, and minimising these instances is a good idea.
You could also consider taking a train instead of a plane. “Excellent railway infrastructure makes trains a viable alternative to flights, including most of Europe and East Asia, and some countries in Southeast Asia.” Says Steve Long, co-founder of The Travel Brief. Many European rail services run on electric power or alternative fuels, and are the most efficient per journey when boasting a high occupancy rate.
A brilliant resource to use when deciding which mode of travel to use is the carbon calculater from EcoPassenger. For example, it calculated that a train journey from London to Rome would produce 223.2kg of carbon dioxide less than a flight would. If time is of no consequence, trains should be considered.
If you fancy giving your sea legs a test, we would advice against taking a cruise. Cruise ships are one of the worst polluters of all transport types, with the industry consuming millions of tonnes of fuel and producing almost a billion tonnes of sewage each year. Friends Of The Earth created an annual report card which compares and contrasts the impacts of well-known cruise lines, rating them based on their sewage treatment, air pollution, water quality compliance, and their transparency, which you can find here. If you still want to experience the seas and all their beauty, you can look into chartering a sailboat, which of course will have an infinitely smaller footprint.
WHERE TO STAY
Hotels can actually represent a huge amount of environmental impact when it comes to travel. We suggest that, when looking into the accommodation you choose, decide upon which issues matter to you the most. The most ‘green’ hotels across the board will work in tandem with the three pillars of sustainable tourism – environmental, social, and economic.
Many major hotel chains as well as independents operate green programs (such as IHG, who work by what they call their Green Engage ™ System, or Accor Hotels, who employ their Planet 21 Sustainable Development program). We recommend that you call where you’re staying and ask some questions, as it is their responsibility to try and satisfy you. Inquire about whether they compost, where they source their energy from, whether they reuse their grey water. Do they recycle? Where do they source their food from?
A good way of searching for hotels that are either approved or accredited by programs such as Green Key, a voluntary eco-label awarded to establishments for their work in environmental sustainability. There is also the U.S. Green Building Council, and the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, which oversees the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.
“Making environmentally friendly choices on your own during your stay can have a long-term impact on the environment and only takes small changes,” said Rhiannon Jacobsen, vice president of strategic relationships at the U.S. Green Building Council.
In satisfying the aforementioned three pillars of sustainable tourism, you could put your money to good use by helping to invest in local communities. For example, Unique Lodges of the World, a 55-strong collection of properties affiliated with National Geographic, has properties that tick all boxes. The Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve in South Africa helps to protect native species, invests in community programs that provide education, and employs a sustainable wastewater management system.
There are some immediate ways you can help when you arrive at your accommodation. If staying at a hotel, decline having your towels and linens changed every day. Don’t take from your room’s mini-fridge. Decline housekeeping. Decline any form of disposable plates or utensils. Avoid buffets, which usually result in a vast amount of wasted food. If the hotel doesn’t seem to be recycling, suggest it to them. If bikes are available to be borrowed or rented, do so. Refuse using or taking the complimentary small plastic bottles of shampoo or conditioner, bring your own, and if you do bring them home, donate them to homeless shelters.
WHAT TO PACK
Travel requires eating out, drinking out, and carrying items with you that you wouldn’t normally carry, and sometimes buying items you usually normally buy. To limit your both your physical and environmental impact when travelling, it’s good to carry reusables.
Of course you’re going to pack the usual items, the clothes, possible sun tan lotion, toiletries, but are there ways of making these items sustainable? Clothes are simple and reusable, so already have a better environmental footprint in terms of lifetime than something like a plastic bottle. Second-hand clothes are even better. Are you shopping for new holiday clothes? See what you can get second-hand before you buy new.
In terms of toiletries there is a large community for naked (plastic-free), sustainable products. LUSH do an incredible line of naked products that are travel friendly, such as their lasting shampoo bars and shower gels. They also do travel toothpaste in the form of small chewable pills.
Watch out for where you purchase your sun-tan lotion from, as common sunscreens can contain chemicals that lead to coral reef bleaching. Search for reef-friendly products, such as properly biodegradable or mineral-based sunscreens. Or simply wear protective clothing.
Eating out, dining on street food will probably be on the cards for you, so it’s wise to invest in a good set of reusable cutlery to take with you. The set pictured above is by Bright Zine, but there is a vast amount out there, made by many different companies from many different materials. To go along with your set, it’s also good to invest in some sort of hot drink container for those times when you crave tea or coffee on the go. Pictured above is a glass KeepCup, a cute and fantastic addition to anyone’s eco-friendly travel kit. The cork sleeve is made from sustainably-sourced cork, and 15% of the price of this particular KeepCup went to the Australian branch of Sea Shepherd, the marine conservation organisation. Conventional coffee cups made from cardboard and plastic are over-used and difficult to recycle, so show some love for the living planet by getting yourself a reusable. Most big coffee chains also offer money off for using a reusable cup.
Another thing that we at Deeply Good stress is good to have on you at all times (not just when travelling), is a tote bag. These can come in all shapes and sizes, but are fantastic for carrying anything from fresh produce to clothing, and help to make sure we’re not using the waterway-polluting plastic bags. Totes can be bought virtually anywhere, and are easy to customise. They fold down to virtually nothing so can fit in any coat or bag pocket.
A good minimalist traveller will invest in a rugged and durable backpack that fits any occasion or destination. We’re also enjoying the recent trend in cross-body bags (imagine fanny-packs that sling across your chest), as they provide a convenient and trendy way to store items you already have on you, or items you buy.
Last but not least, remember your reusable water bottle. Not only does it prevent you from buying needless single-use plastic bottles, but it also keeps you hydrated, a bonus if you’re travelling somewhere hot.
Our honourable mentions also include; a microfiber travel towel and a mooncup (or other reusable menstrual cup). Also, if you want to stay protected from the Sun, but dislike buying a plastic lotion bottle, LUSH conveniently do a naked sun-tan lotion bar.
INVEST IN GREEN ACTIVITIES, INVEST IN LOCAL COMMUNITIES
“The green movement has changed from how to preserve and protect to how to use less and do good when you’re there,” said Dawn Head, owner and editor of the online resource Go Green Travel Green. The array of any eco-friendly activity in any place you go will be vast. Sailing, snorkelling, scuba-diving, hiking, running, kayaking, paddleboarding, cycling, swimming, even walking around a museum – all of these cause minimal, if no impact at all. Why not visit craft markets, second-hand shops, or even local events? Giving your money to local companies is bother better for the environment and the economy than giving it all to a multinational.
There is also the possibility to give back to the community you visit in other ways: volunteering. Some hotels and tour operators arrange short term volunteer opportunities, but this is fairly rare and may take a little bit of research to discover which hotels offer schemes such as these.
There are also programs such as Pack for a Purpose set up. With Pack For A Purpose, you can select a destination and bring supplies to said destination, if that destination calls for them. For example, in Jamaica, visitors can donate school equipment through Beaches Negril Resort & Spa to Mount Airy All Age school, which educates 650 children. This means you can actively support a community you travel to, and would even mean you would probably travel home with less than you came with.
Visiting and donating to local amusements such as wildlife reserves, parks, and protected marine areas would mean that tourism money would directly benefit the local community and environment.
When it comes to travelling, we will sometimes want to bring a souvenir back from our trips. This is all well and good as souvenirs serve as lasting reminders of a time well-spent. When we see an item for sale, especially in another country, we can never tell where that item has been procured from, or whether it is even legal to purchase. Some items may be made of protected wood that may be illegal to trade in, import, or export. Even worse is the sale of animal-derived products, that will usually do more harm than good to local communities, and definitely do no good for local environments. Imagine going to Africa and buying something made of Ivory? It would be highly damaging.
Ask yourself, before you purchase, what is this item made of and where did it come from? An informed choice may help you dodge fines at customs and also help reduce the demand for unethical or environmentally-unfriendly products. For a list of items to avoid, check out WWF’s Buyer Beware Guide.
Also, it almost doesn’t need to be said, but avoid all places that deal in any kind of animal exploitation.
Finally, eating locally is a wise choice. Chain restaurants will usually import foods from far away, translating to more carbon emissions, increasing the footprint of your trip. To offset the emissions from your travel, you could even try going vegan for the duration of the trip. Meat and dairy contributes more greenhouse gas emissions globally than all of the transport industry combined. While travelling, eating vegan would not only offset this footprint significantly, it would also be a fun challenge, and would possibly help you contribute to local small businesses, as most cities will have specifically vegan cafes and restaurants that you could enjoy. You would probably be at less risk of catching food poisoning from meat or dairy if you made the easy switch while travelling.
Right at this moment delegates from all over the world are meeting in Katowice, Poland, for COP24, the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change conference, to discuss the implementation of plans to limit greenhouse gas emissions so that global heating is restricted to 1.5C.
Of course, this means that delegates need to be fed. You would think that the fare on offer would as eco-friendly as possible. Unfortunately this is not the case. A new study by the Center for Biological Diversity, Brighter Green, and Farm Forward, has discovered that the menu on offer could potentially be responsible for 4,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
The report opens ‘While world leaders gather in Katowice, Poland, for the upcoming United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change conference (UNFCCC), or COP24, the main food court serving the conference’s estimated 30,000 visitors is offering twice as many meat-based entrees as plant-based entrees. This means a menu with an unnecessarily high carbon foodprint. If international climate conferences hope to lead the way in addressing the climate crisis, organizers can’t afford to overlook the food offered at their events.’
The study stated that the meat-based options generated around 4.1kg CO2e per serving, while the plant-based options emitted around 4 times less than that, at 0.9kg CO2e per serving. If each of COP24’s 30,000 visitors chose a meat-based dish during the conference, this would contribute the equivalent of ‘burning more than 500,000 gallons of gasoline or the greenhouse gas emissions attributed to 3,000 people flying from New York to Katowice.’
To put the menu into specifics, the least carbon-intensive entrée is cabbage and mushroom dumplings, which in comparison to the most carbon-intensive entrée, beef with smoked bacon, produced 35 times less greenhouse gas emissions. Now it may seem of interest to offer a wide-range of foodstuffs to cater to everyone’s individual tastes and dietary requirements, but when a group of people gather to lead the charge against climate breakdown, shouldn’t their personal actions reflect their lofty ideals?
“The meat-laden menu at COP24 is an insult to the work of the conference,” said Stephanie Feldstein, director of the Population and Sustainability program at the Center for Biological Diversity. “If the world leaders gathering in Poland hope to address the climate crisis, they need to tackle overconsumption of meat and dairy, starting with what’s on their own plates. That means transitioning the food served at international climate conferences to more plant-based options with smaller carbon footprints.”
30% of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions are made up of emissions directly caused by the global food system, with a large amount of those emissions being caused by animal agriculture.
‘If current trends continue, food production will nearly exhaust the global carbon budget for all sectors by 2050.’
For us to effectively tackle climate breakdown, both the production and consumption of meat and dairy must be reduced significantly. If we want to keep global heating below 1.5C, a drastic shift in our diets needs to occur, especially with the high meat consumption in western countries, and the growing demand for meat in countries like China.
Unfortunately, even though the science of agricultural emissions is sound, the issue is not one that has been covered in international climate negotiations and debates. This lack of attention is shown by the short-sighted menu offered at COP24.
“We know that we cannot meet the Paris Agreement goals, or the 1.5C target, with business as usual,” said Caroline Wimberly of Brighter Green, who will be in Katowice for COP24. “Food is not a matter only of personal choice, but an essential factor in solving the climate crisis. Demand-side policies and efforts, including food waste reductions and shifting diets—prioritizing populations with the highest consumption of animal-based foods—are critical in achieving a climate compatible food system and curtailing emissions.”
The World Bank has pledged around $200bn (which in GBP is £157bn) towards funding action on climate breakdown. This money will go to both the means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and the means by which countries will adapt to the effects of global heating, and will be in use from 2021 to 2025. Adapting to inevitable climate breakdown effects will be a key aim, with $50bn being pledged to this set of actions alone.
The $200bn is made up of direct investments from the World Bank, and of other loans and investments from other parts of their group. It is with hope that other large corporations find influence within the actions of the World Bank and invest in climate breakdown prevention with their own capital, which could, in turn, inspire other members of the private sector to follow suit.
On the pledge, the President of the World Resources Institute, Andrew Steer, commented “With climate impacts already taking a heavy toll around the globe, we know a far greater response is needed. Investing in climate action is the smart choice – it can reduce poverty, inspire innovation and bring far-reaching benefits to society,”.
In Poland this week, governments will meet for COP24, to determine the courses of action to be undertaken in an effort to implement the Paris Climate Agreement, which was agreed upon in 2015, binding countries to contractual obligations that will hopefully limit global heating to 2C above pre-industrial levels. The $200bn represents a doubling of the five-year investment plan put in place after the agreement.
It has been estimated that, other than dire environmental destruction, 140 million people will become climate refugees by 2050, with the president of the World Bank Jim Yong Kim stating the the poorest and most vulnerable are at the greatest risk from climate breakdown.
“We are pushing ourselves to do more and go faster on climate and we call on the global community to do the same. This is about putting countries and communities in charge of building a safer, more climate-resilient future.”
The chief executive of the World Bank, Kristalina Georgieva, said “People are losing their lives and livelihoods because of the disastrous effects of climate change. We must fight the causes but also adapt to the consequences.”
Some of the $200bn will go towards extreme weather warning systems such as high quality weather forecasts and other equipment. It is hoped that systems such as these would improve the safety and quality of life for over 200 million in around 30 developing countries which have the greatest risk of being hit by extreme, climate-breakdown caused weather.
Other portions of the pledged sum will go towards ‘smart agriculture’ – new ways of farming to support a growing population in a world where conventional or past ways of farming would no longer work. Food security is a concern for environmentalists, who worry that climate breakdown and man-made pollution will destroy vital ecosystems that supply biodiversity, and contribute to land degradation – both of which would impact global food production negatively.
El Niño events occur naturally every few years. They are caused by fluctuations in ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific, coupled with the overlying atmospheric circulation. This in turn has a direct and major influence on climate patterns all over the world.
The WMO’s model forecasts suggest that the chance of a full-fledged El Niño between December 2018 to February 2019 is estimated to be about 75-80%, with a 60% chance that it will continue from February through to April. Current predictions show the El Niño range as being from a warm-neutral condition through to moderate strength. This could mean that sea surface temperatures being at approximately 0.8C to 1.2C above the average. The chance for a strong El Niño is currently low.
Maxx Dilley, director of WMO’s Climate Prediction and Adaptation branch, said “The forecast El Niño is not expected to be as powerful as the event in 2015-2016, which was linked with droughts, flooding and coral bleaching in different parts of the world. Even so, it can still significantly affect rainfall and temperature patterns in many regions, with important consequences to agricultural and food security sectors, and for management of water resources and public health, and it may combine with long-term climate change to boost 2019 global temperatures,”
The last El Niño event ended in 2016, which helped that year become the hottest year on record by exacerbating the effects of man-made global heating. 2017 was ranked an equal second, but was also named the hottest year on record with an El Niño event. It has not yet been quantified, but it is expected that 2018, which saw many climate-related disasters across the globe, to be the fourth hottest on record.
In most of Asia, Europe, North and South America, the Caribbean, Australia, Africa, and the Indonesian archipelago, there has been an increase in the odds for abnormal surface-air temperature. There is also for the Caribbean, central America, parts of South America, some South Pacific Islands, portions of southwest Africa, eastern equatorial Africa, an increased probability of below-normal precipitation, which could possibly lead to drought in those areas.
El Niño events exacerbate and are exacerbated by the billions of tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions humanity releases every year, and as these emissions have recently hit record concentrations, we can assume that stronger El Niño events will be more likely in the future.
Between 2000 and 2017, Human-caused global warming has given us 17 of the 18 hottest years since 1850. This frequency cannot be a coincidence. Although, whether 2019 will be another record remains to be seen.
During 2017, the United Kingdom’s major climate-science denial campaign group, the Global Warming Policy Foundation, (follow the link for an accurate description by DeSmog), recieved $177,001 in ‘grants and gifts’. At the time of writing, this is worth £137,900. These numbers were shown in the tax returns filed by the GWPF’s US-fundraising group, American Friends of the GWPF.
Another right-wing thinktanks, the Taxpayer’s Alliance, recieved around £223,300 from US-based donors within the last five years. An article published by the Guardian described the Taxpayer’s Alliance as “an “independent grassroots campaign” that speaks “for ordinary taxpayers fed up with government waste, increasing taxation, and a lack of transparency in all levels of government”. It keeps its donors secret, saying it respects their privacy.”
These two organisations, along with seven other right-wing thinktanks, were allegedly coordinating amongst themselves in order to push for a hard Brexit, a ruling that would have spelled disaster for UK environmentalists.
All this raises the concerns surrounding the influence of foreign money on issues surrounding environmentalism, such as when lobby groups push to cut regulations in order to implement trade deals with countries that have been named as major polluters. This was part of an alternative ‘Plan A+’ Brexit plan published in September backed by former foreign secretary Boris Johnson and former Brexit secretary David Davis. The report singled out environmental protection regulation as one that is “damaging to growth” and is “moving in an anti-competitive direction”.
Those behind the alternative Brexit plan see themselves as “supportive of environmental protection”, yet see aspects of the protection, the regulations that enforce that protection themselves as leading to the “increases in costs for many companies”. We see this as direct and willing hypocrisy. The plan describes environmental regulations as “somtimes valid attempts to deal with real environmental problems”, and that “frequently they are disguised methods of protectionism”.
The donations that the GWPF received are seen as a significant increase since the previous year. The tax regulations set up in the US require that the organisation declare how much it received, but holds no rules set up that require the source of the donations be included.
In an article recently published by DeSmog, it was revealed just how much the network of US libertarian climate science denial campaign groups pushing for environmental derergulation post-Brexit, including the Heartland Institute and the Cato Institute, had increased their European activities coinciding with the time of the Brexit referendum.
“Brexit negotiations have created a policy vacuum at the very top of the UK government” stated the article, which in turn allows the space for the policies and ideas of these right-wing thinktanks to gain traction, pushing their ideologies through the donations of rich investors.
“As a result, powerful private lobbies have strived to fill that vacuum and advocated to slash regulation and environmental protection post-Brexit in order to strike trade deals. This includes the Koch brothers, the Mercer family and the Atlas network”.
The prospect of the Brexit deal, recently put in place by Theresa May, has seemingly increased the amount of lobbying these organisations have been doing. Greenpeace’s Unearthed recently exposed the extent of influence this group, a group which in the UK bases itself in Tufton Street in London, has on cabinet members, including current environment minister Michael Gove.
The UK government has been warned that its environmental laws could be left suffering with “gaping holes”, allowing “polluters to go unpunished and depriving wildlife of vital protection after Brexit”. MPs from the Environmental Audit Committee found that the government had still not committed to replacing roughly a third of all environmental rules that cannot be transferred from the EU into UK law after Brexit. These laws cover air, water, chemicals, and waste disposal. While this gap remains, right-wing thinktanks use the aforementioned donations to weaken environmental regulation in the UK.
It is unfortunate that, as the contributors of these amounts are not obligated to reveal themselves, huge private interests are disguised, and will carry on presenting themselves as proponents and defenders of free-market ideology, all the while justifying the fore-planned dismantling of the United Kingdom’s environmental protection policies.
Global bee populations have been suffering greatly over the last few decades, such as in Germany where a 75% population decline has been seen over the last 25 years, and in Puerto Rico there has been an even sharper decline. Around 80% of food crops require pollination, but the population of insects that carry out this job, mainly bees, lessens every year.
The study recommends that a quarter of all cropland be dedicated to flowering economic crops such as oil seeds, spices, and medicinal plants. This would hopefully represent substantial gains in biodiversity. The report also mentions an increase in income across the board, but we must stress that we believe that the true measure of wealth is in natural biodiversity and the resilience of the living planet against human intrusion.
Pressure has already been put on agricultural industries by environmentalist groups for their farming procedures and intensive use of pesticides, and the responses from world governments have been increasingly varied. Just this year, Brazil’s pro-agribusiness congressmen voted for what has been dubbed as, the ‘poison package’, a lift of restrictions on an amount of pesticides that are currently banned in other countries for their detrimental impact on ecosystems.
Stefanie Christmann, who has headed up the research, has spent the last five years working on what she calls “farming with alternative pollinators”, with trials being carried in out Uzbekistan and Morocco.
“In 2013–2014, therefore, a 18-month-pilot project was set on a participatory basis in Uzbekistan, to test this farming with alternative pollinators approach on field and orchard crops. The practicability and the potential of the approach were tested in collaboration with seven smallholders, two commercial farmers, and two schools. “
“We analyzed the yield and insect diversity (pollinators, predators, and pests) of seven cucumber fields in the Parkent district and four orchards of sour cherry in the Boysun district in Uzbekistan. Here we show that the fields with enhanced habitats faced higher diversity of pollinators and predators, but less pests than control fields. Furthermore, the farming with alternative pollinators approach doubled the yield of sour cherry in 2014 and highly increased the income from cucumber in 2013. “
The technique that Christmann proposes represents an agricultural method closer to the formation of natural green areas such as forests, in constrast to intensive monoculture farming already in place. One in every four cultivation strips should be dedicated to the aforementioned flowering crops. Nesting support for bees and other insects should also be provided to encourage populations to thrive, support such as old wood and beaten soil that can be burrowed into.
“There is a very low barrier so anyone in even the poorest country can do this. There is no equipment, no technology and only a small investment in seeds. It is very easy. You can demonstrate how to do it with pictures sent on a cellphone.”
“Ultimately, 94% of the farmers were willing to enhance pollinator habitats after being informed of these higher-yield figures.” During the test periods, the efficiency of crop pollination was increased, and the amount of pests was significantly lower.
The greatest gains in the four differing climatic regions that Christmann studied were found in semi-arid climates, where pumpkin yields rose 561%, aubergine 364%, broad bean 177% and melons 56%. In rainier areas, the harvests of tomatoes doubled in size, and aubergines harvests increased by 250%.
There are many environmental and economic benefits to increasing the amount of wild pollinators by encouraging the planting of more diverse crop rotations. This can also be applied to cities, where the planting of wildflowers, berry bushes, and flowering trees can aid in biodiversity.
“The entire environment would be richer, more beautiful and more resilient to climate change,” said Christmann “We would have many more insects, flowers and birds. And it would be far more self-sustaining. Even the poorest countries in the world could do this.”
It is hoped that there may be, in the near future, support for a multilateral environmental agreement on the wellbeing and promotion of natural pollinators, similar to the international convention on trade in endangered species.
But there will be resistance, Christmann admits “I think Monsanto won’t like this because they want to sell their pesticides and this approach reduces pests naturally,”.
Christmann’s research comes as part of a growing campaign to change the very nature of global food production. In the ‘Ecological Farming versus Industrial Agriculture’ section of Greenpeace’s ‘Plan Bee – Living Without Pesticides’ report, it is written:
“Agricultural intensification in Europe has typically led to more homogeneous landscapes, defined by large cereal fields and a loss of non-cultivated habitats on farms – such as hedgerows, ditches, woodland, and field margins. In addition, there has been widespread loss of semi-natural grasslands due to their conversion into arable fields and coniferous tree plantations (Meeus et al. 1990). Semi-natural habitat loss and degradation on farms and in surrounding areas, together with the increased use of agrochemicals such as synthetic pesticides, has been linked to a loss of wildlife species in agricultural landscapes (Belfrage 2005).”
Things are looking a little brighter, with a recent EU-wide ban on bee-harming neonicotinoids. “Bee health remains of paramount importance for me since it concerns biodiversity, food production and the environment.” Said Vytenis Andriukaitis, European commissioner for Health and Food Safety, after he welcomed the vote.
On organic, pesticide-free farming, Giannis Melos, a farmer from Greece, had this to say: “In the past I have used plenty of chemicals as a conventional producer, but when I started farming organically only then I realised how many mistakes I had made in the past and that I had been trying to fight the symptom and not the cause. […] With the balance brought about by organic farming there are many benefits in your cultivation. You can see that the soil is more lively, you can see the organisms that form the surrounding environment being in a balance that is not disrupted. Of course there are benefits for the planet, because the residues from chemicals take many years to degrade.”
In a new report by the World Meteorological Organization, the UN’s meteorology experts, it states that the greenhouse gas emissions that are currently causing global climate breakdown are at an all time high.
The levels of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide are far above their pre-industrial level counterparts, with seemingly no reversal of their upward trend. In 2017, the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere rose to a global average of 405.5 parts per million, which is 2.5x higher than levels before the industrial revolution. Methane, a gas which has a heating capability 25x that of CO2 and is responsible for around 17% of global warming, now has levels that are 3.5x higher than before the industrial revolution. This rise has mostly been caused by agricultural practices such as large-scale industrial cattle farming.
“The last time the Earth experienced a comparable concentration of CO2 was 3-5m years ago, when the temperature was 2-3C warmer and sea level was 10-20 metres higher than now,” said the WMO secretary general, Petteri Taalas. “The science is clear. Without rapid cuts in CO2 and other greenhouse gases, climate change will have increasingly destructive and irreversible impacts on life on Earth. The window of opportunity for action is almost closed.”
The internationally-ratified Paris Climate Agreement aims to curb the rise of global heating at 2C, yet the more hopeful number is 1.5C. It must however, be stated that this number is itself somewhat arbitrary. It is impossible to say what the actual damage will be at 1.5 or 2C. The recent IPCC Report on the effects of 1.5C of heating, stated that there would be incredibly severe consequences for human life at this level.
This report, with it’s 91 separate authors and review editors from 40 countries, explores “a number of climate change impacts that could be avoided by limiting global warming to 1.5ºC compared to 2ºC, or more. For instance, by 2100, global sea level rise would be 10 cm lower with global warming of 1.5°C compared with 2°C. The likelihood of an Arctic Ocean free of sea ice in summer would be once per century with global warming of 1.5°C, compared with at least once per decade with 2°C. Coral reefs would decline by 70-90 percent with global warming of 1.5°C, whereas virtually all (> 99 percent) would be lost with 2ºC.”
“Every extra bit of warming matters, especially since warming of 1.5ºC or higher increases the risk associated with long-lasting or irreversible changes, such as the loss of some ecosystems,” said Hans-Otto Pörtner, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group II.
“Every fraction of a degree of global warming matters, and so does every part per million of greenhouse gases,” said the WMO deputy secretary general, Elena Manaenkova. “CO2 remains in the atmosphere for hundreds of years and in the oceans for even longer. There is currently no magic wand to remove all the excess CO2 from the atmosphere.”
To negate this rise in emission levels, collective action needs to be put in place, such as investing in low-carbon or carbon neutral technologies; wind and solar energy needs to become rapidly mainstream. Pressure needs to be put on multinationals, whose business practices are responsible for a large percentage of global emissions.
“On one hand, greenhouse gas emissions have yet to peak and countries struggle to maintain the concentrated attention and effort needed for a successful response to climate change. On the other hand, climate action is occurring, it is increasing and there is a will to do more. I highlight this because falling into despair and hopelessness is a danger equal to complacency, none of which we can afford.”, said Patricia Espinosa, head of the UN framework convention on climate change.
On Saturday, thousands of environmental protesters occupied five bridges in central London, one of the largest acts of co-ordinated civil disobedience this country has ever seen.
The protest, organised by environmental activists, Extinction Rebellion, saw approximately six thousand of people young and old descend on the Waterloo, Lambeth, Blackfriars, Southwark, and Westminster bridges. It one of the largest acts of civil disobedience in the UK in decades, one of the largest of all time. Of the many protesters, eighty-five were arrested.
Protests began amassing on the bridges from as early as 9am on Saturday morning, having travelled from all over the country to take part. The day was brisk but the Sun was shining, perfect conditions for the protest to take place. The scene on Westminster Bridge originally felt a little tense, with police presence seemingly increased. A police officer walks past two women and says jokingly “Good morning ladies, are you here for the protest? Are you gonna be nice?” They laughed. There as a palpable energy to the area, as cars still streaked across the bridge, as the people who gathered on the sides knew what was to come.
While some had been there since 9am, and the roads were meant to be occupied at 10am, it was 11am when the protest began en masse. Police were previously informed this protest would be taking place, so that alternative routes for emergency vehicles could be plotted. Chants of “No more coal, no more oil, keep your carbon in the soil!”, and “What do we want? Climate justice!” can be heard echoing across the bridge. The mood is fun; both spirited and passionate. People have brought musical instruments and perform impromptu songs.
‘Rebellion Day’ as it was named, was put on in an effort to force the governments to treat climate breakdown as a serious issue, influencing them to take more action on the crisis and develop a new set of policies that would change the UK’s environmental stance and emission rate.
“The ‘social contract’ has been broken … [and] it is therefore not only our right but our moral duty to bypass the government’s inaction and flagrant dereliction of duty and to rebel to defend life itself,” said Gail Bradbrook, one of the organisers.
The vast majority of the crowd were those who had either never protested before, or more likely, never taken part in an act of civil disobedience. Most arrests that happened over the course of the day had been for obstruction under the Highways act.
The protest seemed to go incredibly well on Westminster Bridge, which had the largest numbers, but throughout the day the group at Lambeth Bridge struggled, and by 2pm the blockade of Southwark Bridge had been abandoned, although movement of protesters between all remaining bridges continued, with numbers being supplied where needed.
In the afternoon there was a plethora of speakers that stood on a podium with mic in hand. In their democratic, open framework for the event, anyone who wanted to speak was allowed to speak. Poetry was read, songs were sung (with group participation), and environmentalists from all walks of life got to have their say.
The topics of the day ranged from ‘The law of ecocide’, where environmental advocates would hopefully in future be protected by law if classified as a ‘conscientious protector’. Class politics were also on the table, after a member of a eco-conscious communist group took to the podium. In the speech given by Jack Harries, the environmental activist, filmmaker, and YouTuber, Harries exclaimed “It comes down to power”, and that we should in future value “Planet over profit”.
“Climate change doesn’t care about borders. Climate change doesn’t care about fucking Donald Trump”
Jack Harries, in his speech on Saturday.
“Given the scale of the ecological crisis we are facing this is the appropriate scale of expansion,” said Bradbrook. “Occupying the streets to bring about change as our ancestors have done before us. Only this kind of large-scale economic disruption can rapidly bring the government to the table to discuss our demands. We are prepared to risk it all for our futures.”
Later on in the day, the scheduled talks, part of the ‘Extinction Rebellion Assembly’, began, with six environmentalist figures, whose homelands had been disrupted by undemocratic processes through environmental destruction.
The environmentalists were Raki Ap of Free West Papua Campaign, Rumana Hashem of Phulbari Solidarity Group (Bangladesh) as well as representatives from Ecuador, Kenya, Ghana and Mongolia. The final speaker was Tina Louise Rothery from the UK-based Anti-Fracking Lancashire Nanas.
Extinction Rebellion are calling for the government to make sure that the UK’s net carbon emissions are reduced to zero by the year 2025. They also call for a ‘Citizen’s Assembly’ to be established, in an effort to recreate WWII-era mass organisation in an effort to tackle climate breakdown.
The group, in a declaration letter, stated “While our academic perspectives and expertise may differ, we are united on this one point: we will not tolerate the failure of this or any other government to take robust and emergency action in respect of the worsening ecological crisis. The science is clear, the facts are incontrovertible, and it is unconscionable to us that our children and grandchildren should have to bear the terrifying brunt of an unprecedented disaster of our own making.”
It has only been a few months since Extinction Rebellion was established, but it has already founded groups that stretch from one end of the UK to the other, and raised £50k in small donations. It is seemingly the first group to draw in environmentalists of all types.
“Something I have been waiting for, for a very long time, is happening. People are risking their liberty in defence of the living world in very large numbers. It is only when we are prepared to take such action that people begin to recognise the seriousness of our existential crisis.”
George Monbiot, Guardian Columnist & Writer
“Rebellion Day will disrupt London. It is not a step we take lightly. If things continue as is, we face an extinction greater than the one that killed the dinosaurs. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be a worthy ancestor,” said Tiana Jacout of Extinction Rebellion.
“We represent a huge number of concerned citizens. Scientists, academics, politicians, teachers, lawyers, students, children, parents, and grandparents. But we have no choice. We have tried marching, and lobbying, and signing petitions. Nothing has brought about the change that is needed. And no damage that we incur can compare to the criminal inaction of the UK government in the face of climate and ecological breakdown.”
There is a second Rebellion day, Rebellion Day 2, to be held on Saturday November 24th.
You can find out more about Extinction Rebellion on their website.